Home / All / Fiqh & Socitey / Scholarly Authority of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) for Islamic Scholars

Scholarly Authority of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) for Islamic Scholars

The marja’iyyat or authority of the Ahl al-Bayt in matters of religion is the common point shared by all denominations of Islam, and this could be an ideal platform for resolving issues of difference among the jurisprudential schools.

By marja’iyyat-i ‘ilmi (scholarly authority), we mean the common point on which all Muslims are unanimous and to which all issues of difference could be referred, especially in the domain of ideological and legal (shar’i) matters, where the authority of the Ahl al-Bayt is the only instrument for expounding the realities of the Holy Qur’an and the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), in view of the Word of God:
“O’ you who believe! Obey God and obey the Prophet and those vested with authority from among you; and then if you have dispute about anything refer it to God and the Prophet if you believe in God and the Last Day (of Judgement). This is the best and the fairest way of ending (the dispute).” (4:59)
It is obvious from the wording of the above ayah that “refer it to God” means reference to the Book of God, and in instances where the ayahs of the Holy Qur’an need to be properly expounded, the reference has been made to the Prophet.
“And We revealed not unto you (O Prophet) the Book but that you may explain unto them that which they differ about…” (16:64)
In the light of this ayah, Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) was the source of scholarly authority (marja ‘iyyat) for Muslims of this days, and according to all denominations of Islam, he duly introduced Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and the other Imams of his blessed Household (Ahl al-Bayt) as the legatees of his knowledge with the words (cited here from Sahih Muslim, hadith 2408, on the authority of Zayd bin Arqam):
“… I am about to receive a messenger (the angel of death) from my Lord and will respond (would bid goodbye to you); but I am leaving among you two weighty things (thaqalayn); the first is the Book of Allah and adhere to it; and (the second are) my Ahl al-Bayt, I remind you by God (of your duties) to my Ahl al-Bayt, I remind you by God (of your duties) to my Ahl al-Bayt, he repeated it three time).” When Zayd was asked who were the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt, he said: Those to whom sadaqah is forbidden. [Imam] ‘Ali (A.S.) and his descendants…).
This famous hadith which adds that Muslims will never go astray if they hold fast to the thaqalayn, has been widely recorded in the sihah (authentic) works of the Sunni Muslims on the authority of over 33 prominent companions of the Prophet. According to contemporary Egyptian scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zuhrah, the Hadith al-Thaqalayn is proof and document of the Imamate of the Ahl al-Bayt and their authority in the fields of knowledge and jurisprudence.

Another leading Sunni scholar, Dr. Muhammad ‘Abduh Yamani, writes:
The authentic (sahih) hadith: “inni tarikun fkum al-thaqalayn kitab Allah wa ‘itrati (I am leaving behind among you two weighty things, the Book of God and my progeny)”, as recorded in the authoritative hadith literature of Sunni Muslims, is a confirmation of the fact that the Ahl al-Bayt possess the scholarly authority for all Muslims, and are the model, and the living example in the field of knowledge, probity and adherence to Islam in its pristine purity as promulgated by their ancestor Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).

