AḤMAD B. ʿOMAR B. SORAYJ, ABU’L-ʿABBĀS, Shafeʿite author from Shiraz (249/863-306/918-19). He studied feqh with some of the most prominent scholars of the second generation after Šāfeʿī; his first official post mentioned in the sources was that of qāżī in Shiraz. The last decades of his life he spent in Baghdad, where he acquired great fame as a teacher. The vizier ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā is said to have urged him to take over the post of a qāżī al-qożāt, but Ebn Sorayǰ refused. He wrote many treatises, mostly concerned with polemics about juristic methodology. The first disciples of Šāfeʿī had not been able to preserve the delicate compromise worked out by their master between the fixed sources of Muslim jurisprudence, i.e., the Koran and Tradition (Hadith), and the means of further theoretical development and practical application, i.e., the methods of deduction. In the course of the 3rd/9th century a rather wide range of opinions as to the scope of independent reasoning could be noticed among the followers of Šāfeʿī. On the one hand the Zahirite school came into being, which wanted to keep strictly to the traditional Islamic sources, rejecting qīās (analogy) as an instrument of arriving at clear decisions. On the other hand first attempts are made at compromise between Tradition and speculative reasoning (kalām) in regard to methods of argumentation. These attempts could not remain without influence on the development of juristic methodology. Ebn Sorayǰ is reported to have been the first Shafeʿite to introduce dialectic disputations into the field of jurisprudence, stating that kalām could not do any harm to feqh. Owing to this conviction, which he had formed probably during his famous controversies with Moḥammad b. Dāʾūd, the son of the founder of the Zahirite school, Ebn Sorayǰ must be considered as one of those who laid the foundations of the Shafeʿites’ disposition to give speculative reasoning a wide range of application within their intellectual activities; Ašʿarī, Ebn Sorayǰ’s younger contemporary, was likewise a Shafeʿite; and in the 5th/11th century the Shafeʿites were denounced for using pure kalām and neglecting Hadith. Nothing has come down to us from Ebn Sorayǰ’s literary production, which is said to have amounted to 400 titles. Sobkī (d. 756/1355), author of the well-known bibliographical dictionary of the Shafeʿite school, already had to express his regret that he could find very few of these works.
Taʾrīḵ Baḡdād IV, p. 287, no. 2044.
Sobkī, Ṭabaqāt1 II, pp. 87-97.
J. Schacht, “Ibn Suraydj,” EI2 III, pp. 949-50.
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 28, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 6, p. 643