ALLAMA MUHAMMAD BAQIR MAJLISI
Name : Mohammed Baqir Majlisi ibn e Mohammed Taqi Majlisi
Siblings: Mulla Aziz Allah, Mulla Abd Allah; both brothers Mujtahids of much erudition.
His sisters too were ladies of erudition.
Born : Isfahan, Iran in 1037H (1616 A.D.)
Died : Isfahan, 1111 H (1690 A.D) at age 77 years
His disciples: Allama Majlisi’s prominent disciples were Sayed Nemat Allah Jazairi, Mirza Abd Allah Effindi, Mulla Abd Allah Ardbeli,
Mulla Muhammad bin Hassan Isfahani, Mulla Mohammed Hussain Bin Yahya Noori.
THE PROPHET (S.A) & THE IMAMS (A.S) COME IN A DREAM
Akhund Khorasani saw in a dream that he had reached a house. When the door of the house was opened, he entered it and saw the Prophet (s.a) and the Imams (a.s) seated in a group. After he greeted them, the Imam e Zamana (a.s) asked him softly to be seated near him. After a while Mohammed Taqi Majlisi arrived there carrying a bottle of rose water in his hand. He first sprinkled the rose water on the hand of the Prophet (s.a) and the Imams (a.s). Then he also sprinkled the rose water on the hands of Akhund Khorasani. Then Mohammed Taqi Majlisi walked out of the room. After some moments he returned back to the room carrying a new-born babe in his arms. He sat in front of the Prophet (s.a) and said, “O Prophet (s.a)! Please pray for this child that he propagates the Faith among the people!” The Prophet (s.a) held the cloth covering the babe and offered a prayer. Then he handed the baby to Hazrat Amir al Momineen (a.s) and asked him to pray for him. Then all the Imams (a.s) took hold of the babe, in turn, and prayed for him. When the Imam e Zamana (a.s) prayed for the baby, he handed him over to Akhund Khorasani and asked him to offer a prayer for the baby.
Akhund Khorasani was in the process of praying when he awoke from his dream! The fragrance of the rose water still lingered in his nostrils and the prayers of the Infallibles (a.s) were echoing in his ears and his eyes still had their holy images in them! The love for his dear friend, Mulla Mohammed Taqi Majlisi, enhanced in his heart that Allah had bestowed on him the invaluable pearl that had been blessed by the Prophet (s.a) and the Imams (a.s). Akhund Khorasani was on his way home after the Ziarats in Iraq. He wanted first to visit Mashad Muqadddas and then go to Isfahan where lived Majlisi. He wanted to meet him and see for himself the new arrival in his friend’s.family. The little caravan in which Akhund Khorasani traveled reached the environs of Isfahan City. He saw on the horizon the minarets of the mosques, the gardens, the bridges one after the other. Even now lingered the fragrance of the essences applied on his apparel during his visits to the mausolia of the Imams (a.s). He was now in the city which was famous those days for its elegance and architectural excellence and places of learning! No sooner he reached the threshold of Taqi Majlisi’s house, he came out with open arms to welcome his dear friend!
Taqi Majlisi took him to the guest room respectfully, exchanged pleasantries for sometime, went out for a while and returned with a bottle of rose-water in his hands! He sprinkled the rose water on Akhund Khorasani’s hand, went out of the room and returned with a babe in his arms! He put the baby in the lap of Akhund Khorasani and told him that it was born the same day and requested him to pray to Allah that the new arrival earned a name as a propagater of the Faith of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s)! After offering a prayer for the baby, Akhund Khorasani related his dream to Taqi Majlisi. He asked him to give the child the best of upbringing and education. He said that the child had arrived with the blessings of the Prophet (s.a) and the Imams (a.s). Taqi Majlisi’s affection for the baby increased manifold after hearing of the dream and told him that he had brought this gift from the mausolia of the great Imams (a.s)!
The first sound that the child heard was the Adhaan-the Muslim Call for Prayer! Then he was under the direct tutelage of his mother who herself came from a learned family. His father had great love for the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) and he named the child as Mohammed Baqir! He asked the mother to feed her milk to the child with great care of purity. In an environment of the meetings of the mourning of the Martyrs of Karbala, Mohammed Baqir grew on the lap of his loving mother. He got the company of his mother who was a lady of high piety and the instruction from his erudite father.
