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Non-Muslims and Law in the Ottoman Empire

Questions for Seminar:
  • Did Ottoman Jews and Christians enjoy "communal autonomy"?
  • What factors encouraged Ottoman Jews and Christians to use the shari'a courts?
  • What was the role of the responsum in Ottoman Jewish communities?

Assigned Reading:
Najwa al-Qattan, “Dhimmīs in the Muslim Court: Legal Autonomy and Religious Discrimination,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 31 (1999), 429-44.
Eugenia Kermeli, “The Right to Choice: Ottoman, Ecclesiastical and Communal Justice in Ottoman Greece,” in The Ottoman World, ed. Christine Woodhead (Routledge, 2012).
Joseph Hacker, “Jewish Autonomy in the Ottoman Empire, Its Scope and Limits: Jewish Courts from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries,” in The Jews of the Ottoman Empire, ed. Avigdor Levy (Darwin Press, 1994).
Ruth Lamdan, A Separate People: Jewish Women in Palestine, Syria and Egypt during the Sixteenth Century, (Brill, 2000), chapter 11, “Women and Divorce.”

Primary Source:

Selection of Jewish responsa, trans. by Matt Goldish in Jewish Questions: Responsa on Sephardic Life in the Early Modern Period (Princeton University Press, 2008).

Further Reading:
Karen Barkey, "Aspects of Legal Pluralism in the Ottoman Empire," in Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850, ed. Lauren Benton & Richard Ross (New York University Press, 2013), 83-107.
Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society (Homes & Meier, 1982).
Benjamin Braude, “Foundation Myths of the Millet System,” in Braude & Lewis, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society.
Amnon Cohen, “Communal Legal Entities in a Muslim Setting: the Jewish Community in Sixteenth-Century Jerusalem,” Islamic Law and Society 3 (1996).
Rossitsa Gradeva, "Orthodox Christians in the Kadi Courts: The Practice of the Sofia Sheriat Court, Seventeenth Century," Islamic Law and Society 4 (1997), 37-69.
Svetlana Ivanova, “Muslim and Christian Women before the Kadi Court in Eighteenth-Century Rumeli: Marriage Problems,” Oriente Moderno n.s. 18 (1999).
Ronald Jennings, “Zimmis (non-Muslims) in Early 17th-century Ottoman Judicial Records: The Sharia Court of Anatolian Kayseri,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 21 (1978).