Shafi‘is as Ahl al-Ra’y &
Hanafis as Textual
Muhib Allah al-Bihari al-Hanafi (d. 1119 AH) has a fascinating epistle explaining how the Shafi‘is actually employed more analogical reason (ra’y) in their legal positions than the Hanafis, despite the latter being accused, rather derogatorily, of normatively leaving hadith for mere opinion as “ahl al-ra’y.” This excerpt is taken from Shaykh ‘Abd al-Halim al-Nu‘mani’s introduction to the Mirqat al-Mafatih of Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari, al-Bida‘at al-Muzjat, in which he reproduces a summary of the treatise.
As an aside, this isn’t a comment on the soundness of the positions listed hereunder in light of their ascription to the Shafi‘i school. Often, usuli scholars refer to former positions, positions ascribed to a mujtahid, or even positions of their students without specifying. If you seriously want to learn the usul of another school, you have to return to the relevant authorities and texts. Don’t quote positions from other than their proper, expected place (I hope to write about this some time, insha’Allah).
The upshot of his work is as follows:
(1) The Hanafis hold that the inclusive term (‘aam) of the Qur’an and Sunna is conclusive and decisive (qat‘i), so it is not permissible to use qiyas to come to a different conclusion. The Shafi‘is allow it.
(2) The Hanafis don’t interpret the unconditioned utterance (mutlaq) in light of a conditioned utterance (muqayyad) through qiyas. The Shafi‘is allow it.
(3) The mursal tradition is accepted by the Hanafis and given precedence to any ra’y. The Shafi‘is don’t accept the mursal unless it has an accompanying report (hadith), the statement of a Companion, or it is known that this person doesn’t transmit except from a veraciously reliable narrator (thiqa).
(4) According to the Hanafis, the statement of a Companion is always a full proof, akin to the Sunna, when it concerns a matter which cannot be discerned through ra’y. The Shafi‘is give precedence to ra’y.
(5) The Hanafis do not permit any extra specification or conditioning of the generality of the Qur’an by ra’y as it entails an abrogation. The Shafi‘is permit it.
(6) The Hanafis were very careful in establishing the soundness of a valid qiyas. Accordingly, they stipulated that the ‘illa which is shared between the original and derivative rulings must be legally effective, namely, its effectiveness must be well-known such that it is established by a text (nass) or by consensus (ijma‘). The Shafi‘is sufficed with ‘illa-based-correspondence (mula’ama), even if there was no congruity between the ‘illa and subsequent ruling.
(7) The Hanafis did not establish penal punishments (hudud) nor expiations (kaffarat) by mere ra’y. The Shafi‘is did.
So keep that in mind the next time you hear, “those pesky Ahl al-Ra’y…”