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Āl Aʿyan (Arabic:آل أعیَن), is one of the famous Shi'a clans, who lived from the late 1st/7th century to the 4th/10th century.
This clan, especially Zurara b. A'yan, played an important role in spreading and reviving the teachings of Ahl al-Bayt (a). They have offered such a great service that Imam al-Sadiq (a) has approved and praised Zurara a lot.
This clan are related to “A'yan b. Sunsun.” Among Shi'a clans, Al A'yan is the family with the longest period of scholarly services. The members of the clan mostly resided in Kufa and hence are called “al-Kufi” as well; although some of them moved to other places. They lived in an special neighborhood in Kufa. There was a mosque in the neighborhood, in which Imam al-Sadiq (a) had performed prayer. The neighborhood existed until 334/946 when Qaramatians destroyed it in their attack on Shi'a, during which Al A'yan were greatly harmed.
Since the time of Imam al-Sajjad (a) (b. 38/658 - d. 94/712), the members of this clan were known for their affection for the Prophet's progeny. Some members of the clan who met with Imam al-Sajjad (a) were famous for their expertise in theology, jurisprudence, Hadith and other scholarly fields. Throughout the life of Shi'a Imams (a), some members of the clan were among the great religious and scholarly figures who were close companions of the Imams (a). Abu Ghalib al-Zurari, a famous member of this clan, reported that Al A'yan consists of 60 people. He introduced them as following: “We are from a clan that God has conferred a great favor upon, He accepted us to embrace his religion and favored us with companionship with His friends from the beginning to the time that Shi'a encountered calamities and disasters (Major Occultation).”
First Shi'a of Al A'yan
Without a doubt Sunsun was a Christian monk and naturally his son, A'yan, was Christian too. After that A'yan was captured by Muslims, he was taken to the tribe of “Banu Shayban” where he embraced Islam. Al-Tustari says, A'yan was a Sunni Muslim and consequently his sons were Sunni; however, some of them become Shi'a later. It is also possible that A'yan was Shi'a from the beginning but he hid his true faith due to the repression practiced by the Caliphs. Later, many of his sons found out the truth after their intellectual maturity and became Shi'a. The first member of Al A'yan who became Shi'a was ‘Abd al-Malik b. A'yan, who became Shi'a by Salih b. Maytham, and then his brother, Humran b. A'yan, who became Shi'a by Abu Khlid al-Kabuli. However, according to another report, the first member of Al A'yan who became Shi'a was Umm al-Aswad, ‘Abd al-Malik's sister, who was mainly influenced by Abu Khalid al-Kabuli.
A'yan b. Sunsun al-Shaybani
Lexically, A'yan means one with wide eyes. His father, Sunsun or Sunbus, was a Christian monk in a city of Roman Empire. A'yan was captured as a slave, and a man from Banu Shayban bought him in Halab and took him to Kufa. He later became a pious and righteous Muslim, memorized the Holy Qur'an after a while and became an expert in Arabic grammar. His master freed him and asked him to become a member of the tribe of Banu Shayban. Although he did not accept this offer, he and his descendants are known as “al-Shaybani.” Some said that A'yan was an Iranian who met with Ali b. Abi Talib (a) and became Muslim in his presence and became one of his companions. However, majority of Rijal scholars do not confirm such a report. What is certain is that A'yan and the known members of his descendants - except for few - were Shi'a and famous for their affection and support for the Shi'a Imams (a).
