Introduction of Prominent Shia Ulema (2)
Welcome to this week’s episode of the series Introduction of Prominent Shia Ulema. Today, we introduce Sheikh Kolayni. He is the best known Shia scholar, who lived concurrent with the Minor Occultation of the 12th Infallible Imam of the Prophet of Islam’s Household, Imam Mahdi (May God hasten his reappearance).
Known for his truthfulness and righteousness, Sheikh Kolayni was especially skilled in recognition of hadiths and Islamic narrations such that Shias and Sunnis, both, considered him as a source of reference for their religious studies. This prominent Shia scholar is the compiler of the most important and valuable book of the four main Shia books of hadith, “Kaafi”.
Sheikh Abu Jafar Mohammad ibn Yaqoub ibn Esshaq Razi, popularly known as Sheikh Kolayni, is the best known Shia theologian and hadith scholar of 3rd Century AH. In accordance to existing data, Sheikh Kolayni was born into a knowledgeable and virtuous family, in the town of Kolayn, in the vicinity of the city of Rayy, concurrent with the Imamate of the 11th Infallible Imam of the Prophet of Islam’s Household, Imam Hassan Askari (Peace be upon him). His father and maternal uncle were two of the well-known Ulema and hadith scholars of their era. This prominent scholar passed away in the year 329 AH, concurrent with the end of the Minor Occultation of Imam Mahdi (May God hasten his reappearance). Sheikh Kolayni’s studies and scientific activities were concurrent with the era of Minor Occultation of Imam Mahdi. Hence, Sheikh Kolayni was contemporary to the four especial deputies of Imam Mahdi, who were mediators between people and the Imam.
At first, Sheikh Kolayni acquired Islamic sciences under his father and maternal uncle, who were two of the prominent hadith scholars and Ulema of that era. Thereafter, he took up residence in the city of Rayy, upon completion of his religious studies. In that phase in time, the majority of residents of the city of Rayy were Sunnis. However, the nearby villagers were Shias who were devoted to the Prophet of Islam’s Infallible Household. Hence, the city of Rayy was popularly known as a Shia city.
Kolayni learned the science of hadith in the city of Rayy, under Abul-Hassan Mohammad bin Asadi Kufi.
Meanwhile, Kolayni migrated to the holy city of Qom to complete his religious studies. Over there, he attended the classes of prominent teachers, and met many individuals who directly cited hadiths from the 10th and 11th Infallible Imams of the Prophet of Islam’s Household, Imam Haadi and Imam Hassan Askari (Peace be upon them).
In continuation to his quest for acquisition of knowledge, Sheikh Kolayni left Qom for the city of Kufa, which was one of the main scientific centers, to which many traveled to, in order to promote their religion and beliefs. Thereafter, Sheikh Kolayni took up residence in Baghdad. In this phase in time, he was well-known, to an extent that Shias and Sunnis referred to him to present their questions on religion.
Concurrent with the Minor Occultation of Imam Mahdi, people were no longer blessed by his presence among them. In this phase in time, a few tried to forge fake hadiths and/or deviate the existing hadiths, in order to gain power and reach their interests, by taking advantage of the absence of the Imam. Furthermore, given that the city of Rayy was among the most important Islamic cities at that time, different sects rivaled each other for promotion of their beliefs. Under these circumstances, the Ulema of each Islamic denomination made every effort to safeguard their hadiths, such that the said period of time was referred to as the Era of Hadith.
Meanwhile, Shias, unlike the followers of other Islamic denominations, treasured the blessed presence of the Infallible Imams of the Prophet of Islam’s Household, and upon the demise of Prophet Mohammad, heard countless hadiths from the Infallible Imams for 250 years. At the time in which Sheikh Kolayni began to collect hadiths, which was concurrent with the Minor Occultation of Imam Mahdi, it was still possible to access Imam via his especial deputies, and there were hadith scholars who directly cited hadiths from Imam Haadi and Imam Hassan Askari (Peace be upon them).
Sheikh Kolayni, who lived in the sensitive phase of Minor Occultation, appropriately realized the need of his era, and the possibility of deviation of religion. Hence, he decided to collect hadiths and teachings of the Prophet of Islam’s Infallible Household, in order to save people, via their compliance with the teachings of Infallible Imams. For this purpose, he traveled to different cities in order to collect hadiths, so that the international community would be able to find the truth and to be immune from depravity upon benefitting from the teachings of Prophet Mohammad’s Infallible Household.
During the era of Sheikh Kolayni; people, Ulema, and scientists had no access to the source of knowledge and prudence due to the absence of Imam Mahdi (Peace be upon him). Furthermore, there was no other reliable source, which they could refer to, in order to answer their questions. Hence, Ulema did not know the answer to many of people’s questions. Meanwhile, the outcome of Sheikh Kolayni’s hard work was presented to Muslims and Ulema, in the form of several valuable volumes of books under the name of Kaafi. For more than a thousand years, Ulema and religious scholars, from every Islamic denomination, have needed and referred to this book.
In the next episode, we will become more familiar with this prominent Islamic scholar and his valuable book: “Kaafi”.