The Rector of al-Azhar, Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut (1958-1963) – referring to certain variations of this hadith in Sunni sources where the word sunnati (my practice) has been substituted for ‘itrati – notes the unanimity between sunnah and ‘itrah, and writes:
Hadith al-Thaqalayn has come in different variations with the words “the Book of God and my progeny (‘itrati)” mentioned in some of them. Without a doubt sunnah is the same code to which the Prophet and his noble progeny adhered.
Martyr Ayatullah Murtaza Mutahhari has an interesting incident to relate in this regard:
We were studying in Qum when we come across issues of the new magazine Risalat al-Islam published by Dar at-Taqrib, where an article by a Sunni scholar quoting the Hadith al-Thaqalayn wrote: “the Prophet said: I am leaving behind among you the thaqalayn, the Book of Allah and my sunnah…” The Late Grand Ayatullah, Sayyid Husayn Burujirdi, who dealt with profound prudence in such matters, instructed an erudite student by the name of Shaykh Qawam Weshnaweh’i to browse through Sunni sources and extract this hadith, which, in over 200 of the authoritative Sunni books quotes the Prophet as saying: “I am leaving behind among you two weighty things, the Book of Allah and my progeny (‘itrati).” It was not the purpose to say that the prophet even in one instance had not said the “Book of God and my sunnah”. Since there is no incompatibility between the two versions “Book and my sunnah” and “Book and my progeny”, in view of the fact that the progeny is for clarifying the sunnah. Likewise, it is not the question whether it is right to refer to sunnah or to ‘itrah, for the simple reason that it is the progeny (‘itrah) which is the real reflector of the sunnah, since the progeny is the repository of all aspects of the Prophet’s sunnah. The Prophet by stressing “the Book of God and my ‘Itrah” actually meant to say that Muslims should learn about his real sunnah from his progeny. Thus, the Prophet’s words: “I am leaving behind among you the Book of God and my progeny (‘itrati),” are an indivisible part of his sunnah in view of the fact that this is a clear hadith from him. In short, Shaykh Qawam Weshnaweh’i compiled a treatise in this regard which was sent to Dar al-Taqrib in Egypt. Dar al-Taqrib duly published and distributed the treatise…

According to Ayatullah Muhammad Wa’iz -Zadeh Khurasani, who is a vocal advocate of Islamic unity:
Grand Ayatullah Burujirdi was of the opinion that the Shi’ites (in the inter-Islamic dialogue) should focus on the scholarly marja’iyyat of the Ahl al-Bayt instead of raising the issue of the caliphate of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) which is a historical question related to the past. It is obvious that if the Shi’ites content themselves by stressing the marja’iyyat of the Ahl al-Bayt on the basis of the documented evidence of Hadith al-Thaqalayn, they will be able to overcome the absurd enmities and gather all Muslims on the platform of the beauties of the theological expression of the Prophet’s progeny and the glorious figh of the Ahl al-Bayt.

The Scholarly Marja’iyyat of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.)
Anas bin Malik narrates, that Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) addressing Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) said: “anta tabyinun li-ummati ma ikhtalafu fihi ba’di (you are the elucidator for my ummah in what they differ after me).”
One of the important duties of imamah (leadership) and Qur’an and the scholarly heritage of the Prophet and their proper transmission to the ‘ulama’ and scholars as well as elucidating the differences that are likely to crop up among the ummah. The importance of this duty becomes clearer when we see that many a conqueror has emerged victorious on the battlefield against big countries only to be vanquished by the culture of the conquered people and compelled to propagate their beliefs and customs. An evident example in this regard is the military victories of the Mongols over the Muslims. Soon these fierce conquerors were conquered by Islam and the Holy Qur’an, and became devout Muslims and propagators of faith.

The revolution brought about by Islam was transformation of faith and culture which, more than military encounters, required scholarly and cultural battles. Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) was aware of this vital factor, and after the passing away of his cousin the Prophet, he decided to compile the Holy Qur’an and vowed that until he had not written down the heavenly scripture he would not put the cloak around his shoulders to leave the house, except for the performance of the prayers. Accordingly, on the basis of all that had been taught to him by the Prophet concerning nasikh wa mansukh (abrogator and abrogated), muhhkam wa mutashabih (clear and allegorical) and zahir wa batin (esoteric and exoteric) of the Holy Qur’an, he expounded and elaborated to his sons, Imam Hasan (A.S.) and Imam Husayn (A.S.), and to such peerless disciples as ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas, ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud and several other companions of the Prophet. Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) thus groomed a generation that would not only counter the cultural attacks and reply to the ideological controversies by scholars of the conquered nations, but would also cater to the jurisprudential and judicial needs of jurists and explain in the most rational manner the principles of belief and various other issues of the Islamic culture to the newly – converted Muslims.

Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and Science of Tafsir (Exegesis)
A glance at the exegesis of the Holy Qur’an proves beyond doubt that Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) is the doyen of all exegetes. The eminent Egyptian scholar Jalal al-Din Suyuti (d. 911 AH) says that among the caliphs, most of the narrations are from Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.). Ibn ‘Abbas, from whom much of the hadith concerning the exegesis of the Holy Qur’an has been narrated, was the cousin and student of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.). As mentioned by the 6th century AH Mu’tazalite scholar, Ibn Abi al-Hadid, when Ibn ‘Abbas was asked about his knowledge compared to that of his cousin (the Imam), he replied: “It is like a drop of rain in front of a vast ocean.”
The students of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) in the science of exegesis later flowered into founders of schools of Qur’anic exegesis in Makkah, Madinah and Kufa.

Imam ‘Ali (A.S.), Inventor of Arabic Grammar
In order to safeguard the beauty of language of the Holy Qur’an and to prevent distortion in its style and its unmatched eloquence, Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) trained and assigned Abu al-Aswad Duali to formulate Arabic grammar under his supervision. Later, Abu al-Aswad, by benefiting from what he had learned of the science of grammar from the Imam, regulated the syntax of the Holy Qur’an by fixing vowels and diacritical points (i’rab).

Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and the Science of Qira’ah
The pioneers in the science of qira’ah or proper recitation of the Holy Qur’an, such as Abu ‘Umar and ‘Asim bin ‘Abd al-Rahman Salmi Farisi, say that they learned this art from Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.).

Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and the Science of Theology
Ibn Abi al-Hadid says in the introduction to his renowned commentary on the Nahj al-Balaghah: “The science of theology (kalam) and doctrinal beliefs (i’tiqadat), which are superior branch of knowledge, have been extracted from the wording and expressions of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.).” Irbili writes in Kashf al-Ghummah fi Ma’rifah al-A’immah that the leaders of the theological schools such as the Ash’arites, Mu’tazalites, Shi’ites and even the Kharijites, trace their theological roots to Imam ‘Ali (A.S.).

Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and the Science of Fiqh
In addition to the Imami jurisprudents, whose principles of fiqh are directly from Imam ‘Ali (A.S.), all other founders of juristic schools trace their science to the Imam. For instance, Ahmad bin Hanbal learned fiqh from Shafi’i who was a student of Malik bin Anas and Muhammad bin Hasan and the latter was taught by Abu Hanifah, who along with Malik bin Ansa, had acquired the principles of this science from Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A.S.), the direct successor of the knowledge of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.).

Imam Ali (A.S.) and the Science of Eloquence
As is evident from the Nahj al-Balaghah, Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) is the leader in the field of eloquence and beauty of language. This book which is a treasure trove of wisdom, among other things, contains the rules of administration and Islamic polity. The sermons, letters and aphorisms of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) are considered as a living miracle for all those wishing to quench their intellectual thirst.

Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and esoteric Knowledge
Dr. Abu al-Wafa’ Ghunaymi al-Taftazani of Cairo University who is a sufi elder, writes in his introduction to the 11 century AH scholar Shaykh Hurr al-‘Amili’s celebrated work, Wasai’l al-Shi’ah:
Sufi leaders and elders such as Rifa’i, Badawi, Ibrahim al-Dasuqi and ‘Abd al-Qadir Gilani, who are considered among the prominent Sunni ‘ulama’, attribute their schools (tariqah) to the teachings of some of the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt and through them to Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). The Prophet’s saying: Ana madinah al-‘ilm wa ‘Aliyyun babuha (I am the city of knowledge and ‘Ali is its gateway) has special significance for Gnostics and their emphasis on esoteric or spiritual sciences which they consider as real knowledge and maintain that except for Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) no one possess this characteristic.
In most Sunni books there are ample proofs that Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) was the repository of esoteric knowledge. For example, when ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab while touching the Hajar al-Aswad at the Holy Ka’bah, said: “I know that you are a mere stone without any benefit or harm. If I had not seen the prophet kissing you, I would never have kissed you.” Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) immediately said: “It does benefit and cause harm. God has deposited the covenant with the world of creation in this stone, and this stone will bear witness on the Day of Resurrection in the favour of those who adhered to their covenant.” On hearing this ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: “O Aba al-Hasan! May God make me not live in the land where you are not present.”

