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Title: Majalla  
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Subject: List of national legal systems
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The Mecelle (also transliterated Mejelle, Majalla, Medjelle, or Meğelle, from the Ottoman Turkish, Mecelle-ʾi Aḥkām-ı ʿAdlīye - from Arabic مجلۀ احکام عدلیه Majallah el-Ahkam-i-Adliya) was the civil code of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the first attempt to codify a part of the Sharia-based law of an Islamic state.[1]

The code was prepared by a commission headed by Ahmet Cevdet Pasha, issued in sixteen volumes (containing 1,851 articles) from 1869 to 1876 and entered into force in the year 1877. In its structure and approach it was clearly influenced by the earlier European codifications. Covering most areas of civil law, it exempted family law, which remained a domain of religious law.

The substance of the code was based on the Hanafist legal tradition that enjoyed official status in the Empire. However, using the method of preference (tahayyur), it also incorporated other legal opinions that were considered more appropriate to the time, including from non-Hanafis.

As the Mecelle was eventually applied in the secular (nizamiye) courts as well as in the Sharia courts of the Empire, Jews and Christians were for the first time subjected to Islamic law instead of their own law, but could now be called as witnesses in court.

After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, the Mecelle remained a lasting influence in most of its successor states (except Egypt, where it was never in force). It remained in force:

  • in Turkey until 1926, when it was replaced by the Turkish Civil Code
  • in Albania until 1928
  • in Lebanon until 1932
  • in Syria until 1949
  • in Iraq until 1953
  • in Cyprus until the 1960s
  • in the British Mandate for Palestine and, later, Israel formally until 1984, although individual laws had gradually superseded it during the Mandate as well as in the 1960s and '70s[2]

The Mecelle also remained the basis of civil law in Jordan and Kuwait.


Book 1: Sale

The first book of the Mecelle is composed of seven chapters that focus on the jurisprudence and codification of laws regarding sale. These include standards of contracts, the subject matter of sales, matters relating to price, giving and taking delivery, and various categories of things sold and the effect thereof.

Book 2: Hire

Book 2 is the legal codification of circumstances dealing with hire(renting). This book contains general hire specifications, questions relating to the contract of hire, questions relating to the amount of the hire, period of the hire, type of thing hired and matters relating thereto, rights and obligations of person giving and person taking on hire after the conclusion of contract, and matters of compensation.

Book 3: Guarantee

Book 3 deals with legal guarantee. This includes matters of contractual agreement and release from a contract of guarantee.

Book 4: Transfer of Debt

This section includes matters of contracts dealing in transfer of debts.

Book 5: Pledges

A pledge consists of setting aside property from which it is possible to obtain payment or satisfaction of some claim. Such property is then said to be pledged, or given in pledge. Book 5 includes the fundamental basis of the contract of the pledge, stipulations of the pledgor and pledgee, fundamental rules relating to the pledge, and sale of the pledge.

Book 6: Trust and Trusteeship

Book 7: Gift

Book 8: Wrongful Appropriation and Destruction

Book 9: Interdiction, Constraint and Pre-emption

Book 10: Joint Ownership

Book 11: Agency

Book 12: Settlement and Release

Book 13: Admissions

Book 14: Actions

Book 15: Evidence and Administration of an Oath

Book 16: Administration of Justice by the Courts



  • online at, accessed January 2007

External links

  • Aristarchi Gregoire bey (1873, 1874, 1878, 1881) Legislation ottomane, : ou Recueil des lois, reglements, ordonnances, traités, capitulations et autres documents officiels de l'Émpire Ottoman. Constantinople: Imprimerie, Frères Nicolaides, in French language. Downloadable pdf files.
  • AL-MAJALLA English translation
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