Tawdih al-masa'il

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Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil (Arabic: تَوْضیح المَسائِل) or al-risāla al-ʿamalīyya (Arabic: الرِسالة العَمَلیَّة) or manual of fatwas or jurisprudential manual refers to books or manuals containing jurisprudential rulings and fatwas of a particular mujtahid. Such manuals are compiled in order for followers of a mujtahid to easily access the fatwas of their marja's. People practice their religious obligations in accordance with fatwas appearing in such manuals.

Jami'-i 'Abbasi by Baha' al-Din al-'Amili is said to be the first Farsi manual of fatwas. During the authority of Ayatollah Burujirdi, Shaykh 'Ali Asghar Karbaschiyan compiled a well-written manual of Burujirdi's fatwas that was understandable for all people. It was published after Ayatollah Burujirdi's approval. Since then, Shiite marja's followed that book's lead in compiling or writing manuals of their fatwas.


During the presence of Imams (a), jurisprudential collections only consisted of citing relevant hadiths with their chains of transmitters. From the Major Occultation until the period of al-Shaykh al-Tusi, similar jurisprudential collections were written that contained hadiths without mentioning the chains of transmitters, such as al-Muqni' and al-Hidaya by al-Shaykh al-Saduq and al-Nihaya fi mujarrad al-fiqh wa al-fatawa by al-Shaykh al-Tusi.[1]

Beginning of Development

In 4th/10th and 5th/11th centuries, jurisprudential collections were written in new styles. They no longer consisted only of hadiths. They contained contents regarding jurisprudential rulings without there being a direct specific text about them.[2] According to sources, the first jurisprudential manual in this style was al-Shaykh al-Tusi's al-Mabsut fi fiqh al-Imamiyya. It includes all parts of fiqh from tahara (cleanliness) to diyat (blood money). It contains many subsidiary problems and details.[3] Books in this period were still very scholarly and technical.[4]

Persian Writings

In the Safavid period, scholars of the Islamic Seminary of Isfahan maintained that Persian writing was necessary for a better understanding of jurisprudential rulings. Baha' al-Din al-'Amili (d. 1031/1621-2) was the first scholar who wrote a Persian essay with the title, Jami'-i 'Abbasi, in order to make it easier for people to understand jurisprudential rulings and practice upon them. The book remained unfinished, and his student, Nizam al-Din Muhammad Sawuji (d. 1038/1628-9), completed it.[5] Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Isfahani (d. 1365/1946) also published a Persian manual of his fatwas under Dhakhirat al-salihin.[6]

A large number of manuals of fatwas were written in 11th/17th, 12th/18th, and 13th/19th centuries. In the 14th/20th century, scholars such as Bahr al-'Ulum and al-Shaykh al-Ansari, did not write their own manuals of fatwas, resting content with writing annotations on these manuals.[7]

Beginning of Fluent Writings

In 1375/1955-6, Shaykh 'Ali Asghar Karbaschiyan wrote a manual of Ayatollah Burujirdi's fatwas with a fluent writing that was understandable for laypeople. It was published after the approval of the Ayatollah Burujirdi. The manual created a sea change in the style of writing "Tawdih al-masa'ils" and was welcomed by everyone, including scholars of Islamic seminaries.[8]

After the death of Ayatollah Burujirdi (1380/1961), Shiite authorities in Iran and other countries wrote manuals of their fatwas similarly to that of Ayatollah Burujirdi. Some scholars, such as al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim, Sayyid Mahmud Husayni Shahrudi, Shaykh Mansur Dizfuli, and Sayyid Hadi Milani wrote annotations on Ayatollah Burujirdi's manual of fatwas.[9]


In some manuals of fatwas, all parts of fiqh (from tahara to diyat) are collected, and in others, only the rulings of worships appear. And there are manuals devoted to a single jurisprudential ruling.[10] For example, al-Tuhfa al-Husayniyya by al-Wahid al-Bihbahani is devoted only to the issues of tahara (cleanliness), prayer, and fast, and Anis al-tujjar by Mulla Mahdi Naraqi is devoted to the rulings of transactions.[11]

