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Shiʿi Jurisprudence, Sunnism, and the Traditionist Thought (akhbārī) of Muhammad Amin Astarabadi

This article begins by considering the main features of a discursive tradition and then illustrates how Astarabadi’s traditionist thought can be viewed as a discursive development within the Shiʿi juristic tradition.

In the early 17th century, the Shiʿi juristic tradition experienced the first coherent refutation of uṣūliyya, the ijtihādī rationalism used by the mujtahids, at the hands of Mulla Muhammad Amin Astarabadi (d. 1626–27). The latter rejected the efforts of leading Iraqi and Syrian jurists to apply ijtihād (rational legal inference), hadith categorization, and dirāya (scrutiny and stratification of accounts) in deriving Shiʿi law. The main studies on Astarabadi’s akhbārī (traditionist) movement treat it as a reaction to the “influence” of Sunnism on the mujtahids or to their excessive “borrowings” from it, and stress the traditionists’ abhorrence of assimilating any aspect of Sunnism. Underlining the shortcomings of these explanations, this article presents Astarabadi’s thought as a discursive development within the Shiʿi juristic tradition, which is part of the grand Islamic tradition. Astarabadi became skeptical of the mujtahids’ epistemology and methodology and was concerned that they jeopardized God’s law and hence the believer’s salvation. He protested the Safavid monarchs’ legitimation of uṣūlī legal authority, the latter’s hierarchical features, and, ultimately, the sociopolitical domination of the ʿAmili mujtahids from Jabal ʿAmil in Syria (or modern-day South Lebanon), starting with al-Muhaqqiq al-Karaki (d. 1534).

Rula Jurdi Abisaab is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canad

Bibliographic Information

Title: Shiʿi jurisprudence, Sunnism, and the Traditionist Thought (akhbārī) of Muhammad Amin Astarabadi (d. 1626–27)

Author: Rula Jurdi Abisaab

Published in: International Journal of Middle East Studies Volume 47, Issue 1, February 2015, pp. 5-23

 Language: English

Length: 18 pages

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