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The madrasa complex usually consisted of a mosque, boarding house, and a library. It was maintained by a waqf charitable endowment , which paid salaries of professors, stipends of students, and defrayed the costs of construction and maintenance. At the end of a course, the professor granted a license ijaza certifying a student's competence in its subject matter. A judge qadi was in charge of the qadi's court mahkama , also called the sharia court. Qadis were trained in Islamic law, though not necessarily to a level required to issue fatwas. The main type of evidence was oral witness testimony.

The standards of evidence for criminal cases were so strict that a conviction was often difficult to obtain even for apparently clear-cut cases. If an accusation did not result in a verdict in a qadi's court, the plaintiff could often pursue it in another type of court called the mazalim court, administered by the ruler's council.

Islamic Law Definition:

Islamic jurists were commonly in attendance and a judge often presided over the court as a deputy of the ruler. The police shurta , which took initiative in preventing and investigating crime, operated its own courts. The social fabric of pre-modern Islamic societies was largely defined by close-knit communities organized around kinship groups and local neighborhoods.

Conflicts between individuals had the potential to escalate into a conflict between their supporting groups and disrupt the life of the entire community. Court litigation was seen as a last resort for cases where informal mediation had failed. This attitude was reflected in the legal maxim "amicable settlement is the best verdict" al-sulh sayyid al-ahkam.

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In court disputes, qadis were generally less concerned with legal theory than with achieving an outcome that enabled the disputants to resume their previous social relationships. This could be accomplished by avoiding a total loss for the losing side or simply giving them a chance to articulate their position in public and obtain a measure of psychological vindication. Unlike pre-modern cultures where the ruling dynasty promulgated the law, Islamic law was formulated by religious scholars without involvement of the rulers.

The law derived its authority not from political control, but rather from the collective doctrinal positions of the legal schools madhhabs in their capacity as interpreters of the scriptures. Although the relationship between secular rulers and religious scholars underwent a number of shifts and transformations in different times and places, this mutual dependence characterized Islamic history until the start of the modern era.

This early attempt to turn Islamic law into semi-codified state legislation sparked rebellions against Mughal rule. In both the rules of civil disputes and application of penal law, classical sharia distinguishes between men and women, between Muslims and non-Muslims, and between free persons and slaves.

Traditional Islamic law assumes a patriarchal society with a man at the head of the household. Sharia was intended to regulate affairs of the Muslim community. Cases involving litigants from two different religious groups fell under jurisdiction of sharia courts, [3] where unlike in secular courts [89] testimony of non-Muslim witnesses against a Muslim was inadmissible in criminal cases [90] or at all. In some periods or towns, all inhabitants apparently used the same court without regard for their religious affiliation.

Classical fiqh acknowledges and regulates slavery as a legitimate institution. Formal legal disabilities for some groups coexisted with a legal culture that viewed sharia as a reflection of universal principles of justice, which involved protection of the weak against injustices committed by the strong.

This conception was reinforced by the historical practice of sharia courts, where peasants "almost always" won cases against oppressive landowners, and non-Muslims often prevailed in disputes against Muslims, including such powerful figures as the governor of their province. Starting from the 17th century, European powers began to extend political influence over lands ruled by Muslim dynasties, and by the end of the 19th century, much of the Muslim world came under colonial domination.

The first areas of Islamic law to be impacted were usually commercial and criminal laws, which impeded colonial administration and were soon replaced by European regulations. The first significant changes to the legal system of British India were initiated in the late 18th century by the governor of Bengal Warren Hastings. Hastings' plan of legal reform envisioned a multi-tiered court system for the Muslim population, with a middle tier of British judges advised by local Islamic jurists, and a lower tier of courts operated by qadis.

Hastings also commissioned a translation of the classic manual of Hanafi fiqh, Al-Hidayah , from Arabic into Persian and then English, later complemented by other texts.

In the traditional Islamic context, a concise text like Al-Hidayah would be used as a basis for classroom commentary by a professor, and the doctrines thus learned would be mediated in court by judicial discretion, consideration of local customs and availability of different legal opinions that could fit the facts of the case. The British use of Al-Hidayah , which amounted to an inadvertent codification of sharia, and its interpretation by judges trained in Western legal traditions anticipated later legal reforms in the Muslim world.

