Thiqat-ul-Islām, the Sheikh of Sheikhs, Muhammad son of Ya’qūb son of Is’hāq, known as Kuleinī Rāzī, is one of the great dignitaries of Shi’a at the time of ‘Ghaybat-e Sughrā’ (minor occultation) of the 12th Imām (Imām-e Asr, Mahdī AJ.F.). He is a great ‘Muhaddith’ (narrator) in the 2nd half of 3rd century and 1st half of 4th century Hegira. He was born in a village named Kulein – 38 KM away from Rey city, Iran – at the era of Imāmate of the 11th Imām of Shi’a, in a home filled with the hearty affection and cordial love towards the Ahl-ul-Bayt (the infallible household of the holy Prophet of Islām A.S.).
His father Ya’qūb son of Is’hāq, who was a virtuous and good-natured man, took the responsibility of training his son from the very beginning, and practically taught him moralities, righteous behaviors and Islāmic rules and manners. Tomb of Kuleinī’s pious father in Kulein village has been a holy place for pilgrimage of Shi’as for many centuries. The maternal uncle of Kuleinī named ‘Allān, who himself was a great Muhaddith and heartily loved the Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.), had a significant role in training and teaching him. ‘Allān was finally martyrized in his way to Mecca for Hajj pilgrimage. Kuleinī could take advantage and enjoy the company of his honorable father and uncle at his childhood, and could thereby learn the science of Hadīth (traditions) and Rijāl (study of the biographies of the narrators of Hadīths, with the intention of discovering the “authenticity” of the available Hadīths according to their narrators).
After completing his elementary education, in order to reach the stages of perfection, Kuleinī then traveled to Rey city, which had a high scientific reputation at that time.
Being the heart of Iran at that era, Rey had been converted to the battlefield for ideological clashes between factions like Ismāeeliyyah and sects such as Shāfi’ī, Hanafī and Shi’a. During his education, Kuleinī was not only acquainted with opinions and beliefs of various sects and factions, but also found out the essence of those movements who were about to deviate Shi’a from its straight path. Kuleinī well recognized the fundamental suffering of the Islāmic world, and wisely decided to treat it. He believed that the remedial to all the existing chaos in the Islāmic world would be general return to the school and precepts of the Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.).
Heedless of the turmoil, Kuleinī settled on his way, and made up his mind to learn and register the Hadīths as much as he could. Therefore he started to write down Hadīths and discuss about them by assistance and guidance of great teachers such as Abul-Hasan Muhammad Ibn-e Asadī Kūfī, and showed a great enthusiasm in this regard.
Emigration to Qom
The era of Kuleinī should be named as ‘the age of Hadīth’. At that time, the movement that had come up for finding, hearing, and registration of Hadīths, was spread about all Islāmic countries, and among them, Kuleinī is to be accounted one of the enthusiastic devotees of the knowledge of Hadīth. Kuleinī, who knew the conditions and situations of his era very well, keenly found out the fact that his age was a passage of survival for Shi’a school, through which if Hadīths (traditions) and Riwāyāt (Narrations) could pass safely, Shi’a followers will be able to continue their way in a righteous path, far from any deviation or eclecticism forever. Therefore despite all attractions and charms of Rey city – where followers and believers of Alavide (Shi’a) school had newly gained the power – he decided to leave Rey and reside in Qom which was the city of scholars of ‘Hadīth and Riwāyat’.
At the presence of great scholars
Kuleinī’s arrival to Qom was coinciding with religious and political sovereignty of pious and virtuous men who were accounted as famous narrators of Hadīths at that time. At the apogee was Ahmad son of Muhammad son of Īsā Ash’arī, whose piety, virtuousness, and hearty affection towards Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.) was clearly known to everyone. Taking advantage of the knowledge of this great man, Kuleinī also attended the class of another teacher who was known as ‘Mu’allim’ (the teacher). Sheikh Tūsī in his book ‘Kitāb-ur-Rijāl’ (history and biographies of narrators of Hadīth), names ‘Mu’allim’ as one of the disciples of Imām Hasan Askari (A.S.) and among those who have had the honor to meet this holy Imām. This great man was ‘Ahmad Ibn-e Idrīs Qommī’.
