AYATULLAH SAYYID ABUL-QASIM MUSAWI AL-KHOEI
Ayatullah Seyyid Abulqasim Musawi Al-Khoei (RA) was born in
Azerbaijan, Iran 15 Rajab 1317 H. / 1899 A. D. and passed away in Najaf Al-Ashraf,
Iraq on 8 Safar 1412 A.H.(August 8, 1992)
in the established traditional way of Shia Theology by well known jurists,
he joined the world-renown theological institution in the holy city of Najaf
Al-Ashraf in 1912, the year he migrated from Iran.
At an early age, he attained the degree of ijtihad i.e. the process of
arriving at judgements on points of religious law using reason and the
principles of jurisprudence. This achievement normally warrants the title of
Teaching, Juristic, and Writing Merits
He taught in Najaf for over 70 years. For 50 years, he
specialized in supervising post-graduate studies, most advanced among which
is 'Bahth-al-Kharij' - Graduation Classes - equivalent to a Doctoral thesis.
Successful candidates are qualified to practice 'Ijtihad'
He is considered as the architect of a distinct school of thought in the
priciples of jurisprudence and Islamic law, and one of the leading exponents
of 'kalam'-scholastic theology- and 'rijal'- study of the biographies of
transmitters of ahadith, the Prophetic traditions, 'fiqh'- jurisprudence-
and 'tafseer'- exegesis of The Holy Qur'an. His interests included
astronomy, maths, and philosophy.
He was a prolific writer in the aforesaid disciplines. He wrote 37 books and
treatises, most of which have been published. His works include:
the Principles of Jurisprudence - 10 volumes
Narrators of Tradition - 24 volumes.
Islamic Law -
tafsir al-Qur'an ( The Elucidation of the Exegesis of The Qur'an)
Minhaju-us-Saliheen (The Path of the Righteous) - 2 volumes, reprinted 78
times ( guide book on religious practice and law ) .
Religious Questions - Concise version of the Path of the Righteous - in
Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, English, Turkish, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, and
( Edifices of Deduction) Principles of Jurisprudence.
Ajwad-at-Taqrirat (The Best of Regulations) Principles of Jurisprudence.
Sharh-el-Urwatul-Wuthqa (Commentary on The Steadfast Handle) -
Suspected Attire - Risala fil Libas Al-Mashkok, Evidential Jurisprudence.
Ijaz ( the Fragrance of Miracles ), in defence of The Noble Qur'an.
His post-graduate institute normally accommodated some 150
students, at any given time. Among the students who attended classes and
were personally supervised by Imam Al-Khoei included Ayatullah Al-Udhma
Sayyid Sistani, Ayatullah Al-Shaheed As-Sayyid Mohammad Baqir As-Sadr, Iraq,
As-Sayyid Mahdi Al-Hakim Mohammad Mahdi Shamsuddin ( Lebanon), Imam Mousa
As-Sadr ( Lebanon),As-Sayyid Mohammad Husain Fadhlallah ( Lebanon ),
Ayatullah Seyyid Mohammad Al-Rohani ( Iran), Ayatullah Al-Ardabili, former
Chief Justice of Iran , As-Sayyid Mohammad Ali Makki (Syria), As-Sayyid
Mohammad Ali Bahrul 'Uloom (UK), Poet Mustafa Jamaluddin ( Syria ) .
After the death of As-Sayyid Mohsin Al- Hakim in 1972, Imam Al-Khoei
succeeded him as The Grand Ayatullah ( Al-Marja'a Al-a'alam) as he was the
most knowledgeable of the 3 living Grand Ayatullahs. He had the greatest
following among the Shias worldwide.
Achievements in the Welfare Sphere
He was fervently dedicated to establishing welfare, social,
cultural, and educational institutions for Muslims worldwide. The following
are some of the institutions he established:
Darul Hikmah (
House of Theosophy)
(City of Knowledge) in Qom, Iran, considered one of the biggest theology
centres in the Shia world. The complex comprises the school building and
living quarters capable of accommodating 500 families.
Center in Bangkok, Thailand.
Center in Dhakkah, Bangladesh.
University, Islamabad, Pakistan.
Orphanage Beirut, Lebanon
Education Institute for Boys, London, U.K.
Education Institute for Girls, London, U.K.
School, New York, U.S.A.
He was also the patron of about 1,000 grant-maintained
students of theology from Iraq and other countries like Lebanon, Syria, Gulf
States, India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, South East Asia. He provided
financial support for maintaining the schools including boarding expenses,
teachers' salaries and lodging costs.
