• Faisal Abdullah

    Paper Title: “‘Shar ʿ Man Qablanā’ (‘The Laws of Those Who Preceded Us’): Muslim Views on Pre-Muḥammadan Religious Law and Its Utility in the Sharīʿah”

    The Qur’ān contains several commandments to follow the guidance of pre-Muḥammadan prophets and their scriptures. In a legal topic known as shar’ man qablanā (“The Laws of Those Who Preceded Us”), Muslim jurists have debated whether pre-Muḥammadan laws, found in the Torah, e.g., are applicable in the Islamic sharī’ah, and whether the Prophet Muḥammad himself referred to the religious law of other communities in his own legislating. If these laws were deemed a valid source of Islamic law, could they be derived directly from the scriptures of other communities (where the authenticity of these texts would be open to question), or restricted to material reported in the Qur’ān and ḥadīth? The shar’ man qablanā debate can help us understand Muslim conceptions of their own religious law and its relationship with that of other religious communities.

  • Zachary Chitwood

    Paper Title: “Reviving Romanitas: Rediscovering the Roman Past in Byzantine Legal Texts (8th–11th c.)”

    Following the transformative period of the seventh century, in which the Byzantine Empire lost its wealthiest eastern provinces and very nearly its capital city, the Syrian (“Isaurian”) dynasty (717-802) successfully stabilized the empire politically and military. Ideologically, they also sought to construct a basis for legitimizing their rule in various ways, including by emphasizing the veneration of the cross and, ultimately, via a set of religious reforms which came to constitute Iconoclasm.

    The outstanding legal achievement of the Isaurian Age, the Ecloga (“Selection [of the Law]”; Text 1 below), reflected the broader ideological program of Leo III and Constantine V, whereby a greater emphasis on the Christian (especially the Old Testament), rather the Roman, component of the Byzantine heritage was emphasized. The source and rationale for the law in this lawbook is biblical; even the word “Roman” barely appears in the collection.

    By contrast, the Macedonian dynasty (867-1056) legitimized their rule on very different grounds: past Roman glories were to be revived, and a comprehensive program of collecting, codifying and reworking classical and Late Roman knowledge was undertaken. For Byzantine law, a reform endeavor known as “Cleansing of the Ancient Laws” (Anakatharsis ton palaion nomon) sought to edit, Christianize and Hellenize the Late Roman legal legacy. The prologue to the Basilika (Text 2), the massive Hellenized version of the Corpus Iuris Civilis completed in the year 888, served as a manifesto of this program of legal reform. The acute salience of the Roman past is especially prominent in the prologue to another lawbook completed shortly thereafter, namely the Epitome legum (Text 3). Finally, towards the end of the eleventh century the historian and judge Michael Attaleiates in his legal textbook (the Ponema Nomikon) dwelt upon the Roman past in great detail (Text 4).

    In summation, over the course of roughly three centuries a stark shift is discernable in the prologues of Byzantine legal texts, from an almost exclusively Christian, indeed biblical, rationale for the law to a strong Roman emphasis: the revival of Romanitas.

    Texts (all prologues thereof)
    1. The Ecloga (promulgated in 741)
    2. The Basilika (888)
    3. The Epitome legum (ca. 900)
    The Ponema Nomikon (1074/1074)

  • Abigail Firey

    Paper Title: “Overturned Order, Neglected Law? The Production of Legal Knowledge in Normandy, ca. 880–1080”

    Prior to 911, when Charles “the Straighforward” (in earlier historiography, Charles “the Simple”)
    ceded territories in northern Francia to the Viking leader Rollo, the Paris basin had been a rich
    area for the production of canon law texts, both as records of contemporary councils and as
    compilations of late antique law. The shift in power from Frankish royalty to Norman dukes in
    the region that was becoming Normandy in the tenth and eleventh centuries raises interesting
    questions about law and communal identity, as the pagan heritage of the Normans brought new
    challenges to the clerical elite of a long-Christianized region. A further disruption in both
    community identity and law resulted from the radical re-distribution of prominent religious
    institutions and their sources of patronage. Abbeys and bishoprics with generations of Frankish
    royal patronage, to which we can trace the production of legal knowledge, were in some cases
    obliterated, in other cases refounded under Norman patronage, or replaced by new, Norman
    foundations. This paper examines some of the evidence for new or relatively new legal processes
    in tenth- and eleventh- century Normandy, and also some of the evidence for a reconstitution or
    recovery of canon law in this region. It thus probes questions about the relation of secular and
    canon law, and about the extent to which law might be regional in the early middle ages.

