Perennial Impacts of the Akhbari School on the Usulis

By Muhammad Baqir Malakiyan [Source]


Centuries have passed since the downfall of the Akhbari school, yet we find effects and opinions in the books of the Usulis which we do not ever see before the uprising of the Akhbari school of thought. In fact, these opinions and effects were – literally – what the Akhbari school was built upon. Yes, at times the Usuli scholars have covered these opinions in a new garb, like arguing for the general tawthīq of many narrators, instead of claiming the absolute authenticity of the reports. Though these two opinions differ in their presentation, but practically speaking they are the same in results.

Perennial Impacts of the Akhbari School on Usulis

The Akhbāri school is not spoken about much today except for discussions pertaining to it’s history and doctrinal beliefs. Not a single scholar from this school remains. That being said, when we revisit their views and compare them with opinions from the contemporary Usūli school it becomes clear to see that some ideas held by the Akhbāris have been accepted and adopted by the Usūlis. We will refer to these ideas as the remnant traces of the Akhbāri school. In this short writing, we will look at two of these remnant traces that are shared by both the Akhbāri and the Usūli schools.

1. Immense effort to authenticate as many traditions as possible

When you look through the jurisprudential works of Allāmah Hillī and other jurists who lived prior to the Akhbarī school, it’s clear to see that they rejected large amounts of traditions.1 In addition to this, neither will you see them bothering to authenticate the traditions [that they rejected], and it would seem this was the custom of the scholars at that time. This persisted until the emergence of the Akhbāris who strove strenuously to authenticate as many traditions as possible. They also protested against the Usūlis for their habit of dismissing traditions. Yūsuf al-Bahrāni says:

أما السيّد محمّد صاحب المدارك فإنّه ردّ أكثر الأحاديث من الموثّقات والضعاف باصطلاحه    

As for Syed Mohammad, he rejected most of the traditions, which according to his definitions, were muwatthaq and weak.2

The scholar Samahījī says:

إنّه متصلف في الأحاديث فإنّ مسلکه في المدارک وغير مدارک صعب، لأنّه قد طعن في أکثر أحاديثنا بالضعف، وردّ کثيراً من الأحکام الشرعية الثابتة عن العترة المهدية3

He was brazen in [evaluating] traditions. His methodology in Madārik and other works is severe, for he accused most of our traditions to be weak, [and in the process] he rejected many fixed religious rulings from the guided progeny. 3

Similarly al-Bahrāni says the following about the author of Ma’ālim al-Dīn, (Hassan, the son of Shāhid al-Thāni):

إنّ تصانيفه على غاية من التحقيق والتدقيق إلا أنّه بما اصطلح عليه في كتاب المنتقى من عدم صحّة الحديث عنده إلا ما يرويه العدل المنصوص عليه بالتوثيق بشهادة ثقتين عدلين … قد بلغ في الضيق إلى مبلغ سحيق، وأنت خبير بأنّا في عويل من أصل هذا الاصطلاح الذي هو إلى الفساد أقرب من الصلاح حيث إنّ اللازم منه لو وقف عليه أصحابه فساد الشريعة، فإنّه متى كان الضعيف باصطلاحهم مع إضافة الموثق إليه كما جرى عليه في المدارك ليس بدليل شرعي، مع أنّ ما عداهما من الصحيح والحسن لا يفيان لهما إلا بالقليل من الأحكام، فإلی مَ يرجعون في باقي الأحكام الشرعية ولا سيما أصولها؟!

 ولهذا ترى من جملة منهم لضيق الخناق خرجوا من اصطلاحهم في مواضع عديدة وتستروا بأعذار غير سديدة، وإذا كانت الحال هذه في أصل هذا الاصطلاح فكيف الحال في اصطلاح صاحب المنتقى وتخصيصه الصحيح بما ذكره؟! ما هذه إلا غفلة ظاهرة. والواجب أمّا الأخذ بهذه الأخبار كما هو عليه متقدّمو علمائنا الأبرار، أو تحصيل دين غير هذا الدين وشريعة أخرى غير هذه الشريعة لنقصانها وعدم تمامها ولعدم الدليل على جملة من أحكامها، ولا أراهم يلتزمون شيئاً من الأمرين، مع أنّه لا ثالث لهما في البين

His works [have been written] with the utmost research and precision, except for what he mentions in his book al-Muntaqa that traditions are to be deemed unauthentic except for those traditions that are narrated via Imāmi narrators [whose reliability] have been testified to by two reliable Imāmis…the narrowness of this [criteria for authentic traditions] has indeed taken a great toll. You are fully aware of how we have lamented the basis of this criteria that it is far closer to wrong than [it is closer] to being correct. This is because the corollary of this view, if it were to be acted upon, would lead to the downfall of religious law. His [dismissive] treatment of weak traditions, as well as treating muwaththaq traditions like weak ones as he did in [his book] Madārik, has no religious evidence. In addition to this [the traditions] which he considers authentic and correct do not suffice except [in establishing] very small number of religious rulings, so where will they turn to [and on what will they depend on] in establishing all the other religious rulings, let alone the fundamentals?

