The Shi‘ites began their work in the field of Islamic sciences concurrent with other Muslims. One of these branches of knowledge was history. Alongside the historiography movement in Iraq, the Shi‘ites also began their activities and cooperated in the writing and compilation of books on history. Apart from the Iraqī Shi‘ites1 such as Abu Mikhnaf, Hishām Kalbī, or persons like Ibn Ishāq who were influenced by the Shi‘ite current of Iraq, others belonging to the Imāmī Shi‘ite group also cooperated in the task of Islamic historiography.
Different issues related to the biography of Prophet Muhammad (S) and the history of the developments that had taken place in Iraq, were among the issues in which the Shi‘ites were truly interested, and by no means did they consider themselves separate from these developments.
It was natural that in such a situation, Shi‘ite movements and movements inclined toward Tashayyu‘ or even those movements opposed to the Umayyuds were sometimes even more important for these historians than the biography of the Prophet (S), for they were witness to the fact that the account of the life of the Prophet (S) was at any rate being recorded by scholars of various other persuasions.
What was more important for them were the news related to the Alawis and the Shi‘ite movements which could be distorted or lost if not recorded. Other developments, such as discussions concerning the history of the caliphs did not attract the attention of the Shi‘ites, since they did not see any link between their own history and the history of the caliphs, except of course, from a negative angle.
During the first centuries after the advent of Islam, historiography among both the Shi‘ites and Sunnis was confined to a specific event. But the important point is that, from among the Sunnis, Abu Ja‘far Muhammad bin Jarīr al-Tabarī took an innovative step by collecting in his encyclopaedic history most of the treatises whether big or small, which were available to him as the cultural heritage (of his sect).
Such a project was not carried out by the Shi‘ites, and with the loss of the treatises dealing with specific aspects of the Islamic civilisation, an important part of the Shi‘ite historical heritage disappeared. Only a few samples survive, such as Waq‘at al-Siffīn by Nasr bin Muzāham and Ibrāhīm bin Muhammad al-Thaqafī’s al-Ghārāt, both written in the 3rd century. This extant material is indicative of the great importance for recording of historical developments.
After this initial period, Shi‘ite historiography became limited to a brief discussion on the biography and conduct of the Infallible Imams (‘a) as well as issues related to the Imamate. This situation continued until the re-establishment of a Shi‘ite government and the start of a new phase in the historiography of that government.
As far as the biography of Prophet Muhammad (S) is concerned, it should be said that accounts of the maghāzī (campaigns in which the Prophet took part) were also taught by the Imams. The main testimony in this regard is a narration by Imam ‘Alī ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-Abidīn (‘a), who said: “Kunnā na‘lam maghāzī Rasulullāh kamā na‘lam al-surah min al-Qur’ān” (we teach the campaigns of the Messenger of Allah as we teach the surah of the Holy Qur’ān).2
In the ahādīth related on the authority of Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir and Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq (‘a), several narrations could be found on the Prophet’s sīrah, many of which have been recorded. For example, Ibn Ishāq and later Ibn Sa‘d in their biographies of the Prophet, have quoted some narrations on the authority of Imam Bāqir (‘a).
Among the Shi‘ite works, about one fourth of ‘Alī Ibn Ibrāhīm Qummī’s exegesis of the Holy Qur’ān deals with the accounts and history of the Prophets. This book which was completed by referring to several other works, has made use of several written accounts that were available during the third and fourth centuries AH.
For example, the book al-Mab‘ath wa al-Maghāzī by Abān bin ‘Uthmān has been used by ‘Alī bin Ibrāhīm Qummī in his tafsīr (exegesis). Qummī’s tafsīr is among the works whose section on the Prophet’s biography almost exclusively quotes narrations from Imam Bāqir and Imam Sādiq (‘a). One of the reasons for this is the inclusion in it of Tafsīr Abī al-Jārud, which is entirely based on the narrations of Imam Bāqir (‘a) and gives an account of the Prophet according to the revelation of the ayahs.
The narrations of Abī al-Jārud are distinct from the other sections, and ‘Allāmah Majlisī has mentioned all the narrations of this book in the volumes of Bihār al-Anwār under the title Tārīkh Nabiyyinā (History of Our Prophet).
Another book is Mab‘ath al-Nabī wa Akhbāruh, by ‘Abdullāh bin Maymun al-Qaddāh, who was a narrator of hadīth from Imam Bāqir and Imam Sādiq (‘a).3 At any rate, these are firm proofs of the attention paid by the Infallible Imams (‘a) and the Shi‘ites to accounts of the Prophet’s sīrah.
The history of Islam in general was also a matter of interest for the Shi‘ites. Asbagh bin Nubātah is among the earliest Shi‘ite authors who has a book on martyrdom (maqtal) of Imam Husayn (‘a).4 Ahmad bin ‘Ubaydullāh Thaqafī is another one and the titles of two of his books are: Kitāb al-Mubayyazah fī Akhbār Maqātil Ali Abī Tālib, and Kitāb fī Tafzīl Banī Hāshim wa Zamm Banī Umayyah wa Atbā‘ihim.5 Muhammad Bin Zakariyyā bin Dīnār is also among the early Shi‘ite authors and according to al-Najāshī some of his books are: al-Jamal al-Kabīr, al- Jamal al-Mukhtasar, Siffīn al-Kabīr, Maqtal al-Husayn,6 Kitāb al-Nahr(awān), Maqtal Amīr al-Mu‘minīn, Akhbār Zayd and Akhbār Fātimah.7
Another example is Ibrāhīm bin Muhammad al-Thaqafī, who was at first a Zaydī and then became an Imāmī. He has written historical works such as: Kitāb al-Mubtada’ wa al-Maghāzī wa al-Riddah, Akhbār ‘Umar, Akhbār ‘Uthmān, Kitāb al-Dār, al-Ghārāt (a work that has survived), Akhbār Zayd, Akhbār Muhammad (Nafs Zakiyyah) wa (his brother) Ibrāhīm.8
The books which Jābir bin Yazīd al-Ju‘fī wrote also deal with similar topics and are titled: Kitāb al-Jamal, Kitāb al- Siffīn, Kitāb al-Nahrawān, Kitāb Maqtal Amīr al-Mu’minīn and Kitāb Maqtal al-Husayn.9
‘Alī bin Hasan bin ‘Alī bin Fazzāl was also a prominent Shi‘ite author, and among his works mention could be made of: al-Dalā’il, al-Anbiā’, al- Bashārāt and al-Kufah.10
Among the renowned Shi‘ite scholars of Basrah was ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Jalludī bin Yahyā al-‘Azdī who was a prolific writer. Some of the historical books which he wrote are: Kitāb al-Jamal, Kitāb al-Siffīn,11 Kitāb al-Hakamayn, Kitāb al-Ghārāt, Kitāb al-Khawārij, Kitāb Zikr ‘Alī fī Hurub al-Nabī, Kitāb Ma’āl al-Shī‘ah ba‘d ‘Alī (‘a), Akhbār al-Tawwābīn wa ‘Ayn al-Wardah, Akhbār man ‘Ashqa min al-Shu‘arā’, Akhbār Quraysh wa al-Asnām, Kitāb Tabaqāt al-‘Arab wa al-Shu‘arā’, Kitāb Khutab al-Nabī, Kitāb Khutab ‘Uthmān, Kitāb Rasā’il ‘Umar, Kitāb Rāyāt al-Azd, and Kitāb Munāzarāt ‘Alī ibn Musā al-Rizā (‘a).12
The Shi‘ites of Qum also contributed to the early historiographical works. Ahmad bin Ismā‘īl bin ‘Abdullāh Bajallī was one of them, and among his most important works is: Kitāb al-‘Abbāsī, about which al-Najāshī writes: “wa huwa kitāb ‘azīm nahw min ‘ashrah ālāf waraqah min akhbār al-khulafā’ wa al-dawlah al-‘Abbāsiyyah. Ra’aytu minhu akhbār al-Amīn” (It is a voluminous book of 10,000 pages dealing with the accounts of the caliphs and the Abbasid State. I have seen from it the account of al-Amīn).13
Muhammad bin Hasan al-Qummī had access to this book and he has quoted four instances from it in his History of Qum (refer to Bibliography of Works Related to Qum, p. 19. In History of Qum, the events on pp. 145, 200, 236 & 237 have been quoted from Tārīkh ‘Abbāsī).
