Islamic civilization, which filled the gap between the ancient civilizations and modern Western civilization, is one of the most developed civilizations with regards to attention it has shown to science, philosophy and literature, and ultimately served as a foundation for much of Western civilization’s later achievements.
The history of human civilization is such a vast topic that we cannot even offer a summary discussion of it in these pages. However, we will mention a few salient points. In the course of human history, Man has established various civilizations, each with their own particular features. Some of the most influential of these have been the Chinese, Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman, Iranian and finally Western civilizations. Islamic civilization, which filled the gap between the ancient civilizations and modern Western civilization, is one of the most developed civilizations with regards to attention it has shown to science, philosophy and literature, and ultimately served as a foundation for much of Western civilization’s later achievements.
Both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars have written numerous books and encyclopedias on the subject of the Islamic civilization and detailed what this civilization’s contributions to humanities. Islamic civilization is not an Arabic civilization established by Arabs, rather, it is a civilization created by various peoples including Arabs, Turks, Persians and others. As these nations integrated within Islam, they put aside their ethnicity and focused only on Islam. Whenever scholars speak about Islamic civilization, they mean a civilization whose most remarkable feature is Islam, which has been created and strengthened by Muslims and all have lived under the auspices of monotheism and the Prophetic mission. Muslims in the first centuries of Islam carried their religion to different parts of the world. Ultimately, Islamic civilization spanned from China from the east to the Atlantic Ocean, the coasts of Africa, and Europe in the West. In his book, The Story of Civilization, Will Durant considers four constituent elements for any civilization:
- Economic elements
- Political structure
- Science and technology
He says that this applies to all civilizations, both religious and secular. However, Islamic civilization and religious civilizations are based on Man’s awareness of, and belief in God and Resurrection, to the extent that this belief is considered as the foundation for his commitment to ethics principles and Islamic teachings. Therefore, any civilization not rooted in belief in God and spirituality is a secular rather than a religious one.
The founder of the Islamic civilization was the Prophet himself, who introduced a complete program for Muslims’ individual and social lives. At the same time, he encouraged Muslims to explore nature’s mysteries and learn how to benefit from them. Thus, he ultimately organized a society on the basis of ethical and political principles, as a close study of the history of Islam and the life of the Prophet will confirm. Muslims, following the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunna, were able to build a civilization and gain political, economic, and cultural ascendency. In addition, they developed an advanced system of ethics. They also sought to develop the material sciences of their time. As a result, famous scientists and scholars appeared whose efforts contributed to the development of both religious and secular learning. The works of these scientists are still considered important contributions to human development. In fact, non-Muslim nations, in order to catch up with the Islamic civilization, translated their books and thus benefited from Islamic learning.
However, Islamic civilization was not one-dimensional, such that it prioritized the economic aspects of civilization while overlooking the human ones. Rather, it considered and devoted attention to all possible aspects of human life to the extent that it was able.
Here, we wish to study the participation of Shīʿa scientists and scholars in the development of the Islamic civilization and the particular contributions they made to its fourth essential element of it, namely science and technology. Since science and technology are the ultimate fruits of civilization and, as such, help to distinguish a civilization from those coming before and after it. The other three essential elements mentioned by Durant, namely the economic, political and cultural, are not the part of our discussion. We are focusing on the Shīʿa participation in the development of Islamic sciences and technology in order to show that they have served the cause of Islamic learning science and service to the Qur’an and religious tradition as much, if not more, than scholars from other sects. We shall leave the discussion of the three other elements to another time, as these do not fall within the scope of the present work.
As the sacred scripture of Islam is in Arabic, Muslims had to clearly determine the rules of Arabic both to preserve their book and to make it understandable to future generations. Before the Arabs mixed extensively with other nations, they spoke Arabic correctly. However, as the number of non-Arab Muslim increased, the Arabic language began to change, as is natural with all languages. Thus, it was necessary for scholars to record the rules of this language to be used by both native and non-native speakers (Tārīkh Adab al-Lugha al-ʿArabiyya, 1/219).
