Tag Archives: Legal System

Descent and Inheritance in Zoroastrian and Shiʿite Law

A Zoroastrian family in Qajar Iran, circa 1910 © The National Geographic Magazine © The National Geographic Magazine

Macuch, Maria. 2017. Descent and inheritance in Zoroastrian and Shiʿite law: A preliminary study. Der Islam 94(2). 322–335.

The Twelver Shiʿite law of inheritance constitutes one of the most distinctive features of the legal system in comparison with Sunni law. Although there are major and even irreconcilable divergences between the Sunnite law of succession according to all four legal schools on the one hand and Twelver Shiʿite law on the other, no convincing explanations for this striking development within Islamic law itself, leading to two fundamentally distinct systems, have hitherto been put forward. The aim of this preliminary study is to call attention to several remarkable correspondences between the complex Iranian (Zoroastrian) law of succession, conceived to support the specific needs of aristocratic descent groups in the Sasanian period, and Twelver Shiʿite regulations, reflecting a very similar underlying concept of family ties and descent groups as a whole. The question is, whether these congruencies are purely coincidental or based on age-old social and traditional norms, which continued to be practised in the regions of the former Sasanian empire after the Islamic conquest. As Sasanian norms remained operative in customary law (now documented by Pahlavi legal documents from 8th century Tabarestān) during the formative period of Islamic law and the Sunnite regulations, being based to a large extent on pre-Islamic tribal law in Arabia, contrast sharply with the Shiʿite concept, it would be consistent to assume that certain precepts in the pre-Islamic Iranian system had an important impact on the development of the Twelver Shiʿite law of inheritance.

Sasanian legal terminology in religious context

Capital and Yield: Sasanian Legal Terminology in Religious Context

A lecture by Arash Zeini on the occasion of a meeting of Corpus Avesticum (CoAv), a European network of scholars aiming to create new and accessible editions of the Zoroastrian sacred texts.

Location: Institute of Iranian Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

Time: 16.06.2016, 18:00 – 20:00

Arash Zeini (PhD 2014, SOAS), is a scholar of Ancient Iranian and Zoroastrian philology, history and culture. His main research interests include the study of ancient Iran, Zoroastrianism, particularly the late antique exegesis of the Avesta, and aspects of digital humanities.

Cultural, Religious and Social aspects of Vaqf in Iran

Werner, Christoph. 2015. VAQF en Iran aspects culturels, religieux et sociaux. (Cahiers de Studia Iranica 56). Paris; Leuven: Peeters.
This volume contains the text of the five Ehsan and Latifeh Yarshater Distinguished Lectures on Iranian Studies, organized by the Unité Mixte de Recherche 7528 “Mondes iranien et indien”, and delivered in 2012 at the Collège de France in Paris.
It analyses cultural and social – as well as religious, economic, political and material aspects of endowments in Iran from the 14th century up to the present time. The five chapters cover various periods and are arranged chronologically along major themes: The institution of vaqf in early modern and contemporary Iran; Mystical endowments and religious endowments in fourteenth and fifteenth century Azerbaijan; Mashhad and its illumination vaqfs; Robes of honour conferred by Imam Reza; and Philanthropy, public education and nationalism in vaqf foundations of the Pahlavi period.
Table of Contents:
I. L’institution du vaqf en Iran
  • Vers une définition de l’institution du vaqf en Iran
  • Administration du vaqf et indépendance de l’institution
  • Le vaqf comme institution vivante
  • Vaqf et bonyād : un imbroglio idéologique
  • Manuels juridiques et vaqf : questions et réponses

II. Mouvements mystiques et fondations pieuses : les Kujujī et les Ṣafavides au 14e siècle

  • Les cheikhs Kujujī
  • L’histoire de Tabrīz et du nord-ouest de l’Iran au 14e siècle
  • La Kujujī Vaqfīye de 782h.q./1380
  • Le fondateur comme notable urbain dans les chroniques
  • Le fondateur poète
  • Le fondateur comme cheikh et mystique

III. Ville de lumière : Machhad et ses fondations d’illumination
Fondations d’illumination à Machhad selon le «Paradis des

  • Le sanctuaire de l’Imam Reżā – origine, développement et administration
  • Le catalogue de Seyyed Hamadānī, «s̱ār al-rażavīye»
  • Les objectifs des fondations de l’Āstān-e Qods
  • L’administration des fondations d’illumination à l’époque qajare
  • Fondations d’illumination et introduction de l’éclairage électrique

IV. Robes d’honneur conférées par l’Imam Reżā

  • Robes d’honneur – la tradition des ḫelʿat
  • Pīškeš et ḫelʿat
  • Une collection des décrets émis par l’Āstān-e Qods
  • L’Āstān-e Qods-e Rażavī comme état semi-indépendant

V. Mécénat, instruction publique et nationalisme : Le vaqf à l’époque Pahlavi

  • Législation et l’administration des owqāf à l’époque Pahlavi
  • Les Fondations Malek
  • Les Fondations Doktor Maḥmūd Afšār
  • La Fondation Moqaddam à Téhéran et autres fondations hybrides
    de l’époque Pahlavi

English summaries: Vaqf in Iran Cultural, Religious and Social aspects
I. The institution of vaqf in Iran
II. Mystical movements and pious foundations: the Kujujī and the
Ṣafavids in the 14th century
III. City of light: Mashhad and its illumination vaqfs
IV. Robes of honour conferred by Iman Reżā
V. Philanthropy, education and nationalism: vaqf in Pahlavi Iran

About the Author:

Christoph Werner is Professor of Iranian Studies at Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies (CNMS) was established at the Philipps-University of Marburg.

