A Cursory Glance at the References on the history of Shī‘ism
In this writing, I do not claim to be able to comprehensively study and analyze everything that is relevant to the history of Shī‘ism. Instead, I shall try to cite the most important references and citations, and to present and analyze them concisely. Since there have been many books on history and books about the life account of the Infallibles [ma‘ṣūmīn] (‘a) as well as books on hadīths and rijāl, which are related to the history of Shī‘ism, I have divided the references dealing with the history of Shī‘ism into two: (1) special references and (2) general references, which we shall deal with in two lessons.
In this lessons, some of the references on the history of Shī‘ism have been cited. These references which have been introduced in brief are the following:
1. Maqātil aṭ-Ṭālibiyyīn;
2. Ad-Darajāt ar-Rafī‘ah fī Ṭabaqāt ash-Shī‘ah;
3. A‘yān ash-Shī‘ah;
4. Tārīkh ash-Shī‘ah;
5. Shī‘eh dar Tārīkh;
6. Jihād ash-Shī‘ah; and
7. Tārīkh-e Tashayyu‘ dar Īrān az Āghāz tā Qarn-e Haftum-e Hijrī.
1. Maqātil aṭ-Ṭālibiyyīn
One of the most significant references dealing with the history of Shī‘ism is the book Maqātil aṭ-Ṭālibiyyīn. Its author, Abū’l-Faraj ‘Alī ibn al-Husayn al-Isfahānī, was born in 284 AH in the city of Isfahān. He grew up in Baghdad and was educated under the guidance of scholars and learned men there. His genealogy can be traced back to the Umayyads but he is a Shī‘ah [‘alawī madhhab].
As indicated in its title, the book deals with the descendants of Abū Ṭālib [ṭālibiyyūn] who were killed at the hands of the oppressors and tyrants of the time, as the author thus writes: In this book of mine, by the help and will of Allah, I shall give a summary of the reports on the murdered ones among the descendants of Abū Ṭālib from the time of the Messenger of Allah
#7779;) up to the moment when I started writing this book in Jumādī al-Awwal 313 AH (circa July-August 925 CE). It includes those who were killed by means of eating or drinking poison; those who escaped from the ruler of the time, hid somewhere else and died there; and those who died while languishing in prison. And in mentioning them, I observed the chronological order of their deaths and not their merits…
This book is generally divided into two parts. The first part covers the period from the time of the Holy Prophet (S)up to the establishment of the ‘Abbāsid caliphate while the other part covers the ‘Abbāsid period.
Although this book deals only with the life account and martyrdom of the martyrs among the descendants of Abū Ṭālib [āl abī ṭālib], including life account of the Imāms (‘a), martyred leaders and leading figures among the ‘Alawīs (descendants of ‘Alī (‘a)) and their own followers, a part of the history of Shī‘ism can be extracted from every part of it. Of course, since this book is more relevant to Shī‘ism’s political history, it is less beneficial with respect to other aspects of the history of Shī‘ism.
2. Ad-Darajāt ar-Rafī‘ah fī Ṭabaqāt ash-Shī‘ah
The author of this book is Sayyid ‘Alī Khān Shīrāzī who was born on Jumādī al-Awwal 5, 1052 AH (August 2, 1642) in the holy city of Madinah where he was educated. In 1068 AH (circa 1657-8) he migrated to Hyderabad, India where he lived for 48 years. He then went to Mashhad, Iran for the ziyārah [visitation] of Imām ar-Ridā (‘a). During the reign of Shāh Sulṭān Husayn Ṣafawī, he went to Isfahān in 1117 AH (circa 1705-6) where he stayed for two years. Thereafter, he proceeded to Shīrāz where he shouldered the religious and educational management of the city.
The book, Ad-Darajāt ar-Rafī‘ah fī Ṭabaqāt ash-Shī‘ah, is one of the works of this high-ranking Shī‘ah scholar. Although the subject of this book is a description of the condition of the Shī‘ah and their history, general history of Shī‘ism can also be deduced from it for two reasons. One reason is that it is a study of the conditions of the Shī‘ah in the different periods and places, while the other reason is that the author himself has dealt briefly with the history of Shī‘ism especially during the Umayyad period of strangulation. He thus says in the introduction
: Be aware that—may God be merciful to you— in every epoch and period the Shī‘ah of the Commander of the Faithful [Amīr al-Mu’minīn] (‘Alī) (‘a) and other Imāms (‘a) from among his descendants were hiding in the nook and corner, keeping away from the attention of the rulers…
Then, he described the beginning of repression from the time of the Umayyads up to the period of the ‘Abbāsids.
