Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim

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Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim
Personal Information
Full NameAl-Sayyid Muhsin al-Tabataba'i al-Hakim
Studied inNajaf
Burial PlaceNajaf
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsAkhund Muhammad Kazim KhurasaniDiya' al-Din 'IraqiSayyid Muhammad Sa'id Habbubi

Al-Sayyid Muḥsin al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī al-Ḥakīm (Arabic: السید محسن الطباطبائي الحکیم, b. 1306/1889 - d. 1390/1970) was a Shiite authority in the fourteenth/twentieth century from Iraq who lived in Najaf. After the death of Ayatollah Burujirdi, he was considered a prominent Shiite authority.

As part of his campaigns against communism in Iraq, he announced the prohibition of membership in the communist party, and in order to develop religious activities, he established Jama'at al-'Ulama' (The Association of Scholars in Najaf). When he was young, al-Hakim was the commander of some Iraqis during World War I defending the Ottoman government. One of his significant enterprises was the establishment of several libraries around the world. His most important work in jurisprudence was Mustamsak al-'urwat al-wuthqa which has been a focus of attention of scholars in Shiite seminaries.

Some of Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim's children were imprisoned and killed by the Ba'th regime in Iraq. His most famous son was Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim who was martyred in 1424/2003 in a terrorist attack in Najaf.


Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim was born in Najaf on Eid al-Fitr, 1306/May 31, 1889 in a very well-known household in Iraq.[1] His father, al-Sayyid Mahdi al-Hakim, was a great religious scholar in Najaf.[2] Al-Hakim was six years old when his father passed away.[3]


Ayatollah al-Hakim had ten sons and four daughters. His sons are: Sayyid Yusuf, Sayyid Muhammad Rida, Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi, Sayyid Kazim, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir, Sayyid 'Abd al-Hadi, Sayyid 'Abd al-Sahib, Sayyid 'Ala' al-Din, Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz, and Sayyid Muhammad Husayn.


When he was seven years old, al-Hakim started learning the recitation of the Qur'an, basic writing and reading skills, and when he was nine years old, he started learning Islamic disciplines. He studied some preliminaries, such as Arabic literature and logics as well as some textbooks of principles of jurisprudence (such as al-Qawanin and Ma'alim al-din) and some textbooks of jurisprudence (such as Shara'i' al-Islam and al-Lum'at al-Dimashqiyya) with his brother, al-Sayyid Mahmud, and then he started intermediate educations in Islamic disciplines with prominent scholars, such as Sadiq al-Jawahiri and Sadiq al-Bihbahani.


In 1327/1909-10, al-Hakim started advanced educations in Islamic disciplines (known as the "kharij" level). He studied jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence and 'ilm al-rijal with prominent scholars, such as Akhund Muhammad Kazim Khurasani, Diya' al-Din 'Iraqi, Shaykh Ali Jawahiri, Muhammad Husayn Na'ini and Sayyid Abu Turab al-Khwansari, and became a mujtahid. He attended the ethical lectures and sermons of Sayyid Muhammad Sa'id Habbubi, Baqir Qamusi, Sayyid Ali Qadi and Shaykh Ali Qumi.[4]


Al-Hakim started teaching the intermediate level of Shiite seminary since 1333/1914-5 and the advanced level (kharij) of jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence since 1337/1918-9. He taught many students in more than fifty years of teaching. Here are some of his prominent students:

  • Muhammad Taqi Al Faqih, a famous Lebanese scholar (d. 1999-2000)
  • Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Bahr al-'Ulum
  • Sayyid Muhammad Musawi Bujnurdi
  • Sayyid Hashim Rasuli Mahallati
  • Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani
  • Sayyid Husayn Makki 'Amili
  • Nasir Makarim Shirazi
  • Husayn Wahid Khurasani
  • Muhammad Hadi Ma'rifat
  • Muhammad Jawad Mughniya
  • Muhammad Taqi Ja'fari
  • Al-Sayyid Yusuf al-Hakim
  • Sayyid Asad Allah Madani
  • Sayyid Hasan Khursan
  • Al-Sayyid Sa'id al-Hakim
  • Sayyid Musa Sadr
  • Nasr Allah Shabistari


Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim wrote over forty works, some of which are monographs and some are commentaries or annotations on works by other scholars:

  • Nahj al-fiqaha, which is a commentary on al-Makasib ,
  • Manahij al-nasikin concerning a detailed elaboration of the hajj rituals,
  • Al-Masa'il al-diniyya,
  • Risala fi irth al-zawja (an essay concerning the inheritance of a wife from her husband),

Period of Marja'iyya

From left: Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Khoei, Sayyid Mahmud Husayni Shahrudi, Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim, and Sayyid Ali Tabrizi.

