Chapter 7: Shi’ah Precedence In Writing About Ethics

The first to write on this topic is the Commander of the Faithful, Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a). On returning from Siffin he wrote a book on this subject and sent it to his son Hasan or Muhammad ibn al–Hanafiyyah. It was a lengthy book comprising of all the topics on ethics, the ways of moral training, noble traits, steps necessary for spiritual deliverence (al–munjiyat), destructive behaviours (al–muhlikat) and the way of deliverance from the latter. Scholars from both sects (Sunni and Shi’ah) have mentioned this book, showing the commendation which it deserves.

Among our scholars, al–Kulayni has related it through different ways in Kitab al–Rasa’il. Imam Abu Muhammad al–Hasan ibn Abdullah ibn Sa’id al–Askari has also elaborated on it in his Kitab al–Zawajir wa al–Mawa’iz (Book of Upbraiding and Preaching). He states: “If there is a word of wisdom that deserves to be written in gold it is this.” He adds: “A group of people narrated the book to me” and then mentioned his chain of transmission.

The first Shi'ah to compile a work on morals is Ismail ibn Mahram ibn Abi Nasr Abu Yaqub al–Sukuni. He wrote Kitab Sifat al–Mumin wa al–Fajir. Also to his credit is a collection of sermons and wise sayings of the Commander of the Faithful. Both books have been mentioned by Abu Amr al–Kishshi and Abu al–Abbas al–Najashi in his Fihrist of Shi’ah authors. They state that he has narrated from a number of al–Sadiq’s disciples, and lived till the time of Imam al–Ridha’ (‘a) from whom also he narrated. He was among the second century scholars.

Other early generation Shi’ah who wrote about ethics include Abu Muhammad al–Hasan ibn Ali ibn Al–Hasan ibn Shu’bah al–Harrani (may Allah be pleased with him). He was among the third century scholars. He wrote Kitab Tuhaf al–Uqul, a book containing wise sayings, preaching and noble traits reported from the Prophet’s family. It is a splendid work which is relied on by notable Shi’ah scholars such as Sheikh al–Mufid who used to quote from it. Some of our scholars even said that the like of Kitab Tuhaf al–Uqul has never been written. Ali ibn Ahmad al–Kufi (d. 352) compiled Kitab al–Adab and Kitab Makarim al–Akhlaq on ethics. Abu Ali ibn Miskawaih the scholar previously mentioned wrote Kitab Tahzib al–Akhlaq wa Tathir al–A‘raq comprising six essays discussing the ways of moral refinement. It is really a masterpiece.

I have mentioned the categories of the masters of this discipline and their works in the original version of this book.