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'Ali b. Musa b. Ja'far b. Tawus

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This article is about 'Ali b. Tawus, known as Sayyid b. Tawus. For other uses, see Ibn Tawus (disambiguation).

'Ali b. Musa b. Ja'far b. Tawus
Personal Information
Kunya Abu l-Qasim
Epithet Radi al-Din, Jamal al-'Arifin, Dhu l-Hasabayn
Well-Known As Al-Sayyid b. Tawus
Birth 589/1193
Place of Birth Hillah
Death 664/1265
Burial Place Najaf, in the holy shrine of Imam 'Ali (a)
Scholarly Information
Professors Warram b. Abi Firas al-Hilli, Ibn Nama al-Hilli, Fikhar b. Ma'd al-Musawi
Students Sadid al-Din al-Hilli, al-'Allama al-Hilli, al-Hasan b. Dawud al-Hilli
Works Al-Luhuf 'ala qatla l-tufuf, al-Iqbal li-salih al-a'mal, Muhaj al-da'awat wa manhaj al-'ibadat

Al-Sayyid Raḍī al-Dīn, ʿAlī b. Mūsā b. Jaʿfar b. Ṭāwūs (Arabic: السید رضي الدین، علي بن موسی بن جعفر بن طاووس) (b. 589/1193 - d. 664/1265) famously known as al-Sayyid b. Ṭāwūs, was a great Shi'a scholar, author of al-Luhuf, Naqib of Shi'a during the reign of Mughul over Baghdad. Due to his great ethical traits, his piety and constant attention to his deeds, his spiritual experiences and his acts of wonder, he was famous as Jamal al-'Arifin (beauty of the mystics).

Sayyid b. Tawus was interested in moral and spiritual issues more than anything else and most of his writings were on such topics, such as Misbah al-mutahajjid, Muhasaba al-nafs, Iqbal al-a'mal and Kashf al-mahajja. Sayyid b. Tawus's works greatly influenced on Shi'a culture and thought. Great scholars such as al-'Allama al-Hilli and al-Shaykh Yusuf Sadid al-Din (father of ‘Allama Hilli) were his students.


Abu l-Qasim 'Ali b. Musa b. Ja'far b. Muhammad b. Tawus al-Hilli, also known as Radi al-Din. He was from Tawus Family, which its generation reached to Imam al-Hasan (a), thus he was know as "Sayyid b. Tawus". he was born on Thursday, Muharram 15, 589/1193 in Hillah, Iraq.[1]

He was called "Dhu l-Hasbayn" (having two noble sides of birth), because on the one hand, his lineage reached Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a), and on the other hand, his great grandfather was Dawud b. Al-Hasan al-Muthanna, the grandson of Imam al-Sajjadss (a) daughter and thus a descendant of Imam al-Husayn (a). So, he was mentioned among Sayyids of Hasani-Husayni who had two noble sides of birth.

His father, Musa b. Ja'far was one of the great hadith narrators who had written the narrations he had found in pieces of paper, which were then collected and gathered by his child and published them as Firqat al-nazir wa bahjat al-khatir mimma Rawah walidi Musa b. Ja'far. His mother was the daughter of Warram b. Abi Firas, one of the great Shia scholars.[2] Also, his father's mother was a descendant of al-Shaykh al-Tusi and thus, Sayyid b. Tawus called Ibn Abi Firas and al-Shaykh al-Tusi, his grandfathers.[3]

His brother Ahmad b. Tawus was among the scholars of his time and after Sayyid b. Tawus, he became the leader of Shi'a.


Al-Sayyid b. Tawus started his education in Hillah, learning the first levels of science from his father and his grandfather, Warram b. Abi Firas.

As he narrates in his book, Kashf al-mahajja, he quickly excelled in his class: "When I entered class, I learned all that the rest had learned in a couple of years in just one year."

He studied fiqh for two and a half years, but believing that he does not need an instructor anymore, he studied the rest of the jurisprudential books of his time on his own.



