Sheikh-e Mufīd, Muhammad, the son of Muhammad, the son of No’mān Sheikh was born on 11th Dhul Qa’dah, 336 Hijra (or 338 A.H. according to Sheikh Tusi) in Ukbara near Baghdad. He grew up under the care of his father who taught him the fundamentals of Arabic literature.
Sheikh-e Mufīd is one of the most brilliant dignitaries in the world of Islām. He is a ‘Mutakallim’ (theologian) and a ‘Faqīh’ (religious jurisprudent) as well.
‘Ibn-e Nadīm’ in his book ‘Al-Fihrist’ – where discussing about the theologians of Shiism – commends Sheikh-e Mufīd as ‘Ibn-e Mu’allim’ (son of teacher). Sheikh’s famous book in ‘Fiqh’ is ‘‘Al-Muqna’ah’’.
Abū Ya’lī Ja’farī – Sheikh-e Mufīd’s son in law says: “Sheikh-e Mufīd usually had a short rest at nights, and most of the night he was engaged in prayers, recitation of the holy Qurān, and studying the books.”
Sheikh-e Mufīd is one of the pupils of ‘Ibn-e Abī Aqīl’. He was born around Baghdād and completed his elementary educations in his hometown under the supervision of his own father. His family was a noble and reputable family in Shia sect, and his ancestors were all virtuous and righteous people. All members of his family had a hearty affectionate and cordial love towards the Ahl-ul-Bayt (the infallible household of the holy prophet of Islam S.A.). In Baghdād, Sheikh-e Mufīd acquired Islamic knowledge from the great scholars and Ulamā and gradually turned out as the eminent sage in the fields of Kalām (theology), Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), and Usūl (principles of Fiqh).
According to the Shia & Sunnī Ulamā, Sheikh-e Mufīd has a lofty position in the world of Islām.Teachers
Some of his preceptors are as follows:
1- Ibn-e Qūlawaih Qummī
2- Sheikh-e Sadūq
3- Ibn-e Walīd-e Qummī
4- Abū Ghālib-e Zorārī
5- Ibn-e Jonaid-e Iskāfī
6- Abū Alī Sawlī Basrī
7- Abū Abdillāh Safwānī
Sheikh Mufid was a man of diverse talents. Besides being a jurist of the first order, he was a great literary figure, analytic historian, theologian and traditionist. His status as a Marja’ of his time kept him extremely busy, yet he found time to conduct his teaching sessions, from which emerged great Ulama like Seyyid Murtadha (Alamul Huda), Syed al-Radhi (the compiler of Nahjul Balaghah), Sheikh Tusi (who laid the foundation of Hawza of Najaf), al-Najashi and others. Questions poured in from far and wide, and Sheikh answered them all. In fact, he was the defender of Imamiyya Sect, adequately aware of the needs of the Islamic world. To his credit stand several great works written in various Islamic sciences;
1- Sayyed Murtadhā (Alam-ul-Hudā)
2- Sayyed-e Radhī
3- Sheikh-e Tūsī
5- Abul-Fat’h-e Karājakī
6- Abū Ya’lī Ja’far Ibn-e Sālār
Sayings of the Great Men
1-Najāshi, the well-known pupil of Sheikh-e Mufīd and his trustworthy student, cites about him: “Muhammad the son of Muhammad the son of No’mān, is our Sheikh and mentor; may Allāh’s blessings be upon him. His supremacy in Fiqh and Hadīth (traditions) as well as his trustworthiness is famous enough and does not need to be described. He has numerous compilations.”
2-Sheikh-e Tūsī, the outstanding student of Mufīd’s school, in his book ‘Fihrist’ writes about him: “Muhammad the son of Muhammad the son of No’mān – titled as Ibn-e Mu’allim – is one of the theologians of ‘Imāmiyyeh’ or Shia sect. He was selected and known as the Chief Islāmic Jurisprudent at his time. In Fiqh and Kalām (theology) Sheikh-e Mufīd was the supreme sage. He had a strong memory and a keen mind. He was very quick in answering the questions. He has more than 200 volumes of books on different subjects.”
3- ‘Ibn-e Hujr-e ‘Asqalāni’ also says about him: “He was much pious, ascetic and humble. At night, he usually engaged himself in night prayers. He was industrious in acquisition of science and knowledge. A large number of students took advantage of his teachings. The Shias are indebted to him. His father lived in ‘Wāsit’ as a teacher, and was killed in ‘Akbari. It is cited that, Adhud-ud-Dawlah (one of Diālamah dynasty kings) regularly visited him; especially when Sheikh was ill.”
4- ‘Imād-e Hanbalī – one of the Sunnī Ulamā – says about him: “Sheikh-e Mufīd is the great of greats in ‘Imāmiyyeh’, and the master in Fiqh, Kalām, and ‘Mubāhithah (religious debates). He was prepared to participate in any ideological debate with followers of any other sects. He had a high position in the system of Āl-e Būyeh government. Mufīd was bound to pay alms to the poor. He was much humble, and engaged himself much in night prayers, and fasting. He was always well dressed. Adhud-ud-Dawlah regularly visited him. He lived for nearly 76 years, and left more than 200 compilations after him. His funeral ceremony is very famous, for, more than 80,000 Shias took part in that ceremony which occurred in the holy month of Ramadhān. May Allah’s mercies be upon him…”
The Origins of the title al Mufid
Once his tutor Abu Yasir recommended that he attend the lessons in theology by Ali B. Isa al-Rummani, so as to gain deeper insight into the subject. Sheikh excused himself by saying that he was not acquainted with al-Rummani, and therefore needed an introduction. Abu Yasir gave him a letter and also arranged for someone to go with him to al-Rummani.
