Al-Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din

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Al-Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din
Personal Information
Full NameAl-Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn al-Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi al-'Amili
Well-Known As'Allama Sharaf al-Din
LineageAl Sharf al-Din
Well-Known RelativesAl-Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr
ResidenceJabal 'Amil
Studied inSamarra, Najaf
Burial PlaceShrine of Imam 'Ali (a), Najaf
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsAl-Akhund al-Khurasani, Al-Shaykh al-Shari'a al-Isfahani, Al-Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Tabataba'i al-Yazdi and Mirza Husayn al-Nuri

Al-Sayyid ʿAbd al-Ḥusayn Sharaf al-Dīn al-Mūsawī al-ʿĀmilī (b. 1290/1873-4 d.1377/1957) (Arabic: السیّد عَبدالحُسَین شَرَف‌الدّین المُوسَوي العامِلي) was a Shiite mujtahid and an advocate of the proximity of Islamic sects. He made a lot of efforts to unite Shiite and Sunni Muslims and resolve their fundamental disputes. Sharaf al-Din was also a leader of Lebanon's Independence Movement.

Two of his most important books are al-Muraja'at and al-Nass wa l-ijtihad which aim to show the truth of Shiite beliefs in a scholarly and respectful way. The two books have been translated to various languages and attracted the attentions of many Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

His best-known teachers were Al-Akhund al-Khurasani, Al-Shaykh al-Shari'a al-Isfahani, Al-Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Tabataba'i al-Yazdi and Mirza Husayn al-Nuri.


Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din was born in 1290/1873-4 in Kadhimiya. His parents were al-Sayyid Yusuf Sharaf al-Din and Zahra Sadr, the daughter of Ayatollah al-Sayyid Hadi al-Sadr and the sister of al-Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr, the well-known Shiite scholar and the author of the book, Ta'sis al-Shi'a li 'ulum al-Islam. His lineage goes back to Ibrahim al-Murtada, the son of Imam al-Kazim (a).

Migration to Iraq

When he was one year old, Sharaf al-Din's father migrated to Najaf in order to study the Islamic disciplines. His father sent him to maktab for preliminary studies. When he was 8 years old, Sharaf al-Din went back to his birthplace, Jabal 'Amil, with his family. When he was 17 years old, he married his cousin, and after learning the preliminaries of Islamic disciplines from his father, he went back to Iraq when he was 20 years old. He received the permission of ijtihad when he was 32 years old.

Upon the suggestion of his grandfather, al-Sayyid Hadi al-Sadr, Sharaf al-Din first went to Samarra and studied with al-Shaykh Hasan al-Karbala'i d. 1322/1904-5 and al-Shaykh Baqir al-Haydar d. 1333/1914-5, and he attended ethical lectures of al-Shaykh Fath Ali Sultan Abadi in Friday mornings.

About one year after Sharaf al-Din's migration to Samarra, al-Mirza Muhammad Hasan al-Shirazi, the prominent Shiite authority, left Samarra and went to Najaf. With al-Shirazi's migration, the Shiite seminary of Samarra was suddenly shut down and all teachers and students of the seminary as well as other scholars migrated to Najaf. In addition to studying jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence, Sharaf al-Din also studied hadiths of the reliable Shiite and Sunni sources, the history of Islam, and the Islamic beliefs, as well as Arabic literature and writing.

Return to Lebanon

After 12 years of studies in Iraq, Sharaf al-Din returned to Lebanon in 1322/1904-5. He first stayed in Chehour, and then he moved to Tyre in Southern Lebanon upon people's request. There he founded a Husayniyya which turned into a center for different religious and social events.

Writing al-Muraja'at

Late in 1329/1911, Sharaf al-Din travelled to Egypt in order to visit the country and get to know its scholars, intellectuals, and writers, so that he might pave the path for the proximity of Shiite and Sunni Muslims. There he got to know al-Shaykh Salim al-Bishri, the mufti of al-Azhar University in Egypt. These two, Shiite and Sunni, scholars exchanged 112 correspondences with regard to the issue of the Prophet Muhammad's (s) succession or caliphate after his demise; the correspondences were very scholarly and full of mutual respect. 25 years later, the correspondences were published as the book, al-Muraja'at.

The book includes 112 correspondences between Sharaf al-Din and the Mufti of al-Azhar University, al-Shaykh Salim al-Bishri. The correspondences are concerned with the issue of caliphate and Imamate from a Shiite viewpoint; Sunni and Shiite arguments are examined and criticized in this book by appeals to verses of the Quran and reliable sources of Sunni hadiths.

Political Activities

At that time, people of Lebanon, like people of other Islamic countries, sought the independence of their country from the Ottoman dominance. Sharaf al-Din joined Lebanese people in their political and social pursuits. After the defeat of the Ottomans, Lebanon went under the mandate of France. This was followed by reactions from the scholars, and Sharaf al-Din issued a fatwa of jihad against the French forces.

