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Law Enforcement

The Law is not Justice, nor is Justice the Law.

There is no organized law enforcement prescribed in the Law, and no central law enforcement authority. The Grand Caliph is seen as the supreme authority in all matters of the Law, for it was said by the First Caliph — I am the Lion of the Faith.

Law enforcement is the responsibility of righteous individuals and local rulers. Citizen's arrest and vigilante action is encouraged. A tribe or clan is responsible for policing itself, and the disgust generated by forbidden actions almost always creates a spontaneous reaction leading to the punishment of the guilty. Mob justice and lynching is frowned upon, instead a learned person nearby is appointed qadi and given the responsibility of judging the case. Justice is swift and merciless, but appeal is possible to the local ruler or even the Grand Caliph. Of course, appeal might not do a dead man much good, so it is wise to run first and send some beautiful and eloquent relative with an appeal later.


The tongue has no bone, yet it crushes.

A qadi, or judge, is somebody appointed and recognized for his ability to discern the truth and pass fair judgments. Among the al-hadar, this is almost always the chieftain or sheik. Among the al-badia, qadi are appointed by rulers or elected by guilds. In cases of emergency, where no recognized qadi is available, one is usually appointed on the spot by consensus.

A qadi should not only hear the case, he is responsible for ferreting out the truth as well. This is normally done by interrogating witnesses and the accused, but physical investigation is not out of the question. Both parties are expected to offer gifts to the qadi as benefits his and their station. A qadi is expected to use trickery and especially trick questions to ferret out the truth, and to pass judgment as befits the crime and the criminal; poetic justice is encouraged, and justifiable circumstances are important. There certainly is no constitution forbidding "cruel or unusual punishments".


Ins are the civilized races. These can accept enlightenment, and can become a part of civilized society. Humans, elves, dwarfs and ogres are always recognized as Ins, but all intelligent races can be Ins. A common way to justify a prejudice is to refuse to recognize someone as an Ins, in which case they can be justifiably treated as animals.

The Unenlightened

Most people in Zakhara are fortunate enough to have been enlightened through the Loregiver, but in other parts of the world, this is still not so. It is meritorious for the enlightened to help their beneightened brethren to see the light. It can also be profitable, as traders, raiders and slavers practice their business under the auspices of enlightenment. In fact, abuse of the unenlightened is tolerated, and enlightened authorities are almost assured to side with enlightened people against the claims of injustice from the unenlightened.

This abuse has resulted in quite a lot of hostility from many of the unenlightened. It is no longer easy to enlighten other people. At the same time, there is a shortage of unenlightened tribes in Zakhara itself for slavers to raid, so many turn to enslaving the enlightened.


It is illegal to enslave the enlightened except as punishment for crimes. You can be enslaved for failure to pay your debts, and children can do this duty for their parents, so children are sometimes used as collateral for loans. The unenlightened can be enslaved for "protection" and "education", which in practice means they are all fair game. There are also rackets, where people are induced to do crimes or get into debt, and are then indentured as slaves. In some cases, enlightened households in desperate straits even sell their own children or dependents as slaves.

The legal rights of slaves are quite strong. They may not be exploited or abused, and should be treated as minors under your tutelage. They may be given chores, and most slaves are household servants. Some slaves are put to work in mines or on building projects, where working conditions are harsh, but this is rare. Hired labor is cheap, and need not be provided for when not working, so slaves are usually reserved for jobs where you want somebody who is totally dependent on you, with no local connections, such as household servants.

In practice, it is common for slaves to provide sexual services to their masters, but they are not required to do so. In many cases, it slaves who initiates liaisons, in order to improve their position in the household. It should be remembered that this is not a period of sexual liberty, and that most marriages are arranged, so the difference between free and slave is not that great in this regard. In many cases the difference between a slave bought at the block and a low-station spouse bought with a bride-price is only nominal.

There are also mamluks, slaves trained since childhood to be soldier-administrators in the service of the Great Caliph or various other rulers in Zakhara. Some mamluk orders even sell their members as bodyguards to private individuals. These slave-soldiers are highly trained, trusted and respected. They often attain high positions in government, and actually rule the city of Qudra. Again, the idea is to create a class of civil servants with no local connections and no loyalties other than to the state.

