‘Aql (, literally "something tied to an animal's feet to restrain it" - see ‘agal "id."), is an Islamic concept referring to natural human knowledge in Islamic ‘agal or to ‘agal in Islamic ‘agal. In ‘agal, it is associated with using reason as a source for ‘agal "religious law" and has been translated as "dialectical reasoning".

While predominantly expounded by Shī‘ī thinkers, ‘agal such as ‘agal and ‘agal share similar beliefs.

Shī‘ah Legal ImplementationEdit

In Shī‘ah jurisprudence, ‘aql is the process of using intellect or logic to deduce law. Legal scholars in both Sunni and Shī‘ah Islamic traditions share Quranic interpretation, the ‘agal, and Ijma‘ "consensus" as sources of Islamic law and judicial decisions (ḥukm). However, ‘agals of the Ja‘farī ‘agal utilize ‘aql whereas Sunnis use ‘agal "analogical reasoning" as the fourth source of law.

Among Twelvers, ‘agals (associated with exotericism and traditionalism and theological schools in ‘agal) and ‘agals (associated with esotericism and rationalism and theological schools in ‘agal) were contending subschools: the former reject ‘agal outright; the latter advocate ijtihad and have been predominant for the last 300 years.[1]

In Shī‘ī Islam, "the gates of ijtihād" were never closed and with the use of ‘aql, Shī‘ī mujtahids "practitioner of ijtihād" and faqīhs "legal specialists" are able to respond as issues arise that were not explicitly dealt with in the Qur'ān or Sunnah.


In Islam, the term ‘aql was heavily elucidated by early Shī‘ah thinkers; it came to replace and expand the pre-Islamic concept of ḥilm () "serene justice and self-control, dignity" in opposition to the negative notions of ignorance (jahl) and stupidity (safah).[1]

The "possessor of ‘aql", or al-‘āqīl (plural al-‘uqqāl) realises a deep connection with God. ‘agal (d. 765, notably an ‘agal) described this connection as a realisation that God loves some, that God is truth and that only ‘agal "sacred knowledge" and its development can help humanity fulfil its potential.

His son, Imām ‘agal (d. 799), expanded this exegesis by defining ‘aql as the "faculty for apprehending the divine, a faculty of metaphysical perception, a light in the heart, through which one can discern and recognize signs from God."[1] He further noted that where the A'immah (Imāms) are the ḥujjatu ż-żāhirah "External proof [of God]", ‘aql is the ḥujjatu l-Bāṭinah "Secret proof".[1]

While in early Islam, ‘aql was opposed to jahl "ignorance", the expansion of the concept meant it was now opposed to safah "[deliberate] stupidity" and junūn "lack of sense, indulgence". Under the influence of ‘agal thought, ‘aql came to mean "dialectical reasoning".[1]



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