Al-'Allama al-Hilli

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Al-'Allama al-Hilli
Personal Information
Full NameAbu Mansur Jamal al-Din al-Hasan b. Yusuf b. Mutahhar al-Hilli
Well-Known RelativesMuhammad b. al-Hasan al-Hilli
BirthRamadan 29, 648/December 25, 1250
Studied inHillah
DeathMuharram 21, 726/December 28, 1325
Burial PlaceNajaf
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsAl-Muhaqqiq al-Hillial-Sayyid b. Tawusal-Sayyid Ahmad b. TawusNasir al-Din al-Tusi

ʾAbū Manṣūr Jamāl al-Dīn al-Ḥasan b. Yūsuf b. Muṭahhar al-Ḥillī (Arabic: ابومنصور جمال الدین الحسن ابن یوسف ابن مطهّر الحلّي) (b. 648/1250 - d. 726/1325), known as al-Allama al-Hillī (Arabic: العلامة الحلي), was a Shi'a scholar of the eighth/fourteenth century. His debates and writings caused Oljeitu (Sultan Muhammad Khudabanda) to convert to Shi'a Islam, which in turn led to the spread of Shi'a beliefs in Iran. Al-Allama al-Hilli has many works on jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, theology, philosophy, logic, supplications and other fields of Islamic studies. Because of his vast knowledge, he was the first person entitled Ayatollah.

Life and Education

Al-Allama al-Hilli was born on the eve of Friday, Ramadan 29, 648/December 25, 1250, in Hillah.[1]

He was very young when he began his education under his father's supervision, al-Shaykh Yusuf b. Mutahhar al-Hilli.[2] After being taught introductory subjects and Arabic grammar, he studied jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, science of hadith and theology under his father and his uncle, al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli. Later, he studied logic, philosophy and astronomy under various scholars, particularly Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Since he reached the level of Ijtihad before attaining maturity and achieved many other merits at a very young age, he became known in his family and scholarly circles by the name of "Jamal al-Din".[3]

Scholarly Status

After the demise of the Shi'a Marja' al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli in 676/1277-8, his students and other scholars from Hillah chose to follow al-Allama al-Hilli as their marja' at the ripe young age of twenty-eight.

Because of his vast knowledge, he was the first person entitled Ayatollah.[4] Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852/1448-9) regards al-Allama al-Hilli as "Ayat fi l-Dhaka", (a sign of intelligence).[5] Sharaf al-Din al-Shulistani, Shaykh Baha'i, and al-Allama al-Majlisi, in various certificates for their students, mentioned al-'Allama al-Hilli with the title: Ayatollah fi l-Alamin (the sign of Allah in the worlds)[6]

Arrival in Iran

The exact date of his arrival in Iran is unknown, but it was likely after 705/1305-6. He came to Iran following the invitation of Oljeitu, a king of the Ilkhanid dynasty.[7] In one meeting, he debated with scholars of the four Sunni schools, including Khwajih Nizam al-Din Abd al-Malik al-Maragha'i, and strongly refuted all of their arguments. Following this debate, the king accepted Imam Ali (a) as the rightful successor after the Prophet (s) and became a Shi'a. He then changed his name from Oljaitu to Muhammad Khuda Banda (Muhammad, the Servant of God).[8]

Al-Allama al-Hilli stayed in Iran and spread the Shi'a faith, until the king's death. He accompanied the kings in all of his journeys and - following a suggestion from the king - continued conducting his classes and scholarly discussions during these journeys in a mobile school in a tent.[9]

The Well-Known Debate

Mirza Muhammad Ali Mudarris Tabrizi quotes al-Allama al-Majlisi in his Rayhanat al-adab as writing in his Sharh man la yahduruh al-faqih:

One day, King Oljaitu Muhammad the Mogul held a meeting. He gathered Sunni scholars and invited al-Allama al-Hilli to the meeting. When al-Allama entered the meeting, he put his shoes under his arms, said hello to the king, and sat beside him. When he was asked why he did not prostrate for the king, he replied: "the Prophet (s) was the king of kings, and people said hello to him, as the Quranic verse says: "So when you enter houses, greet your people with a salutation from Allah, blessed (and) good".[10] Moreover, all of us agree that prostration should specifically be done for God.
He was then asked why he sat beside the king. He replied: "It was the only empty place I saw. There is a hadith from the Prophet (s) according to which when one enters a meeting, one should sit wherever he finds empty". They asked him: "what was the value of the shoes that made you bring it with yourself inside the king's meeting?" He replied: "I feared that Hanafis steal them, as their head stole the shoes of the Prophet (s)". The Hanafis objected that Abu Hanifa did not live at the time of the Prophet (s). Al-Allama said: "Oh, I forgot! I think the one who stole the Prophet's (s) shoes was al-Shafi'i.
Thus, the same dialogue recurred about the Shafi'is, Malikis, and Hanbalis. Al-Allama said to the king: "now it turns out that none of the heads of the Four Schools (al-Madhahib al-Arba'a) lived in the period of the Prophet (s) and thus, they made up their views. But the Shi'as follow Amir al-Mu'minin (a) who was the Prophet's (s) wasi and brother as well as his soul." Al-Allama went on to deliver an eloquent lecture. At the end of the debate, the king converted to Shiism.[11]

Al-Allama al-Hilli stayed in Iran until the death of Sultan Muhammad Khudabandi and propagated Shiite doctrines and culture. He accompanied the king during all of his travels. At his suggestion, a portable school was made of tents so that al-'Allama could teach during travels.[12]


Some of his teachers were:


Some of his students were:


Al-Allama al-Hilli wrote many works concerning various disciplines, such as jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, theology, hadith, exegesis of the Qur'an, philosophy, and logic. There is a disagreement about the number of his works. Al-Allama al-Hilli himself mentioned fifty-seven of his works in his Khulasat al-aqwal.[13]

Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin writes in his A'yan al-Shi'a: "al-'Allama's writings are over 100 books. I have seen ninety-five of his books many of which are in numerous volumes".[14] He also wrote that in the book, al-Rawdat, al-'Allama's writings are said to be over a thousand research books.[15] Mirza Muhammad Ali Mudarris mentioned 120 works by al-Allama in his Rayhanat al-adab,[16] and in the book, Gulshan-i abrar, about 110 books by al-Allama are mentioned.[17]

Well-known works of al-Allama include Mukhtalaf al-Shi'a and Tadhkira al-fuqaha concerning jurisprudence, Kashf al-murad, al-Bab al-hadi 'ashar, and Minhaj al-karama concerning theology, Khulasa al-aqwal concerning rijal, and al-Jawhar al-nadid concerning logics.

Al-Allama wrote two books concerning the principles of Shiite beliefs under Nahj al-haqq wa kashf al-sidq and Minhaj al-karama and dedicated them to Oljaitu.[18]

Meeting Imam al-Mahdi (a)

A well-known anecdote about al-Allama is his meeting with Imam al-Mahdi (a) on two occasions.

Completion of a Manuscript by Imam al-Mahdi (a)

The first anecdote is concerned with a book that al-'Allama al-Hilli borrowed from a Sunni scholar. Al-'Allama was supposed to transcribe the book until the next day. However, at midnight, he fell asleep and thus, he could not transcribe the book. At this time, Imam al-Mahdi (a) went to him and asked him to leave the book's transcription to him. When al-'Allama al-Hilli woke up in the morning, he saw a full transcribed copy of the book. The oldest source of this story is Majalis al-mu'minin by Qadi Nur Allah Shushtari. He did not cite a written source for the story, only saying that it was well-known among the Shi'as.[19]

Meeting on the Way to Karbala

The second anecdote is cited in Qisas al-'ulama by Muhammad b. Sulayman al-Tunikabuni. On his account, in one of his trips to Karbala, al-Allama al-Hilli was accompanied by a Sayyid. After having conversations with him, he found that the person was very knowledgeable. So, he asked him about some of his problems and received answers. He asked the stranger if it was possible to meet Imam al-Mahdi (a) during the Major Occultation. At this time, the whip (with which he rode his horse) fell from his hand. The stranger took the whip and gave it to al-Allama, and then answered: "How is it not possible while his hand is now in your hand?" Thus, al-Allama al-Hilli found that the stranger was Imam al-Mahdi (a), and so he kneeled in front of him.[20]

The place of His tomb in the shrine Imam Ali (a)

Al-Tunikabuni cited no sources for the story. He only cited it as a folklore anecdote which was well known among people.[21] A piece of evidence appealed by al-Tunikabuni to support the story is that in their conversations, the stranger talked about a hadith in al-Shaykh al-Tusi's Tahdhib al-ahkam of which al-'Allama was unaware. When al-'Allama went back home, he found the hadith and wrote on the margin that Imam al-Mahdi (a) attracted his attention to this hadith. Al-Tunikabuni quoted the story from a person called Mulla Safar Ali Lahiji, a student of Sayyid Muhammad Mujahid, the author of Manahil. Lahiji quoted his teacher, Sayyid Muhammad, as saying that he saw the manuscript and the note by al-Allama on its margins.[22]


After Sultan Muhammad Khudabanda passed away in 716/1316-7, al-'Allama al-Hilli returned to his hometown, Hillah. On Muharram 21, 726/December 28, 1325, he passed away at the age of seventy eight. He is buried in the shrine of Imam Ali (a) in Najaf.[23]


  1. Ḥillī, Rijāl. p. 48.
  2. Schmidtke, The theology of al-ʿallāma al-Hillī, p. 24.
  3. Gulshan-i abrār, vol. 1, p. 138
  4. Mulawī, "Āyatollāh", p. 260.
  5. Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Lisān al-mīzān, vol. 2, p. 317.
  6. Majlisi, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 1, p. 204; vol. 81, p. 107.
  7. Mustadrak al-wasa'il, vol. 2, p. 406
  8. Al-Khwansari, Muhammad Baqir, Rawdat al-jannat fi ahwal al-'ulama wa al-sadat. vol. 2. p. 279-280
  9. Khwandamir, Ḥabīb al-siyar, vol. 3, p. 197; Shūshtarī, Majālis al-muʿminīn, vol. 2, p. 360.
  10. Qur'an, 24:60.
  11. Mudarris, Rayḥānat al-adab, vol. 4, p. 169-171.
  12. Khwandamir, Ḥabīb al-siyar, vol. 3, p. 197; Shūshtarī, Majālis al-muʿminīn, vol. 2, p. 360.
  13. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 5, p. 402.
  14. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 5, p. 402.
  15. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 5, p. 402.
  16. Mudarris, Rayḥānat al-adab, vol. 4, p. 169-171.
  17. Gulshan-i abrār, vol. 1, p. 144.
  18. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 10, p. 229.
  19. Shūshtarī, Majālis al-muʿminīn, vol. 1, p. 571.
  20. Tunikābunī, Qiṣaṣ al-ʿulamāʾ, p. 883.
  21. Tunikābunī, Qiṣaṣ al-ʿulamāʾ, p. 883.
  22. Tunikābunī, Qiṣaṣ al-ʿulamāʾ, p. 885.
  23. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 24, p. 223; Shūshtarī, Majālis al-muʿminīn, vol. 1, p. 574.


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