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Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim

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Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim
Personal Information
Full Name Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Tabataba'i al-Hakim
Birth 1306/1889
Residence Najaf
Studied in Najaf
Death 1390/1970
Burial Place Najaf
Scholarly Information
Professors Akhund Muhammad Kazim Khurasani, Diya' al-Din 'Iraqi, Sayyid Muhammad Sa'id Habbubi etc.
Students Sayyid 'Ali Husayni Sistani, Sayyid Jalal al-Din Ashtiyani, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr, Sayyid Mustafa Khomeini etc.
Works Haqa'iq al-usul, Mustamsak al-'urwat al-wuthqa etc.
Socio-Political Activities
Building mosques, Husayniyyas and libraries, supporting Muslims in the world, opposition to communism in Iraq etc.

Al-Sayyid Muḥsin al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī al-Ḥakīm (Arabic: السید محسن الطباطبائي الحکیم) (b. 1306/1889 - d. 1390/1970) was a Shiite authority or marja' in the 14th/20th century from Iraq who lived in Najaf. After the death of Ayatollah Burujirdi, he was considered as a prominent Shiite authority. As part of his campaigns against communism in Iraq, he announced the prohibition of membership in the communist party, and in order to develop religious activities, he established Jama'at al-'Ulama' fi l-Najaf al-Ashraf (The Association of Scholars in Najaf). When he was young, Hakim was the commander of some Iraqis during World War I defending the Ottoman government. One of his significant enterprises was the establishment of several libraries around the world. His most important work in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) was Mustamsak al-'urwat al-wuthqa which has been a focus of attention of scholars in Shiite seminary schools.

Some of Sayyid Muhsin Hakim's children were imprisoned and killed by the Ba'th regime in Iraq. His most famous son was Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim who was martyred in 1424/2003 in a terrorist attack in Najaf.

Biography and Education

Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim was born in Najaf on Eid al-Fitr, 1306/May 31, 1889 in a very well-known household in Iraq. His father, Mahdi b. Salih al-Tabataba'i l-Najafi, known as al-Sayyid Mahdi al-Hakim, was a religious scholar. Al-Hakim was 6 years old when his father passed away, and his elder brother, al-Sayyid Mahmud, took care of him.

When he was 7 years old, al-Hakim started learning the recitation (qara'a) of the Qur'an, basic writing and reading skills, and when he was 9 years old, he started learning Islamic disciplines. He studied some preliminaries, such as Arabic literature and logics as well as some textbooks of usul al-fiqh (such as al-Qawanin and Ma'alim al-din) and some textbooks of fiqh (such as Shara'i' al-Islam and al-Lum'at al-Dimashqiyya) with his brother, al-Sayyid Mahmud, and then he started intermediate educations in Islamic disciplines with prominent scholars, such as Sadiq al-Jawahiri and Sadiq al-Bihbahani.


In 1327/1909, al-Hakim started advanced educations in Islamic disciplines (known as the "kharij" level). He studied fiqh, usul al-fiqh and 'ilm al-rijal with prominent scholars, such as Akhund Muhammad Kazim Khurasani, Diya' al-Din 'Iraqi, Shaykh 'Ali Jawahiri, Muhammad Husayn Na'ini and Sayyid Abu Turab Khwansari, and became a mujtahid. He attended the ethical lectures and sermons of Sayyid Muhammad Sa'id Habbubi, Baqir Qamusi, Sayyid 'Ali Qadi and Shaykh 'Ali Qumi.


