The Four Hundred Principles (Al-Usūl Al-Arba`Mi’ah)
By: Sayyid Ali Al-Shahristani
The adherents of the Ahl al-Bayt School used to write down the sayings of the Holy Imams in books; they therefore have been considered the foremost writers in the field of the Muslim jurisprudence. In this regard, Mr. Mustafā `Abd al-Razzāq, referring to the recordation of the Muslim jurisprudence says,
“In any event, this fact indicates that the recordation of the Muslim jurisprudence was first carried by the Shī`ite Muslims. Since they believed in the inerrancy (`Ismah), or a similar thing, of their Imams, this belief made or encouraged them to record the judgments and verdicts of their Imams.”
This is true, especially when applied to the ages of Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir and Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq or, in other words, after the collapse of the Umayyad dynasty and the initiation of the `Abbāsid dynasty when the `Abbāsid rulers, in the early period of their reign, claimed following the policy of openness. Thus, the two Imams seized this opportunity especially when the tribes of Banū-Asad, Mukhāriq, Tayy, Sulaym, Ghatafān, Ghifār, al-Azd, Khuzā`ah, Khath`am, Makhzūm, Banū-Dubbah, Banu’l-Hārith, and Banū-`Abd al-Muttalib began to urge their sons to attend the lectures of the Imams.
Referring to the biography of Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq, al-Muzziy, in Tahdhīb al-Kamāl, has mentioned that Sufyān ibn `Uyaynah, Mālik ibn Anas, Sufyān al-Thawriy, al-Nu`mān ibn Thābit (i.e. Abū-Hanīfah), Sulaymān ibn Bilāl, Shu`bah ibn al-Hajjāj, `Abdullāh ibn Maymūn, and `Abd al-Malik ibn `Abd al-`Azīz ibn Jurayh as well as many other master scholars studied under Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq.
It has been narrated on the authority of Abu’l-`Abbās ibn `Uqdah on the authority of al-Hasan ibn Ziyād that Abū-Hanīfah, having been asked to name the most knowledgeable in the field of the Muslim jurisprudence that he had ever seen, answered,
“I have never seen anyone more knowledgeable (in the Muslim jurisprudence) than Ja`far ibn Muhammad (i.e. Imam al-Sādiq). When al-Mansūr, the `Abbāsid ruler, ordered him to be brought to al-Hīrah, he summoned me and asked, ‘O Abū-Hanīfah! The people have been charmed by Ja`far; therefore, you must prepare questions that you will put before him.’ I then visited him on another occasion while Ja`far was sitting to his right. When I saw the two, I felt reverence to Ja`far rather than al-Mansūr. I thus greeted them and he permitted me... etc.”
In the introduction of his book entitled al-Imām al-Sādiq that he wrote after seven books had been written about seven of the Muslim master scholars—namely Abū-Hanīfah, Mālik ibn Anas, Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfi`iy, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Taymiyah, Ibn Hazm, and Zayd ibn `Alī—Shaykh Muhammad Abū-Zuhrah writes down the following:
“Seeking Almighty Allah’s help and guidance, I have decided to write down a book about Imam al-Sādiq after I have written about seven of the noble Muslim master scholars. I have postponed writing about Imam al-Sādiq not because he is less than anyone of these seven personalities; rather because he has the merit of preference over the majority of them and has a particular preference over the major scholars among these seven ones. Abū-Hanīfah used to report from Imam al-Sādiq declaring his having been the most knowledgeable of the people’s doctrinal differences and the most experienced among all the jurisprudents. As for Mālik ibn Anas, he learnt from Imam al-Sādiq the religious studies and also reported from him. It is indeed a sufficient virtue to be the mentor of Abū-Hanīfah and Mālik ibn Anas. It is unfeasible to ascribe any imperfection to him or to prefer any other person to him in fields of virtue and merit. Besides, he is the grandson of Zayn al-`Ābidīn (Imam `Alī ibn al-Husayn) who was the master of the holy city of al-Madīnah in his age in fields of merit, honor, religiousness, and knowledge. Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhriy as well as many other Tābi`ūn studied under him. He is also the son of Muhammad al-Bāqir who split the knowledge and got to its core. Correspondingly, Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq is one of those for whom Almighty Allah has joined self-honor and additional honor due to the high lineage, the Hāshimite kinship, and the Muhammadan dignity... etc.”
The following is quoted from the book of Hilyat al-Awliyā':
“From the knowledge of al-Sādiq, a group of the Tābi`ūn received their knowledge. Among them were Yahyā ibn Sa`īd al-Ansāriy, Ayyūb al-Sakhtiyāniy, Abū-`Amr ibn al-`Alā, Yazīd ibn `Abdullāh al-Ma`ādiy, Shu`bah ibn al-Qāsim, Mālik ibn Anas, Sufyān ibn `Uyaynah, and many others.”
As a matter of fact, the Hadīths that the Sahābah received from the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt were written down on papers. The shares of Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir and Ja`far al-Sādiq were the largest in this field. These compilations have been entitled Nuskhah (Copy) or Kitāb (book) or Asl (Principle), or Risālah (Epistle)... etc.
Sayyid Radiy al-Dīn `Alī ibn Tāwūs, in his book of Muhaj al-Da`awāt, has mentioned on the authority of Abu’l-Waddāh Muhammad ibn `Abdullāh ibn Zayd al-Nahshaliy on the authority of his father that a group of his disciples and adherents used to attend the sessions of Imam Mūsā al-Kādhim and used to carry with them ebony boards and pencils so that they would write down any word and any verdict about any situation said by the Imam as soon as they would hear.
