Islamic Law of the Sea: Freedom of Navigation and Passage Rights in Islamic Thought
ISLAMIC LAW OF THE SEA – Book Sample
Introduction – ISLAMIC LAW OF THE SEA
The year 1492 signaled a fundamental turning point in global and, more particularly, maritime history. It marked the expulsion of the Nasrid dynasty (636–898 AH/1238–1492 CE) from Granada, the last Islamic st˙ronghold in Spain, and the beginning of the great age of Christian maritime discoveries across the two shores of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus embarked on a westward voyage to the Indian Ocean in search of alternative maritime routes that would circumvent traditional trade passages through Islamic territories to the Spice Islands. On a similar mission, the Portuguese navigator and explorer Vasco da Gama set sail from Lisbon on July 8, 1497, leading a ﬂotilla of four fully equipped vessels; although, instead of following the steps of Columbus, da Gama sailed south- ward and circumnavigated Africa.
After a lengthy journey with various stops in trading centres on African coasts, da Gama landed at Malindi, Kenya, on April 15, 1498; there he managed to secure a well-versed Arab muʿallim, who guided the Portuguese ﬂeet across the Arabian Sea, ﬁnally arriving in Kappadu (Kappad), near Calicut,1 on May 20, .2
The Portuguese circumnavigation of Africa and penetration of the Indian Ocean also marked a new chapter in maritime legal history.
Contrary to the westward explorations, which revealed to the Spaniards hitherto unknown pre-Columbian cultures, da Gama introduced a new maritime passage to the western European nations, which led to the already known sources of spices and other luxurious commodities from Southeast Asia that previously had made their way to the West solely through the Muslim world.
The Portuguese incursion into the Indian Ocean, followed by similar intrusions of other European sea powers, undermined the Muslim-run maritime trading system, disturbed the ï¬‚ow of spices from Calicut to the Red Sea, and produced new forms of naval strategies and powers.4 Commanded by the viceroy Dom Francisco de Almeida, the Portuguese naval ï¬‚eet surprised its Egyptian-Ottoman rival and defeated it in Diu on February 3, 1509;5 this engagement is regarded as one of the most decisive naval battles in the maritime and legal history of the Indian Ocean.6
The Portuguese penetration into the Indian Ocean ended the system of peaceful oceanic navigation that had been such a notable feature of that arena. Prior to this incursion, merchants at sea feared only pirates and natural hazards.
Now, however, they were subject also to the threat of these new intruders, who imported the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean models of trade and warfare and ended freedom of navigation in the eastern hemisphere. The Portuguese encroachment altered certain of the existing networking systems of maritime trade,…
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