Imamiyah (Shiite): An Introduction to Islamic Jurisprudential Sects

Twelver Shi’as (Imamiyah)

1- Authentication (tawthīque) of Shi’ism

Shi’ite jurisprudential sects follow the ideas of Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.). Twelvers is the main sect of them, which follows its famous twelve Imams’ ideas, especially, the sixth Imam, Abū  Abdu Allah Ja‘far b. Muhammad al-Ṣādiq, and because of that they are known as Ja’fari, too.

Proving the interfaith legitimacy is what, meant by authentication. Authenticating the Twelvers needs discussing about two parts:

1-    Who are Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)?

2-    Legitimacy of following Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.).

Who are Ahl al-Bayt?

The main reason regarding this point is verse of Taṭhīr, and the traditions that, while interpreting it, mention Ahl al-Bayt’s names.

Legitimacy of Following Ahl al-Bayt.

There are many traditions that support this issue, like ThaqalaynSafīnaheṭṭahA’emmeh Ithnā‘sharAmān.

As an example, Thaqalayn is a well-known Ḥadīth, accepted by both Sunnis and Shi’as, and cited in many of their authentic books. The Prophet (S.A.w)says: “I am leaving behind me two weighty (very worthy and important) things among you: The book of Allah, and my progeny, my Ahl al-Bayt. Never these two get separated from each other until the Day of Resurrection, and once you take recourse to these two, you will never get astray.” This tradition includes the important points regarding the issue, that some of them are mentioned bellow:

·        Saying that: “The Qur‘an and Ahl al-Bayt never be separated from each other” shows the perfect knowledge of Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) about The Qur‘an.

·        Resorting to one of them is not useful. So, people must cleave to both: The Qur‘an, and Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.).

·        Superiority of Ahl al-Bayt in knowledge. Because, people are ordered for refer to them.

·        Staying aloof from Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) as well as getting behind or ahead of them is not acceptable. So, the religious authority is confined to Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.).

·        That, these two never be separated from each other until the Day of Resurrection, indicates that Ahl al-Bayt’s authority, as same as The Qur‘an, is permanent.

In addition, the personalities of A’immah, their ideology, practical and religious behavior, and, also, the thoughts presented by them; show the authentication of Shi’ite jurisprudence and Ahl al-Bayt’s way.

2- Shi’as’ Sources of Deduction

Within the Twelver Shi’a ideology, there are four sources for deriving legal principles:

1- The Qur‘an: The Qur‘an, in its present form and outward sense is a proof (hujjah). It is the essence of Shi‘a jurisprudence.

2- Sunnah (normative custom): it means the Prophet or Imam’s sayings, deeds, and Taqrīr (his tacit approval, and silence on an act performed in front of him). Sunnah regards as a proof, while is narrated by reliable and authentic narrators. Narrator’s religion is not important. Concerning being reliable and putting into practice, a tradition narrated by a truthful non-Shi’a, is as same as a tradition narrated by a truthful Shi’a.

3- Consensus (ijmā‘): it means that, there is a unanimous agreement of Shi’a scholars on an issue. It is not considered as a proof individually, but in some conditions, mentioned in jurisprudential principles’ books; it is a means of proving Sunnah.

4- Reason: the certain judgment of human pure intelligence is the reason which is considered as a source of Shi‘a jurisprudence, like its judgment about the goodness of justice and the foulness of injustice.  There is a rule among Islamic teachings named mulāzimah, which means whatever judgment is made by reason is the same as that made by religion (shar‘). Based upon this rule, some religious precept are elicited from rational judgments, like: correlation between having an obligation to do something and its preliminaries, correlation between an order to do something and forbidding its opposite, impossibility of combining command and prohibition in a single case from a single standpoint. (All these are the matters of jurisprudential principles, and the sources of religious precepts.).