We shall now briefly introduce some of these scholars:
Abū al-ʿĀswad al-Duʾalī
Who was it that first began recording the grammar of the Arabic language and what motivated him to do this? This figure was none other than Abū al-ʿĀswad al-Duʾalī who laid down the first grammatical rules for the Arabic language. The person who directed and supported him in this task was Imam ʿAlī. Thus, Abū al-ʿĀswad al-Duʾalī is the founder of grammar or the first collector of its rules. This person did not see the Prophet and therefore is considered to belong to the generation of the Successors (Tābiʿīn). These were Muslims who were born after the death of the Prophet Muhammad but who were contemporaries of the Prophet’s Companions. He was among the Companions of Imam ʿAlī, and took part in the Battle of Ṣiffīn before finally settling in Basra. The Syrian grammarian, Shaykh Abū al-Ḥasan Salama, writes: ‘Once Abū al-ʿĀswad visited ʿAlī and found him grieved. ‘What troubles you?’ he asked. The Commander of the Faithful replied: ‘I have noticed that some people speak incorrectly, so I have decided to write a book and collect the grammatical rules of the Arabic language in it.’ I told him if he does so he will save Arabic language from destruction. Then he gave me some sheets of paper on which the following sentences were written:
“Speech is made of nouns, verbs and particles. Nouns are names of things, verbs provide information, and particles complete the meaning. He says the Imam then elaborated more upon the subject.”
I asked, ‘May I complete what you said?’ Afterwards I offered him what I had written and the Imam added and omitted some points. (Taʾsīs al-Shīʿa, 51)
Needless to say, these rules do represent the grammar of the Arabic language in its entirety; nonetheless, they constitute the first ever foray into the field of Arabic grammar. Abū al-ʿĀswad, inspired by the Imam’s words, persevered and presented what he had written to his teacher. Therefore the inventor of Arabic grammar is Imam ʿAlī and its compilation was done by Abū al-ʿĀswad al-Duʾalī, one of his students.
In his Fihrist, Ibn al-Nadīm writes that most scholars agree that the study of Arabic grammar was initiated by Abū al-ʿĀswad al-Duʾalī, and that he took it from the Commander of the Faithful, ʿAlī. He then quotes Ṭabarī, who says that the reason this science was named ‘naḥw’ was that when Imam ʿAlī wrote the basics of this science in some pages and gave them to Abū al-ʿĀswad, he asked permission to ‘produce something in the manner (naḥw) you did,’ that is why this science was named ‘nahw.’ (Ibn al-Nadīm, Fihrist, 66)
Although Abū al-ʿĀswad al-Duʾalī was the founder of grammar, it was Khalīl b. Aḥmad al-Farāhīdī, a student of Imam al-Sādiq, who developed this science further. Abū Bakr Muḥammad b. Ḥasan Zubaydi writes that Khalīl b. Aḥmad was unrivalled in his time as an outstanding scholar of his nation, and was a great teacher with many students. He is the one who developed grammar, strengthened its foundations, removed its weaknesses, explained its meaning and brought it to the highest point of perfection. These two Shīʿa scholars surely played key roles in invention and development of Arabic grammar.
Obviously we can’t deny the roles of other Muslims in the development of Arabic grammar; however, as our subject is the Shīʿa contribution to the invention and development of sciences, we only mention the Shīʿa scholars who played pivotal roles in the development of these sciences.