When Muhammad Husayn Na'ini died in 1355/1936, some of his followers (muqallids) consulted al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim as their marja', and when Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Isfahani died in 1365/1946, Al-Hakim's marja'iyya among Shiites became established, and when Ayatollah Burujirdi died 1380/1961, Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim became a marja' of all, that is, almost all Shiites became his followers (muqallids).[6]

Cultural and Social Activities

Here are some of al-Hakim's cultural and social activities:

  • The construction or reconstruction and repairing of tens of mosques, Husayniyyas, and cultural buildings.
  • The establishment of a public library in Najaf under "Maktaba Ayatollah al-Hakim al-'Amma" (The Public Library of Ayatollah Hakim), and then the establishment of other branches of this library in some other cities of Iraq as well as in countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Bahrain, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and India.
  • Financial and spiritual support of periodicals such as al-Adwa', Risalat al-Islam, al-Najaf, al-Iman, al-Thaqafa al-Islamiyya, and a series of books and pamphlets under "Min huda al-Najaf" (From the guide of Najaf).
  • Support of writers, preachers, and poets who propagated the Islamic culture and criticized atheist, communist or deviated thoughts.
  • Sending a commission to India in order to solve disputes among scholars there.
  • Public objection to the massacre of Muslims in Pakistan.
  • Supporting the establishment of "al-Majlis al-Islami al-Shi'i al-A'la" (The Supreme Islamic Shiite Council) in Lebanon.

Activities Concerning the Organization of Shiite Seminary

Here are some of al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim's activities concerning the organization of Shiite seminary:

  • Making plans and efforts to increase the number of religious students (tullab); under this plan, the number of students of the Shiite seminary of Najaf increased from 1200 to about 8000 ones.
  • The establishment of the school of Islamic disciplines and the enrichment of materials to be learned in Shiite seminaries by adding courses such as philosophy, theology, the exegesis of the Qur'an, and economics.
  • Making plans to acquaint the students of Shiite seminary with atheist ideas, such as Marxism, and making Shiite scholars aware of their perils and threats.
  • Decentralization of seminaries by the establishment of seminaries in remote cities and areas and even other countries, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and African countries.
  • Taking care of international students' facilities, requirements, and accommodations, such as the dedication of a seminary in Najaf to Indian students and another seminary to Afghan and Tibetan students.[8]

Campaign against Communism

After a coup d'état by 'Abd al-Karim Qasim in Iraq and his overtaking the power in 1377/1957-8, the ground was paved for the propagation of communist ideas, and many laws incompatible with the laws of shari'a were ratified.

Ayatollah al-Hakim objected to the ratification of such non-Islamic laws, calling Shiite scholars and preachers to make people aware of the anti-Islamic nature of those laws. Moreover, he issued two historical fatwas in 1379/1959-60, announcing that it is religiously forbidden to be a member of a communist party since it amounted to the propagation of atheism. Similar fatwas followed this by other scholars of Najaf, which finally forced 'Abd al-Karim Qasim to apologize.[9]

Political Activities in Iraq

  • The establishment of "Jama'at al-'Ulama fi l-Najaf al-Ashraf" (The Association of Scholars in Najaf)
  • A travel to Baghdad in 1383/1963-4 to announce his objections to the Ba'th regime of 'Abd al-Salam 'Arif regarding the imprisoning and torturing of opposition activists
  • Objection to sectarian policies and religious discriminations
  • Objection to the ratification of the laws concerning the nationalization of some commercial companies in 1384/1964-5, since the law would lead to the undermining of the financial power of Shiites
  • Strong reaction to the decision of 'Arif's government to oppress the Kurds in Northern Iraq; he issued a fatwa that it is impermissible to fight the Kurds and thereby prevented their massacre.[10]

Activities Concerning Muslims Around the World

With respect to foreign affairs, al-Hakim was particularly sensitive about the issues of Palestine. Against the Zionist attack on Palestine in 1387/1967-8, he called all Muslims to resist and mobilize their forces against the Israeli regime. He condemned the recognition of the Israeli regime by Mohammad Reza Shah's government in Iran. And when Masjid al-Aqsa was set on fire in 1389/1969-70, he issued a statement reminding Muslims of their religious and historical responsibilities against Zionists.[11]

When Sayyid Qutb (a leader of Egypt's Islamic Movement) was sentenced to death by Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir's regime, Ayatollah al-Hakim sent a telegraph to Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir on Jumada I 6, 1386/August 23, 1966 and asked for the abolition of the sentence.

