The sources of Shi'i Jurisprudence and teachings

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The sources of Shi'i Jurisprudence and teachings
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In regard to their religious beliefs and legal rulings, the Imami Shi'i school makes use of those hadiths of the Prophet that have been related by trustworthy and reliable sources, whether these sources be in the books of the Shi'a or in those of the Sunnis. Thus, one will find references in Shi'i books of jurisprudence to certain hadiths transmitted by Sunni sources (In the fourfold division of hadiths in the Shi'i jurisprudential system, this type of hadith is referred to as muwaththaq, 'reliable'). This shows the baseless nature of what certain hostile persons claim in regard to the Shi'a.
The foundations of Shi'i jurisprudence are the Scripture, the Sunna, the intellect and consensus (ijma'). The Sunna refers to the speech and actions of the ma'sumin, at the head of whom stands the Prophet of lslam. Therefore, whenever a hadith is related by a trustworthy person and it consists in a report of an action or saying of the Prophet, it is considered as possessing credibility. The contents of the Shi'i books on jurisprudence bear sufficient witness to this assertion, and it must be said that in this respect there is no difference between the hadith books of the Shi'a and the Sunnis; if there is any discussion here it is over the means and criteria by which the reliability and credibility of the transmitters are established.

The foundations of Shi'i jurisprudence are the Scripture (Qur'an), the Sunna, the intellect and consensus (ijma'). The Sunna refers to the speech and actions of the ma'sumin, at the head of whom stands the Prophet of lslam. Therefore, whenever a hadith is related by a trustworthy person and it consists in a report of an action or saying of the Prophet, it is considered as possessing credibility.

Those hadiths and narrations of the inerrant Imams of the religion that have a sound chain of transmission are considered by the Shi'a as religious proof-texts, on the basis of which one must act, and in conformity with which one must make one's fatwa ('religious decision'). The Imams of the ahl al-bayt were not mujtahids or muftis in the current and conventional sense of these terms; for what they conveyed were so many truths [ on the basis of which the mujtahids and the muftis of later generations arrive at their jurisprudential decisions]. These narrations have come down to us by different paths, as described below:

Transmission from the Prophet of God

The impeccable Imams (either directly or else through their great forefathers) received and transmitted to others sayings of the Holy Prophet. This type of narration, involving a given Imam, and going back from predecessor to predecessor to the Prophet himself, is often to be encountered in Shi'i books. If all of these hadiths of the ahl al-bayt reaching back to the Prophet were to be gathered together in one work, this would result in a major reference book. a veritable treasure for scholars of hadith and jurisprudence in Islam. For these narrations, deriving from such well-established sources, would be unparalleled in the field of hadith studies. We shall allude to one instance of this kind of hadith, which might stand forth as altogether exemplary, and which goes by the name of silsila al-dhahab ('chain of gold')-and which is regarded, in terms of its blessings, as a veritable jewel in the treasury of those lovers of literature and promoters of culture in the Samanian dynasty [and elsewhere].

The impeccable Imams (either directly or else through their great forefathers) received and transmitted to others sayings of the Holy Prophet. This type of narration, involving a given Imam, and going back from predecessor to predecessor to the Prophet himself, is often to be encountered in Shi'i books. If all of these hadiths of the ahl al-bayt reaching back to the Prophet were to be gathered together in one work, this would result in a major reference book. a veritable treasure for scholars of hadith and jurisprudence in Islam.

The venerable Shaykh Saduq, in his Kitab al-tawhid, relates the following narration by Abu Salt al-Harawi, 'I was travelling through Nishabur with Imam 'Ali b. Musa al-Rida when a group of hadith scholars from that city, including Muhammad b. Rafi', Ahmad b. Harb, Yahya b. Yahya, Ishaq b. Rahawiyya and other seekers after knowledge, took the mount of the Imam and exclaimed: "We implore thee, by the rights of your pure forefathers, to relate to us some saying that you have heard from your father." The Imam put forth his head from his carriage and said: "My father, al-'Abd al-Salih, Musa b. Ja'far told me: My father, al-Sadiq Ja'far b. Muhammad told me: My father, Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. 'Ali Baqir ilm al-anbiya' [the full title of lmam Baqir, lit. 'He who splits open the knowledge brought by the Prophets'] told me: My father, 'Ali b. al-Husayn Sayyid, al-'Abidin told me: My father, Sayyid Shabab Ahl al-Janna [lit. 'Lord of the youths of Paradise'] al-Husayn told me: My father, 'Ali b. Abi Talib, said: I heard the Prophet say:
I heard Gabriel say: I heard God-Glorified be His Majesty say:

