Ma'alim al-madrasatayn (book)

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Ma'alim al-madrasatayn (book)
کتاب معالم المدرستین.jpeg
AuthorSayyid Murtada Askari
SubjectComparison between the principles of the Shi'a with those of the Sunnis

Maʿālim al-madrasatayn (Arabic: معالم المدرستين) is a book written in Arabic by Sayyid Murtada Askari. The book compares the principles of the Shi'a with those of the Sunnis. The book aims to prove the superiority of the School of Ahl al-Bayt (a) over that of the Caliphs.

The book consists of three volumes. The first volume is concerned with the views of the School of Ahl al-Bayt (a) and that of the Caliphs. The second volume discusses reliable religious sources in the two schools, and the third volume gives an account of the uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a), and its causes and consequences, as well as a comparison of how hadiths were transmitted in the School of Ahl al-Bayt (a) and that of the Caliphs.

Ma'alim al-madrasatayn has been translated into Persian, French, and Pashto. The book introduces a person known as Sayf b. Umar, who, the author contends, has fabricated many hadiths, with 150 fake Sahaba in chains of transmitters of his hadiths.

The Author

Sayyid Murtada Askari, the author of Ma'alim al-madrasatayn, was the founder of Usul al-Din University in Baghdad, Qom, Tehran, and Dezful. He also co-founded Hizb al-Da'wa (Islamic Dawa Party) along with al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi al-Hakim. He authored important books, including Abd Allah b. Saba' wa asatir ukhra, Mi'a wa khamsun sahabi mukhtalaq, and Ahadith umm al-mu'minin A'isha. He is known for the deployment of novel methods in his research on Islamic history and hadiths, as well as his defense of Shiite principles. His work is characterized as unbiased and based on many first-hand sources.

Content and the Structure of the Book

Ma'alim al-madrasatayn is an investigation and comparison of the two schools of Ahl al-Bayt (a) and the Caliphs and their approaches to important issues of the shari'a. The book aims to show the superiority of the School of Ahl al-Bayt (a) over that of the Caliphs.

The Introduction

Ma'alim al-madrasatayn begins with a detailed introduction to certain matters of disagreement between Sunnis and Shi'as. The introduction also points to the origins of their disagreements. Some of these controversial issues are Divine Attributes, the intercession of prophets and resorting to them, building a mausoleum on prophets' graves as places of worship, and crying for the dead.

The First Volume: Sahaba and Imamate in the Two Schools

After the introduction, there are two chapters in the first volume of Ma'alim al-madrasatayn regarding the Sahaba and Imamate. The first chapter is concerned with a definition of Sahaba and their righteousness from the viewpoint of the School of the Caliphs (Sunnis) and the School of Ahl al-Bayt (a) (Shi'as), and a criticism of the definition of the Sahaba provided by Sunnis. The second chapter is concerned with imamate and the council for the election of the caliph, divine succession (khilafa) from the standpoint of the School of the Caliphs and the School of Ahl al-Bayt (a), the infallibility of Ahl al-Bayt, the selection of "Wali al-Amr" by the Prophet (s), Imam Ali (a) being known as "Wasi" (successor), as well as the concealment of the virtues of Imam Ali (a) by people and the Imam's (a) being cursed by people in the period of Mu'awiya and later Umayyad caliphs.

Moreover, Allama Askari introduces ten methods that were deployed to conceal and distort the tradition of the Prophet (s) as well as hadiths concerning the practices of Ahl al-Bayt (a) and the companions of the Prophet (s).

The Second Volume: Sources of the Islamic Shari'a

The second volume of Ma'alim al-madrasatayn is concerned with reliable religious sources from the standpoint of the School of the Caliphs and the School of Ahl al-Bayt (a). The volume begins with an explication of the following five terms in both schools: the Qur'an, Sunna, heresy, fiqh, and ijtihad. Other issues discussed in this volume are as follows: the prohibition of circulation and transcription of the Prophet's (s) hadiths in the period of the Caliphs, ijtihad from the standpoint of the School of the Caliphs, some of the Sahaba who were known as mujtahids, deployments of ijtihad by Abu Bakr and Umar concerning zakat, charity, khums, and mut'a, as well as a criticism of the Sunni, and in particular, Abu Hanifa method of ijtihad and a defense of the method of Ahl al-Bayt (a) characterized by reliance on the Qur'an and the Prophet's tradition. The volume concludes with cases in which the Caliphs exercised ijtihad and issued rulings that are contrary to explicit texts of the Qur'an and the Sunna.

The Third Volume: the Uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a) and the Method of Hadith Transmission

The third volume of Ma'alim al-madrasatayn consists of two parts: the uprising of Imam al-Husayn (a) against deviations from the Prophet's (s) tradition and the revival of the Prophet's tradition in the Islamic community by Ahl al-Bayt (a). More than half of this volume is devoted to an account of the Event of Ashura, what led to it, events after the uprising including the presence of the Captives of Karbala in al-Sham and the sermon delivered by Imam al-Sajjad (a), as well as uprisings that occurred in Mecca and Medina after the Event of Ashura. The second part of the book provides an account of how hadiths are transmitted and compiled as books in the School of Ahl al-Bayt and the School of the Caliphs.


According to Sayyid Murtada Askari in Ma'alim al-madrasatayn, the circulation and transcription of hadiths were prohibited in the period of the Caliphs, although Isra'iliyyat were circulated. He criticizes the way hadiths were transcribed by Sunni scholars, and points to mistakes made by Shiite scholars in the transcription of hadiths. A significant issue in Ma'alim al-madrasatayn concerns Sayf b. Umar. Based on Askari's research, many fabricated hadiths have been transmitted from Sayf and 150 fake Sahaba appear in chains of transmitters of his hadiths. Some issues discussed in Ma'alim al-madrasatayn include the following:

Hadith Studies

A notable domain covered by Ma'alim al-madrasatayn is the field of hadith, and in particular, the reliability of the Sunna and the transcription of hadiths. Allama Askari believed in the reliability of the Sunna, holding that the only way to access the Sunna is to refer to hadiths remaining from the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (a). Contrary to some modern Sunni intellectuals, Sayyid Murtada Askari believed that the prohibition by the Caliphs was not temporary and restricted to the transcription of hadiths. On the contrary, it was general and extended to the transmission and transcription of hadiths. According to Askari, although the Caliphs prohibited the transcription of the Prophet (s)'s hadiths, they endorsed the circulation of Isra'iliyyat.

In most of his works, Sayyid Murtada Askari defends Shiite principles. Thus, he usually cites sources that are deemed reliable by Sunni scholars. As a result, of the 2500 sources cited in Ma'alim al-madrasatayn, only five percent are Shiite sources.

Fake Sahaba

In Ma'alim al-madrasatayn, Sayyid Murtada Askari argues that one way to conceal and distort the Prophet's Sunna is the fabrication of hadiths. He shows, for example, that Sayf b. Umar al-Tamimi fabricated many hadiths, and more surprisingly, he fabricated over 150 Sahaba. According to Askari, Sayf b. Umar's hadiths found their way into over seventy important books of hadiths. One prominent example is the work of Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari who cited many of Sayf's fabricated hadiths. The introduction of Sayf b. Umar is a crucial contribution of Allama Askari in studies of rijal.


Ma'alim al-madrasatayn has been translated into Persian, French, and Pashto.