Najāshī cites: “Since Ahmad Ibn-e Idrīs Qummī had been a pupil of Imām Askari (A.S.), and on the other hand was the ‘teacher’ of Sheikh-e Kuleinī, he has been known as Mu’allim”. During his course of studies, Kuleinī benefited from another upright sage who was Abdullāh Ibn-e Ja’far Humeirī, a man who has been reverenced by all historians and scholars of Rijāl and Hadīth. This great sage also has been one of the disciples of Imām Hasan Askari (A.S.) and has many compilations. Unfortunately none of his books is available unless ‘Qurb-ul-Asnād’. This book is a collection of narrations. Its origin goes back to an infallible Imām.
Further to the above-mentioned famous Ulamā, Kuleinī has enjoyed the teachings of other teachers, whose names will be listed later.
Although Qom was the center of Shi’a, and satiated the enthusiastic scholars who were after the words of Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.), Kuleinī’s insatiable eager to the pure knowledge of Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.) made him leave that holy city in the hope of perceiving new Hadīths and narrations. Therefore he left Qom despite all its values, and started his trip to other cities and villages. He set many cities and villages behind, and wherever found a Muhaddith who knew a Hadīth of Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.); courteously sat in his presence to learn, then after a while he restarted his travel and went to another place.
Staying in Kūfa
Kūfa was among the cities where Kuleinī entered. At that time Kūfa was one of the outstanding scientific centers. Kūfa was the residential place of Ibn-e Uqdah. He was famous all over the world for his proficiency in memorization of Hadīths, and for the same reason many enthusiastic people were attracted to Kūfa.
Thiqat-ul-Islām Kuleinī, having acquired knowledge from tens of teachers and Muhaddiths in various cities and regions, finally arrived in Baghdād. The length of his traveling is not exactly specified, but undoubtedly during his long trip he demonstrated his virtues and knowledge, and presented a general picture of a real Shi’a sage in the minds of the people of every region to the extent that when he entered Baghdād he was not an unknown person at all. The Shi’as were proud of him and the Sunnīes admired him. Soon he became famous for his piety, virtuousness, and knowledge, so that the whole contemporary great scholars and intellectuals sought his advice, and the followers of Islāmic factions consulted him to get his decrees. That was why he was entitled as Thiqat-ul-Islām (the trustworthy of Islām), and he is the first person who is honored by this title in the history of Islām.
The greatness and prominence of Kuleinī among the Sunnīes is to the degree that Ibn-e Athīr (a Sunnī scholar) cites a Hadīth from the holy Prophet of Islām (S.A.) in these words: “Allāh the Almighty, at the beginning of each century, assigns someone who will revive His religion and keep it renowned in the world.” Ibn-e Athīr then discusses about this Hadīth and says: “The revivers of Shi’a sect are ‘Imām Muhammad Ibn-e Alī Al-Bāqir (A.S.)’ at the beginning of the 1st century (Hegira calendar), ‘Imām Alī Ibn-e Mūsā Ar-Ridhā (A.S.)’ at the beginning of 2nd century, and ‘Sheikh-e Kuleinī’ at the beginning of 3rd century.”
It can be firmly stated that Kuleinī was the most famous and reputed thinker of his age; an age that was the peak of attempts of scholars of Hadīth and endeavors of great Ulamā, and even the specified vicegerents (Nuwwāb-e Khāss) of the occulted Imām (Imām Mahdī (AJ.F.) lived at that age.
