Taking A Theological Turn in Legal Theory: Samarqandi Hanafis’ Epistemology of Community – Dale J. CORREA

Yazan;Kayhan Ali

Hadith to set the context of the talk:

‘… it is incumbent upon those who are present to inform those who are absent, because those who are absent might comprehend (what I have said) better than some who are present.’ (Al-Bukha­ri and Muslim collected this Hadith)

This talk focuses on the development of the Transoxiana Hanafi approach to akhbar in usul and kalam from the for­mative period to a theological turn in the Hanafi approach and the post-for­mative period. The talk thereby highli­ghts: a shift in the center of learning, as traditionally conceived, from Iraq to the Transoxiana; new sources the school used in the development of this approach; and a unique epistemology upon which they based their thought.

The first stage of my study project iden­tifies the reason-revelation (aql –sami) binary and three vehicles of knowledge: Sense, reports, mind; this framework is used to answer the question: How do we know what we know? The framework explains various issues, such as the role of reason in the wisdom of God’s or­dering the universe, the best means of attaining religious knowledge, and the moral-epistemic protection of the um­mah from agreement on an error.

Here Maturidi is indebted to Mutazili and Murjii constructions for this fra­mework, including the aql –sami binary and the three vehicles. The main aim is to protect basic Muslim truths from competing claims and works from the formative period reveals the framework in a detailed fashion.

The study concerns the treatment of akhbar by the school (especially, al-Ma­turidi, Abu Senema, al-Dabusi) on Tawattur (recurrent transmission). The conditions for tawattur are:

  • The Truth of the first statement
  • Zaruri (immediate) knowledge Agreement of the hadith with the ac­companying context Transmission by a vast and internal­ly diverse group Tawattur leads to universal and obje­ctive knowledge. Key here is the idea that dogmatism must not constrain or prevent objective truth. This objectivity serves as a foundation for the reliability of reports. The following shifts occur with this ap­proach to akhbar: A shift on how non-mutawattir ha­dith are viewed, which leads to commu­nitarian approach to knowledge in this regard.The splitting of knowledge between zururi and istidlali, which is used to dif­ferentiate ruwaya and shahada.A shift in concern to support the epistemic success of the Muslim com­munity, rather than focus on why ot­hers are unreliable transmitters of the truth. This talk looks at later post-formative Hanafi thought, most particularly, the theology of Najmaddin Nasafi, Abu Thana Lamashi, and legal theory of Nasafi, Lamashi and Aladdin al-Sa­markandi. Samarkandi is the primary source for Hanafi legal theory. This generation of scholars takes a the­ological turn, placing more emphasis on the theological principles underlying legal theory than was done before. One reason for this is perhaps the growing need to reintegrate the Islamic sciences with each other after they had become greatly separated. Another reason may be their education under figures such as Pazdawi and Abu Omar Nasafi. Together this generation clarifies the re­lation between:
  • Truth (sidq) – false (kadhb)
  • Definitiveness (qata) and supposition (zan)
  • Immediacy (Durura) and acquisition (iktisab)
  • Belief and denial

Such clarifications were needed becau­se while in theology absolute certainty is needed to make a judgement, in law merely a certain probability regarding the truth of a Sunna is acceptable. The Most important development and ulti­mate maturation for knowledge throu­gh agreement occurs in Samarkandi’s Mizan, where he states that knowledge reach via agreement of the community is as reliable as God’s revelation and His messengers reports. Samarkand also limits trustworthiness to the Mus­lim community alone. The aim is to maintain consistency between religious belief and legal reasoning.

The Theological Turn

The theological turn advanced by the three scholars named above is evident in: the introduction to their works; their labelling some usul issues as kalam is­sues; and the incorporation of theologi­cal discussions into their usul. Their approach shows the falsity of Ibn Khal­dun’s division of usul al-fiqh into two mutually exclusive groups, the Mutazi­lah and the Hanafis. Rather the Hana­fis see usul al-fiqh as a branch of kalam.

In the introduction to Mizan, Samar­kand divides works on the issue into two groups: (1) accurate works by tho­se who combined usul and furu, such as al-Maturidi, and (2) works by those who attained a great degree of accuracy and extracted furu from the apparent meaning of revelation, but lacked profi­ciency in rational thought. Samarkandi says that the first way was abandoned due to the difficulty in understanding those works, while the second has beco­me popular due to the fuquha, though they contain inaccuracies that have not been corrected. So Samarkandi says he will address the problem in the introdu­ction.

Other  aspects of the theological turnhaira. But Nasafi says that they are not accountable for the laws of God, contra the Mutazilah. Finally, Nasafi says that judgement must be suspended (waqf) regarding the permissibility (Mutazili view) or impermissibility (Ashari view) of using what is beneficial before God’s informs humanity on this subject. Each of the three scholars regards al-Maturidi as the leader of their scho­ol, but they do not hold his word as bin­ding.

Idea of Knowledge Through Agree­ment

The three scholars use the idea of qawn (vast group of people) for the mutawat­tir report, rather than the idea of jama (group of scholars). Distinction: meshur does not depend on vast group (qawm) for its reliability; mutawattir does de­pend on a qawm.

Looking at the three scholars, we can see that the conditions of the mutawat­tir report are continuity, diversity (of the group), and geographic dispersal (of the group). Samarkandi limits the pos­sibility of a reliable and true mutawat­tir report to the Muslim community. He also states that those reporting ahad reports must be Muslim to be deemed reliable transmitters. Lamashi applies this to reject the proposed crucifixion of Jesus, transmitted recurrently by the Christians, given the comments of the Quran on this event.




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