Al-Fusul al-muhimma fi ma'rifat al-a'imma (book)

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Al-Fusul al-muhimma fi ma'rifat al-a'imma (book)
Bibliographical Information
Bibliographical Information
AuthorIbn Sabbagh al-Maliki
Original titleالفُصول المُهِمَّة فی مَعْرِفَة الأئِمَّة
SubjectShiite Imams (a)
PublisherDar al-hadith

Al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma fī maʿrifat al-aʾimma (Arabic: الفُصول المُهِمَّة فی مَعْرِفَة الأئِمَّة) is an Arabic book concerning the biographies of the Twelve Imams (a) written by Ibn Sabbagh al-Maliki (d. 855/1451-2), a Sunni author. Ibn Sabbagh devoted a separate chapter of the book to each Imam, and discussed issues about him under certain sections. His extensive reference to various Shiite and Sunni sources is a mark of the scholarly and historical value of the book, as it shows that the author made remarkable research to write this book. The book has been referred to by Shiite and Sunni scholars and authors throughout the last seven centuries as a reliable historical source.

The Author

Ibn Sabbagh al-Maliki's name was 'Ali b. Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Ghazi al-Makki and his teknonym was Nur al-Din and was generally known as "Ibn Sabbagh". He was a Maliki jurist. He wrote al-Fusul al-muhimma because of his respect for Shiite Imams (a). He has other work in this regard as well:

  • Al-'Ibar fi man shaffah al-nazar
  • Tahrir al-nuqul fi manaqib umana' Hawwa' wa Fatima al-Batul
  • Al-'Uqud al-lu'lu'iyya wa l-la'ali al-thamina fi fada'il al-'itrat al-amina
  • Qasa'id fi madh Amir al-Mu'minin.

Title of the Book

In his book, al-Dhari'a, Aqa Buzurg Tihrani mentioned this book as al-Fusul al-muhimma fi ma'rifat al-a'immat al-ithna 'ashar wa fadlihim wa ma'rifa awladihim wa naslihim.[1]

Motivation for Writing

The author says that his motivation for writing the book was the request of his friends and the hope for the forgiveness of his past sins.

Style and Method of Writing

Before discussing the lives of the Imams (a), the author has answered the question of who Ahl al-Bayt (a) are.

Ibn Sabbagh al-Maliki's conception of the Shiite Imams (a) and the titles he uses to refer to them is just like those of Shiite authors. He mentions the name and the well-known title of an Imam (a) and specifies his ranking in the order of the succession of Imams (a). The title of the book comes from the book, Kashf al-ghumma, because al-Irbili reports the life of each Imam (a) in a similar way.

After his discussions, the author cites some relevant poems as well. He also cites some extra-historical contents under the influence of some of the sources he consults. For example, he cites from the book, Ma'alim al-'itrat al-nabawiyya by Muhammad b. 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Junabadhi (d. 611/1214-5) the story of Jabra'il assisting Imam 'Ali (a) in the Battle of Uhud.

Significance of the Book

For the importance and value of al-Fusul al-muhimma suffices it to say that it has been consulted by Shiite and Sunni scholars and authors throughout the last seven centuries as a reliable historical source. Of Shiite scholars, the book has been widely cited by al-Majlisi in his Bihar al-anwar, 'Allama Amini in al-Ghadir, and 'Allama Sharaf al-Din in his al-Muraja'at and al-Nass wa l-ijtihad, and of Sunni scholars, it has been consulted by 'Ali b. 'Abd Allah al-Samhudi al-Shafi'I in his Jawahir al-'iqdayn.[2]

'Allama Muhammad b. 'Ali al-Sabban has cited al-Fusul al-muhimma in the compilation of his book, Is'af al-raghibin.

Of Sunni scholars, al-Shaykh Mu'min b. Hasan al-Shablanji the author of Nur al-Absar, 'Abd Allah b. Muhammad al-Mutairi the author of al-Riyad al-zahira, Ahmad b. 'Abd al-Qadir al-'Ujayli al-Shafi'i the author of Dhakhirat al-mal, and many other authors have cited al-Fusul al-muhimma in their books.[3]

Sources of the Book

At first, it seems that Ibn Sabbagh al-Maliki extensively used Shiite sources, but a comparison of the early sources of the book shows that his main source for Shiite accounts was al-Irbili's Kashf al-ghumma, and so, Ibn Sabbagh's Shiite sources are the same as those cited in Kashf al-ghumma. Ibn Sabbagh never cited his main source, trying to make it seem to the reader that he had direct access to the sources of Kashf al-ghumma, while his direct source is this book, because the structure of al-Fusul al-muhimma is similar to that of Kashf al-ghumma. In general, about 80 percent of the contents of al-Fusul al-muhimma is what is cited from Kashf al-ghumma.[4]

The author also cited other sources, such as al-Irshad by al-Mufid, Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan al-Nasa'i, al-Mu'jam al-kabir and al-Mu'jam al-wasit and al-Mu'jam al-saghir, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, al-Musnad by Ahmad b. Hanbal, and the like.

