He was born Zainuddin ibn Nuruddin in Jabal Amil (in southern Lebanon) in the year 911 AH. Growing up in a family of scholars, he was naturally inclined towards pursuing religious studies.
The Family of Shaheed E Saani & His Disciples
While Shaheed e Saani is his title, his name is Jamal ud Deen ibne Noor ud Deen ibne Fazil Ahmed ibne jamal ud Deen ibne Taqi ibne Mohammed Saleh.The sixth in the line of his genealogy, Mohammed Saleh, was a disciple of Allama Hilli. Shaheed e Saani is one of the eminent Shia scholars in whose families we trace eminent scholars for many generations. His earlier six ancestors were all scholars and three of them were Mujtahids. Shaheed e Saani had a son, Sheik Hassan who has authored a book “Muaalim al Deen”. The book is of such importance that one cannot become a Mujtahid without studying it assiduously. Therefore we might say that all those who become Mujtahids are his disciples!
He completed his early education in his hometown, and he received his higher education under the acclaimed Muhaqqiq al-Karki. He shortly became his favorite and closest disciple. During his early 30s, he was granted permission to perform Ijtihad. However, he was hesitant to openly publish his edicts and rulings.
One day, a student of Shaikh Zainuddin had a dream where he witnessed his teacher give a long and strange speech. Later on, when he told him about the incident, Shaikh Zainuddin remarked that perhaps that was a sign for him to go public with his Ijtihad. When the curious student inquired why, Shaikh Zainuddin took out his book of edicts which he had always hidden from others. To the student’s surprise, the speech he had heard in his dream was in fact an exact copy of the introductory chapter of the Shaikh’s book.
Shaikh Zainuddin used to travel frequently, and the incidents that transpired during his journeys testify to his brilliance and piety. Once during a visit to Constantinople, he was asked a juristic question by the Chief Magistrate of the city. The Shaikh told him that he would reply in a few days. Eighteen days later, he had in fact written a comprehensive book in response to the Magistrate’s query from all four Sunni schools’ points of view, all this while he was away from his homeland and had no access to any resources!
The Magistrate recommended that Shaikh Zainuddin be appointed a high-level instructor at a religious seminary in Syria. His expertise in matters of both Shia and Sunni jurisprudence surprised and angered many. In fact, given that he was practicing Taqayya (dissimulation), he was shortly forced to resign from his position after people began to realize that he was actually a Shia.
Another time, as he was travelling to Kufa, he arrived at a local mosque. He noticed that the prayer niche in the mosque was not exactly in the direction of Mecca, and he declared that he would pray with his prayer mat at an angle. Although most locals deferred to his judgment, one of the local scholars refused to pray behind him. Three days later, however, this scholar was seen praying behind him as well. When people asked him about his change of mind, he told them that he had had a dream where the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) had visited this mosque and corrected the Qibla exactly how Shaikh Zainuddin had done!
As the atrocities against Shia academia increased, Shaikh Zainuddin devoted a considerable amount of effort and energy into collecting old manuscripts of hadith and jurisprudential literature. In addition, he wrote Sharh al-Lum’a, a commentary on the First Martyr’s al-Lum’a Dimishqiya that is still used in the seminary curriculum. His brilliance can be gauged by the fact that whereas it takes most teachers over two years to go over the book today, Shaikh Zainuddin in fact completed it in just over six months.
As word of his knowledge and brilliance spread, jealousy and hatred against him and the School of Ahlul Bayt began to grow. Leaders from other sects of Islam complained to the ruler that he was a threat to the establishment.
An arrest warrant was issued, and he was martyred while being taken from Mecca to Constantinople in the year 966 AH in the exact same location where he had predicted his martyrdom several years ago to his student. Traditions say that Constantinople was struck with violent storms and floods the next day, and nearly half the city was submerged under water.
-There is an incident in the life of Shaheed e Saani that Sheik Bahai has recorded in his book. His father and Shaheed e Saani were traveling together. They passed through a dense forest. Shaheed e Saani’s face became parched and said that a very pious person would be martyred at that place and that Momin will turn, in pain, on the ground in his blood.
