• This article explores the interface of multiple legal systems in early modern Daghestan. By comparing colonial engagements with legal plurality with indigenous genres of Daghestani legal discourse, I aim to shed light on the plurality of legal systems that preceded as well as informed legal discourse under colonialism. The Daghestani turn to ijtihād (independent legal reasoning) in the early modern period parallels the turn away from ‘ādāt (indigenous law) that shaped modern Islamic as well as colonial legal regimes, albeit with radically distinctive genealogies. In tracing these internal debates, I offer a preliminary genealogy of Daghestani ijtihād that is grounded in the robust debates concerning the sources of Islamic authority that originated in Yemen and were transmitted to Daghestan by traveling scholars. This essay is a contribution to the study of legal norms on colonial borderlands, as well as to the study of Islamic modernity before colonialism.