Bihar al-anwar (book)

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Bihar al-anwar (book)
Bibliographical Information
Bibliographical Information
AuthorMuhammad Baqir al-Majlisi
Original titleبِحارُالأَنوار الجامِعَةُ لِدُرَرِ أَخبارِ الأَئِمَّةِ الأَطهار
Series110 vol.
SubjectHadiths from Infallibles (a)
PublisherFirst by Muhammad Husayn Kumpani in 25 vol.
English translation
En. titleThe Promised Mahdi (translation of 51-52-53th vol.)
En. publisherJa'fari Propagation Center, India
En. full textPart I, Part II

Biḥār al-ʾanwār al-jāmiʿat li-durar ʾakhbār al-ʾAʾimmat al-ʾAṫhār (Arabic: بِحارُالأَنوار الجامِعَةُ لِدُرَرِ أَخبارِ الأَئِمَّةِ الأَطهار, literally: Seas of lights: the collection of pearls of the reports of the pure Imams) known as Bihar al-anwar, is the most comprehensive Shi'a hadith collection written under supervision of al-'Allama al-Majlisi. This book is also commonly called al-Bihar in brief. Writing of this book which is a collection of Shi'a teachings, lasted more than 30 years and a group of al-'Allama al-Majlisi's students helped him in this task.

The author has organized the book based on 25 general topics and thus in 25 volumes. However, nowadays it is published in 110 volumes. In every volume, the author has collected related subtopics in different chapters. In every chapter then, he first has mentioned verses of the Qur'an related with that issue together with their interpretations and then has mentioned hadiths related to that chapter.

Al-Majlisi has tried to cover all common topics and issues in Bihar al-anwar; for example, this collection begins with the book of "al-'Aql wa l-jahl" (wisdom and ignorance) and continues with topics about theology, Oneness of God (tawhid), divine justice and the history of the prophets. From volume 15 to volume 53 (of the 110 volume set) is dedicated to the life and merits of the Prophet (s), Lady Fatima (s), and Shi'a Imams (a).

Due to its maximum number of hadiths narrated from Shi'a Imams (a), chaptering of topics, explanation of hadiths, various theological, historical, jurisprudential, exegetical, ethical, hadith, and lexical researches, Bihar al-anwar has a great position among researchers; so that regardless of its many volumes, since its first publication, many manuscript copies of that were written and with later development of printing industry, all or parts of it have been frequently printed.


Al-'Allama Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, the author of Bihar al-anwar

Muhammad Baqir b. Muhammad Taqi b. al-Maqsud 'Ali al-Majlisi known as al-'Allama al-Majlisi or the Second Majlisi (b. 1037/1627-8 – d. 1110/1699) is one of the most famous scholars in jurisprudence and hadith in the world of Islam. He was among the nobilities of Shi'a at the time of Safavids. He was an expert in different Islamic sciences such as exegesis, hadith, jurisprudence, usul, history, rijal, diraya, philosophy, logic, mathematics, literature, lexicon, geography, medicine, astronomy, and occult sciences.


In the introduction of Bihar al-anwar, al-Majlisi explained his goal of writing the book as,

"The reason for writing this book is that I was enthusiastic in learning different types of knowledge, and after spending a part of my life on learning different sciences and thinking about the fruits and goals of these sciences I found that knowledge is achieved only through the revelation and the hadiths of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and in the hereafter, only this type of knowledge is helpful. Therefore, I studied the narrations and hadiths of the Infallibles (a)."[1]

He also tried to collect those references which were about to be lost and thus referred to those books which were abandoned due to excessive attention to the Four Books, the corrupt intentions, lack of attention of the ignorant and the enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt (a).[2]

He also said that, "No book like this has ever been written and no one has superseded me in this and I hope this book will be the reference of scholars and seekers of knowledge for all those who seek the knowledge of Imams (a) until the rise of the Upriser (a) of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)."[3]

Manner of Writing

The author decided to write this book after 1070/1660, after he wrote Fihris musannafat al-ashab and the first date mentioned in Bihar al-anwar is 1072/1661-2.[4] He finished its draft in 1104/1692-3 or 1106/1694-5; however, the clean draft was still being worked on by his students after al-Majlisi passed away.[5]

