The civilization of lslam owes its success to the ceaseless efforts of the Muslim umma. Many different peoples all over the world were fused into one community by the power of faith and belief, and exerted every effort in the cause of the lofty ideals of Islam. As a result, a glorious civilization was established, one to which human society will forever be indebted.
The Shi'a played an effective part in the establishment of this brilliant civilization. It suffices to turn the pages of the books on Islamic civilization and learn to see the degree to which the names of great Shi'i luminaries shine forth.
In literature and the literary sciences, for example, the foundations were laid by Imam 'Ali, and then developed by his disciple, Abu'l-Aswad Du'ali, after whom there came other Shi'i personalities, mostly living in Iraq; such as: Mazani (d,248/86.2), Ibn Sukayt (d.244/858),Abu ishaq Nahwy '(a companion of Imam Kazim), Khalil b. Ahmad Farahi, author of the book al-'Ayn (d,170/786), Ibn Durayd, author of al- Jumhura (d.321/933); Sahib b. 'Abbad, author of al-Muhit ( d.386/ 996)-these and hundreds of other Shi'i writers, who were the veritable repositories for their times of the literary sciences of philology, grammar, etymology, poetry and prosody. ·
The science of Qur'anic exegesis
In the science of Qur'anic exegesis (tafsir), the first commentators after the Holy Prophet were Imam 'Ali, the Imams of the ahl al-bayt and 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas (d.68/686), and then their disciples. And throughout the course of fourteen centuries they have written hundreds of commentaries on the Qur'an from different angles. We can see the detailed history of this science, as it was developed by the Shi'i exegetes, in the introduction of al-Tibyan by Shaykh Tusi.
The science of Hadith
In the science of Hadith, we note that the Shi'a preceded all other groups in Islam. During the period when the first caliphs prohibited the writing down of hadiths, the Shi'a were already recording the Sunna of the Prophet both by way of writing and through their discourses. In this connection we ought to mention 'Abd Allah b. Abi Rafi', Rabia b. Sami', 'Ali b. Abi Rafi', companions of Imam 'Ali, and then the many individuals among the disciples of Imam Sajjad ('Ali b. al-Husayn), Imam Baqir and Imam Sadiq. The expansion of the science of Hadith in the period of Imam Sadiq reached such a point that Hasan b. 'Ali al-Washsha' said:
'I saw nine hundred muhaddiths in the mosque of Kufa, all' of them recounting thus: "[Ja'far b. Muhammad [al'¬Sadiq] said ... "'
The science of Fiqh (jurisprudence)
In the domain of fiqh, the most outstanding mujtahids were trained in the school of the Imams of the ahl al-bayt. Aban b. Taghllub (d. 141-758-)Zarara b. A'yjn (d. 150/767) Muhammad b. Muslim (d.150/767) Safwan b. Yahya Bijilli, author of thirty books (d.210/825); and hundreds of other highly capable and learned scholars, such as Shaykh Mufid, Sayyid Murtada, Shaykh Tusi, Ibn Idris, Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, 'Allama Hilli, who have all left behind precious works as testimony to their knowledge and learning.
It was not only in such domains of knowledge that the Shi'a contributed in such a dedicated way; they have also made worthy and profound contributions to other branches of knowledge, such 'as history, biography, science, poetry and literature. It would not be possible to name all of these figures in this article.
The intellectual sciences
What has been mentioned so far pertains to the transmitted ( naqli) sciences; but in the intellectual ( 'aqli) sciences; such. as theology and philosophy also, the Shi'a excel, given the great value, placed on the role of the intellect in Shi'ism. Assisted by the inspired sayings of Imam 'Ali and his inerrant progeny, the Shi'a have exerted themselves intellectually to the utmost in the endeavour to clarify Islamic beliefs. The Islamic world has been graced with Shi'i theologians of the most distinguished calibre and philosophers of the highest rank; and Shi'i theological perspectives have produced one of the most brilliant schools of theology in Islam, which In addition to making use of the primary sources of the Qur'an and Sunna, has also taken full advantage of the intellect and human wisdom.
One of the foundations of a scientific civilization is knowledge of the natural world and its laws; and in the time of Imam Sadiq, one of his disciples by the name of Jabir b. Hayyan attained such a degree of knowledge in the sciences of nature that he is today regarded as the founding father of the science of chemistry. And in the science of geography, Ahmad b. Abi Ya'qub, known as al¬Ya'qubi (d.290/901) was the first 'geographer', who travelled throughout the length and breadth of the Islamic world and wrote the book al-Baladan.
These diverse efforts by so many learned members of the Shi'i community have continued from the very first Islamic century through to our own times; so much so that today there are a great number of seminaries, colleges and universities that have been established all over the world that continue to serve the cause of knowledge and learning for the good of all mankind.
What we have said here has been but a brief allusion to the part played by Shi'ism in the cultivation of Islamic science and civilization; to gain a more complete picture, the reader should refer to the many books on this subject.
1. al-Najashi, Rijal no. 79.
2. Ibn al-Nadim, al-Fihrist (Cairo, n.d); al-Najashi, Rijal; Shaykh Muhammad b. Hasan al-Tusi, al-Fihrist (Najaf, 1380/ 1960); Agha Buzurg Tihrani, al-Dhai' a ila tasanif al-Shi'a (Beirut, n.d.); Muhsin Amin, A 'yan al-Shi'a (Beirut, 1982); al-Shahrastani, al-Milal wa'l-nihal; Part 6.