Al-Shaykh al-Mufid

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شیخ مفید.jpg
The tomb of al-Shaykh al-Mufid in Kadhimiya
Personal Information
Full Name Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Nu'man
Kunya Abu 'Abd Allah
Epithet Al-'Ukbari, al-Baghdadi, Ibn al-Mu'allim
Well-Known As Al-Shaykh al-Mufid
Birth 336/948 or 338/950
Residence Baghdad
Studied in Baghdad
Death 413/1022
Burial Place Shrine of Kazimayn, Samarra
Scholarly Information
Professors Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Ibn al-Junayd al-Iskafi, ...
Students Al-Shaykh al-Tusi, al-Sharif al-Radi, al-Sharif al-Murtada, al-Najashi, Sallar al-Daylai, ...
Works Al-Irshad, al-Muqni'a, Awa'il al-maqalat, ...
Scholarly
Activities
Foundation of a new approach in fiqh, defending Shi'a beliefs in debates with the scholars of other sects,
Socio-Political Activities
Socio-Political
Activities
Head of Shi'a

Abu ʿAbd Allāh, Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. al-Nuʿmān al-ʿUkbarī al-Baghdādī (Arabic: محمد بن محمد بن نُعمان العُکبَري البغدادي) (b. 336/948 or 338/950 - d. 413/1022) known as al-Shaykh al-Mufid (Arabic: الشيخ المفيد) was among the greatest Twelver Shi'a scholars of the second half of 4th/10th century and early 5th/11th century. He was among great revivers of Islamic sciences and among the hardworking preachers of Shi'a culture and Imamiyya fiqh.

Before al-Shaykh al-Mufid, following the appearance of hadiths was very common and using intellect and rational approach for drawing out religious rulings was not very popular and this had made an obstacle on the way of development of sciences and the progress of scholars. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid stood against the dominant stagnation and by compiling the principles of fiqh, founded a new fiqh in practice. This approach in ijtihad was a middle way between hadith approach of al-Shaykh al-Saduq and the comparative approach of Ibn al-Junayd in fiqh. At the beginning, al-Shaykh compiled some principles in al-Tadhkira bi-usul al-fiqh for drawing out the rulings, and al-Sayyid al-Murtada in his al-Dhari'a and al-Shaykh al-Tusi in 'Uddat al-usul followed al-Shaykh al-Mufid's initiative. However, al-Shaykh himself received the inspiration for this approach from Ibn Abi 'Aqil al-'Ummani.

For his al-I'lam fi ma Ittafaqat al-Imamiyya 'alayh min al-ahkam, al-Shaykh has been regarded as the founder of comparative fiqh, whose work was complemented and promoted by al-Sayyid al-Murtada's al-Dhari'a, al-Shaykh Tusi's al-Khilaf and al-'Allama al-Hilli's Tadhkirat al-fuqaha.

Birth and Childhood

Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Nu'man b. 'Abd al-Salam b. Jabir b. Nu'man was born on Dhu l-Qa'da 11, 336/948 or 338/950 in 'Ukbara, a small town to the north of Baghdad, from where he migrated to Baghdad with his family at an early age. Muhammad's father was a teacher, and thus he became also known as Ibn al-Mu'allim ("Son of Teacher").

In his childhood, Muhammad went to Baghdad with his father and began learning knowledge under great scholars of theology such as Abu 'Abd Allah al-Husayn b. Ali al-Basri known as Ju'al among the great teachers of Mu'tazilites of his time, who was famous in fiqh and theology and Abu Yasir, student of the famous scholar of theology, Abu al-Jaysh Muzaffar b. Muhammad al-Khurasani al-Balkhi who was apparently called al-Tahir. Following the advice of Abu Yasir, Muhammad attended the class of 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Rummani, the famous Mu'tazilite scholar. After a debate between Muhammad and al-Rummani, when Muhammad won the debate, in a letter, al-Rummani recommended him to Abu 'Abd Allah al-Ju'al and titled him as "al-Mufid".

According to reports, al-Mufid narrated hadiths since the age of five by permission.

As the Head of Shi'a

About the age of forty, he became the leader of Shi'a in fiqh, theology, and hadith and in defense of Shi'a, debated scholars of other sects.

The life of al-Shaykh al-Mufid was full of ups and downs, so that he was exiled from Baghdad three times in 392/1001-2 or 393/1002-3, 398/1007-8, and 409/1018-19. However, he had a high position before caliphs and his high influence in the society at his time can be understood from cursing him by Sunni biographers, especially al-Khatib al-Baghdadi. From his statement, it can be understood that many people became Shi'a because of him and this made disputant angry.