It is for this reason that you see a number [of scholars] from among them abandon this criterion [of acceptable traditions] in numerous places and [they have attempted to] cover [these problems] with incomplete excuses. If this is the situation with the basis of this criteria [and the attempts to correct it] then how severe would the problem be with the criteria of the author of Muntaqa and his specification of authentic traditions in the way he has described? This is nothing except manifest negligence. What is obligatory is that we accept the traditions just like the earlier righteous scholars did, or we end up making a new religion other than this religion, or [end up making] a new religious law other than this religious law. That is because [using this criterion of authenticating traditions will leave us with a corpus that] is deficient, incomplete and unable to prove many religious rulings. I haven’t seen [these scholars] take either of these options despite there evidently being no third option available.4

At times the Akhbāri scholars endeavoured in negating any need for ilm al-rijāl and [they tried to demonstrate] how this science had no benefit,5 and at other times they strived to categorically authenticate many of the sources of traditions, such as the four books.6 The Usūli scholars that came after the Akhbāris, even though they disagreed firmly with the Akhbāris on the benefit and need of ilm al-rijāl,7 differed from the Usūli scholars before them [i.e Allama Hilli and his contemporaries] in that they also attempted to authenticate and validate as many traditions as possible.

This attempt by the later Usūlis to authenticate traditions was not predicated on the evidences brought by the Akhbāris, rather it was based on new evidences and novel discussions. In this light they tried to authenticate large numbers of narrators [that were previously considered majhūl] and they established the principle of generic authentication (tawthīq al-āma), and the methodology of collecting indicators and evidences (jam’ al-qarā’in wa al-shawāhid). Having done this they were then able to authenticate many narrators [and then use those same traditions which earlier Usūli scholars had dismissed]. You can see these attempts in Wahīd Behbahāni’s al-Fawā’id, or Muntaha al-Maqāl of Abu Ali al-Hā’iri, or Tanqīh al-Maqāl of Mamaqāni. During this time there were no differences amongst the Usūlis on the need to authenticate as many narrators as possible.

Similarly we see that Syed Khoie, who was the leading scholar of his age, in his works devised different ways to authenticate narrators, such as the narrators in the book of Kāmil al-Ziyārāt, or Tafsir al-Qummī, or the mashayikh of Najāshī.8In fact you will not find a single scholar today who rejects the basis of generic authentication, while they may dispute particular types of it and support other types. This effort to authenticate as many narrators as possible has resulted in the authenticating many traditions regardless of the traditions being from the four main books or being from other books like ‘Illal, ‘Uyūn or Qurb al-Isnād etc.

In addition to this we can find some prominent Usūli scholars that have accepted the Akhbāri methodology in authenticating traditions. They have bluntly testified to the fact that they do not pay much attention to ilm al-rijāl and that they have not referred to the books of rijāl in their jurisprudential discussions. For example, the jurist Muhaqqiq al-Hamadāni in his book Misbāh al-Faqīḥ says:

جرت سيرتي على ترك الفحص عن حال الرجال ، والاكتفاء في توصيف الرواية بالصحّة كونها موصوفة بها في ألسنة مشايخنا المتقدّمين الذين تفحّصوا عن حالهم

My approach has been to avoid investigating the condition of the narrators, and I have sufficed in referring to traditions as authentic in so far as they have been considered authentic by our earlier teachers, those who spent time investigating their condition [and confirmed the traditions reliability].9

Another example is Syed Khwansāri, who in his magnum opus Jāmi’ al-Madarik, as can be seen from going through the book, not only does he not mention any rijāli sources, but he doesn’t even concern himself with any rijāli discussions at all. Another example is what has been narrated from Mirza Nā’inī who is reported by Syed Khoie to have said:

سمعت شيخنا الأستاذ الشيخ محمّد حسين النائيني ـ قدّس سرّه ـ في مجلس بحثه يقول : إنّ المناقشة في إسناد روايات الكافي حرفة العاجز

