A short analysis on the book Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ and whether it is attributable to Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413 AH)

The correct methodology

When one attempts to trace the author of a book, one would logically first look at what the manuscript says, and after that you would look at the biographical sources closest to the era of the alleged author to see wether a book with such title is mentioned among his works. One of the sources which should immediately come to mind for this goal is Al-Fihrist by Shaykh al-Ṭūsī (d. 460 AH). This is a bibliographical book which contains names of Shīʿī authors and their books and it is one of our primary sources when it comes to Rijāl. Shaykh al-Ṭūsī also happens to be one of the foremost students of Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413 AH). Another biographical work that could be utilised is Rijāl al-Najāshī by Shaykh al-Najāshī (d. ~463 AH), which is even argued to be the most authoritative source in this field among the Shīʿa.

This is just a general picture, of course there is more depth to it such as the manner in which the manuscript has reached us etc.

What can we find about this book in history?

When we look into these early biographical sources closest to the time of Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413 AH) we find no trace of this book in the list of books he authored, not in Al-Fihrist of al-Ṭūsī (d. 460 AH)[1], nor in Rijāl al-Najāshī by al-Najāshī (d. ~463 AH)[2]. The later work Maʿlim Al-ʿUlamāʾ by Ibn Shahrāshūb (d. 588) does not mention the work either.[3]

Rather what we find is that the first time this book was attributed to Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413 AH) was in the Safavid era, by the akhbārī scholars ʿAllāmah Muḥammad Bāqir Al-Majlisī (d. 1110 AH) and Shaykh Hurr al-ʿĀmilī (d. 1104 AH), whom died nearly 700 years after Al-Mufīd. None of the scholars before them attributed this work to Al-Mufīd.

Why was it attributed to Al-Mufīd?

al-Majlisī (d. 1110 AH) sheds some light on how he came to this conclusion:

وأما كتاب الاختصاص فهو كتاب لطيف مشتمل على أحوال أصحاب النبي (صلى الله عليه وآله) والأئمة (عليهم السلام) وفيه أخبار غريبة، ونقلته من نسخة عتيقة، وكان مكتوبا على عنوانه: كتاب مستخرج من كتاب الاختصاص تصنيف أبي علي أحمد بن الحسين بن أحمد بن عمران رحمه الله.

لكن كان بعد الخطبة هكذا: قال محمد بن محمد بن النعمان: حدثني أبو غالب أحمد بن محمد الزراري وجعفر بن محمد بن قولويه إلى آخر السند، وكذا إلى آخر الكتاب يبتدئ من مشائخ الشيخ المفيد، فالظاهر أنه من مؤلفات المفيد رحمه الله

As for the book “Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ”, it is a nice book that includes the biographies of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ and the Imams عليهم السلام, and it contains reports which are unusual (gharīb). And I quoted it from an old copy, and the title written on it was: A book extracted from the book “Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ” by Abī ʿAlī Aḥmad b. Al-Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad b. ʿImran (rah).

But after the sermon it said: Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. al-Nuʿmān said: It was narrated to me by Abū Ghālib Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Zurārī and Jaʿfar b. Muḥammad b. Qūlawayh till the rest of the chain. And just like this until the end of the book it (the chains) begins with the shaykhs of Shaykh al-Mufīd, so the apparent is that it is one of al-Mufīd’s works.

Biḥār al-Anwār , vol 1, pg 27

The meaning of gharīb reports here is not “strange” reports, rather reports that are rare and are sometimes reported by only one source are referred to as gharīb (unusual).

So even on the manuscript with Al-Majlisī it said the author of Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ was Abī ʿAlī Aḥmad b. al-Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad b. ʿImran and that the book in his hands was a selection from this book, regardless of this al-Majlisī believed it to be the authoring of Shaykh al-Mufīd.

This is odd especially because in reality the chains of the narrations do not always start with the teachers of Al-Mufīd, rather only a few times, and the majority of the teachers are not those of Al-Mufīd. [4]

Shaykh Al-Mufīd only made a selection

Another opinion is that the author was indeed Abī ʿAlī but that Al-Mufīd made a selection from it.

