Al-Kafi (book)

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Bibliographical Information
Bibliographical Information
AuthorThiqat al-Islam al-Kulayni
Original titleالکافي
Series15 Vols.
SubjectBeliefs, ethics, jurisprudence, ...
PublishedQom, 1387 SH/2008-9.
PublisherDar al-Hadith
English translation
En. titleAl-Kafi
En. publisherThe Islamic Seminary Inc.

Al-Kāfī (Arabic: الکافي, the Sufficient) is a collection of hadith of the Twelver Shi'a. It is the most important and authentic collection among the Four Books. It was compiled by thiqat al-Islam al-Kulayni (d. 329/941) in the period of the Minor Occultation. Al-Kafi consists of three parts: Usul (principles), Furu' (branches), and Rawda (miscellaneous issues); Usul is the most important part. Al-Kulayni tried to collect hadiths in such a way that they agree with the consensus and there is no incompatibility between them and the Qur'an.


Al-Kafi may have been entitled as such due to al-Kulayni's own statement in the chapter on Tahara, which reads, "This book is "Kafi" (i.e. sufficient) for all religious sciences"[1].

It also could have been named Al-Kafi due to a report that when it was presented to Imam al-Mahdi (a), he said, "Al-Kafi is Kafi (i.e. sufficient) for our Shi'a." [2] However, there is no such a report and it is just a claim.

In the Words of Great Scholars

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid says, "This book is among the best Shi'a books and enjoys a lot of benefits."[3]

Al-Shahid al-Awwal introduces it as a book of hadith similar to which has not been written by any Shi'a scholar.[4]

Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi writes, "Al-Kafi is the most accurate and most comprehensive of all primary hadith sources, and it is the greatest and best book ever written by the Imamiyyah."[5]

Agha Buzurg Tihrani says, "Al-Kafi is a book of hadiths reported from Ahl al-Bayt (a) to which no similar book has been authored."[6]

Al-Astarabadi quotes from his teachers that, "No book has ever been written similar nor close to it in rank".[7]

Ayatollah Khoei mentions that his teacher, Muhammad Husayn Na'ini, would call doubting the sources of al-Kafi, "the business of the incompetent".[8]

Purpose of Writing

According to the preface of al-Kafi, al-Kulayni has written this book in response to a person he calls, "a brother in religion":

O brother! You asked why people have to be ignorant and blindly religious; because they are religious due to habit and imitation of their fathers…
You reminded that you have difficulty in some matters and do not understand the truth in them due to incompatibility of hadith… and that you do not have access to any trustworthy scholar about which you can speak about. You said that you want to have a book addressing all religious sciences to suffice the learner and be the reference for the seeker [of truth]… You said that you hope God Almighty assists our fellows in this school of religion and takes them to their leaders.
Praise be to God who made writing of the requested book possible and I hope it would be as that you requested."[9]

Writing Approach

Al-Kulayni states in his introduction that he has collected hadith in such a way that they agree with the consensus and there is no incompatibility between them and the Qur'an. Furthermore, when he saw no preference between two incompatible hadiths, he chose the one he deemed more correct and authentic.[10]

Features and Advantages

At the time of writing al-Kafi, al-Kulayni used 'The four hundred hadith booklets' written by the companions of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), known as Usul arba'a mi'a. He met with those companions of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) - or those who had seen them - to collect the hadith which had the shortest chain of transmission. Being contemporary with the Four Deputies paved the way for him to best verify these hadiths. However, about the last part of this statement it should be said that it was not common to present hadith books to Ahl al-Bayt (a) and the number of books presented is very small compared to the number of books which has not been presented. Furthermore, al-Kulayni had no special connection with the Four Deputies.

An important feature of al-Kafi is its order and comprehensiveness.[11] Al-Kafi is also known for its large number of hadiths, clear classification of hadith, completeness in chains of transmitters, and coverage of various topics in theology, jurisprudence, ethics, etc.