I heard our teacher Shaykh Mohammad Hussain al-Nā’inī, may his soul be sanctified, in one of his lessons say: Discussing the chains of narrators in al-Kāfi is the activity of the incompetent.10

2. Using other than the Four Books in the process of deriving religious law

When you look at the jurisprudential books of the scholars from Hilla (such as Allāma, Muhaqqiq and Fakhr al-Muhaqqiqīn), or even the books of the scholars of Jabl al-Āmil (such as Shahīd Awwal and Thāni), it is clearly apparent that they relied only on the four books when it comes to deriving religious law. It is narrated that Syed Ni’matullāḥ al-Jazā’iri said:

الحقّ أنّ هذه الأصول الأربعة لم تستوف الأحكام كلّها ، بل قد وجدنا كثيراً من الأحكام في غيرها ، مثل: عيون أخبار الرضا ، والأمالي ، وكتاب الاحتجاج ، ونحوها . فينبغي مراجعة هذه الكتب وأخذ أحكام منها ولا يقلّد العلماء في فتاويهم ، فإنّ أخذ الفتوى من دليلها هو الاجتهاد الحقيقي. وكم قد رأينا جماعة من العلماء ردوا على الفاضلين بعض فتاويهم لعدم الدليل فرأينا دلائل تلك الفتاوى في غير الأصول الأربعة ، خصوصاً كتاب الفقه الرضوي الذي أتي به من بلاد الهند في هذه الأعصار إلى أصفهان وهو الآن في خزانة شيخنا المجلسي ، فإنّه قد اشتمل على مدارك كثيرة للأحكام وقد خلت عنها هذه الأصول الأربعة وغيرها.

It is true that the four books do not include all of the religious laws, in fact we have found many religious laws in other than these books, such as ‘Uyūn akhbār al-Ridhā, Āmālī, al-Ihtijāj, and others like this. It is incumbent upon us to refer to these books and take the religious rulings from them, and we should not imitate (taqlīd) the scholars in their religious edicts, for taking the rulings from its original evidence [hadith] is the true ijtihād. For how many scholars have we seen reject some of the religious edicts of Fādhilayn for it not having any evidence, only for us to see the evidence for those edicts in books other than the four books, in particular the book Fiqh al-Radhawī which came to Isfahān from India and is now in the repository of Allāma Majlisī. This book is full of rulings that cannot be found in the four books.11

Also, Yūsuf al-Bahrāni says:

قد اشتهر بين أكثر متأخّري أصحابنا رضوان الله عليهم قصر العمل بالأخبار على ما في هذه الكتب الأربعة المشهورة

It has become a well known matter amongst us that many [of the scholars] have limited their derivation with only the traditions in the four books.12

Not only that, some scholars relied exclusively on the book Tahdhīb, as Fādhil Tūni mentions:

لا يبعد الاكتفاء بالتهذيب ، لندرة وجود خبر مخصِّص في غير التهذيب مع تحقّق عامّه فيه

It is not far-fetched to rely just on Tahdhīb, as a summary investigation would show that there are very few qualifying traditions to be found in the other books.13

Yūsuf al-Bahrāni says:

إنّ كثيراً ممّن يعتمد في المراجعة عليه ولا يراجع غيره من كتب الأخبار وقعوا في الغلط ، وارتكبوا في النقص عنه الشطط ، كما وقع لصاحب المدارك في مواضع من ذلك

Many of the scholars who relied exclusively on it [Tahdhib], and did not refer to any other book of traditions, fell into error, and committed grave shortcomings, just like what happened to the author of Madārik.14

One of the factors that paved the way for the emergence of the Akhbāri movement was the lack of attention that the jurists gave to other than the four books in the process of deriving religious law. This resulted at times in sharp protests from the Akhbāri scholars, and at other times it led to the creation of hadīth corpora. The author of Wasā’il al-Shī’a, which was the most important hadīth corpus compiled during the Akhbāri era, says:

ولم اقتصر فيه على كتب الحديث الأربعة، وإن كانت أشهر ممّا سواها بين العلماء، لوجود كتب كثيرة معتمدة، من مؤلّفات الثقات الأجلاء، وكلّها متواترة النسبة إلى مؤلّفيها، لا يختلف العلماء ولا يشكّ الفضلاء فيها….

