Born Through the Dua of the Imam

Originally published on Shiitic Studies


Unlike Kulaynī and Ṭūsī, whose fathers were not known for scholarship and remain obscure figures only recorded in history because of their sons’ accomplishments, Ṣadūq (d. 381) had a father who was a prominent and acknowledged authority in his own right in Qum, the center of Ṣhīʿī learning at the time.

al-Najāshī says about Ṣadūq’s father, ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn b. Mūsā b. Bābawayh (d. 329):

شيخ القميين في عصره ومتقدمهم، وفقيههم، وثقتهم

The Shaykh of the Qummis in his time and their foremost one, their Faqīh and their Thiqa1

It is only natural for such a father to wish for a son who would continue his legacy but a long time passed without any sign of one2. It is at this point that an aged father decided to turn to the Imam of the Time and petition him to supplicate to Allah on his behalf.

The aim of this short article is to gather together the documentary evidence in support of this historical incident.

The Evidence

We begin with a report transmitted by al-Ṣadūq himself.

I. Al-Ṣadūq records the following testimony given by one Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Aswad who is identified as the middle-man who conveyed his father’s request to the Third Safīr (Envoy) Abū al-Qāsim b. al-Rūḥ (d. 326):

سَأَلَنِي عَلِيُّ بْنُ الْحُسَيْنِ بْنِ مُوسَى بْنِ بَابَوَيْهِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ بَعْدَ مَوْتِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عُثْمَانَ الْعَمْرِيِّ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ أَنْ أَسْأَلَ أَبَا الْقَاسِمِ الرَّوْحِيَّ أَنْ يَسْأَلَ مَوْلَانَا صَاحِبَ الزَّمَانِ ع أَنْ يَدْعُوَ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ أَنْ يَرْزُقَهُ وَلَداً ذَكَراً

ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn b. Mūsā b. Bābawayh, may Allah be pleased with him, asked me after the death of Muḥammad b. ʿUthmān al-ʿAmrī, may Allah be pleased with him, to request Abū al-Qāsim al-Rūḥī to implore our leader the Master of the Age, peace be upon him, to supplicate to Allah, mighty and Majestic, that He grant him a male child.

Al-Aswad recalls that he did as he was bidden only for the Safīr to refuse at first, but return three days later to notify him that ‘he (i.e. the Imam) had supplicated for ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn’ and that:

سَيُولَدُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ مُبَارَكٌ يَنْفَعُ اللَّهُ بِهِ وَ بَعْدَهُ أَوْلَاد

There will be born to him a blessed son through whom Allah will benefit (many) and after him other sons …

Al-Aswad comments:

فَوُلِدَ لِعَلِيِّ بْنِ الْحُسَيْنِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَلِيٍّ وَ بَعْدَهُ أَوْلَادٌ

So Muḥammad b. ʿAlī was born to ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn, may Allah be pleased with him, and after him other children …

Al-Ṣadūq comments on this report concerning his own birth by recounting how this al-Aswad would:

كان أبو جعفر محمد بن علي الأسود رضي الله عنه كثيرا ما يقول لي إذا رآني أختلف إلى مجلس شيخنا محمد بن الحسن بن أحمد بن الوليد رضي الله عنه و أرغب في كتب العلم و حفظه ليس بعجب أن تكون لك هذه الرغبة في العلم و أنت ولدت بدعاء الإمام

Many a time say to me, when he sees me attending the Majlis (sessions) of our Shaykh Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan b. Aḥmad b. al-Walīd, may Allah be pleased with him, (and sees me) desirous of writing down knowledge and memorizing it, ‘It is not strange for you to have this desire for knowledge when you were born through the supplication of the Imam!’3

Unsurprisingly, being born through the supplication of the Imam was a point of particular pride for al-Ṣadūq, and why not, when it marked the very singular destiny he was going to attain.

II. Al-Ḥusayn b. ʿUbaydallāh al-Ghaḍāʾirī (d. 411) remembers seeing al-Ṣadūq ‘take pride in this’ and say:

وكان أبو عبد الله الحسين بن عبيد الله يقول: سمعت أبا جعفر يقول: أنا ولدت بدعوة صاحب الامر عليه السلام، ويفتخر بذلك

I was born through the supplication of the Ṣāḥib al-Amr4

But that al-Ṣadūq was born through the supplication of the Imam does not depend on the the transmission of al-Ṣadūq himself for it was a fact that was widely known in Qum.

III. The early Rijālī authority, Abū al-ʿAbbās b. Nūḥ (fl. 408), narrates the following account from one Abū ʿAbdillāh al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad b. Sūra who is quoting a number of ‘the Mashāyikh of Qum’5.