Al-Hakim started teaching the intermediate level of Shiite seminary school since 1333/1914 and the advanced level (kharij) of fiqh and usul al-fiqh since 1337/1918. He taught many students in more than 50 years of teaching. Here are some prominent students of his:

  • Muhammad Taqi Al Faqih, a famous Lebanese scholar (d. 1999)
  • Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Bahr al-'Ulum
  • Sayyid Muhammad Musawi Bujnurdi
  • Sayyid Hashim Rasuli Mahallati
  • Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani
  • Sayyid Husayn Makki 'Amili
  • Nasir Makarim Shirazi
  • Husayn Wahid Khurasani
  • Muhammad Hadi Ma'rifat
  • Muhammad Jawad Mughniya
  • Muhammad Taqi Ja'fari
  • Al-Sayyid Yusuf al-Hakim
  • Sayyid Asad Allah Madani
  • Sayyid Hasan Khursan
  • Al-Sayyid Sa'id al-Hakim
  • Sayyid Musa Sadr
  • Nasr Allah Shabistari
  • Ahmad Kafi

Scholarly Works

Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim wrote over 40 works, some of which are monographs and some are commentaries or annotations on works by other scholars:

  • Nahj al-fiqaha, which is a commentary on al-Makasib ,
  • Manahij al-nasikin concerning a detailed elaboration of the hajj rituals,
  • Al-Masa'il al-diniyya,
  • Risala fi irth al-zawja (an essay concerning the inheritance of a wife from her husband),
  • Minhaj al-Salihin, which is Hakim's essay of fatwas regarding different parts of fiqh.

Period of Marja'iyya (Shiite Authority)

When Muhammad Husayn Na'ini died in 1355/1936, some of his followers (muqallids) consulted al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim as their marja', and when Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Isfahani died in 1365/1946, Hakim's marja'iyya or authority among Shiites became established, and when Ayatollah Burujirdi died 1381/1961, Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim became a marja' of all, that is, almost all Shiites became his followers (or muqallids).

Cultural and Social Activities

Here are some of al-Hakim's cultural and social activities:

  • The construction or reconstruction and repairing of tens of mosques, Husayniyyas, and cultural buildings.
  • The establishment of a public library in Najaf under "Maktaba Ayatollah al-Hakim al-'Amma" (The Public Library of Ayatollah Hakim), and then the establishment of other branches of this library in some other cities of Iraq as well as in countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Bahrain, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and India.
  • Financial and spiritual support of periodicals such as al-Adwa', Risalat al-Islam, al-Najaf, al-Iman, al-Thaqafa al-Islamiyya, and a series of books and pamphlets under "Min huda al-Najaf" (From the guide of Najaf).
  • Support of writers, preachers, and poets who propagated the Islamic culture and criticized atheist, communist or deviated thoughts.
  • Sending a commission to India in order to solve disputes among scholars there.
  • Public objection to the massacre of Muslims in Pakistan.
  • Supporting the establishment of "al-Majlis al-Islami al-Shi'i al-A'la" (The Supreme Islamic Shiite Council) in Lebanon.

Activities Concerning the Organization of Shiite Seminary Schools

Here are some of al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim's activities concerning the organization of Shiite seminary schools:

  • Making plans and efforts to increase the number of religious students (tullab); under this plan, the number of students of the Shiite seminary of Najaf increased from 1200 to about 8000 ones.
  • The establishment of the school of Islamic disciplines and the enrichment of materials to be learned in Shiite seminary schools by adding courses such as philosophy, kalam, the exegesis of the Qur'an, and economics.
  • Making plans to acquaint the students of Shiite seminary schools with atheist ideas, such as Marxism, and making Shiite scholars aware of their perils and threats.
  • Decentralization of seminary schools by the establishment of seminary schools in remote cities and areas and even other countries, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and African countries.
  • Taking care of facilities, requirements and accommodations of foreign students, such as the dedication of a seminary school in Najaf to Indian students and another school to Afghan and Tibetan students.

Participation in Jihad

World War I occurred in 1332/1914. Although Shiites suffered from the cruelties of the Ottoman government, this did not discourage them from doing their duty: prominent scholars of Najaf announced an obligatory jihad against the British invaders in defense of the Ottomans, and they went to the battle fronts ahead of other people.

Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim undertook the commandership of the right front of Shu'aybiyya by the order of Sayyid Muhammad Sa'id Habbubi. He received many aids and financial supports from people and the Ottoman government. Eventually with the invasion of the British forces, Shiite armies were defeated which led to the fall of Nasiriyya.

Campaign against Communism

After a coup d'état by 'Abd al-Karim Qasim in Iraq and his overtaking the power in 1377/1958, the ground was paved for the propagation of communist ideas and many laws incompatible with the laws of shari'a were ratified.

Ayatollah Hakim objected to the ratification of such non-Islamic laws, calling Shiite scholars and preachers to make people aware of the anti-Islamic nature of those laws. Moreover, he issued two historical fatwas in 1379/1959, announcing that it is religiously forbidden to be a member of a communist party, since it amounted to the propagation of atheism. This was followed by similar fatwas by other scholars of Najaf, which finally forced 'Abd al-Karim Qasim to apologize.

Political Activities in Iraq

  • The establishment of "Jama'at al-'Ulama fi l-Najaf al-Ashraf" (The Association of Scholars in Najaf)
  • A travel to Baghdad in 1383/1963 to announce his objections to the Ba'th regime of 'Abd al-Salam 'Arif regarding the imprisoning and torturing of opposition activists
  • Objection to sectarian policies and religious discriminations
  • Objection to the ratification of the laws concerning the nationalization of some commercial companies in 1384/1964, since the law would lead to the undermining of the financial power of Shiites
  • Strong reaction to the decision of 'Arif's government to oppress the Kurds in Northern Iraq; he issued a fatwa that it is impermissible to fight the Kurds and thereby prevented their massacre.

Activities Concerning Muslims Around the World

With respect to foreign affairs, Hakim was particularly sensitive about the issues of Palestine. Against the Zionist attack on Palestine in 1387/1967, he called all Muslims to resist and mobilize their forces against Israel. He condemned the recognition of Israel by Mohammad Reza Shah's government in Iran. And when Masjid al-Aqsa (Jerusalem) was set on fire in 1389/1969, he issued a statement reminding Muslims of their religious and historical responsibilities against Zionists.

When Sayyid Qutb (a leader of Egypt's Islamic Movement) was sentenced to death by Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir's regime, Ayatollah Hakim sent a telegraph to Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir on Jumada I 6, 1386/August 23, 1966 and asked for the abolition of the sentence.

Hakim's Positions Concerning the Events in Iran

With regard to some political events in Iran, Ayatollah Hakim expressed his objections to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's decisions and acts, such as:

  • A strong reaction to the ratification of the Provincial Associations Bill
  • Expression of strong concerns about the murder of some students of Faydiyya seminary school in Qum. Hakim suggested that all Shiite scholars in Iran immigrate to seminaries in Iraq in flocks so that he could express his explicit opinion about the Iranian government. However, Imam Khomeini and other scholars of Qum did not find the suggestion helpful since they found it necessary and crucial for scholars to stay in Iran.
  • Condemnation of June, 5 1963 event (Khurdad 15, 1342 Sh), announcing that the Iranian government could not administer the country.

However, Husayn'ali Muntaziri believed that some people had given misinformation about Imam Khomayni to Ayatollah Hakim, which was why he did not assist Imam Khomayni in his revolution against the Shah of Iran.


Ayatollah Hakim had ten sons and four daughters. His sons are: Sayyid Yusuf, Sayyid Muhammad Rida, Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi, Sayyid Kazim, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir, Sayyid 'Abd al-Hadi, Sayyid 'Abd al-Sahib, Sayyid 'Ala' al-Din, Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz, and Sayyid Muhammad Husayn.


After Hasan al-Bakr's coup, the Ba'th party increased pressure on Ayatollah Hakim and tried to make him give up his struggles against the regime. During the last years of his life he underwent house arrest, and the Shiite seminary in Najaf and Shiites in Iraq faced many hardships.

Eventually Sayyid Muhsin al-Tabataba'i al-Hakim died of a disease on Rabi' I 27, 1390/June 2, 1970 in Baghdad at the age of 84. His corpse was taken from Baghdad to Karbala and from there to Najaf, and it was buried in a private grave that he had prepared for himself near his library.