2.0 A historical overview and appraisal of the biographical works authored by the Shia

Introductory Chapter – Historical Development of Literature on the Sciences of Narrator Evaluation According to the Imami Shia – 1.0 Reviewing the claim that attributes the science of hadith narrator criticism to the Ahlul Bayt radiya Llahu ‘anhu
September 23, 2020
3.0 The lack of sciences by the Shia Imamiyyah in the field of ‘ilm al rijal
September 23, 2020

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2.0 A historical overview and appraisal of the biographical works authored by the Shia


The attempts of Shia scholars have continued unabated in establishing their (claimed) antecedence in the history of ‘ulum al rijal and al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. This can be clearly seen in their listing of works dedicated to narrator evaluation and al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. For this reason, we find Hussain al Radi in his work Tarikh ‘Ilm al Rijal make the same attempts as al Fadli and al Kajuri; although, he was somewhat less thoughtful than them and other scholars of the Shia and adopted a much more literal approach. However, he was unsuccessful in his findings. Under the section “Lamhah ‘an Tarikh ‘Ilm al Rijal (A Glimpse into the History of ‘Ilm al Rijal),” he writes:


إذا أخذنا علم الرجال بمعناه الأعم الباحث عن أحوال الرواة وقبولهم وعدم قبولهم فإن نظرة سريعة على تاريخ علم الرجال يعود بنا العهد إلى النصف الأول من القرن الأول حيث أنه في سنة 40هـ كتب عبيد الله بن أبي رافع مولى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كتابا في الصحابة الذين شهدوا مع أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام حروبه مثل صفين والجمل والنهروان، وتعيين من كان منهم من البدريين.

When we understand the science of narrator evaluation in its broader sense, i.e. studying the conditions of narrators and whether they are acceptable or not, then a quick glance through its history takes us back to the first-half of the first century. In the year 40 A.H, ‘Ubaidullah ibn Abi Rafi’, the mawla (client) of Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, wrote a letter regarding the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum who were present with Amir al Mu’minin ‘alayh al Salam in his battles, such as Siffin, Jamal, and Nahrawan. He also specified who amongst them were Badris (i.e. the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum who took part in the Battle of Badr).[1]   


Al Radi regarded the letter of ‘Ubaidullah ibn Rafi’ in which he mentioned the individuals who took part in Siffin with ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and were Badris as a work in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil! If we were to ask Hussain al Radi: Is there, in the work you claim “studies of the conditions of narrators and whether they are acceptable or not” jarh (statement of impugnment) or ta’dil (attesting statement of reliability)? Did he (i.e. ‘Ubaidullah ibn Rafi’) describe any of the narrators as being a thiqah (reliable)? Did he describe any of the narrators as being da’if? Did he discuss the concept of their accepting and rejecting of narrators? Hussain al Radi will certainly be unable to answer. He will never find a way. How could he? The book simply mentions the names of participants in Siffin!

Hussain al Radi also attempted to establish a link between the Shia and the letter of ‘Ubaidullah ibn Rafi’ in his statement:


ذكره الطوسي في الفهرست وذكر سنده إليه.

Al Tusi mentions it in al Fahrast along with his isnad for it.[2]


Regarding this claimed link, al Khu’i says:

وفي طريق الشيخ [يقصد الطوسي] إليه عدة مجاهيل

And in the sanad of al Sheikh (i.e. al Tusi) up to the ‘Ubaidullah ibn Rafi’, there are a number of majhul (unknown) narrators.[3]


Counting ‘Ubaidullah ibn Rafi’ among the authors of the Shia is extremely implausible. Who has ever said he is an Imami Shia that believes in Twelve Imams? After studying his biography, I could not find a single person who said he is a Shia that believes in Twelve infallible Imams. The most that can be said is that he was a katib (scribe) for ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu.[4]

We can summarize everything up to now as follows:

  1. There is no correlation with this work and the sciences of al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. In fact, Jafar al Subhani described it as “a work of history and events.”[5]
  2. The Shia do not possess one authentic chain of narration for this book, as mentioned in al Khu’i’s statement.
  3. This claim of Hussain al Radi is contradictory to other statements by Shia scholars. In fact, Hassan al Sadr states that the first person to write in this regard was Abu Muhammad ibn Jabalah al Kinani.[6]


For the most part, these are the attempts made by the Shia to claim their antecedence in the unique accomplishments of the Islamic sciences in general, not just the sciences of hadith. It has become clear to us from this academic review thus far that the Shia still need to prove this claim, despite their scholars’ attempts at finding a historical basis that corroborates their viewpoint.


The Shia conceding to their books being lost

Many scholars of the Imamiyyah have attempted to prove the existence of several works in narrator evaluation for themselves. However, a number of them have conceded to the fact that whatever was written in the earlier periods was, as they say, lost to history! When mentioning the written works of the third century, al Hassan al Radi states:


في هذا القرن صدر عدد كبير من الكتب في علم الرجال، وإن كان لم يصلنا منها، ومن أسمائها إلا القليل جدًا، ومع ذلك فقد حفظ لنا التاريخ عددًا من أسماء المؤلفين في هذا المجال.

In this century, a large number of works in the science of narrator evaluation (‘ilm al rijal) appeared, despite only a very small number of them, along with their names, reaching us. Nevertheless, history has preserved for us a number of writers’ names in this field.[7]


Al Radi only mentions the names, nothing else. Regarding the fourth century, he states:


فُقد أكثر تلك الكتب في حوادث ألمّت بالعالم الإسلامي، من حروب وفتن مذهبية قضت على الكتب والمكتبات والعلماء.

Most of the works were lost to history on account of the events that befell the Islamic world. Wars and sectarian discord led to the loss of books, libraries, and scholars alike.[8]


‘Abdul Hadi al Fadli says:

ولم يصل إلينا منها شيء من هذه الكتب إلا ما ذكره شيخنا الطهراني في الذريعة من وجود كتاب الطبقات للبرقي حتى عصرنا هذا.

None of these works reached us until now, except for what our Sheikh, al Tahrani, mentioned in al Dhari’ah concerning the existence of the book al Tabaqat, written by al Barqi.[9]


Jafar al Subhani recognized this fact when he said:


ومن المأسوف عليه أنه لم تصل هذه الكتب إلينا، وإنما الموجود عندنا وهو الذي يعد اليوم أصول الكتب الرجالية – ما دون في القرنين الرابع والخامس.

Regrettably, these works did not reach us. Whatever we have available—which are considered the primary works on narrator evaluation today—excludes (everything from) the fourth and fifth centuries.[10]


A similar conclusion was reached by their teacher, Aqa Buzurg al Tahrani when he stated:


وأما سائر الكتب القديمة فقد ضاعت أعيانها الشخصية من جهة قلة الاهتمام بها بعد وجود عين ألفاظها مدرجة في الأصول الأربعة المتداولة عندنا.

As for all of the early works, they all individually perished on account of the lack of importance shown to them after their exact wordings were inserted into the Four Primary works (al Usul al Arba’ah), now common to us.[11]


In discussing the works of al Kashshi and Ibn al Ghada’iri, al Khu’i states:


هذا حال كتاب الكشي وكتاب ابن الغضائري المعدودين من الأصول. وأما باقي الكتب الرجالية المعروفة في عصر الشيخ والنجاشي فلم يبق منها عين ولا أثر في عصر المتأخرين.

This is the condition of al Kashshi’s and al Ghada’iri’s work; they are counted among the primary works. As for the remaining famous works in narrator evaluation during the time of al Sheikh (i.e. al Tusi) and al Najjashi, no sign or trace remains of them in latter-day times.[12]


I will conclude with the statement of Muhammad al Bahbudi who, regarding the scholars of the Shia, said:


ومع ذلك ألفوا في معرفة الرواة وعقائدهم وأخلاقهم وسيرتهم معاجم كبيرة مسندة، وفي معرفة الأصول والمؤلفات وصحيحها وسقيمها وطرقها وإسنادها فهارس قيمة ممتعة إلا أنه لم يبق إلى الآن من هذه المعاجم الرجالية إلا معجمين: أحدهما يعرف برجال شيخنا الكشي والآخر برجال شيخنا الطوسي. ولم يبق من تلك الفهارس القيمة إلا اثنان: أحدهما فهرس شيخنا أبي الحسين ابن النجاشي، والآخر فهرست شيخنا أبي جعفر الطوسي.

Nevertheless, they authored a number of works (ma’ajim) in identifying narrators, their beliefs, character traits, and biographies. They also authored several invaluable indices in understanding both the primary and the compiled works—both authentic and inauthentic, their many versions and isnads. However, until today, none of these works of narrator evaluation survived, save two: 1) the Rijal of our Sheikh, al Kashshi, and 2) the Rijal of our Sheikh, al Tusi. And from the invaluable indices, only the following two survived: 1) the Fahrast of our Sheikh, Abi al Hussain ibn al Najjashi, and 2) the Fahrast of our Sheikh, Abu Jafar al Tusi.[13]


Al Fadli mentioned that some of the works on narrator evaluation of their predecessors, such as Rijal al Barqi, Rijal al ‘Aqiqi, Rijal Ibn Faddal, and Rijal al Fadl Ibn Shadhan existed until the era of al ‘Allamah al Hilli.[14]

In short, there remains no trace of books in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil written by the Shia in the first three centuries, according to their many claims; except for the work of al Barqi, as documented in the text of al Subhani. Also, the earlier works simply dissipated into the Four Primary works of narrator evaluation (al Usul al Rijaliyyah al Arba’ah) after their texts were inserted therein.[15]

Based on this, the fifth century is regarded as the actual beginning for consolidating the science of al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, according to them. Al Hussain al Radi states:


وبعد أن انتهى القرن الرابع الهجري ودخل القرن الخامس وفيه كثر التأليف في علم الرجال وفي النصف الأول منه صدرت الأصول الأربعة لعلم الرجال:

اختيار الرجال للشيخ الطوسي [الكشي]،

الرجال المعروف برجال الشيخ الطوسي،

فهرست كتب الشيعة وأصولهم وأسماء المصنفين وأصحاب الأصول للشيخ الطوسي [أيضا] المشتهر بالفهرست،

فهرست أسماء مصنفي الشيعة المعروف بـ (رجال النجاشي – 450هـ).

والكتب الثلاثة الأولى كلها للشيخ أبي جعفر محمد بن الحسن الطوسي المتوفى 460هـ، ومن مراجعتنا لأسماء ما تقدمت من كتب علم الرجال في القرون الأربعة المتقدمة وأن أكثرها قد بادت وذهبت، ولم يبق منها إلا الاسم وأن مجرد صدور هذه الكتب المتأخرة للشيخ الطوسي أصبحت محط البحث والتنقيب والتدقيق.

Only after the fourth hijri century came to an end and the fifth century began, did the writings in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil proliferate. In the first half of this century, the Four Primary works in the science of narrator evaluation emerged, namely:

    1. Ikhtiyar al Rijal, written by al Tusi (originally Rijal al Kashshi),
    2. al Rijal (famously known as Rijal al Sheikh al Tusi), written by al Tusi,
    3. Fahrast Kutub al Shia wa Usuluhum wa Asma’ al Musannifin wa Ashab al Usul (famously known as al Fahrast), written by al Tusi, and
    4. Fahrast Asma’ Musannifi al Shia (famously known as Rijal al Najjashi (d. 450 A.H)), written by Ahmed ibn ‘Ali al Najjashi.

