Qiyas & The Mysterious Case of Ibn al-Junayd

These are transcripts written over the course of 5 lessons (lesson 118-122 – April 8th to April 14th 2019) from the advanced lessons on Usul al-Fiqh delivered by Shaykh Haider Hobbollah in Qom. As these are transcripts made in class, for those interested in the more detailed format of this discussion, please refer to the book al-Ijtihād al-Maqāṣidī wa al-Manāṭī, vol. 1, pgs. 184-215.


There is almost a near agreement amongst those researching into the history of Imami jurisprudence that there was a trend around 4th century hijri amongst some scholars, particularly Ibn al-Junayd al-Iskāfī, who appear to have adhered to qiyās. Some argue that this trend can be traced back earlier to companions such as Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān in the 2nd century and Faḍl b. Shādhān in the 3rd century.

While the life and biography of Ibn al-Junayd do not concern us in this discussion, what does matter to us is whether this accusation is true or not. Was Ibn al-Junayd really a proponent of qiyās and did he employ it in his jurisprudential verdicts? Ibn al-Junayd was from the town of Iskāf, near Baghdad, or today it is considered to be located near Baqubah. He was most likely born around the end of 3rd century, but he definitely lived in the 4th century, because Shaykh Mufīd and others have narrated from him.

1. The most important information we have about Ibn al-Junayd is from Shaykh Najāshī (d. 450), who enumerates around 50 of his books. One of these books was on kitābah – the art of writing. This was a genre of books that discussed the method of writing books, language structures and how these structures changed over the centuries. Two of the relevant books Shaykh Najāshī mentions1 are as follows:

كشف التمويه والالتباس على اغمار الشيعة في أمر القياس

كتاب إظهار ما ستره أهل العناد من الرواية عن أئمة العترة في أمر الاجتهاد

The Book of Exposing the Covering and Confusion on the Gullible Shī‘a in the Matter of Qiyās

The Book of Exposing that which the People of Stubbornness Concealed from the Narration of the Imams of the ʿItrah (Family of the Prophet) on the Matter of Ijtihād

Shaykh Najāshī’s entry is therefore the earliest extant report from a scholar who implies Ibn al-Junayd accepted qiyās as the aforementioned books appear to be written in defense of it.

2. Shaykh Ṭūsī (d. 450) also reiterates that Ibn al-Junayd was a proponent of qiyās and that he wrote books defending it, and for this reason other Shī‘ī scholars did not rely on his works and ignored them. He also says Ibn al-Junayd had a 20-volume book called Tadhdhīb al-Shī‘a written in the style of the jurists of the era and not the style of the ḥādīth scholars.2

3. Shaykh Mufīd (d. 413) was one of the fiercest opponents of Ibn al-Junayd and openly acknowledges that scholars did not care about his books due to his beliefs.3 In fact, Shaykh Mufid even wrote a book against Ibn al-Junayd and alludes to this work in his al-Masā’il al-Sarawīyyah, called al-Naqḍ ‘ala Ibn al-Junayd fī Ijtihād al-Ray’.4

Commenting on the aforementioned remarks of Shaykh Mufīd, Sayyid Baḥr al-‘Ulūm critiques Shaykh Mufīd and says one cannot just single out Ibn al-Junayd on this matter, rather other prominent companions like Faḍl b. Shadhān and Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān were doing the exact same thing as Ibn al-Junayd. Sayyid Baḥr al-‘Ulūm argues that this is most likely because during their time the prohibition of qiyās was not known to be from the necessities of Shī’ī jurisprudence and hence they cannot be blamed. In other words, according to Sayyid Baḥr al-‘Ulūm Ibn al-Junayd was merely a continuation of a previous trend in Imami jurisprudence and did not add anything new.5

4. Sayyid Murtaḍa’s (d. 436) only implies that Ibn al-Junayd was influenced by the Sunni view on the binding force (ujjīyyah) of a solitary report (khabar al-wāid). Sayyid Murtaḍa has an explicit statement saying that one who believes in qiyās was committing an act of kufr. He writes:

و في رواتنا و نقلة أحاديثنا من يقول بالقياس و يذهب إليه في الشريعة، كالفضل ابن شاذان و يونس و جماعة معروفين، و لا شبهة في أن اعتقاد صحة القياس في الشريعة كفر لا تثبت معه عدالة

Amongst our narrators and transmitters of aḥādīth are those who accepted qiyās and went towards it in Divine Law, like Faḍl b. Shādhān, Yūnus, and a well-known group of others. However, there is no doubt that believing in the validity of qiyās in Divine Law is disbelief (kufr), and one’s ‘adālah is not proven with it.6

Despite this view, it does not appear that Sayyid Murtaḍa excluded Ibn al-Junayd from the ranks of Shī‘ī scholars.

