Menue phone
all research fellows

Ninja Bumann

Junior Research Fellow


Areas of Interest

  • Islam in Southeast Europe (esp. in Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • History of gender and family relations
  • Legal history
  • History of the Habsburg Empire (19th-20th centuries)

Marriage and Divorce before Sharia Courts: Law and Gender in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina (1878-1918)

My project examines how the Ottoman-Islamic legal system was incorporated into the Habsburg Empire after the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878. While the Sharia courts continued to operate under Austro-Hungarian rule, their jurisdiction was relegated to the “private” sphere of family and marriage. As a result, Sharia courts adjudicated only marriage, family and inheritance issues among the Muslim population and according to Islamic law. Using Sharia court records, I analyze how these changes affected legal practices and gender relations on the ground. Thereby, I argue that these modifications created contested boundaries between the Islamic and the secular/civil legal spheres.

In legal practice, it was often unclear how these two legal systems could be clearly separated. A particular challenge was that Sharia courts had no enforcement powers, and there were frequent misunderstandings about how Sharia courts could actually intervene in marital and family disputes. This point also illustrates that various actors had different ideas about the institutional demarcation between the Islamic and secular or civil legal spheres. On the one hand, local qadis saw enforcement powers for Sharia court as an inherent part of an Islamic legal system and as fundamental to the control of marriage and gender roles. On the other hand, Habsburg administrators defined the Sharia courts as a moral institution without penal or enforcement powers.


2019 - present

PhD Candidate, Doctoral School of Historical and Cultural Studies (DSHCS), University of Vienna

2019 - 2013

PreDoc University Assistant, Institute for East European History, University of Vienna


MA in East European History, University of Vienna

Relevant Publications

Bumann, Ninja. “Forging a Habsburg Islamic Legal System: Legal Transformation and Local Agency in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina (1878-1918).” Journal of Islamic Law. Special Issue “The Dynamics of Islamic Law with the Rise of Modernity” 4, no. 1 (2023): 51–92.

Bumann, Ninja. “Contesting Juridical Authority: Sharia, Marriage, and Morality in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Austrian History Yearbook 53 (2022): 150-68.