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The Judicial System

From the very first days of the advent of Islam in Iran until modern times the judicial system was predominantly based upon the Islamic religious laws and the judiciary posts lay vested with the Islamic jurist (faqih). However, since these jurists based their verdicts on different schools of jurisprudential thought their functioning was the cause of serious concern over the centuries.

The earliest example of such concerns was raised by the great Iranian scholar, Ibn Moqaffa’ (d. 142 AH/75 AD9), who suggested to Mansur, the Abbasid Caliph, to regulate the methods used by the judicial system through legislation and to communicate them to all the judges as law. In the periods that followed a number of efforts were made towards the organization of judicial methods within the framework of feqh that were compiled in the form of books called the “Adab al-Qazā” in which some prominent Iranian faqihs (jurists) like Abu Mohammad Nāsehi, the chief justice of Khorāsān, played an influential role.

Prior to the establishment of independent Iranian ruling dynasties the various Iranian regions were under the judicial system of the central caliphate, which was headed by a prominent faqih referred to as the “Chief Justice of Baghdad” from the beginning until the period of the Abbasid rule. Later on, the independent Iranian governments followed the same pattern of judicial system with limited alterations to certain details. As regards the judiciary posts and the laws governing the duties and responsibilities of the judges during this period, besides religious laws there existed certain state rules the examples of which have been recorded in the judiciary charters that have survived from the Seljuq period. 

During the reign of the Ilkhānids the judicial system faced increasing corruption, prompting Ghāzān Khan to introduce certain amendments in the system, parts of which concerned the laws related to the appointment of judges and supervision over their performance as well as certain details of the laws including the statute of limitations. These laws, at least from the period of the Ilkhānids onwards, did not succeed in eliminating the oppression of the corrupt judges, a fact that has been clearly reflected in the literary works of that period. It was perhaps this corruption that brought about a division of judicial power among the religious and non-religious judicial posts during the Safavid period to the extent that a non-religious judge (referred to as the “Divānbeigi”) was involved alongside the “Sadr” who was the religious judge while issuing verdicts in certain important court cases. It appears that neither the Safavids and nor the subsequent rulers had ever succeeded substantially in drawing a distinction between the duties of these two judicial authorities and a lack of order continued in the judicial system which is more or less reflected in the literary works of those periods. The system that dealt with the violations within the judicial system came into existence during the early Abbāsid period on the pattern of the Sassanid kings and operated under the direct supervision of the caliph who had his representatives in the various centers of his rule. During the reign of the various independent Iranian governments this system was administered in a very sensitive manner under the king.

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Iran Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 ,pp.626

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