The Twelver Shiʿite conception of Hadith is generally in line with that of the Sunnites as discussed in Section i above. In Shiʿism, however, in addition to Hadith about the Prophet those about the Imams are authoritative as well. To a certain extent this is comparable with the fact that Companion Hadith have been considered authoritative in Sunnism, since the Imams, as members of the Prophet’s house, are considered as representing the Prophet’s knowledge. However, most Shiʿite sources assert unambiguously that the Imams could also speak directly for God: “The Imam speaks for God concerning the Book” (yanṭequ’l-emāmu ʿan Allāhi fi’l-ketāb; Kolayni, I, p. 14). The Imam whose utterances constitute the bulk of Shiʿite Hadith literature is the sixth Imam, Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq (d. 148/765). While some of his companions, such as Nawfali and Sokuni, transmitted from him only aḥādiṯ on the authority of the Prophet and Imam ʿAli (see Kolayni, I, pp. 134, 200; Aḥmadi Faqih, p. 65), there is evidence that others among them also “believed that the Imams, just like the jurists of those times, practiced independent judgment (raʾy) or analogical reasoning (qiās)” (Modarressi, p. 28). The majority of Shiʿite scholars have treated the utterances and conduct of the Imams in the same way as those of the Prophet.

Shiʿite authors generally acknowledge the authenticity of most of the traditions presented in the “Six Sound Collections” (al-ṣehāḥ al-setta) of Sunnism, but these are mainly used in historical and polemical contexts rather than as proof texts in legal discussions, as long as alternative Shiʿite traditions are available. The eminent Shiʿite scholar ʿAllāma Ḥelli (q.v.; d. 726/1327) wrote that “all our aḥādiṯ, except for a few, lead back to the Twelve Imams, from whom in turn they lead back to the Prophet. Their knowledge is acquired from that niche. The Hadith of the Imams which are included in the [Shiʿite] books add much to what is in the [Sunnite] “Six Sound Collections,” as is manifest to one who studies the books of both sects” (Ḥorr ʿĀmeli, XX, p. 66).

Shiʿites began to circulate their own Hadithliterature at about the time of Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq. At this stage, it is not known whether the classification ḥadiṯ was applied to the Imams’ own utterances or only to their narrations about the Prophet. During this period the term aṣl (pl. oṣul) was applied to the Imams’ written traditions, to indicate that they represent the original documentation of their words (Kohlberg, p. 128). However, none of such writings now exist in any form, apart from about a dozen which have come down to us through the works of 4th/10th century Shiʿite authors. Among the earliest extant Shiʿite Hadith writings are Abu Jaʿfar Ṣaffār Qommi’s (d. 290/902) Baṣāʾer al-darajāt and Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Barqi’s (d. 274/887) Ketāb al-maḥāsen. However, such works are far from comprehensive, since they often focused exclusively on legitimizing the status of the Imams and the rituals of Shiʿism.

The oldest of the four canonical collections of Shiʿite Hadith, which have a similar status to the “Sound Six” in Sunnism, is Moḥammad b. Yaʿqub Kolayni’s (d. 329/941) al-Kāfi fi ʿelm al-din. He combined an interest in elements of the Shiʿite extremism of the time (ḡoluw; see ḠOLĀT) with his talents in research and eloquent expression. It is divided into sections dealing with Shiʿite theology (oṣul) and applied law (foruʿ), followed by a final appendix called Ketāb al-Rawżaʾ, which contains miscellaneous aḥādiṯ (based mainly on the authority of Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq through five or six generations of transmitters).

The relatively conservative traditionist, Ebn Bābawayh, Shaikh Ṣaduq (q.v.), compiled Man lā yaḥżoroho’l-faqih, the second of the four canonical Shiʿite Hadithcollections. Its title, “The One Who has no Jurist Present,” suggests that it can enable the reader to practice Shiʿism in the absence of a juriconsult. This work places more emphasis on aḥādiṯ that are relevant to Shiʿite jurisprudence. It is noteworthy that all the above-mentioned Imami authors were born and educated in the two isolated traditionist centers of Ray and Qom, in western Iran. Most had traveled to Iraq and Arabia; however, as in the cases of Boḵāri and Moslem, their inclination towards research and literary compilation seem to have provided the main impetus behind their works.