Sasanian law in its social context

The 2015 UCLA Biennial Ehsan Yarshater Lecture Series will be delivered by Prof. Maria Macuch:

Sasanian law in its social context

November 9-18, 2015

Legal texts are among the more important sources for the reconstruction of the political and economic institutions, and cultural practices, of late antique Iran, as they considerably further our understanding of past social complexities that are decisively different than our own. This year’s Ehsan Yarshater Biennial Lectures shall provide a sweeping overview and detailed analysis of the principal fields of jurisprudence in Sasanian Iran (third to seventh centuries CE). The five lectures will be investigating the genesis of legal institutions that were instrumental in consolidating the social status of Sasanian élites, notably, the Zoroastrian clergy and the Iranian aristocracy.

As far as we know, the lectures are announced individually. The brochure for Prof. Macuch's lectures is available here: UCLA Yarshater Lectures 2015 Macuch

The Lectures:

    1. Legal Sources and Instruments of Law
      The opening lecture will provide an overview of the available legal material, dispersed in a great variety of sources, and discuss the many pitfalls Iranists encounter in reconstructing the Sasanian legal system.
    2. Kinship Ties and Fictive Alliances
      The second lecture examines questions pertaining to Family Law, in particular, the role of kinship ties that are of paramount importance in Sasanian jurisprudence. The lecture also elaborates on the significance of legal institutions within the context of marriage and succession.
    3. Property and Inheritance
      The third lecture explores the general concept of property, in particular,
      how it gave rise to complex categories crucial to preserving the possessions of affluent élites, while ensuring that proprietary rights were preserved from one generation to the next.
    4. Civil and Criminal Proceedings
      The fourth lecture reviews the judicial system, the foundation upon which the privileges of the élites were built, and the position of religious minorities, the Jews and Christians, within the framework of the judiciary.
    5. Sasanian Law and other Legal Systems
      The final lecture discusses the impact of Iranian law on other important legal systems of the Near East, be it Rabbinic and Nestorian-Christian, or be it Islamic and especially Shi’ite, law.

Zoroastrian Law and Identity

Sharafi, Mitra. 2014. Law and identity in colonial South Asia: Parsi legal culture, 1772-1947. (Studies in Legal History). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

This book explores the legal culture of the Parsis, or Zoroastrians, an ethnoreligious community unusually invested in the colonial legal system of British India and Burma. Rather than trying to maintain collective autonomy and integrity by avoiding interaction with the state, the Parsis sank deep into the colonial legal system itself. From the late eighteenth century until India’s independence in 1947, they became heavy users of colonial law, acting as lawyers, judges, litigants, lobbyists, and legislators. They de-Anglicized the law that governed them and enshrined in law their own distinctive models of the family and community by two routes: frequent intra-group litigation often managed by Parsi legal professionals in the areas of marriage, inheritance, religious trusts, and libel, and the creation of legislation that would become Parsi personal law. Other South Asian communities also turned to law, but none seems to have done so earlier or in more pronounced ways than the Parsis.

This book is based upon previously unexamined primary sources from archives rediscovered over the past decade: the Bombay High Court (Mumbai) and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (London) as well as takes case law seriously, while most work on South Asian legal history focuses on legislatio. It presents one of the first studies in South Asian legal history by a scholar trained both in law and in history.

See here the ToC of this book.

Mitra Sharafi is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, with an affiliation appointment in history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Mount Mugh Documents and Sogdian Epigraphy

Livshits 2015Livshits, Vladimir A. 2015. Sogdian epigraphy of Central Asia and Semirech’e. (Ed.) Nicholas Sims-Williams. (Trans.) Tom Stableford. (Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum. Part II Inscriptions of the Seleucid and Parthian Periods and of Eastern Iran and Central Asia Vol. III. Sogdian). London: School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
This volume presents the Emglish translations of some very important and major works of  Vladimir Aronovich Livshits on the Sogdian language, culture and sources. The volume is arranged in two parts. The first part is a translation of Sogdian documents from Mount Mug (kuh-e moḡ), site of the 7th-8th-century refuge of the rulers of Penjikent in Sogdiana, located in the upper reaches of the Zeravshan in northern Tajikistan, where an important archive of documents written in Sogdian was discovered by A. A. Freiman’s 1933 expedition. Livshits has taken part  first and foremost, in the deciphering of the Mnt. Mug archive of Sogdian documents from Mount Mug.
The second part of the volume, dedicated to the English translations of some ten important articles of Livshits, concerning the Sogdian epigraphy, in which he examines “not only the purely philological problems but also questions of the history and culture of Sogd, aided by his frequent participation in archaeological excavations and journeys to the lands of historical Sogdiana in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kirgizia”.

