Mohammad Ya'qub Kulainy

For Information about his major work, see Kitab al-Kafi.
Muslim scholar
Abu Ja'far Muhammad bin Yaqoub ibn Ishaq al-Kulainy
Title Thiqatul-Islam Kulainy
Born 250 AH
Died 329 AH
Era Islamic golden age
Region Iran & Iraq
Denomination Shia Islam
Main interest(s) Hadith
Notable work(s) Kitab al-Kafi

Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ya'qub ibn Ishaq al-Kulayni Al-Razi (Persian: شیخ ابوجعفر محمّد بن یعقوب بن اسحاق رازی ‎) AH/864 CE - 329 AH/941 CE).[1]


Al-Kulayni is the foremost Shia compiler of hadith following into the footsteps and the traditions of Imams of Ahl al-Bayt. He is the author of Kitab al-Kafi [2]- source book of Shia ahadith (pl: of hadith-tradition/s). His full name was Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Ya'qub b. Ishaq al-Kulayni al-Razi. Kulayni or also Kulini was born in a village named Kulayn or Kulin in Iran.[3] His father Mulla Yaqub al-Kulayni’s grave is known to exist at Rey, Iran. Kulayn was a small town or village situated near Rey, present day Tehran (Ray is now a suburb of Tehran). He belonged to the era of al-ghaibat al-sughra or period of lesser or minor occultation of Muhammad al-Mahdi (last Shia Imam who according Shia belief is in occultation and will appear near the Day of Judgment, along with Jesus) and is said to have greatly benefited from the living source of divine knowledge, by interacting through living Imams deputies and emissaries.[4][5] For this reason he has highly exalted status among the scholars of successive generations.

Kulayni belonged to a family of muhaddithun (plural of muhaddith-traditionist) and fuqahā' (Islamic jurists). He spent the major part of his life in the 3rd century Hijri and hence he is known as Mujaddid (reviver) of the 3rd century.[6] Kulayni received his early religious education in his native town and went to Rey for further education, where he attended the lectures of famous contemporary scholrs. There he received all his formal education and mastered Islamic sciences. Within a short time he acquired fame as an eminent scholar and received students from far and near.

He is counted among a muhaddithun of a special class known as Rihalah ye hadith.[5] Rihlah in Arabic means journey or travel and those who traveled in order to collect ahadith and meet the persons considered to be the authority on hadith. He also traveled to Baghdad for this reason and lived there for twenty years till he died in 329 hijri/941 CE. There he was engaged in teaching and pursuing academic work.

Mujadid of third century AH

He is acknowledged by the Twelver Shiites as Mujadid of the 3rd century of the Islamic hijri calendar. It is a Shia belief that God chooses an alim (Islamic scholar) in every century for the task of reviving and strengthening Islam. Ibn Athir in his book Jami al-usul in kitab al nabuwwah quotes the hadith:

"God sends a person in every century with the responsibility for spreading and strengthening His Din."

He lists the names of persons who are regarded as mujadidun among the Shia. According to him, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir was the Mujadid of the 1st century AH, who preached and propagated Islam. Mujadid for the 2nd century was Imam Ali ar-Ridha (Imam Reza) and Mujadid for the 3rd century was Abu Jafar Muhammad ibne Yaqub al Kulayni. Shaykh Abbas al-Qummi in his book al-Kuna wa al-alqab has given the full list of the mujadidun of Shiism. He also list Kulayni as the Mujadid of 3rd century AH.[5]

Thiqat ul-Islam

Kulayni is also known by this title. This title has not been bestowed upon any other Shia scholar. Thiqah, in ilm ar-Rijal means a narrator of the tradition who is reliable. The Shi'ah scholars Shaykh Tusi, Muhammad Baqir Majlisi and Qazi Nurullah Shustari are among those who remembered Kulayni by this name.[5] Kulayni died in 328 A.H. or 329 A.H. (939 or 940 A.D.).

Work and contribution

  • Kitab al-Kafi / al-shafi (Usul al-Kafi al-shafi) - is the book of traditions.
  • Kitab al-Rijal - is the assessment of persons as authorities on traditions.
  • al-Radd 'ala 'l-Qaramata - "Refutation of the Carmatians",
  • Rasa' il al-a'immata - "Letters of the Imams" and an anthology of poetry about the Shia Imams. Of these only Kitab al-Kafi has survived.[7] It has eight chapters or kutubs (sing: kitab). Each kitab is divided into sections.

