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Free-Thinking Faqihs, the Last Independent Mujtahids

In the period spanning the later part of the 3rd and the two first decades of the 4th century AH, which coincided with an atmosphere of adherence to authority, the likes of Ibn Jarir Tabari, Ibn Khazimah and Ibn Manzar represented the last of a dying breed of free-thinking faqihs. Here, freedom implies an openness to choose (ikhtiyar) among the methods of various schools and not as a tendency to devise unprecedented methods of fiqhi reasoning. Tabari is a typical representative of this group. His style of fiqh may be deemed as a return to the synthesis of Traditionalism and use of ra’y practiced by some jurists of the 2nd century AH. Owing to his orientation toward ikhtiyar, Tabari was more in need of an effective method to cull among the fiqhi views of his forerunners than to engage in elaborate musings about the early sources of fiqhi reasoning. Thus, throughout his fiqhi-usuli writings, Tabari places particular emphasis on the notion of ijma` and by offering a refined definition it transforms it into an accessible and effective method of fiqhi reasoning. To him ijma` is but an agreement among the majority and one that is not undermined by the dissention of a few, a interpretation that is clearly inspired by the traditional method of the Partisans of Hadith who chose among athar (traditions) based on their popularity (shuhrah). Tabari’s reliance on broad-based consensus relieved him from the need for extensive use of traditional and rational methods. Thus, his system of fiqh is characterized by a critical approach to hadiths and a relative avoidance of qiyas, combined with an adherence to the letter of the Qur’an

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 ,pp.450

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