Al-Sharif al-Radi

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Al-Sharif al-Radi
The tomb of al-Sharif al-Radi in Kadhimiya
The tomb of al-Sharif al-Radi in Kadhimiya
Personal Information
Full NameAbu l-Hasan Muhammad b. al-Husayn al-Musawi
Well-Known AsAl-Sharif al-Radi
Well-Known RelativesAl-Sharif al-Murtada
Studied inBaghdad
DeathMuharram 6, 406/June 26, 1015
Burial PlaceKarbala
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsAl-Shaykh al-Mufid, Abu Ali al-Farisi, ...

Abū l-Ḥasan Muḥammad b. al-Ḥusayn al-Mūsawī (Arabic: أبوالحسن محمد بن الحسین الموسوي) (b. 359/969-70 - d. Muharram 6, 406/June 26, 1015) al-Sharīf al-Raḍī (Arabic: الشريف الرضي) was a prominent Shi'a scholar and poet born in Baghdad. Although he is most known for his literary expertise, he was also an expert of jurisprudence and exegesis of the Quran. His most famous work is Nahj al-Balagha, a collection of Imam Ali's (a) sayings and letters. He founded a school named Dar al-'Ilm ( دار العلم, literally "House of knowledge") in which he trained many students, some of whom later became prominent scholars.

Family and Lineage

He was the son of al-Husayn b. Musa b. Muhammad b. Musa b. Ibrahim b. Imam Musa al-Kazim (a).[1]

His father, Abu Ahmad Husayn, was the "Naqib" of Iraq, in charge of the affairs of the Talibiyyun.[2] He also oversaw the Diwan al-Mazalim (the highest court of appeal) and was the Chief of hujjaj (i.e. pilgrims to the Ka'ba).[3] He was given the title "Tahir Dhu al-Manaqib". Abu Ahmad Husayn died in 400/1009-10 and was buried in the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a) in Karbala.[4]

His mother, Fatimah, was a descendant of Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (a). She was a pious and noble lady who was held in high esteem. At her request, the great scholar al-Shaykh al-Mufid compiled the book Ahkam al-Nisa', which contains the jurisprudential rules for women. She died in Baghdad in 385/995-6.[5]

His elder brother, al-Sharif al-Murtada, was a great theologian and jurist. Because of his great position among Shi'a Theologians, al-Sharif al-Murtada was given the title, ʿAlam al-Huda (the sign of guidance).


Al-Radi studied under great scholars such as al-Shaykh al-Mufid in various branches of Islamic sciences and Arabic literature.

Ibn Abi l-Hadid in his book Sharh Nahj al-Balagha reports that al-Shaykh al-Mufid once dreamt that he was sitting in his mosque in Karkh area in Baghdad when Lady Fatima (a) came to him with her two little sons, Hasan (a) and Husayn (a), and said, "Teach these two boys." The next day, when al-Mufid was at the mosque, he saw that Fatima the daughter of Nasir entered the mosque with her two sons, al-Sharif al-Radi and al-Sharif al-Murtada, and said to al-Mufid, "These are my sons; I have brought them to you so that you can teach them jurisprudence." Al-Mufid wept and related his dream to her.[6]

Al-Radi also benefited from other masters in various fields of study. He studied under al-Qadi 'Abd al-Jabbar and Abu Sa'id al-Hasan b. 'Abd Allah b. Marzban al-Sayrafi, an expert of Arabic language and literature. He also studied literary sciences with Abu Muhammad al-Asadi al-Akfani, Abu al-Hasan 'Ali b. 'isa al-Rummani, Abu al-Fath 'Uthman b. al-Jinni, and Ibn Nubata al-Khatib.[7]

Al-Radi studied hadith under Muhammad b. 'Imran al-Marzabani and Harun b. Musa b. Ahmad al-Talla'ukbari.[8]

His teacher in jurisprudence, besides al-Shaykh al-Mufid, was Muhammad b. al-'Abbas al-Khwarizmi.[9]

Abu Hafs 'Umar b. Ibrahim al-Kinani was his teacher in qira'a and the holy Qur'an.[10]

Non-Shi'a Teachers

Abu 'Ali al-Hasan b. Ahmad al-Farsi (a Mu'tazili), Abu al-Hasan al-Karkhi, 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Rub'i, and Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. Ahmad al-Tabari (a Maliki jurist) are among al-Radi's non-Shi'a teachers.[11]


Al-Sharif Al-Radi started teaching at the age of seventeen and was soon recognized as a scholar. Al-Radi trained many students, among whom are important Shi'a and Sunni personages:

