Al-Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti

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Al-Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti
Personal Information
TeknonymAbu Muhammad
Religious AffiliationTwelver Shi'a
LineageNawbakhti family
Well-Known RelativesAbu Sahl al-Nawbakhti
Birth3th/9th century
Death4th/10th century
Scholarly Information

Abū Muḥammad al-Ḥasan b. Mūsā al-Nawbakhtī (Arabic: أبو محمد الحسن بن موسى النوبختي) is a Shi'a theologian and philosopher of the 3rd/ninth and fourth/tenth centuries. He is the first Muslim scholar who has written about sects and creeds. During the Occultation, al-Nawbakhti with his philosophical tendencies and knowledge of theological principles and bases of various sects, provided rational demonstration to consolidate Shi'a theological bases. He had debates with famous Imami and Mu'tazili theologians, such as: Abu Ali al-Jaba'i, Abu l-Qasim al-Balkhi, Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah b. Mamalk al-Isfahani and Ibn Qiba al-Razi.

Al-Nawbakhti wrote several works, some of which was available until the seventh/thirteenth century; however, Firaq al-Shi'a is his only work that has survived into the present time.

Lineage and Life

The clan of al-Nawbakhti, who had Persian ethnicity, was one of the prominent Shi'a clans during the Minor Occultation. In addition to their scholarly reputation, members of the clan held important governmental positions during the reign of Abbasid.

His mother was a member of the clan of Nawbakhti and Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti, the famous Shi'a theologian, is his maternal uncle. However, there is no information whether his father was from Nawbakhti.

His birth date and demise date are unknown. Ibn al-Nadim has mentioned his demise date in his book, al-Fihrist; but it is omitted in available manuscripts of the book. Since al-Najashi has mentioned that al-Nawbakhti lived before and after 300/912-3, one can guess that he was alive during the first decade of the fourth/tenth century.

Teachers and Students

His most important teacher was his maternal uncle, Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti, who was a famous Shi'a scholar and theologian. Al-Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti had an important scholarly circle of theology and philosophy. Some narrators of philosophical books like: Abu 'Uthman al-Dimashqi, Ishaq b. Hunayn and Thabit b. Qarra were among his students.


According to the titles of his books, he had debates with famous Shi'a and Mu'tazili theologians of his time, like: Abu Ali al-Jaba'i, Abu l-Qasim al-Balkhi, Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah b. Mamalk al-Isfahani and Ibn Qiba al-Razi. For instance, al-Najashi has mentioned a book of his, which al-Nawbakhti had compiled from his sessions with Abu l-Qasim al-Balkhi.

Scholarly Character

Al-Nawbakhti is counted in the flow of thinkers, during the Occultation, who had rational and philosophical tendencies and a good grasp of theological principles and bases of various sects. They tried to consolidate Shi'a theological bases by providing rational demonstrations. Some clues indicate that he was inclined toward the Mu'tazili School of thought of Baghdad. Therefore, Ibn al-Nadim says in his book that both Shi'a and Mu'tazila claimed that he was one of them. There is no doubt that he was an Imami scholar, as Ibn al-Nadim also emphasizes. In the topic of Predestination and Delegation (al-Jabr wa al-Tafwid), al-Nawbakhti had a belief similar to that of Hisham, as he has authored a book supporting Hisham's opinion in this regard.

Al-Najashi and al-Shaykh al-Tusi has mentioned him as a "Shi'a Mutakallim" (Shi'a theologian) and the one who was superior to the others during his time. Ibn al-Nadim called him a reliable Mutakallim and philosopher. Ibn Tawus said that according to some of his books he was also familiar with astronomy and similar sciences.


Aqa Buzurg Tihrani, the famous Shi'a bibliographer, says that he is the first Muslim scholar to write about sects and creeds.

More than forty works have been mentioned for him. However, only one of them, Firaq al-Shi'a, has survived. Ibn al-Nadim asserts that al-Nawbakhti wrote many works and almost all of them were about theology and philosophy. His only available book, Firaq al-Shi'a, which studies Shi'a sects, is a famous, important, first hand reference in such studies.

Although none of his works, except for Firaq al-Shi'a, has survived to the present time, some of them were available until the 7th/13th century and early scholars have quoted from them.

Al-Najashi has praised his book al-Ara' wa al-diyanant as a "good big book" that contains many scientific points; he has also mentioned that he has read this book to his teacher, al-Shaykh al-Mufid.

In the 7th/13th century, Ibn Tawus had access to al-Ara' wa al-diyanat, al-Radd 'ala Abu Ali al-Jaba'i fi raddih 'ala al-munajjimin and al-Radd 'ala Batlamyus fi hay'at al-falak wa al-ard.

Al-Mas'udi, Ibn al-Juwzi and Ibn Abi al-Hadid have quoted from al-Ara' wa al-diyanat; however, in some cases al-Nawbakhti's name is mistakenly recorded as "Husayn b. Musa".

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Ibn al-Juwzi and al-Dhahabi have mentioned his book al-Radd 'ala al-Ghulat and narrated form it.

Ibn Shahr Ashub has also quoted some excerpts from his books al-Imama and another book which is probably al-Tanzih wa dhikr mutashabih al-Qur'an.