‘ʿAtāʾ b. Abī al-ʿĀswad
In his Rijāl, Shaykh al-Ṭūsī mentions him in the chapter on the Companions of Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī. In his Suyūṭī in his Ṭabaqāt describes ʿAtā as the teacher of al-Aṣmaʿī and Abū ʿUbayda. (Taʾsīs al-Shīʿa, 65)
Abū Ja’far Muḥammad b. Abī Sara al-Rawāsī al-Kūfī
Suyūṭī says that he is the first among Kufans to write a book on grammar and called it al-Faysal. He is the teacher of al-Kisāʾī and Farrāʾ. (ibid., 67)
Najāshī says that Abū Ja’far and his father narrated traditions from Imams al-Bāqir and Sādiq and he himself is the author of several books such as Kitāb al-Waqf wa al-Ibtidaʾ, Kitāb al-Humaz and Kitāb Iʿrāb al-Qurʾān.
Ḥumrān b. Aʿyān
He is the brother of Zurāra b. Aʿyan and he is known as a preeminent authority in the science of grammar. Ḥumrān learned the knowledge of grammar and recitation from Abū al-ʿĀswad’s sons, and Farrāʾ also studied under him. He was assiduous in learning traditions, grammar and the Qur’an; he took aḥādīth from the Imams Sajjād, al-Bāqir, and al-Sādiq. The family of al-Aʿyan was, in fact, one of the most important Shīʿa families in Kufa. to the extent that Abū Ghālib Zurārī (d. 286 AH) wrote a book about them. He writes in his book that Ḥumrān was among the elders of Shīʿa and had expertise in grammar and lexicography. (Risālat Āl Aʿyan, 3)
Abū ʿUthmān Māzinī
His name is Bakr b. Muḥammad. Najāshī says that he was the leader of scholars in grammar and his Muqaddima is quite well-known amongst scholars. He was a scholar of the Imāmiyya who was trained by Ismāʿīl b. Maytham. He wrote a book on Arabic literature entitled al-Taṣrīf and another book under the title of Ma Yulhan fīhi al-ʿĀmma. He died in 248 AH. (Najāshī, 277; Ibn al-Nadīm, Fihrist, 90; Tārīkh Baghdād, 93, no. 3529)
His name was Yaʿqūb b. Isḥāq and he was a close companion of the Imams al-Jawād and al-Hādī. He has narrated from Imam al-Jawād and has asked some questions from him. Mutawakkil had him killed in 242 AH because of his commitment to Shi’ism. He was a leading scholar in Arabic language and literature in his time. His books include: (1). Iṣlāḥ al-Manṭiq (2) Kitāb al-Alfāẓ (3) Ma Ittafaqa Lafẓahu wa Ikhtalafa Maʿnāhu (4) Kitāb al-Aḍdād (5) Kitāb al-Mudhakkar wa al-Muʾannath (6) Kitāb al-Maqṣūr wa al-Mamdūd. (Najāshī, no. 1215)
He suffered a gruesome martyrdom because of his love for ʿAlī and the Prophet’s Household; before this, he had been the teacher of Mutawakkil’s sons. One day, Mutawakkil asked him are these two sons of mine dearer to you or Ḥasan and Ḥusayn? Ibn Sikkīt replied, ‘to me, Qanbar, the servant of ʿAlī, is superior to you and your sons.’ Hearing this, Mutawakkil became enraged and ordered his tongue to be torn out. He wrote more than 20 books on poetry and vocabulary. (Tārīkh Adab al-Lugha al-ʿArabiyya, 1/224)
He was known as Aḥmad b. Ismāʿīl b. Dāwūd b. Ḥamdūn and was considered a master of Arabic grammar. Najāshī introduces him saying, ‘He is the master of grammarians, and their foremost figure, Abūl ʿAbbās (Thaʿlaba), learned grammar from him. He was among the close companions of Imam al-Hādī and Imam al-ʿAskarī and wrote many books,’ before listing Ibn Ḥamdūn’s works. (Najāshī, nos. 1215, 228)
Abū Isḥāq Naḥwī
His name is Thaʿlaba b. Maymūn. Najāshī says: ‘He was a linguist, the master of recitation, the jurist of his time, and an expert in grammar. He narrated aḥādīth from Imam al-Sādiq and Imam al-Kāẓim.’ (Najāshī, no. 300; Lisān al-Mīzān, 1/332)
Qutayba Juʿfī is from Kufa. Najāshī says about him, ‘he is the master of recitation and a man of letters.’ (Najāshī, no. 867)
Ibrāhīm b. Abī al-Bilad
Najāshī says about him: ‘He is a reliable narrator, a reciter of the Qur’an, a literary scholar who has narrated ḥadīth from Imam al-Sādiq and Kāẓim.
