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Take Me to Khiva: Sharīʿa as Governance in the Oasis of Khorezm (19th–Early 20th Centuries)

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It is commonly held that the settlement of disputes in Muslim-majority areas depended on “judges” and “arbitrators” who settled disputes independently or facilitated reconciliation by means of mediation, either judicial or extra-judicial. In the resulting narrative, the state occupies only a marginal place, at best. In this essay, we contend that this narrative creates an artificial opposition between the Islamic state and sharīʿa, an opposition predicated on the reified notion of Islamic law as the exclusive preserve of Muslim legists (ʿulamāʾ), that is, a self-contained jurisprudence inaccessible to the uninitiated and to state officials. Materials from modern Khorezm call into question the application of this binary interpretive model and shed light on an Islamic juridical field in which Muslims brought their affairs to state officials because they had the power to coerce parties to achieve a settlement and enforce a decision, either formal or informal.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Iranian Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences
 ; 2: Institute of Iranian Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences


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