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Legal Diversity in the Age of Taqlid: the Four Chief Qadis Under the Mamluks

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Sultan Baybars' decision to appoint four Chief Qādīs, one from each of the Sunni schools of law, has long been recognized as a turning point in the history of the madhhabs. To date, historians have explained this decision only in political or ideological terms, paying little attention to its implications for the judicial system. Here I argue that the purpose of the new quadruple structure of the judiciary was two-fold: to create a uniform but at the same time flexible legal system. The need for predictable and stable legal rules was addressed by limiting qādīs' discretion and promoting taqlīd, i.e., adherence to established school doctrine. The establishment of Chief Qādīs from the four schools of law, on the other hand, allowed for flexibility and prevented the legal system from becoming too rigid. The quadruple judiciary enabled litigants, regardless of personal school affiliation, to choose from the doctrines of the four schools.


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