The first eleven essays in this collection treat the application of Islamic law in qadi courts in the Maghrib in the period between 1100 and 1500 CE. Based on preserved legal documents and the expert opinions of Muslim jurists (Muftis), the essays examine family law cases involving legal mirity, guardianship, divorce, inheritance, bequests, and endowments. Cumulatively, the cases bear witness to the effectiveness and efficiency of the Islamic judicial system in this period. Contrary to popular perceptions, the cases demonstrate that Muslim jurists placed a high value on reasoned thought and were sensitive to the manner in which law, society, and culture interacted with, and shaped, each other. The final essay shows how the treatment of family endowments by colonial regimes in Algeria and India at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries shaped, or misshaped the modern western scholarly understanding of Islamic law.
David S. Powers is Professor of Islamic History and Law at Cornell University, USA.