The Development of Islamic Law and Society in the Maghrib: Qadis, Muftis and Family Law, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Development of Islamic Law and Society in the Maghrib

Qadis, Muftis and Family Law, 1st Edition

By David S. Powers


356 pages

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Hardback: 9781409403708
pub: 2011-10-28
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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 minority, 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 Powers is an outstanding scholar of classical Islamic law and legal system. His research focuses on the history of Islamic law and its application in Muslim societies. He has published intensively in this area and here he places in the hands of the readers two decades’ work on the nature and performance of key Islamic legal institutions in the medieval Islamic West… this volume adds significant new details on Islamic legal and socio-cultural history, thus enhancing our understanding of both substantial and methodological aspects of the Islamic legal system and its general development, particularly in western Islam. Thus, this important work can be appreciated by students of Islamic law, Middle East scholars, and even the general public.' Bustan: The Middle East Book Review 'Each case study is in itself interesting and significant, but Powers' arguments are strengthened when the essays are read together … anyone interested in Islamic legal development, comparative legal studies, the intersection of legal and social history, or women, family, and property in the western Islamic Mediterranean will want to read the essays collected here, and read them together.' Al-Masaq

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part 1 Qadis, Muftis and Courts: Legal consultation (futya) in medieval Spain and North Africa; On judicial review in Islamic law; Parents and their minor children: familial politics in the middle Maghrib in the 8th/14th century; From the Mi`yar of al-Wansharisi to the New Mi`yar of al-Wazzani: continuity and change (with Etty Terem). Part 2 Women and Divorce: Women and divorce in the Islamic West: three cases; Four cases relating to women and divorce in al-Andalus and the Maghrib, 1100-1500. Part 3 Inheritance: The Islamic inheritance system: a socio-historical approach; Law and custom in the Maghrib, 1475-1500: on the disinheritance of women. Part 4 Endowments: The Maliki family endowment: legal norms and social practices; A court case from 14th-century North Africa; Fatwas as sources for legal and social history: a dispute over endowment revenues from 14th-century Fez; Orientalism, colonialism, and legal history: the attack on Muslim family endowments in Algeria and India; Index.

About the Author

David S. Powers is Professor of Islamic History and Law at Cornell University, USA.

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. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Islamic Studies