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Imprisonment in Pre-Classical and Classical Islamic Law

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Imprisonment, a generally accepted form of punishment in modern legal systems, existed also in Islamic law in the pre-classical and classical periods (second-sixth/eighth-thirteenth centuries), although Muslim jurists devoted only limited attention to the subject and Islamicists have largely ignored it. Muslim jurists of pre-classical and classical times concentrated their attention on pre-trial and administrative detention, especially imprisonment for debt. The jurists mention punitive detention as a supplementary measure that was enacted mostly in conjunction with corporal punishments (ḥudūd and taʿzīr). Because state authorities established a monopoly over criminal jurisdiction at a very early stage, it is possible that punitive detention played a more important role in practice than it did in theory. However, inasmuch as I found only a few examples in historical sources, it seems safe to conclude that punitive detention did not have the same status in pre-modern Islamic law that it does in modern law.

Affiliations: 1: Universität zu Köln


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