Maqatil al-talibiyyin (book)

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Maqatil al-Talibiyyin
AuthorAbu l-Faraj al-Isfahani
Original titleمَقاتِل الطالِبیّین
SubjectAbu Talib's Descendants

Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn (Arabic: مَقاتِل الطالِبیّین) is a book, written by 'Ali b. al-Husayn b. Muhammad, known as Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani, on the descendants of Abu Talib who have been killed. The book is also know as Maqātil Āl Abī Ṭālib. Because of its comprehensiveness and accuracy, this book is used and referred to by many writers.


This book is on the descendants of Abu Talib—that is, the descendants of 'Ali (a), Ja'far, and 'Aqil— who were killed.


Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani 'Ali b. al-Husayn (b. 284/897-8 - d. 356 or 357/967 or 968) was one of the descendants of Marwan b. al-Hakam. He grew up in Baghdad and benefited form the scholars there. He was a Shi'a and had expertise in various sciences. He authored numerous works most of which are not available today.

Purpose of Writing

Abu l-Faraj states that his purpose in writing the book is providing a brief account of the life and death of the descendants of Abu Talib from the time of the Prophet (s) until his own time. It should be noted that he has mentioned only those Talibids whose death had political reasons and only the uprisings which were aimed at establishing justice.

According to the editor of the book, the main purpose of the writer is providing a history of the Zaydi Imams and personalities, and it seems that his motive was supporting his own religious affiliation because he exaggerates in praising Zaydi figures.

Style of Compilation

The book is compiled in the form of hadith books, but since the writer has an emphasis on brevity, he sometimes does not mention the whole chain of transmitters of the reports. The compilation of the book was finished in 313/925-6.


The author mentions the biographies of five hundred Talibids, starting from Ja'far b. Abi Talib and ending with 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Ali, classifying them under the caliph of their time. The author first mentions the name and genealogy of the person he wants to write about, then mentions some poems in praise of that person and provides other related information.

Abu l-Faraj has a lengthy section on the account of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions and the captivity of his family.


The sources of this book are particularly important because Abu l-Faraj uses valuable sources which are not otherwise available for us.

The most widely-used source by Abu l-Faraj is a book on the account of the uprising of Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan, known as al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, and his brother Ibrahim, written by Ibn Shubba entitled Kitab Muhammad wa Ibrahim ibnay 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan (The Book on Muhammad and Ibrahim the Two Sons of 'Abd Allah b. al-Hasan).

Among other sources used by Abu l-Faraj with regard to the uprising of the 'Alids at the time of al-Mansur is the works of al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Ibn Abi Khaythama, al-Waqidi, and Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Hamza al-'Alawi.


Because of its comprehensiveness and accuracy in its reports, this book was used by many later authors. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Ibn Sufi, Ibn 'Inaba, and several Zaydi authors, used this book as their main source.