Customizing Sharia: Matrilineal Muslims and Islamic Law in the Indian Ocean Littoral

27 Aug 2019 - 29 Aug 2019

Ashoka University, India

Islamic law has been a realm of patriarchal conceptualizations in which not only the Muslim patriarchal practices but also the patriarchal backgrounds of Western scholars spilled over to the studies about Muslims and Islam. Although some scholars have tried to overcome these projections onto the non-Western societies, such preconceptions have dominated the academia, particularly the Islamic (legal) historiography. The ways of understanding matrilineal Muslim communities have suffered the most. Both in the past and in the present, Muslims in different parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, and Comoros follow different forms of this women-centered social system. The existing literature mainly construed up by anthropologists and historians also has not studied these communities in a connected and comparative perspective and has ignored the centrality of Islam and Indian Ocean networks to the matrilineal system.

Against this background, this international conference aims to address these lacunae with theoretical engagements on the basis of empirical researches. It also aims to explore the ways in which the followers of the matrilineal Islamic praxis defended the system within the Islamic legal epistemologies and within the maritime social systems. This in turn helps to understand how the matrilineal Muslims of the Indian Ocean constructed their own versions of Islam and its laws, often in conflict and by compromise with the dominant patriarchal perceptions and narratives.

Agrarian Arabic vs. Mercantile Arabic? Negotiations of a Malabari Community between Coasts and Hinterlands

10 Aug 2019 - 12 Aug 2019

Moozhikulam Sala, Kerala

The NEEM Economic History Workshop: "Kerala from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries".

Organised by Professor David Shulman and Dr. Abhilash Malayil. 

Roundtable: "Re-establishing connections across the Indian Ocean"

18 Jul 2019 - 18 Jul 2019

Lipsius 148, Leiden, The Netherlands

Roundtable Convenors: Tom Hoogervorst (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian & Caribbean Studies, Netherlands); Jatin Dua (University of Michigan, United States); Mahmood Kooria (Leiden University, Netherlands).

Participants: Alicia Schrikker (Leiden University, Netherlands); Marieke Bloembergen (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian & Caribbean Studies, Netherlands); Philippe Peycam (International Institute for Asian Studies, Netherlands); Tom Asher (Social Science Research Council, United States); Webby Kalikiti (University of Zambia, Zambia); Alexa Dietrich (Social Science Research Council, United States); Mathew Senga (University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania); Aarti Kawlra (International Institute for Asian Studies, Netherlands); Rohit Negi (Ambedkar University Delhi, India).


The Leiden Centre for Indian Ocean Studies has been active for two years. Its activities include lecture series, book launches, workshops with PhD students, and international collaborations. These past successes reveal a broadly shared need to engage with the Indian Ocean in a more institutionalized way. Paradoxically, the actual Indian Ocean is often lacking in institutional collaborations on the Indian Ocean, causing us to miss out on opportunities to include students and scholars from the region as well as other thinkers (artists, film makers, memoirists, etc.). We aim, therefore, to re-establish connections across the Indian Ocean and forge new ones. Over the past years, we have located three threads in which the Indian Ocean can open up creative spaces to think about broad, collaborative issues: 

1. The Ocean as a strategic space: e.g. ports, security-policies, the environment, OBOR, and the historical trajectories of these themes. 

2. Methodological innovation: e.g. drawing from new types of archives and practices, such as textile-working and food-preparation. 

3. A laboratory for societal output: e.g. synergies between scholarship, art, heritage, community initiatives, and popular history. 

Concretely, we aim to play a role in establishing synergies and durable networks between institutions within the Indian Ocean. To do so, we plan to co-organize regular events hosted by affiliated institutions in Zanzibar, Calicut, Muscat, Penang, Cape Town, Banda Aceh, and others. These include biannual mentorship events in which academics (predominantly) from the Indian Ocean are invited to teach reading-and-writing workshops to students from the region. A conference will follow each workshop. We plan to host the pilot workshop in Calicut in December 2020. 

During this interactive Roundtable, a number of established researchers will be asked to respond to pre-circulated questions, which can help us homogenize our agendas and outline fundraising strategies to sponsor scholars and students from the Indian Ocean to play a central part in this initiative.

