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Law in the Ottoman Empire: Shari'a Law, Dynastic Law, Legal Institutions

Questions for Seminar

  • What is the relationship between shari'a and kanun?
  • What were the sources of the law's authority in the Ottoman Empire?
  • The primary sources are a sample of the types of materials used by legal historians of the Ottoman Empire. What are their strengths and weaknesses?
NB: qanun and kanun are two spellings of the same word. Ditto for shari'a and şeriat.

You will need to know who are the key people involved in Ottoman legal administration. In particular: the kadı (qadi), the Şeyhülislam (Shaykh al-Islam), the Grand Vizier. If you don't understand based on the assigned readings, the place to look is Encyclopaedia of Islam. It's also important to figure out what a fatwa (fetva) is.

Assigned Reading:
Zubaida, chapters 2 and 3.
Boğaç Ergene, “Qanun and Sharia,” in The Ashgate Research Companion to Islamic Law, ed. Rudolph Peters & Peri Bearman (Ashgate, 2014), 109-20.
Leslie Peirce, Morality Tales: Law and Gender in the Ottoman Court of Aintab (University of California Press, 2003), chapter 3, “Introducing the Court of Aintab.”

Primary Sources:

Selection of sharīʿa court records, from Ruth Roded (ed.), Women in Islam and the Middle East: A Reader (IB Tauris, 2008).
Selection of fatwas (legal opinions) issued by the Şeyhülislam (chief mufti), from Colin Imber, Ebu's-su'ud: The Islamic Legal Tradition (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007). I have marked the fatwas you should focus on.
Kanunname (law code) of the province of Mytilene, and related imperial edict. From John C. Alexander, Toward a History of Post-Byzantine Greece: The Ottoman Kanunnames for the Greek Lands, ca. 1500 - ca. 1600 (Athens, 1985).
A petition sent to the Sultan, reproduced in James E. Baldwin, "Petitioning the Sultan in Ottoman Egypt," Bulletin of the School of Oriental & African Studies 75 (2012), on pp. 520-4.

Further Reading:
Boğaç Ergene, Local Court, Provincial Society and Justice in the Ottoman Empire: Legal Practice and Dispute Resolution in Çankırı and Kastamonu, 1652-1744 (Brill, 2003).
Haim Gerber, State, Society and Law in Islam: Ottoman Law in Comparative Perspective (State University of New York Press, 1994).
Uriel Heyd, "Some Aspects of the Ottoman Fetva," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 32 (1969), 35-56.
Ronald Jennings, "Kadi, Court and Legal Procedure in 17th C. Ottoman Kayseri: The Kadi and the Legal System," Studia Islamica 48 (1978), 133-72.
Ronald Jennings, "Limitations of the Judicial Powers of the Kadi in 17th C. Ottoman Kayseri," Studia Islamica 50 (1979), 151-84.