Shi’ite Books of Traditions

As mentioned earlier, books compiled by the close companions of the Imams (a.s), are called as ‘Jawaame-ul-Awwaliyyah’. In the period of Imam’s (a.t.f.s.) occultation, traditions recorded by Shia scholars in their compilations form the primary source of knowledge after the Quran. Amongst these compilations, four books of traditions occupy the highest position as far as Shia beliefs and ahkaam are concerned.

The compilers of these books were well versed in Prophetic and Imamate traditions, Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), genealogy (Ilme Rijaal), etc. These four books were compiled by three scholars of the highest level. Incidentally, all of them had the same first name, Muhammad. Each one of them had to travel far and wide, suffer hardships and undergo the most trying of circumstances to collect and compile the traditions related by the Holy Prophet (s.a.) and infallible (a.s.) Imams. These four books are termed as ‘Kutub-e-Arb’a’.

1) Kitab-e-Kafi: It consists of two parts – Usul and Furu. It is complied by Muhammad bin Yaqub Kulaini (r.a.) (exp. 329 A.H.). Collectively, these two parts contain approximately 16,199 traditions.

2) Man Laa Yahzorohul Faqih: It is compiled by Muhammad bin Ali bin Baabawayh Qummi (r.a.) referred to as ‘As-Saduq’ (exp.
380 A.H.). There are approximately 11,263 traditions in this book, of which 9,213 traditions are with their chains of narrators (musnad) and 2,050 without them (mursal).

3) Tahzeeb: It contains 13,590 traditions.

4) Istebsaar: It has 5,511 traditions.

The last two books have been compiled by Muhammad bin Hasan (r.a.) better known as Sheikh-e-Tusi (exp. 460 A.H.)


Apart from the ‘Kutube Arbaa’, the following compilations are reliable sources of Prophetic and Imamate traditions:

1) Wasaa’elush Shia: It is in 20 volumes (the latest edition has come in 30 volumes with more footnotes and explanations). It has been compiled by Muhammad b. Hasan (a.s.), more commonly known as ‘Shaikh Hurre Aameli’ (exp. 1104 A.H.).

2) Wafi: It has been compiled by Muhammad Mohsin Faiz Kaashshani (r.a.), (exp. 1090 A.H.)

3) Behaarul Anwaar: It is in 110 volumes (old edition-25 volumes). The author of this magnum opus is the great Allamah Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (r.a.) (exp. 1111 A.H).

4) Mustadrak-ul-Wasaaelish Shia: It is compiled by Mirza Hussain Ali Noori (r.a.) (exp. 1320 A.H) in 18 volumes.


There are times when there is no conclusive Quranic verse(s) or tradition(s) to substantiate a point. Under such circumstances, the consensus of Shi’ite scholars on that issue, is regarded as a decree equal to the word of the infallibles (a.s.).

For instance, the mother-in-law is mahram (with whom marriage is prohibited) for her son-in-law. This has been the case since the past generations, and moreover, there is consensus among Shi’ite jurists on this issue. There is a clear Quranic verse that declares the mother-in-law’s marriage to her son-in-law as void. However, to be mahram should not be confused with the annulment of marriage, as the two are distinct. As an illustration take the case of a man who can not marry his wife’s real sister (sister-in-law), while his wife is alive, however, his sister-in-law is not mahram for him (i.e. it is prohibited for him to marry him). Marriage is possible only with ‘na-mahram’. But here it is not so till one is married to her sister.

Even traditions acknowledge consensus thus:

"When there is consensus (on an issue), there is no doubt in its veracity."

(Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 68, H. 10)

(Note: This consensus should have some basis in Quran and traditions. Any consensus based merely on one’s whims and fancies or sheer conjecture will be rendered null and void.)

In Islam, application of intellect is given a lot of importance, not only where religion is concerned, but, in fact, it has been regarded as the basis of humanity.