Muḥammad b. Salama Yashakrī
Najāshī says, ‘He is a great man among our Kufan Companions. He is held in high esteem is a reciter, a jurist and a grammarian. He lived for a while among Bedouins and learned the pure Arabic language from them. Yaʿqūb b. Sikkīt enjoyed his erudite company.’
Abū ʿAbd Allāh Naḥwī
His name is Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad b. Khāluwayh. He resided in Aleppo and was a Shīʿa, knowledgeable in the sciences of Arabic language and poetry. His works include Mustaḥsan al-Qirāʾāt, al-Shawadhdh and Kitāb fī al-Lugha. (Najāshī, no. 159)
As Suyūṭī writes in his Ṭabaqāt: ‘He was the leading scholar in linguistics and Arabic sciences. He died in 314 AH in Baghdad.’ (1/529, no. 1099)
Abū al-Qāsim Tanūkhī
Ibn Shahrʾāshūb says: ‘He is among the poets who praised the Prophet’s Family in their poems.’ (Maʿālim al-ʿUlamāʾ, p. 149) Yāqūt writes: ‘He was a leading scholar in linguistics, astronomy, and prosody. He knew many poems by heart.’ (Taʾsīs al-Shīʿa, 139)
Here, we have mentioned some of the leading scholars of grammar and prominent figures of this science. The majority of these scholars lived in the first four centuries of the Islamic history – If we were to mention all great Shīʿa scholars of grammar we would need to write a separate book on them! The late Ḥasan Ṣadr has listed in his book as many as 140 Shīʿa grammarians active up until the 7th century AH.
It suffices to know that Sharīf al-Raḍī, Sharīf Murtaḍā, Ibn Shajarī, and Najm al-Āʾimma were also remarkable Shīʿa scholars in this field of knowledge. Once again, we are not overlooking the contribution other scholars made to the development of this science. However, we aim to introduce a group scholars efforts have remained unknown, often for sectarian reasons.
Morphology (ʿIlm al-Ṣarf)
Before the time of Abū ʿUthmān Māzinī (d. 248 AH), morphology was part of grammar. The first person who differentiated it from grammar and wrote a separate book on it was Abū ʿUthmān Māzinī. (Kashf al-Ẓunūn, 1/249) Abū al-Fatḥ ʿUthmān b. Jinnī (d. 392 AH) wrote a commentary on it, however this science was not warmly welcomed until the time of Najm al-Āʾimma, Muḥammad b. Raḍī Astarʾābādī Gharawī, wrote a complete commentary on Ibn Ḥājib’s Shāfiya in morphology, he also wrote a commentary on his Kāfiya in grammar.
The author of Kashf al-Ẓunūn states that that there are various commentaries on Ibn Ḥājib’s Kāfiya. The most comprehensive of them is the commentary of Raḍī. Suyūṭī believes nothing like this has been ever written and that in all the works of grammar there is no book as complete as this. Thus, people have welcomed and trusted this book. Raḍī has put forward certain ideas in this book that are different from those of other grammarians. He completed this book in 683 AH in the holy city of Najaf.
Semantics (Ilm al-Lugha)
By semantics, we mean the study of the meaning of Arabic words in light of heir etymology and derivation, in order to determine their precise sense. The fruit of this endeavour is the production of dictionaries and lexicons; some dictionaries are on a specific category such as animals, humans, bears, horses, and camels. This kind contains the species’s members and that of their body parts. For example, Kitāb al-Ḥaywān by al-Jāḥiẓ and Ḥayāt al-Ḥaywān by Damīrī and Thaʿlabī. These books are known as ‘technical lexicons.’
