Al-Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari

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تمبر بزرگداشت شیخ مرتضی انصاری.jpg
The commemorative stamp depicting al-Shaykh al-Ansari
Personal Information
Full Name Murtada b. Muhammad Amin al-Ansari al-Dizfuli
Epithet Khatam al-fuqaha wa al-mujtahidin
Well-Known As Al-Shaykh al-Ansari, al-Shaykh al-A'zam
Lineage A descendant of Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari
Birth 1214/1800
Place of Birth Dezful
Studied in Dezful, Najaf
Death 1281/1864
Burial Place Holy Shrine of Imam 'Ali (a), Najaf
Scholarly Information
Professors Al-Shaykh Husayn al-Ansari, al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Mujahid, Mulla Ahmad Naraqi, ...
Students Muhammad Hasan al-Shirazi, Ja'far Shushtari, Habib Allah Rashti, al-Sayyid Husayn Kuhkamara'i, ...
Works Fara'id al-usul, Al-Makasib al-Muharrama, ...
Scholarly
Activities
His innovations moved usul and fiqh to a new level

Al-Shaykh Murtaḍā b. Muḥammad Amin al-Anṣārī (Arabic: الشیخ مرتضی الأنصاري) (b. 1214/1800 - d. 1281/1864) known as al-Shaykh al-Ansari and al-Shyakh al-A'zam was a notable Shi'a scholar in the 13th/19th century. After Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi he became the general marja' of Shi'as.

He was titled "Khatam al-fuqaha wa al-mujtahidin" (the seal of jurists and mujtahids). He was famous for being accurate and having profound thoughts. He moved usul and consequently fiqh, to a new phase by means of his new doctrines. His famous books, al-Rasa'il and al-Makasib, are taught to seminary students of usul and fiqh. Most of scholars after him, are his followers. After al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, al-'Allama al-Hilli, and al-Shahid al-Awwal, al-Shaykh al-Ansari is the only one whose books were taken into considerations so highly that religious scholars wrote many commentaries and glosses on his books.

Many stories are written about his God wariness and asceticism. He passed away and is buried in Najaf.

Birth and Lineage

Murtada, the son of Muhammad Amin, was born in Eid al-Ghadir, Dhu l-Hijja 18, 1214/May 13, 1800 in Dezful, Iran. Because day of birth, his parents named him Murtada. His lineage goes back to Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari, who was a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (s).

Muhammad Amin (d. 1248/1832), Murtada's father, was one of the pious scholars. His mother was the daughter of Shaykh Ya'qub, the son of Shaykh Ahmad b. Shams al-Din al-Ansari. She was well-known for her worship and piety; she continued her midnight prayer until her demise. When she became blind, al-Shaykh al-Ansari helped her, so she would be able to perform her prayers.

Before the birth of al-Shaykh al-Ansari, her mother had a dream in which Imam al-Sadiq (a) gave a gilded Qur'an to her. Oneirocritics told her about a pious and renowned child. It's said, she always tried to suckle him with wudu. She passed away in 1279/1862 in Najaf.

Education

al-Shaykh al-Ansari started learning theology and Qur'an in his childho. After learning Arabic literature and Qur'an, he started learning fiqh and usul from his cousin, al-Shaykh Husayn al-Ansari; he became an expert in both in his young ages. When he was about 20 years old, al-Shaykh al-Ansari and his father traveled to Iraq. Al-'Allama al-Mujahid asked him to stay in Karbala, so he accepted it.

He attended classes of al-'Allama al-Mujahid and Sharif al-'Ulama' and learned a great deal of knowledge from them for four years. After the governor of Baghdad attacked Karbala, he immigrated to Iran. After a year, he came back to Karbala and continued learning from his teachers. Then he moved to Najaf and stayed there to learn from al-Shaykh Musa Kashif al-Ghita'. Later he moved to Iran.

In Iran, at first he went to Kashan to learn from Mulla Ahmad Naraqi for three or four years. In that time he visited Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Shafti in Isfahan. Finally, al-Shaykh al-Ansari went to Najaf to study under al-Shaykh 'Ali Kashif al-Ghita' in 1249/1833-4. He learned a great deal of knowledge from grand Muslim scholars in his lifetime.

Teachers

al-Shaykh al-Ansari learned from different teachers including:

Students

The number of students who learned from al-Shaykh al-Ansari is uncertain; it's said they were between 500 to 3000 students, including:

Marja'iyya

After al-Shaykh 'Ali Kashif al-Ghita', al-Shaykh Hasan Kashif al-Ghita' and al-Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi, al-Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari became the head of Najaf seminary from 1266/1849 to 1281/1864.

Al-Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi was the general marja' (religious authority) of Shi'a from 1262/1845. In 1266/1849, in the last days of his life in a gathering of Shi'a scholars, while pointing at al-Shaykh al-Ansari, he said: "He is your marja' after me".

Scientific Innovations

Al-Shaykh al-Ansari was mostly famous for his new doctrines in fiqh and usul, which moved them both to a new phase by means of al-Shaykh al-Ansari's analysis and accuracy.

Ethical Characteristics and God-Wariness

Al-Shaykh al-Ansari was not only well-educated in fiqh and usul, he was also a knowledgeable figure in ethics and 'irfan. He was well-known for his modesty and cautiousness.

Refusing Marja'iyya

It's said, after al-Sayyid Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi named him his successor in marja'iyya, he refused to accept it and said Sa'id al-'Ulama' is currently the superior to me. Thus, al-Shaykh al-Ansari wrote a letter to him and informed him about his marja'iyya. Sa'id al-'Ulama' replied and mentioned al-Shaykh al-Ansari's activities in the domain of knowledge and his superiority. Finally al-Shaykh al-Ansari accepted marja'iyya.

Reverence to Mother

When al-Shaykh al-Ansari returned to Iran from Iraq, he decided to travel to different cities in order to learn from other scholars. But because his mother had missed him, she did not allow al-Shaykh al-Ansari to continue his travels. Therefore, al-Shaykh al-Ansari delayed his travels to honor his mother's request. His mother decided to do istikhara from Qur'an; here is the verse:

We revealed to Moses' mother, [saying], 'Nurse him; then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river, and do not fear or grieve, for We will restore him to you and make him one of the apostles.' (Quran 28:7)

Afterward, her heart found rest and she let her son to go on his travels.

Asceticism

Although al-Shaykh al-Ansari was the general marja' of Shi'a Muslims and around 40 millions people paid their khums and zakat to him, he had a simple, ascetic and humble life, he spent all of the money for Islamic seminary and helping the poor. Many stories are narrated about his austere life.

He did not leave any bequest to his family, so his relatives were unable to pay for his funeral ceremonies expenses. At last an affluent person accepted to pay for the funeral ceremonies.

Works

Demise

Shaykh Murtada Ansari passed away on Jumada II 18, 1281 (November 18, 1864) in Najaf and he is buried in the Shrine of Imam 'Ali (a).

References