Shari‘a Court Documents (al-hụjajal-shar‘iya) in Ottoma Syria: An Archival Study

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  • オスマン朝期シリアのイスラーム法廷証書:史料学的考察
  • オスマン チョウキ シリア ノ イスラーム ホウテイ ショウショ シリョウガクテキ コウサツ

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The Ottoman Sharī‘a Court registers (sijillāt al-maḥākim al-sharʻīya) have frequently been utilized as valuable historical sources that contain information about the society, economy and culture of the time. However,in recent years scholars have criticized these registers in that they have been used without due consideration of their archival character and the court-system in which they were prepared and preserved. Also, we should not forget the existence of Sharī‘a Court documents (al-ḥujaj al- Shur‘īya) that were issued from the Courts to the litigating parties, to which very little attention has been given as historical sources. New light can probably be thrown on the Ottoman Sharī‘a Court itself and its registers by using these Sharī‘a Court documents.This paper is an archival study of Sharī‘a Court documents in Ottoman Syria, based on the analysis of about 700 of the 2,250 documents preserved at the Historical Document Center in Damascus (Markaz al-watā’iq al-ta’rīkhīya bi-Dimashq). The style, character and function of each document are discussed as well as information about their date and content, in order to present a preliminary study in preparation for the use of the documents as historical sources.From his analysis of marginal notes, comparisons between the documents and description of the same cases in the register, etc., the author classifies them into three groups: originals, fullcopies, and partial copies. In addition to the role of a document, which certifies the particular rights of its possessor, the practical court process on the particular issue raised by a document and the relationship between the documents and another court archives (registers and protocols) are also classified. In so doing, the author identifies methodological problem in past research that was based almost solely on the registers, demonstrates their usefulness as source materials and suggests possibilities for using them.


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