Another early historian was ‘Alī bin Ahmad Jawwānī who wrote Akhbār Sāhib Fakhkh and Akhbār Yahyā bin ‘Abdullāh bin Hasan.14 Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Khālid al-Barqī who was a renowned traditionist (muhaddith) from Qum, has a book entitled Kitāb al-Maghāzī on the Prophet’s sīrah. He is the author of several other works such as, Kitāb al-Shi‘r wa al-Shu‘arā’, Kitāb al-Buldān wa al-Masāhah, Kitāb al-Tārīkh and Kitāb al-Ansāb.15
One of the renowned historians during the era of the Infallible Imams (‘a) was Abān bin ‘Uthmān Ahmar Bajallī. He authored a valuable book on the accounts of the previous Prophets and the biography of Prophet Muhammad (S), of which, unfortunately, only a few parts are extant. Shaykh Tusī says about this book:
“We have no information of his works except the book in which he has collected from the beginning the account of Prophet (Muhammad [S]), the start of his mission (mab‘ath), his military campaigns (maghāzī), his passing away as well as the happenings at Saqīfah (Banī Sā‘idah) and the riddah. There is another copy from which the scholars of Qum have related.”16
This book was available to ‘Alī bin Ibrāhīm Qummī and he has extensively quoted from it in his tafsīr. The bibliographer al-Najāshī was also aware of this book, and he writes: “He has an excellent and voluminous book in which he has collected accounts (of Prophet Muhammad [S]) from the beginning till his passing away including the military campaigns.”17 This work was available to many ‘ulamā’ of the following centuries, but the most detailed quotations from it are found in Shaykh Tabrisī’s I‘lām al-Warā.
We (the author of this article Rasul Ja‘fariyān) have published the extant portions of this book under the title Kitāb al-Mab‘ath wa al-Maghāzī and talked about him and his book in detail in the introduction.
Here we will point out a number of works that have been written on Prophet Muhammad (S) by early Shi‘ite scholars. We have mostly arranged the list according the subject:
• Kitāb Sifāt al-Nabī (S): Wahab bin Wahab (Rijāl al-Najāshī, p. 430);
• Kitāb Wufud al-‘Arab ilā al-Nabī (S): Munzir bin Muhammad bin Munzir. Some of his other works are Kitāb al-Jamal, Kitāb al-Siffīn, Kitāb al-Nahrawān, Kitāb al-Ghārāt (al-Najāshī, p. 418);
• Mas’alah fī Imān Abā’a al-Nabī (S): Abī Ya‘lā Muhammad bin Hasan bin Hamzah Ja‘farī (al-Najāshī, p. 404);
• Kitāb Mas’alah fī Ma‘rifah al-Nabī: Shaykh Mufīd (al-Najāshī, p. 402);
• Kitāb Zuhd al-Nabī (S), Kitāb Awsāf al-Nabī (S), Kitāb fī Ma‘rifah Fazl al-Nabī (S) wa Amīr al-Mu’minīn wa al-Hasan wa al-Husayn ‘Alayhim al-Salām: Shaykh Saduq (al-Najāshī, p. 390). He also wrote Kitāb fī ‘Abd al-Mutallib wa ‘Abdullāh wa Abī Tālib (al-Najāshī, p. 390);
• Kitāb al-Bayān ‘an Khiyarah al-Rahmān fī Imān Abī Tālib wa Abā’ al-Nabī (S): ‘Alī bin Bilāl al-Mahllabī al-Azdī (al-Najāshī, p. 265);
• Kitāb Mab‘ath al-Nabī (S) wa Akhbāruh: ‘Abdullāh bin Maymun al-Qaddāh (al-Najāshī, p. 213);
• Kitāb Wafāt al-Nabī (S): Salamah bin al-Khattāb Berāwastānī Azdurqānī (al-Najāshī, p.187);
• Kitāb al-Radd ‘alā Man Za‘ama al-Nabī (S) Kāna ‘alā Dīn Qawmih Qabl al-Nubuwwah; Ja‘far bin Ahmad bin Ayyub Samarqandī (al-Najāshī, p. 21);
• Kitāb al-Radd ‘alā Man Za‘ama al-Nabī (S) Kāna ‘alā Dīn Qawmih: Husayn bin Ashkīb Khurāsānī (al-Najāshī, p. 44);
• Kitāb Akhbār al-Nabī (S): Abī ‘Alī Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Ammār al-Kufī. He also wrote the book Kitāb Imān Abī Tālib (al-Najsahi, p. 95);
• Kitāb Zikr al-Nabī (S) wa al-Sakhrah wa al-Rāhib wa Turuq Dhālik: Ahmad bin Muhamamd bin Sa‘īd Sabī‘ī Hamdānī (al-Najāshī, p. 94);
• Kitāb Fazl al-Nabī (S): Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isā Ash‘arī (al-Najsahi page 81).
• Kitāb Sīrat al-Nabī (S) wa al-A’immah ‘Aalayhim al-Salām fī al- Mushrikīn: Husayn bin ‘Alī bin Sufyān Bezufarī (al-Najāshī, p. 68);
• Kitāb al-Wufud ‘alā al-Nabī: Husayn bin Muhammad bin ‘Alī al-'Azdi (al-Najāshī, p. 65);
• Kitāb Nasab al-Nabī (S), Kitāb Kutub al-Nabī (S), Kitāb Akhbār al-Wufud ‘alā al-Nabī (S), ‘Abd al-‘Azīz bin Yahyā al-Jalludī al-Azdī (al-Najāshī, pp. 241-244);
• Kitāb Asmā’ Alāt Rasulullāh wa Asmā’ Silāhih wa Kitāb Wafāt al-Nabī (S): ‘Alī bin Hasan bin ‘Alī bin Fazl (al-Najāshī, p. 258);
• Kitāb al-Maghāzī: Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Khālid al-Barqī (al-Najāshī, p.76);
• Al-Munbi’ ‘an Zuhd al-Nabī (S): Abī Muhammad Ja‘far bin Muhammad bin ‘Alī Qummī ibn al-Rāzī. Ibn Tāwus has quoted this in several of his works.18
• Kitāb Asmā’ Rasulullāh (S): Hasan bin Khorzād (al-Najāshī, p. 44).
On biographical works concerning the Prophet, there is a marked difference between the approach of the Sunnis and Shi‘ites. The Shi‘ite writers regarded Prophet Muhammad (S) more holier than their Sunni counterparts and based their works on his infallibility.
It is important to note that in Sunni historiography, although the feeling of admiration toward the Prophet’s life is clearly visible, his infallibility in all aspects has been ignored. An example in this regard is the writing of the book Zallah al-Anbiyā’ by Abu al-Fazl Mashshāt19 in response to Sharīf Murtazā’s Tanzīh al-Anbiyā’.20 Earlier during the 3rd century AH, a Sunni ‘ālim had written a book titled Ma‘āsī al-Anbiā’, which was refuted by the renowned mutakallim of Samarqand, Abu Mansur Mātirīdī.21
Accounts of the divine Prophets were carried out as part of Islamic historiography by various scholars in books entitled al-Mubtada’ which means the beginning or the origin. These works deal with the history of mankind since the beginning or the creation of Adam till the time of the last divine messenger, Prophet Muhammad (S).
In this field also the Shi‘ites did not lag behind. Part of the book al-Mubtada’ wa al-Mab‘ath wa al-Maghāzī by Abān bin ‘Uthmān Ahmar Bajallī, the extant portions of which we have published as mentioned earlier in this article, indicates that the recording of such traditions also existed among the Shi‘ites, although, as we have said in the introduction to this book, it contains certain narrations from Israelite sources, which are of course not acceptable.
Among Shi‘ite sources, the section dedicated to the history of the Prophets is found scattered and sometimes in detail. ‘Allāmah Majlisī has mentioned these narrations in volumes 11 to 14 of Bihār al-Anwār. Most of these are found in the works Shaykh Saduq, in Tafsīr ‘Alī bin Ibrāhīm Qummī, in Tafsīr al-‘Ayyāshī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān and similar books, and as we said, these narrations have been borrowed from the Sunnis who related from such persons as Ka‘b al-Ahbār, ‘Abdullāh bin Salām, and especially Wahab bin Minbah.
Ibn Tāwus has quoted an excerpt in Faraj al Mahmum from a book entitled Qasas al- Anbiyā’ which he considers was written by Muhammad bin Khālid bin ‘Abd al-Rahmān al-Barqī.22 But apparently, no one else among the Imāmī bibliographers have mentioned this book.
However, from among the books exclusively written on the history of Prophets, reference can be made to the Qasas al-Anbiyā’ of Qutb al-Dīn al-Rāwandī, which has been published by the Foundation for Islamic Research by Professor Ghulām Rizā ‘Irfāniyān. This work, in addition to being the history of Prophets, has a section that includes their miracles (chapter 19, p. 280 onwards), while chapter 20 deals in brief with the life of Prophet Muhammad (S).
The author has not mentioned his sources for the accounts of the Prophets and most of the chain of narrators which he has mentioned do not clearly indicate the source. It is likely that a major part of Chapter 20 is based on Tafsīr ‘Alī bin Ibrāhīm Qummī.
