Manage et separation a Damas au moyen age: Un corpus de 62 documents juridiques inedits entre 337/948 et 698/1299.

Author:Rapoport, Yossef
Position:Book review
 
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Manage et separation a Damas au moyen age: Un corpus de 62 documents juridiques inedits entre 337/948 et 698/1299. Edited by Jean-Michel Mouton, Dominique Sourdel, and Janine Sourdel-Thomine. Documents relatifs a l'histoire des Croisades, vol. 21. Paris: LAcademie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 2013. Pp. 327, illus. 40 [euro] (paper).

The edition and translation of the sixty-two documents in this volume are a turning point in the study of the institution of marriage in the Islamic world. It is the first time that such a large corpus of medieval marriage contracts and divorce deeds has been published, surpassing by far any of the scattered, piecemeal publications of marriage and divorce deeds that were previously our sole window to the legal praxis of family life in the Middle Ages.

This corpus of documents originated in a Geniza-type depository kept in the Grand Mosque of Damascus during the Fatimid and Ayyubid periods, which was salvaged and transferred to Istanbul in 1893. The volume under review follows the editions of pilgrimage certificates, Quranic codices, and legal documents from this collection, published since the 1960s and led by two of the co-authors, Dominique Sourdel and Janine Sourdel-Thomine.

The first part of the volume offers an analysis of the legal formulae and the social setting, while the second part contains an edition and translation, followed by reproductions of all sixty-two documents. These comprise mainly marriage contracts and divorce deeds, but also related documents such as petitions and fatwas issued at the request of litigants.

The documents hammer home the frequency of divorce in the medieval era--half of the marriage contracts have traces of a subsequent separation, in some cases after more than ten years of marriage (p. 37). Polygamy, on the other hand, is not directly attested, although a time-limited stipulation against it was attached to one late Ayyubid contract. The division of the marriage gift (sadaq) into immediate and deferred portions is standard from the Fatimid period, although not found in the single 'Abbasid-era document (dating 337/948). The further division of the marriage gift into yearly installments is found only in a minority of documents, apparently of Egyptian influence.

A distinctive aspect of the marriage contracts is the lingering preponderance of parchment, which retained its prestige as the appropriate material for such documents, despite the general move to writing on...

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