Born & Her Family
Beygum Aminwas born in 1276 SC (1897 CE) in Isfahan. Her father, Hajji Sayyed Muhammad Ali Amin al-Tujjar Isfahani was a pious and generous man, and her mother was a respectable and benevolent woman. Hajji Sayyed Muhammad Ali was the son of Sayyed Hussain and grandson of ‘Allamah Sayyed Ma‘sum Husayni Khatoon Abadi whose mother was from a noble lineage.
Lady Amin’s maternal families were pious descendants of the Prophet (s) (Sayyeds) from Isfahan and were great scholars, poets, and artists during the Safavid era.
Lady Amin was born after three sons.
At the age of four, her mother sent Lady Amin to Khadijah Beygum’s Qur’an School during a time when very few families allowed their daughters to go to school, due to the un-Islamic atmosphere of most of the schools at that time.
Thus, Lady Amin pursued her education until the age of thirteen, when she married her cousin, Hajji Mirza Aqa, known as Mu‘in al-Tujjar.
During all the years she lived with her parents, they raised her well with utmost love and care.
After marriage, though Lady Amin managed her domestic chores and trained her children, her responsibilities as a wife and mother did not prevent her from pursuing her education in Islamic sciences. She gave birth to eight children, although seven of them underwent early death with one son remaining. As hard as it was, Lady Amin displayed patience and interpreted these events as Divine trials.
Banu Amin involved herself in a variety of academic disciplines at home from qualified teachers. She dove into spiritual sciences and achieved honorable qualities along with her practical spiritual journey and her great efforts to learn Qur’anic sciences:
She grew up in a very spiritual way, and as she herself wrote in
Nafaht al-Rahmaniyyah, she was so thoughtful of Allah that she was able to hear the glorification of God by the flowers and plants. Until the age of forty, she practiced self-refinement and self-discipline, and passed through stages of spiritual journey.
After learning Arabic conjugation, syntax, rhetoric, exegesis [of the Qur’an], hadith studies, jurisprudence (fiqh), principles of jurisprudence (usul), and Islamic philosophy, she continued her studies of fiqh and usul at higher levels until she achieved the degree of ijtihd.
She was known for her fervent determination, as she once said, “Even the death of a child would not stop me from attending my classes.”
One of her teachers, the late Ayatullah Ali Najaf Abadi, said, “I was amazed at her passion for learning. When I heard the news that her child had passed away, I thought she would not attend class anymore. On the contrary, two days later, she sent someone to ask me to come over and continue her lessons.”
Her Achievement of the Level of Ijtihd
Her giftedness, endless efforts, strong determination, and infinite patience with obstacles bore positive outcomes after years of education and hard work. She was almost forty when Ayatullah ‘Abd al-Karim Ha’iri Yazdi and Ayatullah Muhammad Shirazi evaluated her; after her achievement, they granted her the authority to practice ijtihd.
Ayatullah Estahbanati and Ayatullah Sheikh MuhammadReza Abu al-Majd Najafi Isfahani also granted her permission to do so.
The great academic and spiritual level of Lady Aminis clearly mentioned in the permission letter of Ayatullah Abual-Majd Najafi to transmit hadiths:
I authorize this learned and noble Sayyida, the priceless hidden gem, one of the best children of Lady Zahra (a), the sagacious woman, the perfect Gnostic and theologian, to transmit from me what I am authorized to quote from commentaries of the Qur’an, supplications, hadiths, and jurisprudence.
The outcomes of her great academic efforts originating from her piety and renunciation from the material world was so outstanding that even grand scholar Ayatullah Mar‘ashi Najafi requested permission from her to transmit hadiths. In a part of the permission letter she wrote to Ayatullah Mar‘ashi, she said, “After doing istikhra,I authorized him to transmit from me what I am authorized to transmit from commentaries, supplications, hadiths, and Islamic rulings from Shi‘a works and non-Shi‘a reports in every way they have been transmitted.
