Wakī (d. 306/917) on Evaluating Witnesses in Early Islamic Courts

In this historical text, Wakīʿ documents the historical feud between Qaysī and Yamanī Arabs which precluded members of each group from testifying against the other in Muslim courts due to concerns of bias. The factional tension also affected political and judicial spheres. For example, Wakīʿ relates that the governor of Basra ʿUqba b. Salm (in office 149–50/766–67) was pressured into releasing an unjustly imprisoned man by the judge Sawār b. ʿAbd Allāh b. Qudāma (in office 138–56/ 755–73). The judge complied with this order because of pressure and instability due to factional political alliances. Given the degree to which Qaysī and Yamanī rivalries influenced the political sphere, it seems understandable that their testimony against each other was not accepted in the courtroom. Ahmed El Shamsy references this source in Justice and Leadership in Early Islamic Courts as the first of many historical cases in which progressive restrictions were placed on who might be permitted to give testimony resulting from increased political rivalry.

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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