As you possibly know, Aql/Aghl (intellect) is regarded as one of the sources of Fiqh in Islam. In Shia Islam, there are four sources of Fiqh: Qur'an, Sunnah, Ijmaa’ and Aql. (www.wikifeqh.ir)

But as much as I know, Aql is considered as a source which has higher position/place (in Shia's view) in comparison with the view of other Mazhabs (sects). So, my query is that:

What is the reason that Shia (Twelver Shia) hold Aql in a higher position in comparison with other sects?

  • 1
    Could you provide some examples of where intellect is used as a higher position in Shia point of view and sunni (or other sects) point of view?
    – Kilise
    Jul 15, 2016 at 15:17
  • Related: islam.stackexchange.com/q/1306/22
    – goldPseudo
    Jul 15, 2016 at 17:29

3 Answers 3


As far as I understand the few given examples from How Aql is different from Qiyas?

What Shi'a call 'aql is part of the fiqh rules of all sunni madhhabs

The basic fiqh rule الضرورات تبيح المحضورات "the (forced) necessities allow the (application of) unlawful (things/acts)"

and can be applied in special osol of some schools too. Like al-maslaha or al-masaalih al-mursala where the public interest or the good result is in focus.

See also:
What are basic (osol al fiqh) differences & similarities between the 4 (existing) Legal Sunni Schools: Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, & Shafi'i? Charts?
What is the difference between qiyas and istislah?


Can a wall accept the prophethood of prophet Muhammad(PBUH)? No. It has no wisdom.

Is there any merit to someone who just follows others into accepting prophet Muhammad?

Yes. But there is far more merit to someone who intellects, asks questions, challenges the prophet and then accepts the prophet. That is done using intellection. Wisdom and the prophet both point to the same thing.

Usul al-Kafi Vol. 1 Pg. 10, Narration 12:

« عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ الْحَكَمِ قَالَ قَالَ لِي أَبُو الْحَسَنِ مُوسَى بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ ع...يَا هِشَامُ مَا بَعَثَ اللَّهُ أَنْبِيَاءَهُ وَ رُسُلَهُ إِلَى عِبَادِهِ إِلَّا لِيَعْقِلُوا عَنِ اللَّهِ فَأَحْسَنُهُمُ اسْتِجَابَةً أَحْسَنُهُمْ مَعْرِفَةً وَ أَعْلَمُهُمْ بِأَمْرِ اللَّهِ أَحْسَنُهُمْ عَقْلًا وَ أَكْمَلُهُمْ عَقْلًا أَرْفَعُهُمْ دَرَجَةً فِي الدُّنْيَا وَ الْآخِرَةِ يَا هِشَامُ إِنَّ لِلَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حُجَّتَيْنِ حُجَّةً ظَاهِرَةً وَ حُجَّةً بَاطِنَةً فَأَمَّا الظَّاهِرَةُ فَالرُّسُلُ وَ الْأَنْبِيَاءُ وَ الْأَئِمَّةُ ع وَ أَمَّا الْبَاطِنَةُ فَالْعُقُولُ... » (الكافي،ج 1، كتاب العقل و الجهل، ح 12، ص 10).

Oh Hisham, Allah has not sent his messengers and prophets to his servents but to intellect about God. Because people who have better insight/recognition of God respond better to the call of the prophets and those who have better knowledge of Allah's affairs have healthier wisdoms and whoever has a more complete wisdom has a higher place in this world and the next.

Oh Hisham, There are two proofs/touchstones for people. An internal proof and an external proof. External proofs are the prophets, messengers, Imams and the internal proof are the wisdoms

What does proof (حجت) mean? It means something that has absolute logical authority over you. Whatever the prophet says is always correct. Similarly whatever our wisdom says is also always correct ie God has not given us a malfunctioning measure. It is us the users of this measure that use it in an incorrect way.

You can damage your wisdom:

An iPhone is wired to connect to the WiFi, take photos, etc. Now imagine if you bashed this iPhone into the ground and still expected it to work the same. Well it doesn't! If you throw into hot water or put dust in its lens...it will no longer be able to take pictures with its original quality. A person who sins will no longer be able to use his wisdom in the same way.

