Chapter 5 : Lesson Five: The History of the Ahl Al-Bayt (a) Jurisprudential

The Three Stages of the Ahlul-Bayt (a) jurisprudence Sect

An important point about the history of the Ahlul-Bayt (a) jurisprudential sect is that it is divided into different stages. Each stage will be described.


This is the stage of the narration of traditions from the Ima-ms (a). This stage starts from the beginning of Islam and ends at the lesser occultation in the 260th year after the great migration.

Jurisprudence, in this stage, was narrating traditions. Companions would hear a tradition from one of the infallibles (a) and spread it to their communities without organizing them into different subjects.

This first text that was written, other than what the commander of the faithful (a) wrote, was written by Abi- Ra-fi?, a companion of the prophet (s) and Ima-m ?Ali- (a). He wrote a book called Kita-b al-Sunun wa al-Ahka-m wa al-Qad?a-ya-.

His son, ?Ali- bin Abi- Ra-fi?, the commander of the faithful's (a) scribe, wrote a book using the different sections of jurisprudence, for example wu-d?u- and prayer.

Jurisprudential texts increased during the imamate of Ima-m Ba-qir and S?a-diq (a) due to the weakness of the Umayyad dynasty during its last days and power being shifted to the Abbasid dynasty.

Jurisprudential texts continued to grow, so much so that during the time of H?urr al-?A-muli- there were 6600 texts. 400 of these texts became famous and were called the 400 principles. The four great books of the Shia written by the three great scholars[23] were compiled from these books.

The city of Medina was the center of Islamic studies for the Ahlul-Bayt (a) during this period until Ima-m S?a-diq (a) moved to Kufa and the second center of Islamic studies was formed.

Al-Ha?ssan bin ?Ali- al-Washa-' said: I saw 900 scholars who all said that they heard so and so from Ja?far bin Muh?ammad (a) in this mosque (Masjid al-Ku-fa).[24]

The Ima-m had great companions in Ku-fa, such as Aba-n bin Taghlib who related 30,000 traditions and Muh?ammad bin Muslim who related 40,000.

When we say that jurisprudence in this stage was just compiling and spreading traditions rather than organizing them into different sections, we do not mean that this includes the big scholars of the time. Each one of them was an ocean in themselves, like Muh?ammad bin Muslim, Zara-rah ibn A?yan and Abi- Bas?i-r. Ima-m S?a-diq (a) said: Buri-d bin Mu?a-wi-yyah al-?Ajali-, Abi- Bas?i-r Layth al-Bakhtari- al-Mura-di-, Muh?ammad bin Muslim and Zara-rah will be given the glad tidings of Heaven. They believe in Allah about the obligatory actions and forbidden ones. The line of prophethood would be cut if it were not for them.[25]

The Ima-m considered them mujtaheds who had the power of deriving verdicts from the Qura-n and prophetic traditions. Sometimes he (a) would order them practice it, for example he (a) said: It is on us to tell you the principles and it is on you to branch them out.[26] He (a) also told people to refer to some of his companions in religious rulings, like Yu-nis bin ?Abd al-Rah?ma-n. Someone asked the Ima-m: It is not possible for me to come to you and ask everything that I need about religious sciences. Is Yu-nis bin ?Abd al-Rah?ma-n trustworthy; can I take whatever I need from him?

The Ima-m answered: Yes.[27]

He (a) also ordered some of his companions to give religious verdicts, such as Aba-n bin Taghlib. The Ima-m (a) told him: Sit in Medina's mosque and give religious verdicts to the people. Verily I love to see my Shia like you.[28]


This stage started at the minor occultation, the 260th year after the great migration, and lasted until the age of Shaykh T?u-si- who was born in the 385th year after the great migration and died in the 460th year.

In this stage the Ahlul-Bayt (a) jurisprudential sect transformed from only relating traditions without organizing them into different sections into writing jurisprudential books without adding anything to the traditions or changing their terminology. This is clear in the book Shara-ya? which was written by ?Ali- bin Ba-bu-way for his son Muh?ammad. It is said that when someone needed a tradition they would find it in this book.

Other similar books are al-Maqna? and al-Hada-yah by Shaykh S?adu-q, Muh?ammad bin ?Ali- bin Ba-bu-way and al-Naha-yah by Shaykh T?u-si-.

