• Date: 2010 Jun 27

Thiqat al-Islam Kulayni; the most famous scholar of Islamic law and Shia academic of Hadith

The most famous scholar of Islamic law and Shiite academic of Hadith in the first half of the fourth century is the trustworthy of Islam Muhammad ibn Ya’qub ibn Ishaq Kulayni Razi popularly known as Kulayni or Sheikh Kulayni. Kulayni is of Iranian origin from the village of Kulayn located at thirty seven kilometers of the City of Rey and on the south-western region of the Qum –Tehran main way near present day Hassan Abad.
It is for this reason that he is also entitled Razi, related to Rey.[1]
Yaqut Hamawi (b 626 Hegira), the renowned geographer, writes:
‘Estakhri (alive in 340 Hegira) has said that Rey is bigger than Isfahan and after Baghdad, there was no city in the east more populous [and flourishing] than it, regardless that Nishabur is bigger from the viewpoint of expansiveness. Rey is one and a half farsakhs in length and width, and has villages every one of which is one bigger town.’[2]
Yes, from the early days Rey and its towns have been considered as part of the Shiite centers; despite that most of the people of Rey were Hanafi and Shafi’I Sunnis. The tomb of Kulayni’s father, that is to say, Ya’qub ibn Ishaq, who was one of the prominent Shiites of those days, is at the present in the village of Kulayn and is a pilgrimage place for the people of that area.
Ullan Razi (Kulayni’s maternal uncle), and another group of Shiite religious jurisprudents and scholars of Hadith, like Muhammad ibn Assam (the student of Kulayni) also came from that [same] village.
Kulayni’s Status in the Islamic World
The trustworthy of Islam Kulayni was born in the era of Imam Hassan Askari (a), and was a contemporary of four ambassadors and representatives of the Imam of the Age, may Allah hasten his reappearance, who were the link between the Shiites and the Imam of the Age, may Allah hasten his reappearance, in the entire period of the short occultation of his holiness. Despite that these four people were considered as being among the greatest religious jurisprudents and scholars of Hadith, and the Shiites consider them as highly prominent, but still Kulayni was the most famous pre-eminent person who lived with respect among the Shiites and Sunnis in that period and openly endeavored at spreading the correct school of thought.
All the biographical works have praised him for his truthfulness in speech and correct conduct and totally encompassing knowledge of Hadiths to the extent that they have written that both Shiites and Sunnis used to refer to him to obtain religious verdicts and he was reliable and dependable in this regard to both schools of thought. It is for this very reason that he is entitled the trustworthy of Islam and one of the Islamic scholars who was called by this title and he is rightly worthy of this great title. Kulayni unparralled in dependability, justice, piety and virtue, memorization and recording of Hadiths, which were all attributes of a reliable and fully qualified religious jurisprudent. In the words of Allama Majlisi:
‘He was, among all our scholars and those who related Hadiths from him likewise unequalled in the order and arrangement of his book al Kafi, and this excellence is proof that he had special approval from Allah.’[3]
Kulayni in the Viewpoints of Shiite Scholars
The mentor of students and front-man of Shiite religious jurisprudents Sheikh Muhammad ibn Hassan Tusi, writes in his invaluable book entitled ar-Rijal, section of those who have not narrated a Hadith from the Imams (a), writes:
‘Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub Kulayni was a prominent scholar knowledgeable about the Hadiths and reports. He has literary works which have been collected in the book al Kafi. He died in the month of Sha’ban in the year 329 Hegira and is buried in a place called ‘the Door of Kufa’. We have mentioned his books in the book entitled al-Fihrist.’[4]
And he cites the names of all of books of al-Kafi and a number of other books in al Fihrist which we are going to get acquainted with, and he quotes the chains of transmission of his Hadiths from his teachers Sheikh Mufid, Hussein ibn Abdullah Ghazairi, Seyyid Murtatha and Ahmad ibn Abdun.