Reason, (which means here, rational demonstration and logical analysis) is a base and means of thinking in Shi‘a jurisprudence. Some recent Shi‘a scholars believe that reason is a source of Shi‘a jurisprudence in potency, not in actuality. This means, although, according to jurisprudential principles, reason is recognized as an independent source of religious precepts, but there is no any case in practice. All the religious precepts that could be elicited from human pure intelligence, are presented by transmitted religious sources: The Qur‘an and Sunnah.

Point: qiyās (deductive analogy), for lack of certainty, is not a jurisprudential source from the viewpoint of Shi‘a jurisprudential principles. Qiyās means: setting up a judgment on an issue because of it is probable similarity to another one. Qiyās, by this definition, is like an analogy in logic, which is not considered as a proof in the logical and philosophical arguments. However, a logical syllogism, which is discovering the real cause, is authentic in logical arguments.

3- The most Important Jurisprudential Schools and Centers

The most important jurisprudential schools and centers, in chronological order, are as follows:

–         The school of illuminated Medina: from beginning until mid-second century A.H. (the time of Imam Sādiq),

–         The school of Kūfah: from mid-second century A.H until the first quarter of 4 A.H. (greater occultation),

–         The school of Qum and Ray: from the first quarter of 4 A.H. until the first middle of 5 A.H. (the time of Sayyid Murtaḍā and Sheikh Tūsī),

–         The school of Baghdad: from the first middle of 5 A.H., until the capture of Baghdad by Halākūkhān,

–         The school of Najaf al-Ashraf (beginning the first period),

–         The school of Hellah: after dissolution of science in Baghdad, it flowered in Hellah, which endured until the time of Shahīd al-Awwal (the first martyr) and Shahīd al-Thānī (the second martyr),

–         The school of Shām (Halab & Jabal ‘āmil),

–         The school of Isfahan,

–         The school of Bahrain,

–         The school of Karbala,

–         The school of Najaf al-Ashraf (beginning the second period),

–         The school of Qum (beginning the second period=present time).

4- Shi’ite Schools of Law

4-1- The School of Narrator Jurists

Narrator jurists mean the scholars that are regarded as a jurist for narrating traditions, persons like Zurārah, Muhammad b. Muslim, etc. There is a tradition narrated from Imam Riḍa (A.S.), he says: “we are supposed to proclaim the main issues, but you should deduce the assimilate cases.” This tradition shows that there were some rules and principles for eliciting precepts, at that time, too. This situation continued until the end of lesser occultation, at the beginning of 4 A.H.

Jurisprudential Material and Methodology

Their material was traditions taken from infallible Imams. Their way was hearing traditions from an infallible and conveying them to people. Therefore, their sources were The Qur‘an (the verses interpreted by Imams) and Sunnah. Nevertheless, a number of these jurists, because of being far from Imam, applied some rules and principles for attaining religious precepts. So that, their way was using Qur‘anic verses and explicit traditions, plus some stipulated rules and principles.

Famous Narrator Jurists:

Abān b. Taghlab, Ahmad b. Muhammad Bazanṭī, Abān b. Othman Bijillī, Barīd ‘ijillī, Th‘labah b. Maymūn, Jamīl b. Darrāj, Ḥasan b. Maḥbūb Sarrād, Zakarīyā b. ’Adam Ash‘arī, Zurārah b. A‘yun, Fuḍayl b. Yasār, Abū  Baṣīr Asadī, Muhammad b. Muslim, Yūnis b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, Muhammad b. Abī ‘umayr.

Jurisprudential Texts

At the time of infallible Imams, especially from the time of Imam Bāqir and Imam Ṣādiq (A.S.) until the mid-third A.H., Shi’a jurisprudence was in the form of presenting Imams’ traditions along with the chain of transmitters. Ijtihād (interpretive reasoning), at that time, means distinguishing the sound traditions from infirm ones, and arranging them in order of jurisprudential sections. Some of jurisprudential books, written in this way, are as follows:

–         Al-Ṣalāt: written by “Ḥurayz b. Abdu Allah Sajistānī”, a jurist of end 2 A.H. Najjāshī (the writer of a prominent biographical book in Islamic field) says: it is a great book, which was a jurisprudential source for Shi’a at that time, and the great Shi’a jurists, like Ḥamād b. ‘īsā Jahmī (119-209 A.H.) memorized it.

