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The Intellectual Legacy of the Shī‘ah

Author:
Ghulam-Husayn Muharrami

The importance of writing and compilation in the sacred laws of Islam is proverbial to all and sundry. For, one of the most significant ways of transferring knowledge and learning is through writing. The Arab society, prior to the advent of Islam had acquired the least benefit from this blessing, and only very few were able to read and write. But the need to record and put into writing the verses of the Qur’an for learning and teaching were only felt immediately after the Prophetic mission and the receipt of revelations. As Ibn Hishām has narrated, Before ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb became Muslim, his sister, Fāṭimah bint al-Khaṭṭāb and her husband Sa‘īd ibn Zayd had become Muslims and covertly and away from the attention of ‘Umar, Khabbāb ibn Irt was teaching them Sūrah Ṭā Hā on a writing parchment which was called ṣaḥīfah.
In Medina, the Noble Messenger

#7779;) had selected a group of Muslims who were able to put into writing the divine revelation. The Commander of the Faithful ‘Alī (‘a), in addition to being the regular scribe of the revelation, the Holy Holy Prophet (S)constantly explained to him the definitive verses [muḥkamāt] and allegorical verses [mutashābihat] as well as the abrogator [nāsukh] and abrogated [mansūkh] verses. ‘Alī (‘a) had also written a book entitled, “Ṣaḥīfah al-Jāmi‘ah” as dictated by the Messenger of Allah

#7779;), which encompassed the lawful [ḥalāl] and the unlawful [ḥarām], obligatory [wājib] and recommended [mustaḥab] acts, as well as laws and that which the people need in this world and in their life in the hereafter. Two other books—one entitled “Ṣaḥīfah” about penalties [diyyāt] and another book entitled “Farā’iḍ”—have also been attributed to the Imām.
Other companions of the Holy Holy Prophet (S)also compiled collections of his sayings and traditions, which they called “ṣaḥīfah”. Abū Hurayrah has been narrated by Bukhārī to have said: Of all the companions of the Prophet, I have the most number of narrating the Prophet’s ḥadīths with the exception of ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Amrū because he used to write whatever he would hear from the Prophet while I was not writing them.
After the demise of the Prophet

#7779;), however, the second caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb prohibited the writing of ḥadīth. This state of affairs persisted until such time that ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz during the latter part of the first century AH annulled this prohibition and he wrote to Abū Bakr ibn Ḥazm to record in writing the ḥadīths of the Messenger of Allah

