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Fluid JurisdictionsColonial Law and Arabs in Southeast Asia$
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Nurfadzilah Yahaya

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501750878

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501750878.001.0001

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The Lure of Bureaucracy

The Lure of Bureaucracy

British Administration of Islamic Law in the Straits Settlements

(p.33) Chapter 1 The Lure of Bureaucracy
Fluid Jurisdictions

Nurfadzilah Yahaya

Cornell University Press

This chapter evaluates how the Arab elite in Southeast Asia played an outsized role in the development of Islamic law in the British Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca, and Singapore) and, to a smaller extent, the Netherlands Indies. It presents how the Arabs of the Straits Settlements had already allowed the British government to regulate their intimate lives through the administration of Islamic law, four decades before the First World War. The chapter also explains the clustering around state institutions and reliance on state bureaucracy, and how it went beyond a view toward future litigation and eventual accounting. It investigates how the clustering held government authorities responsible for enforcing terms in waqf deeds, maintaining waqfs, and disciplining errant trustees. Ultimately, this chapter demonstrates how members of the Arab elite successfully persuaded colonial leaders to take on the mantle of administration of Islamic law in 1880 because they wished for the presence of a strong state regulatory agency in the form of a strong judicial system.

Keywords:   Arab elite, Southeast Asia, Islamic law, British Straits Settlements, British government, state bureaucracy, waqs, Muslim leadership, First World War, Netherlands Indies

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