Advanced search
Last Updated: 2012/05/10
Summary of question
What are the features and privileges of Behar al-Anwar?
What are the features and privileges of Behar al-Anwar?
Concise answer
Behar al-Anwa being a huge hadith collection is the most important work by Allamah Muhammad Baqir Majlisi. It is a big encyclopedia of Shiite traditions encompassing all religious issues and themes including exegesis of the Quran, history, jurisprudence, theology etc.
Some of the most important features of Behar al-Anwar are the following:
1- The book mentions relevant Quranic verses in the beginning of chapter.  2- The book is inclusive in the sense that it deals with various subjects. 3- Independent treatises have been mentioned in this collection. 4- The book provides references from rare sources and corrected versions of books. 5- The book provides explanation and interpretation of every tradition.
There is no doubt that these features does not mean that all the traditions and reports in this book are authentic and endorsed by Shiite scholars or that they do not need to be verified in terms of their contents and chains of transmission.
Detailed Answer
Behar al-Anwar Li-Durar Akhbar al-Aemah al-Athar literally means seas of light containing gems of the sayings of pure leaders i.e. the infallible Imams (AS). This huge hadith collection, is the most important work by Allamah Muhammad Baqir Majlisi. It is a big encyclopedia of Shiite ahadith containing all religious issues and themes including exegesis of the Quran, history, jurisprudence, theology etc.
  1. Privileges
Some of the most important features of Behar al-Anwar are as under:
1. Well-organized chapters: This collection is among Shiite's biggest and most wide-ranging hadith collections that include the narrations of the hadith books in very well-organized and separate chapters.
2. Mentioning relevant Quranic verses in the beginning of every chapter: Allamah Majlisi cites relevant verses from the Quran to begin every chapter. Then, if the verses need to be interpreted, he interprets them quoting great scholars and exponents and then mentioning all the narrations and reports relevant to the subject of the chapter.
3. Comprehensiveness of Behar al-Anwar as compared to other hadith collections: A glimpse of the titles and narrations existing in Behar al-Anwar shows that this great work includes various religious themes and issues and there is no Islamic topic (at least in his time) that he may not have attended and dealt with by collecting its narrations and reports.
4. Quoting independent treatises in Behar al-Anwar: While dealing with a subject-matter, Allamah Majlisi comes across books and treatises relating to the subject. Due to the treatise being short and relevant, he quotes the treatise thoroughly e.g. the treatise of Imam Hadi regarding predestination and absolute delegation of authority (compulsion and free will), Imam Sajjad's Treatise on Rights, Tawhid of al-Mufadhal and so forth.
5. Benefiting from rare sources and corrected versions of books: It is understood clearly well that Allamah Majlisi had had excess to a lot of books, some of which perished and have not been passed on to us. Therefore, to collect traditions and piece of reports from different sources, Allamah has benefitted from the best and most reliable copies of books. Had he not gathered these narrations in a single book, we would not have access to those narrations now.
6. Explanation and interpretation of traditions: Allamah Majlisi has, in many cases after mentioning a tradition, explained the difficult or strange words of the tradition. He has benefitted from various etymological, jurisprudential, exegetic, theological, historical sources to interpret and explain the narrations. The exposition of the traditions is one of the privileges of this encyclopedia of traditions.
7. Reporting various documents and texts in every single topic: Another good feature of this encyclopedic work is that the book enables the researcher to distinguish the degree of the credibility of the narrations and reports because the narrations relating to every subject are put together.[1]
8. Providing references from different sources for repeated narrations: Allamah Majlisi has provided references for repeated reports and narrations using different sources. He has highlighted the differences in the chain of transmission of the traditions or in the texts of identical reports collected from different books.
  1. Criticisms
One of Allamah Majlisi's most important objectives was to collect narrations in order to prevent them from getting lost or destroyed so that through this work he could pass Shiite's hadith legacy to the succeeding generations. Naturally such a huge and extensive work cannot be free of flaws and deficiencies. It cannot be free of errors and mistakes since it is the work of a man who admits his being prone to error. In fact, none of our scholars have ever claimed that their work is flawless.
Yet, there are some scholars who believe that there are weak and unreliable reports in Behar al-Anwear and that Allamah Majlisi's explanations are inadequate and at times erroneous. They are of the view that these are the weaknesses that can be found in this collection. They maintain that most of the explanations, interpretations and comments made by Allamah Majlisi are hurriedly written and that has led to some mistakes.[2]
Repetition of traditions can be another weaknesses of this collection. There is, however, no doubt that Allamah Majlisi had been mindful of the repetition but different factors such as differences in the chains of transmission of traditions, texts of the reports and relationship of one report with two or more themes have led to repetition.
It goes without saying that different chapters and themes require such repetition to happen. As was said earlier, Allamah Majlisi sought to sort out the narrations on the basis of various themes. Since some narrations had thematic connection with different subjects, the author is compelled to either mention a tradition in parts or make mention of the entire narration once again, something that causes the book to grow in size and become boring for the reader.
Allamah Majlisi knew pretty well that if he were to cut a narration short, the first part of a narration might hold some contexts and significations which would shed some light on the second part of it or vice versa rendering the narration useless or unclear. That is why, Allamah Majlisi has, in most cases, mentioned the traditions completely in a chapter and in another chapter, he has mentioned only that part of the report which is related to the subject matter.  Meanwhile, he has reminded that he has mentioned the entire hadith in a chapter and by so doing he has done away with the problem of some contexts getting lost.