After al-Rāwandī’s work, the book al-Nur al-Mubīn fī Qasas al-Anbiyā’ by Sayyid Ni‘matullāh al-Jazā’irī (d. 1112 AH) deals elaborately with the history of Prophets.
Part of the historical books of the Shi‘ites is those which have been written to record the miracles performed by the Infallible Imams (‘a) in proof of their Imamate. Naturally in these works different aspects of the lives of the Imams (‘a) have also been recorded. Among the most ancient books in this regard is the Dalā’il al-A’immah by Muhammad bin Mas‘ud ‘Ayyāshī the Shi‘ite scholar of the late 3rd and early 4th centuries who lived in Samarqand.
His works, including this one, have been mentioned by Ibn Nadīm.23 This book however has not survived and is presumed to be lost. Another work in this field is al-Dalā’il wa al-Mu‘jizāt by Abī al-Qāsim Kufī who is accused of exaggeration. He has also written a book on this subject titled Tathbīt Nubuwwah al-Anbiyā’.24
Here, mention could also be made of Dalā’il al-Nabī (S) written by Ahmad bin Yahyā bin Hakīm ‘Uday Sufī al-Kufī,25 and al-Ihtijāj li Nubuwwah al-Nabī (S) by Ismā‘īl bin ‘Alī bin Ishāq bin Abī Sahl bin Nawbakht.26 Two books with the same title Kitāb al-Dalā’il, have also been written by Abu al-‘Abbās ‘Abdullāh bin Ja‘far Himyarī and Abu ‘Abdullāh Muhammad bin Ibrāhīm bin Ja‘far al-Nu‘mānī.27
Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Bāqī bin Muhammad al-Basrī, a Shi‘ite ‘ālim of the 6th century is the author of the book entitled Dalā’il, and another book entitled al-Hujaj wa al-Barāhīn fī Imāmah Amīr al-Mu’minīn wa Awlādih al-Ahad ‘Ashar A’immah al-Dīn Salawāt Allah wa Salāmuhu ‘Alayhim Ajma‘īn.28 Another book that has been published is Dalā’il al-Imāmah by Muhammad bin Jarīr Tabarī, a contemporary of Shaykh Tusī.
Although al-Kharā’ij wa al-Jarā’ih by Qutb al-Dīn al-Rāwandī elaborates in detail on the miracles of the Prophet and Imams, the author has unfortunately not mentioned his sources. This book has been summarised and translated under the title Kifāyah al-Mu’minīn. The Arabic version of al-Kharā’ij has been published in 3 volumes with the efforts of the Imam al-Mahdī (‘a) Foundation.
Another early Shi‘ite work at hand is the book al-Thāqib fī al-Manāqib by Abu Ja‘far Muhammad bin ‘Alī, known as Ibn Hamzah (d. after 552). This book contains narrations on the miracles of several Prophets, including Prophet Muhammad (S), as well as the miracles of Hazrat Fātimah and the Imams (‘a). One of the sources of this work is Mafākhir al-Rizā (‘a) by Hākim Nayshāburī.
Sunni scholars have also written books on this subject such as Dalā’il al-Nubuwwah which is the title used by both Bayhaqī and Abu Na‘īm Isfahanī for their works. The book Tathbīt Dalā’il al-Nubuwwah by Qāzī ‘Abd al-Jabbar Hamdānī also follows this method, except that it has presented the discussion in kalāmī or theological form.
Part of the Shi‘ite kalāmī works have extended the discussion to history in proportion with its importance to the issue of Imamate. The discussions on the Imamate could generally be divided into two sections. A rational discussion to prove the necessity for the existence of the Imam, and a historical discussion to prove existence of divine designation (nass) and the reason for lack of attention to nass by others as well as criticism of the actions of certain companions of the Prophet in this regard.
The historical part of these works mainly contains strong criticism of the caliphate and the caliphs, a subject that is referred to as matā‘in. The noteworthy point in this regard is that some of these works are kalāmī-historical and some are historical-kalāmī, the latter being presented mainly in the framework of hadīth.
An example of the extant works that have been published is the book al-Istighāthah fī Bida‘ al-Thalāthah by Abī al-Qāsim al-Kufī who is accused of exaggeration. Another is a book written by Sulaym bin al-Qays, which apart from ambiguities with regard to certain narrations, is an early text on the historical defense of the kalāmī beliefs of the Shi‘ites within the framework of hadīth on the issue of Imamate.
Mas‘udi’s Ithbāt al-Wasiyyah, which should definitely be attributed to someone besides the author of Muruj al-Dhahab could also be placed among the hadīthī-historical-kalāmī works. Among the earliest such works is the brief book al-Muqni‘ fī al-Imāmah by al-Sudābādī (belonging to the village of Sudābād near Rayy) published by Intishārāt-i Islāmī, Qum.
A famous work of this kind is Kitāb al-Shāfī of Sayyid Murtazā which has been published. Shaykh Tusī wrote a new edition of his teacher’s book under the title Talkhīs al-Shāfī, which has also been published. Several works of Shaykh Mufīd also contain numerous historical issues especially concerning the hadīth al-Ghadīr and the meaning of wilāyah and related words spoken by the Prophet on the occasion. Shaykh Mufīd’s al-Jamal should be considered a historical- kalāmī work rather than a kalāmī-historical one.
This book is part of the purely historical works written by the Shi‘ites during the 4th century AH. They form part of the historiographical works concerning a single specific event written by the Shi‘ites of Iraq to record subjects in view.
The historical nature of this work cannot be disputed. In fact that Shaykh Mufīd has used his knowledge of history as an instrument to prove the viewpoints of the Shi‘ites in his debates with the ‘Uthmānis and Mu‘tazalites, and thus made pioneering efforts in combining the school of history with the science of kalām.
Books that have been written on the history of the Shi‘ites contain kalāmī-historical discussions. Two works that are quite similar to each other in this regard are Firaq al-Shiī‘ah by Nowbakhti and al-Maqālāt wa al-Firaq by Sa‘ad bin ‘Abdullāh al-Ash‘arī. These two works contain valuable information on Shi‘ite history.
The book al-Ihtijāj by Tabrisī could be placed in the same category. It is a work, which in addition to the debates and argumentations, provides valuable accounts of the life of the Imams (‘a). The book al-Tarā’if fī Ma‘rifah Mazāhib al-Tawā’if also contains historical information and hadīth in criticism of the rival sects.
Undoubtedly hadīth and history are closely intertwined in Islam. Some times more emphasis has been laid on history and at other times more on hadīth. Many historical issues are found in the book al-kāfī. Among the Shi‘ite hadīthī works of the 3rd and 4th centuries AH, as is the case with Sunni books of hadīth, plenty of historical material is found.
In al-kāfī, the section dedicated to discussion of the Imamate, also includes historical issues about the lives of the Imams’ (‘a). Unfortunately, no other early Shi‘ite book like al-kāfī has remained extant to throw more light on such issues. Perhaps one can point to Basā’ir al-Darajāt which contains some historical material.
The most outstanding work concerning the life of Imam Rizā (‘a) is Shaykh Saduq’s masterpiece ‘Uyun Akhbār al-Rizā. The life of the 8th Imam (‘a) and the situation of the Shi‘ites of that period has been fully reflected in this book. Saduq’s other works also contain more or less historical ahādīth. His book ‘Ilal al-Sharā’i‘ is among the most outstanding in this regard. One can also find similar narrations in Saduq’s Amālī.
Since Saduq lived at a time when the great literary current for compiling voluminous books was about to start, and used in his books most of the early heritage of the Shi‘ites – part of which was on the point of being lost forever to posterity – his works are considered quite valuable from an historical point of view.
Three valuable books remain with regard to the ghaybah (occultation) of Imam Mahdī (‘a), each of which reflects an important part of the Shi‘ite history during the third century. The books Kamāl al-Dīn by Saduq, al-Ghaybah by Shaykh Tusī and al-Ghaybah by Nu‘mānī are the most important works in this connection. Shi‘ite history in this period is based on these few works since many other similar works are not extant today. Two examples are the works of the third century scholar Muhammad bin Bahr Rahnī, part of which is mentioned in Kamāl al-Dīn.
Among the hadith corpus, mention should be made of the manāqib books. Such works also constitute a kind of historiography. Among the earliest books in this regard is Manāqib al-Imam Amīr al- Mu’minīn (‘a) by Muhammad bin Sulaymān Qāzī al-Kufī who lived in the third century.29 This book is full of historical information on the characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (S) and the life of Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a). Despite the fact that its compiler is a Zaydi Shi‘ite the book contains many narrations from Imam Bāqir (‘a).
Like the above mentioned work, among the Ismā‘ilī Shi‘ites one can point to the valuable book Sharh al-Akhbār by Qāzī Nu‘mān bin Muhammad Tamīmī Maghribī (d. 363) who compiled many books and was the most outstanding Ismā‘īlī scholar during the Fatimid rule in Egypt and North Africa. This book which has recently been published,30 deals with the merits of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and is also very rich in historical information.