Continue reading The Mount Mugh Documents and Sogdian Epigraphy

The Transmission of the Avesta

Cantera, Alberto (ed.). 2012. The Transmission of the Avesta. (Iranica 20). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
The Avesta is a collection of liturgical texts considered as their sacred book by the Zoroastrian community. It contains the recitatives of the Zoroastrian liturgies still celebrated in the 17th century, some of them even celebrated until today. The texts integrated in these ceremonies were composed in different places and at different times, and transmitted orally for centuries. The exact date of the fixation of the ceremonies in the shape in which they are presented in the manuscripts and the creation of the different manuscripts is unknown. But today it is proven that even after the creation of the first manuscripts, the transmission of these liturgical texts was the result of a complicated process in which not only the process of copying manuscripts but also the ritual practice and the ritual teaching were involved. The only deep analysis of the written transmission of the Avesta was made by K. F. Geldner as Prolegomena to his edition of the Avesta. Since then, many new manuscripts have appeared. In The Transmission of the Avesta contributions by the main experts in this field are gathered: the oral transmission, the fixation of the different collections, the first writing down, and the manuscripts. Special interest is devoted to the manuscripts. Some contributions of the volume were presented at the correspondent colloquium held in Salamanca, September 2009; others were added in order to make of the volume a comprehensive work on the different aspects of the Avestan transmission.

Continue reading The Transmission of the Avesta

Changes in Late Antique Legal Systems

Kaiser Justinian. Mosaiken in Ravenna, St. Vitalis (Ausschnitt). Image Credit: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202 lizensiert unter the GNU Free Documentation License: www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl.html.

Changes in Late Antique Legal Systems: Reception, Transformation and Recontextualization of Legal Terms

International workshop organized by project C03 “Interaction and Change in Oriental Legal Systems. The Transfer of Normative Knowledge as Exemplified by Zoroastrian and Islamic Law (Seventh to Eleventh Centuries)” (Head: M. Macuch)

May 22, 2015, 09:00 AM c.t. – 06:30 PM

SFB-Villa, Sitzungsraum, Schwendenerstraße 8, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem

Legal systems are characterized by sophisticated technical languages that make use of a multitude of juridical terms to describe mostly complex circumstances. Whereas legal terms on the one hand have a stabilizing function and serve the jurists for the categorization and evaluation of cases – what is especially true for the tradition-oriented systems of the Late Antiquity like the Roman-Byzantine, Zoroastrian, Islamic, Jewish or Christian canonical laws – they show on the other hand constant changes in their historical development with regard to content and meaning. Besides such endogenous factors in the change of meaning, also exogenous sources as the adoption of a term from an alien law system and its recontextualization are conceivable. In both cases it results in intended or unintended shifts of meaning that may have an impact on other terms or elements of the system, depending on the relevance of the term. It is in particular this modification of Late Antique legal systems caused by changes of legal terms that is subject of the workshop. It targets on an exemplary more detailed description and analysis of the further development of particular legal terms within the systems as well as in their interrelation.

To register, please contact Dr. Iris Colditz: icolditz[at]campus.fu-berlin.de.


9:15–9:30 a.m Maria Macuch (Berlin):
Welcome and Introduction

Panel 1: Rechtsbegriffe und -institutionen in transkulturellem Kontext
9:30–10:15 a.m Johannes Pahlitzsch (Mainz):
„Die Entstehung des christlichen waqf
10:15–11:00 a.m Richard Payne (Chicago):
„Christianizing Stūrīh: Law, Reproduction, and Elite Formation in the Iranian Empire“
11:00–11:30 a.m coffee break
11:30 a.m. –12:15 p.m. János Jany (Budapest):
„Transmitters of Legal Knowledge: Dadestan, Fatwa, Responsum
12:15–1:45 p.m. lunch break

Panel 2: Wandel von Rechtsbegriffen und Argumentationsformen im jüdischen und römischen Recht
1:45–2:30 p.m. Ronen Reichman (Heidelberg):
„‚Was die Schrift lehrt, geht aber doch aus einem Vernunftsargument hervor!‘: Über die Entwicklung eines (rechtspositivistischen [?]) Argumentationsmusters in der rabbinischen Literatur“
2:30–3:15 p.m. Anna Seelentag (Frankfurt/M.):
Tutela und cura – Zur Annäherung zweier Rechtsbegriffe im römischen Recht“
3:15–3:45 p.m. coffee break
3:45–4:30 p.m. Johannes Platschek (München):
Arra in römischen Rechtstexten“
4:30–5:15 p.m. Thomas Rüfner (Trier):
Ius, iudex, iurisdictio: Die Terminologie des römischen Prozessrechts in der Spätantike“
5:15–5:30 p.m. coffee break
5:30–6:30 p.m. Final Discussion