The first three works are all written by Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn al Hassan al Tusi (d. 460 A.H). In our revision of the names of works in the science of narration evaluation from the first four centuries, most of them have perished and disappeared, only the names appear. The emergence of these latter-day books of al Sheikh al Tusi have become the object of study, research, and investigation.[16]


It is important to note the words of Hussain al Radi and other writers of the Shia since they did not mention the work of Ibn al Ghada’iri among the primary works of the science of narrator evaluation. Notwithstanding, the work of Ibn al Ghada’iri printed and in circulation nowadays is considered one of the works in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil that are specific to weak narrators. It is therefore, in reality, Du’afa’ Ibn al Ghda’iri (The Weak Narrators of Ibn al Ghada’iri). Nevertheless, many scholars of the Shia exacerbated things with their statement “al Usul al Rijaliyyah al Khamsah (the Five Primary works of narrator evaluation);” they would (contradictorily) refer to it as “al Usul al Arba’ah (the Four Primary works).” Jafar al Subhani refers to it as such. On the other hand, ‘Abdul Hadi al Fadli disagreed with him and regarded Ibn Ghada’iri’s work, Rijal al Ghada’iri, as the fifth of their primary works.[17] Perhaps this issue stems from the difference of opinion regarding the provability of the work. This is an issue that will be investigated further when dealing specifically with Ibn al Ghada’iri.

Therefore, the works that the Shia scholars eventually settled on were these four, or five (according to the other opinion). These are the primary works that are regarded as the real wealth for understanding al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. Whoever of the Shia scholars that writes on narrator evaluation does so within the parameters of these works; they are like the qiblah for their scholars. It is from here they transmit the opinions of their predecessors. In investigating these works, we find that are no actual written biographies for thousands of Shia narrators; only their names exist, let alone any statements of al Jarh wa al Ta’dil! There are no statements of jarh or tawthiq for hundreds, in fact thousands of narrators!

Let us now consider these works, one by one, in order to understand the principle(s) and intellectual heritage upon which both Ibn al Mutahhar al Hilli and Abu al Qasim al Khu’i stood. Also, (to offer) an overall evaluation of the Shia legacy of al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. The work of al Barqi will also be included since it is printed and in common use.


Presentation and critique of the Shia’s primary works in narrator evaluation


1. Rijal al Barqi by Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid al Barqi (d. 264/74/80[18] A.H)

Although this work was written before Rijal al Kashshi, the existence of it is practically insignificant. It “does not fatten (one), nor avail against hunger.”[19] Therefore, we see that most people who speak to the subject of narrator evaluation prefer Rijal al Kashshi over it, and they do not regard it as part of the primary works. The total amount of narrator biographies mentioned by al Barqi are 1707. The author rarely speaks al Jarh wa al Ta’dil of the narrators. For instance, he describes Zaid ibn Arqam radiya Llahu ‘anhu as having “revealed the hypocrisy of the hypocrites from Bani al Khazraj.”[20]

In describing Hisham ibn al Hakam, he did not criticize him in clear terms, he simply said: “(He is) from the students of Abu Shakir al Zindiq, and he is an anthropomorphist,”[21] despite the fact that Hisham is one of the most reliable narrators of the Shia!

Similarly, he described ‘Abdullah ibn Habib saying: “And some narrators have leveled accusations against him.”[22]

Additionally, he only regarded four narrators as reliable, namely: Ibrahim ibn Ishaq ibn Azwar[23], ‘Ubaidullah ibn ‘Ali al Halabi[24], al Fadl al Baqbaq[25], and Dawood ibn Abi Zaid[26]—who he simply described as ‘truthful (sadiq al lahjah).’ Aside from them, he did not make tawthiq of anyone else!

Part of al Barqi’s methodology is that he writes (for example) “The Companions of the Messenger of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam” and assigns them to (different) tabaqat (classes). He does this because his book is dedicated to tabaqat, and not to al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. In fact, Aqa Buzurg mentions it under the title Tabaqat al Rijal (Classes of Narrators).[27]

The creed of the Imamiyyah clearly had an impact on the author; he does not even mention Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, or ‘Uthman among the Companions! In fact, he only mentions a small number among the Companions, enough to be counted on ones’ fingers. Thereafter, he mentions the companions of ‘Ali, followed by the companions of the infallible Imams, with no reference to al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. He simply introduces them as “So and so. A Kufan,” or “So and so. A food merchant.” In short, the author did not make tawthiq nor criticize anyone except the four aforementioned cases. If he added anything, it was negligible.

The scholars of the Shia disagree as to whether Rijal al Barqi is the author’s work or his father’s.[28]

If this is the state of Rijal al Barqi, how then can it form part of the relied upon primary works, as some scholars of the Shia hold?


2. Rijal al Kashshi by Muhammad ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al Kashshi Abu ‘Amr[29]

Despite the author being from the fourth century, we find al Fadli saying about al Kashshi’s book:


من الكتب التي لم يقدر لها أن تكون في أيدي الباحثين الرجاليين، وبخاصة مصنفي القرن السادس الهجري وما بعده!”

It is from the works that researchers in the field of narrator evaluation were unable to get their hands on, especially the writers in the sixth century A.H and beyond.[30]


Al Fadli does not mention the reason why the book was unavailable; even though it was the central point for those that wrote on the subject. Regarding this, Abu al Ma’ali al Kalbasi (d. 1315 AH) states:

وضع كتاب الكشي لنقل الروايات المادحة والقادحة، والتعرض لحال الرجل فيه نادر

Al Kashshi’s work was written in order to transmit both praiseworthy and problematic reports. It rarely addresses the condition of the narrator.[31]


Abu al Huda al Kalbasi states:


وكثيرا ما يروي أخبارا متعددة في حق شخص واحد، في مواضع شتى، فلابد لمن أراد تحقيق الحال، التصفح الأكيد والتفحص الشديد فيه، ليحصل الاطلاع على تمام المرام.

Many times, he narrates several reports of one narrator in different places. Whoever is interested in knowing the condition (of a particular narrator) is therefore required to thoroughly examine and carefully scrutinize in order that he may be completely aware (of his condition).[32]


Al Shahid al Thani (d. 965 A.H) states:


كيف بمثل الكشي الذي يشتمل كتابه على أغاليط من جرح لغير مجروح بروايات ضعيفة ومدح لغيره كذلك، كما نبه عليه جماعة من علماء أهل هذا الفن، والغرض من وضعه ليس هو معرفة التوثيق وضده كعادة غيره من الكتب، بل غرضه ذكر الرجل وما ورد فيه من مدح وجرح، وعلى الناظر طلب الحكم [من غيره].

What then, with the likes of al Kashshi, whose work contains errors involving narrators who are wrongfully criticized with weak narrations, and (others) wrongfully praised. Just as a number of scholars in this field have indicated, the intention of the author was not to identify reliable and unreliable narrators—like other works (in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil); rather, his intention was merely to mention the name of the narrator and everything (positive and negative) said about him. It is up to the reader to investigate the (actual) ruling of the narrator in question (from somewhere else).[33]


Al Tustari offers the following evaluation of al Kashshi’s work:


وأما رجال الكشي: فلم تصل نسخته صحيحة إلى أحد حتى الشيخ [الطوسي] والنجاشي

As for Rijal al Kashshi, an authentic copy of it did not reach anyone until al Sheikh (al Tusi) and al Najjashi.


A few lines after this, he says:

قلما تسلم رواية من رواياته عن التصحيف، بل وقع في كثير من عناوينه، بل وقع فيه خلط أخبار ترجمة بترجمة أخرى وخلط طبقة بأخرى

Rarely will one of his narrations be free of any distortions. In fact, this has (also) occurred in a number of his titles. The reports of one (narrator’s) biography are mixed up with another’s, as are the tabaqat.


Then he says:

إن الشيخ [الطوسي] اختار مقدارا مع مافيه من الخلط والتصحيف، وأسقط منه أبوابا، وإن بقي ترتيبه

Indeed, al Sheikh al Tusi chose selections (from this work), despite the distortions and confusion therein. He removed certain chapters, despite the order remaining.


Then he said:

وبعدما قلنا من وقوع التحريفات في أصل الكشي بتلك المرتبة، لا يمكن الاعتماد على ما فيه إذا لم تقم قرينة على صحة ما فيه.

After what we have stated regarding the extent of distortions in al Kashshi’s original work, it is not possible to rely on its contents unless there is other contextual evidence in support of what it contains.


Until the section wherein he says:

إنه حدث في الاختيار من الكشي أيضا تحريفات غير ما كان في أصله – فإنه شأن كل كتاب – إلا أنها لم تكن بمقدار الأصل

Similarly, distortions which were not in the original work occurred in al Ikhtiyar of al Kashshi—this is the nature of every book. However, they were not as many as in the original.[34]


There are numerous contradictions related to al Jarh wa al Ta’dil in al Kashshi’s work. Consequently, a narrator will be elevated to the highest ranks of trustworthiness (amanah) and precision (dabt), and then (in other places) reduced to the lowest of ranks. As for the contradictory reports in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil, they are abundant (mutawatirah). In fact, there does not exist a work of theirs in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil that is free from contradictions, as is the case of Rijal al Kashshi, especially relating to the leading narrators of the Shia. In order to review (the work of) al Kashshi, let us, for example, look at Zurarah ibn A’yan al Shaybani, one of the most prolific narrators of the Shia. In the first narration under his biography, it states:

قال جعفر الصادق: يا زرارة، إن اسمك في أسماء أهل الجنة!

Jafar al Sadiq said, “O Zurarah, verily your name is among the names of the people of Jannat!”[35]


Al Kashshi did not wait long—after ‘admitting’ Zurarah into Jannat, before saying something very different. A few narrations later, he says—on the tongue of Jafar al Sadiq:


لعن الله زرارة

May Allah curse Zurarah.[36]


This is a clear contradiction! The personal views of al Kashshi related to al Jarh wa al Ta’dil in this work are minimal, as alluded to by Abu al Ma’ali al Kalbasi previously.[37] Al Kashshi frequently presents narrations after mentioning the name of the biographee; he makes no mention in many of these biographies of statements of al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. He simply informs about an incident that occurred with the narrator, or his function/work.[38] How then, is the researcher to find out his (i.e. al Kashshi’s) intended meanings in the likes of this primary work?

In addition to the many contradictions in the work, the scholars of the Shia have conceded to another problem: the numerous errors in al Kashshi’s work. Al Najjashi states:


فيه أغلاط كثيرة

It contains numerous errors.[39]


Al Hilli followed in his footsteps saying:

له كتاب الرجال إلا أن فيه أغلاطا كثيرة

He has a work on narrators; however, it contains numerous errors.[40]


Neither al Najjashi nor al Hilli have alluded to the details of these errors! A number of scholars of the Shia have attempted to answer what is meant by these mistakes. Consequently, al Taqi al Majlisi states:

إن المراد الروايات المتعارضة ظاهرا

What is intended thereby are the apparent contradictory narrations.[41]


Abu al Huda al Kalbasi refutes this opinion saying:


ولا يخفى ما فيه من المخالفة لظاهر السياق، بل الظاهر ما هو الظاهر من العبارة، فإنه قد وقع فيه أغلاط كثيرة كما يظهر بعد التتبع والتأمل فيه

This is clearly contrary to the apparent context. In fact, the apparent context is precisely what is apparent from the actual text. There are numerous errors therein, as becomes clear after scrutinizing and examining it.[42]


‘Abdul Hadi al Fadli took a neutral course on this issue. He states:

هذه الأغاليط قد تكون علمية وقد تكون فنية، كما أننا لا نعرف عن مستواها شيئًا، لأن الكتاب لم يصل إلينا، وذلك لأن الشيخ الطوسي عمد لهذا الكتاب واختصره فيما عنوانه بـ (اختيار معرفة الرجال)، فحل محل الأصل.