For example the first, second and third sections describe Imam ‘Alī’s (‘a) merits in the words of Prophet Muhammad (S), his companionship of the Prophet and his participation in the Battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq and other expeditions. The fourth section of the book is on the Battle of Jamal and the War of Siffin. The fifth section is continuation of the narrations on Siffin. The sixth section deals with the filthy characteristics of the enemies of Imam ‘Alī (‘a) especially Mu‘āwiyah and his killing of Hujr bin ‘Adī.
The seventh to tenth sections describe the virtues of Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a). The eleventh section is the continuation of the merits of the Ahl al-Bayt, especially Hadhrat Fātimah (‘a). The twelfth section discusses the merits of Imam Hasan (‘a), his life and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (‘a).
The thirteenth section is continuation of the sufferings of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and also talks about other outstanding members of the Banī Hāshim such as Ja‘far ibn Abī Tālib and other descendants of the Prophet’s grandfather ‘Abd al-Mutallib. This section also focuses on the merits of Imam Zayn al-Abidin (‘a) and Imam Muhammad Bāqir (‘a).
The fourteenth section is on Imam Sādiq (‘a), the history of Shi‘ite sects till the time of Mu‘tazid al-‘Abbāsī, and the appearance of the Fatimid Mahdī. The fifteenth section is one the characteristics of the promised Mahdī and the sixteenth and last section on the characteristics of the Shi‘ites. Although it has distinctive Ismā‘ilī tendencies, the book is a valuable, comprehensive and accredited work on the history of the Ahl al Bayt (‘a), and in view of its antiquity it is considered unique within its own time frame.
If we take into account that Qāzī Nu‘mān has relied on al-Tabarī’s lost work al-Wilāyah for the event of Ghadīr, then we will come to know the importance of this work and its contents in view of the books and treatises that were available to him and which are not extant today, although, unfortunately, he does not always mention the sources of his quotations. al-‘Umdah by Ibn Bitrīq is also considered among these works.
The Science of rijāl is one of the important branches of Islamic history. The Shi‘ites have given much attention to this particular field by meticulously recording the names of the companions of the Prophet and the Imams (‘a), as well as the chains of narrations. Although most of the early Shi‘ite works of rijāl have not survived, the most important of the extant works is the book al-Ikhtiyār Ma‘irfah al-Rijāl or Rijāl al-Kashshī as it is also known.
It should be considered important from every aspect. Another important work is Rijāl al-Najāshī, which apart from its rijālī details, is a mine of information on Shi‘ite books of the early centuries of Islam as well as Shi‘ite cultural history. During the later eras, such works were not compiled as much as before, but every work compiled in this regard is important from the historical point of view. Among them are such books as al-Fihrist and al-Rijāl by Shaykh Tusī and also the al-Rijāl by ‘Allāmah Hilli.
The valuable book al-Fihrist by Ibn Nadīm should also be considered a fully Shi‘ite work, something that has been duly proved. Ibn Abī Tayy, the Shi‘ite scholar of the seventh century AH (d. 630) wrote a book entitled Tabaqat al-Imāmiyyah which has unfortunately been lost.
Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī has quoted from it in his al-Isābah on Yaghus Sahābī. Ibn Abī Tayy also wrote a history which was in chronological order. This work has also been given up for lost. A few quotations from it are found in Safdī’s Nukat al-Hamiyān on prominent blind figures.31
We should not overlook the books of ansab or geneology which are also in a way related to history. This science was prevalent among the Shi‘ite and two of the earliest books in this field are al-Mujdī and Sirr al-Silsilah. This branch in the history of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) cannot be overlooked. A list of the scholars related to the late Ayatullāh Sayyid Shihāb al-Dīn Mar‘ashī Najafī has been mentioned in the introduction to Lubāb al-Ansāb. In addition to elaborating on the geneologies these books also mention historical issues.
During the Safawid and Qajarid eras several encyclopaedic rijālī works such as Riyāz al-‘Ulamā’ and Rawzāt al-Jannāt were written, giving us more detailed historical information especially in the field of the history of culture.
A very early work entitled Tārīkh al-A’immah or Tārīkh al-Mawālīd wa Wafayāt Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) is available. It mentions the dates of birth and martyrdom of the Infallible Imams (‘a) on the authority of Imam Baqir (‘a), Imam Sādiq (‘a), Imam Rizā (‘a) and Imam ‘Askarī (‘a).
This book is variously attributed to Ibn Khashshāb, Nasr bin ‘Alī Jahzamī, Ahmad bin Muhammad Faryābī and Ibn Abī al-Thalj. Whoever happens to be its author it should be considered among the oldest books in this field that has survived from the 3rd century AH.32 Another book entitled Zuhrat al-Muhaj wa Tawārīkh al-Hujaj on the lives of the Imams (‘a) has been referred to by Ibn Tāwus, but there is no further information on this book at hand.33
Exclusive books were written on the life of the Twelve Infallible Imams (‘a). The earliest surviving work in this field that has discussed this issue in detail is al-Irshād fī Ma‘rifah Hujaj-Allāh ‘alā al-‘Ibād by Shaykh Mufīd. The author has dedicated the first part of his book to a detailed account of Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a) and has practically dealt with the life and qualities of Prophet Muhammad (S) by emphasising on the prime position of Imam ‘Alī (‘a) right from the beginning of the Prophetic mission.
The second part of al-Irshād deals with the life of the other eleven Imams and mainly contains historical and kalāmī discussions. Although Shaykh Mufīd has not mentioned his sources in every case, it is evident that he has used credible and important sources. Basically the major characteristic of Shaykh Mufīd in this regard is that he was well acquainted with books available in Iraq which were compiled by Iraqī historians. Masār al-Shī‘ah by Shaykh Mufīd also gives us information on the life of the Imams (‘a).
The next important work in this field is the book I‘lām al-Warā bi A‘lām al-Hudā, on the characteristics of the Prophet and his infallible progeny (‘a). In its section on the Imams (‘a) the book contains historical-kalāmī issues proving their Imamate, as is the case in al-Irshād.
The author Abī ‘Alī Fazl ibn Hasan al-Tabrisī has accurately recorded his sources and in this way added to the book’s value. He has also incorporated important parts from Abān ibn ‘Uthmān’s biography of the Prophet, a valuable Shi‘ite work which is not extant today.
Another immortal book is Manāqib Al-i Abī Tālib by Muhammad bin ‘Alī Ibn Shahr Ashub al-Sarvī al-Māzandarānī. This important and detailed work has been compiled with reference to hundreds of books and the author has given the work special value by quoting different sources and mentioning their names. The greater part of the book includes the life of Amīr al-Mu’minīn (‘a) and his merits as found in Sunni sources. But before that Ibn Shahr Ashub has dwelt in detail on the life of the Prophet and after the account of Imam ‘Alī (‘a) has focused on merits of the other Imams.
The book Rawzah al-Wā‘izīn by Fattāl Nayshāburī (d. 508) is also an important work which without mentioning its sources has dealt with the lives of the Twelve Imams (‘a). Another remaining work from the seventh century is Mukhtasar Ahwāl al-Nabī wa al-A’immah al-Thānī ‘Ashar (‘a) by Shaykh Rashīd bin Ibrāhīm bin Ishāq Bahrānī.
The only extant copy of this book is being kept at the Markaz Ihyā’ al-Turāth al-Islāmī (Center for Revival of the Islamic Heritage) in Qum. Muntajab al-Dīn al-Babawayh in his al-Fihrist has also referred to a book entitled Sīrah al-Anbiyā’ wa al-A’immah by Shams al-Islam Hasan bin Husayn bin Babawayh al-Qummī who lived in Rayy, but there is no trace of this book today.34
He has also mentioned another book named al-Maghāzī wa al-Siyar by Sayyid Abī al-Qāsim Zayd bin Ishāq Ja‘farī which shows the Shi‘ite community’s interest in this particular field. Shaykh Abī al-Hasan bin ‘Alī bin Hibatullāh bin ‘Uthmān Musilī wrote a book named al-Anwār fī Tārīkh al-A’immah al-Abrār.35
Another important work of the seventh century is Kashf al-Ghummah fī Ma‘rifah al-A’immah by ‘Alī bin ‘Isā Arbilī. This book which has been compiled from diverse Shi‘ite and Sunni sources, and has been written in an extremely moderate style, played a very important role in spreading Shi‘ism in the world of Islam and has been translated into Persian several times. This book describes the lives of the 14 Infallibles (‘a). We have elaborated on this work and its sources in an exclusive book.
