Al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Mujahid

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Al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Mujahid
Personal Information
Full NameSayyid Muhammad b. 'Ali al-Tabataba'i
EpithetMujahid (the Fighter)
Religious AffiliationTwelver Shi'a
LineageTabataba'i Sadat
Well-Known RelativesMuhammad Baqir al-Bihbahani (grandfather) • al-Sayyid 'Ali al-Tabataba'i (father) • al-'Allama Bahr al-'Ulum (father-in-law)
Place of BirthKarbala
ResidenceKarbala • KadhimiyaIsfahan
Studied inKarbala
DeathJumada II 13, 1242/January 12, 1827, Qazvin
Burial PlaceKarbala
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsSahib al-Riyadal-'Allama Bahr al-'Ulum

Al-Sayyid Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī (Arabic: السید محمد بن علی الطباطبائي) (b. 1180/1766-7 - d. 1242/1827) , known as al-Sayyid Muḥammad al-Mujāhid (Arabic: السید محمد المجاهد) and Ṣāḥib al-Manāhil, the author of al-Manahil, was a Shi'ite jurist in the twelfth/eighteenth and thirteenth/nineteenth centuries.

Sayyid Muhammad studied under scholars such as Sayyid 'Ali Tabataba'i and al-'Allama Bahr al-'Ulum in Karbala, and then he migrated to Isfahan where he engaged in teaching and writing for thirteen years. After his father's death (in 1231/1815-6), he returned to Karbala and became a Shi'ite Marja'.

The period of his Marja'iyya coincided with Russo-Persia Wars, and like other Shi'ite scholars, he fought against the Russians. This was why he came to be known as "Sayyid Muhammad al-Mujahid" (Sayyid Muhammad, the Fighter), although his movement was finally defeated and led to the Treaty of Turkmenchay whereby the control of some parts of Iran was ceded to Russia.

Sayyid Muhammad died in Qazvin and his corpse was buried in Karbala.


Sayyid Muhammad was born in Karbala in 1180/1766-7. His father was al-Sayyid 'Ali al-Tabataba'i, known as the author of Riyad al-masa'il and his mother was al-Wahid al-Bihbahani's daughter. Muhammad 'Ali al-Tabataba'i and 'Abd al-Husayn al-Tabataba'i were his uncles. He married the daughter of his teacher, 'Allama Bahr al-'Ulum. His grandfather, Abu l-Ma'ali al-Kabir, was from the Hasani Sadat known as al-Tabataba'i who had migrated from Isfahan to Karbala in the twelfth/eighteenth century.

He was in Isfahan when his father died in 1231/1815-6 and held a mourning ceremony for him there. After his father's death, Sayyid Muhammad went to Karbala and became a Shi'ite authority. After a while, he moved to Kadhimiya until he went back to Iran late in his life, in the period of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, in order to defend Iranian borders against Russians.

In his A'yan al-Shi'a, al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin referred to Sayyid Muhammad as "Sayyid al-Fuqaha'" (the master of jurists), "'Allamat al-'Ulama'" (the most knowledgeable scholar), and "A'lam ahl al-'ilm bi l-usul wa l-kalam" (the most knowledgeable scholar of principle of jurisprudence and theology).

He finally left Tabriz in 1242/1826-7 for Tehran, but he contracted a disease in Qazvin and died on Jumada II 13, 1242/January 12, 1827. His corpse was moved to Karbala and was buried there. A dome is built over his mausoleum which was frequently visited.

Scholarly Activities

Sayyid Muhammad studied Islamic disciplines with his father as well as 'Allama Bahr al-'Ulum, Shaykh Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita', Agha Muhamad Baqir Hizarjaribi, and Mir 'Abd al-Baqi Isfahani in Karbala. After the Wahhabi attack on Karbala in 1216/1801-2 he went to Iran. He first had a short stay in the house of his uncle, Aqa Muhammad Ali Kirmanshahi, and then went to the Islamic seminary of Isfahan. He engaged in teaching and writing in Isfahan for thirteen years. He wrote his book, Mafatih al-usul in this period.


He trained several students during his scholarly life, among them are al-Shaykh al-Ansari and Muhammad Sharif Mazandarani.


Some of his works are:

Political Activities

Russo-Persia Wars occurred in the period of his role as a Shi'ite authority. Ten years after the wars, al-Sayyid Muhammad and a number of other scholars and authorities in al-'Atabat al-'Aliyat and Iran, including Sayyid 'Ali al-Tabataba'i and al-Shaykh Ja'far al-Najafi, published independent essays concerning the obligation of jihad against Russians. Sayyid Muhammad argued in his essay that the war with Russians was an instance of jihad.

In 1241/1825-6, Sayyid Muhammad and other scholars of Iran and al-'Atabat received several letters from Muslim people in Caucasus provinces which were occupied by Russians. In these letters, people petitioned the scholars on the injustice and sacrileges by the Russians. Abbas Mirza, the crown prince, who was unhappy with the Treaty of Gulistan with Russians, sent his close companions to ask Sayyid Muhammad for help. Sayyid Muhammad wrote a letter to Fath-Ali Shah asking him to prevent the aggression and injustice of Russian forces, and when he learned about the Shah's carelessness and his cunctation with regard to the war with Russia, he issued a fatwa for jihad against Russians, and together with a number of scholars from al-'Atabat, he departed to Tehran to personally encourage people and the Shah for the war against Russians. On his way, many volunteers joined him.

In late Shawwal, 1241/May-June, 1826, he entered Tehran and was welcomed by a number of scholars, princes and people. Some scholars, such as Mulla Ahmad Naraqi, went to the army camp in the prairie of Soltaniyeh to prepare themselves for the war with Russians. Through Qazvin, they departed to Tabriz. Sayyid Muhammad and other scholars were so welcomed by people that when Sayyid Muhammad performed a wudu' from the big pool of the Mosque of Qazvin, people took the whole water of the pool for consecration. Because of his active role in the war, Sayyid Muhammad was known as "Mujahid" (fighter). He and other scholars camped in Tabriz and tried to encourage people and the army.

Within few weeks, the Iranian army retook most of the cities and provinces. People in some occupied cities rioted against Russian garrisons and joined the Iranian army. Despite all these victories, all the seized areas were lost because of the unexpected command of Abbas Mirza according to which princes had to retreat from the frontline, the escape of one of the army's commanders, and the sabotage of some statesmen. Fath-Ali Shah returned to Tehran and Abbas Mirza was left alone against Russians. Sayyid Muhammad was displeased with the Shah's negligence and the defeat of the Iranian army. Thus, he left Tabriz for Tehran, but he contracted a disease in Qazvin and died on Jumada II 13, 1242/January 12, 1827. His corpse was moved to Karbala and was buried there.

One of the scholars who accompanied and supported al-Sayyid Muhammad in his campaign against Russian aggressions was Sayyid Mirza Ibrahim Nawwab Yazdi.