Afghanistan’s top cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammad Asif Mohseni passed away due to an illness in Kabul, his family confirmed on Monday.
Ayatollah Mohseni was born in 1935 in the southern province of Kandahar and was widely considered to be the most powerful cleric among the Shias in Afghanistan.
Ayatollah Mohseni who was the founder of the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan was one of the prominent figures in the Afghan resistance against the Soviet occupation.
Muḥammad Āṣif Muḥsinī Qandahārī (b. 1935) is a Shiite Marja’ in Afghanistan. He is a Pashtun Shiite scholar, an advocate of proximity among Islamic denominations, the head of the Council of Shiite Scholars in Afghanistan, and the founder of the Islamic Seminary and the University of Khatam al-Nabiyyin in Kabul. He is also a member of the Higher Council of Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly, former leader of the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, and the founder of Tamadon TV channel.Muhammad Asif Muhsini was a student of Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim and Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Khu’i in jurisprudence and the principles of jurisprudence. He wrote books concerning rijal, jurisprudence, and hadiths. Mahdi Mehrizi refers to his book, Buhuth fi ‘ilm al-rijal, as an enduring work about dirayat al-hadith.
Muhammad Asif Muhsini is the son of Muhammad Mirza Muhsini. He was born on April 26, 1936 in Kandahar in Afghanistan. He learned the preliminaries in a maktabkhana, and at the age of ten, he was taught by his father how to read and write.
At the age of fourteen (1947), he and his family went to Pakistan, where he learned Urdu in Quetta. After their return from Pakistan, he worked in an electricity company and then in 1951, he started working in Kandahar’s commerce chamber.
Shaykh Asif Muhsini married the daughter of his paternal aunt in 1961. They had three sons: ‘Abd Allah, Hafiz, and Habib. His first wife has passed away.
Muhsini studied preliminaries of religious sciences in Kandahar for six months, and then he went to a village in Jaghori in the Ghazni province in Afghanistan, where he learned al-Hidaya, al-Suyuti, Hashiya Mulla ‘Abd Allah, and parts of Ma’alim and al-Lum’a for eight months. Muhammad Asif Muhsini entered Najaf on July 3, 1953, where he finished the rest of his intermediary studies within about three years. As he says, seminary holidays were not pleasant to him; thus, he seriously studied even on holidays. He studied al-Mutawwal from Shaykh Muhammad Ali Mudarris Afghani, the first volume of Kifaya from Shaykh Mujtaba Lankarani, the second volume thereof from Sadra Badkuba’i, al-Rasa’il from Shaykh Kazim Yazdi, and al-Makasib from a number of scholars. Shaykh Asif Muhsini was interested in philosophy as well, but since teaching philosophy was banned in Najaf, he personally studied philosophy and wrote commentaries on Bab hadi ‘ashr. He also studied other philosophical books such as al-Asfar al-arba’a and Hikmat al-ishraq, as well as theological works. His frequent interlocutors with whom he discussed his lectures were Shaykh Qurban’ali Muhaqqiq Kabuli, Shaykh Isma’il Muhaqqiq, and Shaykh Musa ‘Alami Bamiyani.Shaykh Asif Muhsini attended the lectures of al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim, Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Khu’i, Shaykh Husayn al-Hilli, and Sayyid ‘Abd al-A’la Sabziwari in jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence for nine years.
His Political Activities
After the communist coup d’état on April 27, 1978 when People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan took over the power, Asif Muhsini left Afghanistan. He first went to Arabia to perform the rituals of hajj. He then went to Syria and taught religious sciences in Damascus.
Islamic Movement of Afghanistan
In April 1979, he went to Qom, where he and a number of Qom-based Afghan clergies founded the Party of Islamic Movement of Afghanistan on April 8, 1979. The party consisted of smaller groups and engaged in military combats with the communist government of Afghanistan at the time. It created over hundred military bases in nineteen provinces of Afghanistan and organized tens of thousands of armed forces against Soviet forces.
Shaykh Asif Muhsini was the leader of the party until 2005. When he resigned from the leadership of Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, he put an end to his political activities.
Cooperation with Mujahidun Government
After the fall of the communist government of Dr. Najibullah on April 28, 1992, Muhammad Asif Muhsini was the secretary and spokesman of the leadership council of the Islamic government of Afghanistan in the first term of the Mujahidun government in Kabul. However, after the outbreak of wars among different groups of Mujahidun, he left Kabul and went to Islamabad in Pakistan.
His Religious Activities
Muhammad Asif Muhsini played different religious roles in Afghanistan, for examples as the head of the Council of Shiite Scholars in Afghanistan, his attempt to announce Shiism as an official denomination in Afghanistan, the foundation of the education and cultural institute of Khatam al-Nabiyyin in Kabul, the launch of Tamadon TV channel, and his attempt for the proximity of Islamic denominations. Council of Shiite Scholars in Afghanistan: Muhsini held the first great assembly of Shiite scholars in Afghanistan in Kabul in 2003, and after three days of negotiations, the foundation of the Council of Shiite Scholars in Afghanistan was approved. The Council of Shiite Scholars in Afghanistan has representatives in sixty five places in Afghanistan with over two thousand members. Muhammad Asif Muhsini is the head of the council.Shiism as an official denomination in Afghanistan: in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which was approved on January 4, 2004, Shiism was recognized an official denomination for the first time in the history of Afghanistan.Khatam al-Nabiyyin Institute: the Institute for Higher Educations and the Seminary of Khatam al-Nabiyyin, with an area of forty thousand square meters, is a center built under the supervision of Muhsini, and was opened in 2008. The complex includes a Islamic seminary, a university, a library, and a Jami’ mosque.
- Tamadon Channel: Tamadon TV channel was founded by Muhsini in 2008, and its contents are mostly news, reports, and religious programs. Unlike other TV channels in Afghanistan, this channel refuses to broadcast any music.
- The law of the status of Shi’as: Muhammad Asif Muhsini, the head of the Council of Shiite Scholars in Afghanistan, submitted a bill under the law of the status of Shi’as in Afghanistan, to Hamid Karzai’s government. Based on Article 131 of the Afghan Constitution, the bill was first approved by the Afghan government. However, after oppositions by some people in Afghanistan as well as human rights institutes, it was revised.
- Proximity among Islamic denominations: Muhsini is a well-known figure in Afghanistan who tries to establish proximity among Islamic denominations. Parts of his effects for the proximity include the establishment of the Council of Islamic Brotherhood in Afghanistan, publication of a book under Proximity among denominations, from theory to practice, as well as the foundation of Khatam al-Nabiyyin University in which Sunni and Shiite students can study together.
Along with his political as well as religious and cultural activities, Muhammad Asif Muhsini wrote many books and essays, more than sixty of which have been published. Thus, he received an “academician medal”, the highest scholarly medal in Afghanistan.
His works were written in Persian and Arabic and encompass a wide variety of subjects, including hadiths, jurisprudence, rijal, beliefs, and politics. Here are some of his works:
Buhuth fi ‘ilm al-rijal: it contains principles of rijal, and according to Mahdi Mehrizi, it is an enduring book about dirayat al-hadith.
Mashra’a bihar al-anwar: according to the author, it is a commentary on Bihar al-anwar, in which he tries to separate out reliable hadiths from unreliable ones in Bihar al-anwar in accordance to his own principles of rijal as elaborated in his Buhuth fi ‘ilm al-rijal. He discusses different issues in reliable hadiths.
His other works include ‘Aqa’id baray-i hami (religious beliefs for everyone), Taqrib-i madhahib, az nazar ta ‘amal (proximity among denominations, from theory to practice), Zan dar shari’at-i islami (woman in the Islamic sharia), Tawdih al-masa’il-i siyasi (essay of political fatwas), and Khasa’is khatam al-nabiyyin (characteristics of the last prophet).