Likewise, Shaykh al-Bahā'iy, in his book of Mashriq al-Shamsayn, has said the following:
“We have been informed by our master scholars—may Allah sanctify them—that whenever they heard anybody reporting a Hadīth from the Holy Imams, the writers of the Principles (Ashāb al-Usūl) would hurriedly write it down in their books of Usūl so that they would not forget a part of it or that it would be totally forgotten by passage of days.”
Al-Muhaqqiq al-Dāmād, in the twenty-ninth chapter of his famous book of al-Rawāshih al-Samāwiyyah, says the following:
“It has been said that the Writers of the Principles used to write down, without delay, in their books any Hadīth that they heard from a reporter.”
Furthermore, Mr. `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy has written down the following:
“The first of those who benefited by the early recordation of the religious knowledge was those who took shelter with the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt so as to learn from them orally and in written form. The Hadīth that has been reported by the Shī`ite Muslims and written down in their books is the Prophetic heritage in its very point. From this heritage, the Shī`ite Muslims have thus learnt prosperity. On the other hand, the Sunnite Muslims began to compile the Prophetic heritage only one century and a half after the Shī`ite scholars had applied themselves eagerly to it and written it down in their foremost books. For other centuries, the Sunnite Muslims wandered about deserts and plains looking for that heritage. To take into consideration the fact that some of the narrators reported ten thousand Hadīths from the Imam clearly manifests that the authenticated heritage that is kept by the Shī`ite Muslims is adequately sufficient for the Muslim community.
Again, by taking into consideration the fact that al-Shāfi`iy, Mālik, Abū-Hanīfah, Yahyā ibn Mu`īn, Abū-Hātam, and al-Dhahbiy—these master scholars who founded the conditions of the narrators of Hadīth and the rules of the admission of a narration and the authenticity of the series of narrators, these master scholars accepted and authenticated the narrations of Imam al-Sādiq, it becomes sufficient for us to dedicate our efforts to searching for the reporters of the Holy Sunnah from Imam al-Sādiq.
As for the Shī`ite Muslims, it is sufficient that a Hadīth is related to the Imam. They therefore do not demand with a series of narrators before Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq. Moreover, they even do not demand with a series of narrators before any of the Imams in general. This is because the Imam either reported the Hadīth from the Imam who preceded him or had already read that Hadīth in the books of his forefathers. As a result, the saying of the Imam is decided as Sunnah for the Shī`ite Muslims. In other words, a Hadīth that is reported by the Imam must be absolutely purified from any doubt or spurion. Thus, not only is the Imam’s reporting of a Hadīth considered testimony for that Hadīth but also it is a declaration of its authenticity.
So long as the report of al-Sādiq was received from al-Bāqir; and the report of al-Bāqir was received from al-Sajjād; and the report of al-Sajjād was received from al-Husayn or al-Hasan whose report was received from `Alī or from the Holy Prophet, this series decides the authenticity of a Hadīth at all levels. The last three ones were unquestionably among the foremost Sahābah who reported from the Holy Messenger, since al-Hasan and al-Husayn reported from `Alī who reported from the Holy Prophet.
Undoubtedly, the method of recordation of the religious knowledge adopted by `Alī and his adherents achieved a great benefit for the Muslims. This method intercepted the disadvantages that are ascribed to some narrations, and locked the door in the face of the forgeries of the miscreants as well as those who forged fabrications against the Holy Prophet in the form of Hadīth. As a consequence, the precedence in the recordation of the religious knowledge is considered virtue for the Shī`ite Muslims. As well, when the scholars, after long ages, agreed to resort to the recordation of the religious knowledge, they had unanimously confessed of this virtue for `Alī and his descendants. Since the Holy Sunnah is the interpreter of the Holy Qur'ān, which was written by the dictations of the Holy Messenger, it thus, just like the Holy Qur'ān, should be fact as long as it is written down.
The Sunnite Hadīthists, in the early ages of Islam, had to listen to the words of the Hadīth from the master scholars or show such Hadīths before them, because the Prophetic traditions (i.e. the Holy Sunnah) was not yet kept in written form. For that reason, the most confirmatory means to attain the authentic form of a Hadīth was to journey to the remote parts of the earth in order to listen to such Hadīths from the scholars.”
In Kitāb al-Irshād, Shaykh al-Mufīd says,
“The knowledges that people received from Imam al-Sādiq have extended to the remotest regions and spread in all countries. None of the scholars of the Ahl al-Bayt has ever revealed as much knowledge as that revealed by Imam al-Sādiq. Similarly, none of them has ever attained the degree that Imam al-Sādiq attained regarding the amount of the traditions that have been reported from him. As Hadīthists listed the names of the trustworthy narrators who reported from Imam al-Sādiq in various fields of knowledge, they were four thousand individuals of different sects and opinions.”
Shaykh al-Tabrisiy says,
“The amount of knowledge, on various fields, that has been reported from Imam al-Sādiq has never been reported from any other person. As Hadīthists listed the names of the trustworthy narrators who reported from him, they were four thousand men.”
He further says in Part III of his book,
“Four hundred men reported various fields of knowledge from Imam al-Sādiq, and from his replies to the questions that were addressed to him, four hundred books, lately called al-Usūl, were written by his companions in addition to the companions of his son, Imam Mūsā al-Kādhim.”
Shaykh Muhammad ibn `Alī al-Fattāl says,
“As Hadīthists listed the names of the trustworthy narrators who reported from Imam al-Sādiq in various fields of knowledge, they were four thousand individuals of different sects and opinions.”
In Manāqib `Alī ibn Abī-Tālib, Ibn Shahrāshūb records the following:
“Narrators have never reported knowledges as many as those which were reported from Imam al-Sādiq. As Hadīthists listed the names of the trustworthy narrators who reported from Imam al-Sādiq in various fields of knowledge, they were four thousand individuals of different sects and opinions.”
