Sīriy-i Pīshvāyān [The Conduct of the Leaders]

Author: Mahdī Pīshvāʾī
Reviewed by: Morteza Karimi

Mahdī Pīshvāʾī, Sīriy-i Pīshvāyān [The Conduct of the Leaders], 21st ed., 1 vol., Qom: Muʾassisa Imām Ṣādiq (a), 1430 AH, 792 pp.

The history of the past is full of bitter and sweet events, each of which contains lessons for the future. Meanwhile, the followers of every religion and school of thought pay special attention to the history, life and behavior of their prominent leaders, and for this reason, historical books related to the biographies of religious leaders are of particular importance. Based on this, Muslims, both Shiʿa and Sunnis, have written many books about the Prophet’s biography and life-style, but their most important difference, which is the issue of the Prophet’s succession, caused Shiʿa and Sunni historians to look at the post-Prophet history somewhat differently. Thus, Shiʿa, who believe in the choice of 12 Imāms by God as the immediate successors of the Prophet, give special importance to their lifestyle.

The book Sīriy-i Pīshvāyān is an analysis of the social, political and cultural life of the Imāms, and therefore, the word “Pīshvāyān” (Leaders) in the title of the book refers to the 12 Imāms, who, from the Shiʿite point of view, are the leaders of the Islamic society after the Prophet, and their lifestyle just like that of the Prophet is the best example to be followed by all.

Mahdī Pīshvāʾī is a contemporary Iranian cleric and author whose specialty was the history of Islam and Shiʿa school of thought. He published numerous books and articles on this subject, among which mention can be made of Tārīkh-i Islām (History of Islam), Tārīkh-i Qīyām wa Maqtal-i Jāmiʿ-i Sayyid al-Shuhadāʾ (a) (History of the Uprising and Comprehensive Martyrdom-Account of the Master of Martyrs), and Shinākht-i Shiʿa (An Introduction to Shiʿa School of Thought). He was born in 1942 and passed away on August 14, 2021 in the city of Qom and was buried there.

The introduction of Ayatollah Subḥānī, one of the prominent contemporary Shiʿa scholars, to Sīriy-i Pīshvāyān and his praise of the content of the book shows the outstanding position of the book. According to Ayatollah Subḥānī, this book is the result of years of research by its knowledgeable author, and it is a new work due to the writing style, the way the topics are presented, and citing reliable sources.

Sīriy-i Pīshvāyān consists of 12 chapters, each dedicated to one the 12 Imāms, beginning with Imām ʿAlī (a) and ending with Imām Mahdī (a). In the first chapter, the author examines the life of Imām ʿAlī (a) in 5 parts: from his birth to the Prophet’s mission, from the Prophet’s mission to the Prophet’s emigration, from the emigration to the Prophet’s death, from the Prophet’s death to the apparent caliphate, and finally from the caliphate to martyrdom. In the third part, the most important virtues of Imām ʿAlī (a) and the stories related to his unique courage in numerous wars are mentioned. One of the most important topics of the fourth section is Imām ʿAlī’s view on the issue of the Prophet’s succession and the importance of his decisive decision in this regard. The three famous wars during Imām ʿAlī’s caliphate are among the other parts to be read in the first chapter.

An important historical issue that is examined in the second chapter, after referring to the virtues of Imām Ḥasan (a), is the reasons for his peace with Muʿāwiya, and in this regard, the author answers the basic question of why Imām Ḥasan (a) made peace while Imām Ḥusayn (a) made an uprising. The answer to this question is completed in the third chapter by discussing the obstacles to the uprising during Muʿāwiya’s time. Then Pīshvāʾī explains in detail the reasons for the Karbalā uprising and its significant results, and in this regard, he discusses the uprisings of Tawwābīn and Mukhtār. The author introduces Lady Zaynab (a) and Imām Sajjād (a) as messengers of Karbalā and also refers to their efforts to explain the facts to the people.

The fourth chapter of the book is dedicated to the fourth Imām, i.e. Imām Sajjād (a). The details related to the oppression of the Umayyad rulers and their suppression of the Shiʿa are a prelude to answering these two questions: why Imām Sajjād (a) did not rise up and why he did not cooperate with the rebels of Medina? However, this fact is explained that Imām Sajjād (a) fought against the oppression and corruption of his era in seven ways, including by explaining religious teachings through prayer and supplication, fighting against corrupt scholars, and helping the weak.

The fifth and sixth chapters refer to the extensive scientific efforts of Imām Bāqir (a) and Imām Ṣādiq (a), which indicate serious changes in the political and social situation during the era of these two Imāms. These changes allowed these two Imāms to promote Islamic teachings with more freedom and groom thousands of students some of whose names and activities are mentioned.

While a significant part of the seventh chapter is devoted to the widespread oppression and corruption of the Abbasid caliphs and the efforts of Imām Kāẓim (a) to support and protect the Shiʿa, the eighth chapter analyzes the issue of Imām Riḍā’s crown prince position, the reason for its proposal by Maʾmūn, and Imām’s reasons for accepting it. Imām Riḍā’s scientific and cultural activities are also highlighted in this chapter.


The three important issues that are examined in the ninth chapter are the Imamate of Imām Jawād (a) as a child, Imām Jawād’s debates with scholars and his marriage with Maʾmūn’s daughter. In the next chapter, the political and social conditions of Imām Hādī’s era are analyzed and the secret and open activities of the Imām (a) are explained, especially the formation of the communication network and the fight against deviant theological sects. The eleventh chapter deals with the seven dimensions of Imām ʿAskarī’s activities, including secret political activities, financial support for the Shiʿa, creating a communication network with them and preparing them for the time of occultation.

Finally, the twelfth and last chapter of Sīriy-i Pīshvāyān deals with the last Imām, i.e. Imām Mahdi (a). First, the author tries to prove his birth based on various Shiʿa and Sunni sources, and then he analyzes the socio-political causes of his minor and major occultations. Another part of this chapter is dedicated to special deputies of Imām Mahdi (a) and their activities. The benefits of the Imām’s existence during his occultation is the last topic of this book.

The appendix of the book contains the index of people, places, books, tribes and clans, and religions and sects.

This book, which, due to the author’s writing style, is useful for both specialists and the general public, has been translated into Arabic, and its translation into other languages, especially English, is suggested.