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History of the Twelve Imams (‘a) from the 5th to 10th Centuries

By: Rasul Ja 'fariyan
Translated by Dr. Delaram Furadi

A very early work entitled T?r?kh al-A’immah or T?r?kh al-Maw?l?d wa Wafay?t Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) is available. It mentions the dates of birth and martyrdom of the Infallible Imams (‘a) on the authority of Imam Baqir (‘a), Imam S?diq (‘a), Imam Riz? (‘a) and Imam ‘Askar? (‘a). This book is variously attributed to Ibn Khashsh?b, Nasr bin ‘Al? Jahzam?, Ahmad bin Muhammad Fary?b? and Ibn Ab? al-Thalj. Whoever happens to be its author it should be considered among the oldest books in this field that has survived from the 3rd century AH.[1] Another book entitled Zuhrat al-Muhaj wa Taw?r?kh al-Hujaj on the lives of the Imams (‘a) has been referred to by Ibn T?wus, but there is no further information on this book at hand.[2]
Exclusive books were written on the life of the Twelve Infallible Imams (‘a). The earliest surviving work in this field that has discussed this issue in detail is al-Irsh?d f? Ma‘rifah Hujaj-All?h ‘al? al-‘Ib?d by Shaykh Muf?d. The author has dedicated the first part of his book to a detailed account of Am?r al-Mu’min?n (‘a) and has practically dealt with the life and qualities of Prophet Muhammad (S) by emphasising on the prime position of Imam ‘Al? (‘a) right from the beginning of the Prophetic mission. The second part of al-Irsh?d deals with the life of the other eleven Imams and mainly contains historical and kal?m? discussions. Although Shaykh Muf?d has not mentioned his sources in every case, it is evident that he has used credible and important sources. Basically the major characteristic of Shaykh Muf?d in this regard is that he was well acquainted with books available in Iraq which were compiled by Iraq? historians. Mas?r al-Sh?‘ah by Shaykh Muf?d also gives us information on the life of the Imams (‘a).
The next important work in this field is the book I‘l?m al-War? bi A‘l?m al-Hud?, on the characteristics of the Prophet and his infallible progeny (‘a). In its section on the Imams (‘a) the book contains historical-kal?m? issues proving their Imamate, as is the case in al-Irsh?d. The author Ab? ‘Al? Fazl ibn Hasan al-Tabris? has accurately recorded his sources and in this way added to the book’s value. He has also incorporated important parts from Ab?n ibn ‘Uthm?n’s biography of the Prophet, a valuable Shi‘ite work which is not extant today.
Another immortal book is Man?qib Al-i Ab? T?lib by Muhammad bin ‘Al? Ibn Shahr Ashub al-Sarv? al-M?zandar?n?. This important and detailed work has been compiled with reference to hundreds of books and the author has given the work special value by quoting different sources and mentioning their names. The greater part of the book includes the life of Am?r al-Mu’min?n (‘a) and his merits as found in Sunni sources. But before that Ibn Shahr Ashub has dwelt in detail on the life of the Prophet and after the account of Imam ‘Al? (‘a) has focused on merits of the other Imams.
The book Rawzah al-W?‘iz?n by Fatt?l Naysh?bur? (d. 508) is also an important work which without mentioning its sources has dealt with the lives of the Twelve Imams (‘a). Another remaining work from the seventh century is Mukhtasar Ahw?l al-Nab? wa al-A’immah al-Th?n? ‘Ashar (‘a) by Shaykh Rash?d bin Ibr?h?m bin Ish?q Bahr?n?. The only extant copy of this book is being kept at the Markaz Ihy?’ al-Tur?th al-Isl?m? (Center for Revival of the Islamic Heritage) in Qum. Muntajab al-D?n al-Babawayh in his al-Fihrist has also referred to a book entitled S?rah al-Anbiy?’ wa al-A’immah by Shams al-Islam Hasan bin Husayn bin Babawayh al-Qumm? who lived in Rayy, but there is no trace of this book today.[3] He has also mentioned another book named al-Magh?z? wa al-Siyar by Sayyid Ab? al-Q?sim Zayd bin Ish?q Ja‘far? which shows the Shi‘ite community’s interest in this particular field. Shaykh Ab? al-Hasan bin ‘Al? bin Hibatull?h bin ‘Uthm?n Musil? wrote a book named al-Anw?r f? T?r?kh al-A’immah al-Abr?r.[4]
Another important work of the seventh century is Kashf al-Ghummah f? Ma‘rifah al-A’immah by ‘Al? bin ‘Is? Arbil?. This book which has been compiled from diverse Shi‘ite and Sunni sources, and has been written in an extremely moderate style, played a very important role in spreading Shi‘ism in the world of Islam and has been translated into Persian several times. This book describes the lives of the 14 Infallibles (‘a). We have elaborated on this work and its sources in an exclusive book.
