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Hadith in the Imamiyeh Shiite School of Thought

In the course of the compilation of the ahādith of the Infallible Imams (‘a), which began in the very first Hejira century, too, the Iranians played a significant role in the hadith circles of Kufa and one of the most famous Shiite hadith books of the first century AH was the one written by Salim bin Qeis Helāli, a particular version of which was first published in Beirut in 1980. The trend of the compilation of the ahādith of the Imams (‘a) reached an unprecedented height at the time of the fifth and sixth Imams (‘a) and resulted in the formation of a valuable legacy that gained fame among the Shiites as “The Four Hundred Principles”, the compiler of a major portion of which were Iranians like Bastām bin Sābur Ziyārat who were all disciples of the Shiite Imāms (‘a).

During the 2nd-4th Centuries AH/8th-10th Centuries AD there were numerous centers for teaching the Shiite ahādith in Iran, the most significant of which existed in Qom, Rey, Esfahān, Nahāvand, Qazvin, Gorgān, and Neishābur. These centers, on the one hand, interacted among themselves and, on the other, interacted with Kufa and other Shiite centers. The most important relationship, however, existed between Qom and Kufa in which such great personalities as Ebrāhim bin Hāshem Qomi and Abdollāh bin Ja’far Homeiri played an unparalleled role in the 3rd Century AH/ 9th Century AD.

The Imamiyeh Hadith Collections

In the third Century AH and simultaneously with the popularity of the subject-wise compilation of ahādith in the Sunni circles the Imamiyeh Shiite circles, too, remained seriously engaged in the subject-wise compilation of ahādith, the outcome of which were such comprehensive works as the “Al-Mahāsen” (first published in Tehran in 1952) of Ahmad bin Mohammad Barqi (d. 274 or 280 AH/ 887 or 893 AD). This book paved the path for the emergence of a determined trend in the 4th-5th Centuries AH/ 10th-11th Centuries AD and led to the compilation of the most important Imamiyeh hadith sources viz. the “Kāfi” of Koleini (d. 328 or 329 AH/ 940 or 941 AD), the “Man Lā Yahzarah al-Faqih” of Ibn Bābuyeh, popularly know as Sheikh Saduq (d. 381 AH/ 991 AD), and the “Al-Tahzib” and “Al-Estebsār” of Sheikh Tusi (d. 460 AH/ 1068 AD), which together famously came to be known as the “Kotob Arba’ah” among the Imamiyeh Shiites of the following generations.

Simultaneously and along with the above-mentioned hadith collections another type of subject-wise collection of hadith books emerged that concentrated on individual subjects. The most important of such works included those of Ibn Bābuyeh like the “Al-Tawhid”, the “Al-Khesāl”, the “Elal al-Sharāye’”, the “Oyun Akhbār al-Rezā” (‘a), and “Ma’āni al-Akhbār”. The other works written in the same style were the “Kāmel al-Ziyārāt” (first published in Tehran in the year 1996) of Ibn Quluyeh Qomi (d. 368 AH/979 AD) and the “Kefāyah al-Athar” of Khazāz Qomi (first published in Mashhad in 1401). There was yet another style of compiling haidth called Amāli-writing that did not focus on particular subjects. The most important of such works included the “Al-Amāli”s of Ibn Bābuyeh (Sheikh Saduq), Sheikh Mofid, and Sheikh Tusi.

During the 6th Century AH/12th Century AD there was a noticeable decline in the trend of compiling hadith collections and from among the very few books written in this field mention may be made of the “Beshārah al-Mostafā” by ‘Emādal-Din Tabari (published in Najaf in 1383 AH) and the “Qesas al-Anbiyā” by Qotb Rāvandi (d. 573 AH/1177 AD) published in Mashhad in 1409 AH. Following the Mongol invasion of Iran even the existing limited activities in the filed Shiite school of hadith-writing suffered an incompensable setback resulting in a period of recess.

During the Safavid period and with the upward trend in the Akhbāri school as well as the renewed attention drawn by the science of hadith, the Shiite hadith scholars launched a fresh endeavor for compiling new collections to the extent that besides improving on the study of the four most authentic Shiite sources, it was also ensured that the ahādith available in other books were not ignored. The outcome of this new trend manifested in the forms of the compilation of great and voluminous works such as the “Al-Wāfi” of Fayz Kāshāni (published in Qom in 1404 AH) and, most importantly, the “Behār al-Anwār” of Allāmeh Mohammad Bāqer Majlesi (d. 1110 or 1111 AH/1698 or 1699 AD). It should, however, be kept in mind that the basis of such new works were the earlier Shiite hadith collections from which the ahādith and narrations were extracted on the basis of their subjects and presented in a new format and style. As a matter of fact, it was owing to this trend that the scholars of Shiite hadith could not overlook the more recent works on this subject.

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad " Iran Entry " The Great Islamic Encyclopedia . Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 , pp. 659

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