Ayatullah al-Uzma Sayyid Shihab al-Din Hussaini al-Marashi al- Najafi was born on 20the Safar 1315 A.H./ July 21, 1897 in the holy city of Najaf(Iraq) in a famous religious family renowned for its high knowledge and ardent faith.
In the beginning he was taught by his learned father Ayatullah al-Uzma Sayyid Shams al-Din Mahmood Husaini al-Marashi al-Najafi (passed away in 1338 lunar Hijrah) who was one of the greatest Islamic jurisprudent of that era.
He also learned Qur’anic sciences and its exegesis, fundamentals of jurisprudence, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, Rijal, Dirayah and theology from a large group of well-known professors in the Hawzah (Islamic seminaries) in the holy city of Najaf (Iraq), which was one of the greatest Islamic seminary in the Islamic world.
He attained the highest degree of Ijtihad in a short period and became renowned amongst the scholars for his in depth research and also for lecturing religious sciences in the seminary.
Travel to Mashhad, Iran
Some years later Ayatullah al-Uzma Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.) went to Mashhad (Iran) to perform the ziyarah of Imam Reza(A.S.). On his return he stayed in Tehran to pursue his studies and researches.
Emigration to Qum
After a year stay in Tehran he decided to move to the holy city of Qom to attend the lectures of Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Abdul Karim Haeri al-Yazdi, the founder of the Hawzah (Islamic Seminary) in Qom. On his arrival in Qom he also began lecturing in the Islamic seminary as well as attended the advanced courses in jurisprudence lectured by Ayatullah al Uzma Haeri al-Yazdi.
He decided to stay in the holy city of Qom and very soon emerged as a leading professor in the Hawzah.
Declared as Grand Marja (religious leader)
After a short time the leading Ulama and professors of the Islamic seminary of Qom declared him as the Grand Marja(religious leader) of the Shi’ites in the world. Millions of the Shi’ites in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, U.A.E, Bahrain, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Tanzania, Kenya, Zanzibar and the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia followed his rulings in Islamic jurisprudence.
Ayatullah al-Uzma Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.) was the leading professor in the Hawzah of Qom for more than 67 years. His lectures every day was attended by hundreds of Ulama and Tullab (seminary students). He also led the daily congregational prayers in the holy shrine of Hadrat Fatima Masoomah(A.S.) for more than half a century. Ayatullah al-Uzma Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.) dedicated all his efforts towards the progress and advancement of the Hawzah in the holy city of Qom. He trained hundreds of jurisprudents and theologians who later on became famous professors in Hawzah and the universities in Iran and abroad.
The Prominent Personalities Who Met Ayatullah al-Uzma Marashi Al-Najafi(R.A.)
1) The famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.
2) Rashid Raza, the Egyptian author of Tafseer al-Manar.
3) Shaykh al-Tantawi al-Jawhari, the famous Egyptian author of Tafseer al Jawaher.
4) The Cardinal Al-Kermily from Baghdad(Iraq).
5) Henry Corbin, the famous French philosopher and orientalist.
6) Shaykh Muhammad Bin Zebarah, the famous historian from Yemen.
One of the most famous and important cultural services of Imam Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.) was the establishment of a grand library in the holy city of Qom which has international reputation and prestige to its credit. This library is considered as the greatest cultural heritage in the history of Iran. Imam Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.) is also famous as “The Greatest Preserver of the Islamic Heritage” in the world’s scientific circles and centers.
Library’s Development Stages
The first step of constructing the library was achieved when the great founder was busy studying in the Islamic seminary of Najaf.
He was the first person to compile the index of the manuscripts and the rare published books which was considered as an outstanding achievement. Imam Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.) used to sell his clothes and his household equipments to buy books and manuscripts. He took lots of pain and trouble in this sacred endeavor. He used to avoid eating one of his daily meals in order to save money to buy the rare printed books and manuscripts. He also used to perform the fasting and Namaz (prayer) of the deceased persons and the money paid for these pious acts were dedicated by him to buy the manuscripts.
