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Children of the First Ten Imams of Ahl al-Bayt according to Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 1022)

The following is a list of the descendants of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, al-Ḥasan b. ‘Alī, al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī, ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn, Muhammad b. ‘Alī, Ja‘far b. Muhammad, Mūsa b. Ja‘far, ‘Alī b. Mūsa, Muhammad b. ‘Alī, and ‘Alī b. Muhammad taken from the Kitāb al-Irshād by Shaykh al-Mufīd. These figures are the first ten Imāms in the Twelver Shī‘ī tradition, but they are also revered by other Islamic traditions (Sunni as well as Shī‘ī as well).  (more…)

Ali Hujviri (d. 1077) on Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (d. 732)

The following is taken from the Kashf al-Mahjūb by the great Persian Sufi master Alī Hujvīrī (d. 1077). He identifies Muhammad al-Baqir as one of the greatest Imams of the Islamic faith and includes him among the ranks of the elite of the people of knowledge. (more…)

Biography of Muhammad al-Baqir (d. 732) in al-Dhahabi’s “Siyar A’lam al-Nubala'” (ca. 1340)

The following is a more-or-less complete translation (I have indicated the brief sections I have excluded) of the section on Imam Muhammad al-Baqir as it is found in the Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ by the fourteenth-century Damascene historian and hadith expert Shams al-Dīn Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Dhahabī (d. 1348). While the portrait of Muhammad al-Baqir in al-Dhahabī’s work differs in significant ways than his portrayal in other Sunni works, it does provide an insight into how this figure was viewed by scholarly circles in the Levant during the fourteenth century. It should certainly be understood that al-Dhahabī’s representation is only one Sunni perspective of Muhammad al-Bāqir and does not provide a comprehensive view of this illustrious scholar. For a more nuanced understanding of al-Bāqir, I would recommend reading this translation alongside relevant sections from Shaykh al-Mufid’s Kitāb al-Irshād or the following article: It will especially show how al-Dhahabī’s presentation contains a strongly Sunni polemical perspective, especially with the inclusion of the various traditions relating to the first two caliphs (in addition to the reference about the uncreatedness of the Qur’an). This is not to say any of these traditions are fabricated or untrue; only that their specific inclusion and organization in this biographical section were clearly intended to make a particular statement about al-Baqir’s doctrinal affiliation.  (more…)

‘Umar b. ‘Ali b. al-Husayn (ca. 740) on the Ahl al-Bayt

The following is drawn from the Kitāb al-Irshād of Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 1022), one of the most important theologians and historians in the Twelver Shi’i tradition. It is a narration from ‘Umar b. ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn, the son of the fourth Imam Zayn al-‘Abidīn ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn (as well as the brother of the fifth Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir) which emphasizes a moderate devotion towards the Family of the Prophet. It also emphasizes the centrality of the Muslim recognition of the rights of the family of the Prophet to authority over the believers. There are dozens of such narrations found within the Kitāb al-Irshād alone, but few which express these, interrelated two ideas so eloquently. The inclusion of this narration (and others like it) by Shaykh al-Mufīd was a clear attempt on his part to undercut the various forms of Shi’i “extremism” (often termed ghuluww) which were prevalent during his time. As such, it should be read as an attempt to reinforce a particular narrative within (and beyond?) the Twelver Shi’i community in the tenth and eleventh centuries by citing the words of an eminent Shi’i authority from the eighth century. (more…)

Ibn al-Athir (d. 1233) on the Conquest of Constantinople in 1204

The following is my own translation of ‘Alī ibn al-Athīr’s account of the Fourth Crusade and the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204. It is a significant account because it provides historians with one of the few near-contemporary reflections on the Fourth Crusade from a Muslim perspective, and also because it was written between 1204 and 1261, when Byzantine rule was finally restored in Constantinople. Notably, Ibn al-Athīr makes no reference to the existence of the Despotate of Epiros or the Empire of Trebizond, both Byzantine successor states, and only discusses the polity established by Theodore Lascaris in Nicaea. As such, the last part of the account gives a sense of the political reality in the south-eastern Balkans and north-western Anatolia following the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Constantinople and makes it clear that, at least as far as Ibn al-Athīr was concerned, the legitimacy of the Empire of Nicaea as a continuation of the Byzantine Empire was firmly established. Moreover, Ibn al-Athīr seems to have a strong understanding of the political system which comprised the Latin Empire of Constantinople, since he does not fail to mention the tripartite division between Venice, Baldwin of Flanders, and Boniface of Montferrat. Ibn al-Athīr’s account is also important because of the details which it provides, most of which can be corroborated by the Latin and Greek accounts.  (more…)

The Crucifixion in Shi‘a Isma‘ili Islam

An Ismaili Shi’i perspective on the Crucifixion

Ismaili Gnosis

“…the conditions of the dialogue between Christianity and Islam change completely as soon as the interlocutor represents not legalistic Islam but this spiritual Islam, whether it be that of Sufism or of Shi‘ite gnosis.”
(Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, Prologue)

Click Here to Readthe full article – The Crucifixion in Shi‘a Isma‘ili Islam


As observed by millions of Christians around the world, Good Friday marks the day when Jesus Christ was crucified. For Christians, this event is the climax of sacred history: the death of Christ on the Cross is believed to have redeemed and cleansed the sin of humanity. Indeed, the efficacy of the entire Christian doctrine – adhered to by the largest number of people in the world – depends upon the event of the Crucifixion. Interestingly, the faith of Islam, the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, seems to offer a…

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Beautiful Poem by Ali b. Abi Talib (d. 661) about Knowledge

الناس من جهة التمثال أكفاء *** أبوهم آدم وأمهم حواء

نفس كنفس ، وأرواح مشاكلة *** وأعظم خلقت فيها وأعضاء 

وإنما أمهات الناس أوعيـــــــــة *** مستودعات وللأحساب آباء 

فإن يكن لهم من أصلهم شـرف *** يفاخرون به ؛ فالطين ، والماء 

ما الفضل إلا لأهل العلم إنهـــم *** على الهدى لمن استهدى أدلاء

وقيمة المرء ما قد كان يحسنــه *** والجاهلون لأهل العلم أعداء

ففز بعلم ولا تطلب به بــــــــــدلا *** فالناس موتى ، وأهل العلم أحياء

A (very loose!] translation:

At face value, all people seem to be equal, their father is Adam and their mother is Eve
Each soul resembling the other, with bones and organs in their bodies
They take pride in their lineage, even though they are composed merely of water and earth
True virtue belongs only to the people of knowledge, for they are the ones upon true guidance
They are the guides for people who seek guidance
A person’s worth is only in that in which he excels
Verily the ignorant are the enemies of the people of knowledge
So seek victory in knowledge and do accept any substitute for it
And know that the people are largely dead, and only those with knowledge are truly alive