AN OVERVIEW OF HADITH
Main Sources for this chapter:
Hadith, Muhammad Al-Jalali.
the Four Madh'habs, Asad Haidar.
English Translation of certain selections, Farouk Ebeid.
Hadith, A. Rahman Doi.
Al-Masabeeh, Translation by Fazlul Karim.
WHAT IS HADITH? الحــــــديـث
The Hadith is the record of the sayings of Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh). The sayings and conduct of
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) constitute the Sunnah.
The Hadith has come to supplement the Holy Quran as a
source of the Islamic religious law. The Hadith is the second pillar after
the Quran upon which every Muslim rests his faith. Hadith consists of Mat'n متن
and Isnad اسناد .Mat'n
means the text of the Hadith, while Isnad means the chain of transmitters to
The scholars of the Hadith literature divided the
Traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) into categories according to the degree of
authenticity and reliability, each category had to meet certain criteria.
The categories are as follows:
Sahih: صحـيـح The
genuine Traditions, the authentic ones.
like the Sahih but the narration is not as strong as those of the Sahih.
Hasan: حـسـن The
fair Traditions although inferior in matter of authenticity.
Dha'eef: ضـعيـف The
weak Traditions which are not so reliable.
In the Shari'ah (Islamic Constitution) deeds
and actions are divided into
Fardh or Wajib: فرض
او واجـب An
obligatory duty the omission of which is Islamicly punishable.
Mus'tahab: مسـتـحب An
action which is rewarded, but whose omission is not punishable.
action which is permitted but legally is indifferent.
Mak'rooh: مكـروه An
action which is disapproved by the Shari'ah but is not under any
Haram: An action which is
forbidden, and Islamicly punishable.
During Benu Umayya's Rule: Bringing forth a Counterfeit
Hadith was widespread throughout this period.
During Benu Abbas' Rule, producing and circulating
counterfeit Hadiths was widespread, in particular with the advent of the schools
of thought in Islam.
By the year 200 H.:
Total of 600,000 Hadiths were in existence, out of which 408,324 Hadith were
fabricated (counterfeit) Hadiths by 620 forgers, whose names and identity are
Forgers: Ibn Jundub, Abu Bukhtari, Ibn
Basheer, Abdullah Al-Ansaari, Al-Sindi. One of them, Ibn Au'jaa, professed
before he was hanged (for his heresy) that he alone had forged 4,000 Hadiths.
Reason to Fabricate (To do
Financial incentive by the Khalifas, for
example Mu'awiya awarded Ibn Jundub and others hundreds of thousands of
Dinars for coming forth with Hadiths that suited him.
As a means of self-promotion in the
In a drive to enhance a particular school
Fanaticism for a school of thought at the
expense of others.
Their operation and major role in the public.
SUNNI COLLECTION OF AL-HADITH
DURING THE 1ST CENTURY
administration of the early Khalifas discouraged putting the Hadith in writing,
instead, they encouraged committing
the Hadith to memory. The general public went along but soon it was
discovered that confusion about the authenticity of the Hadith was taking
place. For one thing many of the Sahaaba had died, and for another, that
committing to memory was not reliable at large, especially if you want the
Hadith verbatim as the Prophet (pbuh) had said it at the circumstance it was
Al-Hazm were both commissioned by Khalifa Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz to collect the
Hadith but the work was probably not done, due to early death of the Khalifa in
101 H. No record of their work exists.
DURING THE 2ND CENTURY H.:
of Hadith was mainly by: a) Ibn Jarih, b) Al-Thawri, c) Ibn Basheer, and d)
Malik Ibn Anas in his Mu'watta.
necessity of I'lm Al-Rijaal,
علم الرجال (Science
of men of Hadith Transmitters): The
Background, Intelligence, Authenticity, Reliability, Capacity to Memorize,
Manner of living, Reputation, Criticism, were all considered before reliability
of the narrator could be established. This was necessary because of the
numerous counterfeit Hadiths circulated at the time.
books about forged (counterfeit) Hadiths:
This was necessary to warn the Scholars as well as the public about the plethora
of the forged Hadiths at that time.