Thiqat-ul-Islām Kuleinī was contemporary to the four specified vicegerents (Nuwwāb-e Khāss) of Imām Mahdī (AJ.F) who were the intermediate people between the Imām and the Shi’as during the period of Ghaybat-e Sughrā (minor occultation) of the holy Imām for 69 years. Although those four were the eminent scholars of Hadīth and great jurisprudents (Faqīh), and Shi’as respected them to a high degree, Kuleinī was the most distinguished dignitary who lived venerably among both Shi’as and Sunnīes at that time. The era, which was the apogee of struggle of narrators and great scholars, even the four specified vicegerents of Imām-e Zamān (AJ.F). He openly attempted to promulgate the right idea of Shi’a and the virtues of the holy Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.). All classes of society commended him for his righteousness, decency, and perfect domination over narrations and Hadīths. It is registered that both Shi’as and Sunnīes referred to him for religious decrees and he was the trustworthy reference in this regard. He was prominent in justice, piety, virtuousness, preservation and registration of Hadīths; all of which are requirements for a trustworthy Muhaddith having comprehensive qualifications for this purpose.
Thiqat-ul-Islām Kuleinī has taken advantages from a number of dignitaries, each of whom has been a genius at his age. Some of them are as follows:
1-Abul-Hasan Muhammad Ibn-e Asadī Kūfī
2-Ahmad Ibn-e Muhammad Ibn-e Īsā Ash’arī
3-Ahmad Ibn-e Idrīs Qommī
4-Abdullāh Ibn-e Ja’far Humeirī
5-Ahmad Ibn-e Muhammad Ibn-e Āsim Kūfī
6-Hasan Ibn-e Fazl Ibn-e Zayd Yamānī
7-Muhammad Ibn-e Hasan Saffār
8-Sahl Ibn-e Zīyād-e Ādamī Rāzī
9-Muhammad Ibn-e Ismāeel Neyshābūrī
10-Ahmad Ibn-e Mihrān
A number of Faqīhs (jurisprudents) and Muhaddiths of Shi’a, who have been the luminaries in the 4th century in Iran and Iraq, are ranged among the students of Kuleinī:
1-Ibn-e Abī Rāfi’
2-Ahmad Ibn-e Ahmad-e Kātib-e Kūfī
3-Ahmad Ibn-e Ali Ibn-e Sa’īd Kūfī
4-Abū Ghālib Ahmad Ibn-e Muhammad Zorārī
5-Ja’far Ibn-e Muhammad Ibn-e Qūlawaih Qommī
6-Ali Ibn-e Muhammad Ibn-e Mūsā Daqāq
7-Muhammad Ibn-e Ibrāhīm No’mānī, known as ‘Ibn-e Abī Zaynab’, who has been one of the confidant pupils and intimate friends of Kuleinī, and Kuleinī’s famous book ‘Kāfī’ has been transcribed by him.
8-Muhammad Ibn-e Ahmad Sanānī Zāherī
9-Muhammad Ibn-e Ali Mājīlūyeh
10-Muhammad Ibn-e Muhammad Ibn-e Assām Kuleinī
11-Hārūn Ibn-e Mūsā
Sheikh-e Kuleinī, the pure headspring
Further to his aptitude, creativity, and ceaseless efforts, Sheikh-e Kuleinī should be accounted as the fruit of endeavors and sufferings of the great Ulamā of his age in the field of writing and sanitization of the Hadīths of Shi’a. He was a strong bridge and a righteous, trustworthy person who carried the authentic Hadīths and narrations of the teachers and scholars of his age to the coming generations; Kuleinī, in fact, was the ‘essence’ of his time. When we talk of Kuleinī, we are actually talking of all beautiful, delicate, and virtuous aspects of his time; talking of determination and iron will of Shi’a in acquisition of science and knowledge; and talking of KĀFĪ; just as when we talk of Kāfī, we are in fact talking of pleasant fragrance of the words of Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.), and of the neglected commandment of the holy Prophet of Islām S.A. (i.e. full obedience to the Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.), which was ordered by the holy Prophet to be held in trust by all Muslims), as the holy Prophet (S.A.) stated: “I will depart this life, and leave two significant and precious things to be held in trust by you: the book of Allāh (the holy Qurān), and my Ahl-ul-Bayt (the infallible household) …”.
