Inquiring of “Beelzebub”: Timothy and al-Jāḥiẓ on Christians in the ʿAbbāsid Legal System

in Heirs of the Apostles


This study juxtaposes the concerns of Catholicos Timothy I (r. 780–823), leader of the Church of the East, with those of al-Jāḥiẓ (about 776–868/9), a popular Muslim writer, regarding the dangers for each community when Christians appear as plaintiffs or defendants in Islamic courts. Timothy’s Canons attempt to obviate some of the reasons Christians might voluntarily appeal to Islamic courts rather than resolving disputes within the church, and Canon 12 in particular uses a biblical turn of language to condemn this practice. By contrast, cases involving a Muslim disputant had to be tried in Islamic courts, and al-Jāḥiẓ argues that judges who mete out sentences favorable to Christians in such cases jeopardize the rightful social order of Muslims in regard to ahl al-dhimma (protected people).

Heirs of the Apostles

Studies on Arabic Christianity in Honor of Sidney H. Griffith


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