A prominent scholar of chains of transmission Abul Abbas Ahmad ibn Ali ibn Abbas, popularly known as Najashi (b 450 Hegira), who has been known as the most famous Shiite scholar of chains of transmission and has written his book after al-Fihrist and ar-Rijal of Sheikh Tusi, thus remembers Kulayni in his renowned and precious book ar-Rijjal:
‘Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub ibn Ishaq Kulayni, Allan Kulayni Razi is his maternal uncle. Muhammad ibn Ya’qub Kulayni was the leader of Shiite scholars and their shining face in Rey, and is the most effective Shiite academic in Hadiths and their recording. He wrote his magnanimous book entitled al Kafi within a period of twenty years.’
Then he mentions the books of al Kafi and other writings of Kulayni, which we are going to explain later.[5]
Besides the Sheikh and Najashi, who are the scholars of transmissions of Hadith and translation, other people too have remembered Kulayni or his magnanimous and renowned book al Kafi whenever they come across his name as the most effective Shiite scholar in the understanding, narration, recording Hadiths, and the beauty of the order and arrangement of his book al-Kafi.
Ibn Shahr Ashub Mozandarani, Allama Hilli and Ibn Dawud, according to custom, have used those same expressions of the Sheikh and Najashi in praising him.
Seyyid ibn Tawus writes:
‘The trustworthiness and dependability of Kulayni in narration of Hadiths is unanimously agreed upon by all the scholars.’[6]
Sheikh Hussein ibn Abdul Samad Amuli (the father of Sheikh Bahai) says:
‘Muhammad ibn Ya’qub was the teacher of scholars in his age and their front-man and the most dependable academic in Hadith narration. He was the most knowledgeable and advanced at criticism of Hadiths.’[7]
Mulla Khalil Qazwini, the famous religious jurisprudent, in the Farsi commentary on al-Kafi, writes:
‘Friend and foe have all acknowledged his virtue.’[8]

Allama Majlisi, in the commentary on al-Kafi called Marat al Uqul, has written:

‘Kulayni was acceptable to all the tribes and students of those days and was praised by all.’[9]
Mirza Abdullah Isfahani, popularly known as Afandi, the renowned scholar and student of Allama Majlisi, writes:
‘The meaning of “the truthful of Islam”, in most instances in the books of transmissions of Hadith is Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub ibn Ishaq Kulayni Razi, the author of al-Kafi and other books, that is to say the pre-eminent Sheikh and Muslim among the ordinary, learned and scholarly of both sects.’[10]
Kulayni in the Viewpoints of the Sunni scholars
Kulayni is very great in the views of Sunni scholars, especially the historians who came after him. All have praised him for his greatness and magnanimity.
Ibn Athir Jazari in the famous book ‘Jami’Usul’ writes”:
‘Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Ya’qub Razi, one of the leaders of the Ahlul Bait (a) school of thought, is a great, renowned and virtuous scholar.’
He has also recognized him as the reviver of the Shiite school of thought.
Ibn Athir quotes a Hadith from the Prophet (s) stating, ‘At the beginning of every century, Allah raises an individual who revives His religion and keep it renowned.’
Then he embarks upon explaining this Hadith and says:
‘The scholars of Hadith and the revivers of the Shiite school of thought were Muhammad ibn Ali Baqir (a) (the fifth Imam) at the beginning of the first century, Aliibn Musa ar-Ritha in the second century and Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub Kulayni Razi.’[11]
From Ibn Athir’s writing, the position and circumstances of Kulayni become very clear, and it becomes known that he was the most pre-eminent Shiite scholar in the second half of the third century and the first half of the fourth century Hegira who was the reviver of the [Shiite] school of thought after two Imams (a).