During the 7th century several books were written on the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (‘a) and the tragedy of Karbalā’. Ibn Tāwus (d. 664) has written two books entitled Kitāb al-Luhuf ‘alā Qatlā al-Tufuf and al-Masra‘ al-Shayn fī Qatl al-Husayn. A common book named Maqtal, Abu Mikhnaf is also believed to probably the work of Ibn Tāwus (Etan Kohlberg: A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work – Ibn Tāwus and his Library, pp. 42, 43).
The Sh’ites have also had a share in regional historiography. Among the earliest work in this field, which predates all other books is Nihl al-‘Arab by Muhammad bin Bahr Rahnī.36 Yāqut al-Hamawī, commenting on this book and its author, writes:
He has written many works including the one titled Kitāb Nihl al-‘Arab, in which he has mentioned the dispersion of Arabs in the lands of Islam, noting whether they were Shi‘ite, Kharijite or Sunni, but he had good words for the Shi‘ites as well as for others. I know about the part of the book which deals with the people of the east, especially of Kirmān, Sīstān, Khurāsān and Tabaristān.
Nothing remains of this book except what Yāqut al-Hamawī has written in Mu‘jam al-Buldān.
The book al-Buldān wa al Masāhah or al-Tibyān fī Ahwāl al-Buldān as it is also known, was written by Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Khālid al-Barqī. The author of Tārīkh al-Qum used this work in the fourth century as a source for his history of Qum (Mudarrisī has pointed out the quotations from al-Tibyān in Tārīkh al-Qum; refer to Bibliography of Works related to Qum, p. 18. Rāfi‘ī has also quoted some passages from it in al-Tadwīn, pp. 44-48).
In the printed edition of Tārīkh al-Qum, al-Barqī has been quoted extensively, and in one instance, it says: “In the book al-Bunyān al-Barqī thus writes...”.37 It is possible that al-Bunyān is the misspelling of al-Buldān. Another possibility is that the author of the bibliographical work Kashf al-Zunun has misspelled the book whose actual title is Kitāb al-Tibyān fī Ahwāl al- Buldān.38 Muhammad bin Khālid al-Barqī, the father of Ahmad al-Barqī has also been named as the author of al-Buldān wa al Masāhah.39
Another book of the same name al-Buldān wa al-Masāhah was written in the third century by Abī Ja‘far Muhammad bin ‘Abdullāh bin Ja‘far bin Husayn bin Jami‘ al-Himyarī. When he failed in his efforts to get a copy of Ahmad al-Barqī’s book in Baghdad, Rayy and Qum, he decided to write a new book in this connection under the same title.40
Another important book on the history of Qum is the one written in 378 AH by Hasan bin Muhammad bin Hasan al-Qummī. It is one of the most interesting and academic books of the early period of Islamic civilization. In contrast to the regional historiography of this period which mainly concerns the life of the notables of the cities, this particular work is a scholarly account of the various issues, including civic affairs, related to the city’s history.
In the introduction, the compiler has divided the book into twenty chapters but unfortunately the Persian translation of only the fifth chapter is extant. There is no information either on the Arabic version or the rest of the translation. The Persian translation was completed in 805 AH by Hasan bin ‘Alī bin Hasan bin ‘Abd al-Malik Qummī. Apart from the information given on the city of Qum, the book mentions valuable details concerning the collecting of taxes in those days.
In addition the author has elaborated in detail on the Ash‘arī tribe of the city beginning with its place of origin in Yemen and the meeting with Prophet Muhammad (S) in Medina on the advent of Islam till its migration to Iraq and then to Qum. He has also focused on the role of Ash‘arite tribesmen in the early Islamic conquests especially the conquest of parts of Iran.
Another valuable but lost book is the Tārīkh Rayy by Muntajab al-Dīn Ibn Babawayh the author of al-Fihrist who lived in the sixth century. Ibn Hajar ‘Asqalānī in his Lisān al-Mīzān has quoted accounts of several Shi‘ite and Sunni notables from this book, of which 47 have been mentioned by the late Urmawī in his introduction to the edition of al-Fihrist published by the Ayatullāh Mar‘ashī Najafī Library, Qum (pp. 11-16). Tārīkh Rayy was also the title of a historical book written by Abu Sa‘īd Mansur bin Husayn Abī the author of the valuable book Nathr al-Dur.41
Another important book is the Tārīkh Tabaristan of Ibn Isfandiyār who lived in the 6th century AH. It is considered the most important work on the history of Tabaristān by a Shi‘ite historian. Mention should also be made of the Tārīkh Ruyān of Mawlānā Awliyā’ Allah Amulī. It is a precious work on regional history in which the author has mentioned part of the historical viewpoints of the Shi‘ites in the days of the Imams (‘a).
From among the Sunnis, several scholars for various reasons, have written books on the lives of the Twelve Imams (‘a). This is apart from those Sunni scholars who wrote books on the merits of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) in general and whose works have been introduced by Sayyid ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Tabātabā’ī in his series of articles entitled Ahl al-Bayt fi al-Maktabah al-‘Arabiyyah in the quarterly magazine Turāthanā.
The term ‘Twelver Imamī Sunnis’ can be safely used to describe this group of authors. The first book in this regard is the Tadhkirah al-Khawāss of Yusuf bin Farghalī bin ‘Abdullāh al-Baghdadī Sibt Abī al-Faraj ‘Abd al-Rahmān bin al-Jawzī (581-654).
The author has dwelt on the virtues of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and given an account of the lives and merits of all the Twelve Imams (‘a). Among the books which no longer exist Kitāb al-Al of Ibn Khālawayh (d. 370) must have been a similar work as could be gleaned from its passages quoted by Irbilī in his Kashf al-Ghummah.
One of the outstanding figures of this trend among the Sunnis was Kamāl al-Dīn Muhammad bin Talhah Shāfi‘ī (d. 652) the author of the renowned book Matālib al-Su’ul fī Manāqib Al-i al-Rasul. Irbilī has praised him for his excellent account of the lives of the Twelve Imams (‘a). ‘Abd al-‘Azīz bin Muhammad known as Ibn Akhzar Gunābādī (d. 611) in his book Ma‘ālim al-‘Itrah al-Nabawiyyah wa Ma‘ārif Ahl al-Bayt al-Fātimiyyah al-‘Alawiyyah has written on the lives of only eleven of the Twelve Imams (‘a) and for this reason he has been criticised by ‘Alī bin ‘Isā Irbilī.42
Two other important examples of Sunni books are al-Fusul al-Muhimmah fī Ma‘rifah Ahwāl al-A’immah by Ibn Sabbāgh Mālikī (d. 855) and al-Shadharāt al-Dhahabiyyah fī Tarājim al-A’immah al-Ithnā ‘Ashariyyah ‘ind al-Imāmiyyah by Shams al-Dīn Muhammad bin Tulun (d. 953). Hamdullāh Mustawfī the author of Nuzhat al-Qulub in his historical account titled Tārīkh-i Guzīdah, begins with the history of the first three caliphs and then elaborates on the life and virtues of Amīr al-Mu’minīn Imam ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a).
In continuation, on page 198 he writes about the life of Imam Hasan (‘a) using the phrase Amīr al- Mu’minīn wa Hafīd Rasul Rabb al-‘Alamīn Imam al-Mujtabā, Hasan bin ‘Alī al-Murtazā (‘a) which means “Commander of the Faithful, Grandson of the Messenger of the Lord of the Worlds, the Chosen Imam, Hasan the son of ‘Alī the Pleased.” The thirtieth chapter of the thirtieth section deals with the lives of the other Imams. Mustawfī writes: “Concerning the rest of Imams, the pleasure of Allah be upon them all, they were the proof of Allah for mankind.
The period of their imamate, starting from 4th of Safar 49 AH till Ramazān 264, was 215 years and 7 months. The Imams did not rule as caliphs, but since they were deserving (to be caliphs), the benediction of their status travels like perfume on the road of epitome to bring proof.” This discussion continues till the account of the life of the Imam of the Age (‘a).43
Another important work is Fasl al-Khitāb by Khwājah Muhammad Pārsā who lived in the ninth century AH. Despite his insistence on being a Sunni and even his strong stances against the Rafidites, he has written about the lives of the Imams (‘a).
This part of the book has been published in volume 4 of the series of books titled Islamic Heritage of Iran. The author of Rawzāt al-Jinān wa Jannāt al Jinān, Darwīsh Husayn Karbalā’ī (10th century AH) has also dedicated a lengthy section in his book on the lives of the Imams (‘a). This book has been published.
Among the outstanding works of this nature is the valuable book Wasīlah al-Khādim ilā al-Makhdum dar Sharh Salawāt Chāhardah Ma‘sum by Fazlullāh bin Ruzbahān Khunjī (d. 927) who is famous for his antagonism towards the Shi‘ites and especially the Safawid dynasty. This is an exclusive book on the lives of the Fourteen Infallibles.44
Kunh al-Akhbār is the title of a book on the lives of the Twelve Imams (‘a) and was compiled in the 10th century AH in the Ottoman realm.45 Even Ibn Hajar Haythamī who wrote al-Sawā‘iq al-Muhriqah in refutation of what he called the beliefs of the Rafidites, has devoted the whole book to the lives and merits of the Twelve Imams (‘a).