[1] See Jami' al-Ahadith Software produced by Computer Center for Islamic Sciences (Noor); Professors of the College of Islamic Sciences, hadith science, p 250 – 251, Jamal Publications, Qom, first edition, 1389 (Persian calendar).
[2] See, Amin, Sayyid Mohsen, A'ayan al-Shi'ah, vol.9, p. 183, Dar al-Ta'aruf for Publication, Beirut, 1406 A.H.
Question translations in other languages
Please enter the value
Example : Yourname@YourDomane.ext
Please enter the value
Please enter the value

Thematic Category

Random questions

  • What is the ruling on wearing makeup in public?
    4101 Laws and Jurisprudence 2007/01/10
    1 & 2 : It is not permissible and there is no difference between the various means employed for beauty or make-up purposes.3 : Assuming laity (urf) deems it as ‘beauty’ (zeenat), it is not permissible. Summary Notes by ‘Porch of Wisdom’Assuming laity regards a given woman as ...
  • I am from the Philippines. I don’t have access to a mujtahid to pay my khums to him and I am not sure whether there are deserving Sayyids where I live. To whom am I supposed to pay my khums?
    2881 Laws and Jurisprudence 2012/02/14
    These are the responses we received from the offices of the grand maraji’:The office of the Grand Ayatullah Sistani (may Allah prolong his life): You are allowed to keep your khums with you until you get the chance to pay it to the Grand Ayatullah’s representative.The office of ...
  • What is the definition of "Muslim" according to the Quran?
    62970 Exegesis 2010/04/06
    According to the Quran a Muslim is one who has absolutely surrendered to Allah and his commands and believes in pure Tawhid (the oneness of God) that isn't tainted with any Shirk and this is why the Almighty has introduced Prophet Abraham as a true ...
  • Is a woman who becomes a man\'s second wife sinful?
    2098 چند همسری 2013/10/03
    1. As you know remarriage is an issue legislated and recognized as permissible by Islamic Shari'ah. There is no doubt about it as the Quran states: «فَانْكِحُوا ما طابَ لَكُمْ مِنَ النِّساءِ مَثْنى‏ وَ ثُلاثَ وَ رُباعَ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تَعْدِلُوا فَواحِدَة»[1] "And ...
  • How do people undergo metamorphosis, and are animals today people who have gone through metamorphosis in the past?
    6941 Exegesis 2009/06/22
    In Arabic, Maskh means for something to change form to an uglier one. In the Quran and Islamic tradition, this term refers to a specific divine punishment which was sent upon the wrongdoers and wrongdoing nations in the past (of course not all wrongdoers, but those who committed ...
  • If one has doubt about the marja he/she has chosen, what needs to be done?
    2994 Laws and Jurisprudence 2009/03/02
    It is obligatory for one who has reached the age of obligation (“religious puberty” or “bulugh”) to choose the most learned marja and follow his fatwas or verdicts. There are only three ways one can identify the most learned of marjas:a) If one is certain that a particular ...
  • My wife and I had sexual intercourse while we were fasting. What are we supposed to do and what is the Islamic law?
    3124 جنابت 2013/08/13
    Your fast is void and if you did not know, due to inculpable ignorance [jahl-e qusuri], that sexual intercourse invalidates the fast, only the qadha of the fast is obligatory on you. You must keep the qadha of the fast after the holy month of Ramadhan. However, ...
  • What are the secrets and ways to success in life?
    5620 دستور العمل ها 2015/04/18
    Most writers and scholars have endeavored to present an inclusive definition of success. Success, according to Islamic doctrines, means happiness and prosperity. Practically, absolute happiness and prosperity are the same. A happy and successful person is one whose actions and aspirations are in the way of Allah, ...
  • Are there any examples of Irfan in the Nahjul Balagha?
    4587 Practical 2010/08/17
    According to the Imams (a), Irfan is not divided into practical and theoretical. In the language that they used and in their life history, they did not consider practical Irfan any different from theoretical Irfan. This was because through practical Irfan they reached recognition of the realities and ...
  • Is it permissible to dance for fitness?
    3101 Laws and Jurisprudence 2011/10/04
    We forwarded your question to the offices of the grand jurists and the answers which we have received are as under: Grand Ayatollah Khamenei (may Allah grant him long life): If dancing entails sexual excitation or committing a ḥarām act like listening to ḥarām ...