Muhammad al-Mawardi: “On Qadis”

(ca. 1045–1058)

Muhammad al-Mawardi’s “On Qadis” is taken from Kitab al-ahkam al-sultaniyya (Ordinances of Government), a classic work on Islamic law that covers, among other topics, the appointment of sovereigns, military leaders, and qadis, or Islamic law judges, and their rights, responsibilities, and duties as well as issues related to wars and uprisings, taxation, and crimes and punishments. The book is one of several written in the tenth and eleventh centuries, part of the popular ethico-philosophical genre that was meant to inspire the current leadership and to educate future leaders. As such, it is part of a larger genre often referred to as Mirrors for Princes. (Note that the word princes is used to refer to any ruler, not literally princes.) Throughout the ancient and medieval periods, writers such as Saint Augustine, Desiderius Erasmus, and Niccolò Machiavelli (The Prince) wrote treatises with this end in mind. In the Middle East, Nizam al-Mulk’s Book of Government; or, Rules...