This book is also known as Tabaqāt al-Rijāl. Its author believed to be Abu Ja‘far Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi (d. 275 or 280 AH) who was one of the great narrators of hadith in the third century after Hijra and was one of the companions of the Imams (‘a). Ahmad ibn Muhammad authored more than 100 books before his death, including the important work al-Mahāsin.
This work is one of the important Rijāl texts. It has been arranged according to the tiers (tabaqāt) of the narrators, beginning with the companions of the Prophet (s) followed by the companions of Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a) and then the companions of each of the other ten Imams – up to Imam Hasan al-‘Askari (‘a), and finally listing the women who have narrated traditions from the Prophet (s) and Imams (‘a). The book ends with the names of those who stood up against Abu Bakr for usurping the Caliphate and records their statements against him.
In every section, al-Barqi begins by listing those companions who were also companions of the previous Imams and then proceeds to name those individuals who were companions of only that particular Imam. The entire book, which is made up of some 66 pages in the edition printed by the University of Tehran (2004), contains a list of 1730 narrators but does not discuss the reliability of the narrators.
There has been some discussion among scholars about the author of Rijāl al-Barqi. This is because there are four individuals who are known as al-Barqi:
1) Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi
2) His son, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi (the author of al-Mahāsin)
3) His grandson, ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid (one of the Shaykhs of al-Kulayni)
4) His great-grandson, Ahmad ibn ‘Abdillah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi
After further investigation, it seems that this work is most likely that of the great-grandson, Ahmad ibn ‘Abdillah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi, for three reasons. Firstly, the author frequently narrates from the book of Sa‘d ibn ‘Abdillah and from ‘Abdullah ibn Ja‘far al-Himyari. Both these individuals were contemporaries of the third al-Barqi (‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad) and would narrate from his father’s al-Mahāsin. Secondly, when the author mentions Muhammad ibn Khālid, he does not state that he was his father. Thirdly, it has not been recorded anywhere that Ahmad ibn Muhammad had a book on rijāl.
For these three reasons, it is more likely that the great-grandson of Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi was the author of Rijāl al-Barqi, rather than his son Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khālid al-Barqi. In conclusion, it is worth noting that since this work does not elaborate on the reliability or unreliability of the narrators, its sole benefit is distinguishing the tiers (tabaqāt) of the narrators.