History and Eras of Shi’i Imami Law (4)

The Occultation of the Imām (a)

Towards and during the minor occultation we find certain reports that seem to indicate that the Imāms (a) were preparing the Shī’ā community for becoming highly dependant on scholars – more so than before. To this extent, there is a popular statement attributed to Imām al-‘Askarī (a) and there is also a letter from Imām al-Mahdī (a) where the Shī’as are being asked to imitate and follow the scholars – or more precisely the narrators of their traditions – of their time.

Some important works written during the time of the minor occultation were Baṣāir al-Darajāt of al-Ṣaffār (d. 290 AH) and Nawādir al-Ḥikmah of Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Ash’arī. However, no other book comes close to the significance of Shaykh al-Kulaynī’s (d. 329 AH) Al-Kāfī. Al-Kulaynī was possibly from the city of Rey but would have remained in Qom for a period of time as a lot of his teachers happen to be from there. The book took around 20 years to compile and he made use of many of the 400 Aṣl works that he had at his disposal.

The great scholar of Rijāl, al-Najāshī, writes about Shaykh al-Kulaynī that he was the most trustworthy of people when it came to ḥadīth. In Al-Kāfī’s introduction, al-Kulaynī says he has given greater attention to Kitāb al-Ḥujjah, the book which concerns the Imāms and their attributes, as he saw that was of much more importance given it formed the backbone of Shī’ī theology. Another major issue within Shī’ī traditions was the great number of apparent contradictions, but al-Kulaynī justifies these with reasons that are easy to understand. It does appear that al-Kulaynī believed all traditions in his book were reliable, considering he took around 20 years to compile it and was very selective in what he recorded in his work.

Once Shaykh al-Kulaynī compiled his Al-Kāfī, the 400 Aṣl works became less relevant and over the next few centuries, they slowly became lost or damaged.

After Shaykh al-Kulaynī, Shaykh al-Ṣadūq would have most likely reached the conclusion that al-Kāfī is not completely reliable, and therefore writes his own work titled Man La Yaḥḍuruhu al-Faqīh. He records narrations in his work from Aṣls that even al-Kulaynī did not add to his work – even though it is far-fetched to assume Shaykh al-Kulaynī did not see or was not familiar with some of those Aṣls. At other times Shaykh al-Ṣadūq uses Asls that only he had access to, which he had acquired through his own teachers. These were works which al-Kulaynī may not have had access to.

Shaykh al-Ṣadūq had two other important works in Fiqh, namely his al-Hidāyah and al-Muqn’i – but his most important work remains al-Faqīh. See his entry in Najashi’s work.

During this period, the Shī’a had a very ḥadīth-centric epistemology when it came to the understanding of the law, whereas later on in Baghdād with the likes of Shaykh al-Mufīd and Sayyid al-Murtaḍa we see a more Fiqh-centric approach that is concerned with critiquing traditions and applying various principles to interpret traditions and deduce law.

Ibn Junayd (d. 381) and Hasan b. Abī Aqīl al-Umanī (d. 329) – also known as the Qadīmayn – were some of the earliest jurists. We do not have their original works, but ‘Allāmah al-Ḥillī had access to them and records their verdicts in his works. They were both known for having unorthodox views, at times so unorthodox that it is difficult to explain how they both arrived at those conclusions or how they understood the traditions concerning those topics to have arrived at those opinions. It is popularly claimed at Ibn Junayd was a proponent of Qiyās, but this can be disputed and challenged. It is possible he was very intellect-centric and therefore others may have confused his methodology to Qiyās.

Ibn Abī Aqīl al-Umanī was a contemporary to Shaykh al-Kulaynī and a teacher of Ja’far ibn Qūlūwayh. His book was titled al-Mutamassik bi Ḥabl Āle Rasūl, and both Ibn Idrīs al-Ḥillī and ‘Allāmah al-Ḥillī had this work with them. Just one of his unorthodox views was that water less than the amount of kurr would not become impure just by mere contact with another impurity.

Ibn Junayd, on the other hand, was a contemporary to Shaykh al-Ṣaduq and from the teachers of Shaykh al-Mufīd. Shaykh al-Mufīd had a methodological issue with him as well due to his usage of what he considered to be Qiyās and wrote critiques against him. He had very extensive works on Fiqh, namely Tahdhīb al-Shī’a li-Aḥkām al-Sharī’ah and al-Mukhtaṣar al-Aḥmadī li Fiqh al-Muḥammadī. Despite him being a proponent of Qiyās as claimed by some, he is still quoted heavily in later books due to his significance.

Interestingly speaking, Muḥammad Amīn Astarābādī, the scholar credited for forming the Akhbārī school of thought, believed that it was these two jurists who ruined Shī’ī jurisprudence.

The next few scholars are all from Baghdad, as that was the city where all scholars were residing and busy with their activities.

In Baghdad, we see that Shaykh al-Mufīd was a qualified jurist, but not as intensive as Shaykh al-Ṭūsī. The former had a fiqh work titled al-Muqniah, which the latter uses as a base for one of his own works. He also had a work on comparative jurisprudence called al-I’lām and as well as what can be considered the first formal work on Uṣūl al-Fiqh, called al-Tadhkirah. All in all, Shaykh Al-Mufīd can be credited for saving Shī’ism from both extreme hadith-centrism and extreme intellect-centrism.

After al-Mufīd, Sayyid al-Murtaḍā is an important figure within Shī’ī history. His work al-Nāṣirīyyāt is a commentary on his grandfather’s, Nāṣir al-Otrosh’s, book who was a Zaydī. His work al-Intiṣār is a work dedicated to just the specific and unique views of the Imāmī Shī’as in jurisprudence. He also wrote a very extensive work on Uṣūl al-Fiqh called al-Dharī’ah.

