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The book Al-Kāfī (The Sufficient Book) is a Twelver Shīʿī ḥadīth collection compiled by Muhammad ibn Ya‘qūb al-Kulaynī. It is divided into three sections: Usūl al-Kāfī, which is concerned with epistemology, theology, history, ethics, supplication, and the Qurʾān, Furūʿ al-Kāfī, which is concerned with practical and legal issues, and Rawdat (or Rauda) al-Kāfī, which includes miscellaneous traditions, many of which are lengthy letters and speeches transmitted from the Imāms. In total, al-Kāfī comprises 16,199 narrations; however, as with all Shī‘ah hadīth books, every single hadīth must be individually examined through the science of hadīth.
Usūl al-Kāfī: The first eight books of al-Kāfī are commonly referred to as Uṣūl al-kāfī. The first type-set edition of the al-Kāfī, which was published in eight volumes, placed Usūl al-kāfī in the first two volumes. Generally speaking, Usūl al-kāfī contains traditions that deal with epistemology, theology, history, ethics, supplication, and the Qurʾān.
- The Book of Intellect and Foolishness (Kitāb al-‘aql wa al-jahl) - 36 traditions
- The Book of Knowledge and its Merits (Kitāb fadl al-‘ilm) - 176 traditions
- The Book of God and his Oneness (Kitāb al-tawhīd) - 212 traditions
- The Book of Divine Guidance (Kitāb al-hujjah) - 1015 traditions
- The Book of Belief and Unbelief (Kitāb al-īmān wa al-kufr) - 1609 traditions
- The Book of Supplication (Kitāb al-du‘ā') - 409 traditions
- The Book of the Qurʾān and its Merits (Kitāb ‘adhamat al-Qur'an) - 124 traditions
- The Book of Social Intercourse (Kitāb al-muʿāsharah) - 464 traditions
Furū al-Kāfī: Books 9 through 34 are referred to as Furūʿ al-kāfī and are found in volumes three through seven of the first type-set edition. Furūʿ al-kāfī contains traditions that deal predominantly with practical and legal issues.
- The Book of Purity
- The Book of Menstruation
- The Book of Funeral Rites
- The Book of Prayer
- The Book of Charity
- The Book of Fasting
- The Book of Ḥajj
- The Book of Jihād
- The Book of Commerce
- The Book of Marriage
- The Book of Animal Sacrifice upon the Birth of a Child
- The Book of Divorce
- The Book of Emancipation
- The Book of Hunting
- The Book of Slaughtering
- The Book of Food
- The Book of Drink
- The Book of Clothing, Beautification, and Honor
- The Book of Domesticated Animals
- The Book of Testaments
- The Book of Inheritance
- The Book of Capital and Corporal Punishments
- The Book of Restitution and Blood Money
- The Book of Testimonies and Depositions
- The Book of Adjudication and Legal Precedents
- The Book of Oaths, Vows, and Penances
Rawdat al-Kāfī: The final book stands alone as Rawḍah al-kāfī, which is found in volume eight. Rawḍah al-kāfī contains nearly 600 miscellaneous traditions, many of which are lengthy letters and speeches, not arranged in any particular order.
- The Book of Miscellanea (literally a garden from which one can pick many kinds of flowers)
Shia scholars do not make any assumptions about the authenticity of a hadith book. Shias believe that there are no "sahih" hadith books that are completely reliable. Hadith books are compiled by fallible people, and thus realistically, they inevitably have a mixture of strong and weak hadiths. Kulayni himself stated in his preface that he only collected hadiths he thought were important and sufficient for Muslims to know, and he left the verification of these hadiths up to later scholars. Kulayni also states, in reference to hadiths:
"whatever (hadith) agrees with the Book of God (the Qur'an), accept it. And whatever contradicts it, reject it"
Mulla Baqir Majlisi stating in his commentary on al-Kafi, named Mir’at al-’Uqul, that 58% of narrations in al-Kafi are unreliable.
According to the great Imami scholar Zayn al-Din al-`Amili, known as al-Shahid al-Thani (911-966/1505-1559), who examined the asnad or the chains of transmission of al-Kafi's traditions, 5,072 are considered sahīh (sound); 144 are regarded as hasan (good), second category; 1,118 are held to be muwaththaq (trustworthy), third category; 302 are adjudged to be qawī‘ (strong) and 9,485 traditions which are categorized as da'if (weak).
- The author (Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni) stated in his Preface of Al-Kafi:
"You said that you would love to have a sufficient book (kitāb kāfin) containing enough of all the religious sciences to suffice the student; to serve as a reference for the disciple; from which those who seek knowledge of the religion and want to act on it can draw authentic traditions from the Truthful [imams]—may God’s peace be upon them—and a living example upon which to act, by which our duty to God—almighty is he and sublime—and to the commands of his Prophet—may God’s mercy be on him and his progeny—is fulfilled...God—to whom belongs all praise—has facilitated the compilation of what you requested. I hope it is as you desired."
- Imam Khomeini (a prominent 20th century Shī‘ah scholar) said:
"Do you think it is enough [kafi] for our religious life to have its laws summed up in al-Kāfī and then placed upon a shelf?"
