Mohammad Baqer son of Mohammad Taqi Majlesi, popularly known as “Allameh Majlesi” or “Majlesi, the Second”, was born in the city of Isfahan in the Arabic lunar year 1037 (A.H.).
His Noble Family
The family of Allameh Majlesi is among the most honored families of Shiah during the recent centuries. There are near one hundred upright and great Islamic scholars grown in this family. A survey on the close relatives of Allameh Majlesi discloses nothing but virtue and knowledge among them:
1- Allameh’s grandfather, the great Islamic scholar, known as “Hafez, Abu Naeem Isfahani”, was the author of valuable books like “The History of Isfahan” and “Helyatul-Awlia” (The Beauties of the Friends of God).
2- Allameh’s father, Mowla Mohammad Taqi Majlesi, known as “Majlesi, the First” (1003-1070 A.H.), had reached high spiritual status and performed miraculous deeds. He was an outstanding Islamic Jurisprudent, a great narrator of Hadiths, and author of a number of Islamic books. Mohammad Taqi Majlesi has been a pupil of two great Islamic Scholars, namely “Sheikh Bahaee” and “Mirdamad”. He was an expert in various branches of Islamic science, and had undertaken the position of Chief Religious Authority (Marjaiyyat) at his time. His position did not cause him to neglect his duty as a leader of congregational prayers, especially the Friday Prayer. So he was simultaneously the “Imam Jum’ah” (Leader of Friday Prayer) in Isfahan. Among the pupils of his school, we can point out the following: Allameh Majlsei, the Second (who has benefited the most from his father), Agha Hussein Khansari, and Mullah Saleh Mazandarani.
3- Allameh Majlesi had two brothers named Mullah Azizullah and Mullah Abdollah. These two brothers were also pious, righteous men, and traveled later to India to promulgate the teachings of the Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s.) in that area, and finally took residence over there.
4- Even the women of the Allameh’s family kept pace with their men in gaining knowledge and virtues. Allameh Majlesi had four sisters who conducted valuable research and compiled precious works on Islamic sciences. Some examples of their works are as follows: “Commentaries on Sheikh Kuleini’s Al-Kafi”, “Al-Mushtarakat fi Al-Rijal”, “Commentaries on the Islamic Precepts and Rules”, “Commentaries on Mataale”, and “Commentaries on the famous Ode of the Arab poet, De’bel Khazaie”. The husbands of these honorable ladies were also accomplished savants: figures such as Mullah Saleh Mazandarani, Mullah Mirzaye Shirvani, Mullah Ali Astarabadi, and Mirza Mohammad Fassaaie.
5- Allameh Majlesi’s all five sons had taken advantages from his knowledge, and achieved high scientific ranks.
6- Allameh had five son-in-laws as well, who were all accomplished clergymen, and were keenly examined by Allameh before they got married with his daughters. Moreover, many reputable families of that age were somehow related to Allameh: families like Vaheed Behbahani, Bahrol-Oloom, Tabatabaie Borujerdi, Mirza Abdollah Affandi, Shahrestani, etc.
His Scientific Status
The Late Allameh has attained so high status in Islamic sciences that needs no introduction. His name shines bright in the sky of Ijtihad [Islamic mastery of Jurisprudence] and Fiqh [Islamic Jurisprudence].
He is among those dignitaries of Islamic world who had a comprehensive and multidimensional character.
He was proficient in many branches of Islamic science such as Tafseer [exegesis of the Holy Koran], Hadith [Sayings of the Holy Prophet (s.a.) and his infallible Household], Fiqh [Islamic Jurisprudence], Osool [Basic principles and precepts of Islam], Islamic history, Rijal [the study on the authenticity of the chain of narrators of a Hadith], etc. A glance at his grand collection entitled “Biharul-Anwar” reveals this fact.
His mastery of above sciences along with other sciences like philosophy, logics, mathematics, literature, vocabulary/terminology, geography, medicine, astronomy as well as divine sciences has caused him to be well known as a matchless and outstanding figure in the history of Islam. A good evidence for his comprehensiveness is the chapter entitled “Al-Samaa wal-Aalam” [The Sky and the Universe] in his ‘Biharul-Anwar’. Some have considered him “unparalleled” in his comprehensiveness with regard to various branches of science. He has been reported to be too much precise and punctilious on the difficult narrations.
Allameh’s explanatory notes on the verses of the Holy Koran and narrations are much delicate and accurate, and one can hardly find any mistake among his comments.
