Welcome to F.I.E.L.D.- the First Ismaili Electronic Library and Database.

I am like a man going in the darkness, whilst behind him shines a bright moon.

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

(vide Diwan, Beirut, 1309 A.H., p. 972).

Ibn Tiqtaqa also quoted the above poem in his al-Fakhri (comp. 699/1302). Abul Fida (2:309) writes, "Sharif ar-Radi had composed a poem in praise of the Fatimids in which he admitted the legitimate descent of the Fatimids from Ali bin Abu Talib."

But in 402/1011, the Abbasid caliph Kadir billah (d. 422/1031) alarmed over the prosperity of the Fatimids and their success inside his empire, attempted to combat with Imam al-Hakim by another tool. He gathered a number of Shi'a and Sunni jurists to his court and ordered them to prepare a forged genealogy of the Fatimids and sign the document. Like other depending upon the Abbasids, Sharif ar-Radi and his brother al-Murtada also joined the campaign and signed the document. Ibn Taghri Birdi (d. 874/1470) writes in al-Nujum al-Zahira fi Muluk Misr wal Qahira (Cairo, 1929, 1:45-6) that, "The Abbasid caliph hired the theologians and paid them large sum of money to write books condemning the Fatimid cause and their doctrine." Ibn Athir (8:9) writes, "Sharif ar-Radi did not include these verses in his Diwan due to fear of the Abbasids, and also signed the document."

One who employed his literary skills for material benefit and hid the fact, he historically cannot be reliable. It is therefore possible that some parts of the Nahj al-Balagah would have been fabricated to justify the Shi'ite cause, but not in its enterity as judged by Ibn Khallikan. Suffice it to say that the Ismailis must exercise precaution critically in its study. Whatever the case may be, the Nahj al-Balagah, what is extant at our disposal, is one of the great masterpieces of Arabic literature.

There are however many scholars before the period of Sharif ar-Radi and al-Murtada, who had collected the fragments of the sermons, letters and sayings of Ali bin Abu Talib. For instance, Zaid b. Wahab al-Jahani (d. 96/714), Abu Yaqub Ismail b. Mihran (d. 148/715), Muhammad b. Abi Nasr al-Sakuni (d. 148/715), Abu Makhtaf Lut b. Yahya (d. 170/786), Abu Muhammad Masada b. Sadaqatal (d. 183/799), Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. al-Hakam (d. 190/806), Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. Suleman b. Nahmi, Abu Manzar

Hasham b. Muhammad (d. 206/821), Abu Abdullah Muhammad b. Umar al-Waqidi (d. 207/823), Abul Fazal Nasr b. Mazaham (d. 212/827), Abu Khayr Sualeh b. Abi Hammad (d. 214/829), Abul Hasan Ali b. Muhammad al-Madini (d. 224/839), Abu Jafar Muhammad (d. 240/855), Muhammad b. Habib (d. 245/860), Abul Kassim Abul Azim b. Abdullah (d. 250/864), Abu Uthman Amro bin al-Jahiz (d. 255/871), Imam Muslim (d. 261/877), Abu Jafar Ahmad b. Muhammad (d. 274/899), Ibn Quateeda (d. 276/891), Amin b. Yahya (d. 279/894), Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. Muhammad al-Thaqafi (d. 283/896), Dinawari (d. 290/905), Ibn Abil (d. 303/918), Tabari (d. 310/922), Abul Kassim Abdullah b. Ahmad (d. 319/931), Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Hasan (d. 321/933), Abu Tayyib Muhammad b. Ahmad (d. 325/937), Muhammad b. Abd Rubahu (d. 328/940), Kulaini (d. 328/940), Abu Ahmad Abdul Aziz b. Yahya (d. 332/941), Abul Kassim Zujaji (d. 337/946), Abul Hasan b. al-Hussain al-Masudi (d. 346/955), Abul Faraj Ispahani (d. 356/965), Abul Kassim Suleman b. Ahmad (d. 360/969), Ibn Babuya (d. 381/990), Darai Quitani (d. 385/994), Abu Bakr Bakuelani (d. 403/1013), Imam Hakim (d. 405/1015), Ibn Mazkoiya (d. 421/1030), Abu Naima al-Asbayhani (d. 430/1039), Abu Abdullah Muhammad b. Noman (d. 431/1040), Ali Abu Sa'id Mansur bin Hussain Abu Muhammad al-Hasan b. Ali (d. 432/1039), etc.

The sources of the above collecters require critical examination in the light of the extant Nahj al-Balagah, so that the historicity of the letters, sermons and sayings of Ali bin Abu Talib can be ascertained.

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