Muḥammad Ḥasan b. Bāqir b. ʿAbd al-Raḥīm b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Raḥīm al-Sharīf al-Iṣfahānī (b. around the year 1202/1787 – d.1266/1850), known as Ṣāḥib al-Jawāhir (the author of al-Jawahir), was an Usuli Shiite scholar of fiqh in the thirteenth/nineteenth century in Najaf.
His most important work is the book, Jawahir al-kalam, and this is why he is known among Shiite scholars as “Sahib al-Jawahir” (the author of al-Jawahir). He was a student of Sayyid Muhammad Jawad al-‘Amili (the author of Miftah al-karama) and Shaykh Ja’far Kashif al-Ghita’. His lectures were the most important and the most attractive lectures in the seminary of Najaf, after the lectures of Sharif al-‘Ulama’ al-Mazandarani, in which many scholars attended. He recommended al-Shaykh al-Ansari as the marja’ or the authority of Shiites.
Born and Family
It is not known exactly what year Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi was born in, but there is some evidence that he was born around the year 1202/1787 in Najaf.
Najafi’s ancestors lived in Isfahan. His third ancestor, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahim al-Sharif, migrated from Isfahan to Najaf. His father, Muhammad Baqir al-Najafi, and his mother were from the progeny of Shaykh Abu l-Hasan al-Futuni al-‘Amili, and they were relatives of sadat of ‘Udhari known as Al Hijab. Najafi’s household were mostly religious scholars in Najaf.
Marriage and Children
Late in his life, Najafi married the daughter of Sayyid Rida Bahr al-‘Ulum. Most of his children became religious scholars, such as Shaykh Muhammad known as Shaykh Humayd, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Husayn known as ‘Allama, Shaykh Husayn al-Adib, and Shaykh Hasan.
Education and His Teachers
Najafi began his preliminary educations in the Shiite seminary with the following teachers:
- Shaykh Hasan Al Muhyi al-Din
- Shaykh Qasim Al Muhyi al-Din
- Sayyid Husayn al-Shaqra’i al-‘Amili
After that, he studied with prominent scholars of Najaf until he became a mujtahid and started to write Jawahir al-kalam. Here are some of his teachers:
- Sayyid Muhammad Jawad al-‘Amili (the author of Miftah al-karama)
- Shaykh Ja’far Kashif al-Ghita’ (the author of Kashf al-ghita’)
- Shaykh Musa Kashif al-Ghita’
- Moreover, Najafi received permissions for the narration of hadiths from Sayyid Muhammad Jawad al-‘Amili and Shaykh Ja’far Kashif al-Ghita’.
After the demise of Sharif al-‘Ulama’ al-Mazandarani, the Shiite seminary of Karbala was no longer active. The lectures of Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi in Najaf attracted many of Sharif al-‘Ulama’s students. Thus the Shiite seminary of Najaf began to thrive again. According to Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr, Najafi’s lectures were so eloquent and elegant that over 400 scholars decided to study with him, some of whom later became Marja’. Here are some of his most prominent students:
- Mulla Zayn al-‘Abidin al-Mazandarani
- Sayyid Husayn Kuhkamari’i
- Mull Ali Kani (the author of Idah al-mushtabahat wa tawdih al-maqal)
- Muhammad Irawani
- Shaykh Ja’far al-Shushtari
- Shaykh Jawad (the author of Sharh al-lum’atayn)
- Shaykh Muhsin Khanfar
- Shaykh Muhsin A’sam (the author of Kashf al-falam)
- Sayyid Asad Allah Isfahani
- Shaykh al-‘Iraqiyyin
- Shaykh Hasan al-Mamaqani
- Sayyid Husayn Al Bahr al-‘Ulum
- Sayyid Mahmud al-Burujirdi
- Mulla Ali al-Khalili
- Sayyid Ibrahim Shari’atmadar al-Sabziwari
His Moral Character and Lifestyle
It is said that Najafi had such a prosperous life that it was questioned by some people. Al-Shaykh al-Ansari was asked why he himself lived an ascetic life, whereas Najafi lived such a prosperous life. He replied: “My master sought to exhibit the glory of the Islamic shari’a, but I seek to display its ascetic aspect”.