Panel: "Unpacking the Asian Library: Collecting Histories, and Collecting Networks from Asia to Europe"

18 Jul 2019 - 18 Jul 2019

Kamerlingh Onnes B0.31, Leiden, The Netherlands

Panel Convenor: Marieke Bloembergen (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian & Caribbean Studies, Netherlands)

Panel Discussant: Takeshi Hamashita (Toyo Bunko, Japan)

Presenters: Sri Margana (Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia); Marije Plomp (Leiden University, Netherlands); Wayan Sastrawan (The University of Sidney, Australia); Mahmood Kooria (Leiden University, Netherlands)


This double panel focuses on the collecting histories and networks shaping the Asian Library in Leiden – emphatically from an Asia- and/or South-centred perspective. While the ‘treasures’ kept in Asian libraries worldwide rank as expressions of ‘enlightened’ collecting, and as keys to understanding the wider world, they also entail colonial violence, and networks of collecting based in the South, and thus multiple forms of knowledge, agency, exchange and production ‘outside’ the text we get access to when we enter these libraries. With books, manuscripts and visual material therefore not only considered for their content, but primarily as ‘objects’, this panel aims, for the nineteenth and twentieth century, to gain insight in 1.) the ‘Asian’ agency behind the makings of these collections. For this we will explore forms of knowledge and knowledge exchange at the levels of production, collecting, translation, travelling, inventorizing and storing, in the context of colonial relationships, decolonization, and inter-colonial, transnational, and inter-Asian networks; 2.) how, when and why, colonial and various local forms of knowledge disclosed by these collecting histories and networks, developed in parallel, competed and/or influenced each other, and contributed to the various, changing hierarchical relations in knowledge production on Asia at multiple sites of learning; 3.) the ‘postcolonial’ legacies and afterlives of these histories and traditions of collecting and knowledge production in Asia, the Netherlands, and beyond; and 4.) it seeks for ways to open up the Asian Library, in various ways, for various users within and beyond the Netherlands, and provide access to the narratives it encapsulates. 

Participating scholars, junior and senior, from different disciplines and regional expertise, following one or more of these four queries, will explore the heuristic value and possibilities of this approach ‘by example’, and do so by starting from a specific case, i.e. collectors and producers on location in Asia, an individual collector’s collection, sub-collection, or even only one specific ‘object’ (a book, manuscript, or visual material like a photograph, a map, a drawing etcetera) kept, or once kept, in the Asian library and unravel the making of this object or sub-collection between Asia and Europe. Alternatively, they start from collections in ‘Asian Libraries’ elsewhere in the world to explore, along the main queries and aims of this panel, to discuss how and why these may challenge Leiden-centred views on Leiden’s Asian connections, and how to open up facing the possibilities and limits of digitalization.

Panel: "Rethinking Indian Ocean and Eurasian Connections: Fluid Identities, Material Histories, and Translocal Practices"

17 Jul 2019 - 17 Jul 2019

Huizinga 0.04, Leiden, The Netherlands

Panel Convenors: Mahmood Kooria and Neelima Jeyachandran (Pennsylvania State University, United States)

Presenters: Nicole Ranganath (University of California, Davis, United States); Janet Purdy (Pennsylvania State University, United States);  Mahmood Kooria.

Through this panel, we attempt to reconfigure the Indian Ocean as a relational space rather than simply a geographical region. We do so by drawing upon social sciences and humanities scholarship that brings the studies of Asia, Europe, Oceania, and Africa together to consider how different geographies are connected—historically and in contemporary times—with other parts of the Indian Ocean world through oceanscapes, material cultures, artistic practices, spiritual networks, performances, and built environments. Employing ethnographic and historical methodologies, panelists explore specific Indian Ocean connectivity in the coastal belts and Island states of Fiji, Malabar Coast, and Swahili Coast—each the site of remarkably proliferous and heterogeneous histories. In the spirit of exploring fluidity and fusions in the Indian Ocean, this panel cobbles together new formulations from such axiomatic academic notions as hybrid practices, spiritual cartographies, affective geographies, visual pastiches, material histories, and ontological ways of knowing. The authors of these papers focus on Indian Ocean connections that are articulated and rendered through encounters, performances, visuality, and spaces. Through this examination of material histories and ontological interventions in Asia and beyond, we aim to provide a template for understanding how people or communities imagine the Indian Ocean through portals, mobile bodies, and micro-cultural practices.


The 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars

15 Jul 2019 - 19 Jul 2019

Leiden, The Netherlands

The 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) is the most inclusive international gathering in the field of Asian Studies. ICAS attracts participants from over 75 countries to engage in global dialogues on Asia that transcend boundaries between academic disciplines and geographic areas. Events will include: panels and roundtable discussions, keynote speeches, craft exhibitions, a film and documentary festival and the second Asian Studies Book Fair. With all these activities ICAS is contributing to the decentering of Asian Studies by including more ‘Asian voices’ while successfully convening a global space in which Asia scholars and social and cultural actors from the whole world can directly interact. 