The books which he inherited from his late father also played an important role in providing the library with books at its initial stage. Imam Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.) migrated from Najaf(Iraq) to Iran in 1342 A.H./ 1923 A.D., and carried with himself all the books which he had bought and inherited in Najaf and preserved them in his residence in Qom. He continued collecting and buying manuscripts and other rare printed books. In 1959, he presented 278 rare manuscripts in Arabic and Persian to Tehran University’s College of Theology and Divinity. He also presented numerous rare manuscripts and valuable printed books to many of the leading libraries in Iran.
After establishing “Marashiyah Islamic Seminary” in the holy city of Qom in 1385 A.H./ 1965 A.D., he reserved a couple of rooms of the seminary for the library. That was the turning point in this glorious and shining path of establishing a grand library.
During the same year the library was inaugurated in the third floor of the Islamic seminary. A vast collection of manuscripts and rare printed books were transferred to this library.
The increasing number of researchers who daily visited this library made this small but very rich library over crowded. Thus, 1000 sq.metres of adjoining land was bought and attached to “Marashiyah Islamic Seminary” in the year 1390 A.H./ 1970 by Imam Marashi al- Najafi(R.A.). On 15th Shaban 1394 A.H./ 1974, the reference section of Ayatullah Marashi Najafi’s library was inaugurated with the collection of 1600 rare manuscripts and thousands of printed books and soon after another 500 rare manuscripts were added to the treasury of the library.
In the course of time the library emerged as the center of the scholars and researchers. With the gradual increase in the number of the visitors the space shortage was once again felt by the library. In 1989, Imam Khomeini(R.A.), the founder of Islamic Republic of Iran issued a decree ordering the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for implementing the plans for the manifold expansion of the library in according to with the master plan for expansion as prepared by Hojjat al- Islam Dr Mahmud Marashi, the president of the library. On 20th Zee-al-Hajjah 1410 A.H./ 1989, Imam Marashi al-Najafi( R.A.) laid the foundation stone of the new grand building. The new building possesses seven stories and occupies a total area of 16000sq. meters. At present both the old and the new buildings of the grand library occupies a total area of 21,000 sq. meters.
The Aims of Establishing this Library
The great founder of this library established this grand library with the aim of collecting and preserving the manuscripts for the purpose of research and analysis by the scholars and researchers.
These aims have been achieved by implementing the following measures:
1 – Establishing this Great International Islamic Cultural Center which helps in developing and describing the tremendous and extensive scientific achievements of the Islamic culture and civilization during the last fourteen centuries.
2 – Creating excellent group discussions and research facilities for the researchers in the library.
3 – Keeping at the disposal of the researchers the valuable manuscripts preserved in this great center which exhibits and manifests for them the written Islamic culture and heritage in different fields and branches of sciences and arts. Many of the rare manuscripts have been edited after undergoing a through process of extensive research and analysis.
4 – Collecting and preserving the exquisite and rare manuscripts in this great center.
5 – Providing the microfilms and photocopies of the manuscripts preserved in other libraries of the world.
6 – Delivering this vast treasure of Islamic heritage preserved in this great library to the next generations so that they can know about their glorious past, culture, civilization and heritage.
7 – The photocopies, microfilms and slides of all the manuscripts preserved in this library are made available. All the safety measures and the international standards for book-keeping and preservation are strictly implemented in this library.
Library’s Departments and Sections
This grand library comprises of various departments and sections which are directly administered by the president of the library. Imam Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.), delegated the administration and management of the library to his son and chief trustee, Hojjat al-Islam Dr Mahmud Marashi about 35 years ago.
The various departments and sections of the grand library are as follows:
A – The President’s Office:
This section comprises of the president’s office room, reception room, the private secretary’s room, assistance room and the office room of the manager of the women’s section. The president is the chief executive of the library and runs the administration.
The president’s office consists of various departments which are as follows:
1 – Endowments Department:
This department looks after the administration of all the properties like residential buildings and commercial complexes endowed to the grand library by philanthropists in Qom, Tehran and Isfahan.
2 – Public Relations and International Affairs Department: This department is in charge of the invitations and reception’s timetables for the Iranian and foreign guests, releasing the news regarding the activities of the library, establishing relations with international cultural centers and libraries, organizing and managing conferences, exhibitions, visits, scientific competitions, evaluating the visitors ideas and opinions about the library and preparing the monthly and annual statistics.
