IIAS Newsletter, no. 76 (2017), 8-9.
African Jurists in Asia: Premodern Afro-Asian Interactions
‘The Indian Ocean Muslims’ have contributed to the synthesis of Islamic history for over a millennium, but their roles have been continuously downplayed and disregarded in the historiography. Indians [al-Hindīs], Malays [al-Jāwīs] and Swahilis [al-Zanjīs], in South and Southeast Asia and East Africa respectively, interacted across the Indian Ocean highway and all shaped Islam in their own ways. Only a small number of people actually voyaged overseas physically, but they were all influenced by the ideas brought in by those who did. The history of Islamic law in the Indian Ocean world tells us the story of this general pattern of mobility across communities, doctrines, texts, sources, places and periods. In this essay, I explore the Africans who worked in South and Southeast Asia as judges, jurists, scholars and preachers in premodern period.