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Tahdhib al-ahkam (book)

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Tahdhib al-ahkam
Author Al-Shaykh al-Tusi
Original title تَهذیب الأحکام
Language Arabic
Series 10 volumes
Subject Fiqh
Genre Narrative

Tahdhīb al-aḥkām (Arabic: تَهذیب الأحکام) is a collection of hadiths by Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Hasan al-Tusi (d. 460/ 1068) known as Shaykh al-Ta'ifa and al-Shaykh al-Tusi. For Imamiyya, this is one of the most reliable collections of hadiths and one of al-Kutub al-Arba'a (the Four Books). Al-Shaykh al-Tusi authored the book before writing his al-Istibsar. Tahdhib al-ahkam includes only hadiths related to the laws of sharia.

A Brief Introduction

Most Important Hadith Books
(The Four Books)
(The Authentic Six)

The book is one of the most reliable and accredited collections of Shiite hadiths and the third book among al-Kutub al-Arba'a (the Four Books), trusted by all Shiite scholars and fuqaha. Tahdhib al-ahkam contains hadiths in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and the laws of sharia narrated from Ahl al-Bayt (a). Al-Shaykh al-Tusi wrote the book as an exposition of al-Muqni'a by his master al-Shaykh al-Mufid.

Tahdhib al-ahkam contains hadiths about the laws of sharia, providing many hadiths required for ijtihad or inquiry about such laws. The book contains many issues in fiqh, usul al-fiqh (the principles of the Islamic jurisprudence), rijal and other fields.

In this book, al-Shaykh al-Tusi did not concern himself with issues in the principles of Shiite beliefs, restricting himself to issues related to all areas of fiqh or laws of sharia, from kitab al-tahara (the book of cleanliness) to kitab al-diyat (the book of diya or blood money). Parts or books of fiqh in this books are organized in the same way as al-Muqni'a. The sources appealed to by al-Shaykh al-Tusi in this book are the Quran (the apparent or explicit meaning or connotations or implications thereof), absolutely authentic hadiths (such as al-khabar al-mutawatir, that is, frequently narrated hadiths, or ones with assuring evidence for their authenticity), consensus by Muslims or by Shiite scholars, and hadiths that are well-known among the companions of Imams (a). Moreover, al-Shaykh al-Tusi has also cited contradicting hadiths, pointing to how to reconcile them with other hadiths or to weakness in them such as unreliability of their chains of narrators or the companions of Imams (a) refusing to act upon them. The book contains 393 sections and 13590 hadiths.

In the epilogue of the book, al-Shaykh al-Tusi cites his mashikha, that is, people from whom he narrated the books that he cited in his book. Some scholars have written commentaries and expositions for mashikha of Tahdhib al-ahkam, such as al-Sayyid Hashim al-Bahrani's exposition, Tanbih al-'arib wa tadhkira l-labib fi idah rijal al-Thadhib.

Purpose for Writing

In the preface to Tahdhib al-ahkam, al-Shaykh al-Tusi writes that one of his friends talked to him about apparently contradictory hadiths in Shiite sources, pointing that this has led to strong criticisms by opponents of Shiism and disbelieving Shiism by some ignorant Shiites. Thus he asked al-Shaykh al-Tusi to write a well-argued exposition for al-Shaykh al-Mufid's al-Muqni'a, which contains the grounds of each problem in widely accepted hadiths as well as contradictory hadiths, showing how to resolve the contradiction or interpret them away or showing in what ways they should not be relied upon. In response to this request, Tahdhib al-ahkam was compiled and authored. Thus the book has an apological motivation.

The Dates of Writing

In the preface of the book and frequently in the first volume and twice at the beginning of the second, al-Shaykh al-Mufid has been mentioned together with the phrase "ayyada-ha Allah" (Arabic: أیَّدَه الله, may God support him) which implies that al-Shaykh al-Mufid was alive then, but after this he is mentioned with the phrase "rahima-ha Allah" (Arabic: رَحِمَهُ الله, may God bless him) which implies that al-Shaykh al-Mufid was no longer alive. Thus it implies that the writing of the book started when al-Shaykh al-Mufid was still alive and went on after his death (Ramadan, 413 A.H./ December 1022).

The First Book by al-Shaykh al-Tusi

Tahdhib al-ahkam was the first book authored by al-Shaykh al-Tusi, in which no other works by him is cited, but this book is frequently cited in the rest of his work.

In his al-Istibsar, al-Shaykh al-Tusi writes that he started to write the book when Tahdhib al-ahkam was finished. Likewise, in his al-'Udda fi usul al-fiqh, al-Shaykh al-Tusi refers to both of Tahdhib al-ahkam and al-Istibsar, implying that both books had been done when he started writing the book. Thus it seems that it did not take much time for him to write Thadhib al-ahkam.

