In the previous episode we looked at the important reasons in the ruling of permissibility of worshipping in concordance with every Islamic school. I mentioned briefly that this edict requires elaboration in respect to the nature of evidence and proof upon which it has been established. As is obvious to the dear viewers I do not intend to get entangled in lengthy discussions pertaining to the various intellectual, Qur’anic or Hadith based discussions this is linked to. However I will summarily mention the evidence for this and as you will see the scope of our discussion will begin to expand. Till now we had said it was permissible to act in accordance to all the Islamic schools so now a new question arises. Is it permissible to act in accordance with religions other than Islam? Is it permissible to act in accordance to various creeds which are devoid of a religious aspect per se or have nothing to do with any heavenly religion? These are questions we will attend to shortly.
The evidence we will look at essentially consists of three core principles.
First principle: the axis or criteria in worshipping according to any theological tenet or deed is contingent upon the soundness of the evidence used (dalīl) and not on whether it is the truth or in sync with reality (al wāqi’). Meaning when we say it is permissible to act in accordance to school A or school B we are not discussing whether school A or B is the truth in reality but rather whether or not the school has sound evidence upon which it has based their action. This is the first principle to our ruling, and that is the evidence of dalīl and burhān which contain probative force and not whether or not that school is the truth or not.
Second principle: the dalīl must be of the nature to provide a person with absolute certainty (al–yaqīn al-qat’). Right now I do not wish to comment on whether this certainty is the certainty of mathematics and logic or the certainty (proposed by) the Usūli scholars. Suffice it to say that at the least the dalīl should be sufficient to provide certainty.
Third principle: it does not necessitate that this dalīl is correct (musīban lil wāqi’). At times it may be correct and at others it may be erroneous (yakhti’ al wāqi’). 
These three principles which I have introduced are discussed in more detail within the discussion on the theory of religious epistemology. You might ask why I have limited the discussion of the theory of epistemology with that of religious epistemology. For the reason that you will see there exists a general theory of epistemology for human knowledge and then a separate specific system of epistemology appropriate for a specific science. You have a general understanding of logic and then you have a specific type of logic. For example, according to my teacher Shahīd Sadr the science of fiqh has its own peculiar science of logic which is referred to as ilm al-usūl. Epistemology is similar, and these three principles we have explained and established in our theory of religious epistemology to be sound. Even within ilm al-usūl of the Ahlulbayt you will see scholars who accept the probative force of certainty, the probative force of sound evidence. You will also see they have accepted the notion of erring in edicts, sometimes the jurisconsult is correct in his edict and sometimes he errs, and this is based on the concept of (actions being valid) in contingency with the sound evidence they are based on and not whether they are correct.
The question I now wish to look at is whether or not we can find textual evidence in support for these principles. Can we find anything from the textual sources from the Prophet and his Family that confirm these three intellectual (aqlī) principles? It’s important to note that our evidence in this matter isn’t merely based on hadith such that if the hadith is weakened then so is our position. Far from that. This is a discussion based on intellectual premises within a sound epistemic framework and what we seek to do now is to complement this and support it with evidences from our hadith literature. And this is what we will discuss in our next episode.
1 – The discussion referred to here is covered in the advance stages of the science of usūl and refers to whether or not a jurisconsult is correct or incorrect in his ruling (takhta’a wa taswīb). The Lawgiver has designated a ruling for everything and the role of the mujtahid is to uncover that law using the sources of extrapolation (istinbāt) at his disposal. Given that the jurisconsult does not have access to the Unseen it is therefore probable that at times he is correct in his edict (fatwa) and others he is incorrect. This becomes obvious in the instance where two or more jurisconsults differ in one ruling. The Sunni schools put forward the idea of taswīb in that despite the differences of rulings, the edicts of the jurisconsults are all correct. The Shi’i took a more balanced position and stated that it is possible that the edict of a jurisconsult is wrong yet despite that they will still be rewarded for doing their best in fulfilling their obligation to uncover what was possible of the law ordained by God.
Refer to Syed Ādil Alawī, Al-qawl al-rashīd fi al-ijtihād wa al-taqlīd, p. 86 and Shaykh Mishkīni, Istilāhāt al-usūl, p. 98.
Sadiq Meghjee is a frequent contributor to Iqra Online and has been studying in the seminary of Qom for 6 years. Prior to entering the seminary he pursued an accounting qualification and worked in London. His field of interest is intellectual history.