ILSS: Mohammed Allehbi

On Tuesday, February 13, 2024, Mohammed Allehbi (Harvard Law School) presented “Creating a new Criminal Law: The Military-Administrative origins of Siyasa” as part of our Islamic Law Speaker Series. His presentation discusses how between 100 and 600 A.H./800 and 1200 C.E., Muslim rulers, governors, criminal magistrates, and police chiefs enforced criminal justice in cities with military-administrative methods and approaches largely distinct from the religious-jurisprudential frameworks established by jurists and judges collectively known as sharīʿa (sacred law). Criminal administration inflicted excessive beatings, coercive interrogations, and long-term imprisonment on suspects and criminals alike for the express purpose of maintaining government authority and public order. Building on late-Umayyad political epistles, namely the letters of ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd al-Kātib (d. 132/750) and the ʿahd Ardashīr (Testatment of Ardashīr), scribes and other officials sought to formulate a rubric to encompass and legitimize this military-administrative authority and procedures in criminal justice. They experimented with various terms and frameworks, such as raʾy (discretionary judgment), tadbīr (administration), sulṭān (governing authority), mulk (Kingship), culminating in siyāsa (governance) as the primary source for criminal justice. Rulers, criminal magistrates, police chiefs, scribes, and judges justified their authority and practices in criminal justice with the legal rubric of siyāsa. In this talk, he examined the formation of this critical source of Islamic criminal law by tracing the military-administrative genealogy of siyāsa in the mirror for princes, administrative manuals, and literary sources. Fatma Gül Karagöz (Harvard Law School) served as the respondent.