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The science of rijal (Arabic: عِلْمُ الرِّجال, lit. "knowing men") is a branch of hadith sciences that discusses the qualities of the hadith transmitters, especially their reliability in hadith transmission, and the related criteria and rules. This discipline has been an essential part of hadith sciences and a necessary aid for jurisprudence. Muslim scholars have paid great attention to this field and produced numerous scholarly works in it.

The science of rijal has had two main parts: one part that deals with biographical information of individual hadith transmitters and their reliability or lack thereof, and another part that discusses the general rules and criteria with which scholars can judge the reliability of individual hadith transmitters.

There has been some disagreement regarding the necessity of the science of rijal. This disagreement started with the emergence of the Akhbari movement—prior to that, there was no doubt about the necessity of rijal among Twelver Shiite scholars. Usuli scholars have maintained that rijal is a necessary preliminary of inferring religious rulings from hadith sources, but Akhbari scholars negated its necessity claiming that the hadiths contained in the Four Books were all authentic and reliable. Usuli scholars, especially Muhammad Baqir al-Bihbahani and al-Fadil al-Tuni, stood against the Akhbari position and defended the necessity of rijal.

The development of rijali rules has witnessed different phases. The early rules contained certain rules of assessing hadith works and hadith transmitters. Working with these rules continued for several centuries among Shiite scholars. The major theorization of rijal occurred in seventh/thirteenth century in the school of Hilla in the rijali works of al-Allama al-Hilli and Ibn Dawud al-Hilli. Later, al-Wahid al-Bihbahani presented a novel system of rijali rules and criteria, which has formed the basis of rijali discussions ever since.

The history of the development of rijal can be divided into five periods: the preliminary period, the age of the composition of first rijali sources, the age of the Primary Books, the age of developing the Secondary Books, and the period after the development of the Secondary Books until the contemporary period.

Terminology and Definition

The full name of this discipline is Ilm Rijal al-Hadith (lit. "the science of the men of hadith"). The word rijal (men) here refers to all hadith transmitters regardless of their gender. The science of rijal is sometimes called "fann al-rijal" (lit. "the art of rijal"). In early Sunni sources, such terms as al-jarh wa l-ta'dil (attestation to unreliability and reliability), tarikh ruwat al-hadith (the history of hadith transmitters), tabaqat ruwat al-hadith (the categories of hadith transmitters), and tabaqat al-muhaddition (the categories of traditionists) refer to the science of rijal.

Since the thirteenth/nineteenth century, various definitions were proposed for the science of rijal. Muhammad Ja'far Astarabadi defines rijal as the science with gives us information regarding the qualities of hadith transmitters, such as their piety, reliability, and praiseworthiness or lack thereof and provides us with general rules and criteria for distinguishing the hadith transmitters that have the same name, and for discerning the accuracy of the chains of transmitters. This definition has become the foundation of the later definitions given by rijali scholars.


Prior to the Akhbari movement, there was no disagreement among Imami scholars as to the need for the science of rijal. This is reflected in the works written by various Twelver Shiite scholars, including such early figures as al-Barqi and al-Kulayni, on the science of rijal.

However, the Akhbaris claimed that the hadiths contained in the Four Books were all authentic and reliable, and there was no need for a science with which to distinguish authentic hadiths from inauthentic ones. The Akhbaris maintained that the reason why the Four Books mentioned the chains of transmitters of the hadiths was not for us to assess their trustworthiness; rather, it was to show that Shiite hadiths were not baseless or to seek the blessing of mentioning the names of those personalities who strived to transmit the words of the Prophet (s) and the Imams (a).

Usuli scholars, especially al-Fadil al-Tuni and Muhammab Baqir al-Bihbahani, stood against the Akhabri claims and established the necessity of the science of rijal.

