"Off the Straight Path"
Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: Syracuse University Press
Title Page, Copyright
About the Author
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I began this project in 1996 as a graduate student at Georgetown University, and it has taken more than a decade to complete. Along the way several individuals and institutions supported me and deserve recognition. Much of the material from the book was located in the Library of Congress, where I spent a great deal...
A Note on Transliteration
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Transliterations are based on a modified version of the system used in the International Journal of Middle East Studies. All Ottoman Turkish terms are transliterated into their contemporary Turkish equivalents. To avoid confusion and to offer more uniformity in the text the Arabic term fatwa (Ottoman Turkish fetva) is use...
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On September 26, 1660, a woman named Zahra from the neighborhood of Jami‘ ‘Ubays on Aleppo’s southern wall was brought to court by her neighbors, including the local imam, Hajj Ahmad ibn Bashar. Th e residents of the quarter accused Zahra of being “mischievous,” an “evildoer,” a fallen woman who...
PART ONE. Zina Discourses
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1. Zina in Islamic Legal Discourse
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A long tradition of legal debate among Muslim jurists dating back to the seventh century produced thousands of legal treatises that are a testament to this lively discourse. Khaled Abou el Fadl, a contemporary Muslim scholar based at the University of California at Los Angeles, has lamented the loss of this lively, pluralistic...
2. Zina in Ottoman Law
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As a major city in the Ottoman Empire, Aleppo was subject to the laws of its rulers. The Ottomans viewed themselves as the protectors of Muslim tradition, which included upholding the shari‘a. Yet the shari‘a was not always practical for handling the day-to-day issues that arose in the empire. Th erefore, by necessity...
PART TWO. Law in Practice
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3. People and Court: Policing Public Morality in the Streets of Aleppo
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The shari‘a represents the point of view of religious doctrine compiled by centuries of jurists in order to create guidelines for Muslim believers, whereas later Ottoman law combined some aspects of the shari‘a along with imperial edicts into a series of codes to guide the administrators of the empire. Neither of these...
4. Prostitutes, Soldiers, and the People: Monitoring Morality Through Customary Law
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Private dwellings sometimes functioned as sites of sexual and moral vice. Residents accused of facilitating prostitution were brought to court by their indignant neighbors, who petitioned the court to remove corrupt individuals from their neighborhoods. Despite the moral outrage of such neighbors, justice was...
5. In Harm’s Way: Domestic Violence and Rapein the Shari‘a Courts of Aleppo
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Issues of gender violence, whether rape or spousal abuse, are of ongoing concern to gender historians. Rules of evidence in such cases can mount against the victims, making it difficult for them to prove their cases. Islamic law operates, like other legal systems, such that cases must be proven in court in order to ensure...
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It is only fitting to end this book with the only documented case of stoning in the history of Syria—the stoning of Mar Elias in the city of Homs in the third century. This case of stoning was not for zina but for the crime of spreading the revolutionary doctrine of Christianity. The stoning was performed not by...
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While researching this book between 1999 to 2005, I had always lived in neighborhoods in the “new city” of Damascus. As I worked on revisions in 2005 I decided to live in the old city of Damascus for the first time. The last year of research and writing was spent in the old neighborhoods, much like the harat of days past with...
Appendix 1. Sample Sijills from the Aleppo Court Records
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Appendix 2. All Zina-Type Cases Found Within the Selected Aleppo Sijills
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Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 3 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2008