All slaves must dress distinctively. You can almost always spot a slave immediately. In general, they wear much less clothes than free people, and may even go stark naked. Slave girls may not wear the veil. Though they can shroud themselves completely in shawls, the veil and chador is forbidden, and this law is jealously upheld. Free women prostitutes, who must wear scanty clothes to practice their craft, often wear little but the veil. It keeps people from mistaking them for slaves.


In a world with no retirement system and no social security, the family becomes very important. Parents depend on their sons to carry on the family name and to provide for them when they grow old. Daughters who wed become part of their husband's family, and are expected to be subservient to their mother-in-law. They need not provide for their own blood relatives. This is the reason for the custom of bride price, a son pays his due to his parents by supporting them when they grow old, but a daughter cannot do so, and the parents need compensation.

You can also rely on your family in times of crisis. When on the run, you can count on them for aid. They can represent your interests in faraway places, and act as messengers and representatives. But the family also has to protect it's honor; stain the family honor, and the family will take it out of your hide. Brothers and fathers are responsible for the virtue of their sisters and daughters. This is the root of the sad tradition where the family murder it's own members rather than submit them to legal authority.

It is quite common for a family with no sons to adopt the husband of one of their daughters, especially if he has several brothers.

Role of Women

Upon achieving adulthood (at age 15 for humans), a girl can choose to become a "free woman", and live an active life, as any man would. She is then bound by the legal age of adulthood of a man (18 years for humans), and should spend the remainder of her childhood learning a profession. In practice, this choice is usually made much earlier, as age 15 is considered too late to begin an apprenticeship.

A traditional woman need not be submissive. A free woman need not be macho. Actually, neither do men. Showing your "soft" or "feminine" side or having a tough "macho" attitude is quite acceptable for both men and woman.

About one-third of middle and upper class women take the free path. The distinction between free and traditional women becomes muddled among the poor. For lower-class women, there is usually little choice, as the lives of both men and women involves hard labor in addition to the chores of home and family.

Some men choose to live the lives of traditional women. This is rare, and is often seen as a case where the man was born to the wrong sex. In a magical world, this can be remedied, and some such men actually become women by magic (and vice-versa).

Free Women

If she takes the free path, her role becomes much like that of a man. She is expected to provide for herself and cope with the world on her own. She is also expected to contribute to her parents when they growold. She can marry, but most often leaves child-rearing to a co-spouse who choose the traditional path.

Free women usually dress in a style reminiscent of that of a male, flamboyant and provocative. If they wear a veil, it is usually very small.

If she marries, she still becomes a part of her husbands family (unless otherwise stated in the contract), and her family will still demand a bride-price for her. Many free women chafe under this restriction.

Traditional Women

If she chooses the traditional path, she will live most of her life in the protected confines of the harim (women's quarters). She will spend her time with handicrafts and tending home, husband and children. This is a full-time job in a medevial society. Some traditional women find the time to study, and can progress quite far as scholars, mystics or mages. She can of course leave the house, but is not expected to do so regularly.

A traditional woman dresses much more conservatively than a free woman, concealing most of her charms, except in the security of the harim. The trouble is, many men find this even more alluring.


Upper-class marriages are often arranged. The parents arrange marriages for their children, often within the clan or tribe, to ensure that the inheritance is not squandered. Young girls are often married of to older men, with naturally disastrous consequences. Young boys married off to older, wealthy, free women are common characters in erotic-comedy plays.

Among the poor, marriages are less formal. With little wealth at stake, youngsters are often free to arrange their own liaisons. The exception is if a marriage can be arranged with someone of a higher social class; this is seen as highly desirable, and in such instances individual feelings are crushed under peer pressure.

Marriage is considered a social contract between families, and can contain many strange and unusual conditions. The legal rights of the people involved, and their families, can vary widely. Sometimes, the duties and privileges of the man and woman are actually reversed. Marriages can even be time limited, in which case they expire after the duration is up. A time limited marriage with a bride-price can be a form of socially acceptable prostitution.

