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Drawing on Hanafi fatawa and legal commentaries from Ottoman Syria between the 17th and early 19th centuries, this book examines the legal status of tenants and sharecroppers on arable lands, most of which were state or waqf properties. Challenging the existing scholarship which argues that the status of cultivators gradually eroded after the 16th century, this study explores how jurists balanced the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords, thereby ensuring the adaptability of the Ottoman land system.
Illustrating the doctrinal development of the law, the work also addresses the differences between sharecropping and tenancy arrangements, the limitations that governed state and waqf officials, and the interplay between shari'a and qanun in shaping land laws. The book sheds light on notions of "ownership," ideas of private vs. public good, and prevailing conceptions of social and economic justice.