Similarly a disciple of Shaheed e Saani says that he was once going out with his mentor. On the way they passed a forest. The mentor asked him, “Do you know, what place is this?” The disciple said he didn’t know about the place. Shaheed e Saani said that was the place where he would be martyred soon! Two dreams of Shaheed e Saani are very prominently mentioned in our books. In one of the dreams he saw that he had entered the Heaven and many chairs are stacked in a row. On each chair was seated a scholar of repute. Besides Shaheed e Awwal a chair was vacant. He asked someone as to who would sit on that chair. He was told that the chair was for him. He understood that the time for him getting martyred was near.
-Sheik Bahai has mentioned another incident too with reference to what his father said. One morning he reached the home of Shaheed e Saani. He saw him sitting with his head pensively bent in thought. He asked Shaheed e Saani what he was brooding about? He replied, “I think I shall soon be a martyr!” Sheik Bahai’s father asked why he got such a thought. Shaheed e Saani said, “I saw in the dream that I had reached the house of Sayed Murtada Ilm al Huda. He had arranged a party and the Ulema were arriving one by one.He was receiving the guests with great respect and seating them on chairs. When I reached there, Sayed Murtada stood up respectfully and led me to a chair next to Shaheed e Awwal. This gives me an idea that I shall be a martyr after him!” Therefore, this dream of Shaheed e Saani and his getting the premonition again and again indicated that he was mentally ready for the eventuality. He was spending a life of dissimulation but knew that a day would come when the enemies would know his true identity. It was the year 965 or 966 when he got wind that his true identity was known to the rulers.. At that time he was working on his most important book,”Shara Lam-aa”. The book was completed in six months and six days. It is surprising that he completed this monumental work in such a short time since a reading of the book would take two years! For over 400 years the book is on the curricula of all the Shia Seminaries.
-When his learning and acumen received the recognition, the other Ulema, particularly from the other schools, became jealous of him. Therefore they carried tales to the ruler of the day. They told him that he was a risk for the establishment that he was propagating a new creed. It is said that the ruler sent seven men to arrest him. In another version it is said that two persons came to him and said that they were both having some differences and that they wanted him to arbitrate as to who was right and who was wrong. The Shaheed heard both of them and gave his verdict in accordance with the Shariah. The person against whom he gave the verdict went to the Qazi who was the official judge for the entire Syrian Territory. The Qaziwas angered and sent his men to arrest him. Shaheed e Saani heard about this move. To save himself he mounted a camel and started for hajj. He thought that he would be safe in Mecca. The men of the Qazi searched for him. They asked his neighbors who told them that he had left for the Haj. One of the pursers caught up with him near Macca. Shaheed e Saani told him that he wanted to perform the Haj and after that he would accompany the pursuer wherever he wanted to take him. He performed the pilgrimage and then the person started the journey back to Syria with him. The third version is that the ruler, on getting reports against him, sent his men from Constantinople to arrest him. He had already performed the Haj and was sitting in the Masjad e Haram when the ruler’s men apprehended him. It is said that he was incarcerated at a house in Mecca for 40 days. On the way someone said that if he talked the ruler to his way of thinking, the ruler might punish them. Therefore he asked them to kill him on the way. Therefore he was martyred in that wilderness and the severed head was taken to Constantinople. In the court there was a person by name, Sayed Abd ar Rahim Abbasi, who was a follower of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s). He was a minister of Interior with the ruler.He told the ruler that the men had transgressed his orders. Instead of bringing the captive alive, they had killed him. On this behavior of the men the minister resigned from the service saying that he wouldn’t bear with their dereliction of duty. The ruler asked him what punishment should be given to the men. The minister asked the men to be handed over to him. He then burnt them alive as Qasas for their act.Another version is that he was killed with the consent of the ruler and his body was thrown in the river. Nemat Ullah al Jazaeri writes that the body of Shaheed e Saani remained without shroud or grave in the wilderness. Some farmers passed from there in the dark night. They noticed that a ray of bright light was traveling from the sky to the ground. When they reached near, they found a body without head. The light was emanating from the body. They didn’t know who he was but thought that the person must be a man of high piety that his body emitted such bright light. With great respect and veneration they dug a grave and interred his body there.