Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal (d. 241/855) and Isḥāq b. Rāhawayh (d. 238/853) on Evaluating Witnesses in Early Islamic Courts

This text documenting the positions of the jurist Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal (d. 241/855) relays a disagreement he had with the scholar Isḥāq Ibn Rāhawayh (d. 238/853). While Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal had maintained the non-Muslims might only testify regarding the last will of a deceased Muslim, Isḥāq b. Rāhawayh upholds the opinion suggested by earlier jurists that non-Muslim scripturalists might testify in Muslim courts so long as they only testify against members of their own faith communities. Isḥāq b. Rāhawayh cites an event in the Prophet Muḥammad’s life as Sunnaic proof for the admissibility of non-Muslim testimony in court. He relays an incident in which Muḥammad apparently accepted the testimony of Jewish individuals against a Jewish couple accused of adultery. Ahmed El Shamsy notes in Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts that Isḥāq b. Rāhawayh seems to be one of the only jurists of his day to employ this anecdote to permit non-Muslim testimony.

This source is part of the Online Companion to the book Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts (ILSP/HUP 2017)—a collection of sources and other material used in and related to the book.  


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