The Transfer of Kufa’s Hadith Heritage to Qom | History of Imami Shi’i Theology (5)

During the Imamate of Imam Baqir (s) and Sadiq (s), there was a lot of encouragement from the Imams to their students and companions to begin recording down traditions. As this shift from oral to a written tradition became a culture amongst them, there was naturally a large output of written works over the next century. Kufa being the hub for Shi’i activity naturally possessed the most written works at the time.

As scholars from Qom would initially travel to Kufa to acquire traditions of the Imams from the various scholars and companions that resided there, the tables would eventually turn as Kufa’s scholarly circles began to diminish and its heritage began being transferred to Qom. Scholars who played a role in transferring this heritage to Qom include personalities such as Muhammad bin Khalid al-Barqi, Husayn bin Sa’eed al-Ahwazi, Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa al-Ash’ari, Ibrahim bin Hashim and others. To analyze this phenomenon in a little more detail, bibliographical works are utilized to see how books were being moved around from one place to another.[1]

Muhammad bin Khalid al-Barqi and his son Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Barqi are two other individuals who played a role in this transfer. Most of their teachers appear to be from Kufa, whereas their students appear to be from Qom. Both father and son also seem to have traveled to Kufa like Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Ash’ari and tooks narrations from there and then returned back to Qom to transmit them. Muhammad bin Khalid al-Barqi seems to be the earliest person to have brought over some of the Kufan hadith heritage to Qom. However, he does not seem to have very cautious in who he would take narrations from and was accused of even narrating from weak narrators.[2] There are also hardly any traditions that he narrates from reliable scholars such as Hasan bin Mahbub or Ibn Abi ‘Umayr. This eventually even leads to Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Ash’ari (the next scholar) exiling Muhammad al-Barqi out of Qom.

Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa al-Ash’ari who was one of the greatest scholars of Qom during his time, played a great role in bringing over the Kufan heritage by traveling to Kufa himself. Some of the works that he was able to bring back to Qom with himself were the book of ‘Ala bin Zarin, Aban bin ‘Uthman al-Ahmar, Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Abi Nasr al-Bazanti, Hasan bin Mahbub al-Kufi, Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Fadhdhal, Safwan bin Yahya al-Bajali, ‘Abdul Rahman bin Abi Najran, ‘Ali bin Hadid al-Mada’ini, Ibn Abi ‘Umayr, Muhammad bin Ismail bin Bazi’, and Muhammad bin Sinan Zahiri.

What is of interest here is that the books Ahmad was bringing with him were those that were famous, well-known and reliable works within Shi’i scholarly circles. This indicates that Ahmad was very cautious of the narrations he accepted and transmitted, and we see this translating into him exiling many narrators from Qom (like the aforementioned al-Barqi) who he found to be narrating from weak narrators.

Husayn bin Sa’eed bin Hammad bin Sa’eed bin Mehran al-Ahwazi was another Kufan scholar who played a role in bringing over some works to Qom. Him and his brother Hasan first leave Kufa and travel to Ahwaz and then migrate to Qom. They bring with themselves the works of Rib’iyy bin ‘Abdillah al-Basri, Shu’ayb al-‘Aqr Qufiyy, Hamid bin Muthanna, Qasim bin Muhammad Jawhari al-Kufi, Qasim bin Sulayman al-Baghdadi, Qasim bin ‘Urwah al-Baghdadi, Hariz bin ‘Abdillah al-Sijistani, Zur’ah bin Muhammad al-Hadhrami and more. Husayn also brings with himself thirty of his own written works to Qom and transmitted them to various students.

Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin ‘Ali bin Ibrahim bin Musa al-Sayrafi – known as Abu Sumaynah, a Kufan narrator who was eventually exiled from Qom by Ahmad bin Muhammad as well, brought with him the book of Ishaq bin Yazid bin Ismail al-Ta’i, some books of Ismail bin Mehran bin Abi Nasr al-Sakuni, book of Hafs bin ‘Asim Salami, book of Sulaym bin Qays, book of Salam bin ‘Abdillah al-Hashimi, book of Haytham bin Waqid Jazari, book of Abu Badr al-Kufi and the book of Nasr bin Mazahim al-Kufi. He will be referred to again in a later post when we discuss the phenomenon of certain narrators being exiled from the city of Qom.

Muhammad bin ‘Abdul Jabbar al-Qumi – known as Ibn Abi al-Sahban, a companion of Imam Jawwad, Hadi, and ‘Askari. He was also one of those scholars who traveled to Kufa and brought back with him some of Kufa’s hadith heritage. His most important teachers in Kufa were Safwan bin Yahya, Muhammad bin Ismail Bazi’, and Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Fadhdhal. It doesn’t seem like he had any book of his own, and was merely recognized as someone who was able to transfer over some of the hadith works from Kufa to scholars in Qom. Most of his narrations in Qom are narrated by Ahmad bin Idris, ‘Abdullah bin Ja’far al-Himyari, Muhmmad bin al-Hasan al-Saffar and Muhammad bin Yahya al-‘Attar.

