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Landholding and Law in the Early Islamic State

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Chapter Summary

The question of land-tenure, how Muslims owned land, if they did, and the legal and fiscal status of such land in the early Islamic state in the three centuries which followed the early Islamic conquests remains problematic. This chapter argues that there was an "Islamic norm" attributed, probably rightly, to the caliph ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb. According to this norm, the lands conquered in the first decade of the Muslim expansion would not be distributed to the conquerors but would rather be kept as the communal resource of the Muslim community, and the revenues collected, the fayʾ, would be paid out to them in payments known as ʿaṭāʾ. This policy is clearly explained in the work of the late eighth-century jurist Abū Yūsuf al-Anṣārī, whose writings on fiscal affairs seem to reflect official practice in the early ʿAbbāsid period.

Keywords: ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb; Abū Yūsuf al-Anṣārī communal resource; fiscal status; Islamic conquests; Islamic norm

10.1163/9789004277878_010
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