The Early Shiʿi Kufan Traditionists’ Perspective on the Rightly Guided Caliphs

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I-Wen Su



This article revisits a widely accepted yet unsubstantiated trajectory of early Kufan Zaydi history, namely, that with ʿAlī recognized as the fourth rightly guided caliph by the proto-Sunni traditionists, represented by Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal (d. 241/855), the Batri traditionists were Sunnified. Analysis of Safīna’s hadith transmission and the transmitters of the first four caliphs’ virtues suggests that the four-caliphs thesis was likely circulated in Kufa by the late eighth century and that Kufan traditionists of various sectarian persuasions played an important role in its formation . This paper argues that the Kufan Shiʿi traditionists came to identify with their tradition- ist townspeople as a result of shared qualities and mutual enemies. By revisiting a narrative that is often taken for granted, this study proffers new insights into the formation of a defining Sunni doctrine—the four-caliphs thesis—as well as the transformation of the Kufan Shiʿis .

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