#7779;). This task was not realized until the end of the first half of the second century AH because according to Ghazzālī, the first writers of books on ḥadīth among the Ahl as-Sunnah were Ibn Jarīḥ, Mu‘ammar ibn Rāshid, Mālik ibn Anas, and Sufyān ath-Thawrī who were related to the second half of the second century AH and the years of their demise were 150, 152, 179, and 161 AH respectively. Yet, this process was never suspended among the Shī‘ah, and great Shī‘ah among the companions of the Holy Prophet (S)such as Salmān al-Fārsī, Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī and Abū Rāfi‘ al-Qibṭī made the pioneering steps in the field of writing and composition. Ibn Shahr Āshūb says, Ghazzālī believes that the first book written in the Muslim world is the book of Ibn Jarīḥ on the works and types of exegeses [tafāsīr] narrated from Mujāhid and ‘Aṭā’ in Mecca. Next to his book is the book of Mu‘ammar ibn Rāshid Ṣan‘ānī in Yemen; then, the book Muwaṭṭa’ of Mālik ibn Anas in Medina; followed by the book Jāmi‘ah of Sufyān ath-Thawrī. This is not correct, however, for the first book in the Muslim world is written by the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) who compiled the Qur’an. Next to him, Salmān al-Fārsī, Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī, Aṣbagh ibn Nubātah, and ‘Abd Allāh ibn Abī Rāfi‘ had also made steps in writing and composition. And after them, Imām Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (‘a) composed the Ṣaḥīfah al-Kāmilah.
Ibn Nadīm also regard the first account of writing among the Shī‘ah as related to the first century AH. In view of the Shī‘ah’s lead in writing, composition and compiling the Prophetic works, Dhahabī in describing the status of Ābān ibn Taghlib thus says: “If the reliability of persons such as Ābān is not accepted because of his inclination to Shī‘ism, so many of the Prophetic works and ḥadīths will perish.”
As such, the jurists and ḥadīth scholars [muḥaddithūn] of the Ahl as-Sunnah, particularly the founders of the four schools of thought [madhāhib], in addition to utilizing intermediaries to Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a), had also learned from the Shī‘ah muḥaddithūn and received ḥadīths from them.
Meanwhile, regarding the number of books written by Shī‘ah during the first three centuries AH, the author of Wasā’il ash-Shī‘ah has said: “The scholars and muḥaddithūn during the period of the pure Imāms (‘a), from the time of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) up to the time of Imām Ḥasan al-‘Askarī (‘a), have written six thousand and six hundred books.”
The Shī‘ah during those periods made remarkable accomplishments in the various fields of knowledge of the day such as literature, lexicography, poetry, sciences of the Qur’an [‘ulūm al-qur’ān], exegesis [tafsīr], ḥadīth, principles of jurisprudence [uṣūl al-fiqh], scholastic theology [‘ilm al-kalām or simply kalām], history, life conduct of the Holy Prophet (S)[sīrah], rijāl, and ethics. They have made many writings and literary works while leading in most fields. Abū’l-Aswad Daw’ilī, a Shī‘ah poet, was the founder of the science of Arabic syntax [naḥw]. He was the first to put the dots in the copies of the Qur’an. The first book on lexicography among the Muslims is Kitāb al-‘Ayn written by Khalīl ibn Aḥmad who has been one of the Shī‘ah scholars.
In the field of the life conduct [sīrah] and battles [maghāzī] of the Prophet

#7779;), the first book was written by Ibn Isḥaq who, according to Ibn Ḥajr, was a Shī‘ah.
After undertaking this cursory glance, we shall now explain a bit about the sciences of ḥadīth, jurisprudence and scholastic theology that the Shī‘ah school has a particular disposition, keeping into account its fundamentals and principles in these fields.

Ḥadīth
Next to the Qur’an, the ḥadīth or the sunnah which is the second source of Islamic jurisprudence, means the saying, action and tacit approval of the Infallibles (‘a). The Ahl as-Sunnah confine the ḥadīth to only the saying, action and tacit approval of the Prophet

#7779;). The Shī‘ah, however, regard the saying, action and tacit approval of the infallible Imāms (‘a) as proof [hujjah] and part of the corpus of ḥadīth.
Now, we shall survey the works on ḥadīth during the period of the presence of the Imāms (‘a) in four categories, which consist of four phases:

First Category
Based on the opinion of Najāshī, the first category of the Shī‘ah ḥadīth recorders were Abū Rāfi‘ al-Qibṭī, ‘Alī ibn Abī Rāfi‘, Rabī‘ah ibn Sumī‘, Sulaym ibn Qays Hilālī, Aṣbagh ibn Nabātah Majāshi‘ī, and ‘Abd Allāh ibn Ḥurr Ju‘fī. They were among the companions of the Commander of the Faithful, Imām al-Ḥasan and Imām al-Ḥusayn (‘a).

Second Category
According to some scholars, there were twelve persons who had written books and treatises among the companions of Imām as-Sajjād and Imām al-Bāqir (‘a). One may mention Ābān ibn Taghlib among them. He occupied a special station in the eyes of the pure Imāms (‘a) so much so that Imām al-Bāqir (‘a) said to him: “In the mosque of Medina you give religious edicts [fatāwā] to the people as I want individuals like you to be seen among my Shī‘ah.”
Najāshī says, “Ābān ibn Taghlib, may Allah be pleased with him, was one of the forerunners in the various fields of knowledge such as the Qur’an, jurisprudence, ḥadīth, literature, lexicography, and syntax.” Ābān has written about these fields such as his Tafsīr, Gharīb al-Qur’ān and Kitāb al-Faḍā’il.
The same is true regarding Abū Ḥamzah ath-Thumālī about whom Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) has said: “Abū Ḥamzah was like Salmān (al-Fārsī) of my time.” Among his books and treatises are Kitāb an-Nawādir, Kitāb az-Zuhd and Tafsīr al-Qur’ān.