Below, we will mention a summary of the views of Akhbaris and the views and responses of Usulis:

Arguments Against the Necessity of the Science of Rijal

  • The authenticity of the hadiths of the Four Books: Astarabadi considered all the hadiths of the Four books to be authentic, which meant that there was no need for the science of rijal. Al-Allama al-Majlisi also regarded all the hadiths of the Four Books as reliable, but he maintained that studying the chains of transmitters was useful in solving the discrepancies between the hadiths. Some Akhbaris went to the extreme of claiming that all the hadiths contained in Shiite hadith collections were either certainly authentic or at least reliable.
  • Invalidity of the judgments of rijali scholars: The judgments of rijali scholars are their opinions and thus not authoritative for others. Rijali scholars must not be regarded as eyewitnesses testifying to the reliability of unreliability of a hadith transmitter, because they did not live at the time of the transmitters of hadith and never met them. If the opinions of the scholars of rijal about the unreliability of some hadith transmitters were to be accepted, the opinions of the authors of hadith collections who testified that all their hadiths were reliable would be authoritative as well.
  • Pointlessness of the science of rijal: If rijal is to lead to conjecture, it already exists; and if its purpose is to lead to certainty, rijal never leads to certainty.
  • Prohibited investigation about the transmitters of hadith: The Akhbaris considered the investigation about the transmitters of hadith, which sometimes revealed their defects or sins, an instance of prohibited investigation.
  • Uselessness of establishing the righteousness of a hadith transmitter: According to the Akhbaris, when the rijalis come to the conclusion that a certain person is righteous, this shows the overall status of that person and does not mean that he was righteous at the precise moment of quoting the hadith, whereas what is important is righteousness at that particular moment. Therefore, such rijali conclusions are useless.
  • Different meanings of righteousness among rijalis: Rijalis have different definitions and meanings of righteousness in mind, and therefore we do not know what exactly they mean when they state that a certain hadith transmitter is righteous. This ambiguity makes their statements useless.

Arguments for the Necessity of the Science of Rijal

Against Akhbaris, Usuli scholars have mentioned several arguments for the necessity of the science of rijal. Some of these arguments are independent, and some are in response to the arguments of Akhbaris.

  • Not all hadiths are authentic: We know for sure that there were fabricators of hadiths who would compose fake hadiths and attribute them to the Prophet (s) or Imams (a). Therefore, we need the science of rijal to know these fabricators and their forgeries, because an inauthentic hadith cannot be used as a basis of a religious doctrine or ruling.
  • Discerning the cases of taqiyya: Some of the statements of our Imams (a) were made under the circumstances of taqiyya (precautionary dissimulation), especially when non-Imami hadith transmitters were present. We need the science of rijal to know Imami and non-Imami hadith transmitters, and thus discern the hadiths that were probably issued under the circumstances of taqiyya.
  • The need for rijal in the case of conflict between hadiths: Due to a number of reasons—including hadith forgery, inaccuracies in hadith transmission, and taqiyya—discrepancies sometimes appear between hadiths. The Imams (s) have given us a number of solutions for these situations, one of which is to consider the merits of the transmitters of the conflicting hadiths and to prefer the hadiths whose transmitters are more meritorious in certain respects. Thus, we need science of rijal to tell us about the merits of hadith transmitters.
  • Consensus: There was a consensus among Imami scholars, or rather among Muslim scholars of all sects, over the necessity of the science of rijal.

In Sunni Islam

The science of rijal was called among Sunnis the science of al-Jarh wa l-Ta'dil (attestation to unreliability or unreliability). Ibn Sirin (d. 110/729) said in a well-known statement: "This knowledge [i.e., hadith] is your religion. Be careful from whom you get!" According to Ali b. Madyani (d. 234/849), comprehending the meanings of hadiths is half of knowledge and knowing the transmitters is the other half. Ibn Abi Hatim argued for the necessity of the science of rijal by saying that because we have received the Tradition through narration and transmission, we have to distinguish the reliable hadith transmitters from the unreliable ones.

Rijali Rules Criteria in Shiism

There have been a variety of rijali rules and criteria in Shiite history.

