Ibn al-Junayd al-Iskafi

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Ibn al-Junayd al-Iskafi
Personal Information
Full NameMuhammad b. Ahamd b. al-Junayd al-Katib al-Iskafi
TeknonymAbu 'Ali
Epithetal-Katib, al-Iskafi
Well-Known AsIbn al-Junayd al-Iskafi
Religious AffiliationTwelver Shi'a
LineageBanu Junayd
Place of BirthIskaf
Studied inBaghdad
Scholarly Information

Abū ʿAlī Muḥammad b. Aḥmad b. al-Junayd al-Kātib al-Iskāfī (Arabic:أبوعَلي مُحَمَّد بن أحمَد بن الجُنَيد الکاتِب الإسکافي), known as Ibn al-Junayd al-Iskāfī (Arabic: إبن الجنيد الإسکافي), was an Imami scholar of jurisprudence and theology in the fourth/tenth century. Ibn al-Junayd was born in Iskaf near Baghdad. He was a teacher of al-Shaykh al-Mufid. Ibn al-Junayd and Ibn Abi Aqil al-'Ummani are both called "al-Qadimayn" (that is, two ancient scholars of jurisprudence).

In addition to jurisprudence and theology, he was also an expert in Arabic literature, lexicology, book cataloging and style of writing. He was predominantly known for being a scholar of demonstrative jurisprudence. Al-Iskafi took jurisprudential statements of Imams (a) not to be first-hand statements of the laws of shari'a, but rather their own opinions out of their ijtihad. Ibn al-Junayd took it to be legitimate to deduce laws on the basis of analogy (qiyas) and other probabilistic evidence, and in cases of conflicts among sources, he believed that one should act out of caution.

Birth and Lineage

Ibn al-Junayd's birth date is unknown, but it is conjectured to be around 290/902-3. His lineage goes back to Banu l-Junayd who were seniors and heads of Iskaf (a place in Baghdad near Nahrawan). Ibn al-Junayd's teknonym is Abu 'Ali, and in texts of jurisprudence "Abu 'Ali" usually refers to him. He is mostly known, however, as Ibn al-Junayd, al-Iskafi, and al-Katib.

Fundamental Views in Jurisprudence

Ibn al-Junayd maintained that hadiths from Imams (a) concerning jurisprudential matters are not first-hand statements of the laws of sharia; rather they are their own personal opinions in jurisprudence resulting from exerting their power of ijtihad, which is why, he explains, Imams (a) themselves disagree over many matters (these are disagreements in their ijtihad). Thus Ibn al-Junayd's approach to conflicts within hadiths with regard to a specific law of sharia was quite different from that of his contemporary Shiite scholars.

Another salient characteristic of Ibn al-Junayd's jurisprudence is that he sometimes assumed some propositions as being pre-established, employing them as premises in his deductions. For example, he accepted the Prophet (s)'s hadith that "the caller to prayers (that is, mu'adhdhin) is trusted" as a principle, and then concluded that since a vice person cannot be trusted, then his call to prayers (adhan) should not be relied on.

Another particular approach of Ibn al-Junayd's in jurisprudence was the principle that once a description ('unwan) applies, the proposition's subject-matter is obtained.

These characteristics in Ibn al-Junayd's jurisprudence distinguished it from the standard Imamiyya jurisprudence and drew it closer to the Sunni jurisprudence. As some sources emphasized, his views were much closer to Abu Hanifa among Sunni scholars of jurisprudence, but in some issues they were closer to views of Malik.

His Criteria for the Preference of One Hadith over Another

Although there are many cases in which Ibn al-Junayd preferred one hadith to another conflicting one, it is difficult to confidently talk about his criteria for such preferences. However, with respect to issues concerning worships, he usually prefers a hadith which complies with religious caution.

But with respect to issues regarding punishments, such as hadiths regarding whether a burglar's hand should be cut to one fourth or one fifth, he preferred the latter, which is at odds with the fatwas of most Shiite and Sunni scholars, and this might reveal his tendency to stricter views about punishments.

