SHAFAQNA- What are the main written sources of Shia Islam?
A short answer: Shia Muslims consider Quran to be the first and the most important source of religious teachings and knowledge. The importance of the Holy Quran is such that any narration which contradicts it, is not valid. Imamiyyah, like other Islamic schools of thoughts, considers the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), that is, his speech and behavior as the proof. The Imami Shias consider the traditions of Ahlul-Bayt (AS) as the main sources of their religious thoughts, based on hadiths such as Saqalain and Safina, which ordered them to refer to and follow Ahlul-Bayt (AS). Based on this, the Four Books, which are known as Al-Kutub Al-‘Arba’ah, were compiled by three great Shia scholars in the 10th and 11th centuries. Also, Nahjul-Balagha is a selection of Imam Ali’s (AS) letters, sermons, and speeches that Seyyed Razi collected at the end of the 10th century.
Holy Quran the first and the most important source of religious teachings
Imami Shias consider the Holy Quran as the first and the most important source of religious teachings and knowledge. The importance of the Quran is such that any narration which contradicts it, is not valid. Imamiyyah, like other Islamic schools of thought, considers the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), that is, his speech and behavior as the proof. The Imami Shias consider the traditions of Ahlul-Bayt (AS) as the main sources of their religious thought Based on hadiths such as Taqalain and Safina, which ordered them to refer to and follow Ahlul-Bayt (AS). (1)
Hadiths of the Twelve Shia Imams
Due to the benefit of the presence of their imams, the Twelve Imam Shias recorded a large number of hadiths from them on various subjects in 245 years after the death of the Prophet (PBUH). Some narrators tried to collect narrations from Imams (AS), which in the term of hadith sciences, it is called original compilation. They stated the number of them up to 400. (2)
Some narrators in the 2nd and 3rd centuries of Hijri (8th and 9th AD) focusing on a united subject collected hadiths from imams, such as Al-Sahifah Al-Sajjadiyyah of Imam Sajjad (A.S.), the book of Tawheed Mufadal, which discusses the basics of theology from Imam Sadiq (AS), the book of Mahasan Al-Barqi, which is written on various subjects of rulings and customs, Ba’saer al-Darjat on the subject of the position and superiority of the imams, Kamal al-Ziyarat on the subject of different pilgrimages and the rewards for each, and the book of al-Zuhd on the subject of ethics.
In the 4th and 5th centuries of Hijri (10th and 11th AD), due to the collection and classification of the hadiths of imams, the Four Books of the Shia, which are known as Al-Kutub Al-‘Arba’ah, were compiled by three great Shia scholars; The Book of Kafi authored by Thaqat–ul-Islam Kolaini, the book Man La Yahduruhu Al-Faqih written by Muhammad Bin Ali Bin Babouyh known as Sheikh Sadouq, the Book of Tahdeeb Al-Ahkam and Istebsar written by Muhammad Bin Hasan Al-Tusi are the early Shia Hadith communities. The credibility of these four books has been very high for Shia scholars at different times. The subject of three books of La Yahduruhu Al-Faqih, Tahdeeb Al-Ahkam, and Istebsar, are completely jurisprudential, and the book of Kafi has devoted a large part to the discussion of religious rulings, it has also stated hadiths on beliefs and customs.
Also, Nahjul-Balaghah is a selection of Imam Ali’s (AS) letters, sermons, and speeches that Seyyed Razi collected at the end of the 4th century AH. This book is divided into three parts: sermons, letters, and aphorisms. In many sermons, Imam Ali (AS) invited people to follow God’s orders and leave taboos, and in some of the letters addressing the governors, he ordered them to respect the rights of people.
Other works that were topically focused in the first and second centuries, were noticed in the following centuries due to the variety of topics and the range of narrations, which are introduced as examples of their famous books:
Al-Tafsir attributed to Imam Al-Askari (AS), the interpretation of Qumi, the interpretation of Furat Kofi, the book of Al-Tafsir (Ayashi), Al-Tebyan in Tafsir of Quran (Sheikh Al-Tusi).
Sheikh Saduq has over 16 Books of Belief with topics of Monotheism, Prophethood, and Evidence of leadership such as: The Book of Beliefs of the leadership, The Book of Monotheism, The Book of Evidence of the Will of Ali (AS) The Book of Proofs of the Imams (AS) and Their Miracles, The Book of the Compilation of the Imams’ Proofs.
Regarding his theological attitude, Sheikh Mofid’s most books has verbal topics such as: Al- Arkan fi Da’aem Al-din, the book of Al-Idah fi Al-Imamate, the book of Masalah fi ma’refat Al-Nabi [PBUH].
The theological books of Sheikh al-Tusi such as: al-Mafsah fi al-Imamah; is of the most important works on leadership, Al-farqbeyn Al-Nabi and Al-Imam, Al-Shafi’s Talkhis is about leadership,too. The original version of this book was by Seyyed Morteza and it was summarized by Sheikh al-Tusi.
Due to its great importance, this subject has many works, some examples of which are mentioned: Al-Ghaibah (Nomani), Kamal al-Din and Tammam Al-Naimah (Sheikh Sadouq), Al-Fusul Al-Ashrah in Al-Ghaibah (Sheikh Mufid), Al-Arshad (Sheikh Mufid) Al-Ghaibah (Sheikh Tusi), all works thereafter used the same content in different ways.
Prayers and Pilgrimages
The importance of the issue of prayer and connection with God and imams made some scholars collect and categorize the books on prayers and pilgrimages: Misbah al-Mutahjad (Sheikh Al-Tusi), Al-Balad Al-Amin and Al-Dara Al-Hussein (Kafami).
1. Rabbani Gulpaigani, Dramdi Be Shi’ashnasi, 2013
2. Mamqani, Abdullah, Talkhais Muqbas al-Hedayah, TalkhaisAli Akbar Ghafari, Tehran, Sadoq, 1369 Sh. vol. 3, p. 26 and Aqabozorg Tehrani, Al-Zari’a to Shiite Classification, Beirut, Dar Al-Adwa’, 1403 AH, vol. 2, p.
3. Ansari, Mortazi, Faraid al-Asool, Qom, Majma‘ Al-Fakr Al-Islami, 1428 AH, Vol. 1, p.
Part of a series: Shia Answers
Read more from Shafaqna:
Shia Answers: How did Imam Sajjad (AS) keep the message of Islam alive during difficult times after his father’s martyrdom?