A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE RELIGIOUS COURT
PRE - 1882
The discussion on chronological sequence about both the existence and the role of Religious Court is necessarily needed since the need to shape a better future of the Court is crucial. However, the lack of data on Religious Court within this archipelago has created difficulties in presenting appropriate information about the issue. The scarcity of written sources could be caused by the reluctance of influentially educated people to pay much attention to the issue of Religious Court. Aceh is one of kesultanan (kingdom) where Syekh Nuruddin Ar-Raniri through his writing on history did not widely discuss religious law practiced by local people. This fact showed that the attention to religious law, theoretically and practically was not significantly paid.
Meanwhile, before Islam came into the archipelago, there had been two kinds of court: civil and Padu. Civil Court dealt with particular affairs under the control of the King, while Padu court treated common issues out of King’s authority.
Based on the legal substance applied, civil court rooted from Hinduism while Padu court was generated from local custom. Besides, civil court had been managed through well written patterns of law, while Padu court was based on living norms.
When Islam came to the archipelago in 1st century of Hijrah/7th Century of A.D., people tried to practice Islamic norms in their daily life. Arabian businessmen priest who came to the archipelago had introduced, taught, and spread Islamic norms as it codified as fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). This fiqhthaharah, praying, fasting, charity, pilgrim, as well as court conduct system known as qadha. taught people how to perform
However, since performing court conduct as explained by fiqh was something difficult to fulfill by that time, people filed their legal claims and sought justice through individual priests. This kind of qadha practice was known as tahkim. Commonly, legal claims submitted to this kind of qadha were not criminal case, but civil ones. And this practice of court had been assumed as the early period of court body in the archipelago.
The next period began when colonial authority mandated certain particular judicial tasks to local authorities (sultan), as it occurred in Samudera Pasai, Aceh, Demak, and Banten Kingdom. This period was known as the period of tauliyah ah lal hali wa al-aqd.
The following period was the period of tauliah and imam. When Islam had been officially accepted by Sultan (king) as the religion of the kingdom, court institution significantly changed. In this period, to be a judge was not merely due to the free willingness of people to appoint certain ulama, but there had to be such governmental intervention. Judge occupation had been a part of public offices appointed by King or Imam or Wali Al-Amr. Furthermore, almost in all Islamic kingdoms throughout archipelago, Religious Court function became a part of public government positions. Up today, this religio-political administration inheritance still exists in several places in this country. For the lowest administration district such as village we are still familiar with terms like kaum, kaim, modin, and amil. In the higher level of territory administration such as sub-district, we still find terms like penghulu nabi, or even penghulu and seda in the district level administration. In top level of the kingdom administration there was penghulu agung (supreme judge) as a religi-political position. This top position had a specific institution known by Pengadilan Surambi where the supreme judge along with a number of legal advisors ran the task. Surambi means veranda, since the court was conducted in veranda of mosque, therefore people called the court as the court of veranda (Pengadilan Surambi).
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