Shi‘ite fatwas in the Kitab Tadhkirat al-Fuqaha’, 17th century


This elegantly decorated manuscript from Persia is a collection of case law, compiled for the benefit of jurors. It shows how much expertise and care could be lavished on religious legal documents.

What is a fatwa?

Islamic customs and conventions are referred to as the sunnah. These derive mainly from the hadith, which are contemporary accounts of the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad. Together, the Qur’an and sunnah shape Islamic law, known as shar‘iah.

A fatwa is simply ‘a ruling’ or ‘a decision’ made under Islamic law. It usually results in a situation where fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is unclear: an individual or judge will ask for a fatwa from a scholar, called a mufti, who is capable of making a decision on the case.

Who made this book?

This book, the Kitab Tadhkirat al-Fuqaha’ (Memorandum for Jurists), is a compendium of fatwas: a collection of formal opinions and decisions on legal cases according to the Shi‘a school of law. It was compiled by al-Hasan ibn Yusuf, known as al-Mutahhar al-Hilli (d. 1325). This volume deals with legal definitions, and gives examples regarding transactions of sales, loans and pledges.

This manuscript was copied by the scribe Qasim ibn Husayn Shirazi. The opening double page has an illuminated floral headpiece in the style of the Safavid period in Iran (1501–1732), with colours predominantly in gold, blue and pink. The wide margins are illuminated with bold floral and arabesque decorations in gold and blue, and the text is within gold cloud bands.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
Tadhkirat al-Fuqahā’ Ibn al-Muṭahhar al-Ḥillī, al-Ḥasan ibn Yūsuf
late 17th century
al-Mutahhar al-Hilli, Qasim ibn Husayn Shirazi [scribe]
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Or 13890

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Sources of wisdom and authority in Islamic sacred texts

Article by:
Mustafa Shah

In this article Dr Mustafa Shah outlines some of the most important textual sources of wisdom and authority in Islam, in both Sunni and Shi‘a traditions. Among them are hadith, sunnah, shari‘ah, tafsīr and kalam.

Islam introduction

Article by:
The British Library

An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Islam.

Related collection items