Al-Fihrist (by al-Tusi)

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Fihrist kutub al-Shī'a wa uṣūlihim wa asmā' al-muṣannifīn wa aṣḥāb al-uṣūl (Arabic: فِهْرِسْت کُتُب الشیعة وَ أصولِهِم وَ أسْماء المُصَنِّفین وَ أصْحابِ الأصول), known as al-Fihrist, is a bibliographical book written by al-Shaykh al-Tusi in Arabic, in which a list of scholarly work by Shiite authors is provided. Al-Fihrist is one of the most important sources of Shiite rijal and bibliography.

The Author

Main article: al-Shaykh al-Tusi

Muhammad b. Hasan b. 'Ali (385-460/995-1067), known as al-Shaykh al-Tusi, was a Shiite scholar of hadith and fiqh in the 5th/11th century. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi studied in Iraq attending the lectures of al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Sayyid al-Murtada, and others. When the Shapur Library burned in the fire, al-Shaykh al-Tusi moved from Baghdad to Najaf where he established an Islamic Seminary School. After the death of al-Sayyid al-Murtada, al-Shaykh al-Tusi undertook the authority of the Shi'as. His books concerning fiqh, hadith, exegesis of the Qur'an, rijal and the like are references and sources of Islamic disciplines.


Al-Fihrist is one of the four sources of Shiite rijal, and one of the three works of al-Shaykh al-Tusi concerning rijal. In writing this book, al-Shaykh al-Tusi referred to al-Fihrist by Ibn al-Nadim, al-Fihrist by Ibn Butta al-Mu'addab, al-Fihrist or al-Rijal by Ibn 'Uqda, al-Fihrist by Ibn al-Walid al-Qummi, al-Fihrist by Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Khalid al-Barqi, and al-Fihrist by Ibn 'Abdun. He mostly referred to al-Fihrist by Ibn al-Nadim—in 22 cases, indeed. In this book, al-Shaykh al-Tusi introduced his chains of transmission to the listed works and Shiite scholars as well.

Title of the Book

Al-Shaykh al-Tusi referred to the book as “al-Fihrist”. Al-Najjashi referred to it as Fihrist kutub al-Shi'a wa asma' al-musannifin. In some Shiite books of rijal, it is referred to with the abbreviation “ست”.


Al-Shaykh al-Tusi wrote the book with the purpose of listing the scholarly work of Twelver Shi'a or Imami scholars. In some cases, however, he listed some non-Imami scholars as well. For example, he listed 5 Zaydi scholars, including Ibn 'Uqda, and 10 Sunni scholars because they had written books concerning the virtues of Ahl al-Bayt (a).


In the introduction of his al-Fihrist, al-Shaykh al-Tusi pointed out that his motivation for writing the book was to produce a comprehensive book in which work by Shiite scholars was listed. According to al-Shaykh al-Tusi, the problem with books written for the same purpose at his time was that they were not comprehensive. However, he referred to the two books by Ahmad b. al-Husayn al-Ghada'iri in which books and al-usul were listed as being comprehensive, although they were not duplicated and, thus, not available anymore.

He was also encouraged by one of his teachers to write a book to introduce Shiite work, including books and al-usul.

Style of Writing

Al-Shaykh al-Tusi’s al-Fihrist is a combination of bibliography and biography. The books are listed alphabetically in accordance with the names of their authors. He said that he did so in order to make it easy for readers to access the information they needed. He emphasized that the order was not chronological.

Al-Shaykh al-Tusi provided information concerning the name, lineage, kunya, titles, and the residence of the authors, and then wrote about their scholarly characters (their specialties) as well as their work. In the introduction of the book, al-Shaykh al-Tusi promised to give information about the religious tendency, as well as the reliability or unreliability of the transmitters of hadiths.


Al-Shaykh al-Tusi’s al-Fihrist consists of three main parts:

One part is concerned with people whose original names were known (this part is alphabetically ordered).

Another part is concerned with people who were known with their kunyas without their original names being known by al-Shaykh al-Tusi.

And the last part is concerned with people who were known with their tribes, cities, or titles, and thus, their names or kunyas were not known.

Time of Writing

It is not known when al-Fihrist was written. But the fact that al-Shaykh al-Tusi cited this book in his al-Rijal reveals that al-Fihrist was written before or simultaneously with al-Rijal. The phrase, “God willing, I will mention them in the book, al-Rijal”, in his al-Fihrist, implies that he began to write al-Fihrist before his al-Rijal. However, in his al-Fihrist, he refers to al-Rijal as one of his books. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi began writing al-Fihrist during the life of al-Sayyid al-Murtada, although he finished it after al-Sayyid’s death.

Editing and Publication

Al-Fihrist was edited by Spranger and Mawlawi 'Abd al-Haqq and published in India in 1853 in a alphabetic order of names, as well as names of fathers and grandfathers. After that, the book was first published in its original order in 1356/1937 in the Haydariyya Publications in Najaf as edited by Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq Bahr al-'Ulum. It was reprinted in 1380/1960. It was also published in 1417/1996 by Nashr al-Fiqaha in 343 pages as edited by Jawad Qayyumi. It was also edited by Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz Tabataba'i in 1420/1999.

Supplementations and Summaries

Some Shiite scholars and authors are missing from al-Shaykh al-Tusi’s al-Fihrist. Al-Shaykh pointed out in his introduction to the book that this was because there was no record of their books or that he was not acquainted with them since they lived in very different places. Thus, some people wrote supplementations for the book, including:

Moreover, some scholars have summarized or reorganized al-Shaykh al-Tusi’s al-Fihrist, including:


There are some errors made by al-Shaykh al-Tusi in al-Fihrist, for example, in his report of the religious tendency, the name, the kunya, or the written work of the authors. 'Allama Muhammad Taqi Shushtari believed that the errors were made because al-Shaykh al-Tusi relied too much on Ibn al-Nadim’s al-Fihrist and Rijal al-Kashshi. Ayatollah Khu'i believed that the errors resulted from al-Shaykh al-Tusi’s hectic life engaging in a great deal of teaching and writing. It is noteworthy that al-Shaykh al-Tusi himself pointed to certain errors made by Ibn al-Nadim, including his identification of Fadl b. Shadhan al-Nishaburi with Fadl b. Shadhan al-Razi, as well as errors made by al-Kashshi, including his story of a meeting between Lut b. Yahya al-Azdi and Imam 'Ali (a).

It is also said that in some cases, al-Shaykh al-Tusi relied on some unknown and not much reliable sources, and in some other cases, he did not mention his sources at all.