Bride Price and Dowry

The reason for the arranged marriages is the customs of dowry and bride-price. The groom is expected to pay a bride-price depending on his own station. The bride is expected to bring a dowry dependent upon her station. This dowry is hers, to use for building her home. With the bride and groom of similar station, the bride-price is higher than the dowry, recompensing the parents for bringing up a girl, who will now be a part of another family. If the stations are unequal, the richer party pays much more than the poorer one. If the bride is poor, the family will have a small dowry, and are thus off to a bad start. If the groom is poor, the parents of the bride will get little recommpensation for the price of the dowry and the rearing of a daughter. Both factors serve to discourage interclass marriage.

If the families cannot agree, it is common for the bride and groom to elope together. Sometimes, they run away to a different city, but often they merely move away from home and temporarily sever all ties to their families. They are on their own in the world, and often lose some station, but kind elders might still give them some help. This is a socially acceptable situation, speaking of admirable passion and great folly.

Divorce and Custody

Unless specified otherwise in the marriage contract, the husband can easily divorce his wife. In this case, the bride gets to keep her dowry. Especially among nomads, this can be quite a lot, including a herd of cattle. The groom gets nothing. The wife generally cannot divorce her husband unless he has been proven unfaithful or abandoned her, but she can move back with her own clan at any time. She is still legally married, but takes her dowry and small children with her. The husband must either agree to a divorce (which can then often be more favorable to him than if he threw her out), or woo her back.

In the case where a woman has no living relatives, she can sometimes move in with the local ruler, becoming part of his harim.

All children remain in the custody of the mother until they are six years old. Older boys are in the custody of their father, girls in the custody of the mother. In the event of a divorce, the children belong to the family of their custodian. Boys are considered legally adult at age 18, girls at 15. These are human figures, the exact age varies for different races.

Polygamy and Polyandry

Both a man and a woman can have several spouses (as specified in the marriage contract), but any previous spouses must agree, and you must treat all your spouses equally. Clan marriages are not accepted, so a man who is one of several husbands cannot himself have several wives (and vice-versa), but exceptions do occur, especially if the families are geographically separate.

Otherwise, polygamy is reserved for the very rich. Polyandry is rarer, but practiced in all social classes. The very poor find it convenient, several poor men can keep a common wife reasonably well appointed.

Co-spouses should be able to live without interfeering in each others lives or with each other's chldren. Each spouse must have separate quarters and separate means of cooking and providing for the family.

Often, a woman who has chosen the "free path" find it convenient to share a husband with a woman who choose the traditional path, who can then take care of both their children. Because the women do not compete for dominance in the household (where traditional women always hold sway), such a relationship is often smoother than that between two traditional wives.

Sexual Mores

I decided to cut out this chapter and move it to a separate document, in order not to offend the sensitive. If you are offended by discussions of sexual mores, don't activate this link. You were warned.

Ownership of Land

All land is owned by the Great Caliph. But most of it is granted to local lords, in return for rent. This is the main taxation system of Zakhara; the Grand Caliph grants land to sultans in return for rent; sultans grant land to merchants in return for higher rent, and merchants hire laborers to till the land. Unlike a feudal system, these lower on the chain have no rights or guarantees; the sultan can deny a contract to a merchant that displeases him, and merchants often hire different workers from year to year.

As farmers are hired laborers rather than tenant farmers, they have little interest in producing large crops or improving farming methods. It is the merchant who oversee things that has an interest in large and profitable harvests, and thus overseers are often quite cruel to unresponsive farm hands. Agricultural migrant workers are on the bottom rungs of the Zakharan social scale, often living as beggars or thieves part of the year.

Juristic Persons

There are no juristic persons under the Zakharan legal system. No corporations, no limited-responsibility shareholders. Every business must have an actual person who is responsible for running it. This means that someone is always responsible for the consequences of any deals made. If your firm fails to live up to a deal, you are personally responsible. If some harm comes out of what you have sold, you pay the fines, or even go to the executioner's block.

This means merchants whose business fall upon hard times often take desperate measures to conceal or rectify the situation, because all their wealth can be lost as a consequence of a single disastrous deal. Front-men and holding agents are common.

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Copyright © 1998 and onwards, Carl Cramér. Page downloaded times. Last update Fri, Dec 15, 2000.