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Al-Sayyid Nur Allah al-Husayni al-Shushtari

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Al-Sayyid Nur Allah al-Husayni al-Shushtari
مزار قاضی نورالله شوشتری.jpg
His tomb in Agra
Personal Information
Full Name Al-Sayyid Nur Allah al-Husayni al-Shushtari
Birth 956/1549
Residence Mashhad, Agra
Studied in Mashhad
Death 1019/1610
Burial Place Agra
Scholarly Information
Professors Mawla 'Abd al-Wahid al-Shuashtari,Mawla Muhammad Adib Qari Tustari
Students Shaykh Muhammad Hirawi Khurasani,Mawla Muhammd Ali Kashmiri,Sayyid Jamal al-Din 'Abd Allah Mashhadi
Permission for Hadith
Transmission From
Mawla Abd al-Rashid Shushtari
Works Ihqaq al-Haqq,Majalis al-mu'minin,Al-Sawarim al-muhriqa

Al-Sayyid Nūr Allāh al-Ḥusaynī al-Shūshtarī (Arabic:السَیِّد نُورُالله حُسَینی الشوشتَری) (b. 956/1549, d.1019/1610) famous as al-Qāḍi Nūr Allāh or al-Shahīd al-Thālith (the Third Martyr) was a Shi'a jurist, expert in jurisprudential principles, theologian, expert in narration of hadiths and poet during Safavid era who resided in India and authored many books among which are: Ihqaq al-haqq wa izhaq al-batil and Majalis al-mu'minin. He was the chief judge of India who could and would issue fatwa based on each of four Sunni schools of jurisprudence. However, as a result of talebearers' animosity who forged reports against him, he was sentenced to death by the Indian king, Jahangir Shah. He is buried in the Indian city, Agra. In India, he became famous as al-Shahid al-thalith.

Birth and Lineage

Sayyid Nur Allah Hussayni Mar'ashi was born in 953 in Shushtar, a city in Khuzestan province, Iran. His lineage goes back to Imam al-Sajjad (a). His father, Sayyid Sharif al-Din was a great scholar of his time, who had several books in narrative and rational branches of religious science. Among his ancestors was Najm al-din Mahmud Husayni Mar'ashi Amuli who had migrated from Amol to Shushtar.

Qadi Nur Allah was always proud of his lineage and this is evident in his writings.


Sayyid Nur Allah started his education in Shushtar. He studied narrative and rational branches of religious sciences under his father and medicine under Hakim Mawlana 'Imad al-Din. Mir Safi al-din Muhammad and Mir Jalal al-din Muhammad Sadr were two of his teachers. At the age of twenty three in 979, Sayyid Nur Allah migrated to Mashhad along with his brother Sayyid Wajih al-din Muhsin to pursue higher education.

In Mashhad, Sayyid Nur Allah attended the classes of Mawla 'Abd al-Wahid Shuashtari where he received most of his knowledge on jurisprudence, principles of Jurisprudence, theology and Qur'anic exegesis. In the classes of Mawla Muhammad Adib Qari Tustari he studied Arabic grammar and syntax and Tajwid (proper recitation of the Qur'an). He also received permission for the transmission of Hadiths from some of the known scholars such as: Mawla 'Abd al-Rashid Shushtari son of Khwajih Nur al-din Tabib (the author of Majalis al-imamiyya –the sessions of Imamiyya/Shi'a- on Shi'a apologetics) and Mawla 'Abd al-Wahid Tustari.

Da'wa of Shi'a

Biographers believe that Qadi Nur Allah was the first Shi'a scholar in India who announced his beliefs publicly, tried to spread Shi'a belief and engaged in debates with Sunni scholars there.

Migration to India

Sayyid Nur Allah was forced to leave Mashhad to India in 992-993/1584-5. The reason for this uncalled for migration was the constant disasters caused by continued rebellions. Sayyid Nur Allah's brother was killed in one of Uzbik's attacks to Mashhad. At this point, Shah 'Abbas had not yet been enthroned; therefore the political instability in Khurasan forced Sayyid Nur Allah to leave Mashhad in pursuit of a safer residence. Meanwhile, India was experiencing one of the most peaceful periods in its history.

Perhaps such peace was the result of the Indian king, Akbar Shah and his personal character. Akbar Shah, grandson of Baber, a descendant of Taymur son of Homayun Shah, acceded to the throne when he was only fourteen; yet he displayed remarkable level of competence and tact by seizing the territories of Gujarat, Bangal, Kashmir and Sind thus expanding his large and mighty kingdom and establishing several new cities.

Along territorial expansion and civil developments, Akbar Shah was interested in philosophical issues; however he was not a firm believer in any kind of organized faith. Such attitude toward religion enabled him to think of a new synthetic religion which constitutes of commonalities of all religions.

Upon reaching Agra, Qadi Nur Allah first went to the court of Akbar Shah in Fath Purskri to meet Abu l-Fath Masih al-Din Gilani, the great Iranian physician and poet. Masih al-Din Gilani had migrated to India in 983/1575 and had become a high ranking courtier due to his excellence and competence. He introduced Qadi Nur Allah to Akbar Shah. Qadi presented to the king a book which he had authored about Imam 'Ali (a). The book and its author gained the special attention of Akbar Shah.