This book, as it is noted by the author in the introduction, has been arranged in 12 classes. That is, he has classified and then examined the Shī‘ah into the following 12 classes
: (1) Aṣ-Ṣāḥābah [Companions of the Holy Prophet
#7779;)]; (2) Aṭ-Ṭābi‘ūn [Followers]; (3) Al-Muḥaddithūn alladhī rawū ‘an al-A’immah aṭ-Ṭāhirīn [Scholars of Ḥadīth who Narrated Traditions from the Pure Imāms (‘a)]; (4) ‘Ulamā’ ad-Dīn [Religious Scholars]; (5) Al-Ḥukamā’ wa’l-Mutakallimīn [Philosophers and Scholastic Theologians]; (6) ‘Ulamā’ al-‘Arabiyyah [Scholars of Arabic Language]; (7) As-Sādah aṣ-Ṣawfiyyah [Commoners]; (8) Al-Mulūk wa’s-Salāṭīn [Kings and Sultans]; (9) Al-Umarā’ [Rulers]; (10) Al-Wuzarā’ [Viziers and Ministers]; (11) Ash-Shu‘arā’ [Poets]; and (12) An-Nisā’ [Women].
What is available so far from this valuable reference is the first class, i.e. the Class of the Companions in complete form, part of the fourth class, and a small portion of the 11th class.
This book is considered the most significant reference on the subject of Shī‘ism among the Companions and in this respect, it has also a good sense of comprehensiveness. The writer of this book was able to compile the views and opinions of the Shī‘ah scholars and biographers [rijāliyyūn] regarding the Shī‘ah among the Companions, and as such, he has not much engaged in expressing his own views, opinions, analyses, and investigations.
3. A‘yān ash-Shī‘ah
The writer of this unique book is the great Shī‘ah researcher and scholar, the late Sayyid Muḥsin Amīn. The book, A‘yān ash-Shī‘ah, as its title indicates, is a book concerning the life account and description of the leading Shī‘ah figures. This book has three introductions. The first introduction explains the author’s method of writing. The introduction begins thus
: “In stating our method in this book which is as follows…” and then he explains in detail in 14 parts the method of his writing.
The second introduction, meanwhile, is about the general history of Shī‘ism, which is consisted of 12 discussions. The third introduction deals with the references and authorities used in the book
: The meaning and connotation of the word Shī‘ah; other Shī‘ah terminologies; criticizing the view of the Ahl as-Sunnah writers regarding the Shī‘ah sects.
: The emergence of the Shī‘ah and their expansion; the Shī‘ah among the Companions; Shī‘ah Companions; growth of the Shī‘ah.
: Points to the some of the oppressions perpetrated against the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their Shī‘ah.
: Unjust treatment of the Shī‘ah of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).
: Incessant attacks against the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).
: The existence of many calumnies against the Shī‘ah and a summary of the Ja‘farī Shī‘ah Ithna ‘Asharī beliefs.
: Factors behind the spread of Shī‘ism in the Muslim lands.
: The virtues of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and their services to Islam.
: On the beliefs of the Shī‘ah Imāmiyyah.
: Concerning the Shī‘ah ‘ulamā’, poets, men of letters, and writers, and their works.
: Viziers and ministers, rulers, judges, and chiefs among the Shī‘ah.
: Enumeration of the Shī‘ah-populated cities.
It must be beyond our responsibility to talk about the importance, reputation and value of the book, A‘yān ash-Shī‘ah, as it is an ocean of historical knowledge and information which we cannot fathom, overcome, or measure. Rather, we can benefit from it in proportion to our capability. The articulacy of writing, depth of the subjects, approach to the subjects, arrangement of the topics, logical order, and the like are among its merits.