  • Abu Zayd Sayyid Kabayeki Husayni Jurjani, a great jurist who trained many students.
  • Abu 'Abd Allah Shaykh Muhammad b. 'Ali Halvani, a great poet.
  • Abu 'Abd Allah Shaykh Ja'far b. Muhammad b. Ahmad Durysti, a Shi'a figure, great hadith scholoar and author of many books.
  • Abu al-Hassan Sayyid 'Ali b. Bundar b. Muhammad Qadi Hashimi of the fifth century, a great scholar, jurist, and the judge of Baghdad.
  • Hafiz Abu Muhammad Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Bakr Khaza'i Nisaburi known as Mufid al-Nisaburi, a hadith scholar and great Shi'a orator and preacher.
  • Abu Bakr Nisaburi Ahmad b. Husayn b. Ahmad Khaza'I, a Shi'a scholar, hafiz of the Qur'an, faqih and hadith scholar.
  • Abu al-Hassan Mahyar Diylami son of Marzuyya, an Iranian Zoroastrian who converted to Islam under al-Sharif al-Radi's guidance and became a Twelver Shi'a. He studied poetry and Arab literature before al-Radi, and became one of the famous Shi'a poets of the fifth century.[12]

Naqib of Iraq

When 'Adud al-Dawla came to power, he feared the power and influence of Abu Ahmad (al-Radi's father) and so arrested him together with other Shi'a personages in 369/979-80. He confiscated their possessions and imprisoned them in Istakhr castle in Fars.[13] Although Abu Ahmad was released by 'Adud al-Dawla's successor, the constraints on him continued until 379/989-90 when the ruler of the time returned his position to him. By that time, Abu Ahmad felt too old and exhausted to take back his position and handed it over to his son, al-Sharif al-Radi, in the year 380/990-1.[14] Thus, at the age of 21, al-Radi officially became the Naqib of Talibiyyun, and remained in this position till his death.[15]

School of Dar al-'Ilm

When al-Radi saw that some of his disciples were so devoted to his company, he purchased a house for the students and named it Dar al-'Ilm (House of Knowledge). In this center, he provided them with all their needs, and a treasury with all amenities.[16] Alhough he had given the responsibility of the treasury to 'Abd al-Salam b. Husayn Basari, in order to preserve the students' prestige and independence, he gave each of them a key to the treasury and allowed them to independently take whatever they needed. In the library of Dar al-'Ilm he gathered valuable resources to satisfy his students' needs.

Though most historians and biographers consider Nizam al-Mulk (d.485/1092-3), the powerful minister of Seljuq dynasty and founder of Baghdad Nizamiyya School, as the first person in Islam who established schools for teaching religious sciences, it is clear that since the Nizamiyya School was established about a century after the death of al-Sharif al-Radi, that al-Radi should be considered the pioneer and the founding father of these schools.

It is mentioned in some books of al-Sharif al-Murtada that after the death of al-Sharif al-Radi, Dar al-'Ilm continued its activities. Numerous well-known Shi'a scholars such as al-Shaykh al-Tusi were among the students of this school.[17]


Shi'a biographers recognize several books for him. Some of his famous books are:


Al-Radi's son, Abu Ahmad 'Adnan b. Radi, was a great poet and scholar, and like his grandfather, was given the title of Tahir Dhu l-Manqib. He became the Naqib of Talibiyyun in Baghdad after his uncle, al-Sharif al-Murtada.

'Adnan had only one son, named 'Ali, who died when he was young. Thus, the lineage of al-Sharif al-Radi ends with the death of 'Adnan in 449/1057-8.[18]


He died on Muharram 6, 406/ June 26, 1015 at the age 47. He was buried in his house in the Karkh area of Baghdad. According to some reports, after the destruction of his house, al-Sharif al-Murtada (his brother) moved al-Radi's body to Kazimayn and buried him beside Imam al-Kazim (a).[19] According to other reports, his body was removed and later carried to Karbala where he was buried beside his father. Ibn Maytham's statement confirms that the graves of al-Sharif al-Radi and al-Sharif al-Murtada are in Karbala.[20]


  1. Tihrānī, Ṭabaqāt aʿlām al-Shīʿa, vol. 2, p. 164.
  2. Sharīf al-Murtaḍā, al-Muḥāmī, p. 9.
  3. Thaʿālibī, Yatīmat al-Dahr, vol. 3, p. 155; Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 22.
  4. Tihrānī, Ṭabaqāt aʿlām al-Shīʿa, p. 164.
  5. Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 28.
  6. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 1, p. 41; see: Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 28.
  7. Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 36-38.
  8. Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 41
  9. Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 40-41.
  10. Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 39.
  11. Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 35-39.
  12. Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 44-47.
  13. Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 24.
  14. Thaʿālibī, Yatīmat al-Dahr, vol. 3, p. 155.
  15. Tihrānī, Ṭabaqāt aʿlām al-Shīʿa, p. 164.
  16. ʿUmdat al-tālib, p. 171, quoted in Dawānī, Sayyid Raḍī muʾallif-i Nahj al-balāgha, p. 93-94.
  17. Dawānī, Sayyid Raḍī muʾallif-i Nahj al-balāgha, p. 94.
  18. Amīnī, al-Sharīf al-Raḍī, p. 25, quoted in Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 33.
  19. Jaʿfarī, Sayyid Raḍī, p. 150.
  20. Baḥrānī, Sharḥ Nahj al-balāgha, vol. 1, p. 89.


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