DURING THE 3RD CENTURY
The Hadith was collected and categorized in the
later part of the third century of Hijrah resulting in six canonical collections
called (Al-Sihaah Al-Sittah):
Sahih of Al-Bukhari, d.256 A.H: صـحيـح
7275 (2712 Non-duplicated) out of 600,000 available Hadiths he was aware of.
Sahih of Muslim, d.261 A.H: صـحيـح
Selected 9200 (4,000 Non-duplicated) out of 300,000 available Hadiths he was
Sunan of Abu Dawood, d.276 A.H. سنن
Selected 4,800 of 500,000 available Hadiths he was aware of..
Sunan of Ibn Maajeh: d.273 A.H. ســــنن
Jami' of Tirmidhi, d.279 A.H. جـــامع
Sunan of al-Nisaa'i, d.303 A.H. ســـــنن
It is worthy of note that the number of the Shi'a
transmitters of Hadith whose quotes appear in the Al-Sihaah Al-Sittah is over
—of Sahih Bukhari, 194-256H:
Al-Bukhari's mother tongue was Persian
for he was born in Bukhara. Part of Persia in those days. He collected the
Hadith over a period of many years, having established certain strict criteria.
Political times during Bukhari’s lifetime were very troublesome especially
against Ahlul Bayt (led by the weird ruler Al‑Mutawak'kilالمتوكل ).
As a consequence Bukhari was cautious and circumspect, having mentioned less
about Ahlul Bayt's narrations than any of the Al-Sihaah Al-Sittah. Of the 2210
Hadiths claimed to have been narrated by Abu Hurairah quoting A'isha, by using
their criteria Bukhari and Muslim accepted only 174 Hadiths as worthy and
valid. Therefore, the remaining 2,036 Hadiths produced forth by Abu Hurairah
were flatly rejected by them simply as unacceptable.
Bukhari was born to a slave family of
Bukhara in 194H. His father died while Bukhari was a child, leaving him a
considerable fortune. Bukhari was of weak physique, but with strong intellect,
sharp retentive memory, great capacity for hard work, he was methodical. He
began to study Hadith at the early age of eleven and gathered all the Traditions
within six years. Then he went to Mecca for pilgrimage from where he took a
journey for the collection of Hadith. He traveled nearly forty years in quest of
knowledge throughout the Muslim world. He then returned to Nishapoor in Iran
but he had to leave as he could not yield to the wishes of the Governor.
Bukhari settled afterwards in a village at Samarkand where he died at the age of
62 years in 256H. It has been said by some that he died in Baghdad.ـ
Throughout his life Bukhari was pious,
and the Prophet's Tradition was his hobby while archery was his pastime. He
selected 2712 non-duplicated Hadiths which became 7,275 when duplicated by many
narrators. These Hadiths were selected out of 600,000 Traditions available to
him at the time. It can be said that Bukhari found the remaining 592,725 Hadiths
of unworthy basis and were to be ignored. The fact is that if one Hadith was
narrated by six narrators, then this Hadith was reported as 6 Hadiths though
with minor variation in expression of the Hadith in question. Thus the number
of Hadiths would increase depending on how many narrators report it.
Sahih Muslim, 204-261H: مـســـــــلم
It is said Muslim was a student of
Al-Bukhari and 8 years younger. He differed from Bukhari in his methodology and
criteria. He collected the Hadith over a number of years, having established
his own criteria. Political times then were less troublesome against Ahlul
Bayt, (since Al-Mutawak'kil was killed by his own son), therefore Muslim
narrated a large number of Hadiths about Ahlul Bayt (far more than Bukhari), now
that the political atmosphere had become less charged and the circumstance more
Muslim al-Nishaapori was born in a
distinguished family of Arab Muslims in Khurasan, Iran in 204H, and his mother
tongue was Persian for he was born in Nishapoor of Persia. His forefathers
occupied prominent positions during the time of four Khalifas; and Mus lim
himself inherited a large fortune from his father who was also a Traditionist of
some repute. Muslim traveled to many places for learning Hadith, and after
finishing off his studies he settled down at Nishapoor, spending the remainder
of his life in sermonizing the Hadiths. He died in the year 261H.