La ilaha illa' Lah ( 'There is no god except Allah) 1s My fortress; so whoever enters My fortress will be safe from My wrath" .'[1]

Transmission from the Book of 'Ali

Imam 'Ali was a companion of the Holy Prophet throughout his Prophetic mission, thus benefiting from the grace of being able to record many sayings of the Prophet in a book (in fact, the Prophet dictated certain things to 'Ali). The special features of this book, which remained with his family, after his martyrdom have been described by the Imams of the ahl al-bayt. Imam Sadiq said:

'The length of this book is seventy cubits, and it was written by the hand of 'Ali b. Abi Talib at the dictation of the Prophet of God; and everything which the people need is described therein.[2]

It should be said that this book was handed down from generation to generation in the family of Imam 'Ali, and there are frequent references to it in the sayings of Imam Baqir and Imam Sadiq, and the book itself was shown to certain of their companions. Even today, some of the hadiths contained in this book are to be found in the Shi'i collections of hadith, especially the book Wasa'il al-Shi'a [by Muhammad Hasan Hurr al-'Amili].

Divine Inspiration

The sciences of the Imams of the ahl al-bayt have yet another source, which is given the name 'inspiration' ( ilham). Inspiration is not the exclusive preserve of the Prophets; rather, history shows that certain eminent and saintly personages have also been graced with this gift. Despite not being Prophets, these individuals were inspired with knowledge of certain secrets of the hidden world. The Qur'an bears witness to some of these individuals; for example, we have the companion of Moses (al-Khidr) by whom he was taught various sciences, as is said:

And they found a servant from among Our servants to whom we had given mercy from us and had taught him from Us a [certain] knowledge. (Sura al-Kahf, 18:65)

We also have the following, in respect of one of the helpers of Solomon (Asif b. Barkhiya):

One with whom was knowledge of the Book said ... (Sura al-Nam!, 27: 40)

Such persons did not obtain their knowledge in the ordinary way; rather, in the expression used by the Qur'an, they have what is called 'ilm laduni ('knowledge through [divine] presence'), as in the verse cited above, 'We had taught him a knowledge from our presence (' allamnahu min ladunai 'ilman) .'
Therefore, the fact of not being a Prophet does not prevent certain exalted individuals from having the possibility of receiving inspiration from God. In hadiths related by both branches of Islam, this type of person is referred to as muhaddath. [lit. 'one who is spoken to'], that is, one who, despite not being a Prophet, is addressed by the angels.
Bukhari relates in his Sahih, the following hadith from the Prophet:

'Verily there were before you, from amongst the People of Israel, persons to whom (the angels) spoke, without their being Prophets. '[3]

Thus, it can be understood how the Imams of the ahl al-bayt, in addition to being the source of authority for the umma in regard to the exposition of spiritual sciences and religious rulings, also received inspiration from God, answering thereby certain questions that could not be answered by reference to the hadiths of the Prophet or the book of Imam 'Ali.

Thus, it can be understood how the Imams of the ahl al-bayt, in addition to being the source of authority for the umma in regard to the exposition of spiritual sciences and religious rulings, also received inspiration from God, answering thereby certain questions that could not be answered by reference to the hadiths of the Prophet or the book of Imam 'Ali. [4]

1. Shaykh Saduq, Kitiib al-tawhid, ch.1, hadith nos 21, 22, 23.
2. al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 18, p. 26.
3. al-Bukhari, Sahih, vol. 2, p. 149.
4. As regards the muhaddath and the limits [ of this possibility], see among other works, the book by al-Qastallani, Kitab irshad al-sari fi sharh, $ahih al-Bukhari, vol. 6, p. 99.

 

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الإخْوانُ في اللّهِ تعالى تَدُومُ مَودّتُهُم، لِدَوامِ سَبَبِها.
Brothers [whose brotherhood is] for the sake of Allah, enjoy an enduring Amity, due to the firmness of its foundation