When French forces went to arrest him, he first escaped to Jabal 'Amil and then to Damascus. The occupiers set his personal library on fire and so some of his writings were destroyed in this event. After one year, the conditions were fine for him to return to Tyre in Southern Lebanon. He continued his activities until the Independence of Lebanon in 1336/1917-8.

In this period, Sharaf al-Din realized that the migration of the world Jews to Palestine was a threat to the future of this country. He always tried to make people aware of this threat.

In 1338/1919-20 he travelled to Egypt in disguised clothes. He made efforts to unify Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

During the hajj rituals of 1340/1921-2, Sharaf al-Din was invited by Malik Husayn, the king of Arabia, to lead the congregational prayers in Masjid al-Haram in which Shiite and Sunni Muslims attended.

In late 1355/1936-7, he went to Iraq to visit the holy shrines there, and in 1356/1937-38 he went to Iran to visit the holy shrines in Qom and Mashhad as well as the Islamic Seminary of Qom.

In 1361/1942-3 he founded the school, al-Zahra, for girls. The opponents encouraged the government to close the school, but Sharaf al-Din held the classes in his own house and a year later, the school was reopened. He later founded the college of Ja'fariyya.

In 1365/1945-6, he founded a charity institute to help people in need, and in the last years of his life, he wrote the book, al-Nass wa l-ijtihad.

Influential Speeches

Sharaf al-Din was a competent speaker. In addition to delivering usual religious sermons in different cities and countries, he also made a lot of efforts to unify Muslims. He asked Muslims to put aside their sectarian biases and deal with the roots of their disputes in respectful ways.

Debate with the Saudi King

When Sharaf al-Din went to 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Saud, the king of Saudi Arabia at that time, he gave the king a Quran that was put inside a fur coat. 'Abd al-'Aziz received the present and kissed it out of respect. Sharaf al-Din asked him: "why do you kiss and honor this cover, whereas it is nothing but a goat skin?" 'Abd al-'Aziz replied: "I meant to honor and respect the Quran that is inside the cover, not the cover itself". Sharaf al-Din said: "Great! When we, Shiites, kiss the windows or doors of the Prophet's (s) room or the shrines of our Imams (a), we know that irons and woods have no value in themselves, but we mean to honor and respect the ones who are inside these. We want to honor the Prophet (s)".

People in the meeting endorsed Sharaf al-Din. Thus 'Abd al-'Aziz had to allow the pilgrims of hajj to express their respect for the Prophet (s)'s belongings. However, the subsequent king reestablished the ban.


Here are some of Sharaf al-Din's prominent teachers:


  • Al-Fusul al-muhimma; it is translated to Farsi under "Dar rah-i tafahum" (on the way to mutual understanding)
  • Al-Muraja'at; the book was translated into Farsi in 1365/1945 when the author was still alive by the religious scholar, Haydar Quli Sardar Kabuli, and was published in Tehran.
  • Al-Nass wa l-ijtihad. It was translated into Farsi by 'Ali Dawani under "Ijtihad dar muqabil-i nass" (Ijtihad in the face of explicit evidence). The book compiles about 100 cases in which some Companions of the Prophet (s) exerted their own ijtihad or deductions in contrast to the Prophet (s)'s own explicit words.
  • Abu Hurayra; a research about the life and character of Abu Hurayra who was a companion of the Prophet (s).
  • Al-Majalis al-fakhira fi matam al-'itrat al-tahira; it is a preface to a book with the same title in 4 volumes. The book itself was burned in the fire set on Sharaf al-Din's personal library by French occupiers of Lebanon.
  • Falsafat al-mithaq wa l-wilaya; a discussion of the eternal divine covenant (dharr covenant).
  • Ajwiba masa'il jar Allah; a scholarly, well-argued reply to 20 questions that Musa Jar Allah had asked Shiite scholars.
  • Masa'il fiqhiyya; some problems of jurisprudence in accordance with the approaches of Islamic sects.
  • Kalima hawl al-ru'ya; the book concerns the principles of beliefs.
  • Ila l-majma' al-'ilmi al-'Arabi bi Dimashq; scholarly replies to accusations made by the Scholarly Association of Damascus against Shiism.
  • Thabt al-athbat fi silsilat al-ruwat; an essay concerning Sharaf al-Din's teachers among Islamic sects.
  • Mu'allifu l-Shi'a fi sadr al-Islam; a book about Shiite authors and writers since the beginning the Prophet (s)'s message until the time of Imam al-Hadi (a).
  • Bughyat al-raghibin fi ahwal Al Sharaf al-Din; this is a literary, historical and biographical book concerning the scholars of Sharaf al-Din and Sadr households.


Sharaf al-Din died at the age of 87 on 8 of Jumada II, 1377/December 31, 1957 in Lebanon. His corpse was moved to Najaf and was buried in the holy shrine of Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (a).