Dispensing Justice in Islam: Qadis and Their Judgements

Publication Year



Edited by David S. Powers, Ph.D. 1979

Dispensing Justice is designed to serve as a sourcebook of Islamic legal practice and qadi court records from the rise of Islam to modern times, drawing upon court records and qadi judgments, in addition to literary sources. In the first chapter, we survey the state of the field, sketching the history, structure, and modern transformation of the qadiship. The twenty chapters that follow are grouped thematically in four sections: (1) the nature and functions of the judgeship and its development over time; (2) the structure of the judicial apparatus; (3) the application of juristic thought and reasoning to specific cases in selected areas of the law; and (4) judicial procedure and the different forms of evidence. The volume fills a large gap in Islamic legal history.


“This volume makes a significant contribution to the growing number of studies that utilize court records and anthropological and ethnographic research to analyze legal practice in the shariʿa court’s socio-legal setting. … The strength of this volume lies in the editors’ choice to compile a collection of scholarship that reflects on common themes across disciplinary boundaries.” Karen Kern in MESA - RoMES 44.1 (2010).

“[T]his volume represents the single most important available source for the analysis of qāḍīs and their role in the operation of the law in Muslim contexts. A competitor volume does not exist.” Robert Gleave in Journal of Islamic Studies, 2011.

“[A]n extremely valuable contribution to the reflection on, and hopefully also to the practice of, the institution of the ī-s.” Piet Horsten in Islamochristiana 38 (2012).

“The volume is thoughtfully put together, reasonably complete, rich, and suggestive, corrective of any number of misinformed assumptions about Islamic law in modern literature that had been based on a thin reading of formal-theoretical texts on legal doctrine, and a welcome first step in the passage of the field of Islamic legal practice to the age of maturity.” Ovamir Anjum in Ilahiyat Studies 5.2 (2014).

Series Title
Studies in Islamic Law and Society
Series Volume
Leiden and Boston
Cloth: 9789004140677; paper789004226838