House - Translation, printing and distribution of books worldwide, Karachi,
Complex, Bombay , India. Considered among the biggest Shi' ite Muslims
cultural centre-under construction.
Offices catering for the religious, social, educational, and cultural needs
of Muslims all over the world,with the Headquarters in London, U. K. and
branches in the United States, Canada, India, Pakistan, U.A. E., Oman, Saudi
Arabia, Thailand, North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Malaysia.
Imam Al-Khoei was a man of peace dialogue and understanding.
He advocated non-violence and promoted tolerance,the values which mirror the
human and universal principles of Islam.
In the aftermath of the violent crushing of the popular uprising in Iraq
after the Gulf War by Saddam's troops, he was arrested with all members of
his family, and many ulama, taken to Baghdad, and under duress was made to
appear with Saddam on TV. Under mounting pressure, Saddam returned him,
without his family, to Najaf, where he was placed under house arrest on the
20th of March, l99l.
Mass genocide, destruction, arrests, and displacement of civilians in Najaf,
as well as in other cities and towns in the South of Iraq and North
perpetrated by the brutal Iraqi regime, left many cities virtually deserted
and normal life came to a halt. All classes in Najaf came to a standstill,
especially after the grave restrictions and constraints on the freedom of
the Spiritual Leader. After his death a year later, Saddam's regime closed
down the institute and deported, arrested and harrassed over 1000 students
who had been registered with the institute.
INSTITUTES HE ESTABLISHED
Since he took charge of Najaf's hawza, al-Khoei became the
caretaker of all
Shi'a charitable institutions, mosques and husayniyyas, theological
hawzas, etc. all over the world. Among the most significant of such
institutes which he ordered to be founded, and which he supervised through
his representatives, are the following.
1) In India, where there are an estimated forty million
followers of his (according to his representative there Sayyid Muhammad al-Moosawi),
he established the Educational Charitable Complex in Bombay which is
regarded as the largest educational and theological project in the world,
and it includes various departments each one of which specialises in a
particular activity, and it is comprised of elementary and secondary (high)
schools, various accredited colleges, a large hospital and a huge mosque, in
addition to spending on attendants of theological centres in other parts of
India such as
Ali Poor, Nibras and Hyderabad.
2) Madeenat al-'Ilm, the city of knowledge, at the holy city
of Qum, Islamic
Republic of Iran, which is the largest theological institute in Shi'a
world and where more than three thousand students are studying theology, and
it includes dormitories for 500 married students, in addition to theological
centres at Mashhad and Khurasan, spending, according to his representative
in India Sayyid Muhammad al-Moosawi, more than one million Iranian toomans a
month as grants to students of theology there.
3) Al-Khoei's Mabarrah in Beirut, Lebanon, which provides
cultural and social
services for a large number of orphan children who have lost their
families during the catastrophes to which Lebanon has been subjected, and it
is a five building complex housing an orphanage, a vocational school and an
institute, and it surely is a monument of what true charity can accomplish.
4) Ayatollah al-Khoei's School and Library of
Mashhad, Islamic Republic of
building of which is a masterpiece of a marriage between traditional and
5) Dar al-'Ilm School at Najaf al-Ashraf, Iraq, from which
highly qualified jurists and mujtahids have been graduating, and which has
accommodated more than 200 students of the higher level of theological
studies, in addition to dormitories and a library, and it has been
demolished by the filthy hands of Saddam Hussein's troops as part of a plan
to demolish schools and mosques in Najaf, the holiest city for the Shi'as of
6) Numerous other theological studies styled after Najafs
hawza located in Thailand, Bangladesh (in West Bengal), India, Pakistan and
7) Imam al-Khoei's Library at Najaf al-Ashraf, Iraq, which
contains 25,000 books and 6,000 rare hand-written manuscripts, and it was
established by his late holiness for the benefit of researchers, critics,
and scholars of theology, and it used to publish and internationally
distribute quality Islamic literature, but its press has been confiscated by
the oppressive authority of Saddam Hussein's regime.
8) Offices in Karachi and Islamabad, Pakistan, to disseminate
religious education and the translation and distribution of quality Islamic
9) He also had an office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the
publication and distribution of religious literature.