  • David Freidenreich

    Paper Title: “Legal Alchemy: How and Why Canonists Turned Muslims into Jews”

    Late antique sources that became foundational within medieval Latin canon law define Catholic identity through its opposition to Judaism. Some of this anti-Jewish legislation restricts the behavior of Christians (e.g., Christians may not share meals with Jews), but most of these rules impose restrictions on Jews themselves (e.g., Jews may not employ Christian domestic servants). The earliest canons regarding Muslims all fall into the former category of reflexive, rather than imposed, legislation. When Latin canonists began to impose restrictions on subject Muslim populations in the twelfth century, they justified this innovation by alleging that Muslims “judaize” and are thus, from a legal standpoint, equivalent to Jews. Our presentation will trace the rapid development of this novel legal theory during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries through analysis of canonical statements regarding domestic servants, shared meals, and an unprecedented requirement that Jews and Muslims wear distinctive clothing. We will analyze the sometimes surprising arguments used to support the conclusion that Muslims are effectively Jewish. We will also consider the reasons why medieval Latin canonists found value in reasserting late antique conceptions of identity and communal boundaries during a period of unprecedented social intercourse between Christians and Muslims within the expanding bounds of Latin Christendom.

  • Brendan Goldman

    Paper Title: “Imprisonment, Torture and the Limits of Dhimmī Legal Autonomy in Medieval Egypt: The Specter of State Violence in Cairo Genizah Documents”

    Considerations of power and violence have had little currency in scholarly analysis of the relationship between dhimmī (non-Muslim) and state courts in the medieval Islamic Near East. But the documents of the Cairo Genizah make clear that the specter of imprisonment and torture was omnipresent for Jewish litigants in medieval Egypt. This fear was rooted in lived experience: Over 150 Cairo Genizah documents—including Hebrew-script personal letters, rabbinic responsa and charity lists, as well as Arabic-script government decrees and arrest warrants—speak to concrete incidents of state agents deploying public floggings, incarceration and violent interrogations to enforce legal rulings.

    This paper explores the implications of Islamic courts’ monopolization of state-sanctioned, legitimate (per Weber) violence for dhimmī legal autonomy. It asks: How did the different enforcement mechanisms at the disposal of rabbinic and qāḍī courts influence litigants’ choice of legal venue? In what ways were these (rabbinic and Islamic/state) legal systems competitive, symbiotic and/or codependent? How did the practice of state-sanctioned violence solidify and/or abrogate dhimmī courts’ legal power?

  • Adam Kosto

    Paper Title: “Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Communities in Normative Documents of Islamo-Christian Iberia”

    This contribution will focus on a set of charters granted to communities conquered by Alfonso I of Aragon “The Battler” (1104–34) in the years 1119–22, during that king’s campaigns against neighboring taifa states in an early phase of the so-called Reconquista. One such charter was granted to the Christian community of Belchite, which mentions Muslims (1119); one to the Jewish community of Tudela, which mentions Muslims and Christians (1119×21); and one to the Muslim community of Tudela, which mentions Jews and Christians (1119). The contribution examines these texts in the wider context of a range of normative documents from this general place and time (fueros, cartas pueblas, surrender treaties). It explores the way in which the texts use religious identity to refer to communities, evidence for other sources of community identification (geographical, professional, etc.), and the varieties of legal rules that apply to specific communities rather than generally.  It also considers the significance of the form of the evidentiary base, so different from the Islamic and Jewish sources that have been well studied recently to address similar questions in this region in a slightly earlier period.

  • Atria Larson

    Paper Title: “The Culmination of Religious Identity for Defining a Legal Community: The Papacy, Law, and the Communal Identity of Christendom in the Early-Thirteenth Century”

