Sulayman b. Mihran al-A'mash

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Sulayman b. Mihran al-A'mash
Full NameSulayman b. Mihran al-A'mash al-Kufi
Well-known AsA'mash Kufi
Religious AffiliationShi'a
Place of ResidenceKufa
Death147/764-5 or 148/765-6
Professors'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud, Aban b. Abi 'Ayyash, Uday b. Thabit
StudentsHafs b. Ghiyath, Abubakr b. 'Ayyash
Notable rolesTransmitting hadiths about the vitues of Imams (a)
ActivitiesDefending Imam Ali (a) before caliphs

Sulaymān b. Mihrān (Arabic: سلیمان بن مهران) known as Al-ʾAʿmash (Arabic: الأَعمش) is among the scholars of Kufa in the 2nd/9th century. He was a Shi'a and a companion of Imam al-Sadiq (a). Even though Sulayman believed in Shi'a Islam, Sunni scholars praised him very much and approved his reliability. He was among the narrators of the virtues of Imam Ali (a) and transmitted reports in this regard, directly from Imam al-Sadiq (a). Sulayman al-A'mash was among prominent representatives of the school of Kufa and followers of the teachings of 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud in the knowledge of hadith, jurisprudence and recitation of the Qur'an.

Name and Lineage

"Abu Muhammad Sulayman b. Mihran" lived in Kufa and in the Islamic sources he is mentioned as "al-A'mash al-Kufi". Due to the weakness of his eyesight, he was known as "al-A'mash".

He was among mawlas of Banu Kahil, a branch of Banu Asad tribe. Most reports mentioned that he is originally an Iranian and his father was from Tabaristan and Damavand (a region between Tabaristan and Ray). Apparently, his father was taken captive in the wars of Muslims in the north of Iran and later a person from Banu Asad bought him and then released him.

The year of his birth is mentioned 61/680-1, the same year of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a). In some reports, the father of Sulayman participated in the battle of Karbala, but there is no information on whether he was in the army of Imam (a) or in the army of his enemy. If this news is correct, the reports that he was born in Tabaristan would not be acceptable.

Sulayman passed away in 147/764-5 and according to another report, in 148/765-6, at the age of 88.


Sulayman al-A'mash was among great Shi'a personalities and a companion of Imam al-Sadiq (a). Although, his name is not mentioned in some main sources of Shi'a rijal, Shi'a scholars of rijal and tarajim who mentioned his name, did not doubt about his reliability. Sunni sources too mentioned his belief in Shi'a Islam. Sulayman's denomination is not strange, since he lived in Kufa which was a Shi'a center.

His Belief in Shi'a Islam

Transmitting Hadiths about the Virtues of Imams (a)

Al-A'mash was famous for transmitting hadiths about the vitues of Imam Ali (a). According to a report, Al-Sayyid Isma'il al-Himyari, a Shi'a poet, heard some hadiths from him about the virtues of Imam Ali (a) and composed his poems based on them.

It is also reported that on the last days of his life, Abu Hanifa who was contemporary with Sulayman, told him, "You transmitted hadiths about Ali (a) that if you renounce them, it would be better for you such as the hadith of "I am the divider of the fire". Sulayman answered to Abu Hanifa with another hadith and said, the Prophet (s) said, "On the Day of Judgment, God will ask me and Ali (a), "Call anyone you wish to enter the Paradise and send to the hell anyone who took you as enemy".

In Shi'a sources, many hadiths are transmitted by al-A'mash from Imam al-Sadiq (a) about the issue of imamate and proving the imamate of Ali (a). His name also exists in the chain of transmission of some hadiths from the noble Prophet (s) about proving the imamate of Ali (a). Moreover, he has transmitted some hadiths about criticizing Mu'awiya and the people of Jamal.

Defending Ali (a) before caliphs

According to some historical reports, Sulayman was sometimes under pressure due to his belief in Shi'a Islam. It is reported that Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik wrote a letter to al-A'mash in which he ordered him to write to him about the virtues of 'Uthman b. 'Affan and the vices of Ali (a). Al-A'mash put the letter of Hisham in the mouth of a sheep and told the messenger of Hisham to go to Hisham and tell him that his answer was that. When the messenger of Hisham insisted to receive an answer from him, Sulayman wrote for Hisham, "If 'Uthman has all the virtues of the people on the earth, they would not benefit him and if Ali (a) has all the vices of the people on the earth, they would not harm him. So, you just care about yourself."

