A Qadi (also known as qaadi, qaadee, qazi, kazi, quazi, kadi or kadı) (Arabic: قاضي qāḍī) was a judge appointed by the Sultan, ruling in accordance with the Islamic law, Shariah. The Qadi’s primary duty was to enforce observance of the Shariah, that transcended all other authority across the empire. All laws and practiced adhered to the shariah and were applied by the Qadi in a uniform manner throughout the empire. The Qadi adjudicated on the basis of his own reading of the Kanun and the Shariah, where the locals abided and accepted these rulings. Performing the duty of the Shariah relies on the ijmah, the prevailing consensus of the local Islamic scholars ulema who by virtue of their positions were prominent in politics and society and exercised considerable influence over the kadi. Because the Qadi acquired his qualifications through the ulema, he was not controlled by the Sultanate nor did his legitimacy derive from the Sultanate, showing that the Sultan does not possess total power.
The Qadi’s position exercised more power than a judge. He constituted the link between the central government and the people. He ensured the implementation of the Sultan’s orders and to act on the people’s complaints of abuses by local administrators and military officials. These functions were carried out through the provincial council, over which the Qadi presided the local, official and religious jurisdictions. The Qadi court was the official center of local administration, and because of his position as head of Council, the Wadi steadily gained in importance as the Ottoman Empire decentralized.
The origin of the institution of qadi is the old Arab arbitrator, the Hakam, but qualities from officials in areas conquered by Arabs have been added to the structure.
- 1 History
- 2 Qualifications
- 3 Jurisdiction
- 4 Jewish Use
- 5 In Sri Lanka
- 6 Women as qadis
- 7 Local usage
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
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The term "qadi" was in use right from the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and remained the term used for judges throughout Islamic history and the period of the caliphates. While the muftis and fuqaha played the role in elucidation of the principles of jurisprudence and the laws, the qadi remained the key person ensuring the establishment of justice on the basis of these very laws and rules. Thus, the qadi was chosen from among those who had mastered the sciences of jurisprudence and law.
The office of the qadi continued to be a very important one in every principality of the caliphates and sultanates of the Muslim empires over the centuries. The rulers appointed qadis in every region, town and village for judicial and administrative control and to establish peace and justice over the dominions they controlled.
The Qadi office first originated under the Abbasid Period of the 10th Century, when the Islamic Empire was strong and used centralized power to enforce Shariah norms of equality. Sultanates carried Islamic structures to places that came under their rule and began to deploy Qadi courts for formal dispute resolution. During the period of the Abbasid Caliphate, the office of the qadi al-qudat (Chief Justice of the Highest Court) was established. Among the most famous of the early qadi al-qudat was Qadi Abu Yusuf who was a disciple of the famous early jurist Abu Hanifa. The first Qadis laid the foundations of the Islamic law and decided on adjudicating cases on the basis of only the guidelines available to them: Arab customary law, laws of the conquered territories, general percepts of the Quran, and their own sense of equity. However, the power of the Qadi became more effective as the Ottoman Empire gradually decentralized.
The Abbasids created the office of chief qadi (qadi al-quḍāh, sometimes romanized as Qadi al-Quda), whose holder acted primarily as adviser to the caliph in the appointment and dismissal of qadis. Later Islamic states generally retained this office, while granting to its holder the authority to issue appointments and dismissals in his own name. The Mamluk state, which ruled Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1516 CE, introduced the practice of appointing four chief qadis, one for each of the Sunni legal schools (madhhabs).
During the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire began to decentralize with the power of the Sultan falling short of totality. the Sultan himself became a top figure who was lost control throughout his state, especially in the provinces. In relation to citizenry, the Sultan became a '…harbinger and guardian of justice rather than a blind and arbitrary despot'. Several new Autonomies emerged, resulting in the rise o the Ottoman bureaucracy as a complex and expansive social body that allowed the emergence within it of vital groups with distinct ideologies that not even the Sultan was able to contain. The Qadi in the local provinces acted as the most important of the Sultan because he was the official responsible for the application of the law. The Sultan's decrees called on the Qadi to check the case and do what is right in accordance to the Kanun. However, the Qadi continued to be a delegate of higher authority, adjudicating with his own degree of autonomy in that the law applied was not the creation of the Sultan. All the Qadi owed to the Sultan was the power to apply to the law, and therefore adjudicating on the basis of his own reading of the law without the benefit of a hierarchy. By the 19th century, the Qadi court became a permanent council. The Qadi jurisdiction extended to both civil and criminal matters. Originally, the Qadi's work was restricted to arbitrating disputes and rendering judgments in matters brought before him. After their consolidation of administration, they were able to adjudicate religious cases, pious bequests, marriage, divorce, guardianship of orphans, imbeciles, and others incapable of overseeing their own interests. The formation of the Qadi council was a significant factor not only in the strengthening of local administration, but as well in advancing the process of decentralization. In 1840, the Tanzimat Reform created a provincial council that was created at each provincial center, merging with the governor's divan, allowing the governors to participate. The provincial council was composed of the muhassil, his two secretaries, the local Qadi, the mufti, the chief or security force or police, and the representatives of the local population. If a province had a mixed population of Muslims and Christians, the representatives consisted of four Muslims, two Christians, and the religious head of the latter community. By the Tanzimat period, the Empire was on its way towards a gradual decentralization, where the local administration and the authority of the Qadi took their precedence.
Although the primary responsibility of a qadi was a judicial one, he was generally charged with certain nonjudicial responsibilities as well, such as the administration of religious endowments (waqf)the legitimization of the accession or deposition of a ruler, the execution of wills, the accreditation of witnesses, guardianship over orphans and others in need of protection, and supervision of the enforcement of public morals (ḥisbah).
A qadi is a judge responsible for the application of Islamic positive law (fiqh). The office originated under the rule of the first Umayyad Caliphate (AH 40–85/661–705 CE), when the provincial governors of the newly created Islamic empire, unable to adjudicate the many disputes that arose among Muslims living within their territories, began to delegate this function to others. In this early period of Islamic history, no body of Islamic positive law had yet come into existence, and the first qadis therefore decided cases on the basis of the only guidelines available to them: Arab customary law, the laws of the conquered territories, the general precepts of the Qurʾān, and their own sense of equity.
During the later Umayyad period (705–750 CE), a growing class of Muslim legal scholars, distinct from the qadis, busied themselves with the task of supplying the needed body of law, and by the time of the accession to power of the Abbasid dynasty in 750 their work could be said to have been essentially completed. In constructing their legal doctrine, these legal scholars took as their point of departure the precedents already established by the qadis, some of which they rejected as inconsistent with Islamic principles as these were coming to be understood, but most of which they adopted, with or without modification. Thus the first qadis in effect laid the foundations of Islamic positive law. Once this law had been formed, however, the role of the qadi underwent a profound change. No longer free to follow the guidelines mentioned above, a qadi was now expected to adhere solely to the new Islamic law, and this adherence has characterized the office ever since.
A qadi continued, however, to be a delegate of a higher authority, ultimately the caliph or, after the demise of the caliphate, the supreme ruler in a given territory. This delegate status implies the absence of a separation of powers; both judicial and executive powers were concentrated in the person of the supreme ruler (caliph or otherwise). On the other hand, a certain degree of autonomy was enjoyed by a qadi in that the law that he applied was not the creation of the supreme ruler or the expression of his will. What a qadi owed to the supreme ruler was solely the power to apply the law, for which sanctions were necessary that only the supreme ruler as head of the state could guarantee.