His Social and Political Life

His Travel to Kadhimiya and Baghdad

His first journey was from Hillah to Kadhimiya. According to some reports, he made this journey to escape from the proposal of marriage with daughter of Nasir al-Din Nasir b. Mahdi, minister of the caliph Nasir al-'Abbasi which was suggested by Sayyid's parents. Sayyid mentioned the reason for his refusal, his fear for being trapped in this world. However, after a while staying in Kadhimiya, he accepted the marriage and went to Baghdad and stayed there for 15 years. The exact date of his travel to Baghdad is not known. According to a report, he was in Baghdad in 602/1205-06 and according to other reports, his journey to Baghdad must be around 620/1223.

Sayyid's Relationship with Abbasid Caliphate

During his stay in Baghdad, Sayyid was friend with Ibn al-'Alqami, the famous minister of Abbasids who was Shi'a and was respected by the caliph al-Mustansir Billah al-Abbasi and the caliph gave him a house in Baghdad.

That time, the Abbasid caliph gave Sayyid offers for taking over some government responsibilities, but Ibn Tawus rejected them. He said that he was offered the position to give public rulings, leadership of Sayyids and even ministry and companionship of the caliph, which he rejected them.

Ibn Tawus's Relation with Mongols

The last journey of Ibn Tawus was to Baghdad in 652/1254-55, when Hulagu Khan invaded Baghdad. Baghdad was taken over by Mongols in 656/1258 and they made a great massacre in the city, but Sayyid b. Tawus had a safe-conduct from Hulagu Khan and apparently, he had received it following the request of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. However, using the safe-conduct from Hulagu Khan, Sayyid took 1000 people of Iraq with himself to Hillah and saved their lives.

Contrary to the approach of dissention toward Abbasid caliphate, Sayyid b. Tawus cooperated with the government of Mongols so that when Hulagu Khan gathered Muslim scholars in Baghdad and asked them if a just king was better or a Muslim but tyrant king, Sayyid b. Tawus said that a just king was better.


Al-Sayyid b. Tawus accepted the position of niqaba in the reign of Hulagu Khan, although he always rejected it under the Abbasid caliphate.[5] He had this position for four years till his demise.

His Thoughts

Sayyid b. Tawus was interested in spiritual issues more than anything and most of his writings were about such issues. A great collection of Shi'a supplications has been remained in his works.


Some writers have discussed about Sayyid's determinism and his emphasis on it, they found in his works. Believing in Istikhara and his frequent use of it in his personal life, writing astronomical books, great number of his works on supplications (which are a way to change destiny by God) are among the evidences for this claim. Based on this idea, historical reports of Ibn Tawus have a color of determinism as in his Luhuf, Ibn Tawus emphasized on Imam al-Husayn's (a) information about the time and the way of his martyrdom and predetermined result of his uprising.


Sayyid's inclination toward writing hadith collections on the one hand, and his negligence about kalam and fiqh on the other hand are a sign of an inclination which reached its peak with Akhbaris.

Ibn Tawus worked less on fiqh and refused to give rulings. He said that his refusal from answering questions on fiqh was because of disagreements among Shi'a scholars about issues on fiqh and his fear about giving an opinion which would be erroneous or out of personal desires. He only had two books on fiqh which are about the rulings on daily prayers. According to Etan Kohlberg, that these books are about a topic related with a faithful heart is the result of Sayyid’s inclination and interest in spiritual issues.

Ibn Tawus did not like kalam either and especially opposed Mu'tazilite thoughts. According to Ibn Tawus, there is no need for complexities made of kalam to reach the knowledge about God. He considered the knowledge about God as the result of divine inspiration and a natural issue, not acquired through intellect and kalam.

Interest in Mysticism and Keeping Away from People

Based on the writings of Ibn Tawus, some writers introduced him an unsociable person who was interested in ascesis and mysticism and considered associating with people a cause of drawing far from God. He advised his son not to associate with people and regarded it a cause of drawing far from God.

One of his opinions which showed his unsociability and ascesis was his special belief on enjoining to the good and prohibiting the evil which he believed it necessary to exist only in one's heart.


Falah al-sa'il
Muhaj al-da'awat
Jamal al-usbu'

Ibn Tawus has more than fifty books, most of which are about supplication and pilgrimage (ziyarah). He had a rich library with approximately 1500 books, which he used for his authoring.

