Marriage And Slavery In Early Islam

Marriage And Slavery In Early Islam – Chapter 17 Police, Punishment, and Prisons in the Early Islamic Egyptian Landscape (AD 640-850) in: Authority and Control in the Countryside

The Greek, Coptic, and Arabic papyri of early Islamic Egypt contain many references to punishments, fines, and forced imprisonment before a systematized Islamic legal system was introduced. But they also document the resolution of legal conflicts through mediation and other informal processes that use existing practices and show changes after the arrival of the Arabs.

Marriage And Slavery In Early Islam

Using papyri, this article* will show what patterns in the organization and practice of legal conflict resolution – as seen in out-of-court arbitration, civil trials and criminal trials – can be traced back to the earliest period of Islamic history in the province. What infrastructure existed and to what extent did it build on tools and procedures already in place? What role did the central authorities in the capital Fusṭāṭ play against local actors? How did private initiatives and responsibilities compare with public initiatives? And how did these tools help maintain control over the Egyptian landscape during the first two centuries of Islamic rule?

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Papyrus documents are invaluable to our understanding of so many areas of Egyptian life and are also an exceptionally rich source of law and legal practice in rural Egypt during the first centuries of Islamic rule. The Muslims used papyrus as their main everyday writing material during this period, and only in the ninth and tenth centuries AD. moved to paper. Most of the Egyptian papyri are found outside the main centers of occupation and government, in the uninhabited desert regions that make up most of the land of the country, where they lay sheltered, free from the disturbance of rain, since they were thrown away about fifteen hundred years.

Papyri are never meant to be preserved and provide unique direct access to the society that produced them. But the often fortuitous circumstances of their discovery and preservation also present enormous challenges. Most were unearthed during ad hoc, amateur or even illegal excavations without provenance, place of origin or date. Sometimes the date is given at the end of the text. More generally, however, it must be deduced from palaeographic criteria and the formulas used – a rough method that divides the papyri into large groups that last more than a century. Similarly, where the find is unknown, provenance can sometimes be reconstructed from internal evidence. Because archaeological activity at medieval sites in Egypt was often not systematic, let alone exhaustive, the chronological and geographic distribution of papyri is uneven, with some areas overrepresented and others not occurring at all. Of course, papyrus can also tell us about places other than where it was found by references or allusions within it. In this article, the date and origin of the papyri are given when known, but in the discussion that follows they are treated as one source. Although it may obscure specific historical and geographical patterns, it provides enough detail to observe some long-term historical processes and developments.

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Because many of the papyri lack a clear context, a small number of particularly rich and well-studied files of related texts have dominated the field. These papyri were successfully used to reconstruct administrative and fiscal practices among early Muslims in Egypt. The challenge, however, is still to combine the files originating from different periods, areas and levels of the administration, at the same time that these independent papyri form part of one integrated historical picture.2 An additional task is to integrate the material from administrative administrations. contexts in bringing contact with documents related to the private sphere. Only then can larger historical questions be asked of the papyrus, moving from detailed information on local daily activities to developments and processes occurring at a higher level: from micro to macro.

A final consideration in relation to our evidence is the linguistic situation. Immediately after their arrival, the Muslim conquerors began to use Arabic along with the two other languages ​​of Egypt, Coptic and Greek, to communicate with the inhabitants of the province. After the conquest, Coptic was used for the first time in the Egyptian chancellery as an official administrative language. However, the Arabic documentation of the first half century of Islamic rule in Egypt is much less voluminous than the Greek and Coptic material and is largely limited to administrative communications. Coptic and Greek continued to be used for private written communication even outside the administration. With very few Arabs settling the Egyptian countryside, it is indeed in the Coptic and Greek materials that most events related to the non-administrative activities of the Egyptian population would have been recorded during the first two centuries of Islamic rule. However, due to the general lack of explicit dates in non-official documents, most Coptic and Greek papyri assigned a fixed date in the Arab period originated from the Chancellery and its regional offices. Few “private” documents are dated to the Arab period. In general, moreover, the Greek material received much more attention than the Coptic or the Arabic.

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The references to legal conflicts and the practical aspects of settlement, punishment and imprisonment appear in different textual genres. Official letters discuss conflicts between private individuals that are brought before central authorities to be resolved by government representatives. Other administrative writings give orders on how to deal with those deemed to have undermined government activities, mostly tax collection, or disturbed public order. Petitions and informal appeals to officials or those otherwise vested with authority report on disputes, but also provide information on the background and conditions of prisoners and those punished. Other letters also sometimes refer to episodes involving the law, prisons, or other punishments related to the letter writers themselves or others related to them. Lists of prisoners, which sometimes include information about the crimes they committed or other accounts and lists related to prison life, are another source. Finally, the courts and the judicial administration presented documents related to legal proceedings and judicial decisions.3

The papyrus shows a legal procedure in action. In official letters in response to complaints or petitions brought before officials, dating from the late seventh century onwards, inferior officials are ordered to “look into” the matter and “find evidence” (

) for the case set up by the plaintiff.4 The defendant, on the other hand, presents his position, which is evaluated by the responsible official. This can be observed in a letter from the ninth century, in which someone defends himself against an accusation of stealing alpha (

). The defendant denies that he stole anything and challenges the claimant to provide evidence to the contrary: “if he provides you with evidence and it is confirmed in his favor that we took the alpha, then we will give it to him. If it (on the other side) is not confirmed with you, so act according to what is right” (

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I aqāma ʿindaka al-bayyina wa-ṣaḥḥa lahu annā akhadnā ḥalfāʾ dafaʿnā ilayhi wa-in lam yaṣiḥḥ dhālika ʿindaka ʿamilta fīqa aldhāqalika

).5 The unique thing is that this relationship can be further traced in a follow-up letter from the person in charge. After reading the accusation and the denial, the official, one Abū al-Qāsim, who supposedly held some position of authority, orders the claimant and the accused to appear before him, so that they both state their case, and he can decide. to which alpha belongs .6 Similarly, in another Fayyūm letter from the ninth century, the sender asks the addressee, the responsible person (

) in Babīj to give back to a third person his rights against his opponent and not allow him to be oppressed and opposed (

). But if the matter is not clear to the addressee, he must have both parties come to the sender, so that he can investigate the matter himself.7 Finally, a witness from the 8th century records the procedure to prove and swear in a dispute between two brothers about delivery of four cloths.8

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These reviews of evidence can be extensive. An example of the process of discovery extending far into the past and involving archival research comes from a letter dated 90/709 in which the governor Qurra b. Sharīk (in office 709-715) asks Basileios, the park of Ishqūh, to find out, if the claim of some (Arab) soldiers about their 40-year stay in certain cities can be proved by documentary evidence kept in those cities. 9 A few years later, the governor ʿAbd al-Malik b. Yazīd (in office 751-754) wrote to Khuzayma b. Māhān, head of an administrative district, that he sent him an assistant to investigate the complaint of the residents of his. district against some ʿAbd al-Wāḥid b. Qays. Khuzayma and his companion are ordered to investigate the complaint carefully and report in writing to the governor.10 The involvement of the governor and the sending of additional personnel from the capital to deal with this case indicates its importance, or perhaps the status of the parties. . involved

Several documents, some of which also originate from an administrative context, indicate that fact-finding was not always taken so seriously. The sender of a letter from the ninth century simply

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