Some of the Leading Shia Ulama
Compiled by: Syed Ali Shahbaz
Grand Ayatollah Allamah Mirza Mohammad Hussein Na'ini
On 15th of the Islamic month of Zil-Qa'dah in 1276 AH, the Source of Emulation, Grand Ayatollah Allamah Mirza Mohammad Hussein Na'ini, was born in the central Iranian city of Na'in in a religious family. He completed his preliminary studies in his hometown before leaving for Iraq for higher studies at the famous seminary of holy Najaf. He studied under such prominent ulema as Mirza-e Shirazi, and besides theology was well versed in mathematics, philosophy, and mysticism.
Among his most important compilations, mention can be made of “Tanbih al-Ummah va Tanziha al-Millah” which outlines the duties of ulema and people and the necessity of campaign against tyrannical regimes. This was an effective step by Grand Ayatollah Na’ini in awakening the Iranian people, whose struggles against local despotism and foreign hegemony were to triumph decades later under the guidance of the Father of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini (RA). Among his other books mention could be made of “Wasilat an-Naja'at”. He passed away at the age of 79.
Ayatollah Shaikh Zain al-Abedin Mazandarani
On 16th of the Islamic month of Zil-Qa’dah in 1309 AH, the prominent Iranian Islamic scholar, Ayatollah Shaikh Zain al-Abedin Mazandarani, passed away. Following the completion of preliminary studies, he left Iran for the famous seminary in holy Najaf, Iraq, for higher studies under prominent lecturers such as the celebrated Ayatollah Sheikh Morteza Ansari Dezful.
He soon attained an elevated scientific and spiritual status. He always thought of the poor and the needy and strove to solve their problems. He was also very modest and was highly respected by the ulema and people.
He was instrumental in enlightening a sizeable section of the Nizari Ismaili community of India with the rational beliefs of Ithna Ash’ari or Twelver School during discussions in Najaf with a Khoja delegation that had come on pilgrimage from the Subcontinent. At his behest, Mullah Qader Hussein returned to the Subcontinent espousing Twelver Shi’ism. His preaching was instrumental in convincing several more Khoja families to leave Nizari Ismailism and become Twelvers Shias.
Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Abdul-Karim Ha'eri Yazdi
On 17th of the Islamic month of Zil-Qa'dah in 1355 AH, the prominent theologian and reviver of the ancient Qom Islamic Seminary, Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Abdul-Karim Ha'eri Yazdi, passed away and was laid to rest in the holy shrine of Hazrat Ma'soumah (SA).
Born in the central Iranian city of Yazd, he left for Iraq following the completion of preliminary studies and attained the status of ijtehad under the prominent ulema of holy Najaf. On his return to Iran, he sensed the vacuum resulting from the absence of a highly capable Islamic scientific center, and thus established the Qom Seminary in 1340 AH, which soon developed and turned into one of the important scientific centers of the World of Islam.
Grand Ayatollah Ha'eri groomed prominent and distinguished students, such as the Founder of Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini (RA). He has left behind a large number of compilations, including "Kitab ar-Ridha", and "Kitab as-Salaat".
The renowned Islamic scholar and literary figure of Iraq, Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Kashef al-Gheta
On 18th of the Islamic month of Zil-Qa'dah in 1373 AH, the renowned Islamic scholar and literary figure of Iraq, Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Kashef al-Gheta, passed away. He was born in a virtuous academic family in the holy city of Najaf. He learned preliminary Islamic sciences at a young age and soon attained high sholarly status by attending the classes of prominent ulema, such as Akhound Khorasani. Ayatollah Kashef al-Gheta groomed many students and wrote several books.
He also visited a number of Muslim states to promote Islamic teachings, delivering memorable speeches at the universities and scientific centers of Iran, Egypt, and Palestine. He considered presence in political affairs as a must, and played a vital role in the Islamic movement of the Iraqi people against the British, who exiled him to Iran after crushing the 1920 revolution and martyring Ayatollah Mirza Mohammad Taqi Shirazi.
Among his books, mention can be made of a Diwan of poems and the book: “as-Siyasat al-Husainiyyah” on the philosophy behind Imam Husain’s (AS) uprising.