Mohammed Baqir grew in the laps of ladies who were learned in the norms of the Faith. His elder sister, Amina Begum, was so erudite in religious learning that her husband, Mulla Saleh Mazandarani, himself a scholar of repute, used to take her advice on matters of Fiqh! Mohammed Baqir’s grand mother was known for her contentment, simplicity and piety!
THE PIETY OF ALLAMA MAJLISI’S PARENTS
Mulla Mohammed Baqir Majlisi’s grand-father, Mulla Maqsood Ali, had once to travel out of Isfahan. Before he set out on his journey he took Baqir Majlisi’s father and uncle to the Grand-Cleric Mulla Abd Allah Shustari that in his absence the children took instructions from him. During the stay with Ustad Shustari the time for the Idd arrived. The mentor gave 3 Toomans to Majlisi’s father to meet the expenses for the Idd. He returned the money, thanking him, and said, “I cannot accept any money and spend it without the permission of my mother!” When he reached home and sought his mother’s permission, she said, “Your father’s total income is 14 Ghazbegi (the currency in use those days).and we make the ends meet with what he earns! If we change this habit, we may have to spread our hand in front of your mentor and others for our needs! This I wouldn’t like to do!” When Mulla Mohammed Taqi told the reason for returning the money to his mentor, he appreciated the spirit of contentment of his mother and offered a prayer for her.
Mohammed Baqir’s father was a man of high piety. He experienced spiritual dreams many a time and he thought that it was Ilham (Inspiration). He himself has said that one night, after Tahajjud Prayers, he felt that whatever he wished for at that time, Allah would bestow it on him! He also started pondering whether he should wish for any worldly favor or for spiritual advancement in the hereafter! At that moment he heard the cries of Mohammed Baqir from the cradle and he prayed:
“O Allah!For the sake of Mohammed (s.a) andAle Mohammed (a.s),make this childThe propagater of the Faith and bestow him with all Your Blessings!”
The humility of Mohammed Baqir’s father and the open doors of his abode for the people encouraged everyone to visit him for resolution of their problems. Mohammed Baqir used to be on the side of his father most of the times. Besides receiving instruction in Religion, he used to listen intently to the discussions his father had with the visitors on their problems. He retained in his strong memory the learned solutions for the problems that his father suggested to his visitors. He is on record saying:
“One day a person came panting with fear written large on his face. He said that the previous night he saw a white tiger in his dream which had a black cobra entwining its neck. Both the beasts wanted to attack and kill him. Mohammed Baqir’s father asked him if he had eaten cheese with the juice of pomegranate the previous night? When the man replied in the affirmative, he told him that it was the effect of those things that he had a bad dream!”
Mohammed Baqir’s father spent all his life in intensive prayer, battling with his psyche, propagation of the Hadit (the Sayings of the Infallibles) and resolving the problems of the needy. With his efforts awareness of the traditions of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) was created in the Shia populace. He wasn’t adopting the life of a recluse limiting himself to the Mosque and the library. He mingled with the people and spoke with them with great humility and affection. He gave a patient ear to people of different schools of thought. He defended the Shia beliefs and guided the people. The little Mohammed Baqir was a constant companion of his father and at that tender age learnt the art of dealing with the people.
MULLA MOHAMMED TAQI ‘S INVITATION FOR VIRTUE- AN INCIDENT
Allama Majlisi is himself on record saying that a friend came to complain that a neighbor was having carousals of drinking and merry making with a group of persons the whole night. Mulla Mohammed Taqi Majlisi asked the complainant to invite that person and his group for a dinner that night. He said that he too would join the party. The person went and met the leader of the group who accepted the invitation. The man expressed surprise why he was joining their group? The host didn’t say anything further, went home and started preparations for the party.
