Al-Sayyid 'Ali b. Muhammad 'Ali al-Tabataba'i

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Al-Sayyid 'Ali b. Muhammad 'Ali al-Tabataba'i
Tomb of al-Sayyid 'Ali al-Tabataba'i near the darih of the martyrs of Karbala
Tomb of al-Sayyid 'Ali al-Tabataba'i near the darih of the martyrs of Karbala
Personal Information
Well-Known AsSahib Riyad
Well-Known RelativesSayyid Muhammad Mujahid
BirthRabi' I 12th of 1161/ March 12th 1748
Burial Placeshrine of Imam al-Husayn (a)
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsMuhammad Ali Bihbahani, Wahid Bihbahani

Al-Sayyid ʿAlī b. Muḥammad ʿAlī (Muḥammad) al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī al-Ḥāʾirī (Arabic: السید علی بن محمد علي (محمد) الطَباطَبائي الحائِري) (b. 1161/1748 - d.1231/1815-6 ) known as Ṣāḥib Rīyāḍ (صاحب رياض, author of Riyad) was among Shia scholars in fiqh and usul. He was among most famous students of Wahid Bihbahani who was more knowledgeable in usul than in fiqh, but he gained more fame after writing Riyad al-masa'il in fiqh and became famous as Sahib Riyad. Fiqh scholars such as Shaykh Abu Ali Ha'iri, Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa'i, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Shafti and his son sayyid Muhammad Mujahid were his students.

By writing al-Risalat al-bahiyya, he rose to fight with Akhbarism. Building a strong wall around Karbala after the attack of Wahhabis and destruction of Holy Shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a) and trying to establish order in this city were among his social activities.

Birth, Lineage and Demise

Sayyid Ali Tabataba'i was born on Rabi' I 12th of 1161/ March 12 1748 in Kadhimiya. His father was Sayyid Muhammad Ali, son of Abu al-Ma'ali Saghir and he was son of Abu al-Ma'ali Kabir from the lineage of Sadat Hasani, known as Tabataba'i who emigrated from Isfahan to Karbala in 12th century AH. In Tanqih al-maqal, Mamaqani has mentioned the name of his father as Muhammad b. Ali.

He passed away in Karbala in 1231/1815-6 at age of 70 and was buried in the holy shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a) near the grave of his teacher, Wahid Bihbahani. Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi has mentioned the date of his demise as 1201/1786-7, which according to Muhsin al-Amin, the word "Thalathin" must have been dropped from its statement. About the date of his demise, it has been said, "Bi mawt-i Ali-in, mat-a 'ilm-u Muhammad." (By the demise of Ali, the knowledge of Muhammad (a) died.)

Moral Characteristics

Scholars of Rijal and biographies such as Abu Ali Ha'iri, Sahib Rawdat, Sahib Rayhanat al-adab, Shaykh Abbas Qummi praised him with expressions such as Thiqa (trustworthy), Jalil al-qadr (esteemed), Muhaqqiq (researcher), unique, scholar in Usul, scholar in fiqh and Sahib Kiramat (owner of wonders). Mamaqani has spoken of his great ascesis and caution towards the rights of people and Shaykh Abbas Qummi reported about his worships and always keeping vigil at eve of Fridays.

Although Mirza Ahmad Niyshaburi was not friend with Sahib Riyad, he mentioned Tabataba'i's expertise in Rijal and some of his good works in his own book on Rijal. Mamaqani says, one day Sahib Riyad did not go to congregational prayer, people asked him about the reason. He answered, "today, I am doubtful about my justice; therefore, I cannot lead the prayer." They asked about the cause, and he answered, "daughter of Wahid (his wife) told me something which made me angry and I told her, 'may whatever you told me comes back to you.'" So, he did not lead the prayer until his wife became happy with him again.

Scholarly Activities and Teachers

There is not much information about his childhood. He grew up with his uncle, Wahid Bihbahani. Mamaqani says that he had a good handwriting and made his living through writing and duplicating. He began his education with Muhammad Ali Bihbahani and continued it under Wahid Bihbahani. While he participated in the class of Muhammad Ali Bihbahani, he was younger than many of his classmates.

He was among the most famous students of Wahid Bihbahani. In Muntaha al-maqal, Shaykh Abu Ali has only written the biography of Allama Bahr al-'ulum and Sahib Riyad from among the students of Wahid Bihbahani. Without letting his uncle know, Sayyid Ali also participated in the class of Sahib Hada'iq at night.


Sayyid Ali Tabataba'i was knowledgeable in fiqh, Usul and hadith; however, while he was more knowledgeable in Usul, he was more famous in fiqh. Contrary to al-Mirza al-Qummi who was famous in fiqh but he was famous in Usul. He and al-Mirza al-Qummi both wrote a book in the field they were not knowledgeable due to the request of the other. Tabataba'i wrote Riyad al-masa'il in fiqh and al-Mirza al-Qummi wrote Qawanin in Usul and they both became famous by the names of these books. Some of Tabataba'i's works are as following:

  • Riyad al-masa'il fi bayan al-ahkam bi dala'il

It is a book on fiqh in Arabic. This book is among authentic commentaries on al-Nafi' fi mukhtasar al-sharayi' known as Mukhtasar al-nafi' written by al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli (d. 676/1277). Riyad al-masa'il is a complete course on demonstrative jurisprudence including the issues in purity to issues in compensations in two volumes containing the opinions of great scholars such as al-Shaykh al-Tusi, al-Shaykh al-Saduq, al-'Allama al-Hilli, al-Shahid al-Awwal, al-Shahid al-Thani, Qadi Sa'id al-Din, al-Kulayni, Muhammad Baqir Sabziwari, al-Tabrisi, Qutb al-Rawandi, Fadil Miqdad, Fakhr al-Muhaqqiqin , Muqaddas Ardabili and other great scholars. This book was so famous that its author was known as Sahib Riyad (Author of Riyad).

  • Al-Risalat al-bahiyya, where he criticized the opinions of Akhbaris.
  • Sharh Mafatih al-Shara'i'
  • Risalat tathlith al-tasbihat al-arba' fi l-akhiratayn
  • Risalat al-usul al-khams
  • Risalat al-ijma' wa l-istishab
  • ...

Social Activities

To defend the city of Karbala against the attacks of Wahhabis, he built a wall around the city in 1217/1802-3 and to make order and protect the law in the city, he resided a tribe of Baluch people in Karabala who were physically strong and had a fearless spirit.

During his authority, many religious taxes from India were submitted to him which were resembled to piles of dust due to their abundance. He used that money for social services and public welfare. Using them, he bought gardens around Karbala and allocated them for the residents there.

Building the grand mosque of Karbala was another contribution of him. This mosque is located near the grand market place of Karbala. Its construction was finished in 1220/1805-6. It has a great prayer area and was further expanded after Sahib Riyad. It became famous as the grand mosque of Mirza Ali Naqi Tabataba'i (d. 1289/1872-3), since he led the congregational prayer there and was in charge of the mosque.


  • Sayyid Muhammad Tabataba'i, known as Sayyid Muhammad Mujahid was among Iranian scholar of 12th and 13th century AH.
  • Sayyid Mahdi Tabataba'i was among teachers of the seminary in Karbala.