The Iranian Origin of the Six Masters of Sunni Hadith

“If knowledge were located in the Pleiades (a constellation of stars), the Persians would surely attain it”–Prophet Muhammad

It is a little known fact that all six of the authors/compilers of the major books of Sunni ḥadīth—works that are together known as the Siḥāḥ al-Sitta—were of Persian/Iranian origin. Interestingly, these eminent figures are only six of hundreds of other Iranian scholars who were central to the shaping of the Sunni religious and intellectual tradition. In a scheme of early medieval Islamic history which is dominated by Arabo-centrism and in a contemporary world in which the association between Iran and Shi’ism is so central that one cannot think of one without the other, this fact of the Persian or Iranian origin of some of the most important figures of authority in Sunni Islam becomes increasingly relevant in challenging the dominant narratives and assumptions which continue to pervade the historical understanding (and contemporary vision) of Islam and Iran. It also emphasizes that some of the most important developments in traditionist Sunni scholarship in the medieval period occurred on the Iranian plateau.

(In this context, Iranian origin is intended to convey that these individuals were 1) descended from the indigenous inhabitants of the Iranian plateau; and 2) were Persian-speaking)


1)     Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl ibn Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mughīrah ibn Bardizbah al-Ju‘fī al-Bukhārī (810–870), originally from Bukhara (located in modern-day Uzbekistan)




2)     Abū al-Ḥusayn ‘Asākir ad-Dīn Muslim ibn al-Ḥajjāj ibn Muslim ibn Ward ibn Kawshādh al-Qushayrī an-Naysābūrī (815–875), originally from Nishapur (located in modern-day Iran). There appears to have been a difference of opinion about his exact origins, with Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabī affirming the strong possibility that his family were Persian “mawālī” (clients) of Qushayr, while other scholars (such as Ibn al-Athīr and Ibn al-Salāh) assert that he was actually an Arab member of that tribe. The usual inclusion of the name Kawshādh within his lineage strongly suggests, at least to me, that he was descended from Persian mawālī. Moreover, even some of those scholars asserting that he belonged by blood to the tribe of Qushayr state that his family had migrated to Iran nearly two centuries earlier (following the conquest), suggesting a large degree of intermarriage with the indigenous population.


3)     Aḥmad ibn Shu`ayb ibn Alī ibn Sīnān Abū `Abd ar-Raḥmān al-Nasā’ī (829–915), originally from Nasā (located in modern-day Turkmenistan)


4)     Abū Dawūd Sulaymān ibn al-Ashʿath al-Azdī al-Sijistānī (817–889), originally from Sijistan (located in modern-day Iran). There is a difference of opinion on this scholar with some scholars asserting that he was partially descended from the tribe of Azd while others have claimed that his family were “mawāli” (clients) the Arab tribe of Azd, hence the tribal nisbah.


5)     Abū ‘Īsa Muḥammad ibn ‛Īsa al-Sulamī al-Ḍarīr al-Būghī al-Tirmidhī (824–892), originally from Termez (located in modern-day Uzbekistan)


6)     Abū ʻAbdillāh Muḥammad ibn Yazīd Ibn Mājah al-Rabʻī al-Qazwīnī (824–889, originally from Qazvin (located in modern-day Iran). His family were “mawāli” (clients) the Arab tribe of Rabī’a, hence the tribal nisbah.



7 thoughts on “The Iranian Origin of the Six Masters of Sunni Hadith

  1. How are those who are born in prominent Turkish towns of Turkestan suddenly are known to be Iranians? Check your geography culture once again brother or sister admin!

  2. And the masters of suni theology imam ghazali and suni tafsir imam fakhr razi are all iranian. Nevertheless sunis say every wehere that iranians have built up the shi’ism….!!

    • I am a Sunni Iranian and that statement is the closest to the truth. Just look what the criminal Mullah Baqir al-Majlisi has championed under the guise of Shi’ism:

      Besides, 3 of the four main Sunni scholars of the 4 Madhabs were Arabs, there is even a huge dispute about the origin of Abu Hanifah with many Indian scholars (and Iraqis) arguing for his Arab origin. The Persian Sunnis were great because they flourished in an Islamic environment that despite it flaws gave the opportunity to them as Persians to excell, something Pre-Islamic Iran with it’s caste system (much worse than some Anti-Persian policies of some Umayyads) never did.

  3. Written under the affect of modern nation states concept. At that time concept of nation was very differant. There was only one nation as Islam. Mistakes on location of cities are also problem (Even on the list, only two of them within todays iran) And the time. Abbasids and later Selcuks were masters of that whole geography at that time. Maveraunnehr was a Turkish environment. But nobody had an interst in the islamic civilitation weather Bukhari was a Turk or else. In short this is not an islamic but modern europan approach.

  4. There was a strong sense of nationaltiy back then too the division between arab and ajam (iranian). Btw this was long before the turks even came to the Middle East from Mongolia and the inhabitants of iran and the caucus were persian and identified as such. Also about 90% of all islamic scholars were persian, persians even mastered the arabic language and conceptualized its grammar rules. Prominent collections of sunni and shia hadiths as well as the first quranic commentaries were written by Iranians. Shiism in Iran was blossoming, it became the official state religion during the Safavid era.

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