Period of the Imams' Presence

Early rijali rules had to do with hadith collections and hadith collectors. For instance, the Imams (a) confirmed the authenticity of some hadith collections, such as the book of 'Ubayd Allah b. Ali al-Halabi, Kitab al-Salat (The Book of Prayer) by Hariz b. Abd Allah al-Sijistani, Kitab Yawm wa layla (The Book of Day and Night) by Yunus b. Abd al-Rahman, and the book of Banu Faddal. During the period of the Minor Occultation, also, al-Husayn b. Ruh, the third deputy, confirmed the authenticity of Kitab al-Taklif (The Book of Duty) by al-Shalmaghani and another work containing the questions of the people of Qom and their answers.

After the Period of Presence until the Age of al-Allama al-Hilli

The above-mentioned criteria continued to be used after the beginning of the Major Occultation. For instance, al-Shaykh al-Tusi states that a criterion of authenticity is the existence of a hadith in a well-known book. Thus, in this period, the status of the book in which a hadith is cited was one of the criteria for assessing its authenticity. In his Mashriq al-shamsayn, al-Shaykh al-Baha'i has gathered these criteria in a more detailed way, some of which are the following:

  1. Finding a hadith in most of the Four Hundred Principles
  2. Finding a hadith in one or more of an early hadith collection through multiple chains of transmitters.
  3. Finding a hadith in a collection that belongs to a figure whose sayings are unanimously confirmed by Imami scholars, such as Zurara b. A'yan, Muhammad b. Muslim, and Fudayl b. Yasar, a figure whose narrations are considered authentic if the transmitters from him are reliable and righteous, such as Safwan b. Yahya, Yunus b. Abd al-Rahman, and Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Abi Nasr, or a figure whose narrations are acted upon such as Ammar al-Sabati.
  4. Inclusion of the hadith in a book that was presented to an Imam (a) and he praised its author, such as the book of Abd Allah b. Ali al-Halabi, which was shown to Imam al-Sadiq (a), and the books of Yunus b. Abd al-Rahman and al-Fadl b. Shadhan, which were presented to Imam al-Askari (a).
  5. Inclusion of the hadith in a book that was trusted by the early scholars, whether the book was written by an Imami scholar, such as Kitab al-Salat (The Book of Prayer) by Hariz b. Abd Allah al-Sijistani and the books of al-Husayn b. Sa'id al-Ahwazi and his brother and Ali b. Mahziyar, or written by non-Imami authors such as Hafs b. Ghiyath and al-Husayn b. Ubayd Allah al-Sa'di and Kitab al-Qibla by Ali b. al-Hasan al-Tatari.

According to al-Shaykh al-Baha'i, the reason why these criteria were abandoned by al-Allama al-Hilli and the scholars after him was the loss of some reliable hadith collections, the fact that the hadiths from reliable sources were mixed with the ones from unreliable sources, and some other problems. This new situation prompted the development of new rijali rules for assessing authenticity.

Those rijali rules that have to do with the evaluation of hadith transmitters are of two types:

  • The rules that relate to evaluating the reliability of hadith transmitters, and
  • The rules regarding conflicting evaluations of a hadith transmitter.

The rules related to the evaluation of hadith transmitters are taken from the instructions of the Imams (a). For instance, according to a hadith from Imam Ali (a), hadith transmitters are of four types: hypocrites, delusional, inaccurate, and trustworthy. In a hadith narrated by Zurara from Imam al-Sadiq (a), which addresses the issue of choosing between two conflicting hadiths, merits such as righteousness, trustworthiness, and honesty are emphasized. The Imams (a) also sometimes stated that some of their companions were trustworthy: Zurara, Abu Basir, Muhammad b. Muslim, and Burayd b. Mu'awiya al-Ijli were announced by Imam al-Sadiq (a) to have been trustworthy, and Zakariyya b. Adam al-Qummi was declared trustworthy by Imam al-Rida (a). These statements were used by the later rijalis as a basis of judgment about those individuals.