A “Qadi” must be in the perfection of both the Kamāl al-ahkām and the Kamāl al-Khilqah. He must be an adult, sane, free and male. Further, he must be eligible to perform general religious duties and should be sound of speech, sound of hearing, and sight. A “qadi” must also not be convicted of qadf or slander with accusation of adultery or he will lose his competency for office. He must be a man of adalah or probity, for if a man is a fasiq is not eligible for office. Furthermore, a “qadi” must be conversant with the Kitab, the Sunnah, and the Ijma. He must be open to the different opinions of the Jurists (qiyās) because he must have the knowledge of the preconditions of reasoning, kinds of qiyās and how to derive the rules of the law  A “qadi” must be fully educated with the Qur’ān and must possess the knowledge of ten things: words pertaining to specific members of the class (viz), words denoting and pertaining to all homogenous members of the class, absolute commandments, qualified commandments, verses that important clear orders, verses that are allegorical, verses that impart brief and precise commandments, verses wherein the detail of brief commandment is given, abrogating, and abrogated  Additionally, a qadi must have requisite knowledge of the traditions, deeds and sayings of Muhammad known as the Hadith. He have the knowledge of wherein the law hadith is laid down, the knowledge of those hadith that are universally accepted, and the knowledge of those hadith that have different opinions. Thus, the authority of a qadi is not valid until he is fully conversant with these aspects and well versed in the Arabic language. Once a qadi is fully knowledgeable and possesses the qualifications for being an acceptable witness, he deserves to be called a Mujtahid, or qualified jurist.
A Qadi cannot accept a gift from a litigant nor from a non-litigant within his jurisdiction, for he may invoke his aid on occasion. Despite the rules governing the office, Muslim history is full of complaints about qadis. It has often been a problem that qadis have been managers of waqfs, religious endowments.
The qualifications that a qadi must possess are stated in the law, although the law is not uniform on this subject. The minimal requirement upon which all the jurists agree is that a qadi possess the same qualifications as a witness in court, that is, that they be free, sane, adult, trustworthy, and a Muslim. Some require that they also possess the qualifications of a jurist, that is, that they be well versed in the law, while others regard those qualifications as simply preferable, implying that a person may effectively discharge the duties of the office without being well versed in the law. This latter position presupposed that a qadi who is not learned in matters of law would consult those who are before reaching a decision. Indeed, consultation was urged upon the learned qadi as well, since even the learned are fallible and can profit from the views of others. Those consulted did not, however, have a voice in the final decision making. The Islamic court was a strictly one-judge court and the final decision rested upon the shoulders of a single qadi.
Every Qadi had full divine and imperial authority to enforce the Shariah within his province. Qadis in office were defined and determined by the sacred traditions of Islam. Just as the Sultan was given the ordinance to rule through Islam, the Qadi drew his legitimacy and prestige from classical Islam. The development of Islamic legal interpretation supported the "communal vision" embodied in the Quran. The interpretation of legal texts was entrusted to trained Qadi rather than an organization or office capable of exercising impersonal political power. Qadis acted as individuals, adjudicating on the basis of his own reading of the law, not creating precedents for later Qadi, or his own judgments in the future. Qadis were the real source of judicial initiative in provincial courts. Court decisions were made in the order of frequency, on the basis of confessions, testimony witnesses, reference to written documents from courts or various government offices, fatwas, oaths and imperial orders. Fatwas were legal opinions given by the jury-consult known as the mufti. The Mufti was not a member of the Qadi Court; his single function was the issuance of the fatwas and to give definitive legal opinions on questions of the Shariah posed to him by parties to lawsuits. the Mufti brought the Qadi the fatwas where the Qadi's job was to make a ruling on that fatwas. In a court hearing based on oral testimony alone, the Qadi would ask the defendant to clear his name, or the plaintiff to establish the "veracity" of his claim, by swearing on his "book", that referred to either the Quran, Bible, or the Torah. The jurisdiction of a Qadi was theoretically coextensive with the scope of the law that he applied. Traditionally, Qadis had jurisdiction over all legal matters involving Muslims and dhimmi communities that lived within the Islamic State. However, non-Muslims such as Jews and Christians sometimes took their own disputes to the Qadi in the expectation of personal gain, after losing in their own courts. A Qadi would only rarely prevent Jews or Christians the right to adjudication under the Islamic Law. Christians and Jews found the Qadi court convenient because they could follow the rules of their own communities and at the same time, they were free to take disputes to the Qadi. Christian and Jewish merchants could choose from larger sets of contractual forms, debt instruments, deeds and inheritance arguments, while being free to use Islamic business methods and emulate Islamic inheritance. Non-Muslims even appeared before a Qadi with complaints against their co-religionists such as intra-communal dispute among Christians and Jews of the same "denomination". However, if a Non-Muslim wanted to use the Qadi Court, he or she must have been familiar with the Shariah and have been prepared for litigation before the Qadi.
