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Qadi (also known as Qazi, Kazi or Kadi) ( ) is a judge ruling in accordance with the sharia, Islamic religious law. Because Islam makes no distinction between religious and secular domains, qadis traditionally have jurisdiction over all legal matters involving Muslims. The judgment of a qadi must be based on ijma, the prevailing consensus of the ulema, Islamic scholars.

Historical background

The term qadi was in use right from the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and remained the term used for judges throughout Islamic history and the period of the caliphates. While the muftis and fuqaha played the role in elucidation of the principles of jurisprudence and the laws, the qadi remained the key person to ensure the establishment of justice on the basis of these very laws and rules. Thus, the qadi was chosen from amongst those who had mastered the sciences of jurisprudence and law.

During the period of the Abbasid Caliphate, the office of the qadi al-qudat (Chief Justice of the Highest Court) was established. Among the most famous of the early qadi al-qudat was Qadi Abu Yusuf who was a disciple of the famous early jurist Abu Hanifa.

The office of the qadi continued to be a very important one in every principality of the caliphates and sultanates of the Muslim empires over the centuries. The rulers appointed qadis in every region, town and village for judicial and administrative control and to establish peace and justice over the dominions they controlled.

The rulers of Muslim India also used the same institution of the qadi (or Kazi). The qadi (kazi) was given the responsibility for total administrative, judicial and fiscal control over a territory or a town. He would maintain all the civil records as well. He would also retain a small army or force to ensure that his rulings are enforced.

In most cases, the kazi (qadi) would pass on the title and position to his son, descendent or a very close relative. Over the centuries, this profession became a title within the families, and the power remained within one family in a region. Throughout India and Pakistan, we now find various Kazi families who descended through their famous Kazi (qadi) ancestors and retained the lands and position. Each family is known by the town or city that their ancestors controlled.

Religious and judicial roles

In the Islamic world, under constitutional government, such as Turkeymarker, where sharia is not the basis for the legal system, the term qadi is still used to identify judges or magistrates. However in countries where shariah law is in force, such as Saudi Arabiamarker, the qadi is the judge who rules under the Islamic laws in force.

In countries that practice a hybrid legal system such as Egyptmarker, a qadi makes an initial ruling in all civil and criminal matters. In Pakistanmarker, where there is a dual legal system of the regular courts and the Shariah courts, the qadis (kazis) are appointed in the latter case who rule according to the shariah law. In some Islamic countries, the position of qadi, formerly reduced to simply being responsible for the initial hearing of cases or even abolished in the process of Westernization, has been recently reinstated, as in some Islamic provinces of northern Nigeriamarker. When it involves a severe penalty, his decision has to be approved by a Mufti, certainly in capital punishment cases, to ensure that verdict is in compliance with the Islamic law.

In Turkey, qadis were appointed by the Veliyu l-Emr. With the reform movements, secular courts have replaced qadis, but they formerly held wide ranging responsibilities:
... During Ottoman period, [qadi] was responsible for the city services. The charged people such as Subasi, Bocekbasi, Copluk Subasisi, Mimarbasi and Police assisted the qadi, who coordinated all the services." [From History of Istanbul Municipality, Istanbul Municipality (in Turkish).]

Mayotte governorship

On the island of Mayottemarker, one of the Comoro Islandsmarker, the title qadi was used for Umar who governed it from 19 November 1835 to 1836 after its conquest by and annexation to the Sultanate of Ndzuwani (Anjouanmarker).

Spanish derivation

Alcalde, one of the current Spanish terms for the mayor of a town or city, is derived from the Arabic al-qaḍi ( قاضي,), "the judge." In Al-Andalusmarker a single qadi was appointed to each province. To deal with issues that fell outside of the purview of sharia or to handle municipal administration (such as oversight of the police and the markets) other judicial officers with different titles were appointed by the rulers.

The term was later adopted in Portugal, Leonmarker and Castile during the eleventh and twelfth centuries to refer to the assistant judges, who served under the principal municipal judge, the iudex or juez. Unlike the appointed Andalusian qadis, the alcaldes were elected by an assembly of the municipality's property owners. Eventually the term came to be applied to a host of positions that combined administrative and judicial functions, such as the alcaldes mayores, the alcaldes del crimen and the alcaldes de barrio. The adoption of this term, like many other Arabic ones, reflects the fact that, at least in the early phases of the Reconquista, Muslim society in the Iberian Peninsula imparted great influence on the Christian one. As Spanish Christians took over an increasing part of the Peninsula, they adapted Muslim systems and terminology for their own use.

See also


  1. See The Administration of the Sultanate of Delhi by Dr. I.H. Qureshi, Pakistan Historical Society, 1942, for the origins and institutions in the early part of Muslim rule in India
  2. O'Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, 142-143.
  3. O'Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, 269-271.
  4. Imamuddin, S. M. Muslim Spain, 198-200.


  • " Qadi," LookLex Encyclopaedia (formerly Encyclopedia of the Orient).
  • Bekir Kemal Ataman, "Ottoman Kadi Registers as a Source of Social History." Unpublished M.A. Thesis. University of London, University College London, School of Library, Archive and Information Studies. 1987.
  • Imamuddin, S. M. Muslim Spain: 711-1492 A.D.: A Sociological Study. Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1981.
  • O'Callaghan, Joseph F. A History of Medieval Spain. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1975. ISBN 0-8014-0880-6
  • Özhan Öztürk (2005). Karadeniz (Black Seamarker): Ansiklopedik Sözlük. 2 Cilt. Heyamola Yayıncılık. İstanbul. ISBN 975-6121-00-9
  • " Mayotte", WorldStatesmen

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