Āghā Bozorg al-Tehrānī (d. 1970 CE) is one of those who held this opinion, we find him listing in his bibliographical work:

(1888: كتاب الاختصاص)
للشيخ أبي علي أحمد بن الحسين بن أحمد بن عمران المعاصر، للشيخ الصدوق أبي جعفر محمد بن علي بن بابويه المتوفى سنة 381 وقد استخرج منه الشيخ المفيد كتابه المعروف بالاختصاص الآتي ذكره ولم نعثر على أصل كتاب الاختصاص لأبي علي المذكور وانما الموجود المستخرج منه كما يأتي

(The book Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ: 1888)
By the Shaykh Abī ʿAlī Aḥmad b. al-Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad b. ʿImran the contemporary of Shaykh al-Ṣaduq Abī Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Babawayh (d. 381 AH) and Shaykh al-Mufīd quoted from it in his book which is known as Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ, which we shall mention next. And we did not come across the original aforementioned Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ of Abī ʿAlī, rather what we do have is the selection from it as will come

Al-Dharīʿa ilā taṣānīf al-Shīʿa, vol 1, pg 358

And then:

(1890: كتاب الاختصاص)
أي المستخرج من الاختصاص الذي الفه الشيخ أبو علي المذكور – للشيخ أبي عبد الله محمد بن محمد بن النعمان المفيد المتوفى سنة 413، استخرجه من الاختصاص المذكور وأدرجه في كتابه الموسوم بالعيون والمحاسن على ما نبينه توجد نسخة منه في الخزانة الرضوية تاريخ كتابتها سنة 1055،

(The book Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ: 1890)
Which is a selection from Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ that was authored by the aforementioned Shaykh Abū ʿAlī – by the Shaykh Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad b. al-Nuʿmān al-Mufīd (d. 413 AH), he selected from the aforementioned Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ and included it in his book named Al-ʿUyūn wal Maḥāsin, as we have shown there is a copy of it in the Radhawi library and it was written down in the year 1055 (AH)

Al-Dharīʿa ilā taṣānīf al-Shīʿa, vol 1, pg 358

It was not Shaykh Al-Mufīd’s work

The strongest opinion appears to be that it is not established that Shaykh al-Mufīd had any involvement in this book. In addition to there not being any strong indicators that this is his book/selection, we find indicators to the contrary, that it is not his book. These include the content of the book not being the style of al-Mufīd’s works and more-so appears to be the work of a muḥaddith such as Shaykh al-Ṣaduq (d. 381 AH) etc.

Contrary to the words of some individuals this opinion is not exclusive to Sayed Kamal Al-Haydari and Shaykh Moḥammed Āṣif al-Moḥsini.

Some of the scholars who do not accept the attribution of this book to al-Mufīd, include Sayed ʿAlī al-Sīstānī:

 الا ان كتاب الاختصاص لم تثبت نسبته للمفيد

However the attribution of the book Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ to al-Mufīd is not established

Taʿāruḍ al-Adilla wa Ikhtilāf al-Ḥadīth, Transcribed by Sayyid Hāshim al-Hāshimī, vol 1, pg 420

Sayed Abūl-Qāsim al-Khoeī says about it:

فإن كتاب الاختصاص لم يثبت أنه للشيخ المفيد قدس سره

For the book Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ is not established in its attribution to Shaykh al-Mufīd (qs)

Muʿjam Rijāl al-Ḥadīth, vol 8, pg 197

Renowned contemporary historian Shaykh Muḥammad Hādī Yusufī Gharawī does not affirm its attribution either:

ولا نؤكد نسبة الكتاب إلى الشيخ المفيد

And we do not affirm the attribution of the book to Shaykh Al-Mufīd

Mawsūʿat Al-Tārīkh Al-Islāmī, vol 1, pg 243, Footnote #3

The contemporary Sayed Mūsā Shubayrī Zanjānī, one of the grand scholars who specialises in the field of Rijal does not accept its attribution either:

