#Article (Archive)

Religious Variety: The case of convergence (Part 3)

May 6, 2011, 4:29 PM | Article By: AYATULLAH MUHAMMAD ‘ALI TASKHIRL

In the opinion of some of the ulma’, the schools that were introduced after the Tabi’in stage were  individual ‘schools’ that had no following among the master’s disciples and thus were lost with the death of the master. Other schools had many adherents and gradually developed after their views were compiled into comprehensive anthologies (Subhani, 1997:58).

The following are some of the schools that have to survived the ravages of time: the Hasan Basari School (AD 643-728 [23-110 AH]), the Ibn Abi Layli School (AD 693-765 [74-148 AH]), the Uza’I School (AD 706-774 [88-158 AH]), the Sufiyan Thuri School (AD 715-777 [97-161 AD]), the Layth ibn Sa’d School (deceased AD 794 [178 AH]), the Ibrahim Ibu Khalid Kalbi School (deceased AD 854 [240 AH]), the ibn Hazm Dawud ibn ‘Ali Isbahani Zahiri School (AD 817-883 [202-270 AH]), the Muhammad ibn Jurayr Tabar School (AD 838-922 [224-310 AH]), the Sulayma ibn Mihran A’Mash School (deceased AD 765 [148 AH]), and the Amir ibn Sharahbil Sha’bi School (deceased AD 723 [105 AH]).

 the schools that have withstood the scrutiny of time and still endure are as follows: the Ithna ‘Ashar Imami (Twelve Imam) School which was developed and promoted by Imam Muhammad Baqir (‘a) and Imam Ja’far Sadiq (‘a); the Zaydi School; the Hanafi School, the Shafi ‘I School, the Maliki School, the Hanbali School, and the Ibadi School.

This paper does not aim at discussing the grounds for the emergence, development, or disappearance of these schools as these have bee discussed by other scholars dealing with the causes for differences among schools. Regarding such causes, in the introduction to his book, Bidayat ul-Mujtahid wa Nibayat ul-Muqtasid, Ibn Rushd (1991) adverted to several points in reviewing the premises of hujjiyat-e zubur and hujjiyat-e qiyas (effectivity of analogy). Additionally, Hakim (1979:18-19) discussed the differences in the fundamentals of inference. Finally, differences between methods and stages of reasoning may also be considered a factor for such differences among schools.

In addition to the preceding objective factors, individual features such as erudition (e.g. level of knowledge) and mental features (e.g. analytic aptitude) may be considered effective in this regard, as well as the role of political, historical, expediential, and social factors.

To return to the crux of matter, issues which hold prime importance in this paper consist of the following:

First, the emergence of various schools indicates the evolution of Islamic erudition in reaction to three broad circumstances: the absence of the holy Prophet (s) and the Ummah’s severance from divine revelation: the broadening of needs, the plethora of events, and the complexity of societies; and also the accumulation of juristic knowledge and the introduction of new Islamic disciplines. Thus, the origination of diverse schools was a natural and proper occurrence-a result of civilization influences.

Second, these schools compose a treasury of precious intellectual wealth for the Islamic civilization. Their existence enables the Islamic leadership and Muslim individuals alike to make better choices in the practical assimilation of the Shariah into individual (especially where following the most learned mujtahid has not been specified as a requirement) and societal life. This rises from the fact that opinions and views that originate from Islamic processes such as ijtihad may be attributed to Islam and considered Islamic. In his way, vast expanses open up, empowering the religious authority to select the best option among many to achieve the interests of the Ummah (even if this religious authority does no personally agree with any given ijtihad). The religious authority may amalgamate various perspectives and opinions to attain a superior social theory or school. This is a particularly tangible sign of flexibility of Islam.

Third, as previously pointed our, these schools result in the productivity of Islamic life. Although due to aforesaid reasons the formation of these schools could be predicted, what transformed this positive and constructive phenomenon into a negative one in the process of Islamic development is what can be called sectarian detriment. Sectarianism diverges from the dialogical path enjoined by the Holy Quran, disregards the lenience and moderateness of Islam, and descends to unproductive and reprehensible moral altercation. To paraphrase Shaykh  Yusuf Qardawi (n.d.:210), we are witness to horrible times and un-Islamic methods of imputing others with disbelief, iniquity, and heresy, which on heir own have lead to numerous confrontations, produced streams of blood and ears, and divided the Ummah, distancing it form its proper civilized stature.  

Consequently, we urgently entreat that religious schools return to their natural state by developing the spirit of constructive Islamic dialogue, shared empathy, and discovery of common grounds; that is, what we view as the “Movement for Proximity of Islamic Schools”.



That which in recent decades has come to be named the Movement for Proximity of Islamic Schools obtains its roots from the most ancient of Islamic periods. To explain, this movement has derived its very authenticity and versatility form the lofty principles of the Islamic Shariah to say nothing of the fact that, with the expansion of the Ummah’s responsibilities, its necessity has become manifest in the shaping of, or at the very least in the active participation in, the Islamic civilization.

In recent times, this movement has been successful in becoming an active Islamic approach. The ulama’ and Islamic personages laid the foundations of this grand movement at the close of the 1940s. They made great efforts to delineate its principles, prompting them to write many articles with the aim of justifying and consolidating the movement and establishing its authenticity, its religious origins, and its ever-increasing necessity in the Islamic society.

Now, we are proudly witness to the flourishing of this seed and its subsequent growth into a great tree of purity which in the locution of the Quran enjoys firm roots, possess branches reaching up into the sky, and continually gives forth prolific fruits.


It is our belief that if the fundamentals that all Islamic schools commonly agree on are considered, general advocacy of the concept of proximity will logically ensue. These fundamentals are as follows:

First is belief in the basic tenets of faith; namely, divine unity (in the essence, attributes, actions, and worship of God), the prophethood of Muhammad (s), the Holy Quran, and the Resurrection.

Second, total adherence to the fact that the Holy Quran and the noble Sunnah or Tradition of the Prophet (s) are the main sources of understanding the views of Islam in all things and affairs including existence in its entirety, life, and the past, present, and future of humans in both worlds as well as the commandments of the Shariah that organize human life and personal and social behavior. Other principles and sources such as reason, syllogism, and consensus are only credible if they are supported on or derived from one of these main sources.

All of the personages of the Islamic schools plainly acknowledge the fact that they present their views by means of these two sources.

In this regard, many narrations from the Imams (‘a) have been documented. For instance, it is cited that Imam Sadiq (‘a) stated:

Everything returns (or refers) to the Book and Tradition (Hurr ‘Amuli, 1412a:111).

Malik Ibn Anas has sated:

I am a child of Adam who might be either right or wrong; thus, collate my statements with the Book and Tradition (Ibn Alusi, 1401:199).

Shafi ‘I also have made statements with the same purport.


To be continued