Sayyid Ahmad Khwansari

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Sayyid Ahmad Khwansari
Personal Information
Full NameSayyid Ahmad Khwansari
LineageKhwansari family
BirthMuharram 18, 1309/August 24,1891
ResidenceKhansar, Qom, Tehran
Studied inKhansar, Najaf, Qom
DeathRabi' II 27, 1405/January 20, 1985
Burial PlaceShrine of Lady Fatima al-Ma'suma (a), Qom
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsAkhund Khurasani, Mirza Muhammad Husayn Na'ini, Aqa Diya' al-Iraqi, Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Tabataba'i al-Yazdi, 'Abd al-Karim al-Ha'iri al-Yazdi, ...

Sayyid Aḥmad Khwānsārī (Arabic: السید أحمد الخوانساري) (b. 1309/1891- d.1405/1985) was a Shiite marja' (authority) in 14th century A.H. (20th century). He was a student of Akhund Khurasani, Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Tabataba'i al-Yazdi, Muhammad Husayn Na'ini and Diya' al-Din 'Iraqi, and was one of the few Shiite authorities who were not much known during their authority in Shiite seminaries. His authority (marja'iyya) began since the demise of Ayatollah Burujirdi.

Khwansari was known for his piety and simple life. His political practice underwent a lot of ups and downs from explicit oppositions to the policies of Shah's regime to a sort of caution and moderate approach.

Lineage and Birth

Khwansari's lineage goes back—by 30 ancestors—to Imam Musa al-Kazim (a). His father, Mirza Yusuf, and his grandfather, Mirza Baba, were both religious scholars. Sayyid Ahmad Khwansari was born in the Muharram, 1309/1891 in Khansar. His father died when he was 3 years old, and his brother, Sayyid Muhammad Hasan, who was a religious scholar as well, undertook the responsibility of bringing him up.


Khwansari learned the preliminary and intermediate courses of Islamic disciplines from his brother as well as his sister's husband, Sayyid 'Ali Akbar Bidhindi. In 1325/1907, he went to Najaf, Dezful, Sultan Abad (Arak) and Qom in order to study the advanced levels. He attended the advanced levels of fiqh and usul al-fiqh as well as 'ilm al-rijal, Islamic philosophy and the like in those cities; here are some of his teachers there:

During the authority of Ayatollah Burujirdi, Khwansari was one of his trustees and a top teacher of the Islamic Seminary of Qom. Until 1370/1950, he taught kalam, Islamic philosophy, fiqh, and usul al-fiqh in Qom.

In Tehran

In 1369/1949 when Sayyid Yahya al-Sajjadi, the leader of congregational prayers in Sayyid 'Aziz Allah Mosque in the Bazar of Tehran, passed away, tradesmen in the Bazar asked Ayatollah Burujirdi to send them a competent person as their new leader of the congregational prayers. Thus in 1370/1950, Khwansari went to Tehran at the request of Ayatollah Burujirdi and the insistence of people. Since then until his death, he led congregational prayers in the Mosque, as well as teaching fiqh and administering some religious affairs.

During his stay in Tehran, he turned the Mosque into a place for political and social activities. His first important political act was the issuance of a statement, co-written with Sayyid Muhammad Bihbahani, against the Provincial Associations Bill. And then, since the Pahlavi government did not take their objections into account, some scholars of Tehran decided to sit in the Mosque; they called people to join them in the sit-in and express their oppositions to the Bill.


Many people attended Khwansari's lectures, including:

And his students in Tehran included: his son Sayyid Ja'far Khwansari, Ahmad Mujtahid Tihrani, Muhammad Taqi Shari'atmadari, Mahmud Ansari, and 'Ali Ghaffari Khwansari.

Shiite Authority

Until the demise of Ayatollah Burujirdi in 1380/1961, Khwansari was engaged in teaching Islamic disciplines and the administration of religious affairs in Tehran. After Ayatollah Burujirdi's death, although some top Shiite scholars asked him to go to Najaf or Qom in order to undertake the Shiite authority, he preferred to stay in Tehran. However, he accepted to be a Shiite authority, and he had followers among Shiites in Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran.

