Skeptics of Juridical Rationalism: Epistemology and the Structure of Power in Sixteenth Century Iran

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Jurdi Abisaab
Institutional Affiliation : 
Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University
Academic Bio: 
Associate Professor, Safavid Iran, juridical-legal thought and social history of Twelver Shi’ite societies in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon

Several Iranian and Arab fuqaha ’, philosophers and members of the administrative elite contested the mujtahids’ legal authority derived from an association between juridical rationalism and imperial power in the sixteenth century. I delineate the growing skepticism about the mujtahids’ epistemic base, which led to the formation of akhbarism, juridical traditionism, by Muhammad Amin Astarabadi (d.1033). I examine Astarabadi’s approach to the use of logic, forms of analogical reasoning, and ‘empirical’ methods for verifying the ahadith at the hands of usulis (rationalists), like al-Shahid al-Thani, and al-Muhaqqiq al-Karaki. I also investigate how akhbarism, which theoretically advocated a negation of authority for the jurist, promoted itself as an alternative to usuli- ijtihadi  Shi’ism.

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