In this excerpt, Jalāl al-Dīn al-Dawānī (d. 908/1502–3), philosopher and chief judge of the southern Iranian province of Fars in the late fifteenth century CE, reports that the maẓālim courts were able to resolve many cases because of their ability to consider diverse forms of evidence. In contrast, he says that the traditional Islamic courts’ admission of only oral testimony could hamper Muslim judges’ ability to administer justice. In his chapter on circumstantial evidence in Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts, Hossein Modarressi draws on Dawānī’s treatise and its illustration of how justice was obstructed in the traditional courts of his day through bureaucratic maneuvers orchestrated by the ʿudūl, or court clerks. The ʿudūl nitpicked at the specific wording of the petitions and various types of testimony, and they oversaw a lengthy process of determining the credibility of witnesses by bringing in further witnesses to testify for or against the main witnesses. Modarressi quotes Dawānī’s lament that as a consequence, “a small petition [lingered] around in the court for such a long time that the parties [got] fed up with the process. When the case is a criminal case, the purpose is completely lost” (115). Modarressi argues that these difficulties in traditional courts were exacerbated by the fact that Islamic legal procedure restricted judges to using testimony or oaths, and that these procedural rules were not open to modification.
This source is part of the Online Companion to the book Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts, ed. Intisar A. Rabb and Abigail Krasner Balbale (ILSP/HUP 2017)—a collection of primary sources and other material used in and related to the book.
The Muwaṭṭaʾis the first extant treatise on Islamic law, written by the eighth-century Medinan jurist Mālik b. Anas (d. 179/795). It provides an unparalleled window into the life of the early Muslim community of Medina—where the Prophet Muḥammad lived and died after immigrating from Mecca—as well as the rituals, laws, and customs that its members upheld years after his death. Harvard’s Program in Islamic Law, in conjunction with Harvard University Press, published an English translation of the Muwaṭṭaʾin 2019, edited and translated by well-known Islamic law scholars Professors Mohammad Fadel and Connell Monette. This translation is based on the recently published critical edition of the Muwaṭṭaʾ, The Royal Moroccan Edition (Rabat: Ministry of Endowments, 2013). With its extensive notes, the English edition is intended to make this important early legal text widely accessible to a broad spectrum of readers, including those interested in both legal history and Islamic Studies. This Online Companionto the Muwaṭṭaʾmakes the full texts of both the original Arabic edition and its English translation freely available online. We gratefully acknowledge the Moroccan Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs for permissions to make the full Arabic text available online.
This source is part of the Online Companion to the print edition al-Muwaṭṭaʾ, the Royal Moroccan Edition: The Recension of Yaḥyā Ibn Yaḥyā al-Laythī (Harvard Series in Islamic Law), edited and translated by Mohammad Fadel and Connell Monette (PIL/HUP, 2019).