The prominent Islamic scholar Shaikh Ja’far Kashef al-Gheta
On 27th of the Islamic month of Rajab in 1228 AH, the prominent Islamic scholar, Allamah Shaikh Ja’far bin Khizr bin Yahya al-Hilli, popularly known as Kashef al-Gheta, from the title of his outstanding book, passed away in the holy city of Najaf at the age of 71. A descendant of Malek Ashtar, the famous general of the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (AS), he was a student of Shaikh Yusuf Bahrani, but upon arrival in Najaf of Allamah Waheed Bahbahani from Iran, he renounced his previous Akhbari ideas and accepted the Usouli school.
On the passing away of Allamah Seyyed Mahdi Bahr al-Uloom in 1212 AH, Shaikh Ja'far Kashef al-Gheta was recognized as the Supreme Religious Authority of the Shi’ite Muslim world. He has written many books particularly in the fields of jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, theology and Arabic literature, which besides “Kashf al-Gheta”, include “al-Haq ul-Mobeen fi Tasweeb al-Mujtahideen”, and Minhaj ar-Rishad against Wahhabi heresy.
Ayatollah Mirza Radhi od-Din Zon-Nouri
On 14th of the Islamic month of Zil-Qa'dah in 1294 AH, Ayatollah Mirza Radhi od-Din Zon-Nouri, was born in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz. After completing preliminary Islamic studies he left for the famous seminary of holy Najaf in Iraq, where he attained the status of Ijtehad.
He returned to Iran and taught at seminaries for many years. He also wrote several books and groomed numerous students, many of which achieved the status of Ijtehad. One of his books is titled "Qaza wa Shahadat".
Ibn Hajjaj, the poet and eulogist of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.A.) and the Ahl al-Bayt(A.S.)
On 27th of the Islamic month of Jamadi as-Sani in 391 AH, the poet and eulogist of the Prophet and the Ahl al-Bayt, Siraj Wahhaj Hussain bin Ahmad, popularly known as Ibn Hajjaj, passed away. As per his will he was laid to rest in Kazemain at the feet of the holy shrine of Imam Musa Kazem (AS), the 7th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
The renowned poet and scholar Seyyed Razi, who has earned immortality for compiling the book “Nahj al-Balagha”, which is a collection of sermons, letters and aphorisms of the Prophet’s First Infallible Successor, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), composed a moving elegy at Ibn Hajjaj’s funeral.
Among the panegyrics of Ibn Hajjaj is the famous eulogy in praise of Imam Ali (AS), which begins with the verse “Ya Sahebat al-Qubbat al-Bayza fi’n-Najaf".
Muhaddith Noori, the prominent Iranian Islamic scholar
On 27th of the Islamic month of Jamadi as-Sani in 1320 AH, the prominent Iranian Islamic scholar, Mirza Hussein Noori Tabarsi, popularly known as Muhaddith Noori, passed away at the age of 66 in holy Najaf and was laid to rest, as per his will on the right side of the entrance to the Mausoleum of Imam Ali (AS).
Born in the town of Noor in Mazandaran Province in a religious family, he studied in Iraq under leading scholars including Ayatollah Shaikh Morteza Ansari Dezfuli. He was an authority on Islamic sciences, including hadith, exegesis of the Holy Qur’an, theology, and biography of ulema.
He groomed numerous students, including Shaikh Abbas Qomi, the author of the famous prayer and supplication manual, "Mafatih al-Jinaan" (Keys of Paradise). A prolific writer, Muhaddith Noori wrote many books including "Najm as-Saqeb" on the Imam of the Age, Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance).
Among his works is the voluminous book "Mustadrak al-Wasa'el”, in which he has collected 123,000 hadith of the Infallible Imams on the line of Shaikh Hur al Ameli’s “Wasa'el ash-Shi'a".
Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Bahjat Foumani
On May 17, 2009 AD, the prominent Source of Emulation, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Bahjat Foumani, passed away in holy Qom at the age of 94. Born in the city of Fouman, Gilan Province in northern Iran, he completed his preliminary studies in his hometown. After learning Arabic, he left for the seminary of holy Najaf in Iraq in 1929 for higher studies.
He returned to Iran in 1945, and settled in Qom, lecturing on jurisprudence and theology, and grooming numerous students. His most important characteristic was his spotless piety that influenced every one. He was a highly knowledgeable Islamic scholar, and it is said he had been gifted by God with the vision for the unseen. He has left behind a large number of valuable compilations, including “Kitab-e Salaat” and “Jama'e al-Masa’el”.
