The Four Books (الكتب الاربعة Al-Kutub Al-Arbʿah) is a Twelver Shiʿa term referring to their four best-known hadith collections:

Name Collector Size
(no. of hadith)
Kitab al-Kafi  (a) Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi (329 AH) 15,176
Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih Muhammad ibn Babuya 9,044
Tahdhib al-Ahkam Shaykh Muhammad Tusi 13,590
Al-Istibsar Shaykh Muhammad Tusi 5,511
(a) Divided into Usul al-Kafi, Furu al-Kafi and Rawdat al-Kafi.

Shi'a Muslims use different books of hadith from those in Ahl al-Sunnah's Six major Hadith collections. The Shi'a consider many Sunni transmitters of hadith to be unreliable because many of them accepted the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman in preference to Ali and the majority of them were narrated through certain personalities that waged war against Ali or sided with his enemies such as Muawiya. Shia trust traditions transmitted through the Imams, Muhammad's descendants through Fatima Zahra.

The Four Books have been praised by many notable Shi'a scholars. This is what some have said:

  • Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili said, "The authors of the 4 Books of shia have testified that the Hadiths of their books are accurate (saheeh) , firm and well conducted from the roots that all shia agreed on , and if you consider those scholars (the authors of the four books) are reliable then you must accept their sayings and their narrations . " [Al-wasa’el, vol. 20, p. 104]
  • Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi said: "Al-Kafi, Al-Istibsaar, Al-Tahzeeb and Mun La Yahduruhu Al-faqeeh are Mutawatirah and agreed on the accuracy of its contents (the Hadiths), and Al-Kafi is the oldest, greatest, best and the most accurate one of them.“ [The book of Al-Muraja'aat (A Shi'i-Sunni dialogue), Muraj'ah No. 110]
  • Al-Tabrosi (aka, Tabarsi) said:"Al-Kafi among the 4 shia books is like the sun among the stars, and who looked fairly would not need to notice the position of the men in the chain of hadiths in this Book, and if you looked fairly you would feel satisfied and sure that the hadiths are firm and accurate."[Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 3, p. 532]

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