Islam stipulates certain conditions in judges to assume their positions such as: Islam, sanity and adulthood, probity, sound constitution, Knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah, and a degree of scholarship to exercise Ijtihad.

Conditions applicable to judges

Certain conditions must be observed when appointing a judge. These are:

  1. Islam: To be a Muslim is one of the essentials of probity and integrity.                                                                                                                                  
  2. Sanity and adulthood: A child or a madman cannot be judges and are normally looked after by others.                                                                                      
  3. Probity: A man of loose moral conduct may not be appointed as a judge.

    :Allah says

    ‘Believers! If any evildoer comes to you with a piece of news, make sure of it first, lest you should wrong others unwittingly and then regret your action.’


    If such a person is unacceptable as reliable in what he tells, he is less so as a judge.                                                                                                       
  4. Sound constitution: The person to be appointed as a judge must be free of permanent disabilities, such as being dumb, deaf or blind. Such disabilities make him unable to judge disputes, although some scholars question the condition of sight.                                                                                
  5. Judges should have a thorough knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, be well versed in all aspects of the Islamic faith, be able to distinguish what is right and what is wrong, be free of prejudice and be keen to maintain justice.

Scholars, particularly Imam al-Shafi'i, also require a judge to have attained the degree of scholarship that enables him to exercise ijtihad, or scholarly discretion. This means that he should have thorough knowledge of the Qur’anic verses and the hadith that outline verdicts and rulings. He should also know what early scholars have said about different cases, where they agree and where they disagree, and he should be well versed in language and analogy, or qiyas.

Scholars have different views on whether women may be judges. Abu Hanifah makes clear that a woman may be a judge in all cases except hudud (mandatory/castigatory punishments) and qisas (retribution) cases, while al-Tabari and ibn Hazm consider that she could be a judge in any dispute or case as long as she meets the requirements for the position.