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Disiplinlerarası Çalışmalar Dergisi Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Thinking Politics, Law, and Ethics in Cairo in the Fifteenth Century: Ali al-Ghazzali’s Treatise, Tahrir al-Suluk fi Tadbir al-Muluk

Various considerations exist in the literature about the author of Tahrir al-Suluk fi Tadbir al-Muluk, a treatise written in Cairo during the Mamluk era containing both political and judicial provisions. The Tahrir was first published by Fu‘ad Abd al-Mu’im Ahmad, who cited Abu al-Fadl Muhammad al-A‘raj (d. 1519) as the original author. This study argues that Abd al-Mu’im Ahmad misidentified the author of the treatise, and that it was actually written in 1454 by Ali b. Muhammed al-Gazzali (d.1473/74), who passed away 50 years before al-A‘rec. The Tahrir consists of four main parts: the prologue, introduction, main part, and conclusion. The prologue deals with the importance and responsibilities of the ruler, while the introduction addresses his ethical qualities. The main part, the longest section of the study, focuses on the issue of injustice (mazalim). The conclusion attempts to place the acts of the caliph regarding criminal law into an Islamic framework. The treatise analyzes decrees about procedures for judicial rulings, with an eye to the conditions of the period, and uses this analysis as the basis for describing the position of political authority. Additionally, it discusses possible ways of applying the sharia in cases that exceed judges’ responsibility, authority, or ability. Ali al-Gazzali divides these decrees into two types, according to who carries them out. Judges apply judicial decrees (ahkam), while rulers apply political ones (siyasa). Sharia is thus presented as a higher category encompassing both ahkam and siyasa. The treatise deserves special attention for emphasizing this distinction, which traces back to al-Mawardi (d. 1058), and bringing it once again to the fore in fifteenth-century Cairo.

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