What we can conclude thus far is that Shaykh Ṭūsī did not mention those two books which Shaykh Najāshī mentions, but Shaykh Ṭūsī, Shaykh Mufīd and Sayyid Murtaḍā all condemned him by for believing in qiyās. Shaykh Mufīd’s words even imply Ibn al-Junayd’s works were lost merely because no one cared about him nor his books, specifically because of the view he held. Shaykh Ṭūsī in al-‘Uddah makes it clear that when the Shi‘a would see even one of their own use qiyās, even in an argument against the Sunnis, their works would be abandoned and scholars would not pay heed to those works.

On the other hand, Ibn al-Junayd was the first Shī‘ī scholar to write a detailed book on jurisprudence, which was called Tahdhib al-Shī’a, and this book was written much before Shaykh Ṭūsī’s al-Mabū. Sayyid Sīstānī also affirms this by saying Ibn al-Junayd was the first one to advance and develop Shī‘ī jurisprudence.7

Unfortunately, the only heritage of Ibn al-Junayd that we have left today is a collection of his jurisprudential verdicts that the school of Hilla preserved. Ibn Idrīs al-Ḥillī (d. 598) says in al-Sarā’ir says that Ibn al-Junayd was a great scholar, but nowhere does he critique him. In Īa al-Ishtibā of ‘Allamah Ḥillī (d. 725) he does not do entries for people, but he does for Ibn al-Junayd and says I have found one volume of his Tahdhīb al-Shī’a from the book of marriage, but that some pages are missing from it. He goes on to say he has not found a better and more precise book than it, and that Ibn al-Junayd has used the arguments of the Shī‘a and the opponents in this work.8 This shows Ibn al-Junayd would use all sorts of evidence to argue for a ruling, including those arguments which are binding for the opponents. Such evidence would have most definitely had included qiyās.

Muḥaqqiq Ḥillī (d. 676) also seems to have possessed a number of Ibn al-Junayd’s books which he references in the introduction of his al-Mu’tabar.9 Overall, it seems that the school of Hilla was not very sensitive against Ibn al-Junayd like the earlier scholars were, perhaps because the scholars of Hilla did not fear qiyās as much during their time. In fact, by the time we arrive at Shahīd Awwal and Shahīd Thānī, we find some jurists even defending some of Ibn al-Junayd’s verdicts. Some even critiqued Sayyid Murtaḍa for going excessive in his attacks against Ibn al-Junayd.

It is unfortunate that some of the earlier scholars did not care about his books, simply because he had a difference of opinion. He had written around 50 books, and yet the scholars themselves are confessing to not care about his books. This is very strange and simply unwarranted.

What Did Ibn al-Junayd Really Believe In?

A number of possibilities have been mentioned. We will go through each of them and see how strongly they hold up.

Explanation #1

Shaykh Abū ‘Alī Ḥā’irī10 and Sayyid Khowānsārī11 say Ibn al-Junayd never believed in qiyās to begin with. They say the issue was that he was writing works on Islamic jurisprudence, addressing both Shī‘ī and Sunnī audiences and so to make his argument, he would often have to resort to methodologies employed by the Ahl al-Sunnah to convince them. This definitely included qiyās, however, his contemporaries and even subsequent scholars were not fond of this approach.

Generally speaking,  this is not a far-fetched possibility. Imagine a jurist today decides to address people of all sects and writes a book in a similar fashion. Unfortunately, they will most likely face the same issues. Imagine if someone in the Sunnī world were to quote the arguments of Sayyid Khū’ī or Sayyid Khomeinī in their works, the general reception of such a work in the Sunnī world will not be favourable and such a person may even be critiqued heavily.