نسبة الاختصاص إلى المفيد غير صواب ؛ لاحظ المقالات والرسالات لمؤتمر الشيخ المفيد، رقم 9 و55 أربعة مقالات حول الشيخ المفيد، المقال الرابع. ص298

The attribution of Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ to Al-Mufīd is wrong; see the articles and treatises of the Al-Mufīd conference #9 and #55, 4 articles regarding Shaykh Al-Mufīd, the 4th article, pg 298

Ḥāshiya on the Risāla ʿadīmat al-naẓīr fī aḥwāl Abī Baṣīr pg 448

While discussing one of its narrations Sayed Kāẓim al-Ḥāʾirī mentions his view and that of his teacher Shaheed Bāqir al-Ṣadr:

أفاد أستاذنا الشهيد- (رحمه اللّه)- أنّه لا دليل على كون الاختصاص للشيخ المفيد- (قدّس سرّه)- عدا كونه من الكتب التي اشتهرت عنه.

أقول: بناء على كون الاختصاص للمفيد- (رحمه اللّه)- فالذي يبدو أنّه هو الجزء الأوّل من كتاب العيون و المحاسن للشيخ المفيد مستخرج من الاختصاص للشيخ أبي علي أحمد بن الحسين بن أحمد بن عمران، أو أنّ كتاب العيون و المحاسن يسمّى كلّه بكتاب الاختصاص بمناسبة أوّل أجزائه المستخرج من كتاب الاختصاص لأبي علي‏ (١)

. و على أيّ حال فهذا الحديث قد ورد سنده في كتاب الاختصاص المنسوب إلى الشيخ المفيد- (رحمه اللّه)- هكذا: (حدّثنا محمّد بن الحسن عن محمّد بن الحسن الصفّار و سعد بن عبد اللَّه، عن أحمد بن محمّد بن عيسى، عن عبد اللَّه بن محمّد الحجال عن العلاء بن رزين، عن عبد اللَّه بن أبي يعفور قال: قلت لأبي عبد اللَّه (عليه السلام) … إلخ).

و من البعيد جدا افتراض كون القائل لعبارة: (حدّثنا محمّد بن الحسن … إلخ) هو الشيخ المفيد- (رحمه اللّه)-، لأنّ محمّد بن الحسن بن الوليد توفي بسنة ثلاثمائة و ثلاث و أربعين حسب نقل النجاشي، و الشيخ المفيد ولد في سنة ثلاثمائة و ست و ثلاثين حسب نقل النجاشي، أو في سنة ثلاثمائة و ثمان و ثلاثين حسب نقل الشيخ الطوسي، و هذا يعني أنّ الشيخ المفيد- (رحمه اللّه)- كان عمره عند وفاة محمّد بن الحسن بن الوليد ما يقارب سبع سنين، أو خمس سنين. إذن فعبارة (حدّثنا محمّد بن الحسن … إلخ) هي على الأكثر للشيخ أبي علي أحمد بن الحسين بن أحمد بن عمران، و هو غير معروف لدينا.

The useful words of our teacher the shaheed – (rah) – that there is no evidence for attributing Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ to Shaykh al-Mufīd – (qs) – other than the book becoming famous as such

I [al-Ḥāʾirī] say: Based on the assumption that Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ is by al-Mufīd – (rah) – it seems that it is the first volume of the book Al-ʿUyūn wal Maḥāsin by Shaykh al-Mufīd selected from Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ by Abī ʿAlī Aḥmad b. al-Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad b. ʿImran, or that the book Al-ʿUyūn wal Maḥāsin in its entirety was named as Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ because the first of its volumes being the selection from the book Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ by Abī ʿAlī [1].