“Conversion”: Religions and Multi-Religious Entanglements in South Asia (8 th to 19 th c.)

24 Apr 2019 - 26 Apr 2019

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris

Religious conversion and coexistence are concepts at the forefront of contemporary political debates in the subcontinent. Political actors are currently mostly busy wielding distinctions such as indigenous vs. foreign and playing a dangerous game of exclusion and assimilation. Our one-day conference gathers together senior and junior scholars working on a common project which explores a longue durée history of practices and concepts when religious plurality thrived in one of the most travelled maritime regions of the world: the Indian Ocean and south India.

Transformations, Continuities and Rupture in Islamic Intellectual Thought (16th through 18th centuries)

17 Mar 2019 - 18 Feb 2019

Georgetown University Qatar

The conference brings together scholars of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires, to compare the intellectual production in these empires. It also aims to uncover the socio-political and institutional settings within which this thought developed and changed as a means to promote a methodological turn towards research that pays critical attention to the intellectual contexts of sources, and challenges narratives of decline and rupture. 

Matriarchal Islam and Sharia, USPPIP Conference

27 Sep 2018 - 29 Sep 2018

University of Exeter


Africa-Asia, a New Axis of Knowledge - Second Edition

20 Sep 2018 - 22 Sep 2018

Dar es Salam, Tanzania

Building on the multiple encounters, interactions and dialogues initiated at the 1st Africa-Asia Conference (Accra, Ghana, 2015), the 2nd international Conference ‘Africa-Asia, a New Axis of Knowledge’, to be held from 20-22 September 2018, in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), seeks to deepen the explorations of new realities, and long histories connecting Africa and Asia.

Workshop on the Indian Ocean Studies

17 Sep 2018 - 18 Sep 2018

Zanzibar, Tanzania

The idea of a Zanzibar workshop emerges from a desire to create an inclusive regionally-focused consortium of “Indian Ocean Studies” capable of connecting different Indian Ocean projects and concepts as they emerge from within the region in order to promote a transregional approach to scholarship that transcends conventional geographic area studies approaches - with their culturalist and essentialized constructions of “Africa,” “South Asia” and so on.

The workshop aims to bring together a global mix both of institutions based in the Indian Ocean region as well as partner institutions in Europe, Asia, and North America that have both a) established scholars working either on Indian Ocean initiatives or programs; and b) particularly for institutions in the Indian Ocean region, the capacity to host conferences, workshops as well as foster an intellectual community around Indian Ocean studies whose members would meet and interact with one another on a regular basis.

“Using the Past and Bridging the Gap: Islamic Legal Texts in New Media.”

09 Apr 2018 - 10 Apr 2018

University of Exeter

British Association of Islamic Studies Annual Conference

“Jihad against Mothers.” Conference on Islamic Law and Sexuality

09 Jan 2018 - 11 Jan 2018

University of Exeter


“Teaching Arabs Islam: Intellectual Networks of Malabari Teachers and Meccan Students.” International Conference on Beyond Bedouin and Bania: Arabia-South Asia Relations.

07 Dec 2017 - 08 Dec 2017

National University of Singapore


“From Damascus to Mindanao: The longue durée of Islamic texts in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean Worlds.”

18 Oct 2017 - 18 Oct 2017

University of Bochum

Traveling Texts and Inter-Religious Exchanges and Encounters.

“How to Kill a Mocking Custom: Jihad against Matriliny”.

12 Oct 2017 - 14 Oct 2017

University of Gottingen

Gender and Sharīʿah in Muslim Legal Theory and Practice.

“Several Waves of Islamic Law in the Indian Ocean World around 1500 CE”.

17 Sep 2017 - 17 Sep 2017

Oxford University

Islamicate Networks in the Early Modern Muslim World: Global and Regional Impact.

“Dynastic Laws, Sultanic Qanuns and Islamic Laws in South and Southeast Asia”.

15 Sep 2017 - 15 Sep 2017

Schloss Herrenhausen, Hanover

Conference on A Secular Age beyond the West: Modes of Secularity in Asia.

“Matrilineal Islam: An Indian Ocean Perspective on Sharia”

14 Jul 2017 - 14 Jul 2017

University of Cambridge

Workshop on Sharia in Motion

“Muslims of Malabar in Medieval Mecca”.

23 May 2017 - 23 May 2017

Imam Bukhari Institute & Youth India Study Circle, Jeddah


“The East African Muslim Jurists in the Malabar Coast, 13th to 15th centuries”.