The Number of its Parts

In his autobiography in his al-Fihrist, al-Shaykh al-Tusi enumerates 23 main parts or books of fiqh, saying that al-Istibsar and al-Nahaya have the same number of parts. However, the parts of al-shahadat (witnessing or testimony) and al-at'ima wa al-ashriba (eating and drinking) are only independently discussed in the latter two books. Moreover, Tahdhib al-ahkam contains an independent book of al-ziyarat (pilgrimages) that is absent in the other two works. Therefore, Tahdhib al-ahkam contains 21 parts or books of fiqh, and the ones mentioned in al-Fihrist are combinations of parts contained in Tahdhib al-ahkam, al-Nahaya and al-Istibsar.

According to enumerations of the published version of book in Najaf, the book contains 409 sections (28 of which are repetitive) and 13988 hadiths, but according to enumerations of Muhaddith al-Nuri, the book contains 393 sections and 13590 hadiths. The difference is rooted in mistakes in enumerations or disputes about some parts or hadiths being independent or not.

The Methodology

The book is basically organized in the same way as al-Muqni'a, elaborating all its problems by an appeal to reliable sources (the Quran, al-khabar al-mutawatir, hadiths with assuring evidence and consensus), referring to widely accepted hadiths among Imamiyya, where contradicting hadiths are interpreted away or dismissed as unreliable. In this method, in terms of which most of the part on taharat (or cleanliness) is written, the author occasionally appeals to sources such as what later came to be called combined consensus (al-ijma' al-murakkab), the views of senior scholars and some reasoning. It has also cited some hadiths from Sunni sources without mentioning their chains of narrators. In this part of the book, there are various Quranic and literary issues (related to Arabic grammar and lexicology) as well as views in usul al-fiqh.

However, the book would have been too lengthy and digressed from its main purpose (writing a work in hadith) had the rest of it been written with the same method. Therefore, the author changed his method in the rest of the book, resting content with citing Shiite hadiths and reconciling their conflicts. He then decided to cite all or almost all hadiths regarding the laws of sharia regardless of issues raised in al-Muqni'a. This is why he added the sections on ziyara (pilgrimage) in the first three volumes of the book. Therefore, the book was written with two different methods that differ in their elaboration as well as in the way they cite hadiths.


Tahdhib al-ahkam counts as the most important source of ijtihad for Imamiyya in virtue of its containing much more hadiths in comparison with the rest of al-Kutub al-Arba'a (the Four Books).

Importance in Fiqh

According to Bahr al-'Ulum, with this book a scholar of fiqh does not usually need to refer to any other collection of hadiths; a feature lacked by the rest of the Four Books. Sayyid b. Tawus took al-Kafi and Tahdhib al-ahkam to be the greatest books in fiqh, and 'Allama al-Hilli took the book to be the origin of fiqh, which is, together with al-Muqni'a, one of the greatest sources in fiqh.

In many parts or books of fiqh, al-Shaykh al-Tusi's views in Tahdhib have been considered as his fatwas that are frequently cited and discussed. Some of his fatwas in this book are unique to him or are held by few other scholars. Sometimes his fatwas in this book or in al-Istibsar differ from his fatwas in the rest of his work in fiqh.

Importance in Hadith

In addition to its contribution to fiqh, Tahdhib is also significant as a collection of hadiths. In addition to catalogues or bibliographies that have always mentioned the book, the subsequent works in hadiths have always cited the book. Ibn Tawus has very frequently cited the book in his work. Ibn Idris cited a selection of hadiths in Tahdhib at the end of his al-Sara'ir.

Some Akhbari scholars made an appeal to a remark by al-Shaykh al-Tusi in his al-'Udda fi usul al-fiqh and held that all hadiths in Tahdhib (as well as in the rest of the Four Books) are reliable. However, since al-Shaykh al-Tusi has made it explicit that some contradictory hadiths in his book are unreliable, the view was rejected by other scholars.

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 329/940-1 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 1091/1680-1 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 1405/1985 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 contemporary 23,030 564 non-jurisprudential (not regarding fiqh) topics
al-Hayat Muhammad Rida Hakimi contemporary 12 volumes 40 chapters regarding theoretical and practical issues

Reasons for the Weakness of Hadiths in Tahdhib al-ahkam

• The contradiction of a hadith with the apparent meaning of the Holy Qur'an and al-khabar al-mutawatir.

• The consensus of Imamiyya on refusing to act upon the hadith.

• The contradiction of a hadith narrated by one or few people with one narrated by a greater number of people.

• The contradiction of a hadith with an essential principle of Islam and Imams (a).

• The tension in a hadith, that is, where the narrator has narrated the hadith in two or more different ways.

• The contradiction between what a person narrates with what others narrate.

Weak Hadiths in Tahdhib al-Ahkam

Mudmar (in which a hadith involves a pronoun which is not obvious whether it refers to an Infallible or not)

Mawquf (a hadith that stops at a companion of Imam (a) where it is not obvious whether it is his own view or is intended to be that of Imam (a)'s)

Mursal (a hadith part of whose chain of narrators is missing)

• A hadith whose narrator is not exactly known

Shadh hadith (a hadith saying something odd or uncommon)

• A hadith with unreliable narrators or one whose narrator is a ghali (a person who exaggerates the virtues of Imams (a)), or Sunni or Zaydi.

