Al-Ifsah fi l-imama (book)

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Al-Ifsah fi l-imama
AuthorAl-Shaykh al-Mufid
Original titleالإفصاح في الإمامة
Series1 vol.
PublisherMu'assisa al-Bi'tha

Al-Ifṣaḥ fī l-imāma (Arabic:الإفصاح في الإمامة) is a book proving Shi'a beliefs about imamate and succession of Prophet Muhammad (s). The author of the book, al-Shaykh al-Mufid, tried to collect whatever must be mentioned about imamate in this work. He believed that the subject of imamate was not discussed in such details in previous works.

Using theological arguments, the author answered the problems about imamate and beliefs of various Islamic sects, such as Mu'tazila, Hashwiyya, and Khawarij.


Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Nu'man, well-known as al-Shaykh al-Mufid, was born near Baghdad in 336/947-8. He was both a theologian and a faqih (jurisprudent). Ibn al-Nadim has mentioned his soubriquet "Ibn al-Mu'allim" (son of the teacher) and praised him.


The author's style in writing the book is mostly polemical; therefore, sometimes he even uses analogies for proving his contentions. The author has imagined an imaginary questioner who has many questions about imamate. The questions and problems are introduced as "fa in qal" (if he says) and the answers are given after "qil-a lahu" (he will be told). Al-Shaykh al-Mufid authored this book in 373/983-4.

Cause of Writing

According to what the author said in the introduction of the book, he wanted to depict the principles of imamate and leadership in Islam, in a way that readers could reach its ancillaries and branches through that principles. By writing this book, the author intended to determine the limits and definition of imamate.

Structure and Content

Although the book lack a coherent structure, its content can be categorized in an introduction, 18 sections, 7 chapters, and 7 issues.

  • In the introduction, the author explained the purpose of writing the book and discussed various topics and issues about imamate, such as: definition of imamate, knowing the Imam, necessity of knowing the Imam, consensus on imamate of Imam Ali (a), consensus of Muslims that there is an Imam after the Prophet (s), superiority of Imam Ali (a) before God and the Prophet (a), refutation of imamate of the inferior over the superior, consensus on the virtues of Imam Ali (a), the reason that Imam Ali's (a) right was denied, Muhajirun and Ansar did not confirm the superiority of Abu Bakr, why Imam Ali (a) remained silent during the reign of the Three Caliphs, there was no consensus of Umma on the imamate of Abu Bakr, and so on.
  • Chapter one: deals with three topics:
  1. The claim of impeccability of the council of Saqifa
  2. Issues about the Battle of Uhud
  3. Interpretation of Hadith al-'Ashara
  • Chapter two: deals with many cases including that the word "al-sabiqun" in the 100th verse of Sura al-Tawba does not refer to Abu Bakr and those who were present in Bay'at al-Shajara (Allegiance of the Tree).
  • Chapter three: in this chapter the author demonstrates the imamate of Imam Ali (s) according to the 16th verse of Sura al-Fath and that whoever fight against him is an unbeliever.
  • Chapter Four: refuting the imamate of Abu Bakr according to the 117th verse of Sura al-Baqara and proving the imamate of Imam Ali (a) based on the same verse.
  • Chapter five: refuting the argument on superiority of Abu Bakr according to the 29th verse of Sura al-Fath.
  • Chapter six: rejecting the claim that the 33rd verse of Sura al-Zumar was revealed about Abu Bakr and proving that it was revealed about Imam Ali (a).
  • Chapter seven: in the last chapter, the author talks about catastrophic consequences of the caliphate of other caliphs before Imam Ali (a).


  • Presenting the content in question-and-answer style: the author benefited the most form this style, which is a way of criticizing and examining the opponents' opinions, and presented very detailed discussions about Imamate using this style.
  • Comprehensiveness of the book: although al-Shaykh al-Mufid has authored other books and treatises about imamate and other theological topics, this book has explained and clarified every hidden corner of the topic of Imamate and study most issues about it.
  • Proving the necessity of knowing the Imam: at the beginning of the book the author has put forth a concise demonstration, based on the Qur'an, hadith, consensus and reason, that proves the necessity of knowing the Imam.


Although several books have remained from al-Shaykh al-Mufid about theology and particularly imamate, al-Ifsah is his most comprehensive and detailed book on imamate. This work is the only book that contains all aspects and issues about imamate.

Manuscripts and Publication

The book has several manuscripts, such as those in:

  • The library of Astan Quds Razavi.
  • The library of Iranian Parliament.
  • The library of Malik.
  • The library of the Faculty of Law in the University of Tehran.
  • The library of al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim in Najaf.
  • The library of Shaykh 'Abd al-Husayn Tihrani
  • The library of Mirza Muhammad Tihrani in Samarra.
  • The library of Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Isfahani.
  • The library of Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Musawi Najafi Isfahani
  • The library of al-Shaykh Muhammad al-Samawi.

The book was published for the first time (in 136 pages) in Najaf by al-Matba'at al-Haydariyya in 1368/1948-9 and again in 1369/1949-50. Afterward it was published in Tehran by Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya in 1392/1972-3 and later in Qom in 1412/1991-2 and 1414/1993-4 by Mu'asasat al-Bi'tha. It was also published in Beirut in 1414/1993-4 by Dar al-Mufid.