ومن طالعه اطلّع على ما اتّفق لجماعة من الأصحاب في هذا الباب، مثل: حكمهم على كثير من الروايات بأنّها ضعيفة، مع وجودها بطرق أخرى، هي عندهم ـ أيضاً ـ صحيحة ؛ ودعواهم في كثير من المسائل أنّها غير منصوصة، مع ورودها في نصوص صريحة؛ وحصرهم لأدلّة بعض المسائل في حديث واحد، أو أحاديث يسيرة، مع كون النصوص عليها كثيرة

I have not relied just on the four books even though this has been the popular attitude adopted by other scholars. [I have relied on other books] for the reason that there exists many reliable books that have been authored by trustworthy notable scholars, all of these books can be reliably attributed (mutawātir) to their authors, and none of the scholars nor distinguished scholars dispute this…those who aware of this would recognise what the scholars have said in this regard, for example, that they [the Usūlis] consider many traditions to be weak despite the traditions being found via other means which according to them would be authentic; and their claim that many rulings are not to be found in the textual corpus despite these rulings being found explicitly within the corpus; and their reliance in certain rulings on just one tradition [from the four books] despite there being numerous traditions [in other than the four books] in respect to that ruling.15

After the decline of the Akhbāri school, the Usūlis didn’t limit themselves only to Tahdhīb or the four books, rather they considered the necessary investigation of traditions to be incomplete without referring to Wasā’il. Some Usūlis did not even suffice with Wasā’il and they would refer to Mustadrak al-Wasā’il of Muhaddith Nūri also.

 إنّه (أي کتاب مستدرک الوسائل) يجب على عامّة المجتهدين الفحول أن يطّلعوا عليها ويرجعوا إليها في استنباط الأحكام عن الأدلّة كي تتمّ لهم الفحص عن المعارض ويحصل اليأس عن الظفر بالمخصّص. وقد أذعن بذلك جلّ علمائنا المعاصرين لمؤلّفه ممّن أدركنا بحثه وتشرّفنا بملازمته. فلقد سمعت شيخنا الآية الخراساني صاحب الكفاية يلقي ما ذكرنا على تلامذته الحاضرين تحت منبره البالغين إلى خمس مائة أو أكثر بين مجتهد أو قريب من الاجتهاد مصرّحاً لهم بأنّ الحجّة للمجتهد في عصرنا هذا لا تتمّ قبل الرجوع إلى المستدرك والاطّلاع على ما فيه من الأحاديث. ولقد شاهدت عمله على ذلك في عدة ليال وفقت لحضور مجلسه الخصوصي في داره الذي كان ينعقد بعد الدرس العمومي لبعض خواصّ تلاميذه للبحث في أجوبة الاستفتاءات بالرجوع إلى الكتب الحاضرة في ذلك المجلس، ومنها المستدرك فكان يأمرهم بقراءة ما فيه من الحديث الذي يكون مدركاً للفرع المبحوث عنه

It is incumbent upon the jurist to study Mustadrak al-Wasā’il and refer to it during the process of derivation of religious law. This is so that he can have investigated [potential] contradictory traditions and give up any hope in finding any [potential] qualifying tradition. Additionally this has been mentioned by the top scholars of our time in regards to the book…I heard my teacher Ay. Khorasāni, author of Kifāya, mention what I have said to his students that would be present in his classes, they numbered up to about 500 people, [and it consisted of] both mujtahids and people close to ijtihād. He mentioned explicitly [to them] that in our time the proof for a mujtahid is not complete until a person refers to Mustadrak and examines the traditions in the book. I witnessed him acting upon this when I would visit him at his home at night during his private gatherings. He would have some classes for specific students on answering religious questions, and in this class he would refer to a number of different books, one of them being Mustadrak. He would command his students to read traditions from it that were related to the discussion.16

This has been the common practice of many of our jurists when it comes to derivation, ensuring that they also refer to Mustadrak. You can see this by Syed Hakīm in his Mustamsak al-‘Urwa,17, Syed Khwānsāri in his Jāmi’ al-Madārik18 Murtadha al-Hā’iri in his Sharh al-‘Urwa,19 Syed Khomeinī in his Kitāb al-Bay’,20 Syed Sabzwāri in his Muhadhab al-Ahkām,21 etc.

What we have mentioned here is only two examples of the remnant traces of Akhbārism that can be found in Usulism. With more research into the works and views of both schools you will see many more remnants than we have mentioned here. To mention some of them briefly: focusing on traditions in discussions of doctrine (aqā’id), ignoring consensus (ijma’) in jurisprudential discussions, and similarly ignoring the role of the ‘aql and Qur’ān in jurisprudential discussions. In respect to the last point, Shahīd Sadr says:

أمّا القياس والاستحسان ونحوهما فلا نرى مسوّغاً شرعياً للاعتماد عليها.

