Ali b. Isa al-Irbili

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Ali b. Isa al-Irbili
Personal Information
Full NameAbu l-Hasan 'Ali b. 'Isa
Well-Known AsBaha' al-Din al-Irbili
Birthbetween 620/1223 and 625/1228
Studied inIrbil
Death692/1293 or 693/1294
Burial PlaceBaghdad
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsRadi l-Din 'Ali b. Tawus, Ibn Sa'i al-Baghdadi, Hafiz Abu 'Abd Allah, Muhammad b. Yusuf Ganji al-Shafi'i

Abu l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. ʿIsā Hakkārī, (Arabic: أبوالحسن علي بن عیسی هکّاري) ,known as Bahaʾ al-Dīn al-Irbilī (بهاءالدين إربلي), famous Shi'a hadith scholar, historian, literary man and poet in seventh/thirteenth century. Kashf al-ghumma fi ma'arifat al-a'imma is his most notable work. This is one of the reliable biographies of the Prophet (s) and Shi'a Imams (a).

Birth and Lineage

He was born and grew up in Irbil.[1] There is no agreement on his exact birthday, but most evidence shows that he was born between 620/1223 and 625/1228. Ibn Habib al-Halabi is the only one who has explicitly claimed that al-Irbili was born in 625/1228.[2] His father, Fakhr al-Din 'Isa, known as Ibn Jihni, was the governor of Irbil and its environs, and died there in 664/1266.[3]


Al-Irbili was taught by Sunni and Shi'a scholars and was permitted to narrate the hadith by many of them.[4] Some of them are:


Some of the religious authorities were taught by him and quoted from him:

and some studied Kashf al-ghumma under his supervision.[7]


Al-Irbili was clerk during Taj al-Din b. Salaya's reign in Irbil. According to al-Irbili, when Irbil collapsed by Mongols in Rajab of 660/1262, he went to Baghdad that was governed by 'Ala' al-Din 'Ata' al-Mulk al-Juwayni and got his position as a clerk in the secretariat.[8]

Al-Irbili was one of 'Ata' al-Mulk al-Juwayni's close companions[9] and accompanied him in journeys. His house overlooked the Dijla River and was called “Divan Sharabi”. He wrote most of his works in the same period and undertook to repair Jami' bab al-sayf mosque.[10]

Enemies' Gossips

Al-Juwayni came under suspicion of Abaga Khan the Mongol (663/1256 - 680/1281), Hulagu Khan's son, by enemies' gossips in 680/1281, so that the King commanded that al-Juwayni and some of his companions, including al-Irbili, be taken to Khan's camp in Hamadan, but before they arrive, they heard that Abaga Khan was dead. After him, Takudar Ahmad, Abaga Khan's brother, became Ilkhan, therefore Al-Juwayni was given governmental position again. Al-Irbili remained faithful to al-Juwayni until al-Juwayni's death in 681/1282-3.[11]

In 687/1288-9, Sa'd al-Dawla al-Musili, Arghun Khan's Jewish minister, tormented Muslims too much, and accordingly, al-Irbili was forced to abandon his position until Sa'd al-Dawla was murdered in 690/1291-2. Al-Irbili was housebound in the last years of his life and was preoccupied with writing.[12]

Ministry and Premiership

There are different ideas about al-Irbili's ministry. Some believe that he was the minister, prime minister and one of the politicians of his age.[13] Abu l-Hasan Sha'rani holds that it was likely that al-Irbili was a minister with such great knowledge and learning.[14] Some think that it is probable that the minister 'Ali b. 'Isa, known as Ibn Jarrah (died in 334/945-6) was another person who was Abbasid's powerful and capable minister.[15]


Most of scholars believe that al-Irbili passed away in Baghdad in 692/1293[16] or 693/1294[17]. But Ibn 'Imad al-Hanbali believed that al-Irbili passed away in 683/1284.[18] He was entombed in his house, called Karpardazkhani and placed in west of Baghdad.[19] Al-Muhaddith al-Qummi, had visited his tomb,[20] but today his house is fully destroyed and there is no trace left.[21]


According to al-Afandi al-Isfahani, Mirdamad in Shir'a al-tasmiya has used a phrase about al-Irbili, so that one of Mirdamad's students interpreted that phrase as it signifies that al-Irbili was not Twelver Shi'a, but Zaydi.[22]

But it is not true, because in many parts of Kashf al-ghumma, al-Irbili himself confessed that he has been Twelver Shi'a. Al-Afandi al-Isfahani believed that the probable reason of this mistake is that one of the Zaydi scholars wrote a book titled the same (Kashf al-ghummah).[23][24] It is also mentioned in old resources that al-Irbili was Twelver Shi'a.[25]

