Theses Doctoral

Translating Capital: Islamic Law and the Making of Sharī‘a Compliance in Pakistan

Khan, Sohaib

This dissertation studies the encounter of the Sharī‘a or Islamic law with capitalist modernity in South Asia. Focusing on the Deobandī clerical community in Pakistan, it studies their juristic and ethical contestations over the project of tailoring Islamic law to suit the needs of modern finance. The dissertation is based on a textually informed ethnography of Deobandīs working as jurists (muftīs) in madrasas and as Sharī‘a Advisors in Islamic banks. It closely reads texts of Islamic commercial law and follows their movements within an institutional network of religious seminaries and financial corporations. In doing so, it documents interactive labors of scriptural interpretation and financial engineering that in turn translate classical Islamic contracts into modern, “Sharī‘a Compliant” financial instruments. The central argument of Translating Capital is that Sharī‘a Compliance secularizes Islamic commercial law by reengineering its discursive and disciplinary technologies according to logics of market governance. As polysemous texts of the Sharī‘a are formatted into standardized codes of financial conduct, Sharī‘a Compliance authorizes new financial disciplines that transform pious devotees of tradition into pragmatic calculative agents of the market. Translating Capital intervenes in key theoretical debates in Islamic legal studies, postcolonial theory, the anthropology of religion, and poststructuralism by tracing textual entanglements between scripture and finance. Further, it substitutes functionalist explanations for the resurgence of religion in a secular age with a fine-grained analysis of religious improvisation grounded in texts and ethnography. Finally, it provincializes Eurocentric narratives of secularization by investigating the seductive appeal of markets as a model for Islamic reform in postcolonial Muslim societies.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Hallaq, Wael
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 13, 2020