Islam / Sharia / Madhhab
Other spellings: zahir
In Islam, a school of law, madhhab, between 9th and 14th centuries.
Zahiriya is derived from the Arabic word zahir, "visible, obvious, clear". The main teaching of Zahiriya was that the Koran and Sunna only could be understood by its literal text.
Zahiriya rejected the main practices of fiqh, mainly the use of analogy, qiyas, and reasoning, ra'y, and accepted consensus, ijma, only in few instances. Zahiriya also rejected any understanding of God in an anthropomorphic sense, defining and describing God only by essential elements and qualities.
Zahiriya rationalized its method by quoutes from the Koran. Note especially the last words of 105:
Koran sura 16: The Bee
104 Say, ‘The Holy Spirit brought it down from thy Lord in truth, to stablish those who believe, and for a guidance and glad tidings to those who are resigned.’
105 We knew that they said, ‘It is only some mortal who teaches him.’-The tongue of him they lean towards is barbarous, and this is plain Arabic.
106 Verily, those who believe not in God’s signs, God will not guide them, and for them is grievous woe.
Origins and influence
The school was founded by Da'ud ibn Khalaf of Iraq in the 9th century. Nothing of his work has survived. His teaching quickly spread, reaching Spain where it was largely promoted by Ibn Hazm, and it is he who has become our source for insight into the madhhab of Zahiriya.
For a brief 15 years, in the end of the 12th century, Zahiriya reached the point of become the leading system in a society, during the reign of Almohad sultan Ya'qub al-Mansur.
Zahiriya would survive as an independent orientation within Islam and law until the 14th century. It appears that it then merged with the Hanbali school. In modern times, the central concept of Zahiriya has found a new form in Salafism and Islamism.
The core ideas of Zahiriya has been influential over Muslim thought throughout Muslim history.
The purity and simplicity of Zahiriya has made it an appealing system during times of great disunity and quarrels among Muslim scholars.
In the writings of Sha'rani, a 10th century scholar of the Hanbali madhhab some of Zahiriya regulations have been preserved, often running into great detail. Regulations are at points most rigid, at other points flexible.