Introduction The Qur'an is permeated with an ethos in which law and ethics are organically intertwined to such an extent that even immutable and unchanging aspects oflaw, like the ritual prayers and fasting in the realm of acts ofworship ('ibädah), are co-joined with an ethical imperative. 1 The theology of ethical objectivism adopted by the Shi'is should have strengthened this outlook and facilitated the formulation of methods, principles, and rules to address new contingencies on the social plane as well as to interrogate and refute existing legal decrees that violated Qur'anic moral and ethical norms. Although having intellect ( 'aql) as one of its sources in the endeavor to deduce fresh juridical rulings (ijtihäd), Shi' i jurisprudence nevertheless failed to exploit such principles and juristic devices as ma$la!:zah (public interest) and maftadah (that which promotes corruption and harm), l:zusn (goodness) and qub!:z (evilness), ma'ruf(universally recognized as morally approved) and munkar (universally recognized as morally disapproved), fitrah (primordial disposition) and 'illah (e:fficacious cause). Instead, it anchored itself in the text of the Qur'an and the hadith literature and provided only a limited role for the contextualization and extraction of universal values and principles from the primary sources. This is partly because for most oftheir history, the Shi'is were a minority and, as such, did not face the challenge of providing pragrnatic and practical guidance to the lay people. At the same time, access to the infallible Imam (at least until the middle of the tenth century) removed the urgency of developing a legal theory with an ethical underpinning because h e was vie w ed as the repository of authoritative information. Thus there was limited scope for ijtihäd.