Did al-Kulayni get influenced by the Rationalists of Baghdad?

Andrew Newman suggests in his Formative Period of Twelver Shi’ism, that the author of al-Kāfī, Muḥammad ibn Ya‘qūb al-Kulaynī, was influenced by the rationalists of Baghdād due to his twenty-year residence there (p. 195). It is natural to assume that a person who spends such a long time in any place would be influenced by the prevalent trends of thought there. This, it has been suggested by Newman, accounts for the differences between the approaches of al-Ṣaffār in his Baṣā’ir al-Darajāt and al-Kulaynī in al-Kāfī. However, since the whole basis of this argument rests on the premise of al-Kulaynī’s lengthy stay in Baghdād, if this premise itself proves to be false, all the subsequent arguments that depend on it will come tumbling down.

Indeed, little is actually known for certain about al-Kulaynī’s life and as such, many details have been deduced and adduced by scholars from the little information available. The idea that al-Kulaynī spent twenty years in Baghdād is based on the statements of biographers, such as al-Najāshī, that the latter took twenty years to write his book, al-Kāfī. At the same time, we know for certain that he was buried in Baghdād. Putting these two ideas together led some scholars, like Newman, to conclude that he must have spent his last twenty years in Baghdād (p. 32). However, this is not necessarily the case.

The eminent scholar, al-Sayyid al-Burujerdi, says: the claim that al-Kulaynī was in Baghdād for twenty years is mere unsubstantiated conjecture… If indeed he lived in Baghdād for twenty years, that would leave little time for him to produce anything that could make him worthy of the title ‘the great Shaykh of Ray’ (al-Najāshī calls him “Shaykhu Aṣḥābīnā bi al-Ray wa Wajhuhum”) and this cannot be proven by his burial in Baghdād for he could have gone there for a short time at the end of his life or could have been passing through the city when he died. 1

Furthermore, a simple study of al-Kulaynī’s teachers shows that most of them were Qummīs and only a negligible number of them were actually from Baghdād. The fact that he starts his work with traditions about the intellect and the importance of knowledge, or that he does not narrate many of the traditions on Imāmah that al-Ṣaffār does is because, unlike the simplistic categorization of Baghdād and Qum as centres of rationalism and traditionalism respectively, Qum actually did have rationalistic trends as well. Additionally, al-Kulaynī himself states in the introduction to al-Kāfī, that he intended to write a book on Imāmah, and that is where he most likely intended to compile a more complete set of traditions on the subject. Aside from this, in the instances where al-Sadūq narrates from al-Kulaynī, he does so through a chain comprising of narrators from Ray, thereby showing that al-Kāfī attained popularity in Ray before it did in Baghdād.


  1. Asānīd Kitāb al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 245
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Ḥubb al-Waṭan min al-Īmān (حب الوطن من الايمان) – Love for one’s homeland is part of faith

This statement has been ascribed to the Noble Prophet (s) and many scholars have discussed the possible connection love for one’s homeland may have to faith. Not being able to fathom any connection between the two has led many a scholar to classify this tradition as apocryphal. While not found in any early Shi’i hadith corpus, it has been refered to as a ‘hadith’ by certain late Shi’i scholars like Syed Muḥsin Amīn and Mullā Aḥmad Narāqī. 1 There is no complete and uninterrupted chain of transmission (sanad) for this statement in any work of hadith or history, even though the earliest instance of this statement as prophetic tradition dates back to the fourth century. 2

As far as the meaning of this statement goes, it cannot be taken literally since many non-believers also love their homelands. This is why some have understood it to mean that ‘loving one’s homeland does not contravene one’s faith’. 3 Others have tried to explain this statement by saying that the homeland (waṭan) being referred to is the paradisal homeland of the Hereafter. Some mystics have even posited that waṭan here means one’s intrinsic nature (fiṭrah) and the first covenant made by man with the Almighty. 4

Since this statement is not found in any early ḥadith works, it cannot be attributed to the Prophet (s). Nevertheless, it may be possible to acquiesce in a more suitable meaning for this statement that is acceptable and in line with the teachings of Islam. It would still not qualify as a tradition per se, but if explained correctly, it may be approbated as one of the popular aphorisms used by wise Muslim sages. And Allah knows best.


