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Islamic Law and the Management of Natural Resources in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Ottoman Syria

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Drawing on evidence from seventeenth and eighteenth century Islamic legal sources in Ottoman Syria, the paper examines the laws governing the use and management of natural resources, particularly for agricultural production. Islamic jurists played a key role in mediating the state's relationship with local populations and legitimising local practices and customs that governed land and water use. Often, this translated into laws which prioritised protecting the public good while not necessarily challenging existing power structures. The paper also explains how pious endowments (waqfs) were integral to the management of land and water resources in Ottoman Syria. The study sheds light on indigenous narratives regarding the environment and how Islamic law adapted to social and economic circumstances on the ground. Ultimately, the law contributed to ensuring the socio-cultural sustainability of ‘management’ strategies implemented by local populations vis à vis the environment.
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Keywords: Ottoman Syria; endowment; land and Islam; water

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 0.800. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.918.
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