Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi and Safavid Shi‘Ism: Akhbarism and Anti-sunni Polemic During the Reigns of Shah ‘Abbas the Great and Shah Safi
Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies
Taylor & Francis / British Institute of Persian Studies
The rise of the Akhbari school in the Safavid period has been portrayed as a challenge to both the clerical power of the ʿulamaʾ and sometimes even as in opposition to the Safavid state. As a counter example to these characterisations of Akhbarism, one might consider the example Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi (d.1070/1659), known as “The First Majlisi”, and father of the famous Safavid scholar Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (“The Second Majlisi”, d.1110/1699 or 1111/1700). He had close relations with the Safavid court, dedicating a work to Shah Abbas II, and generally accepting royal patronage when it was offered. His system of legal interpretation and the analysis of hadith in particular, is thoroughly Akhbari. In this article I analyse Taqi al-Majlisi’s ideas as found in the introductory sections to his Lawamiʿ-i Sahibqirani, a Persian language commentary on an early collection of Twelver Shiʿi reports from the Imams. As an appendix, I translate one section which demonstrates not only his thoroughly Akhbari methodology, but also his originality within the Akhbari school. He should, I argue, be particularly remembered for promoting the authority of the ʿulamaʾ from an Akhbari perspective, and here he links the rejection of ijtihad (a hallmark of the Akhbari school) to the Shiʿi rejection of the selection of Abu Bakr as caliph. In doing this, he establishes and exploits a link between the support of ijtihad (that is, the Usuli position), the heresy of Sunnism and the betrayal of fundamental Shi‘i beliefs.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Taylor & Francis via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 55.1, pp. 24 - 34