Al-Tara'if fi ma'rifat madhahib al-tawa'if (book)

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Al-Tara'if fi ma'rifat madhahib al-tawa'if
AuthorSayyid Ali b. Tawus al-Husayni al-Hilli
Original titleاَلطَّرائف فی مَعْرِفَةِ مَذاهِبِ الطَّوائف
PublisherKhayyam Publications

Al-Ṭarā'if fī ma'rifat madhāhib al-ṭawā'if (Arabic: اَلطَّرائف فی مَعْرِفَةِ مَذاهِبِ الطَّوائف) is a theological works by Sayyid Ali b. Tawus al-Husayni al-Hilli on demonstrating the imamate of the Twelve Imams and the truth of Twelver Shiism and challenging Sunni views on the issue of imamate.

The author has not mentioned his real name in the book, and thus some scholars have doubted the authorship of Ibn Tawus for the book.

This work has been translated into Farsi.


Al-Sayyid b. Ṭāwūs (b. 589/1193 - d. 664/1266), was a great Shi'a scholar, author of al-Luhuf, Naqib of Shi'a during the reign of the Mongols over Baghdad. Due to his great ethical traits, his piety and constant attention to his deeds, his spiritual experiences and his acts of wonder, he was famous as Jamal al-'Arifin (beauty of the mystics).

He died on Monday, the Dhu l-Qa'da 5 664/August 8, 1266, at the age of 75 in Hillah. As he has written in Falah al-sa'il he had prepared a grave in the Shrine of Imam Ali (a) in Najaf.[1] Yet there is a shrine in Hillah attributed to him.

The Identity of the Author

Nothing in the entire text of the book shows that the book was authored by Sayyid b. Tawus; rather, the book mentions a man named Abd al-Mahmud b. Dawud, a new convert to Islam, as its author.

However, there is almost no doubt that the book was written by Sayyid b. Tawus. According to Shaykh al-Hurr al-Amili, the use of the pen name was because of precautionary dissimulation (taqiyya). Sayyid b. Tawus has mentioned the book al-Tara'if in his Ijazat among the works he composed and in his Kashf al-mahajja encourages his son to read his "al-Tara'if", in which he has "distinguished between truth and falsehood." Moreover, he has clearly affirmed his authorship of the book in his al-Iqbal and Sa'd al-su'ud. Moreover, al-Shahid al-Thani stated, in a marginal note on a manuscript of the book, that it was written by Ibn Tawus. Therefore, there is no doubt that the book was written by Sayyid b. Tawus.[2]


Ibn Tawus writes the story of a person who embraces Islam, but then sees the disagreement between Muslims and their various sects. So he decides to learn about Muslim sects and denominations so that he follows the truth. He states in the beginning that he will not use Shiite sources because they are accused of exaggeration.

After painstaking studies, he realizes that Twelver Shiite views and beliefs are internally consistent and in agreement with reason, the Quran, and the hadiths mentioned in the sources of other sects. Therefore, he converts to Twelver Shiism at the end.

As the author has mentioned in the beginning of the book, all the evidence used in the book are from non-Shiite sources and thus he establishes the truth of Twelver Shiism by using the sources of their opponents.[3]

Organization of the Contents

Since the purpose of Ibn Tawus in this book is to establish the truth of Shiism against their Muslim opponents, he has organized the contents of the book in the following way:

Th book starts with hadiths from the Prophet (s) on the virtues of Imam Ali (a), without any discussions on God, prophethood, or the Day of Judgment.

Less than half of the book discusses the disagreement between the opposition of the first three caliphs and figures such as A'isha to Ahl al-Bayt (a). Ibn Tawus also mentions reports of the former group's opposition to some of the clear statements of the Quran and Sunna of the Prophet (s).

The second half of the book tries to establish that the first three caliphs were not qualified for their position. It also argues that people are not qualified to choose the Imam.

Then, there is a discussion on Mu'awiya and his violation of Islamic laws, in which the Sunni claims about his virtues are debunked.

The final part of the book contains a discussion of some Sunni hadiths and also Sunni practices that are against Islam.[4]


  • There is a Farsi translation of the book entitled Tarawat al-ta'if fi tarjamat kitab al-Tara'if by Ali b. Hasan Zawara'i, who translated it for Shah Tahmasb.
  • A translation by Muhammad Sadiq Tabasi Wa'iz which is printed in 1310 AH/1892-3.[5]


  1. Ibn Ṭāwūs, Falāḥ al-sāʾil, p. 73-74.
  2. Kohlberg, Kitābkhāna-yi Ibn Ṭāwūs, p. 98-99.
  3. Kitāb-i Shinākht-i sīra-yi Ma'sūmān.
  4. Kitāb-i Shinākht-i sīra-yi Ma'sūmān.
  5. Kohlberg, Kitābkhāna-yi Ibn Ṭāwūs, p. 102.


  • Ibn Ṭāwūs, ʿAlī b. Mūsā. Al-Taraʾif fī maʿrifat madhāhib al-ṭawāʾif. Qom: Khayyām, 1400 AH.
  • Ibn Ṭāwūs, ʿAlī b. Mūsā. Al-Taraʾif fī maʿrifat madhāhib al-ṭawāʾif. Translated by Dāwūd Ilhāmī. Qom: Nawīd-i Islām, 1374 Sh.
  • Kohlberg, Etan. Ibn Ṭāwūs library. Translated by ʿAlī Qarāʾyī and Rasūl Jaʿfarīyān. Qom: Kitābkhāna-yi Āyat Allāh al-Marʿashī, 1371 Sh.
  • Kitāb-i Shinākht-i sīra-yi Ma'sūmān. Noor Computer Research Center of Islamic Sciences.