A Law One Hundred Years Young: The Interpretative Viability of the Ottoman Family Law in Palestine/Israel, 1917-2017

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The article aims at illustrating the "interpretative viability"of the Ottoman Family Code of 1917 - i.e., its susceptibility to changing interpretations - and to discuss some of the interpretative tools that qāīs have applied to it over the years. By tracing the changing implementation of Article 130 of this law (nizā wa-shiqāq) by sharīa courts in Palestine/Israel over a period of one hundred years (1917-2017), the article shows that the codification of the sharīa did not produce a closed, immutable, monolithic legal system, but rather has provided qāīs with considerable interpretative freedom - much more than is commonly assumed. Moreover, the hermeneutic tools employed by qāīs to interpret the code build on earlier, pre-codification sources of pluralism and interpretative freedom within the sharīa. Thus, by highlighting the continuities between pre-codified and post-codified sharīa, the article aims at contributing to the debate concerning the transformation of the sharīa in modern times.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-934
Number of pages45
JournalJournal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
An early version of this article was presented at the 10th Islamic Legal Studies Conference in London, May 19–21, 2022. I am thankful for the participants at the conference for their useful comments. I am also grateful to Tamar Parush, Ursula Wokoeck, Moussa Abou Ramadan, Paolo Sartori, and the anonymous reviewers of JESHO for their insightful suggestions. This research was supported by The Israeli Science Foundation (Grant No. 607/17).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden.


  • codification
  • judicial agency
  • Ottoman Family Law
  • Palestine/Israel
  • sharia courts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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