Greatest Shia Scholars of All Time

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

The uniqueness of Shia traditional seminaries and schools of thoughts lays in the independence and continuous innovation being presented to the world, throughout history. Majority of people tend to think of Shia seminaries and religious schools as a place of radicalization, where the only subjects being taught are Quran and history of Prophet’s life. Many observers, who have visited the Shia seminaries in Najaf, Karbala and Qom have been shocked by the level of intellect and thoroughness, which these schools operate by. The numerous types of subjects and majors that are taught in the seminaries are limited to jurisprudence, Quran, Hadith and history. Students in Shia seminaries study the different philosophical schools of the west and the east, mathematics, science, biology and physics, which help the scholars understand the contemporary challenges of each era precisely and extract religious rulings according to the circumstances of modern age. Therefore, we tend to see some religious rulings and Fatwas have been changes according to time and position, which mandates different variables of their own.

However, after the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, the Shia community have introduced many great scholars, who have been very influential domestically and globally. These scholars developed and delivered new methods of discretion and interpretation, which has helped Shias and even other sects to understand their religion in a more effective approach.

  1. Sheikh Al-Tusi. His full name is Abu Ja’afar Mohammad Ibn Al-Hassan Al-Tusi, who was born in 996 in modern day Iran. He moved to Baghdad for the purpose of finishing his religious studies under the supervision of scholars like the Great Sheik Al-Mufid and Sayed Al-Murtatha. When Sheikh Al-Tusi realized that Baghdad was not a safe place anymore, due to political instabilities and conflicts, he moved to Najaf and established the seminary (Hawza) of Najaf, which is still active until present day. He is considered one of greatest scholars of Shia Islam and his books and opinions are being taught until this day by scholars. He mastered numerous subjects like, jurisprudence, philosophy, mathematics, theology and medicine.
  2. Sheik Al-Mufid. Sheikh Al-Mufid was born in a small town north of Baghdad named, Ukbara in 948. He migrated to Baghdad and studies alongside the prominent Shia Scholar Sheikh Al-Saduq. He is considered one of the forefathers of philosophical theology, and wrote numerous books in different subjects, which are considered very important resources for Islamic studies. Sheikh Al-Mufid lived during the Golden era of Islamic history and taught some of the Shia Islam’s most prominent Shia scholars.
  3. Sheikh Al-Saduq. Sheikh Al-Saduq is considered one of earliest scholars of Shia Islam during the beginning stages of Imam Al-Mahdi’s occultation. His full name is: Abu Ja’afar Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Babawaih Al-Qummi and he was born in 923, in the city of Qom, which was considered a center for religious studies and intellectual work. He is regarded as the father of Shia jurisprudence and tradition, which makes him an important part of legitimizing many narrations and traditions of Shia Imams.
  4. Mohammad Ibn Ya’qub Al-Kulayni. Born in modern day Iran in 941, during the minor occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, Sheikh Al-Kulayni is considered one of the main tradition and narrations compilers of Shia history. He is the author of “Kitab Al-Kafi”, which is the main book of “Hadith” narrations for Shia Muslims and many of Islamic beliefs and pillars are based on the narrations stated in his book.
  5. Baha’a Al-Din Mohammad Ibn Hussain Al-Amili. He is also known as Sheikh Al-Bahae’e, who was born on February 18th of 1547 in the Amil mount of modern Southern Lebanon. Sheikh Al-Bahae’e is known to be a scholar in jurisprudence, Islamic traditions, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and architecture, and he was also a prominent poet. He migrated to the city of Isfahan during the Safavid era, who ruled Iran for a long time, and Shiekh Al-Bahae’e is considered the founder of Isfahan’s religious school of jurisprudence and philosophy. He wrote 100 books and commentaries in Arabic and Persian, which are being used as primary resources in Islamic studies, and some of the most fascinating architectural and engineering wonders of Islamic era were built by him. From these wonders the famous “Naqshe Jahan Square”, “Charbagh Avenue” and “Manar Jonban” in Isfahan can be mentioned. The Manar Jonban are the famous shaking minarets, which are shakable by hand, without any destruction.
  6. Mohammad Ibn Al-Hassan Al-Hurr Al-Amili. He is known as Al-Hurr Al-Amili, who was born on April 26th 1624 in Amil mount region of Southern Lebanon. He studied under the wing of his father, who was a prominent Shia scholar and other Shias scholars of that era, which enabled him to receive a permission to teach and transmit narrations. He is one of the authors of Shia Muslims great “Four Books” which is known as “Wasa’el Al-Shia” that has thousands of narrations from the Prophet and his holy household.