3 – Ceremonies and Reception Department:
This department is in charge of welcoming and receiving the Iranian and foreign guests, providing the necessary information regarding the library’s different sections and departments, presenting gifts to the guests and so forth. Every season more than 2000 guests visit the library which also includes more than 200 high-ranking visitors and scholars from various countries.
4 – Secretariat Department:
This department carries out all the internal and external correspondence duties.
5 – Women’s Department:
This department takes the responsibility of assisting women researchers and scholars to get access to scientific sources and references available in the grand library.
6 – Correspondence Department:
This department has the responsibility to post, deliver or exchange books to some organizations or individuals as approved by the president of the library.
B – Public Services Division
This section is in charge of rendering services to the visitors and researchers in the various halls and reading rooms of the library. It consists of:
1 – Ibn Sina Hall: This hall occupies an area of 2200 sq. meters with 750 persons seating capacity. More than 2000 persons visit this hall daily during the morning and evening working hours.
2 – Exclusive Reading Hall for the Hawzah (Islamic Seminary)
This hall is exclusively assigned for the study and research of the scholars and students of the Islamic seminaries.
3 – Khaja Nasir al-Din Tusi Auditorium:
This auditorium has a seating capacity of 200 persons and various national and international seminars and symposiums are conducted in this auditorium.
4 – Shaykh Mufid Hall:
In this hall local conferences, seminars and academic sessions are regularly conducted.
5 – Book Exhibition Hall:
In this hall the library’s publications are displayed for the visitors.
C – Reference Section:
This department has the following divisions:
1 – Manuscripts Treasury:
The manuscript copies present in the treasury till the end of October,
2001 was more than 60,000 volumes comprising 32,000 titles of books. Sixty five percent of these manuscripts are in Arabic and the rest of them are in Persian. A few Turkish, Urdu, Abyssinian, Syriac and Latin manuscripts are also available in the treasury. Every year about 500-800 other valuable and rare manuscripts are added to this great collection either gifted or procured.
The copies of the Holy Qur’an in Kufic script belonging to the second century Hijrah comprises the oldest copies preserved in the manuscript treasury of the library. The manuscript copies of third and fourth century Hijrah are also available and the oldest among them is the illustrated copy of the Holy Qur’an calligraphed in 392 A.H./ 1002 A.D., by Ali ibn Hilal Baghdadi also famous as Ibn Bawwab, the renowned calligraphist of the fourth century Hijrah.
Till now the catalogue of 12,000 manuscripts available in the library has been published in 30 volumes. The complete catalogue of the manuscripts of this grand library will be published in 90 volumes series.
2 – Photographs of the Manuscripts:
This section preserves more than 4000 photographed copies of the priceless and valuable manuscripts obtained from the different libraries in the world.
3 – Microfilm Section
In this section the microfilms of more than 13000 rare manuscripts are available.
4 – Documents Treasury
This section consists of more than one hundred thousand written documents belonging to the last five centuries.
5 – Permanent Exhibition of the Rare Manuscripts.
6 – Permanent Exhibition of the Books and Documents Written by the Founder of the Library.
7 – Rare Printed Books Store
Some of the rare printed books dating back to last five centuries are preserved in this store.
8 – Rare Petrography Store
9 – The Treasuries of Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Urdu Books.
The treasuries of the books in the above- mentioned languages are located in the three floors of this grand library building.
10 – Newspapers and Periodicals Section:
In this section more than 2500 newspapers and periodicals in Persian, Arabic Turkish and Urdu are kept at the disposal of the visitors.
11 – Open Reference Book Store
12 – The Store of the Islamic Manuscripts’ Catalogues of the different libraries in the world.
13 – The Store of the Periodicals in Foreign Languages.
14 – The Archives of the Forbidden Books.
15 – The Store of Maps and Geographical Charts.
16 – The Store of the Extra Copies of the Printed Books.
17 – The Grand Reading Hall.
18 – The Special Section for the Research Scholars of the Manuscripts and Rare Documents.
19 – The Centre for Qom Studies.
20 – The Centre for Genealogical Studies.
21 – The Centre for Preparing the Index and the Catalogues of the Manuscripts.
22 – The Centre for Publishing the Works of the Founder of the grand Library.
23 – Islamic Manuscripts Edition and Research Department.
