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Muharram 11 Tuesday Hijrah 1444
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Title – The Message   Preface   Arabian Peninsula the Cradle of Islamic Culture   Arabia before Islam   Conditions of Roman and Iranian Empires   Ancestors of the Prophet   Birth of the Prophet   Childhood of the Prophet   Rejoining the Family   Period of Youth   From Shepherd to Merchant   From Marriage up to Prophethood   The First Manifestation of Reality   The First Revelation   Who were the First Persons to Embrace Islam?   Cessation of revelation   General Invitation   Judgement of Quraysh about the Holy Qur’an   The First Migration   Rusty Weapons   The Fiction of Gharaniq   Economic Blockade   Death of Abu Talib   Me’raj – The Heavenly Ascension   Journey to Ta’if   The Agreement of Aqabah   The Event of Migration   The Events of the First Year of Migration   Some Events of the First and Second years of Migration   The Events of the Second Year of Migration   Change of Qiblah   The Battle of Badr   Dangerous Designs of the Jews   The Events of the Third Year of Migration   The Events of the Third and Fourth years of Migration   The Jews Quit the Zone of Islam   The Events of the Fourth Year of Migration   The Events of the Fifth Year Of Migration   The Battle of Ahzab   The Last Stage of Mischief   The Events of the Fifth and Sixth years of Migration   The events of the Sixth Year of Migration   A Religious and Political Journey   The Events of the Seventh Year of Migration   Fort of Khayber the Centre of Danger   The Story of Fadak   The Lapsed ‘Umrah   The Events of the Eighth Year of Migration   The Battle of Zatus Salasil   The Conquest of Makkah   The Battle of Hunayn   The Battle of Ta’if   The Famous Panegyric of Ka’b Bin Zuhayr   The Events of the Ninth Year of Migration   The Battle of Tabuk   The Deputation of Thaqif goes to Madina   The Prophet Mourning for his Son   Eradication of Idol-Worship in Arabia   Representatives of Najran in Madina   The Events of the Tenth Year of Migration   The Farewell Hajj   Islam is completed by the Appointment of Successor   The Events of the Eleventh Year of Migration   A Will which was not written   The Last Hours of the Prophet  

The appearance of the Akhbaris in Shi’i Islam

Here we must mention an important and perilous current which first appeared around four centuries ago in the Shi`i world over the question of ijtihad – Akhbarism. If a group of the `ulama had not been forthright and challenged it, and had not taken a stand against this current and destroyed it, there is no knowing in what position we should be today.

The actual school of the Akhbaris is no more than four centuries old. Its founder was a man by the name of Mulla Muhammad Amin al­Astarabadi [d. 1033/1624], who was, personally, a gifted man who found many followers among the `ulama’. The Akhbaris themselves claimed that the original Shi`is, up to the time of the Shaykh al­Saduq [20], were all followers of the Akhbari doctrine, but the truth is that Akhbarism as a school with basic postulates did not exist more than four centuries ago. These postulates were: the denial of the possibility of arriving at certainty through exercising reason (`aql); the denial of the validity and the proof (dalil) of the Qur’an on the pretext that the understanding of the Qur’an lay exclusively in the hands of the Prophet’s ahl al­bayt, and that our duty is to consult the hadith of the ahl al­bayt [for its interpretation and understanding]; the assertion that ijma` was the innovation of the Sunnis; the assertion that, of the four valid proofs (adilla), i.e., the Book, the Sunna, ijma` and `aql, only the Sunna is able to lead to certainty, the assertion that all the hadith that appear in the “four books”” are true and valid, and of categorical provenance [from the Imams] (qat`i al­sudur).

In his book, ”`Uddat al­Usul”, the Shaykh al­Tusi mentions a group of former Shi`i scholars under the name of the “Muqallida”, and adversely criticises them; but they had no school of their own, and the reason that the Shaykh called them “Muqallida” was that even in the fundamentals of dogmatics (usul al­din) they constructed their proofs with hadith.

At any rate, the school of the Akhbaris took its stand against the school of ijtihad and taqlid. They denied the legal competence, jurisdiction and technical expertise that the mujtahids believed in; they considered taqlid of anyone else than the ma`sumin [22] to be illegal. According to them, only the hadith are authoritative, and since there is no right of ijtihad or deriving of opinions, people must necessarily have recourse directly to the texts of the traditions and act upon them, no scholar calling himself a mujtahid or a marja` al­taqlid [23] can act as an intermediary.

Mulla Amin al­Astarabadi, the founder of this school, and personally a very gifted man, learned and well­travelled, wrote a book called “al-Fawa’id al­Madaniya” in which he went to war with the mujtahids with astonishing stubbornness. He particularly tried to refute the principle of the authority of `aql. He claimed that it was only a proof in matters which had their origin in the senses, or which were related to sensory objects (such as in mathematics), and that in matters other than these it was inadmissible as a proof.[24]

It so happens that this idea was practically contemporary with the appearance of empirical philosophy in Europe. The latter denied the validity of pure reason, and al­Astarabadi denied its validity in religion. Now where did he get this idea? Was it his own original idea, or did he get it from elsewhere? We cannot say.

I remember that in the summer of 1322 [Sh./1943] I went to Burujird, and at that time the late Ayatullah Burujirdi was still living there, not yet having come to Qum. One day, the talk was of this idea of the Akhbaris, and he criticised it, saying that the appearance of this idea among them was the effect of the wave of empiricism that had arisen in Europe. I heard this from him at that time. Afterwards, when he came to Qum, and his lessons in usul al­fiqh reached this topic, i.e., the validity of certainty as a proof (hujjat al qat`), I was waiting to hear this opinion again from him, but unfortunately he did not say anything about it. Now, I cannot say if this had only been a conjecture which he had voiced, or whether he had evidence, but I, myself, have not till now found any evidence for it, and I feel it is extremely unlikely that empirical thinking had then reached the East from the West. However, against this is the fact that Ayatullah Burujirdi never spoke without evidence. I now regret that I never asked him for an explanation at the time.


20. Abu Ja`far, Muhammad b. `Ali b. al¬Husayn b. Babawayh al¬Qummi (d. 381/991).
21. These are: “al¬Kafi” (see note 13); “Man la Yahdurahu l¬Faqih ” (ed. H. M. Khirsan, 4 vols, Najaf, 1957, by 1958¬62), also by al¬Tusi.
22. The fourteen “impeccables”: i.e., the Prophet, his daughter Fatimat al¬Zahra, and the twelve Imams.
23. After the student of fiqh has mastered the necessary sciences, he may, if his teacher considers him to be capable of deriving his own legal opinions, receive a certificate authorizing him to do so; but he still cannot be followed by others in taqlid. For this to happen, he must rise to the final degree and become a marja` al¬taqlid, where other qualities besides just his scholarship, e.g., his piety and conformity to the shari`a, cause him to be respected above other mujtahids, and thus to become a source of certainty to his muqallids that in following him they will not deviate from the shari`a.
24. This is a question of certainty (qat`, yaqin): the evidence for the existence of a precept must be such as to leave no room for any kind of doubt in the mind of the person who models his behaviour according to it; in the case of proofs concerning sensory evidence, the very data themselves are only probablistic, so no proof employing them can arrive at demonstrable certainty. Therefore, in such a proof, other probabalistic elements such as `aql are admissible, but these cannot be used to derive the precepts of the shari`a.



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