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Between Hadīth and Fiqh: the “Canonical” Imāmī Collections of Akhbār

As an example of the processes at work in the collection and presentation of akhbār, the writer examines the issue of tayammum, ritual purification by sand rather than water.

In Imāmī legal theory, the akhbār of the Imams form one of the material sources of law, alongside the Qur’ān and Prophetic hadīths. The akhbār are presented in compendia, assembled by Shi’ite collectors in the fourth and fifth century AH/tenth and eleventh century CE, four of which subsequently came to be regarded as “canonical” in Imāmī law. In this essay, I examine the processes at work in the collation of these “canonical” akhbār collections. These processes, I argue, were influenced by an emerging juristic tradition in Imāmī Shi’ism. As Imāmī thinkers became increasingly concerned with fiqh and the elucidation of the Sharī’a, the collectors developed new techniques of selection, presentation and organisation. The akhbār collections became a material source upon which jurists could draw in their fiqh discussions, rather than the law itself. As an example of the processes at work in the collection and presentation of akhbār, I examine the issue of tayammum, ritual purification by sand rather than water.

Between Hadīth and Fiqh: the “Canonical” Imāmī Collections of Akhbār

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