Printed Works:

Manuscripts: Ibn Tawus's works which are available in his handwriting:

  • Rabi' al-Shi'a, Waziri library, Yazd
  • Misbah al-za'ir, Astan-i Quds library
  • Ilzam al-nawasib bi-imamat 'Ali b. Abi Talib, Milli library
  • Al-Hujja, Astan-i Quds library
  • Muntakhabat asrar al-salat, Shawra-yi Milli library
  • Turaf min al-anba' wa al-manaqib, Markazi library of Tehran University
  • Falah al-sa'il wa najah al-masa'il, Markazi library of Tehran University
  • Al-Ibana fi ma'rifat al-kutub al-khazana,
  • Asrar al-salat
  • Al-Sa'adat al-'ibadat
  • Farhat al-nazir wa bahjat al-khawatir
  • A commentary on Nahj al-balagha
  • Al-Masra' al-shin fi qatl al-Husayn (a)
  • Al-Mazar[6]


Finally, al-Sayyid b. Tawus went back to his birthplace, where he lived for the rest of his life. He died on Monday, the fifth of Dhu al-Qa'da 664/1265, at the age of 75. In respect to his will, his body was taken to Najaf, and buried in Amir al-Muminin's shrine.

In the Opinion of Other Great Scholars

Al-'Allama al-Hilli (d. 726/1326) says, "al-Sayyid b. Tawus had some acts of wonder which he had told me himself, and also father narrated some of them for me."

Al-'Allama al-Majlisi says, "al-Sayyid b. Tawus was naqib, authentic, devout, and the beauty of the mystics (Jamal al-'Arifin)." [7]

Muhaddith Qumi says, "al-Sayyid Radi al-Din was honorable, pious, devout, beatitude, the leader of the mystics, the light of the vigil, had many acts of wonder."[8]


  1. Al-Kammuna al-Husayni, 'Abd al-Razzaq, Mawarid al-ithaf, Vol. 1. P. 107-108.
  2. Khwansari, Muhammad baqir, Rawdat al-jannat, Vol. 4. P. 325
  3. Shahidi Gulpaygani, Muhammad Baqir. Rahnama-ye sa'adat. P. 14
  4. Agha Buzurg, Tihrani. Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a. P. 117.
  5. Ibn 'Inaba, al-Fusul al-fakhriyya, P. 131-132
  6. Kohlberg, A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work: Ibn Tawus and His Library, pp. 50-111
  7. Al-Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir. Bihar al-anwar. Vol. 107. P. 63-64.
  8. Qummi, 'Abbas, al-Fawa'id al-Radawiyya, Vol. 1. P. 542.


  • The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from علی بن موسی بن جعفر بن طاووس in Farsi wikishia.
  • Agha Buzurg, Tihrani. Tabaqat a'lam al-Shi'a. Beirut, 1972.
  • Ibn 'Inaba. Al-Fusul al-fakhriyya. Tehran: 'Ilmi wa Farhangi, 1363 Sh.
  • Kammuna al-Husayni, 'Abd al-Razzaq al-. Mawarid al-ithaf. Njaf: Nashr al-Adab. 1388 AH.
  • Khwansari, Muhammad baqir. Rawdat al-jannat.
  • Kohlberg, Etan. A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work: Ibn Tawus and His Library. Tr. 'Ali Qara'i and Rasul Ja'faiyan. Qom: Kitabkhana-yi Ayatollah Mar'ashi Najafi.
  • Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir al-. Bihar al-anwar. Beirut: Mu'asissat al-Wafa, 1403 AH.
  • Qumi, 'Abbas. Al-Fawa'id al-Radawiyya. Qom: Bustan-i Kitab, 1385 Sh.
  • Qumi, 'Abbas. Al-Kuna wa l-alqab. Najaf: Nashr Haydariyya, 1389 AH.
  • Sayyid b. Tawus, 'Ali b. Musa al-. Kashf al-mahajja. Tr. Asad Allah Mubashshiri. Tehran: Farhang-i Islami, 1368 Sh.
  • Shahidi Gulpaygani, Muhammad Baqir. Rahnama-yi sa'adat. Tehran: Sa'di, 1382 AH.