Sulaym ibn Qays

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sulaym ibn Qays
Arabic: سليم بن قيس‎‎
Birthplace Kufa
Ethnicity Arab
Known For Being a loyal companion of Imam Ali and the Ahl al-Bayt
Influences Muhammad, Ali, the Ahl al-Bayt, Salman the Persian, Miqdad and Abu Dharr al-Ghifari
Died 76 AH (695 AD)
Father Qays
Religion Islam
Denomination Shia
Influenced Aban ibn abi-Ayyash
Works The Book of Sulaym ibn Qays, narrater of Hadith, and History of Islam
Era Islamic golden age

Sulaym ibn Qays al-Hilālī al-ʿĀmirī (Arabic: سليم بن قيس‎‎) was, according to Shia Muslim tradition, one of the companions of Ali towards the end of the latter's life. Sulaym was also said to be a loyal companion of Ali's sons Hasan and Husayn, the latter's son Ali Zayn al-'Abidin, and Muhammad al-Baqir.[1][2] He reportedly authored the well-known book, Kitab Sulaym ibn Qays (The Book of Sulaym ibn Qays). Shia scholarship view Sulaym as "an anti-Umayyad" because of his love for the Ahl al-Bayt (household of Muhammad) and the "documentation" of the Event of Saqifah in his book.

Sources and dispute of existence[edit]

Much of the information about Sulaym comes from Shia Muslim tradition.[3] According to modern historian Mokhtar Djebeli, "the very existence of this man, and his work, should be regarded with caution, since apart from Ibn al-Nadim ... only a few Shi'is mention him, and then only in a very terse and laconic fashion".[3] Ibn al-Nadim himself, as well as later biographers including al-Tusi, relied on the Alid writer Ali ibn Ahmad al-Aqiq (d. 911).[3] The Shafi'i scholar Ibn Abi'l-Hadid, who was fully versed in Shi'a literature[citation needed], questioned Sulaym's existence, claiming "he had heard" certain Twelver Shi'a scholars assert that Sulaym was "pure invention of the imagination" and "his alleged book being nothing but the apocryphal work of a forger".[3]

The Twelver scholars Ahmad ibn Ubayda (d. 941) and Abu Abd Allah al-Ghadhanfari (d. 1020) based their denial of the existence of Sulaym's book on three factors: a segment in the book indicates there were thirteen imams instead of the traditionally held twelve; another segment states Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr condemned his dying father Abu Bakr despite Muhammad being a three-year-old child; and the book was allegedly solely transmitted to Aban ibn Abi Ayyash, despite the fact that the latter was only fourteen-years-old.[3] However, the prominent Twelver scholar al-Hilli rejected theories about Sulaym's non-existence, though Djebli asserts al-Hilli's "arguments were too unconvincing to sweep away such doubts".[3][dubious ] Nonetheless, later Shi'a biographers produced al-Hilli's arguments verbatim, and Sulaym's book is considered by Shi'a scholars as among the oldest sources of Shi'a thought and superior to the much later four works of Sunni tradition, namely the Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Musnad Ibn Ḥanbal and Muwaṭṭaʾ Imām Mālik.[3]


Early life[edit]

Sulaym ibn Qays was born near the place where Kufa was later built.[4] The exact date of Sulaym's birth is not known, however scholars estimate that Sulaym was born between 7 and 9 Hijrah (somewhere during the early years after migration of the Holy Prophets to Medina and his demise).[2] His father was Qays, hence his name ibn Qays (son of Qays). He belonged to the Banu Hilal branch of the Banu 'Amir tribe.[5]

Immigration to Medina[edit]

It is documented that Sulaym moved to Medina during the caliphate of Umar. He is among the people who never met Muhammad. While in Medina, Sulaym became very attracted to Imam Ali. His attraction led him to become a partisan of Ali, along with Abu Dhar al-Ghifari, Salman al-Muhammadi, Miqdad ibn Aswad, and Ammar ibn Yasir.[4] Ibn al-Nadim stated that Sulaym ibn Qays was among the devout companions of Ali in his book about the early Muslim scholars and hadith contributors.[2]

Final days[edit]

In 694, Sulaym fled to Persia with his writings because Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, the Umayyad general and persecutor of the Alids, became the governor of Kufa;[4] Al-Hajjaj sought to arrest and execute Sulaym.[2] In Persia, Sulaym stayed in Nobandegan.[4] There he found a fifteen-year-old boy, by the name of Aban ibn Abi-Ayyash.[4] He became rather fond of him and started to educate him about the teaching of the Ahl al-Bayt.[4] Through Sulaym, Aban became a Shi'a.[4] Aban offered him shelter in recognition of him being a companion of Ali.[2] When Sulaym was inspired about his death, he told Aban,

O the son of my brother, I am about to leave this world, as Prophet has informed me so.[2]

Eventually, Sulaym entrusted all of his writings that he had compiled to Aban.[4] Aban had made a solemn oath not to talk of any of the writings during Sulaym’s lifetime and that after his death he would give the book only to trustworthy Shi'a of Ali.[2][4] The year in which Sulaym died is debated, some saying it 689 and others 695.[6][2] Others report Sulaym died between 699 and 708.[1]


Sulaym documented many aspects pertaining to teachings and experiences with Imam Ali and the Ahl al-Bayt.[4][2] He collected information such as Ali's sermon in the mosque of Kufa.[2][4][6] After the assassination of Ali, Sulaym remained in Kufa during Mu'awiyah's era.[6] Sulaym kept compiling works and documenting the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt.

