The Book of "Al-Kafi" by Shaykh Kulayni

The Book of “Al-Kafi” by Shaykh Kulayni


Al-Kāfī is one of hadith collections of Twelver Shi’a. It is the most important and authentic collection among the Four Books. It was compiled by Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni (d. 329/941) in the period of Minor Occultation. Al-Kafi consists of three parts: Usul (i.e. The fundamentals), Furu’ (i.e. The articles of practice), and Rawda (i.e. The Miscellaneous).

Meanwhile, it is pertinent to mention that the book “Al-Kafi” could have been entitled as such due to the author’s statement in the chapter on purification (Tahara),  which reads: “This book is “Kafi” (i.e. sufficient) for all religious sciences”[1]. It also could have been named Al-Kafi due to a report that stated that when the book was presented to Imam al-Mahdi (a.s), he said, “Al-Kafi is Kafi (i.e. sufficient) for our Shi’a”[2]. However, there is no such a report and it is just a mere claim.

In the Words of Great Scholars

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid says, “This book is among the best Shi’a books and enjoys a lot of benefits.”[3] Al-Shahid al-Awwal introduces it as a book of hadith similar of which has not been written by any Shi’a scholar [4]. Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi writes, “Al-Kafi is the most accurate and most comprehensive of all primary hadith sources, and it is the greatest and best book ever written by the Imamiyyah.”[5]

Agha Buzurg Tihrani says, “Al-Kafi is a book of hadiths reported from Ahl al-Bayt (a.s) to which no similar book has been authored.”[6] Al-Astarabadi quotes from his teachers that, “no book has ever been written similar or close to it in rank”.[7] Ayatollah Khoei mentions that his teacher, Muhammad Husayn Na’ini, would call doubting the sources of al-Kafi, “the business of the incompetent”.[8]

Purpose of Writing

According to the introduction to the book, the author stated that he has written the book in response to a request of person he referred to as “a brother in religion”: O brother! You asked why people have to be ignorant and blindly religious; because they are religious due to habit and imitation of their fathers… You reminded that you have difficulty in some matters and do not understand the truth in them due to incompatibility of hadith… and that you do not have access to any trustworthy scholar about which you can speak about. You said that you want to have a book addressing all religious sciences to suffice the learner and be the reference for the seeker [of truth]… You said that you hope God Almighty assists our fellows in this school of religion and takes them to their leaders. Praise be to God who made writing of the requested book possible and I hope it would be as that you requested.”[9]

Writing Approach

Al-Kulayni states in his introduction that he has collected hadith in such a way that they agree with the consensus and there is no incompatibility between them and the Qur’an. Furthermore, when he saw no preference between two incompatible hadiths, he chose the one he deemed more correct and authentic [10].

Distinguished Features

At the time of writing al-Kafi, al-Kulayni used ‘The four hundred hadith booklets’ written by the companions of the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s), known as Usul arba’a mi’a. He met with those companions of the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s) – or those who had seen them – to collect the hadith which had the least number of transmission links (Isnad). Being contemporary with the four Deputies of Imam Mahdi paved the way for him to best verify these hadiths.

However, about the last part of this statement it should be said that it was not common to present hadith books to Ahl al-Bayt (a) and the number of books presented is very small compared to the number of books which has not been presented. Furthermore, al-Kulayni had no special connection with the Four Deputies.

An important feature of al-Kafi is its orderliness and comprehensiveness [11]. Al-Kafi is also known for its large collection of hadiths, clear classification of hadith, completeness in chains of transmitters, and coverage of various topics in theology, jurisprudence, ethics, etc. Al-Kulayni has tried to bring the most detailed, authentic and clear hadith at the beginning of each section, and the more concise and ambiguous ones later [12].


Al-Kafi consists of three main sections: “Usul al-Kafi” (i.e. The fundamentals), which contains hadiths regarding beliefs; “Furu’ al-Kafi” (i.e. The article of practice) which contains jurisprudential hadiths and “Rawda” (i.e. The Miscellaneous) which is about history and other subjects.

Usul al-Kafi contains hadiths regarding beliefs and is comprised of eight chapters (i.e. books):

  1. Kitab al-‘Aql wa l-Jahl (The Book of Intellect and Ignorance)
  2. Kitab Fadl al-‘Ilm (The Book of the Merits of Knowledge)
  3. Kitab al-Tawhid (The Book of Divine Unity)
  4. Kitab al-Hujja (The Book of the Proof)
  5. Kitab al-Iman wa l-Kufr (The Book of Belief and Disbelief)
  6. Kitab al-Du’a’ (The Book of Supplication)
  7. Kitab Fadl al-Qur’an (The Book of the Merits of the Qur’an)
  8. Kitab al-‘Ishra (The Book of Social Ethics)