Prominent Islamic scholar of the Subcontinent, Ayatollah Seyyed Dildar Ali ‘Ghufraan-Ma'ab’
On 19th of the Islamic month of Rajab in 1235 AH, prominent Islamic scholar of the Subcontinent, Ayatollah Seyyed Dildar Ali Naseerabadi known as Ghufraan-Ma'ab, passed away in Lucknow at the age of 69. Son of Seyyed Mo’in ibn Seyyed Abdul-Hadi, he came from a family of scholars hailing from Naishapur in Khorasan, Iran, which had settled in the village of Naseerabad, in what is now Uttar Pradesh state of India.
The title "Ghufraan-Ma'ab was bestowed on him by the ulema in holy Najaf, in Iraq, due to his scholarly activities that included writing of books and promoting of Islamic teachings in society. He completed preliminary studies in India under various scholars, including Gholam Ali Dakani (of Deccan, southern India where the school of the Ahl al-Bayt was the state religion of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda-Haiderabad for almost two centuries, and which model was later adopted by the Nawabs of Oudh).
then left for the famous seminary of holy Najaf where his teachers included the jurisprudents Shaikh Ja'far Kashef al-Gheta and Wahid Bahbahani. Later, he travelled to holy Mashhad in northeastern Iran for further studies. Initially of Akhbari persuasion, Dildar Ali became an Usuli, and on his return to India, was hailed as a Marja’.
He wrote prolifically in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. He authored several books including “Imdad al-Islam” on theology, which is a refutation of the allegations of Fakhr od-Din Razi. His detailed work in jurisprudence is “Muntah al-Afkaar”. His sons were also pious, dedicated scholars and teachers.
The renowned theologian and hadith scholar, al-Horr al-Ameli
On 8th of the Islamic month of Rajab in 1033 AH, the renowned theologian and hadith scholar, Shaikh Abu Ja’far Mohammad ibn al-Hassan ibn Ali ibn al-Hussain al-Ameli al-Mashghari, popularly known as al-Horr al-Ameli, was born in the village of Mashghara in the Jabal Amel region of southern Lebanon.
His early education began with a family of teachers that included his father, his paternal uncle, his maternal grandfather Shaikh Abdus-Salaam ibn Mohammad, and one of his father's maternal uncles, Shaikh Ali ibn Mahmoud. He also studied under Hussain ibn Hassan ibn Yunus Zaher and Hassan ibn Zain od-Din Ameli, who was the great-grandson of the Second Martyr. Husain Zaher was the first to give him the ijaza or permission to teach and transmit hadith. He remained for the first forty years of his life in his homeland, performing the Hajj to Mecca twice and pilgrimage to the holy shrines in Iraq.
He eventually journeyed to Mashhad, Iran, and settled there for the rest of his life as Shaikh al-Islam at the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS), the 8th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). Before arriving in Mashhad he stayed for a while in the Safavid capital, Isfahan, where he became acquainted with the famous Allamah Mohammad Baqer Majlisi. The meeting between these two scholars left an impression on both of them and Majlisi introduced Horr al-Amili to the Safavid Emperor, Shah Sulaiman. He passed away in Mashhad at the age of 81 and was laid to rest in one of the portals of the holy shrine, where his grave is still the site of pilgrimage.
He wrote numerous books including “Wasa'el ash-Shia”, which is a vast but concise compilation and classification of Hadith that took him 18 years to compose. Among his other famous works is “al-Jawaher as-saniya fi'l-Ahadith al-Qudsiya”, and “Amal al-Amel fi Ulama Jabal al-Amel”, which is a biographical dictionary of Shi'ite Muslim scholars who originated from the Jabal Amel region.
The famous scholar and literary figure, Ibn Tawous Hilli
On 1st of the Islamic month of Sha’ban in 693 AH, the famous scholar and literary figure, Seyyed Ghiyas od-Din Abdul-Karim ibn Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Tawous Hilli, passed away in Kazemain, Iraq at the age of 45 and his body was taken to holy Najaf for burial. He was born in the holy city of Karbala.