The following reference from Shaykh Ṭūsī in his al-Uddah can be cited to strengthen this first explanation. When Shaykh is defending the arguments for the probative force of a solitary report, he writes:

و الّذي يكشف عن ذلك أنه لما كان العمل بالقياس محظورا في الشريعة عندهم، لم يعملوا به أصلا، و إذا شذ منهم واحد عمل به في بعض المسائل، أو استعمله على وجه المحاجة لخصمه و إن لم يعلم اعتقاده، تركوا قوله و أنكروا عليه و تبرءوا من قوله، حتى إنهم يتركون تصانيف من وصفناه و رواياته لما كان عاملا بالقياس

What reveals this for us is that acting on qiyās was considered prohibited in the Shari‘ah according to them, and they would not act upon it at all, and even if one of them on a rare occasion was to act upon it in some particular matter, or even if they were to employ it as an argument against their opponent even if they did not believe in it themselves, the scholars would abandon his words and reject him and disassociate from his words. This was to the extent that they would abandon the works of those who we described and their traditions as long as they would act on qiyās.12

Response: The above explanation was not accepted by Muḥaqqiq Māmqānī.13 His argument is essentially, how could one suggest that Shaykh Najāshī, Shaykh Mufīd, Shaykh Ṭūsī and other scholars who all explicitly mention that Ibn al-Junayd believed in qiyās were wrong in their claim? These scholars not only claim that Ibn al-Junayd accepted qiyās, but there are remarks made by some of them which indicate that the works of Ibn al-Junayd were abandoned specifically because he believed in it!

However, we believe Shaykh Mamqānī’s response can be addressed. We can assume Ibn al-Junayd could have written his books in two different styles:

i) He would mention a legal verdict, and say: the evidence for it is X, Y, Z, and as for those who believe in qiyās, then to them we say that such and such argument can be defended through qiyās as well in the following manner – and then he would go on to explain the argument.

ii) Or he would mention a legal verdict and say: the evidence for it is X, Y, Z, qiyās, A, B, and C. Even if he himself never believed in qiyās, he may have written his work without making that very clear. In this scenario, Shaykh Mufīd and others could have definitely made a mistake in their judgement, and it would have been a very easy mistaken to make given the author is not very clear with respect to whether they themselves accept this argument or not.

The problem for us, however, is that we do not know how Ibn al-Junayd was writing his works as we do not have any at our disposal today. Hence, we cannot make a judgement regarding whether Shaykh Mufīd and other scholars were mistaken in their claims or not. This is a mere possibility, but it is not a very strong one.

In addition, the few cases where Ibn al-Junayd’s verdicts are available to us, it seems that he did indeed believe in qiyās and that it was not just a matter of him citing it for argument’s sake. For example, in Mukhtalaf al-Shī’a14 of ‘Allāmah Ḥillī, it says:

مسألة: إذا وقّف على أولاده و لم يفضّل بعضا على بعض يتساوى الذكور و الإناث فيه عند أكثر علمائنا.

و قال ابن الجنيد: يكون للذكر مثل حظ الأنثيين، و كذا لو قال: لورثتي.

لنا: الأصل يقتضي التسوية، فلا يجوز العدول عنه إلّا بدليل، كما لو أقرّ لهم أو أوصى لهم. احتج ابن الجنيد بالحمل على الميراث.

Issue: If one has endowed upon his children, while they have not preferred some of them over others, then both the male and female are equal in it, according to the majority of the scholars. Ibn al-Junayd however has said: The male will get what is equal to the share of two females. Likewise, if he (the father) says, “for my inheritors.”