Sheikh-e Kuleinī is visualized in Kāfī, which is the pure source of the Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.) and the sweet fountainhead of Hadīth in the cultural barren of time, and the refined origin for the lovers of the household of the holy Prophet of Islām (may Allāh extend His peace upon them all).
Great Scholars’ Words about Him
1-Najāshī cites: “He was the Sheikh and master of Shi’a in his time in the city of Rey; he has preserved Hadīths more than anyone else, and is the most credible scholar.”
2-Ibn-e Tāwūs cites: “Trustworthiness and reliability of Sheikh-e Kuleinī is unanimously approved by all.”
3-Ibn-e Athīr cites: “He revitalized the Imāmīyyeh (Shi’a) sect in the 3rd century, and is the great sage and renowned scholar of that faction.”
4-Ibn-e Hujr-e Asqalānī writes: “Kuleinī is one of the chief leaders and scholars of Imāmīyyeh during the powerful days of the Abbaside caliphate.”
5-Muhammad Taqī Majlisī states: “Truly, Kuleinī is matchless among the Shi’a Ulamā; everyone who precisely studies his narrations and order of his books, soon perceives that he has been under divine patronage.”
It was the year, in which the stars of knowledge declined. It is nice to see the countenance of the divine men who – after enduring lots of sufferings and difficulties – at last, carry the burden, which God put on their shoulders to be held in trust, safely to its destination. The light of Allāh the Almighty signalizes the eyes of such men, and they will sense a lively, indescribable spirit. At such spiritual conditions, they will impatiently look forward to meeting their adored creator.
After around 20 years of endeavors in compilation of the book Kāfī, and enduring pains, difficulties and alienations, while his age passed 70, Sheikh-e Kuleinī, now is at the threshold of meeting his adored creator. He feels a kind of tranquility in his soul, which is a sign of his self-sacrifice and doing his duty perfectly.
Although he was living in the crate of this worldly earth, he was breathing in the heavenly atmosphere of paradise. Because throughout his life he had spent moments of his life involving in the words of Ahl-ul-Bayt (A.S.), and for the purpose of performing his ritual duty had tolerated all sufferings.
For us, the worldly people, departing this life would be something new, but for a privileged man such as Kuleinī – who was never confined to the secular world – there was no borderline named as ‘earth’. He spent the days in the hope of departure and meeting his beloved. The year 329 Hegira is a year, which is called as ‘the year of declination of stars’: a year of ‘setting off of the stars’, in which the sky of this worldly earth was left without the illuminating stars. In such a year, this dignified scholar of the Shi’a world departed the life in the month of ‘Sha’bān’. The famous sage of Baghdād ‘Abū Qīrāt’ offered his death prayer. The Shi’a Muslims buried him sorrowfully and respectfully in ‘Bāb-e Kūfa’ in Baghdād.
In the same year, ‘Alī Ibn-e Muhammad Samurrī’ – the fourth and last specified vicegerent of the Imām Mahdī (may Allāh hasten his reappearance) – passed away, and the major occultation (Ghaybat-e Kubrā) of Imām Mahdī (AJ.) started.
Peace and blessings be upon him (Kuleinī): at the day when he was born, and the day when he shined as a sun in the sky of Islāmic world, and the day when he will be resurrected in the presence of Allāh, the Almighty.
1- KĀFĪ: the most famous compilation of Kuleinī is the great and valuable book of KĀFĪ, which is not only his greatest compilation, but also the most authentic book in Hadīth in the Islāmic world. There is a statement, attributed to Imām Mahdī (may Allāh hasten his reappearance), who stated: “Al-Kāfī will suffice our Shi’as.” Kāfī is the first book among the four authentic resources of Shi’a School.
2- RIJĀL (biographies of narrators of Hadīths)
3- REFUTATION of QARĀMATEH
4- RASĀ’IL-UL A’IMMAH (letters of the infallible Imāms A.S.)
5- TA’BĪR-ur-RU’YĀ (interpretation of dreams)
6- THE COLLECTION OF POEMS AND ODES (consisting of odes, composed by a number of poets, describing virtues and merits of Ahl-ul-Bayt A.S.)