Abu Salah al-Halabi
Halab has been a centre of Shi`a learning and activities since the early days of Islam. It is said that one of the wives of al-Imam al-Husayn, while being taken to Dimashq along with other prisoners of Ahl al-Bayt after the tragedy of Karbala', miscarried a child, Mahassan b. al-Husayn, at this place, who was buried there. Yaqut al-Hamawi (d. 626/1229), in Mu`jam al-buldan, wrote that Qal`a-ye Halab was the Palace of Ibrahim (Maqam Ibrahim), where the severed head of Yahya b. Zakariyya was put in a trunk.
He also says that according to a tradition someone saw in a dream that the grave of Imam `Ali was also beside Bab al-Jinan. He says further that inside Bab al-`Iraq is situated the Mosque of Ghawth (Masjid Ghawth), and there on a stone is an inscription attributed to Amir al-Mu'minin `Ali. Yaqut also refers to the grave of Mahassan b. al-Husayn at Kuh-e Jawshan in the eastern part of the town. He adds that the fuqaha' of Halab issue fatawa according to Shi`i fiqh.
Jalal al-Din al-Balkhi al-Rumi (d. 672/1273), in his Mathnawi, ironically refers to the mourning ceremonies at Halab commemorating the martyrdom of al-Imam al-Husayn, which is indicative of the devotion of the residents of Halab for AhI al-Bayt.Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamdani and the rulers of his family, who professed Shi`i faith, chose Halab as their capital and later the Fatimids ruled the city and its adjoining areas.
All these factors contributed to the development of Halab as a centre of Shi`i scholarship. Halab came into prominence in the world of Shi`i learning because of the family of Abu al-Makarim b. Zuhra, but the first Shi`i scholar of Halab to win fame in the Muslim world was Abu al-Salah Taqi al-Din b. Najm al-Din al-Halabi.
Taqi al-Din b. Najm al-Din al-Halabi (d. 449/1057) was among the most prominent pupils of al-Sayyid al-Murtada and al-Shaykh al-Tusi, and was deputed at Halab as representative of his teacher. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi, in his al-Rijal, in the chapter dealing the 'ulama' that did not narrate directly from the Imams, mentions Abu al-Salah's name, saying that he is a reliable scholar and has to his credit many books. Al-Tusi also certified that he had been a pupil of both himself and al-Sayyid al-Murtada.
This testimony by a teacher of the repute of al-Tusi for one of his pupils is a rare thing, for al-Tusi never mentioned any of his pupils among the eminent `ulama' of the post-Occultation period. This honour, if not unprecedented, is rarely won by a scholar in the annals of Shi`i scholarship. Ibn Shahr Ashub, in Ma`alim al-`ulama', mentions the following works of Abu al-Salah: Kitab al-bidaya in fiqh, and a commentary on al-Dhakhira by al-Sayyid al-Murtada.
Al-`Allama al-HilIi (in Khulasat al-aqwal ), Ibn Dawud, and al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-`Amili (in Amal al-`amil) paid tribute to his scholarship. The latter mentions his name as Taqi al-Din, which seems to be his full name, and probably al-Tusi, naming him Taqi, used only the first part of his full name. Al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-`Amili refers to another work of Abu al-Salah, Taqrib al-ma`arif. It is worth mentioning that though many scholars of Halab are known as al-Halabi, whenever al-Halabi alone as a title is referred to in the terminology of fuqaha' it is meant to refer to Abu al-Salah only; and whenever al-Halabiyyan is used, it refers to Abu al-Salah and Sayyid Abu al-Makarim b. Zuhra.
The Shafi`i scholar, Nur al-Din al-Halabi (d. 1044/1634), the author of Insan al-`uyun fi sirat al-Amin wa-l-Ma'mun, popularly known as al-Sira al-Halabiyya, is also remembered as al-Halabi. However, the first person who won universal acclaim as al-Halabi and who placed Halab on the map of Islamic learning was Abu al-Salah.