Sheikh Bahai, the renowned religious scholar during the Safavid era
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On 17th of the Islamic month of Moharram in 953 AH, the renowned religious scholar, architect, engineer, mathematician, astronomer and poet, Baha od‐Din Mohammad ibn Hussain al‐Ameli, known popularly as Sheikh Bahai, was born in Ba’lbek, Lebanon. His father was one of the prominent ulema of the Jabal al-Amel region of Lebanon, who brought him to Iran in his childhood.
Given his sublime talents, Sheikh Bahai mastered a number of sciences of his day in a short period. He has left behind more than 100 books and treatises in Arabic and Persian. He passed away at the age of 77 in the Safavid capital, Isfahan, and according to his will, his body was taken to Mashhad and buried in the premises of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS), the 8th Infallible Successor of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
Shaikh Bahai is regarded as a leading scholar of his age and a \"mujaddid\" or revivalist. His erudition won him the admiration of Shah Abbas I, and he was appointed the Shaikh ol-Islam or the Chief Theologian of Isfahan. He wrote works on a wide variety of topics such as exegesis of the holy Qur’an, hadith, grammar, jurisprudence, mathematics, astronomy, and poetry.
Among his famous works are \"Jama’e Abbasi\" on jurisprudence, \"Kashkoul\" on philosophy and poetry, \"Khulasat al-Hisaab\" on mathematics, and \"Tashrih al‐Aflaak\" or Anatomy of the Celestial Spheres, a summary of theoretical astronomy where he affirms the view that supports the positional rotation of the Earth as it orbits around the sun.
A number of architectural and engineering designs in Isfahan stand proof to the genius of Shaikh Bahai, including the Naqsh-e Jahan Square and the Grand Shah Abbas Mosque known as the Imam Mosque today. He also designed and constructed a furnace for a public bathroom, which still exists in Isfahan. The furnace was warmed by a single candle, which was placed in an enclosure. The candle burned for a long time, warming the bath\'s water.
According to his instructions, the candle\'s fire would be put out if the enclosure was ever opened. This happened during the restoration and repair of the building and no one has been able to make the system work again. He also designed the Minar-e Jonban (Shaking Minaret), which still exists in Isfahan.