To write this book, al-Majlisi sent many of his students to different cities and countries to find available hadith books and manuscripts.[6] For example, he reported that even to acquire Ibn Babawayh's Madinat al-'ilm which people thought existed in Yemen, he sent a group with many gifts to the ruler of Yemen to get that book.[7]

During the writing of Bihar al-anwar, some students of al-Majlisi including Mirza 'Abd Allah Afandi, Mir Muhammad Salih Khatunabadi, Mulla 'Abd Allah b. Nur al-Din al-Bahrayni, al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri and Amina Khatun, sister of al-'Allama al-Majlisi, helped him.[8]

Al-Majlisi could well manage all the works needed, so he only sent his students to collect and write verses of the Qur'an and hadiths under the titles he organized. The rest of selections from text and writing the final draft was done by Allama himself.[9] However, the whole book was finished by his students after he passed away.[10]

Al-Majlisi chose titles for the front cover of every book and organized titles in every book. He began every chapter with verses of the glorious Qur'an which were either directly related or through different historical, hadith and exegetical evidences they were related with the title; then he brought quotations from different exegetes (usually Amin al-Islam al-Tabrisi and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi) and then he mentioned hadiths related with any title together with their references. He sometimes narrated a part of a hadith and brought it in full elsewhere more appropriate (he sometimes mentioned where he had brought the hadith in full) and also, if necessary, he explained the meaning of hadiths. His explanations are not found in the volumes copied by his students.

Although al-Majlisi benefited from the assistance of some scholars, financial help of Safavid government, and different privileges and facilities for gathering sources for the process of writing Bihar al-anwar, according to available manuscripts and other evidences, he-after achieving scientific degrees and writing most of his books-did the main job himself.


As an encyclopedia of the legacy of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), Bihar al-anwar has always had a great and important position in the scientific tradition of Shi'a.

Aqa Buzurg Tihrani says, "Bihar al-anwar is a comprehensive book which contains the narrations of the Ahl al-Bayt (a); accurate researches, better than which cannot be found and it must be said that similar to this book has neither been written in the past, nor would ever be written in the future."[11]

Imam Khomeini wrote, "Bihar al-anwar is the work of the great scholar of hadith, Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi which contains nearly 400 books and treatises; Bihar al-anwar is itself a library and its author wrote it when he saw that many hadiths books are about to be lost and wasted due to their small size and being less accessed."[12]

The important point about writing of Bihar al-anwar is that the author's limited usage of the Four Books made it a less important jurisprudential reference and even though it has a great coverage of other fields in Shi'a culture, it is not used in jurisprudential discussions as a common reference.

Also, the type of analyses al-'Allama al-Majlisi gives about hadiths have been made in moderate Akhbari atmosphere and even where he faces rational issues, he criticizes that with a theological approach based on the apparent meaning, not with a rational and philosophical approach; therefore, some Shi'a scholars believe that al-'Allama al-Majlisi's explanations and comments are not accurate enough.[13] Thus, some commentaries and comments al-Allama al-Majlisi gives under some titles such as soul, self, intellect, etc. have been criticized by scholars; for example, in his gloss about some parts of Bihar al-anwar, 'Allama Tabataba'i wrote, "… and the safe approach for someone who is not competent enough in deep rational discussions is that he follows the apparent meaning of the Qur'an and hadiths and leave understanding the truth of them to God and avoids entering deep rational discussions either approving or disapproving anything."[14] Also in A'yan al-Shi'a, al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin wrote, "Many of the statements, explanations and comments of al-'Allama al-Majlisi for hadiths, etc. have been written in hurry and this has led to less beneficial and more erroneous discussions."[15]


At the beginning of the book, al-'Allama al-Majlisi mentioned 387 Shi'a books written by 25 authors as the sources. He has also benefited from Sunni sources for proving and approving Shi'a hadiths the number of which reaches 85. In writing Bihar al-anwar, he has also benefited from lexical sources and commentaries as well. Al-'Allama al-Majlisi also mentions some sources during the writing process of the book.[16]


Below, the titles of the books of Bihar al-anwar based on the lithograph print (25 volume set) and the contemporary print (110 volume set) are listed:

  1. (volumes 1 & 2) Kitab al-'aql wa l-jahl about the virtue of knowledge, scholars and their ranks, authenticity of reports and disapproving induction with a comprehensive introduction about the sources of the book and useful information, in 40 chapters.
  2. (Volumes 3 & 4) Kitab al-tawhid wa l-sifat wa l-asma' al-husna, containing the book of unity of God, His attributes and good names of His Holy Essence, Tawhid al-Mufaddal, and Risala Ihlilaja, containing 31 chapters.
  3. (volumes 5 to 8) Kitab al-'adl wa l-mashiyya wa l-irada wa l-qada' wa l-qadar, containing the books of justice of God, Divine providence, ordinance, fore-ordainment, guidance, deviation, trial, nature, covenant, repentance, reasons of rulings, preludes to death and its endings, in 59 chapters.
  4. (Volumes 9 & 10) Kitab al-ihtijajat wa l-munazirat, containing the arguments and debates in 83 chapters.
  5. (Volumes 11 to 14) Kitab fi ahwal al-anbiya' wa qisasihim, about the biographies of prophets (a) and their stories in 82 chapters.
  6. (Volumes 15 to 22) Kitab fi ahwal nabiyyina al-akram (a) wa ahwal jumlat min aba'ih, containing the biography of the Holy Prophet (s) and some of his forefathers, explaining the truth of miracles and the miracle of the Qur'an, biographies of Abu Dharr, Salman, 'Ammar, Miqdad and some other great companions, in 72 chapters.
  7. (Volumes 23 to 27) Kitab fi mushtarakat ahwal al-a'imma (a), about the common states of Imams (a), requirements of Imamate, their Wilaya, unusual attributes and their superiority over the previous prophets (a), rewards for loving them, merits of their posterity and some debates of scholars, in 150 chapters.
  8. (Volumes 28 to 34) Kitab fi l-fitan ba'd al-Nabi (s), about the mischiefs made after the Prophet (s), conduct of caliphs and what happened during their rules, Battle of Jamal, Battle of Siffin, Battle of Nahrawan, Mu'awiya's plundering of Iraq, biographies of some of Imam 'Ali's (a) companions, commentary on some of poems attributed to him and the commentary of some of Imam's letters, in 62 chapters.
  9. (Volumes 35 to 42) Kitab fi ahwal Amir al-Mu'minin (a) min wiladatih ila shahdatih about the biography of Imam 'Ali (a) from his birthday to his martyrdom, biography of Abu Talib, the father of 'Ali (a), his faith, and the faith of some of the companions of Imam 'Ali (a) and hadiths about Imamate of Imams (a), in 128 chapters.
  10. (Volumes 43 to 45) Kitab fi ahwal Sayyidat al-Nisa' (a) wa l-Imamayn al-humamayn al-Hasan al-Mujtaba (a) wa Abu 'Abd Allah al-Husayn (a)", about the biographies of Lady Fatima (a), Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a), uprising of Mukhtar al-Thaqafi and seeking revenge for the martyrs of Karbala, in 50 chapters.
  11. (Volumes 46 to 48) Kitab fi ahwal al-a'immat al-arba'a ba'd al-Husayn (a) about the biographies of the four Imams (a) after Imam al-Husayn (a) i.e. Imam al-Sajjad (a), Imam al-Baqir (a), Imam al-Sadiq (a), Imam al-Kazim (a) and some of their companions and children, in 46 chapters.
