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Bedouin Law from Sinai and the Negev

Bedouin Law from Sinai and the Negev

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Bedouin Law from Sinai and the Negev
    Book Description:

    Bedouin Law from Sinai and the Negevis the first comprehensive study of Bedouin law published in English, including oral, pre-modern law. The material for the book, collected over the course of forty years of field work by Clinton Bailey, one of the world's leading scholars on Bedouin culture, is of permanent scholarly value.

    Bailey shows how a nomadic desert-dwelling society provides for its own law and order in the traditional absence of any centralized authority or law enforcement agency to protect it. This comprehensive picture of Bedouin law, offers readers a unique opportunity to understand Bedouin law by highlighting the close connection between the law and the culture from which it emerged.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15325-5
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Notes on the Arabic Text
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  2. Map of Bedouin Tribal Confederations Sinai and The Negev (till mid-20th century)
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  3. Introduction: What Is Bedouin Law?
    (pp. 1-8)

    Bedouin law (calledal-ʿurf wa-l-ʿāda; lit. ‘‘that which is known and customary’’) is a system of rules that emerged in the deserts of the Middle East to provide protection to individuals and nomadic society alike. The need for this indigenous legal system stemmed from the absence in the desert of any other authority, governmental or tribal, that could offer such protection. Although noninstitutional and diffuse, this legal system furnishes the Bedouin, traditionally nomads, with all the means necessary for preserving law and order in accordance with their culture, and their law has enabled them and their society to survive for...

  4. 1 Justice without Government
    (pp. 9-22)

    The deserts of the Middle East, since time immemorial, have been a wilderness too daunting for the governments that claimed authority in them to penetrate sufficiently to make their rule effective. As a result, governmental authority was scarcely, if ever, available for the protection of desert dwellers.

    As far back in recorded history as the Assyrian period in Mesopotamia, in the ninth to seventh centuries BC,¹ up to the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, governments confined their presence to imperial or provincial capitals located at the edges of the desert. Examples of such capitals include fifth-century AD Sassanid...

  5. 2 Honor and Private Might in the Service of Justice
    (pp. 23-59)

    In addition to defining justice and the law as the point of departure for a legal system devoid of law-enforcement authorities, the Bedouin summon two innate elements in their own social environment to play a vital role in preventing violations and restoring justice that in sedentary societies is played by institutionalized force. These elements are the honor and the private might of parties not involved in a particular conflict, and they manifest themselves in four common Bedouin procedures: ‘‘delegation’’ (wisāṭa,badwa, andjāha); ‘‘guaranty’’ (kafāla; alternativelywijih); ‘‘throwing the face’’ (ramī al-wijih); and ‘‘protection’’ (dakhāla). Performing the roles played by...

  6. 3 The Role of Collective Responsibility in Achieving Justice
    (pp. 60-100)

    In addition to the various ways by which Bedouin law utilizes honor and private might to perform the roles played by law-enforcement agencies in settled societies, it also seeks to maintain and restore justice by defining the legal personality as a collective. There are few acts that an individual can perform toward people of other clans without ultimate legal ramifications for his clansmen in the context of mutual liability. Among the few are choosing a wife and extending protection. Other than these, when a man’s acts entail a legal commitment to others or impinge upon the rights of others, he...

  7. 4 The Role of Private Violence in Achieving Justice
    (pp. 101-157)

    As already seen, Bedouin, in the absence of law-enforcement agencies to wield the threat of government-sanctioned force, were obliged throughout history to find their own ways of protecting the individuals who comprised their society and deterring potential violators of the rights of others. One of their solutions was to substitute the threat of their own violence for that of governments in settled societies. Thus Bedouin law empowered the victims of violation to use force to rectify their losses. For most offenses against the rights of an individual or group, however, the law sanctions the use of force as a last...

  8. 5 The Role of Litigation in Achieving Justice
    (pp. 158-230)

    Most disputes in Bedouin society do not warrant the use of private violence, certainly not as a first resort, for achieving justice. Even when private violence is wielded as a last resort, it is usually to force a recalcitrant violator to give justice through litigation. Litigation is a victim’s preferred way to resolve his problem, especially because victims are most often weaker than violators (‘‘It is the strong one that starts the problem’’ [al-gawīy bādī]),¹ and might not be able to muster sufficient force for using violence as a first resort to regain justice. A victim’s relative weakness may also...

  9. 6 Laws Pertaining to Women, Property, and Sanctuary
    (pp. 231-298)

    Bedouin law understands what others may consider ‘‘the sexual violation of a woman’’ as ‘‘the violation of the honor of a woman’s menfolk through a sexual act involving her,’’ her menfolk being primarily her clansmen but in some cases her husband as well.* Such honor is violated by a sexual act in two ways. First, if the act is consensual, it implies that her clansmen have been remiss in raising her to moral probity, which is a social obligation expected of every Bedouin family.¹ To fail at this brings dishonor.

    Second, regardless of whether the woman is coerced or acted...

  10. Afterword: A Major Human Achievement
    (pp. 299-302)

    From outside Bedouin society, Bedouin law has often been seen as a source of chaos, rather than an antidote to it, owing primarily to its allowed use of private violence in the pursuit of justice.¹ Typical of this misunderstanding were the Egyptians, who were wont to say, even during the harshest times of Ottoman rule, that ‘‘The oppression of Turks is better than the justice of Bedouin’’ (jōr at-turk wala ʿadl al-ʿarab).² Clearly, such an outlook indicates the lack of a comprehensive grasp of the aims, logic, and workings of Bedouin law and of Bedouin culture, from which that law...

  11. Glossary of Bedouin Legal Terms
    (pp. 339-354)
  12. Index of Cases and Conflicts and Associated Subjects
    (pp. 359-366)
  13. Index of Bedouin Legal Maxims: (Not found in Bailey, Proverbs)
    (pp. 367-368)
  14. Index of Bedouin Tribal Confederations and Persons
    (pp. 369-371)