Allameh Majlesi, further to his mastery of sciences such as the narrations of the Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s.), was proficient in Fiqh as well, although he did not had enough time during his lifetime to make a fair copy of the chapters pertaining to Fiqh in his Biharul-Anwar.
His Spiritual Personality
The religious scholars not only learn different sciences from their masters, but also pass their courses of spiritual journey under the surveillance of a divine mystic. Allameh Majlesi, too, simultaneous with his academic learning or even much swifter than that, passed the stages of spiritual perfection to the extent that turned into an actual symbol of a “divine sage”. A quick glance at his recorded morals and behaviors proves this matter.
Some of the moralistic qualities of the Late Allameh Majlesi may be summarized as follows:
1- Remembrance of God: His honorable pupil, Sayyed Nematollah Jazayeri, states about him: “Allameh never neglected the remembrance of the Almighty God, and performed all his works for the sake of proximity to Him”.
2- Ziyarat (pilgrimage): Allameh was much bound to go on pilgrimages and visit the holy shrines of the Infallible Imams (a.s.). Despite all difficulties of traveling and limited facilities at that time, he was successful enough to visit the Holy Shrines of the Infallible Imams in Iraq, Medina, and Mashhad for several times. Each time, he took a long residence in those holy cities. He also was favored with the grace of going on Hajj [the pilgrimage to the Holy Mecca] for several times.
3- Resorting to the Infallible Imams: His special attention and due concern on seeking assistance from the Holy Prophet and his Infallible Household (a.s.) made him to include lots of materials on Ziyarat, supplications, and prayers as well as the etiquettes of going on a pilgrimage, in his “Biharul-Anwar”. Furthermore, he compiled a number of specific books on Ziyarat and prayers, e.g. his books entitled “Zaad-ul-Mo’ad” [which has been an important reference for the compilers of recent books of supplications on hand], and “Tuhfatul-Zaer”, or his translations of “Ziyarat Jaame’ah Kabirah” and the prayer known as “Duaye Samaat”, …
4- Piety and devoutness: A very brilliant characteristic of this great man was his piety, devoutness, and unworldly attitude. Allameh lived at the age of Safavid dynasty, and was regarded as the “Chief Religious Leader” of his time. So all governmental facilities were at his full disposal, but he did not pay any attention to the worldly materials, and his personal life was intermingled with extreme simplicity and piety.
5- Modesty: Modesty was another characteristic of the Late Allameh. He never judged on the basis of social positions of the individuals. For instance, in his Biharul-Anwar he has quoted much material from Sayyed Ali Khan Madani, the outstanding interpreter of Sahifeye Sajjadiyyeh [supplications of Imam Sajjad (a.s.)]; this is while Sayyed Ali Khan was around 15 years younger than himself; moreover, he was by no means at the social rank of Allameh Majlesi. As a whole, so much spiritual perfection and high moral qualities had made him a distinguished figure, a match of whom could hardly be traced in the whole history.
Despite all political pressures, dictatorial conditions, and deprivation of facilities throughout the history, the great Shiite scholars (Ulema) have endured much terrible pains and made valuable efforts so that after long years of travail they could keep alive the sapling of Shiah, and bequeathed the great heritage of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.) to posterity; thus, they left many precious sources for us.
At any time suitable political grounds were prepared, or pressures against Shiites were alleviated, a brilliant prosperity of the grand Shiite Ulema, philosophers, and Jurisprudents could be witnessed. An example of such suitable political circumstances was the age of Sheikh Mofeed and Sheikh Tusi during the government of “Aale Buyeh” dynasty. Another example was the age of Allameh Majlesi during the Safavid dynasty. The kings of Safavid dynasty declared to be Shiites and followers of the Infallible Imams of Shiah, so Allameh Majlesi took the good opportunity to fulfill his sacred goals in various aspects. Compilation of the largest encyclopedia of Shiah was completed at the same age by exploiting the available economic facilities, which was otherwise a very difficult task.
Allameh Majlesi was born at the age of Shah Abbas, the First, who was an efficient and judicious but much cruel and inexorable king. When Shah Safi succeeded Shah Abbas I, the land of Iraq seceded from the territory of Iran’s government. After Shah Safi, Shah Abbas II ascended the throne at the age of 9. It was only at his coronation ceremony that the Late Allameh Majlesi asked him to forbid drinking and sale of alcoholic drinks as well as some other evil acts in the society. Upon this request, the young king accepted the recommendations of Allameh and ordered them to be executed, but gradually he was polluted with the same evil acts, as it was usual among the kings.