The maẓālim was a court (presided over by the supreme ruler himself or his governor) that heard complaints addressed to it by virtually any offended party. Since Islamic law did not provide for any appellate jurisdiction but regarded the decision of a qadi as final and irrevocable, the maẓālim court could function as a kind of court of appeals in cases where parties complained of unfair decisions from qadis. The maẓālim judge was not bound to the rules of Islamic law (fiqh), nor for that matter was he bound to any body of positive law, but was free to make decisions entirely on the basis of considerations of equity. The maẓālim court thus provided a remedy for the inability of a qadi to take equity freely into account. It also made up for certain shortcomings of Islamic law, for example, the lack of a highly developed law of torts, which was largely due to the preoccupation of the law with breaches of contracts. In addition, it heard complaints against state officials.
The shurṭah, on the other hand, was the state apparatus responsible for criminal justice. It too provided a remedy for a deficiency in the law, namely the incompleteness and procedural rigidity of its criminal code. Although in theory a qadi exercised a criminal jurisdiction, in practice this jurisdiction was removed from his sphere of competence and turned over entirely to the shurṭah, which developed its own penalties and procedures. What was left to the qadi was a jurisdiction concerned mainly with cases having to do with inheritance, personal status, property, and commercial transactions. Even within this jurisdiction, a particular qadi's jurisdiction could be further restricted to particular cases or types of cases at the behest of the appointing superior.
The principle of delegation of judicial powers not only allowed the supreme ruler to delegate these powers to a qadi; it also allowed qadis to further delegate them to others, and there was in principle no limit to this chain of delegation. All persons in the chain, except for the supreme ruler or his governor, bore the title qadi. Although in theory the appointment of a qadi could be effected by a simple verbal declaration on the part of the appointing superior, normally it was accomplished by means of a written certificate of investiture, which obviated the need for the appointee to appear in the presence of the superior. The appointment was essentially unilateral rather than contractual and did not require acceptance on the part of the appointee in order to be effective. It could be revoked at any time.
The Jews living the Ottoman Empire sometimes used qadi courts to settle disputes. Under the Ottoman system, Jews throughout the Empire retained the formal right to oversee their own courts and apply their own religious law. The motivation for bringing Jewish cases to qadi courts varied. In sixteenth-century Jerusalem, Jews preserved their own courts and maintained relative autonomy. Rabbi Samuel De Medina and other prominent rabbis repeatedly warned co-religionists that it was forbidden to bring cases to government courts and that doing so undermined Jewish legal authority, which could be superseded only "in matters that pertained to taxation, commercial transactions, and contracts."
Throughout the century, Jewish litigants and witnesses participated in Muslim court proceedings when it was expedient, or when cited to do so. Jews who wanted to bring cases against Muslims had to do so in qadi courts, where they found a surprising objectivity. But the different legal status of Jews and Muslims was preserved. Jewish testimony was weighted differently when the testimony was prejudicial to Jews or Muslims.
In Sri Lanka
In accordance with Section 12 of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, the Judicial Services Commission may appoint any male Muslim of good character and position and of suitable attainments to be a Quazi. The Quazi does not have a permanent courthouse, thus the word "Quazi Court" is not applicable in current context. The Quazi can hear the cases anywhere and anytime he wants. Currently most of the Quazis are laymen.
In accordance with Section 15 of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, the Judicial Services Commission may appoint a Board of Quazis, consisting of five male Muslims residing in Sri Lanka, who are of good character and position and of suitable attainments, to hear appeals from the decisions of the Quazis under this Act. The Board of Quazis does not have a permanent courthouse either. Usually an appeal or a revision takes minimum of two to three years in order to arrive for judgement from the Board of Quazis. The Board of Quazis can start the proceedings at whatever time they want and end the proceedings at whatever time they want. The Office of the Board of Quazis is situated in Hulftsdorp, Colombo 12.
Women as qadis
Although the role of qadi has traditionally been restricted to men, some women have been appointed as qadis in recent years. In 2009, two women were appointed as qadis by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. In 2010, Malaysia appointed two women as qadis as well. However, it was decided that as women they may only rule over custody, alimony, and common property issues, not over criminal or divorce cases, which usually make up most of a qadi's work. In Indonesia, there are nearly 100 female qadis.