In any case this hadiths chain was mentioned in Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ that is attributed to Shaykh al-Mufīd – (rah) – in this way:

(It was narrated to us by Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan on the authority of Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṣaffār and Saʿd b. ʿAbdallāh on the authority of Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. ʿIsā on the authority of ʿAbdallāh b. Muḥammad Al-Ḥajjal on the authority of al-ʿAlā b. Razīn on the authority of ʿAbdallāh b. Abī Yaʿfūr who said: I said to Abī ʿAbdillāh (as) … [etc]).

And it is very far fetched that we should assume that the one who said (It was narrated to us by Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan) is Shaykh al-Mufīd – (rah) -, because Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan b. al-Walīd passed away in the year 343 (AH) as transmitted by al-Najāshī, and Shaykh al-Mufīd was born in the year 336 (AH) based on what al-Najāshī transmitted, or in the year 338 (AH) based on what was transmitted by Shaykh al-Ṭūsī, and this would mean that Shaykh al-Mufīd – (rah) – was approximately 7 or 5 years old when Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan b. al-Walīd passed away. Therefore the words (It was narrated to us by Muḥammad b. Al-Ḥasan … [etc]) are at best those of the Shaykh Abī ʿAlī Aḥmad b. al-Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad b. ʿImran, and he is not known to us

[1] – See Al-Dharīʿa, vol 1, pgs 358-360, Book #1890

Mubāḥith al-Uṣūl, vol 2, pg 510, Footnote #1

Views of contemporary academics

Professor Sayed Hossein Modarressi who refers to the author as:


Modarressi, H. (1993). Early Debates on the Integrity of the Qur’an: A Brief Survey. Studia Islamica, (77), 5. Note 75

Etan Kohlberg states:

The Ikhtiṣāṣ consists largely of traditions and preserves some older Shiʿi texts. It has traditionally been regarded as a work of the Shiʿi theologian and jurist Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. al-Nuʿmān known as al-Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413/1022), though this is in all likelihood a misattribution.

In Praise of the Few. Studies in Shiʿi Thought and History, pg 446

Hassan Ansari is more certain about the incorrect attribution of the book as he states in an article:

عدم صحت انتساب مجموع کتاب الاختصاص به دانشمند و متکلم و فقيه بلند مرتبه اماميه، شيخ مفيد امر بسيار روشنی است و در اين مورد کمترين ترديدی وجود ندارد. وضعيت آشفته اين انتساب وسيله آقابزرگ طهرانی و ديگران مورد بررسی قرار گرفته و دانشمند رجال شناس آقای سيد محمد جواد شبيری هم در مقاله ای عالمانه که سالها پيش منتشر شد، اشتباه بودن اين انتساب را با دلايل متقن نشان داده اند[۱]. بنابراين بحثی درباره اين مسئله وجود ندارد.

The incorrect attribution of all of the book Al-Ikhtiṣāṣ to the high-ranking Imāmī scholar, theologian and jurist, Shaykh Mufīd, is a very clear matter in which there isn’t the slightest of doubt. The messy situation of this attribution has been studied by Āghā Bozorg Tehrānī and others. The rijālist scholar Sayed Muḥammad Jawād Shubayrī Zanjānī has also shown the error of this attribution with firm proofs in a scholarly article published years ago. Thus, there is no discussion to be had about this issue.

Nemūne-yī az dafāter mohadethān: ketāb al-ikhtisās mansūb be Shaykh Mufīd – http://ansari.kateban.com/print/1233


1 Al-Fihrist, Person #696, pg 157
2 Rijāl al-Najāshī, Person #1067, pg 399
3 Maʿlim Al-ʿUlamāʾ, Person #765, pg 122
4 According to an unnamed source, as little as 5 of al-Mufīd’s teachers are cited from and the 16 other ḥadith authorities are not of al-Mufīd’s teachers and he never narrated from them except in this book. Sayed Jaʿfar Murtaḍā quotes this in his book without objecting to it, and rather accepting that the author is Abī ʿAlī. See Maʾsāt al-Zahrā’, pg 182

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