  1. Narāqī, Khazāʾin, vol. 1, pp. 487, 528
  2. Ibn Baṭṭah al-ʿUkbarī (d. 387 A.H.), Sabʿūna ḥadīthan fī al-Jihād, p. 77)
  3. al-ʿAjlūni al-Jarrāḥī, Kashf al-Khafāʾ wa Muzīl al-Ilbās ʿan mā Ishtahara min al-Ḥadīth ʿalā Alsinat al-Nās, vol. 1, p. 347)
  4. Ibn ʿArabī, Tafsīr Ibn ʿArabī, vol. 2, p. 329
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Review of: Was Imam ʿAli (a) a Misogynist? by Amina Inloes

Was Imam ʿAlī (a) a Misogynist? This is the title that Amina Inloes gave to her article about the phrases that have been “falsely attributed” to Imam ʿAlī in Nahj al-Balāghah that apparently undermine women. Aside from the rather crude and sensationalist title, the article aims to show that the statements in the Nahj where women are referred to as being deficient could not possibly have been uttered by the Master of Believers, ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (‘a). From the melodramatic title, one can only conclude that anyone who disagrees with the author’s conclusions would have to accept that ʿAlī (‘a) was, god-forbid, a misogynist. This would be just like saying that the esteemed author of this article must be a misandrist because of her numerous works on women and implicit disregard for men!

Title aside, the article, which has been excerpted from a chapter of the author’s PhD thesis, aims to show that the passages which undermine women were late attributions that were falsely and posthumously imputed to the first Imam. She even speculates that these were Aristotelian tropes which somehow found their way into Islamic literature. A novel claim, but unconvincing and unsubstantiated. Inloes bases her arguments on what she terms a ‘detailed analysis of the textual sources’, followed by a critical examination of the various explanations and commentaries given by scholars for the specific passages of the Nahj, and finally a comparison between the so-called misogynist ideas in the Nahj and the approach taken in Kitāb Sulaym ibn Qays al-Hilālī.

We would take issue with each of these approaches. Firstly, what Inloes terms ‘a detailed textual analysis’ is lacking in many ways. She fails to examine the numerous traditions that are of similar or identical purport yet have been expressed in different wordings. This is a common problem with contemporary scholars who rely too much on digital resources and search for terms in large collections – they find select phrases but are unable to get other results of similar connotation because the phrases and words used therein differ. For example, we have a Prophetic tradition that has been narrated by the ‘Muḥammadūn’ in their important hadith collections that states:

مَا رَأَيْتُ مِنْ ضَعِيفَاتِ الدِّينِ وَ نَاقِصَاتِ الْعُقُولِ أَسْلَبَ لِذِي لُبٍّ مِنْكُنَّ

This has been narrated in al-Kāfī (5:322), Tahdhīb al-Aḥkām (7:404) and Man Lā Yaḥdhuruhu al-Faqīh (3:390), all of which are primary hadith collections. Moreover, there are numerous such traditions that have simply been overlooked. In fact, the sheer number of traditions would easily constitute tawātur maʿnawī regarding this issue, as some scholars have said. 1

Secondly, her critical examination of the explanations given by scholars is also unsatisfactory. She quotes Nasir Makarim Shirazi and then goes on to make a mockery of the views of other contemporary Shi’i scholars by making readers play a guessing game to see if they can tell whether the quotations she gives are from ancient Greek philosophers or contemporary Shi’i scholars. Alternative explanations and detailed studies on the subject have not been objectively examined and it seems the author had already decided that these passages are fabrications and is only trying to prove her case. This is despite the fact that centuries of scholarship and over 60 commentaries on the Nahj exist. One would have hoped for a more thorough examination of the same. In addition, recent articles like that of Masjidi have not even been mentioned.

