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Arabic and Persian Works of 'Twelver Sunnis' on the Twelve Imams ('a) from the 6th to the 10th Centuries

By: Rasul Ja'fariyan
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-'Azīz Tabātabā'ī in his series of articles entitled Ahl al-Bayt fi al-Maktabah al-'Arabiyyah in the quarterly magazine Turāthanā. The term 'Twelver Imamī Sunnis' can be safely used to describe this group of authors. The first book in this regard is the Tadhkirah al-Khawāss of Yusuf bin Farghalī bin 'Abdullāh al-Baghdadī Sibt Abī al-Faraj 'Abd al-Rahmān bin al-Jawzī (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 Kitāb al-Al of Ibn Khālawayh (d. 370) must have been a similar work as could be gleaned from its passages quoted by Irbilī in his Kashf al-Ghummah.
One of the outstanding figures of this trend among the Sunnis was Kamāl al-Dīn Muhammad bin Talhah Shāfi'ī (d. 652) the author of the renowned book Matālib al-Su'ul fī Manāqib Al-i al-Rasul. Irbilī has praised him for his excellent account of the lives of the Twelve Imams ('a). 'Abd al-'Azīz bin Muhammad known as Ibn Akhzar Gunābādī (d. 611) in his book Ma'ālim al-'Itrah al-Nabawiyyah wa Ma'ārif Ahl al-Bayt al-Fātimiyyah al-'Alawiyyah has written on the lives of only eleven of the Twelve Imams ('a) and for this reason he has been criticised by 'Alī bin 'Isā Irbilī.[42]
Two other important examples of Sunni books are al-Fusul al-Muhimmah fī Ma'rifah Ahwāl al-A'immah by Ibn Sabbāgh Mālikī (d. 855) and al-Shadharāt al-Dhahabiyyah fī Tarājim al-A'immah al-Ithnā 'Ashariyyah 'ind al-Imāmiyyah by Shams al-Dīn Muhammad bin Tulun (d. 953). Hamdullāh Mustawfī the author of Nuzhat al-Qulub in his historical account titled Tārīkh-i Guzīdah, begins with the history of the first three caliphs and then elaborates on the life and virtues of Amīr al-Mu'minīn Imam 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib ('a). In continuation, on page 198 he writes about the life of Imam Hasan ('a) using the phrase Amīr al- Mu'minīn wa Hafīd Rasul Rabb al-'Alamīn Imam al-Mujtabā, Hasan bin 'Alī al-Murtazā ('a) which means "Commander of the Faithful, Grandson of the Messenger of the Lord of the Worlds, the Chosen Imam, Hasan the son of 'Alī the Pleased." The thirtieth chapter of the thirtieth section deals with the lives of the other Imams. Mustawfī 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 Ramazān 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).[43]
Another important work is Fasl al-Khitāb by Khwājah Muhammad Pārsā 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 Rawzāt al-Jinān wa Jannāt al Jinān, Darwīsh Husayn Karbalā'ī (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 Wasīlah al-Khādim ilā al-Makhdum dar Sharh Salawāt Chāhardah Ma'sum by Fazlullāh bin Ruzbahān Khunjī (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.[44] Kunh al-Akhbār 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.[45] Even Ibn Hajar Haythamī who wrote al-Sawā'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 Mullā Husayn Kāshifī who in his book Rawzah al-Shuhadā' 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 Kamāl al-Dīn Khwārazmī's al-Maqsad al-Aqsā, which in addition to the lives of the caliphs gives an account of the Twelve Imams ('a).
Notes:
[42] Kashf al-Ghummah, vol. 2, p. 306. It seems that nothing has remained from the book Ma'ālim, although parts of it have been mentioned by Irbilī; refer to Kashf al-Ghummah, p. 121.
[43] Tārīkh-e Guzīdah, p. 207.
[44] This book was published with the efforts of the writer of this article (Rasul Ja'fariyān) by the Ayatullāh Mar'ashī Library, Qum. The new edition of this book, after due research on the basis of a newly discovered manuscript, has been published by Ansāriyān Publishers, Qum.
[45] Refer to the Persian quarterly, Nashr-e Dānesh, 14th year of publication (1376 SH, month of Esfand (Feb.-March, 1998), p. 58.

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