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The Akhbaris (Arabic: أخباریون‎, Persian: ‌اخباریان‎) are Twelver Shia Muslims who reject the use of reasoning in deriving verdicts, and believe in Quran and Hadith. Akhbari_sentence_0

The term Akhbari (from khabara, news or report) is usually used in contrast to Usuli (from Uṣūl al-fiqh, principles of Islamic jurisprudence). Akhbari_sentence_1

Unlike Usulis, Akhbaris do not follow or do Taqleed of a Mujtahid, the marja‘s (models for imitation) who practice modern form of ijtihad (independent legal reasoning); consequently they do not accept Usul al-fiqh. Akhbari_sentence_2

Akhbaris perform Taqleed of Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi the Twelfth Imam of Shias who is in the Occultation. Akhbari_sentence_3

They say Taqleed is permissible when it is performed of an infallible Hujja, whereas they consider Taqleed to be forbidden when it is performed of a non-Infallible. Akhbari_sentence_4

Contrary to Usulis, Akhbaris believe in the perpetuity of Sharia from only the infalibles, so the right to interpret the Quran is only to 14 infallibles who have complete in-depth gnostic knowledge (al-rāsixūn fi-l-ʿilm Arabic: الراسخون فی العلم‎). Akhbari_sentence_5

Whereas the former believe in the development of jurisprudence with time 'Uṣūl al-fiqh', Akhbaris seek religious rulings or Islamic jurisprudence from a dead or living Muhaddith, who has narrated or narrates the rulings hadith of The Fourteen Infallibles without interpreting it. Akhbari_sentence_6

Further Akhbaris say that The Fourteen Infallibles or Shia Imāms never permitted Ijtehad. Akhbari_sentence_7

Although Usulis and Akhbaris use the same Hadiths, they differ in many aspects as the latter only use the sacred scriptures as sole sources. Akhbari_sentence_8

Most Akhbaris believe no one can give new religious rules until the return of the Mahdi as the saviour of humanity. Akhbari_sentence_9

Akhbari nowadays form a minority within Shia Islam, with Usulis making up the majority. Akhbari_sentence_10

Akhbarism "crystalized" as a distinct movement with the writings of Muhammad Amin al-Astarabadi (d. 1627) and achieved its greatest influence in the late Safavid and early post-Safavid era. Akhbari_sentence_11

However, shortly thereafter Muhammad Baqir Behbahani (d. 1792), along with other Usuli mujtahids, crushed the Akhbari movement. Akhbari_sentence_12

Today it is found primarily in the Basra area of southern Iraq (where they form the majority in many districts) although no longer in the city. Akhbari_sentence_13

They are also found in the island nation of Bahrain, Hyderabad, India and different cities of Pakistan Karachi, Sehwan, Hyderabad, Lahore, Faisalabad (Lylpur), Chakwaal, and Gojar Khan with reportedly "only a handful of Shi'i ulama" remaining Akhbari "to the present day." Akhbari_sentence_14

Background Akhbari_section_0

Akhbaris consider themselves to be bounded by the Hadith of the two weighty things, where the Prophet Muhammad instructed his followers to follow the Quran and Ahl al-Bayt. Akhbari_sentence_15

Therefore, even for new events occurring during the Major Occultation, Akhbaris continue to follow traditions of Ahlul Bayt, as per the saying of Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi where he said "As for the new events, which will occur (during my occultation) turn to the narrators of our traditions, because they are my proof to you, while I am the proof of Allah to them" Akhbari reject fatāwa based on ijtihad, they also reject the permissibility of writing exegesis of the Qur'an without quoting the narrations of the infallible Ahlu l-Bayt. Akhbari_sentence_16

Akhbari quote the Hadith ath-Thaqalayn and several authentic traditions of the Twelve Imāms to prohibit the practice of exegesis. Akhbari_sentence_17

Akhbaris do not believe in generalization of Hadith, they say Hadith is either right or wrong; further they believe that Hadiths compiled in The Four Books of Shias are reliable. Akhbari_sentence_18