General Chapters of a Tawdih al-Masa'il
No Title Explanation
1 Rulings of taqlid (following a mujtahid) Ways of knowing the rulings (ijtihad, ihtiyat, and taqlid), types of taqlid, conditions of a marja', etc.
2 Rulings of tahara (cleanliness) Types of water and their rulings, rulings of takhalli (urination and defecation), najis things, mutahhirat (purifiers), rulings of dishes, wudu' and ghusl, obligatory ghusls, rulings of women, rulings of the dead, ghusl of the dead, shroud, hanut, funeral prayer, burial, exhumation, tayammum, and …
3 Rulings of prayer Obligatory prayers, the worshipper's clothes and place, rulings of the mosque, rulings of qibla, adhan and iqama, obligatory actions of the prayer, invalidators of the prayer, doubts in the prayer, translation of the prayer, friday prayer, qasr prayer, qada' prayer, congregational prayer, al-ayat prayer, and …
4 Rulings of fast Intention, invalidators, expiation, qada' (making up the missed fast), fasting of a traveler, ways to know the start of a lunar month, obligatory, mustahab, forbidden, and disliked fasts
5 Rulings of khums Cases in which it is obligatory to pay the khums (one fifth of the property), and cases in which the khums should be spent
6 Rulings of zakat Conditions and cases of its obligation, the nisabs (thresholds), cases in which the zakat should be spent, people who deserve the zakat, zakat al-fitra and cases in which it should be spent
7 Rulings of hajj Conditions of its obligation
8-24 Rulings of transactions Rulings of buying and selling, types of transactions (disliked and forbidden), conditions of the buyer and the seller, conditions of the goods and changing them, types of transactions (cash, credit, and salaf), cancellation of the transaction, buying and selling fruits, the sermon of buying and selling
Rulings of shirka (partnership), sulh (compromise), rent, ju'ala, mudaraba, muzara'a, masaqat, rulings of people who do not have authority over their possessions, wikala (representation), loan, hawala (debt transfer), rahn (mortgage), warrantee, kifala (guarantee), conditions of a guarantor, wadi'a (deposit), 'ariya (lending), etc.
25-27 Rulings of Family Rulings of marriage, types of marriage (permanent marriage and temporary marriage), marriage formula, and conditions of the marriage bond
Rulings of breastfeeding, manners of breastfeeding, and cases in which breastfeeding leads to becoming mahram
Rulings of divorce: its types (rij'i or revocable, ba'in or irrevocable, khul', and mubarat), 'idda of divorce and 'idda of death, rulings of returning to the marriage
28-37 Miscellaneous Rulings of usurpation, luqata (lost money or object), hunting, slaughtering of animals, drinks and foods
Rulings of nadhr (vowing to God): promise, oath, will, endowment, inheritance, defense, enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, etc.
38 New issues related to fiqh Rulings of promissory notes, goodwill, bank transactions, insurance, lotteries, fertilization, bisection, transplantation, and …


A tawdih al-masa'il or a manual of fatwas has features distinguishing it from other jurisprudential books, some of the most important ones of which include:

  • Easy access to the fatwas of a marja'
  • In manuals of fatwas, only the fatwas of a mujtahid are mentioned without mentioning their evidence and arguments (such as Quranic verses and hadiths). However, in certain cases, Quranic verses or hadiths are mentioned as a matter of blessing.[12]
  • In a manual of fatwas, a mujtahid's fatwas are stated with his own wordings.[13]
  • Manuals of fatwas are not intended to be scholarly works; rather they are statements of fatwas and jurisprudential rulings.[14]
  • A manual of fatwas is, unlike other jurisprudential books, understandable for all people.[15]
  • A manual of fatwas mainly contains issues that are needed and frequently dealt with by people.[16]


Manuals of fatwas are said by some people to involve flaws, especially in their writing styles and contents.[17]

Writing Flaws

  • Lack of a table of contents with the help of which one can easily find the needed contents.[18]
  • Abstruse and non-persian texts in some cases.[19]
  • Use of words and phrases that might lead to obsessions,[20] such as the phrase, "ghusl is invalidated even if a very tiny part of the body, the size a hair string, is not washed".[21]
  • Use of some technical terms, such as "obligatory precaution", "azhar" (more apparent), "awla" (preferable), or phrases that are not publicly understood, such as "jawf dhabiha" (a slaughtered animal's viscera), "faqid al-tahurayn" (a worshipper who neither has wudu' nor tayammum), "nazar rayba" (lustful look), "asbab-i imala", and the like.
  • Using old-fashioned measuring units, such as "mudd", "dhira'", "farsakh", and the like.[22]

Problems in Contents

  • Ignorance of educational aspects. For example, manuals of fatwas contain a great deal of issues regarding cleanliness and uncleanliness, but the two notions have never been defined.[23]
  • Some rulings mentioned in manuals of fatwas are rarely needed by anyone. For example, under the issues of mahram, we read: if a baby is breastfed by a dead woman, this will not lead to him or her becoming mahram.[24]
  • Some rulings are not compatible with changes that have occurred in modern times. For instance, a kaffara (expiation) of a missed fast is said to be the emancipation of a slave, although there are no slaves in the modern time.[25]
  • The bulk of manuals of fatwas is devoted to individual, worshiped-related, and there is no mention of transaction-related rulings, and legal, economic, judicial, criminal, political, governmental, and international relational rulings, while the main sources of jurisprudential rulings, that is the Qur'an and hadiths, are considerably concerned with social, economic, legal, and political matters, as well as the administration of the society.[26]
  • Failing to mention the principles of religion. However, they are mentioned is manuals of fatwas by al-Muhaqqiq al-Sabzawari, Shaykh Ja'far Kashif al-Ghita', and Mirza Yusuf Tabataba'i Tabrizi.
  • Manuals of fatwas do not cover all jurisprudential sections. For example, they do not mention rituals of hajj.
  • Failing to consider new issues, such as inflation, insurance, banking, and the like.[27]

New Manuals of Fatwas

Different types of tawdih al-masa'il have been recently published, such as collective manuals of fatwas (the ones that include the fatwas of a number of marja's), illustrated manuals of fatwas, as well as manuals specific to different age groups and genders.


  1. Hāshimī Shāhrūdī, Farhang-i fiqh, Under the word Risālat al-ʿamalīyya, vol. 4, p. 95.
  2. Hāshimī Shāhrūdī, Farhang-i fiqh, Under the word Risālat al-ʿamalīyya, vol. 4, p. 95.
  3. Hāshimī Shāhrūdī, Farhang-i fiqh, Under the word Risālat al-ʿamalīyya, vol. 4, p. 95.
  4. Jannāti, Adwār-i fiqh, p. 233.
  5. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya (2)", p. 288-299.
  6. Āqā Buzurg al-Tihrānī, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 10, p. 16.
  7. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya (2)", p. 288-289.
  8. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya (2)", p. 291.
  9. Jannāti, Adwār-i fiqh, p. 273.
  10. Jannāti, Adwār-i fiqh, p. 284.
  11. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya (2)", p. 289.
  12. Jannāti, Adwār-i fiqh, p. 235.
  13. Jannāti, Adwār-i fiqh, p. 228.
  14. Jannāti, Adwār-i fiqh, p. 234.
  15. Jannāti, Adwār-i fiqh, p. 234.
  16. Jannāti, Adwār-i fiqh, p. 235.
  17. See: Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya (2)", p. 292-302.
  18. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya", p. 218.
  19. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya", p. 217.
  20. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya", p. 212-230.
  21. Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masā'il, p. 56.
  22. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya", p. 212-230.
  23. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya", p. 216.
  24. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya", p. 212.
  25. Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya", p. 214.
  26. Khomeini, Wilāyat-i faqīh (Ḥukūmat-i Islāmī), p. 11.
  27. See: Yazdānī, "Murūrī bar risāliha-yi ʿamalīyya", p. 212-230.


  • Āqā Buzurg al-Tihrānī, Muḥammad Muḥsin. Al-Dharīʿa ilā taṣānīf al-Shīʿa. Qom & Tehran: Ismāʿīlīyān, 1408 AH.
  • Jannāti, Muḥammad Ibrāhīm. Adwār-i fiqh wa kiyfīyyat-i bayān-i ān. Tehran: Intishārāt-i Kiyhān, 1374 Sh.
  • Hāshimī Shāhrūdī, Sayyid Maḥmūd. Farhang-i fiqh muṭābiq-i madhhab-i Ahl al-Bayt. Qom: Muʾassisa-yi Dāʾirat al-Maʿārif-i Fiqh-i Islāmī, 1382 Sh.
  • Khomeini, Rūḥullāh. Tawḍīḥ al-masā'il. Tehran: Muʾassisa-yi Tanẓīm wa Nashr-i Āthār-i Imām Khomeini, 1378 Sh.
  • Khomeini, Rūḥullāh. Wilāyat-i faqīh (Ḥukūmat-i Islāmī). Muʾassisa-yi Tanẓīm wa Nashr-i Āthār-i Imām Khomeini, 1388 Sh.
  • Yazdānī, ʿAbbās. 1376. "Murūrī bar risālihā-yi ʿamalīyya". Majalla-yi Fiqh 13: (210-230).
  • Yazdānī, ʿAbbās. 1389. "Murūrī bar risālihā-yi ʿamalīyya (2)". Majalla-yi Fiqh 15: (287-315).