top of page

A Beginner’s Guide to Hawza Studies: A Compilation of English-Language Resources

Author: Mehdi Ali

PhD Candidate in Religion, University of Southern California When I posted some pictures last week of English-language resources for people interested in Hawza/Shi‘i studies, I was overwhelmed by the amount of positive responses. Reading through all the heartfelt comments and messages made it very clear to me that there is a huge disconnect between the rich variety of Islamic scholarly resources that are available in Western languages, and the number of aspiring seekers of knowledge who are unaware of these resources, or are unsure of how to embark on this part of their spiritual journey.

My hope is that this article will provide some guidance to the uninitiated. I should note at the outset that I am a humble student myself, so I claim no special access to religious knowledge. I just have had the privilege of collecting many books over my lifetime, and have had the blessing of studying some of these subjects with knowledgeable teachers. My goal here is only to orient anyone interested in accessing the available literature by providing some background on the books, as well as my own thoughts when relevant. These resources are a mix of translated primary source materials (many of them texts that are used in the hawza), as well as some specialized studies by contemporary authors about certain topics. I have limited my article to books that I personally own — there may be many other books that exist, which I would love to learn about. At the end of this article, I have also posted a few resources for self-study that I think are immensely helpful, including guidance for learning Arabic (suggestions for courses, books, and tutors), links to publishers where you can find more books, and information about seminaries that offer courses online.

There were a few people who asked me, as a way to critique the resources I posted about, whether I had studied in the seminaries of Najaf or Qom. The answer is no (although I have studied with scholars in Lebanon). The seminaries of Najaf and Qom are wonderful institutions that have produced the most storied scholars of the Shi‘i tradition, and spending time in one of these places is a de facto rite of passage for any scholar who hopes to gain prominence as a serious authority in the field. But I think we need to demystify these seminaries. They have many brilliant students, but they also have plenty of mediocre students, just like any other institution. I have written about my own experiences with traditional seminary education versus the Western study of Islam here. I firmly believe that not having the ability or means to travel to Najaf or Qom to study should not prevent one from pursuing the path of knowledge.

I should clarify: I am not claiming that anyone can become a Mujtahid from reading a few books. For anyone who has these aspirations, I think moving to the Middle East is an absolute must, especially at the higher levels. This is because knowledgeable teachers are an essential part of a seminary education. I cannot stress this point enough; a good teacher will be able to convey information about texts that is not clear from a surface level reading (e.g., technical meanings of words, historical context, connection to important debates in the field, etc.). But for the layperson, there is already so much excellent material available in English, that even if one were to study full-time, it would take several years to get through everything.

This leads to me to my last two points, which are very important:

1) For those who are serious about studying, I don’t think you will do yourself any favors if you limit yourself only to English-language books. I did this for a long time (almost a decade actually). Once I got serious about my Arabic studies, however, I realized that a lack of Arabic knowledge was an enormous barrier in my learning. Many people think Arabic is too difficult to learn, or that it is too late in their journey to begin their studies. While it is true that Arabic is a difficult language, it is truly never too late. I have been shocked in my travels to see people from all parts of the world speak excellent Arabic (almost invariably all students of religion), including Turkey, Indonesia, India, China, and Kyrgyzstan. They usually acquired their Arabic knowledge from local and online resources.

All that is to say: Please do not be discouraged. You will not learn Arabic overnight. It is a life-long journey, so a lack of Arabic knowledge shouldn’t stop you from beginning your path to learning other subjects now. It will become more important, however, as you advance in your studies, so it should be something you are cognizant of as you embark on this path.

2) Most people don’t realize that the vast majority of hawza studies are self-directed. The required curriculum is generally focused heavily on legal training, since the goal of the seminary is to train jurists.* But the truly exceptional scholars are the ones who become experts in multiple fields, and that usually requires extended training outside of the traditional curriculum, generally with their own initiative. My point is that the path of knowledge does not require every believer to become a trained jurist. The below resources, many of which focus on non-legal topics, will enrich you in many ways, so cherish them.

*As a side note, for those who are interested in the content of the traditional Najaf hawza curriculum, Roy Mottahedeh has published an excellent article on this topic, which I am happy to send to anyone who is unable to obtain through their library.

Usul al-Fiqh (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence)

Usul al-Fiqh, or the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, is considered the crown-jewel of a seminary education. Very briefly, this field focuses on the methodology of deriving legal rulings. This is a highly technical subject, so even though translations of primary sources are available, I highly recommend reading through these books with a teacher. Both AMI and Al-Hujjah offer courses on the subject.

Title: Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence

Author: Muhamamd Baqir al-Sadr

Translator: Roy Parviz Mottahedeh

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr’s book on Usul al-Fiqh is the most popular introductory/intermediate level text on the subject. It is a modern textbook designed by a monumental 20th century scholar which intended to simplify and standardize jurisprudential education for seminary students. Part One has been translated into English by Roy Mottahedeh, a well-respected Professor of History (Emeritus) at Harvard. The book employs many technical terms, which are hard to keep track of in English, so the ideal way to study this book is side-by-side with an Arabic copy. One of the best features of this book is the glossary in the back, which defines important Arabic technical terms. For a more detailed understanding of this translation, please refer to Sajjad Rizvi’s book review published in the Journal of Islamic Studies.

Note: Arif Hussain has also authored an English-language translation of the same text, which was published by ICAS. Unfortunately, I have not spent any time looking through it.

Title: The Foundations of Jurisprudence — An Introduction to Imami Shi‘i Legal Theory

Author: al-Allamah al-Hilli

Translator: Sayyid Amjad Hussain Shah Naqvi

Publisher: Brill

This is not necessarily a book that is widely studied in the seminary. But it is an important work of early jurisprudence in the Shi‘i tradition, and for the Western student, it is especially useful because the Arabic text is parallel to the English translation. I have found that studying such Arabic-English texts is useful for improving my Arabic comprehension, especially for texts where highly technical vocabulary is involved. Below is a short description from the book itself:

“The Foundations of Jurisprudence’ is, as its title implies, a brief work, providing only the skeletal outline of concepts, which are elsewhere given their full and voluminous treatment in ʿAllāmah’s other works of jurisprudence. His smallest work in the field, Mabādiʾ nonetheless provides both a survey of many key arguments, which shaped the thought of ʿAllāmah and his successors, and a microcosm of the intellectual richness of the period from which his scholarship comes. As well as outlining the Imāmī position on each topic, the work also functions as a concise textbook for the opinions held by other schools of thought, which are each dissected and appraised as the context demands.”

Title: Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence for Beginners

Author: Ayatollah Ja‘afar Subhani

Translator: Alexander Khaleeli

Publisher: Islamic College for Advanced Studies

This is a primer for Usul al-Fiqh. I have not gone through it myself, but students with no background may want to begin here. Below is a description from the ICAS website:

“Building on classical works of past scholars, the author provides students with insights into the development of the subject and demystifies the complex, jargon-laden subject of the derivation of Islamic law. This succinct, clear manual explains the fundamentals of this subject and is suitable for academic research, as an introductory course in the traditional Islamic seminary system, or as a companion work to more complex texts. The use of practical examples enables the reader to better understand the issues discussed and opens up avenues for further research. Helpful annotations from the translator make the work even more accessible to the English-language reader.”

Title: Mohammad Hashim Kamali

Author: Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence

Publisher: Islamic Texts Society

While this book is not by a Shi‘i author, I would highly recommend that any English-language student purchase it. It is an excellent legal manual that explains concepts found in Usul al-Fiqh in great detail.

Title: Inevitable Doubt: Two Theories of Shi‘ Jurisprudence

Author: Robert Gleave

Publisher: Brill

This is a monograph designed for advanced students. This book examines the works of two scholars on opposite ends of the Akhbari/Usuli debate in the 18th century: Al-Bahrani’s Akhbari al-Hada’iq al-nadira fi ahkam al’itra al-tahira and Al-Bihbani’s Usuli al-Fawa’id al-ha’riyya. Although the two works were not directly related to each other (i.e., one is not a response to the other), Gleave is able to distill their arguments and provide them in a manner that is logical for the reader. Broadly speaking, the difference between the two schools can be summed up by a difference in approach to knowledge and certainty. Gleave argues that Bahrani’s approach was driven by caution (although required more acceptance of reports by the Imams), whereas Bihbahani’s approach was driven by achieving probabilistic knowledge.

A couple of other monographs in the field that may be of interest:

(1) Visions of Shar‘ia: Contemporary Discussions in Shi‘i Legal Theory by Ali-Reza Bhojani et al. (Brill)

(2) The School of Hillah and the Formation of Twelver Shi‘i Islamic Tradition by Aun Hasan Ali

Mysticism / Irfan:

This is a topic that is not discussed extensively in Shi‘i circles, at least in the West. But some of the most accomplished scholars of the Shi‘i tradition were also lifelong mystics, including the likes of Ayatollah Khomeini and Allamah Tabatabai. I have provided references to a few of these books below.

Title: Kernel of the Kernel: Concerning the Wayfaring and Spiritual Journey of the People of Intellect — A Shi‘i Approach to Sufism (From the Teachings of Allamah Tabatabai)

Author: Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Husayni Tihrani

Translator: Mohammad H. Faghfoory

Publisher: SUNY Press

This book is one of the treasures of Shi‘i literature. It is a selection of the teachings of Allamah Tabatabai, which have been compiled by his student Allamah Tihrani, a highly revered and notable mystic in his own right. The foreword by Seyyed Hossein Nasr beautifully captures the importance of this book: “Aside from its historical and theological background, the Lubb al-Lubab or Kernel of the Kernel stands by itself as a masterpiece in the field of spirituality and gnosis. While naturally couched in the language and terminology of the Quran and Hadith, it conveys a message of universal order meant for all human beings.”

I sent a message to Professor Mohammad Faghfoory, the translator, a little over a year ago, telling him how much I loved the book. I was very surprised to find that he actually responded! Interestingly, he told me the following:

“To this date, at least more than 100 people in a period of 10 years have informed me that Kernel of Kernel brought them to Islam…May Allah Ta’ala bless Allamah Tabataba’is soul. He was an outstanding scholar, and an exceptional human being.

I generally like translating works the least academic activity but I believe that there is a great deal of wisdom and spiritual lessons that the West, and the Muslim migrants especially the first generation can learn from texts like these. It is for your generation to continue to transmit more of such legacies, especially from the Shi’a past to the Western world, insha’llah.”

Title: The Mystery of Prayer: The Ascension of the Wayfarers and the Prayer of the Gnostics

Author: Ayatollah Khomeini

Translator: Sayyid Amjad Hussain Shah Naqavi

Publisher: Brill

This book will shake you to the core. Even in translation, Ayatollah Khomeini’s prose is breathtakingly beautiful. Most people don’t realize that Khomeini spent a lifetime immersed in the mystical tradition of Islam. His ruminations and reflections on prayer are extremely insightful, and one could spend years going through the jewels in this book. I also really enjoyed the introduction and annotations by Sayyid Naqavi, which provided excellent context before moving on to the main text.

Title: Treatise on Spiritual Journeying and Wayfaring

Author: Attributed to Bahr al-Ulum. Edited, annotated, and introduced by Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Husayni Tihrani

Translator: Tawus Raja

Publisher: Kazi Publications

This is an excellent spiritual manual attributed to Bahr al-Ulum, an important 18th century religious authority in the Shi‘i tradition. I have only skimmed through this book briefly, so I don’t feel too qualified to speak about its contents. Here is what was written by Shaykh Fadhalla Haeri about this book: “This book is a very rich traditional treatise on gnosis and enlightenment. It shows clearly the two-dimensionality of human experience and the unity of truth that encompasses the universe. It also describes myriad aspects of the four dimensions of the self: lower and higher, as well as intellect and reason as well as its opposite illusions and fantasies. A wonderful guide for the practicing Muslim.”

Title: A Mystic’s Advice: Spiritual Guidelines by Ayatullah Bahjat

Author: Muhammad Taqi Bahjat

Publisher: Al-Buraq

This book is a very unique contemporary spiritual manual by the late Ayatollah Bahjat. I am still reading through the book, but so far I have really enjoyed learning. Note that it has some mystical elements that might be unfamiliar to those who have not been previously exposed to the genre, so read through it with an open mind.

One other title that might be of interest: True Servitude and the Reality of Knowledge: An Insightful Commentary on the Narration of Unwan al-Basri by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Tahriri (translated by Kazim Bhojani). I don’t know anything about this title, but the description on Amazon seemed interesting to me: “This masterpiece is an exegesis of the well-known code of spiritual instruction taught by Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a), the sixth Divine Appointed successor and the grandson of Muhammad (s) to a seeker of true knowledge called Unwan al-Basri. It is a prescription that if reflected upon and applied in our lives can facilitate our ascension to the Divine Realm of Majesty and Beauty.”


There are some excellent hadith works available, but much work remains to be done in this field. In particular, al-Kafi, the most authoritative Shi‘i hadith work, remains to be translated in full in scholarly fashion.

Title: Intellect & Foolishness (Volume 1) and Book of Knowledge and its Merits (Volume 2)

Author: Al-Kafi — Shaykh Abu Ja ‘far Muhammad Ibn Ya ‘qub al-Kulayni

Translator: Shaykh Rizwan Arastu

Publisher: Islamic Texts Institute

Given that the main Shi‘i hadith books are not widely known among the lay Shi‘i population, these books are extremely important resources (and I understand that Volume 3 exists as well, although I have not yet purchased it). The books come with the Arabic text of the hadith, a parallel English-language translation, and commentary. I benefited a lot from listening to the lectures on hadith by Al-Hujjah Seminary, which were based on this book.

Title: Wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad: A Compendium of Prophetic Hadith — Volume One and Volume Two

Author: Muhammad Muhammadi Rayshahri

Translator: Afzal Sumar and Muhammed Reza Tajri

Publisher: Islamic College for Advanced Studies

I have not had a chance to explore this book deeply, but since it is an ICAS publication, I am confident that it is an extremely valuable resource.

Title: Forty Hadiths: An Exposition of Ethical and Mystical Traditions

Author: Imam Khomeini


Publisher: Al-Buraq

This beautifully written book is an exposition of forty hadiths by Ayatollah Khomeini. For those who don’t know, publishing an exposition of forty hadiths is a tradition for ulama (both Sunni and Shi‘i) that goes back centuries, and is based on a hadith of the Prophet. I am enjoying reading through it while listening to the lectures on the book by Shaykh Shomali.

Title: Al-Ghadeer in Quran, Traditions, and Literature (Volume 1 and Volume 2)

Author: Allamah Shaykh Abdul Hussain Amini

Translator: Sayyid Athar Hussain S.H. Rizvi, assisted by Janab Syed Fayyaz Husain Abedi

Publisher: Shia Books Australia

This unique work is an abridged two-volume translation of Ayatollah Amini’s monumental eleven-volume work on Ghadeer. Ayatollah Amini spent 40 years researching and writing his work. He researched more than 30,000 books, traveled to several different countries (including India, Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq), and reportedly worked between 17–19 hours per day. If you can get your hands on it, I think it would be a wonderful addition to your library.

Title: The Masterpieces of the Intellects

Author: Abu mohammed al-Hasan bin Ali bin al-Hussein bin Shu’ba al-Harrani

Translator: Badr Shahin

Publisher: Ansariyan Publications

I have not had a chance to read through this work, although I know that Ansariyan, an Iran-based publisher, has some excellent English-language publications.

Hadith Sciences:

There are some very good resources on hadith sciences, although these are just a drop in the ocean compared to the literature available in Arabic.

Title: Introduction to Hadith:

Author: ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Fadli, Including Diayarat al-Hadith by al-Shahid al-Thani

Translator: Nazmina Virjee

Publisher: Islamic College for Advanced Studies

It has been a while since I have gone through this book, so I am just providing the website book description below:

“Understanding hadith science is crucial to understanding the foundations of Islamic theology, shariah, and Islamic thought. This book outlines the history, development, and current practice of hadith science with special attention to Shiʿa scholarship. It covers hadith terminology, sources of hadith, chains of narration, categories of hadith, the criteria for accepting hadith narrators, and transmission of hadith. Additionally, the book includes a translation of a seminal work on hadith studies, Dirayat al-Hadith, by the renowned sixteenth-century Shiʿi scholar al-Shahid al-Thani ­– the work that paved the way for the modern Shiʿi study of hadith.

For the past decade, Introduction to Hadith has been designated as a textbook in Islamic studies courses worldwide. The work is an essential read for anyone seeking to learn more about hadith analysis, Islamic law, Islamic history, or the Islamic scholarly heritage.”