Other dictionaries aim to include the totality of words in the Arabic language regardless of a particular topic. The first to writing such a dictionary was Abū ʿAbd Allāh Khalīl b. Aḥmad al-Farāhīdī. He is the first to record Arabic vocabuly and he is the founder of Arabic prosody (ʿilm al-ʿurūḍ). His dictionary follows a special method which is no longer common these days; he arranged the Arabic alphabet according to their place of articulation from the pharynx to the lips. He entitled this book Kitāb al-ʿAyn. This book is recently published and some have organized the book, following the model of modern dictionaries, alphabetically.
Khalīl b. Aḥmad
There is no doubt that Khalīl b. Aḥmad was a Shīʿa. He was born in the year 100 AH and passed away in 170 or 175 AH. In addition to his dictionary, he wrote a book about the Imamate. Muḥammad b. Ja’far Marāghī has mentioned all of Khalīl’s works in his book, entitled al-Khalīlī.
Najāshī says that Muḥammad b. Ja’far was also active in the area of theology and wrote the books Mukhtār al-Akhbār and Khalīlī on the Imamate and the metaphors in the Qur’an and another book on figures of speech in the Qur’an. (Najāshī, no. 1052)
ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī writes in his Khulāṣa: ‘He was superior to all others in Arabic literature and his authority in language is beyond dispute. He invented prosody. His knowledge is so profound that it can’t be described. He was an Imāmī Shīʿa.’ (Khulāṣa, Part 1, no. 67)
Ibn Dāwūd says Khalīl b. Aḥmad was the leading scholar in the literary arts. His knowledge and piety are too great to be denied. He was a Twelver. (Rijāl, Part 1, p. 574)
Abān b. Taghlib
He was a close companion of the Imams Bāqir and Sādiq. Najāshī says, ‘He was among the well-known reciters, a jurist and linguist. He heard the language from the Bedouins and quoted it.’ (Najāshī, no. 6)
Yāqūt says that he was a reliable narrator, a scholar of great standing, a Qur’an reciter, a jurist and a linguist.
Shaykh al-Ṭūsī says in his Fihrist that Ibn Ḥamdūn was a leading linguist and a well-known scholar. (no. 56.) He was the teacher of Abūl ʿAbbās.
Katib Baghdādī says that Abū Bakr was a man of letters and a great linguist. He is the writer of a dictionary entitled al-Jamhara fī al-Lugha. Coincidently, he and Abū al-Hāshim Jubāʾī passed away on the same day, and people said most regretfully that with the death of Ibn Durayd and Hashem, semantics and theology had died as well.
He wrote al-Jamhara fī al-Lughah in the manner of Khalīl’s al-ʿAyn. Ṣāḥib b. ʿAbbād abridged and entitled it Jawharat al-Jamhara.
Ṣāḥib b. ʿAbbād
An outstanding figure in knowledge and literature; Ṣadūq (306-381 AH) dedicated the book ‘Uyun Akhbār al-Riḍā to him. Among his works is the 7-volume work on lexicography entitled al-Muḥīṭ. His being a Shīʿa is beyond doubt; it suffices to consider two lines of one of his odes to establish this:
Don’t you know the guardian is one / who gave alms when he was in the prayers?
Don’t you know the guardian is one / whom Ghadīr judged superior to the Companions?
Obviously the number of Shīʿa scholars who contributed to the development of Arabic grammar is greater than those mentioned here. The late Sayyid Ṣadr in his book, Taʾsīs al-Shīʿa included the biography of 24 such figures. However, since we aim to keep this discussion brief, we will not elaborate further.