  7. Mohammad Baqir Al-Majlisi. His known as Allamah Al-Majlisi, who was born in the city of Isfahan, Iran in 1616. Allamah Al-Majlisi is considered one of the greatest Shia scholars after Sheikh Al-Tusi and Sheikh Al-Saduq, as his legacy is beyond the notion of jurisprudence and Islamic traditions. Allamah Al-Majlisi lived in the era of Saffavid dynasty, and held numerous official and unofficial positions, which transformed the era of traditional Shia seminary into a politically active institution, but with total independence from the political foundation. Allamah Al-Majlisi, studies under the wing of famous Mulla Sadra and other prominent Shia scholars, and he gathered the largest amount of narrations and traditions in Shia history in a book called: “Bihar Al-Anwar”, which translates to “Oceans of Lights”.
  8. Al-Muhaqqiq Al-Karaki. The term ‘Muhaqqiq” is an Arabic word, which means the “researcher” and this name was given to Al-Karaki due to his extensive and precise work in Islamic sciences and intellectual subjects. Muhaqqia Al-Karaki was born in southern Lebanon and studies under the wing of numerous prominent Islamic scholars. Ultimately he travelled to Iran during the Saffavid era and was welcomed by the King and assumed the post of Grand Jurist of Iran. Muhaqqiq Al-Karaki was the first Shia scholar who assumed such a position, and his opinions and intellectual works are taught and examined until this day in Shia seminaries.
  9. The Great Sheikh Murtadha Al-Ansari. He is also referred to as the Great Sheikh. Sheikh Al-Ansari was born in modern day Iran in Dezful, which is located in Khuzestan province in 1803. He started his studies in his hometown and then migrated to Iraq and resided in the city of Najaf. He studies under the wing of some of the most knowledgeable scholars of Shia Islam, like Ayatollah Mohammad Hassan Al-Najafi, Mirza Ahmad Al-Naraqi and Kashif Al-Gheta’a. After the death of his primary teacher, Sheikh Al-Najafi, who was the highest religious authority of Shia Muslims, he assumed that positions based on the suggestion of Sheikh Al-Najafi. His intellectual and jurisprudential work is considered as an essential part of seminary studies, which is one of the main pillars for any individual to become a jurist. Sheikh Al-Ansari’s pupils are considered among the greatest Shia scholars of all times, who include the Great Mirza Al-Shirazi (Tobacco Revolution) and Mohammad Kadhem Al-Khorasani, who wrote another religious book that is being taught until this day in Shia seminaries.
  10. Mirza Mohammad Hassan Al-Shirazi (The great Miraza Al-Shirazi). Mirza Al-Shirazi is considered one of the greatest scholars of Shia Islam, who actually used his religious authority to advert a political policy during the Qajar era. He transferred the Shi’s seminary from the city of Najaf to the city of Samara. The city of Samara is known to have a Sunni majority population, but Mirza Al-Shirazi was known for his tolerant and co-existential conduct toward other Islamic sects. Many of the modern day era scholars of Shia Islam are considered to be the followers of his school, and hundreds of Shia scholars have graduated from under his wing and his pupil’s classes.
  11. Sayed Abul Qasim Al-Khoie. Sayed Al-Khoie is considered one of the greatest modern Shia scholars who had thousands of pupils and his legacy is believed to be continuous for many future decades. He was born in Khoi, Iran, and he migrated to Iraq and attended the lectures of great prominent Shia scholars like, Sheikh Al-Nae’eni, Al-Kompani, Thia al-Deel Al-Iraqi, Mirza Ali Al-Qadhi and other Shia scholars. He assumed the highest religious authority for Shia Muslims after the death of Sayed Mohsin Al-Hakeem and taught thousands of scholars and jurists, who are still alive in present day.
  12. Sayed Mohammad Ibn Mahdi Al-Shirazi. Sayed Al-Shirazi’s legacy is without doubt beyond religious and Islamic studies and subjects, as this Shia scholar has written over one thousand books in a wide range of subjects. He wrote in politics, philosophy, management, sociology, psychology, ethics, history, finance, economic and many other matters that affected the lives of people. In addition, he has written the largest series of jurisprudential series in the history of Shia Islam, which is more than 135 volumes. He presented modern political theories for Islamic governance, which based on pluralism and democracy. Sayed Al-Shirazi was believer in the foundation of institutions and organized efforts, which he thought would be more effective for introducing Islam. He is considered the first Shia scholar to call for taking advantage of mass media production means, and his followers established the first Shia TV network in 2001.

There are hundreds of other scholars, who have enriched the Islamic history with their work, which many Muslims even are not aware of, but these scholars have impacted the Shia schools of thought in numerous ways, which is evident until present day.


The Current Scholars of Shia Muslims

Who are the scholars that Shias around the globe follow?