His legacy

The influence of Kulayni on his contemporaries and successive generations has been tremendous and among followers of Shia Imamia faith in particular. His influence has probably been single most important due to the number of reasons. The first being his importance as Mujadid of his age places him at the highest position among his contemporaries and therefore his influence. His contemporaries and generations that followed into his footsteps based on the foundations he laid down in the field of hadith are indebted to him. According to Waheed Akhtar:

"Al-Kulayni took up the work of compilation of the traditions for the sake of arming the believers with sufficient body of hadith that could serve as a guide. He himself did not write any commentary on the traditions he compiled, but his preference for the traditions emphasizing the importance of reason and knowledge in placing them before all other traditions shows his own inclination towards rationalism."

And he brought balance between dogmatism and rationalism:

"He tried to save the faith from the arrogance of rationalism, which refused to accept any other authority except intellect. He aimed to strike a balance between dogmatism and extreme type of rationalism."

And on issues dealing with human problems:

"al-Kulayni's discourse on the duties and responsibilities of human beings prescribed by the law of Shari-ah is based on his rationalist approach to the problem, underlying the principle that God does not saddle human beings with impossible duties. The lack of this realization has led Muslim Ummah to accept many ideas and beliefs that are alien to Islam. Even in his brief introduction he emphasized the significance of knowledge and- reason."

According to Dr. M. Ismail Marcinkowski, "...the celebrated Abu Ja‘far Muhammad b. Ya‘qub al-Kulayni (d. 329/941) had compiled his Al-Kafi, a collection of Traditions which is counted among the 'canonical' Four Books of the Twelvers. Although Ibn Babawayh was not one of his direct disciples he seemed to have benefited to a high degree from al-Kulayni as a transmitter of Traditions. Ibn Babawayh himself was among the teachers of the celebrated Twelver scholar Muhammad b. Muhammad b. al-Nu‘man, known as al-Shaykh al-Mufid (336-413/948-1022), who is famous for his usuli-rationalist approach in legal theory. Interesting in this context is al-Mufid's controversy with his teacher in theological questions and in matters of procedure Al-Mufid gave Twelver Shi‘ite theological studies a new impetus and direction: he is said to have emphasized the role of discursive theology before or better side-byside with that of the science of Traditions.[8]

His work and his approach in dealing with various problems in the light of al-Kafi paved the way for generations in varied fields of Islamic science and philosophy. This is the reason why Shia contribution to Islamic science and philosophy has been so significant despite being always a minority.

His Students

A number of Shiite jurisprudents and scholars of hadith, who were among famous scholars in the first half of the 4th century AH in Iran and Iraq, totaling fifteen people altogether were Kulayni's students. Others are among the category of eminent scholars. Also teachers of a great number of renowned scholars of the second half of the 4th century AH are considered as some of Kulayni’s students.

  1. Ahmad ibn Ibrahim, popularly known as Ibn Abi Rafi Simri
  2. Ahmad ibn Katib Kufi
  3. Ahmad ibn Ali ibn Saeed Kufi
  4. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ali Kufi
  5. Abu Ghalib Ahmad ibn Muhammad Zarari (285-364 AH)
  6. Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn Quluwiya Qumi (368 AH)
  7. Abdul Karim Abdullah ibn Nasr Bazaz Tanisi
  8. Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Musa Diqan
  9. Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Ni’mani well known as Ibn Abi Zainab, who was one of his special students and copied his book al-Kafi in his own hand writing
  10. Muhammad ibn Ahmad Safwan, the resident of Baghdad, was one of his special students and copied his book al-Kafi line by line in his own handwriting and learned theoretical knowledge and ethics from him and was praised by Kulayni for his knowledge of the Hadith
  11. Muhammad ibn Ahmad Sanani Zahri the resident of Rey
  12. Abul Fazl Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Matlab Shibani
  13. Muhammad ibn Ali Majluwiya
  14. Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Asam Kulayni
  15. Harun ibn Musa Talakbari Shibbani (b 385 AH)

See also


External links

  • Classical Islam: A Sourcebook of Religious Literature by Norman Calder, J A Mojaddedi, Andrew Rippin
  • The Formative Period of Twelver Shi'Ism: Hadith As Discourse Between Qum and Baghdad by Andrew J Newman
  • Great Shiite Works: Al-Kafi by Al-Kulayni by I. K. A. Howard in al Serat Journal.
  • 'Al-Kafi' by Al-Kulayni by Dr. I. K. A. Howard Al-Serat, Vol. 2 (1976), No. 1
  • The Trustworthy of Islam Kulayni No such page found - October 24, 2012
  • The Buyid Domination as the Historical Background for the Flourishing of Muslim Scholarship During the 4th/10th Century by Dr. M. Ismail Marcinkowski* No such page found - October 24, 2012
  • Shaikh Mohammed bin Yaqoob bin Ishaq Kulaini. & Al Kafi
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