The project examines both edited and unedited Arabic legal documents from a new, comparative perspective. Documents, as immediate manifestations of legal practice, were instruments for guaranteeing subjective rights of persons for whom the copy had been issued. Most studies on Medieval Islamic legal practice, however, focus on literary sources (notarial manuals, responsae, juridical treaties) and neglect documents mainly for two reasons: 1) cursive handwriting and technical language make it difficult to decipher them; 2) the existing collections come from varied sources, which hindered their synthetic analysis. This project inverts the focus with a new historical perspective: thanks to its innovative full-text database that analyses documents based on functional components and sequence-patterns, it reveals significant variations in structure and juridical clauses among a relevant number of documents, both in detail and from multiple aspects.

From the final phase of the ERC-financed phase of the project onwards, the ILM-project members have made an effort to render their work available to a wider community. Two different research tools are proposed for researchers studying Islamic documentary texts:

1) The “Corpus of Arabic Legal Documents”: see http://cald.irht.cnrs.fr

2) A new version of the database aiming to enlarge the former ILM-research group.


1) The “Corpus of Arabic Legal Documents” is an online database of legal documents that includes a full-text research tool, editions of textes in PDF-format, and, after the user has signed in, images of the documents. Beginning in 2014, we have successively upload the verified and sometimes corrected data on published documents. We hope that, as result of this online corpus, legal documents will become available for non-specialists from various scholarly backgrounds and will constitute a new original corpus of sources for different approaches in historical, social, and linguistic research. See http://cald.irht.cnrs.fr

2) The new version of the database aims to enlarge the former ILM-research group by associating researchers who are working on non-deciphered Arabic legal documents. Technically, this version protects their “work in progress” within the database for individual use only, but also allows them to share data and compare their new documents with the material in the database. We hope that this will significantly enlarge the corpus.