Baha' al-Din al-'Amili

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Baha' al-Din al-'Amili
A painting from Baha' al-Din al-'Amili to the left and Mir Findiriski on the right
A painting from Baha' al-Din al-'Amili to the left and Mir Findiriski on the right
Personal Information
Full NameMuhammad b. 'Izz al-Din Husayn
Well-Known AsBaha'i
LineageAl-Harith al-Hamdani a companion of Imam 'Ali (a)
Well-Known Relatives'Izz al-Din Husayn b. Abd al-Samad al-Harithi, father
Studied inQazvin
Death1030/1620-1 or 1031/1621-2
Burial PlaceMashhad
Scholarly Information

Muḥammad b. ʿIzz al-Dīn al-Ḥusayn (Arabic:محمد بن عزالدين حسين) (b. 953/1547 - d. 1030/1620-1 or 1031/1621-2) known as Shaykh al-Bahāʾi and Bahāʾ al-Dīn al-ʿAmilī, was a scholar in fiqh, hadith, mysticism, mathematics and many other disciplines in the 10th/16th and 11th/17th centuries.

Bahāʾ al-Dīn al-ʿAmilī wrote 123 works in religious sciences, poems and literature among which, Jami'-i 'Abbasi and Kashkul are the most important ones. He also made some works in architecture among which are Minar Jonban (Shaking Minarets) of Isfahan, the engineering work of dividing the water of the Zayanderud River, the dome of the Imam Mosque of Isfahan, and the map of the wall of Najaf.

He had the highest religious position in Safavid government which was Shaykh al-Islam.


Birth and Lineage

Shaykh Bah'i was born on 17th Dhu l-Hijja, 953/February 8, 1547 in Baalbek, Lebanon.[1] His birthplace is originally Juba', a village in Jabal 'Amel, Lebanon.[2] His father was 'Izz al-Din Husayn b. 'Abd al-Samad al-Harithi (d. 984/1576), one of the students and friends of al-Shahid al-Thani (d. 965/1558).

His lineage reaches al-Harith al-Hamdani (d. 65/684-5), one of the companions of Imam 'Ali (a) and thus Baha' al-Din al-'Amili was also famous as al-Harithi al-Hamdani.

Childhood and Youth

When he was one year old, his family moved to Jabal 'Amel, but after the martyrdom of al-Shahid al-Thani and lack of security in Jabal 'Amel, and also following the invitation of Shah Tahmasp I and 'Ali b. Hilal al-Karaki known as Shaykh 'Ali Minshar, the Shaykh al-Islam of Isfahan, Muhammad and his family moved to Isfahan. His family were among the first Shi'a scholars of Jabal 'Amel who immigrated to Iran after the Shi'a Safavid government was established.[3]

According to a manuscript written by Baha' al-Din al-'Amili in Qazvin in 969/1561-2, he was 13 years old when he moved to Iran; however, some sources have made a mistake and mentioned his age 7 when entering Iran.[4]

Three years after living in Isfahan, Shah Tahmasp I followed the advice of Shaykh 'Ali Minshar and invited 'izz al-Din Husayn to Qazvin and appointed him as Shaykh al-Islam of that city. Baha' al-Din al-'Amili came to Qazvin with his father, stayed there for a while and studied different sciences.

According to Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's own notes,[5] he was in Mashhad with his father in 971/1563-4.[6] Later, his father became the Shaykh al-Islam of Harat for a while, but Muhammad stayed in Qazvin, and in 979/1571-2 and 981/1573-4, sent some poems to his father about his love to see him.[7] In 983/1575-6, when his father returned to Qazvin and asked the king to go for hajj, the king allowed him, but did not allow Baha' al-Din to accompany his father and ordered him to stay in Qazvin and teach sciences.[8]

Appointment as Shaykh al-Islam

After his father passed away in Bahrain in 984/1576-7, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili went to Harat and was appointed as Shaykh al-Islam. This was his first official position.

After the father of his wife (Shaykh 'Ali Minshar) passed away in the same year, he became the Shaykh al-Islam of Isfahan either by the order of Shah Isma'il II (ruled 984/1576-7 – 985/1577-8) or Shah Muhammad Khudabanda (ruled 985/1577-8 – 995/1586-7). Some have said that Shah 'Abbas I (ruled 996/1587-8- 1038/1628-9) had appointed him as Shaykh al-Islam.

Hajj Pilgrimage

Some years later, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili wished to go to hajj, so he resigned from being Shaykh al-Islam anymore and began his long journey. He came back to Isfahan in 1025/1616-7 and since then, he stayed with Shah 'Abbas I until the end of his life.

In his long journey to hajj, he visited Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sarandib (old persian word for Sri Lanka), Hijaz and Jerusalem and met with many scholars and top-rank Sufis. In his journeys, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili travelled unknown and like the poor and discussed with leaders of different Islamic sects; however, he sometimes had to hide his religion (taqiyya).

On his way back from hajj, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili went to Tabriz and stayed there for one year. He also had a journey to Karak Nouh and met with Shaykh Hasan b. Zayn al-Din known as "Sahib Ma'alim" (the author of Ma'alim) (d. 1011/1602-3). It can be inferred from his works that he also had journeys to Kadhimiya, Harat, Azerbaijan, Qom and Shirvan.

Journeys to Mashahd

The two journeys of Baha' al-Din al-'Amili to Mashhad are of his most important and historical journeys.

For the first time on 25th of Dhu al-Hijja 1008/July 7, 1600 Shah 'Abbas I went from Tus to the Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a) on foot as sign of gratitude for taking control of Khorasan and Baha' al-Din al-'Amili accompanied him.

Three years later, Shah 'Abbas I did a nadhr (religious promise to do something) to go from Isfahan to Mashhad on foot, he did so and stayed there for three months, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili accompanied him in this travel too.

The home of Baha' al-Din al-'Amili Isfahan

Wife and Children

Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's wife was the daughter of Shaykh 'Ali Minshar. She was a scholar and inherited her father's 4000-volume library after he passed away, and Baha' al-Din al-'Amili endowed it for public use (waqf) in 1030/1620-1, but after Baha' al-Din al-'Amili passed away, this library was destroyed due to negligence.[9]

It can be guessed that he had no children since he spent much of his life travelling alone. Most sources have mentioned no children for him and even some have regarded him infertile.[10]

Education and Teachers

He received much of his education in Qazvin which had an active seminary at that time and he then went to Isfahan.

His first and most important teacher was his father from whom he learned Tafsir (exegesis), hadith, Arabic literature and some rational sciences and received the permission to transmit hadith from.

Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's other teachers were:


Shyakh Baha'i's scholarly and social position was the reason that many students gathered around him. 'Allama Amini made the most comprehensive report about his students and narrators. He mentioned 97 people with reference, most famous of whom are:

Social Position

Following the request of Safavid kings, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili accepted being Shaykh al-Islam which was the highest religious position and had it until the end of his life. He did not like this position and wanted to be in solitude and ascetic life.[16] He even asked to be resigned from this position and some reports suggest that he resigned from this position for a while.

Apart from being Shaykh al-Islam, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili had a special position before Safavid kings. Shah 'Abbas I fully trusted Baha' al-Din al-'Amili in his knowledge, piety, competence and capabilities and was always being consulted by him. According to Iskandar the secretary,[17] Shah benefited from Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's presence, so that after he came from long journeys, the king would come and welcome him. Shah 'Abbas I asked Baha' al-Din al-'Amili to accept the leadership of religious scholars in Iran, which Baha' al-Din al-'Amili did not accept.[18]

Shah referred to Baha' al-Din al-'Amili in family issues as well.[19] Baha' al-Din al-'Amili also was the Friday Prayer leader of Isfahan.[20]


Undoubtedly, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili was a Twelver Shi'a scholar and his works confirm this. For example, he expressed his love and loyalty to Imams (a) and visiting their graves in his poems and in some cases, he rejected their enemies. Therefore, insisting of some Sunni authors for considering him Sunni is vain. Muhamamd Amin Muhibbi[21] and Ahmad Khaffaji[22] believed that Baha' al-Din al-'Amili hid being Sunni from Shah 'Abbas I and he was known as Shi'a only because of his excessive love for Imams (a).[23] Perhaps, the most important reason for such a mistake has been Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's behavior that he used to hide his religion in his journeys and due to his mystical manner, dealt with every nation according to them.

Some Shi'a scholars criticized his excessive lenience in treating other religions and questioned his reliability.[24] However, what is certain is that Baha' al-Din al-'Amili was a moderate Shi'a scholar and used to care about Sunni people's opinions the same as early scholars did. For example, he wrote a gloss on Zamakhshari's al-Kashshaf and a gloss on Baydawi's Exegesis on the Qur'an, although it did not finish, and some scholars have considered it the best of glosses written on this exegesis.[25]

On the other hand, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili lived like the poor and despite going to the Safavid court, he was a mystic, so he is interested by Sufi references and sometimes was even sometimes introduced as a complete Sufi by them. Ma'sum 'Ali Shah[26] attributed Baha' al-Din al-'Amili together with many other great Shi'a scholars such as Mirdamad, Mir Findiriski, Mulla Sadra, the first Majlisi and Fayd Kashani to the orders of Nurbakhshi and Ni'mat Allahi orders. What has mostly supported Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's Sufism is some of his words and poems. He has praised Ibn Arabi in his works as Jamal al-'Arifin (beauty of the mystics), Shaykh al-Jalil (the great sheikh), al-Kamil (perfect), al-'Arif [mystic/knowing], and al-Wasil al-Samadani [reached].[27] Therefore, some Shi'a scholars have criticized him because of his inclination towards Sufism and some other similar issues.[28]

He surly was inclined toward mysticism more than other Shi'a scholars. According to al-'Allama al-Majlisi, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili used to practice Chilla Nishini (going in solitude for worship for days) and religious legitimate ascetics and taught them to his student, Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi, too.[29] However, some sources have mentioned Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's rejection of Sufis of his time, and their beliefs and practices.[30] In the poems of the story of Mush wa gurba (mouse and cat), Baha' al-Din al-'Amili has severely criticized hypocrite Sufis.[31] Therefore, some Shi'a scholars defended Baha' al-Din al-'Amili and said that he did not belong to Sufism and gave some evidences in this regard.[32] Attributing Baha' al-Din al-'Amili to Sufism does not approve the Sufism common at Safavid era, but it just suggests the mystic inclination in his works and poems.

Scholarly Position

Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's scholarly position is important since he actively studied all official sciences of his time and was unique in some of them.

He was a master in Islamic sciences. In the chain of permissions for transmission, he is considered among the most distinguished Twelver Shi'a narrators of hadith, and many chains of permissions in recent centuries reach him and through him reach his father and then to al-Shahid al-Thani.[33]

He deeply studied the exegesis of the Qur'an since he was 20 years old until the age of 50 and regarded it the most important science.[34] The most important effort of Baha' al-Din al-'Amili was giving explanation for the new meanings given for the classification of hadiths by recent scholars. According to him, the long period of time between recent scholars and early scholars and the probability of the loss of the original references of narrations and the mistakes between hadiths trusted by early scholars and other hadiths and actually the blockage of the ways to distinguish hadiths authentic to early scholars, made recent scholars propose new definitions for previous classifications such as sahih, hasan and muwaththaq and give new approaches to classify hadiths. He also mentions the principles of classifications by early scholars and their definitions for sahih, hasan and muwaththaq.[35]

Apart from Islamic sciences, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili actively studied mathematics, architecture, engineering, geography and astronomy.

Scholarly Works

He was one of the most prolific Islamic scholars regarding the number and variety of works. The number of his works including treatises, marginal notes and glosses are 123.

The dome of Imam mosque, Isfahan


Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's works in architecture can be classified in three categories:

  • Those works which are strongly attributed to him:
• The work in water engineering of Zayanda Rud for seven regions of Isfahan, the explanation for which is written in a document which is known as Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's tumar (scroll).
  • Those works which are attributed to Baha' al-Din al-'Amili according to some sources:
• Designing the canal of Najaf Abad known as Zarrin Kamar aqueduct
• Finding the accurate direction of qibla in Imam mosque of Isfahan
• Designing the map of the wall of Najaf
• Designing and building the dial of the exact time of noon in the west wing of the Imam mosque of Isfahan and also in the courtyard of the Holy Shrine of Imam Rida (a)
• Designing a wall in the courtyard of the Holy Shrine of Imam 'Ali's (a) in Najaf so that it indicates noon in all days of the year
• Designing the courtyards of the Holy Shrine of Imam Rida (a) in the form of a hexagon
• Inventing the liquid mixture of Sifidab (White lead) which became famously known in Isfahan as Sefidab Shaykh
• Building Monar Jonban (Shaking Minarets) of Isfahan
• Designing the dome of the Imam Mosque of Isfahan in a way that it echoes sound seven times
• Inventing a clock which does not need winding[36]
  • Those works which have been mythically attributed to Baha' al-Din al-'Amili and they have been attributed to him due to his great talent and creativity such as:
• The bath called Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's bath in Isfahan they said the water in which was warm for a long time only by a candle.[37]
The grave of Baha' al-Din al-'Amili, the holy shrine of Imam al-Rida (a)


Some days before he passed away, Baha' al-Din al-Amili went to visit the grave of Baba Rukn al-Din Shirazi accompanied with some of his students and had a vision in which he learned that his death was near. Muhammad Taqi al-Majlisi[38] who was among his companions at that time reported that.[39]

Afterwards, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili sought seclusion and passed away after 7 days of illness. His body was moved to Mashhad according to his will and buried in his teaching hall near the tomb of Imam al-Rida (a) (now his grave is located in the Holy shrine of Imam al-Rida (a)).[40]

Iskandar the secretary,[41] the daily historian of Shah 'Abbas I and also Muzaffar b. Muhammad Qasim Gunabadi, the famous astronomer of that time, in his book Tanbihat al-Munajjimin[42] written a few months after Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's demise, recorded the year of Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's demise as 1030/1620-1.[43]

However, Nizam al-Din Sawuji, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's student and the one who completed Jami'-i 'Abbasi mentioned Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's demise as 1031/1621-2[44] and many of later biographers followed his report.[45]


  1. Qummi, Waqāyiʿ al-ayyām, p. 242.
  2. Muhājir, al-Hijrat al-ʿĀmilīya ilā Iran fī al-aṣr al-Ṣafawī, p. 145; Madanī, al-Ḥadāʾiq, p. 3; Baḥrānī, Luʾluʾ al-Baḥrayn, p. 16.
  3. Muhājir, al-Hijrat al-ʿĀmilīya ilā Iran fī al-aṣr al-Ṣafawī, p. 95, 146; Afandī Iṣfahānī, Riyāḍ al-ʿulamāʾ wa ḥiyāḍ al-fuḍalāʾ, vol. 2, p. 119; ʿĀmilī, Wuṣūl al-akhyār, p. 30; Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 8, p. 369; Munshī, Tārīkh-i ʿalam-ārā-yi ʿAbbāsī, p. 155.
  4. Iʿtimād al-Salṭana, Tārīkh-i muntaẓam Nāṣirī, p. 447; Baḥrānī, Luʾluʾ al-Baḥrayn, p. 26.
  5. Shaykh Bahāʾī, al-Arbaʿūn ḥaditha, p. 63.
  6. Shaykh Bahāʾī, Kulliyāt ashʿār, p. 26.
  7. Shaykh Bahāʾī, Kashkūl, vol. 1, p. 28-29, 46; Madanī, Salāfat al-ʿaṣr, p. 259, 296.
  8. Afandī Iṣfahānī, Riyāḍ al-ʿulamāʾ, vol. 2, p. 120; Baḥrānī, Luʾluʾ al-Baḥrayn, p. 26-27.
  9. Qummī, al-Fawāʾid al-raḍawīyya, vol. 2, p. 501.
  10. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 9, p. 242.
  11. Mīrjahānī Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Rawāyiḥ al-nasamāt fī sharḥ duʿā simāt, p. 100.
  12. Munshī, Tārīkh-i ʿalam-ārā-yi ʿAbbāsī, vol. 1, p. 156, 168; Afandī Iṣfahānī, Riyāḍ al-ʿulamāʾ, vol. 5, p. 95; Muḥibbī, Khulāṣat al-athar, vol.3, p. 440; Āqā Buzurg Tihrānī, al-Rawḍa al-naḍra, p. 75; Āqā Buzurg Tihrānī, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 15, p. 378; Baḥrānī, Luʾluʾ al-Baḥrayn, p. 434-435.
  13. Amīnī, al-Ghadīr, vol. 11, p. 262.
  14. Majlisī, vol. 107, p. 23-24.
  15. Āqā Buzurg Tihrānī, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 1, p. 237-239.
  16. Mudarris Tabrīzī, Rayḥānat al-adab, vol. 3, p. 303; Madanī, Salāfat al-ʿaṣr, p. 290-291; Muḥibbī, Nafḥat al-rayḥāna,vol. 2, p. 292.
  17. Munshī, Tārīkh-i ʿalam-ārā-yi ʿAbbāsī, vol. 1, p. 157.
  18. Ṭūqān, Turāth al-ʿarab al-ʿilmi fī al-riyāḍiyāt wa al-falak, p. 474.
  19. Falsafī, Zindigī Shāh ʿAbbās Awwal, vol. 2, p. 563, 574; Munajjim Yazdī, Tārīkh-i ʿAbbāsī, p. 109, 268, 301, 347.
  20. Munshī, Tārīkh-i ʿalam-ārā-yi ʿAbbāsī, vol. 1, p. 156.
  21. Muḥibbī, Khulāṣat al-athar, p. 440-441.
  22. Khafājī, Rayḥānat al-alibbāʾ, p. 104.
  23. Amīnī, al-Ghadīr, vol. 11, p. 252.
  24. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 9, p. 242-3.
  25. Khāwnsārī, Rawḍāt al-jannāt, vol. 7, p. 59.
  26. Maʿṣūm ʿAlīshāh. Ṭarāʾiq al-ḥaqāʾiq, vol. 1, p. 183; vol. 2, p. 322; vol. 3, p. 215.
  27. Shaykh Bahāʾī, Kashkūl, vol. 1, p. 47; vol. 2, p. 335, 349; vol. 3, p. 56, 321; Shaykh Bahāʾī, al-Arbaʿūn ḥaditha, p. 114, 116, 434.
  28. Tunakābunī, Qiṣaṣ al-ʿulamāʾ, p. 240, 242.
  29. Jaʿfarīyān, Dīn wa siyāsat dar dawra-yi Ṣafawī, p. 261; Jaʿfariyān, Rūyārū'ī-yi faqīhān wa ṣūfiyān dar aṣr-i Ṣafawīya, p. 125; Maʿṣūm ʿAlīshāh. Ṭarāʾiq al-ḥaqāʾiq, vol. 1, p. 284.
  30. Kashmirī, Nujūm al-samāʾ, p. 33; Kirmānshāhī, Khayrātiya dar ibṭāl ṭarīqa-yi ṣūfiyya, vol. 2, p. 397.
  31. Minawī, Mūsh wa gurba-yi Majlisī, p. 49; Kirmānshāhī, Khayrātiya dar ibṭāl ṭarīqa-yi ṣūfiyya, vol. 2, p. 397.
  32. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Risāla ithnay al-ʿashariyya, p. 16, 34, 53; Kashmirī, Nujūm al-samāʾ, p. 32-33; Qummī, Safīnat al-biḥār, vol. 2, p. 58; Amīnī, al-Ghadīr, vol. 11, p. 283-4.
  33. Khāwnsārī, Rawḍāt al-jannāt, vol. 7, p. 60; Shaykh Bahāʾī, al-Arbaʿūn ḥaditha, p. 63, 65.
  34. Shaykh Bahāʾī, al-ʿUrwat al-wuthqā, p. 42-43.
  35. Shaykh Bahāʾī, Mashriq al-shamsayn, p. 24, 35; Nūrī, Khātima al-mustadrak al-wasāʾil, vol. 3, p. 481-482.
  36. Mudarris Tabrīzī, Rayḥānat al-adab, vol. 3, p. 305; Rafīʿī Mihrābādī, Āthār-i millī-yi Isfahan, p. 467, 471.
  37. Rafīʿī Mihrābādī, Āthār-i millī-yi Isfahan, p. 397, 407.
  38. Majlisī, Rawḍat al-muttaqīn, vol. 14, p. 434-435.
  39. Madanī, Salāfat al-ʿaṣr, p. 291; Munshī, Tārīkh-i ʿalam-ārā-yi ʿAbbāsī, vol. 2, p. 967; Muḥibbī, Khulāṣat al-athar, vol. 3, p. 454-455.
  40. Munshī, Tārīkh-i ʿalam-ārā-yi ʿAbbāsī, vol. 2, p. 967-968; Iʿtimād al-Salṭana, Tārīkh-i muntaẓam Nāṣirī, p. 445-447; Afandī Iṣfahānī, Riyāḍ al-ʿulamāʾ, vol. 5, p. 97.
  41. Munshī, Tārīkh-i ʿalam-ārā-yi ʿAbbāsī, vol. 2, p. 967.
  42. Gunābādī, Tanbīhāt al-munajjimīn, p. 223-224.
  43. Majlisī, Rawḍat al-muttaqīn, vol. 14, p. 435; Astarābādī, Tārīkh-i Sultānī, p. 217; Āqā Buzurg Tihrānī, al-Rawḍa al-naḍra, p. 85-86.
  44. Shaykh Bahāʾī, Jāmiʿ ʿAbbāsī, p. 96.
  45. Tunakābunī, Qiṣaṣ al-ʿulamāʾ, p. 245; Khurāsānī, Muntakhab al-tawārīkh, p. 640; Iʿtimād al-Salṭana, Tārīkh-i muntaẓam Nāṣirī, p. 447, 676.


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  • Shāmlū, Walīqulī Beik. Qiṣaṣ al-Khāqānī. Edited by Ḥasan Sādāt Naṣīrī. Tehran: 1371 SH.
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  • Shaykh Bahāʾī, Muḥammad. Al-Ḥadīqat al-hilāliya. Edited by Sayyid Alī Mūsawī Khurāsānī. Qom: 1410 AH.
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  • Shaykh Bahāʾī, Muḥammad. Mashriq al-shamsayn wa iksīr al-saʿādatayn. Edited by Mahdī Rajāʾī. Mashhad: 1372 SH.
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  • Shaykh Bahāʾī, Muḥammad. Al-Mikhlāt. Egypt: 1317 SH.
  • Shaykh Bahāʾī, Muḥammad. Kashkūl. Beirut: 1403 AH.
  • Shaykh Bahāʾī, Muḥammad. Miftāḥ al-falāḥ. Edited by Muḥammad Ismāʿil b. Ḥusayn Māzandarānī Khājūʾī. Edited by Mahdī Rajāʾī. Qom: 1415 AH.
  • Tunakābunī, Muḥammad. Qiṣaṣ al-ʿulamāʾ. Tehran: 1364 Sh.
  • Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-. Al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Beirut: 1390 AH.
  • Thābitiyān, Ḍhabīḥ Allāh. Asnād wa nāma-hā-yi tārīkhī dawra-yi Ṣafawiyya. Tehran: 1343 SH.