It is reported that Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi acknowledged Kitab al-Kafi (which is among The Four Books of Shias) and said "al-Kafi is sufficient for our Shia (followers)". Akhbari_sentence_19

Where Usulis doubt the credibility of this saying as author of Kitab al-Kafi never quoted the same. Akhbari_sentence_20

In short, the gist of Akhbārī ideology is that nothing but the aḥadīth of the Infallible can serve as authoritative evidence in Islam. Akhbari_sentence_21

Akhbārīs also differ from Usūlīs in their rejection of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists, arguing that preachers of religion have no role in politics, clerics should advise political leaders but not govern themselves. Akhbari_sentence_22

Akhbaris believe in separation of religion and state in absence of Twelfth Imam, they say that only an infallible ruling Imam has a right to combine religion and state; and which will be accomplished only after the arrival of awaited Shia Imam. Akhbari_sentence_23

Usūlism evolved on the basis of Usul al-fiqh (the hypothetical concepts and perceptions of some scholars) centuries after the major occultation. Akhbari_sentence_24

Among the earliest Shī‘a ulamā' such as Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni and Ibn Babawaiyya, the most important activity was transmission of a ḥadīth. Akhbari_sentence_25

At this time, the Shī‘a distinguished themselves from the Sunni in the category of law, which employed such methods as qiyas "analogical reasoning" and exegesis". Akhbari_sentence_26

However, the Shī‘a developed law directly from the traditions of the Imāms. Akhbari_sentence_27

Initially during the Buyid period, the Twelver ulamā' considered that since the Imām had gone into Occultation and his Nā'ib al-Khass was no longer present, all the functions invested in the Imām had lapsed. Akhbari_sentence_28

The principal functions of the Imām had been: Akhbari_sentence_29


  1. Leading the Holy War (jihad)Akhbari_item_0_0
  2. Division of the booty (qismat al-fay)Akhbari_item_0_1
  3. Leading the Friday Prayer (salat al-juma)Akhbari_item_0_2
  4. Putting judicial decisions into effect (tanfidh al-ahkam)Akhbari_item_0_3
  5. Imposing legal penalties (iqamat al-hudud)Akhbari_item_0_4
  6. Receiving the religious taxes of zakāt and khums.Akhbari_item_0_5

However, it soon became apparent that the situation caused by the lapse of functions of the Hidden Imām was extremely impractical and left the Twelver Shī‘a community at a great disadvantage, with no leadership, no organization and no financial structure. Akhbari_sentence_30

History Akhbari_section_1

Akhbaris contend that, over the course of the history of Twelver Shi'ism since the Occultation, Usuli ulama have progressively usurped more and more of the functions of the Hidden Imam. Akhbari_sentence_31

They distinguish five stages in this usurpation. Akhbari_sentence_32

First transgression Akhbari_section_2

As early as the 5th century AH / 11th century CE, more than 150 years after the Occultation of the 12th Imām, Shaykhu t-Ta'ifa reinterpreted the doctrine to allow delegation of the Imām's judicial authority to those who had studied fiqh. Akhbari_sentence_33

Although he implies in his writings that this function should only be undertaken by the ulama if there is no one else to do it. Akhbari_sentence_34

Shaykhu t-Taifa considered the ulamā' the best agents of the donor to distribute religious taxes since they knew to whom it should be distributed. Akhbari_sentence_35

Nevertheless, individuals were free to do this themselves if they wished. Akhbari_sentence_36

He allowed fuqahā' to organize Friday prayers in absence of the Imām or his special representative. Akhbari_sentence_37

The prominent Shī‘a scholars who rejected this thesis were: Akhbari_sentence_38


  1. `Alam al-HudaAkhbari_item_1_6
  2. Ibn IdrisAkhbari_item_1_7
  3. Allamah al-HilliAkhbari_item_1_8

It is to be noted that `Alam al-Huda was from among the Shaykhu t-Taifa's group. Akhbari_sentence_39