One of the most important figures in this regard is Mullā Husayn Kāshifī who in his book Rawzah al-Shuhadā’ has written a brief account of the lives of the Prophets and the Twelve Imams (‘a) as well as issues concerning mourning for them.
The most detailed section of this book is dedicated to Imam Husayn (‘a). Another noteworthy book by this particular group of Sunnis is Kamāl al-Dīn Khwārazmī’s al-Maqsad al-Aqsā, which in addition to the lives of the caliphs gives an account of the Twelve Imams (‘a).
Few Persian works written by the Imamī Shi‘ites during the 7th-10th centuries AH have survived today. However, whatever extant literature of this type is available it is worth full consideration. The invaluable work entitled Naqz by ‘Abd al-Jalīl Qazvīnī Rāzī is a kalāmī-historical book written in defence of Shi‘ites as a refutation of a work written against the Shi‘ites.
This important work includes exclusive information from the sixth century AH especially on the Shi‘ites, their cultural situation and the political circumstances of the time. In this book the author also mentions that he has written a book on hadīth ifk46 in defence of ‘Ayishah. He mentions this work in order to say that the Shi‘ites do not insult the wives of Prophet Muhammad (S) as alleged.
Three works have been compiled by a very active Shi‘ite writer of the late 7th century AH which are all of kalāmī-historical nature. ‘Imād al-Dīn Tabarī the author of Kāmil Bahā’ī, Manāqib al-Tāhirīn and Tuhfat al-Abrār takes a kalāmī-historical look at important Shī‘ah issues and occasionally gives information on the times they were written.
The voluminous book Ahsan al-Kibār fī Ma‘rifat al-A’immah al-Abrār by Sayyid Muhammad bin Abī Zayd bin ‘Arabshāh Warāmīnī on the lives of the Imams was written in the year 740 AH. Several copies of this work are found including the manuscript in the Ayatullāh Mar‘ashī Library. The summary of this book by ‘Alī bin Hasan Zawāreh’ī titled Lawāmi‘ al-Anwār is also available.
The book Rāmesh Afzā-ye Al-i Muhammad by Muhammad bin Husayn Muhtasib is a ten-volume work on the history of the Prophets and Imams (‘a). Muntajab al-Dīn Ibn Bābawayh had seen the book and studied part of it under the author.47 Two quotations from it are also mentioned in the Manāqib of Ibn Shahr Ashub, one of which concerns the life of Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (‘a) and the other on the knowledge of Imam Sādiq (‘a).48 Muntajab al-Dīn has mentioned this book in al-Fihrist but no trace has been found of it after the 8th century.
Mabāhij al-Muhaj fī Manāhij al-Hujaj is the work of Qutb al-Dīn Kayzarī the outstanding Shi‘ite writer who most probably lived in the sixth century AH. This book which is in Arabic was translated into Persian by Hasan bin Husayn Shī‘ī Sabziwārī in the eighth century under the tllte Bahjat al-Mabāhij.
He presented this translation to Khwājah Nizām al-Dīn Yahyā bin Shams al-Dīn who ruled in Khurāsān as one of the commanders of the Sarbedārān movement from 753-759 AH. Bahjat al-Mabāhij was rendered into rhyme during the 10th century AH by the poet Hayratī Tunī of Kāshān. Hasan Shī‘ī Sabziwārī is also the author of Rāhat al-Arwāh wa Munis al-Ashbāh, a book which devotes itself to the life of Prophet Muhammad (S) and his Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). Copies of this work are available.49
There is a work titled Tārīkh-i Muhammadī, or Tārīkh-i Rashīdī as it is also known. This book has also been mentioned by two other names: Tārīkh-i Dawāzdah Imām or Fihrist-i A’immah. The description of this book in the library catalogue says: “On the dates of the birth of the Prophet and the Imams as well as their places of birth, their agnomen, titles, geneology and resting place.” The manuscript of this work is in the Tabrīz National Library, number 3626 and dated 20th of Dhī al-Qa‘dah 819 AH.50 The author of this book is Mullā Hasan Kāshī, who was close to Sultān Muhammad Khodā-Bandah and played an important role in the Tashayyu‘ of that era.
He wrote this book in Hillah and Baghdad in the year 708 AH when he was sixty years old.51 A book under the title Tārīkh-i ‘Itrat was also compiled in the year 803 in Aleppo, Syria, and has recently been published by the late Dāneshpazhuh.52
Among the most detailed works on the early history of Islam by Persian-speaking Shi‘ites is Nuzhat al-Kirām wa Bustān al –‘Awām, written by Jamāl al-Dīn Murtazā Muhammad bin Husayn bin Hasan al-Rāzī who lived in the late sixth and early seventh century AH. This two-volume work has recently been researched and published by Muhammad Shīrwānī.
The book contains narrations on the characteristics and biography of Prophet Muhammad (S) until the twenty-first chapter. After that until the 30th chapter of the first volume, the author writes about Abī Bakr and other topics. The second volume of the book till the sixtieth chapter focuses on the miracles of the 14 Infallibles till Imam Mahdī (may Allah hasten his reappearance).
This work along with the book Ahsan al-Kibār should be considered the most comprehensive Shi‘ite work in Persian written in the medieval period of Iranian history since the advent of Islam. It is worth noting that this book despite being in Persian, drew the attention of Ibn Tāwus who asked it to be translated into Arabic in view of its importance.
In one case he has quoted some topics of this book in his own work Faraj al-Mahmum.53 A maqtal written in Persian verse by Abu al-Mafākhir al-Rāzī in the 6th century, was used as a source for Rawzāh al-Shuhadā’ by Mullā Husayn Kāshifī.
After the glorious era of the Islamic civilisation till the 6th and 7th centuries AH, compilations in most fields of scholarship were faced with repetition, stagnation and useless descriptions, most of which lacked scientific methods. Of course, there were rare cases, which should be considered as exceptions.
For example, during the Mongol Ilkhanid era the science of historiography enjoyed a high position and works like Jāmi’ al-Tawārīkh, Jahāngushā-ye Juwaynī and Tārīkh-i Hāfiz-i Abru are indications of this high status. After that there is no sign of such works in the eastern lands of Islam, although in the western parts, especially in Syria and Egypt, scholars such as Dhahabī, Safadī, Ibn Hajar, Ibn ‘Imād Hanbalī, Sālihī Shāmī, Maqrīzī, Kutubī and several others flourished.
But neither the Sunnis nor the Shi‘ites compiled valuable works like those they had written during the first few centuries such as the Tārīkh Nayshābur, Tārīkh Bayhaq, Tārīkh Jurjān, Tārīkh Rayy and other similar books. Historiography during this era, apart from regional history about certain dynasties, was faced with stagnation.
In this period nothing significant was accomplished in the history of Islam either. The Sufis who dominated the east during these times wrote a few works in the 9th century on the esoteric ranks of their spiritual leaders and the chains of their shaykhs, which naturally included parts of the history of Islam and the Infallible Imams (‘a).
In these histories due to the dominance of the Sufi viewpoint a type of non-experimental historiography became the fashion with the compilations mainly tracing the classes and grades of saintly figures over the past few centuries.
The lives of their spiritual leaders take shape outside the normal circle of people’s lives and everything is rather exaggerated manyfold beyond reasonable limits. A long list of such works which lack scientific value from the viewpoint of historiography and which lost whatever worth they had with the disappearance of Sufism, have been mentioned in the history section of Storey’s Persian Literature.
Some of the best known of these books written by the Sunni Sufis, from which people could derive certain historiographical perspectives, are al-Maqsad al-Aqsā fī Tarjamah al-Mustaqsā (we have no information of the original Arabic version and what is available is only the Persian translation made by Kamāl al-Dīn Husayn Khwārazmī in the 9th century AH);54 al-Mujtabā min Kitāb al-Mujtabā fī Sīrah al-Mustafā;55 Siyar al-Nabī by Jāmī;56 Mawlud-i Hazrat-i Risālat Panāh Muhammadī by Jāmī;57 Shawāhid al-Nubuwwah li Taqwiyah Yaqīn Ahl al- Futuwwah also by Jāmīi58 (this is a renowned work and hundreds of handwritten copies of it are available); Bayān Haqā’iq Ahwāl Sayyid al-Mursalīn by Jamāl al-Dīn Ahmad Ardistānī known as Pir Jamāl Sufī;59 Ma’ārij al-Nubuwwah fī Madārij al-Futuwwah by Mu‘īn al-Dīn Farāhī (d. 907);60 Rawzah al- Ahbāb fī Siyar al-Nabī wa al-Al wa al-Ashāb by Amīr Jamāl al-Dīn Atā’ullāh bin Fazlullāh Husaynī Dashtakī written in the year 900 which was also very renowned;61 Tuhfat al-Ahibbā fī Manāqib Al al-‘Abā’ by the same author which is on the merits of the Ahl-al-Bayt (‘a);62 Athār-i Ahmadī by Ahmad bin Tāj al-Dīn Hasan bin Sayf al-Dīn Istarābādī.
