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MICHAEL O'SULLIVAN (Harvard University)

‘No Salve for Muslim Wounds’: Proprietary Islam, Economic Disparity, and Gujarati Muslim Corporate Institutions,



24 May 2022 | 3pm BST

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This paper examines the jamāʿats (caste corporations) of the three Gujarati Muslim commercial castes - the Bohras, Khojas, and Memons. By conceptualizing the jamāʿats as a mixture of South Asian and European corporate forms, this paper makes three interventions. First, it examines the intersection and elaboration of diverse forms of Sunni and Shīʿī law among groups usually deemed apathetic to Islamic law. Second, it reconstructs the role of the jamāʿats in adjudicating disputes, enforcing legal decisions, debating the legitimacy of custom, maintaining caste boundaries, and bridging the realms of colonial law and Islamic jurisprudence. Finally, it studies how the jamāʿats embodied archetypes of a sharia-inflected modern capitalist ethics, while also serving as a discursive pretext for other Muslims to articulate a competing vision of an ‘Islamic’ economic order that dispensed with capitalism and minimized intra-Muslim economic disparities.

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Michael O’Sullivan is a Junior Research Fellow at the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University. His history of the modern Bohras, Khojas, and Memons is expected to appear with Harvard University Press in 2023. 

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