Specialization in Different Fields

If we pay attention to al-Irbili's masters, we realize that he was an expert in different fields. He is known for his specialty in Arabic syntax and literature (Badi', Bayan, Ma'ani, Sarf and Lughat)[26] poetry and studying history. He also was clerk in the secretariat,[27] Faqih,[28] a trustworthy hadith scholar, and one of the great hadith scholars who permit others narrate hadith.[29] Al-Irbili was an excellent Twelver Shi'a thinker and scholar, and reliable about narrating hadith, according to Fadl b. Ruzbihan al-Shafi'i.[30]

There is no doubt that al-Irbili was well-known for his excellent poetry and prose in seventh/thirteenth century. His prose was distinguished and fine. He composed poems in his youth and tested his talent in most of the kinds and techniques of Arabic poetry.[31]

He composed Qasidas to eulogize ahl al-bayt (a) and was one of the narrators of a poem that ascribed to Imam 'Ali (a).[32] He wrote poems extemporaneously and had literature sessions with al-Juwayni, Ibn Salaya and others, and it proves his poetical capability.[33]

Al-Irbili's Son

Al-Irbili had a son named Abu l-Fath Muhammad b. 'Ali that according to Ibn Shakir al-Katbi[34] and Safadi[35],who died after his father's death, while he was so poor. He also was learned, was a poet and a literary man, and narrated Kashf al-ghumma.[36] Al-Irbili's grandson, 'Isa b. Muhammad was learned and he was a poet as well, and narrated Kashf al-ghumma from his grandfather.[37]


This book has two parts: first part includes life of the Prophet (s) and Imam 'Ali (a), and is finished on Sha'ban 678/1279, and the second part includes life of Lady Khadija (a), Lady Fatima (a) and Imams (a), and is finished on Ramadan 687/1288. In introduction, he affirms explicitly that he is Shi'a and that Ahl al-Bayt (a) are the reference of the second constituent of Hadith of Thaqalayn, and said that everyone who is their foe, would be God's foe indeed, and everyone who is their friend, would be in fact God's friend. He conducted some debates with Sunni thinkers and used phrases such as “our friends are Shi'a” and we are, indeed, Shi'a group”.
Al-Irbili composed a Qasida to praise ahl al-bayt (a) at the end of every chapter. Kashf al-ghumma was used as a resource for Wasa'il al-Shi'a and Bihar al-anwar. It has an extremely eloquent style and consists of nice poems and is well documented.
  • Al-tazkara al-fakhriyya was written at the request of Manuchihr b. Abi l-Karam al-Hamadani ('Ata' al-Mulk al-Juwayni's deputy), according to al-Irbili, and concerns the contemporary and modern poems. According to Ibn Fuwati, the book was completed in 671/1272-3.[38] Al-Tazkara al-fakhriyya analyzes ghina' (kind of singing) and ghina' singers, and dedicated a preface to framework of tarassul and musajja' in every chapter and discussed the features of the prose of his age.[39] This book is divided into an introduction and eight chapters on music science, natural science and Rijal science (a science that is about validity of hadith narrators).
  • Risala al-tayf,[40] one of the valuable works of al-Irbili and embraces relatively reliable hadithes and also some poems. These poems belong to Ignorance Age, Muslim poets, and some of his contemporaries poets as well as himself. Some verses of these poems are not found in other works. He followed 'Alam al-Huda's style ('Alam al-Huda used this method in Tayf al-khiyal, one of his works) and referred to some poems of Buhtari and Abu Tammam. He unified Maqami Nivisi (a method of writing) and style of Tayf al-khiyal and profited from Al-ghufran, Abu l-'Ala' Ma'arri's treatise. Al-Irbili unlike Al-Sharif al-Murtada ('Alam al-Huda) who critically denied Amidi's thought and defended Abu Tammam and Buhtari, wrote his book in a poetical manner.[41]

Works Ascribed to al-Irbili

These works are:

  • Arba'in (The Fortieth), contains forty short Hadithes.[45]
  • Hada'iq al-bayan fi sharh al-tibyan fi l-ma'ani wa l-bayan
  • Burhat min al-dahr.[46]