These were some of the works of the Twelver Sunnis which have been published recently by the Mirath-i Maktub Publications of Tehran through the efforts of Mir Hashim Muhaddith.
There are several other Sufi works of sacral nature written in either prose or poetry, of which mention could be made of Nādir al-Mi‘rāj wa Bahr al-Asrār, Hamleh-ye Haydarī, and Muhārabah-ye Ghazanfarī. These books have been mentioned because of their influence on Shi‘ite historiography of the period. A clear example in this regard is Mullā Husayn Kāshifī’s Rawzah al-Shuhadā’ which has accurately transferred to Iranian Shi‘ism the viewpoints prevailing in Herat and was itself an influential text among the Shi‘ites for several centuries.
It should be noted that during the Safawid period, part of the historiography is related to the recording of historical developments of the Safawid State. We do not intend to describe such compilations whose outstanding examples are the different ‘Alam Arās63 and the Khulāsah al-Tawārīkh.
We only intend to point out those historical books that exclusively deal with the history of the advent of Islam, such as the biography of Prophet Muhammad (S) and the accounts of the life of the Imams (‘a). It is worth noting that the authors of the first type of works were not religious scholars but rather another class of the Safawid society such as secretaries, writers and in some instances poets. Here we shall focus on historiography in the Safawid and Qajarid eras which was of the same nature.
After the reign of its founder Shāh Ismā‘īl and the end of the first phase of the Safawid dynasty, the second phase began, that is the era of the stabilization under Shāh Tahmāsb. Among the important policies of the Safawid state was paying special attention to Shi‘ism and safeguarding it as one of the main pillars of the new government.
Shāh Tahmāsb who was fully aware of this factor, proceeded to deepen the roots of Shi‘ite ideology in Iran and for forty years made various efforts to consolidate it. In the field of history the main objective from the evidential point of view was to make the people familiar with the lives of the Infallible Imams (‘a) as well as present them with a critical analysis of the enemies of the Imams (‘a) during the early centuries of Islam.
It is worth noting that Iran, especially its eastern parts, was well familiar with the virtues of the Imams (‘a) and the promotion of this trend led to the further spread of Shi‘ism.
Shāh Tahmāsb for instance, issued instructions for the translation into Persian of the valuable book entitled Kashf al-Ghummah in order to promote the Shi‘ite doctrine among the people. One of the translators of this work, Ni‘matullāh bin Quraysh Razavī by name, writes in his preface to the translation: “Since his majesty Shāh Tahmāsb was determined to make the people familiar with the principles of tawallī (love of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt) and tabbarrī (hatred of the enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt), and since the majority of the people of the time were unaware of the history of the Infallible Imams (‘a) and did not know in detail about their great merits, therefore he gave orders that anyone who undertakes the translation into Persian of the book Kashf al-Ghummah fī Ma‘rifah al-A’immah which is a comprehensive work on this subject, will make it beneficial for all, and the faithful will become more firm in their awareness of the Infallible Imams (‘a), and this would be a great blessing and a benediction for all.” Quraysh adds that it was for this reason that he undertook the task of translating the book.64
Another reason for writing the history of Islam during the Safawid period was the growth of akhbārī and hadīthī tendencies. It is worth noting that even among the Sunnis the closing of the door of ijtihād coupled with the domination of akhbārī ideas, had weakened jurisprudent and rational thought (philosophy).
As a result their potential was directed towards the writing of history and works of rijāl. On the other hand, among the Shi‘ites in the post-Shaykh Mufīd period, since the door of akhbār or traditions had been closed, not only ijtihādī fiqh was strengthened but kalām and philosophy witnessed growth and development.
This trend naturally limited the scope of historiography and rijālī works. But with the revival of akhbārī ideas in the Safawid period historiography also re-emerged to a certain extent except that these ideas became another factor for restricting the role of history in kalāmī discussions, especially in the discourse on Imamate. These debates were similar to those which had appeared in the third century in such books as al-Istighāthah fī Bida‘ al-Thalāthah.
One major peculiarity of the Safawid era even among the Shi‘ites living in other lands such as Bahrayn, was that they did not have access to a wide variety of historical works. Unlike the era of Ibn Tāwus and Irbilī when the books of the Sunnis were widely circulated in Iraq and were also referred by the Shi‘ites, in Iran and Bahrayn of the Safawid days, only Shi‘ite books were available.
What has been mentioned from the Sunni books in such works as Ithbāt al-Hudā and Bihār al-Anwār, etc., are not direct quotations but have mostly been borrowed from the books of Ibn Bitrīq, Ibn Tāwus, Irbilī and the like. However, there are some exemptions in this regard including the direct use of Sunni works as well as words and phrases found in them.
The early historical sources like Tārīkh al-Tabarī or the works of al-Dhahabī and Ibn Kathīr which were in wide circulation in the Sunni world, were not available to the Shi‘ite scholars. Of the 20 volumes of catalogues of manuscripts published so far by the Ayatullāh Mar‘ashī Library in Qum, not even a single copy of Tārīkh al-Tabarī has been mentioned.
There seems to be dearth of early Shi‘ite historical sources as well, in view of the fact that only one manuscript of al-Mas‘udī’s Muruj al-Dhahab is found in the catalogues published by the Mar‘ashī Library, while Tārīkh al-Yaqubī – another Shi‘ite work – is conspicuously absent. As a matter of fact no manuscript of Tārīkh al-Ya‘qubī has so far been traced in Iran.
We should also know that ‘Allāmah Majlisī did not have any copy of Shaykh Mufīd’s al-Jamal. This is all indicative of the extreme poverty of this period concerning the availability of renowned historical sources while we cannot even visualise access to such unknown early works such as Ansāb al-Ashrāf which have recently come to light in the Muslim world.
This paucity of early historical sources explains the ambiguity in the several treatises written in the second half of the Safawid period on Abu Muslim Khurāsānī, as to whether he was an Imami Shi‘ite or an Abbasid loyalist. A Safawid writer who introduced him as an ardent supporter of the Abbasid cause had access only to Muruj al-Dhahab and has quoted it as if he had found an uncut diamond.65
But this should not distract attention from the fact that during this period a large number of books in Arabic and Persian were written on the life and conduct of the Imams (‘a) and narrations related to them. None of these works could however match the volumes of ‘Allāmah Majlisī’s Bihār al-Anwār in terms of its comprehensiveness and order. Volumes 11 to 14 of this encyclopaedic work deal exclusively with the accounts of the Prophets from the Shi‘ite sources, the most important of which have been supported by the āyahs of the holy Qur’ān and their interpretation and have occasionally been explained in the text.
The biography of Prophet Muhammad (S) is spread over 8 volumes (15 to 22) and is in great detail. The method of classification of subjects by ‘Allāmah Majlisī is worth noting and shows his meticulosity and diligence.
Volume 15 starts with the account of the ancestors of Prophet Muhammad (S) and ends with his period of youth. Volume 16 is related to the marriage of the Prophet with Khadījah al-Kubrā and covers his personal characteristics including morals and behaviour. Volume 17 starts with a detailed discussion on the infallibility of the Prophet and allegations of oversight against him, and ends with his miracles.
The first section of the 18th volume is an account of the miracles, divine appointment to prophethood (mab‘ath) and ascension (mi‘rāj). Volume 19 includes the events after mab‘ath until the Battle of Badr.
Volume 20 deals with the military campaigns the Prophet was forced to wage against the infidels, and ends with the Truce of Hudaybiyah and the sending of letters to the kings and rulers inviting them to accept Islam.
Volume 21 covers the period till the farewell pilgrimage (Hajjat al-Widā‘) of the Prophet. The 22nd volume gives an account of the relatives and kinsmen of the Prophet, especially his wives and his close companions and ends with his passing away from the world.
Volumes 23 to 27 are devoted to the subject of Imamate. Volumes 28 to 31 dwell on the history and characteristics of the caliphs and have been published recently. Volumes 32 to 53 deal with the history, exemplary conduct and merits of the Imams (‘a).
In this great encyclopaedia, except for some Shi‘ite works like Shaykh Mufīd’s al-Jamal which he had not seen, ‘Allāmah Majlisī has included whatever he could get hold of the written heritage of the Shi‘ites in this field.