Prosody (ʿIlm al-ʿUrūḍ)
Not only did Shīʿa formulated the rules of grammar under the direction of the Gate to Prophetic Knowledge, ʿAlī, but they also invented the science of prosody. We will only mention the inventor of this science and name two prominent authors in this field.
Khalīl b. Aḥmad al-Farāhīdī
Ibn Khallikān says that Farāhīdī discovered the science of prosody and created it from scratch. He limited its types to five circles from which fifteen meters are inferred. (Wafāyāt al-Aʿyān, 1/244, no. 225).
Ṣāḥib b. ‘ʿAbbād
Ṣāḥib b. ‘ʿAbbād, usually Known as Kāfī al-Kufāt, is a famous man of letters. He has a book entitled al-Iqnāʿ fī al-Urūḍ. (Kashf al-Ẓunūn, 1/132)
After him a number of other great Shīʿa scholars wrote in the field of prosody, two of whom are mentioned below:
- Sayyid Hibat al-Dīn Shahristani
He wrote a book entitled Rawāshih al-Fuyūḍ fī ʿIlm al-Urūḍ, published in 1364 AH in Tehran.
- Shaykh Mustafa Tabrizi (1298-1338 AH)
He is the writer of a most beautiful and pleasant ode. His dear friend Abū al-Majd Shaykh Muḥammad Riḍā Iṣfahānī has commented on the poem and named it Adāʾ al-Mafrūḍ fī Sharḥ Arjūzat al-Urūḍ. A few lines of this poem are quoted below:
الحمدلله على اسباغ ما ʿʿʿ أولى لنا من فضله وأنعما
Praise be to Allāh for conferring upon us all His blessing
Giving to us the best of His bounty and blessing
وخصّنا منه بواف وافر ʿʿʿ من بحر جوده المديد الزاخر
Allocated to us abounding sufficiently
From His endless generosity constantly yielding
صلى على نبينا المختار ʿʿʿ ما عاقب الليل على النهار
Be Allāh’s blessing on our chosen Prophet
Continually day and night
وآله معادن الرسالة ʿʿʿ بهم يداوى علل الجهالة
And his family, the treasuries of his message
Through them the causes of ignorance are removed
خذها ودع عنك رموز الزامرة ʿʿʿ كعادة تجلى عليك بارزة
تجمع كل ظاهر وخاف ʿʿʿ فى علمى العروض والقوافى(() )
Accumulated herein all hidden and shown are two sciences of prosody and rhyme.
This ode has been recently published along with a comprehensive study in Esfahan.
We content ourselves with this brief mentioning of Shīʿa contribution to the development of the science of prosody.
Shīʿa and the poetic arts
What we mean by poetry is not composing utterances in verse and arranging them in certain poetic forms. Rather, it is the creation of poetic expressions with excellent meaning that reinforce ethics and inspire man to perservere. A concept of poetry as such serves as the pillar of civilization, and progress in this area provides the foundation for a nation’s culture and facilitates its development. The type of poetry marked by commonplace and immoral content is not our concern and surely can’t serve as the foundation for human civilization. When the Qur’an criticizes poetry and poets, its targets are the “professional” poets who make a business out of their poetry, praising injustice and portraying the oppressed as the oppressor. therefore the Qur’an identifies them with certain characteristics, saying: ‘As for the poets, [only] the perverse follow them. Have you not regarded that they rove in every valley, and that they say what they do not do?’ (Q26:224-226)
When speaking about poetry in the sense of virtuous poets, the Shīʿa are surely pioneers in this field. The poets of the first centuries, in particular, excelled against others by composing poems in praise of the Prophet’s Family and inviting their readers to intellectual and cultural struggle. To prove this point, it suffices for the reader to consider the works of Shīʿa poets such as Kumayt’s ode, Hāshimayyat, Sayyid Ismāʿīl Ḥimayrī’s ʿAyniyya, Diʿbal’s Tāʾiyya, and the like. That is why the Shīʿa have always appreciated these faithful poets who dedicated their poetry to the promotion of justice and virtue. Some of these figures are as follows:
Qays b. Saʿd b. ʿUbāda
Saʿd b. ʿUbāda, the great Companion of the Prophet was the leader of Khazraj tribe. His son Qays b. Saʿd was an esteemed leader among his people. He was a follower of Imam ʿAlī, who appointed him to govern Egypt. During the events of Saqīfa, he and the tribe of Khazraj chanted: ‘We swear allegiance to no one but ʿAlī.’ (Ṭabarī has reported the event in the second volume of his Tārīkh in the chapter on the events of Saqīfa)
Kumayt b. Zayd (d. 160 AH)
He was a leading poet, a knowledgeable scholar of Arabic language and history, and held the foremost position among the poets of the tribe of Muḍar. He was a follower of ʿAlī and always took pride in his loyalty to the Prophet’s Household. His Hāshimayyat, an ode composed of about 587 lines, eulogizes the Prophet’s Family. His praise is based on the Qur’an and Sunna and this has made his name and his odes everlasting. The odes in Hāshimayyat are not all of the same rhyme. Some are mīmiyya, some others bāʾiyya, rāʾiyya and so on.
