Persia/Chapter 13

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Since religion serves as a foundation to the laws, the administration of justice is committed to magistrates, whom we may, without impropriety, term ecclesiastical.

The chief of these magistrates is the Sheik-ul-Islam, an appellation which signifies the elder, teacher, or high-priest, of the Mahometan religion. This title was created, in.1423, by the Turkish emperor, Mahomet II., to be conferred on the celebrated Djelalzadeh, whom he raised to the dignity of mufti and cadi of Constantinople. Shah Ismail, founder of the dynasty of the Sofis, having instituted a new religious dignity in Persia, gave to the person who filled it, the title of Sheik-ul-Islam: and this prelate is now regarded as the head of religion in that country.

The Sheik-ul-Islam, whose peculiar costume is represented in the opposite plate, is the judge of all civil causes, the decision of which is governed by the text of the divine law, or the Koran. He also determines all religious causes. The great cities of the empire, such as Ispahan, Shiraz, Tabreez, &c. have each a Sheik-ul-Islam: we believe, however, that they are not all of equal rank, but that the magistrate of the first of these cities is superior to the others.

The Cadi, whose authority was formerly very great, is subordinate to the Sheik-ul-Islam: his functions are of the same nature. Scrupulous Musulmaus apply in preference to the Cadi, in consideration of the antiquity of that dignity, which has existed ever since the time of the-first caliphs, whereas, that of Sheik is of modern creation.

The Mufti seems to be rather a lawyer than a magistrate, as is implied by his name, which is an Arabic participle, signifying “one who gives decisions founded on the Koran.” He seems, in fact, to combine the characters of doctor of divinity and doctor of laws; for he is consulted on litigated matters, on points relative 'to religious doctrines and ceremonies, or to morality, and in civil and criminal causes. In Persia, the Mufti enjoys respect rather than authority: the Sheik-ul-Islam, the Cadi, the ministers, and the king himself, defer to his decisions. The annexed plate exhibits a faithful representation of the Persian or doctor of divinity.

These are the only magistrates whose judgments are founded in e text of the Koran. Each of them ha his separate tribunal, for there is no place set apart for the administration of
High Priest (Persia).jpg

High Priest.

justice. This tribunal is in general a large room open towards a court or garden, and raised two or three feet above the ground. A kind of alcove of lattice-work is constructed in it, for the accommodation of females. The judge sits at the extremity of the apartment, in the eastern fashion: his head is covered with a large turban; the lower part of his face is concealed by a very black bushy beard; while his body is wrapped in an ample robe. He studies to assume an air of dignity, speaks little, gravely smokes his pipe, and by a happy silence, avoids those mistakes into which loquacious ignorance frequently falls. Long experience has given him a correct eye; and before he has even heard the parties, he can discover from their dress which of them is right and which wrong. Not a motion, not a gesture escapes him; he readily comprehends their signification, and in his decision he is guided much less by conscience than the expectation of a present. It is, indeed, the custom to make him one; the wealthy give stuffs, confectionary, or coffee; the artisan or the husbandman, a lamb, a sheep, or fruit; and it is necessary to conciliate the favour of his servant also, by some gift or other.

We have before adverted to the ourf, or common law. While the Sheik-ul-Islam and the Cadis decide according to the text of the Koran alone, the civil magistrates, such as the kelaunter, and the darogha, pronounce judgment in causes of minor importance, agreeably to the, common law. They even give their decisions in civil matter, here She text of the cheriet would not always be conformable with justice. It is often the case, that the two authorities, at of the. ecclesiastical magistrates and that of the civil magistrates, clash with one another; but the latter, having the effective force at their beck, carry their point without much difficulty.