Title: History of Hadith Compilation

Author: Muhammad Ali Mahdavirad

Translator: Alexander Khaleeli

Publisher: Islamic College for Advanced Studies

I have not had a chance to read through this book. Here is a book description from the website:

“Today, hadith books are taken for granted, but, in the first century after the Prophet (S), it was by no means certain that the Prophet’s words would be transcribed. Why were the early Muslims so ambivalent about recording the hadith, and did the ban on writing hadith mean that no hadith manuscripts survived? This new study explores the approach of the Prophet and the twelve Imams to the writing of hadith. It uncovers numerous Companions of the Prophet and students of the twelve Imams who are said to have left behind hadith manuscripts. Special attention is given to the Four Hundred books considered foundational to Twelver Shi‘ism, as well as the famed ‘Book of Ali’ (Kitab Ali) and ‘Scroll of Fatimah’ (Mushaf Fatimah). This is a succinct, insightful overview of the history of hadith in early Islam.”

Title: Introduction to Rijal Studies

Author: Baqir al-Irawani

Translator: Zaid Alsalami

Publisher: Islamic College for Advanced Studies

I have not had a chance to read through this book. Here is a book description from the website:

“Introduction to Rijal Studies is an English translation of Durus Tamhidiyyah fi al-Qawa’id al-­Rijaliyyah, a widely-used textbook in Islamic seminaries. Designed for beginners to the subject, the book is written in a clear and succinct manner and includes numerous worked examples as well as revision questions at the end of each chapter. Among the topics investigated by the author are the methodology used to establish the reliability of narrators, the general classifications of reliability, the types of traditions, and the major hadith and rijal books.”

One monograph that might be of interest: The Words of the Imams: Al-Shaykh al-Saduq and the Development of Twelver Shi‘i Hadith Literature by George Warner.

Tafsir Studies

These are two specialist monographs that will probably not be of interest to most students, unless they want to become specialists in tafsir.

Title: Scripture and Exegesis in early Imami Shiism

Author: Meir M. Bar-Asher

Publisher: Brill

Title: The Qur’an: Shaykh Tabarsi’s Commentary

Author: Musa O.A. Abdul

Publisher: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers & Booksellers

Qur’anic Sciences

The field of Qur’anic sciences probably has some of the best English-language material available.

Title: The Prolegomena to the Qur’an

Author: Al-Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Musawi al-Khui’i

Translator: Abdulaziz A. Sachedina

Publisher: Oxford University Press

This is a well-known and highly regarded translation of Ayatollah Khoei’s book on Qur’anic sciences (its title in Arabic includes the word “tafsir” but I consider this to be a book that falls more under the category of Ulum al-Qur’an). This book is great for achieving a high-level understanding of some prominent topics of discussion when it comes to Qur’anic sciences.

Title: Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an (abridged translation — 2 Volumes)

Author: Muhammad Hadi Ma‘rifat

Translator: Mansoor Limba

This is an abridged translation of Muhammad Hadi Ma‘rifat’s magisterial 10-volume Arabic book on Qur’anic sciences. I benefited from this translation, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has an interested in Qur’anic sciences.

Title: Qur’anic Sciences and Shi‘i Exegesis

Editor: by Abbas Bahmanpour

Publisher: Islamic College for Advanced Studies

I read through this book a long time ago, but I remember it being extremely beneficial, especially because it was a translation of contemporary Persian-language scholarship, which is usually inaccessible to Western readers. Here is a description from the website:

“The current work provides a comprehensive vista on the sciences of the Qur’an as developed in the Shi’i context. It is a systematic presentation of Shi’i literature on various aspects of Qur’anic exegesis. Leading figures of Qur’anic scholarship in the Shi’i world have contributed to this volume, exploring a wide array of subjects such as revelation, methodology of exegesis, hermeneutics, reasons for revelation, definite and indefinite verses, improbability of distortion, and the thematic unity of different chapters of the Qur’an.

Also included in this volume are scholarly expositions on four classical Shi’i exegeses, namely al-Tibyan, Majma’ al-Bayan, Kanz al-‘Irfan and Tafsir of Mulla Sadra. Moreover, three modern masterpieces (Al-Mizan, Nimunih, and Tasnim) authored by twentieth-century Shi’i exegetes in Iran are examined.”

Title: Quranic Sciences

Author: Abbas Jaffer and Masuma Jaffer

Publisher: Islamic College for Advanced Studies

This is another excellent book in Qur’anic sciences. It is a modern work, written originally in English, that is structured as a textbook. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Qur’anic sciences. Here is a description from the website:

“When was the Qur’an revealed and how? How was the Qur’an compiled? Are there non-Arabic words in the Qur’an? Authentic, comprehensive, and easy to understand, Qur’anic Sciences answers these types of questions, making it an ideal textbook and reference. The work is an excellent contribution to the subject and is often used in Islamic studies courses.”