With regard to the points of criticism that can be made against it, secondary cases may be indicated such as the following
: On the discussion of the other terms for the Shī‘ah, they are mentioned very briefly and only the names such as Imāmiyyah, Muta’awwalah, Qizilbāsh, Rāfiḍiyyah, Ja‘fariyyah, and Khāṣṣah have been enumerated, whereas the names applied to the Shī‘ah are more than these. Only in the first century hijrī, the labels such as ‘Alawī, Turābī, Husaynī, etc. have been applied to the Shī‘ah.
The other criticism that can be made with respect to this book is related to the meaning of Shī‘ah. The Shī‘ah writers of rijāl do not regard as Shī‘ah some of the people whom he counted as Shī‘ah because although these people were Shī‘ah in the political sense, they cannot be considered as such in the ideological sense. That is to say that in the political disputes they took the side of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), but in terms of belief, they did not benefit from that fountainhead [of knowledge] (Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)). A separate section is supposed to be allotted to this discussion, and the beginning should have stated to whom the label Shī‘ah refers.
4. Tārīkh ash-Shī‘ah
The book, Tārīkh ash-Shī‘ah, written by the late great ‘Allāmah Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Muẓaffar, is one of the important references and authorities on the history of Shī‘ism. This book, reprinted many times, has been translated into Persian by Prof. Sayyid Muhammad Bāqir Ḥujjatī. The late Muẓaffar has surveyed and discussed in 82 headings the history of Shī‘ism from the time of the Holy Prophet (S) up to his own time. In general, the topics of this book can be summed up in three parts
: (1) periods of the spread of Shī‘ism, (2) Shī‘ah-populated places, and (3) Shī‘ah governments.
The late Muẓaffar has been an able writer and erudite scholar whose pen, apart from being versatile and fluent, has the necessary power and firmness.
One of the most important merits of the book, Tārīkh ash-Shī‘ah, is its comprehensiveness as it has examined the presence of the Shī‘ah in all parts of the world. This book can be one of the most important references and authorities for the researchers dealing with the history of Shī‘ism in every period and epoch.
In spite of all these merits that Tārīkh ash-Shī‘ah does possess in comparison with other books, on account of its brevity, it fails to present the absolute truth except in topics such as the meaning of Shī‘ah, the specific time when the label Shī‘ah was applied to the sympathizers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), the beginning of Shī‘ism, and the spread of Shī‘ism, which are related to the main discussions about Shī‘ah. In these cases, he has engaged in giving a detailed account, which is appropriate to the subjects. The late Muẓaffar thus says in the introduction of this book
: “I have no other aim but to let the people know that Shī‘ism commenced at the time of the Receiver of Message (Muhammad al-Mustafā
#7779;)), and the Iranians and Ibn Saba’ had no hand in founding it.”
The other defect of this book that can be cited is its lack of scholarly character. Due to the observance of brevity, the honorable writer has failed to quote and analyze the views of others.
Parts of this book dealing with the formation of Muslim states are supposed to be completed. For, with the passage of time, main changes and developments in the Shī‘ah states under discussion have occurred and some of them have even ceased to exist, but the honorable translator of the book has not discussed some of the new states and not conducted up-to-date research. As a result, it has been translated in such a form that the sections dealing with the Shī‘ah states gives an impression of antiquity.
5. Shī‘eh dar Tārīkh
The book, Ash-Shī‘ah fī’t-Tārīkh [Shī‘eh dar Tārīkh], written by Muhammad Husayn Zayn ‘Āmilī, has been translated into Persian by Muhammad Ridā ‘Aṭā’ī and published by Āstān-e Quds-e Raḍawī (Imām ar-Ridā’s Holy Shrine). As one of the authorities on the history of the Shī‘ah, this book consists of five chapters and the concluding part
: The first chapter is about the meaning, concept, background, and a summary of the Shī‘ah beliefs.
The second chapter deals with the sects and groups that have separated from the Shī‘ah.
The third chapter covers the history after the Holy Prophet (S) up to the martyrdom of Imām al-Husayn (‘a) and an analysis of the events and occurrences during that period.
The fourth chapter is about the position of the Shī‘ah during the Umayyad and ‘Abbāsid caliphates.
The fifth chapter deals with the Shī‘ah disavowal [barā‘ah] of ghulū [extremism] and ghulāt [extremists].
The book, Shī‘eh dar Tārīkh, is a good authority on the discussion of the splits within the Shī‘ah, it has especially analyzed various factors behind the separation of groups and sects from the Shī‘ah.
