Mufti (Arab., one who expounds the law) a doctor of the law of the Koran who performs certain religious and civil functions. There is one in every large town of the Ottoman empire. In his religious capacity he manages the property of the church and watches over the due observance and preservation of its rites and discipline. In his civil capacity he pronounces decisions in such matters of dispute as may be submitted to him. He has no power to enforce his decision, hut if it is not voluntarily conformed to by the parties, it has great weight before any other tribunal to which they may appeal. Matters of police, disputes between families, and generally questions involving private interests of no great importance, are decided by the mufti without the intervention of advocates or any legal expense. According to tradition, his decisions should he given in the fewest words without assigning any reasons; if possible, it should be simply "Yea" or " Nay." The mufti of Constantinople, or grand mufti, called also sheikh al-Islam, " chief of Islam," is the highest religious authority of the empire. He is appointed by the sultan and can be deposed by him, but the sultan cannot sentence the grand mufti to death nor confiscate his property.

The grand mufti ranks next to the grand vizier; he is the chief interpreter of the law, and his authority and influ-ence, though merely advisory, were formerly very great. Of late years the practical importance of the office has greatly declined.