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Shi’ite Works on the Holy Prophet’s Biography during the First Centuries

By: Rasul Ja'fariyan
As far as the biography of Prophet Muhammad (S) is concerned, it should be said that accounts of the maghāzī (campaigns in which the Prophet took part) were also taught by the Imams. The main testimony in this regard is a narration by Imam ‘Alī ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-Abidīn (‘a), who said: “Kunnā na‘lam maghāzī Rasulullāh kamā na‘lam al-surah min al-Qur’ān” (we teach the campaigns of the Messenger of Allah as we teach the surah of the Holy Qur’ān).[2]
In the ahādīth related on the authority of Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir and Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq (‘a), several narrations could be found on the Prophet’s sīrah, many of which have been recorded. For example, Ibn Ishāq and later Ibn Sa‘d in their biographies of the Prophet, have quoted some narrations on the authority of Imam Bāqir (‘a). Among the Shi‘ite works, about one fourth of ‘Alī Ibn Ibrāhīm Qummī’s exegesis of the Holy Qur’ān deals with the accounts and history of the Prophets. This book which was completed by referring to several other works, has made use of several written accounts that were available during the third and fourth centuries AH.
For example, the book al-Mab‘ath wa al-Maghāzī by Abān bin ‘Uthmān has been used by ‘Alī bin Ibrāhīm Qummī in his tafsīr (exegesis). Qummī’s tafsīr is among the works whose section on the Prophet’s biography almost exclusively quotes narrations from Imam Bāqir and Imam Sādiq (‘a). One of the reasons for this is the inclusion in it of Tafsīr Abī al-Jārud, which is entirely based on the narrations of Imam Bāqir (‘a) and gives an account of the Prophet according to the revelation of the ayahs. The narrations of Abī al-Jārud are distinct from the other sections, and ‘Allāmah Majlisī has mentioned all the narrations of this book in the volumes of Bihār al-Anwār under the title Tārīkh Nabiyyinā (History of Our Prophet).
Another book is Mab‘ath al-Nabī wa Akhbāruh, by ‘Abdullāh bin Maymun al-Qaddāh, who was a narrator of hadīth from Imam Bāqir and Imam Sādiq (‘a).[3] At any rate, these are firm proofs of the attention paid by the Infallible Imams (‘a) and the Shi‘ites to accounts of the Prophet’s sīrah.
The history of Islam in general was also a matter of interest for the Shi‘ites. Asbagh bin Nubātah is among the earliest Shi‘ite authors who has a book on martyrdom (maqtal) of Imam Husayn (‘a).[4] Ahmad bin ‘Ubaydullāh Thaqafī is another one and the titles of two of his books are: Kitāb al-Mubayyazah fī Akhbār Maqātil Al-i Abī Tālib, and Kitāb fī Tafzīl Banī Hāshim wa Zamm Banī Umayyah wa Atbā‘ihim.[5] Muhammad Bin Zakariyyā bin Dīnār is also among the early Shi‘ite authors and according to al-Najāshī some of his books are: al-Jamal al-Kabīr, al- Jamal al-Mukhtasar, Siffīn al-Kabīr, Maqtal al-Husayn,[6] Kitāb al-Nahr(awān), Maqtal Amīr al-Mu‘minīn, Akhbār Zayd and Akhbār Fātimah.[7]
Another example is Ibrāhīm bin Muhammad al-Thaqafī, who was at first a Zaydī and then became an Imāmī. He has written historical works such as: Kitāb al-Mubtada’ wa al-Maghāzī wa al-Riddah, Akhbār ‘Umar, Akhbār ‘Uthmān, Kitāb al-Dār, al-Ghārāt (a work that has survived), Akhbār Zayd, Akhbār Muhammad (Nafs Zakiyyah) wa (his brother) Ibrāhīm.[8]
The books which Jābir bin Yazīd al-Ju‘fī wrote also deal with similar topics and are titled: Kitāb al-Jamal, Kitāb al- Siffīn, Kitāb al-Nahrawān, Kitāb Maqtal Amīr al-Mu’minīn and Kitāb Maqtal al-Husayn.[9]
‘Alī bin Hasan bin ‘Alī bin Fazzāl was also a prominent Shi‘ite author, and among his works mention could be made of: al-Dalā’il, al-Anbiā’, al- Bashārāt and al-Kufah. [10]
Among the renowned Shi‘ite scholars of Basrah was ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Jalludī bin Yahyā al-‘Azdī who was a prolific writer. Some of the historical books which he wrote are: Kitāb al-Jamal, Kitāb al-Siffīn,[11] Kitāb al-Hakamayn, Kitāb al-Ghārāt, Kitāb al-Khawārij, Kitāb Zikr ‘Alī fī Hurub al-Nabī, Kitāb Ma’āl al-Shī‘ah ba‘d ‘Alī (‘a), Akhbār al-Tawwābīn wa ‘Ayn al-Wardah, Akhbār man ‘Ashqa min al-Shu‘arā’, Akhbār Quraysh wa al-Asnām, Kitāb Tabaqāt al-‘Arab wa al-Shu‘arā’, Kitāb Khutab al-Nabī, Kitāb Khutab ‘Uthmān, Kitāb Rasā’il ‘Umar, Kitāb Rāyāt al-Azd, and Kitāb Munāzarāt ‘Alī ibn Musā al-Rizā (‘a).[12]
The Shi‘ites of Qum also contributed to the early historiographical works. Ahmad bin Ismā‘īl bin ‘Abdullāh Bajallī was one of them, and among his most important works is: Kitāb al-‘Abbāsī, about which al-Najāshī writes: “wa huwa kitāb ‘azīm nahw min ‘ashrah ālāf waraqah min akhbār al-khulafā’ wa al-dawlah al-‘Abbāsiyyah. Ra’aytu minhu akhbār al-Amīn” (It is a voluminous book of 10,000 pages dealing with the accounts of the caliphs and the Abbasid State. I have seen from it the account of al-Amīn).[13] Muhammad bin Hasan al-Qummī had access to this book and he has quoted four instances from it in his History of Qum (refer to Bibliography of Works Related to Qum, p. 19. In History of Qum, the events on pp. 145, 200, 236 & 237 have been quoted from Tārīkh ‘Abbāsī).