The Chief Judge of India

Sayyid Nur al-Din resided there for two months. Then he went to Lahore with the king. The judge of Lahore was an old man known as Shih Mu'in. Akbar Shah commanded the old judge to resign and assigned Sayyid Nur Allah to that position. Before assuming the seat, Sayyid had informed Shah about his ability to evaluate religious and jurisprudential issues according to their original sources, thus he hadn't had to strictly follow only one of the jurisprudential schools; however, he made it clear that he would not trespass the limits of Four Sunni Schools of Jurisprudence (Shafi'i, Hanbali, Maliki and Hanafi) and would issue fatwa based on them. His knowledge on Sunni jurisprudence and hadith was unrivaled.

Despite his being a Shi'a, Akbar Shah appointed Sayyid Nur Allah, because of his excellence and mastery in religious knowledge, as the chief Judge of India. Due to his comprehensive familiarity with the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, their similarities and differences, he could issue fatwas that would fit people's conditions and also were closer to Shi'a principles. That's why, even 'Abd al-Qadir Badayuni, an intolerant Sunni scholar who was a fierce opposition to Akbar Shah's policies, would nevertheless praise the nobility, virtuous character and knowledge of Qadi Nur Allah.

Scholarly Works

Mirza 'Abd Allah Afandi the author of Riyad al-'ulama' writes about the scholarly career of Qadi Nur Allah: "The late Shushtari was well-educated, knowledgeable, pious, virtuous, 'allama (having comprehensive knowledge in different branches of religious studies), jurist, Muhaddith well-acquainted with history and biographies, containing all virtues, having ability of criticism in all branches of knowledge, poet and author. He has praiseworthy poems and could compose poems both in Arabic and Persian. He also has famous poems praising the Ahl al-bayt (a)."

Under the cover of Taqiyya (precautionary dissimulation), Qadi Nur Allah not only was able to attain the seat of chief judge of India, but also could produce some very valuable books for Shi'a community. As he writes in one of his letters: "I have not mentioned my name in my works so that they may be for the sake of Allah (and not for gaining reputation) and neither have I told any of Mukhalifun (the opposition, meaning: Sunnis) that they are my books.

Among his works Ihqaq al-Haqq, Majalis al-mu'minin and Al-Sawarim al-muhriqa are more famous than his other works. Ayatullah Mar'ashi Najafi in introduction of Ihqaq al-haq mentioned around 140 works of Nur Allah Shushtari.


Out of his debates, Qadi himself mentions his debate with the Sunni scholar, 'Abd al-Qadir b. Milkuk Shah Bidwani, in the book Muntakhab al-tawarikh. Also he mentions his debate with Sayyid Qazwini in Majalis al-mu'minin.


Qadi Nur Allah taught jurisprudence according to the principles of each of the five schools (i.e. Shafi'i, Hanbali, Maliki, Hanafi and Shi'a) for their followers. Yet he would tacitly prove the validity of Shi'a's stance in disputed areas. The Anti-Shi'a atmosphere after his martyrdom and his practice of Taqiyya (precautionary dissimulation) during his lifetime led to the failure of an accurate historical documentation of his students except for few, some of whom were in fact his sons. However, his documented famous students are:


Qadi Nur Allah had five sons, each of which is considered one of the authors, poets or scholars of that time and has some books:


Qadi Nur Allah was martyred under torture (during continuous flagellation) in 1019/1610, during the reign of Jahangir Shah, son of Akbar Shah. The reason for his martyrdom was his authorship of the book Ihqaq al-haqq wa izhaq al-batil, or according to another account, the book: Majalis al-mu'minin. In India, he became famous as Shahid al-thalith (the third martyr).

Muhaddith Qummi writes about the story of Qadi's martyrdom:

"Qadi Nur Allah was busy with writing his hidden books and his duties as the judge. Akbar Shah died and Jahangir Shah was enthroned. The courtier scholars tried to defame Qadi and spoke ill of him at the presence of the king; like "Qadi is Shi'a and does not make it his duty to follow any of four Sunni schools." "He issues fatwas according to Shi'a principles." At first, Jahangir Shah believed these were not conclusive evidence; after all, Qadi had accepted that position on the condition that he would give fatwa based on his own Ijtihad and not necessarily within the frameworks of four Sunni Schools. They (Qadi's enemies) tried another way. They assigned someone to attend Qadi's classes under the cover of a Shi'a student. After a long time and continuous participation in Qadi's classes as a Shi'a student, he could gain the trust of Qadi Nur Allah. He knew about the book Majalis al-mu'minin, so he asked Qadi for a copy of that book. He took the book to the courtier Sunni scholars and they presented the book to the King as an evidence for Qadi's Shi'a faith. They convinced the Shah that "since Qadi believes in such and such, he deserves Hadd (specific Islamic punishment)." "What is his Hadd?" Jahangir Shah asked; to which they replied "flagellation." Shah gave them a mandate to execute the Hadd which they immediately carried out. In 1019/1610 when he was nearly seventy years old, Qadi Nur Allah was martyred during intense and heavy flagellation. It's been said that they lashed him with thorny sticks in such a way that his body was torn in pieces."

Today, his tomb in Agra, India, is a pilgrimage site for the Muslims in the Subcontinent.