This work is a highly readable introduction to Shaykh Mufid, the leading Shi’i scholar of his time, and it examines his contributions in the fields of jurisprudence, theology, and sacred history in clear and straightforward language.
The purpose of this book is to introduce the thought of an Imami Shiʻi scholar who lived and worked in Baghdad at the turn of the eleventh century and was the first of a line of scholars who helped establish a role for human reasoning in the elaboration of Imami doctrine.
Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Nu’man al-Harithi al-‘Ukbari al-Baghdadi, more commonly known as al-Shaykh al-Mufid (the “instructive or teaching scholar,” a title referring to his great learning), was the leading Imami scholar of his day. He was a prolific author, teacher, and dedicated defender of Imami beliefs. He flourished at a time when Shiʻism, the religion of a persecuted minority for most of its early history, was enjoying political support in many areas of the Muslim world, but also when Imamism, the Shiʻi sect he belonged to, was facing major intellectual challenges, both from within and from rival religious groups, and needed to be defined and defended along new theoretical lines. Mufid laid down the theoretical foundations of an Imami legal system and a theology capable of competing with other systems and schools of Islamic thought. He wrote extensively in defense of the Imami view of early Islamic history and of the particular dogmas and laws of his sect.
Imami Shiʻism in the time of Mufid was consolidating itself as a semi-autonomous religious community within Islam, and its scholars or jurists were becoming increasingly involved in the management of its social affairs. The scholars were also beginning to legitimize their role on the basis that some of the functions of their supreme leader, the occulted imam of the time, had been delegated to them. (The belief that the imam of the time, the only legitimate ruler and source of religious authority, was in a state of occultation had been a main distinguishing feature of Imamism since the late ninth century.) Mufid contributed to the process of legitimizing the social role of the scholars, a process which in our own time ended with Khomeini’s doctrine that in the absence of the imam the ideal ruler was the leading jurist.
Mufid is still highly esteemed among Imamis. In 1413/1992 Imami communities celebrated his millenary and an international conference was held in the Iranian town of Qumm. His extant works have been collected and published in a series with the approval of the select committee supervising the conference, making them more accessible.
In order to understand Mufid’s contribution and the role he played as the leading scholar of his community, it is necessary to give a description of the main developments and trends in the early Imamism, and especially in the period leading up to his own time. In presenting an outline of those developments I have followed a line of interpretation based partly on long-established research and partly on more recent findings, including my own. It must be pointed out here that some aspects of early Imami history are still matters of debate among scholars. This book is not the place to engage in those debates. Only where an issue is directly relevant to the assessment of Mufid’s contribution has there been some discussion of it here.
In citing the Qur’an, I have used the form “Q. chapter number: verse number.” The verse numbering follows that of the official Egyptian edition. The dates and centuries given are according to the Muslim Hijri and the Christian CE calendars and in the form “Hijri/CE.”
About the Author
Tamima Bayhom-Daou is an independent researcher, specializing in Islamic history.
Table of Contents
- 1 INTRODUCTION;
The Sunni-Shi’i Divide; Imami Shi’ism: an Outline of Main Developments;
2 THE TIMES AND CAREER OF MUFID;
Imamism under the Buyids;
Other Religious Groups;
The Career of Mufid;
3 THE IMAMATE: THE HISTORICAL ARGUMENTS;
The Mainstream Historical Tradition;
The Imamate of ‘Ali;
The Other Imams;
4 THE IMAMATE: THE RATIONAL ARGUMENTS;
The Necessity of the Imamate;
The Imams’ Infallibility;
The Imams’ Knowledge;
The Imams and the Qur’an;
The Imams’ Miracles;
The Imams after Death;
- The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam
Early Imamism between Reason and Revelation;
Mufid and the Role of Reason;
The Dogmas of Imamism;
The Principles of Imami Jurisprudence;
The Jurist as Deputy of the Imam;
Ritual Practices and Laws Specific to Imamism: Emblems of Communal Identity;
Title: Shaykh Mufid
Author: Tamima Bayhom-Daou
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Length: 149 pages
Pub. Date: 5 September 2005