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“You May Not Give It Away”: How Social Norms Shape Islamic Law in Contemporary Indonesian Jurisprudence

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A recent Indonesian Islamic law compilation presents an apparent anomaly in restricting the right to give away wealth as hiba to one-third of an estate — whereas the trend in Indonesian law reform has been to bring Islamic law closer to local inheritance practices. By means of a narrative analysis of a recent court decision, I identify a discourse of justifying the new restrictions in terms of general religious and social norms of fairness and agreement among heirs. Examination of local debates over law and property in two Sumatran societies, Gayo and Minangkabau, suggests that hiba is regarded as an impediment to Islamization of social life, and as introducing elements of unfairness and discord. Thus the new rule can be explained as having been motivated by local social processes and social norms.

Affiliations: 1: Washington University in St. Louis


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