Al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilliy, in his book of ‘al-Mu`tabar’, says,
“Imam al-Sādiq is reported to have dealt with such innumerable fields of knowledge that perplexed the intellects. The material of four hundred books, lately called the Usūl, was taken from Imam al-Sādiq’s replies on the questions that were addressed to him.”
Muhammad ibn Makkiy (al-Shahīd al-Awwal; the First Martyr) says,
“As for Abū-`Abdullāh Ja`far ibn Muhammad al-Sādiq, four hundred authors have compiled four hundred books all comprising his answers on the questions that were addressed to him. Among the famous disciples of him, the names of four thousand men from Iraq, Syria, Hijāz, and Khurāsān were listed.”
Shaykh Husayn, the father of Shaykh al-Bahā'iy, says,
“Four thousand names of Imam al-Sādiq’s disciples whose knowledgeability was distinctively well-known were listed by Sunnite and Shī`ite scholars.”
He is also reported to have said,
“Four hundred books written by four hundred authors have totally comprised the answers of Imam al-Sādiq on the questions which were addressed to him. These books are called Usūl (The Principles) on various fields of knowledge.”
Al-Muhaqqiq al-Dāmād, in the twenty-ninth chapter of his famous book of al-Rawāshih al-Samāwiyyah, says,
“It is well-known that the al-Usūl al-Arba`mi’ah is four hundred books written by four hundred authors among the disciples of Imam al-Sādiq. Moreover, these books might have comprised materials that were heard or reported from him. In fact, the disciples of Imam al-Sādiq were four thousand. Although their books and compilations are innumerable, it has been unanimously agreed that only these four hundred ones would be considered, depended on, and called al-Usūl al-Arba`mi’ah (The Four Hundred Principles).
Zayn al-Dīn al-Jub`iy al-`Āmiliy (al-Shahīd al-Thānī; the Second Martyr), in his commentary on al-Dirāyah says,
“The past scholars decided to choose four hundred books written by four hundred authors that they have called al-Usūl al-Arba`mi’ah. They therefore depended upon these books. After that, most of these fundamental books vanished, due to vicissitudes of time, or they were added to private books. The best compilations in this connection are al-Kāfī, Tahdhīb al-Ahkām, al-Istibsār, and Man-lā-Yahduruhu’l-Faqīh.”
The names of some of the writers of these four hundred Usūl have been mentioned in Kitāb al-Rijāl (Book of Biography) by `Abdullāh ibn Jibillah al-Kināniy (died in AH 219), al-Mashyakhah by al-Hasan ibn Mahbūb (died in AH 224), al-Rijāl by al-Hasan ibn Faddāl (died in AH 224), al-Rijāl by `Alī ibn al-Hasan ibn Mahbūb, al-Rijāl by Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqiy, al-Rijāl by Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqiy (died in AH 274), al-Rijāl by Ahmad al-`Aqīqiy (died in AH 280), and many other books of biography.
In the introduction of his book of al-Fihrist, Shaykh al-Tūsiy writes down,
“I cannot tell that I have mentioned the names of all of these people; the books and Usūl of our scholars were too many to be counted because they lived in various countries.”
Sayyid al-Amīn has recorded that Ahmad ibn `Uqdah al-Zaydiy al-Kūfiy compiled a book in which he listed the names of those from whom he had reported the Hadīth. In this book, he listed the names of four thousand men and mentioned all their books. Nevertheless, he could not mention all the narrators from whom he had reported.
These characteristics urged the Shī`ite Muslims to take a great interest in their fundamental reference books which they have read, reported, retained, and corrected. The entire jurisprudential and traditional knowledge of Shī`ism has been derived from these fundamental reference books.
The Shī`ah Derive From The Usūl
In the introduction of his book of Man-lā-Yahduruhu’l-Faqīh, Muhammad ibn `Alī ibn Bābawayh says,
“…Unlike the other compilers who adduce in their books all that which they have reported, I only would like to mention in this book verdicts that I issue and subjects in whose authenticity I believe being a pretext between my Lord—the Great and Almighty—and me. All the contents of this book are deduced from noteworthy, dependable, and referential books, such as the book of Hurayz ibn `Abdullāh al-Sajistāniy, the book of `Ubaydullāh ibn `Alī al-Halabiy, the books of `Alī ibn Mahziyār al-Ahwāziy, the books of al-Husayn ibn Sa`īd, the anecdotes of Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn `Īsā, the book of al-Rahmah written by Sa`d ibn `Abdullāh, the comprehensive (Jāmi`) book of our master scholar Ahmad ibn Abū-`Abdullāh al-Barqiy, the epistle of my father to me, and many other fundamental and reference books. My ways to these books are well-known in the index of the books, which I reported from my master scholars and forefathers. In this respect, I have exerted all possible efforts, seeking the help of and relying upon Almighty Allah and asking Him to forgive my shortcomings.”
Al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilliy, in his book of al-Mu`tabar, says,
“About four thousand narrators reported from Imam al-Sādiq. In virtue of his teaching, a big number of righteous jurisprudents became well-known, such as Zurārah ibn A`yun and his brothers Bukayr and Hamrān, Jamīl ibn Sālih, Jamīl ibn Darrāj, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Burayd ibn Mu`āwiyah, Hushām ibn al-Hakam, Hushām ibn Sālim, Abū-Basīr, `Abdullāh, Muhammad al-Halabiy, `Imrān al-Halabiy, `Abdullāh ibn Sinān, Abu’l-Sabah al-Kināniy, and many other virtuous scholars. Imam al-Sādiq’s answers for religious questions have filled the papers of four hundred books written by four hundred writers, which were subsequently called al-Usūl al-Arba`mi’ah.