Prior to the compilation of rijali books, the evaluation of the reliability of hadith transmitters were based on two criteria:

  • Sayings of the Infallibles (a)
  • Testification of trustworthy people who testified based on what they witnessed (not what they opined). Such evaluations in the rijali works of the fourth/tenth and fifth/eleventh centuries—that is, the works of Ibn al-Ghada'iri, al-Kashshi, al-Najashi, and al-Tusi—played a major role in the formation of rijali rules. For instance, based on three reports that al-Kashshi mentions, the rule of the People of Consensus was developed, and based on the Rijal of Ibn Uqda, the general rule regarding the reliability of those who directly narrated hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a) was established. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq used the rule of rejecting any hadiths that his teacher Ibn al-Walid al-Qummi did not consider authentic.

Age of al-Allama al-Hilli

The major theories and rules in the science of rijal and the foundation of its current form was laid in the seventh/thirteenth century in the school of Hilla by al-Allama al-Hilli and Ibn Dawud al-Hilli, though traces of those rules can be seen in the works of scholars prior to al-Allama al-Hilli, such as Ahmad b. Musa b. Tawus who was considered by al-Muhaddith al-Nuri as the first to theorize in the science of rijal.

Some of the criteria that al-Allama al-Hilli considered as evidence for the reliability of a hadith transmitter are the following:

  • Being considered reliable by Ibn al-Ghada'iri
  • Being considered reliable by Ibn Uqda
  • Being a representative (wakil) of an Imam (a)
  • Praying of an Imam to God to have mercy on someone
  • The rule of righteousness

These criteria were later used by scholars such as al-Hasan b. Zayn al-Din (d. 1011/1602-3).

Other major developers of rijali rules were al-Shaykh al-Baha'i and after him Muhammad b. al-Hasan b. Zayn al-Din (d. 1030/1620).

Akhbarism and al-Wahid al-Bihbahani

In the eleventh/seventeenth and twelfth/eighteenth centuries, Akhbaris denied the necessity of the science of rijal. Against them, al-Wahid al-Bihbahani (d. 1205/1791) defended and reconstructed the science of rijal. In his Risala fi l-ijtihad wa l-taqlid, he refuted the view of the Akhbaris and in his critical commentary on al-Astarabadi's Manhaj al-maqal, he proposed forty-one criteria (or rules) for discerning the reliability of hadith transmitters, some of which are the following:

  1. Being among the Mashayikh al-Ijaza (i.e., those scholars who had the authority to issue permission of hadith transmission for others)
  2. Being a representative of an Imam (a)
  3. Appearing in numerous chains of transmitters
  4. Appearing in a chain of transmitters which all or most scholars consider reliable
  5. The transmission of a person's hadiths by a group of our scholars
  6. The transmission of a person's hadiths by trustworthy narrators
  7. Being trustworthy in al-Allama al-Hilli's or al-Sayyid b. Tawus' views or in the views of scholars like them.
  8. Being considered trustworthy in al-Mufid's al-Irshad.

Al-Bihbahani has also mentioned some criteria for unreliability:

  1. Disapproval of Ibn al-Ghada'iri or the Mashayikh al-Ijaza of Qom and their likes
  2. Treating an infallible Imam (a) like an ordinary traditionist
  3. A predominant agreement between a hadith transmitter's opinions or hadiths and Sunni opinions or hadiths

The quality and quantity of the rijali rules and criteria suggested by al-Bihbahani were unprecedented in Twelver Shiite tradition and thus remained a matter of discussion and analysis after him until today. The scholars of rijal continued the work of al-Bihbahani. For instance, Sayyid Muhsin b. al-Hasan al-A'raji al-Kazimi, al-Bihbahani's prominent student, composed a lengthy book titled Uddat al-rijal, in which he discussed some rijali rules. Al-Mamaqani also authored a major work discussing rijali rules and criteria titled Tanqih al-maqal fi ilm al-rijal.

After al-Bihbahani

Drawing on the contributions of al-Bihbahani, the next generations of the scholars of rijal divided the criteria for establishing the reliability of hadith transmitters into two categories of general criteria and specific criteria. The latter include the following:

  • Being declared reliable by an infallible Imam (a) if the hadith transmitter in question has met the Imam and if the report in which the Imam's statement is contained is not weak or transmitted by the same hadith transmitter.
  • Being declared reliable by a later prominent figure who lived close to the time of the hadith transmitter; otherwise, his view would be merely an opinion and not testifying.
  • Consensus of the early Shia scholars on the reliability of a hadith transmitter.

