Al-Sayyid Muḥammad Kāẓim al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī al-Yazdī (b. 1247/1831 – d.1337/1919) was a well-known Shiite Scholar of fiqh and the author of the book, al-‘Urwat al-wuthqa.
He undertook Shiite authority (marja’iyya) after Mirza Muhammad Hasan al-Shirazi. He was an opponent of the Iranian Constitutional Movement, and this led to disputes and contentions between him and Akhund Khurasani. Al-Yazdi issued fatwas regarding the obligation of defending the Muslim countries during the attacks by Italy to Libya, Britain to Iraq, and Russia to Iran.
Born and Family
Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Yazdi was born in 1247 or 1248 A.H. (1831-32 or 1832-33). He was from Tabataba Sadat, and his lineage goes through Sayyid Kamal al-Din Hasan (buried in Zavareh) back to Ibrahim Ghamr, Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a)’s grandson.
His father, Sayyid ‘Abd al-‘Azim, was a farmer in the village near Yazd. The village was later known as “Sayyid Kazim Yazdi”.
He married Hajj Mulla Hasan’s and also Mulla Kazim Tabrizi’s daughters.
He had 5 sons:
- Sayyid Muhammad Tabataba’i who was martyred in 1334 A.H. (1916) in a fight with British occupiers.
- Sayyid Mahmud who also died when al-Yazdi was still alive.
- Sayyid Ahmad.
- Sayyid ‘Ali who undertook Shiite authority and the administration of the Shiite seminary after his father’s death and died in 1370 A.H. (1951).
- Sayyid Asad Allah.
Al-Yazdi studied the preliminaries in the seminary school of Muhsiniyya or Du Manar in Yazd. He then went to Mashhad where he studied the intermediate level as well as traditional astronomy and mathematics. He then went to Isfahan and resided in Sadr Seminary School. There he attended the lectures of Shaykh Muhammad Baqir al-Najafi. Mirza Muhammad Husayn al-Na’ini, al-Sayyid Isma’il al-Sadr, Shaykh al-Shari’a al-Isfahani and Sayyid Mustafa al-Kashani also attended Muhammad Baqir al-Najafi’s lectures. Yazdi also attended the lectures of Muhammad Baqir Chahar Suqi (Khwansari), the author of Rawdat al-jannat, his brother Muhammad Hashim Chahar Suqi, and Mulla Muhammad Ja’far Abadi’i in Isfahan.
In 1281 A.H. (1864), he migrated to Iraq with the permission of Muhammad Baqir al-Najafi. On his way to Iraq when he had arrived in Kermanshah, he heard the news about Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari’s death and thus he missed the opportunity to attend his lectures. In Najaf, he resided in al-Sadr School.
- In Isfahan:
- Shaykh Muhammad Baqir al-Najafi
- Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Khwansari, the author of Rawdat al-jannat
- Mirza Muhammad Hashim Chahar Suqi
- Mulla Muhammad Ja’far Abadi’i
- In Najaf:
- Mirza Muhammad Hasan al-Shirazi
- Shaykh Radi, the son of Shaykh Muhammad al-Ja’fari
- Shaykh Mahdi al-Ja’fari
- Shaykh Mahdi Kashif al-Ghita’
It is said that around 200 to 300 scholars attended al-Yazdi’s lectures; here are some of his prominent students:
- Shaykh ‘Abd al-Karim al-Ha’iri al-Yazdi, the founder of the Islamic Seminary of Qom
- Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita’
- Muhammad Taqi Bafqi
- Diya’ al-Din ‘Iraqi
- Sayyid Husayn Burujirdi
- Mirza Mahdi Ashtiyani
- Sayyid ‘Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din Jabal ‘Amili
- Sayyid Husayn Qummi
- Sayyid Hasan Mudarris
- Sayyid Yunus Ardabili
- Sayyid Mahmud Husayni Imam Jum’a
- Shaykh ‘Abd al-Karim Zanjani
- Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Khwansari
- Sayyid Ahmad Khwansari
Sayyid Kazim al-Yazdi undertook the Shiite authority in 1312 A.H. (1894) after the demise of Mirza Muhammad Hasan al-Shirazi. When Shaykh Muhammad Taha died in 1323 A.H. (1905), his authority encompassed all Arabic countries, Iran, Caucasus, Southern and Central Asia.