    This contribution will examine a set of texts from the papacies of Innocent III (1198-1216), Honorius III (1216-1227), and Gregory IX (1227-1241) that helped define a community through a combined religious and legal identity. These texts pertain to important collections of canon law endorsed by individual popes but also to the greatest general council, with the most influential set of conciliar decrees, of the medieval period (the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215). The Compilatio tertia, a collection of Innocent III’s decretals, the Compilatio quinta, a collection made at the request of Honorius III, and the Liber Extra, an authoritative collection commissioned by Gregory IX, all were preceded by bulls of approbation and/or promulgation. These bulls, functioning as prefaces, indicate the papal understanding of the force and intent of these collections as compilations and then codes of law. These texts will be examined in juxtaposition with texts normally not considered as part of canon law even though included as the first two chapters in the official Liber Extra of 1234, namely the first two constitutions approved by the Fourth Lateran Council, which offered a confessional creed for all orthodox Christians and denounced certain heresies. My source commentary will argue that, if these texts are read together, a greater understanding will emerge of how early-thirteenth century popes, at the apex of papal power, conceived of a shared identity among the community of “the faithful” (fideles) overseen by a common system of law (canon law) and rooted in a common confession of faith centered on the inter-Trinitarian community of the Christian God.

  • Maya Maskariniec

    Paper Title: “‘My law does not instruct me to say anything but what I have already said’: Monastic Communities and the Law in Late 10th- to Early 11th-Century Central Italy”

    This paper examines how and why monastic communities in late 10th to early 11th-century central Italy interacted with ‘secular’ law. To do so it focuses on three cases studies, from the monasteries of Farfa (Lazio), Monte Soratte (Lazio) and Monte Amiata (Tuscany). Each of these examples is drawn from a different literary genre: a record of court proceedings, a breve commemoratorium from 998 as recopied into Gregory of Catino’s late-11th-century cartulary for Farfa; a historiographical text, the late-10th-century chronicle of Benedict of Monte Soratte; and a letter, written by the abbot Winizo of Monte Amiata in 1004-7. Collectively these showcase how monks creatively mobilized existing legal texts and precedents to define and defend their monasteries, thereby shaping a legal discourse that put the past at the forefront of their communities’ futures.

  • Evan Metzger

    Paper Title: “Al-Tạrasūsī’s Fatwā on Preventing the Compulsory Payment of Zakāt by Minors”

    One of the distinct privileges of the Shāfi‘ī school of law in the Mamluk period was supervising the wealth of orphans (defined as minors with no living or known father). Judicial functionaries under the supervision of the Shāfi‘ī Chief Judge distributed payments out of central treasuries to the legal guardians of orphans. As a result, millions of dirhems flowed into the hands of the Shāfi‘īs. Those in charge of investing this wealth received one-fourth of all profits. In addition, the Shāfi‘īs collected and distributed the obligatory alms tax (zakāt) on behalf of the orphans.

    This control of orphans’ wealth emerged as a major point of contention between the Shāfi‘īs and their most powerful rivals, the Ḥanafīs. The latter argued that control of orphans’ wealth should be in their hands as they, unlike the Shāfi‘īs, did not require minors to pay zakāt . Although this argument failed to secure the transfer of these privileges from the Shāfi‘īs, a fatwā composed by the Ḥanafī jurist Najm al-Dīn al-Ṭarasūsī (d. 1357) shows that Hanafis also produced novel legal procedures at court in order to circumvent the Shāfi‘ī’s extraction of zakāt. However, al-Ṭarasūsī warns that one of these procedures threatened the integrity of the Ḥanafī position that zakāt is only a form of worship. As a result, he suggests a different legal procedure and invites his readers to add their own solutions in the margins. The fatwā reveals how competition between Islamic legal schools led to the development of new legal actions.

  • Patrick Morgan

    Paper Title: “Legislating Religious Boundaries in the Twelfth-Century Mediterranean”

    The Norman Kingdom of Sicily in the twelfth century is often noted for its multi-confessional culture and the mingling of Byzantine Greek, Arabic Muslim, and Latin Christian cultural elements. The early years of the Norman monarchy, until at least 1154 and the death of King Roger II, are often depicted as a period of relative toleration for Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The king even issued a law as part of the so-called “Assizes of Ariano,” selections of which will be translated for this conference, which explicitly calls for toleration of various legal customs “on account of the variety of peoples being subject to our rule,” unless their laws should contradict with royal legislation. King Roger also issued laws which sharply delineate the boundary between the majority and politically ascendant Christian community and communities of minority religions like Judaism and Islam. These include laws against apostasy from Christianity and against the enslavement or legal possession of a Christian person by a non-Christian, as well as a definition of legitimate marriage that firmly excludes non-Christian unions. Examining these laws is an opportunity to investigate the monarch’s role (or perceived role) in enforcing religious boundaries and to identify the spaces where anxiety over the presence of religious minorities within the kingdom seem to be strongest, such as in servile or marital relationships. Moreover, the laws’ definition of marriage prescribes a degree of marital ceremony more common, at this point, in Byzantium, which complicates the question of which religions were considered minorities in the Kingdom of Sicily.