Our argument is that the principle necessitates equality, and one cannot transgress it except through evidence, like if one explicitly mentions it to them or mentions it to them in his will. Ibn al-Junayd however argued his case by predicating the situation upon (the rulings of) inheritance.15

Explanation #2

Sayyid Baḥr al-‘Ulūm in his Fawā’id al-Rijālīyyah, ‘Allāmah Māmqānī, Sayyid Khū’ī and some other scholars believe that Ibn al-Junayd accepted qiyās – the exact same qiyās of Abū Ḥanīfah and the Ahl al-Sunnah schools of jurisprudence. However, this does not mean he should be perceived in a negative light, as he was excused for this mistake. This is because though today we know that the prohibition of qiyās is from the necessities of the Shī‘ī school of thought, this was not the case during those days.16

Sayyid Baḥr al-‘Ulūm even brings evidence. He says, Ibn al-Junayd was living under the Buyid ruler Mu‘izz al-Dawlah who was an Imami and had put in a lot of effort to promote Shī‘ī culture. He is the one who asked the residents of Baghdad to commemorate on ‘Āshūrā’ and Ghadīr as well as engage in many other similar activities. He would even write to Ibn al-Junayd and ask him questions. With such a strong Shī‘ī culture, we still find Ibn al-Junayd to be oblivious on the matter of qiyās, which shows that it was not from the necessary understandings at the time.

The second piece of evidence he brings is that Yafi‘ī would say Mu‘izz al-Dawlah died 70-odd years after the fourth representative of Imam Mahdi (a) which means Ibn al-Junayd was from the scholars of the minor occultation. In fact, Shaykh Najāshī says Ibn al-Junayd was from one of the agents (wukalā’) of the 12th Imam (a). In this case, if the prohibition of qiyās was indeed from the necessities of the Shī‘ī religion, why do we not find even one letter (tawqī’) from Imam Mahdi (a) condemning him?

Sayyid Baḥr al-‘Ulūm says it is known that many things were not considered a necessary part of the Shī‘a school of thought during that time, but later they became to be known as necessary beliefs and positions. As such, during the time of Ibn al-Junayd the prohibition of qiyās was not very well known.

Response: We agree with Sayyid Baḥr al-‘Ulūm on the point that there were many things in the past that were not considered necessities of the religion, but today they are considered as such. However, the problem is, how much can one really say that qiyās was not a necessity back then?

A necessity (ḍurūrī) is not the same as consensus (ijmā’). It is beyond consensus and popularity, and it is not subject to debate. Scholars who make the argument that the prohibition of qiyās is from the necessities argue there are around 500 narrations against qiyās which shows how wide-spread and clear the matter was and they argue that this is how the necessity was even formed. If that is the case, then how can we say it was not a necessity back then – how can you convince someone that Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān did not know the Imami position on qiyās? How could Faḍl b. Shadhān and Ibn al-Junayd not have known about hundreds of these traditions?

Perhaps someone could say that there was some confusion during their time and today when we look at all the sources, we realized qiyās is wrong and those who held a favourable opinion regarding it in the past were mistaken, but not that it was not from the necessities back then and 400 years later it became a necessity!

Secondly, the Buyids were generally known for their culture of proximity and promotion of intellectual discussions. In fact, they were very lenient with people, and someone like Mu‘izz al-Dawlah would deal with many people, including heretics. This was their policy, and it was a completely political matter, rather than a religious matter.

Thirdly, as far as the representatives of the 12th Imam (a) and the Imam (a) himself not saying anything to Ibn al-Junayd despite condemning many matters during that era, then this argument could actually be used to prove that Ibn al-Junayd was not doing anything wrong!

Further, someone can even say who said the representatives and the Imam (a) were getting involved in every single wrong thought or position that a Shī‘ī scholar held? We need to prove this as a principle first, and if it is proven, then it would actually show that Ibn al-Junayd was not doing anything wrong.

All in all, this explanation, though it is popular, there are some shortcomings in it. Perhaps it would be much more reasonable to say that all Imami Shī‘a rejected qiyās in general, including Ibn al-Junayd, but the difference of opinion occurred over the exact nature of this qiyās, what it entails, and what are its limits. Essentially, the same discussions and differences of opinion that exist today over concepts like ilghā al-khuṣūṣīyyah, tanqīḥ al-manāt etc.

Explanation #3

Some contemporary scholars say Ibn al-Junayd did not believe in the permissibility of qiyās the way the Sunnīs do it, rather he had relied on an approach that was not chosen by other scholars and the latter group of scholars accused him of qiyās because of their unfamiliarity with his approach. The approach that he was engaging in was essentially what almost all Shī‘ī jurists engage in today in their legal theory.