The younger brother of Ibn Athir (Azaddin Ali ibn Athir Jazari), in the beginning of the events of the year 328 Hegira in the book al Kamil Fil Tarikh, has also considered Kulayni as the first scholar who passed away in that year and writes:
‘Muhammad ibn Ya’qub Abu Ja’far Kulayni, one of the scholars and leaders of the Shiites, died in this year.’[12]
It has to be borne in mind that the contemporary scholar and researcher Hussein Ali Mahfuz, in the introduction of al-Kafi page twenty one has mistakenly quoted the expression ‘Jami-ul-usul’ from Ali ibn Athir in [the book entitled] al-Kamil and has [mistakenly] imagined that the authors of Jami-ul-Usul and al-Kamil are one and the same person.
Firuz Abadi (b 818 Hegira), the eminent etymologist, in the book entitled al Qamus al Muhit has mentioned Kulayni under the word-heading Kulayn and has recognized him as a Shiite jurisprudent.[13]
Ibn Hajar Asqalani (b 852 Hegira) in his famous book Lisan al-Mizan-who has in brief and at length interpreted the states of the Sunni scholars and sometimes the Shiite up to his era- thus writes about our great scholar:
‘Muhammad ibn Ishaq Abu Ja’far Kulayni Razi was a resident of Baghdad and there he used to narrate Hadiths from Muhammad ibn Ahmad Jabbar and Ali ibn Ibrahim ibn Assim and the others. Kulayni is one of the Shiite jurisprudents and a person who in their school of thought has authored a lot of books.’[14]
And also Ibn Hajjar in his other book at-Tabsir has said:[15]
‘Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub Kulayni is one of the leaders of the Shiite scholars who lived during the reign of Muqtadar (the Abbassid Caliph).’[16]
Besides these ones, whenever the rest of the Sunni scholars have come across the name of Kulayni, they have remembered him as a great scholar and renowned faqih too and one of the former leaders of the Shiites.
Kulayni’s Mentors
The truthful of Islam Kulayni met a lot of great scholars, jurisprudents and authorities of hadith in the second half of the third century Hegira in Rey, Qum, Baghdad, Kufa and the other Islamic lands far and wide, which are obscure to us today, and compiled what [knowledge] they had preserved and derived benefit from it and got their permission; authorization from such great men which was also very valuable to a magnanimous man like him [i.e Kulayni]. In the book of the authorities of chains of transmission and translations, they have named up to forty jurisprudents and scholars of Hadith, every one of whom is considered his teacher and master, and Kulayni was a student of theirs.
Beside a number of Sunni scholars whom Hajr Asqalani has named, this number of honorable Shiite jurisprudents and scholars of Hadith whom we have become acquainted with in the first and second volume of ‘Mafakhir al Islam’ and have named them [both] in brief and in detail, are among the famous teachers of the trustworthy of Islam, this former Shiite scholar.
Ahmad ibn Muhammad Issa, Ahmad ibn Idriss Qumi (b 306 Hegira), Ahmad ibn Muhammad Saeed Hamadani, popularly known as Aqda (b 333 Hegira), Ahmad ibn Muhammad Assim Kufi, Ahmad ibn Mehran, Ishaq ibn Ya’qub, Hassan ibn Hanif, Hassan Fazl ibn Yazid Yamani, Husssein ibn Hassan Husseini Aswad, Hussein ibn Hassan Hashimi Alawi, Hussein ibn Muhammad ibn Imran Ash’ari Qumi (b 307), Ali ibn Hussein Sa’d Abadi, Ali ibn Abdullah Khadiji Asghar, Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Aban ibn Razi, Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Muamar Kufi, Muhammad ibn Yahya Attar, are thirty five people altogether, and other than those.
Kulayni’s Students
This number of Shiite jurisprudents and scholars of Hadith, who were among our famous scholars in the first half of the middle of the fourth century Hegira in Iran and Iraq and teachers of a great number of renowned scholars of the second half of the fourth century Hegira, they are considered as some of Kulayni’s students.
