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Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a (book)

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Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a
Author Aqa Buzurg Tihrani
Original title طبقات اعلام الشیعه
Language Arabic
Series 9 volumes
Subject Rijal

Ṭabaqāt aʿlām al-Shīʿa (Arabic: طَبَقات أعْلام الشیعَة) is an encyclopedia of the biographies of prominent Shiite figures. This is one of the main books of Aqa Buzurg Tihrani concerning the biographies of prominent Shiite figures from the 4th/10th to 14th/20th centuries. In addition to providing the biographies of prominent Shiite figures, the book also discusses the political, social and cultural life of the Shi'as. The author has divided the book into 11 parts symbolizing the 11 centuries in which Imam al-Mahdi (a) was occluded. Each part is devoted to a century from 4th/10th to 14th/20th centuries. The 11th part of the book has the title, "nuqaba' al-bashar fi l-qarn al-rabi' 'ashar" (the heads of people in the fourteenth century). The author has mentioned some Sunni scholars who wrote works regarding Ahl al-Bayt (a). The book is characterized by its brevity, alphabetic order, biographies of female Shiite figures, and providing a list of books cited in the text at the end of its volumes. The book was published in three stages. Muhammad 'Ali Rawdati wrote a supplement on it.

The Author

Main article: Aqa Buzurg Tihrani

Muhammad Muhsin b. 'Ali al-Munzawi al-Tihrani, known as Aqa Buzurg Tihrani (1293/1876-1389/1970), was a Shiite faqih and bibliographer. He wrote some books, including al-Dhari'a and an encyclopedia of Shiite works and books.

Title of the Book

At first, Aqa Buzurg Tihrani gave the title "Wafayyat a'lam al-Shi'a" (literally: deceased prominent Shiite figures) to his encyclopedia, but since he referred to some living figures of the 14th/20th century, he changed the title to "Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a" (classes of prominent Shiite figures).

Motivation for Writing

Since 1329/1911, Aqa Buzurg visited many libraries in different cities and took notes about Shiite works in order to write his al-Dhari'a ila tasanif al-Shi'a (an encyclopedia of Shiite books and writings). Since then, he also wrote down information about Shiite scholars and figures, and on the basis of the latter notes, he later wrote biographies of Shiite scholars of every century from the 4th/10th to the 14th/20th centuries under the title, "Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a".

Significance of the Book

Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a is the second most important work of Aqa Buzurg Tihrani. It is a comprehensive Shiite science of rijal or biography throughout 11 centuries. In addition to providing biographies of Shiite prominent figures, the author also talks about the political, social, and cultural life of the Shi'as.

Contents

Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a is an encyclopedia of about 20 volumes regarding the biographies and works of prominent Shiite figures from the 4th/10th to the 14th/20th centuries. The author provides the biographies of prominent Shiite scholars and the history of their times. The book is divided into 11 parts corresponding to the 11 centuries in which Imam al-Mahdi (a) was occluded. Each section is devoted to a century from the 4th/10th to the 14th/20th centuries. Aqa Buzurg Tihrani did not collect the biographies of prominent Shiite figures of the first three centuries after Islam, since they were transmitters of hadiths and so there were detailed biographies and works of them in Shiite books.

Style of Writing

In order to show that some poets were Shi'as, Aqa Buzurg made appeals to one or more verses by them in which they talk about Ahl al-Bayt (a) or remarks about them by scholars. In his biography of Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Qawi he appealed to a verse of his regarding the virtues of Imam Ali (a); in his biography of 'Amir b. 'Amir al-Basri he appealed to a verse he composed about Imam al-Mahdi (a), and regarding Muhammad Sa'id al-Qurayshi he appealed to his poem in the praise of Imam al-Rida (a). And in his biography of 'Ali b. Husayn al-Hilli, he appealed to a remark by Qadi Nur Allah al-Shushtari to the effect that he composed poems in the praise of Ahl al-Bayt (a).

Tihrani also appealed to "salawat" in people's works to show that they were Shi'as. In his biography of Yaqut al-Musta'si, Isma'il b. Muhammad b. Ishaq and Muhammad b. Hasan al-Bayhaqi, he said that there was a "salawat" in some of their works. And in some cases, he tried to prove that someone is a Shi'a by appealing to Sunni sources in which he was characterized as Rafida or Shi'a.

Aqa Buzurg Tihrani also introduced some Sunni scholars who wrote works regarding Ahl al-Bayt (a) or those who transmitted Shiite jurisprudential hadiths. He introduced Abu Nu'aim al-Isfahani in the book, and in his biography of Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Husayn b. Bazzaz and Hasan b. Ibrahim b. Ja'far he refers to their hadiths being cited by al-Shaykh al-Saduq and al-Kulayni.

Features

  • Brevity: Aqa Buzurg is very short in his biography of prominent Shiite figures. In his biography of very well-known scholars such as al-Kulayni and al-Saduq, he did not mention their works and referred the readers to al-Najjashi's al-Fihrist and al-Tusi's al-Fihrist.
  • Alphabetic order: the contents of each century are alphabetically ordered.
  • Biographies of Shiite female figures.
  • A list of books cited in the text at the end of some volumes.

Publication

The book has been published in three stages:

Supplementary on Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a by Muhammad 'Ali Rawdati
  • Its first stage occurred during the author's lifetime. Since the author had more complete information regarding the figures of more recent centuries, he decided to start the publication of the book from the 14th/20th century (contrary to the chronological order). He published parts of the material regarding the 13th/19th and 14th/20th centuries during his life.
  • The second stage of the publication occurred after the author's death by his son, 'Alinaqi Munzawi. He took the manuscripts of the book from Najaf to Beirut and then edited and published them under his own supervision.
  • In the third stage, 'Alinaqi Munzawi published the rest of the volumes of Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a in Tehran.

The book was also published by Dar al-Murtada Publications as edited by 'Abd al-'Aziz Tabataba'i and Muhammad Tabataba'i Bihbahani. In this publication, the part regarding the 14th/20th century consists of 5 volumes.

Supplement

Muhammad 'Ali Rawdati wrote a supplement for Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a. It was published with the efforts of Muhammad Barakat in 2012 by the Library of the Iranian parliament.

References