Zahirites


Zahirites
(zahiriyya)
   A theological-juridical school founded by Dawud ibn Khalaf (d. 270/844), a student of the great jurist al-Shafi‘i. The name of the school derives from the word zahir (‘apparent’, ‘external’) and has to do with its basic interpretive principle: careful privileging of the literal sense of the Qur’an and tradition (sunna). Restricting consensus (ijma‘) to that of Muhammad’s companions, rejecting juristic discretion (istihsan), considered opinion (ra’y) and even reasoning by analogy (qiyas), the now-defunct Zahirite school of jurisprudence was similar in spirit to the Hanbalites, but represented an even more extreme form of traditionalism. In spite of their low estimation of reason and interpretation, however, they rejected taqlid (obedience, following, imitation) and defended ijtihad (in the sense of exerting oneself in the search for a text, rather than ra’y or qiyas as an exercise of independent judgement). The Zahirites could also reach surprisingly cautious, moderate conclusions in the realm of theology, if only because of their refusal to engage in substantive exegesis: they recognized the importance of the divine names without anthropomorphizing God or positing a multiplicity of attributes, they emphasized God’s transcendent unity without divesting Him of attributes, and they affirmed the free power of human beings over their actions. The most influential and original thinker among the Zahirites was the Andalusian polymath, Ibn Hazm.
   Further reading: Goldziher 1971; Hallaq 1997; Schacht 1964/83

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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