We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Qāḍī - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
Chapter: verse lookup What is This? Select one or both translations, then enter a chapter and verse number in the boxes, and click "Go."
:
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result

Qāḍī

By:
Byron D. Cannon
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Related Content

Qāḍī

Throughout Islamic history authority to judge cases between Muslims under the sharīʿah (religious law) was vested in the post of qāḍī (judge), single judge of the maḥkamah court. Unlike jurisprudents (   fuqahāʿ ), qāḍīs did not deal with the sources of the sharīʿah but generally referred to what became, with time, recognized law books summarizing the law. Although the qāḍī’s jurisdiction was fairly general, certain areas, especially serious crimes, came under the jurisdiction of executive rulers.

Depending on time and place, a sort of hierarchy was recognized within the religiously defined judicial branch of Islamic governing authority. The ʿAbbāsid caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd (d. 809 CE), around 800 CE, is said to have been the first to recognize the qāḍī of Baghdad as the qāḍī al-quḍāt or “judge of judges.” Such recognition did imply jurisdictional superiority, but related more to administrative questions, especially the appointment of qāḍīs throughout the caliphal realm.

Political fragmentation within the core Islamic region led to diversified claims over the authority to appoint qāḍīs. In time, especially after the Fāṭimid countercaliphate was founded in 969 CE, appointments were made not only by local dynasts that rejected the Baghdad caliphs’ legitimacy, but also by loyal but geographically distant provincial regimes.

The process of differentiation was also affected by the gradual recognition of four different orthodox schools of Islamic law (madhāhib; sg., madhhab). Each recognized the other schools as acceptable interpretors of Islamic law, but local political authorities might grant precedence to the qāḍī of the locally “preferred” school.

At some periods and under certain conditions, the presence of sufficient numbers of representatives of the four madhāhib may have encouraged appointment of more than one qāḍī al-quḍāt. The potential complexity of such arrangements (as well as the possibility of local “discontent”) surfaced in Syria and Egypt several times. The Fāṭimids recognized four chief judges, but two of these represented Imāmī and Ismāʿīlī Shiism. When the Ayyūbids assumed control, they not only eliminated the Shīʿī chief judges but removed the Mālikī judge as well, leaving the responsibility of appointing (and overseeing?) all qāḍīs to a Shāfiʿī.

Generally speaking, a qāḍī's position as a “simple” judge did not open horizons for individual contribution to the growing corpus of Islamic intellectual tradition, specifically in the realm of shariatic commentary. Some important exceptions, however, can be noted in cases where the post of maḥkamah judge seems to have been of only secondary importance in outstanding individuals’ careers. This was certainly the case of Qāḍī ʿIyād (d. 1149), a North African Mālikī judge who composed a major work (Al-shifāʿah bi taʿrīf huqūq al-muṣṭafa [Recognition of the Rights of the Chosen One], usually referred to as Al-shifāʿah) that, without being an actual corpus of legal details, became over time a highly popular manual of moral guideposts for Muslims.

Another prominent example would be the contribution of Qāḍī Abū Ḥanīfah al-Nuʿman ibn Thābit (commonly referred to as Qāḍī al-Nuʿman, d. 974) who, although thought to have been originally a Mālikī, is remembered as the preferred qāḍī and judicial adviser of the Imāmī (Twelver) Shīʿī Fāṭimid caliph al-Muʿizz. By the time he reached the peak of his career (having served several of the early Fāṭimid caliphs, Qāḍī al-Nuʿman had embraced the Ismāʿīlī (Sevener) branch of Shiism. His most important work, Daʿāʿim al-Islām (The Pillars of Islam), has traditionally been considered one of the most complete (surviving) compendia of Ismāʿīlī fiqh. Although clearly an outstanding qāḍī, Qāḍī Nuʿman is most frequently cited for his collected sermons and philosophical writings, including contributions to the field of taʿwīl, or allegorical interpretation of the Qurʿān.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to know when growing trends toward providing essentially secular definitions of key areas of law began to affect the traditional jurisdiction of the qāḍī. The historic experience of the Ottoman Empire and its successor states in the Middle East provide something of a prototype. Beginning in the 1830s, Ottoman Tanzimat decrees gradually reduced the qāḍīs’ jurisdiction over areas of law susceptible to secular codification. The empire gradually established niẓāmīyah courts over civil matters (ḥuqūq madanī) especially business or credit contracts and certain property cases. Conservative reformers on the Tanzimat Council tried to develop a somewhat eclectic model of Islamic provisions as a general civil code (the Mecelle). Their goal was to maintain a framework within which judges trained as qāḍīs could continue in a partially secularized system acceptable to local and western parties in court. Where regional reformers moved more quickly, changes led to a need for totally different professional qualifications than those possessed by the qāḍīs.

This was the case in Egypt. In the 1860s a system of majālis maḥallīyah (local councils) assumed jurisdiction (with rudimentary local codes) over a wide range of cases that were deemed inappropriate for judgment in the qāḍī's court. Originally such majālis included ʿulamāʿ to consult on overlapping areas of law. Increasingly, however, separate jurisdictional authority and codes covering most civil and penal matters was extended throughout the Ottoman Empire. However, at least until drastic secular reforms were imposed by the Turkish Republic and adopted in other formerly Ottoman areas in the interwar period, personal status cases (for example, issues of marriage, divorce, and guardianship) remained under the qāḍīs’ jurisdiction well into the twentieth century. In Egypt the designation of a qāḍī al-quḍāt also carried forward into the twentieth century. It was not until 1947 that the post was ended in Cairo, followed eight years later by the early Nasser regime's abolition of the lingering remnants of the maḥkamah jurisdiction.

[See also

MAḥKAMAH.

Bibliography

  • Agmon, Iris. Family and Court: Legal Culture and Modernity in Late Ottoman Palestine. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2006.
  • Antoun, Richard T.“The Islamic Court, the Islamic Judge and the Accommodation of Traditions: A Jordanian Case Study.”International Journal of Middle East Studies12 (1980): 456–467.
  • Escovitz, J. H.“Patterns of the Appointment of Chief Judges of Cairo during the Baḥri Mamluk Period.”Arabica30 (1983): 147–168.
  • Schacht, Joseph. “Law and Justice.” In The Cambridge History of Islam, edited by P. M. Holt et al., vol. 2, pp. 539–568. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1970.
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2020. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice