The Book of Al-Istibsar

The Book of Al-Istibsar


Al-Istibṣar fī maukhtulif min al-akhbar is the fourth book of the Shia Four Main tradition Books. It is a hadith collection compiled by Al-Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 460/1067 ) known as al-Shaykh al-Ṭa’ifa. In this article, we shall be looking at one of the four main Shia hadith collections.


This book contains jurisprudential hadiths and it is more concise than Tahdhib al-ahkam. The order of the chapters in Al-Istibsar are so that the first two parts (part one and two) are dedicated to issues regarding worship (except Jihad) and the last part (part three) is about other jurisprudential issues such as contracts, unilateral obligations, fixed punishments and financial compensations.

According to statistics that the author has given about the hadiths recorded in Al-Istibsar, they are 5511 hadiths while in a researched publication of the book, the number of hadiths are 5558 and this difference might be due to the way of counting some special hadiths.

In the first two parts, al-Shaykh al-Tusi has recorded almost all hadiths with their references, but in the last part, the references are mentioned in a brief way and similar to the style of Tahdhib al-ahkam and more like the style of Al-Shaykh al-Saduq in Man la yahduruh al-faqih the references of hadiths to hadiths Usul [original references] are mentioned at the end of the work.

Purpose of Compilation

Some scholars and students of al-Shaykh al-Tusi asked him to write a book in which he collects opposite hadiths, analyzes them and marks the correct and incorrect ones. In this book, al-Shaykh al-Tusi first brought authentic and correct hadiths and then has mentioned opposite ones and has tried not to miss one and after all has tried to reach a conclusion after discussing the two kinds of hadiths.

Manner of Compilation

In this work, in addition to collecting all hadiths related to one issue at one place, al-Tusi has reviewed their references and meanings and in each chapter, has suggested his own opinion for removing apparent disagreements between hadiths or the priority of some of them over others.

Methods for reach agreements and conclusions between hadiths and removing their disagreements have a special position in the al-Shaykh al-Tusi’s fiqh, and has been reflected especially in his Al-Istibsar.

Therefore, this book should not be regarded as a mere collection of hadiths and ignore its jurisprudential value. Similar to other books among the Four Books, the order of the chapters of Al-Istibsar is based on the usual order in jurisprudential works.

Although in compiling Al-Istibsar, al-Shaykh al-Tusi has so much relied on his previous work Tahdhib al-ahkam , but Al-Istibsar has its own characteristics regarding the general purpose of compilation as well as the chaptering and the order of hadiths in each chapter and is regarded as an independent work. This independence is clearly seen in a list of the author’s works and in the words of his contemporary scholar, al-Najashi.


This is the first book which has been published to make an agreement between opposite hadiths. In addition to its great credit, Al-Istibsar has a very good coverage so that Ibn Tawus says, “If there is any disagreement about an issue, it must be mentioned in Al-Istibsar.” At the beginning of every chapter, first the authentic or reliable hadith(s) are mentioned and then other hadiths are listed.


This book is among the most authentic Shia hadith books and every faqih or Mujtahid needs to refer to it when judging about rulings. Al-Istibsar is one of the Four Books and at the same level with al-Shaykh al-Kulayni’s Al-Kafi , al-Shaykh al-Saduq’s Man la yahduruh al-faqih and al-Shaykh al-Tusi’s another book, Tahdhib al-ahkam which was written previous to Al-Istibsar.

Regarding the significance and value of Al-Istibsar, its name has always been in the list of references and Shia scholars and faqihs gave permission of narrating its hadiths to each other.

Commentaries and Glosses

1. Compiling works as commentary, gloss or marginal notes on Al-Istibsar can be seen particularly since late 10th/16th century, among the most important ones of which are the following:

2. Marginal notes written by Muhammad b. Ali b. Husayn al-‘Amili, author of Madarik al-ahkam (d. 1009/1600-1601) which is kept together with the text of Al-Istibsar in Rawdati copy.

3. Marginal notes written by Hasan b. Zayn al-Din al-‘Amili, author of Ma’alim al-Din (d. 1011/1602-1603). Availability of this marginal notes is reported by Afandi in Riyad al-‘Ulama.

4. Marginal notes written by Muhammad b. Ali b. Ibrahim al-Istarabadi, author of Minhaj al-maqal (d. 1028/1618-1619), different copies of which have been seen in Najaf and Mashhad.

5. Istiqsa’ al-i’tibar which is a commentary written by Abu Ja’far Muhammad b. Hasan b. Zayn al-Din al-‘Amili (d. 1030/1620-1621) and Aqa Buzurg Tihrani has reported some copies of it.

6. Manahij al-akhbar which is a commentary written by Kamal al-Din (or Nizam al-Din) Ahmad b. Zayn al-‘Abidin al-‘Amili.

7. A commentary written by Mulla Muhammad Amin al-Istarabadi (d. 1036/1626-1627)

8. A gloss written by Mir Muhammad Baqir al-Istarabadi, known as Mirdamad (d. 1040 or 1041/1630-1631) which has been sometimes referred to as a commentary. There are several copies of it in Sepahsalar Library in Tehran and Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

9. Jami’ al-akhbar fi idah al-istibsar which is a commentary written by al-Shaykh ‘Abd al-Latif b. Ali b. Ahmad b. Abi Jami’ al-Harithi (d. 1050/1640-1641), a pupil of al-Shaykh al-Baha’i.

10. Kashf al-asrar fi sharh al-istibsar which is a commentary on Al-Istibsar written by al-Sayyid Ni’mat Allah al-Jaza’iri (d. 1112/1700) and several manuscripts of it have been mentioned by Aqa Buzurg Tihrani.

11. Nukat al-irshad written by al-Shahid al-Awwal Muhammad b. Makki.

12. Sharh al-Istibsar written by Sayyid Mirza Hasan b. ‘Abd al-Rasul Husayni Zunnuzi

13. Sharh al-Istibsar written by Amir Muhammad b. Amir ‘Abd al-Wasi’ Khatunabadi, al-‘Allama al-Majlisi’s son-in-law.

The material is extracted from the article Al-Istibsar from


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