Within the disciples of Imam al-Muhammad Jawād, there were virtuous names, such as al-Husayn ibn Sa`īd and his brother, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Abū-Nasr al-Bizantiy, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqiy, Shādhān Abu’l-Fadl al-Qummiy, Ayyūb ibn Nūh ibn Darrāj, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn `Īsā, and many others the mention of whose names requires a long list and whose books that indicate their vast knowledgeability are now transferred among the disciples.
I have satisfied myself with mentioning only the words of the scholars whose knowledgeability and virtue are well-known as well as those who are famous of their precedence in criticism of narrations, accuracy in investigation, and authenticity in consideration. I have further confined myself to referring to the books of the scholars whom are famous of diligence, carefulness, and reliability among those virtuous scholars. I have thus chosen to report from al-Hasan ibn Mahbūb, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Abū-Nasr, al-Husayn ibn Sa`īd, al-Fadl ibn Shādhān, Yūnus ibn `Abd al-Rahmān and, among the late scholars, Abū-Ja`far Muhammad ibn `Alī ibn Bābawayh and Muhammad ibn Ya`qūb al-Kulayniy...etc.”
Ibn Idrīs al-Hilliy, in his book of Mustatrafāt al-Sarā'ir Section: al-Ziyādāt (Attachments), lists the materials that he has excerpted and culled from the books of the master authors and skilled narrations, saying,
“…Among these are as follows:
(1) The materials that I have culled from the book of al-Nawādir (The Anecdotes) written by Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Abū-Nasr al-Bizantiy, the disciple of Imam al-Ridā;
(2) The materials that I have culled from the reports of Abān ibn Taghlib, the disciple of Imam al-Bāqir and Imam al-Sādiq, that he has recorded in his book;
(3) The materials that I have culled from the book of Jamīl ibn Darrāj; the materials that I have culled from the book of al-Sayyāriy whose name is `Abdullāh, the disciple of Imam `Alī ibn Mūsā al-Ridā;
(4) The materials that I have culled from the books comprising the questions put before and messages sent to our Master Imam `Alī ibn Muhammad al-Hādī, and his answers for these questions and messages;
(5) The materials that I have culled from the book of al-Mashyakhah written by al-Hasan ibn Mahbūb al-Sarrād (the relater), the disciples of Imam al-Ridā. In the view of our master scholars, this man has been trustworthy, lofty, reporter of numerous narrations, and one of the four pillars in his age. The book of al-Mashyakhah is reliably trustworthy;
(6) The materials that I have culled from the book of Nawādir al-Musannif written by Muhammad ibn `Alī ibn Mahbūb. This book has been written with the handwriting of our master scholar, Shaykh Abū-Ja`far al-Tūsiy. I have therefore quoted these Hadīths from his own handwriting;
(7) The materials that I have culled from the book of Man-lā-Yahduruhu’l-Faqīh by Ibn Bābawayh (Shaykh al-Sadūq);
(8) The materials that I have culled from the book of Qurb al-Isnād by Muhammad ibn `Abdullāh ibn Ja`far al-Himyariy;
(9) The materials that I have culled from the book of Ja`far ibn Muhammad ibn Sinān al-Dahqān;
(10) The materials that I have culled from the book of Tahdhīb al-Ahkām;
(11) The materials that I have culled from the book of `Abdullāh ibn Bukayr ibn A`yun;
(12) The materials that I have culled from the book of Abu’l-Qāsim ibn Qawlawayh;
(13) The materials that I have culled from the book of ‘Uns al-`Ālim’ by al-Safwāniy;
(14) The materials that I have culled from the book of al-Mahāsin by Ahmad ibn Abū-`Abdullāh al-Barqiy;
(15) The materials that I have culled from the book of al-`Uyūn wa’l-Mahāsin by (Shaykh) al-Mufīd.”
Shaykh al-Bahā'iy, in his book of al-Wajīzah, says,
“All of the Hadīths, except a rare number, that are mentioned in this book have been reported from our Twelve Imams who, in turn, have reported from the Holy Prophet. Indeed, the knowledge of these Imams are excerpted from the heart of the Niche. An investigative look into the books of Hadīth of both the Sunnah and the Shī`ah proves that the Hadīths that are comprised in the books written by Shī`ite authors, as they have reported them from their Imams, are very much larger in number than these mentioned in the famous al-Sihāh al-Sittah (the six most reliable Sunnite reference books of Hadīth).
In this respect, one reporter only (namely, Abān ibn Taghlib) has reported from one Imam only (namely, Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq) about thirty thousand Hadīths.
Our former master scholars compiled the words of our Imams in four hundred books, which were lately called al-Usūl (The Principles).
A group of the recent scholars—may Allah reward them for their efforts—have arranged and ordered these books in order to save them from loss and to make it easier for the seekers of these narrations to get them. They have thus compiled verified and accurate books comprising the series of narrators connected to the Immaculate Imams. Examples on these books are al-Kāfī, Man-lā-Yahduruhu’l-Faqīh, Tahdhīb al-Ahkām, al-Istibsār, Madīnat al-`Ilm, al-Khisāl, al-Amāliy, `Uyūn al-Akhbār, and many others.”
Shaykh Hasan, in his books entitled Muntaqā al-Jumān and al-Ma`ālim, has stated that the Hadīths mentioned in the four most reliable Shī`ite reference books of Hadīth (al-Kutub al-Arba`ah) and their likes are substantiated by proofs as they were, without any distortion, quoted from the al-Usūl as well as the fundamental books the authenticity of which have been unanimously confirmed by the scholars.