Third Category
The time of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) was a period of scientific progress and advancement in the Muslim society while the Shī‘ah had enjoyed relative freedom. According to Shaykh al-Mufīd, the number of students of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a) was approximately four thousands. Ḥasan ibn ‘Alī Washā’, a companion of Imām ar-Riḍā (‘a) says that he has seen nine hundred people in Masjid Kūfah who have all been narrating ḥadīths from Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a). So, out of the Imām’s replies to the questions posed to him, four hundred books have been written all of which have been known as Al-Aṣl [The Principle or Essence]. There have also been other books, apart from the ones mentioned, in various fields and sciences written by the companions and students of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a).

Fourth Category
During this period which was after the time of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a), many books on ḥadīth have been written. For example, Ḥusayn ibn Sa‘īd al-Kūfī, a companion of Imām ar-Riḍā (‘a), has written thirty books on ḥadīth. Muḥammad ibn Abī ‘Umayr, another companion of Imām ar-Riḍā (‘a), has written ninety four books while Ṣafwān ibn Bajlī, a companion of both Imām ar-Riḍā and Imām al-Jawād (‘a), have authored thirty books most of which have the titular appellation of Jāmi‘ [collection, compendium or anthology]. The latter compilers of ḥadīth such as Thiqat al-Islām al-Kulaynī, Shaykh aṣ-Ṣadūq and Shaykh aṭ-Ṭūsī have benefited from those books in writing their own collections.

Summary
The importance of writing in the sacred laws of Islam is proverbial to all and sundry. With the receipt of the divine revelation, the need for recording it in writing was felt, and a number of scribes of the revelation were known.
The Commander of the Faithful (‘a) and a number of other companions of the Holy Prophet (S)had compiled some collections of the ḥadīths of the Holy Prophet (S)which were known together as Ṣaḥīfah.
Among the Ahl as-Sunnah, the first books on ḥadīth have been related to the second half of the second century AH because the second caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb had prohibited the writing of ḥadīth. This prohibition among the Shī‘ah, however, did not prevail, and the first writers among the companions of the Holy Prophet (S)were Salmān al-Fārsī, Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī and Abū Rāfi‘ al-Qibṭī.
Shī‘ah up to the time of Imām Ḥasan al-‘Askarī (‘a) had written six thousand and six hundred books.
We shall survey the works on ḥadīth written by the Shī‘ah during the whole period of the presence of the pure Imāms (‘a) in four categories that consist of four phases.
First category: Companions of the Commander of the Faithful, Imām al-Ḥasan and Imām al-Ḥusayn (‘a).
Second category: Companions of Imām as-Sajjād and Imām al-Bāqir (‘a).
Third category: Companions of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a).
Fourth category: Companions of Imām al-Kāẓim, Imām ar-Riḍā, Imām al-Jawād, Imām al-Hādī, and Imām Ḥasan al-‘Askarī (‘a).

Questions
1. How was the writing of the Qur’an during the time of the Prophet

#7779;)?
2. Were the companions of the Holy Prophet (S)keeping written records of his ḥadīths?
3. Which period were the first writers of the books on ḥadīth among the Ahl as-Sunnah related to?
4. Who were the pioneers in writing among the Shī‘ah?
5. What is the number of the books written by the Shī‘ah up to the time of Imām Ḥasan al-‘Askarī (‘a)?
6. The first category of the Shī‘ah scholars of ḥadīth [muḥaddithūn] was the companions of which of the infallible Imāms (‘a)?
7. How was the writing of ḥadīth during the time of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (‘a)?
8. The books on ḥadīth collectively known as Jāmi‘ [collection, compendium or anthology] were related to which period?

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