Zurara b. A'yan al-Shaybani
- Main article: Zurara b. A'yan
Zurara (d. 150/767) was a Shi'a Muhaddith (narrator), Faqih (jurist), Mutakallim (theologian) and author. He is one of the most famous Shi'a Muhaddiths and one of the most eminent pupils of Imam al-Sadiq (a). However, his personal life remains unknown. He was very strong in theology, polemics and argumentation, that he emerged victorious in most of the discussions and debates; thus he received the special attention of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and also Shi'a. He also was a companion of Imam al-Baqir (a) (b. 57/676 - d. 114/732) and has narrated a lot of Hadiths from him. Some Rijal scholars regarded Zurara as an unreliable narrator as there are some Hadiths – said to be about 20 - dispraising him. However, considering his high and important status among the narrators form Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a) and many Hadiths praising and approving him - he was introduced as the most honest person in his time - no doubt will remain in his faith, knowledge, devotion, trustworthiness and reliability. He played such an important role in spreading and reviving the teachings of Ahl al-Bayt (a), that Imam al-Sadiq (a) said, “God bless Zurara, were it not for Zurara and narrators like him, my father's words would have perished.” In another Hadiths, Imam al-Sadiq (a) explicitly counted him among those who enter the Heaven. In another Hadith Imam al-Sadiq (a) said, “These four are my favorite people: Burayd b. Mu'awiya al-Bajali, Muhammad b. Muslim, Abu Basir and Zurara.” Most Rijal scholars believe that the Hadiths dispraising Zurara are either Da'if (weak) or issued under Taqiyya circumstances or in special politic conditions to save his life. Another issue discussed by Shi'a scholar about Zurara is whether he accepted the Imamate of Imam al-Kazim (a) (b. 128 - d. 183/ 745-799) or not. However, the approval of the later Imams shows that he had accepted the Imamate of Imam al-Kazim (a). It is said that Zurara has written some books; however, except for one book - titled as al-Istita'a wa l-jabr wa l-‘uhud” - his other works are not mentioned in Rijal sources. Ibn Babawayh al-Qummi said that he had seen his book. Some claimed that he lived 90 years. This is not unlikely as some have mentioned him among the companions of Imam al-Sajjad (a) as well.
Humran b. A'yan
- Main article: Humran b. A'yan
Humran was a Shi'a Faqih, Muhaddith, lexicologist, litterateur and scholar of Arabic syntax. He was a companion of Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a) and has narrated a lot Hadiths from them, while many narrators have narrated Hadith from him. Although some Sunni Rijal scholars said that he is not reliable (Thiqa) because he is a Shi'a, most Shi'a Rijal scholars said that he is reliable and trustworthy. Even some Shi'a Rijal scholars believed that he is more reliable than Zurara. Humran studied Arabic syntax under Abu l-Aswad al-Du'ali. Although the exact time of his demise is unknown, there is no doubt that he passed away before Imam al-Sadiq (a). Humran had sons named: ‘Uqba, Hamza and Muhammad, who all were companions of Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a). They are regarded as reliable (Thiqa) narrators who have narrated many Hadiths from the two Imams.
Bukayr b. A'yan
- Main article: Bukayr b. A'yan
He is regarded as a reliable (Thiqa) narrator who has narrated many Hadiths from Imam al-Baqir (a) and Imam al-Sadiq (a). Although he is very famous, there is no information about his personal life. Bukayr passed away before Imam al-Sadiq (a). He had six sons: ‘Umar, Jahm, Zayd, ‘Abd Allah, ‘Abd al-Hamid and ‘Abd al-A'la, who all were among the companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a) and narrated Hadiths form him. Although, 'Abd Allah - his son - was a Faqih, he was a Fatahi.
Abu Ghalib al-Zurari
- Main article: Abu Ghalib al-Zurari
Ahmad b. Muhammad, known as Abu Ghalib al-Zurari (b. 285/898 - d. 368/978) was a Shi'a Faqih, Muhaddith, Mutakallim and poet. He is the last well-known scholars and Muhaddiths of Al A'yan. He started to learn Hadith when he was 11. In 356/967, he authored Risalat fi Al A'yan (treatise about Al A'yan) which contains brief biographies of the famous members of Al A'yan. He has mentioned his Hadiths masters and the paths of the Hadiths he has narrated, and has dedicated the book to his grandson Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah. He was a descendant of Bukayr b. A'yan; thus his ancestors were known as “Bukayri.” However, from the time of Imam al-Hadi (a) (B. 212/829 - D. 254/868) he started to be known as “Zurari.” As he has mentioned, this title started form the time of his grandfather, Sulayman b. Husayn. It is said, because the mother of Hasan b. Jahm b. Bukayr, the ancestor of Abu Ghalib, was the grand-daughter of Zurara, he was called Zurari.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from آلاعین in Farsi WikiShia.