Sahih of Muslim is considered as next to
Bukhari in authenticity. It is somewhat superior to Bukhari's work in the
details of arrangement of Traditions. The commentary of this book can be found
in Ibn Khalikan's work Vol. II, Page 91, and in Fehrist (page 231). Sahih Muslim
contains 4,000 non-duplicate Hadiths becoming 9,200 when duplicates are
registered. These Hadiths were selected out of 300,000 circulating Hadiths he
was aware of.
Sunan Abu Dawood 203-276H ابو
Abu Dawood received his education in
Tradition at Khurasan, in Iran. He traveled to all the important centers of
Hadith, learned and collected them wherever they were found. He was so respected
by the general body of the Muslims that after the city was sacked and
depopulated on account of the invasion of the Zinjies, he was requested by
al‑Muaffiq (the Commander‑in‑Chief of the Khalifa al‑Mu'tadhid) to settle there
in order that the people and the students might be attracted to that town by his
presence. He acceded to the request, but refused to teach the Commander's son in
private. He said to the Abbasi General (and the founder of the Suffari dynasty)
that he was unable to degrade knowledge by making difference between the princes
and the poor students.
Abu Dawood wrote many books on Tradition
and Islamic laws of which his “Sunan” is the most important. The Sunan contains
4,800 Traditions which were sifted from 500,000 Hadiths he was aware of. This
work took him nearly 20 years.
Jami'i al-Tirmidhi : 209-279H الترمــــذى
This is another standard work on Hadith and is
considered by the Sunni Muslim jurists as one of the six authentic Traditions
works. Tirmidhi was the first man to determine the identity of the names,
surnames, and titles of the narrators of Traditions.
Sunan al-Nisaa'i: 215-303H: النسائي
Al-Nisaa'i made a good Hadith collection,
quite credible. He wrote Al-Khasa'is book, about the eminence of Imam Ali and
Ahlul Bayt and the Hadiths on their behalf. Al-Nisaa'i was 88 years old when in
Damascus he expressed his views about Mu'awiya by saying, “All I know is that
the Prophet (pbuh) had said about Mu'awiya, `May Allah make a glutton out of him
to eat and not feel full'.” This infuriated Mu'awiya's sympathizers, they
attacked al-Nisaa'i, trampled upon him, crushed his testicles, after which the
infirm Nisaa'i was taken to Mecca where he died. He was buried between Safa and
Sunan of al‑Nisaa'i work on Tradition has
been recognized as the best Tradition work of his time, and his smaller work is
now considered as one of the Sihaah Sittah. He was the foremost Traditionist of
his age and spared no pains in having Hadith recorded in his Sunan. He admitted
that in his work there are many weak and doubtful Hadiths (Traditions).
Ibn Maajeh —of
Sunan Ibn Maajeh, 209-295H:
In search of Hadith Ibn Maajeh traveled
to Baghdad, Basrah, Kufa, Syria, and Egypt. Some reject his work in favor of
al-Mu'watta of Malik.
Ahmad —of Mus'nad Ahmad, 164-241H: اٍِمام
Imam Ahmad was born in Baghdad, and his was the
most im portant and exhaustive of all Mus'nad works. His pious and selfless
life created a halo of sanctity around his great collection of Traditions and in
spite of its great bulk, it survived the vicissitude of time and revolution of
empires. His Mus'nad contains 30,000 Traditions on various subjects, reported
by as many as 700 companions of the Prophet. He died before he gave it a final
shape and his son Abdullah completed it in the course of 13 years. This book
occupied a very important position in Hadith literature and served for a long
time as the chief source of Hadith. It was read up to the 12th century.
Afterwards it fell into relative disfavor owing to other better works.
