Sharīʿa in the Russian Empire

The Reach and Limits of Islamic Law in Central Eurasia, 1550-1917

Edited by Paolo Sartori, Danielle Ross

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Studies the formulation, transmission and application of Islamic law under Russian colonial rule
  • Presents the theory and application of Islamic law in the Volga-Ural region, the Kazakh Steppe, the north Caucasus and Central Asia from the 1550s to 1917
  • Draws comparisons between Islamic law in Russia and elsewhere in the colonial world
  • Based upon important, but largely unstudied print and manuscript sources in Arabic, Persian and the Turkic languages
  • Brings together the work of an international collective of scholars of Islam in Russia

This book looks at how Islamic law was practiced in Russia from the conquest of the empire’s first Muslim territories in the mid-1500s to the Russian Revolution of 1917, when the empire’s Muslim population had exceeded 20 million. It focuses on the training of Russian Muslim jurists, the debates over legal authority within Muslim communities and the relationship between Islamic law and ‘customary’ law. Based upon difficult to access sources written in a variety of languages (Arabic, Chaghatay, Kazakh, Persian, Tatar), it offers scholars of Russian history, Islamic history and colonial history an account of Islamic law in Russia of the same quality and detail as the scholarship currently available on Islam in the British and French colonial empires.


‘The Reach and Limits of Sharīʿa in the Russian Empire, ca. 1552-1917’
Danielle Ross and Paolo Sartori

Chapter 1

‘Islamic Education for All: Technological Change, Popular Literacy, and the Transformation of the Volga-Ural Madrasa, 1650s-1910s’
Danielle Ross

Chapter 2

Taqlīd and Discontinuity: The Transformation of Islamic Legal Authority in the Volga-Ural Region’
Nathan Spannaus

Chapter 3

‘Debunking the ‘Unfortunate Girl’ Paradigm: Volga-Ural Muslim Women’s Knowledge Culture and its Transformation across the Long Nineteenth Century’
Danielle Ross

Chapter 4

‘Between Imperial Law and Islamic Law: Muslim Subjects and the Legality of Remarriage in Nineteenth-Century Russia’
Rozaliya Garipova

Chapter 5

‘Islamic Scholars among the Kereys of Northern Kazakhstan, 1680-1850’
Allen J. Frank

Chapter 6

‘Tinkering with Codification in the Kazakh Steppe: ʿĀdat and Sharīʿa in the work of Efim Osmolovskii’
Pavel Shabley and Paolo Sartori

Chapter 7

Taqlīd and Ijtihād over the Centuries: The Debates on the Islamic Legal Theory in Daghestan, 1700s-1920s’
Shamil Shikhaliev

Chapter 8

‘Kunta Ḥājjī and the Stolen Horse’
Michael Kemper and Shamil Sh. Shikhaliev

Chapter 9

‘What We Talk about When We Talk about Taqlīd in Russian Central Asia’
Paolo Sartori

Chapter 10

‘Take Me to Khiva: Sharīʿa as Governance in the Oasis of Khorezm (19th–Early 20th Centuries)’
Ulfat Abdurasulov and Paolo Sartori

Sharīʿa in the Russian Empire is an excellent collection of genuinely pathbreaking studies that explore how Muslim law was taught, interpreted, applied and reshaped in the Russian empire’s Muslim regions. To the growing body of scholarship on legal cultures in Muslim societies under colonial rule, the volume adds the experience of the Muslims of imperial Russia, solidly researched and judiciously interpreted on the basis of a wealth of sources barely explored before; those sources, in the hands of the specialists whose work is assembled here, remind us of the ongoing vitality and dynamism of Muslim juridical thought and practice under Russian rule, and begin to balance the excessive focus on narrow circles of ‘reformists’ that has heretofore dominated scholarship on the Muslims of Russia.
Devin DeWeese, Indiana University Bloomington
Paolo Sartori is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Iranian Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences. He is the editor of the Brill series Handbooks of Oriental Studies (Section 8 Uralic & Central Asian Studies) and is editor in chief of the Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient (Brill). He is author of Visions of Justice: Sharīʿa and Cultural Change in Russian Central Asia (Brill, 2016).

Danielle Ross is Assistant Professor of Asian History in the Department of History at Utah State University. She has published a chapter in Small Nations and Colonial Peripheries in World War I (Brill, 2016).

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