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A Faqih Whom 400 Mujtahids Were His Disciples

“O Ja’far! The twelver[1] ulama[2] have put a lot of effort into collecting Imams’ statements from around cities. They have also mentioned whether they are true, reliable or weak so that people of your kind can see the documentation of the religious law without effort and pronounce a decree,” Muhaqqiq Hilli said with anger.

The pride of ulama, Sheikh Abul-Qasim Ja’far bin Hassan bin Yahya bin Sa’id Hilli, known as “Muhaqqiq”, is the author of many books on Fiqh[3], such as Sharāyeʻ, Ma’ārij, Mu’tabar, Mukhtasar al-Nafi’ and so forth. Muhaqqiq Helli was Ibn Zohreh and Ibn Idrīs Ḥillī’s student with one mediator.

He was Allamah Hilli’s professor and no one is deemed to be better than Allamah Hilli in Fiqh. In Fiqh terminology, whenever the word “Muhaqqiq[4]” is used on its own, this very decent person is meant. The eminent philosopher and mathematician, Khaja Nasir al-Din Tusi, has met him in Hillah and has attended his Fiqh session. Muhaqqiq’s books, above all Sharāyeʻ al-Islam, was (and still is) a textbook for seminary students, and so many Fuqahā[5] have clarified his books or set margins for them. What follows is a brief mention of Muhaqqiq Awwal’s biography taken from the book “Illustrious Shi’ite Fuqaha”:

He came into the world in the historic city of Hilla in 1205 and was educated on the preliminaries to prevalent sciences of his era from an early age. He also acquired Arabic literature which was his mother tongue very well, along with Mathematics, Logic and Kalām[6] to an adequate amount. He gained complete mastery over all these fields given his considerable intelligence. He then completed his knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence and its principles with his scholarly father, Hasan bin Yahya and in the presence of some famous Fuqaha of Hillah such as Ibn Nama and Sayyid Fakhar Mousavi, both of whom were students of the noted faqih, Ibn Idrīs. Then, he attempted to teach the sciences and skills that he had gathered.

He attended to fortifying principles of the Shiite fiqh and the basis of the school of Ijtihad[7] thanks to having great initiative, raging thoughts and largess. He taught with beauty of exposition, carful thought and a kind of rare deep thinking that students from various fields could be graced with his presence. He established fiqh on the basis of firm reasoning and took others’ opinions into consideration in his researches. He also attempted to develop its dimensions. Muhaqqiq Hilli was an example in knowledge, virtue, magnanimity and research. He composed a few poems in his early youth, but did not continue in the field at his father’s recommendation.

The Professor of 400 Noted Mujtahids

In a charter given to Zohreh household, Allamah Helli has written about Muhaqqiq, “this honorable person has been the best faqih among the people of his time”.

The author of Ta’sis Al-Shi’a adds: “The pen cannot recount his qualities; he has the book Sharayeʻ al-Islam, which is Quranic jurisprudence. He wrote the famous books Al-Nafa, al-Muʻtabar and also al-Miʻarj on the principles of jurisprudence, and he has epistles and essays on Ilm al-Kalām which are mentioned on the list of detailed books. More than 400 knowledgeable mujtahids whose biographies are mentioned in “Biographical evaluation” have graduated from his lesson, and such a success has not yet been granted to anyone. His death occurred in Hilla in the month of Rabi al-akhar, 1297. There is a high dome located on his magnificent grave that is now visited by pilgrims.

The number of his students in different sections of his life has been more than 400 people, including Allamah Helli, his nephew, Ibn Davood Helli, Ibn Rabib Adami, Sayyid Ghiath Al-Din Abdul Karim ibn Ahmad ibn Tavus, Ezzoddin Hassan Abitaleb Yousefi, Mokhtasaroddin Mohammad Helli, son of Allameh Helli, and others.

About the book Sharayeʻ al-Islam, it can be said that it is one of the best books of Shi’a jurisprudence literally and in terms of meaning. It is known to have 15,000 jurisprudential issues and it has received the special attention of high jurists and mujtahids. There are numerous exhortations, scholia and explanations written on it. The book “Javāhir” in 43 large volumes is an example and has been translated into some of the world’s live languages including Persian, Russian, French, German, and Urdu, and is used in colleges and judicial centers.

Muhaqqiq and Khajih Nasir al-Din Tusi and Solving the Problem of Qibla!

When Muhaqqiq was teaching successfully in Hilla, and many students were graced with his presence, Mesopotamia and the city of Baghdad were conquered by Hulagu Khan, the Mongol, in the year 1258.

