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Shia Compilations Of Hadith

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Shias concept of Hadith is different from Sunni school of thought. For them, Hadith means Sayings, Actions & Silent approval of not only Holy Prophet (SAWW) but all the 14 Infallibles including Prophet, Hazrat Fatima & all 12 Imams starting from Hazrat Ali and ending on Imam Mehdi. All the Hadith compilations include Ahadiths from these 14 personalities. For Shia Jurists, they all have equal weightage and laws can be derived from them.

Background & History
The need of recording the numerous hadiths of the Prophet was initially worked on by Hazrat Ali during the lifetime of the Prophet (s). Further contributions were made to recording the Ahadith by various Sahabah (companions) after the death of the Prophet (s), continuing on to the efforts of the early scholars of hadith. These texts and notebooks of Ahadith that were compiled were called “Usul” (Principles), numbering to about 400. These Usul are simply notebooks of hadiths, possessing little order. About 200 survive to the present.

It was from these Usul that the four main books of Shia hadith (Kutub-eArba’a) were compiled: 1. Al-Kafi by Sheykh Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni al-Razi (died 329/940)
2. Man la yahdharuhu alFaqeeh by Sheykh Saduq Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Babwayhi al-Qummi (died 381/991)
3. Al-Tahdhib by Sheykh Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn al-Hassan al-Tusi (died 460/1068)
4. Al-Istibsar by al-Tusi (died 460/1068)
After compilation of these four books, the next stage of scholars focused their energies on exposition and commentary into these books. Of these commentaries that have withstood the test of time to today are 120+.

Then, during the Safavid rule, you can say a golden age of Shia hadith scholarship was reached, with scholars leaving important hadith works behind (close of eleventh, and early twelfth centuries):

1. Kitab al-jami’ al-Wafi by al-Kashani
2. Wasa’il al-Shia by al-Amili
3. Bihar al-Anwar by al-Majlisi
After the age of al-Majlisi, the scholars followed in the footsteps of these three works and others by expounding more on them. Among the important works of this era is Kitab mustadrak al-Wasa’il wa Mustanbat al-Masa’il by al-Tabarsi (1319/1901) which added on several important chapters to the original Wasa’il al-Shia.

This essentially brings us to the present. This is a very, very brief history, leaving out many important contributions and details, however, it will suffice for a general history of some highlights of Shia contributions to Ilm al-Hadith. It was an evolutionary process, with the potential results of each scholarly work being limited by time and resources. Each stage built on the accomplishments of the earlier stage of scholars, improving and expanding earlier works, and pioneering new works, methods, and angles at looking at various aspects of Ilm al-Hadith. About Kutub-e-Arba’a

Like Ahl-e-Sunnat school of thought, many Hadith compilations have been made but 4 of them are very popular and fundamental in lawmaking known as Kutub-eArba’a. 1. Al-Kafi by Sheykh Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni al-Razi (died 329/940)

2. Man la yahdharuhu alFaqeeh by Sheykh Saduq Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Babwayhi al-Qummi (died 381/991)
3. Al-Tahdhib by Sheykh Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn al-Hassan al-Tusi (died 460/1068)
4. Al-Istibsar by al-Tusi (died 460/1068)
Shias do not believe them to be absolutely authentic. This is also evident from their names as none of the Shia compilation of Hadith has “Sahih” (authentic) as part of their name like we witness in Sahih Bukhari or Sahih Muslim. Rather, the compilers of these collections only focused on the collections of Hadith leaving the rest to Fuqaha (Jurists) to separate the good from the bad. One may call them as first generation books so to speak, generally used by the Fuqaha (Jurists) on issues concerning to fiqh and usool (extraction of law).

It took al-Kulayni about 20 years to compile. It’s a very comprehensive work, comprised of about 16,000 hadiths, divided into three sections: al-Usul (Ahadith concerning principles of religion)
al-Furu (Ahadith concerning fiqh or jursipuridence)
al-Rawda (collection of “other” hadiths on topics that don’t fit in previous two categories, along with letters and speeches of the Imams
A unique feature of the book (for its time), is that the Ahadith are systematically presented in chapters by subject matter. His main contribution was the massive task of collecting and editing. He intervenes with his own commentary minimally. AlKulayni in particular seemed to be less concerned with the Sanad of the ahadith as he was with the Matn.

There have been several commentaries published on al-Kafi by various scholars, the most important being Mir’at al-uqul fi sharh akhbar al-rasul by al-Majlisi (1110/1698) and other commentaries by al-Shirazi (1050/1640), al-Mazandari (1080/1699), and others.

Man la yahduruh al-Faqih:
This books contains around 9000 Hadith. This is mainly concerned with furu’ (Jurisprudence). It is more of a reference book geared towards use by ordinary Shias. This is clear from both the foreword of the author, where he clearly states the target audience of the book- students, and the fact that the long, bulky Sanads were left out for ease of reading and conciseness, as he states, “I compiled the book without isnads so that the chains (of authority) should not be too many (and make the book too long) and so that the book’s advantages might be abundant. I did not have the usual intention of compilers (of books of traditions) to put forward everything which they (could) narrate but my intentions were to put forward those things by which I gave legal opinions and which I judged to be correct.” Scholars could, however, check the sanads in the numerous individual studies compiled by al-Saduq. Among the most important commentaries on this book are written by al-Amili (1060 AH) and al-Awwal (1070 AH).

Tahdhib alAhkam:
The original intention of al-Tusi had been to write a commentary on al-Muqni’a of his teacher al-Mufid. However, he makes it clear in his introduction that his work would only concern the furu’ of Islamic law, i.e. the practical regulations for carrying out the sharia, the holy law of Islam. There are 1300 Ahadth in this book He used al-Mufid’s al-Maqni’a as the basis for this task. However, he did not only deal with the traditions used in al-Muqni’a; he analysed many more traditions which he included at the end of various sections, appendices of traditions not mentioned by al-Mufid, which he also discusses.

The method used is to quote the traditions and then al-Mufid’s comments on them. This is often followed by al-Tusi’s explanation of al-Mufid’s comments. Al-Istibsar:
There are around 5000 Ahadth in it. Also by al-Tusi, this covers the same topics of Tahdhib but is more concise and considerably shorter, as he states, “…It would be useful that there should be a reference book which a beginner could use in his study of jurisprudence, or one who has finished, to remind himself, or the intermediate (student) to study more deeply.” He then goes into how he laid the book out and what principles he followed.

As can be seen from al-Tusi’s own introduction, al-Istibsar is essentially a summary of Tahdhib al-ahkam. Its methods are similar but briefer; there are not so many traditions used in the work and the explanations are more concise. In many ways it is closer to Man la yahduruh al-faqih, although unlike the latter it gives full isnads for the traditions quoted.

It is possible to say that al-Kafi and Tahdhib al-ahkam represent comprehensive collections of traditions, while Man la yahduruh al-faqih and al-Istibsar are books intended to be used as ready reference works for students and scholars.

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