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Comment on the Majallah and its translation

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Re:  Al-Majallah al-ahkam al-adaliyya – The Ottoman Courts Manual on commercial transactions. Does anyone know the background on this? Would appreciate more info.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

For those interested, the Majalla is a codification of Hanafi commercial law. It was authored in the second half of the 19th Century by a council of major Hanafi faqihs headed by Allama Jawdat Basha, and included Ibn Abidin’s son, Allama Ala’ al-Din Abidin, and Allama Amin al-Jundi (author of “Islah Ilm al-Hal”, a useful handbook of basic faith and Hanafi worship that is coming out soon, inshaAllah, in English). It was the law code for the Ottoman Khilafa for over 70 years, and continued to be the commercial law of Syria until 1949, and Jordan until the 1970s.

The Majalla is very significant for several reasons. It was the first systematic codification of Islamic law. It is based on one school (Hanafi). It was authored in the post-industrial age, and consciously dealt with many pressing issues in commercial law, and came to conclusions that sometimes were not to “traditional” positions of the Hanafi school, yet they were always grounded in the positions of the Hanafi school’s imams, such as the two main students of Abu Hanifa. Given the reason the text was written, it was intentionally very simple, so that someone without a deep background in the style and usage of classical fiqh texts could understand it.

Many major commentaries were written on the Majalla.. They are arguably the clearest way for one to understand the fiqh of commerce and trade, as they essentially summarized the conclusions and discussions of the great reference works of Hanafi fiqh. The most important of these commentaries are:

– Durar al-Hukkam (4 large volumes) by Allama Ali Haydar, the outstanding jurist and sufi, who is reported to have said that, “If the texts of fiqh were burned, I could re-write them.”

– Sharh al-Majalla (Ustadh Rustum Baz), 2 volumes.

– Sharh al-Majalla (Allama al-Atasi, the Mufti of Homs), 6 volumes.

The Majalla contains a preface that has 99 general fiqh principles (qawa`id fiqhiyya), in no particular order, that are all gems. Allama Ahmad al-Zarqa’ (father of the late Shaykh Mustafa al-Zarqa’) wrote a very extensive commentary on these fiqh principles, bringing together what the commentators of the Majalla and the great Hanafi faqihs said.

This is the Majalla.

As for the translation, it was done by a Christian and was first published in Karachi around 100 years ago, I believe. Unlike the original, the language is dense and confusing. I am not entirely convinced that the translator had a clear understanding of the original. One doesn’t find references to the many (available) commentaries on the Majalla, and I noticed several clear mistakes while browsing through it.

It is worth looking at, but you cannot make it your Reliance.

Hope this helps.


Faraz Rabbani, Student of Sacred Law
Amman, Jordan


قال الإمام نجم الدين ابن نُجَيم في الأشباه: [في القاعدة الرابعة (1/286-287)]نشأت من هذه القاعدة قاعدة رابعة وهي ما 35 – إذا تعارض مفسدتان روعي أعظمهما ضررا بارتكاب أخفهما . قال الزيلعي في باب شروط الصلاة : ثم الأصل في جنس هذه المسائل أن من ابتلي ببليتين وهما متساويتان يأخذ بأيتهما شاء وإن اختلفا يختار أهونهما ; لأن مباشرة الحرام لا تجوز إلا للضرورة ولا ضرورة في حق الزيادة .

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