Dr. Sayyid Hossein Modaressi and Sayyid Sīstānī both hold this opinion. Sayyid Sīstāni’s explanation appears in his Mabāḥith al-Ḥujaj, written by ‘Alī Rabbāni. This book was published before Dr. Modaressi’s, although we do not know if Dr. Modaressi had written about the matter before Sayyid Sīstānī and that his work was simply published later. It is also far-fetched to assume that each of them knew of the other’s view, rather it appears that they both independently arrived at this conclusion.

Sayyid Sistānī has a unique approach amongst the jurists as he generally contemplates over historical aspects dealing with jurisprudence and ḥadīth. He addresses the issue of Ibn al-Junayd in both Rāfid fī ‘Ilm al-‘Uṣūl very briefly and more extensively in Mabāḥith al-Ḥujaj. We will first look at what has been mentioned in Rāfid fī ‘Ilm al-‘Usul:

Sayyid Sīstānī says that what was most likely happening – and he leaves it as a possibility – was that Ibn al-Junayd was engaging in some sort of textual criticism of the narrations using the notion of the spirit of the Quran or the spirit of the Sunnah. Today we refer to this style of criticism as Naqd al-Maḍmūnī lil-Khabar, but such an approach would have been unheard of during the time of Ibn al-Junayd. This also implies that Ibn al-Junayd would have been very sceptical and cautious of the hadith traditions and subsequently scholars ended up thinking he was engaging in qiyās.17

The question however remains; what does this have to do with qiyās? Sayyid Sīstānī responds by saying that the traditions and as well as in classical Arabic the word qiyās was also used to refer to the process of confirming traditions with the Quran. One can find even Shaykh Mufīd use the phrase ḥākiman min-qiyās, as quoted by Muḥaqqiq Ḥillī in M‘ārij al-Uṣūl,18 but what he means is a comparison and confirming with the Quran, not qiyās of the Ahl al-Sunnah.

Response: This is not very convincing explanation, even though Sayyid Sīstānī mentions it as a possibility, because this assumes that the issue was with how Ibn al-Junayd was dealing with the traditions, and what does that really have to do with the type of qiyās we are speaking of? During those days the words qiyās and ray’ were well-known jargons used to refer to a method of deriving law amongst the Ahl al-Sunnah. The very few instances where the word qiyās is used to refer to the notion of confirming the hadith with the Quran does not nullify the apparent understanding of the word qiyās during that era, which would be a jargon for the invalid method of deriving law, especially by the Ḥanafīs.

On top of that, Sayyid Murtaḍa and Shaykh Mufid themselves would employ this approach with the narrations where they would compare them with the Quran. In fact, scholars like Sayyid Murtaḍa and Shaykh Mufīd would even use their intellect to discard narrations on many occasions, but yet they both attacked Ibn al-Junayd harshly. Further, we would like to point out that the few places where ‘Allāmah Ḥillī references Ibn al-Junayd’s verdicts and says he used qiyās, where is the narration that Ibn al-Junayd discarded in comparison with the Quran? There is nothing.

Either al-Rafid’s transcription is not accurate, or it is incomplete, or Sayyid Sīstānī changed his opinion because in the book Mabāḥith al-Hujaj the explanation is significantly different as will be highlighted below.

Explanation #4

In Mabāḥith al-Ḥujaj Sayyid Sīstānī first begins by defining qiyās and then divides it into two types:

1) Ikhtirā’ī: The is when you do qiyās where there is no naṣṣ. A jurist deduces a law based on overall objectives of the religion, or looking into general causes and wisdom mentioned in other narrations, and then considers this law to be the actual true law that can be attributed to Allah (swt). Sayyid Sistani says Shī‘ī narrations are all rejecting this type of qiyās and that engaging in this type of qiyāṣ implies the religion is not comprehensive.

2) Istikhāfī: This is when there is a naṣṣ, but this naṣṣ did not reach us. In this case, we do qiyās to determine what the Imam (a) had said. Although Sayyid Sīstānī says even this second type of qiyās is invalid because it is not something reasonable people (‘uqalā’) engage in. Sayyid Sīstānī says this in order to explain the plethora of narrations against qiyās and to be able to reconcile them with the fact that the Imams (a) were not disapproving (rad‘) what reasonable people do, rather those narrations were arguing against the prima-facie of qiyās.