In the evening Mulla Mohammed Taqi Majlisi arrived ahead of the guests and took his seat. When the guests came in, saw the Mulla, they were surprised. The chief of the group was taken aback seeing the spiritual person there. He wanted to make effort to send him out as soon as possible. Therefore he told to Mulla Taqi, “Tell me! Your habits are good or what we do is good?!” Mulla Mohammed Taqi replied in a very soft tone, “It will be good if everyone of us talks about his personal habits! Then we shall arrive at a decision whose habits are better!” The chief was surprised at the soft approach of Mulla Taqi because he was expecting a terse rebuff from him. He just said, “It will be nice!” After a few moments of silence he added, “One of our habits is that when we eat someone’s salt, we never betray the person nor do we cheat him!” Making good use of the opportunity Mulla Mohammed Taqi said, “What you have said now I don’t accept!” The chief reiterated, “This is one of the cardinal principles of our group!” Mulla Taqi stared at him with his spiritual eyes, kept quiet for a while, and said, “You have been eating Allah’s salt all your life!” These words of Mulla Taqi were like throwing cold water on the group’s pride and rebellious nature. Their heads were bent down in remorse. Quiet descended on the entire gathering. One person after the other went out quietly. The host saw all the proceedings and he experienced a shiver in his spine! He went near Mulla Taqi and said, “What happened isn’t good!” Mulla Taqi asked him to be patient and see what happens next. After a while Mulla Taqi too returned home. Early morning, the next day, someone knocked at the door of Mulla Taqi’s home. When he opened the door he found the chief of the group in front of him. The person greeted him and said that what the Mulla told him in the evening made him think! He said that he went home, took a bath of cleanliness, expressed repentance for his past sins! He said that he was now with the Mulla to take instructions on the norms of the Faith. Mulla Mohammed Taqi smiled, welcomed him and suitably entertained him!
ALLAMA MAJLISI’S CHILDHOOD.
The call of the Muezzin from the minaret of the Mosque used to wake up the child early in the morning! He experienced an environment that had the fragrance of virtue and righteousness. He cultivated the habit of reading and held the pen with his delicate fingers at a very early age. He used to do some doodling with words as if at that tender age he was restless to do something great!
Allama Majlisi started taking lessons from his father at the early age of 4 years. At that age he had a clear understanding of Allah. He knew about the Heaven and the Hell. He started offering Namaz e Shab (The Late Night Prayers) and went to the congregation for the morning prayers to the mosque! He started advicing the children of his age group on the norms of the Faith that he learnt during his lessons. His efforts had the full support of his two elder siblings, Mulla Aziz and Mulla Abd Allah. He had, at his home, the erudite company of his sister’s spouse, Mulla Swaleh Mazandarani and his sister Amina Begum who was herself an erudite scholar! But the burden of imparting good education and upbringing to the brilliant child rested on the shoulders of his learned father.
Allama Majlisi’s father, Mulla Mohammed Taqi Majlisi was the first person who started the noble task of propagating the traditions of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) soon after the establishment of the Safavid Dynasty in Iran. He was collecting and compiling the traditions of the Infallibles (a.s). In such an environment Mohammed Baqir felt and continued with the urge to pursue this noble task! The time passed and the viccisitudes of time didn’t deter him from his determination. Very soon his name was well known in the scholastic circles. Having voluminous tomes in his hand he would go from one mentor to another in his search for knowledge. He got the blessings of the mentors who were themselves the ardent lovers of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s).
Within a short time he acquired a very high level of learning and his face radiated brilliance and erudition in early youth. Whoever saw him predicted a bright future for him. His erudition was of such a high caliber that at the tender age of 14 years he was awarded an Ijaza (certificate of Proficiency) by the great philosopher Mulla Sadra. Then he received instruction from the great scholars Allama Hassan Ali Shustari, Amr Mohammed Momin Astarabadi, Mirza e Jazairi, Sheik Hur al Amili, Mulla Mohsin Astarabadi, Mulla Mohsin Faiz Kashani and Mulla Saleh Mazandarani. The thrist for knowledge had made him restless. Wherever he found an erudite Mujtahid he would wholeheartedly become his disciple. He benefited from the instructions of more than 21 mentors. He was thus preparing himself to make a mark as a scholar of high caliber!
LEARNING AND TEACHING
In a very short time he acquired leraning in grammar, oratory, principles of Fiqh and other related disciplines. His thirst for knowledge was proverbial. In very early youth he was in the first echelon of the teachers in the Seminary (Hauza e Ilmia). Going to the pulpit, he would give his talks in a very pleasant style with effective examples and precepts. The students used to feel as if the teacher has experience of long years of teaching! His Ijtehad brought seekers of knowledge to the Hauza e Ilmia Isfahan. Isfahan, those days, was the center of Shia learning. The students who came to Isfahan desired to attach themselves to his class. Mohammed Baqir used to lead the prayer in the congregation at the Madrasa e Abd Allah. After his father passed away, Mohammed Baqir started leading the prayes at the Masjid e Jameh and also started giving lessons to the students at the same place. The number of his disciples used to touch a thousand many a time. Sayed Nemat Alla Jazairi too had come to Hauza e Ilmia Isfahan, along with his friends, in search of knowledge. He said that although Mohammed Baqir was a youth those days,he had acquired such leraning in different disciplines that no eminent scholar of the time had achieved his level of learning. His talks at the Masjid Jameh Isfahan used to be in such eloquent style that he, Al Jazairi, the matter studied by him with difficulty in the night, used to become crystal clear with the explanations given by Mohammed Baqir.
His hospitality and manners were so exemplary that many senior persons used to visit his classes to impress on the young students about his caliber of learning and instruction. Sheik Mohammed Fazil, who himself conducted classes, used to attend lessons with Allama Majlisi and give a practical demonstration of humility to the students. Allama Majlisi was so humble in his attitude that he used to tell him that he derived more benefit from the company of Mohammed Fazil than he could derive by attending his lessons!
Allama Majlisi had a keen sense of philosophy and his attitude in imparting lessons was that he discussed the beliefs of different schools of thought and negated their beliefs with strong proofs and arguments. His example was like a brilliant lamp on the pulpit and his students a group of glow worms! During one of the sessions, after praising the Prophet (s.a) Allama Majlisi discussed about the Firqa e Dahria (the Atheist Sect). He gave some arguments in support of the sect. There was a loud protest from the students saying that what he said was an endorsement of the veracity of the sect! The students got up and wanted to walk out of the class in protest. Everyone was in rapt attention to hear the reaction of the Allama. He said in a very quiet, affectionate tone, “Please be calm and listen to the refutation of the arguments that I enumerated in support of the sect! You may decide your course of action thereafter.” The students however were adamant. They left the class. Allama Majlisi was taken aback and called off the class!
This incident put the Allama under the shadow of worry and sadness. He was searching some light to come out of the gloom. He thought that he ventured into philosophical thoughts without quenching his thirst for the love of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s). The result was that he was forced out of the precincts of the mosque. This experiment he had done during his youth instead of narrating the traditions of the Prophet (s.a) and other Infallibles (a.s). He was warned about such things by his own father and Mulla Mohsin Faiz Kashani. But this personal experience opened his eyes.
From that day Allama Majlisi adopted the way of his mentor, Mulla Mohsin faiz Kashani. Instead of indulging in discussion of philosophy and logic he addressed his energies towards the traditions of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s). He took steps to include the Kutub e Arba (The Four Books) in his curriculum for teaching. He wrote commentary on “Usool e Kaafi” and since his father has done one on “Man laa Yahdar al Faqih”, he didn’t attempt a commentary on the book. For writing a commentary on “Istebsaar” he deputed one of his disciples for the work. Allama created the interest for studying the traditions and to preserve the four great books for the posterity he encouraged his students to study them and fully copy the four books. As an incentive he offered awards for them. The students, therefore, were very enthusiastically studying and writing the four books. The Allama used to write an Ijaza (Certificate) at the end of each copy written by his disciples. The spiritual people considered it a great honor to possess a copy with Allama’s certification. This practice resulted in people giving greater care in preserving the copies of the books for the posterity.
Allama thought that instruction in Kutub e Arba and other valuable books viz: Irshad e Mufeed, Qawaed Allama, Sahifa e Sajjadia was very important. He knew that reading these books and understanding them was the best way of conserving those treasures for the posterity. He knew that thousands of books on Shia learning had been consigned to the flames by the enemies and thousands of small booklets on the sayings of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) were lying in the nooks and corners of Arabia with the lovers of the Ahl al Bayt(a .s). On the other hand there was the animosity that the Sunnis had for the followers of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) that they were making all the efforts to destroy their invaluable literature. There was also the fear of the two strong Sunni Realms that were making skirmishes to destroy the Shia Safavid Dynasty of Iran. There was also the likelihood of the Sufi Cult gaining ascendancy in the Iranian court that would encourage Tahreef (Tampering) of the texts of the traditions of the Infallibles (a.s). Disinterest of the students in the study of the traditions too was an important negative factor. The Allama used to think that the widely scattered pearls of the wisdom of the Infallibles (a.s) must be put together. Thus came about his monumental work—“Bahar al Anwaar---The Oceans of Light” This is not only a great text book for the students of Shia Faith and history but it is of great benefit to other seekers of knowledge as well..