This account proves that the marjai’yyat and imamate of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) was recognised and accepted without the least doubt by even the caliphs.

Source of Knowledge of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.)
The following are the sources of knowledge of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.):
1. The Holy Qur’an: On the basis of numerous hadith, the Ahl al-Bayt are the Ahl al-Dhikr (16:43), well versed in the knowledge of the Holy Qur’an and are its authoritative exegetes.
2. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), whose famous hadith reads: “I am the City of Knowledge and ‘Ali is its Gateway.”
3. The Predecessor Imam.
4. Awareness and Personal Experience.

Marja’iyyat of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) For the Prophet’s Companions

The Holy Qur’an says: “So ask the People of the Reminder (Ahl al-Dhikr) if you do not know.” (16:43)
Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari writes in his exegesis Jami’ al-Bayan on his chain of authority that when this ayah was revealed, Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) said: “We are the Ahl al-Dhikr.”
Ibn Qayyim writes that the prominent companions of the Prophet used to refer to Imam as the Ahl al-Dhikr and the expert on the Holy Qur’an, and would seek clarifications for their doubts.
Ibn ‘Asim quotes the first caliph Abu Bakr as saying: “O Muslims, this ‘Ali (A.S.) is the legatee of the Prophet’s knowledge; whoever doubts his righteousness is a hypocrite.”
The second caliph ‘Umar would give preference to the views of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) over that of all other companions of the Prophet. He issued standing orders that as long as Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) was in the mosque no one had the right to express any fatwa (legal opinion). During the meetings of the council ‘Umar would turn to Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) for the final opinion and used to say: “Speak, for you are the most knowledgeable and most meritorious of the Prophet’s companions.”
Whenever the caliphs and the Prophet’s companions as well as the jurisprudents of Syria and Iraq found themselves in ideological dead end they would refer to Imam ‘Ali (A.S.). There are numerous instances when the caliphs and the companions, after issuing their fatwa would retract it when they found it in contradiction to the opinion of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.), and would immediately endorse the Imam’s views.
Ibn Qudamah Maqdisi in his work al-Mughni, quotes ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas as saying: “idha thabata lana ‘an ‘Ali (A.S.) qawlun lam na’uduhu ila ghayrih (whenever a saying of [Imam] ‘Ali (A.S.) was ascertained for us we would never turn towards others).”

Marja’iyyat of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) Among Jurisprudential Schools
The accounts from Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) has been related in the five following ways:
1. Through the Infallible Imams.
2. Through Sunni muhaddithin (traditionists).
3. Through Imami Shi’ite accounts such as kutub al-arba’ah (the four authoritative books of hadith).
4. Through Zaydi sources (al-Majmu’ al -Fiqhi, Musnad of Zayd bin Imam Zayn al -‘Abidin (A.S.), Amali and Bahr al-Zakhkhar).
5. Through Isma’ili narratives (e.g. Kitab Da’a’im al-Islam of Qazi Nu’man al-Misri).

The references and documents of the leaders and jurisprudents of the various sects of the Ahl al-Sunnah are so exhaustive in this field that recently Dr. Muhammad Rawwas Qal’ahji of Syria has collected the accounts cited as authoritative by jurisprudents of the four Sunni sects (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali) as well as others, in an encyclopaedia under the tite of Mawsu’ah Fiqh al-Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.). For his part, Ayatullah Wa’iz -Zadeh Khurasani of Iran has extracted from 250 authoritative Sunni works 10,000 hadith on the merits of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.).