As a book on the history of Shī‘ism, it does not cover all the topics and subjects dealing with the Shī‘ah. This is because at times the discussion drifts away from the subject of Shī‘ism, embarking on such subjects as the Khawārij (Kharijites) and the history of caliphate, which are not so relevant to the history of Shī‘ism.
6. Jihād ash-Shī‘ah
Another reference for the history of the Shī‘ah is the book Jihād ash-Shī‘ah (even though its main focus is the armed struggles and movements of the Shī‘ah). This book is written by Dr. Samīrah Mukhtār al-Laythī, university professor at the ‘Ayn Shams University, Egypt. The Beirut-based Dār al-Jayl publisher has published Jihād ash-Shī‘ah in 1396 AH (1976) with 424 pages, 16.2x22.9 cm size, and hard-bound cover. After the introduction, this book has been arranged into 5 parts and a conclusion, and its subject is the jihād of the Shī‘ah. It has examined and discussed the subject approximately up to the end of the 2nd century hijrī. In other words, the author of the book, on one hand, talks about the armed struggles and movements of the Shī‘ah against the ‘Abbāsids, states the ‘Alawī uprisings and factors for their defeat, and discusses the role of the Shī‘ah movements and sects in the socio-political currents and conditions of that period. On the other hand, she has also analyzed the policy of the caliphs toward the Holy Imāms (‘a) and the Shī‘ah. Topics on the general history of the Shī‘ah have been discussed in a certain section of the first part which covers such topics as
: Shī‘ah in the lexicon; the concept of Shī‘ah; history of the emergence of the Shī‘ah; the impact of the jihād of Imām al-Husayn (‘a) in the emergence of the Shī‘ah; the Shī‘ah jihād in Iraq; the emergence of the Kaysāniyyah sect; and the Shī‘ah Imāmiyyah. In discussing the emergence of the Shī‘ah, she has advanced various views and opinion regarding the history of the Shī‘ah.
One problem that can be cited with respect to the book is in elucidating the “political theory” of the Holy Imāms ('a) whom the author has described as “the Imāms of the Imāmiyyah sect”. As the author is not a Shī‘ah, she has failed to discern and explain the foundation of the political thought of the Imāms (‘a). As such, she describes the basis of Imamate after Imām al-Husayn (‘a) as spiritual and intellectual Imamate, regarding their method as different from that of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali(‘a), Imām al-Hasan (‘a) and Imām al-Husayn (‘a).
7. Tārīkh-e Tashayyu‘ dar Īrān az Āghāz tā Qarn-e Haftum-e Hijrī
The writer of this book, Mr. Rasūl Ja‘fariyān, is among the valuable researchers of the Islamic Theological Center in Qum. This book is a well-researched and distinctive one in its own right, and it is one of the best writings and literary works of this author. It is also one of the most important research references on the history of Shī‘ism. This book has valuable historical information and data, which no researcher on the history of Shī‘ism will be needless of. Among the merits of this book is its rich content. If it has any defect, it (only) pertains to the form and appearance. For example, its footnotes have not been printed in a standard and technical manner. The other one is that some subjects such as critique of the references used in the book are inserted in the (main) subjects, which gives confusion to the readers. Of course, it would have been better to discuss them in a separate chapter with the same heading, or at least, they must have been mentioned in the footnotes so as to cause no disruption to the main subjects.
Lesson 1: Summary
All history books can be good references for the research on the history of Shī‘ism. Among the special references on the history of Shī‘ism, however, are the following
o Maqātil aṭ-Ṭālibiyyīn – the life account of the descendants of Abū Ṭālib [ṭālibiyyīn] who were murdered at the hand of the tyrants of their respective times.
o Ad-Darajāt ar-Rafī‘ah fī Ṭabaqāt ash-Shī‘ah – the history of the Shī‘ah and not history of Shī‘ism, but a part of the history of Shī‘ism can be learned from its survey of the conditions of the Shī‘ah as well as from its introduction.
o A‘yān ash-Shī‘ah – Although it is about the conditions of the Shī‘ah, its second introduction is about the general history of Shī‘ism.
o Tārīkh ash-Shī‘ah –“This book has surveyed the periods of the spread of Shī‘ism, the Shī‘ah-populated places, and Shī‘ah states.” [The late Muẓaffar]
o Shī‘eh dar Tārīkh – “It has explained the meaning and concept of Shī‘ah, the Shī‘ah beliefs and its sects.” [Muhammad Husayn Zayn al-‘Āmilī]
o Jihād ash-Shī‘ah – Examines Shī‘ah uprisings till the end of the 2nd century hijrī.
o Tārīkh-e Tashayyu‘ dar Īrān az Āghāz tā Qarn-e Haftum-e Hijrī – This book contains precious information regarding the history of Shī‘ism in Iran, which no researcher can be needless of in his research.