During the 7th century several books were written on the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (‘a) and the tragedy of Karbal?’. Ibn T?wus (d. 664) has written two books entitled Kit?b al-Luhuf ‘al? Qatl? al-Tufuf and al-Masra‘ al-Shayn f? Qatl al-Husayn. A common book named Maqtal, Abu Mikhnaf is also believed to probably the work of Ibn T?wus (Etan Kohlberg: A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work – Ibn T?wus and his Library, pp. 42, 43).

Regional Histories from the 4th to 8th Centuries AH
The Sh’ites have also had a share in regional historiography. Among the earliest work in this field, which predates all other books is Nihl al-‘Arab by Muhammad bin Bahr Rahn?.[5] Y?qut al-Hamaw?, commenting on this book and its author, writes:
He has written many works including the one titled Kit?b Nihl al-‘Arab, in which he has mentioned the dispersion of Arabs in the lands of Islam, noting whether they were Shi‘ite, Kharijite or Sunni, but he had good words for the Shi‘ites as well as for others. I know about the part of the book which deals with the people of the east, especially of Kirm?n, S?st?n, Khur?s?n and Tabarist?n.
Nothing remains of this book except what Y?qut al-Hamaw? has written in Mu‘jam al-Buld?n.
The book al-Buld?n wa al Mas?hah or al-Tiby?n f? Ahw?l al-Buld?n as it is also known, was written by Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Kh?lid al-Barq?. The author of T?r?kh al-Qum used this work in the fourth century as a source for his history of Qum (Mudarris? has pointed out the quotations from al-Tiby?n in T?r?kh al-Qum; refer to Bibliography of Works related to Qum, p. 18. R?fi‘? has also quoted some passages from it in al-Tadw?n, pp. 44-48). In the printed edition of T?r?kh al-Qum, al-Barq? has been quoted extensively, and in one instance, it says: “In the book al-Buny?n al-Barq? thus writes...”.[6] It is possible that al-Buny?n is the misspelling of al-Buld?n. Another possibility is that the author of the bibliographical work Kashf al-Zunun has misspelled the book whose actual title is Kit?b al-Tiby?n f? Ahw?l al- Buld?n.[7] Muhammad bin Kh?lid al-Barq?, the father of Ahmad al-Barq? has also been named as the author of al-Buld?n wa al Mas?hah.[8] Another book of the same name al-Buld?n wa al-Mas?hah was written in the third century by Ab? Ja‘far Muhammad bin ‘Abdull?h bin Ja‘far bin Husayn bin Jami‘ al-Himyar?. When he failed in his efforts to get a copy of Ahmad al-Barq?’s book in Baghdad, Rayy and Qum, he decided to write a new book in this connection under the same title.[9]
Another important book on the history of Qum is the one written in 378 AH by Hasan bin Muhammad bin Hasan al-Qumm?. It is one of the most interesting and academic books of the early period of Islamic civilization. In contrast to the regional historiography of this period which mainly concerns the life of the notables of the cities, this particular work is a scholarly account of the various issues, including civic affairs, related to the city’s history. In the introduction, the compiler has divided the book into twenty chapters but unfortunately the Persian translation of only the fifth chapter is extant. There is no information either on the Arabic version or the rest of the translation. The Persian translation was completed in 805 AH by Hasan bin ‘Al? bin Hasan bin ‘Abd al-Malik Qumm?. Apart from the information given on the city of Qum, the book mentions valuable details concerning the collecting of taxes in those days. In addition the author has elaborated in detail on the Ash‘ar? tribe of the city beginning with its place of origin in Yemen and the meeting with Prophet Muhammad (S) in Medina on the advent of Islam till its migration to Iraq and then to Qum. He has also focused on the role of Ash‘arite tribesmen in the early Islamic conquests especially the conquest of parts of Iran.
