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The Four Books

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The most important hadith books
(The Four Books)
  1. Al-Kafi
  2. Man la yahduruh al-faqih
  3. Tahdhib al-ahkam
  4. Al-Istibsar
(The Authentic Six)
  1. Sahih al-Bukhari
  2. Sahih Muslim
  3. Sunan Abu Dawud
  4. Sunan ibn Majah
  5. Jami' al-Tirmidhi
  6. Al-Sunan al-Sughra

The Four Books, (Arabic: الکتب الأربعة), are the four main collections of hadith which, after the Qur'an, form the basis of Shi'a beliefs and practices. The Four Books are al-Kafi, Tahdhib al-ahkam, al-Istibsar and Man la yahduruh al-faqih.


Main article: al-Kafi

Al-Kafi was compiled by Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Ya'qub Kulayni (d. 329/941) during the Minor Occultation period. It contains sixteen thousands hadith which are divided into the three general sections of usul (principles), "furu'" (branches), and rawda (miscellaneous part). "Usul" contains hadiths related to beliefs, furu' contains hadiths concerning jurisprudence, and "rawda" contains hadiths pertaining to ethics and morality.[1]

Man la yahduruh al-faqih

The Four Books ; the most important sources in Shiite hadith and jurisprudence.

This work was compiled by al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. 'Ali b. al-Husayn b. Babawayh al-Qummi (d. 381/991). It contains six thousands hadiths related to jurisprudence and practical rulings - all of which al-Saduq deemed as authentic and used as the basis for his fatwas.[2]

Tahdhib al-ahkam

Main article: Tahdhib al-ahkam

This hadith collection was compiled by Shaykh al-Ta'ifah Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Tusi (d. 460/1067). The hadith it contains are also mainly related to jurisprudence. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi compiled this work by the order of al-Shaykh al-Mufid as a commentary to al-Mufid's al-Muqni'a. In it, al-Tusi discusses rulings of jurisprudence ranging from tahara (purity) to diyat (blood money). The order of the book's content is the same as that of al-Shaykh al-Mufid's al-Muqni'ah.

It contains 393 chapters and a total of 13,590 hadiths. There is a section on mashikha at the end of this book which includes al-Tusi's chain of transmission for the sources he used.[3]


Main article: al-Istibsar

This hadith collection was compiled by al-Shaykh al-Tusi after Tahdhib al-ahkam in response to requests from some of his students. It consists of 5,511 hadiths.[4] In this work he has collected only those hadiths relating to jurisprudence which apparently contradict each other. Like other jurisprudence references, the categorization of topics in this book begins with tahara and ends with diyat. Under each topic, he first mentions the hadiths he regards as authentic, then mentions the ones that apparently contradict them, and finally, attempts to harmonize them.


  1. Modir Shanehchi, Tarikh-i Hadith, p. 116 - 119.
  2. Modir Shanehchi. Tarikh-i Hadith. p. 130 - 135.
  3. Modir Shanehchi. Tarikh-i Hadith. p. 138 - 140.
  4. Modir Shanehchi. Tarikh-i Hadith. p. 148 - 150.


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from کتب اربعه in Farsi Wikishia.
  • Modir Shanehchi, Kazim, Tarikh-i Hadith, Samt Publication, Tehran, 1419/1998.