He then brings evidence from amongst the Shī‘a who would do qiyās and he goes on to say that some Shī‘a of Qom and the likes of Ibn al-Junayd would believe even he Imams (a) would do qiyāṣ. How could these scholars have held this belief? They were not some unknown people of the laity; they were some of the most prominent scholars of the time. Sayyid Sīstānī resolves and explains this by saying it is possible they arrived at this opinion due to the 6 narrations of mu‘ḍalāt ­– a set of narrations that seem to indicate that when there is no Quranic verse or precedence in the Sunnah for a matter, the Imam (a) himself acts on speculation. Sayyid Sīstānī weakens these narrations and says even if they were authentic we would have to explain them away in some way that it reconciles with Shī‘ī theology.

Sayyid Sīstānī says it is possible that the scholars of Qom may have arrived at this conclusion using these narrations, but it seems far-fetched for Ibn al-Junayd to have relied on those traditions. As far as Ibn al-Junayd is concerned, it is possible he may have arrived at this belief due to the narrations of delegation (tafwīḍ) and al-wilāyah al-tashrī‘ī, or narrations that give Imams (a) political authority. It is possible Ibn al-Junayd may have misunderstood these narrations and believed the Imams (a) would speculate and think about a matter before giving and presenting a verdict on it.

The question is, how did these scholars use these narrations and its like to conclude that qiyās is probative even for a fallible jurist? According to Sayyid Sīstānī, their arguments could have been the following:

1) The narrations that say to compare the ḥadīth with the Quran when there is a conflict between two narrations. Perhaps they understood the probative force of qiyās from them.

2) The existence of some narrations which show the Imams (a) themselves engaging in qiyās, and some of these scholars ended up thinking this grants permission to a fallible jurist to do the same.

3) Due to some narrations that explicitly say qiyās is binding. For example, a narration which says, if one encounters an ambiguous matter, they should refer to the book of Allah, the Sunnah for which there is a consensus upon, or qiyās which the intellects can ascertain to be correct.19 According to Sayyid Sīṣtānī the word qiyās in these narrations means a pure disposition, not the technical jargon used in jurisprudence.

4) Traditions prohibiting qiyas are prohibiting the aforementioned al-qiyās al-ikhtirā‘ī, not al-iktishāfī and they would act on this latter type of qiyās.

5) Perhaps they understood that the prohibited qiyās is when there is naṣṣ available or when it is against an established precedent in the Sunnah. So when there is no naṣṣ, then there is nothing wrong with using qiyās.

Sayyid Sīstānī says these could have been some of the possible reasons why some earlier scholars, may have believed in qiyās. Despite all these explanations, Sayyid Sīṣtānī says, what really occurred is that all the Imami Shī‘a believed in the prohibition of qiyās, and the dispute was over certain methods used in deriving law and whether they constituted an instance of prohibited qiyās or not. He says this is similar to how the Akhbari scholars accuse the Usulis of using qiyās, even though the Usulis reject qiyāṣ themselves.

Given this, according to Sayyid Sīstānī it is still correct to say that Ibn al-Junayd did not engage in qiyās, because there were two schools of thoughts back then:

a) A school that made use of certain methodologies in ijtihād and believed that the prohibited qiyās in the narrations was a reference to al-qiyās al-ikhtirā‘ī.

b) A school that expanded the concept of qiyās and heavily restricte the role of the intellect when analyzing traditions. This was the general approach of the scholars of ḥadīth who believed that one must look and approach the traditions in very simple terms and any extra speculation, contemplation and thinking beyond the text is problematic. They would argue that the very first understanding you get from a narration as a layman, that is the understanding that is valid. Anything deeper and beyond that would be qiyās and prohibited.

They would even go further than that and say that applying a major premise (kubra) on some new instance and subject matter which did not exist in the past, would also be a problem. For example, if the principle of fulfilling one’s contractual obligations (awfū bil–‘uqūd) is true, then one must stick to fulfilling those contractual obligations that existed in the time of the Prophet (p) and Imams (a), and any new contract that appears in society cannot be an instance of this principle. It was this line of thinking that would eventually also say concepts like ilghā al-khuṣūṣīyyah, acting on al-‘ilal al-manṣūṣah, qiyās al-awlawīyyah, and essentially anything even an inch beyond the text, would be considered problematic and an instance of qiyās.