These mistakes can either be technical or academic in nature. Likewise, we know nothing of their extent because the work did not reach us. That is because al Sheikh al Tusi took up the work and abridged it under the title Ikhtiyar Ma’rifat al Rijal, thereby occupying the place of the original.[43]


Perhaps the reason for these errors was as Abu ‘Ali al Ha’iri (d. 1216 AH) alluded to:


عمد إليه شيخ الطائفة…فلخصه وأسقط منه الفضلات…والموجود الآن في هذه الأزمان، بل وزمان العلامة وما قاربه إنما هو اختيار الشيخ لا الكشي الأصل

Sheikh al Ta’ifah went about and abridged it and removed the ‘residue’ therefrom. The work in existence these days and, in fact, during and after the time of al ‘Allamah (al Tusi) is the Ikhtiyar of al Sheikh, not al Kashshi’s original.[44]


Perhaps al Tusi’s doings in his abridgement of al Kashshi’s work is the primary reason for the existence of the numerous mistakes and all the confusion.[45]

There is another issue which presents itself in the work, as Muhammad al Jalali has documented:


ولم يعين الشيخ الطوسي كيفية الاختيار من رجال الكشي، لا في هذا الاختيار، ولا في غيره من كتبه

Al Sheikh al Tusi did not stipulate the method of selecting from the narrators of al Kashshi, not in al Ikhtiyar nor in his other works.[46]


In short, the defect in this work is clear and obvious: the birth and death of the author are unknown. Furthermore, it was misplaced for a long time. A difference of opinion transpired: Is the existing work the original or is it the abridgment of the original? There is (also) a difference of opinion about the actual name of the work. Furthermore, it contains numerous errors. There is (also) a difference in determining these mistakes. The entire contents of the work is all but discrepancies and contradictions, all of which the viewer suffers from.

The erudite scholar, al Mustafawi says:

وأما الخلط في ترتيب الكتاب: فهو خطأ فاحش، لأنه يوجب النقص من غرض التأليف

Regarding the confusion in the sequence of the book, it is an appalling error because it brings about a lack in (understanding) the purpose and intention behind the work.[47]


Who can guarantee for us there was no distortion in the text of the work? In fact, al Nuri al Tabarsi (d. 1320 AH) clearly stated that the work was manipulated in his statement:


واعلم أنه قد ظهر لنا من بعض القرائن أنه قد وقع في اختيار الشيخ – أيضا – تصرف من بعض العلماء أو النساخ بإسقاط بعض ما فيه، وأن الدائر في هذه الأعصار غير حاو لتمام ما في الاختيار، ولم أر من تنبه لذلك، ولا وحشة من هذه الدعوى بعد وجود القرائن.

And know well that it has become evident to us through several pieces of evidence that tampering occurred from some scholars or transcribers by omitting some of the contents therein. And the current version in circulation in these times does not include everything of al Ikhtiyar. I have not seen anyone take note of this. There is no irregularity in this claim after the existence of such evidence.[48]


Regarding the previously mentioned statement of al Fadli in which he alluded to the book being misplaced for some time and (the fact that) there existed numerous mistakes in the many copies, al Tiffarishi states:

يخطر ببالي أن النسخة التي [كانت] عند العلامة [الحلِّي] من الكشي كان غلطا فاشتبه عليه

It seems to me that the copy al ‘Allamah (al Hilli) possessed of al Kashshi’s work was incorrect, and therefore it confused him.[49]


If the copy of al Kashshi’s work that al ‘Allamah al Hilli possessed was incorrect, what then in this time?

The number of narrators in al Kashshi’s work that have dedicated biographies is 560, according to the highest estimate.[50] When a researcher wants to know the ruling of one of these particular narrators in Rijal al Kashshi, he is required to exert a lot of energy and effort in reviewing the narrations in order to know the condition of the narrator. For example, al Kashshi cites sixty-two narrations under the biography of Zurarah, the asanid of which all need to be reviewed. Can there be more obstinance than this? Even al Bahbudi acceded to the difficulty in studying this work. He states:


أنه ذكر الأسانيد المعلقة على ما وجدها من دون إصلاحها، فصعب على الناظرين تمييز صحيحها من سقيمها، ولم يصح لنا من ألف ومائة وخمسين نصا إلا أقل القليل منها، لا يبلغ رقمها إلى ثلاثمائة!

He mentions mu’allaq (suspended) chains of narrations as he found them without any rectification thereof. Therefore, it is difficult for those looking at the work to distinguish between the authentic and faulty chains. From 1150 texts, only a trivial amount is authentic. The number does not even amount to 300![51]


Abu al Huda al Kalbasi (d. 1356 AH) said:

وهو غير مبوب، على خلاف الطريقة المعروفة في الكتب الرجالية. ولذا يصعب منه الظفر على المرام

It is not arranged in chapters, contrary to the known method in works of narrator biographies. Therefore, it is difficult to gain benefit as desired.[52]


It is also important to point out the statement of al Nuri al Tabarsi (d. 1320 AH):


إن الكشي كثيرا ما يعول في الجرح والتعديل على غير الإمامية، فلاحظ

Indeed al Kashshi many a times relies on non-imamis in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. Take note (of this fact).[53]


This clearly proves that the Imamiyyah—at the head of them al Kashshi—rely upon others, from other groups, in the sciences of al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. They have no choice but to rely on others. Contrary to what they propagate, that others rely on them. A work such as this, how is it possible to be primary source in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil?

In short, when the scholars of the Imamiyyah want to show admiration to the state of their works, they mention, enumerate, and praise their primary works. And when they want to vindicate themselves from the actual contents therein, they echo the sentiments of Murtada al ‘Askari:


تصريح العلماء مدى القرون بعدم اعتمادهم على رجال الكشي وتضعيفهم لهذا الكتاب.

The explicit statement(s) of the scholars over the centuries has been one of non-reliance on Rijal al Kashshi and their deeming this work as weak/unreliable.[54]


3. Al Fihrist by Sheikh al Ta’ifah Abu Jafar al Tusi (d. 460 A.H)

This is a small work and contains 909 biographies. It is an index specific to the authors of (general) books and the primary sources, not for every narrator. Al Tusi alludes to his methodology in the introduction saying:


فإذا ذكرت كل واحد من المصنفين وأصحاب الأصول، فلا بد أن أشير إلى ما قيل فيه من التعديل والتجريح، وهل يعول على روايته أو لا؟

When I mention every one of the writers and authors of the primary works, I need to (also) mention what has been said regarding the individual’s jarh and ta’dil, and whether his narrations are to be relied upon or not.[55]


However, did al Tusi actually abide by what he said? The answer is as follows. I embarked on an empirical study of al Tusi’s work, which contains 909 biographies (of narrators), and I only found 107 cases from them in which he made tawthiq and twelve cases in which he made jarh! Therefore, the total number of narrators he offered statements of jarh and ta’dil is 119. Some of them are Shia, others are not. With so little rulings, is it then possible for this work to form part of the primary sources?

In describing al Tusi and al Najjashi’s works, al Tustari (d. 1401 AH) states:


أنهما كثيرا يسكتان عن تضعيف الإمامي الضعيف، حيث إن كتابيهما ليسا إلا مجرد فهرست لمن صنّف من الشيعة أو صنّف لهم، دون الممدوحين والمذمومين.

Very often, both remain quiet about the (statement of) weakness of a da’if Imami narrator. This is because both of their works are nothing but an index of Shia authors or those who wrote for them, without mentioning the praiseworthy and objectionable narrators.[56]


Therefore, we can safely say the work is nothing but an index of authors, and not from the works of al Jarh wa al Ta’dil.


4. Rijal al Tusi (Abu Jafar al Tusi)

I acquired the first edition of this work with the editorial notes of Sadiq Bahr al ‘Ulum (d. 1212 A.H). On the first page, he writes:


يحتوي على زهاء (8900) اسم، وهو أحد الكتب الأربعة المعول عليها في رجال الحديث

It contains some 8900 names. It is one of the four relied-upon works in hadith narrators.


However, the version edited by Jawwad al Qayyumi incudes 6429 biographies. Perhaps al Qayyumi did not count the repeated names. In reviewing the copy of Bahr al ‘Ulum, I found that from this large number, al Tusi only made tawthiq of 173 narrators and jarh of another 100. This is according to the amount I calculated—they can possibly add or subtract from this number. Although, 33 narrators whom al Tusi regarded as reliable in al Fahrast, he also regarded them as reliable in Rijal al Tusi.[57]

I noticed Asif Muhsini claim that both the reliable and praiseworthy narrators in Rijal al Tusi amount to 215 and the number of weak and extreme (ghulat) narrators amount to 73, without omitting the repetitions.[58] Therefore, these figures are similar in relation to the total number of narrators, which is approximately 6429; especially considering the difference of opinion among the Rafidah regarding the praiseworthy narrators. A narrator can be considered praiseworthy according to one scholar, and not another. This applies to the calculation of Asif Muhsini since he included the praiseworthy narrators with the reliable ones in his calculation, a calculation in which he included and did not omit the repeated (names).

Perhaps the reason for so few rulings in terms of jarh and tawthiq of narrators in Rijal al Tusi goes back to what al Tustari (d. 1401 AH) said:


إنه أراد استقصاء أصحابهم – عليهم السلام – ومن روى عنهم مؤمنا كان أو منافقا إماميا كان أو عاميا، فعدّ أبا بكر وعمر وعثمان ومعاوية وعمرو بن العاص ونظراءهم في أصحاب النبي – صلى الله عليه وآله – وعد زياد بن أبيه وابنه عبيد الله بن زياد في أصحاب أمير المؤمنين – عليه السلام – وعدّ منصور الدوانيقي في أصحاب الصادق – عليه السلام – بدون ذكر شيء. فالاستناد إليه ما لم يحرز إمامية رجل غير جائز، حتى في أصحاب غير النبي – صلى الله عليه وآله – وأمير المؤمنين – عليه السلام – فكيف في أصحابهم؟

He intended (with his work) an investigation of the companions of the Imams ‘alayh al Salam and those who narrated from them, be he a believer, hypocrite, Imami, or ‘ammi (i.e. sunni). He regarded Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, Muawiyah, ‘Amr ibn al ‘As, and their equals to be among the Companions of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He regarded Ziyad ibn Abihi and his son, ‘Ubaidullah ibn Ziyad among the companions of Amir al Mu’minin ‘alayh al Salam. He regarded Mansur al Dawaniqi among the companions of al Sadiq ‘alayh al Salam without mentioning anything further about them. Therefore, it is not permissible to rely upon it as long as the Imamiyyah [status] of a person has not been preserved, even if they be companions of the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and Amir al Mu’minin ‘alayh al Salam. What then about their companions?[59]  


In short, the work is nothing but a writing on tabaqat; it was not written for al Jarh wa al Ta’dil.


5. Fihrist Asma’ Musannifi al Shia/Rijal al Najjashi by Ahmed ibn ‘Ali ibn al ‘Abbas al Najjashi (d. 540 A.H)

Al Tustari (d. 1401 AH) states:


سمينا كتاب النجاشي فهرستًا لتصريحه بذلك في أول الجزء الثاني منه، فتسمية العلامة [الحلِّي] وابن داود له بالرجال في ترجمته غلط، فإن الرجال ما كان مبنيا على الطبقات دون مجرّد ذكر الأصول والمصنفات فإنه يسمى بالفهرست، ولذا ترى النجاشي يقول في بعضهم: ذكره أصحاب الفهرستات، وفي بعضهم: ذكره أصحاب الرجال.