It was during the Khilaafah of Abu Bakr
and early Khilaafah of Omar that Imam Ali (a.s.) set to the task of registering
the Hadiths. Imam Ali was incomparably strict about Islam, and could foresee
the need to render the Hadith in written form to be the source for future
generations. Ali was fanatic about the accuracy of his writing, and in an
agonizingly methodical manner he accomplished the following:
During Abu Bakr's
Khilaafah: Ali rendered in
writing the following:
Holy Quran: Chronological order
of the Quran's revelations calledالقـــرآن
حســـب ترتيــب النـــزول
Tafseer of the Holy Quran, 3
volumes: called: Mus'haf
Khilaafah: Ali rendered the
the Prophet (pbuh): Voluminous, called: Saheefa
of Ali. صحيـــفه
Al-Ah'kaam and Mu'aamalat, the Halal and Haram called الاحــكام والمعاملات
Khilaafah: Ali rendered the
History of the various Prophets
as he learned from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), called: The
White Al-Jafr. . الجـــفر
Islamic rules and directives of
Wars, called The
Red Al-Jafr. الجـــفر
As rendered the books of Ali were called
Al-Jami'ah ألجـامــــعـه (the
Encyclopedia) and they were left with the Imams of Ahlul Bayt, each new Imam
receiving them from the dying predecessor Imam. The Imams referred to these
Hadiths and books over a period of about three centuries. Notable among them is
Imam Ja'far Al-Saadiq, who was the teacher of Imam Abu Hanifa and Al-Maaliki,
and as many as 4000 scholars who graduated from his school. As many as 400
religious books were written by Al-Saadiq’s students, referred to as the
400 Usool (the 400 books of
basics in Islam) الأصـول
Hadiths (See Sources of the Hadith to the Ja'fari
(Shi'a) by Muhammad Husain Al-Jalali.)
Golden Chain of Narration: السلسله
Because of being the trusted Prophet's
family and the most learned, the narrations of Ahlul Bayt were often referred to
as the Golden Chain of Narration. Ahlul Bayt's care in transmitting, and their
meticulousness, and righteousness made people flock to them for quotes of
Hadith, taking them as examples, and writing numerous books about Hadith, Fiqh,
Ah'kaam, Halal and Haram among other subjects. The Shi'a believe that the Imams
were Divinely Commissioned,
therefore they were Ma'soom,معـصـــومون meaning
safeguarded by Allah from:
Therefore, to the Shi'a the narration of the
Imams was binding, their teaching binding, and the Hadith they narrated was the
only one acceptable to them. If the Hadith in the Sihaah Al-Sittah (Sunni) is
confirmed by the Hadith from one of the Imams, then that Hadith is acceptable,
otherwise it would be questionable.
Each Imam used to say: “My Hadith is
the Hadith of my father, and his is the Hadith of his father, up to Ali, who
directly narrated the Hadith from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).”
died 329H: الكـلـــــيـنـي
Al‑Kulaini Al‑Baghdadi belonged to a
noble family of Kulain which has produced a group of outstanding scholars in
Islamic Jurisprudence and Hadith. At Baghdad Al-Kulaini was the outstanding
Shi'i scholar in Islamic Jurisprudence during the reign of Khalifa al‑Muq'tadir.
The unique qualification of al‑Kulaini, the compiler of al‑Kaafi الكـافي ,
is that among all other compilers of Hadith, he alone was the contemporary of
all four successive deputies (or ambassadors) of Imam al‑Mahdi المـهـدي —the
twelfth Imam. Hence he had all the facilities of collecting traditions from the
requisite sources. Therefore, al‑Kaafi is rightly regarded as a unique
collection and compilation during the life time of all the four successive
deputies of Imam al‑Mahdi. Al‑Kulaini compiled this book on the request of the
prominent Shi'i scholars who wanted to have a comprehensive book containing all
information of Islamic literature which would be sufficient for them.
Al‑Kulaini's court was the rendezvous of
the great scholars in Islamic studies who used to go in search of knowledge to
different places. The great scholars of the time used to present themselves in
Al-Kulaini's court to discuss, to exchange notes, to confer with him, and to
acquire full understanding of Islamic problems.
Al‑Kulaini was a great scholar, a
reliable Traditionist and a man of great learning. He was the most outstanding
jurist and authority in Traditions' Science. He was the dominant chief of the
Islamic jurists and a superb scholar of Islamic literature. He was a man of
great temperance, piety, integrity and holiness.
Al-Kulaini's book, al‑Kaafi,
is no doubt an outstanding collection of Traditions in the largest measure. It
is a treasure of Islamic literature, Shari'ah (code), divine commandments
inclusive of imperatives, prohibitions, reprimands and Sunan —the sayings and
doings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and the twelve Imams. It is a collection about
Islamic education and culture. It contains the record of the sayings and doings
of the Holy Prophet and the twelve Imams.
