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'Ali b. Isma'il al-Maythami

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Companion of Imam (a)
'Ali b. Isma'il al-Maythami
Full Name 'Ali b. Isma'il al-Maythami
Companion of Imam al-Rida (a)
Teknonym Abu l-Hasan
Well Known As Ibn Maytham
Religious Affiliation Imamiyya
Wellknown Relatives Maytham al-Tammar
Birth 2nd/8th
Place of Birth Kufa
Place(s) of Residence Kufa, Basra
Demise between 210/825 to 215/830
Professors Hisham b. al-Hakam
Works an Asl
Activities Theologian, debates with other Islamic denominations

ʿAlī b. Ismāʿīl al-Maythamī (Arabic: علي بن إسماعیل المیثمي), known as Ibn Maytham (Arabic: إبن میثم) or Abu l-Ḥasan al-Maythamī (Arabic: أبوالحسن المیثمي), was a Shiite theologian in the 2nd/8th and 3rd/9th centuries who transmitted hadiths from Imam al-Rida (a). According to Ibn Nadim, he was the first person who did theology in accordance to the principles of Imamiyya.


'Ali b. Isma'il, known as Ibn Maytham or Abu l-Hasan al-Maythami, was a companion of Imam al-Rida (a), a mawla of Banu Asad, and a progeny of Maytham al-Tammar. The year of his birth is not mentioned in sources. It is only said that he was born in the 2nd/8th century. According to al-Najashi, he was born in Kufa and then moved to Basra.

According to some sources, he was raised in a family of scholars. All of his ancestors were prominent scholars and figures of their times, in particular, Maytham al-Tammar.

Scholarly Significance

Al-Maythami is cited in different fields such as theology, jurisprudence, history, exegesis, and hadiths. He is taken to be superior to others in some of these fields.

  • Debates: according to al-Shaykh al-Mufid, 'Ali b. Maytham was a skillful debater. He cited some of Ibn Maytham's debates with Mu'tazili figures, such as Abu l-Hudhayl al-'Allaf, Dirar al-Dabbi, and Nazzam. Some people considered his debates with Mu'tazili figures to be well-known.
  • Jurisprudence and history: it is said that 'Ali b. Isma'il was familiar with jurisprudence and the history of the Imams (a). Some of his jurisprudential hadiths are cited in the Four Books of the Shi'as. According to some sources, 'Ali b. Isma'il was more familiar with the lives, history, and children of the Imams (a).

Intellectual Authority

'Ali b. Isma'il trained students and companions. It is said that he was the mediating link between the school of Hisham b. Hakam and the subsequent generations. Phrases such as "one of Maytham's companions" or "a follower of Maytham" or "Maythamiyya" point to the continuity of the School of Kufa by the companions of 'Ali b. Isma'il.

Ibn Maytham's Teachers

In Hadith

Ibn Maytham directly transmitted hadiths from Imam al-Rida (a). He also transmitted hadiths from other people, some of whom are:

In Theology

According to sources available to us, his teacher in theology was Hisham b. al-Hakam, and when Hisham ran away, Ibn Maytham was imprisoned at the command of Harun al-Rashid. In prison when he heard about his teacher's death he said: "if Hisham is killed, his knowledge will be buried with him". He referred to Hisham as "our supporter", "our master", and "the one our eyes are on".


Some of those who narrated from him are as follows:

  • Husayn b. Sa'id al-Ahwazi
  • Isma'il b. Abi Ziyad al-Sakuni
  • Dawud b. Mahziyar
  • Ja'far b. Ahmad b. Ayyub al-Samarqandi


A principle is attributed to him in some sources under Asl kitabuh. He wrote other books in theology and jurisprudence as well.

  • Kitab al-imama
  • Kitab majalis Hisham b. al-Hakam
  • Kitab al-mut'a
  • Kitab al-istihqaq
  • Al-Kamil
  • Kitab al-talaq
  • Kitab al-nikah

Theological Views

  • Monotheism: according to some accounts, Ibn Maytham believed in the necessity of knowing God. According to 'Ali b. Isma'il, all knowledge, including knowledge of God, are non-volitional (idtirari), and proved the existence of the creator through Teleological Argument (Burhan al-Nazm). It is also said that he takes Divine Attributes to be identical with His Essence.
  • Prophethood: according to some sources, 'Ali b. Isma'il believed that a prophet has a particular position and is selected by God. He believed that a prophet's knowledge was not ordinary knowledge and that his knowledge is given to him by God.
  • Imamate: 'Ali b. Isma'il believed in the necessity of the existence of an Imam. He considered imamate to be a divine position selected by the Prophet (s). A number of his arguments and debates have been reported by Shiite and Sunni sources. He believed that an Imam has knowledge of all the good and the bad and he can speak with different languages of every region.

Encounter with the Waqifa

The Waqifa are also known as "Mamtura". The word, "mamtura", is said to be part of the phrase, "kilab mamtura" (a dog soaked by the rain). The Waqifa are called "Mamtura" because once 'Ali b. Isma'il al-Maythami and Yunus b. 'Abd al-Rahman debated some advocates of the Waqifa about the Imamate after Imam al-Kazim (a). When the debate was heated and they stubbornly refused to accept the arguments, 'Ali b. Isma'il told them: "you are not Shi'as; you are dogs soaked by the rain". The assimilation was because they had become more and more stubborn and intellectually stinky as they heard more arguments, like a dog who stinks more and more as it is more soaked by the rain.


There are two types of accounts about 'Ali b. Maytham:

  • Reproaches: in some cases, 'Ali b. Maytham and his teacher, Hisham b. al-Hakam are accused of believing in tashbih (assimilation of God to humans), tajsim (belief in the corporeality of God), qadar (predestination), ghuluww (exaggeration about the Imams), the distortion in the Qur'an, importing Jewish elements in Islam, deviations about the Divine Will, the theory of Infallibility, and nass (text).


According to some sources, 'Ali b. Maytham died in the years between 210/825 to 215/830 at the age of 80 to 85.