- Al-‘Urwat al-wuthqa
- Ijtima’ al-amr wa l-nahy (the cases where there is both a command and a prohibition with respect to one and the same act)
- Al-Istishab (the principle of continuity)
- Al-Ta’adul wa l-tarajih (balance and preferences between conflicting pieces of evidence)
- A commentary on al-Makasib by Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari
- Al-Su’al wa l-jawab—al-Yazdi’s fatwas in fiqh compiled and edited by Kashif al-Ghita’
- Hujjiyyat al-zann fi ‘adad al-raka’at wa kayfiyya salat al-ihtiyat (an essay about the reliability of hunches or probabilistic beliefs regarding the number of rak’as in prayers and the way a cautious prayer (salat al-ihtiyat) should be said)
- Al-Sahifat al-Kazimiyya (a collection of orisons and praying by Yazdi)
- Mulhaqat al-‘urwat al-wuthqa (Addenda to al-‘Urwat al-wuthqa)
- Bustan-i raz wa gulistan-i niyaz (his orisons in Farsi)
- Al-Kalimat al-jami’a wa l-hikam al-nafi’a (Yazdi’s aphorisms)
- A commentary on Fara’id al-usul by Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari
- Risala fi irth al-zawja min al-thaman wa l-‘iqar (an essay concerning the inheritance of the wife from cash and estates of her husband).
Interactions and Disputes with Akhund Khurasani
Both al-Yazdi and Akhund Khurasani started their political activities late in the last third part of their lives. Here are some of their political interactions and agreements:
- Their acts against the Belgian Joseph Naus
- Their support of the Islamiyya Company in Isfahan
- Their campaigns against the occupation of Iran by Russians and the British.
However, they also had disputes over some political issues. The most significant dispute between them was over the Constitutional Revolution from 1325 to 1329 A.H. (1907-1911). Muhammad ‘Ali Shah of Qajar exploited the dispute for his own interests. Yazdi was not as politically active as Akhund Khurasani; his activities was just limited to issuing some political statements and telegraphs. However, as a prominent Shiite authority, he was politically influential.
- Akhund Khurasani supported the foundations of Constitutionalism and Parliamentarism both theoretically and practically, and he never withdrew or made his support conditional upon anything. However, al-Yazdi withdrew his support of Constitutionalism when notions such as freedom, parliamentary, and democracy were introduced by its supporters.
- When Shaykh Fadl Allah al-Nuri and his supporters sat in the holy shrine of ‘Abd al-‘Azim al-Hasani, Yazdi was the only prominent scholar who decisively supported them. He explicitly considered Constitutionalism to be equivalent to atheism. However, Akhund Khurasani considered it to be a sort of jihad. After the event of the Tupkhana Square in Tehran and Shaykh Fadl Allah al-Nuri’s explicit support of the opponents of Constitutionalism, Akhund Khurasani declared al-Nuri as a vice person that should be banished to a place outside of the capital city.
- When the first parliamentary was bombarded in 23 of Jumada I, 1326 A.H. (June 23, 1908), the period of Minor Tyranny and a new phase of disputes among Shiite scholars began. Akhund Khurasani tried to peacefully convince the Shah to return to Constitutionalism, but al-Yazdi issued a fatwa that it is prohibited to revive Constitutionalism.
- Major supporters of al-Yazdi were Shiite Arab tribes around Najaf and Karbala who chanted slogans against Constitutionalism. The division between Shiites in Najaf led Akhund Khurasani and al-Yazdi to publicly attack one another, while before this, they used to mention each other with respect.
According to the diaries of ‘Ayn al-Saltana, the division among the scholars of Najaf was a hot news talked about in meetings in Tehran.
His Social Services
Sayyid Kazim al-Yazdi Seminary School in Najaf was built with a traditional architecture in two floors and 80 chambers in 1327 A.H. (1909). He also built a caravan-serai for Iranian pilgrims of Najaf.
His Political Activity
Unlike Akhund Khurasani, Sayyid Kazim al-Yazdi had no tendencies to political activities, though they were peers in all respects. He engaged himself with political issues late in his life, and whenever he felt a threat, he issued politically influential statements and sent them to Iran through the telegraph. When the fever of the Constitutional Revolution went down, he withdrew from political activities once again. However, when World War I started, al-Yazdi issued a fatwa against the invaders, and his son was martyred in a fight against the British forces.