There is disagreement among Islamic scholars as to whether women are qualified to act as qadis or not.
The rulers of Muslim India also used the same institution of the qadi (or kazi). The qadi (kazi) was given the responsibility for total administrative, judicial and fiscal control over a territory or a town. He would maintain all the civil records as well. He would also retain a small army or force to ensure that his rulings are enforced.
In most cases, the kazi (qadi) would pass on the title and position to his son, descendent or a very close relative. Over the centuries, this profession became a title within the families, and the power remained within one family in a region. Throughout India and Pakistan, we now find various Kazi families who descended through their famous kazi (qadi) ancestors and retained the lands and position. Each family is known by the town or city that their ancestors controlled.
On the island of Mayotte, one of the Comoro Islands, the title qadi was used for Umar who governed it from 19 November 1835 to 1836 after its conquest by and annexation to the Sultanate of Ndzuwani (Anjouan).
In the Songhai Empire, criminal justice was based mainly, if not entirely, on Islamic principles, especially during the rule of Askia Muhammad. The local qadis were responsible for maintaining order by following Sharia law according to the Qur'an. An additional qadi was noted as a necessity in order to settle minor disputes between immigrant merchants. Qadis worked at the local level and were positioned in important trading towns, such as Timbuktu and Djenné. The Qadi was appointed by the king and dealt with common-law misdemeanors according to Sharia law. The Qadi also had the power to grant a pardon or offer refuge.
Alcalde, one of the current Spanish terms for the mayor of a town or city, is derived from the Arabic al-qaḍi ( قاضي,), "the judge." In Al-Andalus a single qadi was appointed to each province. To deal with issues that fell outside of the purview of sharia or to handle municipal administration (such as oversight of the police and the markets) other judicial officers with different titles were appointed by the rulers.
The term was later adopted in Portugal, Leon and Castile during the eleventh and twelfth centuries to refer to the assistant judges, who served under the principal municipal judge, the iudex or juez. Unlike the appointed Andalusian qadis, the alcaldes were elected by an assembly of the municipality's property owners. Eventually the term came to be applied to a host of positions that combined administrative and judicial functions, such as the alcaldes mayores, the alcaldes del crimen and the alcaldes de barrio. The adoption of this term, like many other Arabic ones, reflects the fact that, at least in the early phases of the Reconquista, Muslim society in the Iberian Peninsula imparted great influence on the Christian one. As Spanish Christians took over an increasing part of the Peninsula, they adapted Muslim systems and terminology for their own use.
- ... During Ottoman period, [qadi] was responsible for the city services. The charged people such as Subasi, Bocekbasi, Copluk Subasisi, Mimarbasi and Police assisted the qadi, who coordinated all the services." [From History of Istanbul Municipality, Istanbul Municipality (in Turkish).]
Prior to the 19th century, qadis were present in the case of private parties, or plaintiff and defendant. Ta'zir offenses were also administered by a qadi, who would often act as an examining magistrate, presenting the details of the case to the state who would then prosecute the suspect. Crimes relating to public security and the state were dealt with by the wali or governor of Egypt, or by the kushaf or provincial governors. Police officers also handled criminal matters directly. By the 19th century however, this began to change. The role of administrative agencies in establishing punitive punishments in criminal matters began to give way to specialized councils that enforced the laws of the state, whereas qadis no longer heard ta'zir cases. This essentially gave rise to a dual judiciary-part secular and part religious-each with their own governing rules. This system continued until the judicial reforms of 1883, which officially ended the roles of qadis in criminal matters in Egypt.
Expansion of the use of qadis
As the Empire expanded, so did the legal complexities that were built into the system of administration carried over and were enhanced by the conditions of frontier expansion. In particular, the Islamic empire adapted legal devices to deal with the existence of large populations of non-Muslims, a persistent feature of empire despite incentives for conversion and in part because of institutional protections for communal legal forums. These aspects of the Islamic legal order would have been quite familiar to travelers from other parts of the world. Indeed, Jewish, Armenian, and Christian traders found institutional continuity across Islamic and Western regions, negotiating for and adopting strategies to enhance this resemblance.
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