THE ALLAMA WRITES IN THE PREFACE OF THE BOOK “BAHAR AL ANWAAR”
“In the beginning I read the well known books and then started the search for the books that had gone out of circulation because of the viccisitude of the times. Whenever I got any information about a book of Hadit, I tried to acquire it at any cost! I searched in the East and searched in the West for such books. Thus I collected lot of very valuable books. For this important task my brothers in Faith gave me help and support. We reached every city, every hamlet and with Allah’s Grace we gathered very useful information. Then I busied myself in the compilation and collation of the information. The next step was getting the copies made. During the compilation and collation of the text the need for putting the matter into suitable chapters was felt. This too was accomplished to make the books interesting for the readers…. But in the year 1070 H I pulled away my hand from this task because there was a feeling that the work was neither gaining popular acceptance nor the persons in authority had taken kindly to the work… I had a feeling that, perhaps, after me the work might become obsolete or the destructive forces mightdestroy it. Therefore I sought Allah’s help and compiled the book”Bahar al Anwaar”. In this voluminous book you will find 1,300 chapters of 48 books with thousands of Hadits. The style of this compilation is new and unique. Therefore, my brothers in Faith! Those who have the love and adulation for the Imams (a.s) in their hearts! Come forward and receive my book with open arms! Don’t be like those who merely talk but their hearts will be devoid of thoughts!”
The ‘Mothers of the Books (Ummahaat al Kutub)’ were destroyed by the enemies of the Ahl al Bayt (a.s). The Allama desired to collect and compile a large number of the traditions of the Infallibles (a.s). Paucity of time and spate of activity didn’t give sufficient time to him to verify the authenticity of the collection.. He further writes in the preface to Bahar al Anwaar:
“If death gives me respite, and Allah’s help is there, I wish to write a full commentary on “Bahar al Anwaar” based on such aims and meanings that haven’t been covered in the writings of the Ulema. I wish to use my pen for the benefit of the people of wisdom and knowledge.”
Allama Majlisi has researched the traditions contained in Kaafi” in his book “Mirat al Uqool”. It is an analysis of the authenticity of the traditions quoted by Mohammed Yaqub Kulaini. Perusing Mirat al Uqool one feels that certainly Majlisi was an Allama and researching the traditions was the subject of great interest for him. But one can say that if he had put such keen research behind “Bahar al Anwaar” it would certainly have taken him much more time to accomplish the voluminous work!
The hospitality and thoughtfulness of Allama Majlisi was of such a genere that he tried to be of help even in insignificant matters and when someone gave him some help, he would thank the person profulsely. Allama Majlisi writes in the 25th Volume of “Bahar al Anwaar:
“Recently a disciple of mine has searched a few books and has informed me about them”. We have to give it a thought that the great person gives such importance to the little help from a disciple and even mentions about it in his important publication! This was the reason that Allama Majlisi has mentioned the names of all those who helped him compile the great work!
Most of his life Allama Majlisi was a sickly person.. He suffered from conjunctivitis of the eyes and other ailments of the body. These did affect his work but he wasn’t defeated by the afflictions. He kept working with a smile. His pleasant demeanor kept his disciples in good humor. While receiving books from his disciples he would detect crumbs of bread between the pages and would jovially tell to the next borrower, “Son! Do you have a place for eating the bread?!!” The disciple would be surprised at the remark and Allama would continue, “If you wish I shall give you a cloth to keep the bread while you eat and don’t keep it on the book!You must take good care of the book. Don’t leave it in the sun or use it to swat insects!” He always had a word of advice for his disciples. He behaved very politely with the common persons. Allama behaved affectionately with his disciples and they were proud of his company.
Among the Allama’s most diligent disciples was Sayed Nemat Allah Jazairi. Very early he attracted the attention of his mentor. Allama was so fond of him that he took him home as a boarder. He stayed with him for four years. Allama instructed him so well that the Sayed developed into a Mujtahid of high caliber. When Mirza Taqi Daulatabadi started a Madrasa in Hamala, the Sayed was appointed as a tutor there. Sayed Nemat Allah Jazairi had learned so well under the tutelage of the Allama that people started saying that he was a mirror image of his mentor. He used to deal with different topics in such a style that it appeared as if Allama Majlisi was delivering the talk! Like Allama Majlisi He too was a person of mild manners. He always stressed on the facts and the truth---whether it was according to the Usoolis or the Akhbaris! Over a period of time the mentor-disciple relationship turned into that of good friends! Wherever the Allama traveled he took the Sayed along. Once the Allama was a guest at the place of an admirer and the Sayed too was with him. The host had arranged fried chicken for the guest. The plate was kept in front of the Allama. Since the Sayed’s hand wasn’t reaching the plate, he pulled it closer to himself. The Allama said jovially, “Syedna! You deem transferring the dead yourself as Haram (taboo)!” The Sayed came up with the repartee, “Very right! But shifting them towards holy places isn’t taboo!”