Ahmad ibn Ibrahim, popularly known as Ibn Abi Rafi Simri, Ahmad ibn Katib Kufi, Ahmad ibn Ali ibn Saeed Kufi, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ali Kufi, Abu Ghalib Ahmad ibn Muhammad Zarari (285-364 Hegira), Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn Quluwiya Qumi (368 Hegira), Abdul Karim Abdullah ibn Nasr Bazaz Tanisi, Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Musa Diqan, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Ni’mani well known as Ibn Abi Zainab, who is one of the special students and acquaintances of him [i.e Kulayni] and copied his book al-Kafi [in his own hand writing], Muhammad ibn Ahmad Safwan the resident of Baghdad, who is also was one of his special students and copied his book al-Kafi line by line [in his own handwriting] and learned [theoretical] knowledge and [practical] morals from him and was awarded a prize by Kulayni for his recitation of the Hadiths, Muhammad ibn Ahmad Sanani Zahri the resident of Rey, Abul Fazl Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Matlab Shibani, Muhammad ibn Ali Majluwiya, Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Asam Kulayni, harun ibn Musa Talakbari Shibbani (b 385 Hegira), totaling fifteen people altogether, the others are among the category of eminent [scholars].
Kulayni’s Works
Sheikh Ajal Tusi, and Najashi the scholar of chains of transmission of Hadith and their authorities, have counted a total of these books as part of Kulayni’s writings:
1. The Book of Chains of Transmission
2. The Book of Refuting the Qaramatiya
3. The Book of the Imams’ (s) treatises
4. The Book of Interpreting Dreams
5. The Collection of Poems (comprising elegies which poets have recited in praise of the virtues and graces of the infallible and pure Ahlul Bait (a).
6. The Book entitled al-Kafi (which we shall treat independently).
Kulayni’s Death and Tomb
The truthful of Islam, this former prominent scholar of Hadith who in those days was the eyes and torch of light for the Shiites and a noble source of reference for the scholars of Hadith, including both the Shiites and Sunnis, after all that pain and struggle and writing and publication and enlivening the school of thought acceptable to the infallible and pure Ahlul Bait (a), finally in the year 328 and 329 coinciding with the beginning of the greater occultation of the Imam of the Age, may Allah hasten his reappearance, died in that same city Baghdad and let his soul fly high to the garden of rest. His tomb today is on the eastern side of the Tigris River, near the old bridge of Baghdad, well known a pilgrimage place for the Muslims. (The birth day of Kulayni has never been known.)
Sheikh Tusi in the book al Fihrist has recorded the year of Kulayni’s death as 328 Hegira but Najashi in al Rijjal and the Sheikh himself too who in his al Rijjal, both of which were authored after al Fihrist, have explained that Kulayni died in the year 329; we also believe this date to be authentic. In this year, Sheikh Ajal Abul Hassan Simri, the fourth representative of the Imam of the Age also died and with his death, the greater and long occultation of his holiness began, and Shiite community were placed in a particular position. But the existence of the book al Kafi, like the bright star, made the dark night of the Shiites shine luminously to the extent that the succeeding scholars undertook to completing Kulaynis work and spreading the light of the infallible Ahlul Bait (a).      
1 Mu’jam al Baladan vol. 2 verse 117
[3] Sharh Mashaikhah Min la Yahtharat al faqih P 267
[4] Al Fihrist Sheikh Tusi P 135
[5] Rijjal Najashi P 266
[6] The Introduction of al Kafi
[7] The introduction of al Kafi as quoted from Wusul al Akhbar P 69
[8] The Introduction of al Kafi
[9] Marat ul Uqul vol 1 P 3
[10] The Introduction of al Kafi
[11] Al Rijjal, Abu Ali Hairi,
[12] Al Kamil ibn Athir vol 6 P 274
[13] Qamus al Rijjal vol 4 256
[14] Lisan al Rijjal vol 5 P433
[16] Rauthat al Janat Fi ahwal al Ulama wa sadat P 525
Reference:  Mafâkher-e Islam’s book (vol:3 Page:40)
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