Lev, The Administration of Justice in Fatimid-Ayyubid Egypt.

The Administration of Justice in Fatimid-Ayyubid Egypt.

Yaacov Lev (Bar Ilan University)

Administration of justice in medieval Islam was carried out through judicial institutions such as the qadi and law enforcing agencies such as the police and the market supervisor. Furthermore, people had access to the mazalim court which dealt with a wide range of issues which, nonetheless, elude precise description. However, in parallel to these institutions, not to say circumventing these institutions, people sought direct justice from rulers (caliphs, sultans and viziers) and people in power whether civilian administrators or the military. The corps of legal and administrative documents from the Cairo Geniza published by Geoffrey Khan, in 1993, bears eloquent testimony to this direct quest for justice which has not received the attention it deserves yet.

For the purpose of this presentation, I will focus on documents with pure legal content. Elsewhere, relying on literary sources only, I have argued that justice and charity came to be considered as Islamic values and virtues. The documents in Khan’s corps point in the same direction, and indicate a common term of references between rulers and subjects. While rulers pretend and declare to be just and charitable, the subjects invoke these claims when addressing them.