Title: Shi‘i Theology — A Translation of Kashf al-Murad fi Sharh Tajrid al-‘Itiqad

Author: ‘Allamah al-Hilli

Translator: Fadil Asadi Amjad and Mahdi Dasht Bozorgi

Publisher: Islamic College for Advanced Studies

This is a translation of one of the core hawza texts. I have not explored it deeply, although I expect that it is a good translation given that it is an ICAS publication. I also understand that Dr. Wahid Amin is in the process of publishing a translation, which I expect will also be excellent. The reader will benefit by listening to a course on this topic, which is offered by Dr. Amin at AMI and also Shaykh Shomali.

Title: Clearing the Soul for Paradise

Author: Al-Allama al-Hilli

Translator: Jari Kaukua

Publisher: AMI Press

This publication of Allamah al-Hilli (and the next one mentioned below) will be useful for two reasons: (1) They will give the reader insight into classical discussions on theology, and (2) They will help improve the reader’s technical vocabulary, as the Arabic and English text are parallel to each other.

Title: The Way of Nobility: Knowledge of the Imam

Author: Al-Allama al-Hilli

Author: Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad

Publisher: AMI Press

See above description.

One monograph that might be of interest: Shi‘i Doctrine, Mu’tazili Theology: al-Sharif al-Murtada and Imami Discourse by Hussein Ali Abdulsater.

Biographies of Holy Figures

Title: Knowing the Imams: Volumes 1–18

Author: Allama Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Husayni Tihrani

Series Editor: Seyyed Hossein Nasr

These books about the Imams are amazing resources. I would highly recommend them to anyone who can find them (I have not been able to obtain all of them yet). Here is a description of Volume 1 from Amazon:

“Knowing the Imam is an encyclopaedic work consisting of 18 volumes, which covers almost all aspects of the Imamate in Twelver Shiism, from the historical to the theological, and the philosophical to the mystical. It began life as a series of lessons before being transcribed. In volume 1, the author discusses the importance of knowing the concept of the Imamate, and the teachings and lives of the twelve Imams and their role in human life. He demonstrates how failure to acquaint oneself with the Imams distorts one’s potential and leads to error and bondage in the putrefaction of materialism and desire. The present volume covers various issues that include the need for the existence of an infallible Imam, what infallibility truly means, the ontological precedence of the Imamate, and various conditions and matters pertaining to the Imamate and Imam Ali s superiority. It then moves on to an exegesis of the Quranic verse concerning those among you who are in authority.”

Title: Biographies of the Imams

Author: Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi

These are translations of the Arabic langauge biographies by Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi. They contain a waealth of material for anyone interested in the biographies of the Imams.

Title: The Book of Guidance — Into the Lives of the Twelve Imams

Author: Shaykh al-Mufid

Translator: I.K.A. Howard

This is a good primary source document for anyone who is interested in understanding how early Shi‘i scholars conceptualized the Imams. It provides a biography of the 12 Shi‘i Imams from the famed scholar Shaykh al-Mufid.

Title: The Message

Author: Jafar Subhani

I don’t know much about this book, although given the status of the author, I imagine it is a good resource.

Title: The Life and Religion of Muhammad (Hayat al-’Qulub)

Author: Allama Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi

Translator: Rev. James L. Merrick

I haven’t had a chance to peruse this book in detail, but I think this would also be a very interesting resource. For those who don’t know, Allama al-Majlisi is the compiler of Bihar al-Anwar, the massive 112-volume collection of Hadith.

Titles: (1) Fatima, Daughter of Muhammad; (2) Half of my Heart: The Narratives of Zaynab, Daughter of ‘Ali; (3) Angels Hastening: The Karbala’ Dreams

Author: Christopher Paul Clohessy

Publisher: Gorgias Press

These three books by Christopher Paul Clohessy, a South African Catholic priest, are a wonderful addition to any library. I have pasted the book description for each book.