The famous bibliographer Ibn al-Nadim (4th century AH) writes:
Once a person, on getting a reply to his query from the jurisprudent Shafi’i, retorted that the answer seemed in opposition to the saying of Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.). Shafi’i said: “If you could prove it that Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.) said as you claim, I am ready to put my face on the soil, admit my mistake, retract my statement and revert to his saying.”
Fahr al-Din Razi, in volume one of his exegesis Tafsir al-Kabir, commenting on legal issues as inferred from Surah al-Fatihah, cites the fifth evidence concerning the recitation of Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim during prayer in a raised voice:
It has been ascertained on the chain of frequency (tawatur), Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) used to recite Bismillah in a raised voice. Whoever follows Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.) in his religion is thus truly guided and the proof in this regard is the saying of the Prophet:
“Allahumma adri al-haqqa ma’a ‘ali, haythu dar (O Allah! Turn truth with ‘Ali, wherever he turns).
Fakhr al-Din Razi then cites the versions of Anas bin Malik and Ibn Mufazzal against recitation of Bismi Allah… during prayer, and after comparing and contrasting these statements with that of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.), says:
Even if we were to express doubt in other matters, we can never doubt this issue, since it is preferable to act upon the statement of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) in view of his position and proximity to the Prophet compared to Anas and Ibn Mufazzal.
Many of the prominent jurisprudents of Kurdistan in their chain of authorization (iazah) of hadith through Qutb al-Din al-Razi, Qutb al-Din Shirazi, Katib Qazwini, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Muhammad al-Ghazzali, Abu Talib al-Makki and Ma’ruf al-Karkhi, trace their sources to the Prophet’s 8th infallible successor Imam ‘Ali bin Musa al-Reza (A.S.), and thence directly to the Gateway of the Prophet’s knowledge, Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.). From Imam Riza (A.S.) upwards there is remarkable unanimity in all these Sunni chains of transmission, and with slight variation of words they read as follows:
From al-Murtaza al-Imam ‘Ali al-Reza (A.S.), from his illustrious father Imam Musa al-Kazim (A.S.) – from his father and his ancestors before him – from the Chief of the Pathways of the Confiuence of the Two Seas (majma’ al-bahrayn), Imam al-Mujtaba Sayyiduna al-Imam al-Hasan (A.S.), the his father, the Source of Authority (manba’ al-wilayah), the Argument of God (Hujjat Allah) Sayyiduna al-Imam ‘Ali al-Haydar, peace and salutations upon him, and he is karram Allah wajhah (God has glorified his face), who imbibed sciences and knowledge from the Sea of Knowledge, the Master of all who preceded him and will come after him (Sayyid al-awwalin wa al-akhirin), the source of sincerity and purity, Sayyiduna Abi al-Qasim, Muhammad al-Mustafa (S.A.W.).

The Hanafis and Imam ‘Ali (A.S.)

The Hanafis, in reply to the objections of the Malikis and Hanbalis who claim that contrary to the Iraq-based Abu Hanifah their schools grew in the Prophet’s city (Madinah), say that the charge against them of taking shape far from the Prophet’s tradition, holds no water since Kufa was the capital of the Gateway of the Prophet’s Knowledge,Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.).
Interestingly, Hanafi jurists maintain that in case of contradiction between the opinions of Abu Hanifah and his two disciples Abu Yusuf and Muhammad bin al-Hasan Shaybani, the opinion of the teacher takes precedence unless the opinion expressed by the disciples is based on the authority of narration from Imam ‘Ali (A.S.), since in such a case, the opinion on the virtue of Imam ‘Ali’s (A.S.) account, should enjoy absolute precedence.
Likewise, several legal opinions (fatawi) of the Hanafis are based on the accounts of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.). For instance, the recitation of Surah al-Hamd on the authority of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) during the first two rak’ah of the daily prayer is considered obligatory.

The Malikis, in accordance with the School of the Ahl al-Bayt, do not fold their hands and keep them stretched sideways forbids the folding of hands during prayer as the other schools do, he replied: “I have seen the leaders of the Ahl al-Bayt (Imam Muhammad al-Baqir [‘a] and Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq [‘a] pray with hands open and stretched sideways.”
Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his book Musnad has a section on the merits of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and has related nearly 3000 hadith from him.
The historian Ibn ‘Asakir, writing on the life of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (A.S.), quotes Abi Hazim as saying:
I have not seen a Hashimite more meritorious and more aware of jurisprudential issues than (Imam) ‘Ali bin al-Husayn (A.S.).
Shafi’i, the founder of a school of jurisprudence of the same name, says:
‘Ali bin al-Husayn (A.S.) was the most knowledgeable in jurisprudential matters among the people of Madinah and was an authority on hadith.
‘Abdullah bin ‘Ata’ narrates:
I have not seen scholars so humble before anyone except in the presence of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S.). I saw (in his presence) Hakam bin ‘Utbah, who despite his scholarly awe among his people, appear like a small pupil in from of his teacher.”