Particular views in fiqh

Ayatollah Khwansari is one of the few scholars of fiqh who have a different view with respect to playing chess: while most scholars take chess to be prohibited by the sharia, Khwansari maintains that it is permissible to play chess insofar as it is not a usual instrument for gambling.

And with respect to wilayat al-faqih (the guardianship of faqih), he believes that a faqih (a scholar of fiqh) has no guardianship over people; he has no right to manipulate the khums, let alone the execution of sharia punishments such as hudud and qisas or the occupation of judicial positions and other social activities.

Political Practice

From the very beginning, Khwansari was not an explicit opponent of the Pahlavi government and particularly the Shah himself. He had unpleasant memories from the failure of scholars in Najaf during the Constitutional Movement and thus preferred the moderate approaches of 'Abd al-Karim Ha'iri Yazdi and Ayatollah Burujirdi, though he was never close to the government.

Khwansari's relationship with the Pahlavi government underwent many ups and downs, and it sometimes tended to be unfriendly or even hostile. For example, during the events of June 5, 1963 (15 of Khurdad, 1342) and the 2500 year celebration of the Persian Empire in 1971, he issued explicit statements against the Shah's regime, and his position was close to the opponents of the Shah. Moreover, at some points he expressed some demands from the regime or some objections to its policies, such as his objection to disrespects for religious scholars on the radio as well as some inappropriate programs on the national television, and his request for the exemption of religious students from the conscription, the release of some scholars and other prisoners, and permissions for some banned preachers to restart giving speeches.

Some people believe that the reason why Ayatollah Khwansari refused to engage in political issues was that on the issue of land reforms he was offended by some people in the Bazar of Tehran.

Social and Cultural Activities

In addition to his supervision of Islamic seminary in Qom, Tehran, Najaf and other cities, Khwansari also helped to construct and repair many mosques and public buildings. After the earthquake of Khorasan in 1968, he offered financial helps to the sufferers of the earthquake. And when Iranians were expelled from Iraq in 1969, he formed a big rally to express objections to Iraqi officials.

Personal and Moral Character

Many contemporary scholars have praised Khwansari's religious caution and piety, and highly regarded of him in matters of moral virtues, such as politeness, modesty, and simple life. Moreover, his scholarly position was so high that after Ayatollah Burujirdi's death, many scholars of Islamic seminaries in Qom, Najaf, and Karbala, considered him as the most knowledgeable scholar of fiqh who was competent for the global Shiite authority. His significant feature in fiqh were his independent views that led him to oppose widely accepted views in fiqh.


  • Jami' al-madarik: the most important work by Khwansari in fiqh that is published with annotations by 'Ali Akbar Ghaffari in 7 volumes; the book is a commentary on al-Mukhtasar al-nafi' by al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli. The book was written during 30 years.
  • Al-'Aqa'id al-haqqa (a well-argued exposition of the principles of Islamic beliefs)
  • Annotations on al-'Urwat al-wuthqa
  • Manasik al-hajj (hajj rituals)
  • Ahkam al-'ibadat (on jurisprudential issues of worships)
  • Kitab al-tahara (on jurisprudential issues of cleanliness)
  • Kitab al-salat (on jurisprudential issues of prayers)
  • An essay of fatwas both in Persian and Arabic.


Khwansari had 4 sons called Ja'far, Mahdi, 'Ali, and Fadl Allah. The latter two died when he was still alive.


Khwansari died in Tehran in 1405/1985. When he passed away, Imam Khomeini issued a statement, the Bazar of Tehran was closed, and the government announced one weak for public mourning. His corpses was taken from Tehran to Qom, and was then buried in the Balasar Mosque in the Holy Shrine of Fatima al-Ma'suma (a).