  12. (Volumes 49 & 50) Kitab fi ahwal al-a'immat al-arba'a qabl al-Hujja al-Muntazar (aj), about the biographies of the four Imams (a) before Imam al-Mahdi (aj) i.e. Imam al-Rida (a), Imam al-Taqi (a), Imam al-Hadi (a) and Imam al-'Askari, and the biographies of some of their companions, in 39 chapters.
  13. (Volumes 51 to 53) Kitab fi ahwal al-Hujjat al-Muntazar (aj), about the life of Imam al-Mahdi (a) in 36 chapters.
  14. (Volumes 54 to 63) Kitab fi l-sama' wa l-'alam, about the sky, the world and its creation, its elements such as heavenly creatures, angels, jinns, human beings, animals, matter, and prey. The method of killing the animals, edibles and beverages and the whole books of Tibb al-Nabi (s) and Tibb al-Rida (a), in 210 chapters.
  15. (Volumes 64 to 76) Kitab fi l-iman wa l-kufr, about faith and disbelief in three parts, first: faith and its requirement, qualities of believers, their merits, the merit of Shi'a and their description, second: Good manner, what causes people's survival from the catastrophes of the world, third: disbelief and its branches and vices organized, in 108 chapters.
  16. (Volume 77) Kitab al-ziy wa l-tajammul fi l-adab wa l-sunan about manners, traditions, ornaments and decorations, hygiene, using kuhl, perfumes, night vigil, sleeping, traveling, prohibitions and cardinal sins, in 131 chapters.
  17. (Volumes 78 to 88) Kitab al-rawda about advice and maxims in 73 chapters.
  18. (Volumes 89 to 91) Kitab fi l-taharat wa l-salat in two parts: purity in 6 chapters, and second part about prayer in 161 chapters, plus Shadhan b. Jabra'il al-Qummi's treatise of Izahat al-'illa.
  19. (Volumes 92 & 93) Kitab fi fada'il al-Qur'an wa l-dhikr in two parts, merits of the Qur'an, related manners and rewards and its miracle. Also, the whole of Tafsir al-Nu'mani, in 130 chapters. Second part: about dhikr and its types, manners of supplication and its requirements, hirz, du'as for pains, Sahifat Idris, etc. in 131 chapters.
  20. (Volumes 94 to 96) Kitab fi l-zakat wa l-sadaqa wa l-khums wa l-sawm about recommended practices of the year in 122 chapters.
  21. (Volumes 97 to 100) Kitab fi l-hajj wa l-'umra, about hajj, 'umra, jihad, enjoining to the good and forbidding the evil, description and events of Medina, etc. in 84 chapters.
  22. (Volume 101) Kitab fi l-mazar, about the ziyarahs narrated from the infallible Imams (a) in 64 chapters.
  23. (Volumes 102 & 103) Kitab fi l-'uqud wa l-iqa'at, about contracts and unilateral obligations in 130 chapters.
  24. (Volume 104) Kitab fi l-ahkam l-shar'iyya, about religious rulings to the book of diyat in 48 chapters.
  25. (Volumes 105 to 110) Kitab fi l-ijazat, about permissions and the list of contents for al-Shaykh Muntajab al-Din al-Razi, a selection of al-Sayyid 'Ali Khan al-Madani's Salafat al-'asr, beginning parts of al-Sayyid b. Tawus's Ijazat, al-'Allama al-Hilli's al-Ijaza al-kabira for Banu Zuhra and the permissions of al-Shahid al-Awwal and al-Shahid al-Thani, and others.[17]


