Ibn Maytham al-Bahrani

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SHAFAQNA- Kamāl al-Dīn Maytham b. ʿAlī b. Maytham al-Baḥrānī (Arabic: كمال الدین میثم بن علي بن میثم البحراني) (b.636/1239 – d. 679 or 699/1280 or 1300), was a famous Shi’a hadith scholar, faqih and theologian in 7/13th century. After he finished his educations and studies, at the request of Iraqi scholars, he started teaching and writing books. Ibn Maytham is best known for his great knowledge in ‘ilm al-Kalam (theology), and many works in this field and other fields of Islamic studies have been attributed to him. Misbah al-salikin (the great commentary on Nahj al-balagha) and Qawa’id al-maram fi ‘ilm al-kalamare among them.

Education

Some historians and biographers believe his given name was Kamal al-Din. Little is known about his life. It is known that he was born in 636/1239 and was a student of As’ad b. ‘Abd al-Qahir b. As’ad al-Isfahani and ‘Ali b. Sulayman al-Bahrani.

Although there is no clue in biographical sources about the place of his educations and studies, most probably he received his education in Iraq and in Shi’a populated areas like Hillah; then, he returned to Bahrain and had a quiet life, without any notable social activity.

Author and Teacher

After a while, scholars in Iraq, especially in Hillah, who considered Ibn Maytham a great scholar, asked him to teach and train students and write books. At first, he rejected the request. However, after a while, he moved to Iraq and most probably took residence in Hillah, since scholars who narrated from him, like Sayyid ‘Abd al-Karim b. Tawus and al-‘Allama al-Hilli, were from Hillah.

Khwajih Nasir al-Din al-Tusi was his contemporary and it has been recorded that al-Tusi was his student in fiqh and Ibn Maytham was his student in ‘ilm al-kalam.

In fact, Ibn Maytham became famous in theology and even in his commentary on Nahj al-balagha (Misbah al-salikin), he has adopted theological and philosophical approaches.

Approach in Reasoning and Arguments

Ibn Maytham often followed the method of Khwajih Nasir al-Din in his book Tajrid al-i’tiqad, in presenting topics and the style of arguments and reasoning. Unlike al-‘Allama al-Hilli, he mostly grounds his arguments in the scope of reason rather than that of revelation or traditions, but he does not seem as expert as ‘Allama in terms of having comprehensive knowledge over others’ different opinions.

Theological Opinions

Qawa’id al-maram fi ‘ilm al-kalam

Ibn Maytham holds that knowing God is a rational obligation and such a knowledge cannot be obtained merely by following authorities or means of revelation and tradition.

Apparently, he chose the opinion of Mu’tazilites over that of Ash’arites regarding the issue of the existence of a Creator (for the universe).

About prophethood, he adopted a very specific philosophical approach and explained it according to different aspects of what (essence), if (existence), why (reason), how (quality)and who (person).

Regarding resurrection and the hereafter, he accepted the opinion of al-Hasan al-Basri who believed that only major limbs of man which do not undergo any changes nor decay will be resurrected in the hereafter.

As an Expert Theologian

During his lifetime, he was famous and known as philosopher, researcher, the paragon of faqihs and hadith scholars and an expert theologian. Al-Turiyhi regarded him peer to Nasir al-Din al-Tusi in theology.

Also, following the request of his friends and students, Sulayman al-Mahuzi al-Bahrani wrote a biography of Ibn Maytham titled al-Salafat al-bahiyya fi tarjimat al-Maythamiyya. According to him, jurists, traditionists, theologians and experts in Arabic literature referred to his opinions and narrations, either directly or indirectly.

Works

Misbah al-salikin or Sharh Nahj al-balagha

About 30 works are attributed to Ibn Maytham:

Published

  • Misbah al-salikin or the great commentary on Nahj al-balagha. In the preface to the book, Ibn Maytham mentions that writing this book had been encouraged by ‘Ata’ al-Mulk al-Juwayni.
  • Ikhtiyar misbah al-salikin is a summary of his great commentary on Nahj al-Balagha and was written by the request of ‘Ata’ al-Mulk al-Juwayni.

  • Sharh al-mi’at kalima li Nahj al-balagha the original title of which is Minhaj al-‘arifin.

  • Qawa’id al-maram fi ‘ilm al-kalam according to Kinturi and it was written upon the request of ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. Ja’far Neyshaburi. Other titles of this book is Qawa’id al-‘ilahiyyah fi al-kalam wa al-hikmah.

 

Manuscripts

  • Al-Sharh al-saghir li-nahj al-balagha which Agha Buzurg says that is probably the same as Sharh al-mi’at kalimah li Nahj al-balagha.
  • Risalat fi al-adab al-bahth
  • Risalt fi al-imama
  • ‘Istiqsa’ al-nazar fi imamat a’immat al-ithna ‘ashar the attribution of which to Ibn Maytham has been questioned by ‘Abd Allah Afandi Isfahani
  • Risalat fi al-imama and some other titles.
The Tomb of Ibn Maytham al-Bahrani in the Mosque of al-Shaykh Maytham al-Bahrani in Manama, Bahrain

Demise

Most biographical sources have recorded that he passed away in 679/1280, but considering the fact that he finished al-Sharh al-saghir li-nahj al-balagha in 681/1282, he must have lived past that date. Kintury mentioned his demise at 699/1300.

His grave is located in Manama, Bahrain.

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