Al‑Kulaini has himself written preface
of his book al-Kaafi and has also added some needed explanatory notes on some of
the chapters which are indicative of his high skill and proficiency in the art
of writing and in his knowledge of Arabic literature, its depth and its hidden
wisdom. It also indicates his convincing presentation, his fluency, his
eloquence and also his high place in the art of Arabic composition.
Kulaini taught at the university in
Baghdad, and he was an expert historian, was well versed in categorizing the
narrators of Hadith and the Traditionists. He is also an author of many books,
among which is a book in the art and science of Traditions (Hadith). He was
expert in scrutinizing the narrators. Of all the books he had written however,
Al-Kaafi stands out in value and popularity. Al-Kaafi consists of two volumes
about Usool اصول (Fundamentals
of Faith), and 6 volumes of Furoo'فروع (Islamic
Rituals and Dealings).
Book Al-Kaafi took 20 years to be
written, consisting of 34 sections with 326 chapters. It registered 16,199
Hadiths or sayings, 2577 Sahih or authentic, 1118 Moothaq or reliable enough,
302 Qawiy or strong enough, 144 Hasan or fairly credible, and 9380 Dha'eef
al-Siddooq al-Qummi, 306-381H: الصــــدوق
Author of Mun Laa Yah'dharhu Al-Faqeeh,
5,973 Hadiths, with 3913 References
Muhammad al‑Qummi ibn Babawaih
al‑Siddooq (c. 306‑381), lived in Ray [Iran] where he died and was buried. His
tomb is still there, and visited by crowds of people, in what is known as the
“Ibn Babawaih Cemetery” in a southern suburb of Tehran.
Numerous scholars said of him: “As a
scholar, al-Siddooq was of the first rank, had a good memory, was knowledgeable
in Fiqh and had memorized Hadith. He was our leader, our jurist and the symbol
of our sect in Khurasan (and the East). He came to Baghdad in 355H, and the
leading scholars of the sect heard (Tradi tions) from him. If he is compared
with those who heard Traditions from him, they were older than he, had been
hearing Traditions before he had, and had precedence over him in the order of
chains of transmission. He wrote about three hundred (300) works.”
Al‑Siddooq grew up in Qum, the famous
Iranian city which was built after Islam. Qum has been distin guished since its
foundation by its loyalty towards Ahlul Bayt [the family of Muhammad (pbuh)]
embracing their tutoring and enlightenment, and it is a place of learning in
their sciences. Since the dawn of the third Hijrah century (8th AD) Qum has
become one of those Shi'i sites acting as a center for the sciences of the Ahlul
Bayt in general, and their traditions (Hadiths) and
jurisprudence (fiqh) in
particular. At present, Shi'a scholarship and learning have been revived in Qum
after a certain lapse, and it is now considered as one of the most famous cities
of learning in Shi'a branch of Islam.
Al‑Siddooq (Al-Qummi) was born in a
well‑known scholarly family known through several generations as famous in the
field of Hadith and its sciences. Al-Qummi's father, his brother, his nephews
and their grandsons are counted as transmitters of Hadith and students of its
science. This scholarly activity was uninter rupted in the family for about 300
years, starting from the fourth century H., and continuing until the seventh
Though the hometown of the family was
Qum, the family moved to the city of Ray, one of the largest cities in Iran in
those days, a city boasting many outstanding Muslim scholars. Ray was
completely destroyed some years later by the Mongol savage invasion, and the
city of Tehran, which was originally a village near Ray, was built nearby at a
Al-Siddooq al-Qummi is particularly
famous for the long journeys he undertook for learning and teachings. He visited
most parts of what were the eastern lands of Islam in those days. He traveled in
Khurasan and Transoxania in the northeast, as well as in the central Islamic
lands like Iraq and the Hijaz. He visited most of the towns and centers of
learning in these places studying and transmit ting Hadiths (Traditions),
learning and teaching, giving and taking. In the beginning it was he who
profited more, but in the end it was others who profited more from him, and this
was because he himself narrated from so many sheikhs, whose
names totaled more than 250 in those of his books we still have.
