Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri

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مزار سید نعمت الله جزایری.jpg
Burial place of al-Jaza'iri in Pol-e Dokhtar, Iran
Personal Information
Full Name al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri
Well-Known As al-Muhaddith al-Jaza'iri
Birth 1050/1640-41
Studied in Hoveyzeh • ShirazIsfahanal-'Atabat al-Muqaddasa
Death 1112/1701
Burial Place Pol-e Dokhtar, Iran
Scholarly Information
Professors Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi
Al-Hurr al-'Amili
Muhammad Baqir Sabziwari
Aqa Husayn Khwansari
Works Al-Anwar al-nu'maniyya
Anis al-wahid fi sharh al-Tawhid
Jawahir al-ghawali fi sharh 'awali al-la'ali

Al-Sayyid Niʿmat Allāh al-Jazāʾirī (Arabic: السيد نعمة الله الجزائري) (b. 1050/1640-41 d.1112/1701), known as al-Muḥaddith al-Jazāʾirī (المحدث الجزائري), was a Shiite scholar and the head of the well-known scholarly and religious household of Jaza'iri whose lineage goes back to Imam al-Kazim (a). Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah was a student of scholars such as al-'Allama al-Majlisi, Jamal al-Din Khwansari, Mulla Muhsin al-Fayd al-Kashani, and al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-'Amili. He wrote many works; in fact, he is known as a prolific author. His works include al-Anwar al-nu'maniyya, Qisas al-anbiya', and the anthology, Zahr al-rabi'. He counts as a prominent high-ranking Akhbari scholar.

Lineage and Birth

Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri was the head of the well-known household of Jaza'iri who served as religious scholars in the last three centuries in Khuzestan, and particularly in Shushtar, a city in southwest Iran. Their lineage goes book to 'Abd Allah b. Musa b. Ja'far, Imam al-Kazim (a)'s son. According to al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah himself, he was born in (1050/1640-41) in the village, Sabbaghiyya, in the district of al-Jaza'ir in Basra, located between Euphrates and Tigris.

His oldest son was Sayyid Nur al-Din to whom goes back the lineage of most Jaza'iri sadat. This is why they are also know as "Nuriyya" sadat. Some of his children and grandchildren stayed in Shushtar and some moved to India, Najaf, and other places.

Education

Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah went to school when he was 5 years old. He learned the Qur'an and many poems. He then learned Arabic grammar and literature, and then went to Hoveyzeh, a city in southwest Iran, to continue his studies.

In Shiraz

Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah went to Shiraz with his brother, al-Sayyid Najm al-Din and his cousin, al-Sayyid 'Aziz Allah. At that time, Shiraz was a center of Islamic seminaries. They stayed in Mansuriyya school. Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah stayed in Shiraz for 9 years. He learned Arabic literature, intellectual, and transmitted disciplines there. His life there ran into financial difficulties, so he had to go back to his hometown.

In Isfahan

His passion for learning Islamic disciplines led him to go to Shiraz again. However, after one month, he went to Isfahan because his father passed away and Mansuriyya school burned in fire. In Isfahan, he studied with Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (d. 1110/ 1699) for 4 years. Mirza Taqi Dawlat Abadi built a seminary near al-Shaykh al-Baha'i's bathhouse, and asked al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah to teach there. Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah taught and wrote in that school for 8 years, and helped 'Allama al-Majlisi to write and compile Bihar al-anwar.

In al-'Atabat al-Muqaddasa

Since al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah's eyesight was impaired, he went to al-'Atabat al-Muqaddasa from Kermanshah, a city in west Iran, in order to his eyes to be healed. There he met some scholars and faqihs.

In al-Jaza'ir

He then went to his hometown, al-Jaza'ir, and stayed there for 3 months. At that time, he started writing the book, Maqsud al-anam fi sharh tahdhib al-ahkam, which is an exposition of al-Shaykh al-Tusi's Tahdhib al-ahkam.

In Hoveyzeh

in 1079/1668-69, Husayn Pasha, the ruler of Basra, rebelled against Sultan Muhammad 'Uthmanlu, the Minister of Baghdad. Sultan Muhammad sent an army to Basra to quench Husayn Pasha. The ruler of Basra went to al-Jaza'ir and fought with Sultan Muhammad's army there. However, after four months of resistance, al-Jaza'ir was sieged and Pasha was defeated by the army of Baghdad. Pasha escaped to India. People of al-Jaza'ir, who were advocates of Pasha, escaped to Hoveyzeh and nearby cities. Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah was one of those who escaped to Hoveyzeh. He was welcomed there by al-Sayyid Ali b. Mawla Khalaf al-Musawi al-Fallahi (d. 1088/1677), one of Musha'sha'i sadat. Al-Sayyid Ali wrote many scholarly works such that al-Afandi claimed that many of al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah's works are adapted from al-Sayyid Ali's. Al-Sayyid Ali respected Sayyid Ni'mat Allah and had relations with him until his death.

Back to Isfahan

After some months of stay in Hoveyzeh, al-Jaza'iri departed to Isfahan, but on his way, he went to Shushtar and at the request of people there, he stayed there. The ruler of Shushtar, Fath'ali Khan, who was appointed by the Safavid dynasty (period of reign: 906-1135/1501-1736), welcomed and respected al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah and provided a housing for him near the great mosque of the city. He left all judicial and religious responsibilities of Shushtar, such as teaching Islamic disciplines, supervising the mosque, leading Friday prayer, and al-amr bi l-ma'ruf wa al-nahy 'an al-munkar (enjoining the right and prohibiting the wrong) to al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah.