Lesson 1: Questions
1. How many types do references on the history of Shī‘ism have?
2. What is the subject of the book Maqātil aṭ-Ṭālibiyyīn?
3. Give a brief description of the book, Ad-Darajāt ar-Rafī‘ah fī Ṭabaqāt ash-Shī‘ah.
4. What is the relationship between the book A‘yān ash-Shī‘ah, and the history of Shī‘ism?
After having a general survey of some of the special references on the history of Shī‘ism, we shall examine the general references for this history. The general references with respect to their subjects are as follows:
1. Tārīkh-e ‘Umūmī [General History];
2. Zendegīnāmeh-ye Imāmān (‘a) [Biography of the Imāms (‘a)];
3. Kitab-hā-ye Fitan va Ḥurūb [Books on Revolts and Wars];
4. Kitab-hā-ye Rijāl va Ṭabaqāt [Books on Rijāl and Classes];
5. Kitab-hā-ye Jughrāfiyā [Books on Geography];
6. Kitab-hā-ye Akhbār [Books on Narrations];
7. Kitab-hā-ye Nasab [Books on Genealogy];
8. Kitab-hā-ye Hadīth [Books on Hadīths]; and
9. Kitab-hā-ye Milal va Nihal [Books on Nations and Religions].
1. General History
In this book’s survey of the history of Shī‘ism, the most widely used books are those relating to the general history of the first centuries hijrī and the history of the caliphate, such as Tārīkh al-Ya‘qūbī, Murawwij adh-Dhahab, Tārīkh aṭ-Ṭabarī, Al-Kāmil fī’t-Tārīkh, Al-‘Abr, Al-Imāmmah wa’s-Siyāsah, Tārīkh al-Khulafā’, Sharḥ Nahj al-Balāghah of Ibn Abī’l-Ḥadīd, including even the analytical history research and books written by contemporary writers. Among the general history books, I have used Tārīkh al-Ya‘qūbī and Murawwij adh-Dhahab extensively. In these two books, historical events and occurrences have been recorded fairly impartially and without any attempt at concealing the truth. Ya‘qūbi has expressed in detail the oppositions of Companions of the Holy Prophet (S) with the caliphate of Abūbakr, criticizing the groupings after the demise of the Prophet
#7779;). He has embarked, as far as he could, on mentioning the events relevant to the history of the Shī‘ah such as the government of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a), the peace treaty of Imām al-Hasan (‘a), the martyrdom of Ḥujr ibn al-‘Addī, ‘Amrū ibn Ḥamq and that of Imām al-Husayn (‘a), more or less presenteing the truth of the matter.
Mas‘ūdī is also among the historians who had no intention of concealing the truth. Although he has only dealt in passing with the event of Saqīfah in the books Murawwij adh-Dhahab and At-Tanbiyyah wa’l-Ashrāf, he nevertheless has mentioned the differences of the Companions and the Banū Hāshim’s refusal to pay allegiance to Abūbakr. In another part of the first book, Mas‘ūdī wrote the issue of Fadak and discussed in detail the events that took place during the caliphate of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (‘a) and the martyrdom of Imām al-Hasan (‘a). He has mentioned the names of the Shī‘ah and their tribes as well as the enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) in various parts of Murawwij adh-Dhahab. Also, in the years of the Holy Imāms’ (‘a) demise, he has given a short account of their lives. He has, in particular, detailed the uprisings of the ‘Alawīs during the 2nd century hijrī.