British administrators felt that sharia rules too often allowed criminals to escape punishment, as exemplified by Hastings' complaint that Islamic law was "founded on the most lenient principles and on an abhorrence of bloodshed". Like the British in India, colonial administrations typically sought to obtain precise and authoritative information about indigenous laws, which prompted them to prefer classical Islamic legal texts over local judicial practice. This, together with their conception of Islamic law as a collection of inflexible rules, led to an emphasis on traditionalist forms of sharia that were not rigorously applied in the pre-colonial period and served as a formative influence on the modern identity politics of the Muslim world.

During the colonial era, Muslim rulers concluded that they could not resist European pressure unless they modernized their armies and built centrally administered states along the lines of Western models. In the Ottoman empire , the first such changes in the legal sphere involved placing the formerly independent waqfs under state control. This reform, passed in , enriched the public treasury at the expense of the waqfs, thereby depleting the financial support for traditional Islamic legal education. Over the second half of the 19th century, a new hierarchical system of secular courts was established to supplement and eventually replace most religious courts.

Students hoping to pursue legal careers in the new court system increasingly preferred attending secular schools over the traditional path of legal education with its dimming financial prospects. It adopted the Turkish language for the benefit of the new legal class who no longer possessed competence in the Arabic idiom of traditional jurisprudence.

The code was based on Hanafi law, and its authors selected minority opinions over authoritative ones when they were felt to better "suit the present conditions". The Mecelle was promulgated as a qanun sultanic code , which represented an unprecedented assertion of the state's authority over Islamic civil law, traditionally the preserve of the ulema.

Westernization of legal institutions and expansion of state control in all areas of law, which began during the colonial era, continued in nation-states of the Muslim world. Court procedures were also brought in line with European practice. While in the traditional sharia court all parties represented themselves, in modern courts they are represented by professional lawyers educated in Western-style law schools, and the verdicts are subject to review in an appeals court.

In the 20th century, most countries abolished a parallel system of sharia courts and brought all cases under a national civil court system. In most Muslim-majority countries, traditional rules of classical fiqh have been largely preserved only in family law. In some countries religious minorities such as Christians or Shia Muslims have been subject to separate systems of family laws.

In reality, they generally represent the result of extensive legal reforms made in the modern era. Abduh viewed only sharia rules pertaining to religious rituals as inflexible, and argued that the other Islamic laws should be adapted based on changing circumstances in consideration of social well-being. Following precedents of earlier Islamic thinkers, he advocated restoring Islam to its original purity by returning to the Quran and the sunna instead of following the medieval schools of jurisprudence.

One of the most influential figures in modern legal reforms was the Egyptian legal scholar Abd El-Razzak El-Sanhuri — , who possessed expertise in both Islamic and Western law. Sanhuri argued that reviving Islamic legal heritage in a way that served the needs of contemporary society required its analysis in light of the modern science of comparative law.

He drafted the civil codes of Egypt and Iraq based on a variety of sources, including classical fiqh, European laws, existing Arab and Turkish codes, and the history of local court decisions. Aside from the radical reforms of Islamic family law carried out in Tunisia and Iran , governments often preferred to make changes that made a clear break from traditional sharia rules by imposing administrative hurdles rather than changing the rules themselves, in order to minimize objections from religious conservatives.

Various procedural changes have been made in a number of countries to restrict polygamy, give women greater rights in divorce, and eliminate child marriage.


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Inheritance has been the legal domain least susceptible to reform, as legislators have been generally reluctant to tamper with the highly technical system of Quranic shares. For example, the reform of Egyptian family law, promulgated by Anwar Sadat through presidential decree, provoked an outcry and was annulled in by the supreme court on procedural grounds, to be later replaced by a compromise version. Islam portal. The Islamic revival of the late 20th century brought the topic of sharia to international attention in the form of numerous political campaigns in the Muslim world calling for full implementation of sharia.