Of the 300 books and/or treatises al-
Siddooq wrote, however, we now have only eighteen books and treatises, which
represents a small portion of his works. Moreover, his largest work on Haf'th
Madinatul I'lm (The City of
Knowledge) does not exist any more. If we had all of as‑Siddooq's numerous
writings, and the inventories of the names of those he met and transmitted from
(mashyakhah) and other references, the real number would probably be many times
The most important references for the
study of al‑Siddooq's works are: an‑Najashi, al‑Fihrist, pp. 302--306; at‑Toosi,
al‑Fihrist, pp. 184--186; Majma'u al‑Rijaal, vol. 5, pp. 269 ‑ 273; and an‑Nur;
Sheikh al‑Ta'ifa (the Grandmaster of the
community) al‑Toosi was born in 385H. His career marks the climax of a very
great period in Shi'a Islamic scholarship and learning. It was during this
period that Shi'a scholars were without rivals in the Islamic world.
In 408H. al-Toosi studied in Baghdad
under al‑Sheikh al‑Mufeed, who died in 413H. whereby leadership of the Shi'a
scholars fell to al‑Shareef al‑Murtadha until his death in 436H. During this
time al‑Toosi was closely associated with al‑Shareef al‑Murtadha. Al‑Toosi's
vast scholarship and learning made him a natural successor of al‑Shareef
al‑Murtadha as the leading spokesman of Shi'a branch of Islam. So impressive was
his learning that the Abbasi Khalifa, al‑Qaadir bi‑'llaah, attended his lectures
and sought to honor him.
In the closing years of al‑Toosi's life
the political situation in Baghdad and the domains of the Abbasi caliphate was
in political turbulence and turmoil. The Turkic Saljuqs السـلاجـقـه (who
were fiercely anti‑Shi'a), were gaining commanding power in the center of the
Islamic empire at the expense of the contemporary rulers (the Buwayhis)البـويـهيـن .
In 447H Tughril‑Beg the leaders of the Saljuqs invaded Baghdad. At this time,
and due to disturbances, many of the Islamic scholars (U'lamaa) in Baghdad, both
Sunni and Shi'a were killed. The house of al‑Toosi was burned down, as were his
books and the works he had written while in Baghdad. In addition, in a fit of
vindictiveness, important libraries of Shi'a books, as precious as they are,
were burned. This was done along with aggressively plundering the houses and
burning many of them. These houses belonged to the elite Shi'a, the cream of
the society, they were the bankers, administrators, engineers, writers,
merchants, and philosophers, among other professionals. All in all, 30,000
people were put to the sword!
Seeing the grave danger of remaining in
Baghdad, al‑Toosi left it with a heavy heart to go to al‑Najaf. Al‑Najaf, the
city where Imam Ali had been buried, was already a very important city in the
hearts of Shi'a Muslims. However, it was al‑Sheikh al‑Toosi's arrival which was
to give that city the impetus to become the leading center of Shi'a scholarship.
There he established the Howza الحـوزه
a university-like institute to study Tafseer, Fiqh, Ah'kaam, theological logic,
I'lm al-Rijaal, besides many other branches of science. The Howza has boasted
as many as 15,000 students, the scholars graduating served all over the Ummah.
This role has been maintained down to the present day.
Al‑Toosi died in al‑Najaf in 460 A.H.
His body was buried in a house there, which was made into a mosque as he had
enjoined in his will. Even today his grave is a place of visitation in
al‑Najaf. Al‑Toosi was succeeded by his son al‑Hasan, who was known as al‑Mufeed
al‑Thani, and was himself an outstanding scholar.
Al-Toosi was a learned Traditionist,
whose two compilations will be discussed below; but he was not only a
Traditionist, he was also an authoritative jurist, who could interpret
Traditions to meet the needs of jurisprudence, and many of his works on
jurisprudence and the principles of jurisprudence still survive, in particular
al‑Mabsut and al‑Nihaya. In addition, he was the leading Shi'a theologian of his
time. As well as writing works of a general theological nature, he also wrote
specific works on individual topics. On the Imamah, he wrote Talkhis al‑Shafi تلخــيص
which was based on al‑Murtadha's al‑Shafi fil‑Imamah. He wrote a work on
occultation of Al-Mahdi, the 12th Imam). As a Traditionist, al-Toosi naturally
had an interest in the men who related Traditions, in his Kitab al‑Rijaalالرجـــال ,
he tries to list most of the important Shi'as up to his time. His (Fihrist) فهرســتis
an important work of Shi'a bibliography. In it he lists many of the works of
early Shi'a writers and sometimes gives an account of their writers and the
contents of the works. This work may to some extent reflect al‑Toosi's own
library before it was so tragically destroyed.
