The Methods Used by the Shi'ite Commentators and their Different Groupings
All the groups mentioned above are Sunni commentators. Their method, used in the earliest commentaries of this period, was based on ijtihad, that is, the reports of the companions and the followers of the companions were examined according to certain rules in order to reach an acceptable understanding of the text. This resulted in varying opinions amongst those making ijtihad and caused disorder, contradiction and, even, fabrication to enter into the body of the traditions.
The method employed by the Shi'ite commentators, how- ever, was different, with the result that the patterning of the groups was also different. The Shi'ite commentators in their study of a verse of the Qur'an, viewed the explanation given by the Prophet as proof of the meaning of the verse, they did not accept the saying of the companions, or the followers, as indisputable proof that the tradition was from the Prophet.
The Shi'ite commentators only recognized as valid an unbroken chain of narration from the Prophet and through members of his family. Accordingly, in using and transmitting the verses concerning Qur'anic commentary, they restricted themselves to the use of traditions transmitted by the Prophet and by the Imams of the Prophet's family. This has given rise to the following groups:
The first group comprises those who have learned these traditions from the Prophet and from the Imams of the Prophet's family, studying and recording them according to their own method but not in any particular order. Among them we may mention such scholars as Zararah, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Ma'ruf and Jarir who were companions of the fifth and sixth Imams (1).
The second group comprises the first compilers of the commentaries, like Furat ibn Ibrahlm al-Kufi, Abu Hamzah al-Thumali, Muhammad al-'Ayyashi, 'Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Qummi and al-Nu'mam who lived between the second and fourth centuries after Hijrah (2). The method of this group was similar to that of the fourth Sunni group of Commentators.
Thus, they avoided any kind of ijtihad or passing of judgement. We should remember that the Imams of the Prophet's family were living amongst Muslims and available for questioning (on matters of commentary, for example) for a period of almost three hundred years. Thus the first groups were not divided chronologically but rather according to their relationship with the Imams.
There are very few who recorded the tradition without a chain of transmission. As an example, we should mention one of the students of al-'Ayyashi who omitted to record the chains of transmission. It was his work, instead of the original of al-'Ayyashi which came into common use.
The third group comprises masters of various sciences, like al-Sharif al-Radi (3) who provided a commentary concerned with Qur'anic language and Shaykh al-Tusi who wrote a commentary and analysis on metaphvsical matters (4). Included, too, is Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi's philosophic work (5), al-Maybudi al-Kunabadi's gnostic commentary (6) and 'Abd 'Ali al-Huwayzi's commentary Nur al-thaqalayn (7). Hashim al- Bahram composed the commentary al-Burhan (8) and al-Fayd al-Kashani compiled the work known as al-Safi (9) .
There were others who brought together many different themes to their commentaries, like Shaykh al-Tabarsi who in his Majma' al-bayan (10) researches different fields of language, grammar, Qur'an recitation, gnosis of death, after-life and paradise, and knowledge of the traditions.
Zararah ibn A'yun and Muhammad ibn Muslim were special companions of Imam Baqir and Sadiq. Ma'ruf ibn Kharbudh as well as Jarir were special companions of Imam Sadiq.
(2) Furat ibn Ibrahim al-Kufi, known for his commentary on the Qur'an, was one of the teachers of 'AIi ibn Ibrahim al-Qummi (Rayhanah). Abu Hamzah al-Thumali was a special companion of Imam Sajjad and Imam Baqir
(Rayhanah). Muhammad ibn Mas'ud al-'Ayyashi al-Kufi al-Samarqandi was one of the great Shi'ite scholars who lived in the second half of the third century A.H. (Rayhanah). `Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Qummi, who lived at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth century A.H.,was one of the great teachers ofShi'ite tradition. Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Nu'mani, a student of al-Kulayni, lived at the beginning of the fourth century A.H. (Rayhanah).
(3) Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Musawi al-Sharif al-Radi (died in 404 or 406 A.H.), a great Shi'ite scholar, known for his compilation Nahj al-balaghah (Rayhanah).
(4) Shaykh al-Ta`ifah Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tusi, the author of al-Tahdhib and al-Istibsar, the well known canonical books of the Shi'ah. He died in 460 A.H. (Rayhanah).
(5) Sadr al-Din Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Shirazi, a famous philosopher, the author of Asrar al-ayat and Majmu'at al-tafsir, died in 1050 A.H. (Muhammad Baqir al-Khwansari, Rawdat al-jannat, vol. 4, pp. 120-122).
(6) Rashid al-Din Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Maybudi, the author of Kashf al-asrar, lived in the sixth century A.H.
(7) `Abd `Ali al-Huwayzi al-Shirazi died in 1112 A.H. (Rayhanah).
(8) Hashim al-Bahrani died in 1107 A.H. (Rayhanah).
(9) Muhammad Muhsin ibn al-Murtada al-Fayd al-Kashani, the author of al-Safi and al-Asfa, died in 1091 A.H. (Rayhanah).
(10) Al-Fadl ibn al-Hasan al-Tabarsi died in 548 A.H. (Rayhanah).
(11) See the beginning of al-'Ayyashi's, Kitab al-tafsir, al-Fayd al- Kashani's al-Safi, al-Bahrani's al-Burhan and al-Majlisi's Bihar al-anwar.
(12) Al-Majlisi, ibid., vol. 1, p. 137 (chapter on ikhtilaf al-akhbar).