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The book al-Kafi fi ‘Ilm al-Din ("What is Sufficient in the Knowledge of the Faith") is a Twelver Shī‘ah hadīth collection compiled by Muhammad Ya‘qūb Kulaynī. It is divided into three sections: Usūl al-Kāfī, which is concerned with the principle of religion, Furū al-Kāfī, which is concerned with the details of religious law, and Rawdat (or Rauda) al-Kāfī, which is concerned with various religious aspects and includes some writings of 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 (literally, "Sufficing fundamentals") is separated into eight books, over two volumes (see below). The main focus of the book is on faith, reason and knowledge. The secondary focus is on ethic, assistance to the members of community and devotional piety as the means to attain the salvation.
- The Book of Intellect and Ignorance (Kitāb al-‘aql wa al-jahl) - 34 traditions
- The Book of the Merits of Knowledge (Kitāb fadl al-‘ilm) - 176 traditions
- The Book of Divine Unity (Kitāb al-tawhīd) - 212 traditions
- The Book of God's Proofs (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 Greatness of the Qur'an (Kitāb ‘adhamat al-Qur'an) - 124 traditions
- The Book of Social Ethics (Kitāb al-mu`asharah) - 464 traditions
Furū al-Kāfī is one of the most authoritative Shī‘ah hadīth collections, containing 11,156 traditions over five volumes. It consists of books and sections on jurisprudence and is one of the authoritative reference books for deduction and independent reasoning (ijtihād) from Islāmic law for the Shī‘ah jurisprudents (fiqh).
Rawdat al-Kāfī is the third section. It is a collection of traditions outlining various points of religious interest. Included are letters and speeches of the 12 Holy Imāms.
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 wanted to have a book which would be sufficient (for your religious needs) (kafin), which would include all kinds of knowledge (’ilm) of religion, which would be adequate for the student, and to which the teacher might refer. Thus it could be used by anyone who wanted knowledge of religion and of legal practice (’amal) according to only sound traditions (athar) from the truthful ones (the Imams)…Allah, the Most Majestic, the Most Gracious, has made the compilation of the book that you had wished for possible. I hope it will prove to be up to your expectations”
- 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).
Shia Muslims categorically reject the assumption that the Sunni collections of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are "infallible" books, since they claim these books lack of full chains of narration, their posthumous inclusion of weak narrators that both Imams Bukhari and Muslim distrusted during their lifetimes, and their large content of hadiths from politically motivated narrators or false Sahaba who became hypocrites after Muhammad's death (according to the Shia point of view). (Most Sunni scholars also believe that traditions, including those in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, need individual scrutiny of their reliability.[who?])
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.
It is however must be written that AlKafi is rated as number one among Shia Muslims book as Sahih Bukhari for Sunni Muslims.
- 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
- Nasr, S. Hossein (1989). Expectation of the Millennium : Shiìsm in History. NY: State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-88706-843-0.
- "Selections from Al-Kulayni's Al-Kafi".
- Wilayat al-Faqih: Al-Hukumah Al-Islamiyyah. p.72.
- (Arabic reference)