Al-Kulayni has tried to bring the most detailed, authentic and clear hadith at the beginning of each section, and the more concise and ambiguous ones later.[12]

Comparison with Other Collections of Hadiths

Important Shi'i hadith collections Author Death Number of hadiths descriptions
al-Mahasin Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Barqi 274/887-8 about 2604 Hadiths regarding different topics such as fiqh and ethics
al-Kafi Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-Kulayni 329/941 about 16000 Variety of hadiths regarding the principles of beliefs, ethics, conducts, and fiqh
Man la yahduruh al-faqih al-Shaykh al-Saduq 381/991-2 about 5500 Hadiths regarding fiqh
Tahdhib al-ahkam al-Shaykh al-Tusi 460/1067 about 13600 Hadiths regarding fiqh
Al-Istibsar al-Shaykh al-Tusi 460/1067 about 5500 Hadiths regarding fiqh
al-Wafi al-Fayd al-Kashani 1091/1680 about 50,000 Collection of hadiths in the Four Books with eliminating repeated hadiths and explaining some hadiths
Wasa'il al-shi'a al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-'Amili 1104/1693 35850 Hadiths regarding fiqh in the Four Books and over 70 other collections of hadiths
Bihar al-anwar al-'Allama al-Majlisi 1110/1699 about 85,000 Hadiths from most of the Infallibles (a) regarding various issues
Mustadrak al-wasa'il Mirza Husayn Nuri 1320/1902 23,514 Supplementation of hadiths regarding fiqh in Wasa'il al-shi'a
Safinat al-bihar Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi 1359/1941 10 volumes an alphabetically ordered index for Bihar al-anwar
Mustadrak safinat al-bihar Shaykh 'Ali Namazi 1405/1984-5 10 volumes Supplementation of Safinat al-bihar
Jami' ahadith al-Shi'a Ayatollah Burujirdi 1380/1961 48,342 Including all Shiite hadiths regarding fiqh
Mizan al-hikma Muhammad Muhammadi Reyshahri 2022 23,030 564 non-jurisprudential (not regarding fiqh) topics
al-Hayat Muhammad Rida Hakimi 2021 12 volumes 40 chapters regarding theoretical and practical issues


Al-Kafi consists of three main sections: usul al-kafi, which contains hadiths regarding beliefs, furu' al-kafi which contains fiqhi hadiths and rawda which is about history. Usul al-kafi contains a few books in itself including Kitab al-Hujja.

Usul al-Kafi contains hadiths regarding beliefs and is comprised of eight chapters (i.e. books):

  1. Kitab al-'aql wa l-jahl (The Book of Intellect and Ignorance)
  2. Kitab fadl al-'ilm (The Book of the Merits of Knowledge)
  3. Kitab al-tawhid (The Book of Divine Unity)
  4. Kitab al-hujja (The Book of the Proof)
  5. Kitab al-iman wa l-kufr (The Book of Belief and Disbelief)
  6. Kitab al-du'a' (The Book of Supplication)
  7. Kitab fadl al-Qur'an (The Book of the Merits of the Qur'an)
  8. Kitab al-'ishra (The Book of Social Ethics)

Furu' al-Kafi contains hadiths regarding jurisprudential rulings and is comprised of 26 chapters:

  1. Kitab al-tahara (The Book of Purity)
  2. Kitab al-hayd (The Book of Menstruation)
  3. Kitab al-jana'iz (The Book of Corpses)
  4. Kitab al-salat (The Book of Prayer)
  5. Kitab al-zakat wa l-sadaqah (The Book of Zakat and Charity)
  6. Kitab al-siyam (The Book of Fasting)
  7. Kitab al-hajj (The Book of Hajj)
  8. Kitab al-jihad (The Book of Jihad)
  9. Kitab al-ma'isha (The Book of Living)
  10. Kitab al-nikah (The Book of Marriage)
  11. Kitab al-'aqiqa (The Book of Sacrifice for the New Born)
  12. Kitab al-talaq (The Book of Divorce)
  13. Kitab al-'itq wa l-tadbir wa l-mukataba (The Book of Emancipation, Management and Writing)
  14. Kitab al-sayd (The Book of Hunting)
  15. Kitab al-dhaba'ih (The Book of Slaughtering)
  16. Kitab al-at'ima (The Book of Foods)
  17. Kitab al-ashriba (The Book of Drinks)
  18. Kitab al-zi wa l-tajammul wa l-muruwwa (The Book of Garment and Beautification and Ettiquete)
  19. Kitab al-dawajin (The Book of Livestock)
  20. Kitab al-wasaya (The Book of Wills)
  21. Kitab al-mawarith (The Book of Inheritance)
  22. Kitab al-hudud (The Book of Punishments)
  23. Kitab al-diyat (The Book of Atonements)
  24. Kitab al-shahadat (The Book of Witnesses)
  25. Kitab al-Qada' wa l-ahkam (The Book of Judgment and Rulings)
  26. Kitab al-ayman wa l-nudhur wa l-kaffarat (The Book of Oaths and Nadhrs and Atonements/Reparation)

Rawda al-Kafi consists of miscellaneous hadiths that are in no particular order. Although some do not consider it to be a part of al-Kafi,[13] both al-Najashi and al-Shaykh al-Tusi have asserted that Rawda is al-Kafi's last chapter.[14] It includes hadiths pertaining to the following topics:

  1. Interpretation of some verses of the Qur'an
  2. Advices of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)
  3. Dreams and their types
  4. Health problems and cures
  5. Creation of the universe and some phenomena
  6. The history of some prophets (a)
  7. The merit of Shi'a and their duties
  8. Some historical issues of early Islam and the time of Imam 'Ali's (a) government
  9. Imam al-Mahdi (aj), his attributes, companions and the attributes of his time
  10. The biographies of some companions and other individuals

Number of Hadiths

Yusuf al-Bahrani, in Lu'lu' al-bahrayn, counts the number of hadiths in al-Kafi to be 16,199, Dr. Husayn 'Ali Mahfuz, in the preface to al-Kafi, counts 15,176, al-Allama al-Majlisi counts 16,121 and some contemporary scholars such as al-Shaykh 'Abd al-Rassul al-Ghaffar consider them to be 15,503.

The reason for this variance in number is due to different methods of counting. For example, some scholars count a hadith transmitted from two different chains as two hadiths, while others count it as one. Also, some have included Mursal hadiths (those hadith which do not have a complete chain of transmitters), while others have not. There are also rare cases where some hadiths are not mentioned in certain manuscripts, and therefore may or may not have been counted.[15]

Researches Carried Out on al-Kafi

Since al-Kafi has always been a topic of discussion among scholars of hadith, many researches have been carried out on it. In al-Dhari'a, Agha Buzurg Tihrani has listed 27 commentaries on Usul al-kafi or the whole of al-Kafi, and 10 marginal notes on al-Kafi.[16]

Some Commentaries

Marginal Notes and Glosses

English Translation of al-Kafi, by Muhammad Sarwar
  • Al-Ta'liqat 'ala kitab al-Kafi written by Muhammad Baqir Hussayni, known as Mirdamad (d. 1041/1631-2)
  • Jami' al-ahadith wa l-aqwal written by al-Shaykh Qasim b. Muhammad b. Jawad b. al-Wandi (d. 1100/1688-9)
  • Al-Durr al-manzum min kalam al-ma'sum written by al-Shaykh 'Ali b. Hasan b. Zayn al-Din al-Shahid al-Thani (d. 965/1557)
  • Al-Hashiyat ala usul al-Kafi written by Rafi' al-Din Muhammad b. Haydar al-Na'ini
  • Marginal notes written by Abu l-Hasan Sharif Futuni 'Amili
  • Marginal notes written by Sayyid Mir Abu Talib b. Mirza Bayk Findiriski
  • Marginal notes written by al-Shaykh Zayn al-Din Abu l-Hasan 'Ali b. Shaykh Hasan, the author of Ma'alim
  • Marginal notes written by al-Shaykh Muhammad b. Hasan b. Zayn al-Din al-Shahid al-Thani, known as al-Shaykh Muhammad Sibt 'Amili (d. 1030/1620-1)

