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Muḥammad Taqī Majlisī

Place of birth: Isfahan
Place of Demise: Isfahan

Born and Family

Muhammad Taqi Majlesi, the son of Maqṣud-ʿAli Eṣfahāni, commonly referred to as Majlesi-ye Awwal, an important Twelver Shiʿite jurist and Hadith scholar in Safavid Iran was born in 1594. He is generally considered to be the first eminent member of what was later to become one of the most influential families of scholars in Shiʿite Islam, the most outstanding representative of which was without doubt his son Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesi, subsequently known as Majlesi-ye Ṯāni.The genealogy of the family is sometimes traced back to Abu Noʿaym Aḥmad b. ʿAbdallāh Eṣfahāni (d. 430/1038). The first historically reliable ancestor, however, seems to be his maternal grandfather Kamāl al-Din Darwish Muhammad b. Ḥasan ʿAmeli, a disciple of the Shahid Ṯāni, who is credited with having been the first scholar to propagate the science of (Shiʿite) Hadith in Isfahan after the advent of the Safavids. Originally of Lebanese descent, he later assumed the nisbas Naṭanzi, from a village north of Isfahan, and Eṣfahāni. Majlesi also used these names and signed some of his ejāzāt as “al-Eṣfahāni al-Naṭanzi al-ʿĀmeli”.

His father ʿAli (mostly Maqṣud-ʿAli), finally, was the first who bore the honorific epithet “Majlesi” that he had been given in appreciation of his renowned lectures and assemblies. Muḥammad-Taqi Majlesi had three sons (Moḥammad-Bāqer, ʿAbdullāh and ʿAzizullāh) and four daughters who were married to Shiʿite scholars.

In contrast to the number of the entries on Majlesi in biographical dictionaries and their sometimes flowery style, the bare facts of his life remain disappointingly few and vague. Even a usually well informed author such as his contemporary ʿAbd al-Ḥussain Ḵātunābādi mentions only the year of Majlesi’s death, adding that the deceased was between 67 and 68 years of age.


Majlesi had obviously been taught the religious sciences very early in his life, because, according to his own testimony, already at the age of four he knew enough about God, the ritual prayer, paradise and hell to teach other children. Among his later teachers, two stand out as particularly important: ʿAbdallāh Tostari and Bahāʾ al-Din ʿĀmeli. Later in life, Majlesi was also to become one of the latter’s successors in his capacity as leader of the Friday prayer in Isfahan, at that time a still informal office that remained in the Majlesi family for several generations after him. This office is not the only instance suggesting that Majlesi enjoyed close ties to the Safavid court and the kings of his time.

His Teachers

Sheikh Bahaei

Mir Fendereski

Amir Ishaq Estar-Abadi

Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Jaber Ameli

Mulla Muhammad-Qasim Ameli

His Students

Allama Muhammad Baqir Majlesi

Muhaqiq Khansari

Sayyed Ne’matullah Jazayeri

Mulla Mirza Shirvani

Mulla Muhammad-Saleh Mazanderani

Mulla Muhammad Sadiq Karbasi

Mulla Azizullah Majlesi

Mulla Abdullah Majlesi

Miraz Ibrahim Ardakani

Imam Ali (as) in His Dream

Majlesi himself relates how – during a winter he spent in Najaf – the Imam ʿAli (p.b.u.h) appeared to him in a dream and ordered him to return immediately to Isfahan. The Imam wanted him back in the capital in order to guide the people there, because in the same year, i.e. 1629, Shah Abbas Iwas going to die, and severe unrest would follow the ascension to the throne of Shah Ṣafi. After his return, Majlesi revealed this dream to a friend who in turn communicated it to the heir to the throne, Ṣafi. The latter indeed became Shah shortly afterwards, following the death of Shah ʿAbbās during a journey to Māzandarān.

Virtually all biographical entries on Majlesi contain more of less detailed accounts of his various dreams, leading Ḵvānsāri to conclude that “on the whole, his life was wondrous and marvelous.” Obviously, these anecdotes served the purpose of enhancing his position as a scholar and providing legitimacy for his writing. Majlesi knew about this function of the supernatural and consistently made use of it, e.g. when he ascribed his writing of the Arabic version of the commentary of Ebn-e Bābuye’s Man lā yaḥḍuruhu’l-faqih to having been encouraged to do so in a dream by his teacher Bahāʾ-al-Din, or when he repeatedly stated in his ejāzāt that he had received the authorization to transmit the Ṣaḥifa sajjādiya directly from the Mahdi in a dream.

According to Père Rafaël Du Mans, superior of the Capuchin mission in Isfahan in the second half of the 17th century, Majlesi also derived the alleged duty to perform the Friday prayer from a vision of Mahdi.


Muhammad Taqi Majlesi passed away on 22 April 1660 in Esfahan. Probably not least due to this aura of saintliness Majlesi was greatly revered by the common people. After his death, his coffin is reported to have been broken into pieces which were worn by the believers as amulets.

His Work

Muhammad Taqi Majlesi composed the Persian translation of his commentary on Man lā yaḥḍµuruhu’l-faqih, one of the four canonical Shiʿite Hadith compilations by Ebn-e Bābuye Qommi (d. 381/991), explicitly at the request of Ṣafi’s successor, Shah ʿAbbās II, and even changed the title of his translation from the Arabic Rawżat al- mottaqin to the decidedly royalist Lawāmeʿ-e ṣāḥeb-qerāni.

Muḥammad-Taqi Majlesi seems to have become a prolific writer only towards the end of his life, when he completed his main works within some four years. Besides the two commentaries on Ebn-e Bābuye already mentioned, two commentaries (Arabic and Persian) on the Ṣaḥifa sajjādiya, a commentary on Sheikh Ṭusi’s Tahḏib al-aḥkām entitled Eḥyāʾ al-aḥādiṯ fi šarḥ tahḏib al-ḥadiṯ, and Ḥadiqat al-mottaqin fi maʿrefat ahḳām al-din li-erteqāʾ maʿārej al-yaqin deserve special mention. From this it becomes clear that he concentrated his activity nearly exclusively on the transmission of Shiʿite Hadith. In his view, the traditions of the Imams were the noblest of the religious sciences and the only way to understand the Quran, especially its unclear passages, as well as to gain religious knowledge in general. In this, he perfectly followed the Aḵbāri current and may well have served as the most important model for his son Muḥammad-Bāqer, who was to embark on the monumental Hadith compilation Beḥār al-anwār after his father’s death.

About Alireza Mosaddeq

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