She was considered the unique mujtahidah of her time since her academic and mystical position rose so high that great scholars and mystics considered it a blessing to be in her presence and took advantage of her knowledge and wisdom. These scholars include ‘Allamah Sayyed Muhammad Hussain Tabataba’i (author of al-Mizn), ‘Allamah Sheikh ‘Abd al-Hussain Amini (author of al-Ghadir), and Allamah Muhammad Taqi Ja’fari (author of Sharh-e Nahj al-Balghah)who said: Upon studying her available works, [I can confirm that] Banu Amin is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated scholars of the Shi‘a world. Her academic method is quite comparable to other scholars. Because of her high spiritual status, she is considered one of the outstanding scholars who are born again in their live [al-hayt al-tayyiba].
1. Ayatollah Aqa Sayyed Abu al-Qasem Dehkordi:
2. The late Aqa Mirza Muhammad Hassan Shirazi in Samarra: she studied with him until she was able to independently derive a rule of divine law from the Qur’an (ijtihd).
3. Hujjat al-Islam Mirza Ali Asghar Sharif:
4. Ayatollah Mirza Ali Aqa Shirazi:
5. Hujjat ul-Islam Hajj Sheikh Abu al-Qasim Zofreh’i:
6. Hujjat ul-Islam Hajj Aqa Hussain Nizam al-Din Kachu’i.
7. Sheikh Zayn al-‘Abedin Mazandarani and Hajj Mirza Hussain Nuri in Iraq.
8. Ayatollah Mir Sayyid Ali Najaf Abadi.
Her Reaction to Banning Hijab in Iran
Lady Amin’s efforts and achievements were exhibited during a time when women were not permitted to leave the house. Naturally, because she spent most of her time studying, she was often at home, leaving the house only on necessary occasions, such as educating and guiding women of all ages. Except for the Qajar period, the era of Reza Khan was almost contemporary with the emergence of modernism and propaganda against Islam, and this wave was particularly rampant in Isfahan. At the beginning of that period, Lady Amin was 35, and Isfahan had several seminaries. After Tehran, Isfahan was a target for modernist activities by some women. Ms. Seddiqeh Dolat Abadi was one of those who conducted such activities about whom it is reported that, “She publicly uncovered her head-scarf (hijab) years before Reza Khan banned hijab.
Obviously, there were other women such as Dolat Abadi and other women who thought they would be deemed “modern” if they participated in such ceremonies. The wave of modernism prevented the spread of religious thoughts, especially amongst women, and for this reason, Lady Amin is seen as influential as she established a great movement.
Reza Khan promoted his own flawed ideology, such as promoting modernism based on the radical nationalism that had two major goals: to debase and destroy Islamic civilization, and to return to the pre-Islamic period of Iran. Counter to Reza Khan’s radical nationalism, Lady Amin wrote under the pseudonym “Iranian Lady” particularly because Reza Khan wanted to return Iranian women to the pre-Islamic period and bring back the culture of that time. On the contrary, Lady Amin wanted to say, “Today’s Iranian woman is she whom began her life since the appearance of Islam.
Women did not have an identity or nobility before Islam; the true identity of Iranian women was formed since Islam spread to Iran and Iranians became Muslim.”
When the dictatorship of Reza Khan stood against Islamic values and
Qur’anic rules, in addition to her studies, work, and family responsibilities, Lady Amin defended religious standards. The ban of wearing of hijab in public was decreed in 1310. In 1311, the Congress of Eastern Women attended by Mrs. Dolat Abadi took place, and afterwards, hijab was officially banned.
As a result, Lady Amin wrote the book Rawesh-e Khoshbakhti
(The Way of Achieving Prosperity). She quotes: “If a body limb becomes sick, other limbs would not remain healthy” and “Women are the pillars of society; if they are unethical, the entire society will become corrupt, especially if their immoral deeds are open to the public.”