Allameh Majlesi enjoyed an unexampled influence in the community. He could beckon people from “coffeehouses and barrooms” to “mosques” through his overflowing knowledge, spiritual influence, and charming words. Mosques prospered distinguishably at his time, especially during the holy month of Ramadan when a large number of people rushed to the mosques.
The Late Allameh had also a high influence in the Safavid kings. Due to his potent politics and prudence, he could safeguard the country from the attack of the enemies during the ruling of the incompetent kings of Safavid dynasty. It was just subsequent to his death that the country encountered a terrible chaos; Afghans attacked Iran and overthrew the Safavids.
Taking advantages of his political and social power, Allameh Majlesi was able to transcribe many of the ancient rare books, and thus saved a great heritage of Shiah from obliteration.
Allameh Majlesi followed an intermediate method in his academic approaches: something between the Traditionists [known as Akhbariyyun] and the followers of intellectual sciences [known as Osooliyyun]. He was not only a great narrator of Hadiths but also a specialist in the field of intellectual sciences. Allameh was among the Islamic dignitaries who had well studied intellectual sciences such as philosophy, and was regarded as an expert in those subjects. However, he believed that everything should be taken into account through the pure headspring of the Divine Revelation; therefore, he focused all his efforts on the promulgation of the Narrations/Sayings of the Infallible Imams (a.s.).
He was much sensitive to the deviations from the religious genuine precepts. He witnessed that Sufism was spreading about in the society, and therefore launched a determined campaign against that school of thought. Seeking assistance from the Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s.), he attained an outstanding victory in combating the Sufis.
The Title of “Allameh” [The Most Learned]
“Allameh Amjlesi” received this title [Allameh] from luminaries such as Ayatollah Vahid Behbahani, Allameh Bahrol-Oloom, and Sheikh Murtaza Ansari. All those great men, observing the brilliant status of Allameh Majlesi, named him with this title, as he really deserved such a position.
The Title of “Sheikh-ul-Islam” [Chief Religious Leader]
In 1098, Allameh Majlesi was appointed as “the Sheikh of Islam” in Isfahan by Shah Suleyman Safavi. It was actually the highest religious and executive authority at that time.
Consequently, Allameh Majlesi acted as a Judge in the grievances and trials. All religious affairs were conducted under his direct supervision, and all religious alms and taxes were forwarded to him. He also managed the orphanages and attended the poor. The important point here is that Allameh Majlesi accepted to hold this office after much persistence and entreaty of the Shah. In a session, the Shah had entreated Allameh for several times so that finally he had accepted to hold the office. Allameh continued to undertake that important responsibility up until the end of his lifetime.
Unfortunately, despite of much information on Allameh himself, we do not know much about his teachers. Some of his teachers are known to be as follows:
1- His father: Muhammad Taqi Majlesi (d.1070 A.H.), who has been his teacher in the branches of science relating to the narrations, quoting Hadiths �
2- Agha Hussein Khansari (d. 1098 A.H.), who has been his teacher in intellectual and rational sciences
3- Mowla Muhammad Saleh Mazandarani (d. 1086 A.H.)
4- Mullah Mohsen Feyz Kashani (d. 1091 A.H.)
5- Sayyed Ali Khan Madani (d.1120 A.H.)
6- Sheikh Horr Ameli [the author of “Wassael Al-Shiah”] (d. 1104 A.H.)
It is noteworthy that the two latter figures have not only issued some religious authorizations for Allameh, but also they themselves have got some authorizations/licenses from him later; so they may be regarded as his pupils as well.
More than 1,000 scholars and researchers have benefited from the advantageous classes of Allameh Majlesi. He has also issued many religious authorizations and licenses for his pupils. The following are recorded as some of his pupils:
1- Sayyed Nematollah Jazayeri
2- Jafar son of Abdullah Kamareyee Isfahani
3- Zaynul-Abedin son of Sheikh Horr Ameli
4- Suleyman son of Abdullah Mahuzi Bahrani
5- Sheikh Abdul-Razzaq Guilani
6- Abdul-Reza Kashani
7- Mohammad Baqer Biabanaki
8- Mirza Abdullah Affandi Isfahani [the author of “Riyazul-Ulema”]
9- Sayyed Ali Khan Madani [the author of “Riyazul-Salekin” (a commentary on Imam Sajjad’s (a.s.) Supplications)]
10-Sheikh Horr Ameli
11-Mohammad son of Ismael Fassaie Shirazi
12-Mohammad son of Hassan, known as Fazel Hindi
Allameh Majlesi had a very fruitful life. In his 73-year lifetime, he wrote more than 100 books, both in Arabic and Persian languages.
