THE RULE OF LAW
During the caliphate
of 'Umar, some matter was disputed between the Caliph and
Ubayy ibn K'ab, a Companion famous for his knowledge of law
and recitation of the Qur'an. Ubayy as plaintiff brought his
case before Zayd ibn Thabit, the judge of Madina.
Zayd called 'Umar to him, saying: 'O Commander of the Believers!
Come to my side!'
'Umar was angry with that request and remarked:
is a sign of partiality that you call to me to your side.
A judge who judges according to the Qur'an is supposed to
follow the Qur'an's injunctions, not to show respect to
the Caliph in the court. According to the Qur'an, there
cannot be any difference between a Caliph and an ordinary
man in the court.'
called you to my side, not because I respect you and take
your side, but to be able to hear you better. You are the
accused and I must listen to you without missing any of
your words or gestures.'
then thanked God that he had a just judge.
A comparable incident took place during the Caliphate of 'Ali.
There was a case between him and a Jewish subject of the state.
The presiding judge in Kufa was Qadi Shurayh. The Qadi called
the Jew and the Caliph to stand side by side before him. However,
he addressed the Jew by his proper name, whereas he addressed
'Ali, the Caliph, by his kunya, Abu l-Hasan (father of Hasan).
This was a tradition in Arabia and was understood as an expression
of esteem and affection. 'Ali expressed displeasure. The judge
Were you angry because I told you to stand beside the Jew?'
— No! Because you called the Jew by his name, while calling
me by my kunya.'
inspired the Jew to become a Muslim.
A similar incident took place during the reign of Mehmed II,
the Conqueror, was the seventh sultan of the Ottoman State,
who at the age of 21 when he captured Constantinople in 1453.
After the conquest, he ordered a castle to be built. After
completion of the castle, he saw that it was not as he wished
because a Greek architect had deliberately cut the marbles
used in the building shorter than they were supposed to be.
The Sultan became furious and ordered the architect's hand
to be cut off.
The architect referred the case to the court. The judge in
Istanbul at that time was Qadi Khidr Celebi, who had been
a school-friend of the Sultan.
When the Sultan entered the court, he sat on a bench but the
judge warned him to stand up and stand beside the Greek architect.
After hearing the case, the judge declared his verdict:
Since the Sultan had had the architect's hand wrongly cut
off without the permission of law, his hand too would be cut
The Sultan consented to the verdict, saying: 'Whatever the
law decrees, it must be obeyed.' However, he added that, if
the architect agreed, he would pay blood-money for his hand
according to the law. The architect agreed and the Sultan
paid him the double of what the law ordered together with
a house where he could live until death.