22 Apr 2017 - 22 Apr 2017

Brennen College, Madayi

Workshop on Beyond Muzirs: Intercultural Encounters in Maritime Malabar.

“How Maternal ‘Gens’ Were Modernised/Islamised?”

25 Feb 2017 - 25 Feb 2017

Nederlands Instituut in Marokko, Rabat

Customs, Culture, Shari’a and National Law.

International Conference “Ocean of Law II: Islamic Legal Crossings across the Indian Ocean World,”

12 Dec 2016 - 14 Dec 2016

Leiden University

co-organised with Sanne Ravensbergen

“In Between Many Worlds of One Law: Arab, Malay and Filipino Legal Intermixtures of Shāfiʿīsm in the Maguindanao Luwaran”,

22 Jun 2016 - 22 Jun 2016

National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Manila

Third Cosmopolis Conference

“Zhenghe and the Chinese Islamic Cosmopolis of the Indian Ocean Rim”

05 Jun 2016 - 05 Jun 2016

Zhenghe International Peace Foundation. Dubai


“In the Shāfiʿīte Cosmopolis: Many Journeys of a Malabari Legal Text”

04 Jun 2016 - 04 Jun 2016

Freie University, Berlin

Islam in Malabar: Discourse, Text, and Public Culture

“Courts in the Archives: Cultural Translations of Islamic Law”

26 May 2016 - 27 May 2016

Aarhus University

IBIES Workshop

“Words of ʿAjam in the World of Arab: Translation and Translator in the Early Islamic Judicial Procedures”

06 May 2016 - 06 May 2016

Harvard Law School, Harvard University


“Introducing a Meccan Version of Law: Networks of Shāfiʿī fuqahā in the Sixteenth Century”

27 Apr 2016 - 27 Apr 2016

Seoul National University Asia Center


International Conference “Ocean of Law I: Intermingled Legal Landscapes of the Indian Ocean World,”

07 Dec 2015 - 09 Dec 2015

Leiden University

co-organised with Sanne Ravensbergen

“Ocean of Law: Movement of Islamic Legal Ideas and Texts across the Maritime Worlds,”

04 Aug 2015 - 04 Aug 2015

Max-Planck Summer Academy on Legal History, Frankfurt


“Texts as Agents of Empires: ‘Translation’ of Islamic Law in/for the Colonies,”

03 Jun 2015 - 03 Jun 2015

Forum for European Expansion and Global Interaction in Europe Conference


“Networks of Jihad and Kitābs: Imagining Java from Malabar in the 19th Century”

10 Sep 2014 - 10 Sep 2014

Fakultas Ilmu Budaya, Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta


“Aceh in Malabar and Malabar in Aceh: Islamic Textual Interconnections of the Indian Ocean World”

25 Aug 2014 - 25 Aug 2014

International Centre for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies, Banda Aceh


“Doors and Walls of the Masjids: The Transregional Landscapes of the Inscriptions in Premodern Malabar”

05 Jun 2014 - 05 Jun 2014

Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi


Second Annual Malabar Praxis Graduate Research Conference

19 May 2014 - 19 May 2014

University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad


“Two Legal Texts of Malabar with Extralocal Connections: Ajwibat al-ʿajība and Fatḥ al-Muʿīn,”

19 May 2014 - 19 May 2014

University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad

Second Annual Malabar Praxis Graduate Research Conference

"Beyond Orientalism and Indology: The Tenth Anniversary of Edward Said’s Passing”

11 Nov 2013 - 11 Nov 2013

Leiden South Asian Studies Colloquium


First Annual Malabar Praxis Graduate Research Conference

13 Aug 2013 - 14 Aug 2013

University of Calicut, Kerala, India


“Intertwined dār al-ḥarb and dār al-Islām: ʿUlamāʾ of Aceh and Ponnani and their Political Attachments with West Asian Sultanates,”

18 Mar 2013 - 18 Mar 2013

The NISIS Tunisia Spring School 2013, Hammamet


“Prophetic Knowledge of Ocean: Hadiths as Primary Sources for Studies in the Indian Ocean World,”

18 Feb 2012 - 18 Feb 2012

University of Kerala, Trivandrum

International Seminar on Language, Meaning and Philosophy of Hadiths

“Malabar and Yemen, Role of Sufi Saints: Early Modern Cultural Landscapes of the Indian Ocean World,”

30 Jan 2012 - 30 Jan 2012

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

International Seminar on Contemporary Yemen and Indo-Yemen Relations

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