Sayed Jazairi says that the Allama had selected him as his disciple and gave him accommodation at his own home. Allama had a keen sense of humor but whenever he approached him the disciple always had a sense of awe and respect.
The Jumma Mosque of Isfahan was full to the capacity and people of different nationalities were seated there with rapt attention to listen to the sermon of Allama Majlisi. The gathering chanted salutation to the Prophet (s.a) and his Progeny (a.s) and the Allama asacended the step of the pulpit. He started by praising Allah, the Prophet (s.a) and the Ahl al Bayt (a.s). But this day his talk was rather of a different genere. He started talking about the beliefs of the Shias, one after the other. Then he addressed the gathering saying, “These are my beliefs! I wish you endorse and bear witness to what you have heard!” Then he ordered a shroud to be brought. When the gathering saw the cloth, they started crying. The entire mosque was under a pall of gloom. His disciples and his admirers saw the shroud in his live hands.Those days the Allama was holding the positions of Sheik al Islami, Mulla Bashi and Imamat of the Juma Prayers. On the shroud 40 Momins had to place their signatures. . .
In the Shia World Allama Majlisi is remembered with the title of “Bab al Aa-imma”. Once, while giving a talk to his disciples, Sheik Mohammed Hassan Isfahani, the author of “Jawahar al Kalam” said, “last night I saw a dream that I was at a meeting where many past and present Ulema were present. I took permission from the janitor and took my seat in the group. In the crowd I saw Allama Majlisi seated in front of all the Ulema. I was surprised and asked the janitor the reason for giving him the pride of place. The janitor said that in the view of the Imams (a.s), Allama Majlisi is “Bab al Aa-imma” because he will be infront and lead those who go for the Ziarat of the Imams (a.s).”
The Momineen who have completed 26 fasts of Ramadan start looking forward to the Idd al Fitr. But during the Ramadan of 1111 H the condition of Allama Majlisi was different. He had already spent 74 Ramadans and there was a different glow in his eyes. It wasn’t the thought of sighting the moon for the Idd! It was the thought of going to the presence of his friend! Ever since he fell ill, his routine was that he would stir from his bed and go to the prayer mat. He would break his fast and again retire to the bed. Perhaps, for a true Momin there is no better place than the death bed. A bed that takes him away from hypocricy, dust and din, pride and pomp of the world...
THE LAST DAY OF ALLAMA MAJLISI
The morning of 27 Ramadan, 1111 H the city of Isfahan was under a pall of gloom as if it was getting ready to get some sad tiding and the people come out in their sack-cloth.. People were having their rest and sleep after having their pre-fasting meals. One person experiences a dream in his sleep, goes to a friend on waking up and relates his dream to him. He says that he dreamed that Allama Majlisi had passed away and rushed to the house of the Allama. There he found that he was alive and sleeping. At that moment the Prophet (s.a) and Hazrat Ameer (a.s) entered the room. The Prophet (s.a) took hold of his right hand and Hazrat Ameer (a.s) held the left and said, “Come! Let us go!” The friend of the person was awe struck hearing this. He said that he had seen the same dream last night. Both the friends rushed to the house of the Allama. They had a prayer on their lips that they wanted to see him alive. .They reached the threshold of the great Allama’s house. They were thinking whether to seek permission to enter or not! They were still thinking about it when sounds of wailings and cries emanated from the house!
The Safavid dynasty was in power in Iran, and many Safavid rulers had appointed Shia scholars as overseers of the law.Upon the demise of Mullah Faiz Kashani, Allama Majlisi was eventually appointed as Shaikh al-Islam by Shah Suleiman. It is during this time that Shi'ism was publicly preached and practiced in Iran, and Shia festivals and commemorations like Ghadir and Ashura became part of the culture.