In religious conflicts of the time of al-Shaykh al-Mufid, Shi'a-resident areas of Baghdad such as Karkh and Bab al-Taq many times caught huge fires. In 361/971-2 (or 362/972-3), during the rule of 'Izz al-Dawla, due to bigotry of Hajib Sabuktagin, revolt and chaos erupted in Iraq and grew every day. At that time, Abu al-Fadl, the minister of 'Izz al-Dawla ordered to burn Karkh. Karkh was an important part of Baghdad, its Shi'a-resident area and the biggest commercial center of Abbasids. In that accident, many people were burnt. In 363/973-4, Karkh caught fire once again after religious struggles. Toward the last years of al-Shaykh al-Mufid's life, in 408/1017-18, al-Qadir, the Abasid caliph, supported by Mahmud of Ghazni, killed, exiled, and imprisoned many opposing religious groups including – according to Sunni historians –Rafidis. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid was the leader of Twelver Shi'a at such a difficult time.

Personal Traits

Al-Mufid had great spiritual states. His charity works were many. He had a nice humble manner. Prayed a lot, fasted, and worn harsh clothes, so that he was even called Shaykh Mashayikh al-Sufiyya (the master of the masters of Sufis).

Abu Ya'la al-Ja'fari, al-Shaykh al-Mufid's son-in-law, said, "he did not sleep but a part of night and then got up and prayed, studied, taught, or recited the Qur'an."

His appearance has been described as: a person who was thin with average height and tawny skin.

Scholarly Position

It is reported that he memorized all the works of Shi'a's opponents so that he could answer their questions. In his house, sessions were held that all scholars of different sects attended and al-Shaykh al-Mufid discussed with all of them. His wit, power in repartee, intelligence, quickness, perspicacity, great knowledge, sweet tongue, and his patience against enemies helped him debate scholars of different sects such as Mu'tazilite, Mujbira, Zaydiyya, Isma'iliyya, etc.

In al-Fihrist, al-Shaykh al-Tusi says, "Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Nu'man al-Mufid, whose kunya was Abu 'Abd Allah was known as Ibn al-Mu'allim was among Twelver Shi'a theologians who became their leader at his time and was a pioneer in knowledge and theology at his time and was also a pioneer in fiqh. He had a good mental power, quick insight, and witty, who had about 200 minor and major works."

Under Ibn al-Mu'allim, Ibn al-Nadim wrote that, "Abu 'Abd Allah has become the leader of Shi'a theologians in our time. He is ahead of his companions in other sects in theology. He is quick in understanding and has a sharp insight. I have seen him and found him matchless."

He also wrote, "Ibn al-Mu'allim, Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad b. Muhammad b. al-Nu'man has become the leader of his companions and Shi'a in fiqh and theology in our time."

Establishing a New Approach in Fiqh

In Tarikh fiqh wa fuqaha, al-Gurji wrote, "Before al-Shaykh al-Mufid, fiqh was not common among Shi'a scholars like now, but hadiths in fiqh which were narrated from Imams (a) were mentioned in books with their exact chain of reference and fiqh scholars did not make any modifications in the text of hadiths and even in narrating hadiths mentioned their chains of reference as well. Later, this method were little improved and fiqh scholars tried to mention their ideas in the extents of the hadiths and issue fatwa according to the justification and the subject. Al-Shara'i' written by Ibn Babawayh, and al-Shaykh al-Saduq's al-Muqni' and al-Hidaya were written using the mentioned approach. In this period, referring to the appearance of hadiths increased and benefiting from rationality was not very popular and this had made an obstacle on the way of the progress of sciences and scholars. After al-Shaykh al-Mufid, this serious obstacle was removed from the way of Shi'a scholars.

By his great knowledge, al-Shaykh al-Mufid stood against the dominant stagnation and established a new approach in fiqh based on regular principles and later his students, al-Sayyid al-Murtada and al-Shaykh al-Tusi continued his way. This approach in ijtihad, was a middle way between the approach of al-Shaykh al-Saduq in hadith and the analogical approach of Ibn al-Junayd in fiqh. He first compiled al-Tadhkira bi-usul al-fiqh for drawing out the rulings; then, al-Sayyid al-Murtada in al-Dhari'a and al-Shaykh al-Tusi in 'Uddat al-usul followed this initiative; while, al-Shaykh al-Mufid himself was inspired by, Ibn Abi 'Aqil al-Ummani, for this approach.