We termed the work of al Najjashi a “fihrist (index)” because he himself expressly refers to it as such in the beginning of the second chapter. Therefore, for al ‘Allamah (al Hilli) and Ibn Dawood to refer to it as a dictionary of narrator evaluation is incorrect. Dictionaries of narration evaluation are based on tabaqat, not simply mentioning the primary and (related) works—this is termed a fihrist. Therefore, you will see al Najjashi saying about some of them (i.e. narrators), “The people of the fihristat (indices) mentioned him,” and about some (other narrators), “The people of narrator evaluation mentioned him.”[60]


The Fihrist of al Najjashi is much more accurate and better than the previous works. It is the last work of the primary works to be authored. It only mentions the writers of the Shia and those who wrote for them. Jafar al Subhani says:


إن كتابه ليس إلا مجرد فهرس لمن صنف من الشيعة، أو صنف لهم دون الممدوحين والمذمومين

His work is nothing but an index for writers of the Shia, or for those who wrote for them without (mentioning) the praiseworthy and discreditable (narrators).[61]


What is clearly discernible is the fact that al Najjashi did not write this except to fend off the Ahlus Sunnah’s condemnation of them. He states:


فإني وقفت على ما ذكر السيد الشريف من تعيير قوم من مخالفينا أنه لا سلف لكم ولا مصنف

I came across what al Sayed al Sharif mentioned regarding the criticism of a people from among our opposition (stating) that ‘you (i.e. the Shia) have no antecedence nor anything written (i.e. in the field of al Jarh wa al Ta’dil).’”[62]


This proves the existence of an ‘old knot (i.e. feud)’ of theirs in establishing their existence (in the field). The observer will notice that the total number of (narrator) biographies in al Najjashi’s work comes to 1269, of which approximately 45—or slightly more—are majruh (criticized) and approximately 550 are thiqah. He concurred with al Tusi in deeming approximately 70 narrators thiqah. Most of the Shia scholars rely on this work; however, it is possible that some hands got a hold of it and distorted the contents therein. It contains things which give this impression. (For example), in the biography of Muhammad ibn al Hassan ibn Hamzah, al Najjashi states:


مات رحمه الله في يوم السبت، سادس عشر من شهر رمضان، سنة ثلاث وستين وأربع مائة، ودفن في داره

He (i.e. the narrator) died rahimahu Llah on Saturday, the sixteenth of Ramadan, in the year 463. He was buried in his house.[63]


This proves that the biography was inserted into the book after the death of Ahmed ibn ‘Ali al Najjashi. The question here is: How did al Najjashi say that his death was in the year 463 when al Najjashi himself died in the year 450? This affirms that the book contains distortions. It cannot be said that this is merely a slip of the pen (tashif) because the date of death is an entire sentence, not just one word. In investigating biographical works, we find that many scholars of the Shia allude to the flaws in the copies of al Najjashi’s work. Al Tiffarishi (d. 1021 AH) states:


ونقل العلامة [الحلِّي] وابن داود توثيقه من النجاشي، ولم أجد توثيقه فيه وهو أربع نسخ عندي

Al ‘Allamah (al Hilli) and Ibn Dawood transmit the (same) narrator’s tawthiq from al Najjashi. I did not find his tawthiq (transmitted) in it, and I have four copies![64]


In exonerating al Najjashi for not making tawthiq of al Hassan ibn Mahbub, Muhammad Taqi al Tustari states:


لم تصل نسخة من النجاشي صحيحة ولا كاملة إلينا

Neither a complete nor reliable copy of al Najjashi’s work reached us.[65]


The errors are so numerous that perhaps the work is not to be relied upon. At times, there is a drop (saqt) in the names (mentioned). As al Khu’i states:


إن ما في عندنا من نسخة النجاشي والشيخ، سقطا ظاهرا، أما الساقط من نسخة النجاشي فهو كلمة (عن) فيما بين كلمة (أبيه) وكلمة (أيوب)، ولكنها غير ساقطة عن نسخة القهبائي المطبوعة.

There is in the copy we possess of[66] al Najjashi and al Sheikh a clear drop. As for what is dropped in the copy of al Najjashi, it is the word “‘an (from)” in-between the word “abihi (his father)” and the word “Ayub.” However, it is not dropped in the printed version of al Quhba’i.[67]


Whoever pursues this further will find many more similar examples. At times, the drop is in relation to the tawthiq. Al Khu’i states:


وظاهر الميرزا الاسترآبادي: اشتمال نسخة النجاشي التي كانت عنده على التوثيق أيضا، حيث إنه بعد نقله كلام العلامة المشتمل على التوثيق قال: وزاد النجاشي: له كتاب، ونقل الحائري عن حاشية كبيرة للميرزا التصريح بسقوط التوثيق عن كثير من نسخ النجاشي.

Al Mirza al Istarabadi proclaimed that the copy of al Najjashi in his possession included the (author’s) tawthiq as well. After transmitting the words of al ‘Allamah—which include the tawthiq—he says, “And al Najjashi added, ‘He has (written) a book.’” Al Ha’iri transmits from a large commentary (hashiyah kabirah) of al Mirza an explicit statement stating the drop of (al Najjashi’s) tawthiq from numerous copies of al Najjashi’s (work).[68]


Whoever desires to scrutinize the work will soon come to find numerous mistakes. The work of al Najjashi is like the Fihrist of al Tusi; it is not devoted to al Jarh wa al Ta’dil.


6. Al Rijal li Ibn al Ghada’iri (also called al Du’afa’) by Ibn al Ghada’iri Ahmed ibn al Hussain[69]

This work is an area of dispute among the Shia scholars. Differences of opinion therein are numerous. They include those that assert this work is his, and there are others who belie this ascription to Ibn al Ghada’iri (this will be discussed in the upcoming section of al Khu’i’s comments). In fact, in an effort to distort the image of the Shia, they even went as far as attributing the work to the Ahlus Sunnah. In short, the total number of narrators with biographies in the book is 159. The editor of the book, Muhammad Rida al Hussaini, amended the total number of narrators and made it 225. This work is specific to weak narrators. In fact, Ibn al Ghada’iri criticized a number of reliable narrators of the Shia in this work. This caused al Nuri al Tabarsi (d. 1320 AH) to call him extremely critical (ta’an).[70]


What can we determine from these overall numbers?

The total number of narrators who have dedicated rulings of jarh or ta’dil mentioned in the primary works of narrator evaluation of the Shia are more or less as follows:

  • 600 from al Najjashi
  • 273 from al Tusi in Rijal al Tusi (including the repetitions)
  • 119 from al Tusi in his al Fihrist
  • 7 from Rijal al Barqi

If we exclude the repetitions then the total number comes to approximately 999. In short, the narrators do not even reach a thousand. And if we were to omit the 70 which al Najjash and al Tusi in his al Fihrist agree upon, the total would be 926 narrators. This is an approximate calculation, without omitting the repeated narrators. And without mentioning the narrators about whom there is a difference of opinion, an explanation that I do not want to explain here. At best, they do not even reach 900, within which both reliable and impugned narrators are included. Where then, is the claimed legacy of the Shia in these primary works? Is it possible to establish the religion and recognize what is and is not authentic from the Ahlul Bayt with this number of biographies? A number that does not even exceed a thousand, and that too with some compromise and indulgence!

In describing the condition of the early works, Muhammad Rida al Jalali states:


قلة التوثيقات الصريحة في التراث الرجالي والمصادر الرجالية الأولى، وضآلة عدد الموجود منها بالنسبة إلى زرافات الرواة التي تعج بأسمائهم المعاجم الرجالية المتأخرة، وكذلك تزخر بأسمائهم أسانيد الروايات المجموعة في الأصول الحديثية، حيث لم يختص بالتصريح بحالته الرجالية – أعم من التوثيق والتضعيف – سوى ربع المجموع منهم.

The lack of explicit tawthiq in the legacy of narrator evaluation and the primary references of narrator evaluation. (Also,) the small number of these statements that exist in relation to the clusters of narrators that are teeming with their names in the latter-day works (ma’ajim) of narrator evaluation. Similarly, combined with their names, there are an abundance of asanid of narrations that are collected in the primary works of hadith (al usul al hadithiyyah) such that no mention is even made therein of the status of narrators—which is broader (as a category) than (the terms of) tawthiq and tad’if, except for one-fourth of them.[71]


I think one-fourth is much. Al Hassan al Burujirdi states:

رأيت أن في الطائفة الأولى من هذه الكتب نقائص، لإهمالها ذكر كثير ممن تضمنته الأسانيد من [أسماء] الرواة، وعدم تعرضها – في تراجم من ذُكر فيها – لبيان طبقته، وشيوخه الذين روى عنهم، وتلامذته الذين تحملوا عنه، مع أن هذه [الأمور] من أهم ما له دخل في الغرض من ذلك الفن.

I have noticed that the first group of these works contain defects because they fail to mention the names of many narrators as included in the asanid. Also, for the names that are mentioned, there is no attention given to explaining the tabaqah they belong to, their teachers from whom they narrate, and their students who received (knowledge) from them. Even though these (matters) are of the most significant objectives in this science.[72]


Setting aside the serious contradictory statements of al Jarh wa al Ta’dil found in one scholar to the next (in fact, even within one scholar’s own statements), one of the senior scholars of the Imamiyyah discredited al Tusi’s judgements regarding narrators in both his works of narrator evaluation and fiqh, since they contain severe contradictions. As al Kalbasi transmitted for us al Khawaju’i’s opinion regarding the confusion of al Tusi:


أنه يقول في موضع: إن الرجل ثقة، وفي آخر يقول: إنه ضعيف كما في سالم بن مكرم الجمال، وسهل بن زياد ، وأنه قال في الرجال: محمد بن علي بن بلال ثقة، وفي كتاب الغيبة إنه من المذمومين، وأنه قال في العدة: إن عبد الله بن بكير ممن عملت الطائفة بخبره بلا خلاف، وفي الاستبصار في آخر الباب الأول من أبواب الطلاق صرح بما يدل على فسقه وكذبه، وأنه يقول برأيه، وأنه قال في الاستبصار: إن عمار الساباطي ضعيف لا يعمل بروايته، وفي العدة: لم تزل الطائفة تعمل بما يرويه، وأنه قد ادعى عمل الطائفة بأخبار الفطحية مثل عبد الله بن بكير وغيره، وأخبار الواقفية مثل سماعه بن مهران، وعلي بن أبي حمزة، وعثمان بن عيسى، وبني  فضَّال، والطاطريين، مع أنا لم نجد أحدا من الأصحاب وثق علي بن أبي حمزة البطائني، أو عمل بروايته إذا انفرد بها؛ لأنه خبيث واقفي كذاب مذموم.

In one place, he says: ‘The narrator is thiqah.’ And in another place, he says (about the same narrator): ‘He is da’if.’ As is the case of Salim ibn Mukram al Jamal and Sahl ibn Ziyad. In Rijal al Tusi, he states that Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Bilal is thiqah, and in al Ghunyah he says he is of the reprehensible narrators. In al ‘Iddah fi Usul al Fiqh, he states: “‘Abdullah ibn Bukayr is of such narrators whom the Ta’ifah (i.e. the Shia) have acted upon his reports without any difference of opinion.” In al Istibsar, under the final chapter of divorce, he clearly states that which indicates to his (i.e. ‘Abdullah ibn Bukayr’s) transgression, lies, and to the fact that he exercises his own opinion. In al Istibsar, he says that ‘Ammar al Sabati is da’if and his narrations are not to be acted upon. In al ‘Iddah, he states that the Ta’ifah (i.e. the Shia) have always acted on what he narrates. And he claimed the Ta’ifah acted on the reports of the Fathiyyah[73] such as ‘Abdullah ibn Bukayr and others. And the reports of the Waqifiyyah[74] such as his sama’ (audition) from Ibn Mihran, ‘Ali ibn Abi Hamzah, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Isa, Bani Faddal, and the Tatariyyin. This, despite the fact that we have not found anyone that considered ‘Ali ibn Abi Hamzah al Bata’ini reliable or having acted on his narrations when he transmits them in isolation. This is because he is an evil, reprehensible, lying waqifi.[75]


It suffices to say that these contradictions appear in the most important works of narrator evaluation, the works of Sheikh al Ta’ifah!

