An Introduction to Islamic Law
    The privileges and favors the jurists acquired not only brought them easy access to the royal court and to the circles of the political elite, but also rendered them highly influential in government policy as it affected legal matters, and perhaps in other matters of state. Beginning in the middle of the eighth century, almost all major judicial appointments were made on the recommendation of the CHIEF JUSTICE at the royal court or the assembly of jurists gathered by the caliph, or both. And when the provincial governor wished to find a qualified judge, he too sought the advice of jurists. Some jurists, throughout Islamic history, were immeasurably influential in legal as well as political matters.
    However, there remained points of friction between political power and religious law. The relationship between the two was constantly negotiated, and it was never devoid of sporadic challenges mounted by the ruling elite, not against the law, but against its application by its representatives. And while such challenges seem to have occurred mostly in the provinces and on the periphery, the caliphs themselves also appear, on rare occasions, to have interfered in the judiciary and the judicial process. Yet, it remains true that the caliphal office was thought to uphold the highest standards of justice according to the holy law, and the caliphs themselves felt such responsibility, generally conducting themselves in accordance with these expectations. Inasmuch as the law in and of itself possessed authority, the caliph and his office were seen not only as another locus of the holy law, but also as its guarantor and enforcer. As a rule, the caliphs and their provincial representatives upheld court decisions and normally did not intervene in the judicial process.
    From the first centuries of Islam until the later Ottomans (who ruled vast areas from the sixteenth to the twentieth century), Islamic political culture displayed a particular, if not unique, pattern of governance. As a rule, monarchs and their lieutenants acted with remarkable fairness and justice when arbitrating disputes and conflicts to which they were not parties. Their occasional infringements were usually associated with, and limited to, cases in which their own interests were involved. Although thisin no way means that encroachment occurred whenever such interests were present, it does suggest that whenever rulers staked their interest in the judicial process, they had to weigh their overall gains and losses. To have accomplished their ends through coercion would have meant that their legitimacy had failed the test. On the other hand, total compliance with the law at times meant that their quest for material gain or will to power would be frustrated. It was this equation that they attempted to work out and balance carefully, at times succeeding but at others not. The POST-FORMATIVE centuries of Islamic history suggest that rulers generally preferred to maintain an equation in favor of compliance with the religious law, since compliance was the means by which the ruling elite could garner the sympathies, or at least tacit approval, of the populace.
    Yet, compliance with the law was a relatively passive act, insufficient on its own to promote and augment the much coveted goal of political legitimacy. As it happened, the sphere of legal education proved to be fertile ground, allowing the ruling dynasties not only to garner legitimacy but also to implement, during the nineteenth century, fundamental and ever-lasting changes in the legal system. It is to legal education then that we now turn.
    The informal financial patronage offered to the legists during the early period was in due course to be systematized and institutionalized. It so happened that the law college, the madrasa , became the chief means by which the legists were coopted by the ruling elites. The fairly sudden appearance of the madrasa on the scene and its rapid diffusion make it impossible to imagine

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