Furu’ al-Kafi contains hadiths regarding jurisprudential rulings and is comprised of 26 chapters (i.e. books):

  1. Kitab al-Tahara (The Book of Purity)
  2. Kitab al-Hayd (The Book of Menstruation)
  3. Kitab al-Jana’iz (The Book of Corpses)
  4. Kitab al-Salat (The Book of Prayer)
  5. Kitab al-Zakat wa l-Sadaqah (The Book of Zakat and Charity)
  6. Kitab al-Siyam (The Book of Fasting)
  7. Kitab al-Hajj (The Book of Hajj)
  8. Kitab al-Jihad (The Book of Jihad)
  9. Kitab al-Ma’isha (The Book of Living)
  10. Kitab al-Nikah (The Book of Marriage)
  11. Kitab al-‘Aqiqa (The Book of Sacrifice for the New Born)
  12. Kitab al-Talaq (The Book of Divorce)
  13. Kitab al-‘Itq wa l-Tadbir wa l-Mukataba (The Book of Emancipation, Management and Writing)
  14. Kitab al-Sayd (The Book of Hunting)
  15. Kitab al-Dhaba’ih (The Book of Slaughtering)
  16. Kitab al-At’ima (The Book of Foods)
  17. Kitab al-Ashriba (The Book of Drinks)
  18. Kitab al-Zi wa l-Tajammul wa l-Muruwwa (The Book of Garment and Beautification and Ettiquete)
  19. Kitab al-Dawajin (The Book of Livestock)
  20. Kitab al-Wasaya (The Book of Wills)
  21. Kitab al-Mawarith (The Book of Inheritance)
  22. Kitab al-Hudud (The Book of Punishments)
  23. Kitab al-Diyat (The Book of Atonements)
  24. Kitab al-Shahadat (The Book of Witnesses)
  25. Kitab al-Qada’ wa l-Ahkam (The Book of Judgment and Rulings)
  26. Kitab al-Ayman wa l-Nudhur wa l-Kaffarat (The Book of Belief and Vows and Atonements/Reparation)

Rawda al-Kafi consists of miscellaneous hadiths that are in no particular order. Although some do not consider it to be a part of al-Kafi [13]. For instance, both al-Najashi and al-Shaykh al-Tusi have asserted that Rawda is al-Kafi’s last chapter [14]. It includes hadiths pertaining to the following topics:

  1. Interpretation of some verses of the Qur’an
  2. Advices of the Ahl al-Bayt (a.s)
  3. Dreams and their types
  4. Health problems and cures
  5. Creation of the universe and some phenomena
  6. The history of some prophets (a.s)
  7. The merit of Shi’a and their duties
  8. Some historical issues of early Islam and the time of Imam ‘Ali’s (a.s) government
  9. Imam al-Mahdi (ajfs), his attributes, companions and the attributes of his time
  10. The biographies of some companions and other individuals

Number of Hadiths

Yusuf al-Bahrani, in Lu’lu’ al-Bahrayn, counts the number of hadiths in al-Kafi to be 16,199, Dr. Husayn ‘Ali Mahfuz, in the preface to al-Kafi, counts 15,176, al-Allama al-Majlisi counts 16,121 and some contemporary scholars such as al-Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rassul al-Ghaffar consider it to be 15,503.

The reason for this variancy in number is due to different methods of counting. For example, some scholars count a hadith transmitted from two different chains as two hadiths, while others count it as one. Also, some have included Mursal hadiths (those hadith which do not have a complete chain of transmitters), while others have not. There are also rare cases where some hadiths are not mentioned in certain manuscripts, and therefore may or may not have been counted [15].

Researches Carried Out on al-Kafi

Since al-Kafi has always been a topic of discussion among scholars of hadith, many researches have been carried out on it. In al-Dhari’a, Agha Buzurg Tehrani has listed 27 commentaries on the whole Usul al-kafi and 10 marginal notes on al-Kafi [16].

Some Commentaries

  • Mulla Sadra’s commentary
  • Fayd al-Kashani’s al-Wafi
  • Allama al-Majlisi’s Mir’at al-‘Uqul
  • Mulla Salih Mazandarani’s commentary
  • Mulla Khalil Qazwini’s Persian commentary called Safi, and an Arabic commentary called Shafi
  • Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Muhaqqiq Damad’s al-Rawashih al-Samawiyyah fi sharh al-Kafi
  • Amir Isma’il Khatunabadi’s commentary