In reaction to the type of traditionism represented by these authors, the “rationalist” Oṣuli Shiʿism of the time, under Shaikh Moḥammad Mofid (d. 413/1022), presented another approach to Hadith literature. Mofid proposed that “it is the task of the discriminating, intelligent person to accept what is agreed upoŋand to hesitate about that wherein they [the traditionists] differ” with respect to Hadith (McDermott, pp. 306-7). He criticized all traditionists, and especially his own teacher Ebn Bābawayh, for their “unintelligent” approaches (Modarressi, p. 41). In writing his main legal book, al-Moqneʿa, he based Shiʿite jurisprudence for the first time on his personal opinion, supported by Hadith, rather than by citing directly the text of individual aḥādiṯ (Mofid, 1990; Kazemi Moussavi, p. 23).

Mofid’s rationalist method was maintained for a generation, but one of his own pupils, Shaikh al-Ṭāʾefa Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṭusi (d. 460/1067) proposed a greater commitment to Hadith, which has remained as the main tendency in Twelver Shiʿism ever since. Shaikh Ṭusi is responsible for introducing the new conformity between traditionism and rationalism. He first wrote Tahḏib al-aḥkām, a commentary on al-Moqneʿa which provided references, based on Hadith, for Mofid’s juristic verdicts, before compiling a further collection of traditions, al-Estebṣār, in order to supplement the first book with new cases which Mofid had not dealt with (Ṭusi, 1956, I, p. 2). Through these two Hadithworks, Ṭusi not only doubled the number of what were to be considered the canonical Shiʿite collections from two to four, but at the same time he effectively endorsed the methodologies and compilations of his precursors Kolayni and Ebn Bābawayh.

In addition to the above legal and Hadith works, Ṭusi also wrote ʿOddat al-oṣul, dealing with the methodology of acquiring certainty, or a degree of authority, in religious knowledge. He discussed the problem of the validity of the Hadith of the so-called deviant traditionist groups, whom he alternatively called “imitators” and “generalists” (i.e. who do not engage in reasoning). He accepted their Hadith on the principle that “it is not impossible that they were generalists who had acquired knowledge, but just had difficulty in establishing their knowledge on the basis of reasoning” (Ṭusi, 1983, p. 349). Most of these aḥādiṯ, however, were isolated traditions (aḵbār āḥād), lacking the standard of validity of a sound ḥadit¯. In order to give a degree of efficacy to them, Ṭusi based his argument on the precedent of the eminent Shiʿites, namely, the “practice of the righteous sect” (ʿamal al-ṭāʾefa), a notion which had never before been employed in such a manner in Shiʿism. Ṭusi admitted that most of the Hadith were isolated reports, but argued that they were practiced by the Shiʿites of past generations, and particularly by the contemporaries of the Imams (Ṭusi, 1983, pp. 236, 350), and should therefore be considered authoritative. A parallel can be witnessed between Ṭusi’s way of taking into consideration the practice of the community for the validation of Hadithand that of Moḥammad b. Edris Šāfeʿi (e.g. compare Šāfeʿi, p. 545, with Ṭusi, 1983, p. 236).

Ṭusi’s method of reproduction and validation of Shiʿite Hadith was theoretically criticized by subsequent generations of Imami authors, especially by scholars from the Shiʿite center of Ḥella in Iraq, but it was effectively adopted by most of them. Moḥaqqeq Jaʿfar b. Ḥasan Ḥelli (d. 676/1277) refashioned Ṭusi’s thesis, and acknowledged the efficacy of the isolated traditions by the mediation (tawassoṭ) of the fact that they are either accepted by Imami jurists or confirmed by other indicators (Calder, 1989, p. 66). Moḥaqqeq’s pupil, ʿAllāma Ḥasan b. Yusof Ḥelli (d. 726/1325), wrote an independent treatise on the science of Hadith in which (according to ʿĀmeli), by adopting Sunni categories, he disregarded certain parts of the corpus of Imami traditions as obscure and confused (Ḥorr ʿĀmeli, XX, pp. 66-69). The next major Shiʿite work to be written on the science of Hadith was that of Zayn-al-Din b. ʿAli ʿĀmeli al-Šahid al-Ṯāni (d. 966/1559) from the school of Jabal ʿĀmel in Lebanon, who in his al-Reʿāya fi ʿelm al-derāya established categories for the recognition of Imami Hadith according to the existing terminology of the Sunnite and Shiʿite ulema.