Perhaps the most prolific scholar who is renowned for bringing much of Kufa’s hadith heritage to Qom is Ibrahim bin Hashim. He is remembered as the first scholar to bring Kufa’s hadith to Qom and to have spread it. Some of the works he brought with him were: the Asl of Ibrahim bin ‘Abd al-Hamid, books of Ismail bin Abi Ziyad al-Sakuni, books of Hariz bin ‘Abdillah al-Sijistani, book of ‘Abdullah bin Sinan, books of Ibn Abi ‘Umayr, books of Muhammad bin Ismail bin Bazi’, Asl of Hisham bin Salim, some books of Mufadhdhal bin ‘Umar, book of Zayd Narasi, book of Sulaym Farra’, book of Yahya bin ‘Imran bin ‘Ali bin Abi Shu’ba al-Halabi just to name a few.[3]

For at least the next 150 years, Qom would become the most important city when it came to Shi’i theological discourse. Eventually much of Qom’s hadith heritage does return back to Iraq, to the city of Baghdad when the likes of Shaykh Mufid begin gaining authority.

With regards to the topic of Kufa’s heritage moving over to Qom, Ibrahim bin Hashim is notably remembered by multiple scholars as being the first person to spread the hadith of the Kufans in Qom was him.[4] However, when we look at the list above, we see that Muhammad bin Khalid al-Barqi, Husayn bin Sa’eed and Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa were all scholars who had already brought with them a lot of traditions from Kufa much before Ibrahim bin Hashim. So why is it that the latter scholars gave this honour to Ibrahim rather than those who were prior to him? There could be a few possible reasons for this and a closer look at the other three scholars may help us in determining this.

One thing to note is that the attribution given to Ibrahim bin Hashim is that the works he brought to Qom were widely-spread, not that he merely transmitted them or passed them down to his students. That being said, when we consider al-Barqi, it is known that one of the reasons he was exiled from Qom by Ahmad al-Ash’ari was because he would narrate from unknown or weak people. This would have been enough of a reason for many of the scholars of Qom to act cautiously with regards to his narrations, leading to his narrations not having spread to such an extent where it would be deemed as spreading the Kufan heritage. Some have suggested that it is possible al-Barqi may have returned back to his own town on the outskirts of Qom called Barqah-Rud, and that would have been a plausible reason why his ahadith did not spread in Qom – however this seems far-fetched, simply because Qom seems to be the most sensible location for a scholar of hadith to have returned back to, and also when we see that Ahmad al-Ash’ari exiled him from Qom it indicates that he was in Qom to begin with.

As for Husayn bin Sa’eed, he had thirty of his own written works in Kufa which he brought with him to Qom. His main focus had been to spread these narrations which he had compiled himself, and not the rest of the heritage he had brought with him. Furthermore, Husayn bin Sa’eed did not live too long after coming to Qom, dying a short while after, which could mean that he simply didn’t have enough time to spread and transmit all the works he had brought with him to such an extent that would merit him the status of being the first one to widely-spread the heritage of Kufa in Qom.

When it comes to Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Ash’ari – who was also the authority in Qom – it seems that there may been another reason he is not given this description. He not only had more of an opportunity to widely spread the heritage of Kufa that he had brought back with him to Qom, but he also had many of the same teachers as Ibrahim bin Hashim and both were living during the same era. The one factor that could have caused the scholars to still give Ibrahim bin Hashim the credit for spreading the heritage of Kufa in Qom the fact that Ibrahim was someone who was brought up and raised in Kufa, whereas Ahmad was originally a scholar of Qom. In other words, Ibrahim was the first Kufan scholar who have come to Qom and have the Kufan heritage widely-spread in the city.

Another side point that should be mentioned here is that Ibrahim bin Hashim is credited for carrying over the theological teachings of the school of the great theologian and companion Hisham bin Hakam from Kufa to Qom as well. Ibrahim bin Hashim is claimed to have been the student of Yunus bin ‘Abdul Rahman who himself was one of the strongest students of Hisham bin Hakam. Whether Ibrahim was indeed a student of Yunus or not is disputed as there is no narration which Ibrahim narrates directly from Yunus (as is the natural case in a student-teacher relationship), and every narration from Yunus appears to have an individual between them. Nevertheless, Ibrahim does seem to have been influenced by this school of thought, and likewise his son Ali bin Ibrahim who will be discussed in a later article as well.

This is important to know because figures such as Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Ash’ari and many later Qom scholars were staunchly against some of the theological ideas of Hisham bin Hakam, and had even written books against him and Yunus bin ‘Abdul Rahman. Despite this, they were still welcoming of Ibrahim bin Hashim and his narrations which indicates the level of trust and respect Ibrahim must have had in the city of Qom.

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[1] One of the works I have heavily relied on for this blog post is the research paper: Sayr-e Intiqal-e Mirath-e Maktub-e Shi’eh dar Ayeneh-ye Fihrist-ha written by Ruhullah Shaheedi and Dr. Muhammad Ali Mahdawi-Raad.

[2] Al-Fihrist of Shaykh Tusi, pg. 52

[3] Refer to Najashi’s al-Rijal and Shaykh Tusi’s al-Fihrist. About 19 more works can be found in Shaykh Tusi’s al-Fihrist and 3 more in Najashi’s al-Rijal.

[4] The famous line as recorded in Najashi’s al-Rijal is this: أصحابنا يقولون: أوّل من نشر حديث الكوفيين بقم, هو (Our scholars have said: The first person to spread the hadith of the Kufans in Qom, was him)

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