  • Arietta Papaconstantinou

    Paper Title: “Legal Pluralism in Action: Individual Strategies and Overlapping Communities in Some Early Medieval Papyri”

    In the early medieval period, the eastern Mediterranean had seen and applied several different systems of norms from different empires, which had interacted with local sets of norms in multiple ways over time. From formalised and codified ‘laws’ to traditional norms of social behaviour, all were in constant flux, through dialogue and conflict with each other, but also the dynamics of internal evolution.

    In that world of sometimes conflicting, sometimes complementary, but always negotiable systems of norms, individual actors faced a broad range of choices, which has been dubbed ‘forum shopping’, in a comparison with the rich Roman marketplace.

    We are fortunate with papyri that some of these processes are visible at the grass roots level. They make clear that ‘forum shopping’ did not always involve a formal procedure, but rather recourse to patrons or protectors, as well as the deployment of argumentative techniques and tropes. How patrons and arguments were chosen and used was underpinned by implicit notions of group belonging and communal norms, and supported by the display of varying situational identities.

    A choice of papyri will be presented that demonstrate how individuals called upon well-established communal forms of reciprocity and solidarity to make cases that they perceived as just and fair. These were pervaded by notions of debt and obligation, social stratification, religious and secular authority, and a strong sense of the possibilities and limits of negotiation within the specific group’s system of norms.

  • Victoria Paquette

    Paper Title: “Legal Alchemy: How and Why Canonists Turned Muslims into Jews”

    Late antique sources that became foundational within medieval Latin canon law define Catholic identity through its opposition to Judaism. Some of this anti-Jewish legislation restricts the behavior of Christians (e.g., Christians may not share meals with Jews), but most of these rules impose restrictions on Jews themselves (e.g., Jews may not employ Christian domestic servants). The earliest canons regarding Muslims all fall into the former category of reflexive, rather than imposed, legislation. When Latin canonists began to impose restrictions on subject Muslim populations in the twelfth century, they justified this innovation by alleging that Muslims “judaize” and are thus, from a legal standpoint, equivalent to Jews. Our presentation will trace the rapid development of this novel legal theory during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries through analysis of canonical statements regarding domestic servants, shared meals, and an unprecedented requirement that Jews and Muslims wear distinctive clothing. We will analyze the sometimes surprising arguments used to support the conclusion that Muslims are effectively Jewish. We will also consider the reasons why medieval Latin canonists found value in reasserting late antique conceptions of identity and communal boundaries during a period of unprecedented social intercourse between Christians and Muslims within the expanding bounds of Latin Christendom.

  • Chris PreJean

    Paper Title: “Non-Muslim Religious Communities and the Shaping of Ḥanbalī Law”

    Non-Muslim Religious Communities, compiled in the early 10th century by the second generation Ḥanbalī scholar from Baghdad named al-Khallāl, recollects questions Muslims had about non-Muslims during a time of increased intercommunal interaction. It records Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal’s responses to questions posed by Muslims seeking answers to obscure or otherwise difficult questions concerned with quotidian intercommunal interactions. Additionally, it provides Ibn Ḥanbal’s responses to some Muslims who seem to have been looking for reaffirmation to questions asked in previous generations but remained relevant to contemporary social circumstances. As one of the earliest legal books to comprehensively address the process of non-Muslim integration into Muslim family affairs and law, Non-Muslim Religious Communities offers a glimpse into the lives of Christians and Muslims living in Baghdad who often shared familial, cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and confessional realities. As part of a larger push to centralize and codify the words of Ibn Ḥanbal, the collection reflects an attempt to integrate non-Muslims, new non-Muslim converts and their children and their families into an Islamic legal framework which had, up to this point, not comprehensively treated them. Thus, in presenting some representative entries from the chapters on marriage and divorce, this paper hopes to discuss some of the factors that contributed to shaping Ḥanbalī law as it pertains to non-Muslim religious communities.