One of the discussions he does in his Uṣūl work is whether we are allowed to restrict the general meanings of the Qurānic verses with solitary reports. He believed this could not be done[1] and that is because he would not accept the probative force of solitary reports in it and of itself.

A practical example of this would be in the issue of the inheritance of a wife. The famous opinion is that the wife does not take the inheritance from her husband’s land, rather only his money and the assets inside the house. This is the famous view – unlike the Ahl al-Sunnah – even though the Qurān does not mention this exception. Since we have narrations that say a wife does not inherit from her husband’s land, the jurists who propose a solitary report can restrict the general injunctions of the Qurān will do so in this case.

Shaykh al-Ṭūsī

Shaykh al-Ṭūsī can be considered the epitome of what the Shī’a produced in Baghdad as far as scholarship is concerned. Many scholars consider him to be the best and strongest Shī’ī scholar to have ever lived.

His scholarly life can be divided into three phases: 1) Birth till Baghdad, 2) Baghdad, and 3) Najaf.

1st Phase – Before Baghdad

He was born in Ṭūs and had completed his initial studies in Iran. Not much is known about his earlier life, but numerous Sunni scholars claim he was a Shafi’i before he moved to Baghdad, and that under the influence of Shaykh al-Mufīd he converted. No Shī’ī work makes any such mention and there are at least three reasons why it is far-fetched for him to have been a Shafi’i:

  • Scholars who were contemporary to him or that came soon after him, such as Najashi or Ibn Shahr Ashub, do not ever mention such a thing
  • In all of his extant works, we do not see any sign of him ever being a Sunni in the past

2nd and 3rd Phase – Baghdad and Najaf

This phase begins almost a century after the death of Shaykh al-Kulaynī. Baghdad was a very active seminary where all the religious factions were living together. Al-Ṭūsī started attending Shaykh al-Mufīd’s classes and he had numerous other teachers. He writes his work al-Tahdhīb due to Shaykh Mufīd’s al-Muqniah and completes it during the life of al-Mufīd. He wrote al-‘Uddah in Uṣūl al-Fiqh and in its introduction he says that from our scholars only Shaykh Mufīd has written a work in Uṣūl. This is strange because Sayyid al-Murtaḍa’s work on Uṣūl was very extensive and it is difficult to comprehend how al-Ṭūsī would have missed it or did not care enough about it.

He wrote two of the four main works of ḥadīth, one of which is al-Tadhīb which has around 13,000 narrations and many of them are his own narrations that do not exist in other works. He also has an al-Āmālī which were a series of traditions dictated by him to his students and we possess the version that was transcribed and written down by his son. In Rijāl, two of the four main works also belong to him. When it comes to Fiqh, he has al-Nihāyah (which was a book used in seminary classes, and we know that Sayyid Ibn Ṭā’ūs studied it), Fiqh al-Khilāf which was a completion of al-Intiṣār, al-Iqtisād, and al-Mabṣūṭ.

Al-Mabṣūt was his last book according to Ibn Idrīs al-Ḥillī and in its introduction, he writes that many Sunnis belittle the Shī’a for not having detailed rulings and that this is a consequence of not utilizing Qiyās. He responds by saying if they had looked at our works they would have known that we have narrations for most of the details that they are issuing verdicts on. However, the Shī’a did not have a need to formally expand their Fiqh works because the narrations had been reported and covered all the details.

When Shaykh al-Ṭūsī was forced to move to Najaf, it seems that his scholarly production decreased. Most of his works were all written in Baghdad.

One of the major and significant views Shaykh al-Ṭūsī is credited for within Shī’ī legal theory is the argument for the probative force of a solitary report. In his work al-‘Uddah he details out five conditions that must be met and in which case a solitary report is binding:

  • Should be in accordance with the intellect
  • Should be in accordance with the explicit meaning of the Qurān
  • Should be in accordance with the explicit Sunnah
  • Should be in accordance with the consensus

If a narration has none of these conditions then one must first see if it is against the intellect, Qurān, Sunnah and consensus. For example, if a woman becomes Muslim and her husband does not, in this case we have two traditions where one says that the marriage is invalidated while the other says it is not invalidated. The popular verdict today is that her marriage is invalidated.

An issue may arise according to the popular ruling if the woman had children, and in fact the invalidity of her marriage and losing control over her children might be the only barrier preventing her from becoming Muslim. In this case, Shaykh al-Ṭūsī says the marriage is still valid, because it is in accordance with the intellect as Islam is an invitation for everyone and furthermore by her becoming a Muslim, her children will probably be Muslims as well.

Teachers and students of Shaykh al-Ṭūsī

Ḥusayn b. Ghaḍāirī was a teacher of Ahmed b. Ghaḍāirī, Najāshī and Ṭūṣī. Abul Husayn b. Abī Jīd Qumi was a teacher of Shaykh al-Ṭūsī and Najāshī, Ibn Qubdūn and Aḥmad b. Mūsa al-Ṣalt al-Ahwāzī. These are just some of his main teachers. His Sunnī teachers include Mūhammad b. Sinān and Abū ‘Alī al-Shadhān.

He had many students as well, like his son Ḥasan, Abū Ibrahim Ismāil Qumī who was from the progeny of Shaykh al-Ṣadūq, Shams al-‘Ulama, Abū Muḥammad Zayd b. ‘Alī, Abdul Jabbar Rāzī, Sihrishtī, Jamāl ul-Dīn Ṭabarī Āmulī and others.

[1] Chapter name فصل في التخصيص بأخبار الآحاد: http://ar.lib.eshia.ir/13072/1/280

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