The scholar ascended the pulpit, and eventually the crowd in the mosque became quiet. He began with his usual praise of the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them), but soon there was a change in his tone. He began talking about the various beliefs of the Shia faith, and to the shock of many people, a funeral shroud was brought in. As tears started rolling down people's faces, the scholar held it up and said, "These are my beliefs. I wish for each of you to place your signature on my shroud as witnesses that I subscribe to and adhere to these beliefs!"
One of the most prolific scholars in the history of Shi'ism, he was born in Isfehan in 1037 AH. His father, Mullah Muhammad Taqi Majlisi, was himself a prominent scholar, and it is under his tutelage that Allama Majlisi acquired much of his education, starting at a tender age of four.
As time progressed, he also studied under Mullah Sadra, Mullah Faiz Kashani, and Allama Hassan Ali Shustari. In all, he received permission to perform Ijtihad (derivation of Islamic law) from 21 different teachers.
Over several years, Shaikh Kulayni, Shaikh as-Saduq, and Shaikh Tusi had compiled four different collections of narrations they had found fairly authentic. In Allama Majlisi's period, Mullah Faiz Kashani and Shaikh Hurr Ameli had also compiled collections which contained rearrangements of these four books as well as other narrations. Yet Allama Majlisi knew that there still existed dozens of booklets and notebooks belonging to students of the Infallibles (peace be upon them) that contained invaluable narrations. So he took it upon himself to compile a collection of every single narration that was attributed to an Infallible.
He took it upon himself to compile a collection of every single narration that was attributed to an Infallible.
After several years of struggle, he produced the renowned Bihar al-Anwar al-Jami'atul Darar Aimmatul At'har ("Sea of Lights of the Collection of the Pearls of the Pure Infallibles"), his 110-volume magnum opus that contains narrations of the Infallibles on every topic imaginable, ranging from articles of belief and issues of jurisprudence to recommendations on personal hygiene and matters of everyday routine.
However, it must be kept in mind that Allama's goal was to collect every single narration available, not sift through and find the reliable ones, so only a trained scholar can determine which ones are authentic. In addition to Bihar al-Anwar, he also wrote several other noteworthy books, including Miratul Uqool ("Mirror of Intellects") and Malazul Akhyar ("Shelter of the Pious"). His three-volume Hayatul Qulub (a historic account starting with Prophet Adam and culminating with a discussion regarding the Infallibles) and Ainul Hayat (a discourse on ethics and morals) have been recently translated in English.
A well-rounded scholar, he also wrote a treatise on engineering.
In addition to dozens of volumes of books, Allama Majlisi also produced over a hundred jurists, among them his own daughter.
An extremely pious man, the Allama had a keen sense of humor. During the compilation of Bihar
al-Anwar, one of his students once brought in a book in which the Allama found a few crumbs of bread. He jovially remarked to his student, "Young man, if you wish, I will give you a cloth on which to keep your bread while you eat it! Oh my students, I wish that you are more considerate about these books. I hope you don't eat on them or leave them in the sun or use them to swat flies!"
On the 27th of Ramadhan, 1111 AH, Allama Majlisi departed this world. He was buried in
his native Isfehan, where he had spent his entire 77 years in remarkable service to Islam and Shi'ism.
About his book Bihar al-anwar (Oceans of Lights):
Bihar al-anwar (Oceans of Lights) is a monumental encyclopedia of hadiths which attempts to collect all Shi'ite traditions in a single work and which classifies them by subject matter. It was compiled in the Safavid period by the famous theologian Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (d. 1110/1698-9 or 1111/1699-1700). The importance the work has possessed since its compilation as the standard reference work for all Shi'ite studies can hardly be overemphasized.
One indication of its popularity is that, despite its enormous size, it was published twice in lithographed form in the nineteenth century.
The modern edition of the work fills 110 volumes of approximately 400 pages each.
Majlisi collected his traditions from numerous earlier sources. As examples, we can mention a few of the works from which he derived the hadiths in the present collection, works which have been independently published in modern times.
Majlisi wrote it to gather all the wisdom he could find, in order to preserve that knowledge for following generations. The collection is the most comprehensive (as a single collection) among all Islamic hadith collections. The author collected narrations related from the Prophet Muhammad, along with statements by Fatima (the daughter of Muhammad) and the Shi'i Imams, using both Shi'i and Sunni sources. The collection also includes his well-researched commentary on these narrations.