2. Biography of the Imāms (‘a)
Among the books relevant to the life accounts of the Imāms (‘a), the book, Al-Irshād, by Shaykh al-Mufīd and Tadhkirah al-Khawāṣ by Ibn al-Jawzī occupy (special) importance. Al-Irshād is the first and most important available Shī‘ah reference authority on the life account of the twelve Imāms (‘a). In view of the fact that part of ‘Alī’s (‘a) life overlapped that of the life of the Holy Prophet
#7779;), the life account and conduct [sīrah] of the Holy Prophet (S) has also been included in this book, especially his battles in all of which Imam ‘Alī (‘a) had been present, with the exception of the Tabūk expedition. Concerning the book, it is enough to say that no researcher on the history of Shī‘ism and the biography of the infallible Imāms (‘a) is needless of it.
The Tadhrikah al-Khawāṣ of Ibn al-Jawzī occupies special importance in the sense that the biography of the Shī‘ah Imāms (‘a) has been expressed through the language of a Ḥanafī and non-Shī‘ah person, but no sort of negligence of the truth and concealment of the reality has taken place.
3. Books on Revolts and Wars
These references deal particularly with the wars that have great importance in the historiography of Muslims. The Waq‘ah aṣ-Ṣiffīn of Nasr ibn Mazāḥim al-Munqarī (born 212 AH), which deals with the event and confrontation at Ṣiffīn, can be regarded as the oldest among them. This book contains valuable information regarding the correspondence between Imam ‘Alī (‘a) and Mu‘āwiyah as well as the various sermons and speeches of the former. Valuable information concerning the opinion of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (S) regarding Imam ‘Alī and the influence of Shī‘ism among the different tribes can be acquired from the different parts of the book.
The book, Al-Ghārāt, written by Ibrāhīm Thaqafī al-Kūfī (283 AH), is one of the other references written about this subject. This book is related to the events that occurred during the caliphate of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (‘a), and examines the plunders and pillages committed by Mu‘āwiyah’s agents in the realm of Imam ‘Alī’s (‘a) government. The conditions and situations of the Commander of the Faithful’s (‘a) Shī‘ah can be extracted from various sections of the book.
Al-Jamal or Nuṣrah al-Jamal of Shaykh al-Mufīd, which examines the event of the Battle of Jamal (Camel) is yet another valuable references in this regard. As it is about the Commander of the Faithful’s (‘a) first battle during his caliphate, this book illustrates Imam ‘Alī’s (‘a) station among the people of Iraq prior to his arrival there.
4. Books on Rijāl and Classes
‘Ilm ar-Rijāl is one of the sciences mentioned in relation to the science of hadith. Its utility is in the study of the chain of transmission of hadith through which it deals with the life account and background of the hadith narrators and on the rectification of the Companions of the Holy Prophet
#7779;). In the Shī‘ah rijāl, apart from the Companions of the Prophet
#7779;), the companions of the infallible Imāms (‘a) have also been discussed. The science of rijāl started in the 2nd century hijrī and continues to exist to the present, having acquired perfection with the passage of time. Some of the most famous and reputable writings of the Ahl as-Sunnah in this context are Al-Isti‘āb fī Ma‘rifah al-Aṣḥāb, written by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr al-Qurṭubī (463 AH); Asad al-Ghābah fī Ma‘rifah aṣ-Ṣaḥābah, authored by Ibn Athīr al-Juzrī (630 AH); Tārīkh Baghdād, penned by Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī (392-463 AH); and Al-Iṣābah fī Ma‘rifah aṣ-Ṣaḥābah, written by Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalāni. Similarly, the most important Shī‘ah rijālī books are Ikhtibār Ma‘rifah ar-Rijāl, written by Shaykh aṭ-Ṭūsī (385-460 AH); Rijāl an-Najāsī (Fihrist Asmā’ Muṣannif ash-Shī‘ah) better known as Rijāl, Kitāb ar-Rijāl, and Kitāb al-Fihrist of Shaykh aṭ-Ṭūsī (385-460 AH); Rijāl al-Burqā, authored by Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Burqā (280 AH); Al-Mashaykhah of Shaykh aṣ-Ṣadūq (381 AH); Ma‘ālim al-‘Ulamā’ of Ibn Shahr Āshūb Māzandarānī (488-588 AH); and Rijāl Ibn Dāwūd of Taqī ad-Dīn Hasan ibn ‘Alī ibn Dāwūd al-Ḥillī (647-707 AH). Of course, the science of rijāl has acquired greater perfection among the Shī‘ah and has been divided into various branches.