The reign of the Safavids in Persia, and the Qezelbāš movement in particular, encouraged a trend of devotional attachment to the figures of the Imams which paved the way for the revival of traditionism in the form of the Aḵbāri school (see AḴBĀRĪYA). The founder of this school, Moḥammad-Amin Astarābādi (q.v.), developed the notion of “customary certainty” (yaqin ʿādi) as a theoretical basis for the legitimation of all Shiʿite Hadith (Astarābādi, pp. 19, 129). According to this approach, outright acceptance of them is better, for it brings about more uniformity than the application of preponderant probability, because the latter generates diverse opinions (Astarābādi, pp. 7, 41, 45). Within a century after the spread of Astarābādi’s ideas, the Twelver Shiʿite world witnessed another wave of the (re-)collection of the Hadith of the Imams. This included a combination of the four early collections (see above) in the form of al-Wāfi, compiled by a Sufi-oriented traditionist called Moḥsen Fayż Kāšāni (d. 1091/1680), the most voluminous Shiʿite Hadith work, the Beḥār al-anwār by the pioneer of post-Safavid popular Shiʿism, Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesi (d. 1111/1699), and the most practical Shiʿite Hadithwork, Wasāʾel al-Šiʿa, compiled by the moderate 11th/17th century Aḵbāri author Ḥorr ʿĀmeli. This last author tried to classify and moderate Shiʿite Hadith, whereas both Majlesi and Kāšāni aimed at a more indiscriminate inclusion of the entire corpus of Hadith that was attributed to the Imams.

The impact of these new Hadith collections on the Shiʿite community can be witnessed in the rise of a new type of popular Shiʿism based on mourning rites and pilgrimage, which has prevailed for the last two centuries. Although the later Oṣuli revival put an end to the Aḵbāri domination since the late 12th/18th century, more recent Hadithcollections, especially the Wasāʾel al-Šiʿa, have continued to emphasize the importance of Shiʿite traditions. The Oṣuli authors of the 19th and 20th centuries generally used Hadiths from these collections to support their juridical opinions based on their rational interpretation, but reorientation of the tradition-reports nevertheless continued through different means. The last well-known traditionist, Mirzā Ḥosayn b. Moḥammad-Taqi Nuri (d. 1320/1902), compiled a supplementary collection of Hadiths, the Mostadrak, based on the Wasāʾel al-Šiʿa (but rearranged and with additional subject-headings).

Fifty years after Nuri, Ayatollah Ḥosayn b. ʿAli Boru-jerdi (q.v.; d. 1962), the supreme “model for emulation” (marjaʿ-e taqlid) of the Shiʿite world, produced a different version of Imami Hadith, the Jāmeʿ aḥādiṯ al-Šiʿa. This version takes into consideration the proto-Sunni circumstances surrounding the utterances of the Imams (see Ostādi). As a result, Borujerdi made a new Oṣuli rendering of Shiʿite Hadith. His reorientation of Imami Hadith may not have changed the content of materials used in Shiʿite law, but it contributed to a degree to the supra-sectarian spirit among Shiʿites that led to the Sunni-Shiʿite rapprochement during his leadership in Qom. More recently, the late Ayatollah Ḵoʾi (d. 1992) also set forth new approaches to classifying the transmitters of the Hadith of the Imams in his Moʿjam rejāl al-ḥadiṯ (1970).

See also SHIʿISM.



Primary sources: Abu ʿAbd-Allāh b. al-Bayyeʿ, Ketāb maʿrefat ʿolum al-ḥadiṯ, ed. Moʿaẓẓáam Ḥosayn, Medina, 1977.