Second transgression Akhbari_section_3

By the 13th century, Muhaqqiq al-Hilli was able to advance these concepts very considerably. Akhbari_sentence_40

He extended the judicial role of the ulama to iqamat al-hudud the imposition of penalties by ulama themselves. Akhbari_sentence_41

In his writings it is possible to see the evolution in his thinking whereby the fuqahā' develop from the deputies of the donor for the distribution of religious taxes in his early writings to being the deputies of the Hidden Imām for collection and distribution of the taxes in his later works. Akhbari_sentence_42

In effect, transgressing the limits set by Shaykhu t-Taifa (two centuries earlier) in his first transgression. Akhbari_sentence_43

Third transgression Akhbari_section_4

Muhaqqiq al-Karkhi (About 300 years after the second transgression) was the first to suggest, arguing from the hadith of ‘Umar ibn Hanzala, that the ulama were the Nā'ib al-'Amm (general representative) of the Hidden Imām. Akhbari_sentence_44

But he restricted his application of this argument to the assumption of the duty of leading Friday prayers. Akhbari_sentence_45

Fourth transgression Akhbari_section_5

It was Shahīd ath-Thānī who took the concept of Nā'ib al-'Amm to its logical conclusion in the religious sphere and applied it to all of the religious functions and prerogatives of the Hidden Imām. Akhbari_sentence_46

Thus the judicial authority of the ulamā' now became a direct reflection of the authority of the Imām himself. Akhbari_sentence_47

It was now obligatory to pay the religious taxes directly to the ulamā' as the trustees of the Imām for distribution and the donor who distributed these himself was considered to obtain no reward. Akhbari_sentence_48

This is in direct contradiction to limits set by prior transgressions. Akhbari_sentence_49

Furthermore, Shahīd ath-Thānī extended the range of those eligible to receive money from zakāt to include religious students and the ulamā' themselves, who thus became the recipients of the money as trustees of students. Akhbari_sentence_50

Even in the field of defensive jihād, Shahīd ath-Thānī identified a role for the ulamā'. Akhbari_sentence_51

Only in the field of offensive jihād did he allow that the role of Hidden Imām had lapsed pending his return. Akhbari_sentence_52

Although the aforementioned scholars were not mujtahids in their full capacity, they introduced innovative concepts into Shī‘a theology which later formed the basis of the exegetical school. Akhbari_sentence_53

Their innovations were sharply criticized by prominent Shī‘a scholars of their time and thus, remained mostly theoretical. Akhbari_sentence_54

The traditional Shī‘a doctrine was, by its nature, fatal to leadership of any regime except that of Imām al-Mahdi since they believed that an Islamic state can be established only under the leadership of an infallible Imām. Akhbari_sentence_55

Thus, the Shī‘a had little role to play in supporting the decisions of the state, in contrast with the Sunni tendency of offering their full support to the Ottoman Empire. Akhbari_sentence_56

This caused a great deal of paranoia to the states where the Shī‘a were in majority. Akhbari_sentence_57

By the end of Safavid era the situation had become intense due to the rise of imperialism on a global scale. Akhbari_sentence_58

It was necessary to develop an alternate ideology for the survival of Iranian state. Akhbari_sentence_59

This is when a group of ulamā' were encouraged to squeeze out the possibility of extending the state's control over the shia majority; by whatever means necessary. Akhbari_sentence_60

The revival of Akhbārism, or "neo-Akhbārism" as it became known, was under the dean of Karbala scholarship, Yusuf Al Bahrani (1695–1772), who led an intellectual assault on Usuli thought in the mid-18th century. Akhbari_sentence_61

An Akhbārī critique of Usulism had emerged in Bahrain at the beginning of the 18th century, partly spurred by the weaknesses of the Usuli sponsoring Safavid empire. Akhbari_sentence_62

By succeeding to the role of dean of Karbala as one of the pre-eminent scholars of the age, al-Bahrani's extended this Bahrain-based debate to the rest of the Shī‘a world. Akhbari_sentence_63