Thirdly, Inloes tries to compare the passages of Nahj al-Balāghah with Kitāb Sulaym ibn Qays. She skirts round the subject of the latter’s authenticity and uses the views of only Western scholars, such as Hossein Modarressi, to show that it can still be used to show what people thought and felt during the early days of Islam. And of course, since there is no mention of such phrases in Sulaym’s work, they must be a forgery and later attributions. This is another poor argument, for even if we were to accept that the book of Sulaym that we currently possess is the real book written by Imam ʿAlī’s companion Sulaym ibn Qays, it would only show us Sulaym’s perspective on things and would not necessarily be representative of the views of the entire Muslim ummah. Furthermore, saying that ‘the early provenance of Sulaym’s book is evident from his views on women’ (p. 350) constitutes a cyclical argument. Are we basing the assumption of early provenance on his discussion on women or are we basing the general understanding of the status of women on its early provenance?

In conclusion, Inloes fails to prove her case in this article and while we appreciate the effort, we would caution the esteemed author against jumping to sweeping conclusions based on biases or preconceived feminist notions. With prayers for success and praise to the Almighty.


  1. Haydar Masjidi, Nadhrah Jadīdah li Waṣf al-Nisāʾ bi Nawāqisi al-ʿUqūl, 2015
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Tumattiʿahu or Tumakkinahu?

In an interesting article on Duʿāʾ al-Faraj 1, Sayyid Jaʿfar al-Ḥaydarī argues that the phrase:

«و تمتّعه فيها طويلا»

…in Duʿāʾ al-Faraj is most likely a copyist error (taṣḥīf) and is actually supposed to be:

«و تمكّنه فيها طويلا»

He bases his arguments on the following evidence:

1)      Shaykh al-Ṭāʾifah has mentioned the second version in his Tahdhīb al-Aḥkām (3:102).

2)      The above referenced version is exactly what has always been recited and continues to be recited today (unlike the version in al-Kafi which has some slight variances), except for the phrase in question.

3)      The second phrase is more like what is found in the Qurʾān, and in the sunnah.

Then, to affirm his claim, he discusses the difference in meaning and usage of these two terms (tumattiʿahū and tumakkinahū) both from the linguistic and Qurʾānic perspectives. After presenting numerous verses as examples, he concludes that the first version is not suitable and appropriate, especially in such a supplication.

While we do respect the scholarly approach taken by Sayyid al-Ḥaydarī, there is one very important point that he seems to have overlooked, and that is the absence of his version (containing tumakkinahū) in the numerous other sources that mention this supplication. In fact, Tahdhīb al-Aḥkām, which is essentially a book that deals with ḥadīth about legal issues and how to resolve contradicting narrations, is the only souce that quotes this version. Shaykh al-Ṭūsī himself quotes the more commonly recited version (i.e. tumattiʿahū) in his Miṣbāḥ al-Mutahajjid (2:631), which is actually a book of supplications and prayers. In addition, all the earlier and later scholars who quoted this supplication in their works used the common version. Therefore, the fact that Shaykh al-Ṭāʾifah has mentioned the second version in his Tahdhīb al-Aḥkām does not suffice to prove its correctness or even that the other version (which has even been recorded in earlier works) is the result of copyist error.

We should also consider that many eloquent scholars have recited this supplication and none of them have ever claimed that the last phrase of the supplication is out of place or inappropriate. Furthermore, Q11:3 which has also been quoted by the respected author, is a clear example of how tumattiʿahū may be used to provide a sound meaning to this last phase of Duʿāʾ al-Faraj. And Allah knows best.


  1. http://www.al-najaf.org/resalah/7-8/12-faraj.htm
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The difference between sanad and isnad

Some ḥadīth scholars have said that isnād is a synonym of sanad. 1 But others have rejected this synonymy outright and insist that these two terms are different. Isnād, according to them, is the ascription of a ḥadīth to the one who said it and is thus a means of attaining information about the chain of transmission, whereas the sanad it the chain of transmission itself. 2

The latter view is supported by a ḥadīth from Amīr al-Muʾminīn (‘a) where the term isnād has been used:

إِذَا حَدَّثْتُمْ بِحَدِيثٍ فَأَسْنِدُوهُ‏ إِلَى الَّذِي حَدَّثَكُمْ فَإِنْ كَانَ حَقّاً فَلَكُمْ وَ إِنْ كَانَ كَذِباً فَعَلَيْهِ.