We are not saying that there were not scholars that only spread traditions, but we are saying that they were organized into different subjects containing all of the subjects seen today. This is clearly seen in the books al-Ka-fi- by Shaykh Kulayni- and Man La- Yad?uruhu al-Faqi-h by Shaykh S?adu-q.

This is what generally took place in this stage. This does not mean that there weren't any scholars who added to the traditions by using intellectual deductions, for example what is related to al-?Umma-ni- and al-Iska-fi-.

If one wants to explain more he can say that this stage had three major schools:

1. The school of Qum and Ray: This school used traditions but did not use intellectual deductions. Some of the scholars of this school are the two S?adu-qs. This was a strong school and was relied upon by many scholars.

2. The school of al-?Umma-ni- and al-Iska-fi-: This school preferred using intellectual deduction to such an extent that they accepted syllogism and voting. Al-?Umma-ni- is al-H?assan bin ?Ali- bin Abi- ?Aqi-l. It is said that he is the first person to apply his ijtiha-d to actions, while mentioning the different sections of jurisprudence and mentioning the reasons behind the verdicts. He wrote the famous book: al-Mustamsik bi-h?abl A-l al-Rasu-l. Unfortunately this book is not in existence today.

Al-Iska-fi- is Muh?amamd bin Ah?mad bin al-Junayd who lived after Abi- ?Aqi-l. He wrote jurisprudential books, for example Tahdhi-b al-Shi-?ah li-ah?ka-m al-Shari-?ah and al-Ah?madi- fi- al-Fiqh al-Muh?ammadi-. These two books, also, do not exist today.

3. The school of Baghda-d: This is also called the school of Shaykh Mufi-d. This school tried to find a common ground between traditions and intellectual deductions. The reason behind this might be Shaykh Mufi-d, who was a student of Ibn al-Junayd and Ja?far bin Muh?ammad bin Qu-lu-way who was from Qum and a member of the Qum school of thought. Shaykh Mufi-d wrote many books, for example al-Maqna?ah which was explained by Shaykh T?u-si- in his book Tahdhi-b al-Ah?ka-m.


This stage started at the age of Shaykh T?u-si- and is still prevalent today. In this stage the jurisprudential books changed from imitating the traditions in form and language to writing with different terminology and mentioning different situations that did not occur at the time of revelation. All of this occurred with accepting intellectual deduction perfected by traditions and accepting intellectual principles. The book al-Mabsu-t? by Shaykh T?u-si- helps us to come to the conclusion that we have about this stage.

Other steps that have been made in this stage:

1. The sections of jurisprudence have become more specialized.

2. More subjects have been made due to time.

3. Intellectual deductions have been made stronger and their proofs have become clearer.

4. The relationship between jurisprudential rulings and jurisprudential principles has become clearer.

5. Putting more effort into the chains of narration.

6. Canceling some of the ancient texts which do not have matters that today's world need and writing books with today's world's needs.


[23] Muh?ammad bin Ya?qu-b al-Kulayni- al-Ka-fi-, Muh?ammad bin ?Ali- bin al-H?ussayn al-S?adu-q Man La- yah?d?uruhu al-Faqi-h, Muh?ammad bin al-H?assan al-T?u-si- al-Tahdhi-b and al-Istabs?a-r.

[24] Al-Naja-shi-, Rija-l al-Naja-shi-, under al-Washa-

[25] Shaykh T?u-si-, Rija-l al-Kashi-, under Abi- Bas?i-r Layth al-Mura-di-

[26] Al-H?urr al-?A-muli-, Wasa-il al-Shi-?ah, the 6th chapter of the qualities of a judge, tradition 51

[27] Al-H?urr al-?A-muli-, Wasa-il al-Shi-?ah, the 11th chapter of the qualities of a judge, tradition 33

[28] Al-Naja-shi-, Rija-l al-Naja-shi-, under Aba-n

1.The Book

What is meant by the book is the Qura-n which was sent by Allah to the Prophet Muh?ammad (s).

The Qura-n that is in our hands today, its meaning and words has not been added to or taken away from.

This Qur'an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that came before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds.[29]

It is a holy book and all of the Muslims agree that it was divinely inspired and that everything inside of it is correct. This is the primary source of Islam and it takes away all the excuses that man can make all the way up to the Day of Judgment. It says that Allah's religion is Islam and that the Muslims must always follow the Qura-n. It is a general law book for all of mankind.

The Authority of the Book

It is unanimous amongst the Muslims that the Qura-n is an authority for Muslims. The proof behind this has two introductory statements:

1. Certainty that it was sent to the Prophet (s). This is established by multiple-successive reports passed down by Muslims from generation to generation.