Sheikh al-Mufid says, I entered his class, and was impressed by the great number of students. So I sat at the end of the crowd, managing to creep forward as some members of the assembly left. Then I saw one man enter, saying: “(O Master), there is someone at the door who insists on being admitted to your presence. He is from Basrah.” The master said: “Is he a man of any erudition?” The servant said: “I do not know, but he seems very keen to be let in.” The Master relented, and the man from Basrah entered. The Master welcomed him respectfully, and they had a long conversation between them. Then he asked the Master, Ali b. Isa: “How do you view al-Ghadeer and al-Ghar (the event of the cave in which Abu Bakr accompanied the Prophet during Hijrah)?” Ali b. Isa replied that “the report of al-Ghar was a recognized event, while al-Ghadeer was just a narrative. And a narrative is not as mandatory as a recognized event.” The man from Basrah then left without making any reply.
Al Mufid says: Then I came forward and said: “O Sheikh, I have a question.” He said: “Ask.” Then I asked: “What do you say about the one who fights a just Imam?” He said: “Such a person would be an infidel.” Then, after a pause, he rectified himself and said: “He would be a transgressor.” I asked: “What do you say about Amirul Momineen Ali b. Abi Talib, peace be upon him?” He said: “I believe he was an Imam.” So I asked: “Then what do you say about the day of Jamal and Talha and al-Zubair?” He retorted that both of them had repented. I said: “The battle of Jamal is a recognized event, while their repentance is a mere narrative.”
Upon hearing this, he said: “Were you present when the man from Basrah put his question?” I said “yes.” He said: “Well, a narrative compares a narrative, and a recognized event compares a recognized event.” Then turning to me again, he asked: “What is your name and who is your tutor?” I said: ” I am known as Ibn al-Muallim, and my tutor is Abu-Abdillah, al-Jual.” He said: “Stay where you are.”
Then he entered his room and came out with a letter, instructing me to hand over to my tutor. When I gave the letter to my tutor, he read it and then laughed. “What transpired between you in his class? He has asked me to confer upon you the title of al-Mufid.” I related to him the story, so he smiled.
The above incident has been recorded by Mirza Muhammad Baqir al-Khwansari in Rawdhat-ul-Jannaat (vol. 6 p. 159), quoting from al-Saraa-er of Ibn ldrees and from Majmua’h Warraam. But Ibn Shahr Ashob in his Ma’alimul Ulamaa says that the title ‘al-Mufid’ was given to Sheikh al-Mufid, by our twelfth Imam, al-Hujjah, Sahebuzzaman, may his advent be soon.
Ibn Abil Hadeed al-Mo’tazaly in his commentary on Nahjul Balaghah writes that once Sheikh Mufid saw Fatima al-Zahra, peace be upon her, in his dream. She was accompanied by her two young sons, al-Hasan and al-Husain, peace be upon them. Addressing him, she said: “O my Sheikh, teach Fiqh (Jurisprudence) to these two boys of mine.” Next day, Fatimah, the mother of Seyyid Murtadha and Syed al-Radhi came to Sheikh, holding hands of her two young sons, and uttered the same words which Fatemah al-Zahra, peace be upon her, had uttered in his dream.
Sheikh-e Mufīd passed away in 413 Hegira in Baghdād after 75 years of endeavors and valuable services to Islām, and was praised both by laymen and the Islāmic Ulamā and sages.
Sheikh-e Tūsī, who has personally been present at his funeral ceremony, says: “The day of Sheikh-e Mufīd’s death has been a matchless day because of the populous and overcrowded funeral ceremony formed not only by his friends and followers, but also by the opponents and enemies who had come to pray at his body and mourn for him. Around 80,000 people joined the funeral procession, and his pupil – Sayyed Murtedhā – prayed at his body. He was then buried in the holy shrine of Imām Jawād (pbuh) near the tomb of his preceptor ‘Ibn-e Qūlawaih’.
An account of his death
Sheikh Mufid died on the eve of Friday, 3rd of Ramadhan, 413 A.H. His student Syed Murtadha prayed the Salaat of Mayyit for him, in the presence of nearly eighty thousand people, a crowd never seen before in any funeral in Baghdad.
Sheikh Tusi (d. 460 A.H.) describes this sad event in al-Fihrist:
“The day of his death drew the largest crowd ever seen in any funeral, and both, friends and foes, wept uncontrollably”.
Al-Mufid remained buried in his own house for two years, and then his body was transferred to Kadhmain where it was interred near his mentor, Ja’far b. Qawlayh’s grave facing the feet of our 9th Imam, Imam Muhammad Taqi, al-Jawad, peace be upon him. His grave is still visited by those who visit the holy shrines in Kadhmain.
Peace be upon him on the day he was born, and on the day he died, and on the day he will be resurrected alive.
According to Sheikh-e Tūsī – the prominent student of Mufīd – he has more than 200 compilations, such as:
2- A l-Farāidh-ul-Shar’īyyah
4- l-Kalām Fī Dalā’il-ul-Qurān
5- Wujūh-e I’jāz-il-Qurān
6- An-Nusrah Fī Fadhl-il-Qurān
8- Naghdh-e Fadhīlat-ul-Mu’tazilah