Another early historian was ‘Alī bin Ahmad Jawwānī who wrote Akhbār Sāhib Fakhkh and Akhbār Yahyā bin ‘Abdullāh bin Hasan.[14] Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Khālid al-Barqī who was a renowned traditionist (muhaddith) from Qum, has a book entitled Kitāb al-Maghāzī on the Prophet’s sīrah. He is the author of several other works such as, Kitāb al-Shi‘r wa al-Shu‘arā’, Kitāb al-Buldān wa al-Masāhah, Kitāb al-Tārīkh and Kitāb al-Ansāb.[15]
One of the renowned historians during the era of the Infallible Imams (‘a) was Abān bin ‘Uthmān Ahmar Bajallī. He authored a valuable book on the accounts of the previous Prophets and the biography of Prophet Muhammad (S), of which, unfortunately, only a few parts are extant. Shaykh Tusī says about this book:
“We have no information of his works except the book in which he has collected from the beginning the account of Prophet (Muhammad [S]), the start of his mission (mab‘ath), his military campaigns (maghāzī), his passing away as well as the happenings at Saqīfah (Banī Sā‘idah) and the riddah. There is another copy from which the scholars of Qum have related.”[16]
This book was available to ‘Alī bin Ibrāhīm Qummī and he has extensively quoted from it in his tafsīr. The bibliographer al-Najāshī was also aware of this book, and he writes: “He has an excellent and voluminous book in which he has collected accounts (of Prophet Muhammad [S]) from the beginning till his passing away including the military campaigns.”[17] This work was available to many ‘ulamā’ of the following centuries, but the most detailed quotations from it are found in Shaykh Tabrisī’s I‘lām al-Warā. We (the author of this article Rasul Ja‘fariyān) have published the extant portions of this book under the title Kitāb al-Mab‘ath wa al-Maghāzī and talked about him and his book in detail in the introduction.
Here we will point out a number of works that have been written on Prophet Muhammad (S) by early Shi‘ite scholars. We have mostly arranged the list according the subject:
Kitāb Sifāt al-Nabī (S): Wahab bin Wahab (Rijāl al-Najāshī, p. 430);
Kitāb Wufud al-‘Arab ilā al-Nabī (S): Munzir bin Muhammad bin Munzir. Some of his other works are Kitāb al-Jamal, Kitāb al-Siffīn, Kitāb al-Nahrawān, Kitāb al-Ghārāt (al-Najāshī, p. 418);
Mas’alah fī Imān Abā’a al-Nabī (S): Abī Ya‘lā Muhammad bin Hasan bin Hamzah Ja‘farī (al-Najāshī, p. 404);
Kitāb Mas’alah fī Ma‘rifah al-Nabī: Shaykh Mufīd (al-Najāshī, p. 402);
Kitāb Zuhd al-Nabī (S), Kitāb Awsāf al-Nabī (S), Kitāb fī Ma‘rifah Fazl al-Nabī (S) wa Amīr al-Mu’minīn wa al-Hasan wa al-Husayn ‘Alayhim al-Salām: Shaykh Saduq (al-Najāshī, p. 390). He also wrote Kitāb fī ‘Abd al-Mutallib wa ‘Abdullāh wa Abī Tālib (al-Najāshī, p. 390);
Kitāb al-Bayān ‘an Khiyarah al-Rahmān fī Imān Abī Tālib wa Abā’ al-Nabī (S): ‘Alī bin Bilāl al-Mahllabī al-Azdī (al-Najāshī, p. 265);
Kitāb Mab‘ath al-Nabī (S) wa Akhbāruh: ‘Abdullāh bin Maymun al-Qaddāh (al-Najāshī, p. 213);
Kitāb Wafāt al-Nabī (S): Salamah bin al-Khattāb Berāwastānī Azdurqānī (al-Najāshī, p.187);
Kitāb al-Radd ‘alā Man Za‘ama al-Nabī (S) Kāna ‘alā Dīn Qawmih Qabl al-Nubuwwah; Ja‘far bin Ahmad bin Ayyub Samarqandī (al-Najāshī, p. 21);
Kitāb al-Radd ‘alā Man Za‘ama al-Nabī (S) Kāna ‘alā Dīn Qawmih: Husayn bin Ashkīb Khurāsānī (al-Najāshī, p. 44);
Kitāb Akhbār al-Nabī (S): Abī ‘Alī Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Ammār al-Kufī. He also wrote the book Kitāb Imān Abī Tālib (al-Najsahi, p. 95);
Kitāb Zikr al-Nabī (S) wa al-Sakhrah wa al-Rāhib wa Turuq Dhālik: Ahmad bin Muhamamd bin Sa‘īd Sabī‘ī Hamdānī (al-Najāshī, p. 94);
Kitāb Fazl al-Nabī (S): Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isā Ash‘arī (al-Najsahi page 81).
