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Adang Seminar focuses on fatwas for medieval Jewish legal history

26 October 2011

Dr Camilla Adang

Focusing on the unique legal case involving a dispute between Jewish male and female litigants before the Cordoban courts as reflected in a number of 10th century fatwas or legal opinions preserved in a 15th - century collection of the Maghribi Muslim jurist Al-Wansharisi (d. 1508 CE), Visiting Fellow Dr Camilla Adang began by defining the word fatwa as a "legal opinion", divorcing it from the erroneous modern-day definition of "death sentence".

Dr Adang indicated that Jews and Christians often sought redress for legal issues from Muslim courts when one or both parties has not received satisfaction from their own religious courts as attested to in historical sources and collections of legal opinions for Andalus, North Africa and elsewhere in the Islamic world. She then deconstructed the case brought before the Muslim court by examining the broad range of legal opinions, focusing on the issue of whether a Muslim judge or qadi has a legal obligation to hear the case or to refer it back to the Jewish court (beit din). Dr Adang then pointed out the importance of this fatwa for preserving Jewish women’s testimony. Finally, important comparisons were made with more detailed Ottoman court records (sijjilat).

Dr Adang’s work is part of a broader monograph project aimed at looking at legal cases involving Jews and Christians in the medieval Andalusian and North African contexts.

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