Among the general criteria, Ayatollah al-Khoei accepted only the attestations to reliability by 'Ali b. Ibrahim al-Qummi, Ibn Qulawayh, and al-Najashi, and rejected the eleven other criteria.

Another category of rijali rules pertain to the cases in which attestations to reliability contradict attestations to unreliability. Shaykh Ali Khaqani (d. 1334/1915-6) and al-Mamaqani (d. 1351/1932-3) in Miqbas al-hidaya have extensively discussed these rules.


The history of the Shiite science of rijal can be divided to five periods.

Formation of the Foundations

During the age of the presence of the infallible Imams (a), the need for a full-fledged science of rijal was not much felt. However, due to phenomena such as hadith forgery and discrepancy between some hadiths, the Imams (a) gave their followers some criteria by which to discern the authentic hadiths. Such instructions laid the foundations for the development of the science of rijal in the later periods.

Therefore, the age of the Infallibles' presence, i.e. until 260/873, was the age in which the foundations of the science of rijal were formed. Based on a hadith narrated by Sulaym b. Qays, the evaluation of hadiths based on their transmitters started with Imam Ali (a). In that hadith, the Imam (a) stated that hadith transmitters were of four types: hypocrites (liars and fabricators), those who misunderstand, those who do not discern the abrogating hadiths from the abrogated ones, and those who are trustworthy and accurate.

According to the reports, the concern for ascertaining the authenticity of hadiths existed since the beginning of this period, and this led the companions of the Imams (a) to ask them about how to discern authentic hadiths, and the Imams (a) provided them with some instructions. According to al-Shaykh al-Tusi, the Shiite community was faced with the phenomenon of discrepancy between some hadiths, and the Imams (a) gave instructions as to how to solve this problem. Some of these instructions focus on the merits of the transmitters of the conflicting reports and, for instance, teach that the hadith which is narrated by the transmitters who are more righteous, knowledgeable, or honest is to take precedence. Another measure that the Imams (a) took was attesting to the trustworthiness of specific individuals—such as Yunus b. Abd al-Rahman, Zakariyya b. Adam, and Abu Basir Layth al-Muradi—or to authenticity of hadiths of certain books that were presented to them.

Compilation of the Early Sources of Rijal

It seems that the Shiite scholars of hadith in the third/ninth century began to feel the necessity of the investigation about the status and qualities of hadith transmitters, which resulted in compilation of the early sources of rijal.

It is said that Ubayd Allah b. Abi Rafi' was the first Shiite figure who composed a work on rijal, titled Kitab Tasmiyat man shahid ma' Amir al-Mu'minin al-Jamal wa l-Siffin wa l-Nahrawan min al-Sahaba (book of the names of those Companions who were present with Amir al-Mu'minin in the [Battles of] Jamal, Siffin, and Nahrawan), which means that composing works on rijal started in the first/seventh century. However, this work seems to have been in the category of biographical works (tarajim) and not so much an independent work of rijal.

The first Shiite work that can be categorized as a rijali work seems to have been Kitab al-Rijal by Abd Allah b. Jabala al-Kinani (d. 219/834-5). This means that the compilation of rijali works in Shiism started towards the end of the period of the Infallibles' presence. It is said that since the third/ninth century until the first half of the fifth/eleventh century, Shiite scholars composed 116 works on rijal. Thirty-four of these works were written in the third/ninth century, seventy-nine were composed in the fourth/tenth century, and thirteen were authored in the fifth/eleventh century. From these 116 works, however, only the following are extant (and in some cases, only in a reconstructed form):