Zayn-al-Din b. ʿAli ʿĀmeli al-Šahid al-t¯āni, al-Reʿāya fi ʿelm al-derāya, Qom, 1988.

Moḥammad Amin Astarābādi, al-Fawāʾed al-mada-niya, Tabriz, 1321/1904.

Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Barqi, Ketāb al-maḥāsen, ed. Jalāl-al-Din Ḥosayni, Tehran, 1330 Š./1951.

Ḥosayn b. ʿAli Ṭabāṭabāʾi Borujerdi, Jāmeʿ aḥādiṯ al-Šiʿa, Qom, 1989-90.

Ebn Bābawayh, Man lā yaḥżoroho’l-faqih, Tehran, 1988.

Ebn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalāni, Nozhat al-naẓar, Mecca, 1989.

Ebn Tay-miya, ʿElm al-ḥadiṯ, Beirut, 1985.

Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ḥorr ʿĀmeli, Wasāʾel al-Šiʿa ʿalā taḥṣil ma-sāʾel al-šariʿa, Tehran, 1969.

Moḥsen Fayż Kāšāni, al-Wāfi, Isfahan, 1985.

Abu’l-Qāsem Ḵoʾi, Moʿjam rejāl al-ḥadiṯ, Najaf, 1970.

Moḥammad b. Yaʿqub Kolayni, al-Kāfi, Tehran, 1991.

Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesi, Beḥār al-anwār, Beirut, 1983.

Moḥammad b. Moḥammad Mofid, al-Moqneʿa, Qom, 1990.

Ḥosayn b. Moḥammad-Taqi Nuri Ṭabarsi, Mostadrak Wasāʾel al-Šiʿa, 18 vols., Qom, 1987.

Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṣaffār Qomi, Baṣāʾer al-darajāt, Tehran, 1984.

ʿObayd-Allāh Sendi, al-Tamhid li-taʿrif aʾemmat al-tajdid, Jamshura, Pakistan, 1976.

Moḥammad b. Edris Šāfeʿi, al-Resāla, ed. Aḥmad M. Šāker, Beirut, 1939.

Abu ʿIsā Moḥammad Ḥakim Termeḏi, al-Jāmeʿ al-ṣaḥihá, Medina, 1967.

Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṭusi, Tahḏib al-aḥkām, Najaf, 1959-62.

Idem, al-Estebṣār fi mā eḵtalafa men al-aḵbār, 2nd ed., Najaf, 1956.

Idem, ʿOddat al-oṣul, Najaf, 1983.

Secondary sources: Moḥammad-Ḥasan Aḥmadi Faqih, “Fawāʾed-e rejāli dar āṯār-e Emām Ḵomeyni,” Keyhān-e andiša 29, April 1980.

Mohammad A. Amir-Moezzi, “Remarques sur les critères d’authenticité du hadîth et l’autorité du juriste dans le shî’isme imâmite,” Studia Islamica 85, 1997, pp. 5-39.

Norman Calder, “Doubt and Prerogative: The Emergence of an Imāmī Shīʿī Theory of Ijtihād,” Stud. Isl. 70, 1989, pp. 57-78.

Ahmad Kazemi Moussavi, Religious Authority in Shiʿite Islam, Kuala Lumpur, 1996.

Etan Kohlberg, “Al-Uṣūl al-Arbaʿumiʾa,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 10, 1987, pp. 128-65.

Martin J. McDermott, The Theology of Al-Shaikh al-Mufīd, Beirut, 1986.

Ḥosayn Modarressi Tabātabāʾi, An Introduction to Shīʿī Law, London, 1984.

Reżā Ostādi, “Āṯār o taʾlifāt-e Āyat-Allāh Borujerdi,” Ḥawza 43-44, March-July 1991, pp. 287-304.

Maḥmud Šehābi, Adwār-e feqh, Teh-ran, 1340 Š./1961.

Maḥmud Ṭaḥḥān, Taysir moṣṭalaḥ al-ḥadiṯ, Riyadh, 1983.

(A. Kazemi-Moussavi)

Originally Published: December 15, 2002

Last Updated: February 24, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 4, pp. 447-448 and Vol. XI, Fasc. 5, p. 449