Your wisdom has a certain reach:

Similarly you can't use an iPhone to make 100% accurate financial predictions. It's beyond it's reach. It can tell what it thinks but that would be using a probability. Trusting your iPhone on something it doesn't know of is not a wise decision. Similarly trusting yourself and your wisdom for something your wisdom is mute or can't be 100% accurate is not wise. Our wisdom is mute on what happens in our after-life. It's mute on many theological or judicial stuff. It's not mute on that we need to pray, but it's mute on its number of times or when it needs to be prayed. Yet once its told it makes absolute sense of it.

Some other instances where we use our wisdom:

  • How do you accept Qur'an?
  • How do you accept prophet Muhammad?
  • How do you accept the caliphate after prophet Muhammad?
  • How do differentiate between the right and wrong narrations?
  • How do you even up come up with criterions to identify right from wrong? I mean you can't say because that scholar said such and such.
  • What do when there are things that there are no mention in the Islamic history? e.g. insurance

To Shias the universal aql which functions the same way among humans (unless it sins too much, or reaches beyond its limit) is a source of truth itself. It's a gift bestowed to us by Allah. It's actually his greatest gift. It separates us from the rest of the creation.


To precisely answer the question:

  • I don't think any other way is actually possible. Every minute, every action we make is by using our intellection to some extent. Sometimes we use it 1% sometimes we use 100% of it and it's still not enough.
  • It's been heavily instructed in the quran to intellect, reflect on the parables, previous nations, stories
  • It's been defined by our Imams as God's greatest gift helping us to get to the heavens. Also our most important book the Usul al-Kafi begins with the chapter of intellection, pointing out to its significance.
  • And by constant reflection and you can filter right from wrong more frequently

PS: This comes at a cost. I've seen some Shias deeming themselves as intellectuals and saying that commandment that narration no longer applies or the prophet's intellection was weak etc. In Shia Islam you're instructed to question everything but still you must stay within the boundaries of Islam. You can question why one has to go 7 times back and forth in Mecca. If you don't find an answer you still have to do it. Only if you find an answer that is actually against intellection you're allowed to not do it. Why? Because intellection itself is a proof, just like the prophet and Qur'an. It's only difference is that we're sinners we can damage our wisdom just like one can damage an iPhone.

  • +1 Salamu haleykum. You did a fine job answering this question. Well constructed.
    – user24306
    Jul 18, 2018 at 20:56

In the Imami tradition of the Shia sect (specifically the school of thought under the Usoolis), 'aql is not meant as a way of deriving fiqh completely on its own. Rather it is meant to, through either logic deduction or reasonable inferences (that adhere to general principles of jurisprudence and justice), derive the specific details for fiqh which is derived from the Qur'an (first and foremost), then the hadith (after their gradation). In essence, 'aql is meant as a way to bridge the gap between specifics and the general ruling given in both the Qur'an and hadith.

Ayatollah Shaheed Morteza Motahhari in his book, Divine Justice, says this:

While it is true that not all the rulings of all issues are spelled out in detail-something which is not even possible because particulars are unlimited, the general principles of Islam are laid out such that they meet the demands of these endless particular instances and the differing situations of various times and places. Accordingly then, the responsibility of a jurisprudent is not to be pedantically stuck on literal words-wanting the particular ruling for each and every event from the Qur'an and traditions; nor is it his obligation-with the excuse of not having a ruling for a particular issue-to let his imagination go wild and make liberal use of analogy (to come up with a ruling).

On the contrary, the mandate of a jurisprudent is deduction (tafri') and inference by reasoning from the general to the specific (i.e. weighing particular facts or instances against general principles). Islamic principles already exist in the Book [i.e. the Qur'an] and Tradition [i.e. the hadith corpus]; only one skill is necessary, and that is ijtihad or the skillful correlation and application of general Islamic principles to transient and changing particulars.

In the book Usul al-Kafi, there is a chapter heading which reads, “There is no issue but that its principle is to be found in the Book and Tradition .”

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