Classical Naṣṣ Doctrines in Imāmī Shīʿism: On the Usage of an Expository Term

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This article reexamines the use of the term naṣs, which since Marshall Hodgson has been used in modern historiography to refer to an indigenous Shīʿī mechanism of succession to the imamate. An alternative thesis is proposed here which situates the origins of the term in Shīʿī usage over the 8th to 11th centuries within the scholarly discourses of kalām and uṣūl al-fiqh. From the perspective of theological hermeneutics, classical Imāmī naṣṣ doctrines valorized revelatory specification (naṣṣ) of authority to the exclusion of opinion and interpretive effort (ijtihād). As is shown here, the elaboration of these doctrines was historically predicated on an attempt to explain the Shīʿī imamate as a solution to the problem of epistemological uncertainty in Islamic scholarship. This is illustrated with reference to Sunnī, Muʿtazilite, Zaydī, Imāmī, and Ismāʿīlī literature, documenting the earliest usage of the term naṣṣ within a broader intellectual milieu than has hitherto been the case.

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2

Hodgson, “How Did the Early Shîa Become Sectarian,” p. 10.

5

See Crone, God’s Rule, pp. 110, 117; Dakake, Charismatic Community, index, s.v. “naṣṣ.”; Haider, Shīʿī Islam, index, s.v. “naṣṣ.”

7

See Hodgson, “How Did the Early Shîa Become Sectarian,” p. 10, n. 58.

21

See Bayhom-Daou, “Hishām B. Al-Ḥakam,” p. 80. As an anachronism one could certainly point to usage of term “Imāmiyya” which is unattested for the 2nd/8th century; see al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 8.

22

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, pp. 2, 15.

23

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 16, lines 5-6.

25

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 16, line 13.

26

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 17, lines 5-8.

27

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 18.

28

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 19.

29

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 3, line 2.3.

31

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 7, line 8.

32

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 8, line 10. The use of aṣḥāb al-naṣṣ indicates that naṣṣ was in fact viewed as a “doctrine” or “position” by the author of the text.

33

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 7, line 13; 8, line 1.

34

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 15, line 6 ff.

35

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 8.

48

Vishanoff, Formation, p. 560. Cf. another discussion (ibid., p. 460) where al-Shāfiʿī refers to God’s argument being conveyed by “the naṣṣ of a clear [verse of the] book or [naṣṣ] of a sunna which is agreed upon” (naṣṣ kitābin bayyinin aw-sunnatin mujtamaʿ ʿalayhā). Note the importance of the mode of transmission for the latter (cf. ibid., p. 478).

53

Van Ess, Frühe Muʿtazilitische Häresiographie, p. 44.

54

Van Ess, Frühe Muʿtazilitische Häresiographie, p. 44.

55

Van Ess, Frühe Muʿtazilitische Häresiographie, p. 44.

58

Al-Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 9.

76

Al-Ashʿarī, Maqālāt, p. 67.

84

Al-Ṭūsī, Ikhtiyār, p. 223.

91

Ibn Bābūya, Kamāl al-dīn, p. 1.

93

Ibn Bābūya, Kamāl al-dīn, pp. 362-68.

94

See the excerpt collected by Ansari, al-Mutabaqqī min kutub mafqūda, pp. 140-44.

99

Cf Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 16, line 10.

100

Cf. Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 17, line 5.

101

Cf. Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 16, line 12.

102

Cf Nawbakhtī, Firaq al-shīʿa, p. 16, line 13; p. 17, line 7.

104

Al-Jāḥiẓ, al-ʿUthmāniyya, p. 276 .

105

Al-Jāḥiẓ, al-ʿUthmāniyya, p. 277.

106

Al-Jāḥiẓ, al-ʿUthmāniyya, p. 278.

108

Brunschvig, “Muʿtazilisme et Optimum,” p. 11.

109

Ibn Bābūya, Kamāl al‐dīn, p. 89.

112

Ibn Bābūya, Kamāl al-dīn, p. 60.

113

Ibn Bābūya, Kamāl al-dīn, p. 61. The imamate is only valid, Ibn Qiba tells us, for a figure singled out by naṣṣ, who in addition to their knowledge and excellence, rejects ijtihād and qiyās (ibid., 109)—reducing the qualifications to uṣūl terminology which highlights the epistemologically certainty underlying the imamate’s institution and function.

114

Ibn Bābūya, Kamāl al-dīn, p. 61. Haider does mention this argument without sourcing it; see Shīʿī Islam, p. 42. Sachedina mentioned this argument in citation of al-Murtaḍā and al-Ḥillī; Islamic Messianism, p. 137.

115

Ibn Bābūya, Kamāl al-dīn, p. 62.

116

Al-Mufīd, Awāʾil al-maqālāt, p. 68. Such miracles, from a Muʿtazilite perspective, would have been viewed as threatening the integrity of the proof of prophethood, which likely informed the view of the Nawbakhtīs.

124

Al-Mufīd, Awāʾil al-maqālāt, p. 65.

126

Al-Mufīd, Awāʾil al-maqālāt, p. 66.

133

Daftary, The Ismāʿīlīs, p. 275.

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