This paper addresses and critiques the case for state-level legislative bans on courts citing “Islamic law” or the law of Muslim-majority countries. In particular, the paper reviews the most substantive evidence adduced by the bans’ supporters, in the form of a set of state court cases published by the Center for Security Policy (CSP). Very few of these cases, in fact, show courts actually applying Islamic or foreign law, and in none of these cases would the various forms of proposed legislation have been likely to alter the result. Thus even this report does not suggest a need for the state laws purporting to ban sharīʿa. The paper thus argues that even if these bans are not unconstitutionally discriminatory in their effect, they are ineffective at achieving their claimed purpose.
Ibn Ḥārith al-Khushanī recorded the following case as a ḥikāya, an anonymous report: A Christian appeared before the judge Aslam b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, petitioning to be executed. The anecdote offers insight into the historical role of judges during a period of religious dissent in the Umayyad Caliphate, while the author's narrative voice demonstrates past judicial approaches to rationality, humor, and violent penalization.
This text is part of Maribel Fierro, The Judges of al-Andalus, forthcoming.
A Toledan man named Ibn Ḥātim was accused of being a heretic by sixty witnesses on the initiative of a fellow Toledan called Ibn Labīd al-Murābiṭ. The judge consulted with the local jurists, and following their legal opinions, he sentenced the accused to death. However, he granted the accused the right to challenge the witnesses (iʿdhār). Ibn Ḥātim escaped from Toledo and found refuge in the neighboring kingdom of Badajoz. Ibn Labīd went after him, carrying a copy of the judge’s sentence (tasjīl) along with the legal opinions of a number of non-Toledan jurists. In Badajoz, the ruler withdrew his support from Ibn Ḥātim, who fled again, this time to Cordoba. While in Cordoba, the “moral” police arrested Ibn Ḥātim, and the judge imprisoned him, giving him two months to prove his innocence. Unable to do so, Ibn Ḥātim was crucified alive. A number of legal issues arise in the course of this case: should the process of iʽdhār—the right to challenge witnesses—be granted to those accused of heresy (zandaqa)? Should refuge be granted to them? What happens with the estate or inheritance of an executed zindīq? Can a judge reverse a sentence given by another judge? The source is a collection of court cases by Andalusi scholar Ibn Sahl (d. 486/1093), and it is based on information directly available to the compiler, who was also a witness of most of the events described.