When we revert back to the total number of narrators in the four primary works of the fourth and fifth centuries—a number that does not exceed a thousand—how then is it possible for the contemporary al Shahrudi to deal with just about 18189 narrators in his work Mustadrakat ‘Ilm al Rijal! Similarly, al Khu’i; he collected 15706 narrators in his Mujam Rijal al Hadith! Likewise, ‘Abdullah al Mamaqani (d. 1351 A.H); he collected 13360 narrators in Tanqih al Maqal!

This proves to us that the remaining scholars of the Shia who came after this time met with an enormous void such that they encountered thousands of narrators’ names about whom nothing was known in all the works; until the four works, upon which the entire school (of the Shia) is based. And whoever was mentioned in the books of narrator evaluation, as I stated previously, he is usually not void of any contradictions related to al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. If he is void of such, only his name is mentioned! Or he is of the thousand (narrators) that have a jarh or tawthiq (mentioned about them).

As such, this void led to confusion and contradiction among the latter-day scholars, those wanting to know the relevant rulings on the asanid and what is and is not authentic. This resulted in every scholar having their own particular methodology in evaluating narrators as thought up by his ijtihad (independent reasoning). Therefore, in most instances, others would not agree to what that particular scholar concluded. And this is the reason for the numerous principles of the Imamiyyah scholars in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil; principles that were reproduced so as to repair the deficiency and reduce the number of majhul (unknown) narrators.

These are the six that are mentioned as the primary works. However, Jafar al Subhani attempted to forcibly introduce several (other) works into the primary works of narrator evaluation. In all likelihood, this attempt by al Subhani is nothing but an act of promoting the school of the Shia; by increasing (the amount of) what they consider the primary works upon which the school stands. Al Subhani mentions that the primary works of narrator evaluation are eight, namely: 1) Rijal al Kashshi, 2) Fihrist al Najjashi, 3) Rijal al Tusi, 4) Fihrist al Tusi, 5) Rijal al Barqi, 6) Risalat Abi Ghalib al Zarari, 7) Mashyakhat al Faqih of al Saduq, and 8) Mashyakhat al Tusi.[76] We notice that he did not mention the work of al Ghada’iri; instead, he replaced it with the Risalah of al Zurari, the Mashyakhah of al Saduq, and the Mashyakhah of al Tusi. However, we would ask al Subhani: Are these works suitable for being regarded as the primary works of narrator evaluation by means of which al Jarh wa al Ta’dil can be established? Let us have a look at and evaluate the extra works that he included.


1. Risalah of Abu Ghalib al Zurari[77]

Al Subhani states:

هذه الرسالة على صغر حجمها تعد من الأصول الرجالية وهي بعينها مندرجة في (كشكول) المحدث البحراني

This work, despite its small size, forms part of the primary works of narrator evaluation and is the very same work inserted in the (Kashkul) of al Muhaddith al Bahrani.[78]


I checked the Kashkul of al Bahrani (d. 1186 AH) and found that the work itself does not exceed seventeen pages. It represents a letter that Abu Ghalib al Zurari sent to a grandson informing him about his native family, Al A’yan. He speaks about their ancestry, children, womenfolk, heritage, residences, plantations/estates, and something of their affairs (akhbar). He concludes the work advising his grandson to memorize several books that he left behind for him with his mother for safekeeping. Al Zurari mentions the various modes through which he receives these books. For example, he says:


كتاب غياث بن إبراهيم حدثني به جدي (ره) عن محمد بن الحسين عن محمد بن يحيى الخزاز عن غياث مجلس لابن هلال، حدثني جدي (ره) عن أحمد بن هلال

The book of Ghiyath ibn Ibrahim was narrated to me by my grandfather rahimahu Llah – from Muhammad ibn al Hussain – from Muhammad ibn Yahya al Khazzaz – from Ghiyath. The Majlis of Ibn Hilal was narrated to be by my grandfather rahimahu Llah – from Ahmed ibn Hilal.[79]


In a similar fashion, he presents the remaining books. Thus, the book simply ends by mentioning the names of the grandfather’s teachers, nothing more. Although, he does praise a handful of narrators such as Muhammad ibn al Hassan ibn Mihzayar, Humaid ibn Ziyad, Abu ‘Abdullah ibn Thabit, Ahmed ibn Rabah and his uncle, Humran, ‘Abdullah ibn Bukayr and ‘Ali ibn ‘Asim. If this is the condition of the Risalah, how can it be counted among the primary works of the (Shia) school in al Jarh wa al Ta’dil? In fact, a number of chains that he mentioned for the works are problematic. The previous chain of narration is sufficient proof; it contains Ahmed ibn Hilal. Regarding him, al Tusi states:

كان غاليا متهما في دينه

He was a radical (and) suspected in his religion.[80]


Ibn al Mutahhar al Hilli said he was da’if.[81] In fact, al Najjashi—a contemporary of Abu Ghalib—disapproved of his narration from those that are not eligible to narrate. For example, al Najjashi states under the biography of Jafar ibn Muhammad ibn Malik ibn ‘Isa ibn Sabur:


كان ضعيفا في الحديث، قال أحمد بن الحسين كان يضع الحديث وضعا ويروي عن المجاهيل، وسمعت من قال: كان أيضا فاسد المذهب والرواية، ولا أدري كيف روى عنه شيخنا النبيل الثقة أبو علي بن همام، وشيخنا الجليل الثقة أبو غالب الزراري رحمهما الله

He was da’if in hadith. Ahmed ibn al Hussain said that he used to grossly forge hadith and narrate from unknown persons. I heard someone say that he believed in corrupt doctrines and was misguided in his narration of hadith. I do not know how our teachers, Abu ‘Ali ibn Humam and Abu Ghalib al Zurari narrated from him.[82]


Therefore, the man does not actually care—based on the apparent text of al Najjashi—who he narrates from. So how then can he rely on the likes of him, considering the fact that al Bahrani (d. 1186 A.H) does not mention for us in his Kashkul the source for this Risalah that is attributed to al Zurari. Neither does he mention its isnad and how he acquired it. If he found an isnad for it in another source, can it form part of the primary works if this is its condition?

Therefore, I do not know how al Subhani accepted this work—which does not exceed twenty pages in the Kashkul of al Bahrani—to be one of the primary sources to recognize the condition of a narrator, whether a jarh or tawthiq!

Before concluding my remarks on this work, I will mention the statement of Aqa Buzurg al Tahrani speaking about the Kashkul of Yusuf al Bahrani:


فيه فوائد كثيرة منها أنه أدرج فيه تمام رسالة أبي غالب الزراري إلى ابن ابنه التي مر بعنوان الإجازة

There are numerous benefits in this work. Among them, he included the entire Letter of Abu Ghalib al Zurari (Risalat Abi Ghalib al Zurari) to his son—which is included under the section ‘ijazah.[83]


The Risalah is precisely what Aqa Buzurg called it, an ijazah (i.e. a license to transmit). In it, the author mentions his teachers and some aspects of the life of family. It is not a work of hadith transmitter criticism. In fact, more than this is the fact that Muhammad Rida al Hussaini—the editor and the individual responsible for converting it into a separate work—admitted:

بأن النسخة المحققة تخلو عن أيّة إجازة، أو إنهاء سماع أو بلاغ، أو ما يشبهها

The edited copy is void of any sort of ijazah, or transmission via sama’, or balagh (i.e. using the words balagha (it reached us) as a form of transmission), or whatever resembles these.”[84]


This, despite the fact that he attempted to establish its transmission via a number of chains that are unacceptable in (the realm of) academic research.


2. Mashyakhat[85] al Tusi fi Tahdhib al Ahkam

Al Tusi mentions the mashyakhah at the end of his work Tahdhib al Ahkam. The reason he mentioned them (there) is because he omitted the asanid that connect him to the authors of the works that he quotes from. He begins (i.e. in Tahdhib al Ahkam) by mentioning (the name of) the work’s author and the isnad that connects him to the infallible (imam). He did this in order to make the work easier (for the reader) and for the sake of brevity[86]. Then, he mentions at the end of the work his various chains of transmission for each of the author’s works in such a manner where, before mentioning them, he states in his Mashyakhah:


والآن فحيث وفق الله تعالى للفراغ من هذا الكتاب نحن نذكر الطرق التي يتوصل بها إلى رواية هذه الأصول والمصنفات ونذكرها على غاية ما يمكن من الاختصار لتخرج الأخبار بذلك عن حد المراسيل وتلحق بباب المسندات.

And now, in so far as Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala gave tawfiq (divine ability to achieve success) to complete this work, we will mention the chains through which we reach the transmission of these primary and (other) authored works. We are mentioning them as concisely as possible, so the reports come out of the realm of marasil (halted reports) and be included among the musnadat (connected reports).[87]


He then begins mentioning the asanid, one by one. For example, he says:


وما ذكرته عن علي بن الحسن الطاطري، فقد أخبرني به أحمد بن عبدون، عن علي بن محمد بن الزبير، عن أبي الملك، أحمد بن عمر بن كيسبة، عن علي بن الحسن الطاطري

And whatever I have mentioned on the authority of ‘Ali ibn al Hassan al Tatari, I was informed of it by Ahmed ibn ‘Abdun – from ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al Zubair – from Abu al Malik Ahmed ibn ‘Umar ibn Kaysabah – from ‘Ali ibn al Hassan al Tatari.[88]


And like this, there is nothing but the mentioning of chains of transmission in this Mashyakhah. What is the difference between this and him mentioning the complete asanid in the work (as opposed to the end) other than for the sake of brevity? There is no difference. Al Subhani’s inclusion of this among the primary works on narrator evaluation is nothing but an attempt at snowballing their number of primary works. And after examining this Mashyakhah, it becomes evident that al Tusi did not make tawthiq of any of the narrators! It is simply his recording of the chains of transmission, nothing else. Does it make sense for us to regard this as part of the primary works?


3. Mashyakhat al Faqih[89] (Ibn Babawayh al Qummi)

This is an entirely similar concept to the Mashyakhah of al Tusi, except that Ibn Babawayh al Qummi discussed eight narrators in this small work (which includes all the variant chains of narration of his work), no more. Of these eight, he only made tawthiq of two.[90] For the remaining six, he only mentions narrations that praise them, without mentioning the authenticity, or lack thereof of these narrations. Also, he does so without mentioning his personal opinion about them. In assuming what al Subhani transmitted from al Tusi—i.e. the fact that al Tusi made tawthiq of these eight and left out mentioning the status of tens of narrators—is it still possible after this for Mashyakhat al Faqih to be one of the primary works for knowing the jarh and ta’dil of narrators? This is the reality of the primary works of narrator evaluation which they draw from, some of which are presumed to be of the primary works.


The phase of the latter-day scholars’ works (sixth century)

After the scholars of the Shia reached the phase of the fifth century in which they collected the primary sources of narrator evaluation, a new period of writing began. It is the period of works of the latter-day scholars which are based on the primary sources of their predecessors. This period, which stretches from the sixth century until our current time, is generally characterized by an effort to conclude the status of narrators (i.e. whether they are acceptable or not) and decide what the preponderant views are between those that appear in the primary works. Al Hussain al Burujirdi accurately described the works of this phase and the subsequent ones up until our time. He states:


لا تفي بغرضها شيئًا إذ لم يبحثوا فيها عما هو موضوعها وهو أسانيد الروايات بأشخاصها، بل [قاموا] باستقرائها استقراءًا ناقصا، كل حسب وسعه، واستنبطوا منها قضايا كلية ذكروها في تلك الكتب على وجه الفتوى، أو استشهدوا عليها بشواهد قليلة من جزئياتها، مما لا يوجب للمحصل علمًا ولا ظنًا، ولا يخرجه عن حد التقليد باعًا ولا وشبرًا. ولأجل ذلك صارت تلك الكتب متروكة عند أهل العلم رأسا.

