Justice Served or Justice Subverted? Two Muslim Women Sue a Local Mudéjar Official in Thirteenth-Century Aragon
By Brian Catlos
Anuario de estudios medievales, Vol.39:1 (2009)
Abstract: In 1300 two Muslim women sued a local aljama official in Daroca, claiming he had unlawfully evicted them from their houses, and physically mistreated them, all without due legal process. In the trial, after witnesses corroborated the womens’ claims, the defendant accused them of being unreliable. These objections were not admitted by the magistrate, who found in the women’s favor, and punished the official. A close reading of the process reveals that, far from being a straightforward case of abuse of power, the defendant may well have been in the right. If so, the framing of Ali Dexadet, the lieutenant alamín of Daroca, exemplifies the debilities of Islamic justice in mudéjar Aragón, and reveals the depth of the factionalism which often characterized minority communities.
Introduction: On 12 October 1300, two Muslim women, the sisters Axa (Aisha) and Mariem [Maryam], daughters of Faraig (Faraj) ibn Jamar and inhabitants of Daroca, presented themselves before Ximen Pérez Gil, the local bailiff, to lodge a civil suit against Ali Dexadet, the lieutenant of the alamín of the local Muslim aljama. According to the two sisters, Ali had evicted them from their homes without due legal process or motive at the behest of a neighbor, another Muslim named Çahen (Zayn). At the moment they were evicted Axa and Mariem had offered to post bond for their claim over the houses, and demanded their right to appeal the eviction before the king’s court. Nevertheless, Ali rejected their petition, and ignoring their protests, evicted them from their homes in the lower quarter of the morería of Daroca, and confiscated their moveable goods, valued —according to their testimony— at between fifty and two thousand solidos.
A certain Audalla (Abd Allah) Daudella (o “de Abdella”) presented himself before the magistrate as their guarantor and agent, in support of the accusations. Having taken down their complaint, the bailiff summoned Ali Dexadet to his presence to respond to the allegations. At first the lieutenant-alamín presented a letter, written in the local vernacular, in which he denied the jurisdiction of the royal bailiff in this case, alleging that the aljama enjoyed privileges which safeguarded the judicial autonomy of local Muslim magistrates and placed all civil suits between Muslims under their power.