One of the remarkable features of this
work is that despite the great number of Traditions, which had become known to
al‑Toosi since the time of al‑Kulaini and al-Siddooq, al‑Toosi's interpretation
of what are the correct Traditions, preserves Shi'a law in a very similar
position to that of al‑Kulaini and al-Siddooq. The reason for the great spread
of diverse Traditions during the period from al‑Kulaini's death to al‑Toosi's
(328 to 460H) may have been the fact that this was a period in which the rulers
[the Buwayhis]البويهـــيون held
sway in Baghdad; they were very sympathetic towards the Shi'a. Thus, this was a
period in which the Shi'a could explain their beliefs openly notwithstanding
reprisals. In such circumstances, there was much more opportunity for outsiders
to bring extraneous Traditions into the Shi'a corpus. However al‑Toosi had
available to him many of the early works of Usool (ألأصـول
ألأربـعـمـائه) which had been
available to the earlier Shi'a compilers of collections of Traditions. Al‑Toosi
says about this work: "When our companions looked at the Akhbaar (Traditions)
connected with what is permitted and forbidden (al‑Halal wal Haram) which we had
collected in it, they saw that they included most of what the sections of laws
connected with jurisprudence. In all its sections and its chapters, only very
little of the Traditions of our companions, their books, (the 400 Usool) and
compilations has escaped.
Al‑Istibsaar is the fourth and last of the
major works of Shi'a Islamic Traditions. It covers the same field as (Tah'dheeb
al‑Ah'kaam) but is considerably smaller. Al‑Toosi mentions that his colleagues,
after seeing the size of Tah'dheeb al‑Ah'kaam considered: "...... It would be
useful that there should be a reference (madhkur) book which a beginner could
use in his study of jurisprudence, or one who has finished, but to remind
himself, or the intermediate (student), to study more deeply. By so doing all
could obtain what they need and reach their soul's desire, what is connected
with different Traditions would be set in an abridged way . . . Therefore they
asked me to summarize (Tah'dheeb al‑Ah'kaam) and devote care to its compilation
and abridgement, and to begin each section with an introduction about what I
relied on for the legal decisions and Traditions in it; then I should follow
with those Traditions which disagree and explain the reconciliation between the
two without leaving out anything which was influential. I would follow my
practice in my big book mentioned earlier (i.e. Tah'dheeb al‑Ah’kaam) and at the
beginning of the book, I would explain briefly how Traditions are weighed
against each other, and how the practice of something was possible through (the
authority) of (some of) them to the exclusion of the rest”
Al‑Toosi, then, follows this statement with a
brief but comprehensive and clear outline of the principles of jurisprudence.
From al‑Toosi's own introduction,
al‑Istibsaar is essentially a summary of Tah'dheeb al‑Ah'kaam. Its methods are
similar but briefer; there are not so many Traditions used in the work and the
explanations are more concise. In many ways it is closer to Man la Yah'dharhu
al‑Faqeeh, although unlike the latter it gives full Isnad (referencing) for the
Traditions quoted. However it is possible to say that al‑Kaafi and Tah'dheeb
al‑Ah'kaam represent comprehensive collections of Traditions, while Man la
Yah'dharhu al‑Faqeeh and al‑Istibsaar are books intended to be used as ready
reference works for students and scholars.
The collections and commentaries of
Shi'a Traditions did not end with al‑Toosi but his works mark the high point in
this process. It had begun with al‑Kulaini, whose al‑Kaafi, while not the first
collection, and was certainly the first major collection based on the early
works of Usool. The process had been continued by al-Siddooq; in his
introduction to Man la Yah'dharhu al‑Faqeeh he makes it clear that he had also
used these Usool. Al‑Toosi, the author of the other two major works of Shi'a
Traditions also admits his dependence on these early works. As has already been
pointed out, these three authors and their four major works of Tradition present
a generally consistent picture of Shi'a Islamic legal thinking. It is a
remarkable picture of Tradition and shows that, whatever the vagaries of
individuals may have been, leading Shi'a scholars had a clear and consistent
view of their Traditions.