Avoiding Execution in a Medieval Andalusian Court: Religious Belief versus Judicial Procedure Cases of religious dissent in courts in the Andalusian Umayyad Caliphate provide insight into how one Islamic judicial system established procedures protecting non-Muslim constituents without undermining the sovereignty of the Islamic government. Dr. Maribel Fierro of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (The Spanish National Research Council) examines one such case as related by tenth-century biographer Ibn Ḥārith al-Khushanī, in which a Cordovan judge, Aslam b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, is asked to decide the case of a Christian man who wished to be executed, even though he had committed no crime. He wished to die in imitation of Jesus. The Christian man claimed that, like Jesus, his true self, his spiritual self, would not feel pain if violently treated, and that only his earthly self would die. The judge ordered the Christian flogged in order to disprove that claim. This move “emphasizes the necessity of a ‘common sense’ approach to dispensing justice, given the probability that the claimants will act in folly.” Furthermore, “the narrative presents violent penalties as a tool employable at the judge’s discretion,” which, in this case, enabled the judge to acknowledge the desire of the Christian without acceding to his beliefs in court as a matter of law. Read more. Image credit : Abd-ar-Rahman III and his court in Medina Azahara receiving the Monk Juan de Gorza in 959 AD, by Dionisio Baixeras Verdaguer/Qatar Foundation
CASE :: The Case of the Christian Who Wanted to be Executed Maribel Fierro translates Ibn Ḥārith al-Khushanī’s report of a case from the Umayyad West, in which a Christian man appeared before the judge Aslam b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, petitioning to be executed. The judge rebuked the man because he had committed no crime. The Christian contested that he wished to die as an act of virtue, as had Jesus, and further claimed that he would feel no pain because only his earthly body would perish. The judge ordered him flogged to disprove the Christian man’s claims and avoid execution. Read more. Image credit: Ken Welsh/Getty Images
A Petition to the Ottoman Sultan from Egypt, 1155 AH (1742-3)s James Baldwin of the University of London examines the close links between the Ottoman Empire’s two methods of dispute resolution in two different venues: the sharīʿa courts and the Dīvān-i Hümāyūn (The Imperial Council). While the former was more procedural, the latter is understood to have been more patrimonial by virtue of the Sultan’s magnanimity. However, in the resolution of this dispute between a Muslim and a Christian, it is clear that “petitioning was not a vehicle for the imposition of arbitrary justice based on the discretion of the Sultan or Grand Vizier … the Dīvān-i Hümāyūn recognized the limitations imposed by the lack of a full adjudicatory process, and so often declined to make a definitive judgment, instead deferring to local authorities who were in a position to investigate a petitioner’s claim.” Read more. Image credit: Jean Baptiste Vanmour – The Yorck Project/Public Domain
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