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Faharis al-Shi‘ah by Mahdi Khuddamiyan al-Arani, 1431 AH/2010 (review)

From: Journal of Shi'a Islamic Studies
Volume 6, Issue 1, Winter 2013
pp. 102-108 | 10.1353/isl.2013.0000

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The extant early biographic and bibliographic works of the Imami Shi‘a are essential tools for understanding the transmission and compilation of their written corpus of narrations elaborating spiritual, ethical, intellectual, legal, and doctrinal teachings. Mahdi Khuddamiyan al-Arani performs a signal service in these two volumes by substantiating the contents of eight bibliographic writings produced by Imami authors during the second half of the third/ninth century through the late fourth/tenth – writings which probably formed the basis for the two major fifth century fihrist works of Shaykh al-Ta’ifah al-Tusi1 (385–460 ah) and Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-Najashi (372–450 ah).2 The richness and variety of early Shi‘a literature is displayed in their two valuable bibliographies as well as in the great collection accomplished during the twentieth century by the tireless labour of Agha Buzurg al-Tihrani (1876–1970) in his al-Dhariah ila Tasanif al-Shiah. Agha Buzurg (a pupil of the text connoisseur Mirza Husayn Nuri) drew on manuscript collections both institutional and private, and remains an outstanding authority on extant copies of Shi‘a works. Yet previously unattested manuscripts continue to be uncovered and published, and one might hope for surprises in the future. The great collection amassed by Ayatollah Shihab al-Din Muhammad Husayn al-Mar‘ashi al-Najafi (1897–1990) and housed at the Grand Library of Mar‘ashi in Qum, reputedly the third largest collection of Islamic handwritten texts in the world, is a visible reminder of this wealth of Shi‘a literary activity stretching over thirteen centuries.3

What al-Arani offers us appears to be the fruit of our digital age with many texts now available on cd-rom and search engines capable of gathering defined bodies of data. He has assembled from the data recorded by Shaykh al-Tusi and al-Najashi the presumed contents of the following fihrist (bibliographic) works by:

1.    Sa‘d ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Ash‘ari (d. 301 or 299 ah).

2.    ‘Abd Allah ibn Ja‘far al-Himyari (d. 305 ah). ‘Abd Allah ibn Ja‘far al-Himyari and Sa‘d ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Ash‘ari were very important Imami scholars who flourished in Qum in the second half of the third century, and who both knew the eleventh Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (d. 260 ah), with ‘Abd Allah al-Himyari visiting Kufa in 297 ah for teaching purposes.

3.    Humayd ibn Ziyad al-Ninawa’i (d. 310 ah). He was a prolific Kufan Waqifi Imami living in Sura with wide contacts who then moved to Nineveh, transmitting many of the (four hundred) kutub al-usul, and who compiled many works including one entitled Man Rawa ‘an al-Sadiq (also referred to as kitabuhu al-rijal). Three generations separated al-Tusi and al-Najashi from these first three third century authors.

4.    Muhammad ibn Ja‘far ibn Buttah (d. 330 ah). Ibn Buttah, known as al-Mu’addib, worked in Qum and then Baghdad where he resided in al-Nawbakhtiyah. He was blamed for poor transmission methodology and errors.

5.    Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Ahmad ibn al-Walid (d. 343 ah). Ibn al-Walid was one of the most prominent jurists in Qum in his day enforcing the emerging ‘orthodoxy’, who compiled al-Fihris fi al-Rijal.

6.    Ja‘far ibn Muhammad ibn Qulawayh (d. 368 ah). Ibn Qulawyah was an outstanding tradent-jurist in Qum transmitting much (via his father and brother) from Sa‘d ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Ash‘ari, and whose published Kamil al-Ziyarat preserves early information about pilgrimage practice to the tombs of the Imams.

7.    Ibn Babawayh (Babuyah), or al-Shaykh al-Saduq (d. 381 ah). Ibn Babawayh of Qum, widely travelled and prolific, compiled one of the four authoritative Imami legal texts Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih as well as a lost multi-sectioned rijal work al-Masabih; he resided in Khurasan and was buried in Ray (today a suburb of Tehran).

8.    Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn ‘Ubdun (b. 330 ah - d. 423 ah). Ahmad ibn ‘Ubdun was a long lived teacher specializing in adab who taught Tusi and Najashi in Baghdad.


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