Another great work of encyclopaedic nature was compiled during this era by the ‘Allāmah’s student Shaykh ‘Abdullāh ibn Nur al-Dīn al-Bahrānī under the title al-‘Awālim. This book also sought to integrate the works of the Shi‘ites in various fields. Like Bihār al-Anwār, some of its volumes deal exclusively with the question of Imamate and the Imams (‘a), and have been recently published by Mu’assasah al-Imām al-Mahdī (‘a) of Qum.
‘Allāmah Majlisī wrote in Persian a book on the life and history of the 14 Infallibles (‘a) under the title Jalā’ al-‘Uyun, a work that enjoyed wide popularity for several centuries. Shaykh Hurr al-‘Amilī’s work entitled Ithbāt al-Hudā is a unique and comprehensive book of its kind on the life of the Imams (‘a) and narrations related to them. The miracles attributed to Prophet Muhammad (S) and the Imams (‘a) have been collected in Madīnah al-Ma‘ājiz written by Sayyid Hāshim al-Bahrānī (d. 1107 or 1109). This work has recently been published in 8 volumes.
The books written in the Safawid period on Imamate, manāqib and the history of the Imams (‘a) cannot be counted. However, most of these works lack any scientific value, a situation that prevailed through the Safawid and Qajarid eras.
Despite improvement of Iran’s foreign relations during the Qajarid era when travels to the holy shrines in Iraq as well as the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca were greatly facilitated, libraries in Iran did not see any growth and as a result no new major work was accomplished.
It is worth noting that during the Qajarid era, not only the religious scholars but also state officials and secretaries were engaged in writing books on the history of Islam, especially maqtal works on the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (‘a). An example in this regard is Fayz al- Dumu‘ which has been written in beautiful style and was published recently by the Nashr-i Mīrāth-i Maktub.
Another example is the book Qamqām-i Zakhār wa Samsām-i Batār by the Governor of Fars Province, Farhād Mīrza Mu‘tamid al-Dawlah (son of ‘Abbās Mīrzā the elder son of Fath ‘Alī Shah Qājār who died fighting the Russian invaders in what is now the Republic of Azerbaijan).
This work is an account of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (‘a) and has been published several times.66 The biggest historical work of this period is Nāsikh al-Tawārīkh, which has devoted some volumes to the life of the Prophet and the Imams, but at present except for the section dealing with the history of the Qajarid dynasty and written by Muhammad Taqī Sepehr Kāshānī, the rest of the book is not considered of any historical value.
A major portion of Shi‘ite historiography of the past few centuries is made of maqtal works. It is a well established fact that the holding of mourning ceremonies for Imam Husayn (‘a) was very much in vogue in the eastern parts of Iran before the Safawids came to power. Kāshifī wrote the Rawzah al-Shuhadā’ for the predominantly Sunnis region of Herat and Khurāsān at a time when the Safawid state was being established in western Iran and had no sway in the east.
However, with the establishment of the Safawid State, ‘Ashurā’ ceremonies became more profound and new books were compiled in this regard. This trend grew and spread all over Iran until the end of the Qajarid dynasty and each year new works both in prose and poetry were added to the existing heritage. Unfortunately, during this period, no care and precision was taken from the perspective of historical value and the principal sources were not consulted with meticulosity.
What such writings mainly focus on in this period is mourning, elegy and tragedy. This is actually how the issue of martyrdom was viewed in this period and less attention was paid to the historical context. The majority of these works have been prepared to suit mourning ceremonies in order to make the people cry more. The following is a list of such books which have been written since the Safawid era onwards. Most of these books belong to the Qajarid era.
• Iksīr al-‘Ibādah fī Asrār al-Shahādah by Mullā Aqā Darbandī (Storey, p. 986)
• Amwāj al Bukā’ (Storey 979; Mar‘ashī, 7165)
• Bahr al-Bukā’ fī Masā’ib al-Ma’sumīn (al-Dharī‘ah, vol. 26/84)
• Bahr al-Huzn (Storey, p. 990)
• Bahr al-Dumu‘ (Mar‘ashī, 2592)
• Bahr-i Gham ( Storey, p. 964)
• Bustān-i Mātam (Storey, p. 1001)
• Bukā’ al-‘Ayn (Mar‘ashī, 6582)
• Balā wa Ibtilā dar Ruydād-i Karbalā’ (Storey, p. 960)
• Bayt al-Ahzān (Storey, p. 976)
• Khulāsah al-Masā’ib (Storey, p. 1017)
• Dāstān-i Gham (Storey, p. 964; Mar‘ashī, 2916)
• Dam‘ al-‘Ayn ‘alā Khasā’is al-Husayn (Storey, p. 995)
• Al-Dam‘ah al-Sākībah fī al-Musībah al-Rātibah (al-Dharī‘ah, vol. 264/8)
• Riyāz al-Bukā’ (al-Dharī‘ah, vol. 6/1)
• Rawzah Husayniyyah (Storey, p. 951; Mar‘ashī, 6224, 6545)
• Rawzah al-Khawāss (Mar‘ashī, 3001)
• Rawzah al-Shuhadā’-i Yazdī (Mar‘ashī, 156)
• Riyāz al-Ahzān (Storey, p. 172)
• Riyāz al-Ahzān (Masjid-i A‘zam Library Catalogue, Qum, 215)
• Riyāz al-Shahādah fī Zikr Masā’ib al-Sādah (Storey, p. 958)
• Sirr al-Asrār fī Musībah al-A’immah al-Athār (Storey, p. 996)
• Tarīq al-Bukā’ (al-Dharī‘ah, vol. 15/164)
• Tufān al-Bukā’ (Storey, p. 967)
• ‘Ummān al-Bukā’ (Storey, p. 982)
• ‘Ayn al-Bukā’ (Storey, p. 941)
• ‘Ayn al-Dumu’ (Mar‘ashī, 440)
• Fayz al-Dumu‘ (Storey, p. 988)
• Qabasāt al-Ahzān (Storey, p. 989)
• Kanz al-Bākīn (Storey, p. 4550)
• Kanz al-Mihan (Storey, p. 991)
• Kanz al-Masā’ib (Storey, pp. 969, 987)
• Lubb ‘Ayn al-Bukā’ (Storey, p. 942)
• Lisān al-Dhākirīn (Storey, p. 970)
• Mātamkadah (Storey, p. 963, 975)
• Mubkī al-‘Uyun (Mar‘ashī, 5006)
• Majālis al-Mafja‘ah (Storey, p. 945)
• Mujrī al-Bukā’ (al-Dharī‘ah, vol. 2/40)
• Majma‘ al-Masā’ib fī Nawā’ib al-Atā’ib (Mar‘ashī, 3369, 5425, 6643)
• Majma‘ al-Masā’ib Māzandarānī (Mar‘ashī, 6572)
• Muhriq al-Qulub (Storey, p. 943)
• Muhīt al-‘Azā (Storey, p. 945)
• Makhzan al-Bukā’ (Mar‘ashī, 1645; Storey, p. 969)
• Ma‘din al-Bukā’ fī Maqtal al-Sayyid al-Shuhadā’ (Mar‘ashī, 3017)
• Miftāh al-Bukā’ fī Musībah Khāmis al-‘Abā (Mar‘ashī, 2363)
• Miftāh al-Bukā’ (Mutahharī Library, 5/921)
• Manāhil al-Bukā’ (Mar‘ashī, 3455)
• Manba‘ al-Bukā’ (al-Dharī‘ah, vol. 22/358)
• Muhayyij al-Ahzān (Storey, p. 959)
• Najāh al-‘Asīn (Storey, p.1000)
• Nur al-‘Ayn fī Jawāz al-Bukā’ (al-Dharī‘ah, vol. 24/372)
• Wasīlah al-Bukā’ (Mar‘ashī, 5500)
• Wasīlah al-Najāh (Storey, p. 961)
• Yanbu‘ al-Dumu‘ (Mar‘ashī, 3083)
Paying close attention to the names of these books shows that there are some key words in them such as bukā’ (crying), huzn (sadness), ibtilā’ (suffering), ashk (tears), and musībat (calamity). During this era Karbalā was viewed more from the angle of such meanings than from the historical viewpoint. Another noteworthy point in these works is that the astonishment rising from the death of Imam Husayn’s (S) companions led these latter day authors to exaggerate the figures of the enemies killed by them in battle.
In this regard a look at the work Asrār al-Shahādah by Mullā Aqā Darbandī shows astronomical figures which cannot be proved through any historical means. Such works were so far from reality that even Mīrzā Husayn Nurī who was an akhbārī scholar has included the greater part of such weak narrations in his book Mustadrak al-Wasā’il, and later he decided to write a separate book entitled Lu’lu’ wa Marjān in which he has launched a scathing attack on the writers of maqtal and the reciters of such weak narrations.