Fatima, Daughter of Muhammad

The only child of Muhammad to survive him, Fâṭima was from early times taken up by Shî’a Islam, for whose adherents she is the virgin mother, the heavenly intercessor with untold power before God’s throne, and the grieving mother of al-Husayn, the Shi’a’s most important martyr. During her life she was impoverished and weak, neglected, marginalized, and divested of justice: but her reward in heaven comprises incalculable riches, all those in heaven will bow their heads to her, and her company will be the angels and the friends of God. Here, for the first time, her story is told.

Half of my Heart: The Narratives of Zaynam, Daughter of ‘Ali

As Abû ʿAbd Allâh al-Ḥusayn, son of ʿAlî and Fâṭima and grandson of Muḥammad, moved inexorably towards death on the field of Karbalâʾ, his sister Zaynab was drawn ever closer to the centre of the family of Muḥammad, the ‘people of the house’ (ahl al-bayt). There she would remain for a few historic days, challenging the wickedness of the Islamic leadership, defending the actions of her brother, initiating the commemorative rituals, protecting and nurturing the new Imâm, al-Ḥusayn’s son ʿAlî b. al-Ḥusayn b. ʿAlî b. Abî Ṭâlib, until he could take his rightful place. This is her story.

Angels Hastening: The Karbala’ Dreams

When, on an autumn Medina night in 61/680, the night that saw al-Ḥusayn killed, Umm Salama was torn from her sleep by an apparition of a long-dead Muḥammad, she slipped effortlessly into a progression of her co-religionists who, irrespective of status, gender or standing with God, were the recipients of dark and arresting visions. At the core of those Delphian dreams, peopled by angels or ğinn or esteemed forbears and textured with Iraqi dust and martyrs’ blood, was the Karbalāʾ event. Her dream would be recounted by an array of Muslim scholars, from al-Tirmiḏī, stellar pupil of al-Buḫārī, and Ibn ʿAsākir, untiring chronicler of Syrian history, to bibliophile theologian Ibn Ṭāʾūs and Egyptian polymath al-Suyūṭī. But this was not Umm Salama’s only otherworldly encounter and she was not the only one to have al-Ḥusayn’s fate disturb her nights. This is their story.

A couple of monographs that are excellent: (1) Text and Interpretation: Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq and His Legacy in Islamic Law by Hossein Modarressi, and (2) Twelve Infallible Men: The Imams and the Making of Shi‘ism by Matthew Pierce.


Title: The Elements of Islamic Metaphysics

Author: Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai

Translator: Sayyid ‘Ali Quli Qara’i

Publisher: Islamic College for Advanced Studies

This is a translation of the highly technical and difficult text by Allamah Tabatabai, Bidayat al-Hikma. It is the standard introductory book used in the seminary for training in philosophy. I would recommend listening to lectures by Dr. Wahid Amin or Shaykh Somali in parallel while reading this book.

Title: Our Philosophy

Author: Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr

Translator: Shams C. Inati

This is a very highly regarded work of philosophy by Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, one of the luminaries of the Shi‘i seminary in the 20th century. Al-Sadr’s tract is a powerful argument against modernity and Western philosophy, especially capitalism and Communism. The translation is helpful although because of the highly technical nature of the text, the reader may be lost at times.

Day of Judgment

Title: Life After Death: Resurrection, Judgment and the Final Destiny of the Soul (Volume 1 and Volume 2)

Author: Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayni Tihrani

Translator: Mohammad H. Faghfoory

These are excellent books that will really force readers to confront the evil elements of their souls. Allamah Tihrani is an amazing writer, even in translation. Here is a description of Volume 1 from the website:

“Belief in life after death gives meaning to life and illuminates the purpose of the creation of man. That is the reason it is one of the five fundamental pillars of Islamic tradition, without which other pillars become meaningless. The essential question, therefore, is what was the purpose of man’s creation? Where will he go after death, and what is awaiting him there?

The question of life after death and the uncertainty of what lies beyond have preoccupied man’s mind since the beginning of creation. Is there life after death, and if there is, what are its peculiar characteristics? Where is the Hereafter, and how different or similar is it in comparison with man’s life in this world? What is awaiting man in the Hereafter? What is the relationship between man’s conduct on earth and his condition after death? When is the end of time and the Day of Resurrection? How is man revived and resurrected after he has perished? Is resurrection physical, spiritual, or both? How will the Day of Judgment unfold, and how will God judge believers and non-believers? And finally, how will man eventually meet his Creator?”


I have listed some books below that may be of interest. I will write