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Which work did Shaykh al-Tusi write first – his Rijal or his Fihrist?

Posted by on February 18, 2013

This is an interesting question and quite relevant to the understanding of the differences that are found in these two works of al-Shaykh. Many scholars think that the Fihrist was written before the Rijāl because: (a) Shaykh al- Ṭūsī refers to his Fihrist in his Rijāl 1 (b)He also asks the reader to look for more details in his forthcoming work al-Rijāl 2

There are some discrepancies between these two biographical works and it can be noted that at times al-Ṭūsī praises an individual in one of his works and dispraises him in the other. For this reason, some scholars have surmised that this indicates a change in Shaykh’s opinion about certain individuals. 3 Sayyid al-Khū’ī also says that the Rijāl was written after the Fihrist but does not draw the same conclusion (about his opinion changing) from this. 4

Other scholars have raised an objection to this conclusion and have presented two proofs against it: (a) In his Fihrist, in his autobiographical entry, Shaykh al-Ṭūsī mentions that he has written a biographical work about the narrators i.e. his Rijāl. How could he have mentioned this if his Rijāl was written after his Fihrist? (b) In the Fihrist, in his biographical entry for al-Sayyid al-Murtaḍā, he mentions the date of his death 5 whereas in his Rijāl, he prays for his long life. 6

Because of these apparent contradictions, a third possibility has been proposed and that is: Shaykh al-Ṭūsī wrote these two works simultaneously. This would explain the corresponding references and would solve the apparent contradictions. So for example, in the case of Zurārah’s biography, he wrote it in the Fihrist first and asked the reader to look for more details in his Rijāl, and in the case of ‘Allāmah ‘Alam al-Hudā, he wrote his biography in the Rijāl first and then in the Fihrist, hence his mentioning the date of his demise.


  1. He has used the phrase ‘dhakarnāhu or dhakarnāhā fi al-Fihrist more than once in his Rijāl e.g. on pages 442, 450, 451, 452, 456
  2. For example in the case of Zurārah’s biography on page 134 of the Fihrist, he says that ‘we will mention these narration in the book of Rijāl God-willing.’
  3. Buḥūth fi Fiqh al-Rijāl, ‘Allamah al-Fāni, p. 175
  4. Mu‘jam Rijāl al-Ḥadīth vol. 9 p. 357
  5. al-Fihrist p.98
  6. Rijāl al-Ṭūsī p.458

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