ABU’L-QĀSEM AL-KŪFĪ, ʿALĪ B. AḤMAD AL-ʿALAWĪ, a scholar of philosophy, theology, and other disciplines who was at first an Emāmī Shiʿite but later embraced a form of extreme Shiʿism; died near Šīrāz, 352/962.

Ebn al-Nadīm described him as “one of the illustrious members of the Emāmīya” (Fehrest, p. 192). Abū Jaʿfar Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṭūsī, writing from the Shiʿite viewpoint, says that he was a right-thinking member of the Emāmīya who wrote many books, among them the Ketāb al-waṣāyā (“Book of wills,” see below); then he changed completely and wrote books full of extremism (ḡolū) and confusion (taḵlīṭ) and expressing the point of view of the Moḵammesa (Ṭūsī, Fehrest, Naǰaf, 1380/1960, pp. 117-18, no. 391). The Moḵammesa (Fivers) were said to believe that ʿAlī was divine and those entrusted with the affairs of the world on the Lord’s (ʿAlī’s) behalf were Salmān Fāresī, Meqdād b. Aswad al-Kendī, Abū Ḏarr al-Ḡefārī, ʿAmmār b. Yāser, and ʿAmr b. Ommaya Żomrī (see editor’s note, ibid., p. 117; no authority for this description of the views of the Moḵammesa is cited. The heresiographies of Ašʿarī, Ebn Ṭāher Baḡdādī, Šahrastānī, Malaṭī, Ebn Ḥazm, and Nawbaḵtī give no information on this group). The first four persons were called the four supports (al-arkān al-arbaʿa) by the earlier Shiʿites. All were Companions of the Prophet and supporters of ʿAlī. The fifth person was also a Companion (listed in Ṭūsī, Reǰāl, p. 32, no. 36).

Of twenty-six works listed in the Īżāḥ al-maknūn (see bibliog.) as belonging to Abu’l-Qāsem al-Kūfī, fourteen are identified as having been written against the school (maḏhab) of Dāʾūd Ẓāherī. They bear titles indicating diverse subject matter, seemingly including manners, ethics, logic, and theology. They also include works which, if information found in Ebn al-Nadīm, Ṭūsī, and Ḵᵛānsārī is taken into account, date from the beginning and the end of his life. Ebn al-Nadīm and Ṭūsī give only one title, almost certainly dating from his days among the Emāmīya, the Ketāb al-waṣāyā (Ketāb al-awṣīāʾ in Īżāḥ al-maknūn II, p. 276 and in Baḡdādī, Hadīyat al-ʿārefīn I, p. 681); this work follows the legal system of Abū Ebrāhīm Mozanī (d. 264/878, a direct disciple of Šāfeʿī, considered by his contemporaries as head of a maḏhab; see Sezgin, GAS I, pp. 492-93). It is said to have been anti-Zaherite; so also is al-Beḍʿat al-moḥdaṯa (“The new heresy”). Ḵᵛānsārī asserts the latter is the same as al-Esteḡāṯa fī beḍʿat al-ṯʿalāṯa (“A call for help concerning the heresy of the three,” i.e., of Abū Bakr, ʿOmar, and ʿOṯmān) and claims it as a production of his Emāmī phase. This is not likely, since at that time such views would have been considered ḡolū; only later would the Emāmīya absorb them into their system of doctrine (see M. G. S. Hodgson, EI 2, s.v. “Ghulāt”). Abu’l-Qāsem also wrote against the Ismaʿilis, Zaidis, Moʿtazela, Brahmans, and Aristotle. The last thing he wrote was said to have been Manāheǰ al-estedlāl, a work described as anti-Zaherite.

Bibliography : See also: Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawżat al-ǰannāt, Tehran, 1947, p. 373 (not pp. 382-83 as in Kaḥḥāla), and the following, not seen: Naǰāšī, Reǰāl, lith. Bombay, 1317/1899-1900, I, pp. 188-90; II, pp. 202-03, cited by Sezgin (above). Aʿyān al-šīʿa XLI, p. 44, cited by Sezgin and by Kaḥḥāla, VII, p. 24. Astarābādī, Menhāǰ al-maqāl fī taḥqīq al-reǰāl, lith. Tehran, 1304/1886-87, p. 225, cited by Zereklī, Aʿlām2 V, p. 57. For his works, see also: Brockelmann, GAL S. I, p. 320. Bağdadli Ismail Pas…a, Īżāḥ al-maknūn (Kes…f al-zunun zeyli) I, Istanbul, 1945, pp. 11, 51, 226, 267, 309, 322, 555; II, Istanbul, 1947, pp. 189, 260, 267, 268, 274, 276, 278, 280, 284, 317, 512, 513, 562. Idem, Hadīyat al-ʿārefīn, Istanbul, 1951, I, pp. 680-81.

(L. Giffen)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 21, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 4, p. 364

Cite this entry:

L. Giffen, “ABU’L-QĀSEM KŪFĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/4, p. 364; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-qasem-al-kufi-ali-b (accessed on 2 February 2014).