The Law-Courts of the Jewish Communities in the Abbasid and Fatimid Periods
Keywords: Abbasid, Fatimid, Jewry, Law-Courts
With the Muslim conquests, which started during thc lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad and accelerated during the rule of rightly guided caliphs, considerable parts of the world were incorporated into the abode of Islam. And this expansion had reached its peak during the Umayyad State. It was by means of these conquests that most of the Jewish community, whose origins lie in the exiles in the pre-lslamic period, came to be under the dominion of Islam. With the expansion of Islam as one single authority into a region that was formerly ruled by many different states (Byzantium, Sasanids), the Jewish communities began to accept the domination of Rabbinic, in other words, the Talmudic Judaism. According to Islamic law and Muslim practices, the relationship between the Muslim states and non-Muslims was regulated by a pact called "dhimma". They had to pay a poll tax called "jizya", by means of which they were given not only a guarantee for their lives but also for freedom of religion, social, cultural and economic matters. During the Abbasid and Fatimid periods, the Jews lived in their own district, which centered around beth dins and synagogues. Their commnunity position in those times could be regarded as "a state within the state or even beyond the state." The Jews could have privilege to bring their case to Islamic courts, if they did not prefer to bring it to their communal court during the Islamic rules. But, the essential rule or regulation was that the right to have an autonomous structure and resolve their cases in their own courts. In this paper, judicial autonomy which was endowed with the Jewish community and its situation during the period of Abbasids and Fatimids, which was accepted classical period of Islamic history were investigated. In this context, Jewish community courts (beth dins) were presented based on the structures of the courts, legal progression in these courts and also punishments mainly for flogging and herem, court records, correspondences between the community offices, letters (responsa) from the head of academies (geonim) to the communities and its members.