Al-Kaf`amiy, in al-Jannah al-Wāqiyah says,
“This book contains amulets, supplications, statements of glorification to Almighty Allah, and Ziyārahs (prayers said at the pilgrimage to the tombs of the Holy Infallibles). The material of this book has been quoted from books whose authenticity is reliably undoubted. To adhere to these books is safe.”
`Alī ibn Ibrāhīm al-Qummiy, the compiler of the famous book of Tafsīr that carries his name, has confirmed the authenticity of the Hadīths that he recorded in his book by bearing out that these Hadīths have been reported by trustworthy narrators from the Holy Imams.
The books of Sayyid Radiy al-Dīn Ibn Tāwūs have comprised proofs on the fact that the majority of the al-Usūl books that had been written by the disciples of the Holy Imams were kept by him and thus the majority of the materials of his books were reported from these fundamental books.
Likewise, al-Shahīd al-Awwal, in his book of al-Dhikrā, and al-Kaf`amiy, in his book of al-Misbāh, have stated that many of the fundamental books of the past scholars were kept by them.
Moreover, Shaykh al-Hurr al-`Āmiliy, in the four section of the epilogue of his famous book of Wasā'il al-Shī`ah, listing the bibliography, says, “... and many others. As regards the books from which the authors have reported without referring to their titles, they are very numerous. The titles of these books can be found in the books of biography. According to my personal inspection, these books are more than six thousand and six hundred.”
At any rate, a group of the disciples of the Holy Imams distinguished themselves in the various fields of knowledge, especially during the ages of Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir and Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq. These scholars wrote down the items of knowledge that they had received from the Imams in books to which the master scholars of biography, such as Ibn al-Nadīm, al-Kishiy, al-Najāshiy, have referred.
In this connection, Hushām ibn al-Hakam wrote books on the terms of the religious laws (al-Alfādh); on the refutation of the beliefs of the miscreants; on Monotheism (al-Tawhīd; the belief in the existence of One and Only God—namely, Almighty Allah); on Imamate (al-Imāmah; the loyalty to the twelve Imams whom have been divinely commissioned by Almighty Allah as the leaders of the Muslim community), Determinism (al-Jabr; the doctrine that human action is necessarily determined by motives regarded as external forces acting on the will), and Fatalism (al-Qadariyyah: the doctrine that all events are predetermined by fate); on the refutation of the beliefs of the Dualists (al-Thanawiyyah; those who believe in the existence of two gods—light and darkness); and on the refutation of the concepts of Aristotle—the famous Greek philosopher and scientist—as well as other Greek philosophers. He also wrote various epistles on Muslim jurisprudence and Usūl al-Fiqh (principles of jurisprudence).
Zurārah ibn A`yun wrote books on Capability (al-Istitā`ah), Determinism, and other topics.
Muhammad ibn `Umar wrote books on Monotheism, Imamate, Muslim jurisprudence, and other topics.
Ya`qūb ibn Ishāq al-Sikkīt wrote books on Reformation of Logic (Islāh al-Mantiq), Terms and Opposites (al-Alfādh wa’l-Addād), and Common Words.
Muhammad ibn Nu`mān al-Bujaliy (well-known as Mu’min al-Tāq) wrote books on Imamate, Knowledge (Ma`rifah), Substantiation of the (the Holy Prophet’s) Will (Ithbāt al-Wasiyyah), Dos and Don’ts (al-Awāmir wa’l-Nawāhī), Debates (al-Munādharāt), and other topics.
Hundreds, if not thousands, are the compilations of the Holy Imam’s disciples. The Three Muhammads (i.e. Shaykh al-Kulayniy, Shaykh al-Sadūq, and Shaykh al-Tūsiy) have depended upon these books in the compilation of their famous books (al-Kutub al-Arba`ah; the four most reliable Shī`ite reference books of Hadīth). It is worth mentioning that Shaykh al-Sadūq and Shaykh al-Tūsiy wrote other books on Tafsīr, history, Hadīth... etc.
The majority of the reporters from the Holy Imams were at the utmost degree of decency and trustworthiness. They were also objects of admiration and respect for Muslims of various sects and groups. The compilers of the al-Sihāh al-Sittah (the six most reliable Sunnite reference books of Hadīth) wrote down Hadīths narrated from these reporters in their books. Biographers, or the majority of them, decided them as trustworthy and occupying significant scientific statuses although they added statements like, “He terribly supported Shī`ism,” “Trustworthy though belongs to Shī`ism,” “His sect is Shī`ism” and the like, after the biography of these reporters. Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ya`qūb al-Kulayniy, the author of al-Kāfī, has referred to most of those biographers.
The compilers and writers of these narrations were also greatly respectable scholars; such as Ibn Mākūlā, Ibn al-Athīr, al-Safadiy, Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalāniy, and many other Hadīthists and linguists, such as al-Fayrūz'ābādiy, al-Zubaydiy... etc.
Biography Of The Compilers Of The Al-Kutub Al-Arba`ah
Mr. Thāmir al-`Amīdiy has attested that none of the master biographers has ever criticized Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ya`qūb al-Kulayniy. He says,
“I have never noticed any Sunnite biographer addressing any word of criticism—be it clear or suggestive—at al-Kulayniy although, unfortunately, these Sunnite biographers have been well-known of their malignity against the Shī`ite scholars for nothing more than their being Shī`ites. No researcher can ever deny this fact. However, this indicates the scholars’ unanimous agreement on the fact that Shaykh al-Kulayniy enjoyed an exalted status among the Muslim scholars; and anyone who mistreats this status will be considered as liar and exposed among the scholars.”
