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Jews in Sharīʿa Courts: A Family Dispute from the Cairo Geniza

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Chapter Summary

In the first days of the year 1101, a father and his son went to court to settle a rather nasty financial quarrel. ʿEli and Shemarya initially took their various "disputes" to a sharīʿa court, where it seems that ʿEli sued his father for property which originally belonged to his mother. This chapter utilizes ʿEli and Shemarya's dispute to outline some of the research questions such a study might pursue and point to some of the possible answers afforded by legal documents. It starts from the premise that the Geniza society was legally pluralistic and that Jews were to a large degree able to move among multiple, competing, and overlapping legal orders. The task, then, is to understand how, when, and why Jews navigated between Jewish and Islamic legal institutions, and how these legal institutions accommodated the choices of their legal consumers.

Keywords: ʿEli; Cairo Geniza; Islamic legal institutions; Jewish court; Jewish law; legal documents; sharīʿa court; Shemarya



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