When you narrate a ḥadīth, ascribe it to the one who narrated it to you; for if it is true then you will gain [the reward] and if it is a lie, he will be responsible. 3

Based on this difference between isnād and sanad, those who define sanad as being information about the chain of transmission have erred 4 because this is the definition of isnād, not sanad. 5


  1. See: Mīrdāmād, al-Rawāshiḥ al-Samāwiyyah, p. 126
  2. See: Māmqānī, Miqbās al-Hidāyah, vol. 1, p. 52
  3. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 52
  4. Suyūṭī, Tadrīb al-Rāwī, vol. 1, p. 22
  5. See: Māmqānī, Miqbās al-Hidāyah, vol. 1, pp. 51-52  
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Bihar al-Anwar

Biḥār al-Anwār al-Jāmiʿatu li Durari Akhbāri al-Aʾimmat al-Aṭhār (Oceans of light: A Compendium of the Exalted Traditions of the Pure Imāms) by ʿAllāmah Muḥammad al-Bāqir ibn Muḥammad al-Taqī al-Majlisī (d. 1111 A.H.) is an encyclopedic compilation of aḥādīth. This work, which occupied al-Majlisī for most of his scholarly life, grew from a more modest work known as Fihrist Biḥār al-Anwār (or Fihrist Muṣannafāt al-Asḥāb) which was published in 1070 A.H. and consists of a table of contents that corresponds roughly to that of the final version as well as traditions taken from ten early works, six of which are by Shaykh al-Ṣadūq. A few years later, al-Majlisī began collecting practically the entire corpus of Imāmī ḥadīth. In his introduction to Biḥār, he describes his aim of collecting the available ḥadīth literature, including texts thought to be lost, and arranging its contents subject-wise.

al-Majlisī was able to draw on the help of such luminaries as Niʿmatullāh Jazāʾirī (d. 1112) and Mīrzā ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿĪsā Afandī (d. between 1130 and 1140 A.H.), both of whom were among his pupils. He would occasionally also obtain financial assistance from the Safavid court, as when attempting (unsuccessfully) to obtain Shaykh al-Ṣadūq’s manuscript of Madīnat al-ʿIlm from Yemen. He would often have scribes do the actual copying of passages, though he also wrote a considerable portion of the text himself.

al-Majlisī did not live to see the Biḥār through to completion. At his death, he left only preliminary drafts of the later volumes. Particularly noticeable is the absence of his explicatory comments from these drafts. Instead, we find occasional brief notes, probably written by his pupil and grandson Muḥammad Ḥusayn Khātūnābādī (d. 1151 A.H.), whose Ḥadāʾiq al-Muqarrabīn is one of the earliest sources on the history of the Biḥār. One of the first scholars to take note of the Biḥār was al-Majlisī’s contemporary Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī (d. 1104 A.H.).

The first complete edition of Biḥār, dedicated to Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh and to his son and successor Muẓaffar al-Dīn, was lithographed in Tehrān and Tabrīz between 1303 and 1315 A.H. A useful index entitled Safīnat al-Biḥār wa Madīnat al-Ḥikam wal-Āthār was compiled by Shaykh ʿAbbās ibn Muḥammad Riḍā al-Qummī (d. 1359 A.H.), who also included in it some traditions not found in the Biḥār itself. A supplement (mustadrak) to the Safīna was written by ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad ibn Ismāʿīl al-Shāhrūdī. Of its projected 110 volumes, three (54-56) are taken up by an index.