D – Administrative Department: It includes the financial, staff affairs and training units.
E – Public Services Department:
It consists of eighteen different sections such as: Computing Services, Telephone Exchange, Wireless Connections, Electronic Mail (e-mail) Services, Publication and Distribution, Conducting Seminars and Exhibitions Affairs, Maintenance of the Guest Houses and Restaurants, Purchase and Exchange of Books and Reference Materials, Photo Xerox, Office of Technical Advisers, Mirath Shahab Journal Office, Finance Office, Translation Department, Management and Programming Office, Library’s Sub-divisions, Technical Support and Building Security Sections.
F – Book Information Research Center
G – Manuscripts and Documents Preservation Unit
This unit includes the following sections:
1 – Book Preservation Section:
In this section books are fumigated and made free from pests and termites
2 – Books and Documents Mending Section: This section is the important and sensitive section of the library.
3 – Micrographic Center: his center preserves 50 million book titles in different languages in the form of minimized films. This section is also equipped with optical cleaner which is in turn connected to internet through computers.
4 – The Modern Laboratory: It is also equipped with ultra-modern and sophisticated equipments such as electronic microscopes which are connected to internet through computers.
H – Exquisite Objects Museum
It exhibits various types of valuable and exquisite compasses, astrolabes, coins, keys etc
I – The Center of the Encyclopedia of the Libraries in the World.
1 – Mirath Shahab Journal: A specialized journal in Persian dealing with the study of bibliography and its related subjects. The chief editor of this journal is Dr Mahmud Marashi, the President of the Grand Library. Till now 30 issues of this journal has been published.
2 – The Grand Library till the end of 2002 has published 165 titles of books comprising 405 volumes.
This grand library also enjoys the rare distinction of preserving the largest collection of rare manuscripts in Iran and in this regard it also stands third in the Islamic world.
The library has also published the “Molhaqat Ihqaq al-Haq in 36 volumes written by Ayatullah al-Uzma Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.), the late founder of the grand library. In 1994, this book received the “Book of the Year Award” from the government of Iran.
The library’s working hours for the visitors is from 7 A.M till 9.30
P.M., without any interval.
The membership cards are provided free of cost to the researchers, scholars and students by the secretariat of the library.
The daily average number of visitors to the library is more than 2000 visitors.
Ayatullah al-Uzma Marashi al-Najafi wrote outstanding books in almost all the Islamic sciences. Most of them were written in Arabic and they are as follows:
* Molhaqat al Ahqaq * Al Hashiyah Ala al-Orwat al-Wothqa * Minhaj al Momineen * Taqrirat al-Qusas * Tabaqat al-Nassabeen * Al-Hashiyah Ala Kifayah al-Usul * Al-Hashiyah Ala Al-Rasail * Al Mashhahed Wal Mazarat * Aayan al-Marashieen * Al-Moawal Fee Amr al-Motawal * Ulama al-Sada’at * Masareh al-Afkar Wa al-Hashiyah Ala Taqrirat al Shaykh al-Murtuza al-Ansari * Al-Fawa’id al-Rijaliyah * Kashf al-Irtiyab * Al Mujdi Fi Hayat Saheb al-Mujdi * Raf al-Ghashiyah An Wajh al-Hashiyah * Al-Rad Ala Moddae’i al-Tahreef * Taliqah Ala Omdat al-Taleb * Mushajjarat Aal Rasool Allah al Akram * Rehlah Isfahan, Shiraz, Samarrah Wa Azarbaijan
After rendering selfless service in the fields of learning, teaching and disseminating Islamic culture for nearly a century, Imam Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.) passed away after suffering a heart attack on Wednesday, 29 August 1990. He was 96 years of age. On Friday, 31 August 1990, millions of devoted Shi’ites from throughout Iran and various countries carried the holy remains of Imam Marashi al-Najafi(R.A.) in the historical funeral procession which was attended by all the Grand Marja, Ulama, Tullab, high-ranking government and military officials of Iran and diplomatic staff of the many Islamic countries based in Tehran. As per his last will he was laid to rest at the entrance of the Grand Library which was established by his ceaseless and incessant efforts. His last will states: “Bury me at the entrance of the library so that the feet of the researchers of Islamic sciences step beside my grave.”