Abu Hanifah says that he did not meet anyone better versed in jurisprudence than Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A.S.).
Malik ibn Anas says:
For long I used to visit (Imam) Ja’far bin Muhammad (A.S.) and I always found him in one of the three states; he was performing the prayer, was fasting, or reciting the Qur’an. No eye has seen, no ear has ever heard and no heart has ever felt a person more knowledgeable, more devout and more pious than Ja’far bin Muhammad (A.S.).

Scholarly Authority of the Alids among Islamic Schools
The scholarly authority of the Alids or descendants of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.), other than the infallible Imams, is profoundly evident not only among the Shi’ite schools but also among all other Islamic schools and sufi orders. An example in this regard are the following persons who trace their descent to Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and are revered among the various Sunni sects for their scholarly authority:
Sayyid Mahamud Alusi of Baghdad, the author of Tafsir Ruh al-Ma’ani, Sayyid Rashid Riza of Egypt, the author of Tafsir al-Manar, Sayyid Muhammad bin ‘Alawi Maliki al-Hasani of Makkah, the author of over 20 books on Maliki fiqh and school of thought; Sayyid ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Hasani al-Gilani, the founder of the Qadiriyyah sufi order whose followers extend from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to parts of Yemen and Africa; Sayyid Shah Ni’matullah Wali of Kirman, the founder of the Ni’matullahi order, Sayyid Ahmad Badawi al-Husayni of Tanta, whose followers known as Tantawi are found in Egypt and Sudan; Sayyid Ahmad bin ‘Ali al-Rifa’i, the founder of the Rifa’iyyah order of Egypt; Sayyid Ahmad bin ‘Ali Hanafi al-Misri, the head of the Shi’raniyyah order of Egypt; Sayyid Muhammad ‘Uthman Mir Ghani al-Maliki, the author of Taj al-Tafasir, who was from Central Asia and whose followers are found today in Sudan; Sayyid Mansur ‘Ali Nasif al-Husayni, the author of Taj al-Jami’lil-Usul fi Ahadith al-Rasul which is regarded as one of the best Sunni hadith compilations; Sayyid Abu al-Hasan al-Nadawi of India, the author of Maza Khasira al-‘Alam bi-Inhitat al-Muslimin and Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Tantawi, the Dean of al-Azhar University of Cairo which is considered among the prominent training centres of the Sunni School.

The Scholarly Authority of Imam Hasan’s (A.S.) Descendants in Yemen
The people of Yemen accepted Islam at the hands of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) when he was sent there by Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). During his brief stay the Imam taught them the dynamics of Islam and influenced them with his personality which led to the birth of jurisprudential schools in Yemen. Later, with the migration of the Imam’s descendants to Yemen (especially after the abortive uprisings of the descendants of Imam Hasan (A.S.) against Abbasid tyranny and the end of the short lived state of the jurisprudent and scholar, Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-Tabataba in Kufa), the scholarly authority of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) and the Ahl al-Bayt became widespread and is still revered in this land. Among the Al-i Tabataba, who in addition to their political status, became authorities in Yemen in the fields of knowledge, jurisprudence and theology, mention could be made of the following personalities:
1. Tarjuman al-Din Abu Muhammad Qasim bin Ibrahim al-Rassi al-Tabataba’i (170-244 AH). A pious and ascetic man, he was thought to be Zaydi and is considered the founder of the Qasimi branch of fiqh. He wrote a book refuting the theories of the fatalists and those attributing from and shape to Almighty God. He left seven sons, all of them became authorities and whose books can be found in the libraries of Europe.
2. Abu al-Hasan Yahya bin Husayn al-Tabataba’i (245-298 AH). A gifted scholar, jurist, poet, and leader of the Zaydis, he launched an uprising in Yemen against Abbasid rule in 280 AH and assumed the title of al-Hadi ila al-Haqq (Guide towards the Truth). His influence spread to other parts of Arabia and his name was read during sermons in Makkah. He was a prolific writer and among his works mention could be made of al-Isltidla ‘ala Risalah Muhammad (S.A.W.), Tathbit Imamah Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (A.S.) and Jami’ al-Ahkam fi al-Halal wa al-Haram.
3. Abu al-Qasim al-Murtaza li-Din Allah Muhammad bin Yahya al-Hadi (299-322 AH). He came to Yemen with his father whom he succeeded as leader of the Zaydis. He was a statesmen and scholar and the author of 16 books including an exegesis of the Holy Qur’an. His descendants, the Bani Ataj migrated to Mazandaran Province of Iran, while another branch known as Bani al-‘Assaf settled in Isfahan.