The general idea behind this metaphor is that Khomeini objected to the laziness of many ignorant people of his day who simply kept al-Kafi on their shelf, and ignored or violated it in their daily lives, assuming that they would somehow be saved from Hell just by possessing the book. Khomeini argued that Islamic law should be an integral part of everyday life for the believer, not just a stale manuscript to be placed on a shelf and forgotten. The irony of the allusion is telling; Khomeini implicitly says that al-Kafi (the sufficient) is not kafi (enough) to make you a faithful Muslim or be counted among the righteous, unless you use the wisdom contained within it and act on * The famous Shī‘ah scholar Shaykh Sadūq didn't believe in the complete authenticity of al-Kāfī. Khoei points this out in his "Mu‘jam Rijāl al-Hadīth", or "Collection of Men of Narrations", in which he states:
أنّ الشيخ الصدوق : قدّس سرّه : لم يكن يعتقد صحّة جميع مافي الكافي
- "Shaykh as-Sadūq did not regard all of the traditions in al-Kāfī to be Sahih (truthful)."
The scholars have made these remarks, to remind the people that one cannot simply pick the book up, and take whatever they like from it as truthful. Rather, an exhaustive process of authentication must be applied, which leaves the understanding of the book in the hands of the learned. From the Shia point of view, any book other than the Qur'an, as well as individual hadiths or hadith narrators can be objectively questioned and scrutinized as to their reliability, and none - not even the Sahaba - are exempt from this.
The main criticism of al-Kafi as the basis for Shia fiqh, comes from prominent Sunni writers who argue that finding some hadiths in al-Kafi proves that the entire Shi'ite school is wrong. Shi'ites in reality do not rest the basis of their entire faith on the complete authenticity of this book (From where it got the name 'Al Kafi' (the sufficient). They believe that any thing that goes against previously held ideas must not be authentic. They also do not automatically accept some hadtihs from al-Kafi that have strong historical proofs.
The Qur'an is far more important to Islamic belief than any hadith book, and Shia scholars have long pointed this out.
Shia view of al-Kafi relative to other hadith books
Khoei's opinion was not unique; practically all Shia scholars are adamant that al-Kafi is not 100% authentic, but that it is the best primary hadith book currently available . Shia Muslims do not make any assumptions about the authenticity of a hadith book; Shias believe that there are no "sahih" hadith books that are completely reliable. Hadith books are compiled by fallible people, and thus realistically, they inevitably have a mixture of strong and weak hadiths.
Over a fourth of the hadiths in al-Kafi are Sahih, which (according to Shia scholars) is a better proportion than any of the Sunni Sahih books or any of the other primary Shia books, if the hadiths are objectively scrutinized according to the science of Ilm ar-Rijal. (As a side note, the "secondary" Shia hadith books, most of which were written during the 16th century under Safavid sponsorship, tend to have much more rigorous research and higher percentage of authentic hadiths than the primary ones written in the 11th century. Some notable examples are Wasael ush-Shia and Haqq al-Yaqeen).
Kulayni himself stated in his preface that he only collected hadiths he thought were important and sufficient for Muslims to know (at a time when many Muslims were illiterate and ignorant of the true beliefs of Islam, and heretical Sufi and gnostic sects were gaining popularity), and he left the verification of these hadiths up to later scholars. Kulayni also states, in reference to hadiths: "whatever (hadith) agrees with the Book of God (the Qur'an), accept it. And whatever contradicts it, reject it" .
The author of al-Kafi never intended for it to be politicized as "infallible", he only compiled it to give sincere advice based on authentic Islamic law (regardless of the soundess of any one particular hadith), and to preserve rare hadiths and religious knowledge in an easily accessible collection for future generations to study.
However, just as Sahih Bukhari is the number one book for Sunni Muslims, so is AlKafi for Shia Muslims.
Al-Kāfī is the most comprehensive collection of traditions from the formative period of Islamic scholarship. It has been held in the highest esteem by generation after generation of Muslim scholars. Shaykh al-Mufīd (d.1022 CE) extolled it as “one of the greatest and most beneficial of Shīʿah books.” Al-Shahid al-Awwal (d.1385 CE) and al-Muḥaqqiq al-Karakī (d.1533 CE) have said, “No book has served the Shīʿah as it has.” The father of ʿAllāmah al-Majlisī said, “Nothing like it has been written for Islām.”
- List of Shi'a books
- Sharh Usul al-Kafi, a commentary on the Usul al-Kafi
- Branches of Religion (Furu al-din)
- Meri, Josef W. (2005). Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia. USA: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96690-0.
- Howard, I. K. A. (1976), "'Al-Kafi' by Al-Kulayni", Al-Serat: A Journal of Islamic Studies 2 (1)
- http://www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/kafi/1.htm Hadith al-Kafi
- "Selections from Al-Kulayni's Al-Kafi".
- Islamic Texts Institute (2012). Al-Kafi Book I: Intellect and Foolishness. Taqwa Media. ISBN 9781939420008.
- Wilayat al-Faqih: Al-Hukumah Al-Islamiyyah. p.72.
- (Arabic reference)
- 'Usul al-Kafi English Translation, E-Book Volumes 1-8', compiled by Muḥammad Ya`qûb Kulaynî, translated by Muḥammad Sarwar, published by the Islamic Seminary INC NY.
- 'Al-Kafi with translation and commentary by Islamic Texts Institute'
- Selections from Usul al-Kafi
- 'Kiṫâbu-l-Kâfî', compiled by Muḥammad Ya`qûb Kulaynî, published by the Islamic Seminary INC NY, translated by Muḥammad Sarwar.