Theses Doctoral

Creed & Credit: An Anthropology of Debt and Bankruptcy in Islamic Law

Halliwell, John Clifford

While most studies on the economic history of the premodern Islamic world have focused on institutional economics and the question of why Muslims failed to endogenously develop capitalism – particularly around debates of whether Muslims did or did not practice interest – an alternative approach, based in anthropology, is interested in the emancipatory aspects of Islamic debt relations (stemming from the prohibition on debt peonage), and the social dynamics of debt more generally.

This dissertation seeks to contribute to this topic through an analysis of bankruptcy in the Mālikī school of jurisprudence through two primary sources: The Abridged Legal Compendium of Khalīl b. Isḥāq al-Jundī (d. 767 AH/1374 CE) and The Responsa of al-Burzulī (d. 841 AH/1438 CE). In addition to detailing the process of bankruptcy itself, this study evaluates the roles of wives and women more generally, children and their parents, slaves, non-Muslims, and non-Sunni Muslims through the lens of debt. While the jurists did grant vital concessions to debtors’ rights, they simultaneously granted the judges wide-ranging punitive powers that could easily be abused. The language of debt could also be used to Other groups such as the Bedouin, who remained outside the immediate sovereignty of the urban legal and market system.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Messick, Brinkley M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 10, 2023