The book became known as Kitab Sulaym ibn Qays (The Book of Sulaym ibn Qays). It is a collection of traditions, teachings, and eye witness accounts of events that occurred in history.[1] Kitab Sulaym is the earliest/oldest book pertaining to the collection of hadith, which was composed in the first Islamic century after the death of Muhammad.[1] It is older than al-Kafi, Sahih al-Bukhari, and the other books on hadith.

In his book, Sulaym documents Prophetic traditions concerning Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi.[1] He documents that Muhammad had promised his followers about a man from the lineage of Imam Husain who would purify Islam by remove innovations (distortion of Quranic interpretation and Prophetic traditions "Hadiths").[1] Sulaym is also one of the first to document the political divide amongst Muslims after the death of Muhammad.[2] And how certain figures in Islam distorted Prophetic traditions in order to gain power.[2] One of the events Sulaym documents is the event of Saqifah in which Abu Bakr forcefully striped the rightful leadership of Imam Ali.[2] For instance, Sulaym documents that Salman al-Muhammadi, Miqdad ibn Aswad, Ammar ibn Yasir, Abdullah ibn Ja'far, Abu al-Haytham ibn Tayhan, Khuzaymah ibn Thabit, and Abu Ayyub stated that Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm said,

"O people, the legal power (al-Wilaya) is granted only to Ali ibn Abi Talib and the trustees from my progeny, the decedents of my brother Ali. He will be the first, and his two sons, al-Hasan and al-Husayn, will succeed him consecutively. They will not separate themselves from the Qur'an until they return to Allah."[1]

The events documented in his book have either been observed by his own eyes or have been directly heard from those who have directly heard from the Divine tongues of the Muhammad or Amir al-Momineen Imam Ali ibn abi Talib.[2] Most of Sulaym's work is attributed to Muhammad.[1]

Ibn al-Nadim states and later investigation shows his book is "the oldest surviving Shi`ite book" which is written in the first Islamic century.[2]

Recordings of Ali's sayings[edit]

Sulaym recorded many teachings of Imam Ali such as the following:

"God intended us by his saying, in order that you may be witnesses over humankind, for the Apostle of God is over us and we are God's witnesses over his creatures and his proofs in his earth. We are those of whom God said, 'Thus have we made you a community of the middle path.'"[7]
"Inform me of the most excellent trait (afdal manqaba) [conferred] on you (Imam Ali) by the Messenger of God, peace and blessing be upon him. He (Ali) replied, 'his appointment of me [as his successor] on the day of Ghadir Khumm when he spoke to me of walaya by the command of God the exalted and by his saying, 'You are to me of the same station as Aaron was to Moses."[8]
"Umar, resembles the Samirl, who made the Calf (an idol) for the Children of Israel."[9]


Sulaym is honored for his hard work, discipline, and support of the Ahl al-Bayt. So much so that even Ja'far al-Sadiq praise Sulaym. A report from al-Sadiq states:

"The ones from our Shiites and those that loves us, who does not have Kitab (Book of) Sulaym Bin Qays al-Hilali, then there is nothing with him from our matters, nor does he know anything from our reasons, and it is the Alphabet (Abjad) of the Shiites, and a secret from the secrets of the Progeny of Mohammed."[2]

Sulyam is also honored by many Muslims around the world for preserving the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Pagano, Jo Anne. Exiles and Communities: Teaching in The Patriarchal Wilderness. Ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Hamid Dabashi, and Seyyed Vali R. Nasr. Albany, New York: State University of New York, 1989. Print. ISBN 1438414269 Pg. 15 and 17
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Ibn Qays, Sulaym. The Book of Sulaym Ibn Qays al-Hilālī. Trans. Muḥammad Bāqir. Al-Anṣārī. Bayrūt: Dār Al-Ḥawrāʼ, 2005. Print. Pg. 7 and 8
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Djebli 1997, p. 819.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ibn Abi Talib, Ali. Nahjul Balagha: Path of Eloquence. Trans. Yasin Al-Jibouri. Vol. 3. Bloomington, Indiana: Authorhouse, 2013. Print. ISBN 1481747878 pg. 275 and 276
  5. ^ Djebli 1997, p. 818.
  6. ^ a b c Sulh al-Hasan
  7. ^ Ayoub, Mahmoud. The Qur'an and Its Interpreters. Vol. 1. Albany: State University of New York, 1984. Print. ISBN 0791495469 Pg. 172 and 173
  8. ^ Afsaruddin, Asma. Excellence and Precedence: Medieval Islamic Discourse on Legitimate Leadership. Leiden: Brill, 2002. Print. ISBN 9004120432 Pg. 219
  9. ^ Ritter, H., and G. Endress. Oriens. Ed. R. Sellheim. Vol. 36. Neitherlands: Koninklijke Brill, 2001. Print. ISBN 9004121358 Pg. 209


  • Djebli, Mokhtar (1997). "Sulaym b. Kays". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W. P.; Lecomte, G. The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume IX, San–Sze. Leiden and New York: BRILL. pp. 818–819. ISBN 90-04-10422-4. 

External links[edit]