Ottoman Criminal Code


Qanun al-jaza’ al-Humayuni (Ottoman criminal code) is a compilation of criminal law by Salim Baz (1859−1920), a Lebanese judge and member of the state council. The historian Stanford Shaw has written regarding the Ottoman legal system that the “most difficult aspect of the judicial sphere was its lack of unity.” Salim Baz set out to correct this deficiency, at least for the Arabic-speaking legal community. He drew upon many sources, including newspapers and magazines, to link amendments and court rulings to the texts of the laws as found in such sources as jara’id saniyah, ‘adliyah, and mahakim (the imperial, justice, and court gazettes). The Ottoman justice system underwent many changes during the period of reform and reaction in the 19th century. The most prominent focus of change was the need to balance Shari’ah (Islamic) law with modern criminal, commercial, and maritime codes imported from Europe. Changes also had to be made in the millet, the religious confessional system governing Christians and Jews, the treatment of foreigners, and the respect traditionally accorded to local practice in the sprawling empire of many cultures. The law governing antiquities provides one example of the how the authorities sought to modernize and bureaucratize legal and administrative practice. Excavation for the purpose of discovering antiquities was regulated, according to a directive issued in 1913−14. The new law forbade the practice of unlicensed excavation, export, or sale of antiquities by citizens and foreign persons and specified punishments for infringements of the law. The book contains a detailed table of contents and a useful alphabetical index. Salim Baz compiled other commentaries on Ottoman law, and he produced a history of the communal violence in Mount Lebanon of 1860.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Al-Adabiyah Press, Beirut


Title in Original Language

قانون الجزاء الهمايوني

Additional Subjects

Type of Item

Physical Description

362 pages ; 24 centimeters


  1. Niyazi Berkes, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (New York: Routledge: 1998).
  2. Stanford Shaw and Ezel Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).

Last updated: May 11, 2015