  • Alexandre Roberts

    Paper Title: “Narrating the Trial of John bar ʿAbdūn”

    In the 1020s, the Byzantine Chalcedonian bishop of the Anatolian city of Melitene (modern-day Malatya) appealed to Constantinople on multiple occasions to side with him against the local Syrian Miaphysite (Jacobite) bishop. At the end of 1028, a new emperor, Romanos Argyros, responded by having the Syrian Miaphysite patriarch of Antioch, John VIII bar ʿAbdûn (then resident at the Anatolian monastery of Bārîd) arrested, brought to the Byzantine capital, and put on trial before a synod of Byzantine Chalcedonian bishops, led by the Alexios the Stoudite, Patriarch of Constantinople. When John bar ʿAbdûn refused to renounce his Miaphysite doctrine, he was condemned as a heretic and exiled to a monastery in Thrace.

    The present contribution examines narratives of this event preserved in Greek, Syriac, and Arabic, written by the Byzantine patriarch, Syrian Miaphysite authors, a Coptic Miaphysite author, and a Arabophone Byzantine Chalcedonian (‘Melkite’) author. How do these sources represent the by all accounts pivotal events of 1028–29? What agendas might these narratives advance? And what can these narratives, and the events they variously refract, tell us about the communities—doctrinal, legal, administrative—that these elite authors inhabited, and the ideal communities they envisioned?

    The translated text that is the focus of this contribution will be Alexios the Stoudite’s synodal decree framing and narrating the legal proceedings that led to John bar ʿAbdûn’s condemnation.

  • Holly Robins

    Paper Title: “Al-Awzāʿi’s Letters to ʿAbbāsid Authorities: Law and Community on the Frontier”

    This paper explores an important source that has not yet been utilized by scholars in the ways that it can be which sheds light on the role of the Muslim scholar as a social intermediary in early Islamic history. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Awza‘i (d. 774) was a jurist (faqih) and traditionist on the Syrian frontier during the late Umayyad and early ‘Abbasid caliphates. Reported in Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi’s (d. 938) biographical dictionary are nine letters written by al-Awza‘i to various ‘Abbasid political authorities interceding on behalf of individuals and groups of people. These letters mediated on behalf of the oppressed and the vulnerable: the imprisoned, the impoverished, women and children captives of war, people living on the Muslim-Byzantine frontier, and non-Muslims. These letters not only shed light on the character and social position of al-Awza‘i as a popular religious scholar, but they also bring to light the lives and concerns of those often considered to be on the outskirts of Muslim society—both spatially (those on the frontiers, captives, and prisoners) and socially (non-Muslims and women and children). In this paper, I will argue for the authenticity of these letters. If the general integrity of them is established, they become an important source for the development of Muslim thought on subjects such as the sunnah and ḥadīth, and as a source where points of law (dealing with war captives and the ahl al-dhimmah) and administration (the issuing of stipends) are discussed in response to concrete historical contexts.

  • Marina Rustow

    Paper Title: “The Fatimid State and the Jewish Community: Six Geniza Documents”

    This contribution will explore the relationship between the administrative institutions of the Fatimid state and the Jewish community. I intend it as an open-ended exploration, and, as well, as a caution against the tendency of the scholarly record on these questions to extrapolate structural generalizations from pointillistic evidence.

    I will present six documents in total, two in Arabic script, four in Judaeo-Arabic, all drawn up by Jewish communal officials and each of them attesting, at least superficially, to some relationship of dependence on the state. In the first four documents, Jewish officials and lay congregants ask state institutions to help them firm up their communal authority. In the final two documents, ordinary Jews have their tax-farming subcontracts drawn up in rabbinical courts—a perplexing arrangement given that tax-farmers worked on behalf of the state fisc. Each set of documents attests, in some sense, to a delegation of authority from the state to the Jewish community. But on closer examination, they present us with a series of historical contradictions that cannot be explained with resort to a grand unifying theory of communal legal prerogatives.

    I am not aiming at a preconceived conclusion. I suspect that the contradictions inherent in this material could be explained as products of historical contingency, or reflect a fundamentally changeable situation on the ground—a finding that would, then, require us to remain extremely cautious in generalizing about the interplay or entwinement of religious communities and their legal systems with the state.

