The Kazis of Aden: A Historic Look at Judicial Tradition

In Aden, there were two kazis, one overseeing Aden itself and the other for the Sheikh Othman Settlement. Back in 1905, some eyebrows were raised about their roles and, let's say, potential for extra income. There were murmurs that they might have been taking ‘comfortable fees’ for solving all sorts of matters brought to them. This led to a bit of digging to understand better what these kazis were all about and any historical records that might shed light on their functions.

Here's what was found: a description from 1893 defined the kazis as native Judicial Officers working under the 1st Assistant Resident. Their job? Handling marriage and divorce ceremonies, sorting out religious affairs for their communities, and lending a hand in the Resident's Court with certain legal documents, especially those about inheritance.

Now, their influence, particularly in dealing with the estates of the deceased, had been scaled back compared to the era of Captain Haines. Back then, people could choose either the official Court or the kazi for such matters. By 1905, there were two key restrictions: heirs had to be over 15 years old, and the estate's value needed to be ‘trifling’ – meaning not more than 99 Rupees in property and less than 200 Rupees in possessions.

There was a specific concern in 1905 about the kazi of Sheikh Othman. His financial dealings were neither supervised nor audited. So, the suggestion was to have him submit a monthly summary of any estates he settled. That year, 55 house sale certificates in Sheikh Othman were issued, with none exceeding 99 Rupees in value, even the proper houses. The charge for a kazi issuing a certificate was 8 Annas for properties worth at least 20 Rupees, and it was free for anything less. These Certificates of Sale were essentially the property deeds, and they needed to be approved by the Resident or an authorised delegate.

As for the kazis' earnings, they were on the government payroll. The Kazi of Aden pocketed 50 Rupees a month, while the Sheikh Othman's kazi got 40. Back in 1854, the Aden Kazi's salary was just 30 Rupees monthly. There were also standard fees for their services: one Rupee for a marriage at the kazi's office, five for one at a private residence, and two Rupees for a divorce.