Islamic Law Speaker Series – Sohaib Baig

On February 23, 2021, Sohaib Baig (Harvard Law School) presented in our Islamic Law Speaker Series. In his talk titled “Towards a Transregional History of Sunni Legal Pluralism: Indian Hanafis in the Indian Ocean, 1500-1926,” Baig surveyed the dynamic histories of the Hanafi school (madhhab) and Sunni legal pluralism in the Indian Ocean in the early modern and modern periods. He explored how Hanafi interplay with other Sunni schools and traditions across multiple empires produced major transformations as Indian Hanafis reformulated foundational concepts concerning legal authority, including independent reasoning (ijtihād) and legal conformity (taqlīd). This talk explored some of these transformations, including the steady rise of hadith-based legal reasoning amongst Hanafis in the Indian Ocean, the expansion of legal fluidity between the Sunni legal schools, and the eventual displacement of the madhhabs as the central basis of Sunni legal authority in the modern period. Rather than explain such transformations primarily in terms of colonial modernity, this talk foregrounds Sunni legal pluralism and the power of its contending forces in shaping intellectual and legal history.

He was joined by Professor Manan Ahmed (Columbia University, Associate Professor, Department of History).