Companionship with Rulers

Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah had good relations with scholars and rulers. Some people reproached him for his companionship with rulers and kings.

Teachers

Al-Jaza'iri studied with many scholars in al-Jaza'ir in Basra, Hoveyzeh, Shiraz, and Isfahan.

In Shiraz

His professors in Shiraz were more than twenty scholars, as he mentioned, some of which are:

The last three are among his hadith masters (mashayikh al-hadith) as he himself pointed them when giving permission of hadith transmission to Husayn b. Muhyi al-Din al-Jami'i al-'Amili.

In Isfahan

Students

Al-Jaza'iri had many students. His students are enumerated alphabetically by his grandson, al-Sayyid 'Abd Allah al-Jaza'iri, in his book about Shushtar and also Muhammad al-Jaza'iri in his biography of al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah.


Method of Deriving the Rulings of Religion

Modesty

Researchers agree that al-Jaza'iri's method for deriving the rulings of fiqh was neither Usuli, nor Akhbari, rather he took a modest approach or a via media. This is supported by his remarks in his various books and essays in which he made it explicit that his method is a via media similar to that of his teacher, Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi.

As he said in the introduction of Ghayat al-maram fi sharh Tahdhib al-ahkam, by a "via media" he means the belief in the reliability of the apparent meanings of the Qur'an. But unlike the method of the Usulis, it does not rely on intellectual rules and reasoning, and unlike Akhbaris such as Muhammad Amin al-Astarabadi, it does not deny any reliance on probabilistic reasoning; the reliability of the apparent meanings of the Qur'an is one case in point. Al-Jaza'iri cited Muhammad Amin al-Astarabadi's remarks in al-Fawa'id al-madaniyya and agreed with all of it, except for his rejection of the reliability of the apparent meanings of the Qur'an.

One reason that researchers considered al-Jaza'iri to be modest was that he took actions, such as drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, concerning which there is no explicit hadith, to be permissible. In such cases, Akhbaris usually take caution by considering such actions to be forbidden.

Reasons for being an Akhbari

In many other cases, however, al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri agrees with Akhbaris; for example, concerning the sources of religious legislation he only takes the Qur'an and the Sunna into account, and rejects appeals to consensus, reason and all kinds of qiyas (analogy), including "qiyas mansus al-'lla (an analogy in which the ground of similarity is made explicit) and "qiyas al-awlawiyya." Moreover, when the Sunna contradicts intellectual reasons—wether practical or theoretical principles (such as the principle that ordering something implies the prohibition of its general opposite or the principle that every general statement has exceptions), he favors the Sunna. Unlike al-'Allama al-Majlisi who did not permit taqlid (following) of a departed mujtahid, he followed Akhbaris to take it permissible.

Al-Jaza'iri seems to have a conception of the nature of the rulings of religion and the way they should be derived that is very close to that of Akhbaris (at least before a final formulation of his views in fiqh and usul al-fiqh), since for him, fiqh does not consist in general principles, rather it consists in many particular hadiths that are the only sources for deriving the rulings of fiqh. On the other hand, in order to widen the scope of hadiths and restrict the scope of intellectual reasoning, he criticized the classification of hadiths into Sahih (ones whose chains of narrations consist of reliable Imamiyyas), Hasan (ones whose chains of narrations consist of Imamiyyas who are praised but not reliable), Muwaththaq (ones whose chains of narrations consist of reliable non-Imamiyyas), and Da'if (ones whose chains of narrations consist of unreliable people). Instead, he believed that many books of hadiths, such as 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida (a) by al-Shaykh al-Saduq, al-Ihtijaj by al-Tabrisi, and al-Fiqh al-Radawi are reliable through and through.

Scholarly Works

Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah wrote many books, essays, and commentaries. He is known as a prolific author. He wrote commentaries on many works and collections of hadiths. His main target in his commentaries were sources of hadiths and he seems to target the views of Usulis. His commentaries were primarily notes he wrote on those works. The notes were then revised by him or his students. He also wrote commentaries on books such as Anwar al-tanzil by Baydawi, Qamus al-lugha by Firuz Abadi and the Four Books (al-Kutub al-Arba'a) that he had studied when he was a student and transcribed them.

Interpretation of events in religious terms

Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah wrote a book, Muskin al-shujun fi hukm al-firar min al-ta'un, in which he discussed the plague that was epidemic in Baghdad, al-Jaza'ir, and Hoveyzeh at the time. The event occurred in 1102/1690-91 in Syria, Anatolia, Iraq and, southeastern parts of Iran and left many tolls. In this book, he talked about the causes of the disease and the ways to prevent it from a religious point of view in his own peculiar terms that is worthy of reflection. His views in this regard is an instance of a religious interpretation of events, opening new possibilities in the literature on death.

Demise

Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah went to Mashhad in 1111/1699-1700 to visit Holy Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a). On his way back to Shushtar, he contracted a disease in Khorramabad and died in Pol-e Dokhtar, in west Iran, and was buried there. His mausoleum there is well-known by people. He died on Shawwal 23, 1112/April 2, 1701.

References