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Fiqh in the Recent Centuries

Following the emergence of the Safavid dynasty (907-1135 AH) which declared the Imāmiyah school as the official school for the country the Imāmiyah fiqh, too, received the necessary impetus for further growth, more so due to the fact that the grounds were now prepared for practicing many religious laws that had hitherto remained confined in books. For instance, such practices as judiciary, the implementation of Islamic punishments, the levying of Islamic taxes, and the Friday congregational prayers, which were directly connected to the form of government could now be activated.

During the 10th Century AH/16th Century AD the most important center of the Imāmiyah fiqhi studies was the Jabal ‘Āmel region in Lebanon and with the strengthening of the Imāmiyah circles in Iran (during the Safavid rule) a large number of scholars from this region migrated to this country, in general, and the city of Esfahān, in particular. From among the great personalities who migrated from Jabal ‘Āmel to Esfahān mention must be made of Mohaqqeq Karaki, Sheikh Bahā’i, and Hor ‘Āmeli. While studying the position of the Imāmiyah fiqh during the Safavid period one can come across three distinct trends, viz.: 1) the Osuli trend that flourished as a result of the efforts of a scholar like Mohaqqeq Karaki (d. 940 AH/1533 AD) whose views on fiqh were even more comprehensive than those of Shahid Awwa; 2) a reformist trend led by Moqaddas Ardabili, and 3) an Akhbāri trend, one of whose pioneers was Mohammad Amin Astarābādi.

Following the collapse of the Safavid rule, the Imāmiyah fiqhi circles lost their earlier support and subsequently withdrew from political issues. Since the political powers that emerged after the Safavids were either inclined towards the Sunni school of thought (like the Afghans) or were inclined towards the secular form of government, they hardly paid any attention to the Imāmiyah fiqhi circles as a result of which further research in fiqh was not easily possible and instead the Akhbāri school gained strength.

In the mid 12th Century AH/18th Century AD an internal transformation took place in the Akhbāri circles and a number of moderate scholars of this school got inclined towards the Imāmiyah fiqh and accepted some of the arguments put forward by the Osuli scholars. From among the outcomes of this move that spread both in Iran as well as Bahrain mention must be made of such works as the “Sharh-e Wafiyah” written by Sadr al-Din Hamadāni. Furthermore, it was as a result of this move that towards the end of the 12th Century AH/18th Century AD Vahid Behbahāni (d. 1205 AH/1791 AD) who was an Osuli scholar managed to revive the Osuli fiqh in the Imāmiyah fiqhi circles.

In the year 1193 AH/1779 AD, the Qājār dynasty came to power in Iran and even though this dynasty wished to be recognized as the best successor of the Safavids in Iran its attitude towards the status of religion and fiqh in the society was certainly different from that of the Safavids. However, what encouraged the Imāmiyah scholars to endeavor towards the further development of the Imāmiyah fiqh during the reign of the Qājār dynasty was the existence of a stable Shiite government in Iran.

In the first half of the 13th Century AH/19th Century AD the Neo-Osuli move that had been founded by Vahid Behbahāni was pursued by such scholars as Sheikh Ja’far Kāshif al-Ghetā and Mollā Ahmad Narāqi in Iran and Iraq. However, the most outstanding scholar of this period who managed to create a link between the fiqh of this Osuli move and the fiqh that had existed in the past one and a half centuries was none other that Sheikh Mortezā Ansari (d. 1281 AH/1864 AD), the great Iranian scholar, who had deeply impacted the Imāmiyah Osuli fiqh and had given it a new outlook by involving the principles of fiqh in the daily practices of the Shiites.

During the recent centuries, Najaf had come to be known as the most important base of the Imāmiyah fiqh. However, it should be kept in mind that many scholars of the Najaf school such as Sheikh Ansāri, Ākhund Khorāsāni, Seyyed Mohammad Kāzem Tabātabā’i, Mirzāye Shirāzi, Mirzāye Nā’ini, Āqā Ziyā ‘Araqi, Seyyed Abu al-Hasan Esfahāni, Mirzā Hasan Bojnurdi, Seyyed Abu al-Qāsem Khu’i, and Imām Ruhollāh Khomeini were originally Iranians. Along with the Najaf Seminary there were other seminaries inside Iran from among which the Esfahān, Mashhad, and Tabriz seminaries were more important than the others. The Qom seminary was established by Sheikh ‘Abd al-Karim Hā’eri in the first half of the 14th Century AH/20th Century AD and it gradually turned into the most important seminary of the Imāmiyah fiqh in Iran and posed itself as the only rival of the Najaf seminary in the Shiite world.

During the recent centuries some followers of the Sunni schools of thought (mainly Hanafi and Shāfe’i) have been living in some parts of Iran. While the main centers of the followers of the Hanafi school are the eastern parts of Iran, particularly Baluchestān, Torkman Sahrā, and parts of Khorāsān, the followers of the Shāfe’i school are present in the western parts of Iran, more particularly Kurdistan as well as parts of Āzarbāyjān and Gilān.

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

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