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Sayyid Muhammad Ali Husayni Shahristani

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هبة الدین شهرستانی.jpg
Personal Information
Full Name Sayyid Muhammad Ali Huayni Shahristani
Epithet Hibat al-Din
Well-Known As Shahristani
Religious Affiliation Shia Islam
Birth 24 Rajab, 1301/20 May, 1884
Place of Birth Samarra
Death 1386/1966 in Baghdad
Scholarly Information
Professors Akhund Khurasani * Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Yazdi * Fath Allah Gharawi Isfahani
Works Al-Intiqad hawl tashih al-'i'tiqad, Nihdat al-husayn

Sayyid Muḥammad Alī Ḥusaynī (Arabic: السيد محمد علي حسيني), who was given the title Hibat al-Dīn (Arabic: هبة الدين) and came to be known by the name Shahristānī (Arabic: الشهرستاني), was one of the scholars of the fourteenth/twentieth century. He was a student of Akhund Khurasani, Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Yazdi, and Fath Allah Gharawi Isfahani. Shahrastani authored more than one-hundred books and treatises in various fields of study.

Shahrastani participated in the political and social activities of his time. Establishing the School of Islam and the School of Islah (Reform), establishing a missionary house (da’watkhana) in Bahrain, publishing the journals al-'Ilm (The Knowledge) and al-Murshid (The Guide), and founding a public library called al-Jawadayn are among Shahrastani's social contributions.

He also played a role in fighting against the colonial governments during World War I.

Birth and Demise

Sayyid Muhammad Ali, son of Sayyid Husayn Ha'iri, who came to be known as Shahrastani, was one of the scholars of the fourteenth/twentieth century. He was born on 24 Rajab, 1301/20 May, 1884 in Samarra.

His mother was a Shahrastani sayyid from Isfahan and a granddaughter of Mirza Mahdi Shahrastani. Zayd b. Ali b. al-Husayn (a) was the thirtieth forefather of Shahrastani.

Hibat al-Din (Gift of Religion) was a title given to him when he was born, because of a dream someone saw in which Imam Mahdi (a) allegedly told him to name the newborn Muhammad Ali and give him the title Hibat al-Din.

Shahrastani passed away in 1386/1966 in Baghdad.

Education

Shahrastani spent his childhood in Karbala. He started his education when he was ten. His education included various disciplines such as syntax, morphology, and other literary disciplines, in addition to mathematics, geometry, astronomy, history, hadith sciences, jurisprudence, heresiology, philosophy, and theology. He composed a number of books in these disciplines in the form of poetry and prose. He moved to Najaf from Karbala when he was nineteen and attended the classes of such scholars as Akhund Khurasani, Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Yazdi, and Fath Allah Shari'at Isfahani.

Scholarly Works

Shahrastani's works in various sciences and disciplines are more than one hundred volumes of books and treatises. It is said that, although he suffered from eye pain and his sight had become weak, he would write forty pages every day.

Socio-Political Activities

Social Activities

  • Establishing the School of Islah (reform) in Bahrain
  • Establishing the School of Islam in Bahrain
  • Establishing a missionary house (Da'watkhana) in Bahrain, which was a response to the activities of Christian missionaries in Bahrain
  • An active participation in starting the journal al-Murshid (The Guide)
  • Publishing the journal al-'Ilm (Knowledge) in Najaf in 1328/1910, which continued for two years. It is said that the reformist attitude of this journal was unprecedented in Najaf Seminary, and as a result some scholarly conflicts appeared between him and Sayyid Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din.
  • Founding a public library called al-Jawadayn near the shrine of Imam Kazim (a) and Imam Jawad (a) in 1360/1941.

Military Services

During World War I, Shahrastani was one of the leaders of jihad, who, since the beginning of the year 1323/1905 until the end of Rabi' II 1334/February 1916, would travel for jihad against the enemies.

With the start of World War I, the Shaykh al-Islam of Istanbul, as a spiritual leader of Muslims and the highest religious authority in the Ottoman Empire, issued a fatwa calling people to jihad and resistance against France, Britain, and Russia. Although this fatwa was read in all the mosques of Baghdad in 1333/1915, many of the scholars did not follow it but rather sent secret messages encouraging the British government to fight the Ottomans. In addition to these scholars, the representatives of Iraq in the Ottoman parliament and the Iraqis trained in the military schools of Istanbul also turned their back to the Ottoman sultan and rushed to serve the British queen.

In this context, the Shiite minority following the scholars of Najaf sided with the Ottomans. Sayyid Hibat al-Din, together with prominent scholars such as Shaykh al-Shari'at Isfahani, Mirza Mahdi Khurasani son of Akhund Khurasani, and Sayyid Mustafa Kashani moved, together with the people who followed them, towards the fronts.

After the defeat of the Ottomans and the British occupation of Iraq by Britain in 1338/1920, Shahrastani participated in the Iraqi revolution and fought under the command of Muhammad Taqi Shirazi against the Western colonialists. In the middle of the battle, Mirza Shirazi passed away, and Shahrastani, together with some other people, was captivated and was sentenced to death in the general court of war. Nine months after that, in 1339/1921, the British government issued a general amnesty and Shahrastani was set free from the prison.

Efforts for Unity

Shahrastani was in contact with Muhammad Abduh, Sayyid Muhammad Rida Danishwar (the owner of the journal al-Nahar), and the managers of the journals al-Muqtataf and al-Hilal. He also tried to establish ties between Shiite and Sunni cultural centers in Iraq, Egypt, and Syria.

In this period, during the constitutional revolution in Iran, Shahrastani supported the constitutionalists. In 1328/1910, the first issue of the religious, philosophical, and scientific monthly journal al-'Ilm (Knowledge) was with Shahrastani's effort. This monthly journal continued to be published for two years. When Shahrastani heard the news of the conversion of some Muslims in Bahrain to Christianity, he travelled to Bahrain to work against Christian missionaries, and in this way al-Ilm's publication ended.

After Bahrain, Hibat al-Din travelled to India and from there to Yemen, Arabia, and then Iraq promoting reform and ecumenism.

The Book Al-Sayyid Hibat al-Din al-Shahrastani

He also has a written work called "Ramadan, Ramz taqrib al-qulub wa ta'lif al-shu'ub" (Ramadan: The Secret of the Rapprochement of the Hearts and Unity of the Nations), in which he writes about the month of Ramadan as a manifestation of Muslim unity.

Commemoration

On March 31, April 1, 2010, Rabi' II 15-16, 1431, a conference was held in commemoration of Allama Shahrastani by the University of Kufa and the Islamic College of London at the Literature Faculty of the University of Kufa. In this conference, tens of articles by the professors of this university and other scholars were presented.

The Book Al-Sayyid Hibat al-Din al-Shahrastani, hayatuhu wa nashatuhu al-'ilmi wa l-ijtima'i (Shahrastani: His Life and Scholarly and Social Activities) was written by al-Sayyid Abd al-Sattar al-Hasani and published by Mu'assasa Kitabshinasi Shia (The Institute of Shiite Bibliography), which is the most comprehensive book written on Shahrastani.

References