The biggest doctrinal division in Twelver Shi’ism is the division between the Akhbari and the Usuli scholars. The Akhbari scholars can be described as literalists or fundamentalists who believe that the delivery of a verdict regarding an issue requires a specific text from one or more of the ‘Fourteen Infallibles’ i.e. The Prophet, his daughter Fatima and the twelve Imams of Twelver Shi’ism addressing the issue . The Usuli scholars on the other hand believe in the use of deductive reasoning to pass verdicts in an issue where they find no text from the ‘Fourteen Infallibles’ (Newman, The Nature of the Akhbārī/Uṣūlī Dispute in Late Ṣafawid Iran. Part 1: ‘Abdallāh al-Samāhijī’s “Munyat al-Mumārisīn”, 1992).
Abdullah bin al-Salih al-Samahiji has laid out the methodological differences of the Usuli and the Akhbari scholars in an unbiased manner in his work ‘Munyat al-Mumarisin’. According to the beliefs of the Akhbari scholars, the ‘Maraji’ or scholars who are considered authorities for passing independent judgement or ‘Ijtihad’ in the ‘Usooli’ school and their followers are not really followers of the Imam unlike themselves and those that follow them. This is because the ‘Maraji’ pass judgement on issues despite finding no texts narrated from the ‘Fourteen Infallibles’ addressing the issue. To Akhbari scholars, the ‘Ijtihad’ of the ‘Usooli’ scholars are that are not based on specific texts are mere conjecture. The Usuli scholars believe in four sources for evidence the Quran, the Sunnah, consensus and reasoning. The Akhbari scholars accept only the Quran and the Sunnah as evidence. The Akhbari scholars also hold that the Usuli scholar’s use of the Quran as evidence without recourse to the traditions of the ‘Fourteen Infallibles’ in interpreting the Quran and understanding the meaning of the Quran is invalid because no one other than the ‘Fourteen Infallibles’ truly understands the Quran (Newman, The Nature of the Akhbārī/Uṣūlī Dispute in Late Ṣafawid Iran. Part 1: ‘Abdallāh al-Samāhijī’s “Munyat al-Mumārisīn”, 1992).
The Akhbari scholars demand certainty in religious judgements and pronouncements, and according to their beliefs this certainty can only come from the traditions of the ‘Fourteen Infallibles’ anything less than that is conjecture and lying upon God and the one who practices ‘Ijtihad’ is committing a sin even if he happens to be correct in his pronouncements (Newman, The Nature of the Akhbārī/Uṣūlī Dispute in Late Ṣafawid Iran. Part 1: ‘Abdallāh al-Samāhijī’s “Munyat al-Mumārisīn”, 1992).
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