Chains of Narrations of Hadiths in Tahdhib al-Ahkam

In his second method for writing the book, al-Shaykh al-Tusi begins the chains of narrations with the names of the authors of his sources, and then he added an appendix to the book, under mashikha, to connect his own chain to the authors of those books, and for more details he refers the readers to his al-Fihrist. At first pass, it seems that he cites hadiths from the narrators mentioned at the beginning of his chain, but there is ample evidence showing that he did not cite them immediately, but since the people in between were well-known, he did not mention them.

Sources of Tahdhib al-Ahkam

The most important source of Tahdhib is al-Kafi by al-Kulayni. In addition to cases in which Kulayni is mentioned at the beginning of chains of narrations (often as Muhammad b. Ya'qub), many hadiths with chains beginning with Kulayni's immediate or mediate masters are from al-Kafi.

Another source of Tahdhib is Man la yahduruh al-faqih by al-Shaykh al-Saduq.

A Comparison of his Two Books

After writing his Tahdhib, al-Shaykh al-Tusi wrote al-Istibsar concerning apparently contradictory hadiths, whose parts and organization are very similar to Tahdhib. All hadiths in al-Istibsar are also cited in Tahdhib, though their chains of narrations are sometimes different; for example, in the first volume of al-Istibsar, there are over 200 hadiths whose chains of narrations in Tahdhib are complete, but are partially mentioned in al-Istibsar. On the contrary, in 80 hadiths, only al-Istibsar contains complete chains of narrations.

In the first volume of Tahdhib most hadiths are cited through al-Shaykh al-Mufid, but in al-Istibsar, other masters are also cited, and the way through a person other than al-Shaykh al-Mufid is preferred if it has some advantages such as shorter chains of narrations or a greater number of narrators.

Most hadiths in al-Istibsar have their sources in Tahdhib, and only in few cases the sources are different.

The author's explanations about hadiths and the ways of resolving their contradictions in al-Istibsar are often the same as what he had said in Tahdhib, though there are verbal differences between the two.

Commentaries and Expositions

Aqa Buzurg Tihrani has mentioned 16 expositions and 20 commentaries for Tahdhib al-ahkam, mentioning four books as commentaries on the Four Books.

Other people have mentioned other commentaries on the book, such as those of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i, Mir Damad and Jami' al-hawashi.

There are expositions of Tahdhib's Mashikha (on its own or together with the mashikha of Man la yahduruh al-faqih), such as Hadiqa al-anzar by Muhammad 'Ali b. Qasim Al Kashkul. Risala fi al-jam' bayn ahadith bab al-ziyadat min al-tahdhib by Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i is a sort of an exposition of Tahdhib.

Of these, only Maladh al-akhyar by 'Allama al-Majlisi has been published, which is a complete exposition of Tahdhib in 16 volumes. This books cites other expositions of Tahdhib, particularly those of Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi and 'Abd Allah Tustari.

Other Works Concerning Tahdhib al-Ahkam

• A translation of Tahdhib al-ahkam into Persian by Muhammad Taqi Gilani

• Another translation of the book by Muhammad Yusuf Gurakani

Mukhtasar mazar kitab al-Tahdhib (a summary of Tahdhib's mazar) by Muhammad Jawjani

• A selection of Tahdhib by Muhammad Baqir Bihbudi

Tanbih al-arib wa tadhkira al-labib fi idah rijal al-Tahdhib by Al-Sayyid Hashim al-Bahrani and its selection, Intikhab al-jayyid min tanbihat al-sayyid, by Hasan Damistani.

Risala fi asanid al-Tahdhib (an essay on Tahdhib's chains of narrations) by Fakhr al-Din Turayhi

Tashih al-asanid by Mirza Muhammad al-Ardabili, the author of Jami' al-Ruwat

Tartib asanid kitab al-Tahdhib (the order of Tahdhib's chains of narrations) by Sayyid Husayn Burujirdi hand-written by Hasan Nuri Hamadani published as Tanqih asanid al-Tahdhib.

Manuscripts of Tahdhib

• The main manuscript of the book written by al-Shaykh al-Tusi that was held by his progeny, Al Tawus.

• A manuscript of the book written by the author whose son read it to him, and was held by 'Ali b. Muhammad al-Bayadi.

• A manuscript of the first part of the book in the library of 'Allama Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i; one of the owners of the manuscript who was contemporary to al-Shaykh al-Baha'i has written that al-Shaykh al-Baha'i took this to be written by al-Shaykh al-Tusi himself.

• The oldest manuscript of Tahdhib al-ahkam with a date on it (575 A.H./ 1180), including the fourth and the fifth volumes of the book. This is held in the Library of Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Rida Gulpayigani in Qum.

Tahdhib al-ahkam was first lithographically printed in two folio-size volumes, edited by Ahmad Shirazi and Baqir Quchani in 1317 and 1318 S.H. (1938-1939).

Other publications of the book are in ten volumes in the octavo size: one is edited by Sayyid Hasan Musawi Khurasan in Najaf, another edited by Muhammad Ja'far Shams al-Din in Beirut and another one edited by Ali Akbar Ghaffari in Tehran.