In other words, what Ibn al-Junayd was accused of was exactly what the Akhbaris had accused the Usulis of. In conclusion, Sayyid Sīstānī believes these two schools of thought existed and Ibn al-Junayd belonged to the first school, which is the popular Usuli methodology today, while classically, the second school of thought was more famous.

Dr. Hossein Modaressi in his An Introduction to Shi‘i Law says there was a movement amongst jurists who had inclinations to using the intellect, such as in the likes of Faḍl b. Shādhān and Ibn al-Junayd. He suggests these may have engaged in a type of al-ashbāḥ wa al-naẓā’ir, which later become common and justified under various concepts like munāsabāt al-ḥukm wa al-mawḍū‘ or tanqīḥ al-manāṭ, or other similar arguments that most of the Usuli scholars use today.

If these aforementioned explanations are true, then we can say there truly was a group of scholars or a trend within Shī‘ī law that relied on ‘ilal based ijtihād, since the aforementioned qiyās relied on such reasoning. If this is the case then some Ahl al-Sunnah scholars who have made this claim against the Shī‘a are correct.


1) Sayyid Sīstānī has tried to explain why some Shī‘a leaned towards the Sunnī concept of qiyās and says this could be because of narrations that speak of comparing narrations to the Quran, or narrations that apparently show the Imams (a) themselves engaging in qiyās, but then, on the other hand, he says all Imami Shī‘a rejected qiyās and that the difference of opinion was only in ascertaining whether certain approaches were qiyās or not. This seems to be a contradiction.

Perhaps Sayyid Sīstānī could respond by saying that a personality like Ibn al-Junayd just could not have been familiar with the sheer number of traditions against qiyās. However, this would not be precise either as we have already seen that Ibn al-Junayd himself had written books on the topic of qiyās. It appears he had access to a decent number of contrary narrations which proved the binding force of qiyās, in which case he must have reconciled or abandoned the set of narrations that apparently prohibit qiyās, and may have arrived at the conclusion that qiyās itself is valid.

2) Sayyid Sistani has a treatise on the work ‘Ilal of Faḍl b. Shādhān and Sayyid Muḥammad Riḍā has cited it in his al-Qabasāt.20 He says this work was an independent treatise written by Faḍl and not a set of narrations that he transmitted from Imam Riḍā (a). If they were traditions, they would have been weak – although this is irrelevant for our discussion.

The point is, if he believes this was a treatise written by Faḍl, then this means a prominent Shī‘I scholar had written something on the topic in the earliest centuries, and this would have been an approach similar to the Ahl al-Sunnah when it comes to qiyās. No other Shī‘ī jurist – who rejects qiyās – has written a work like this, and it is far-fetched to assumed Faḍl had written this treatise for anything other than jurisprudence, unless someone wishes to say it was a theological treatise.

3) What Dr. Modaressi has said is very plausible and those classical scholars would have been against such an approach in deducing law. However, the issue is that there are barely any scholars of ḥadīth who critiqued Ibn al-Junayd, rather almost all of them are rationalist scholars, such as Shaykh Mufīd, Sayyid Murtaḍa and Shaykh Ṭūsī. When you look at the books of these scholars, do we not see examples of – what we term today as – ilghā al-khuṣūṣīyyah, tanqīḥ al-manāṭ, qiyās al-awlawīyyah etc.? We most definitely see this, and even these classical scholars would employ this approach, especially Shaykh Mufid and Sayyid Murtadha.

4) Sayyid Sistani never addresses the two books attributed to Ibn al-Junayd which signify that there were traditions about qiyās that were hidden by scholars. If we say that these traditions were perhaps just the same ones that speak about comparing the narrations with the Quran, then those narrations even exist today and were never hidden nor censored.

As for the example cited, that what Ibn al-Junayd was being accused of was similar to how the Akhbaris accused the Usulis of using qiyās, this may not be very accurate, and perhaps was just said as an example to understand what was happening. This is because if you ask an Akhbari scholar, of when an Akhbari scholar writes against an Usuli, they will not say that this Usuli scholar “believes” in qiyāṣ, rather they will say these Usulis end up employing qiyās due to their poor methodology. Whereas with respect to Ibn al-Junayd what we find is a direct and explicit accusation, saying he actually believed and accepted qiyās.