During the 12 centuries of the rule of Zaydi Imams in Yemen, several scholars, researchers, theologians (mutakallimin), traditionists (muhaddithin), jurisprudents and men of literature – most of whom were the direct descendants of Imam Hasan (A.S.) – rose to prominence and enriched Zaydi culture.

Some of them are:
1. Husayn bin Badr al-Din bin Muhammad (582-662). He was descendant of Yahya al-Hadi and was an expert in hadith, fiqh, and jurisprudence. He authored the books Shifa’ al-Awam fi Ahadith al-Ahkam (hadith) and al-Taqrir in six volumes in the field of fiqh.
2. Husayn bin Muhammad bin Badr al-Din (d. 663 AH). He the prominent scholars and muhaddith whose students became some of the prominent scholars of Yemen.
3. Dahma’. The daughter of the Zaydi ruler (Imam) Yahya bin Murtaza (d. 837 AH) and the sister of his successor Mahdi Ahmad bin Yahya. She was a jurisprudent, researcher, scholar and poet. She was married to Sayyid Muhammad bin Abi al-Faza’il and wrote a 4 – volume commentary on her brother’s work al-Azhar.
4. Ahmad bin Salah al-Sharafi (975-1055 AH). He was descended from Qasim al-Rassi and was a prominent jurisprudent, historian and researcher.
5. Ahmad bin Muhammad Luqman (d. 1029 AH). A descendent of the Zaydi ruler (Imam) Mahdi Ahmad bin Yahya. He was researcher and expert in literature, jurisprudent and related fields. Among his works are Sharh al-Kafil (fiqh) and Sharh al-Tahzib on al-Taftazani’s book on logic.
6. Hasan bin Ahmad Jalal (1014-1048 AH). He was related to the famous jurisprudent of his time Ahmad Nasir and was an outstanding jurisprudent, scholar and poet himself.
7. ‘Abdullah bin Ahmad al-Sharafi. A prominent scholar of the 11 the century AH, he wrote the exegesis of the Holy Qur’an titled Masabih al-Tafsir in 6 volumes.
8. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amir bin ‘Ali al-Hasani (d. 1061 AH). A paternal cousin of the Zaydi ruler (Imam) Mansur Qasim bin Muhammad, he was a poet and scholar whose work on Islamic schools of fiqh is titled al-Tasrih bi’l-Madhhab al-Sahih.
9. Ibrahim bin Muhammad bin Qasim (d. 1145 AH). The grandson of the Zaydi ruler (Imam) Muhammad al-Mu’ayyid, he was a prominent jurisprudent and historian who authored Tabaqat al-Zaydiyyah.

