By Bob Brier
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Additional info for The History Of Ancient Egypt (Part III)
The argument implies that if potential errors and uncertainty are not used to challenge the reliability of eyewitness testimony, they should not be used to challenge the reliability of Prophetic reports. What al-Shafi4i has not done is confront and refute the problems of error and uncertainty in the Madith. Al-Shafi4i then compares the standards for accepting an eyewitness with the standards for accepting a transmitter of Madith (mumaddith), saying: If you have been commanded to do that based on the reliability of the two eyewitnesses, according to what is readily apparent, then you accept them according to what is readily apparent, and only God knows the unseen.
It is not just any legal situation, but the most serious possible—a capital crime: “I said: ‘what do you say about this man next to me? ’” “He said: ‘No, but by way of deduction. ’ ”38 Al-Shafi4i then asks about various other possible understandings that the intrinsic meaning of God’s Book may allow. ”39 Here, al-Shafi4i portrays his opponent as someone who applies a double standard of certainty where certainty is concerned, challenging the acceptance of Prophetic reports on the basis of certainty, yet accepting uncertain testimony under the most serious of circumstances.
In Judaism, the Mishna serves much the same function that the Madith have come to serve in Islam. It is a codification of the Oral Law and contains rulings related to the details of ritual purity, prayer, marriage, divorce, and so on. 18 However, 4Umar is credited with objecting to not only the writing of the Madith, but also to transmitting them. Perhaps the strongest and most compelling story about 4Umar’s attitude toward Prophetic traditions is that found in volume six of the Tabaqat. Here, Ibn Sa4d relates the story of 4Umar’s instructions to a delegation of companions that he is sending to the region of Kufa to serve as administrators.