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

In a previous article, the rationale behind the notion of following a scholar or an Ayatollah by all Shi’a Muslims was clarified and presented. In addition, the article presented a clear definition about the legitimacy, characteristics and details of a qualified jurist, who is eligible for this post according to the narration of Shi’a Imams and Prophet Mohammad. However, in this article we shall present the names of current prominent and legitimate scholars who are being followed by millions of Shi’as around the world.

As discussed in the previous article, the statement of Imam Al-Askari clarified the notion that the possibility of rouge and corrupt scholars is always present, and therefore, he have clear and specific guidelines for identifying such cases. Nevertheless, at the present time there are eight prominent scholars, who are being followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe, and these scholars are agreed to be the most pious and knowledgeable by all sides and schools of thoughts.

  1. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani. He is the highest religious authority of Shi’a Muslims at the present time, who resides in the city of Najaf in Iraq. There is no official survey about the number of followers this scholar has, but it is believed that he has the highest number of followers in the world. Ayatollah Al-Sistani was born in Iraq, but he migrated to Iraq when he was a child and remained there ever since. He is considered one of the great pupils of late Ayatollah Khoie, who is still considered one of the greatest scholars Shi’a Islam has ever known.
  2. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Sae’ed Al-Hakeem. Ayatollah Al-Hakeem was born in the city of Najaf, Iraq in 1936. He attended the lectures of his late father, Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Ali Al-Hakeem, his late Grand Father, Ayatollah Sayed Mohsin Al-Hakeem, Ayatollah Ali Al-Hilli and Ayatollah Khoie. Currently, Ayatollah Hakeem resides in the city of Najaf and he is followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe.
  3. Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Al-Najafi. Ayatollah Al-Najafi was born in the city of Jalandhar in 1942 (British India & Current Pakistan). He migrated to the city of Najaf, Iraq in early 1960s and stayed there for the purpose of studying in the religious seminaries of Najaf. He attended the lectures of Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Al-Rouhani and Ayatollah Al-Khoie. He is still residing in Najaf, Iraq and his followers are millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe.
  4. Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Ishaq Al-Fayath. He is from an Afghani origin, who was born in 1930 in Afghanistan. He migrated with his family to Najaf, Iraq when he was ten years old, and entered the Shi’a seminaries and started his long journey in religious studies. He attended the lectures of late Ayatollah Al-Khoie and many other grand jurists in the city of Najaf. Currently, he resides in the city of Najaf and has many followers around the globe.
  5. Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Wahid Al-Khorasani. He is considered the leader of Qom seminary, although he does not have an official post. Ayatollah Khorasani has millions of followers around the globe, and his religious authority is compared similar to Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq. He was born in the city of Nishabur, Iran. He migrated to the city of Najaf in 1962 and attended the lectures of Ayatollah Khoie and returned to Iran in 1972.
  6. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Sadeq Al-Rouhani. Ayatollah Rouhani is considered one of the few individuals who finished the high levels of Shi’a seminaries in his teenage years. He was born in the city of Qom, Iran in 1926. He migrated to the city of Najaf and attended the lectures of late Ayatollah Al-Khoie, Ayatollah Kompani, Ayatollah AboulHassan Isfahani and other Grand Ayatollahs. His extensive intellect and knowledge is acknowledged by many Shi’a scholars and he is considered one of the most knowledgeable scholars of modern era. Ayatollah Rouhani is followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe, and currently he resides in the city of Qom.
  7. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Sadeq Al-Shirazi. Ayatollah Al-Shirazi is part of a family line that has given so many scholars and thinkers to the Islamic nation. His father and brother were Grand Ayatollahs as well, and he is considered one of the most knowledgeable jurists alive at the present time. He was born in city of Karbala, Iraq in 1942, and he attended the lectures of his late father, Ayatollah Sayed Mahdi Al-Shirazi, his late brother Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Al-Shirazi, Ayatollah Sayed Hadi Al-Milani and Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Redha Al-Isfahani. Ayatollah Shirazi is followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe.
  8. Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani. Ayatollah Golpaygani is one of the oldest Shi’a scholars alive in the present time, as he was born in 1919, in the city of Golpaygan, Iran. He attended the lectures of Grand Ayatollah Borujerdi and many other great scholars. At the present time, Ayatollah Golpaygani resides in the city of Qom, Iran and he is considered one of the major religious authorities in Iran, who is being followed by many Shi’a Muslims.
  9. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Taqi Al-Qomi. He is the son of Grand Ayatollah Sayed Hussein Al-Qomi, who is known for his role in the Iranian constitutional revolution. Ayatollah Qomi was born in the city of Mash’had, Iran in 1923. He migrated to Iraq in 1936 and studied in the seminaries of Karbala and Najaf and attended the lectures of his father, and Ayatollah Sayed Hadi Al-Milani, Ayatollah Al-Khoie and many other scholars. Currently, he resides in the city of Qom, and has many followers around the world.