Courts and Judicial Procedure in Islamic Law

Conference May 6, 2016

(Note: The conference has passed)

Courts and Judicial Procedure in Islamic Law Conference


In Honor of Roy Mottahedeh on the Occasion of His Retirement

At Harvard Law School

WCC 2019 Milstein West AB


Details | Organizers  |  Conference Proceedings  |  Co-Sponsors  Line

Much attention has long been accorded to substantive rulings in early Islamic contexts, and recent work has highlighted social histories surrounding courts. But few of those studies place particular emphasis on judicial procedure. Answers to questions of procedure are essential for rounding out the picture of any legal system beyond the four corners of the pages framing the law in the books or the unbounded conception of law as it affects society. Procedure informs both inquiries.


By bringing together scholars of Islamic law from different periods, this conference seeks to uncover the inner workings of courts and the administration of justice in medieval Islamic lands, 632-1250 AD. Presenters will provide papers that ask specific questions with respect to one to three cases or controversies. Papers from the event will be published in a book drawing on interdisciplinary methods of legal history scholarship to produce a collected account of Islamic practices of judicial procedure in early Islamic societies, east and west.






9:30-10 a.m.


Continental Breakfast



10 a.m.-10:15 a.m.


Introductory Remarks


Cemal Kafadar, Harvard University



Intisar Rabb and Abby Balbale, Conference Organizers




10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.


Panel 1: The Formation of Early Islamic Judicial Procedure



William Graham,

Harvard University


Baber Johansen, Harvard University             

The Introduction of Professional Witnesses in Egypt’s Judiciary (755-815): The Reactions of the Urban Public of Fustat


Nahed Samour, 

Helsinki University/Humboldt University Berlin

A Critique of Adjudication: Formative Moments in Early Islamic Legal History 


Ahmed El Shamsy, University of Chicago

The Logic of Excluding Testimony in Early Islam


Intisar Rabb, Harvard Law School/Harvard University

The Curious Case of Bughaybigha: Property Takings in Judicial and Caliphal Courts 

12:15-1:15 p.m.





1:15-3:15 p.m.





Panel 2: Imagining and Enacting Justice in the Abbasid Period and Beyond



Abbas Amanat,

      Yale University



William Granara, Harvard University



Mahmood Kooria, Leiden University

Words of ʿAjam in the World of Arab: Translation and Translator in the Early Islamic Judicial Procedures


Louise Marlow, Wellesley College

Justice, Judges and Law in Three Arabic Mirrors for Princes of the Pre-Mongol Period


Christian Lange, Utrecht University

The Judge vs. the judge: The Heavenly and Earthly Court of Justice in Early Islam


3:15-3:30 p.m.


Coffee Break



3:30-5:15 p.m.


Panel 3: Legal Perspectives from the Islamic West



Abigail Balbale,

Bard Graduate Center


Antoni Abat i Ninet, University of Copenhagen

The Administration of Justice in al-Andalus and the Principles of Justice in Constitutional Democracies


Maribel Fierro, 

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

Joking Judges: A View from the Medieval Islamic West


Delfina Serrano, 

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

Judicial Procedure and Legal Practice on Li`ān (imprecatory oath) in Andalus: The Evidence of Model Shurūṭ Collections (11th to 12th Centuries C.E.)


5:15-5:45 p.m.


Concluding Discussion


Intisar Rabb and Abby Balbale






Registration for the conference has passed. 




Organized by the Islamic Legal Studies Program (ILSP), Harvard Law School, and SHARIAsource (with support from the Luce and MacArthur Foundations). Co-Sponsored by Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, and Department of History.