His “Biharul-Anwar” in 110 volumes is only one of the books compiled by this great scholar. “Mir’atul-Oqool” in 26 volumes is another piece of work. Further to the abovementioned works, there are also 40 other books that are supposed to be written by him.
The first book written by Allameh is said to be “Al-Owzan wal-Maqaadeer” [i.e. Weights and Scales] (authored in 1063 A.H.); and the last book entitled “Haqq-ul-Yaqeen” [Truth of Certainty] was authored in 1109 A.H., that is, one year before his demise.
Some of the books written by the Late Allameh are listed below:
1- Biharul-Anwar [Oceans of Light] [in 110 volumes]: an encyclopedia of historical subjects, narrations, Hadith (Sayings of the Holy Prophet and the Ahl-ul-Bayt a.s.) as well as exegesis on many of the verses of the Holy Koran
2- Mir’atul-Oqool [The Mirror of Intellects] [in 26 volumes]: a commentary on the famous book entitled “Al-Kafi” compiled by the Late Sheikh Kuleini
3- Malaazul-Akhyaar [The Shelter of the Upright People] [in 16 volumes]: a commentary on the famous book entitled “Al-Tahzeeb Al-Ahkam” compiled by the Late Sheikh Tusi
4- Al-Fara’ed Al-Tarifah: a commentary on “Sahifeh Al-Sajjadiyyah” [a collection of the supplications/prayers of Imam Sajjad (a.s.)]
5- A Commentary on 40 Hadiths, which is among the best works on this subject
6- Haqq-ul-Yaqeen [Truth of Certainty]: It is written in Persian language on “Islamic tenets and beliefs”. There are also some other books written by him on the same subject.
7- Zaad-ul-Mo’ad [Provisions for the Hereafter] (in Persian): on the special prayers, supplications, and Ziyarats to be performed in some outstanding days of the Arabic lunar months
8- Tuhfatul-Za’er [A Gift for the Pilgrims] (in Persian): including Ziyarat [prayers recited during pilgrimages to the holy shrines]
9- ‘Aynul-Hayaat [The Headspring of Life] (in Persian): consisting of preaches, sermons, and wise sayings, excerpted from the Holy Koran and narrations of the Holy Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s.)
10- Siratul-Nijat [The Path of Salvation]
11- Hilyatul-Muttaqin [Beauties of the Virtuous People] (in Persian): including all moral precepts and recommended prescripts for all aspects of the daily life of a Muslim
12- Hayaatul-Qoloob [Life of the Hearts] (in Persian, 3 volumes): On the history of divine prophets and the Infallible Imams (a.s.)
13- Mishkatul-Anwar [The Illuminating Lamp] (in Persian): This is an abridged version of “Hayaatul-Qoloob”.
14- Jalaa’ul-Oyoon: [Washing the Eyes] (in Persian): A history of the sorrowful afflictions imposed on the Holy Prophet and his Ahl-ul-Bayt (a.s.)
15- The Letters and Commandments of Imam Mahdi a.s. [may Allah hasten his reappearance] along with their translations
16- Many books of translations of some specific and well-known Hadiths, such as “The Translation of Monotheistic Lessons (Tawhid) of Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq (a.s.) to his disciple, Mufazzal”, etc.
17- Books consisting of translations of prayers and supplications like the translations of “Ziyarat Jame’ah Kabireh” and “Duaye Samaat”, etc.
18- Numerous monographs on various topics of Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh)
19- Many other books on different subjects, including Tafseer [Exegesis of the Holy Koran], Rijal [surveys on the authenticity of the chain of narrators of Hadiths, their genealogy …], Biographies of Islamic dignitaries, etc.
It is worth mentioning that most of the books of the Late Allameh are written in Persian language, which shows his concern for guiding the members of his community to the right divine path. However, the reference sources such as Biharul-Anwar and Mir’atul-Oqool are in Arabic.
After 73 years of fruitful, illuminating life, Allameh Majlesi finally passed away on the eve of 27th of Ramadan, 1110 A.H. in Isfahan, and the whole Islamic world became deprived of the graces and blessing of that great sage. The Late Allameh had some works to be completed at the time of his demise, which had remained unfinished: works like completion of Biharul-Anwar, also compilation of a supplement to his Biharul-Anwar entitled “Mustadrakul-Bihar”, and some other works.
A number his pupils and followers offered valuable services in completing the Late Allameh’s unaccomplished works; nevertheless, nothing would have the capability to fill the vacancy of an accomplished sage.