In addition to all the projects enumerated above, his late
holiness had ordered the establishment of an international charity to look
after the followers of our creed in all corners of the Earth and to
establish a high quality cultural and social system; therefore, Imam al-Khoei
Benevolent Foundation was founded and first headquartered in Najaf al-Ashraf
in 1988 with branches in Europe (including one in London, U.K.) and the
Middle East. The London branch office had been established by a select
committee of nine highly respected dignitaries who formed its Central
Committee. Those nine founding members were:
1) Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Khoei (son of the late Imam al-Khoei),
2) Shaikh Muhsin Ali al-Najafi,
3) Shaikh Yousuf Nafsi,
4) Sayyid Muhammad al-Moosawi (of Bombay, India)
5) Sayyid Fadil al-Meelani,
6) Sayyid Majeed al-Khoei (son of the late Imam al-Khoei),
7) Shaikh Hajj Kazim Abdel-Hussein,
8) Sayyid Muhammad Ah al-Shahristani, and
9) al-Hajj Mustafa Kawkal.
After the Rajab 1412 (March 1991) Intifada (uprising) of the
people of Iraq
against the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, the Najaf
headquarters were transferred to London, U.K., where the said Committee was
charged with overseeing the activities of all branch offices of al-Khoei
Foundation in India, Pakistan, U.S.A., Canada and Kuwait. Kuwaitis who
suffered untold atrocities at the bloody hands of Saddam Hussein after he
had invaded their country secretly received huge sums of money from the late
Ayatollah who instructed his representatives there to help all families that
suffered from the invasion regardless of their sect. No other Muslim
organisation in the world helped Kuwaitis who were trapped inside the
country, or who lost their means of income because of the execution of their
bread earners, as they were helped by al-Khoei... His benevolence also
reached all families that suffered from the Iraq-Iran war, and his
assistance to them infuriated Saddam's government and led the latter to once
confiscate his entire fluids at al-Rafidain Bank in
Baghdad. The Deputy Director
of the now London
Headquarters is also Director of the al-Khoei
New York that supervises cultural and theological studies of
the Medina school and the Khoei Center. He is Mawlana Hujjatul-Islam Shaikh
Fadil al-Sahlani who has been representing al-Khoei in the U.S. and Canada
since 1990. In addition to all the above, his late holiness also sponsored
and funded the activities of students of theology in Syria, Turkey,
Palestine and the African continent.
Canada, he fairly recently
established an Islamic school and centre at Montreal. During the war between
Afghani heroes and Communist kafir forces, the deceased Imam provided all
support he could to the Mujahidin and he even permitted the distribution of
collected religious taxes to Afghani Mujahidin.
Ayatollah al-Uzma al-Khoei was the embodiment of asceticism,
renunciation of worldly riches. His son Sayyid
Abdel-Majeed al-Khoei narrates anecdotes about the simple life his holy
father used to lead. He says that his father never deducted his own share of
the religious taxes his representatives were collecting on his behalf;
instead, he used to spend on his family, relatives and friends from whatever
gifts handed to him by some of his followers. "My father," says
Sayyid Abdel-Majeed al-Khoei, "never bought himself a new outfit except
after the one he wears is totally worn out. Some of those who were very
close to him criticised him for wearing such shabby clothes, telling him
that it did not fit his status as the supreme leader of the faithful to
dress like that. His answer to them was that as long as the outfit he was
wearing was clean, there was nothing wrong with its being old. Some even
suggested to him to give his worn-out clothes to others and replace them
with new ones." He was also passionate about seeking knowledge and
sharing it with others. When his health deteriorated prior to his demise,
and he was hospitalised, his medical team advised him to do something to
entertain himself. He told them that reading always made him relaxed while
lecturing was the only entertainment he had ever known. He used to wake up
before sunrise, make tahajjud, perform his morning prayers, and then eat his
breakfast with his family. His breakfast most often was no more than apiece
of bread, some domestic cheese, and a tiny cup of tea, and he never ate by
himself. Instead, he insisted on eating with other members of his family or
those who helped them at home, or with his guests. Before
midnight, he used to read
a book, then listen to world news, tuning to local, Arab or international
stations. He was often seen the next morning with blackness around his eyes.
The sage could not sleep because of hearing some disturbing news about what
was happening to the Muslims in this country or that.
THE IMAM AT HOME
His son, Sayyid Abdel-Majeed al-Khoei, says the following
about his father; "My father was always smiling when he was with us. He
always arbitrated between his sons whenever there was a dispute, and he was
quite witty. If he saw one looking forlorn or happily excited, he would ask
him about the reason, and every evening he would distribute candy for the
children in addition to whatever other gifts he had received that day from
the admiring faithful." Despite his extremely lofty status, he never
hesitated to help his family in domestic chores, including kitchen chores.