2. The Qura-n being sent by Allah. This is proved because of its miraculous nature in the way it is written and in its material. It is also proved by the fact that the Qura-n dares mankind to bring something like it, but mankind is unable. Allah says:

(This is) the Revelation of the Book in which there is no doubt, from the Lord of the Worlds.[30]

Jurisprudential Verses in Quran

There are around 500 verses in the Qura-n that deal with religious rulings. These verses are a part of the sources for obtaining religious verdicts and are called: ayya-t al-ah?ka-m.

2. Traditions (Sunnah)

The Arabic term sunnah literally means a way of acting, but figuratively it means: the words, actions and acceptances of an infallible. In order to understand this definition completely we must understand a few terms:

Infallible: anyone who's infallibility is established. The people who are meant are the Prophet (s) and the 12 Ima-ms from the Ahl al-Bayt (a) if their infallibility is proved.

The words of an infallible: Whatever the infallible says that has anything to do with religious rules.

The actions of an infallible: Whatever actions an infallible performs.

The acceptances of an infallible: Whatever actions are performed in front of an infallible when the infallible does not say anything about it.

The Authority of Traditions

All of the Muslims are unanimous in the fact that the words, actions and acceptances of the Prophet (s) are considered an authority for all Muslims. Allah says:

So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you.[31]

The words, actions and acceptances of the Ima-ms of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) are only considered as an authority after their infallibility and their successorship to the Prophet is proved. There are enough proofs of their infallibility from important sources found in books about Ima-mat and theology. Refer to them.

3. Consensus
The Arabic term for consensus is ijma-? which literally means a strong-will.

The consensus that the Shia mention is no other than a tool to discover what the infallible's verdict is. Consensus is not an independent proof like the other three; the Qura-n, traditions and intellect. Other jurisprudential sects believe that it is an independent proof.

Whenever a consensus shows us what the infallible's verdict is, it has authority. But, when it does not, it does not have authority.

Question: Why do the Shia include this as one of the sources of religious verdicts when it is not independent?

Shaykh Ans?a-ri- answered this question in the following way: including consensus in the sources for religious verdicts is a not being very precise. Consensus, with all of its conditions, discovers a proof and here both the discoverer and the discovered are called proofs.

How does a consensus discover the verdict of an infallible?

This question is answered differently according to different opinions, which there are many of. Answers to this question started from the time of Shaykh T?u-si- and continue to today. All of the answers have a name and we will mention a couple of them here:

1. Internal consensus: A consensus of mujtaheds in an age informs us that an infallible was with them. He was part of the consensus but nobody knew him personally. So, this consensus is an authority. How do we know that the infallible was amongst them? This is answered in the books of the principles of jurisprudence.

2. Linguistic consensus: This consensus informs us, in an intellectual way, that the infallible agreed with the ruling but was not part of the consensus. His (a) duty is to prevent all of the scholars from making an incorrect consensus. More answers are found in the books of the principles of jurisprudence.

4. Intellect

What is meant by the intellect here is anything that man's intellect can understand and a religious ruling can be derived from.[32]

An example is when Allah makes obligatory an action through a Quranic verse or reliable tradition, but one must perform another action to be able to perform this obligatory action and there is not any verse or tradition about this action. Man's intellect understands the relationship between an obligatory action and its precepts becoming obligatory. This leads to certainty about the action being obligatory.

An example of this is that Allah made the pilgrimage obligatory on anyone who has financial ability. This is found in both the Qura-n and traditions. But, Allah did not mention that the travel from one's hometown to Mecca is obligatory, even though it is a necessary precept to performing the pilgrimage.

Man's intellect understands the relationship between performing the pilgrimage and having to travel. It is possible to say that the travel becomes obligatory by the mukalaf having certainty, like some have said.

The Authority of Intellect

It is self-evident that intellect is an authority; it does not need a proof. The reason for this is that the intellect is a foundational proof for Islamic beliefs.

When it is considered as a foundational proof for Islamic beliefs it is easy to understating that it is an authority for religious rulings as well. The reason for this is that beliefs are more important than rules; they are the roots of religion.


[29] Yu-nus: 37

[30] Sajdah: 2

[31] Hashr: 7

[32] Muh?ammad Ba-qir al-S?adr, H?alaqah 2, al-Dali-l al-Aqli