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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Islamic legal culture and slave-ownership contests in nineteenth-century Sahara
Author:Lydon, GhislaineISNI
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies
Geographic term:Mauritania
Islamic law
customary law
legal pluralism
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/40034037
Abstract:In 19th-century Sahara, the M_alik_i doctrine of Islamic law contained the most elaborate rules on the rights of slaves. This paper examines 19th-century legal debates over the ownership of enslaved Africans to shed light on the local determinants of Saharan slavery. It is based on three 19th-century documents mined in private family archives that describe transactions in, and the treatment of, slaves in the oasis town of T_ish_it in present-day Mauritania. The first source is a letter of complaint concerning a business deal over a female slave. The second is a legal report documenting the mistreatment of an enslaved caravan worker, the dispute between contending owners, and the subsequent handling of the situation by local authorities. The third source is a 'fatw_a' that deliberates on a man's ownership rights over an enslaved woman's offspring. Aside from revealing the litigious world of 19th-century Sahara, these sources illustrate the mentality of Muslim slaveowners and the legal culture in which they operated. Islamic legal practice was a cultural hybrid. Indeed, customary law and common practice were determinants of the law alongside the classic sources of Islamic jurisprudence. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]