In another part, she writes: O you woman who have uncovered your hijab! and in such a shameful way display your finery in the streets and passages in the public while you claim that you are a Muslim! Do you not realize that through this action, which you should not consider unimportant, that you inflict great damage on religion? O Europeanized woman! Do not consider this sin unimportant. If you are truly a Muslim, this is not Islamic. If you do not believe in Islamic teachings, declare your disbelief, so that your wrong action does not encourage others to do the same. And if you are not interested in the religion, why do you incur enmity? The holy Prophet (s) did not do injustice towards women during his time. He (s) granted them rights and gave them an equal position to men in all social affairs at a time when women were considered worthless in the society.
Lady Amin established a school in Isfahan called Maktab-e Fatemiyyeh, a place where many students quenched their thirst for knowledge and became prolific authors. She taught her Rawesh-e Khoshbakhti, a work based on moral beliefs, in a simple, sweet, and pleasant way. She devoted the rest of her life to teaching, researching, writing, and managing the school. Piety and self-confidence were amongst her qualities. Her love for the glorious Qur’an was apparent as depicted in her commentary of Makhzan al-‘Irfan(15 volumes).
Concerning her discipline, management, and spiritual grandeur, one of her students says: With regards to the life of Mrs. Amin, she managed her time efficiently. She arranged her programs in a way that she could do all of her work properly. She never dreaded any troubling event as she constantly put her trust in God.
She passed away after a lifetime of devoted service on the 23rd of Khordad, 1362 SC (13thof June, 1983) at the age 97.
Lady Amin’s Works
Her works reflect her refined soul. According to a quote from one of her relatives, “She did not have any slip of the pen when she took pen to write” and this signifies unseen divine assistances to her. She wanted to remain unknown and signed her books with the penname of “Iranian Lady” or “Isfahani Lady.” Her published works are as follows:
1. Arba‘n al-Hashimyyah
Her first valuable work in Arabic includes forty hadiths in monotheism, Divine attributes, ethics, and religious rulings with philosophical, mystical, and jurisprudential themes. The book’s accuracy motivated the scholars of Najaf and religious authorities to assess the Lady in the areas of fiqh, usul, and other disciplines [mentioned in her book]. She passed all exams successfully and gained her the degree of ijtihd.
This book, compiled by Sheikh Murtada Mazahir, consists of Lady Amin’s detailed answers to questions asked by scholars such as
Muhammad Ali Qadi Tabatabaie, Sheikh Muhammad Taha Handawi Najafi Zadeh and Sayyed Hassan Hussaini.
3.Maa‘d or Akharn Seyr-e Bashar
This book, consisting of nine articles, pertains to the spiritual aspect that people inevitably encounter in the course of perfection to move towards the Hereafter and Resurrection.
4.Nafahat al-Rahmaniyyah fi al-Waridt al-Qalbiyyah .
This book is a commentary on Ibn Miskiwayh’s ᠉ahrah al-Akhlq, a part of which has been translated and Lady Amin’s comment about that part has been added to it as marginal notes. The book is both scholarly and practical.
6.Tafsir Makhzan al-‘Irfn
This book is a comprehensive commentary of the Qur’an published in 15 volumes in Farsi. After writing a commentary on the first two sections of the Qur’an, Lady Amin continued writinga commentary until the last section (the 30thjuz’) as she feared having a short life, and she finished that commentary near the end of her life. This way, this noble mujtahidah became the only female exegete of the Islamic world who has written a complete commentary on the Qur’an from the beginning until the end.
7.Ravesh Khoshbakhti va Towsiyeh beh Khaharan-e Imani
In this book, the meaning of happiness and prosperity and the way to achieve it has been clarified using beneficial advice to sisters in faith.
In doing so, she first explains the two elements of happiness, i.e. “comfort and health” and “mental health, free-mindedness, and peace of the soul” which are achieved by observing the two essential principles of “true beliefs and faith in the origin and the Hereafter” and “good moral conduct.” In this way, she explained the principles of religion. She ends the book with a discussion on entreating the Imams (a), fighting with superstitions and obsession, some advice to the
8.Makhzan al-La’ali fi Manqib Mawl al-Mawali Ali (a)
This book studies the virtues of Imam Ali (a).
9.Seyr wa Sulk dar Rawish Awliya’ wa Tariq Seyr Su‘ada