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Book: Inevitable Doubt: Two Theories of Shi’i Jurisprudence

This book is about Twelver Shia legal theory; more specifically, it is about a debate within Twelver Shia legal theory, normally termed the Akhbari-Usuli conflict.

The book is about Twelver Shia legal theory; more specifically, it is about a debate within Twelver Shia legal theory, normally termed the Akhbari-Usuli conflict; more specific still, it concerns the manner in which two Shia thinker, each a protagonist of one of the parties on  this dispute, constructed two very different theories as to how the law, revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad, and known in its entirely by the Shia Imams, is interpreted and promulgated to humankind.

In this volume, two classical texts of legal theory (usul al-fiqh) are analysed. The authors of these works belonged to two schools of Shi’i jurisprudence: Yusuf al-Bahrani (d. 1186/1772) was a key figure in the Akhbari school, and his adversary, Muhammad Baqir al-Bihbahaani (d. 1206/1791-2) was credited with the revival of the Usuli school and the defeat of Akhbarism after Bahrani’s death. Through a comparison of the two writers’ theories, this work describes the major areas of dispute between the two schools, examining how their different epistemologies lead to different conceptions of the sources and in terpretation of the Shari’a, God’s law for humanity. This work will, then, be of interest to historians of Islamic thought generally, and Shi’i thought and Islamic legal theory, in particular.

About the Author

Robert Gleave is Professor of Arabic Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK. His research focuses on the history of Islamic legal theory, particularly in the Shīʿī school. He is author of Inevitable Doubt: Two Theories of Shīʿī Jurisprudence (Brill, 2000), Scripturalist Islam: The History and Doctrines of the Akhbārī Shīʿī School of Thought (Brill, 2007) and Islam and Literalism: Literal Meaning and Interpretation in Islamic Legal Theory (EUP, 2012).

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introduction

Bahrani on the Status of the One ignorant of God’s law

Bihbahani on the status of the one ignorant of God’s law

Chapter Two: Textual Sources of Law

Bahrani’s theory of textual sources of the law

Bihbahani’s theory of the textual sources of the law

Chapter Three: Silence, Obscurity and Contradiction in Revelation

Revelation silence

Revelatory obscurity


Caution and suspension of judgment

Contradiction in revelation

Bihbahani on silence, obscurity and contradiction in revelation

Revelatory silence


Contradiction in revelation

Chapter Four: Linguistic Interpretation

Bahrani’s hermeneutics

Bihbahani’s hermeneutics


General and unqualified expressions


Chapter Five: Rationalist Morality

Bahrani’s discussions of ‘Aql

Bihbahani’s discussions of ‘Aql

Chapter Six: The Authority of the Jurist

Bahrani’s theory of Juristic authority

Principles relating of Epistemology

General Principles

Principles relating to specific areas of positive law

Bihbahani’s theory of juristic authority

Bibliographic Information

Title: Inevitable Doubt: Two Theories of Shi’i Jurisprudence (Studies in Islamic Law & Society)

Author: Robert Gleave

Publisher: Brill (28 April 2000)

Language: English

Length: 268 pages


Pub.Date: 2011

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