It is noteworthy that al-Majlisī himself made use of the Biḥār in his Persian works, some of which are abridged or extracted from volumes of his magnum opus. In his introduction to Ḥayāt al-Qulūb, for example, al-Majlisī speaks of the need to make the material in the Biḥār accessible to those with no knowledge of Arabic. Indeed, the three volumes of the Ḥayāt are abridged Persian translations of such material.

Biḥār al-Anwār reflects the accumulated knowledge of a millennium of Shiʿī ḥadīth scholarship, and covers most aspects of Imamī religious thought such as: the concept of knowledge (ʿilm); tawḥīd and the divine attributes; free will and predestination, death and the after-life; arguments (iḥtijājāt), mainly of the Imāms (a); stories of the Prophets; biographies of the Prophet and his forebears; biographies of Fāṭima and the first eleven Imams; the twelfth Imam and issues related to his occultation and many other important subjects.

While most of the works on which al-Majlisī drew are available today in printed editions, some are still known chiefly through quotations in the Biḥār. al-Majlisī always identifies the source of each passage in his work, whether it was written by himself or copied from an earlier authority. Although al-Majlisī tried to be comprehensive, there are some texts which he was able to use only partially or not at all, as he had obtained them while the work was already in progress. He intended to incorporate the missing material in a supplement (to be entitled Mustadrak al-Biḥār), but he did not live to write it. Furthermore, in conformity with his stated views, al-Majlisī refrained from using texts with a Sufi or a philosophical bias, thus excluding from the Biḥār a major component of the Shiʿī literary tradition. He did however, cite Sunni sources for lexicographical or polemical purposes.

Historically, the earliest texts incorporated in the Biḥār go back to the pre-ghayba period (before 260 A.H.). Some consists of works written during the Lesser Occultation (260-329 A.H.) and the Buyid period. Particularly prominent are works by Shaykh al-Ṣadūq (d. 381 A.H.), Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413 A.H.), Sharīf Murtaḍā ʿAlam al-Hudā (d. 436 A.H.), and Shaykh al- Ṭūsī (d. 460 A.H.). The later ʿAbbasid period is represented by works of Ibn Shahrāshūb (d. 588 A.H.), Ibn Ṭāwūs (d. 664 A.H.), and others; while the period between the fall of Baghdad (in 656 A.H.) and the beginning of the 10th century, includes compositions by such masters as the ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī (d. 726 A.H.) and al-Shahīd al-Awwal (d. 786 A.H.). Finally, al-Majlisī also incorporated works written in the Safavid period by (among others) al-Shahīd al-Thānī (d. 965 A.H.) and Shaykh Bahāʾī (d. 1030 A.H.).

The Biḥār contains commentaries on the Koran, such as the tafsīrs of Furāt ibn Ibrāhīm (d. 300 A.H.), ʿAlī ibn Ibrāhīm al-Qummī (d. 307 A.H.), al-ʿAyyāshī (d. 320 A.H.), and the Majmaʿ al-Bayān of al-Ṭabarsī (d. 548 A.H.); biographies of the Imāms, such as the Irshād of Shaykh Mufīd and the Iʿlām al-Warā of al-Ṭabarsī; doctrinal and theological works expounding the major tenets of Imamī Shiʿism; legal texts; polemical writings; supererogatory prayers and supplications; collections of sayings and anecdotes. Most of this material consists of traditions from the Prophet and the Imāms, the significance of which was greatly enhanced by the growing influence of the Akhbārīs in the 11th century; and al-Majlisī, though not a declared Akhbārī, was in sympathy with some of their beliefs.

Being a compilation, the Biḥār does not present a uniform view on all issues; it contains both moderate and radical traditions. al-Majlisī was aware of various contradictions and inconsistencies, and on occasion attempted to resolve them. The radical traditions in the Biḥār are concerned with three major issues: (1) The integrity of the Qurʾān: certain phrases in the Qurʾān referring to ʿAlī’s rights are said to have been deliberately excised. (2) The status of the Prophet’s companions (ṣaḥāba). (3) The position of the imams: they are said to have possessed knowledge of the unseen (ghayb) and to have performed miracles.

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

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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