وأمّا ما يسمّى بالدليل العقلي الذي اختلف المجتهدون والمحدّثون في أنّه هل يسوغ العمل به أو لا فنحن وإن كنّا نؤمن بأنّه يسوغ العمل به ولكنّا لم نجد حكماً واحداً يتوقّف إثباته على الدليل العقلي بهذا المعنى، بل كلّ ما يثبت بالدليل العقلي فهو ثابت في نفس الوقت بكتاب أو سنّة.

وأمّا ما يسمّى بالإجماع فهو ليس مصدراً إلى جانب الكتاب والسنّة، وإنّما لا يعتمد عليه إلا من أجل كونه وسيلة إثبات في بعض الحالات.

وهكذا كان المصدران الوحيدان هما الكتاب والسنّة

 As for qiyās and istihsān, we do not see any justifiable religious evidence for these so that we may rely on them. As for what has been called rational evidence (al-dalīl al-‘aqlī), that which the jurists and the traditionalists differ on as to whether there is any justification to act on its judgement or not, even though we accept there is indeed sufficient justification to act on its judgement however there isn’t a single ruling which is exclusively dependant on rational evidence in this meaning. Rather everything that can be proven via rational evidences can also be established at the same time via the Qur’ān or the sunna. As for that which is referred to as ijma’, this is not a source besides the Qur’ān or sunna. It is not be relied upon except to establish [rulings] in particular conditions. That being said, the only two sources [for derivation] are the Qur’ān and sunna.22


  1. For example, see al-Mu’tabar fī sharh al-Mukhtasar, v. 1, p. 49, p. 84, p. 87,  p. 92, p. 95, p. 101, p. 125; Mukhtalaf al-Shī’a, v. 1, p. 230, p. 257, p. 271, p. 316, p. 440, p. 441, p. 493, p. 501;  Kanz al-Fawā’id, v. 3, p. 407, p. 551, p. 728, p. 753, p. 765; Īdhā al-Fawā’id, v. 1, p. 27, p. 28, p. 229, p. 251, p. 253, p. 329.
  2. Lu’lu’at al-Bahrayn, p. 45.
  3. al-Ijāzat al-Kabīra, p. 140.
  4. Lu’lu’at al-Bahrayn, p. 45, also look at al-Ijāzat al-Kabīra, p. 135, 136.
  5. Refer to Rasā’il fī Dirāyat al-Hadīth, v. 2, p. 238 and onwards.
  6. Hurr al-Āmuli explained in great detail in his ninth benefit over 20 reasons as to why the books he narrated from are authentic and are obligatory to act upon, see Wasā’il, v. 30, p. 249 to 265. Also refer to Hadā’iq, v. 1, p 14 to 25; al-Durur al-Najafiyya, v. 2, p. 323 to 337; al-Fawā’id al-Madaniyya, p. 371 to 378.
  7. Refer to Rasā’il fī Dirāyat al-Hadīth, v. 2, p. 223 and onwards.
  8. Mu’jam Rijāl al-Hadīth, v. 1, p. 49, 50.
  9. Misbāh al-Faqīh, v. 9, p. 60.
  10. Mu’jam Rijāl al-Hadīth, v. 1, p. 81.
  11. Hadā’iq, v. 1, p. 25.
  12. Ibid.
  13. al-Wāfiya, p. 131.
  14. Lu’lu’at al-Bahrayn, p. 298.
  15. Wasā’il, v. 1, p. 7, 8.
  16. al-Dharī’a, v. 2, p. 109, 110.
  17. For example, see v. 1, p. 106, p. 198, p. 234, p. 275, p. 278, p. 409, p. 424, p. 435, p. 581, v. 2, p. 23, p. 37, p. 173, p. 178, p. 195, p. 211, p. 221, p. 225, p. 242, p. 249, p. 250, p. 292, p. 313, p. 322, p. 323
  18. For example, see v. 1, p. 56, p. 309, p. 384, p. 404, p. 431, p. 498, p. 499, p. 551.
  19. For example, see v. 2, p. 149, p. 154, p. 392, p. 402 to 408, p. 504, p. 535, p. 596.
  20. For example, see v. 1, p. 137, p. 257, p. 282, 326, p. 372, p. 377, p. 380, p. 393, p. 407, p. 457, p. 475, p. 535, p. 596.
  21. For example, see v. 1, p. 73, p. 402, p. 407, p. 414, p. 527.
  22. al-Fatawā al-Wādhiha, p. 15.