One of the main questions that remain is why the school of Hilla did not seem so sensitive when it came to Ibn al-Junayd? As a matter of fact, today we only know of Ibn al-Junayd’s opinions through the scholars of Hilla. Is it possible that they never even perceived him to be someone who was a big proponent of qiyās, given that they had access to his works and saw that perhaps the accusation was unwarranted and exaggerated?

Perhaps it is possible that centuries after Ibn al-Junayd had passed away, the degree of sensitivity and reservation against someone that probably existed while he was alive, ceased to exist. For this reason, perhaps later scholars like the scholars of Hilla dealt with Ibn al-Junayd much more leniently. ‘Allāmah Ḥillī did acknowledge that Ibn al-Junayd accepted qiyās, as he refutes the verdicts of Ibn al-Junayd in a number of places, openly saying that this qiyās and that we do not rely on it, and neither do Ibn al-Junayd’s opinions cause any issues to consensus of Shī‘ī scholars on a matter.21

In conclusion as per historical reports, it seems that this opinion is plausible, but the contrary historical evidence is still much stronger. It really seems that there was a small trend amongst some Imami jurists, perhaps starting in 2nd century hijri from Yūnus b. ‘Abd al-Rahmān and ending with Ibn al-Junayd, who relied on qiyās. As for what exactly this qiyās was, we have concluded after investigating all the reports on the topic, that this was al-qiyās al-shabah which was popular in 2nd century, especially the first half of it, as well as qiyās which is done when a clear naṣṣ exists, and qiyās which meant a sort of heedlessness and carelessness towards the religious texts. As for what is popularly considered to be Sunnī qiyās by the Shī‘a today, that is based on uncovering the cause of a rule through reasonable means, even if they are mostly speculative, then these are not included in the narrations against qiyās as such a discussion did not even exist at the time and is a later development.

As for whether Ibn al-Junayd and his predecessors were correct in their understanding or not, then that is a different topic. However, with the aforementioned explanation, we can say that the attribution made by the senior classical scholars against Ibn al-Junayd is correct, as he did engage in at least one form of qiyās, but at the same time argue that the consensus on what exactly the limits of this qiyās was disputed.


  1. Al-Fihrist, pg. 385-388.
  2. Al-Fihrist, pg. 209-210.
  3. Al-Masā’il al-Ṣāghānīyyh, pg. 57-59.
  4. Al-Masā’il al-Sarawīyyah, pg. 75-76; al-Fihrist of Najāshī, pg. 402.
  5. Al-Fawāid al-Rijālīyyah, v. 3, pg. 213.
  6. Rasā’il al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā, v. 3, pg. 311
  7. Al-Rāfid, pg. 11.
  8. Īa al-Ishtibā , pg. 291-292.
  9. Al-Mu‘tabar, vol. 1, pg. 33.
  10. Muntaha al-Maqāl, vol. 5, pg. 316-317.
  11. Rawḍa al-Jannāt, vol. 6, pg. 145-147.
  12. Al-‘Uddah, pg. 127.
  13. Tanqīḥ al-Maqāl, vol. 2, pg. 68.
  14. Mukhtalaf al-Shī‘a, vol. 6, pg. 308.
  15. Mukhtalaf al-Shī’a, v. 5, pg. 308.
  16. Al-Fawā’id al-Rijālīyyah, vol. 3, pg. 215-223; Tanqīḥ al-Maqāl, vol. 2, pg. 67; Mu‘jam Rijāl al-Ḥadīth, vol. 15, pg. 337.
  17. Al-Rāfid, pg. 11-12.
  18. M‘ārij al-Uṣūl, pg. 187.
  19. Tuḥaf al-‘Uqūl, pg. 407; al-Ikhtiṣāṣ, pg. 58; Mustadrak al-Wasā’il, vol. 17, pg. 293-294.
  20. Qabasāt min ‘Ilm al-Rijāl, vol. 2, pg. 188-197.
  21. Mukhtalaf al-Shī‘a, vol. 1, pg. 464-464.