Kitāb Sīrat al-Nabī (S) wa al-A’immah ‘Aalayhim al-Salām fī al- Mushrikīn: Husayn bin ‘Alī bin Sufyān Bezufarī (al-Najāshī, p. 68);
Kitāb al-Wufud ‘alā al-Nabī: Husayn bin Muhammad bin ‘Alī al-'Azdi (al-Najāshī, p. 65);
Kitāb Nasab al-Nabī (S), Kitāb Kutub al-Nabī (S), Kitāb Akhbār al-Wufud ‘alā al-Nabī (S), ‘Abd al-‘Azīz bin Yahyā al-Jalludī al-Azdī (al-Najāshī, pp. 241-244);
Kitāb Asmā’ Alāt Rasulullāh wa Asmā’ Silāhih wa Kitāb Wafāt al-Nabī (S): ‘Alī bin Hasan bin ‘Alī bin Fazl (al-Najāshī, p. 258);
Kitāb al-Maghāzī: Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Khālid al-Barqī (al-Najāshī, p.76);
Al-Munbi’ ‘an Zuhd al-Nabī (S): Abī Muhammad Ja‘far bin Muhammad bin ‘Alī Qummī ibn al-Rāzī. Ibn Tāwus has quoted this in several of his works.[18]
Kitāb Asmā’ Rasulullāh (S): Hasan bin Khorzād (al-Najāshī, p. 44).
On biographical works concerning the Prophet, there is a marked difference between the approach of the Sunnis and Shi‘ites. The Shi‘ite writers regarded Prophet Muhammad (S) more holier than their Sunni counterparts and based their works on his infallibility.
It is important to note that in Sunni historiography, although the feeling of admiration toward the Prophet’s life is clearly visible, his infallibility in all aspects has been ignored. An example in this regard is the writing of the book Zallah al-Anbiyā’ by Abu al-Fazl Mashshāt[19] in response to Sharīf Murtazā’s Tanzīh al-Anbiyā’ .[20] Earlier during the 3rd century AH, a Sunni ‘ālim had written a book titled Ma‘āsī al-Anbiā’, which was refuted by the renowned mutakallim of Samarqand, Abu Mansur Mātirīdī.[21]
[2] Al-Jāmi‘ li Akhlāq al-Rāwī, vol. 2, p. 288; al-Badāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 242; Subul al-Hudā wa al-Rashad, vol. 4, p. 20.
[3] Al-Najāshī, al-Rijāl, p. 213.
[4] Māmaqānī,Tanqīh al-Maqāl,vol. 1, p.150.
[5] Ibn Nadim, al-Fihrist, p. 166.
[6] This book, according to Muhammad bin Sulayman Kufi was popular among the Zaydis. Refer to Muqaddamah Manāqib al-Imam Amīr al- Mu’minīn, vol. 1, p. 12. In this book Manāqib (vol. 3, p 177) Kufī has also mentioned fifty instances of the outstanding merits of Imam ‘Alī (‘a), most of which are historical, on the authority of Muhammad bin Zakariyyā Dīnār.
[7] Al-Najāshī, al-Rijāl, p. 347.
[8] Ibid, p. 18. Also refer to Lisān al-Mīzān, vol. 1, p. 102-103; Mu‘jam al-Udabā, vol. 1, p. 223.
[9] Ibid, p. 129.
[10] Ibid, p. 258 & p. 676.
[11] Ibn Tāwus in Muhaj al-Da‘awāt has quoted from his Kitāb Siffīn two supplications recited by Imam ‘Alī (‘a) before going to battle during the War of Siffīn, refer to Etan Kohlberg’s A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work - Ibn Tāwus & his Library, p. 333.
[12] Al-Najāshī, al-Rijāl, pp. 241 & 244.
[13] Ibid, pp. 97 & 242.
[14] Ibid, p. 263.
[15] Ibid, pp. 76 & 182.
[16] Shaykh Tusī, al-Fihrist, pp. 18,19.
[17] Al-Najāshī, al-Rijāl, p.13.
[18] Kohlberg, Etan, A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work - Ibn Tāwus & his Library, pp. 283-284).
[19] Kitāb al-Naqz, p. 244.
[20] Ibid, p. 11.
[21] Storey, Persian Literature, p. 725.

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