They did not fulfill anything of their purpose since they (i.e. the authors of these works) did not examine in these works what the subject-matter actually entails: the asanid of the narrations according to the individuals (who narrate them). In fact, they undertook an empirical study which was incomplete. Everyone, according to his (own) ability. They derived therefrom general propositions which they mentioned in those works in the form of fatwa (legal opinion). Or they attested to it with few evidences from its parts. All of which does not engender conclusive nor speculative knowledge for the acquisitor, and it does not remove him neither a hand nor arm span from the boundary of sheer imitation. For this reason, these works were considered discarded by the people of knowledge.[91]


The following works of this phase are:

1. Al Fihrist by Muntakhab al Din ‘Ali ibn Muwaffaq al Din ‘Ubaidullah ibn Babawayh al Qummi (d. 548 A.H)

This al Qummi is different to Ibn Babawayh al Qummi.

Al Subhani[92] and al Fadli[93] mention that this work is specific to biographies of Shia writers. According to al Fadli, it contains 533 biographies. And according to the opinion of al Subhani, it contains 540 biographies. In my copy of the book, with the editorial notes of ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al Tabtaba’i, it contains 553 biographies.[94] There is no difference of opinion among the scholars of the Shia that this work is not regarded as a primary source of narrator evaluation, despite the fact that it was the first work authored after the previous primary works.[95] It is a work that mentions the scholars of the Imamiyyah and their works, nothing else. It is not much relied upon for research purposes.


2. Ma’alim al ‘Ulama’ by Rashid al Din Muhammad ibn ‘Ali, known as Ibn Shahr Ashub (d. 588 A.H)

Ibn Shahr Ashub states in the introduction of his work:


هذا كتاب معالم العلماء في فهرست كتب الشيعة وأسماء المصنفين قديما، وحديثا، وإن كان جمع شيخنا أبو جعفر الطوسي رضي الله عنه في ذلك العصر ما لا نظير له إلا أن هذا المختصر فيه زوائد وفوائد، فيكون إذن تتمة له، وقد زدت فيه نحوا من ستمائة مصنف وأشرت إلى المحذوف من كتابه.

This work, Ma’alim al ‘Ulama’ fi Fihrist Kutub al Shia wa Asma’ al Musannifin Qadiman wa Hadithan—despite the fact that our sheikh, Abu Jafar al Tusi, gathered what he did in an unparalleled fashion—is an abridgement that contains numerous additional beneficial information. It is, therefore, a supplement to it. I have added approximately 600 (other) works and (also) alluded to what has been omitted from his work.[96]


It becomes apparent from the words of the author that his work is nothing but an index of names for the authors of books. In perusing the work, I found that it contained 1012 biographies. Additionally, the author added the names of those whom he calls ‘the poets of the Ahlul Bayt.’ He adds tens of biographies with no reference to their jarh or ta’dil and simply mentions their names. When he does give a ruling of jarh or ta’dil, he does not mention a basis for it. It is simply words that are incompletely transmitted; he does not mention the source for what he is saying. I was amazed at Jafar al Subhani’s statement:


وقد أصبح معالم العلماء من المدارك المهمة لعلماء الرجال، كالعلامة الحلِّي في الخلاصة ومن بعده

Ma’alim al ‘Ulama’ has become an important tool of understanding for the scholars of narrator evaluation such as ‘Allamah al Hilli in al Khulasah and those after him.[97]


In coming to know and studying the Khulasah of al Hilli, I did not find him quoting from this work except in only two instances! Therefore, the words of al Subhani are nothing but a means of propaganda for the work, nothing more. If this is not the case, how can it be an “important tool” when he only referred to it twice—according to what I found? Unless this type of exaggeration forms part of the methodology used by Jafar al Subhani.


The phase of the seventh century

The writings in narrator evaluation during this century followed another trajectory. The scholars of the Shia differed about the reality of this period. At times, we see ‘Abdul Hadi al Fadli mentioning Ibn al Bitriq (d. 600 A.H) in his work Rijal al Shia as being responsible for the beginning (of scholarship) in this century. Then, in his (other) work Hall al Ishkal fi Ma’rifat al Rijal, he attaches Ibn Tawus (d. 664 A.H) to it (i.e. the beginning of scholarship).[98] We see that al Subhani neglected both of these works and did not even touch on them! However, what al Fadli concluded was more accurate that what al Subhani left out. As for Ibn al Bitriq’s work, I was unable to find it. What is apparent from the words of al Fadli is that the actual work does not even exist, only its name. As for what al Fadli mentioned about the fact that Ibn Hajar al ‘Asqalani rahimahu Llah and Jalal al Din al Suyuti rahimahu Llah (d. 911 A.H) relied on it in their respective works Lisan al Mizan[99] and Bughyat al Wu’at fi Tabaqat al Lughawiyyin wa al Nuhat[100], this is incorrect. Therefore, it is not possible to provide a ruling on the work since we know nothing of it except for its name.

As for the work of Ibn Tawus Hall al Ishkal fi Ma’rifat al Rijal, even though it is also missing (this is habitually the case for the works of the Shia), it has had an impact present in our time. Hereunder is an account of this work and the others of this period.


1. Hall al Ishkal fi Ma’rifat al Rijal (Ibn Tawus)

Ibn Tawus authored this book in an attempt to fix the mistakes and dispel the contradictions that he saw in the works of narrator evaluation, especially the work of al Kashshi. In this work the author collected all the previously mentioned primary works except for, as he states:


واختص كتاب الاختيار من كتاب الكشي بنوعي عناء لم يحصلا في غيره؛ لأنه غير منسوق على حروف المعجم، فنسقته وغير ذلك من تحرير دبرته، ثم القصد إلى تحقيق الأسانيد المتعلقة بالقدح في الرجال والمدح حسبما اتفق لي، وما أعرف أن أحدا سبقني إلى هذا على مر الدهر وسالف العصر، وقد يكون عذر من ترك أوضح من عذر من فعل، ووجه عذري ما نبهت عليه، أن الكتاب المذكور ملتبس جدا.

The work al Ikhtiyar of al Kashshi, in particular, has two problems which others do not have. It is not arranged in alphabetical order, and so I arranged it accordingly. This is in addition to other things I expounded upon and organized. Thereafter, the objective was to scrutinize the asanid that are connected to narrators that have been both criticized and praised, according to what concurs with me. I am unaware of anyone that has preceded me in this regard, throughout the ages. The excuse for the person leaving this work out (and doing nothing with it) is perhaps more obvious than actually doing something (with it). My excuse (for doing something with it) is what I have already mentioned: the aforementioned work is very confusing.[101]


Therefore, the work is considered an attempt at salvaging whatever was possible from the inconsistencies found in the work of al Kashshi and others. However, as I mentioned previously, the work is lost. I found a significantly damaged copy that was transferred, by way of inheritance, to Hassan ibn Zayn al Din (al Shahid al Thani) (d. 965 A.H). When he brought out the work, al Shahid al Thani said:


إني لم أظفر لكتاب السيد رحمه الله بنسخة، غير نسخة الأصل التي أغلبها بخط المصنف، وقد أصابها تلف في أكثر المواضع، بحيث صار نسخ الكتاب بكماله متعذرا

I was unable to find a copy of al Sayed’s work except for the original copy of which most of it is the author’s (own) writing. It was damaged in most places such that copying the entire book turned out to be impossible.[102]


In short, he restricted himself to what Ibn Tawus mentioned regarding the work of al Kashshi, without (mentioning) the other works. Therefore, the reality of al Tahrir al Tawusi of al Shahid al Thani, which is printed today, is a selection and abridgement of the work Hall al Ishkal.

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2. Rijal Ibn Dawood by Taqiyy al Din al Hassan ibn ‘Ali ibn Dawood al Hilli (d. 707 A.H)

Ibn Dawood al Hilli is a contemporary of Ibn al Mutahhar al Hilli. Both him and Ibn al Mutahhar al Hilli studied under Ibn Tawus, the author of Hall al Ishkal. He is the first person to divide the work into two sections: the first section is dedicated to mentioning the muwaththaqin and muhmalin (reliable and neglected narrators)[103], and the second to the majruhin and majhulin (impugned and unknown narrators).[104]

The work is a matter of great dispute among the scholars of the Shia on account of numerous errors and mistakes. Quoting from al Fadil al Tustari[105], al Majlisi states in Maladhdh al Akhyar:


كتاب ابن داود مما لم أجده صالحا للاعتماد، لما ظفرنا عليه من الخلل الكثير في النقل عن المتقدمين، وفي تنقيد الرجال والتمييز بينهم، ويظهر ذلك بأدنى تتبع للموارد التي نقل ما في كتابه منهم.

The work of Ibn Dawood is of those that I did not find suitable to be relied upon because of the numerous defects we discovered in (his) narrating from the earlier generation, and in examining/criticizing narrators and distinguishing between them. This becomes clear with the least amount of scrutiny applied to the places where he narrates from them in his work.[106]


Al Kalbasi transmitted from the author of al Hawi the statement:


واعلم أني لم أعتمد على كتاب ابن داود وإن كان حسن الترتيب، واضح المسلك؛ لأني وجدت فيه أغلاطا كثيرة تنبئ عن قلة الضبط. نعم، ربما أذكر كلامه في بعض المواضع شاهدا أو لأمر ما.

And know well that I did not rely upon the work of Ibn Dawood, even though it is well organized and clearly laid out. This is because I found numerous errors which stem from the lack of precision (dabt). Yes, I do mention his statements in certain instances as testimonial evidence, or for whatever (appropriate) reason.[107]


After mentioning some of his errors, ‘Abdul Hadi al Fadli states:


كانت هذه الملاحظة مثار خلاف في تقييم الكتاب، ومدى صحة الاعتماد عليه عند الرجاليين المتأخرين

This observation is a matter of dispute in the work’s evaluation, and the extent of its validity for the latter-day narrator scholars.[108]


The book is no more than a compilation of the previous primary works and a means of giving preponderance between the views of its authors. The method of the latter-day scholars is mostly characteristic of this form of writing.[109] Hussain al Sa’idi states:


أهمية الكتاب وفائدته فيما نقله عن كتب القدماء المفقودة التي لم نجد لها نصوصا

The importance and benefit of the work is in his transmitting from the lost works of the earlier scholars, the texts of which we cannot find.[110]

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3. Khulasat al Aqwal by Ibn al Mutahhar al Hilli[111]

In general, this work is similar to Ibn Dawood’s work. As such, the references are practically one and the same, as are the statements and rulings pertaining to the narrators. Jafar al Subhani detailed a comparative analysis between the works of al Hilli and Ibn Dawood.[112]


The phase after the seventh century

‘Abdul Hadi al Fadli states:

وفي القرنين، التاسع والعاشر ضَمُرَ التأليف في أسماء الرجال، ثم عاد إلى نشاطه في القرن الحادي عشر بشكل تشكل فيه كثرة ظاهرة فارقة

In the two centuries, the ninth and tenth, writings in dictionaries of narrator evaluation subsided. Then it returned to its activity in the eleventh century in a manner in which a great number of distinct phenomena were formed.[113


After listing several of these works, Jafar al Subhani states:

هذه الأصول الأولية الثمانية والثانوية لعلم الرجال

These are the eight primary and secondary works in the science of narrator evaluation.[114]


Some pages later, he says:


وقد وقفت على الأصول الرجالية، وهناك جوامع رجالية مطبوعة ومنتشرة يجب على القارئ الكريم التعرف عليها، وهذه الجوامع أُلفت في أواخر القرن العاشر إلى أواخر القرن الثاني عشر.