The complete works of Kumayt have been repeatedly published and Muḥammad Shākir Khayyāṭ and Rāfiʿī have commented on his poems.
Sayyid Ḥimyarī(d. 173 AH)
Ismāʿīl b. Muḥammad, nicknamed Sayyid, is a famous poet. He is among those poets who while prolific in producing uniquely beautiful poems. He, along with Bashshār and Abū al-ʿAtāhiya, are the three poets who have composed the greatest number of poems. Sayyid, however, differs from the other two in his being immersed in the love of the Prophet’s Household and in openly expressing their virtues. He never praised the enemies of the Prophet’s Household and at suitable times sharply criticized them. Among his famous odes are the ʿAyniyya and the Bāʾiyya.
Diʿbal Khuzāʾī (d. 246 AH)
Abū ʿAlī, Diʿbal b. ʿUthmān b. ʿAlī Khuzāʾī was born into a family known for their knowledge, piety and literary talent. He was a descendant of Badīl b. Warqāʾ Khuzāʾī, the man whom the Prophet had prayed for. Najāshī says that Diʿbal wrote a book entitled Ṭabaqāt al-Shuʿarāʾ (‘The Classes of Poets’), which indicated his comprehensive knowledge of contemporary and past poets. If one is to have a thorough understanding of him, they must look at him from four angles:
- His pre-eminence in poetry, history and letters.
- His contribution to the narration of ḥadīth, either by quoting ḥadīth from others or others quoting from him.
- His loyalty to the Prophet’s Family which motivated him to compose the majority of his poems for them.
- His interaction with the Caliphs of his time.
Luckily, the late Amīnī has thoroughly discussed these four categories. (see Ghadīr, 2/369-86.)
Abū Firās al-Hamadānī (320-357 AH)
His name is Hārith b. Abī al-ʿAlāʾ. Thaʿlabī describes him as ‘peerless in his time, a shining example of courtesy, generosity, bravery, eloquence, and poetry. His poems had beauty, ease, eloquence, sweetness, and magnificence.
As well as these poets we have mentioned above, notable Shīʿa poets include Ibn Ḥajjāj Baghdādī (d. 321), Sharīf al-Raḍī (d. 406), Sharīf al-Murtaḍā (d. 436) and Mahyār Daylamī (d. 448). Interested readers can refer to the following books for more information:
Al-Adab fī Ẓill al-Tashayyuʿ by Shaykh ʿAbd Allāh Niʿma
Taʾsis al-Shīʿa by Sayyid Ḥasan al-Ṣadr, Chapter 6.
Al-Ghadīr by ʿAllāma Amīnī, in 11 volumes.
The selection taken from “Shīʿa Islam: History and Doctrines” by Ayatollah Ja’far Sobhani.