Some books on rijāl such as Asad al-Ghābah, Fihrist Shaykh, Rijāl an-Najāshī, and Ma‘ālim al-‘Ulamā’ have been written in (Arabic) alphabetical order while some others such as Rijāl Shaykh and Rijāl al-Burqā have been arranged according to the classes of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (S) and the Imāms (‘a).
There are other types of rijāl books in which the people are surveyed according to various classifications, and the most important of them is the Tabaqāt of Ibn Sa‘d.
5. Books on Geography
Some of the geography books are travelogues most of which have been written after the third century hijrī. Since in this book the history of Shī‘ism has been examined in the first three centuries hijrī, a number of them have not been used so much, but other geography books which have presented documents are among the references used in this research. Among them, Mu‘jām al-Buldān has been used most on account of its comprehensiveness. The writer of the book, Yāqūt al-Ḥamawī, has treated the Shī‘ah with bias; mentioning the names of the great families in Kūfah, he has failed to mention any of the names of the great Shī‘ah scholars and families.
6. Books on Narrations
What is meant by references and books on narrations [akhbār] is not the books on hadith that dealt on the lawful [ḥalāl] and the prohibited [ḥarām]. They referred instead to history books based on the method of writing history during the period of Islam in which historical events and news have been mentioned in narrative form with the inclusion of the chain of narrators; that is, following the method of the people of hadith in recording and narrating historical events. This kind of history writing has some salient features. Firstly, any set of news regarding isolated event is mentioned distinct from other events, and it is by itself complete without any link with other news and events. Secondly, literary characteristics can also be observed in it; that is, sometimes the writer makes use of poem, story and debate. In most cases, this feature can be seen particularly in narrative works which were influenced by the form of Ayyām al-‘Arab narrations. On account of this, some researchers have regarded the historiography of khabar [news, report, narration] to have originated from the khabar of the stories about the period prior to the advent of Islam. Thirdly, the chain of narrators is mentioned. In reality, this method of history writing, particularly during the first two centuries hijrī, was in most cases the way of presenting the primary sources of history. Significant corpus of the written works of the Islamic period is through this method.
Among the books on narrations [akhbār], Al-Akhbār al-Mu’affaqiyyāt of Zubayr ibn Bakkār occupies special importance. The writer of this book, Zubayr ibn Bakkār, apart from being among the descendants of Zubayr who had ancient hostility to the Ahl al-Bayt of the Holy Prophet
#7779;), had good relations with Mutawakkil, the ‘Abbāsid caliph, who was a staunch enemy of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (‘a) and his descendants; the teacher of his children and had been appointed as the judge in Makkah. In spite of this, valuable information regarding the Companions of the Prophet’s
#7779;) protest against the caliphate of Abūbakr has been recorded in this book. The narration of their poems, in particular, which contain their belief on the guardianship [waṣāyah] of Imam ‘Alī (‘a), is an expression of these protests.
7. Books on Genealogy
Among the books on genealogy, Ansāb al-Ashrāf of Balādhurī, which is the best reference in this regard, has been used most. On the other hand, this book can be considered as among the books on (personal) backgrounds [aḥwāl]. This is in spite of the fact that in terms of genealogical knowledge, the book Jumharah Ansāb al-‘Arab is the most comprehensive book, which has also presented a brief explanation of the description of some individuals.
The book, Muntaqilah aṭ-Ṭālibiyyīn, has examined the migration of sādāt (sing. sayyid) and descendants of the Prophet
#7779;). By utilizing its subjects, the trend of Shī‘ism during the first centuries hijrī in the Muslim lands can be examined.
8. Books on Ḥadīth
Another set of the references on the history of Shī‘ism includes the books on hadith. Ḥadīth in the Sunnī usage refers to the Holy Prophet’s
#7779;) sayings, actions and tacit approvals of others’ actions, but the Shī‘ah regards the infallible Imams (‘a) as also attached to the Holy Prophet
#7779;), treating their sayings, actions and tacit approvals as proofs [ḥujaj] as well. The hadith books of the Ahl as-Sunnah such as Aṣ-Ṣaḥīḥ of al-Bukhārī (194-256 AH), Al-Musnad of Ahmad ibn Ḥanbal (164-241 AH), and Al-Mustadrak ‘alā’ṣ-Ṣaḥīḥayn of Ḥākim an-Nayshābūrī (d. 450 AH) are good references for the study of Shī‘ism among the Companions and of the rightfulness of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (‘a) which is the basis of Shī‘ism.