Moreover, he sometimes preferred few or less popular hadiths to many or more popular ones. It seems in these cases that he preferred a hadith that complies with qiyas (analogy) and istihsan even though there are many hadiths to the contrary.

Reliance on Probabilistic Evidence

Since Ibn al-Junayd takes hadiths to be Imams' (a) own opinions, it makes sense that he relies on probabilistic evidence and reasoning such as literal meanings of the Quran, Khabar al-Wahid, qiyas (analogy), and istihsan. For example, with respect to how khums should be spent, he relied on the apparent implication of the Qur'an 8:41 and rejected the exceptions made in hadiths, which puts him against the consensus of Imamiyya scholars.

And he relied on khabar al-wahid (hadiths narrated by one or very few people), which puts him against the majority of early Imamiyya scholars of jurisprudence and on board with Sunni scholars and Imamiyya Akhbaris. In many of his arguments in jurisprudence, he appealed to khabar al-wahid, to which al-Shaykh al-Mufid objected.

Reliance on Qiyas

According to sources, he relied on qiyas (analogy) in agreement with Abu Hanifa and other Sunni scholars, and it seems that he wrote some books in this regard:

  • Kashf al-tamwih wa l-Ilbas 'ala ighmar al-Shi'a min amr al-qiyas (removing the confusions of Shias about qiyas)
  • Izhar-u ma satarah-u ahl al-'inad min al-riwaya 'an A'immat al-'Itra min amr al-ijtihad.

Ibn al-Junayd employed qiyas in many parts of his jurisprudence, including zakat. Moreover, he frequently appealed to istihsan in various issues.


In addition to all these, one characteristic of Ibn al-Junayd's jurisprudence is his inclination towards more cautious fatwas, even in cases other than conflicts among hadiths. He has a tendency to take all commands to imply wujub (obligation) and all prohibitions to imply hurma (prohibition) in issues of worship and transactions.

Ibn al-Junayd and Theology

It is not much reported over who was Ibn al-Junayd's teacher in theology and what relations he had with Imamiyya scholars of theology in Baghdad at that time such as al-Nawbakhti Family and Muhammad b. Bahr al-Ruhni (d. before 330/ 941-2) and non-Imamiyya scholars of theology, such as Mu'tazila. We only know that he was known as a scholar of theology and wrote some works in this field.

One of his views in theology is that the jurisprudential hadiths of Imams (a) were their own opinions and matters of their own ijtihad. He also believed that Imams (a) always adjudicated on the basis of evidence everyone had access to, rather than knowledge of the hidden facts. Ibn al-Junayd wrote some books about significant issues in theology of Imamiyya.


He had many works concerning various disciplines, including jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, theology, .... Tahthib al-Shi'a li ahkam al-shari'a is his most well-known work which is a complete jurisprudential book that includes almost all topics in jurisprudence. Al-Ahmadi li l-fiqh al-Muhammadi or al-Mukhtasar al-Ahmadi fi l-fiqh al-Muhammadi is another jurisprudential book that is a summary of Tahdhib. Al-Faskh 'ala man ajaz-a l-naskh li ma tamm-a naf'uh wa jamul-a shar'uh (The rejection of the view that allows the abrogation of a law of sharia that is completely legislated) is his book in principles of jurisprudence.

Comments by Other Scholars on Ibn al-Junayd

  • Al-Najashi: "Ibn al-Junayd is respectful, reliable and of a great position among our scholars".
  • 'Allama al-Hilli: "He is the shaykh (senior) of Imamiyya with great writings, and our scholars highly regard of him, take him to be reliable and of a great position. He is a prolific author".
  • Al-Shahid al-Awwal took him to be a great scholar, and relied on hadiths he narrated without chains of narrations (that are called mursalat).
  • Al-Shahid al-Thani: "He is unique in research and astuteness, and this is evident from his writings".