An Islamic Court in Context: An Ethnographic Study of by Erin E. Stiles

By Erin E. Stiles

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This perceptive ethnographic examine deals perception into the workings of the modern Islamic criminal approach. in line with fieldwork in Zanzibar, Stiles sheds gentle on how humans comprehend and use Islamic criminal rules in marital disputes and at the judicial reasoning and litigant task in Islamic family members court docket. offering detailed interpretations, this e-book exhibits that Islamic judges (kadhis), clerks, and litigants cause utilizing not just their understandings of Islamic legislations but in addition their perspectives of actual and perfect marital habit, neighborhood authority, and the court’s position in the neighborhood. Stiles’ account offers a compelling and far-reaching contribution to socio-legal scholarship.

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Mzee Bweni, a friend and neighbor in his sixties who was the primary person who watched over me in Kinansi, jokingly referred to the courts as “the place of chongoo” (the one-eyed), which implied that the kadhi always decided in favor of women. Was Mzee Bweni right? Let’s look at the outcomes of cases. ” As noted earlier, many researchers have noted that women tend to “win” cases in Islamic courts more often than they lose, or more often than men win cases in the same courts. In my work, I find it difficult to describe the outcome of a case as a simple “win” or “loss,” even when the kadhi issues a clear ruling.

In the official court register, victors in cases were not marked: the columns simply indicated plaintiff, defendant, complaint, and maelezo (explanation), where clerks would record brief ly what happened. For the sake of preparing the table, however, I determined that a woman or man was successful if the ruling rectified at least part of her or his initial claim. Thus, despite the obvious convenience of presenting this information in a table, I am not fully comfortable with representing case outcomes in this way, and I would ask readers to consider cases individually since the outcomes were more complex than what is indicated in the table.

Whereas in the past, town elders had much say over who had legitimate authority to resolve disputes, local level leaders in this period were appointed by the Sultanate, and were thus Ibadhis, not Shafi’is. However, Allyson Purpura writes that even though kadhis were appointed as Ibadhi experts by the Sultan, other kinds of religious expertise and Islamic knowledge were still important, for example, the Sufi shaykhs in Zanzibar Town (1997). Gray addresses perceptions of kadhis in the nineteenth century, and refers specifically to British Consul Hamerton, who wrote about the lack of impartiality and general disrespect the population had for the kadhis in the midnineteenth century, an opinion with which his successor Rigby concurred (1962: 145).

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