The Scholarly Authority of Imam Hasan’s (A.S.) Descendants in Iraq
Imam ‘Ali’s (A.S.) shifting of his seat of caliphate from Madinah to Kufa in 36 AH turned Iraq into a centre of scholarly authority of the Prophet’s progeny and laid the foundation for development of the schools of theology, jurisprudence and exegesis of Iraq. This land (the cradle of human civilisation where Adam lies buried and where Enoch and Noah lived and preached) became a centre of gravity for descendants of the Ahl al-Bayt and their followers who contributed to the development of Islamic sciences in various fields. When Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-Tabataba, launched his uprising against Abassid rule in Iraq and established his short lived political authority, the Prophet’s descendants and their followers migrated from the Hijaz and took up residence in Kufa, Basra and Baghdad. They initiated scholarly activities and soon several scholars, jurisprudents and men of letters shot into prominence from among them. One of these Hasani Sayyids who settled in Basra was Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Sulayman bin Qasim al-Rassi who was known as al-Tuzun and whose descendants were consequently called Bani Tuzun. Of the scholars authorities, the following stand out more prominently:
1. Abu al-Mu’ammar Yahya bin Muhammad bin Qasim bin Muhammad (d. 478 AH). He was a grammarian, theologian, poet and genealogist.
2. Abu Muhammad Ja’far bin Muhammad bin Taj al-Din ‘Ali bin Muhammad bin Ramazan Ibn Tiqtaqa (660 – 709 AH). A descendent of Qasim al-Rassi, he was a historian, poet and scholar, who served as Naqib al-Sadat in Iraq and wrote the famous book al-Fakhri.

Scholarly Authority of the Al-i Tawus in Hillah
This family of prominent scholars derives its suranme from their ancestor Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad bin Ishaq, known as al-Tawus (the Peacock) because of his strikingly handsome appearance but rather awkward feet. A scholar of repute and Naqib al-Sadat in Hillah and Sur in Iraq, Muhammad al- Tawus was descended on his father’s side from Imam Hasan (A.S.) through Dawud bin Hasan al-Muthanna and on his mother’s side from Imam Husayn (A.S.) through a daughter of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (A.S.). His descendants, the Al-i Tawus, succeeded to his position of naqib in Hillah and for several generations produced outstanding scholars, of whom the following could be mentioned:
1. Razi al-Din ‘Ali bin Musa (589-664 AH). Known by the family epithet of Ibn Tawus, he was an outstanding scholar excelling in hadith, history, jurisprudence, theology and literature.
He refused all official positions proposed to him by the Abbasid court in Baghdad including the post of wazir, although he tried to avert bloodshed and destruction during the Mongol attack of Hulaku Khan. In 660 AH, on the insistence of the great scholar Khwajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, he reluctantly accepted the post of Naqib al-Sadat and died four years later. He was known for his munificence and once gave away as charity 90 percent of his total property. He wrote over 30 books including Iqbal al-‘Amal, al-Yaqin bi-Ikhtisas ‘Ali ‘alayh al-salam bi-Imrah al-Mu’minin, al-Luhuf ‘ala Qatla al-Tufuf, al-Istifa’ fi Tarikh al-Muluk wa al-Khulafa’ and Kashf al-Muhjah.
2. Jamal al-Din Ahmad bin Musa (d. 673 AH). He became Naqib al-Sadat on the death of his elder brother, and among his students was the celebrated scholar ‘Allamah Hasan bin Yusuf al-Hilli. He wrote several books, one of which is al-‘Ayn al-‘Ibrah fi Ghaban al-‘Itrah.
3. Ghiyath al-Din ‘Abd al-Karim bin Ahmad (648-693 AH). Like his father and uncle, he was a gifted scholar and held the position of Naqib al-Sadat. He was also a good poet and wrote a valuably researched book ascertaining the site of burial in Najaf of Imam ‘Ali (A.S.) under the titled Farhah al-Qurra’ bi-Sarhat al-Gharra’.

The article was written by Abdulkarim BiAzar Shirazi and translated by Sayyid Ali Shahbaz.

About Ali Teymoori

Check Also

Call for Papers: the Seventh Annual Conference on Shi’i Studies

The Islamic College invites abstracts to be submitted for its seventh conference on Shi'i studies...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Google Analytics Alternative