Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


ILM — Result In Brief

Project ID: 230261
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: France

Pre-modern Islamic legal archive goes online

Historic archives on Islamic law reveal that a robust, viable law system existed in the Islamic world during the Middle Ages. This searchable database has been made available online for other researchers to benefit from.
Pre-modern Islamic legal archive goes online
Islamic civilisation reached its peak in the Middle Ages, contributing to thought on numerous disciplines from medicine and astronomy to philosophy and law. Focusing on the latter, the EU-funded ILM (Islamic law materialized: Arabic legal documents (8th to 15th century) (ILM)) project analysed historic legal documents in Arabic to reveal a new perspective on the topic.

The project looked at both published and unpublished material from the 8th to the 15th centuries to study if and how notarial practice during that period corresponded and responded to the rules of Islamic law. ILM built a database containing almost 2 400 legal notarisations on 1 659 documents with 4 770 images and over 64 000 Arabic textual sequences, including metadata for each document.

ILM's database enables cross queries for deeper analysis and presents a more comprehensive picture of pre-modern Islamic law. Importantly, over half the documents were previously unpublished and were recently obtained from sources in Andalusia, Egypt and Palestine.

The documents revealed a common, transregional Islamic law tradition that governed the practice of guaranteeing citizens' rights. They shed light on how Islamic legal thinking (fiqh) impacted notarisations and revealed new forms of judicial practices. The information also highlighted subtle differences and specificities of notarial and judicial documents.

Overall, the project introduced a different perspective on the theory-practice paradigm in pre-modern Islamic law, displaying its effectiveness in legitimising procedures and practices. The research has negated the supposed incompatibility between fiqh casuistry and legal practice, unveiling a deeper, more meaningful reality behind pre-modern Islamic law.

While the ILM project has published its own observations, other researchers can now browse through these documents online and conduct their own research. The project's web portal enables users to learn about these primary sources for Islamic law and legal practice in pre-modern Muslim societies. It allows researchers to browse documents by city or library inventory number, as well as search for specific Arabic terms. The work conducted in this project has effectively enriched knowledge of a historic law system and its wisdom.

Related information


Islamic law, Middle Ages, legal documents, notarisations, fiqh, judicial, legal practice
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