  1. Farrukh, Tarikh al-adab al-'arabi, vol.3 p.661
  2. Ibn Habib al-Halabi, Tadhkira, vol.1 p.161
  3. Ibn Fuwati, al-Hawadith al-jami'a, vol.4 p.274-175
  4. Irbili, Risala al-tayf, p.18-19; Afandi, Riyad al-'ulama' , vol.4 p.166-167; Amini, al-Ghadir, vol.5 p.446-447
  5. Irbili, Kashf al-ghumma, vol.1 p.14,108,347,363-364; vol.2 p.75,372; vol.3 p.43,265; Qummi, Kitab al-kuna wa al-alqab, vol.1 p.199-200; Amini, al-Ghadir, vol.5 p.446
  6. Hurr al-'Amili, Amal al-amil, vol.2 p.8,26,61,63,147,165,288; Amini, al-Ghadir, vol.5 p.447-448; Irbili, Risala al-tayf, p.19-20
  7. Tihrani, al-Dhari'a, vol.1 p.218-219; Amin,A'yan al-shi'a, vol.3 p.135
  8. Ibn Shakir, Fawat al-wafayat, vol.3 p.57; Safadi, al-Wafi bi l-wafayat, vol.21 p.379; Ibn Fuwati, al-Hawadith al-jami'a, p.341
  9. Irbili, al-Tadhkira al-fakhriyya, p.47
  10. Irbili, Risala al-tayf, p.85-86; Ibn Fuwati, al-Hawadith al-jami'a, p.277-278, 366; Wassaf, Tarikh wassaf, p.104
  11. Wassaf, Tarikh wassaf, p.104-105; Irbili, translation of al-Manaqib, vol.1 p.8-9
  12. Irbili, translation of al-Manaqib, vol.1 p.6.13; Farrukh, Tarikh al-adab al-'arabi, vol.3 p.662
  13. Safadi, al-Wafi bi l-wafayat, vol.21 p.378; Afandi, Riyad al-'ulama' , vol.4 p.166; Tihrani, al-Dhari'a, vol.1 p.218; Amini, al-Ghadir, vol.5 p.446
  14. Irbili, translation of Kashf al-ghumma, vol.1 p.11
  15. Khuwansari, Rawdat al-jannat, vol.4 p.341; Qummi, al-Kuna wa al-alqab, vol.2 p.15; Zirikli, al-A'lam, vol.4 p.317
  16. Tihrani, Tabaqat, p.107; Zirikli, al-A'lam, vol.4 p.318
  17. Ibn Fuwati, al-Hawadith al-jami'a, p.480; Hurr al-'Amili, Amal al-amil, vol.2 p.195
  18. Ibn 'Imad, Shadharat al-dhahab, vol.5 p.383
  19. Tihrani, Tabaqat, p.107
  20. Qummi, Zindigani 'ulama, vol.1 p.317
  21. Irbili, Risala al-tayf, p.18
  22. Afandi, Riyad al-'ulama' , vol.4 p.169
  23. Afandi, Riyad al-'ulama' , vol.4 p.169
  24. Tihrani, al-Dhari'a, vol.18 p.47
  25. Safadi, al-Wafi bi l-wafayat, vol.21 p.379;
  26. Sadr, Ta'sis al-shi'a, p.130
  27. Safadi, al-Wafi bi l-wafayat, vol.21 p.379
  28. Ibn Habib al-Halabi, Tadhkira, vol.1 p.161
  29. Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol.1 p.10.29; Hurr al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-shi'a, vol.20 p.43
  30. Shushtari, Ihqaq al-haqq, vol.1 p.29
  31. Irbili, al-Tadhkira al-fakhriyya, p.111,166,246-247,388,421-422; Irbili, Kashf al-ghumma, vol.1 p.270-271
  32. Amini, al-Ghadir, vol.2 p.26
  33. Irbili, al-Tadhkira al-fakhriyya, p.85-86,153-154,161-162,166,204,242,380,389
  34. Ibn Shakir, Fawat al-wafayat, vol.3 p.58
  35. Safadi, al-Wafi bi l-wafayat, vol.21 p.379;
  36. Hurr al-'Amili, Amal al-amil, vol.2 p.288
  37. Hurr al-'Amili, Amal al-amil, vol.2 p.212
  38. Ibn Fuwati, Majma' al-adab, vol.4 p.419
  39. Irbili, al-Tadhkira al-fakhriyya, preface. p.13
  40. Tihrani, Tabaqat, p.107;
  41. Irbili, Risala al-tayf, p.32-35
  42. Hurr al-'Amili, Amal al-amil, vol.2 p.195; Tihrani, al-Dhari'a, vol.9 p.67
  43. Zirikli, al-A'lam, vol.4 p.318; Ibn Shakir, Fawat al-wafayat, vol.3 p.57; Tihrani, al-Dhari'a, vol.22 p.8
  44. Hurr al-'Amili, Amal al-amil, vol.2 p.195
  45. Muhaddith, Ta'liqat naqd, vol.2 p.1158
  46. Baghdadi, Idah al-maknun, vol.1


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