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Islamic Law and Empire in Ottoman Cairo$
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James E. Baldwin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474403092

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474403092.001.0001

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Government authority, the interpretation of fiqh, and the production of applied law

Government authority, the interpretation of fiqh, and the production of applied law

(p.72) Chapter 4 Government authority, the interpretation of fiqh, and the production of applied law
Islamic Law and Empire in Ottoman Cairo

James E. Baldwin

Edinburgh University Press

Chapter 4 explores the ways in which the Ottoman executive authorities attempted to influence and control the legal doctrines, drawn from fiqh, that were used in Cairo’s courts. Although the government could not produce fiqh, which was the domain of scholars, the authorities could shape applied law by intervening in the reading of fiqh, and instructing judges to favor particular doctrines from within the fiqh tradition. The chapter focuses in particular on one site where this occurred, Cairo’s madhhab pluralism, showing that the Ottoman authorities attempted to privilege Ḥanafī doctrines at several points, but often faced resistance from Egyptian scholars. As examples of this Ḥanafizing process, the chapter focuses on the issues of judicial divorce (faskh) and long-term rental contracts (al-ijāra al-ṭawīla). More broadly, the chapter argues that regardless of the debates about ijtihād and taqlīḍ, change in applied law was possible in pre-modern Islamic societies without doctrinal innovation, through manipulation of the diversity within the vast accumulated body of fiqh.

Keywords:   Fiqh, Madhhab pluralism, Ḥanafī madhhab, İlmiye, Şeyhulislām, Chief qāḍī, Abandoned wives, Faskh (judicial divorce), Al-Ijāra al-ṭawīla (long-term renal contracts), Waqf

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