عَلِيَّ بْنَ الْحُسَيْنِ بْنِ مُوسَى بْنِ بَابَوَيْهِ كَانَتْ تَحْتَهُ بِنْتُ عَمِّهِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ مُوسَى بْنِ بَابَوَيْهِ فَلَمْ يُرْزَقْ مِنْهَا وَلَداً. فَكَتَبَ إِلَى الشَّيْخِ أَبِي الْقَاسِمِ الْحُسَيْنِ بْنِ رَوْحٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ أَنْ يَسْأَلَ الْحَضْرَةَ أَنْ يَدْعُوَ اللَّهَ أَنْ يَرْزُقَهُ أَوْلَاداً فُقَهَاءَ فَجَاءَ الْجَوَابُ: أَنَّكَ لَا تُرْزَقُ مِنْ هَذِهِ وَ سَتَمْلِكُ جَارِيَةً دَيْلَمِيَّةً وَ تُرْزَقُ مِنْهَا وَلَدَيْنِ فَقِيهَيْنِ

ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn b. Mūsā b. Bābawayh had married the daughter of his paternal uncle Muḥammad b. Mūsā b. Bābawayh but was not granted a son through her.

So he wrote to the Shaykh Abī al-Qāsim al-Ḥusayn b. Rūḥ, may Allah be pleased with him, asking him to request the holy-presence to supplicate to Allah to grant him knowledgeable off-spring.

The response came, ‘You will not be granted through this one (i.e. your current wife), but you will gain ownership of a Daylamī slave-woman and you will be granted through her two knowledgeable sons’6

Then Ibn Sūra, a Qummi who was passing by Baghdad on his way to Hajj, proceeds to provide Ibn Nūḥ with the following eye-witness account7:

ولابي الحسن بن بابويه ثلاثة أولاد محمد والحسين فقيهان ماهران في الحفظ يحفظان مالا يحفظ غيرهما من أهل قم ولهما أخ اسمه الحسن وهو الاوسط مشتغل بالعباده والزهد لايختلط بالناس ولا فقه له قال ابن سورة: كلما روى أبوجعفر وأبوعبدالله ابنا علي بن الحسين شيئا يتعجب الناس من حفظهما ويقولون لهما: هذا الشان خصوصية لكما بدعوة الامام عليه السلام لكما، وهذا أمر مستفيض في أهل قم

Abī al-Ḥasan b. Bābawayh has three sons. Muḥammad and al-Ḥusayn are jurists, very proficient in memorization. They memorize what other residents of Qum cannot8.

They have a brother called al-Ḥasan. He is the middle brother. He spends most of his time in worship and abstinence (from worldly things). He does not mix with people. He is not learned in Fiqh.

Whenever Abū Jaʿfar (i.e. al-Ṣadūq) and Abū ʿAbdillāh, the two sons of ʿAlī b. al- Ḥusayn, narrate something the people wonder at their prodigious memory and say to them, ‘This matter is a distinction for you both because of the supplication of the Imam for you!’.

This affair (that they were born by the supplication of the Imam) is widely known among the residents of Qum9

IV. al-Najāshī (d. 450) likely has all the accounts above in mind when he summarizes it in the following way:

كان قدم العراق واجتمع مع أبي القاسم الحسين بن روح رحمه الله وسأله مسائل ثم كاتبه بعد ذلك على يد علي بن جعفر بن الأسود يسأله أن يوصل له رقعة إلى الصاحب (عجل الله تعالى فرجه) يسأله فيها الولد، فكتب إليه: (قد دعونا الله لك بذلك وسترزق ولدين ذكرين خيرين)، فولد له أبو جعفر وأبو عبد الله من أم ولد

He (i.e. ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn b. Mūsā b. Bābawayh) travelled to Iraq and met up with Abī al-Qāsim al-Ḥusayn b. Rūḥ, may Allah have mercy on him, and he asked him a number of jurisprudential questions.

Then he (later) corresponded with him via ʿAlī b. Jaʿfar b. al-Aswad (sic. Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Aswad) asking him (i.e. the Safīr) to present a parchment (letter) of his to the Ṣāḥib (i.e. the Twelfth Imam) in which he requested for a child.

So he (i.e. the Imam) wrote to him, ‘We have supplicated to Allah on your behalf for that, and you will be granted two righteous male sons’

Consequently Abū Jaʿfar (i.e. al-Ṣadūq) and Abū ʿAbdillāh were born to him from a slave-woman.10

This, as a side-point, is a demonstration of the way in which the Rijālī scholars would integrate Hissi information about a narrator that came down to them and integrated them in his entry.