According to a report, once Mansur Abbasi summoned Sulayman to himself and asked about the virtues of Ali (a) and also asked him how many hadiths he knew about the virtues of Ali (a). Sulayman answered, "Ten thousand hadiths", then transmitted a hadith about the virtues of Imam (a) to him.

Sulayman's opinion about the uprising of Zayd

One of the events during the life of Sulayman was the uprising of Zayd b. Ali b. al-Husayn (a). It is narrated that he said, "If I had any hope about the victory of Zayd b. Ali, I would take part in his uprising." This can be interpreted as a kind of confirmation of the uprising of Zayd. However, some of the reports about him show that he avoided engaging in such measures and he doubted about their truth.

Scholarly Position

Sulayman b. Mihran was among the greatest scholars of Kufa. Among his contemporary ones, he was the most knowledgeable person in reciting the Qur'an and regarding hadiths and religious obligations. Most Sunni scholars of rijal mentioned his reports reliable.

His hadiths are counted up to four thousand hadiths. He was known as the most knowledgeable person about hadiths of 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud. Although, Ibn Shihab Zahri, the famous transmitter of hadith from Medina, used to say that the knowledge of Iraqis is weak, when he saw a collection of the hadiths of al-A'mash, he praised it. One of the characteristics of al-A'mash, as a transmitter of hadiths, was his accuracy about the chains of transmission of hadiths. He was unsatisfied with the approach of the people of Hadith who transmitted many hadiths regardless of their authenticity.

Sulayman was among great reciters of the Qur'an. According to Ibn Sa'd, he recited the Qur'an for the people in Kufa and they accorded their recitations with his recitations. His major teacher in recitation was Yahya b. Wathab who had a long and close relationship with. Yahya had learned his recitation from Ibn Mas'ud. That is why Sulayman's recitation was considered close to Ibn Mas'ud's. Some researchers emphasized that al-A'mash's recitation was not merely copying Ibn Mas'ud's, but, it was a selection from among the recitations attributed to Ibn Mas'ud and was in fact an effort towards reconstruction of Ibn Mas'ud's recitation system. Method of al-A'mash's recitation continued after him through the recitations of Hamza and Kasa'i. His recitation was independently preserved for a while afterwards.

Al-A'mash was also considered among great jurisprudents of his time. He followed Ibn Mas'ud in jurisprudence and was considered a prominent student of Ibrahim Nakha'i. He followed Tabi'in of Kufa in jurisprudence, and was very cautious regarding permissible and forbidden issues and the same as his teacher, Ibrahim Nakha'i, avoided speaking about whether some issues were permissible or Haram forbidden.

Teachers and Students

Beside being a student of Imam al-Sadiq (a), al-A'mash was under influence of the scholarly atmosphere of Iraq and his most important source of knowledge in hadiths, jurisprudence and the Qur'an was the teachings of Ibn Mas'ud, and even though he did not directly contact with Ibn Mas'ud, he was educated by the students of Ibn Mas'ud.

According to some reports, Sulayman met Anas b. Malik but there is doubt about whether he learned any hadith from Anas.

His other teachers can be listed as below:

  • 'Abd Allah b. Abu Awfa
  • Hakam b. 'Utayba
  • Abu Ishaq al-Sabi'i
  • Aban b. Abi Ayyash
  • Talq b. Habib
  • Zayd b. Wahab
  • Abu 'Amr Shaybani
  • Abu Zabyan b. Jundab
  • Khuthayma b. 'Abd al-Rahman al-Ju'fi
  • Sa'id b. Ba'ida
  • Sulayman b. Mushir
  • Talha b. Masrif
  • Talha b. Nafi'
  • Ibrahim Nakha'i
  • 'Abd Allah b. Murra
  • 'Abd al-Aziz b. Rafi'
  • 'Abd al-Malik b. 'Umayr
  • 'Uday b. Thabit
  • 'Ammara b. 'Umayr

His students are many; and many of the people of Iraq learned hadith from him, among whom, the following people can be mentioned:

  • Sufyan Thuri
  • Shu'ba b. al-Hajjaj
  • Hafs b. Ghiyath
  • Hakam b. 'Utayba
  • Abu Ishaq al-Sabi'i
  • Jarir b. Hazim
  • Suhayl b. Abi Salih
  • Ibrahim b. Tahman
  • Abu Ishaq al-Fazari
  • Abubakr b. 'Ayyash
  • 'Abd Allah b. Idris

Moral Characteristics

There are historical reports about his sense of humor. However, some reports considered him a grumpy person. Al-A'mash was a pious person who disregarded kings and rich ones despite his poverty. Sources also reported about his observation of congregational prayer.