FORĀT B. EBRĀHĪM KŪFĪ, Shiʿite(most probably Imami) Koran commentator and Hadith scholar. The dates of his birth and death are unknown, but the time he flourished can be estimated by the dates of the scholars whom he quoted or who transmitted Hadith on his authority. They include Abu’l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Bābawayh (d. 329/940) and his son, Abū Jaʿfar ʿAlī b. Bābawayh (d. 381/991; q.v.), who cites Forāt in his works (Majlesī, I, p. 37; Ḵᵛānsārī, V, p. 339), as well as Jaʿfar b. Moḥammad Fazārī (d. ca. 300/912) and Ḥosayn b. Saʿīd Kūfī (d. 300/912) whom Forāt quotes extensively (Māmaqānī, no. 9412; Ḵᵛānsārī, V, p. 338; Qomī, p. 349; Aʿyān al-šīʿa XLII, pp. 270-71; al-Ḏarīʿa IV, pp. 298-99). These dates suggest that Forāt flourished in the second half of the 9th century. The date (310/922) suggested by Sezgin (GAS I, p. 539) for Forāt’s death is possible but by no means certain.

Forāt is not mentioned in early Shiʿite biographical compositions. His nesba indicates some association with the city of Kūfa, although it is uncertain whether he was born there or just lived there for at least a part of his life. Moḥammad Kāẓem, the editor of Forāt’s Tafsīr, explains the lack of interest in Forāt’s biography by the early Imami biographers by suggesting that they may have taken him to be a Zaydī. Relying upon certain statements in Forāt’s commentary and on the names of scholars appearing in the esnāds of the Hadiths he cites, Kāẓem states that the possibility that Forāt was a Zaydī cannot be ruled out. In fact, Forāt’s Zaydī leanings can be exemplified by a tradition quoted by him, in which Zayd states that only Moḥammad, Fāṭema, ʿAlī, Ḥasan, and Ḥosayn are immune from sin and error (ʿeṣma). This contradicts Imami doctrine about the ʿeṣma of all twelve Imams (see ČAHĀRDAH MAʿṢŪM; Forāt, 1354, pp. 122-23, 152=1410, pp. 339, 402, and editor’s Introd., p. 13).

Forāt’s main preoccupation was Hadith literature. Some of his disciples praised him as “the eminent one, the teacher of Hadith scholars of his time” (al-fāżel, ostāḏ al-moḥaddeṯīn fī zamānehi; Forāt, 1935, intro. by M.-ʿA. Ḡarawī Ordūbādī,p. 5). Even if this evaluation is somewhat exaggerated, there is no reason to doubt that he was a man of some standing in this field, witnessed by the fact that many distinguished Imami scholars quoted him extensively.

The only composition by Forāt mentioned by all sources is his Koran commentary. Like other exegetical works of the pre-Ḡayba period, such as those of Abu’l-Nażr Moḥammad b. Masʿūd ʿAyyāšī and of ʿAlī b. Ebrāhīm Qomī, it is a commentary based on traditions (al-tafsīr be l-maʾṯūr); but it is not comprehensive in the sense that it does not refer to all verses of the Koran, regardless of whether or not they include Shiʿite allusions. It reflects, however, Imami exegesis in all its unique characteristics; these include doctrines such as the superhuman and mystical qualities of the Imams, their God-given, infinite knowledge, their ʿeṣma, their role as intercessors (šafaʿāʾ) on behalf of the Shiʿite community, etc.

Forāt’s commentary was known not only to scholars of his generation and to his immediate successors such as Ebn Bābawayh and his father, but also to later scholars, who cited him extensively. These include, for example, Ḥorr ʿĀmelī (d. 1104/1692), Hāšem Tawbalī Baḥrānī (d. 1107/1695), Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesī (d. 1110/1698), etc. Majlesī counts Forāt’s Tafsīr among the most important sources for his composition and states that “although our colleagues [i.e., Shiʿite scholars] have neither praised nor condemned him (lam yataʿarraż laho al-aṣḥāb be madḥ wa lā qadḥ), from [the very fact] that his traditions coincide with traditions which we uphold and which have come down to us, and the [fact] that they have been carefully transmitted (ḥosn al-żabṭ fī naqlehā), one learns of the trust one may place in the author [of this commentary]” (I, p. 37). Many manuscripts of Forāt’s commentary are preserved, mostly in Persia and Iraq (al-Ḏarīʿa IV, p. 299; Sezgin, GAS I, p. 539; see Forāt, 1991, editor’s intro., pp. 19-22). Attributed to him is also a treatise dealing with the vilification of ʿAlī by the people of Isfahan (fī ḏekr sabb ahl Eṣfahān le ʿAlī; Forāt, 1410, intro., p. 12).


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):

M. M. Bar-Asher, Scripture and Exegesis in Early Imāmī Shiʿism, Jerusalem, 1998, pp. 32-35.

Forāt b. Ebrāhīm Kūfī, Tafsīr Forāt al-Kūfī, Najaf, 1354/1935; ed. M. Kāẓem, Tehran, 1410/1990.

Moḥammad-Bāqer Mūsawī Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawżāt al-jannāt fī aḥwāl al-ʿolamāʾ wa l-sādāt, 8 vols., Beirut etc., 1411/1991, V, pp. 338-39.

Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesī, Beḥār al-anwār I, Beirut, 1403/1983, p. 37.

ʿAbd-Allāh Māmaqānī, Tanqīḥ al-maqāl, Najaf, 1349-52/1390-93.

ʿAbbās Qomī, al-Fawāʾed al-rażawīya fī aḥwāl ʿolamāʾ al-maḏhab al-jaʿfarīya, Tehran, 1327 Š./1948.

(Meir M. Bar-Asher)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: January 31, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 1, p. 82