Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita'

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Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita'
Grave of Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita', Najaf, Iraq
Grave of Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita', Najaf, Iraq
Personal Information
Full NameJaʿfar b. Khiḍr b. Yaḥyā al-Janājī al-Ḥillī al-Najafī
LineageDescended from Malik al-Ashtar
Well-Known RelativesKashif al-Ghita' Family
Birth1156/1743-4 Najaf
ResidenceNajaf (Iraq)
Studied inSeminary of Najaf
Death1228/1813 Najaf
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsWahid Bihbahani, al-Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi Bahr al-'Ulum

Jaʿfar b. Khiḍr b. Yaḥyā al-Janājī al-Ḥillī al-Najafī (Arabic: جعفر بن خضر بن یحیی الجناجی الحلّی النجفی) (b. 1156/1743-4 - d. 1228/1813), known as Kāshif al-Ghiṭā' (Arabic: کاشف الغطاء), was a Shiite Marja' in thirteenth/nineteenth century. Al Kashif al-Ghita' (the household of Kashif al-Ghita'), a well-known Shiite family of scholars in thirteenth/nineteenth and fourteenth/twentieth centuries are his progeny.

Kashif al-Ghita' succeeded his master, al-'Allama Bahr al-'Ulum, as a Shiite authority (Marja'). And like his master, Wahid Bihbahani, he campaigned against Akhbaris, writing some books and essays to reject their views.

During the Wahhabis' attack on Najaf, Kashif al-Ghita' defended the city, and was the first Shiite scholar who wrote against Wahhabis. He wrote some books concerning jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence and theology. He wrote Manhaj al-rashad li-man arad al-sidad to reject the views of Wahhabis, and al-Haqq al-mubin fi taswib al-mujtahidin wa takhti'at al-Akhbariyyin to reject the views of Akhbaris. Shaykh Muhammad Hasan Najafi, the author of Jawahir al-kalam, was his student.

Lineage and Biography

The household of Kashif al-Ghita' traces back in its lineage to Malik al-Ashtar. Kashif al-Ghita's father, Khidr, who was a pious scholar of his time, went from Janajiyya to Najaf in order to study Islamic disciplines; he stayed in the city and passed away in 1181/1767-8. Kashif al-Ghita' was born in Najaf.

He studied in Karbala and Najaf, and then he stayed in Najaf throughout his life. He died on Wednesday, Rajab 22, 1228/July 21, 1813 and was buried in a grave that he had made for himself (in one of the chambers of his seminary school) in 'Ammara area in Najaf. A dome was built on his mausoleum in which some of his progeny are buried.

Kashif al-Ghita' is the head of the Kashif al-Ghita' Household, that was a well-known family of Shiite scholars in thirteenth/nineteenth and fourteenth/twentieth centuries. Many Shiite scholars come from this household, such as Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita' who was a Shiite authority in the fourteenth/twentieth century. One feature of this household was their campaign against Akhbarism and advancement of Wahid Bihbahani's usuli thuoghts.


Kashif al-Ghita' studied the preliminaries of Islamic disciplines with his father, and then studied jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence with scholars of Iraq, such as Sayyid Sadiq al-Fahham (b. 1124/1712-3 - d. 1205/1790-1), Shaykh Muhammad al-Dawraqi (d. 1187/1773-4), al-Shaykh al-Fattuni, Wahid Bihbahani in Karbala, and al-Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi Bahr al-'Ulum (b. 1155/1742 - d. 1212/1798) in Najaf. He soon found a place as a well-known scholar and started teaching.


Many scholars attended his lectures, some of whom were later known as great scholars of jurisprudence in Iraq and Iran. They include:

  • Four of his sons: Musa, 'Ali, Hasan, and Muhammad.

People such as Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa'i (d. 1241/1826), Shaykh 'Abd 'Ali b. Umid Gilani, Shaykh Mulla 'Ali Razi Najafi, Shaykh Asad Allah Dizfuli, and Sayyid 'Abd Allah Kazimi Shubbar (d. 1242/1827) received Permission for the Transmission of Hadiths from him.

Religious Authority

When 'Allama Bahr al-'Ulum passed away, Kashif al-Ghita' undertook the religious authority of Shiites in Iraq and Iran and other countries, finding social and political fame and influence. While before Shaykh Murtada Ansari, no one held the view that only the most knowledgeable Mujtahid should be followed, and this is why Shiites used to follow different Mujtahids in their areas, Kashif al-Ghita' was practically the only authority for all Shiites in different areas.

Campaign Against Akhbaris

In the period of Kashif al-Ghita' there was a serious intellectual quarrel between Usuli and Akhbari scholars, with each trying to demonstrate their own view and reject that of their opponents. Trained in the Usuli school of Wahid Bihbahani and fond of Ijtihad, Kashif al-Ghita' defended the use of reasoning and deduction for religious beliefs and the laws of shari'a and made a case for principles of Islamic jurisprudence.

The quarrel was considerably exemplified in his serious debate with Mirza Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Nabi Niyshaburi (d. 1232/1816-7), the well-known Akhbari scholar. After this, Mirza Muhammad went to Iran and took refuge to Fath 'Ali Shah, the Qajar king. Kashif al-Ghita' wrote a book under Kashf al-ghita' 'an ma'ayib Mirza Muhammad 'aduww al-'ulama (Unveiling the cover from the flaws of Mirza Muhammad, the enemy of scholars) which was a rejection of Mirza Muhammad's views and sent it to the Iranian king. He then went to Iran and negotiated with the king until the Qajar king dismissed Mirza Muhammad from his palace.

He then travelled to Isfahan and wrote another book under al-Haqq al-mubin fi taswib al-mujtahidin wa takhti'a juhhal al-Akhbariyyin for his son, Shaykh 'Ali Kashif al-Ghita', to reject the views of Akhbaris. Mirza Muhammad Akhbari wrote a book under al-Sayhat bi al-haqq 'ala man alhad wa tazandaq as a reply to the objections made by Kashif al-Ghita' in that book.

Campaign Against Wahhabis

In the late 12th/18th century, the followers of Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Wahhab (b. 1111/1699-1700 - d. 1207/1792-3) rioted in Arabia. They took themselves as Islamic reformists, rejecting the beliefs of many Islamic sects (mostly Shiites). They began to practically attack what they took as anti-religious and polytheistic residues and symbols.

The riot went beyond Mecca and Medina in Arabia to Karbala and Najaf in Iraq—these two cities were attacked by Wahhabis. Kashif al-Ghita' defended Najaf, its holy places and its people against their attack. He armed himself, other scholars, students and people, and they forced Wahhabis to retreat. He then ordered the building of a solid wall around the city to protect the city from attacks.

He also ran an intellectual campaign against Wahhabis; he wrote the book, Manhaj al-rashad li-man arad al-sadad, that seems to be the first book in the rejection of Wahhabism.


Kashif al-Ghita' went to Hajj twice: in 1186/1773 and 1199/1785. In 1222/1807-8 he went to Iran and visited cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Qazvin, Yazd, Mashhad, and Rasht and was warmly welcomed by people and scholars.

Political Influence

During his visit to Iran, Kashif al-Ghita', who was very well-known and had the highest religious and political authority, went to Tehran and visited Fath 'Ali Shah, the Qajar king, and submitted his book, Kashf al-ghita' to him and gave him an official permission for Jihad with unbelievers, mobilization of soldiers, and receiving taxes and Zakat from people in order to organize his army. He issued a fatwa for Jihad in the first war between Iran and Russia (1218/1803-4 - 1228/1813).

Kashif al-Ghita' was highly respected by both Iranian and Ottoman governments, and he sometimes tried to resolve tensions between the two countries.

Emphasis on Enforcing the Islamic Laws

Kashif al-Ghita' firmly believed that Islamic laws, and in particular Hudud, Diyat, Ta'zirat, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, should be enforced. Sometimes his insistence on the enforcement of these laws would sometimes lead to incidents. He cared about the conditions of the poor; he raised funds from the rich and donated to people in need.


Kashif al-Ghita' wrote various books mainly about jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, theology and Arabic literature, including:

  • Al-Haqq al-mubin fi taswib al-mujtahidin wa takhti'a al-Akhbariyyin (against Akhbaris), first published in Tehran, 1306/1888-9.
  • Kashf al-ghita' 'an mubhamat al-shari'a al-gharra' (Unveiling the cover from ambiguities of the glorious sharia), Tehran, 1271/1854-5 and 1317/1899-1900. He was very sharp and competent in jurisprudence principles of jurisprudence as evidenced by his work in this area. He wrote this book during his travel to Iran while the only book available to him was Qawa'id al-ahkam by al-'Allama al-Hilli. Shaykh Murtada Ansari is quoted as saying that: "if someone knows the principles and rules of this book, I take him to be Mujtahid". Kashif al-Ghita' claimed that he would be able to write all parts of jurisprudence even if no books in jurisprudence were available to him. His contemporary and subsequent scholars of Fiqh admitted his great competence in jurisprudence.
  • Bughyat al-talib fi ma'rifa al-mufawwad wa l-wajib: a short treatise the first part of which concerns the principles of Islamic beliefs and the second concerns the laws of sharia.
  • Al-Tahqiq wa l-tanqir fi ma yata'alaq bi l-maqadir
  • Al-Risala al-sawmiyya (an essay about fasting)
  • Mishkat al-masabih
  • Risala fi l-'ibadat al-maliyya (an essay on financial good deeds)
  • Ghayat al-murad fi ahkam al-jihad (an essay on the laws of jihad)
  • Manhaj al-rashad li man arad al-sadad