Women in the Shari῾a court records of Ottoman Damascus

in Turkish Historical Review
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Qassam registers give detailed information about the estates of deceased people, the size of their households, the number of times they were married, the number of children, and the male-female ratio of minors and adults. The estates of deceased Christians in Damascus are reported more frequently in nineteenth-century qassam registers due to the application of the Tanzimat which advocated equality among all subjects and the tolerance shown towards the Christians by Egyptian rule in Syria in the 1830s. The registers indicate that monogamy was dominant in Damascus due to a low-to-average life-span. Marriage patterns and the composition of the estates of deceased women and men are examined in six qassam registers spanning a period of over a century (1750-1861). The establishment of religious endowments (vakıf) by Muslim and Christian women, and the varying titles given to these women in the court records are also discussed.




Bowring, Report, p. 94.


Schacht, Joseph, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1964), p. 125.


Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, p. 80, note 1.


  • The estate of Mayram Shbeir, Damascus Law-Court Register, n.296, p. 13 case dated 5 Rajab 1235 (18 April 1820).

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  • The estate of Sharifa ‘Atika al-Duwaji, Damascus Law-Court Register, n.372, p. 114, case dated 1 Sha’ban 1258 (7 September 1842).

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  • The estate of Nabiha Khanum bint ‘Abdallah, Damascus Law-Court Register, n.372, p. 131, case dated 21 Dhu’l-Qa’da 1258 (24 December 1842).

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  • The estate of Khadija bint ‘Abdallah, Damascus Law-Court Register, n.364, p. 80, case dated 11 Dhu’l-Hijja 1257 (24 January 1842).

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  • The estate of Esther bint Musa Farhi, Damascus Law-Court Record, no. 372, p. 61, case dated end Jumada II 1258 (7 August 1842).

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  • The waqf of Hanni bint al-Khuri Shahin, Damascus Law-Court Register, no. 122, p. 146 case dated 13 Rajab 1165 (27 May 1752).

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  • The waqf of ‘Aisha bint ‘Abdallah, Damascus Law-Court Register, no. 121, p. 321 case dated 19 Rajab 1200 (18 May 1786).

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