Another valuable but lost book is the T?r?kh Rayy by Muntajab al-D?n Ibn Babawayh the author of al-Fihrist who lived in the sixth century. Ibn Hajar ‘Asqal?n? in his Lis?n al-M?z?n has quoted accounts of several Shi‘ite and Sunni notables from this book, of which 47 have been mentioned by the late Urmaw? in his introduction to the edition of al-Fihrist published by the Ayatull?h Mar‘ash? Najaf? Library, Qum (pp. 11-16). T?r?kh Rayy was also the title of a historical book written by Abu Sa‘?d Mansur bin Husayn Ab? the author of the valuable book Nathr al-Dur.[10] Another important book is the T?r?kh Tabaristan of Ibn Isfandiy?r who lived in the 6th century AH. It is considered the most important work on the history of Tabarist?n by a Shi‘ite historian. Mention should also be made of the T?r?kh Ruy?n of Mawl?n? Awliy?’ Allah Amul?. It is a precious work on regional history in which the author has mentioned part of the historical viewpoints of the Shi‘ites in the days of the Imams (‘a).
Arabic and Persian Works of ‘Twelver Sunnis’ on the Twelve Imams (‘a) from the 6th to the 10th Centuries
From among the Sunnis, several scholars for various reasons, have written books on the lives of the Twelve Imams (‘a). This is apart from those Sunni scholars who wrote books on the merits of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) in general and whose works have been introduced by Sayyid ‘Abd al-‘Az?z Tab?tab?’? in his series of articles entitled Ahl al-Bayt fi al-Maktabah al-‘Arabiyyah in the quarterly magazine Tur?than?. The term ‘Twelver Imam? Sunnis’ can be safely used to describe this group of authors. The first book in this regard is the Tadhkirah al-Khaw?ss of Yusuf bin Farghal? bin ‘Abdull?h al-Baghdad? Sibt Ab? al-Faraj ‘Abd al-Rahm?n bin al-Jawz? (581-654). The author has dwelt on the virtues of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and given an account of the lives and merits of all the Twelve Imams (‘a). Among the books which no longer exist Kit?b al-Al of Ibn Kh?lawayh (d. 370) must have been a similar work as could be gleaned from its passages quoted by Irbil? in his Kashf al-Ghummah.
One of the outstanding figures of this trend among the Sunnis was Kam?l al-D?n Muhammad bin Talhah Sh?fi‘? (d. 652) the author of the renowned book Mat?lib al-Su’ul f? Man?qib Al-i al-Rasul. Irbil? has praised him for his excellent account of the lives of the Twelve Imams (‘a). ‘Abd al-‘Az?z bin Muhammad known as Ibn Akhzar Gun?b?d? (d. 611) in his book Ma‘?lim al-‘Itrah al-Nabawiyyah wa Ma‘?rif Ahl al-Bayt al-F?timiyyah al-‘Alawiyyah has written on the lives of only eleven of the Twelve Imams (‘a) and for this reason he has been criticised by ‘Al? bin ‘Is? Irbil?.[11]
Two other important examples of Sunni books are al-Fusul al-Muhimmah f? Ma‘rifah Ahw?l al-A’immah by Ibn Sabb?gh M?lik? (d. 855) and al-Shadhar?t al-Dhahabiyyah f? Tar?jim al-A’immah al-Ithn? ‘Ashariyyah ‘ind al-Im?miyyah by Shams al-D?n Muhammad bin Tulun (d. 953). Hamdull?h Mustawf? the author of Nuzhat al-Qulub in his historical account titled T?r?kh-i Guz?dah, begins with the history of the first three caliphs and then elaborates on the life and virtues of Am?r al-Mu’min?n Imam ‘Al? ibn Ab? T?lib (‘a). In continuation, on page 198 he writes about the life of Imam Hasan (‘a) using the phrase Am?r al- Mu’min?n wa Haf?d Rasul Rabb al-‘Alam?n Imam al-Mujtab?, Hasan bin ‘Al? al-Murtaz? (‘a) which means “Commander of the Faithful, Grandson of the Messenger of the Lord of the Worlds, the Chosen Imam, Hasan the son of ‘Al? the Pleased.” The thirtieth chapter of the thirtieth section deals with the lives of the other Imams. Mustawf? writes: “Concerning the rest of Imams, the pleasure of Allah be upon them all, they were the proof of Allah for mankind. The period of their imamate, starting from 4th of Safar 49 AH till Ramaz?n 264, was 215 years and 7 months. The Imams did not rule as caliphs, but since they were deserving (to be caliphs), the benediction of their status travels like perfume on the road of epitome to bring proof.” This discussion continues till the account of the life of the Imam of the Age (‘a).[12]
Another important work is Fasl al-Khit?b by Khw?jah Muhammad P?rs? who lived in the ninth century AH. Despite his insistence on being a Sunni and even his strong stances against the Rafidites, he has written about the lives of the Imams (‘a). This part of the book has been published in volume 4 of the series of books titled Islamic Heritage of Iran. The author of Rawz?t al-Jin?n wa Jann?t al Jin?n, Darw?sh Husayn Karbal?’? (10th century AH) has also dedicated a lengthy section in his book on the lives of the Imams (‘a). This book has been published.