  • Uriel Simonsohn

    “The Legal Significance of Saḥabiyyāt Biographies for Regulating Muslim Non-Muslim Kinship Ties”

    According to al-Wāqidī (d. 822), in his Kitāb al-maghāzī, Umm Kulthūm, a companion of the Prophet, was the only Qurayshi woman who left her parents to become Muslim and also the first woman who migrated to Medina after the Hijra. Similar reports, most notably from ṭabaqāt compilations associate Umm Kulthūm with the revelation of Q 60:10 regarding the admission of women converts to Islam whose husbands were unbelievers. Accordingly, her story has been treated extensively in Islamic exegesis and law. Coincidently, or not, biographical accounts such as the one about Umm Kulthūm were first recorded in writing contemporaneously to the consolidation of Islamic legal pertaining to marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims. These principles address women’s precarious position upon converting to Islam, discussing their social positioning vis-à-vis their families, their children’s status, and what would become of their familial ties binding them to their fathers, brothers, and most importantly husbands in patriarchal and male-dominated societies. A notable example and one that takes Umm Kulthūm’s biography as its point of reference, is the widespread treatment of non-Muslim women who migrated from the Abode of War (dār al-ḥarb) to the Abode of Islam (dār al-Islām), seeking to join the Muslim fold. The question is also addressed in relation to other female Companions and members of the Prophet’s household, such as Umm Ḥakīm and Zaynab bt. Muḥammad.

    In this presentation I would like to analyze Islamic legal principles dealing with marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, while resorting to the exemplary images of the first female followers of Muḥammad. My objective is to discuss the legal role of biographic narratives for writing about women in moments of interreligious rivalry.

  • Mathieu Tillier

    Paper Title: “Heterodox Judges and Witnesses: Boundaries Between Muslim Communities Inside the Courtroom”

    Since the seventh century, the Islamic community has been experiencing deep theological divisions, which have led to the formation of distinct political entities. Sunni, Shi’is and Kharijis were, to each other, misguided and called ahl al-ahwā’ (“people of passions”), i.e. heterodox. However, the followers of these different movements interacted on a daily basis and regularly met in court to settle their commercial, matrimonial, and inheritance disputes. How did judicial institutions deal with the fact that litigants belonged to different Muslim communities? To what extent could a judge’s decision be accepted if he was himself a “heterodox”? Was it possible to imagine institutional links between jurisdictions held by authorities belonging to different faiths? I will attempt to answer these questions by drawing on a series of legal texts (Sunni and Shi’i) that address the testimony of heterodox people and the value of the judgment rendered by a qadi serving a heterodox power (ahl al-baghī). In particular, I will examine the responses of the Ḥanafi al-Shaybānī (d. 805), al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820), and the Imami al-Ṭūsī (d. 1066-7) between the end of the eighth and the eleventh centuries

  • Lev Weitz

    Paper Title: “East Syrian Confessional Law in the Early Medieval Caliphate”

    In the eighth and ninth centuries CE, a new tradition of Syriac Christian confessional law took shape in the eastern provinces of the Islamic caliphate. Bishops of the Church of the East in Iraq and Persia responded to the opportunities opened up for communal leadership in the caliphate, as well as to the growth of Islamic law, by crafting new legal treatises and law books meant to regulate the social lives of the region’s Christian laity. While the East Syrian Church had a tradition of canon law dating to late antiquity, the Syriac legal writings of the early Abbasid period were innovative and novel: They were the products of individual juristic specialists, rather than councils of bishops, and they treated civil law relevant to lay life much more closely than had earlier canon law.

    This presentation will center on translations from one or more of the representative Syriac legal treatises of this era composed by the bishops Ishoʿbokt, Timothy I, and Ishoʿbarnun. We will look at both the bishops’ theoretical framings of their project of Christian law and the positive content of their rulings. Questions addressed will include the judicial practices reflected in the law books; the origins and character of the law the bishops presented as an East Syrian communal law; and the relationship of the bishops’ project to the other legal cultures of the early medieval caliphate.

  • Oded Zinger

    Paper Title: “Violence and Community: Two Brawls from the Cairo Geniza”

    This paper will publish two previously unpublished legal documents from the Cairo Geniza describing brawls that broke out between Jews in medieval Egypt. Violence between members of the community was on the one hand a serious challenge to communal cohesion and the current leaders, while on the other hand it offered an opportunity for communal leadership to intervene and perform its peace restoring role. This paper will explore the nature of violence, how did it escalate and deescalate, the role of the communal leadership in resolving it and the different loyalties these communal crises stirred. Special emphasis will be given to how law, as a communal instrument, frames such brawls (i.e. how are they transformed once they enter the legal sphere? What do legal institutions try to achieve when handling violence, and to what extent the law itself is a form of violence). It will also be fun texts.