The Holy Quran has emphasised that Allah’s recognition, His obedience, and belief in His Tauheed, should be based on one’s intellect. Islam does not advocate following a practice simply because one’s ancestors were following it. Such people who blindly adopt customs and practices have been severely castigated in Islam. In fact among the difficulties faced by the Prophets (a.s.) in propagation was that the people rejected them (a.s.), and persisted in their age-old practices citing the reason that this was exactly what their forefathers did.
"They said: Sufficient for us is what we found with our forefathers."
(Maaedah: 104)

These idolaters refused to give up their ancient custom of idol-worship and declined to accept the Prophet’s (s.a.w.s.) invitation towards Islam. They preferred polytheism to monotheism simply because their forefathers had made a similar choice! They snubbed the intellect, which became the cause of their deviation and damnation, which is why Islam has emphasised the application of the intellect as a means towards salvation, and as a barrier for deviation.


Until now we have attempted to define the sources of Islamic jurisprudence, and the importance of following a jurist (Mujtahid) in matters of the laws of religion (Furue Deen). Having established that, we will now proceed with the explanation of some important laws (ahkam) as illustrated by the illustrious Mujtahid of our time, Ayatullah al-Uzma Sayyid Ali Husaini Seestaani (may Allah the Almighty grant him a long life) in his ‘Tauzihul Masaail’. Inshallah, this will be very beneficial for our readers and will resolve many issues that affect them. If readers have any queries, or wish to seek some clarification, they are requested to write to us without any hesitation. With Allah’s help and assistance from Imam Mahdi (a.s.), we will try to clarify your doubts to the best of our ability.


In Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), Taqleed means to follow/obey the jurist (Mujtahid), in matters of worship (Furue Deen) and not in matters of beliefs (Usule Deen).

Every mature (baaligh), sane (aaqil) Muslim must embrace Islamic beliefs (Usule Deen) only after careful consideration, introspection and application of intellect. Taqleed is not permissible in matters of religious beliefs (Usule Deen). In other words, it is not permissible for him to accept some belief simply because his parents or relatives also advocate it.

But in matters of Furue Deen, it is his duty to adopt one of the following measures:
1. He should himself become a Mujtahid and derive religious laws.
2. He should follow a Mujtahid and act according to his edicts (fatwa).
3. He should act in such a manner so as to satisfy himself. For instance, if one Mujtahid has declared an act to be obligatory (wajib) and another has deemed the same act as recommended (mustahab), then on the basis of precaution (Ehtiyaat) he should perform that act as obligatory.

A Mujtahid must necessarily possess certain fundamental traits, the most important of which is that he should be alive, and be the most knowledgeable among all other jurists. His faculty in derivation of religious laws based on Allah’s command must be superior to all other jurists. Moreover, he should be Aadil, i.e. he should observe all obligatory acts and duties (faraaidh) and abstain from sins and disobedience of Allah.
It is the duty of every mature and sane Muslim to memorise those edicts, which have the maximum application, where he is concerned, and affect him the most.


Reward (Thawaab):– Pleasure of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.s.), success in this world, and a good recompense for virtuous deeds in the Hereafter.

Chastisement (Azaab):- Displeasure of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.s.), punishment for one’s evil deeds in the Hereafter.

Sin (Ma’seeyah):- An action that earns the wrath of Allah and the dissatisfaction of His Prophet (s.a.w.s.).

Obligatory (Wajib, fardh, maktoob):- An action, performance of which earns reward, and forsaking it, merits chastisement.

Recommended (Mustahab, Sunnat, mandoob, naafelah):- An action, its performance earns reward, and forsaking it, does not merit chastisement.

Emphasised recommendation (Sunnate Muakkadah):- A recommended action, performance of which has been strongly emphasised and earns excessive reward, and forsaking it, does not merit chastisement.

Sunnat:- It is often defined as an action that was performed by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.).

Note: The above mentioned types of actions are also called as permitted.

Abominable (Makrooh):- An action, abstinence from which earns reward, and performance of which, does not merit chastisement.

Forbidden (Haraam):- An action, performance of which merits chastisement, and forsaking it, earns reward.

Mubaah:- An action, performance of which, and abstinence from which, neither earns reward nor merits chastisement.

Qibla:- The Holy Ka’aba or its direction.

Muzaaf water:- Water which cannot be deemed pure and wherein something has been added or it is an extract or juice of something.

Hadathe Asgar:- Actions that necessitate the re-performance of wudhu like urination, emptying one’s bowels, etc.