Home / All / Fuqaha / Biographies / Sayyid Muḥammad Ibn ʿAlī Ṭabāṭabāʾī (Sayyid Muḥammad al-Mojtahid)

Sayyid Muḥammad Ibn ʿAlī Ṭabāṭabāʾī (Sayyid Muḥammad al-Mojtahid)

Al-Sayyid Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī  (b. 1180/1766 – d. 1242/1827) , known as al-Sayyid Muḥammad al-Mujāhid  and Ṣāḥib al-Manāhil;   the author of al-Manahil, was a Shi’ite scholar of fiqh in the 12th/18th and 13th/19th centuries.

Born and Family

Sayyid Muhammad was born in Karbala in 1180/1766. His father was al-Sayyid ‘Ali al-Tabataba’i, known as the author of Riyad al-masa’il and his mother was al-Wahid al-Bihbahani’s daughter. Muhammad ‘Ali al-Tabataba’i and ‘Abd al-Husayn al-Tabataba’i were his uncles. He married the daughter of his teacher, ‘Allama Bahr al-‘Ulum. His grandfather, Abu l-Ma’ali al-Kabir, was from the Hasani Sadat known as al-Tabataba’i who had migrated from Isfahan to Karbala in the 12th/18th century.

He was in Isfahan when his father died (in 1231/1815) and held a mourning ceremony for him there. After his father’s death, Sayyid Muhammad went to Karbala and became a Shi’ite authority. After a while, he moved to Kadhimiya until he went back to Iran late in his life, in the period of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, in order to defend Iranian borders against Russians.

In his A’yan al-Shi’a, al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin referred to Sayyid Muhammad as “Sayyid al-Fuqaha'” (the master of jurisprudents), “‘Allamat al-‘Ulama'” (the most knowledgeable scholar), and “A’lam ahl al-‘ilm bi l-usul wa l-kalam” (the most knowledgeable scholar of usul al-fiqh and kalam).

He finally left Tabriz in 1242/1826 for Tehran, but he contracted a disease in Qazvin and died on Jumada II 13, 1242/January 12, 1827. His corpse was moved to Karbala and was buried there. A dome is built over his mausoleum which was frequently visited.


Sayyid Muhammad studied Islamic disciplines with his father as well as ‘Allama Bahr al-‘Ulum, Shaykh Ja’far Kashif al-Ghita’, Agha Muhamad Baqir Hizarjaribi, and Mir ‘Abd al-Baqi Isfahani in Karbala. After the Wahhabi attack on Karbala, he went to Iran. He first had a short stay in the house of his uncle, Aqa Muhammad ‘Ali Kirmanshahi, and then went to the Islamic seminary of Isfahan. He engaged in teaching and writing in Isfahan for 13 years. He wrote his book, Mafatih al-usul in this period.

His Teachers

His Father; Sayyid Ali Tabatabaei, the author of Riyāḍ

Allāmah Bahr al-ʻOlūm

Shaykh Jafar Kashif al-Qitaʼ

Mir ʻAbd al Baqi Isfahani

Aqa Muhammad Baqir Hezar Joraybi


His Students

He trained several students during his scholarly life, among them are:

  1. Al-Shaykh al-Ansari
  2. Dawud b. Asad Allah b. ‘Abd Allah Burujirdi
  3. Ibrahim Musawi Qazwini
  4. Muhammad Salih Baraghani
  5. Mulla Hasan b. Muhammad ‘Ali Yazdi
  6. Mulla Husayn Wa’iz Tustari
  7. Muhammad Sharif Mazandarani
  8. Mulla Safar ‘Ali Lahijani Qazwini
  9. Sayyid Muhammad Shafi’ Japalaqi
  10. Ahmad b. ‘Ali Mukhtar Gulpaygani
  11. ‘Ali b. Muhammad Wali Qa’ini
  12. Mirza Nasr Allah Mashhadi
  13. Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali b. Muhammad Husayn Shahristani
  14. Mirza Muhammad Rida b. Muhammad Baqir Qazwini al-Khuwaysini.

His Works

He had several works some of which are as follow:

Mafatih al-usul
Al-Wasa’il fi l-usul
Risalat hujjiyyat al-zann
‘Umdat al-maqal fi tahqiq ahwal al-rijal
Al-Masabih fi sharh al-Mafatih li l-Kashani
Jami’ al-‘Aba’ir fi l-fiqh
Kitab fi al-aghlat al-mashhura
Al-Misbah al-bahir fi radd al-yadiri wa ithbat nubuwwat nabiyyina al-tahir


Political Activities

Russo-Persia Wars occurred in the period of his role as a Shi’ite authority. 10 years after the wars, al-Sayyid Muhammad and a number of other scholars and authorities in al-‘Atabat al-‘Aliyat and Iran, including Sayyid ‘Ali al-Tabataba’i and al-Shaykh Ja’far al-Najafi, published independent essays concerning the obligation of jihad against Russians. Sayyid Muhammad argued in his essay that the war with Russians was an instance of jihad.

In 1241/1826, Sayyid Muhammad and other scholars of Iran and al-‘Atabat received several letters from Muslim people in Caucasus provinces which were occupied by Russians. In these letters, people petitioned the scholars on the injustice and sacrileges by the Russians. Abbas Mirza, the crown prince, who was unhappy with the Treaty of Gulistan with Russians, sent his close companions to ask Sayyid Muhammad for help. Sayyid Muhammad wrote a letter to Fath-Ali Shah asking him to prevent the aggression and injustice of Russian forces, and when he learned about the Shah’s carelessness and his cunctation with regard to the war with Russia, he issued a fatwa for jihad against Russians, and together with a number of scholars from al-‘Atabat, he departed to Tehran to personally encourage people and the Shah for the war against Russians. On his way, many volunteers joined him.

In late Shawwal, 1241/May, 1826, he entered Tehran and was welcomed by a number of scholars, princes and people. Some scholars, such as Mulla Ahmad Naraqi, went to the army camp in the prairie of Soltaniyeh to prepare themselves for the war with Russians. Through Qazvin, they departed to Tabriz. Sayyid Muhammad and other scholars were so welcomed by people that when Sayyid Muhammad performed a wudu’ from the big pool of the Mosque of Qazvin, people took the whole water of the pool for consecration. Because of his active role in the war, Sayyid Muhammad was known as “Mujahid” (fighter). He and other scholars camped in Tabriz and tried to encourage people and the army.

Within few weeks, the Iranian army retook most of the cities and provinces. People in some occupied cities rioted against Russian garrisons and joined the Iranian army. Despite all these victories, all the seized areas were lost because of the unexpected command of Abbas Mirza according to which princes had to retreat from the frontline, the escape of one of the army’s commanders, and the sabotage of some statesmen. Fath-Ali Shah returned to Tehran and Abbas Mirza was left alone against Russians. Sayyid Muhammad was displeased with the Shah’s negligence and the defeat of the Iranian army. Thus, he left Tabriz for Tehran, but he contracted a disease in Qazvin and died on Jumada II 13, 1242/January 12, 1827. His corpse was moved to Karbala and was buried there.

One of the scholars who accompanied and supported al-Sayyid Muhammad in his campaign against Russian aggressions was Sayyid Mirza Ibrahim Nawwab Yazdi.


When he left Tabriz in 1242/1826 for Tehran, he contracted a disease in Qazvin and died on Jumada II 13, 1242/January 12, 1827. His corpse was moved to Karbala and was buried there. A dome is built over his mausoleum which was frequently visited.

About Ali Teymoori

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