Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 October 2020
Militancy and Pragmatism
Fatimid history in its North African and Egyptian–Syrian phases is relatively well-known, and references to cadis are quite frequent in the works of Heinz Halm, Ayman Fu’ād Sayyid and Michael Brett. As regards its two main components, the justice dispensed by the cadi and by other state officials such as the market supervisor, the system of administration of justice during the North African period, has been discussed by Farhat Dachraoui, who focused on the Mālikī legal background of North Africa and the complex relations of the Mālikī jurists with the Aghlabids and the Fatimids. Dachraoui has also discussed the Aghlabid administrative precedents, such as combining responsibilities for the markets with maẓālim.
The various institutions that made up the system of administration of justices are discussed by Sayyid in his book about the Fatimid state in Egypt. The cadi institution, however, is discussed separately from legal issues such as inheritances where there are no legal heirs and pious endowments, and the way the cadi dealt or failed to deal with them. The cadis of the Nuʿmān family played a crucial role in the development of the cadi institution in Fatimid Egypt, and Richard J. H. Gottheil, who wrote at the beginning of the twentieth century, was the first to translate and publish fragments concerning members of the family from Ibn Óajar's history of the Egyptian cadis.
This chapter treats the Fatimid period as a whole, and relies on extensive fragments of Fatimid documents preserved in the literary sources pertaining to the appointment of supreme cadis during the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. It also tries to present an integrative discussion of legal issues and their administrative ramifications. While relying on the existing literature and the larger range of sources currently available, my approach is primarily informed and influenced by the broader perspectives that study of law and medieval Islamic history have to offer to a student of Fatimid history. The first issue that must be addressed is the paradox that the administration of justice under the Fatimids in North Africa preceded, and in Egypt paralleled, the formation of Fatimid law.