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Qisas al-'ulama' (book)

Qisas al-'ulama'
Author Muhammad b. Sulayman Tunkabuni
Original title قِصَصُ العُلَماء
Language Persian
Series 1 volume
Subject Rijal and Biography of Shi'a Scholars
Published 1290/1873

Qisas al-ʿulamaʾ (Arabic: قِصَصُ العُلَماء) is the most famous work of Muhammad b. Sulayman Tunikabuni (1234/1819 or 1235/1820 – 1302/1885) in Persian about the biography of Shi'a scholars from 3rd/9th century to 13th/19th century. In this book, the biographies of 153 Shi'a scholars are mentioned. This book begins with the introduction of al-Sayyid Ibrahim Musawi Qazwini and ends with the introduction of al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri. Some non-Shi'a scholars are also mentioned in this book. Aqa Buzurg Tihrani criticized disorder in the book.


The Author

Muhammad b. Sulayman Tunikabuni (1234/1819 or 1235/1820 – 1302/1885) was among the students of Ibrahim Musawi Qazwini and Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi and discussed with Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Khwansari. Bada'i' al-ahkam fi sharh Shara'i' al-Islam and Qisas al-'ulama' are among his works.

Writing Motive

In the introduction of Qisas al-'ulama' , Tunikabuni mentioned the introduction of some Shi'a scholars whose biographies were less discussed or their biographies were not available as his motive for writing this book. Although previously in Tadhkirat al-'ulama' , Tunikabuni had written about the biographies of the scholars, he mentioned that it was brief. Also, in the introduction of Qisas al-'ulama' , Tunikabuni mentioned that no book is written about the wonders of scholars.

Date of Writing

Qisas al-'ulama' is in Persian and according to the author, it was the result of memories, reports and his 50 years of writing he compiled in three months. Some of its topics are common with his short book in the same field called Tadhkirat al-'ulama' . Tunikabuni finished Qisaas al-'ulama' on the day of Mab'ath, 1290/1873.


This book contains the biographies of 153 Shi'a scholars, most of whom are the sources of permission [for transmitting hadiths] and the major writers of 3rd/9th century until the end of 13th/19th century and more than sixty percent of them belong to Safavid period and previous to it. Tunikabuni dedicated the fourth biography to his own introduction and works and mentioned the count of his works, 166 books.

In this book, he narrated debates and stories about scholars and mentioned the biographies of people such as Sayyid Ali Muhammad Bab and al-Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i, criticized and rejected their opinions.

About every person, Tunikabuni mentioned information such as first name and family name, scientific and moral characteristics, works and a brief explanation of their views, some of their social activities and the dates of their birth and death. Qisas al-'ulama' has a simple and somehow fluent prose style.


According to Aqa Buzurg Tihrani, the content of this book are without order, contrary to Tadhkirat al-'ulama' ; but, Tunikabuni explained that he followed a special order in this book.

He began this book with the biographies of the scholars contemporary with himself, first of whom is one of his teacher who had given him permission, al-Sayyid Ibrahim Musawi Qazwini, author of Dawabit al-usul. The author tried to organize biographies with the order of permission and periods before the time of the author, following the approach of the authors of permissions (such as Bahrani's Lu'lu'at al-bahrayn). However, he abandoned his own method especially after the biography of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and finally ended Qisas al-'ulama' with the biography of al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri, a scholar of 11th century AH.


Qisas al-'ulama' was printed together with Sabil al-najat for the first time in Tehran in 1290/1873, in the year its writing was finished and afterwards, was printed for many times in different places, separately or together with other works. At the end of the book, the list of individuals, books and places are published.