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Muḥammad Kāẓim al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī al-Yazdī: Life and Activities of a Faqīh through a Turbulent Age

In this paper, the writer discusses the intellectual genealogy of Ayatollah Muhammad Kazim al-Yazdī, and locates his education and the legacy he inherited from his masters in the ūsūlī tradition of the early twentieth century.

Then briefly discuss the al-ʿUrwa, its importance, and its impact on the future ḥawza (Islamic seminary). I also analyze his political activities, both against the Constitutional Revolution of 1907, and the British presence in Iraq, and try to shed light on the causes of his opposition to them. My sources are his key texts, as well as the secondary historical records on his life and activities.

Ayatollah  Sayyid  Muḥammad  Kāẓim  al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī  al-Yazdī  (d.  1337  H/1919),  the prominent ūsūlī faqīḥ of the early twentieth century, is the author of the famous juridical book – al-ʿUrwat al-Wuthqā – and the founder of the Sayyid Seminary (Madraset al-Sayyid Muhammed Kadhim al-Yazdi) in Najaf.1  Other than al-ʿUrwa, he wrote many books on juridical issues and glossed on a number of others, including the famous al-Makāsīb of Shaykh Murtazā al-Anşārī (d. 1281 H/1864). An encyclopedic writing, al-ʿUrwa itself is glossed and commented upon by the later ʿālims. One of the characteristics of al-ʿUrwa is its comprehensiveness – jāmiʿīyat – in the sense that it encompasses many issues – furūʿ (branches). Like other seminarians, al-Yazdī has istiftāʾāt (pl. fatwās) as well, which has been published in Tehran, amongst other places.

Along  with  his  scholastic  activities,  al-Yazdī  is  also  well-known  for  his  anti-Constitutionalist and anti-British stands. The first piously apolitical ʿālim, as a result of the reaction to the pro-Constitutionalist figures who forced him to support the Revolution, adopted a conservative pro-monarchy stand, and obtained victory against his rival, Moḥammad Kāẓīm al-Khorāsānī, known as al-Akhūnd al-Khorāsānī, (d. 1329 H/1911), another prominent ūsūlī figure. Another factor that led him to take an anti-constitutionalist stand was the execution of Ayatollah Shaykh Faḍlullāh Nūrī (d. 1327 H/1909). As for his opposition against the British colonialism in Iraq, he dispatched a troop to fight against occupation headed by his son Sayyid Moḥammad al-Ṭabātabāʾi al-Yazdī.

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