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Islamic and Secular Criminal Law in Nineteenth Century Egypt: The Role and Function of the Qadi

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Until the introduction of French law in 1883, Egyptian criminal law during the nineteenth century had been governed by both statute law and Islamic law. The criminal codes were enforced by administrative and judicial bodies called majālis or councils; Islamic law was applied by the qadi. In this article, I define the qadi's competence in criminal matters and analyze his role and function as revealed in the texts of the criminal codes and nineteenth-century court records preserved in Egyptian archives. I conclude that the judicial councils dealt with criminal offenses from the point of view of public order and security and that the main task of the qadi was the adjudication of private claims connected with crime. Such claims were either punitive (e.g., retribution for manslaughter, punishment for violation of a person's honor), or financial (bloodmoney, revindication of stolen property).

Affiliations: 1: University of Amsterdam


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