–         Yawm wa Laylah: written by a famous Shi’a scholar: Yūnis b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Mūsā āli-Yaqṭīn (d. 208 A.H.). Imam Riḍā presented him as a knowledgeable person, and qualified to give a legal opinion. Abū Hāshim Dā’ūd b. Qāsim Ja‘farī says: I asked Imam Ḥasan ‘askarī (A.S.) about the book Yawm wa Laylah, he said: for every word of this book, God has graced it’s writer a light. Yūnis b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān wrote more than 30 books.

4-2- The School of Traditionist Jurists

This school began at 4 A.H. and maintained a century. Leaders of this school are the most famous traditionist and jurists of Twelver Shi’a. Nearly all of them were living in the two most important religious and cultural cities of the time, Qum and Ray. They tried hard to purify, expurgate, and compile Shi’a traditions. This school was the continuity of the school of narrators at the time of (Imams’) presence. They mad an effort to collect traditions and save them. The followers of this school, usually, have no good relationship with ijtihād as mental activity based on a logical deduction.

Traditionist jurists, for following traditions, divided into two groups:

1- A group of them analyzed traditions using the science of Ḥadīth, and study of narrators. They were well informed of jurisprudential issues, and never accept any tradition without perusing attentively and checking its quality. They, though so briefly, were knowledgeable about the rules of jurisprudential principles in different states of reasoning, even, applied some of these reasoning that were addressed by Imams. Nevertheless, for adopting the traditional and conservative attitudes, they never tried to detach jurisprudence from traditions, and to write independent jurisprudential books. They were afraid to write jurisprudential matters except by the text of Ḥadīths. Their writings were a set of tradition’s textual contents classified in topical order, and, sometimes, the masters that a tradition was narrated from them were omitted. This group of jurists includes the traditionists like Muhammad b. Ya‘qūb Kulaynī (d. 329 A.H.), Muhammad b. Ali b. Bābwayh Qumī, known as Ṣadūq (d. 381 A.H.).

2- The other group of them was opposed to the rules of jurisprudential principles, uninformed about the rules and way of argument, and bigoted adherent of following the texts of Ḥadīths unconditionally. Some scholars of this group and their beliefs are mentioned in biographies, like Abū al-Husain al-Nāshī, Ali b. ‘Abdu Allah b. Waṣīf (d. 366 A.H.). His way was, reportedly, similar to the followers of formal religion. For the lack of logical arguments and independent reasoning (ijtīhād), and because there was no any new idea, their views failed to obtain a valuable position in jurisprudence field, and were ignored by jurisprudential textual sources.

At the latter parts of fourth century and the beginnings of fifth one, Sheikh Mufīd and his disciple, Sharīf Murtaḍā’s attempt overthrew the school of traditionist jurists. However, a few of its followers remained in some later periods, too. Nevertheless, it should be noted that this school, because of its long time hegemony over Shi’a scientific community, left great impressions on general Shi’a ideology, which never wiped out, and became the permanent parts of Shi’a ideology. Differences between Shi’a ideology at the time of Imams’ presence and letter eras, which appeared in some issues, origin from this effects.

Features of Traditionist Jurists

1-    Changing the way of compiling traditions by:

a.      compiling traditions in jurisprudential topical order,

b.     Acquiring value of the chain of transmitters, and placing value on them. In addition, choosing a tradition that conveys certainty. In their point of view, two items identify this certainty: credibility of narrators, and being accepted by companions.

2-    Issuing fatwas only by textual content of traditions: Nihāyah, written by Sheikh Ṭūsī, is the text of traditions. In addition, Sheikh Ṣadūq, at the beginning of his jurisprudential treatise, says: whatever I mentioned here is the textual content of authentic traditions

more will be coming soon……