KAŠŠI, ABU ʿAMR MOḤAMMAD b. ʿOmar (d. 367/ 978), an Imami traditionist and an important figure in Shiʿite biographical literature (rejāl). Kašši lived in the first half of the 10th century. Though his place of origin is not mentioned, he was probably born in Kešš, a city in medieval Transoxania, since most of the informants from whom he transmitted were from there or other towns in the neighboring regions. His nesba thus should be read as Kešši, though traditionally it was later read Kašši. He studied in Samarqand under Moḥammad b. Masʿud ʿAyyāši (n.d.), an important Shiʿite scholar and disseminator of Shiʿite traditions in Transoxania in the early 10th century. Kašši probably visited and met Shiʿite transmitters in Iraq, since he related directly from some Iraqi transmitters. In addition, some Shiʿite scholars in Baghdad transmitted his book directly from him (Takim, 2007). 

His seminal work on the disciples of the Imams, titled Ketāb maʿrefat al-nāqelin ʿan al-aʾemma al-ṣādeqin, has survived only through an abridged version, called Eḵtiār maʿrefat al-rejāl, made by Shaikh Abu Jaʿfar Moḥammad Ṭusi (d. 460/1067). Kašši’s work is considered one of the four main Shiʿite biographical works, along with the Ketāb al-rejāl and the Ketāb fehrest kotob al-Šiʿa of Shaikh Ṭusi and the Ketāb al-rejāl of Aḥmad Najaši. 

Kašši’s literary depiction of the disciples of the Imams (also called the rejāl) stands in contrast to the works of Ṭusi and Najāši. The significance of Kašši’s work lies in the fact that, unlike Ṭusi and Najāši, he did not provide a standard appraisal of some of the closest companions of the Imams. Rather than restricting his work to enumerating the literary compositions and assessing the reliability or otherwise of the rejāl that he considers, Kašši reconstructs the social and religious milieu of the associates of the Imams. Beginning with the companions of Imam ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb, Kašši cites reports on them, most of which are in the form of comments allegedly uttered by an Imam or a contemporary figure. He sometimes includes reports on the disciples’ alleged supernatural abilities, their literary and other activities, and the views that they espoused. Rarely does he directly authenticate a person. It is in these anecdotes that Kašši gives concrete forms to ideals like loyalty, commitment to faith, and the proper understanding and transmission of the Imams’ teachings (Ṭusi, 1969, p. 20; Takim, 2006, Chaps. 3, 5). 

Within Shiʿite circles, his work is considered controversial, as it includes reports that link some of the major companions of the Imams, like Salmān Fāresi (d. 644- 47), the Shiʿite traditionist Jāber al-Joʿfi (d. 128/745), and Mofażżal b. ʿOmar (d. 180/796), with extremist groups (Ṭusi, 1969, p. 323). Kašši is also considered controversial because he cites both laudatory and pejorative remarks, which reportedly were uttered by the Imams, concerning some of their most eminent disciples, such as Zorara b. Aʿyan (d. 150/767), Moḥammad b. Moslem Ṯaqafi (d. 150/767), Yunos b. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān (d. 208/823), and others. These reports are juxtaposed with the social reality of the disciples’ often strained relationship with the Imams and the latter’s attempts at limiting the authority and restricting the activities of their disciples (Takim, 2006, Chap. 3). 

Kašši based his biographical profiles on discrete components that he found in various genres of literature. The texts he used in defining the rejāl and depicting their functions in the Shiʿite community ranged from erstwhile Shiʿite autobiographical fragments and doctrinal works to polemical discourses and juridical compilations. He also used reports contained in various Sunni polemical, biographical, and heresiographical tracts. These accounts were supplemented with oral narratives transmitted by the Shiʿite community (Ṭusi, 1969, p. 604). 

It was probably due to the inclusion of the contradictory and disparaging remarks against some prominent disciples that Najāši (p. 263), a prominent scholar in Shiʿite biographical literature, considered Kašši’s work to be full of errors caused by his reporting from “weak” transmitters. Nonetheless, the details contained in his text make Kašši’s work indispensable for comprehending the construction of and struggle for authority within the Shiʿite community. It  is also an invaluable source for comprehending the relationship between the Imams and the rejāl, and the struggle to legitimize the disciples’ claim to authority.   Another distinctive feature of his work is that Kašši had access to books composed by rejāl scholars who lived during the times of the tenth and eleventh Shiʿite Imams. For example, he quotes the views of ʿAli b. Ḥasan Fażżal and Fażl b. Šāḏān (d. 259/873) on several occasions. At one point, Kašši states that Moḥammad b. Masʿud ʿAyyāši (n.d.), his teacher, had asked Ebn al-Fażżal about the status of ʿAli b. Ḥasan. Kašši also states that he had earlier biographical texts at his disposal. At one point in his work, he quotes the book of Moḥammad b. Ḥasan b. Bandar Qomi (n. d.) in a profile of a disciple (Ṭusi, 1969, p. 604). He says in another profile, “I have found [a book] in the handwriting of Jebril b. Aḥmad” (Ṭusi, 1969, pp. 300, 393).   Kašši’s work is indispensable for assessing the characteristics and structural framework of the biographical literature on the rejāl. His text is also important for constructing a coherent picture of the authority that the rejāl wielded in the Shiʿite community during the times of the Imams. 



Hossein Modarresi, Tradition and Survival: A Bibliographical Survey of Early Shiʿite Literature, Oxford, 2003.

Ahmad b. ʿAli Najāši, Ketāb al-rejāl, Qom, 1976.

Abdulaziz Sachedina, “The Significance of Kašši’s Rijal in Understanding the Early Role of the Shiʿite Fuqaha,” in Roger M. Savory and D. A. Agius, eds., Logos Islamikos: Studia Islamica in Honorem Georgii Michaelis Wickens, Toronto, 1984, pp. 183- 206.

Idem, The Just Ruler in Shiʿite Islam: The Comprehensive Authority of the Jurist in Imamite Jurisprudence, New York, 1988.

Jaʿfar Sobḥāni, Kolliyāt fi ʿelm al-rejāl, Qom, 1987. Abu Jaʿfar Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṭusi, Ketāb al-fehrest, Najaf, n.d.

Idem, Ketāb al-rejāl, Najaf, 1961.

Idem, Eḵtiār maʿrefat al-rejāl al-maʿruf be-rejāl al-Kašši, ed. Ḥasan Moṣṭafawi, Mashad, 1969 (an abridged version of Moḥammad Kašši’s Ketāb maʿrefat al-nāqelin).

Liyakat Takim, “The Rijal of the Shiʿite Imams as Depicted in Imami Biographical Literature,” Ph.D. diss., School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1990.

Idem, “Evolution in the Biographical Profiles of Two Hadith Transmitters,” in Lynda Clarke, ed., Shiʿite Heritage: Essays on Classical and Modern Traditions, Binghamton, 2001.

Idem, “Authority Construction in Biographical Texts: The Cases of Humran b. Aʿyan and Muʾmin al-Taq,” International Journal of Shiʿite Studies 1/1, 2003, pp. 125-55.

Idem, The Heirs of the Prophet: Charisma and Religious Authority in Shiʿite Islam, Albany, 2006.

Idem, “The Origins of and Authentications in Shiʿi Biographical Literature,” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 24/4, 2007, pp. 26-49.

(Liyakat Takim)

Originally Published: May 4, 2012

Last Updated: May 3, 2012

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