English Translation

Muhammad Sarwar has translated al-Kafi to English published in eight volumes by Islamic Seminary Incorporated.[17]

Taqwa Media has published a translation and commentary by Islamic Texts Institute under direction of Rizwan Arastu. The first three chapters of al-Kafi are now available.[18]


  1. al-Kafi. vol. 1, p. 14 (Introduction)
  2. Ghaffar, Abd allah wa l-kafi. p. 392.
  3. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid.Tashih al-i'tiqadat al-imamiyya. p. 70.
  4. Al-Kulayni, Muhmmad b. Ya' vol. 1. p. 27.
  5. Al-Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir. Mir'at al-uqul. vol. 1. p. 3.
  6. Tihrani, Agha Buzurg. Al-Dhari'a. vol. 17, p. 245.
  7. Astarabadi, Muhammad Amin. Al-Fawa'id al-madaniyyah. p. 520.
  8. Al-Khoei, Abu l-Qasim. Mu'jam rijal al-hadith. vol. 1. p. 99.
  9. Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 5.
  10. Al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 8 - 9.
  11. Sayyid b. Tawus, 'Ali b. Musa. Kashf al-Mahajja. p. 159.
  12. Mustafawi, Javad. Tarjuma usul al-kafi. vol. 1. p. 10.
  13. Afandi, 'Abd Allah b. 'Isa. Riyad al-'ulama. vol. 2. p. 261.
  14. Al-Najashi, Ahmad b. 'Ali. Rijal al-Najashi. p. 377; al-Shaykh al-Tusi. Al-Fihrist. p. 210.
  15. Ghaffar, Abd allah al-rasul. al-Kulayni wa l-kafi. p. 401-402.
  16. Agha Buzuer, Tihrani .al-Dhari'ah. vol. 13. p. 95-99.
  17. AL-KAFI, volumes 1 through 8 OF 8 – now available, The Islamic Seminary
  18. Al-Kafi Series, Taqwa Media


  • Agha Buzurg Tihrani. Al-Dhari'ah ila tasanif al-Shi'a. Beirut: Dar al-Adwa', 1403 AH.
  • Afandi, Abdullah b. 'Isa, Riyad al-'ulama wa hiyad al-fudala'. qom: Matba'at al-Kayyam.
  • Astarabadi, Muhammad Amin, Al-Fawa'id al-madaniyyah. Qom: Mu'assisat al-Nashr al-Islamiyyah,, 1424 AH.
  • Khoei, Abu l-Qasim al-, Mu'jam al-rijal al-hadith wa tafsil tabaqat al-ruwat, Markaz Nashr al-Thaqafat al-Islamiyyah, Qom, 1994.
  • Sayyid b. Tawus, 'Ali b. Musa al-, Kashf al-mahajjah li thamarat al-mahjah, Al-Matba'at al-Haydariyyah, Najaf, 1370 SH.
  • Tusi, Muhammad b. Hasan al-, Al-Fihrist, researched by Javad Qayyumi, Nashr al-Fiqahah, 1417 AH.
  • Ghaffar, Abd Allah al-Rasul, Al-Kulayni wa l-kafi, Mu'assisah Nashr al-Islami, 1416 AH.
  • Kulayni, Muhammad b. Ya'qub al-, Al-Kafi, Dar al-kutub al-Islamiyyah, 1983.
  • Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir al-, Mir'at al-'uqul fi sharh akhbar al al-rasul, Dar al-kutub al-Islamiyyah, 1983.
  • Mustafawi, Javad, Tarjumah usul al-kafi, Kitabfurushi 'Ilmiyyah al-Islamiyyah, 1989.
  • Mufid, Muhammad b. Nu'man al-, Tashih I'tiqadat al-Imamiyyah, Dar al-Mufid, Beirut, 1414 AH.
  • Najashi, Ahmad b. 'Ali al-, Rijal al-Najashi, Mu'assisah Nashr al-Islami, Qom, 1416 AH.

External links