Ayatollah Behbahani (a.r) Akhbari_section_6

Under al-Bahrani, Usuli scholarship was considered impure but Bahrani was not politically influential, although his student, the famous Sheikh Al-Hurr al-Aamili in his book Amal al-amil writes "He was a mountain and ocean of knowledge, No one from among the previous scholars preceded his knowledge or reached his status". Akhbari_sentence_64

{Edit: This seems completely incorrect. Akhbari_sentence_65

The Al-Bahrani referred to in this quote is referring to Sayyid Hashim Al-Bahrani. Akhbari_sentence_66

However this article is relating it to another scholar; the previously mentioned Yusuf Bahraini, who died nearly a century after Sheikh Al-Hurr Aamili} It was Muhammad Baqir ibn Muhammad Akmal al-Wahid Behbahani who challenged and defeated the Akhbaris and eventually became the most politically influential cleric in Karbala in 1772. Akhbari_sentence_67

Bihbahani's theology was not welcomed by the Akhbaris. Akhbari_sentence_68

Although this controversy had begun as a minor disagreement on a few points, it eventually grew into a bitter, vituperative dispute culminating in Behbahani's declaration that the Akhbārīs were infidels (Kuffar). Akhbari_sentence_69

However, the dispute remained purely intellectual. Akhbari_sentence_70

At first there was a large population of Akhbārī activists at the shrine cities of Iraq but it was Bihbahani who, at the end of the 18th century, reversed this and completely routed the Akhbārīs at Karbala and Najaf. Akhbari_sentence_71

South Iraq, Bahrain and a few cities in Iran such as Kirman remained Akhbārī strongholds for a few more decades but eventually the Usuli triumph was complete and only a handful of Shī‘a ulamā' remained Akhbārī to the present day. Akhbari_sentence_72

After the theological coup brought about by al-Wahid Bihbahani by military methods, the Usuli school became instrumental to the Iranian regime. Akhbari_sentence_73

Fifth transgression Akhbari_section_7

During the first Russo-Persian War (1804–1813), Fath Ali Shah's son and heir, Abbas Mirza, who was conducting the campaign, turned to the new ulama and obtained from Shaykh Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita' and other eminent clerics in Najaf and Isfahan a declaration of jihad against the Russians, thus implicitly recognizing their authority to issue such a declaration – one of the functions of the Hidden Imām. Akhbari_sentence_74

Kashif al-Ghita used the opportunity to extract from the state acknowledgment of the ulama's right to collect the religious taxes of Khums." Akhbari_sentence_75

This followed the pattern of other transgressions by overthrowing the limits of its prior (fourth) transgression. Akhbari_sentence_76

Iranian Revolution Akhbari_section_8

Following the Iranian Revolution, the Usūlī school has gained popularity among previously Akhbārī communities. Akhbari_sentence_77

Usuli clerical power reached its natural conclusion with control and domination of the state as promulgated through Vilayat al-Faqih under the authority of the Supreme Leader. Akhbari_sentence_78

Rejection of the Mujtahids Akhbari_section_9

Akhbārīs reject and even curse mujtahids. Akhbari_sentence_79

They practice this based on the last letter Imām Mahdi wrote to ‘Alī ibn Muhammad, fourth trusted follower of the Lesser Occultation. Akhbari_sentence_80

In the letter, Imām Zaman said: Akhbari_sentence_81

Akhbārīs claim that only the Imāms may be described as āyat Allahs (Ayatollahs, "signs of God") based on the Hadith-e-Tariq, and that no one else has the right to ascribe this divine title to themselves. Akhbari_sentence_82

For example, the Hadith-i Tariq says: Akhbari_sentence_83

Historically it was only in the early 19th century that ordinary mujtahids began to describe themselves as 'Ayatollahs.' Akhbari_sentence_84

Debate Akhbari_section_10

Prominent Akhbari scholars Akhbari_section_11



Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akhbari.