Customary and Shari‘ah Law in Arabian Society: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Customary and Shari‘ah Law in Arabian Society

1st Edition

By R.B. Serjeant


352 pages

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Hardback: 9780860782995
pub: 1991-10-27
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The society and legal systems of Southern Arabia, both ancient and modern, form the subject of this second collection of articles by Professor Serjeant. His approach has been to make a detailed study of modern social structures and legal customs and to relate these to what we know of ancient society and law. The traditional tribal society of the region, he argues, has preserved in its customary law and practice a very great deal that derives directly from the pre-Islamic period, whereas the shari’ah, the law of Islam, though stemming from the same sources, has often diverged significantly from it. An understanding of the modern situation, therefore, is of immediate relevance to the interpretation of pre- and early-Islamic society. Among the particular topics covered are the interplay between tribal affinities and religious authority, marriage legislation and the "Frankish chancre" or (syphilis), and maritime customary law. From an ethnographic viewpoint, furthermore, these studies record peoples and lifestyles that have been increasingly overwhelmed by contemporary events. Les sociétés et les systèmes juridiques de l’Arabie du Sud, moderne et ancienne, sont le thème de ce recueil d'articles par le professeur Serjeant. Il aborde le sujet avec une étude des structures sociales modernes, ainsi que du droit coutumier, puis les rattache à ce qui est connu de la société et du droit anciens. La société tribale traditionnelle de la région, affirme-t’il, a conservé un grand nombre d’us et coutumes trouvant des origines directes au cours de la période pre-islamique, alors que le droit de l’Islam, le shari’ah, bien qu’issu des mêmes sources, s’en éloigne de façon significative. Le fait de comprendre la situation moderne a donc un rapport immédiat avec toute interprétation de la société islamique à ses débuts. Parmi les thèmes spécifiques que couvre l’auteur, se trouvent le droit marital et le "chancre" franc (syphilitique), le droit


’Serjeant’s contribution to South Arabian Studies has been great and it is therefore useful to have so much of his work available in the Variorum reprint series.’ Journal of Semitic Studies

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; The Da’if and the Mustad’af and the status accorded to them in the Qur’an; The Caliph ’Umar’s letters to Abu Musa al-Ash’ari and Mu’awiya; The interplay between tribal affinities and religious (Zaydi) authority in the Yemen; The ’Awdhillah Confederation with some reference to al-Hamdani; Dawlah, tribal shaykhs, the Mansab of the Waliyyah Sa’idah, qasamah, in the Fadli sultanate, South Arabian Federation; Yafi’, Zaydis, Al Bu Bakr b. Salim and others: tribes and Sayyids; The Ma’n ’Gypsies’ of the East Aden Protectorate; A Judeo-Arab housedeed from Habban (with notes on the former Jewish communities of the Wahidi Sultanate); Famine death without loss of honour in ancient Arabia and Yemeni Arhab; The ’White Dune’ at Abyan: an ancient place of pilgrimage in Southern Arabia; Forms of plea: a Safi’i manual from al-Sihr; Two tribal law cases (documents), Wahidi Sultanate, South-west Arabia; Recent marriage legislation from al-Mukalla, with notes on marriage customs; Sex, birth, circumcision, some notes from South-west Arabia; Maritime customary law off the Arabian coasts; Omani naval activities off the Southern Arabian coast in the late 11th/17th centuries, from Yemeni chronicles; Notes on the ’Frankish Chancre’ (syphilis) in Yemen, Egypt and Persia; Notes on some aspects of Arab business practices in Aden; Index.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General