The book Jawāhir al-kalām fī sharḥ sharāʾiʿ al-ʾislām or Jawāhir al-kalām as is commonly known is a book concerning demonstrative fiqh by Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi who has come to be known as Sahib Jawahir (the author of Jawahir) (d. 1266/1850), a pupil of Sayyid Muhammad Jawad ‘Amili and Shaykh Ja’far Kashif al-Ghita. The book is an extended exposition of Shara’i’ al-Islam by al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli (d. 676/1278).
It is unique in its details providing researchers with views and arguments of past scholars of fiqh.
Author of the Book
Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi, son of Muhammad Baqir, was a great faqih in 13th/19th century. He was born around 1200.1786. The most significant work that he has left is Jawahir al-kalam that is a comprehensive encyclopedia of discursive fiqh from the issues of tahara (cleanliness) to diyat (atonement or blood money). The book was particularly important for later scholars in fiqh. He died in 1266.1850 in Nassir al-Din Shah’s era.
Jawahir al-kalam is a comprehensive and discursive work in Imamiyya fiqh. The book is an extended exposition of Shara’i’ by al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli (d. 676/1278). Prior to Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi, the ground was fertile for the flourishing of Shiite seminaries due to factors such as Muhammad Baqir Bihbahani’s movement against Akhbaris, political factors and the stability of the country. The author lived in a time when on the one hand, Shiite seminaries of Najaf were, due to the efforts of the pupils of Wahid Bihbahani, highly active and vivacious, and on the other hand, some extended and innovative works had been written in fiqh and usul al-fiqh, including Kashf al-ghita’ by al-Shaykh Ja’far al-Najafi, Miftah al-kirama by al-‘Amili, Qawanin by Mirza Qummi, Riad al-masa’il by Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba’i, and Al-durrat al-najafiyya by Bahr al-‘Ulum.
As Sahib Jawahir is quoted as saying, he did not initially seek to write an exposition of Shara’i’, rather he wanted to organize some notes about various issues of fiqh. In the preface of the book, he says that he had chosen Shara’i’ as a text for some reasons: its comprehensiveness, its precision, its fluency and eloquence, and its being the focus of faqihs. The purpose of writing Jawahir al-kalam was, as he says in the preface, to acquaint faqihs with the hidden delicacies of Shara’i’ , illustrate its problems, explicate the mistakes made by other commentators of the book, and deal with the views of faqihs and their arguments.
History of Writing
As is well-known, Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi started writing Jawahir al-kalam when he was 25 years old. Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Khwansari writes that Sahib Jawahir was around 70 years old in the year 1262/1846. Therefore, the writing of the book probably started in 1217/1803. Some people believe that the writing of the book started some time before 1227/1812.
- The organization of the chapters of the book is the same as that of Shara’i’—it contains 4 general parts: ‘ibadat (worships), ‘uqud (contracts), ‘iqa’at (unilateral obligations), ahkam (laws),
- Quotation of various views about the meanings of terminologies,
- Explication of the laws that are not much controversial,
- Postponing the explication of an issue to some later section or referring it to some prior one,
- Referring the details of some issues to its particular section,
- Little reference to issues of usul,
- Criticism of applying philosophical astuteness in the process of discursive fiqh,
- Raising a variety of issues such as the commonsensical understandings of a particular time, common traditions of his own time,
- Discussions of many minute issues of fiqh,
- Discussions of some issues that were not raised before,
- Discussions of some problems of his own time,
- Employing of numerous references and resources for istinbat (deduction) of the laws,
- Application of abbreviations in order to refer to persons and works, for example:
- Al-Fadil (the scholar) for al-‘Allama al-Hilli,
- Al-Fadilan (the two scholars) for al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli and al-‘Allama al-Hilli,
- Al-Khurasani for al-Muhaqqiq al-Sabziwari,
- Al-Fadil al-Mu’asir (the contemporary scholar) for Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba’i,
- Sharih al-Durus (commentator of al-Durus) for Husayn Khurasani,
- Muta’akhkhirin (recent scholars) for faqihs from al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli to, and not including, al-Muhaqqiq al-Karaki,
- Muta’akhkhirin min al-muta’akhkhirin (the most recent scholars) for faqihs from al-Muhaqqiq al-Karaki to Sahib Jawahir himself.
Resources of Fiqh in the Book
The most important resources appealed to in this book are as follows:
- The Qur’an,
- The Sunna (the tradition of the Prophet (s) and Imams),
- Consensus (ijma’) whether quoted (manqul) or verified by oneself (muhassal),
- Popularity (shuhra) of a fatwa,
- The practice (sira) of people exercising shari’a,
- The practice (bina) of rational people,
- Practical principles or presumptions (usul al-‘amaliyya), such as the principles of innocence (bara’a), istis’hab (continuity), ‘ishtighal (caution),
- Essentials of the religion,
- Essentials of Shiism,
- Consensus of all Muslims,
- Complex consensus (‘ijma’ al-murakkab),
- ‘Urf (common sense),
- Rules of fiqh, such as the rule of la ḍarar (no harm).
