October 5 Event: Lecture on legal construction of Muslim identity by Lena Salaymeh

Monday, October 5, 2015

Time: 4-6 pm
Place: 4 Bancroft, Room 200

Title: “Taxing citizens: socio-legal constructions of late antique Muslim identity” 

Abstract: The regulations pertaining to Islamic charity taxation illuminate underappreciated dimensions of how Muslims defined identity boundaries in late antiquity. To demarcate the contours of a historical process of Muslim identity construction, I analyze Islamic jurisprudential debates about who is and who is not obligated to pay the charity tax.  Most late antique and medieval jurists made the charity tax incumbent on minors or others lacking full legal capacity, even though these groups were exempt from ritual practices. Consequently, jurists conceptualized the category of “Muslim” in ways that were distinct from the practice of rituals. Because charity tax liability had socio-political and economic implications, it functioned simultaneously as a gate into and out of a Muslim community. This article contributes to the discourse on Islamic beginnings by exploring the intricacies of Muslim self-conceptions in late antiquity.

Bio: Professor Lena Salaymeh researches and teaches Islamic and Jewish jurisprudence and legal history, as well as law in contemporary Southwest Asia (i.e., the Middle East) and North Africa. Her forthcoming book, The Beginnings of Islamic Law (Cambridge University Press), explores Islamic law from the perspective of the society that began elaborating it. Her previous publications include pieces in Law and History ReviewLaw & Social Inquiry, Journal of Legal EducationUC Irvine Law ReviewIslam and Christian–Muslim Relations, and The Immanent Frame.