Bahr al-ma'arif (book)

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Bahr al-ma'arif (book)
Author Abd al-Samad al-Hamadani
Original title بَحْرُ الْمَعارف
Language Persian
Series 3 Vols.
Subject Ethics
Publisher Hikmat

Baḥr al-ma'arif (Arabic: بحر المعارف) is an ethical book in Arabic and Persian written by Abd al-Samad al-Hamadani. With the help of the speeches of Infallible Imams (a) and using a simple language, the author discusses the wisdom and mysticism in Shi'a. Half of this work discusses theological discussions especially Imamate. Bahr al-ma'arif is organized in several chapters and Husayn Ustadwali corrected Arabic texts in its print edition.


Abd al-Samad al-Hamadani (d. 1216/1802) was an expert in mysticism, jurisprudence, linguistics, and theology in the thirteenth/nineteenth century. Al-Wahid al-Bihbahani and al-Sayyid 'Ali al-Tabataba'i were the prominent teachers of Abd al-Samad.

He lived in Iraq for some years in order to learn and teach jurisprudence. It is said that sufi orders became widespread among Shi'a jurists, especially in Iraq, through Abd al-Samad's works which was finally followed by Husayn Quli Hamadani. Abd al-Samad was martyred in Wahhabis' Attack to Karbala in 1216/1802.

Goal of Writing

In the introduction of the book, Abd al-Samad al-Hamadani mentioned his goal of writing the book, as explanation of practical philosophy of Shi'a in the speeches of infallible Imams (a) through their hadiths and verses of the Qur'an. He hoped that he himself and his brothers in religion receive the benefits of this work.

Structure of the Book

Bahr al-ma'arif is in Arabic and Persian and its corrector has corrected its Arabic parts. It contains a short introduction and 126 chapters and the corrector of the book added to the number and titles of the chapters. According to the author, Bahr al-ma'arif contains discussions regarding "the four practical philosophies" which are:

  • Purification of the apparent morals
  • Purification of the soul from vices
  • Ornamenting the soul with virtues
  • The result of which the soul benefits.

With a look at the titles of the chapters, it can be understood that half of the book deals with theological discussions especially Imamate and the ther half discusses mysticism and Sufism. The book is organized in three volumes in 126 chapters, wherein the author discusses about Shi'a practical philosophy.