Jump to content
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

The Traditionalist-Theologian Phenomenon (2)

Sign in to follow this  
Ibn al-Hussain


Original post: http://www.iqraonline.net/the-traditionalist-theologian-phenomenon-history-of-shii-imami-theology-2/

The Traditionalist-Theologian Phenomenon | History of Shi’i Imami Theology (2)

The earliest distinct Shi’i Imami school was that of Kufa’s, which began taking form in the beginning of the 2nd century Hijri during the time of Imam Baqir (s). This era itself is worthy of being studied and as a matter of fact has been studied extensively by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike. The various theological trends that existed in Kufa for a century-and-a-half, were without a doubt some of the earliest and most influential trends that shaped the future of Shi’i thought and identity.

During this period, companions of the Imams considered the Imams to be sources of guidance and recognized their authority when it came to being the source of true knowledge. A large network of students and companions of the Imams were involved in narrating their teachings and spreading their teachings. This group of individuals generally came to be known as Muhaddithun (narrators). Many of these narrators however, were also considered Mutakallimun (theologians) and are deemed some of the greatest Imami companions of the time. While many definitions have been given for what constitutes a theologian, at the very least it can be said that it was someone who attempted to work out their religious beliefs within a given epistemological framework. Unlike a Muhaddith, a theologian would generally have been more attentive towards contradictory narrations and would pay closer attention to the words being narrated in order to argue for whether such information fits within their established framework or not. Furthermore, most theologians were heavily involved in debates and discussions against opponents in order to defend their beliefs.

Thus, we can identify three major trends in Kufa during the era of Imam Baqir (s) and Imam Sadiq (s): 1) those who were merely deemed as narrators of traditions and would generally avoid getting into theological disputes, 2) those who were deemed pure theologians, and 3) those who happened to be narrators of traditions and as well as theologians at the same time. This last group is what we refer to as the traditionalist-theologian. The Shi’i companions of the Imams (s), whichever segment they fit into, would still consider themselves bound to the teachings of the Imams in all cases, and would often refer back to them for assistance and guidance. This can be seen in the numerous reports that have been preserved in primary Shi’i texts like Usul al-Kafi.[1]

The fundamental difference between the traditionalist-theologians and the narrators was that the former would attempt to rationalize, justify and fit the teachings of the Imams in a specific established framework of thought. The narrators generally speaking, would not involve themselves in such activities, and would suffice with simply quoting the traditions as evidence for their views when it required. In other words, what was deemed sufficient as guidance for them was the Nass (words of the Imam – orally narrated or written down) on its own, and they saw no necessity in adding their own opinions to the subject matter as it would be deemed irrelevant in front of the words of someone divinely appointed as a source of guidance. Despite this, it must be said that this group, just like the traditionalist-theologians and the theologians, did indeed have a framework in which they would understand things. That framework was the Nass it self. Therefore we find many examples where narrators were seen attempting to explain the contents of a Nass by utilizing other traditions themselves.

Though Shi’i traditionalist-theologians were different from mere theologians as far as the former would often narrate traditions from the Imams (s), in essence it seems that this method was simply an extension of the theologians and the difference was not as extensive. Many companions were considered traditionalist-theologians, such as Zurarah bin A’yun and others from his family, Abu Basir, Muhammad bin Muslim, Ibn Abi ‘Umayr etc.

Both these movements – after having benefited from the presence of the Imams in 2nd century Hijri – had very different fates by the middle of the 3rd century. Theological discourses that had given life to Kufa’s highly engaged society, eventually died out. This is largely to be blamed on certain decisions made by the ‘Abbasid government, such as the implementation of various sanctions, restrictions, and limitations on the Imamis in Kufa and certain theologians who held specific views in general.[2] However, the Imami traditionalist-theologians were able to preserve a lot of their written works and transfer much of their heritage to the next generation as the middle of the 3rd century Hijri approached.

As activity in Kufa slowly died out, another school began taking form as the Kufan traditionalist-theological heritage transferred over to it, and slowly became a substitute for Kufa. This school found its home in the city of Qom.

In the next few posts we will try to address a range of different topics, including – but not limited to: how Qom became the hub for Shi’i theological discourse, why was it seen as the most reasonable destination after the decline of Kufa, a brief history of the earliest Shi’as to have migrated there, the transfer of Kufa’s hadith heritage to Qom, important companions and scholars who lived in Qom and their theological methodologies, the case of scholars exiling Imami narrators of hadith who were accused of certain flaws, prevalent theological views in Qom, the role of the intellect amongst scholars of Qom.

[1] See for example see Usul al-Kafi, Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 1, Hadith #4; Book 4, Chapter 1, Hadith #3, #4. The examples are too many to list here.