They accused secular leaders of corruption and predatory behavior, and claimed that a return to sharia would replace despotic rulers with pious leaders striving for social and economic justice. In the Arab world these positions are often encapsulated in the slogan "Islam is the solution" al-Islam huwa al-hall. Full implementation of sharia theoretically refers to expanding its scope to all fields of law and all areas of public life. Modern Islamists have often rejected, at least in theory, the stringent procedural constraints developed by classical jurists to restrict their application.

A number of legal reforms have been made under the influence of these movements, starting from the s when Egypt and Syria amended their constitutions to specify sharia as the basis of legislation. Advocates of Islamization have often been more concerned with ideology than traditional jurisprudence and there is no agreement among them as to what form a modern sharia-based " Islamic state " should take. This is particularly the case for the theorists of Islamic economics and Islamic finance , who have advocated both free-market and socialist economic models.

The legal systems of most Muslim-majority countries can be classified as either secular or mixed. Sharia plays no role in secular legal systems. In mixed legal systems, sharia rules are allowed to influence some national laws, which are codified and may be based on European or Indian models, and the central legislative role is played by politicians and modern jurists rather than the ulema traditional Islamic scholars.

Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states possess what may be called classical sharia systems, where national law is largely uncodified and formally equated with sharia, with ulema playing a decisive role in its interpretation. Iran has adopted some features of classical sharia systems, while also maintaining characteristics of mixed systems, like codified laws and a parliament. Constitutions of many Muslim-majority countries refer to sharia as a source or the main source of law, though these references are not in themselves indicative of how much the legal system is influenced by sharia, and whether the influence has a traditionalist or modernist character.

Except for secular systems, Muslim-majority countries possess sharia-based laws dealing with family matters marriage, inheritance, etc. These laws generally reflect influence of various modern-era reforms and tend to be characterized by ambiguity, with traditional and modernist interpretations often manifesting themselves in the same country, both in legislation and court decisions.

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Islamic Law

Countries in the Muslim world generally have criminal codes influenced by French law or common law, and in some cases a combination of Western legal traditions. Saudi Arabia has never adopted a criminal code and Saudi judges still follow traditional Hanbali jurisprudence. In the course of Islamization campaigns, several countries Libya, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Mauritania, and Yemen inserted Islamic criminal laws into their penal codes, which were otherwise based on Western models. In some countries only hudud penalties were added, while others also enacted provisions for qisas law of retaliation and diya monetary compensation.

Iran subsequently issued a new "Islamic Penal Code". The criminal codes of Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates contain a general provision that certain crimes are to be punished according to Islamic law, without specifying the penalties. Some Nigerian states have also enacted Islamic criminal laws. Laws in the Indonesian province of Aceh provide for application of discretionary ta'zir punishments for violation of Islamic norms, but explicitly exclude hudud and qisas.

Sharia also plays a role beyond religious rituals and personal ethics in some countries with Muslim minorities. For example, in Israel sharia-based family laws are administered for the Muslim population by the Ministry of Justice through the Sharia Courts. Sharia courts traditionally do not rely on lawyers; plaintiffs and defendants represent themselves. In Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have preserved traditional procedure in sharia courts, trials are conducted solely by the judge, and there is no jury system.

There is no pre-trial discovery process, and no cross-examination of witnesses. Unlike common law, judges' verdicts do not set binding precedents [] under the principle of stare decisis , [] and unlike civil law, sharia is left to the interpretation in each case and has no formally codified universal statutes. The rules of evidence in sharia courts traditionally prioritize oral testimony, and witnesses must be Muslim. A confession, an oath, or the oral testimony of Muslim witnesses are the main evidence admissible in traditional sharia courts for hudud crimes, i.

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Testimony to establish the crime of adultery, fornication or rape must be from four Muslim male witnesses, with some fiqhs allowing substitution of up to three male with six female witnesses; however, at least one must be a Muslim male. In the case of regulations that were part of local Malaysian legislation that did not go into effect, this could cause severe difficulties for women plaintiffs in rape cases. Marriage is solemnized as a written financial contract, in the presence of two Muslim male witnesses, and it includes a brideprice Mahr payable from a Muslim man to a Muslim woman.