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The Proof of Reason and Rational Principles

In spite of the fact that in many of the later usuli works the sources of fiqh among the Imamis are said to be the Qur’an, the sunnah, ijma` and reason (`aql), the last source has received short shrift, in spite of its widespread popularity. The first known Imami scholar to have spoken of the fourfold sources of fiqhi deliberation and to have considered reason as the fourth was Ibn Idris Hilli in the later part of the 6th century AH, who seems to have had in mind the “rational principles”. The elaboration of this idea, concomitant with the development of the school of Hillah, is first found in the words of Muhaqqiq Hilli, who unlike the customary view, believed in five sources of fiqhi reasoning: the usual three plus those of reason and istishab. From his remarks it becomes clear that through his annexation of the principle of bara’ah to that of istishab he has intended to include the rational principles not under the fourth category (`aql) but under the fifth (the general notion of istishab), and considers specific connotations for reason. He divides the fourth category, what he refers to as dalil al-`aql, into two groups: the first are those that relate to khatab, including lahn al-khatab, fahwa al-khatab and dalil al-khatab, which are discussed under the topic of the principles of words; and the second are a priori notions. As regards the latter, although Imami scholars have from early times believed in the innate goodness or evilness of actions, depending on their theological stance vis-à-vis the notion of justice, and in spite of the fact that this has caused them to believe in some independent rules such as those relating to wajib (obligatory), mandub (supererogatory), mubah (neutral), makruh (reprehensible) and qabih (deplorable), i.e. a priori rule, none the less, the history of this approach to the sources of fiqhi reasoning dates from the time of the establishment of the school of Hillah.

Later, Shahid Awwal in the introduction to his al-Dhikra provides a more elaborate division of reason. While limiting the sources of fiqhi reasoning to four, he divides the last one, i.e. reason, into two categories: the rational arguments which are not based on khatabs (assertion, i.e. religious assertions) and which include a priori and rational and principles (bara’ah and istishab), and those which are based on khatabs. In this category, in addition to reasons relating to lahn al-khatab, fahwa al-khatab and dalil al-khatab, he includes some of the notions in connection to necessary rational concomitants, such as the necessary introduction.

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 ,pp.453 - 454


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