Parts 29c

The position of official witness (adalah)

January 14, 2020

This is a religious position depending on the office of judge and connected with court practice. The men who hold it give testimony-with the judge’s permission-for or against people’s (claims). They serve as witnesses when testimony is to be taken, testify during a lawsuit, and fill in the registers which record the rights, possessions, and debts of people and other (legal) transactions. This is the significance of the position.

I say “the judge’s permission” because people may have become confused, and (then) only the judge knows who is reliable and who not.

Thus, in a way, he gives permission (and he does so only) to those of whose probity he is sure, so that people’s affairs and transactions will be properly safeguarded.

The prerequisite governing this position is the incumbent’s possession of the quality of probity (adalah) according to the religious law, his freedom from unreliability.

Furthermore, he must be able to fill in the (court) records and make out contracts in the right form and proper order and correctly, (observing) the conditions and stipulations governing them from the point of view of the religious law.

Thus, he must have such knowledge of jurisprudence as is necessary for the purpose. Because of these conditions and the experience and practice required, (the office) came to be restricted to persons of probity. Probity came to be (considered) the particular quality of persons who exercise this function. But this is not so. Probity is one of the prerequisites qualifying them for the office.

The judge must examine their conditions and look into their way of life, to make sure that they fulfill the condition of probity. He must not neglect to do so, because it is his duty to safeguard the rights of the people. The responsibility for everything rests with him, and he is accountable for the outcome.

Once (official witnesses) have been shown clearly to be qualified for the position, they become (more) generally useful (to the judges). (They can be used) to find out about the reliability of other men whose probity is not known to the judges, because of the large size of cities and the confused conditions (of city life). It is necessary to know their reliability) because it is necessary for judges to settle quarrels among litigants with the help of reliable evidence. In assessing the reliability of (the evidence), they usually count upon these professional witnesses. In every city, they have their own shops and benches where they always sit, so that people who have transactions to make can engage them to function as witnesses and register the (testimony) in writing.

The term “probity” (adalah) thus came to be used both for the position whose significance has just been explained and for “probity (reliability)” as required by the religious law, which is used paired with “unreliability.” The two are the same, but still, they are different.

Market supervision (bisbah) and mint The office of market supervisor (hisbah) is a religious position. It falls under the religious obligation “to command to do good and forbid to do evil,” which restswith the person in charge of the affairs of the Muslims. He appoints to the position men whom he considers qualified for it.

The obligation thus devolves upon the appointee. He may use other men to help him in his job. He investigates abuses and applies the appropriate punishments and corrective measures. He sees to it that the people act in accord with the public interest in the town (under his supervision). For instance, he prohibits the obstruction of roads. He forbids porters and boatmen to carry too heavy loads. He orders the owners of buildings threatening to collapse, to tear them down and thus remove the possibility of danger to passersby. He prevents teachers in schools and other places from beating the young pupils too much. 390

His authority is not restricted to cases of quarrels or complaints, but he (has to) look after, and rule on, everything of the sort that comes to his knowledge or is reported to him. He has no authority over legal claims in general but he has authority over everything relating to fraud and deception in connection with food and other things and in connection with weights and measures.

Among his duties is that of making dilatory debtors pay what they owe, and similar things that do not require hearing of evidence or a legal verdict, in other words, cases with which a judge would have nothing to do because they are so common and simple. (Such cases,) therefore, are referred to the person who holds the office of market supervisor to take care of them. The position of (market supervisor), consequently, is subordinate to the office of judge.

In many Muslim dynasties, such as the dynasties of the Ubaydid(-Fatimids) in Egypt and the Maghrib and that of the Umayyads in Spain, (the office of market supervisor) fell under the general jurisdiction of the judge, who could appoint anyone to the office at discretion. Then, when the position of ruler became separated from the caliphate and when (the ruler) took general charge of all political matters, the office of market supervisor became one of the royal positions and a separate office.

The office of the mint

This is concerned with the coins used by Muslims in commercial transactions, with guarding against possible falsification or substandard quality (clipping) when the number of coins (and not the weight of their metal) is used in transactions, and with all else relating to (monetary matters.)

Further, the office is concerned with putting the ruler’s mark upon the coins, thus indicating their good quality and purity. The mark is impressed upon the coins with an iron seal that is especially used for the purpose and that has special designs (legends) on it. It is placed upon the dinar and the dirham after their proper weight has been established, and is then beaten with a hammer until the designs have been impressed upon the coin.

This then indicates the good quality of the coin according to the best methods of melting and purification customary among the inhabitants of a particular region under the ruling dynasty. (The metal standard) is not something rigidly fixed but depends upon independent judgment. Once the inhabitants of a particular part or region have decided upon a standard of purity, they hold to it and call it the “guide” (imam) or “standard” (‘iyar). They use it to test their coins. If they are substandard, they are bad.

Supervision of all these things is the duty of the holder of the office (of the mint). In this respect, it is a religious office and falls under the caliphate. It used to belong to the general jurisdiction of the judge, but now has become a separate office, as is the case with that of market supervision. This is all that is to be said about caliphal positions. There were other positions that disappeared when the things that were their concern disappeared.Further, there are positions that became positions of rulers other than the caliph. Such are the positions of amir and wazir, and those concerned with warfare and taxation. They will be discussed later on in their proper places. The position concerned with (prosecution of) the holy war ceased to exist when the holy war was no longer waged, save in a few dynasties which, as a rule, classify the laws governing it under the governmental (and not the caliphal) authority. Likewise, the office of marshal of the nobility consisting of relatives of the caliphs, whose descent gives them a claim to the caliphate or to an official pension, disappeared when the caliphate ceased.

In’ general, the honors and positions of the caliphate merged with those of royal authority and political leadership. This is the present situation in all dynasties.


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