Among the outstanding works of this nature is the valuable book Was?lah al-Kh?dim il? al-Makhdum dar Sharh Salaw?t Ch?hardah Ma‘sum by Fazlull?h bin Ruzbah?n Khunj? (d. 927) who is famous for his antagonism towards the Shi‘ites and especially the Safawid dynasty. This is an exclusive book on the lives of the Fourteen Infallibles.[13] Kunh al-Akhb?r is the title of a book on the lives of the Twelve Imams (‘a) and was compiled in the 10th century AH in the Ottoman realm.[14] Even Ibn Hajar Haytham? who wrote al-Saw?‘iq al-Muhriqah in refutation of what he called the beliefs of the Rafidites, has devoted the whole book to the lives and merits of the Twelve Imams (‘a). One of the most important figures in this regard is Mull? Husayn K?shif? who in his book Rawzah al-Shuhad?’ has written a brief account of the lives of the Prophets and the Twelve Imams (‘a) as well as issues concerning mourning for them. The most detailed section of this book is dedicated to Imam Husayn (‘a). Another noteworthy book by this particular group of Sunnis is Kam?l al-D?n Khw?razm?’s al-Maqsad al-Aqs?, which in addition to the lives of the caliphs gives an account of the Twelve Imams (‘a).

Persian Works by Imamis from the 7th till 10th Centuries
Few Persian works written by the Imam? Shi‘ites during the 7th-10th centuries AH have survived today. However, whatever extant literature of this type is available it is worth full consideration. The invaluable work entitled Naqz by ‘Abd al-Jal?l Qazv?n? R?z? is a kal?m?-historical book written in defence of Shi‘ites as a refutation of a work written against the Shi‘ites. This important work includes exclusive information from the sixth century AH especially on the Shi‘ites, their cultural situation and the political circumstances of the time. In this book the author also mentions that he has written a book on had?th ifk[15] in defence of ‘Ayishah. He mentions this work in order to say that the Shi‘ites do not insult the wives of Prophet Muhammad (S) as alleged.
Three works have been compiled by a very active Shi‘ite writer of the late 7th century AH which are all of kal?m?-historical nature. ‘Im?d al-D?n Tabar? the author of K?mil Bah?’?, Man?qib al-T?hir?n and Tuhfat al-Abr?r takes a kal?m?-historical look at important Sh?‘ah issues and occasionally gives information on the times they were written. The voluminous book Ahsan al-Kib?r f? Ma‘rifat al-A’immah al-Abr?r by Sayyid Muhammad bin Ab? Zayd bin ‘Arabsh?h War?m?n? on the lives of the Imams was written in the year 740 AH. Several copies of this work are found including the manuscript in the Ayatull?h Mar‘ash? Library. The summary of this book by ‘Al? bin Hasan Zaw?reh’? titled Law?mi‘ al-Anw?r is also available.
The book R?mesh Afz?-ye Al-i Muhammad by Muhammad bin Husayn Muhtasib is a ten-volume work on the history of the Prophets and Imams (‘a). Muntajab al-D?n Ibn B?bawayh had seen the book and studied part of it under the author.[16] Two quotations from it are also mentioned in the Man?qib of Ibn Shahr Ashub, one of which concerns the life of Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (‘a) and the other on the knowledge of Imam S?diq (‘a).[17] Muntajab al-D?n has mentioned this book in al-Fihrist but no trace has been found of it after the 8th century. Mab?hij al-Muhaj f? Man?hij al-Hujaj is the work of Qutb al-D?n Kayzar? the outstanding Shi‘ite writer who most probably lived in the sixth century AH. This book which is in Arabic was translated into Persian by Hasan bin Husayn Sh?‘? Sabziw?r? in the eighth century under the tllte Bahjat al-Mab?hij. He presented this translation to Khw?jah Niz?m al-D?n Yahy? bin Shams al-D?n who ruled in Khur?s?n as one of the commanders of the Sarbed?r?n movement from 753-759 AH. Bahjat al-Mab?hij was rendered into rhyme during the 10th century AH by the poet Hayrat? Tun? of K?sh?n. Hasan Sh?‘? Sabziw?r? is also the author of R?hat al-Arw?h wa Munis al-Ashb?h, a book which devotes itself to the life of Prophet Muhammad (S) and his Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). Copies of this work are available.[18]