[2] The political situation had become so tense that that Imam Kadhim (s) eventually had to tell Hisham bin Hakam to stop any theological debates and discussions. See Rijal al-Kashi, Hadith #479, Page 265-26

Sign in to follow this  


Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Blog Statistics

    • Total Blogs
    • Total Entries
  • Latest Blog Entries

  • Latest Blog Comments

    • Beating oneself in grieve is from shaitan?
    • Another interesting blog entry. I learn so much from you, Sister. Alhamdulillah for all your help. 
    • Peace be upon you O Uthman, the namesake of Uthman the son of Amirul Mumineen [Ali].
    • Wa Alaykum Salam.  What you have quoted from Tafsir al-Safi goes back to Tafsir al-Askari [a Tafsir which claims to originate from the Eleventh Imam]. This is the translation: قال رجل للصادق عليه السلام فإذا كان هؤلاء العوام من اليهود لا يعرفون الكتاب الا بما يسمعونه من علمائهم لا سبيل لهم إلى غيره فكيف ذمّهم بتقليدهم و القبول من علمائهم و هل عوام اليهود الا كعوامنا يقلّدون علمائهم فان لم يجز لأولئك القبول من علمائهم لم يجز لهؤلاء القبول من علمائهم فقال عليه السلام بين عوامنا و علمائنا و بين عوام اليهود و علمائهم فرق من جهة و تسوية من جهة أما من حيث استووا فان اللَّه قد ذمّ عوامنا بتقليدهم علماءهم كما قد ذمّ عوامهم و أمّا من حيث افترقوا فلا، A man said to al-Sadiq عليه السلام: If the common people among the Jews did not have any other way to obtain knowledge of the Book except through what they heard from their scholars - then why did He blame them for their following of the scholars and acceptance from them? Further, is it not the case that the common people among the Jews are like our common people for they [our common people] too follow their scholars, so if it is not permitted for them [the Jews] to accept from their scholars then is it not also impermissible for these [our common people] to accept what their scholars say? He عليه السلام said: Between our common people and our scholars and the laity among the Jews and their scholars there is a difference in one aspect and similarity in another aspect. As far as the similar aspect is concerned then just as Allah censured our common people for the blind following of their scholars He did the same in censuring their common people, but as for the divergent aspect then No [he did not censure it].   قال بيّن لي ذلك يا بن رسول اللَّه قال إنّ عوام اليهود كانوا قد عرفوا علمائهم بالكذب الصريح و بأكل الحرام و الرّشا و بتغيير الأحكام عن واجبها بالشفاعات و العنايات و المصانعات و عرفوهم بالتعصب الشديد الذي يفارقون به أديانهم و إنهم إذا تعصبوا أزالوا حقوق من تعصبوا عليه و اعطوا ما لا يستحقه من تعصبوا له من اموال غيرهم و ظلموهم من أجلهم و عرفوهم يقارفون المحرّمات و اضطروا بمعارف قلوبهم إلى أن من فعل ما يفعلونه فهو فاسق لا يجوز ان يصدق على اللَّه و لا على الوسائط بين الخلق و بين اللَّه فلذلك ذمّهم لما قلّدوا من قد عرفوا و من قد علموا أنّه لا يجوز قبول خبره و لا تصديقه في حكايته و لا العمل بما يؤديه إليهم The Narrator said: Explain it for me O the son of the messenger of Allah. He عليه السلام said: the common people among the Jews knew that their scholars used to lie outright, eat the forbidden wealth, were corrupt, changed the laws from what they should be based on intercession, favours and bribes. They also knew that their scholars were excessively partisan, that they used to split up their religion because of this rivalry and used to trample the rights of those they were against and give those they are partial towards what they do not deserve of the wealth of others, they used to oppress them [the enemies of their allies] to please their biases. They knew them to perpetrate the forbidden. They [the common people] knew it in their hearts [had intrinsic knowledge] that the one who does what they used to do is a Fasiq, and it is not acceptable to consider them truthful in what they attribute to Allah or to the intermediaries between the creation and Allah. That is why He censured them when they followed those they knew for a fact it was forbidden to accept their reports or consider them truthful in what they say, or to act based on what they instruct.   وكذلك عوام امتنا إذا عرفوا من فقهائهم الفسق الظاهر ، والعصبية الشديدة والتكالب على حطام الدنيا وحرامها ، وإهلاك من يتعصبون عليه إن كان لاصلاح أمره مستحقا ، وبالترفق بالبر والاحسان على من تعصبوا له ، وإن كان للاذلال والاهانة مستحقا فمن قلّد من عوامنا مثل هؤلاء الفقهاء، فهم مثل اليهود الذين ذمّهم الله تعالى بالتقليد لفسقة فقهائهم Likewise, the laity of our community, if they recognize signs of clear-cut Fisq from their scholars, extreme partisanship, their turning towards amassing the wealth of this world and its prohibited items, destroying the affair of the one they are biased against even though extending assistance to him is what is appropriate,  showing compassion, good-will and charity to the one they are biased towards even thought humiliating and chastising them is the appropriate response - then the one among our common people who follows such Fuqaha are like the Jews and those who are censured by Allah the Elevated because of their following of corrupt scholars. فأما من كان من الفقهاء صائناً لنفسه، حافظاً لدينه، مخالفاً لهواه، مطيعاً لأمر مولاه، فللعوام أن يقلدوه. وذلك لا يكون إلاّ بعض فقهاء الشيعة، لا جميعهم فان من يركب من القبائح و الفواحش مراكب فسقة فقهاء العامّة فلا تقبلوا منهم عنا شيئاً و لا كرامة لهم. As for the one among the Fuqaha who protects his soul, preserves his religion, opposes his caprice [desires], and obeys the command of his Master then it is upon the laity to follow him. There are only some of the Fuqaha of the Shia who are like this, not all. As for those who perpetrate the despicable and abominable acts the way the `Amma [proto-Sunni] scholars do then do not not accept from them about us anything and they are not to be honoured.
    • The following link will take you to part 2 - http://www.shiachat.com/forum/blogs/entry/315-the-impact-of-cognitive-distortions/
    •   This is what I learned from you Hameedeh.