He never opened the mail coming to any of his family members. One of his
sons told him once that nobody in the house had any secret to hide from him,
and that it was perfectly alright with them if he opened their mail, but he
insisted never to do so. He always instructed members of his family to
deliver funds for highly esteemed but impoverished families without doing so
publicly, telling them to help those whom the ignorant ones mistake as
wealthy because of their abstention from begging for help.
After the failure of the Intifada of March 1991, the Grand
Ayatollah was briefly imprisoned then forced to appear on television with
the Butcher of Baghdad Saddam Hussein who always kept pressuring him to
issue fatawa, religious verdicts, supportive of Saddam and his government,
something which he never did despite all the persecution to which he, his
representatives and family members were subjected. Because of refusing to
co-operate with the dictatorial government of Saddam Hussein, he was put
under house arrest till his death. Saddam also exiled, jailed, or
assassinated many of the gifted students, representatives and distinguished
followers of al-Khoei and ordered the destruction of their mosques and
libraries particularly those in Najaf and Kerbala. As if the Iraqi
government predicted the death of al-Khoei, it cut off all telephone
connections with his Kufa residence in the morning of Saturday, August 8,
1992 and with the houses of those who were close to him.
Having performed the afternoon prayers that day,
the health of his late holiness suddenly deteriorated and a severe chest
swelling was visible. Doctors in the medical team charged with supervising
his health conditions were called in, but they could not tend to him early
enough. He informed his family and those in his presence that last night he
felt that it was the last night he was spending with his family. He asked
for water to perform his ablution, and as soon as he finished his ablution
his soul passed away to its Maker exactly at 3:13 pm. Throngs of the
believers started pouring into Kufa, surrounding his residence, and it was
not long before the whole country came to know about the sad news. Military
units of Saddam's "Special Forces" moved quickly to close all
highways leading to both Najaf and Kufa as well as other cities in
regions, then they moved to disperse the thronging crowds in the pretext of
making preparations for the Grand Ayatullah's funeral the next morning.
Curfew was enforced in the cities of Najaf, Kufa and other central cities,
and heavily armed police and military units started patrolling the streets.
Armed forces stationed at Baghdad and in central and southern Iraqi cities
were all placed under maximum alert in anticipation of a popular reaction to
the sad news and to the ambiguous way it happened and was handled by the
Iraqi government. Patrol vehicles were visible throughout the streets of al-Thawarah,
al-Shu'lah and al-Kazimiyyah, all of which are major Shi'a towns in
metropolitan Baghdad. Iraq's radio and television stations suspended their
usual programs to announce the sad news of the demise of the great leader,
informing the public that his funeral services were scheduled for Sunday
morning. At midnight on Saturday, however, the family of the deceased was
ordered to bury the Imam before sunrise. Local government authorities
prohibited the public in Najaf and Kufa from taking part in his funeral
services, angering the faithful in Iraq and the world.
His body was washed Saturday evening at his Kufa house in the presence of
handful of his family members, and the funeral prayers were conducted by
his eminence Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of his closest aides and a member
of his four-member juristic Shura (Consultative) Committee. (The other three
members have been:
Ayatollah Shaikh Murtada al-Burujardi, Ayatollah Shaikh Ali Azghar al-Ahmadi,
and, of course, Ayatollah al-Uzma al-Khoei himself.) A three-day mourning
period was announced by the government which prohibited the family of the
deceased dignitary from holding the traditional Fatiha majlis, while the
Ministry of Awqaf (Islamic Trusts) declared that it would conduct such
majalis for his soul. Telephone connections between the cities of Kufa and
Najaf and the rest of the world were by now cut off, too, till Sunday
evening. The hypocritical news media of the Butcher of Baghdad Saddam
Hussein was busy circulating lies about the demise of Imam al-Khoei,
claiming that he
had received a great funeral service wherein the
people and representatives of the Iraqi government participated, that his
corpse was carried around all religious sites in the area, and even calling
him "the martyr of the nation and the country."
Baghdad's official newspaper
Al-Jumhuriyyah called him "the martyr of Islam and the nation," publishing
his photograph on its front page.
International news agencies, on the other hand, published photographs of
coffin escorted by no more than six persons. Shortly before his death,
the greatest scholar and leader al-Khoei expressed no concern about anything
in this vanishing life more than the possibility of the loss of his precious
manuscripts the writing of which had exhausted so many years of his
life...Surely the Islamic world will find it very hard to compensate for the
loss of such a man, nay, a legendary institute and a lighthouse of knowledge
scholarship... Inna Lillah wa Inna Ilyahi Raji'oon.
 This article was
abridged and published in Noor al-Islam magazine of
Lebanon, in its issue dated November/December 1992.