Transmitters of Hadiths in the Book

In the citation of hadiths and reports about the virtues and lives of the Imams (a), Ibn Sabbagh relied on hadiths of Ahl al-Bayt (a) and their prominent companions, such as 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, Zayd b. Arqam, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, and the like. He also relied on, and cited, Sunni scholars of hadiths, such as Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Tirmidhi, Muslim, al-Bukhari, al-Bayhaqi, al-Nasa'i, al-Zuhri, Ibn Majid, al-Darqutni, Makhul, and Ibn Manda. He also cited hadiths from 'A'isha, 'Umar b. al-Khattab, and Sufyan b. 'Uyayna.


Ibn Sabbagh organized the chapters of the book into twelve, each of which concerns one of the Shiite Imams (a), and each chapter consists of numerous sections. The author provided a more detailed and lengthy account of the lives of Imam 'Ali (a), Imam al-Husayn (a), and Imam al-Mahdi (a). One of the significant features of al-Fusul al-muhimma is that it has cited the events of the period of Imam 'Ali's (a) caliphate with many details. For example, the book mentions the number of the soldiers of two sides, their casualties and their facilities in its account of the battles of Jamal, Siffin, and Nahrawan.[5]

However, some accounts provided in the book are not consonant with standard Shiite views, such as the marriage of Umm Kulthum with 'Umar b. al-Khattab and the report of a disagreement between Imam al-Hasan (a) and Amir al-Mu'minin (a).[6]


Sami al-Ghurayri, the editor of the published version of the book, listed 32 manuscripts of the book, which indicates that the book was commonly read. Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz Tabataba'i mentioned 37 manuscripts of the book in his book, Ahl al-Bayt fi l-maktabat al-'arabiyya.[7]


The book has been published in Tehran, Najaf, and Beirut.[8] It was also published by the publications of Dar al-Hadith in Qom as edited by Sami al-Ghurayri.


  1. Āqā Buzurg al-Tihrānī, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 16, p. 246.
  2. Dādāshnizhād, Sīmā-yi dawāzdah Imām dar mīrāth-i maktūb-i ahl-i sunnat, vol. 1, p. 292.
  3. Ibn Ṣabbāgh Mālikī, al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma, introduction of the book.
  4. ʿAbd al-Muḥammadī, Naqd wa arzyābī kitāb-i al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma fī maʿrifat al-aʾimma.
  5. Al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma fī maʿrifat al-aʾimma. Noor Digital Library.
  6. Al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma fī maʿrifat al-aʾimma. Noor Digital Library.
  7. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Ahl al-Bayt fī l-maktaba al-ʿarabiyya, p. 349-352.
  8. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Ahl al-Bayt fī l-maktaba al-ʿarabiyya, p. 353.


  • Āqā Buzurg al-Tihrānī, Muḥammad Muḥsin. Al-Dharīʿa ilā taṣānīf al-shīʿa. Beirut: Dār al-Aḍwāʾ, [n.d].
  • Al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma fī maʿrifat al-aʾimma. Noor Digital Library. Accessed: 2021/09/29.
  • ʿAbd al-Muḥammadī, Ḥusayn. Naqd wa arzyābī kitāb-i al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma fī maʿrifat al-aʾimma. Fall 1382 Sh.
  • Dādāshnizhād, Manṣūr. Sīmā-yi dawāzdah Imām dar mīrāth-i maktūb-i ahl-i sunnat. Qom: Būstān-i Kitāb, 1395 Sh.
  • Ibn Ṣabbāgh Mālikī. Al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma. Qom: Dār al-Ḥadīth, 1422 AH.
  • Ṭabāṭabāʾī, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz. Ahl al-Bayt fī l-maktaba al-ʿarabiyya. Qom: Āl al-Bayt 1417 AH.