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Confrontations between the Various Schools of Thought during the 3rd-5th Centuries AH/9th-11th Centuries AD

Owing to the existing cultural diversity, on the one hand, and the historical developments, on the other, Iran was subject to constant changes from the viewpoint of diversity of religious fiqhi schools. During this period a considerable variety of Sunni schools of fiqh like the schools of the Ashāb-e Hadith (advocates of hadith), the Ashāb-e Ra’y (advocates of verdict), and the Ashāb-e Fiqh-e Zāheri (advocates of the apparent meanings of narrations) existed in Iran. The most accurate information on the geographical dispersion of the followers of the Sunni schools has been provided in Moqaddasi’s reports supplemented by other sources of information in this regard. It is noteworthy that among the Sunnis of Iran during the period under discussion the Shafe’i school that had gained independence from the Ashāb-e Hadith was considered to be the be the most important rival of the pro-verdict Hanafi school.

Besides these two schools mention should also be made of the followers of the Hanbali school who were mainly concentrated in such regions as Gorgān, Āzarbāyjān, Rey and Khuzestān; the followers of the Fiqh-e Zāheri school in Fārs; the followers of Safyān Thuri in Dinvar, and the followers of Abu Thur in Āzarbāyjān. Moreover, without mentioning any region in particular, Moqaddasi has also spoken about the spread of the followers of Eshāq bin Rāhuyah in his own times, who were in all probability the Ashāb-e Hadith, who according to some geographers dominated over a large part of southeast Iran consisting of Fārs and Kerman, right up to the coastal areas of the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.

As regards the followers of the Shiite school mention should mainly be made of the Imāmiyah school, the followers of which lived in many parts of Iran and which had a particularly strong hold over the two regions of Rey and Khorāsān. During the 4th Century AH/10th Century AD it was as a result of the influence of Heshām bin Hakam’s thoughts over the people of Khorāsān that a pro-verdict jurist like Ibn Joneid gained considerable popularity among them, even though the dominant atmosphere among the followers of the Imāmiyah school was that of the pro-hadith. From the second half of the 5th Century AH/11th Century AD the two main trends in the Imāmiyah circles were those professed by Seyyed Mortezā and Sheikh Tusi, which continued to remain dominant until they were replaced by the teachings of the Helleh school.

The diversity of fiqhi schools in Iran had turned this land into a haven for theoretical debates as a result of which a number of Iranians of different inclinations had been among the pioneers in the field of compiling the fiqhi principles and/or the science of Osul. As a result, the study of Osul, the foundations of which were laid down in the 2nd Century AH/8th Century AD gradually turned into a complete science during the 3rd-5th Centuries AH/9th-11th Centuries AD to which a number of Iranian scholars such as Dāwood Esfahāni and his son Ibn Dāwood, Abu Eshāq Marvzi, Mohammad bin Jarir Tabari, Abu Bakr Rāzi, and Abu Bakr Abhari had contributed tremendously. The following generations, too, presented the Islamic world with such renowned scholars as Shams al-Din Sarakhsi of the Hanafi school, Abu Eshāq Shirāzi of the Shāfe’i school and Sheikh Tusi of the Imāmiyah school who produced everlasting works in the principles of the fiqh of their respective schools. Mention should also be made of Mohammad Ghazāli whose book “Al-Mostasfā” was the last prominent research on the science of Osul in the 5th Century AH/11th Century AD and which became the model for all the subsequent research works in this field of study among all the Sunni schools of thought.

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad " Iran Entry " The Great Islamic Encyclopedia . Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 , pp. 660 - 662 

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