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Sharia and the Making of the Modern Egyptian

Sharia and the Making of the Modern Egyptian: Islamic Law and Custom in the Courts of Ottoman Cairo

Reem A. Meshal
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Sharia and the Making of the Modern Egyptian
    Book Description:

    In this new study, the author examines sijills, the official documents of the Ottoman Islamic courts, to understand how sharia law, society, and the early-modern economy of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Ottoman Cairo related to the practice of custom in determining rulings. In the sixteenth century, a new legal and cultural orthodoxy fostered the development of an early-modern Islam that broke new ground, giving rise to a new concept of the citizen and his role. Contrary to the prevailing scholarly view, this work adopts the position that local custom began to diminish and decline as a source of authority. These issues resonate today, several centuries later, in the continuing discussions of individual rights in relation to Islamic law.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-573-8
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    On 22 March 2011, just over a month after a popular revolt swept Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power, the Grand Shaykh of al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyib, made an unexpected announcement: depending on the source you read, he was “giving back” or “donating” his salary to the state.¹ Various news outlets reported that al-Tayyib asked the minister of finance to stop issuing paychecks to him, expressing the desire to serve al-Azhar and the call to Islam, without the reward of a state salary. This was no gesture of personal piety, but rather a well-considered political salvo into a torrid climate of...

  5. Chapter One The Empire in Theory
    (pp. 17-40)

    Rarely can one claim that any aspect of Islamic Egyptian history is understudied by comparison with its neighbors. The country’s status as a so-called ‘heartland’ Islamic state, and as a repository of historical memory and center of cultural production, has earned it a place at the center of Islamic studies. But as a category of study, ‘custom’ has not generated much research in the field of Islamic studies, even less in the case of the heartland states. This remains true in spite of the fact that custom’s fate is inextricably interwoven with the consolidation and decline of empire, and with...

  6. Chapter Two Custom in Sharia and in the Siyasat-i ilahi (Divine Siyasa)
    (pp. 41-68)

    Each stage in the development of a theory of custom represents a transitory moment in the history of Islamic society, a moment of disengagement with the past and a conscious reinvention of the present. Occurring in three distinct stages, the development of a theory of custom began in the formative period, from the seventh to the ninth centuries, as Muslim society transitioned from pre-Islamic jahiliya, or ‘age of ignorance’ (before revelation), to the Islamic age of moral knowledge (after revelation). The second stage occurred during the eleventh century when the Mongol conquests devastated the classical caliphate. Reconstituted on its ruins,...

  7. Chapter Three The Construction of Orthodoxy: Renewal (Tajdid) and Renunciation (Takfir)
    (pp. 69-102)

    Did the economic and political landscape of the ‘long’ sixteenth century foster a judicial climate that enhanced or diminished the force of customary law(‘urf)in Ottoman sharia courts? Based on the evidence of thesijill,a limited number of scholars have answered the question by characterizing the seventeenth century as one in which local custom played an integral role in informing the judge’s ruling. In the case of Bursa, H. Gerber argues that the fluidity of legal sources at the qadi’s (judge’s) disposal resulted in ‘informal’ proceedings in which local custom was often upheld in contravention of imperial orders.¹...

  8. Chapter Four “This Sijill is a Hujja!” Mass-producing Legal Documents in Ottoman Cairo
    (pp. 103-124)

    The standardization of record-keeping via the written legal document(hujja), and the centralization of records via the public archive, were key factors in the changing relationship between subjects and their state. They were also the key innovations separating the Ottomans from their predecessors. Neither the Ottomans, nor any other political moderns, can claim to have invented either the written legal document or the archive. Nonetheless, there is a systematization at work in Ottoman judicial life which gives them a new vibrancy and application—for the first time in memory, legal documents were produced, notarized, indexed, and archived for the common...

  9. Chapter Five The Documented Life
    (pp. 125-140)

    The “order” arising from the “commandment” in Derrida’s analysis of the archive is an appropriate lens for viewing the social and political ramifications of an increasingly documented early modern life. Possessing all of the prerogatives of record keeper—setting acquisition policies, institutionalizing the link between scholarship and information—the archivist produces knowledge by providing tangible evidence of memory for individuals, communities, and states. But it is an institutional memory, defined within a prevailing political order that commands ‘forgetting’ as well as ‘remembering.’

    The history of archiving is yet to be written in full, and while the archivist has received a...

  10. Chapter Six The Rights of God (Huquq Allah): “A Moral Transgression but Not a Crime”
    (pp. 141-176)

    The boundaries of moral sin, and the degrees to which the state or society enforced those bounds through censure or coercion, are the subject of poetic laments, juristic polemic, political theory, and modern Islamist conflict in the twenty-first century. In this chapter, we explore these bounds through an examination of an all-but-forgotten distinction in Islamic law between the ‘rights of God’(huquq Allah)and the ‘rights of humans’(huquq al-adamiyyin),as developed in legal theory and as interpreted by the state. The term ‘rights of God’ encompasses the basic ordering of key social institutions like marriage, inheritance, and religious endowments,...

  11. Chapter Seven The Rights of Humans (Huquq al-Adamiyyin)
    (pp. 177-210)

    If the Ottomannamuspromoted a unified standard of Muslim moral conduct in the area of‘ibadat,it was even more instrumental in the unification ofmu‘amalat.The relationship ofmu‘amalatto custom is well established. As the main body of laws pertaining to the ‘rights of humans,’ themu‘amalatstand in contrast to the‘ibadat,or ritual associated with the ‘rights of God’ in Islamic law.¹Mu‘amalat,in M. Bernard’s words, “preside over the relations of men among themselves”² by defining “juridico-human relations” to ensure that Muslim transactions conform to “juridico-moral theories.”³ In its original meaning, “mu‘amalareflected the...

  12. Conclusions
    (pp. 211-220)

    One often reads that Islam’s crisis of modernity speaks of an acute need for a reformation akin to Christianity’s. But, as the reader may have already surmised, this author would argue Islam has already had one (and many since, mediated through the predations of colonialism), and that its reformation plays no small part in its modern crisis of authority.

    In the nineteenth century, a new term was coined as the empire’s answer to the rising threat of separatist, nationalist movements: ‘Ottomanism.’ To compete with nationalism, it promised a formula of citizenship that disregarded the ethnic and, more importantly, religious identity...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 221-266)
  14. Abbreviations
    (pp. 267-268)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-286)
  16. Index
    (pp. 287-290)