Marginal Notes

  • Al-Ta’liqat ‘ala kitab al-Kafi written by Muhammad Baqir Hussayni, known as Mirdamad (d. 1041/1632)
  • Jami’ al-ahadith wa l-Aqwal written by al-Shaykh Qasim b. Muhammad b. Jawad b. al-Wandi (d. 1100/1689)
  • Al-Durr al-Manzum min kalam al-Ma’sum written by al-Shaykh ‘Ali b. Hassan b. Zayn al-Din al-Shahid al-Thani (d. 1104/1693)
  • Al-Hashiyat ala Usul al-Kafi written by Rafi’ al-Din Muhammad b. Haydar al-Na’ini
  • Marginal notes written by Abu al-Hassan Sharif Futuni ‘Amili
  • Marginal notes written by Sayyid Mir Abu Talib b. Mirza Beyk Fendereski
  • Marginal notes written by al-Shaykh Zayn al-Din Abu al-Hassan ‘Ali b. Shaykh Hassan, the author of Ma’alim
  • Marginal notes written by al-Shaykh Muhammad b. Hassan b. Zayn al-Din al-Shahid al-Thani, known as al-Shaykh Muhammad Sibt ‘Amili (d. 1030/)

English Translation

Translation of al-Kafi to English, by Muhammad Sarwar

The first volume of Al-Kafi (from the beginning to kitab al-Iman wa l-Kufr) has been translated into English in 8 volumes by Muhammad Sarwar.

There is also a translation and commentary on the first chapter of Usul al-Kafi, i.e Kitab al-‘Aql wa l-Jahl (The Book of Intellect and Ignorance) by Islamic Texts Institute.


  1. Al-Kafi. vol. 1, p. 14 (Introduction)
  2. Ghaffar, Abd allah wa l-Kafi. p. 392.
  3. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid.Tashih al-I’tiqadat al-Imamiyya. p. 70.
  4. Al-Kulayni, Muhmmad b. Ya’ vol. 1. p. 27.
  5. Al-Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir. Mir’at al-Uqul. vol. 1. p. 3.
  6. Tehrani, Agha Buzurg. Al-Dhari’a. vol. 17, p. 245.
  7. Astarabadi, Muhammad Amin. Al-Fawa’id al-madaniyyah. p. 520.
  8. Al-Khoei, Abu al-Qasim. Mu’jam rijal al-hadith. vol. 1. p. 99.
  9. Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 5.
  10. Al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 8 – 9.
  11. Sayyid b. Tawus, ‘Ali b. Musa. Kashf al-Mahajja. p. 159.
  12. Mustafawi, Javad. Tarjuma usul al-kafi. vol. 1. p. 10.
  13. Afandi, ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Isa. Riyad al-‘ulama. vol. 2. p. 261.
  14. Al-Najashi, Ahmad b. ‘Ali. Rijal al-Najashi. p. 377; al-Shaykh al-Tusi. Al-Fihrist. p. 210.
  15. Ghaffar, Abd Allah al-Rasul. al-Kulayni wa l-Kafi. p. 401-402.
  16. Agha Buzuer, Tehrani .al-Dhari’ah. vol. 13. p. 95-99.


  • Agha Buzurg Tehrani. Al-Dhari’ah ila Tasanif al-Shi’a. Beirut: Dar al-Adwa’, 1403 AH.
  • Afandi, Abdullah b. ‘Isa, Riyad al-‘Ulama wa hiyad al-fudala’. qom: Matba’at al-Kayyam.
  • Astarabadi, Muhammad Amin, Al-Fawa’id al-Madaniyyah. Qom: Mu’assisat al-Nashr al-Islamiyyah,, 1424 AH.
  • Khoei, Abu l-Qasim, al-Mu’jam al-Rijal al-hadith wa Tafsil Tabaqat al-Ruwat, Markaz Nashr al-Thaqafat al-Islamiyyah, Qom, 1994.
  • Sayyid b. Tawus, ‘Ali b. Musa, Kashf al-Mahajjah li thamarat al-Mahjah, Al-Matba’at al-Haydariyyah, Najaf, 1370 SH.
  • Tusi, Muhammad b. Hassan, Al-Fihrist, researched by Javad Qayyumi, Nashr al-Fiqahah, 1417 AH.
  • Ghaffar, Abd Allah al-Rasul, Al-Kulayni wa l-Kafi, Mu’assisah Nashr al-Islami, 1416 AH.
  • Kulayni, Muhammad b. Ya’qub, Al-Kafi, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, 1983.
  • Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Mir’at al-‘Uqul fi Sharh Akhbar al al-Rasul, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, 1983.
  • Mustafawi, Javad, Tarjumah Usul al-Kafi, Kitab-furushi ‘Ilmiyyah al-Islamiyyah, 1989.
  • Mufid, Muhammad b. Nu’man al-Tashih I’tiqadat al-Imamiyyah, Dar al-Mufid, Beirut, 1414 AH.
  • Najashi, Ahmad b. ‘Ali, al-Rijal al-Najashi, Mu’assisah Nashr al-Islami, Qom, 1416 AH.


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