After Baghdad being conquered, the famous hakim, Khajih Nasir al-Din Tusi, who with the aim of touring entered Hilla which was then Shia’s realm, went to a lesson session of Muhaqqiq. Muhaqqiq wanted to stop teaching in order to respect him, but Khajih insisted that he should continue the lesson. In the middle of the lesson, it was discussed that for Iraqi people turning slightly to the left of Qibla is recommended (Mustahabb) in times of praying. Khajih objected to this remark and said, “it does not make sense to recommend turning to the left, because turning and deviation from Qibla is considered forbidden (Haram).” Muhaqqiq said in reply, “Yes, it does; the purpose of turning to the left, is turning from Qibla toward itself.” So through this rationale, Khajih was convinced; later, Muhaqqiq authored a book on this ground and sent it for Khajih, and was praised by him.

          The Incident of Muhaqqiq Helli’s Anger at a 13th Century Jurist

Sheikh Hassan, the son of Grand Sheikh Ja’far (known as Kashif ol-Ghita’) who is the author of the book Kashaf ol-Ghita’, is one of the 13th century jurists. He once said in his class, “every night Grand Sheikh Ja’far woke up after a little sleep and studied till the night prayers time and then started praying and supplicating to God.

One night we heard a wail and groan from his special room. The wailing was in such a way as if someone was beating himself. When we entered the room, we saw him in an upset mood; his beard was thoroughly soaked with tears streaming down his eyes and he constantly beat himself. We instantly held his hands and said, ‘what is the reason behind doing so?’

He said, ‘my sons, I have committed a great mistake’, and afterwards he started to explain the incident and said, “early in the night I was thinking about a jurisprudential matter which great ulamas had issued its decree, and I intended to find out its reason. I studied Ahadith books, but I didn’t find the reason and rationale for issuing such a decree. At last, I got tired and out of exhaustion, I told myself, ‘may God bestow award on ulamas; they issued a decree without any reason’.

Then I slept. I had a dream in which there was a carpet in front of a platform, and a magnificent rostrum was placed at the best part of the room, and a dignified learned man with a good-looking and shining face was on the rostrum and was teaching, and all the front of the platform was filled with outstanding ulamas who were listening to his lesson.

I went ahead, found someone and asked, ‘who are these people and that person on the rostrum?’

He said, ‘that person on the rostrum who is teaching is the First Muhaqqiq, the author of Shara’e’ ol-Islam and these people, who are sitting beside the rostrum, are all the great clerics of Shia and students of Muhaqqiq Helli’.

Sheikh Ja’far says, ‘I felt perfectly contented and told myself, ‘I am one of these Shia group, too, these people will revere me’. When I went up from the antechamber, I said hello first. With compulsion they said hello and showed me a seat in the class. I went ahead and glared at Muhaqqiq angrily and said, ‘am I not one of Shia jurists? Why do these people behave in this manner towards me?’

Said he fiercely, ‘Oh, Ja’far! Twelver ulamas have endeavored a lot to gather up holy Imams’ statements from around cities and from narrators, and have maintained each Hadith in its exact context. They also have stated and written the narrators’ names and cited whether these information are accurate, reliable, or incomplete so that people like you become aware of the reasons and documentation of religious law without any trouble or difficulty and can issue decrees. Oh Sheikh Ja’far, but you have sat on a carpet for a few hours and have studied some books and immediately have asserted that ulamas do not cite religious decrees’ reasons and do not present documents and accused them of issuing decrees without giving any reasons for them. It is so while this man who is sitting beside the rostrum has cited a Hadith pertinent to this decree in several parts of his book and that book is available among your books and its author is this man whose name is Mulla Muhsen Faydh Kashani.’

Sheikh Ja’far adds, ‘at this time, Muhaqqiq Helli’s words made me shudder; then I got up and I repented of my sin.’”

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References

[1] the largest branch of Shia Islam. The term Twelver refers to its adherents’ belief in twelve divinely ordained leaders, known as the Twelve Imams, and their belief that the last Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, lives in occultation and will reappear as the promised Mahdi.

[2] the guardians, transmitters and interpreters of religious knowledge, of Islamic doctrine and law.

[3] Islamic jurisprudence

[4] Literally meaning “researcher”

[5] Plural of faqih

[6] ʿIlm al-Kalām (Arabic: عِلْم الكَلام‎, literally “science of discourse”), sometimes called “Islamic scholastic theology”, is the study of Islamic doctrine.

[7] lit. physical or mental effort, expended in a particular activity. An Islamic legal term referring to independent reasoning or the thorough exertion of a jurist’s mental faculty in finding a solution to a legal question.

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