Meaning of Qazi In Islam and Jurisdiction of the Qazi Courts

jurisdiction of the qazi courts

Who is a Qazi? A Qazi or Qadi was a judge appointed by the Sultan, ruling in accordance with the Islamic law, Shariah. The Qadi’s primary duty was to enforce the Shariah that transcended all other authority across the empire. All laws and practiced adhered to the shariah and were applied by the Qadi in a uniform manner throughout the empire.

The Qadi adjudicated on the basis of his own reading of the laws and the Shariah, where the locals abides and accepted these rulings. The Qadi’s position exercised more power than a judge. The qualification of the qazi  are very strict.

He constituted the link between the central government and the people. That is where jurisdiction of the qazi courts were explained so to control the authority of the qazi.

History of Qazi:

The term “qadi” was in use right from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 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 ensuring the establishment of justice on the basis of these very laws and rules.

Thus, the qadi was chosen from among those who had mastered the sciences of jurisprudence and law. 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 Qadi office first originated under the Abbasid Period of the 10th Century, when the Islamic Empire was strong and used centralized power to enforce Shariah norms of equality. 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 power of the Qadi became more effective as the Ottoman Empire gradually decentralized.

During the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire began to decentralize with the power of the Sultan falling short of totality. The Sultan himself became a top figure who was lost control throughout his state, especially in the provinces.

In relation to citizenry. By the 19th century, the Qadi court became a permanent council. The  Jurisdiction of the Qazi Courts extended to both civil and criminal matters. Originally, the Qazi’s work was restricted to arbitrating disputes and rendering judgments in matters brought before him.

After their consolidation of administration, they were able to adjudicate religious cases, pious bequests, marriage, divorce, and guardianship of orphans, imbeciles, and others incapable of overseeing their own interests.

Classification of Qazi Courts:

There are three categories of institutions through which the siyasha or shariyah of the Islamic state is implemented,

  • Mazalim courts
  • Court of the Qazi
  • Court of the Muhtasib

Mazalim courts

This is the highest category of courts. They deal with appellate matters as well as with those that are beyond the jurisdiction of the Qazi. All rights of state are adjudicated by these courts and these courts are not bound by the strict requirements of procedure and qualifications of witnesses etc.

Court of the qazi

The qazi deals with Hudud, Qisas and Tazir cases where the requirements provided in the Shariah about witnesses and procedure are strictly followed. The qazi also deals with civil matters like contract, torts and also the personal law. He deals with the rights of Allah as well as the rights of

Court of the Muhtasib

The Muhtasib courts are responsible for the enforcement of the general morality and the policies of the state in accordance with the Islamic norms.

Powers and jurisdiction of the Qazi courts

jurisdiction of the qazi courts

Power to appoint deputy qazi Following are the quasi-judicial duties of a qazi.  

Quasi-judicial-duties of a Qazi

  1. A qazi may appoint a deputy qazi if he is empowered to do so by the Sultan, and he can also dismiss him.
  2. He must look after and protect the waqf property.
  3. The Qazi is the custodian of the property and person of the minors, Lunatics, idiots and missing persons.
  4. He has the power to appoint an administrator of the deceased.
  5. Must appoint ideal person for his assistance.Jurisdiction is called “Wilayat ul Qazi” in Arabic and in Muslim states when qazi were appointed than usually jurisdiction is granted through appointment letter. This process is called “taqlid al qazi”. Every qadi had full divine and imperial authority to enforce the Shariah within his province. qadis in office were defined and determined by the sacred traditions of Islam. Now this jurisdiction is of two types;

Jurisdiction of the Qazi Courts

  1. Ordinary jurisdiction of the Qazi Courts
  2. Special jurisdiction of the Qazi courts

Ordinary jurisdiction of the Qazi Courts

In this type qazi usually have jurisdiction on all matters and it can of following type:

