This conceptual essay pivots on the following problem: Tethered to a context of Muslim empire, how is the legacy of the premodern Islamic legal tradition engaged and negotiated in the modern colonial moment in South Asia, marked by the loss of Muslim political sovereignty and the emergence of South Asian Muslims as a minority community? It engages this question through the example of intra-Muslim debates and contestations on the boundaries of friendship between Muslims and non-Muslims in modern South Asia, with a focus on the thought of certain prominent traditionalist ‘ulama’.

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