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Theologians and Rationalists among Imami Fiqhi Circles

Within the Traditionalist atmosphere dominating the Imami fiqhi circles of the first half of the 4th century AH, there existed theologian faqihs such as Ibn Abi `Aqil `Umani whose reliance on ra’y brought his juridical style closer to that of the Mu`tazilite method of istikhraj, though one that was based on the teachings of the infallible Shi`ite imams (PBUT). In the second half of the 4th century AH, the figure of prominence is Ibn Junayd Askafi, with his quasi-rational method, who openly advocated the employment of qiyas, on which he penned several works. He, none the less, far from considering his style as an aberration in Imami fiqh, viewed it as a continuation of the work of early jurists such as Fadl b. Shadhan. Among the acknowledged followers of Ibn Junayd in Iraq of later decades is Sharif Radi (d. 406 AH) whose works contain uses of rational reasoning and analogy in a manner reminiscent of that of Ibn Junayd.

The two final decades of the 4th century AH must be viewed as a turning point in the history of Imami fiqh. With the appearance on the scene of the theologian jurists Shaykh Mufid and, later, Sayyid Murtada a new movement aimed at systematization of the Imami fiqh and its principles was initiated, which derived its impetus from earlier theologians and which continued to dominate Imami fiqhi seminaries for centuries to come. Not withstanding their differences on various fiqhi issues, both Shaykh Mufid and Sayyid Murtada employed an analytico-theoretical approach to fiqh. As regards a general analysis of their fiqhi principles, it may be noted that their method was in line with early theologians, i.e. it was based on the rejection of the authority of khabar al-wahid except in cases where the content was corroborated by external evidence. As a means of making up for the rejection of this option, they resorted to the notion of the “consensus of the community of Imamis”. This idea is faintly detectable in the scarce remnants of the rational fiqhi writings of Shaykh Mufid, while it reaches its most extensive use in Sayyid Murtada, who admits openly that the bulk of shar`i rulings are based on the “consensus of the community of Imamis”.

 source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 ,pp.452

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