Support of the Islamiyya Company
In 1316 A.H. (1898), some religious people established the Islamiyya Company in Isfahan in order to counter the economic infiltration of foreign countries in Iran. Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Wa’iz al-Isfahani wrote an essay, Libas al-taqwa, to support this company; he drew upon some verses of the Quran and hadiths to show that Iranians should not consume foreign goods and products and it is their obligation to support the Islamiyya Company.
Prominent scholars, such as Akhund Khurasani, Hajj Mirza Husayn Hajj Mirza Khalil, Fadil al-Sharabiyani, Mirza Husayn al-Nuri, Shari’at al-Isfahani, Sayyid Isma’il b. Sadr al-Din, and Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Tabataba’i al-Yazdi endorsed the contents of this essay. Al-Yazdi wrote in his endorsement: “it is required to try one’s best to turn away from foreign clothes as far as possible”.
Issuing a Fatwa against the Italian Colony in Libya
When Libya was occupied by Italian forces and Iran was invaded by Russian and British forces, al-Yazdi issued a fatwa in 1329 A.H. (1911) in Arabic:
Announcing Jihad against the Britain
In World War I, after the occupation of Iraq by the British forces, Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Yazdi, Mirza Muhammad Taqi al-Shirazi and Shaykh al-Shari’a al-Isfahani announced jihad against the British. A number of Iranian scholars joined their Iraqi counterparts in defending Iraq against the British. Al-Yazdi issued a fatwa to the effect that it is an obligation to launch the jihad against the British; the statement was addressed to his representative in Kufa:
Dear Sayyid ‘Ali Qazwini—may Allah continue to bless you—, my fatwa that it is an obligation to counter the invasions by unbelievers to the Islamic countries has now been spread everywhere. Since the enemy is close and there are lots of pressures and troubles, it is an obligation for everyone not to withdraw from defending the country and protecting the Islamic borders with all his or her power. If a person is not competent to attend the war or otherwise has an excuse, then he has to encourage the nomads to attend the jihad. Thus it is an obligation for you to propagate my message to everyone, since it is an obligation for everyone to protect Islam in any possible way. The victory is from God, in His will. Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Tabataba’i.
During the Constitutional Revolution
Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Tabataba’i al-Yazdi refused to unconditionally sign the Council Parliamentary (majlish of shawra) in the early Constitutional Revolution. He made his support of the parliamentary conditional upon the consistency of their ratified laws with the Islamic laws. His view of the Constitutional Revolution was close to that of Shaykh Fadl Allah al-Nuri, and when Nuri sat in the holy shrine of ‘Abd al-‘Azim al-Hasani, he was supported by Yazdi.
The Attack of Constitutionalists to al-Yazdi
Because of his opposition to Constitutionalism, Sayyid Kazim al-Yazdi was not well-reputed among Constitutionalists. After the period of Constitutionalism, he was sometimes mentioned with disrespect; for example, Malik Zada considered him as a “unique hypocrite” who expressed his aversion of Constitutionalism more than anybody else. He believed that al-Yazdi was supported by the Ottoman government and he was given a lot of financial support by Muhammad ‘Ali Shah of Qajar. Kasrawi also believed that al-Yazdi’s opposition to Constitutionalism was a strategic move to outgo Akhund Khurasani in the position of Shiite authority; according to Kasrawi, al-Yazdi never considered the interests of people and the country. However, opponents of Akhund Khurasani also mentioned similar remarks against him.
Sayyid Kazim al-Yazdi’s fatwa against the Italian colony in Libya
“These days European countries, such as Italy, have invaded Tripoli on the one hand, and on the other, Russians have occupied the Northern Iran with their forces and the British disembarked their forces in Southern Iran, and thereby they threatened Islam. So it is an obligation for all Muslims, both Arabs and Iranians, to prepare themselves for pushing the unbelievers away from the Islamic territories; they should do their best with their money and their lives to push the Italian forces away from Tripoli and the British and Russian forces from Iran. This is the most important Islamic obligation today. May these two Islamic countries be protected against the Cruciate, with God’s help. Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Tabataba’i…”
Sayyid Kazim Yazdi died on Tuesday 28 of Rajab, 1337 A.H. (April 29, 1919) from pneumonia, and was buried in the Holy Shrine of Imam ‘Ali (a) in Najaf, Iraq.