Al-A'imma al-ithna ashar (book)

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Al-A'imma al-ithna ashar (book)
AuthorShams al-Din Muhammad b. Tulun
Original titleالائمة الاثنی عشر
SubjectBiography of Ahl al-Bayt (a)
PublisherAl-Radi Publications, Qom, Iran

Al-Aʾimma al-ithnā ʿashar (Arabic: الائِمَّة الاثنی عَشَر) or al-Shadharāt al-dhahabīyya fī tarājim al-aʾimma al-ithnā ʿashar ʿind al-imāmīyya (Arabic: الشَّذَرات الذَّهَبیَّة فی تَراجِم الائمَّة الاثنی عَشَر عِند الامامیَّة) is a book in Arabic by a Sunni scholar, Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Tulun. The book presents a short biography of Shiite's Twelve Imams (a). The author provides biographies of Imams with a similar structure for each, mentioning their birth dates, demise dates, virtues, narrators, and their children.


Abu 'Abd Allah Shams al-Din Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Ahmad b. 'Ali b. Khumarawayh b. Tulun al-Hanafi, who is known after his remote ancestor as "Ibn Tulun", was born in 880/1475-6 in Salihiyya in Damascus. His ancestor Khumarawayh b. Tulun was a Turk; his mother Azdan was Roman, and his father 'Ala' al-Din 'Ali was a Sufi with ascetic tendencies.

Ibn Tulun sought to learn different branches of knowledge. He learned the Hanafi fiqh (jurisprudence) which was his father's preferred sect. He also studied hadiths, usul al-fiqh (principles of fiqh), the exegesis of the Holy Qur'an (tafsir), as well as astronomy and geometry. He had Sufist tendencies and wrote books in this regard as well. He mostly lived in Islamic schools and khanqahs—he was the head and the supervisor of some khanqahs. He never married and never lived in a house of his own.

Motivation of Writing

Ibn Tulun's motivation for writing this book was his affection for Ahl al-Bayt (a)—the progeny of the Prophet (s). Yet in the introduction of the book, he sends his regards to the Prophet's (s) companions, in particular, the first three caliphs. He then cites a poem by a Shafi'i scholar, Abu l-Fadl Yahya b. Salama al-Haskafi (d. 551/1156-7) regarding the twelve Imams (in five pages). The poem, while approbating the twelve Imams (a), emphasizes that such an approbation does not mean an approval of Shiite beliefs.

Method of Writing

Ibn Tulun keeps the same structure in providing biographical information about each Imam. He first gives their names, titles, birth dates, demise dates, and people who narrated from them, and then mentions their virtues and excellences, and finally enumerates their children.

Ibn Tulun says that he has organized his biographies on a father-son basis, though, as he says, some Shiites in Tabriz give a different order of Imams (a) on the basis of their degrees of excellences. However, he does not mention how they organized the Imams on such a basis. He then recites his own poem about Imams (a), and finally cites some of his continuous hadiths from Imams (a).


In order to write the book, Ibn Tulun drew on sources such as Ibn Sa'd's al-Tabaqat, al-Khatib al-Baghdadi's Tarikh Baghdad (The history of Baghdad), Ibn 'Asakir's Tarikh madinat Dimashq (The history of the city, Damascus), al-Nawawi's Tahdhib al-asma' wa l-lughat, al-Mas'udi's Muruj al-dhahab, Ibn Qutayba's al-Ma'arif, al-Zamakhshari's Rabi' al-anwar, al-Mubarrad's al-Kamil, Ibn al-Azraq's Tarikh Mayafariqayn, and other books such as Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Bukhari, and Sahih al-Tirmidhi.

Manuscripts of the Book

  • A manuscript in Qadiriyya Library in Baghdad.
  • A manuscript in Ahmadiyya Library in the Jami' Mosque of Tunisia.