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Volume 4, No 2, Summer 1994 [back]

Book: STATE, SOCIETY, and LAW in ISLAM -- Ottoman Law in Comparative Perspective

Haim Gerber
reviewed by Tanju «ataltepe

SUNY, 1994, ISBN: 0-7914-1878-2.

Haim Gerber is Professor of Islamic History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In this book, he examines the court records and fetva collections from the central part of the empire during the period between 16th and 19th centuries. Gerber demonstrates two important results: 1) Ottoman law was impersonal, predictable and institutional as opposed to the Weberian dictum about the Islamic law being mostly arbitrary. 2) Ottoman law was the Islamic law. The kanun existed not to replace but to supplant the sharia in areas where gaps existed.

Gerber's findings discredit the Weberian thesis that the legal institutions of Islam could not keep up with the development of the society and was a hindrance to economic development. He also shows that the claims to the secular nature of the Ottoman state cannot find any support in its legal institutions. Even though the material evidence of the book is mostly limited to Istanbul and western Anatolia, it agrees well with studies concerning more peripheral parts of the Ottoman state.

©1994 anadolu
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