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Why You Should Poison Your Husband: a Note On Liability in Hanafī Law in the Ottoman Period

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Hanafi legal doctrine contains an implicit analogy (although not one that the jurists themselves make) between ordering an agent to kill and killing someone by poison. In the former case, it is not the principal but the agent who is liable, unless the agent acted under compulsion. Similarly, a poisoner is liable only when he forces the poisonous substance down the victim's throat, not when the victim consumes the poison voluntarily. A victim who accepts the poison is like an agent who has received an order to kill and carries out the order voluntarily; but if the poisoner forces the substance down the victim's throat, the victim is in the position of an agent who kills under compulsion, and the poisoner becomes liable. This rule suggested to Ottoman jurists an unusual solution to the problem of how to prevent an ex-husband from fornicating with his divorced wife. The ex-wife could, without incurring any liability, poison him.


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