In his ijtihad approach, al-Shaykh al-Mufid regarded intellect very important and considered it one of the ways to reach an understanding of the concepts in the Book and the Tradition and even believed that if a hadith has contradiction with the rules of intellect, it cannot be accepted. With the same solidity he against hadith approach, al-Shaykh al-Mufid also stood against those who took analogy as the factor for drawing out rulings and criticized his teacher, Ibn al-Junayd openly but respectfully, for his approach and rejected it with powerful reasoning. He also wrote books in rejection of Ibn al-Junayd's works, including Naqd risalat al-Junaydi ila ahl Misr and al-Naqd 'ala Ibn al-Junayd fi ijtihad al-ra'y. He wrote about it,

"About the books of Abu Ali Ibn al-Junayd; he mixed some rulings in them and there, he acted upon his own conjecture and has used inappropriate method of our opponents, which is analogical deduction and this way, he has mixed narrated issues from immaculate Imams (a) and his own opinions and has not separated them from each other; while even if he did separate them, still his works could not be referred to, because for narrating hadiths, he has not sufficed to frequent ones and had also relied some solitary reports."

Therefore, al-Shaykh al-Mufid rejected fiqh based on the appearance of hadith and also the approach based on personal opinion and analogy and established a third approach in fiqh. In this method of ijtihad, al-Shaykh al-Mufid made a conclusion out of conflicting reports and avoided using of solitary reports void of evidences of authenticity and through compilation of the principles of fiqh, in practice founded a new fiqh.

Participation in Scholarly Debates

Since al-Shaykh al-Mufid was living in an age when great scholars of different Islamic sects were living in Baghdad, the center of the Islamic government at that time, and gatherings of scholarly talks and discussion were common among them and such debates were mostly held before caliphs, naturally al-Shaykh al-Mufid attended there to defend Shi'a theological principles and debated with disputants and answered their questions. These discussions were always held in a manner that they could remove the hate and enmity from the hearts of disputants, so that when al-Shaykh al-Mufid passed away, people of Baghdad including his followers and opponents were extremely sad and showed this sadness in their great participation in his funeral.

Regarding the social position of al-Shaykh al-Mufid among different Islamic sects, the opinions in fiqh and theology would be mentioned and thus naturally compared with each other and anyone who had an opinion would bring his justifications to convince others. In such an atmosphere, al-Shaykh al-Mufid showed a great role relying on Shia's stable principles and wrote the valuable book al-I'lam bi-ma ittafaqat 'alayh al-Imamiyya min al-ahkam in this regard and in fact, established the foundation of comparative fiqh. Later, this foundation was completed and promoted by Sayyid al-Murtada's al-Intisar, al-Shaykh al-Tusi's al-Khilaf and 'Allama's Tadhkirat al-fuqaha.

In the introduction to al-I'lam, al-Shaykh wrote that,

"Now, I have collected fiqh rulings agreed by Imamiyya and agreed-upon fiqh rulings of Sunnis or their sects whose opinion is different from Imamiyya's, in order to be added to the beginning of Awa'il al-maqalat fi l-madhahib wa l-mukhtarat and no one has preceded me in this."

Al-Shaykh al-Mufid was among great revivers of Islamic sciences and hard-working promoters of Shia culture and Imamiyya fiqh.

Teachers

Al-Mufid started his education in Baghdad by the time he was 11. According to A'yan al-Shi'a, He studied with 56 teachers, including Ibn Qulawayh (d. 367/997-8) in fiqh and hadith, and Abu l-Jaysh al-Balkhi (d. 367/997-8) in theology. Other teachers of his include,

  • Ahmad b. Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Qummi
  • Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Dawud al-Qummi
  • Ibn Babawayh
  • Muhammad b. 'Imran al-Marzbani
  • Ibn al-Junayd al-Iskafi
  • Abu Bakr Muhammad b. 'Umar al-Ji'abi
  • Al-Husayn b. 'Ali al-Ju'al al-Basri
  • 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Rummani

Students

Al-Mufid was the leading figure and spokesman of Twelver Shi'a in his time. Prominent students of his included

Works

Al-Irshad

According to al-Fihrist of al-Najashi the works of al-Shaykh al-Mufid is 175 books and treatises. Some of the most important of which are:

Demise

Al-Mufid died on the eve of Friday, Ramadan 3, 413/December 6,1022. His student al-Sharif al-Murtada led his funeral prayer, in the presence of nearly eighty thousand people, a crowd never seen before in any funeral in Baghdad.

Al-Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 460/1067) describes this event in al-Fihrist :

"The day of his death drew the largest crowd ever seen in any funeral, and both friends and foes wept uncontrollably".

Al-Mufid's tomb is located in the holy Shrine of Kazimiyan (a), near the tomb of his teacher Ibn Qulawayh.

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from شیخ مفید in Farsi WikiShia.