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Title: A new dispensation in Islam : the Ahmadiyya and the law in Colonial India, 1872 to 1939
Author: Ahmad, Shazia
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis makes the Ahmadiyya a case for examining how colonial law in India defined Muslims, from the late nineteenth century through the 1930s. Contrary to the mainstream discourse on Muslim in India, which examines sectarian Muslim identity but discounts social stratification among Muslims, this thesis shows that there was a material basis for how the law differentiated Muslims that contributed to the creation of sectarian difference. First, it examines structures of landownership and social relations in personal law in colonial India. In the Punjab, customary law created a legal distinction between urban and rural Muslims, while blurring the legal distinction between rural Hindus and Muslims. Second, it examines the emergence of the Ahmadiyya among Muslim landowners in central Punjab within this legal context. Third, it looks at the Ahmadiyya's inclusion within Punjab's structure of political representation, which maintained the rural and urban distinction, privileged rural Muslims, and marginalized urban Muslims. Fourth, it looks at an all-India structure of political representation, which subverted the legal distinction among urban and rural Muslims in the Punjab and delegitimized the Ahmadiyya as representative of Muslims. Finally, it examines all-India legislation introduced in the 1930s by Indian Muslims. These legislative reforms would have restructured Muslim personal law into a distinct legal system but were impeded by structures maintained through Punjab customary law. Ahmadis gave primacy to freedom of belief in Islam, including to conversion, which depended upon porous social boundaries between Hindu and Muslim personal law, as well as between caste communities. It concludes that the Ahmadiyya's 'sectarian' interpretation of Islamic law, contrary to Muslims who claimed 'orthodox' authority, was incompatible with the notion of a Muslim legal system that entailed the construction of impermeable social boundaries between communities in India. This thesis has implications for the discourse on human rights and Islamic law.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral