Al-Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari

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Al-Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari
The commemorative stamp depicting al-Shaykh al-Ansari
The commemorative stamp depicting al-Shaykh al-Ansari
Personal Information
Full NameMurtada b. Muhammad Amin al-Ansari al-Dizfuli
EpithetKhatam al-fuqaha wa l-mujtahidin
Well-Known AsAl-Shaykh al-Ansari, al-Shaykh al-A'zam
LineageA descendant of Jabir b. Abd Allah al-Ansari
Place of BirthDezful
Studied inDezfulNajaf
Burial PlaceHoly Shrine of Imam Ali (a), Najaf
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsAl-Shaykh Husayn al-Ansari • al-Sayyid Muhammad al-MujahidMulla Ahmad Naraqi

Murtaḍā b. Muḥammad Amīn al-Anṣārī (Arabic: مرتضی بن محمد امین الأنصاري, b. 1214/1800 - d. 1281/1864) known as al-Shaykh al-Ansārī and al-Shyakh al-Aʿzam was a notable Shi'a scholar in the 13th/19th century. After Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi he became the general marja' of Shi'as.

He was titled "Khatam al-fuqaha wa al-mujtahidin" (the seal of jurists and mujtahids). He was famous for being accurate and having profound thoughts. He moved principles of jurisprudence and consequently jurisprudence to a new phase through his new doctrines. His famous books, al-Rasa'il and al-Makasib, are taught to seminary students of principles of jurisprudence and jurisprudence. Most of the scholars after him, are his followers. After al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli, al-'Allama al-Hilli, and al-Shahid al-Awwal, al-Shaykh al-Ansari is the only one whose books were taken into considerations so highly that religious scholars wrote many commentaries and glosses on his books.

Many stories are written about his God wariness and asceticism. He passed away and is buried in Najaf.

Birth and Lineage

Murtada, the son of Muhammad Amin, was born in Eid al-Ghadir, Dhu l-Hijja 18, 1214/May 13, 1800 in Dezful, Iran. Because the day of birth, his parents named him Murtada. His lineage goes back to Jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari, who was a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (s).[1]

Muhammad Amin (d. 1248/1832-3), Murtada's father, was one of the pious scholars. His mother was the daughter of Shaykh Ya'qub, the son of Shaykh Ahmad b. Shams al-Din al-Ansari. She was well-known for her worship and piety; she continued her midnight prayer until her demise. When she became blind, al-Shaykh al-Ansari helped her, so she would be able to perform her prayers.

Before the birth of al-Shaykh al-Ansari, her mother had a dream in which Imam al-Sadiq (a) gave a gilded Qur'an to her. Oneirocritics told her about a pious and renowned child. It's said, she always tried to suckle him with wudu. She passed away in 1279/1862-3 in Najaf.[2]


Al-Shaykh al-Ansari started learning theology and Qur'an in his childhood. After learning Arabic literature and Qur'an, he started learning jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence from his cousin, al-Shaykh Husayn al-Ansari; he became an expert in both in his young ages. When he was about 20 years old, al-Shaykh al-Ansari and his father traveled to Iraq. Al-'Allama al-Mujahid asked him to stay in Karbala, so he accepted it.[3]

He attended classes of al-'Allama al-Mujahid and Sharif al-'Ulama' and learned a great deal of knowledge from them for four years. After the governor of Baghdad attacked Karbala, he immigrated to Iran.[4] After a year, he came back to Karbala and continued learning from his teachers. Then he moved to Najaf and stayed there to learn from al-Shaykh Musa Kashif al-Ghita'. Later he moved to Iran.

In Iran, at first, he went to Kashan to learn from Mulla Ahmad Naraqi for three or four years. In that time he visited Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Shafti in Isfahan. Finally, al-Shaykh al-Ansari went to Najaf to study under al-Shaykh 'Ali Kashif al-Ghita' in 1249/1833-4. He learned a great deal of knowledge from grand Muslim scholars in his lifetime.[5]


Al-Shaykh al-Ansari learned from different teachers, including:


The number of students who learned from al-Shaykh al-Ansari is uncertain; it's said they were between 500 to 3000 students, including:


After al-Shaykh Ali Kashif al-Ghita', al-Shaykh Hasan Kashif al-Ghita', and al-Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi, al-Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari became the head of Najaf seminary from 1266/1849-50 to 1281/1864.

Al-Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi was the general marja' (religious authority) of Shi'a from 1262/1845-6. In 1266/1850, in the last days of his life in a gathering of Shi'a scholars, while pointing at al-Shaykh al-Ansari, he said: "He is your marja' after me".[12]

Scientific Innovations

Al-Shaykh al-Ansari was mostly famous for his new doctrines in jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence, which moved them both to a new phase by means of al-Shaykh al-Ansari's analysis and accuracy.[13]

Ethical Characteristics and God-Wariness

Al-Shaykh al-Ansari was not only well-educated in jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence, but he was also a knowledgeable figure in ethics and 'irfan. He was well-known for his modesty and cautiousness.

Refusing Marja'iyya

It's said, after Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi named him his successor in marja'iyya, he refused to accept it and said Sa'id al-'Ulama' is currently superior to me. Thus, al-Shaykh al-Ansari wrote a letter to him and informed him about his marja'iyya. Sa'id al-'Ulama' replied and mentioned al-Shaykh al-Ansari's activities in the domain of knowledge and his superiority. Finally, al-Shaykh al-Ansari accepted marja'iyya.[14]

Reverence to Mother

When al-Shaykh al-Ansari returned to Iran from Iraq, he decided to travel to different cities in order to learn from other scholars. But because his mother had missed him, she did not allow al-Shaykh al-Ansari to continue his travels. Therefore, al-Shaykh al-Ansari delayed his travels to honor his mother's request. His mother decided to do istikhara from Qur'an; here is the verse:

We revealed to Moses' mother, [saying], 'Nurse him; then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river, and do not fear or grieve, for We will restore him to you and make him one of the apostles.' (Quran 28:7)

Afterward, her heart found rest, and she let her son go on his travels.[15]


Although al-Shaykh al-Ansari was the general marja' of Shi'a Muslims and around 40 million people paid their khums and zakat to him. He had a simple, ascetic, and humble life; he spent all of the money for Islamic seminary and helping the poor. Many stories are narrated about his austere life.

He did not leave any bequest to his family, so his relatives were unable to pay for his funeral ceremonies expenses. At last, an affluent person agreed to pay for the funeral ceremonies.[16]



Shaykh Murtada Ansari passed away on Jumada II 18, 1281 (November 18, 1864) in Najaf and he is buried in the Shrine of Imam 'Ali (a).[18]


  1. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 10, p. 116.
  2. Anṣārī, Zindigī wa shakhṣīyyat-i Shaykh Anṣārī, p. 77.
  3. Rafīʿīpūr, "Shaykh Anṣārī," p. 332.
  4. Rafīʿīpūr, "Shaykh Anṣārī," p. 84-86.
  5. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 10, p. 117.
  6. Anṣārī, Zindigī wa shakhṣīyyat-i Shaykh Anṣārī, p. 179.
  7. Anṣārī, Zindigī wa shakhṣīyyat-i Shaykh Anṣārī, p. 190.
  8. Anṣārī, Zindigī wa shakhṣīyyat-i Shaykh Anṣārī, p. 182.
  9. Anṣārī, Zindigī wa shakhṣīyyat-i Shaykh Anṣārī, p. 197.
  10. Anṣārī, Zindigī wa shakhṣīyyat-i Shaykh Anṣārī, p. 188.
  11. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 7, p. 167
  12. ʿAqīqī Bakhshāyishī, Fuqahā-yi nāmdār-i Shīʿa, p. 341-342.
  13. ʿAlīpūr, Darāmadī bar tārīkh-i ʿilm-i uṣūl, p. 365.
  14. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 10, p. 117.
  15. Mudarris Tabrīzī, Rayḥānat al-adab, vol. 1, p. 190-191.
  16. Mudarris Tabrīzī, Rayḥānat al-adab, vol. 1, p. 192.
  17. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 10, p. 117-118.
  18. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 4, p. 62.


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  • Anṣārī, Murtaḍā. Zindigī wa shakhṣīyyat-i Shaykh Anṣārī. Qom: Kungira-yi Shaykh al-Anṣārī, 1373 Sh.
  • ʿAqīqī Bakhshāyishī. Fuqahā-yi nāmdār-i Shīʿa. Qom: Kitābkhāna-yi Āyatollāh Marʿashī, [n.d].
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  • Mudarris Tabrīzī, Muḥammad ʿAlī. Rayḥānat al-adab fī tarājim al-maʿrūfīn bi-l-kunīyyat aw al-laqab. Tehran: Khayyām, 1369 Sh.
  • Rafīʿīpūr, Sayyid ʿAbbās. "Shaykh Anṣārī." In Gulshan-i abrār. Third edition. Nashr-i Maʿruf, 1385 Sh.