There is a work titled T?r?kh-i Muhammad?, or T?r?kh-i Rash?d? as it is also known. This book has also been mentioned by two other names: T?r?kh-i Daw?zdah Im?m or Fihrist-i A’immah. The description of this book in the library catalogue says: “On the dates of the birth of the Prophet and the Imams as well as their places of birth, their agnomen, titles, geneology and resting place.” The manuscript of this work is in the Tabr?z National Library, number 3626 and dated 20th of Dh? al-Qa‘dah 819 AH.[19] The author of this book is Mull? Hasan K?sh?, who was close to Sult?n Muhammad Khod?-Bandah and played an important role in the Tashayyu‘ of that era. He wrote this book in Hillah and Baghdad in the year 708 AH when he was sixty years old.[20] A book under the title T?r?kh-i ‘Itrat was also compiled in the year 803 in Aleppo, Syria, and has recently been published by the late D?neshpazhuh.[21]
Among the most detailed works on the early history of Islam by Persian-speaking Shi‘ites is Nuzhat al-Kir?m wa Bust?n al –‘Aw?m, written by Jam?l al-D?n Murtaz? Muhammad bin Husayn bin Hasan al-R?z? who lived in the late sixth and early seventh century AH. This two-volume work has recently been researched and published by Muhammad Sh?rw?n?. The book contains narrations on the characteristics and biography of Prophet Muhammad (S) until the twenty-first chapter. After that until the 30th chapter of the first volume, the author writes about Ab? Bakr and other topics. The second volume of the book till the sixtieth chapter focuses on the miracles of the 14 Infallibles till Imam Mahd? (may Allah hasten his reappearance). This work along with the book Ahsan al-Kib?r should be considered the most comprehensive Shi‘ite work in Persian written in the medieval period of Iranian history since the advent of Islam. It is worth noting that this book despite being in Persian, drew the attention of Ibn T?wus who asked it to be translated into Arabic in view of its importance. In one case he has quoted some topics of this book in his own work Faraj al-Mahmum.[22] A maqtal written in Persian verse by Abu al-Maf?khir al-R?z? in the 6th century, was used as a source for Rawz?h al-Shuhad?’ by Mull? Husayn K?shif?.
Notes:
[1] This book has been researched by Sayyid Muhammad Husayn? Jal?l? and published under the title T?r?kh Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) by the Mu’assasah Al al-Bayt li Ihy?’ al-Tur?th, Qum. The introduction discusses in detail the name of the book, the name of its author and other issues related to the book.
[2] Kohlberg, Etan, A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work - Ibn T?wus and his Library, p. 386.
[3] Muntajab al-D?n, al-Fihrist, p. 47.
[4] Ibid, p. 76.
[5] Mu‘jam al-Udab?, vol. 18, p. 31 al-W?f? bi al-Wafay?t, vol. 2, p. 244; al-Dhar?‘ah, vol. 24, p. 82.
[6] T?r?kh Qum, p. 56.
[7] Refer to al-Dhar?‘ah, vol. 3, pp. 145 under the letter Sh?n 497.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Rij?l al-Naj?sh?, p. 355.
[10] Al-Dhar?‘ah, vol. 3, p. 254.
[11] Kashf al-Ghummah, vol. 2, p. 306. It seems that nothing has remained from the book Ma‘?lim, although parts of it have been mentioned by Irbil?; refer to Kashf al-Ghummah, p. 121.
[12] T?r?kh-e Guz?dah, p. 207.
[13] This book was published with the efforts of the writer of this article (Rasul Ja‘fariy?n) by the Ayatull?h Mar‘ash? Library, Qum. The new edition of this book, after due research on the basis of a newly discovered manuscript, has been published by Ans?riy?n Publishers, Qum.
[14] Refer to the Persian quarterly, Nashr-e D?nesh, 14th year of publication (1376 SH, month of Esfand (Feb.-March, 1998), p. 58.
[15] Kit?b al-Naqz, pp. 115, 295.
[16] Muntajab al-D?n, al-Fihrist, p. 108.
[17] Refer to Ta‘l?qat al-Fihrist, Muntajab al-D?n, published by Urmaw?, pp. 435, the letter Sh?n, p. 394.
[18] Ibid, p. 785.
[19] Munzaw?, ‘Al? Naq?, List of Persian Manuscripts, p. 2704
[20] Storey, Persian Literature, p. 899.
[21] Refer to the Introduction in Bust?n al-Kir?m, p. 15, where the late D?neshpazhuh has given a account of Arabic and Persian on the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) written by both the Sunnis and the Shi‘ites. Unfortunately this information is not so complete.
[22] Kohlberg, Etan, A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work - Ibn T?wus & His Library, p. 306.

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