Status of the Resources of Fiqh in this Book
Common Sense (‘Urf)
In this book, the common sense (‘Urf) counts as a source of knowing the subject-matters of the laws. In his view, however, there are qualifications for the common sense to be a source of knowledge in fiqh.
A large part of this book deals with analyses of how to deduce (istinbat) the laws of shari’a from hadiths. This part of the book has the following features:
- It is mostly concerned with an examination of how the relevant hadiths are evidence for the laws in question and how to resolve the incompatibility of hadiths with one another or with other sources,
- In the book, one does not find a detailed discussion of the chains of narrators (sanad) of hadiths. This is rooted in al-Najafi’s view in usul to the effect that if the chains of narrators of a hadith are not reliable, it might be compensated by a consensus on the law in question or its popularity either among rational people or faqihs.
- Some people hold that the use of terminologies of hadith (such as mudmar [a hadith with a pronoun which is not known whether or not it refers to an Imam], khabar [a hadith the reliability of which is not known], sahiha [hadith with reliable narrators all of whom are Imamiyya], hassana [a hadith with Imamiyya narrators who are not known to be reliable but are not known to be unreliable either], and muwaththaq [a hadith with reliable narrators one of whom is not Imamiyya]) in this book is not accurate.
Views of Faqihs
A major part of this book consists of direct or indirect quotations of the views of Imamiyya faqihs. The author thereby seeks to resolve the incompatibilities between the views of faqihs, criticize their views or prove the view of al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli or his own. In the book, he has considered the views of early and late Shiite faqihs and even some of his contemporaries (see below). The views of commentators on Shara’i’ , in particular al-Shahid al-Thani (d. 965/1558) in Maslik al-‘afham and Sayyid Muhammad Musawi ‘Amili (d. 1009/1601) in Madarik al-‘ahkam are frequently cited. In some cases, Sahib Jawahir points to the compatibility or incompatibility of al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli’s views in Shara’i’ with the other two of his works, al-Mukhtasar al-nafi’ and al-Mu’tabar. Sometimes Sahib Jawahir proposes arguments for some views, even the ones he rejects, and he then criticizes them. He sometimes mentions some views and arguments without any citation, and sometimes he mentions a view for which he did not find a proponent. He sometimes rejects a view without appealing to any argument against it. And in some cases, his criticisms of early or contemporary faqihs are harsh and explicit. With regard to some laws of fiqh, he mentions not only the views of Imamiyya, but also those of zaydiyya and some great Sunni faqihs, such as Abu Hanifa and al-Shafi’i.
Popularity of Fatwa
In his discussions about each issue, al-Najafi proposes his own view which is, in most cases, in line with the view on which Imamiyya has consensus or is popular (mashhur) among Imamiyya. Thus some people have called him “the spokesman of the popular views” (lisan al-mashhur). Popularity of fatwas is so important for him that he has condemned al-Muhaqqiq al-Ardabili and his followers for rejecting views on which Imamiyya has consensus.
Particular Views in Fiqh
- It is not necessary for a judge (qadi) to be mujtahid (an expert in fiqh)
- Transaction itself is not enough for the legitimacy of the selling contract (the parties of the contract need to explicitly mention the words expressing the transaction)
- All sins are great (kabira) sins unless there is reason to think otherwise.
- The authorities and powers of religious authority (hakim shar’) are very broad.
Views in Usul al-Fiqh
Some of the most important views of Sahib Jawahir in usul—that are introduced throughout Jawahir and are important in that his work on usul is not available to us—are as follows:
- The legitimacy of carelessness (tasamuh) in the evidence for recommended actions (sunan)
- The implicatures (mafhum) of titles and adjectives are not evidence,
- Reliability of hadiths that are muwathaq (containing in their chains of narrators a reliable non-Imamiyya person),
- It is legitimate to specify a statement of the Qur’an by an isolated hadith (khabar al-wahid).
In Jawahir al-kalam, Najafi has referenced to or indirectly made use of many sources in fiqh, usul al-fiqh, kalam (Islamic theology), Quranic sources, hadiths, Islamic history, and Arabic literature. Among early faqihs, the works of people such as al-Shaykh al-Saduq, al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Sayyid Murtada, and al-Shaykh al-Tusi have been frequently cited, and among later faqihs works of people such as al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, ‘Allama Hilli, Yahya b. Sa’id Hilli, Shahid Awwal, Shahid Thani, al-Muhaqqiq al-Ardabili, al-Fayd al-Kashani, Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, and Muhammad Baqir Sabziwari are cited.
Sources in fiqh: Al-hada’iq al-nadira by Shaykh Yusuf al-Bahrani, Mashariq al-shumus by Aqa Husayn Khwansari, Riyad al-masa’il by Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba’i, and some sources of Shafi’is and Hanafis.
Sources of usul: Al-dhari’a by Sayyid Murtada, ‘Udda al-‘usul by al-Shaykh al-Tusi.
