[2/52] al-Kafi: And from him (Muhammad b. Yahya) from Ahmad b. Muhammad and Muhammad b. al-Husayn from Ibn Mahbub from Abdallah b. Sinan who said: I said to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام – a group comes and hears your narrations from me – but I (sometimes) become weary and do not have the strength (to read all that I have to them), he said: then read for them from the beginning of it (the book) a narration and from the middle a narration and from the ending a narration. Comments
This narration is very a beneficial one because it proves that even in the earliest days (the Imama of al-Sadiq) the Ashab used to hold sessions wherein the Shaykh goes over the narrations he has obtained from the Imam to his students (technically called Qira’a) while the students listen to his recital (technically called Sima’a). More important is that the Hadith indicates that the narrations were in written form i.e. ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘ending’ makes sense only if ‘it’ in the Hadith refers to a book of Hadith (narrations recorded in written format), proving the oft-repeated claim that Shi’ite Hadith were recorded in writing from the start. When the Shaykh cannot read to his students all of his narrations at any particular time he should read a few narrations from the book so that the blessings of going over the whole book is still obtained. He can then presumably provide the book to them to go over it themselves (the Hadith has been used to argue for the permissibility of the Ijaza system, wherein you license the book to them without going through the formal Qira’a or Sima’a) or resume the normal sessions when his strength returns.