The Shī‘ah books on hadith such as the “four books” [kutub al-arba‘ah], viz. Al-Kāfī of al-Kulaynī (d. 329 AH); Man Lā Yaḥḍuruh al-Faqīh of Shaykh aṣ-Ṣadūq (d. 381 AH); and Tahdhīb al-Aḥkām and Al-Istibṣār of Shaykh aṭ-Ṭūsī (d. 360 AH); and other books such as Al-Amālī, Ghurar al-Fawā’id and Durar al-Qalā’id of Sayyid Murtadā (355-436 AH); Al-Iḥtijāj of aṭ-Ṭabarsī (6th century hijrī); and the bulky encyclopedia of hadith, Biḥār al-Anwār of ‘Allāmah Majlisī (d. 1111 AH), apart from having the merit of the books of the Ahl as-Sunnah, can be utilized, by referring to the hadiths of the infallible Imāms (‘a), in knowing about the scattering of the Shī‘ah, their resident places, their social relations, and their mode of communication with the infallible Imāms (‘a).
9. Books on Nations and Religions
One of the most important references and authorities in this regard is the book, Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal of Shahristānī (479-548 AH). In terms of comprehensiveness and oldness, this book is considered a good reference and as a reference authority of researchers and scholars. This is in spite of the fact that the author has approached the subject with bias. In the beginning of the book, he has quoted the hadith on “73 sects” and introduced the Ahl as-Sunnah as the “saved sect”. As such, he tried his best to highlight the spread of “Shī‘ah sects” so as to prove that the plentitude of the “Shī‘ah sects” is a proof of the falsehood of this school of thought [madhhab]. He has regarded the sects such as Mukhtāriyyah, Bāqiriyyah, Ja‘fariyyah, Mufḍalah, Nu‘māniyyah, Hishāmiyyah, and Yūnusiyyah as “Shī‘ah” although these sects do not exist in reality. Similarly, in the book, Khuṭaṭ, Maqrīzī has said that the “Shī‘ah sects” are 300 all in all, but at the time of enumerating them he failed to mention more than 20 sects.
Among the oldest and most important books on nations and religions are Al-Maqālāt wa’l-Firaq of Ash‘arī al-Qummī and Firaq ash-Shī‘ah of Nawbakhtī. Ash‘arī al-Qummī and Nawbakhtī are among the Shī‘ah scholars who lived in the second half of the 3rd century hijrī. The book, Al-Maqālāt wa’l-Firaq, in terms of presenting information, is so extensive and has good comprehensiveness, but its subjects are diverse with any proper classification.
According to the views expressed by some researchers, the book, Firaq ash-Shī‘ah of Nawbakhtī is actually the same book as Al-Maqālāt wa’l-Firaq.
Lesson 2: Summary
General references for the history of Shī‘ism are the following
o Books on general history, which have been written in the first centuries hijrī, and among them Murawwij adh-Dhahab and Tārīkh al-Ya‘qūbī, occupy special importance;
o Books on the biography of the Imams (‘a) such as Al-Irshād of Shaykh al-Mufīd;
o Books on revolts and wars such as Waq‘ah aṣ-Ṣiffīn;
o Books on rijāl and classes as well as books written about (personal) backgrounds [aḥwāl];
o Books on geography such as travelogues and history of cities;
o Books on narrations which have been the same in form with the first history writing;
o Books on genealogy such as Jumharah Ansāb al-‘Arab; and
o Books on hadith as well as books on nations and religions.
Lesson 2: Questions
1. Among the books on general history, which of the earlier books that have dealt more with the history of Shī‘ism?
2. Briefly describe the books, Al-Irshād and Tadhkirah al-Khawāṣ.
3. Which type of books does Wāqi‘ah aṣ-Ṣiffīn belong to?
4. Briefly describe the books on rijāl.
1. How many types do the books on geography have?
2. What are the salient features of the books on narrations [akhbār]?
3. Name two books on genealogy.
4. What is the relationship between the books on hadith and the history of Shī‘ism?
5. What is the title of one of the most important books written on nations and religions?