Abu Ya'la al-Ja'fari

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Abu Ya'la al-Ja'fari
Personal Information
Well-Known Relativesal-Shaykh al-Mufid (father in-law)
Scholarly Information
Professorsal-Shaykh al-Mufid•al-Sharif al-Murtada

Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan b. Ḥamza (Arabic: محمد بن الحسن بن حمزه), (d. 463/1070-1), known as Abū Yaʿlā al-Jaʿfarī (أبويعلی الجعفري), was an Imamiyya scholar of fiqh and theology in Baghdad. He was a student of al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Sayyid al-Murtada, and al-Husayn b. 'Ubayd Allah al-Ghada'iri. He married al-Shaykh al-Mufid's daughter, and after the demise of al-Shaykh al-Mufid, he succeeded him and occupied his teaching position in theology and fiqh, gaining a distinguished social ranking such that people consulted him from near and far. They contancted him from such areas as Mosul, Sidon, Tripoli, and Karbala to ask about different issues. He had many students and wrote some books.

Name and Lineage

His name was Muhammad b. al-Hasan b. Hamza, and he was known as al-Ja'fari and al-Talibi because his lineage goes back to Ja'far b. Abi Talib.

Since Abu Ya'la was competent to be al-Shaykh al-Mufid's successor upon his death (that occurred in 413/1022-3) and given his own date of demise (463/1071), he should have been born in 390s/1000s.


The only thing known about Abu Ya'la's educations is that he was a student of al-Shaykh al-Mufid, al-Sharif al-Murtada, and probably al-Husayn b. 'Ubayd Allah al-Ghada'iri. He was an expert of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, and theology, as well as 'ilm al-qira'a, that is, the recitation of the Qur'an. He was so well-known in fiqh that non-Shiite biographers, such as Ibn Athir, al-Dhahabi and Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, mentioned him as "faqih al-Imamiyya", "min du'at al-Shi'a" (one of the advocates of Shiism), and "min kibar 'ulama' al-Shi'a" (one of the prominent Shiite scholars).

Social Ranking

Abu Ya'la married al-Shaykh al-Mufid's daughter and succeeded him in teaching theology and fiqh after his death. This gave him a distinguished social ranking such that people from near and far, from such areas as Mosul, Sidon, Tripoli, and Karbala, consulted him by asking questions concerning different scholarly issues. The fact that Abu Ya'la was al-Shaykh al-Mufid's successor should not count as him having absolute Imamiyya leadership in that period, because this position was occupied by al-Sayyid al-Murtada after Mufid's death.


People such as Abu l-Hasan Sulayman b. Hasan al-Sahrashti, Abu Talib b. Mahdi al-Silaqi, Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad b. Hibat Allah b. Ja'far al-Tarabulusi, Abu l-Hasan b. Hilal al-'Ummani, and Abu Mansur b. Ahmad are mentioned as Abu Ya'la's students.

Belief in the Creation of the Qur'an

According to al-Dhahabi, Abu Ya'la believed in the incipience (huduth) of the Qur'an and argued for it from there being verses in the Qur'an that abrogated each other, that is, Nasikh and Mansukh verses. Al-Dhahabi believes that if by incipience, Abu Ya'la means the creation of the Qur'an, then he will be a Jahmi Mu'tazilite, and if he means that the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (s), although it was not created, then there is no problem. However, Abu Ya'la's belief about the incipience of the Qur'an is not be over and above the common Imamiyya belief that the Qur'an was incipient and yet not created.


In al-Najashi's al-Rijal, and other sources, Abu Ya'la's death is said to be 463/1070-1, but given al-Najashi's death in 450/1058-59, this date should have been added to al-Najashi's book after his death. Ibn Abi Tayy highly praised Abu Ya'la, considering him to be an Imamiyya worshipper in whose funeral many people attended. According to al-Najashi, Abu Ya'la was buried in his own house. According to Ibn Kathir, one of his children, Abu 'Ali al-Amin, was an Imamiyya faqih.


Most of Abu Ya'la's writings are in the form of replies to questions he was asked. Al-Najashi counts writings as his works, some of which are as follows:

  • Jawab al-mas'ala al-warida min Sayda' .
  • Al-Mas'ala fi anna l-fa'al ghayr hadhih al-jumla (a question concerning that the agent of actions is distinct from the body). This is concerned with an old question in kalam: what is the reality of the human being and who is addressed by divine obligations of sharia? As the title shows, Abu Ya'la's view is the same as that of al-Shaykh al-Mufid and Banu Nawbakht from Shi'as, and al-Mu'ammar from Mu'tazilis. According to their view, the human's nature is something over and above his visible body, which is something immaterial, a simple substance, a soul or a spirit.
  • Al-Mas'ala fi mawlid Sahib al-Zaman (a).
  • Al-Mas'ala fi al-radd 'ala al-ghulat.
  • Al-Mas'ala fi mash 'ala al-rijlayn.
  • Al-Mas'ala fi iman aba' al-Nabi (s).
  • Al-Mas'ala fi l-'aqifa.

Ibn Shahrashub also attributed other books to Abu Ya'la none of which are mentioned in al-Najashi's al-Rijal: al-Nukat fi l-Imamiyya, Akhbar al-mukhtar, and Nuzhat al-nazir wa tanbih al-khatir.