World Legal History Blog, 2016
A Sixteenth-Century Fatwa Collection: Islamic Law in ‘Periphery’
Fatwas are legal opinions by Muslim jurists, akin to responsa in Roman, canon and Judaic legal traditions. Fatwas are presented to the public in the form of decisions and rulings in response to questions addressed to them. Fatwa collections have been analysed as a vital source for social and cultural histories. In the existing literatures on Islamic legal history and on South or Southeast Asian Islamic traditions fatwa-collections from the “peripheries” of the Muslim world (South Asia and Southeast Asia) have been largely ignored, despite the fact that both regions currently accommodate the largest Muslim populations in the world. One such collection from premodern South Asia is the al-Ajwibat al-‘Ajībat ‘an al-as’ilat al-gharībat (henceforth Ajwibat), or Marvelous Answers to Uncommon Questions, compiled by Zayn al-Dīn Ahmad al-Malaybārī (d. 1583).