Moreover, Ibn al-Athīr believes Shaykh al-Kulayniy as one of the Imāmiyyah reformers in the third century.
Muhammad ibn `Alī ibn al-Husayn ibn Mūsā ibn Bābawayh al-Qummiy, the author of Man-lā-Yahduruhu’l-Faqīh, has written numerous books. He was exemplary in retention. He belonged to a dignified family that was deep-rooted in virtue and knowledgeability. Ibn Abī-Tayy has described Shaykh al-Sadūq’s family as the household of knowledge and dignity. His father was one of the grand Shī`ite scholars and writers. He was highly dignified, distinguished in retention of Hadīths, well-versed in biographies of men, and expert in criticism of narrations. Among the people of Qumm, he was the most excellent in retention and abundance of knowledge. He wrote about three hundred books. It was he who extinguished the sedition of al-Husayn ibn Mansūr al-Hallāj in Qumm. In his early youth, master scholars attended his lectures. Including Shaykh al-Mufīd, a good group of master scholars reported from Shaykh al-Sadūq.
As regards Shaykh al-Mufīd, he was the student of Shaykh al-Sadūq and the master of Shaykh al-Tūsiy. “He was nicknamed Ibn al-Mu`allim (Son of the Mentor). He compiled brilliant books, which counted two hundred.” “He was the chief of the Shī`ite master scholars and theologians. He also was the master debater in the field of the schools of the Sahābah. He was also skillfully perspicacious and mindfully intelligent.” “In his house in Darb-Rabāh,Ibn al-Mu`allim had a session attended by all the scholars.” “Despite the grandeur and greatness of the Buyid State, Shaykh al-Mufīd used to debate the masters of all the other doctrines.” “He was skillful in arts, scientific investigation, and theology. He was also well-known of seclusion and politeness. As he referred to Shaykh al-Mufīd in his book of Tārīkh al-Imāmiyyah, Ibn Abī-Tayy mentioned him very lengthily and elaborately. He said that the Shaykh was unique in all of the fields of knowledge—knowledge of the Holy Qur'ān and Sunnah, jurisprudence, narration, biography, exegesis (of the Holy Qur'ān), grammar, and poetry. Besides, he was strong-hearted, quite self-righteous, and greatly pious. He used to offer prayers and observe fasting characteristically. He also used to wear tough clothes... etc.”
As regards Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tūsiy, he was the chief of Shī`ism in his age. He wrote many noticeable books. Two of the al-Kutub al-Arba`ah are his. They are Tahdhīb al-Ahkām and Al-Istibsār fīma’khtulifa min’al-Akhbār. “He learnt theology and the principles of the Sunnite jurisprudence from Shaykh al-Mufīd to whom he adhered and thus attained skillfulness in religious knowledge. He also compiled a book of Tafsīr and dictated many Hadīths and anecdotes that filled two volumes. The majority of these Hadīths and anecdotes were reported from Shaykh al-Mufīd, his mentor.”
Al-Sabkiy, al-Suyūtiy, and al-Kātib al-Chalabiy have listed Shaykh al-Tūsiy with the Shāfi`iyyah scholars. It is probable that the reason behind such confusion was that Shaykh al-Tūsiy, in his books of Muslim jurisprudence and Tafsīr, used to refer to the opinions of the Sunnite scholars.
Mentioning Shaykh al-Tūsiy, Muhammad Abū-Zuhrah, in his book of al-Imām al-Sādiq says that he was competently knowledgeable in both the Sunnite and Imāmiyyah schools.
Similarly, Mr. `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy says that Shaykh al-Tūsiy was competent in the Imāmiyyah as well as the Sunnite Schools.
Previously, a brief presentation of the biographies of the compilers of the al-Kutub al-Arba`ah has been demonstrated. Those authors depended upon the Four Hundred Principles (al-Usūl al-Arba`mi’ah) in the compilation of their books and these four hundred fundamental books comprised the words of the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt who had reported from the Book of `Alī that comprised the direct dictations of the Holy Prophet written with the calligraphy of Imam `Alī ibn Abī-Tālib.
To come to the point, the recordation of the religious knowledge and the reporting of the Hadīth are two trends of the same method that is tenaciously and incontrovertibly interconnected for the Shī`ah School; and this fact confirms the genuineness of this School.
It is noteworthy that the al-Usūl al-Arba`mi’ah had not comprised all the words of the Holy Imams in the various fields of knowledge in general and Muslim jurisprudence in particular; rather a part of these words were kept in the hearts of the reports of Hadīth. Correspondingly, the al-Kutub al-Arba`ah have not comprised all the Hadīths reported by the disciples of the Holy Imams; rather their compilers have recorded only the Hadīths that were proven as authentic according to their criteria. Besides, there is no proof that these compilers could attain all the Four Hundred Principles.
In his book of A`yān al-Shī`ah, Sayyid al-Amīniy says,
“Some of the al-Usūl al-Arba`mi’ah were kept in the book stores of the Shī`ite master scholars—such as al-Hurr al-`Āmiliy, Shaykh al-Majlisiy, Mīrzā Husayn al-Nūriy, and many others—until recent ages. Although the majority of these fundamental books were damaged, their contents have been preserved in the collections of Hadīth. This is because our scholars, since the beginning of the fourth century up to the first half of the fifth, depended in their writings on these books as well as other books that comprised their contents.”