  • Kitab al-Rijal, by Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Hamdani al-Kufi, known as Ibn Uqda al-Hamdani (d. 333/944-5). Al-Shaykh al-Tusi has mentioned in the preface of his Book of Rijal that Ibn Uqda's work was the most comprehensive work he could find on the companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a).
  • The work by Abu Ghalib Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Muhammad al-Zurari (d. 368/978-9), which has been published by the titles Risalat Abi Ghalib al-Zurari ila Ibn Ibnih fi dhikr Al A'yan (treatise of Abu Ghalib al-Zurari to his grandson on the remembrance of the Family of A'yan) and Risalat Al A'yan (The Treatise of the Family of A'yan). This work is a treatise which Abu Ghalib wrote to his grandson and in which he provided bibliographical information on himself and the prominent figures of the family of A'yan, including Zurara b. A'yan (d. 148/765-6). The work is considered a rijali work because Abu Ghalib mentioned the hadith transmitters associated with the family of A'yan and also provided a list of the books (together with their authors) which he had the permission to narrate.
  • Takmilat risalat Abi Ghalib al-Zurari, by Abu Abd Allah al-Husayn b. Ubayd Allah al-Ghada'iri (d. 411/1020-1), which is an appendix to the above-mentioned work by Abu Ghalib and which has been published together with it.

Age of the Compilation of the Primary Books of Rijal

The compilation of the earliest works of rijal, in its precise technical sense, dates back to the fourth/tenth and fifth/eleventh centuries, which is one of the most crucial periods in the history of the science of rijal in Shiism. The works compiled in this period became the major sources of the science of rijal because of their closeness to the time of the hadith transmitters who narrated directly from the Imams (a) and because of the comprehensive and accurate information they provided. And they were called the Primary Books of the science of rijal because of their early date of compilation and authenticity. These books are Ikhtiyar ma'rifat al-rijal, Kitab al-Rijal, and al-Fihrist—all three by al-Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 460/ 1068)—and Fihrist asma' musannifi al-Shi'a known as Rijal al-Najashi by Abu l-Abbas Ahmad b. Ali b. Ahmad al-Najashi (d. 463/1071).

Kitab al-Rijal by al-Shaykh al-Tusi introduces the companions of the Imams (a) and those who narrated hadiths from them in twelve chapters and adds a thirteenth chapter titled "The Chapter on Those Who Did Not Narrate from Any of Them (a)" in which he mentions those who did not directly narrate hadiths from the Imams (a). The names in each chapter are organized in an alphabetical order, and the book contains the names of a total of 6429 hadith transmitters.

The other rijali work of al-Shaykh al-Tusi is al-Fihrist, which mentions the names of more than 912 Shiite hadith transmitters. Under the name of each person, al-Tusi mentions some information about him and his works, and his own isnad (chain of transmission) to that person.

Another major rijali work is the Rijal of al-Najashi, who titled his work Fihrist asma' musannifi al-Shi'a (Index of the Names of Shiite Writers). According to al-Najashi's preface, he wrote the book as a response to those who slandered the Shia by saying that they did not have scholars or scholarly heritage. Al-Najashi's work contains 1269 entries and is organized alphabetically.

After the composition of the Primary Books, there were no major contributions to the science of rijal for some time, and most of the works produced were summaries or appendices to the earlier works, such as Fihrist asma' ulama' al-Shi'a wa misannifihim by Muntajab al-Din al-Razi (d. after 585/1189) and Ma'alim al-ulama' by Ibn Shahrashub Mazandarani (d. 588/1192).

Moreover, in this period, Ahmad b. Musa b. Tawus and al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli used some bibliographical analyses in rijali discussions. Ibn Tawus wrote Hall al-ishkal fi ma'rifat al-rijal (Solving the Problem in Knowing the Rijal), which seems to have been a collection of the contents of the Primary Books in addition to Rijal of Ibn al-Ghada'iri.

Al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, also, summarized al-Shaykh al-Tusi's al-Fihrist, which was aimed at introducing Shiite authors, and gave it the form of a rijali work.

At the end of this period, mention should be made of Yahya b. Hasan b. Bitriq al-Hilli, known as Ibn Bitriq (d. 600/1204), who wrote a rijali work titled Rijal al-Shia.