His father is the compiler of the famous book “Iqbaal al-A’maal”. The Tawous family was famous in Iraq and Iran, and its members not only were educated and knowledgeable, but also widely respected by for their virtue, piety, and devotion to the cause of the Ahl al-Bayt.
Abdul-Karim memorized the Holy Qur'an by the age of 11 and studied Arabic literature and theology under prominent figures, including his father, as well as Muhaqqiq Hilli and Khwajah Naseer od-Din Tusi. He wrote several books including “Farhat al-Ghari be Sarhat al-Qori”
Allamah Abdul-Hussain Amini
On July 3, 1970 AD, Allamah Abdul-Hussain Amini, the renowned Islamic scholar and theologian, and compiler of the valuable book “al-Ghadeer”, passed away at the age of 68 in the holy city of Najaf in Iraq. He was born in the city of Tabriz, in north-western Iran, in a religious family, and after completion of preliminary studies, left for holy Najaf, where he attended the classes of prominent ulema, such as Shaikh Abdul-Karim Haeri and Mirza Mohammad Hussein Na’ini. Soon he attained the status of Ijtehad at a relatively young age, and started writing books.
His most valuable work is the 11-volume book titled “al-Ghadeer fi’l-Kitab wa’s-Sunna wa’l-Adab”, in which he refers to the ayahs of the holy Qur’an, the Prophet’s hadith and Arabic literature, regarding the historical event of Ghadeer-Khom on the 18th of Zilhijja 10 AH, when Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) while returning from his Farewell Hajj Pilgrimage was commanded by God Almighty to proclaim Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) as his vicegerent.
While writing this monumental book Allamah Amini bore the hardships of travel to several countries, including India, Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Iraq to study different sources. He gathered from Sunni sources the narrations of at least 110 Sahaba or the Prophet’s companions about the event of Ghadeer, and then recorded the Hadiths narrated in this regard by 360 reliable narrators. He also wrote several other books including an exegesis of the Holy Qur’an. He founded a large library in the holy city of Najaf, which stands to this day and is still used by scholars.
The famous outstanding orator of the subcontinent, Allamah Rasheed Turabi
On July 9, 1908 AD, the famous religious scholar, philosopher, poet and outstanding orator of the subcontinent, Allamah Rasheed Turabi was born in Hyderabad, India. After obtaining BA from Osmania University in Hyderabad and MA in Philosophy from Allahabad University, he learned religious sciences, and mastered Urdu, Persian and Arabic literature. His Persian teachers were Mohsin Shirazi, Ali Hyder Nazm Tabatabai, and Mohammed Kirmani, while his Arabic language teachers were Tahir bin Mohammad, and Mawlana Sadeq Hussain Majjan.
On the political side, he started his career as a member of the working committee of the Hyderabad Legislative Assembly. Later on, he was nominated by the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, as a member of the working committee of All India Muslim League. In 1949, following the fall of Hyderabad-Deccan to Indian forces in 1948, a year after independence from British rule, he migrated to Pakistan, where he left active politics, and devoted himself to religious erudition, especially discourses on Imam Husain (AS) and the tragedy of Karbala.
His great knowledge of hadith, jurisprudence, and exegesis of the holy Qur’an brought him Ijaza from Ayatollah Shaikh Mohammed Mohsin Tehrani, Ayatollah Seyyed Mohsin al-Hakeem Tabatabai, Ayatollah Seyyed Hibbatuddin Shahristani, Ayatollah Seyyed Hadi Milani, and Ayatollah Borujerdi.
He delivered more than 5,000 religious lectures and speeches over a period of 57 years that he spent out of his 65 years of total life in the service of the Ahl al-Bayt, introducing many dimensions to the Art of Oratory. The most sought after Urdu public speaker of his times, he was indeed a persuasive and brilliant orator.
He was a prolific author as well, and among his works is the book, “Tibb e Ma’soomeen” which is a composition of antidotes from Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) and the 12 Infallible Imams. He also wrote the 2-volume book "The Forests of Hyderabad" on the jungles of the Deccan. Another of his work is the idiomatic translation of Imam Ali’s (AS) famous Letter of Instructions to his governor of the then Christian-majority Egypt, Malik Ashtar. This epistle is a guiding light for just and fair governance. Turabi’s masterpiece on “Ilm Rijal” or biographical evaluation of narrators of hadith, which he titled "Wasl-e Qowl" was published after his death in Karachi.