I came across the primary sources of narrator evaluation; there are (other) printed collections on narrator evaluation that are widespread which the honorable reader need be aware of. These collections were authored in the late tenth to late twelfth centuries.[115]


Like this, we find al Fadli and al Subhani recording the history of the sciences of narrator evaluation; by skipping the eighth century. Both of their statements agree in the omission of this century. Therefore, it would have been more suitable for al Fadli to mention the eighth century as well in his previous statement, “In the two centuries, the ninth and tenth, writings in dictionaries of narrator evaluation subsided.” Al Subhani should have (also) mentioned the decline in the ninth century since he said that the collections (jawami’) were “authored in end of the tenth century.”

In short, the remaining works detailing narrator evaluation that emerged in the tenth century right up to our time, as well as everything that was authored during this period, and the time of Ibn Tawus and his student are, as I mentioned, nothing but recollections of the Four Primary works as well as an offering of the preponderant opinion  (tarjih) among them (i.e. the various opinions). In fact, you will only find nothing in these works except for what the Shia scholar, Muhammad Rida al Jalali stated:


لا يشاهد في أكثر المؤلفات المتأخرة غير التكرار الممل لما سبق، والإعادة من غير جديد إفادة، مع تكثير التصحيفات المشينة، أو ذكر الاحتمالات البعيدة، مما يزيد الطالب مشّقةً وعناءً، ويورطه في التزام الفرضيات العقلية المتناهية البعد عن الواقع، فيعرقل مسيرة عمله ودراسته، وبحثه، ويكدّر صفاء ذهنه.

In most of the latter-day works, nothing but tedious repetition of what has been previously mentioned is seen. Repetition with nothing new of benefit. In addition to the many scandalous distortions, or the mentioning of farfetched possibilities; all of which makes it more difficult and troublesome for the student (of knowledge). It implicates him in committing to the mental hypotheses that are extremely far from reality, thereby hindering the course of his work, study, and research, all the while muddying the clarity of his mind.[116]


In another place he says:

المشاهد في بعض المؤلفات المتأخرة، المتّسمة بِكِبر الحجم وتكديس المنقولات

What is clearly discernable in some of the latter-day literature is their large size(s) and the mere amassment of (earlier) transmitted statements![117]


This is what the student goes through when he studies these latter-day works. Until it eventually led to one of the senior scholars of the Imamiyyah writing an encyclopedia under the title Mustadrakat ‘Ilm al Rijal. He is none other than ‘Ali al Namazi al Shahrudi (d. 1405 A.H). The author gathered thousands of narrators who have had nothing written about them for over a thousand years! Here is his exact wording:


جمعت – بحمد الله تعالى – فيه أسامي آلاف من رواة أحاديث الشيعة، من رجال المشايخ الثلاثة في الكتب الأربعة المشهورة، وغيرهم في غيرها، فذكروا 200 رجل يسمى بإبراهيم وذكرت 527 منهم 286 لم يذكروهم، وذكروا 319 رجلا مسمى بأحمد وذكرت 1271، منهم 840 لم يذكروهم، وذكروا 1350 محمدا وذكرت 2565، منهم 1370 لم يذكروهم، وذكروا 356 حسنا وذكرت 817، منهم 426 لم يذكروهم، وذكروا 308 حسينا وذكرت 673، منهم 334 لم يذكروهم. وهكذا في سائر الأسماء، ولا أذكر ممن ذكروه إلا من لنا مزيد بيان في حقه من رفع الجهالة، أو الضعف عنه، أو جعله ممن روى عنهم (عليهم السلام)، أو إدراكه وصحبته لإمام أزيد مما تعرضوا له، أو باعتبار الراوي والمروي عنه، كل ذلك مع تعيين المدرك والدليل.

I have collected—praise be to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala—in it the names of thousands of narrators of Shia ahadith from the three mashayikh of the four famous works, and others. They mentioned 200 men named Ibrahim and I mentioned 527, 286 of which they did not mention. They mentioned 319 men named Ahmed and I mentioned 1271, 840 of which they did not mention. They mentioned 1350 men named Muhammad and I mentioned 2565, 1370 of which they did not mention. They mentioned 356 men named Hassan and I mentioned 817, of which 426 they did not mention. They mentioned 3081 men named Hussain and I mentioned 673, of which 334 they did not mention. And in a similar fashion, all the remaining names. I did not mention those whom they mentioned unless we had more information about him in terms of removing his unknownness (jahalah) or weakness from him. Or making the narrator from those who narrate from them ‘alayh al Salam. Or (the fact that) he (i.e. the narrator) met and had companionship with an imam—I have mentioned more than what they did. Or in consideration of the narrator and what has been narrated from him. All of this stipulated with reason and proof.[118]


Al Shahrudi mentioned 18189 biographies in his Mustadrakat!

This is the general state of biographical works. If we reflect on the thousands (of narrators) about whom nothing has been said, as al Shahrudi states, how many asanid can they be dispensed into?

This means that prior to the writing of this work, the researcher would find it difficult and practically impossible to know the status of a narrator which was not mentioned before in the biographical works. This results in a standstill for thousands of asanid. Or the ruling of a narrator’s condition would be pure conjecture. In fact, even al Shahrudi who named his work al Mustadrakat (The Amendments) did not provide rulings on many narrators!

This is the intellectual legacy that both Ibn al Mutahhar al Hilli and Abu al Qasim al Khu’i built all the principles upon which they relied on for their rulings on narrators!


NEXT⇒ 3.0 The lack of sciences by the Shia Imamiyyah in the field of ‘ilm al rijal

[1] Hussain al Radi: Tarikh ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 9.

[2] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 13.

[3] Al Khu’i: Mujam Rijal al Hadith, 12:70 (at the end of ‘Ubaidullah ibn Rafi’’s biography).

[4] Al Bukhari writes: “‘Ubaidullah ibn Abi Rafi’, the mawla of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He heard (from) ‘Ali and Abu Hurairah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. Busr ibn Sa’id, Muhammad ibn ‘Ali, al Hassan ibn Muhammad, and al A’raj heard his hadith regarding the people of Madinah from him. See: al Tarikh al Kabir, 5:381.

[5] Jafar al Subhani: Kulliyat fi ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 57.

[6] Hassan al Sadr: Nihayat al Dirayah, p. 25.

[7] Hassan al Radi: Tarikh ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 29.

[8] Ibid, p. 61.

[9] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 32.

[10] Al Subhani: Kulliyat ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 57.

[11] Aqa Buzurg al Tahrani: al Dhari’ah ila Tasanif al Shia, 1/81.

[12] Al Khu’i: Mujam Rijal al Hadith, 1/45.

[13] Al Bahbudi: Ma’rifat al Hadith wa Tarikh Nashrihi wa Tadwinihi wa Thaqafatihi ‘inda al Shia al Imamiyyah, p. 82-83.

[14] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 33.

[15] In describing these lost works—which represents the first phase of writing in narrator evaluation, as the Shia claim—Hussain al Sa’idi states: “During this phase of writing, it is observed that the scholars only attached importance in mentioning the names and tabaqat (classes). Rarely would they operate in the field of authenticating and inauthenticating (reports).” See: al Du’afa’, 1/50. In fact, this is applicable to everything the Shia refer to as “Usul al Tarajm,” or the foundations of narrator biographies. Their writings, which they refer to as “the works of the early (scholars)” are names that are applied to (works of) tabaqat, or to simply enumerating their works; without any recourse to mention the status of the person in question in terms of his reliability or weakness. This is the case in most instances.

[16] Hussain al Radi: Tarikh ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 110.

[17] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 72.

[18] There is a difference of opinion regarding the exact year he passed away.

[19] The author is referring to Surah al Tariq, 7. [Translator’s note]

[20] Ahmed al Barqi: Rijal al Barqi, biography no. 14.

[21] Ibid, biography no. 884. The scholar Jawwad al Qayyumi has replaced the words “jismi ru’iyy” (which appears in the version of Mu’assasat al Nashr in the University of Tehran – 1383 AH) with “hasbama ruwiya (as narrated)”. In Qamus al Rijal of al Tustari, the words “jismi radi (evil anthropomorphist)” appear (10:552). With this accusation, the scholars of the Shia have attempted to make the personal pronoun (damir) (in the statement) refer to Abu Shakir al Zindiq. However, the context rejects such a claim.

[22] Ibid, biography no. 73.

[23] Ibid, biography no. 1594.

[24] Ibid, biography no. 572.

[25] Ibid, biography no. 880.

[26] Ibid, biography no. 1613.

[27] Aqa Buzurg al Tahrani: al Dhari’ah, 15/147 (see p. 145 under the title which al Tahrani refers to as Kitab al Tabaqat.

[28] The editor of the work prefers the opinion that the author is Ahmed al Barqi, not his father. See p. 19. Similarly, Bahr al ‘Ulum, al Sayed Muhammad Mahdi prefers the opinion that it is the work of Ahmed al Barqi, and not his father. See: al Fawa’id al Rijaliyyah, 4:156.

[29] Muhammad al Jalali mentions that the works of history do not mention his date of birth nor death; however, they mention him in the category of scholars of the fourth century A.H. See: Dirayat al Hadith, p. 404.

[30] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 34.

[31] Abu al Ma’ali al Kalbasi: al Rasa’il al Rijaliyyah, 3/180. The al Kalbasi referred to here is Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al Kalbasi Abu al Ma’ali (d. 1315 AH). He is different to Abu al Huda al Kalbasi (d. 1356 A.H), the author of the work Sama’ al Maqal.

[32] Abu al Huda al Kalbasi: Sama’ al Maqal fi ‘Ilm al Rijal, 1/90.

[33] Al Shahid al Thani: Rasa’il al Shahid al Thani (tab’ah hajariyyah), p. 67. I did not find the words “from somewhere else” in Rasa’il al Shahid al Thani. Rather, I found it as an addition in the work al Rasa’il al Rijaliyyah of Abu al Ma’ali al Kalbasi (2/303). I also found it in Sama’ al Maqal fi ‘Ilm al Rijal of Abu al Huda al Kalbasi (1/91).

[34] Muhammad Taqi al Tustari: Qamus al Rijal, 1/58 (in the twenty-first section of the introduction, under al Musahhaf wa al Muharraf min Nusakh tilka al Kutub.

[35] Al Tusi: Ikhtiyar Ma’rifat al Rijal (Rijal al Kashshi), p. 133, narration number 208.

[36] Ibid, p. 148-49, narration number 237. Regarding this narration, Muhsin al Amin says: “The sanad is authentic.” See: A’yan al Shia, 7/50.

[37] As in biography numbers 1087 and 1080.

[38] See biography numbers 973, 1034, 1067, 1069, 1124, and many others.

[39] Ahmed al Najjashi: Rijal al Najjashi, p. 372, biography no. 1018.

[40] Al Hilli: Khulasat al Aqwal, p. 247, biography no. 838.

[41] Abu al Huda al Kalbasi: Sama’ al Maqal fi ‘Ulum al Rijal, 1:80. The editor of the work (Muhammad al Hussaini al Qazwini) alluded to the statement of al Taqi al Majlisi in Rawdat al Muttaqin, 14/445.

[42] Ibid, 1/80.

[43] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 35.

[44] Abu ‘Ali al Ha’iri: Muntaha al Maqal, 6/144. Al Ha’iri transmits what he says from his teachers.

[45] Al Kalbasi has a long discussion concerning the errors of al Kashshi. See his work: al Rasa’il al Rijaliyyah, 2/299.

[46] Muhammad al Jalali: Dirayat al Hadith, p. 406.

[47] Al Mustafawi: al Muqaddimah, p. 15.

[48] Al Nuri al Tabrasi: Khatimat al Mustadrak, 3/287.

[49] Mustafa al Tafrashi: Naqd al Rijal, 1/351.

[50] I did not find anyone mention the number of biographies in al Kashshi’s work; even in the best print (of the book) I came across, al Mustafi’s print. Therefore, I was forced to count the number of narrators with biographies from the beginning of the work. The number reached 534, including many repeated names. This quick count further emphasises that the amount of biographies does not exceed 560. If it is more, it is not much more. And if it is less, it surely will not exceed this amount by much. In short, this count gives (us) an overall impression of the existing number.