The most important and famous book written about Bihar al-anwar is Shaykh 'Abbas Qummi's Safinat al-bihar.

Companions, Dictionaries, and Indices

  • 'Ali Namazi Shahrudi's Mustadrak safinat al-bihar,
  • Mirza Husayn Nuri's Ma'alim al-'ibar, the supplement to the seventh volume,
  • Mirza Husayn Nuri's supplement of the mazar part,
  • Riyad al-abrar, the companion to the ijazat,
  • Al-Mu'jam al-mufahras li-alfaz ahadith bihar al-anwar
  • Kazim Muradkhani's Al-Mu'jam al-mufahras li-alfaz abwab al-bihar
  • 'Ali Rida Barazish's Al-Mu'jam al-mufahras li-alfaz ahadith bihar al-anwar
  • Al-Sayyid Muhammad b. Ahmad Husayn al-Lahijani's Fihrist ma fi l-bihar
  • Sayyid Mahdi b. Sayyid Fadl Allah Hijazi's Durar al-akhbar, which is the list of the content for all the volumes of Bihar al-anwar.
  • Mirza Muhammad b. Rajab 'Ali 'Askari Tihrani's Masabih al-anwar, which is the list of the content for all the volumes of Bihar al-anwar.

Comparisons and Guides

  • Muhammad Rida b. 'Abd al-Muttalib Tabizi's Al-Shafi fi l-jam' bayn al-bihar wa l-wafi
  • Sayyid Jawad Mustafavi's al-Tatbiq bayn al-safinat wa l-bihar
  • Shaykh Jawad Isfahani's Miftah al-abwab li-kitab al-bihar
  • Dala'il al-ayat al-mufassara wa asma' al-suwar fi ahadith bihar al-anwar
  • Hasan Safari Nadiri's Mu'arrifi wa rawish-i istifada az bihar al-anwar
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

Summaries and Anthologies

  • Mawla Nur al-Din Muhammad b. Murtada's Durar al-bihar
  • Muhammad b. Muhammad Hadi Na'ini's Anwar al-bihar
  • Mirza Muhammad Sadiq Shirazi's Talkhis al-bihar
  • Mirza Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Nabi Niyshaburi's Hadiqat al-azhar fi talkhis al-bihar
  • Aqa Najafi Isfahani's Talkhis al-anwar
  • Mirza Ibrahim b. Husayn b. Ghaffar Dunbali Khu'i's Talkhis al-bihar
  • Mawla Muhammad Taqi b. Muhammad Khu'i's Durar al-bihar
  • Fayd al-Islam's Banadir al-bihar
  • Muhammad Hadi b. Murtada Kashani's Muntakhab bihar al-anwar

English Translation

The Promised Mahdi (Translation of 51-52-53th vol.)

Sayyid Athar Husayn S.H. Rizvi has translated the volume 13 of Bihar al-anwar titled as the Promised Mahdi.

See Also

  • Full text of The Promised Mahdi, English Translation of Bihar al-Anwar, Volume 13 (Old Edition)/Volumes 51-52-53 (New Edition), Kitab al-GhaibahBook of Occultation, English translation by Sayyid Athar Husain S.H. Rizvi. Part I, Part II.


  1. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 1, p. 2
  2. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 1, pp. 3-4
  3. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 1, p. 6
  4. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 103, p. 255
  5. Al-Amin, A'yan al-Shi'a, vol. 9, p. 183
  6. Al-Qumi, al-Kuna wa l-alqab, vol. 3, p. 147
  7. Al-Amin, A'yan al-Shi'a, vol. 9, p. 183
  8. Mahdawi, Zindigi Nami-yi 'Allami Majlisi, vol. 2, p. 226
  9. Al-Mu'jam al-mufahras, vol. 1, pp. 7-8
  10. Al-Amin, A'yan al-Shi'a, vol. 9, p. 183; Al-Bahrani, Lu'lu'at al-bahrayn, p. 57
  11. Aqa Buzurg Tihrani, Al-Dhari'a, vol. 3, p. 16
  12. Khomeini, Kashf al-asrar, p. 319
  13. Sayyid Muhammad Khamene'i, 'Allami Tabataba'i wa Majlisi wa hadith-i 'aql wa jahl
  14. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 1, p. 104, footnote
  15. Al-Amin, A'yan al-Shi'a, vol. 9, p. 183
  16. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 1, pp. 6-26
  17. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 102, pp. 37-44


  • The material for writing of this article is mainly taken from بحار الأنوار in Farsi WikiShia.
  • Al-Mu'jam al-mufahras li alfaz ahdith bihar al-anwar, Qom, 1413 AH.
  • Amin al-'Amili, al-Sayyid Muhsin al-. A'yan al-Shi'a. Beirut: Dar al-Ta'aruf, 1406 AH.
  • Bahrani, Yusuf al-. Lu'luat al-bahrayn. Qom: Mu'assisat Al al-Bayt.
  • Khomeini, Ruhollah. Kashf al-asrar. Qom.
  • Mahdawi, Muslih al-Din. Zindigi nama-yi 'Allami Majlisi. Tehran, Printing & Publication Organization of Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, 1378 Sh.
  • Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir al-. Bihar al-anwar. Beirut, Mu'assist al-Wafa', 1403 AH.
  • Qumi, 'Abbas. Al-Kuna wa l-alqab. Tehran, Maktabat al-Sadr, 1359 Sh.
  • Tihrani, Aqa Buzurg. Al-Dhari'a ila tasanif al-Shi'a. Beirut: Dar al-adwa', 1389 AH.

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