In the course of the recordation of the religious knowledge, Mr. `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy, in his book of al-Imām Ja`far al-Sādiq, says,
“... However, `Alī wrote down and left for his adherents (Shī`ah) his method of recordation. Most certainly, he had full trust in his method. About him, the Messenger of Allah has said, ‘`Alī is with the Qur'ān and the Qur'ān is with `Alī; and they shall not depart one another until they meet me on the Divine Pool (on the Resurrection Day).’ ... By means of the jurisprudential recordation, the (Shī`ite) School found a spacious place in the hearts of the memorizers and reporters. It was then moved, by inheritance, to the sons and then to their sons, especially Zayn al-`Ābidīn, al-Bāqir, and al-Sādiq. After that, the session of Imam al-Sādiq worked on spreading it in the same way as the recordation had worked on establishing it. The master scholars who studied under him, as well as their disciples, realized that the sessions of Imam al-Sādiq had enjoyed a number of matters that made these sessions surpass the others whether led by the Ahl al-Sunnah or the Ahl al-Bayt. They listed these distinguishable matters.”
Preceding this statement, Mr. al-Jundiy had said,
“Their studying under Imam al-Sādiq had dressed with glory the jurisprudential aspects of the Four (major) Schools of Sunnite jurisprudence. As for Imam al-Sādiq himself, his glory is not subjected to increase or decrease; he conveyed to all humanity the knowledge of his grandfather (i.e. the Holy Prophet)—peace and blessings be upon him. Further, Imamate is a special rank; and the imāms (i.e. founders) of the Four Schools of Sunnite jurisprudence learnt from him out of their eagerness to draw near to the owner of that rank.”
On another page, Mr. al-Jundiy says,
“Certainly, Mālik ibn Anas was scenting the presence of the Messenger of Allah in the session of his daughter’s son (i.e. Imam al-Sādiq). He was also feeling or was on the verge of touching a material thing descending from the grandfather to the grandson, or touching non-material things grasping the heart and the mind. Vision is thus joy and hearing is grace. Even neighborhood, mere neighborhood, was discipline and order. And in all of these, there are ways taking to Paradise. The master of the session was thoroughly pure. He speaks about his grandfather only when he is (ceremonially) pure... etc.”
On another page, Mr. al-Jundiy further says,
“In this very session, four thousand reporters studied and reported from Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq, according to historians and biographers, and four hundred writers each of whom used to say, ‘Ja`far ibn Muhammad said...’ wrote books from him. What sort of session was that? Things from the Messenger of Allah were seen in that session; some of these things were material flowing in the spines of men—one after another; and some were mental things the connotations of which, and the meaning of their essays, were seen by all these. The session was completely free from any dispute or aimless argument. The head of the session used to say to the students, ‘Whoever has full acquaintance with a matter will speak very little about it. An actual eloquent is he who hits the target with the least effort.’”
This is the end of our presentation of the statuses of and views about the Shī`ite comprehensive reference books of Hadīth. As for the Shī`ite Muslims, they have never regarded the al-Kutub al-Arba`ah as revealed from Almighty Allah and have never considered those from who Shaykh al-Kulayniy, al-Tūsiy, or al-Sadūq having passed the divine exam. Besides, they have never judged that all the contents of these Four Books are utterly authentic. As a matter of fact, like any other book, the narrations of the Four Books are subjected to the principles of criticism, assessment, and investigation. In brief, the Four Books, unlike al-Sihāh al-Sittah, have not been encompassed by haloes of sanctity.
Unless it meets all the considered qualifications of authenticity, a Hadīth is worthless even if it has been mentioned by master Hadīthists, such as Shaykh al-Kulayniy and Shaykh al-Tūsiy. Moreover, it is binding that a Hadīth cannot be decided as authentic unless it has present or written obligatorily reliable evidences that act as presumptions confirming that the Holy Imam has actually said that Hadīth, such as:
1) The existence of it in the majority of the Four Hundred Principles or, at least, in one or two of them with various considerable series of narrators,
2) The existence of it in one of the books that were presented before the Holy Imams, for authentication, such as the book of `Ubaydullāh al-Halabiy that he had shown to Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq about which he is reported to have said, “These do not have the like of this book,” or the books of Yūnus ibn `Abd al-Rahmān and al-Fadl ibn Shādhān, which were presented before Imam al-Hasan al-`Askariy.
3) The existence of it in the fundamental reference books of Hadīth that were trusted by the master scholars who lived in the ages of the Holy Imams; such as the book of Kitāb al-Salāt by Hurayz ibn `Abdullāh and the books of Ibn Sa`īd, `Alī ibn Mahziyār, and the like, even if these books were compiled by authors other than the Imāmiyyah Shī`ites, such as the book of Ja`far ibn Ghiyāth al-Qādī, the books of al-Husayn ibn `Abdullāh al-Sa`diy, and the book of Kitāb al-Qiblah by `Alī ibn al-Hasan al-Tātiriy.
 Asad Haydar: al-Imām al-Sādiq wa’l-Madhāhib al-Arba`ah 3:497, as quoted from Mustafā `Abd al-Razzāq: Tamhīd li-Tārīkh al-Falsafah al-Islāmiyyah (Prelude to the History of the Islamic Philosophy) 252.
 Ja`far ibn Muhammad Sayyid al-Ahl.
 Al-Muzziy: Tahdhīb al-Kamāl 5:75-76.
 Al-Muzziy: Tahdhīb al-Kamāl 5:79. For the details of this narration, refer to `Alī al-Shahristāniy: Wudū’ al-Nabiy 349-352.
 In his book of ‘Tārīkh al-Madhāhib al-Islāmiyyah (History of the Muslim Jurisprudential Schools’ pp. 693, Shaykh Muhammad Abū-Zuhrah has written down a commentary on the arguments between Imam Ja`far al-Sādiq and Abū-Hanīfah.
 Shaykh Muhammad Abū-Zuhrah: al-Imām al-Sādiq 2-3.