I end by quoting the words of the great scholar, Sayyid Baḥr al-ʿUlūm (d. 1212), when discussing the implication of these reports:

و هذه الأحاديث تدل على عظم منزلة الصدوق رضى اللّه عنه، و كونه أحد دلائل الامام عليه السلام، فان تولده مقارنا للدعوة و تبينه بالنعت و الصفة من معجزاته صلوات اللّه عليه، و وصفه بالفقاهة و النفع و البركة دليل على عدالته و وثاقته، لأن الانتفاع الحاصل منه رواية و فتوى لا يتم إلا بالعدالة التي هي شرط فيهما، فهذا توثيق له من الامام و الحجة عليه السلام، و كفى حجة على ذلك … و كيف كان فوثاقة الصدوق أمر ظاهر جلي، بل معلوم ضروري كوثاقة أبي ذر و سلمان، و لو لم يكن إلا اشتهاره بين علماء الأصحاب بلقبيه المعروفين‌ لكفى في هذا الباب

These reports indicate the greatness of al-Ṣadūq’s status, may Allah be pleased with him, and identify him as one of the miraculous signs of the Imam, peace be upon him, for his birth to have occurred following the supplication and his coming to exhibit the characteristics (that were prophesied for him) must be counted from among his (i.e. the Imam’s) miracles.

Being described (by the Imam) as (one who will) ‘possess understanding’, ‘a benefit for others’ and ‘blessed’ also acts as evidence for his ʿAdāla and Wathāqa, because the benefit that accrues from him, whether it be through his narration of Hadith or giving of Fatwa, cannot be realized except after confirming his ʿAdāla which is a pre-condition for both (narration and giving Fatwa), so this is a Tawthīq for him from the Imam and the Ḥujja, peace be upon him, and it is a sufficient proof for that …

In any case, the Wathāqa of al-Ṣadūq is an evident and manifest thing, in fact, it is known by necessity like the Wathāqa of Abī Dharr and Salmān, and if there was nothing supporting it except the fame of his two well-known epithets among the scholars then that would be sufficient in this regard11

I say: The two epithets are Raʾīs al-Muḥaddithīn (the head of the Hadith narrators) and al-Ṣadūq (the extremely truthful one).


  1. Rijāl al-Najāshī, Pg. 621, No. 684 (
  2. The birth-year of Ṣadūq’s father is not recorded in the sources. Sayyid Muḥammad Riḍā al-Ḥusaynī al-Jalālī, and based on a Tawqīʿ supposedly sent by Imam al-ʿAskarī to Ṣadūq’s father, estimates that the latter was born in the year 230. This being the case he would have been 75 years old in the year 305, the earliest this correspondance could have occurred soon after Ḥusayn b. Rūḥ assumed the office of the Sifāra. Such an elderly man would have no option but to turn to divine intervention. However, the Tawqīʿ is not well-attested in the sources and if one goes instead by the birth-year of 260 as proposed by Muḥammad Ṣādiq Baḥr al-ʿUlūm and ʿAbd al-Raḥīm al-Rabbānī al-Shīrāzī then Ṣadūq’s father would have been 45 when he corresponded with the Safīr, an age which is still late per the standards of the time.
  3. Kamāl al-Dīn, Vol. 2, Pgs. 502-203, No. 31 ( Al-Ṭūsī also transmits the same report. See al-Ghayba, Pg. 320 (
  4. Rijāl al-Najāshī, Pg. 621, No. 684 (
  5. He names two of them: ʿAlī b. al-Ḥusayn b. Yūsuf al-Ṣāʾigh and Muḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Ṣayrafī (Ibn al-Dallāl).
  6. al-Ghayba, Pg. 308 (
  7. Note the ‘present tense’ used throughout the account which means that all these men were alive at the time, in other words, this is a contemporary account by an eye-witness.
  8. There is ample evidence that Ṣadūq was something of a child prodigy, especially in memorization of Hadith. Even an opponent like al-Dhahabī says about him:

    يضرب بحفظه المثل

    His memory was proverbial (i.e. so legendary that proverbs were coined about it)

    See Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubalāʾ, Vol. 16, Pg. 303, No. 212 (

  9. al-Ghayba, Pg. 309 (
  10. Rijāl al-Najāshī, Pg. 621, No. 684 (
  11. al-Fawāʾid al-Rijāliyya, Vol. 3. Pgs. 299-301 ( The reason the Sayyid even has to argue for the Tawthīq of someone of al-Ṣadūq’s stature is because there were apparently some misguided scholars who made Tawaqquf (suspend judgment) on it since there is no word ‘Thiqa’ to be found under his entry in both Ṭūsī and Najāshī despite both of these scholars praising Ṣadūq effusively. See Luʾluʾat al-Baḥrayn (ed. Maktabat Fakhrāwī), Pg. 357, No. 121.