Sources in the Qur’anic verses concerning with fiqh: Fiqh al-qur’an by Qutb Rawandi, Kanz al-‘irfan by Fadil Miqdad.
Sources in the exegesis of the Qur’an: Al-tibyan by al-Shaykh al-Tusi, Majma’ al-bayan by Tabarsi, Al-kashshaf by Zamakhshari.
Sources in hadiths: Al-kafi by Kulayni, Man la yahduruh al-faqih by al-Saduq, Tahdhib by al-Shaykh al-Tusi, al-‘istibsar by al-Shaykh al-Tusi, Bihar al-anwar by al-Majlisi, Wasa’il al-shi’a by al-Hurr al-‘Amili.
Lexicographical Sources: Al-‘ayn by Khalil b. ‘Ahmad, Tahdhib al-lugha by ‘Azhari, Al-taraz by Sayyid ‘Ali Khan Madani, Majma’ al-bahrayn by Turayhi, Al-misbah al-munir by Fuyumi.
Indirect sources: in some cases, Najafi’s expressions indicate that he has made use of many of his sources indirectly. Some people believe that he has made use of the following books in such a way: Jami’ al-maqasid by Muhaqqiq Karaki, Masalik al-‘afham by Shahid Thani, Madarik al-‘ahkam by Sayyid Muhammad b. ‘Ali Musawi ‘Amili, Miftah al-Kirama by Sayyid Muhamamd Jawad ‘Amili.
Place of the Book for Shiite Scholars
After it was written, Jawahir al-kalam attracted the attentions of Shiite scholars, both because of the character of its author and because of the unique features of the book itself. People regarded highly of the book: “a unique work throughout the Islamic history”, “the greatest work in fiqh”, “the greatest phenomenon of its time”, “a manifestation of a person’s ingenuity”, and some people have said that all scholars of fiqh need this book in their researches, and with this book, they do not need any other work. The book was so well-known that its author, Najafi, came to be called by later faqihs “Sahib Jawahir” (the author of Jawahir).
The views and arguments of Sahib Jawahir in this book have ever since been the focus of lectures and written works in fiqh. In some cases, Sahib Jawahir’s views in usul al-fiqh have been criticized by later scholars. Murtada Ansari and other faqihs have objected to some of Najafi’s views. For example, they criticized the view that the unreliability of the narrators of a hadith can be compensated by consensus or popularity of the view among faqihs. They have also criticized his reliance on consensus in order to prefer a view in fiqh to another, while there is in fact no consensus.
According to some scholars, there are some mistakes in the book, such as:
- Mistakes in quoting a hadith or a view of a faqih,
- Indirect references to some works,
- References to unreliable copies of some works in some cases,
- Mistakes in quoting the chains of the narrators of a hadith in some cases,
- Confusing some hadiths with others similar to them,
- Conflating some famous statements in fiqh with hadiths,
- The book was not written in accordance with the final order of the book, and this has led to some references to prior or later issues where in the final form, the order is reverse.
There have been several commentaries on Jawahir al-kalam or parts of it, including:
- Al-‘insaf fi tahqiq masa’il al-khilaf, by Muhammad Taha Najaf Tabrizi,
- Bahr al-jawahir, by ‘Ali b. Baqir Burujini,
- Al-hidaya ‘ila al-maram min mubhamat Jawahir al-kalam, by Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Musawi Hamadani (published in Qum, 1379 SH/2001).
Some well-known faqihs such as Ayatollah Burujirdi, ‘Abu Turab Khunsari, ‘Abdullah Bihbahani, Mulla ‘Ali Kani, Zayn al-‘Abidin Mazandarani, and ‘Ali b. Muhammad Mar’ashi have also written commentaries on the book.
- A complete table of the contents of Jawahir al-kalam by ‘Ali bn. Zayn al-‘Abidin Mazandarani (Tehran 1322 SH, 1944),
- Al-badr al-zahir fi tarajim ‘a’lam kitab al-jawahir, by Nassir Karami (Qum 1424/2003)—this is a biography of figures who are frequently cited in Jawahir,
- Mu’jam fiqh al-jawahir, in 6 volumes (1417-1419 AH/ 1996-1998 in Beirut),
- Jawahir al-kalam fi thawbih al-jadid, published by Da’ira al-Ma’arif-i Fiqh-i ‘Islami (The Encyclopedia of Islamic Fiqh). Up to 1392 SH/2013, 9 volumes of this work has been published.
The original version of Jawahir al-kalam was, according to Agha Buzurg Tehrani, in 44 volumes.
There are several manuscripts of the book and its different volumes in some libraries of Najaf, Qum, Tehran, Mashhad, and Hamadan.
- The first lithographic print of the book was in 6 volumes in 1262/1846, and it was reprinted 24 times up to 1376/1957.
- From 1377/1958 to 1398/1978 the book was published by ‘Abbas Quchani, ‘Ali Akhundi, Mahmud Quchani, and Rida Ustadi in Najaf and Tehran in 43 volumes.
- It was printed in the folio format in 15 volumes (Beirut 1992).
It was also printed in the Institute for Islamic Publication.