Compilation of the Secondary Books of Rijal

The pioneers of this period are two Shiite scholars from Hilla: al-Hasan b. Yusuf b. al-Mutahhar, known as al-Allama al-Hilli, and Taqi al-Din al-Hasan b. Ali b. Dawud al-Hilli, known as Ibn Dawud al-Hilli. The rijali works of these two figures, which were written based on the earlier works, came to be known as the secondary books of rijal because of their new style and other novel characteristics.

Some features of this period include an increase of rijali-based hadith criticism, relying on the attestations to reliability and unreliability and its impact on the Shiite science of dirayat al-hadith, especially on the development of the four-fold division of hadith and the formation of general rijali rules and criteria.

The first work, written by al-Allama al-Hilli, is titled Khulasat al-aqwal fi ma'rifat al-rijal (compendium of opinions on the knowledge of hadith transmitters) and contains two parts and a conclusion. In the first part, al-Allama al-Hilli introduces 1227 hadith transmitters whom he considers reliable; in the second part, he mentions 510 hadith transmitters whom he regards unreliable; and in the conclusion he puts forward ten rijali discussions on various topics.

Another work of al-Allama al-Hilli on rijal is Idah al-ishtibah fi asma' al-ruwat (disambiguation of the names of hadith transmitters). In this book, al-Allama al-Hilli discusses the names of 779 Shiite hadith transmitters and removes the ambiguity related to their names. al-Allama al-Hilli mentions that he has a more comprehensive work on rijal titled Kashf al-maqal fi ma'rifat al-rijal, which collected the views on early hadith transmitters and authors and also information on later and contemporary hadith transmitters and writers. This book is not extant today.

The title of Ibn Dawud's work is al-Rijal. This book has two parts: the first part contains the names of the hadith transmitters that are either "praised" (mamduh) or trustworthy (muwaththaq), or those about whom there is no positive or negative attestation (muhmal). The author mentions at the end of each section some rijali points, and also has a separate section titled al-Tanbihat (Admonitions) which contains nine rijali discussions. Ibn Dawud has organized the names of hadith transmitters and their fathers and grandfathers alphabetically, which was unprecedented in Shiite works on rijal. The commentaries of scholars on this work shows its importance in the later periods.

From the Age of the Secondary Books until Now

Compilation of rijali compendia and critical works are among the features of this period. The scholars of this period tried to remove the problems of the past rijali works and make them easier for use. Some of the important rijali compendia in this period are the following:

In the critical works on rijal in this period, the principles, rules, criteria, and definition of rijali terms, among other things, have been discussed. Some of the important critical works in this period are the following:

According to a research, the number of Shiite rijali works since the beginning until the contemporary time is 688 works.

Styles of Rijali Works

  • Compilation based on generations (al-tabaqat): In this style, those who narrated from an Imam (a) would be categorized in the chapter devoted to the narrators from that Imam (a), and those who did not narrate from any Imams were gathered in a separate chapter. In each chapter, the narrators were often organized alphabetically. This style of compilation is exclusive to the Shia and differs from the Sunni style, which is chronological organization. The Rijal of al-Barqi, that of al-Tusi, and apparently the original work of al-Kashshi were compiled with this style.
  • Bibliographical style (al-fihrist): In a bibliographical rijali work, the authors of hadith collections are gathered and organized based on their names. In these works, the authors of the books, their narrations, the authenticity of the books and their manuscripts are discussed. This style was prevalent toward the end of the third/ninth century. Among the most important such bibliographies are al-Fihrist by al-Najashi and al-Fihrist by al-Shaykh al-Tusi.
  • Compilation based on reliability and unreliability: The rijali works written with this style contain a chapter on reliable hadith transmitters, which is followed by a chapter on unreliable hadith transmitters. Khulasat al-aqwal by al-Allama al-Hilli and Kitab al-Rijal by Ibn Dawud al-Hilli are two of the prominent rijali works compiled with this style.
  • Analytical/critical works: In more recent times, a new type of rijali works has appeared which tries to reflect the results of rijali researches and analyses, including discussions on rules and criteria of the science of rijal.


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from علم رجال in Farsi WikiShia.