 Sayyid Radiy al-Dīn `Alī ibn Tāwūs: Muhaj al-Da`awāt 219-220.
 Shaykh al-Bahā'iy al-`Āmiliy: al-Habl al-Matīn 274.
 Al-Muhaqqiq al-Dāmād: al-Rawāshih al-Samāwiyyah 98.
 `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy: al-Imām Ja`far al-Sādiq 203-204.
 Shaykh al-Mufīd: Kitāb al-Irshād 288.
 Shaykh al-Tabrisiy: I`lām al-Warā bi-A`lām al-Hudā 284.
 Shaykh al-Tabrisiy: I`lām al-Warā bi-A`lām al-Hudā 166.
 Muhammad ibn `Alī al-Fattāl: Rawdāt al-Wā`idhīn 177.
 Ibn Shahrāshūb: Manāqib `Alī ibn Abī-Tālib 4:247.
 Najm al-Dīn al-Hilliy: al-Mu`tabar 1:26.
 Al-Shahīd al-Awwal: al-Dhikrā 6.
 Sharīf al-Murtadā: al-Dharī`ah 2:129.
 Al-Muhaqqiq al-Dāmād: al-Rawāshih al-Samāwiyyah 98.
 Al-Shahīd al-Thānī: al-Dirāyah 17.
 Shaykh al-Tūsiy: al-Fihrist 3.
 Sayyid Muhsin al-Amīn: A`yān al-Shī`ah 1:100. See also `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy: al-Imām Ja`far al-Sādiq 217.
 Muhammad ibn `Alī ibn Bābawayh (Shaykh al-Sadūq): Man-lā-Yahduruhul-Faqīh 1:2-5.
 Najm al-Dīn al-Hilliy: al-Mu`tabar 1:7.
 Ibn Idrīs al-Hilliy: al-Sarā'ir 471-493. This book has been published under the title of ‘Mustatrafāt al-Sarā'ir’.
 Shaykh al-Bahā'iy: al-Wajīzah 6-7; Shaykh al-Hurr al-`Āmiliy, in Wasā'ilal-Shī`ah (the epilogue) 30:200, quotes the same wording. Similar statement has been mentioned in Shaykh al-Bahā'iy’s Mashriq al-Shamsayn 269-270.
 Shaykh al-Hasan: Muntaqā al-Jumān 1:27.
 Al-Kaf`amiy: al-Jannah al-Wāqiyah 3-4.
 `Alī ibn Ibrāhīm al-Qummiy: Tafsīr 1:4 as is recorded in Shaykh al-Hurr al-`Āmiliy: Wasā'il al-Shī`ah (the epilogue) 30:202.
 Shaykh al-Hurr al-`Āmiliy: Wasā'il al-Shī`ah (the epilogue) 30:213.
 Shaykh al-Hurr al-`Āmiliy: Wasā'il al-Shī`ah (the epilogue) 30:213.
 Shaykh al-Hurr al-`Āmiliy: Wasā'il al-Shī`ah (the epilogue) 30:165.
 In his famous book of ‘al-Murāja`āt’, Sayyid `Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Dīn lists the names of more than one hundred individuals of these trustworthy reporters.
 Ibn Mākūlā: al-Ikmāl 4:575.
 Ibn al-Athīr: al-Kāmil fī’l-Tārīkh 8:364.
 Ibn al-Safadiy: al-Wāfī bi’l-Wafiyyāt 5:226.
 Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalāniy: Lisān al-Mīzān 5:433.
 Al-Fayrūz'ābādiy: al-Qāmūs al-Muhīt 4:363.
 Al-Zubaydiy: Tāj al-`Arūs 9:322.
 Thāmir al-`Amīdiy: Difā` `An al-Kāfī 1:38.
 Ibn al-Athīr: Jāmi` al-Usūl 12:220.
 Al-Dhahbiy: Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’ 16:303 H. 112.
 Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalāniy: Lisān al-Mīzān 202, 279.
 Al-Dhahbiy: Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’ 16:304 H. 212.
 Shaykh al-Tūsiy: al-Fihrist 156.
 Shaykh al-Sadūq: al-Muqni`, The Introduction 22.
 Al-Najāshiy: al-Rijāl 276.
 Al-Muhaddith al-Qummiy: Safīnat al-Bihār 2:22.
 Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalāniy: Lisān al-Mīzān 5:368.
 Ibn al-Nadīm: al-Fihrist 226, 247.
 Al-Muntadham 8:11.
 Al-Yāfi`iy: Mir'āt al-Jinān 3:28; Ibn al-`Imād: Shadharāt al-Dhahab 3:199.
 Al-Dhahbiy: Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’ 17:344.
 Al-Dhahbiy: Siyar A’lām al-Nubalā’ 18:344.
 Al-Sabkiy: Tabaqāt al-Shāfi`iyyah 3:51.
 Al-Suyūtiy: Tabaqāt al-Mufassirīn 29.
 Al-Katib al-Chalabiy: Kashf al-Dhunūn.
 `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy: al-Imām Ja`far al-Sādiq 258.
 `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy: al-Imām Ja`far al-Sādiq 186.
 `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy: al-Imām Ja`far al-Sādiq 163.
 `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy: al-Imām Ja`far al-Sādiq 160.
 `Abd al-Halīm al-Jundiy: al-Imām Ja`far al-Sādiq 160.
 Al-Mīrzā al-Nūriy: Mustadrak al-Wasā’il wa-Mustanbat al-Masā’il (The Epilogue, Fourth Point) 3:482.
The Prohibition of Recording the Hadith, Causes and Effects
A Glance at the Methodologies and Principles of the two Muslims Schools of Hadith
By: Sayyid Ali Al-Shahristani