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Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-Kulayni

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Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-Kulayni
کلینی 1.jpg
The tomb of al-Kulayni in Kulayn
Personal Information
Kunya Abu Ja'far
Epithet Thiqat al-Islam
Well-Known As Al-Shaykh al-Kulayni
Religious Affiliation Twelver Shi'a
Place of Birth Kulayn
Residence Rey, Qom, Baghdad
Death 328/939-40
Burial Place Baghdad
Scholarly Information
Professors 'Ali b. Ibrahim al-Qummi, Ibn Babawayh, ...
Students Harun b. Musa al-Talla'ukbari, Ibn Qulawayh, Abu Ghalib al-Zurari, ..
Works Al-Kafi, Rasa'il al-A'imma, ...

Abu Jaʿfar, Muḥammad b. Yaʿqub b. Isḥāq al-Kulayni Al-Rāzī (Arabic: ابوجعفر، محمّد بن یعقوب بن اسحاق الرازی) (c. 255/869 - 328/940) was among the greatest Shi'a hadith scholars and the author of al-Kafi, the most authentic Shi'a hadith collection and one the Four Books. He was born after the martyrdom of Imam al-'Askari (a), at the time of Imam al-Mahdi (a) and met some hadith transmitters who directly had heard hadiths from Imam al-Hadi (a) and Imam al-'Askari (a). It is said that al-Kulayni was very accurate in transmitting hadiths. Ibn Qulawayh, Muhammad b. Ali Majilawayh al-Qummi, Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Zurari were among his students.

Kulayni Family

Many of the members of al-Kulayni family and relatives were among religious scholars. His father Ya'qub b. Ishaq was among the scholars of his time and lived during the age of Minor Occultation. Abu l-Hasan Ali b. Muhammad known as 'Alan al-Razi was al-Kulayni's uncle and Muhammad b. 'Aqil al-Kulayni, Ahmad b. Muhammad and Muhammad b. Ahmad were all relatives of al-Kulayni and among great Shi'a scholars.

Time and Place of His Birth

Despite some ambiguities about exact time and place of the birth of al-Kulayni, many biographers have considered it certain that he was born in Kulayn village of Rey. About the time of his birth, some historical evidences show that he was born, before or shortly after the birth of Imam al-Mahdi (a), around 255/869, and lived in the age of Minor Occultation. Bahr al-'Ulum considered it possible that al-Kulayni lived toward the end of the life of Imam al-Hasan al-'Askari (a). Ayatullah Khoei believed that his birth was after the martyrdom of Imam al-'Askari (a).

His Names and Titles

References of rijal and biography have mentioned al-Kulayni with titles such as Abu Ja'far, Muhammad b. Ya'qub, Ibn Ishaq, Thiqat al-Islam, al-Razi, Silsili and al-Baghdadi. He was the first Islamic scholar who was called "Thiqat al-Islam". Due to his God-wariness, knowledge and merits, people referred to him for solving their religious questions and receiving rulings. He was called as Silsili because he lived in Darb al-Silsila at Bab Kufa of Baghdad.

Learning Hadiths and Moving to Qom

Beside continuing his education and studies and learning about the thoughts of other religions in Rey, which was the center for the meeting of Islam'ili, Hanafi, Shafi'i and Imami ideas and thoughts, al-Kulayni decided to compile hadiths. He learned hadith studies under Abu l-Hasan Muhamamd b. Asadi al-Kufi who lived in Rey. He then moved to Qom to perfect his hadith studies. He met hadith scholars who had heard hadiths directly from Imam al-Hadi (a) and Imam al-'Askari (a) and benefitted from great teachers.

Going to Baghdad

According to historical evidences, al-Kulayni went to Baghdad which was among the great scientific centers after he finished writing al-Kafi in 327/939, two years before he passed away. An evidence for the fact that al-Kafi had finished before he went to Baghdad is that even though he lived at the time of the Four Deputies of Imam al-Mahdi (a), he did not narrate any hadith directly from them.

His Personality and Scientific Position

In the books of biography and history, all his advocates and critics mentioned his merits and glory. With regards to his fame, Shi'a and Sunni scholars referred to his rulings in fiqh and titled him as Thiqat al-Islam.

In the View of Great Shia Personalities

  • About him, al-Shaykh al-Tusi wrote in his book of rijal, "Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-Kulayni with the kunya of Abu Ja'far al-A'war, was a great scholar especially in hadith. He has some written works mentioned in al-Kafi."

Elsewhere, he mentioned al-Kulayni as thiqa (reliable) and knowledgeable in narrations.

In the Views of Sunni Scholars

Ibn Athir, the Sunni historian counted al-Kulayni among great Twelver Shia scholars. Al-Dhahabi mentioned al-Kulayni as a Shia shaykh and Twlever Shia scholar who had several written works. Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani and Ibn Makula say that, "he is among Shia faqihs and authors." Ibn 'Asakir has described him having great merits in his book.

His Works

In addition to al-Kafi, al-Kulayni had some other works which show his scientific position in fields other than hadiths; such as,

  • Kitab al-Rijal;
  • Al-Radd ʿala l-Qaramita;
  • Rasaʾ il al-Aʾimma;
  • Al-Ziyy wa l-tajammul;
  • Al-Dawajin wa l-rawajin;
  • Al-wasaʾil;
  • Fadl al-Qurʾan.

His Teachers

Up to 50 sources and teachers of al-Kulayni have been mentioned who educated and taught him as well as narrating hadiths for him. His most influential teacher was Ali b. Ibrahim al-Qummi, author of Tafsir Qummi who has been mentioned in the chain of tramitters of more than 7068 hadiths in al-Kafi. His other famous teachers are:

His Students and Transmitters of Hadiths

There are some great Shia scholars among his students and those who transmitted hadiths from him.

Demise and Burial Place

His tombstone

Al-Kulayni passed away in Baghdad, at the age of 70 in 328/940 (year of "Tanathur al-Nujum"), the first year of the age of the Major Occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a). Al-Najashi and al-Shaykh al-Tusi have reported that Muhammad b. Ja'far al-Hasani known as Abu Qirat who was a great scholar performed the prayer upon al-Kulayni's body. His body was buried in Bab Kufa. A person called Ibn 'Abdun has seen al-Kulayni's grave in Ta'i road upon which there have been the name of al-Kulayni and the name of his father. Muhammad Baqir Khwansari wrote that, "what is famous about the grave of al-Kulayni is that it is in the east of Baghdad and tigris river, in the Tikya Mawlawiyya and everyone visits there.


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from کلینی in Farsi Wikishia.