2016 Volume 32 Issue 2 Pages 33-67
This paper concerns the history of post-imperial and early Soviet shari‘a justice. It focuses on the debate on shari‘a courts. Muslim scholars, state administrators, army officers, liberal intelligentsia and journalists were involved in it. The Soviet authorities established a new kind of indirect rule based on the shari‘a, which they regarded as the adversary of the “colonial ‘adat.” Contrary to the prerevolutionary “civilizing” approach, the Bolsheviks promoted “national and social liberation from the relics of tsarism.” On the other hand, there was continuity between Soviet and tsarist judicial policy in terms of the proposed aims and methods, and even in the vocabulary. The early shari‘a justice inherited the personnel, organization and functions from prerevolutionary verbal and people’s tribunals in the semi-autonomous social fields of the village communities and rural districts. In reality, both institutions were based on the principle of legal pluralism, and practised so Islamic as customary laws, together with elements of the Russian civil code. The reforms of the late 1920s replaced a “strong” form of legal pluralism by a “weak” one. The new Soviet judicial institutions emerged in the second half of the 1920s in the context of, and reaction to, such a hybrid legal situation.