Al-Sayyid Ahmad b. Tawus al-Hilli

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Al-Sayyid Ahmad b. Tawus al-Hilli
Personal Information
Full NameAl-Sayyid Jamal al-Din Ahmad b. Musa b. Tawus al-Hilli
EpithetIbn Tawus • Faqih of Ahl al-Bayt (a)
Religious AffiliationTwelver Shi'a
LineageAl Tawus
Well-Known Relatives'Ali b. Musa b. Ja'far b. Tawus (brother), Al-Sayyid 'Abd al-Karim b. Ahmad al-Hilli (son)
Studied inHillah
Burial PlaceHillah
Scholarly Information

Al-Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn Aḥmad b. Musā b. Ṭāwus al-Ḥilli (Arabic:السيد جمال الدین أحمد بن طاووس الحلّي) (d. 673/1274-5) titled as Ibn Ṭāwūs (Arabic:ابن طاووس), and also known as Faqih of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) was a Shia faqih in the 7th/13th century. He was among hadith scholars of his time and learned under teachers such as Najib al-Din Ibn Nama, Shams al-Din Fakhar b. Ma'd b. Fakhkhar al-Musawi, Sayyid Ahmad b. Yusuf b. Ahmad 'Aridi 'Alawi al-Husayni, …. Al-'Allama al-Hilli and Shaykh Taqi al-Din Hasan b. Dawud al-Hilli were among his famous students. After his brother, Sayyid b. Tawus, he became the leader (naqib) of Shi'a for a while.

Birth and Lineage

Ahmad b. Musa b. Tawus was born in Hillah, in a big and honorable family. His family, due to having famous religious scholars, had a political and scientific significance in Iraq in 7th/13th century. Biographical references have spoken highly of the family of Tawus and they have been mentioned as the men of knowledge, virtue, 'Irfan, and grandeur.

He was called "Dhu l-Hasbayn" (having two noble sides of birth), because on the one hand, his lineage reached Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a), and on the other hand, his great grandfather was Dawud b. Al-Hasan al-Muthanna, the grandson of Imam al-Sajjadss (a) daughter and thus a descendant of Imam al-Husayn (a).

His father, Musa b. Ja'far was one of the great hadith narrators who had written the narrations he had found in pieces of paper, which were then collected and gathered by his child and published them as Firqat al-nazir wa bahjat al-khatir mimma Rawah walidi Musa b. Ja'far. His mother was the daughter of Warram b. Abi Firas, one of the great Shia scholars.[1] Also, his father's mother was a descendant of al-Shaykh al-Tusi.

Among the children of Musa b. Tawus, two of them reached higher levels of knowledge and spirituality, both of whom were titled "Ibn Tawus". One of them was Ahmad b. Musa, and the other was Radi al-Din Abu l-Qasim Ali known as Sayyid b. Tawus. When "Ibn Tawus" is referred to by Shi'a scholars without any specification in the issues related to fiqh and rijal, Ahmad b. Musa is meant who is known as "Faqih of the Ahl al-Bayt (a)"; but, when Ibn Tawus is mentioned, in the books of supplication, Radi al-Din 'Ali titled as Sayyid b. Tawus is meant.

Scientific Life

Ahmad benefited from distinguished teachers of his time and received permission for narrating hadiths from some of them. The following list enumerates a few of them:

  1. Najib al-Din Ibn Nama (d. 645/1247-8)
  2. Shams al-Din Fikhar b. Ma'd b. Fikhar al-Musawi (d. 603/1206-7)
  3. Sayyid Ahmad b. Yusuf b. Ahmad 'Urayzi 'Alawi Husayni
  4. Shaykh Sadid al-Din Abu 'Ali Husayn b. Khashram
  5. Shaykh Yahya b. Muhammad b. Yahya b. Faraj Surawi

Innovation of a New Method in Hadith Sciences

Ahmad b. Tawus must be considered among the pioneers of progress and innovation in sciences. Having accurate studies in Classification of Hadiths made by previous scholars, he understood fundamental problems of that classification and by proposing a new classification, made a logical base for hadiths among Twelver Shia so that authentic hadiths can more easily be recognized.

Previous scholars classified the news to authentic and non-authentic, but Ahmad classified hadiths to four types of Sahih (authentic), Hasan (acceptable), Muwathaq (reliable) and Da'if (weak) which are still commonly used and other terms are branches of these four groups.

It must be noted that most hadiths which were considered authentic by previous scholars of Shia were classified as weak by Ahmad b. Musa b. Tawus, because his criterion for authenticity of hadiths was confidence in issuance of hadith by Imam (a).

After him, his student al-'Allama al-Hilli and other Mujtahids and hadith scholars of Shia promoted this classification in hadiths sciences and at the time of al-Majlisi, other types of hadiths which are now common were added to this classification. Currently, in addition to the four types of hadith proposed by Ahmad b. Musa, other terms such as Mursal, Mudmar, Mu'dal, Musalsal, Mudtarib, Mudallis, Maqtu', Mawquf, Maqbul, Shadh, etc. have been added to them.

Innovation of the new method was strongly criticized by some Akhbaris of his time.


His class was very crowded and distinguished students studied under him and received the permission to narrate hadiths. Al-'Allama al-Hilli and Shaykh Taqi al-Din Hasan b. Dawud Hilli were among his famous students.


Ahmad b. Musa had miscellaneous works in kalam, akhlaq, rijal, fiqh and hadith, most of which have been lost. Ibn Dawud mentioned 82 works of him:

  • Al-Sahm al-sari' on analysis of trading with loan.
  • Al-Ruh on rejection of Ibn Abi l-Hadid's ideas
  • Bana' al-Maqala l-Fatimiyya fi naqd al-risala al-'Uthmaniyya on rejection of 'Uthman b. Jahiz's treatise.
  • 'Ayn al-'ibra fi ghayn al-'Itra on verses revealed about the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and on rejection of all schools other than the school of the Ahl al-Bayt (a).
  • Poem collection.


The withdrawal of Abbasid caliphate in 656/1258-9 by the Mughal Hulagu khan made Ahmad b. Musa and his brother befriend some Shia officials such as Ibn 'Alqami (d. 656/1258-9) and 'Izz al-Din Abu l-Fadl. Although these two brothers never accepted leadership during the caliphate of Abbasids, later at the time of the Mughal Hulagu khan, they accepted it due to some considerations.

Following the wise decision of Shia scholars of Hillah including Ahmad and Ali b. Musa b. Tawus about joining Mongols, their destructive invasions of Hillah were prevented. This measure was a sign of insight and awareness of them about important issues of their time and their flexibility toward realities. Ahmad b. Musa gained the position of leadership of Alawi Sayyids in Iraq and Syria which seems to be after the demise of his brother Radi al-Din Sayyid b. Tawus.

His Son

Ahmad had a son who became famous as Ibn Tawus. Ghiyath al-Din Abu l-Muzaffar 'Abd al-Karim b. Ahmad (b. 648/1250-1 – d. 693/1293-4) like his father was among scholars of fiqh and literature of his time. Like his father, he had the position of leadership for a short time. There are many reports about his wonderful talent and potentials.


Ahmad b. Musa b. Tawus passed away in 673/1274-5 in Hillah and was buried in that city. Today, in Jabawiyayn of Hillah, there is a grave attributed to him where Shia go to visit. However, some have mentioned his death as martyrdom, while Afandi has doubted it.

In the Eyes of Others

To Shia scholars, Ahmad b. Musa was famous in asceticism and piety and his scientific and spiritual grandeur was always admired.


  1. Khwansari, Muhammad baqir, Rawdat al-jannat, Vol. 4. P. 325