The Mecelle (also transliterated Mejelle, Majalla, Medjelle, or Meğelle) was the civil code of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the first attempt to codify a part of the Sharia-based law of an Islamic state.
The code was prepared by a commission headed by Ahmet Cevdet Pasha, issued in sixteen volumes (containing 1,851 articles) from 1869 to 1876 and entered into force in the year 1877. In its structure and approach it was clearly influenced by the earlier European codifications. Covering most areas of civil law, it exempted family law, which remained a domain of religious law.
The substance of the code was based on the Hanafist legal tradition that enjoyed official status in the Empire. However, using the method of preference (tahayyur), it also incorporated other legal opinions that were considered more appropriate to the time, including from non-Hanafis.
As the Mecelle was eventually applied in the secular (nizamiye) courts as well as in the Sharia courts of the Empire, Jews and Christians were for the first time subjected to Islamic law instead of their own law, but could now be called as witnesses in court.
After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, the Mecelle remained a lasting influence in most of its successor states (except Egypt, where it was never in force). It remained in force:
- in Turkey until 1926, when it was replaced by the Turkish Civil Code
- in Albania until 1928
- in Lebanon until 1932
- in Syria until 1949
- in Iraq until 1953
- in Cyprus until the 1960s
- in the British Mandate for Palestine and, later, Israel formally until 1984, although individual laws had gradually superseded it during the Mandate as well as in the 1960s and '70s
- "Mecelle" in Oxford Islamic Studies Online
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- AL-MAJALLA English translation