Rationalism and Scripturalism in Shīʿī Islam: A Comparative Study of the Views of al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq and al-Shaykh al-Mufīd

Document Type: Original Article


al-Mustafa International University


With the commencement of the occultation of the Twelfth Imam (a), a period of perplexity (ḥayrah) begins in the Shīʿī community: on the one hand, the Shīʿī community is faced with questions from within, and, on the other hand, the Shīʿīs are confronted with doubts and questions from other sects and schools, especially the Zaydīs and the Muʿtazila. It was in this intellectual milieu that the two schools of Qom and Baghdad shaped the two distinct Shīʿī doctrinal systems based on scripturalism and rationalism. The crises of the period of perplexity led al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq and al-Shaykh al-Mufīd to employ their innovative thinking in their respective scripturalist and rationalist approaches so as to bring the Shīʿī community out of this plight. The present article seeks to carry out a comparative study of the place of intellect in the doctrinal systems of the rationalist school of Baghdad and the scripturalist school of Qom, as well as the innovations brought about by al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq and al-Shaykh al-Mufīd in presenting the role of reason. In examining this question, an attempt will be made to show that, due to the guiding teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), the place of reason in Shīʿī doctrines and the categorization of the two schools of Qom and Baghdad into scripturalist and rationalist in the era of the Infallible’s occultation did not result in a deep fissure, as witnessed between the Ashʿarī and Muʿtazilī theological schools.
After the commencement of the age of occultation and the needs of Shīʿī communities in this era, al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq and al-Shaykh al-Mufīd, with their novel approaches in hadith studies and theology, elevated the role of reason in Shīʿī teachings. The effects of this were subsequently transferred from ḥadīth studies to theology and thereafter to jurisprudence and legal theory, and reason became the fourth principle in jurisprudence.