  1. When any right is accrued on any person and he denies that right than qazi has power to restore it to the person who has claim.
  2. Qazi has power to place any minor or insane person under interdiction, and he can also appoint any guardian for their properties so that their property can be protected
  3. He has resolve all disputes between parties through compromise or through an order
  4. Can supervised the auqaf and collect revenue out of these properties and spend it between the required persons
  5. He can execute wills remain in the certain condition and these condition must be for lawful reason and if these are unlawful he can terminate the will, if the maker of will already appointed any person than he will execute the will otherwise qazi will do it and declare those person as owner in whose favor this will was written
  6. If proposals of marriage are coming to a widow women and if she does not have any wali than he can marry such women. But Imam Abu Hanifa denies this power and says that widow women has right to conclude marriage contract on its own.
  7. He can enforce hadud on the guilty person when proved guilty on the request of plaintiff
  8. can also grant injunction when any unlawful act is done and it is causing trouble for public like unlawfully building some structure etc. he has administrative power in this type of matters
  9. He can examine the witness presented in a case and he can conduct tazkiyat ul shadood so that the witness testimony does not have any defect
  10. can supervise his sub ordinates and the honest staff members must be promoted and dishonest and corrupt staff can be terminated from their posts
  11. He should not decide disputes on the basis that certain party have more power mean financially etc. and he should not settle the case according to his whims

Directions to Appoint Qazi

During the reign of Umer Bin Khattab (R.A) when he appointed Abu Musa Al Sheri (r.a) a qazi he wrote him some direction these are as follows:

  1. To be appointed as a qazi is very important duty and it is also a sunnah
  2. Decide the matters on the basis of intellect and justice
  3. Pay attention to equality that no person feel any kind of deprivation through your decision
  4. Resolve the disputes between two Muslims subject
  5. Qazi should not make any haram thing as halal
  6. It is necessary to look on your previous decision
  7. If you do not find any help from Quran or Sunnah than do what your intellect says
  8. Once plaintiff say that the defendant is not present or he does not have any witness than give him some time
  9. And if he has witness than give them opportunity and then decide the case accordingly
  10. Every Muslim can be a witness of another Muslim unless he is guilty of false accusation
  11. Do not confuse or worries and give right to the entitled person
  12. A qazi do not have power to levy any kind of tax
  13. Neither he can collect sadqat because it is a right of state and there are separate persons appointed for this purpose. Opinion: There are some scholar who says that qazi can also have these powers but majority says these powers are excluded from his domain.

Special jurisdiction

In the appointment letter the qazi may be given with some special power or jurisdiction, it may be of following type;

  1. He may be given with the jurisdiction on some specific area of land or
  2. He may have jurisdiction on certain person or a class of a person

In this situation he has limited authority and he can only exercise these powers on that area or persons. Ho has no authority on those persons who are just passing through that area or those person who are staying temporarily.

His area may be restricted to some house or mosque and he only have power on that area. If someone wants to settle his case he have to come in these places.

Abu abdullah Zuberi (R.A) states that in Basra (a city of Iraq) these type of qazis are appointed who have limited jurisdiction and they are called “Qazi Al Masjid”, usually these qazis are appointed by the richest people who gave them salary of two hundred Durhams or twenty dinars.

Appointment of more than one qazi in same area

There are three situation in which more than two qazi are appointed;

  1. There may be qazi who is appointed on separate area or land. Then he will only adjudicate those matters which comes in that area. This is a preferable situation according to some scholar
  2. Second situation is that one qazi have jurisdiction on marriages matter and other have jurisdiction on matters relating to properties
  3. Third situation is that more than two qazis are appointed at the same time. Then they have jurisdiction on all matters. But on this point there are some opinions of different school of thoughts. One sect says it is not preferable because plaintiff and the defendant will have dispute on this issue. On party will say that he wants to initiate a case before another qazi and opposite party will contradicts. Other sect says it is allowed and if there is any dispute arises among parties than opinion of the plaintiff will have preference. If they have different opinions as to initiating of a case than they can go to the nearest court.


From the above discussion we can say that qazi is a very important person. He was appointed by the sultan. He dispenses justice according to what he reads or through Quran and Sunnah.

The concept of qazi developed gradually through different period. During the abbasi dynasty and Ottoman Empire these qazis became more powerful. Then different types of courts and appellate forums were established which have different powers and functions.

The jurisdiction of a qazi courts is written in their appointment letter. They cannot go beyond these powers which were given to them by the ruler.

They have ordinary jurisdiction and it will includes all matters or specific jurisdiction with limited power on some specific subjects. There is difference of opinion on appointing more than one qazi in the same area


Adab ul Qazi by mehmood Ahmad Qazi

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