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'Ali b. Muhammad al-'Alawi al-'Umari

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'Ali b. Muhammad al-'Alawi al-'Umari
Personal Information
Epithet Ibn al-Sufi
Religious Affiliation Imamiyya
Birth c. 390/999
Death c. 460/1067
Scholarly Information
Works al-Majdi fi ansab al-Talibiyyin

Najm al-Dīn Abu l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Abu l-Ghanāʾim al-ʿAlawī al-ʿUmarī (Arabic: أبوالحَسَن نَجم الدّين عَلي بن أبي الغَنائِم محمد عاش حَوالي), known as Ibn Sūfī (Arabic: اِبنُ الصّوفيّ) (b. circa 390/999 - d. circa 460/1067) is a Shi'a genealogist and the author of al-Majdi fi ansab al-Talibiyyin.

Birth and Lineage

Ibn Sufi was born and raised in Basra. His grandfather was 'Umar al-Atraf, known as Ibn Taghlibiya, the son of Imam Ali (a); thus he was called al-'Umari and al-'Alawi. His father, Abu l-Ghana'im Muhammad, known as Ibn Mahlabiyya, was considered as an authority in genealogy at his time. In fact, the ancestors of Ibn Sufi were genealogist as well. His sixth ancestor, Muhammad al-Sufi, from whose name the Kuniya of Ibn Sufi is taken, was a genealogist and was killed by the order of Harun al-Rashid. Ibn Sufi has mentioned that he is Twelver Shi'a in the description of the lineage of Zayd b. Ali. According to Ibn Taqtaqi in al-Asili, Ibn Sufi passed away in Mosul.


As Ibn Sufi himself has reported, he started to learn various subjects especially genealogy under great teachers as a child. Ibn Tawus has introduced him as the top genealogist of his time. Ibn 'Inaba said that he was an authority in this field. Ibn Sufi was also a poet, Litterateur and Faqih.


About twenty of his teachers are mentioned in different sources. In his book al-Majdi, he has mentioned some of them, including: his father, Abu l-Ghana'im, Abu l-Hasan Muhammad, known as 'Ubaydli, Abu 'Abd Allah Husayn b. Muhammad b. Tabataba al-'Alawi, Abu Ali b. Shahab al-'Ukbari, Abu 'Abd Allah Hamawayh, Abu Ali Qattan al-Maqri, Ibn Katila al-Husayni and Ibn Khida' al-Misri.

Meeting with al-Sayyid al-Murtada

Ibn Sufi and al-Sayyid al-Murtada were contemporaries. They met each other in 425/1034 in Baghdad. According to Sayyid Ali Khan al-Madani, Ibn Sufi benefited from al-Sayyid al-Murtada and has narrated Hadith from him and his brother, al-Sharif al-Radi; however, Ibn Sufi did not mention that.

Scholarly Travels

In 423/1032, Ibn Sufi emigrated from Basra to Mosul and got married there. He has traveled to many regions and cities, such as: Ramla, Nasibayn, Syria, Mayafarifin, Egypt, Oman, Kufa and 'Ukbara.


Al-Majdi fi ansab al-Talibiyyin

In 443/1051, Ibn Sufi traveled to Egypt and presented some of his works to Majd al-Dawla Abu l-Hasan Ahmad, Naqib al-Nuqaba' of Talibiyyin during Fatimid reign. Abu Talib Muhammad, the son of Majd al-Dawla asked Ibn Sufi to write a small book about the lineage of Talibiyyin. In recognition of Majd al-Dawla's kindness, Ibn Sufi named his book al-Majdi. Ibn Tabataba, Ibn Sufi's contemporary writer, is the first person who has mentioned this book and it shows that al-Majdi was famous and reliable even during the lifetime of its author. Al-Majdi is about the lineage of Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Shi'a Imams to Imam al-Jawad (a), their children and descendants. Ibn Sufi has mentioned the faith and the different opinions of various genealogists in the book.

Glosses and Publication

This book is one of the earliest and authentic books in genealogy. Some great scholars such as Ibn Tawus al-Hilli has written glosses on it. In 1409/1989 and by the effort of Ahmad Mahdavi Damghani, al-Majdi was published in Qom.

Attributed Works

  • Al-Rasa'il fi 'ilm al-Ansab.
  • Al-Shafi fi 'ilm al-Ansab: according to Ibn Taqtaqi this book had two parts: first about the lineage of Abbasid dynasty and second about the lineage of the descendant of Imam Ali (a); however, the book is not available.
  • Al-'Uyun fi 'ilm al-Ansab.
  • Al-Mabsut fi l-Ansab: according to Ibn Taqtaqi, al-Mabsut was a comprehensive book in several volumes. He has seen the manuscript of the book written by Ibn Sufi himself and has quoted form it.
  • Al-Mashjar fi 'ilm al-Ansab: Afandi recorded the title of the book as al-Mashjarat and Aqa Buzurg has mentioned Tashjir and Mashjar al-nasab and said that Tashjir or Mashjar is probably the same Ansab al-Talibiyyin or al-Majdi. However, as Ibn 'Inaba has counted al-Mashjar and al-Majdi as separated independent works, this supposition seems to be incorrect.