Shaykh Muhammad Rida Muzaffar believed that the point of Najafi’s style of life was to display the glory and grandeur of Shiite scholars to the Ottoman government that had spread its dominance to Iraq. When the Ottomans were defeated by the Iranian government, they could reduce the pressure from Iran by the intercession of Shaykh Ja’far Kashif al-Ghita’. This so much as impressed the Ottomans that they sought to boost their ties with Shiite scholars.
Notwithstanding this, Najafi’s treatment of Shiites was different. There are historical reports of his good conducts with laypeople and other scholars. According to Muhammad Rida Muzaffar, he was very kind and intimate to laypeople, and modest in relation with his students and other senior scholars. He acknowledged his debts to his previous scholars; for example he said that if the book, Kashf al-litham, were not written, I would not be able to write Jawahir al-kalam. Moreover, he wished he could have the honor of, and divine reward for, having written the “Ha’iyya Azriyya” ballade, instead of Jawahir al-kalam.
His Social Services
During his life, Najafi helped the poor and people in need; in fact he was very close to ordinary people. He concerned himself with charities and public services. Here are some of the services to people which he supported:
- Digging and endowing two water wells in Najaf and Kufa for all people
- Building minarets for the Mosque of Kufa
- Building a mausoleum for Muslim b. ‘Aqil
- Opening a creek from the river, Euphrates, to Najaf in order to compensate lack of water supplies in Najaf.
The most important work by Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi is the book, Jawahir al-kalam, for which he came to be known as “Sahib al-Jawahir” (the author of al-Jawahir).
Jawahir al-Kalam fi Sharh Shara’i’ al-Islam
Main article: Jawahir al-kalam
Jawahir al-kalam is the most influential written work by al-Najafi. The book is a comprehensive source of argumentative fiqh that is considered to be unique. The book is remarkable for its citation of different jurisprudential views about every problem and its painstaking arguments. With respect to its consideration of all problems of fiqh, the book is similar to ‘Allama Majlisi’s Bihar al-anwar. Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi started writing the book when he was 25 years old, and spent 30 years of his life writing it. The writing of such a monumental work in fiqh earned him the title “Shaykh al-fuqaha” (the Master of jurists). Najafi finished writing the book in 1257/1841-2.
His other Works:
- Najat al-‘ibad
- An essay concerning zakat and khums
- Najat al-‘ibad fi yawm al-ma’ad (consisting of his jurisprudential fatwas)
- Hidayat al-nasikin (an essay concerning the problems of hajj)
- An essay concerning the jurisprudential problems of inheritance
Shiite Authority after Najafi
In the Rajab month of 1266/1850 when al-Najafi was seriously ill, he invited prominent scholars of Najaf to his house. He sent a message to “Mulla Murtada” and told him to go to his house. When he went there, Najafi assigned “Mulla Murtada” with the task of Marja’iyya after his death.
According to Muhammad Rida Muzaffar, “when he entered Najafi’s house, he was Mulla Murtada, and when he went out from there, he became al-Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari”. Muzaffar says that al-Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari was unknown to many prominent scholars of Najaf with respect to his expertise in fiqh and piety, but Najafi introduced him to them as a Marja’.
The Theory of the Guardianship (Wilaya) of Faqih
Najafi discussed some issues regarding the authorities of jurists. He held that if the authorities and mandates of jurists were not inclusive, many Shiite affairs would be suspended. He reproached those who doubted the guardianship (wilaya) of faqih by saying that “such people have no taste for fiqh and have no grasp of hadiths by Imams (a)”.
Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi died at noon on Wednesday, early Sha’ban, 1266/June, 1850 in Najaf. He was buried in the ‘Imara district in the city of Najaf, Iraq.