The principles of Shi’a judical law

Jurisprudence 5The Twelver Shi’a Muslims recognise:

1,The Quran, and the sunna of Muhammad
2. Their twelve Imams as the bases of their schools of law.
3. They have their own books of Shi’a traditions which go back through ‘Ali.
4. heir Imams, are said to be divinely-guided and, have infallible authority.
5. The high level of violence in their history makes martyrdom and murder an inescapable part of the sunna.

Most Shi’a writings of the early centuries concerned the doctrine of the infallible Imams. Although the Persian Empire had been defeated by the Arab invaders, and the Persians had become Muslims, their resistance to the Arabs continued by developing a different doctrine.

The Shia’ law school teaches that after the disappearance of the twelfth Imam, reason would be recognised as the third basis for law, and that the agreement of the majority of the leading lawyers would be considered as the fourth principle.

Shi’ites recognize a living ’Mujtahid’, the leading jurist of Iran, who is regarded as the spokesman of the Hidden Imam. A mujtahid seems to have the teaching authority that strictly belongs to the divinely-guided Hidden Imam, and is therefore able to make decisions based on the Quran and sunna, through analogy and consensus.

There developed very early in Shi’i belief that the descendants of ‘Ali were in possession of a secret tradition, and a body of religious and political esoteric knowledge covering all things to the end of the world. The reverence to the family of Muhammad had grown to such an extent that the Shia’ belief developed that the Imam’s could neither sin nor err.

The fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) as taught by the Shi‘a, did not have the opportunity to be presented to the masses of people because their imams refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, and their governments therefore were exposed to harassment and persecution by the caliphs.

Once the Umayyad government became weak, Imam Ja‘far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq found a golden opportunity to formulate and spread the tradition of Muhammad and his family.


Imam Ja’far and the Ja‘fari school

shia_b203_apA school of law was founded by Ja’far al-Sadiq (699-756), a descendent of ‘Ali, a contemporary of Abu-Hanifa. He was an Arab, born in Medina, the sixth of the twelve Imams, and celebrated with his thorough knowledge of tradition. As the sixth Imam, he could be acceptable to both the Severners and the Twelvers.

His teachings were collected in 400 usul (foundations) which were later categorized by scholars in four books which are the main sources of hadith for the Shi‘a school of thought. They are: Usul al-Kafi by al-Kulayni (d.329H), Man La Yahduruh al-Faqih by al-Saduq (d. 381H), al-Tahdib and al-Istibsar by al-Tusi (d.460H). These three scholars were known as the “three Muhammad’s” since their first names were all Muhammad.
Some smaller sects have their own jurisprudence. The basis seems to be the Quran, Muhammad’s example and the agreement of their community.
Shi’ites reject the idea of co-ordinate schools of law, and say that there can only be one truth, and there can be no variation in it, even in details. Possibly because of the violence and persecution which has existed among the different sects, some of their books are guarded from outsides. As the Mujtahid of Iran has the power to issue new commands, Shi’ite law does not appear to be finalized.

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