[51] Al Bahbudi: Ma’rifat al Hadith, p. 103.

[52] Abu al Huda al Kalbasi: Sama’ al Maqal fi ‘Ilm al Rijal, 1/88.

[53] Al Nuri al Tabarsi: Khatimat Mustadrak al Wasa’il, 5/78.

[54] Murtada al ‘Askari: ‘Abdullah Ibn Saba’, 2/178. He said this when he wanted to vindicate himself from the narrations in which Ibn Saba’ is mentioned.

[55] Al Tusi: Rijal al Tusi, p. 28.

[56] Al Tustari: Qamus al Rijal, 1:27 (chapter 16 of the introduction).

[57] The editor of Rijal al Tusi, Jawwad al Qayyumi alludes to an enumeration of narrators at the end of the work, such that he concluded al Tusi ruled 157 narrators as reliable and 43 as weak or problematic (majruh). This number from the editor is close to the number I reached. Perhaps my (number) is larger than his because of the repetition of many names in the copy of Bahr al ‘Ulum. However, it gives (us) an overall impression of the work’s contents.

[58] Mahdi al Kajuri al Shirazi: al Fawa’id al Rijaliyyah, p. 129.

[59] Al Tustari: Qamus al Rijal, 1/29 (chapter 6 of the introduction).

[60] Ibid.

[61] Jafar al Subhani: Kulliyat fi ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 62.

[62] Al Najjashi: Rijal al Najjashi, p. 3 of the introduction.

[63] Ibid, p. 404, biography number 1070.

[64] Al Tiffarishi: Naqd al Rijal, 2/211. He mentioned this under the biography of Dawood ibn Zarbi.

[65] Al Tustari: Qamus al Rijal, 3/349. Under the biography of Sa’d ibn ‘Abdullah al Qummi, he says something similar. See: 2/58.

[66] The author mentions that al Khu’i wrote this sentence with the word ‘fi (in)’ and that it is more correct to have omitted this preposition. [Translator’s note]

[67] Al Khu’i: Mujam Rijal al Hadith, 4/164 under the biography of Ayub ibn al Hurr.

[68] Ibid, 5/331 under the biography of al Hassan ibn al Sari.

[69] The death of the author has not been determined. However, the book’s editor states, “The death of the author has not been determined; however, it was in the fifth century. It has been said in the year 450 A.H.”

[70] Al Tabarsi: Khatimat Mustadrak al Wasa’il, 5/334.

[71] Muhammad Rida al Hussaini al Jalali: Manhaj al Rijali wa al ‘Amal al Ra’id fi Mawsu’ah al Rijaliyyah li Sayed al Ta’ifah al Burujirdi, p. 112.

[72] Ibid, p. 134.

[73] Al Shahrastani states in al Milal wa al Nihal (1/195): “The Aftahiyyah say that the Imamah (i.e. the role of being the Imam) transferred from al Sadiq to his (other) son, ‘Abdullah ibn al Aftah. He is the true brother of Ismail, their mother is Fatimah bint al Hussain ibn al Hussain ibn al Hassan ibn ‘Ali. He was the eldest of the children. They claim that he said: ‘Imamah is in (i.e. belongs to) the oldest children of the Imam.’” Al Kashshi states: “They say that ‘Abdullah ibn Jafar ibn Muhammad is the Imam. They are referred to as such because it was said he (i.e. ‘Abdullah) was broad headed. Some say that it was because he had broad feet.” (Rijal al Kashshi, 254, no. 472). Al Kashshi has more on this and can be referred to there. Ibn Manzur states in Lisan al Mizan (5/13): “(Fath) al fatah: a wide space in the middle of the head…a man who is aftah is someone with a broad head.” For more, see: al Nuri al Tabarsi: Khatimat al Mustadrak, 5/13. More about the Aftahiyyah will come later.

[74] The Waqifah, or the Waqifiyyah, is a sect of the Shia who deny the death of the Imam al Kazim Musa ibn Jafar. With that, they (also) deny the Imamah of his son, al Rida. This sect is also called the Mamturah, or al Kilab al Mamturah. See: Hussain al Shakiri: Musu’ah al Mustafa wa al ‘Itrah, 13/287 (in the marginalia). More about them will come later.  

[75] Abu al Ma’ali al Kalbasi: al Rasa’il al Rijaliyyah, 4/177-78.

[76] Jafar al Subhani: Kulliyyat fi ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 55.

[77] Al Najjashi has a biography about him (no. 201) saying: “Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Sulaiman ibn al Hassan ibn al Jahm ibn Bukayr ibn A’yan ibn Sunsun Abu Ghalib al Zurari.” I say (i.e. the author) that al Zurari died in the year 368 A.H as mentioned by al Shahrudi in Mustadrakat ‘Ilm al Rijal (1/473).

[78] Jafar al Subhani: Kulliyyat fi ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 73.

[79] Al Bahrani: Kashkul (Dar wa Maktabat al Hilal: Beirut, 1st edition, 1998).

[80] Al Tusi: al Fihrist, no. 107.

[81] Al Hilli: Khulasat al Aqwal, p. 214 (under the biography of ‘Isa ibn Jafar ibn ‘Asim).

[82] Al Najjashi: Rijal al Najjashi, p. 122, no 313.

[83] Aqa Buzurg al Tahrani: Al Dhari’ah, 2/465.

[84] Abu Ghalib al Zurari: Risalat Abi Ghalib al Zurari ila Ibnihi fi Dhikr Al A’yan wa Takmilatiha, p. 79 of the editor’s introduction.

[85] A mashyakhah is a hadith work wherein the author mentions the names of his teachers, those via whom he narrated ahadith. In Mujam Mustalahat al Rijal wa al Dirayah (p. 161): “A place where teachers and chains of transmission are mentioned. Therefore, a mashyakhah is a place where teachers (mashyakhah) are mentioned.”

[86] The reader of Tahdhib al Ahkam may be misled in that he will see al Tusi saying “from so-and-so” and then mention the entire chain of narration. He will get the impression that this is the entire chain. However, in reality, what he is seeing is only half of it; al Tusi begins (the chain of narration) with the author of the primary work from which he is quoting the hadith until the infallible (imam). He omits the isnad from him to the author of the work. He arranges this (i.e. the isnad from him to the author) in the mashyakhah of his work (Tahdhib al Ahkam). At times, the isnad that is apparent in front of the reader is ruba’iyy (i.e. the isnad only contains four narrators); however, in reality, it is suba’iyy (i.e. it contains seven narrators). The reader should be aware of this because whoever desires to know the ruling of a particular isnad, he not only needs to consider the isnad in the actual work, but he also needs to add to it what al Tusi mentioned in the Mashyakhah so that the isnad is complete. This has also been observed in al Faqih of al Qummi.

[87] Al Tusi: Tahdhib al Ahkam, 10:281.

[88] Ibid, 10:338.

[89] Printed in a small brochure with the explanation and commentary of Muhammad Jafar Shams al Din. It is also printed as an attachment at the end to the complete work.

[90] The two are: 1) Abu Hamzah al Thumali Thabit ibn Dinar (p. 39), and 2) Humaid ibn al Muthanna (p. 67).

[91] Cited from Muhammad Rida al Hussaini al Jalali in Manhaj al Rijali wa al ‘Amal al Ra’id fi al Mawsu’ah al Rijaliyyah by Sayed al Ta’ifah al Burujirdi, p. 134.

[92] Al Subhani: Kulliyyat fi ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 110.

[93] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 40.

[94] ‘Ali ibn ‘Ubaidullah ibn Babawayh al Razi: Fihrist Asma’ ‘Ulama’ al Shia wa Musannifihim, p. 206.

[95] Being considered the first work written after the phase of the primary works is based on the order of books as set-out by al Subhani and al Fadli.

[96] Ibn Shahr Ashub: Ma’alim al ‘Ulama’, p. 38.

[97] Al Subhani: Kulliyyat fi ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 113.

[98] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 41.

[99] Ibn Hajar rahimahu Llah cites as proof this work in a number of places in Lisan al Mizan. For example, under the biography of Ibrahim ibn Ahmed al Mimadhi (no. 49), he states: “Abu al Hassan ibn Babawayh mentioned him in Rijal al Shia.” See: Lisan al Mizan, 1:29.

[100] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 41.

[101] Hassan ibn Zayn al Din al Shahid al Thani: al Tahrir al Tawusi, p. 25.

[102] Hassan ibn Zayn al Din al Shahid al Thani: al Tahrir al Tawusi, p. 3.

[103] There is a difference of opinion regarding the (term) muhmalin (neglected). Al Kalbasi alluded to this in al Rasa’il al Rijaliyyah, 4/100.

[104] Al Subhani: Kulliyat ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 114.

[105] He is ‘Abdullah ibn al Hussain al Tustari (d. 1021 AH), a student of al Irdabili and the teacher of al Majlisi, al Tiffarishi, and al Qahba’i. He is different to Muhammad Taqi al Tustari, the author of Qamus al Rijal.

[106] Al Majlisi: Maladh al Akhyar, 1/37-38 (in his commentary of the first hadith under Bab al Ahdath al Mujibah li al Taharah).

[107] Quoting from al Rasa’il al Rijaliyyah of Muhammad ibn Muhammad Ibrahim al Kalbasi, 2/402. The complete name of the work al Hawi is Hawi al Aqwal fi Ma’rifat al Rijal of ‘Abdul Nabi ibn al Sheikh Sa’d al Jaza’iri al Gharawi al Ha’iri (d. 1021 A.H) (as mentioned under his biography by al Tahrani in al Dhari’ah, 6/237).

[108] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 46.

[109] For more information on the status of Rijal Ibn Dawood, see: al Rasa’il al Rijaliyyah of Muhammad al Kalbasi, 2/100.

[110] Hussain al Sa’idi: al Du’afa’ min Rijal al Hadith, 1/58. Al Tustari says something similar about the book Khulasat al Aqwal of al Hilli. He states: “It is merely beneficial in that which we could not come across a basis for.” In other words, in his transmitting from the lost works. See: Qamus al Rijal, 1/24 (chapter 16).

[111] Al Hilli has an extensive work on narrator evaluation entitled Kashf al Maqal fi Ma’rifat al Rijal. It is larger than al Khulasah; however, it is lost and there remains no trace of it. Al Hilli himself alluded to it in the introduction of al Khulasah (p. 44). He references it in many places throughout al Khulasah. Al Hilli has another work which is printed under the title Idah al Ishtibah. This work is specific to the correct pronouncement of narrators’ names (dabt asma’ al ruwat) and distinguishing them from one another. He did not write it for the sake of knowing the rulings of narrators.

[112] Al Subhani: Kulliyat ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 120.

[113] Al Fadli: Usul ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 48.

[114] Al Subhani: Kulliyat ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 123. The ‘eight’ (works) al Subhani was referring to are: 1) Rijal al Kashshi, 2) Rijal al Najjashi, 3) Rijal al Tusi, 4) Fihrist al Tusi, 5) Rijal al Barqi, 6) Risalat Abi Ghalib, 7) Mashyakhat al Saduq, and 8) Mashyakhat al Faqih fi Kitab al Faqih wa al Istibsar.

[115] Al Subhani: Kulliyyat ‘Ilm al Rijal, p. 127.

[116] Muhammad Rida al Hussaini al Jalali: al Manhaj al Rijali wa al ‘Amal al Ra’id fi al Mawsu’ah al Rijaliyyah li Sayed al Ta’ifah al Burujirdi, p. 58.

[117] Ibid, p. 136.

[118] ‘Ali al Namazi al Shaharudi: Mustadrakat ‘Ilm Rijal al Hadith, 1:6.

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