Communal Legal Entities in a Muslim Setting Theory and Practice:

in Islamic Law and Society
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Abstract

Although there is no term or concept in Islamic law that signifies a communal legal entity, traditional Muslim societies contained several communal entities, such as the Ṭāʾifa or “community”. Such an entity manifests itself in several documents from the sijill of sixteenth-century Jerusalem that deal with relations between the Jewish community and Muslim authorities. For example, when the Jews of Jerusalem attempted to lease a plot for their cemetery, they could not do so as a community, for no such legal entity existed. For this reason, they designated three individuals in whose name the lease was issued, perhaps in an effort to bridge the gap between theory and practice. This was not a mere legal fiction (ḥīla), for when Muslim waqf authorities subsequently determined that one of the three lessees had died, it declared one-third of the lease to be null and void. The Jewish community never challenged this ruling. As demonstrated in this article, the Jewish community applied the same stratagem to other financial matters.

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