Al-Hakim's Positions Concerning the Events in Iran

The grave of Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim

With regard to some political events in Iran, Ayatollah al-Hakim expressed his objections to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's decisions and acts, such as:

  • A strong reaction to the ratification of the Provincial Associations Bill
  • Expression of strong concerns about the murder of some students of Faydiyya seminary in Qum. Al-Hakim suggested that all Shiite scholars in Iran immigrate to seminaries in Iraq in flocks so that he could express his explicit opinion about the Iranian government. However, Imam Khomeini and other scholars of Qum did not find the suggestion helpful since they found it necessary and crucial for scholars to stay in Iran.
  • Condemnation of June 5, 1963 event (Khurdad 15, 1342 Sh), announcing that the Iranian government could not administer the country.[12]

However, Husayn Ali Muntaziri believed that some people had given misinformation about Imam Khomeini to Ayatollah al-Hakim, which was why he did not assist Imam Khomeini in his revolution against the Shah of Iran.[13]


After Hasan al-Bakr's coup, the Ba'th party increased pressure on Ayatollah al-Hakim and tried to make him give up his struggles against the regime. During the last years of his life, he underwent house arrest, and the Shiite seminary in Najaf and Shiites in Iraq faced many hardships.[14]

Eventually Sayyid Muhsin al-Tabataba'i al-Hakim died of a disease on Rabi' I 27, 1390/June 2, 1970 in Baghdad at the age of eighty four. His corpse was taken from Baghdad to Karbala and from there to Najaf, and it was buried in a private grave that he had prepared for himself near his library.[15]


  1. Qāsimī, ‘’Sākhtār-i sīyāsī ijtimāʿī-yi Shīʿayān-i Iraq’’, p. 163-164.
  2. Qāsimī, ‘’Sākhtār-i sīyāsī ijtimāʿī-yi Shīʿayān-i Iraq’’, p. 163.
  3. See: Qāsimī, ‘’Sākhtār-i sīyāsī ijtimāʿī-yi Shīʿayān-i Iraq’’, p. 163.
  4. Sirāj, ‘’al-Imām Muḥsin al-Ḥakīm’’, vol. 1, p. 27-28.
  5. Fayyāḍ Ḥusaynī, ‘’al-Imām al-mujāhid’’, vol. 1, p. 21-29.
  6. Bāmdād, ‘’Sharḥ-i ḥāl-i rijāl-i Irān’’, vol. 5, p. 190.
  7. Ḥakīm, ‘’Marjaʿīyyat al-imām al-Ḥakīm’’, vol. 1, p. 34-35.
  8. Bahādulī, ‘’al-Ḥawza al-ʿIlmīyya fī l-Najaf’’, vol. 1, p. 342.
  9. Sirāj, ‘’al-Imām Muḥsin al-Ḥakīm’’, vol. 1, p. 217; Fayyāḍ Ḥusaynī, ‘’al-Imām al-mujāhid’’, vol. 1, p. 67-69.
  10. Sirāj, ‘’al-Imām Muḥsin al-Ḥakīm’’, vol. 1, p. 116-118.
  11. Fayyāḍ Ḥusaynī, ‘’al-Imām al-mujāhid’’, vol. 1, p. 86-94.
  12. Dawānī, ‘’Nihḍat-i ruḥānīyūn-i Iran’’, vol. 3, p. 44-46.
  13. Muntaẓirī, ‘’Khāṭirāt-i Ayatollāh Muntaẓirī’’, vol. 1, p. 260.
  14. Tabarrāʾīyān, ‘’Iḥyāgar-i ḥawza’’, vol. 1, p. 281-562.
  15. ʿAlī Ṣaʿīr, ‘’Asāṭīn al-marjaʿīyya’’, vol. 1, p. 162-165.


  • ʿAlī Ṣaʿīr, Muḥammad Ḥusayn. Asāṭīn al-marjaʿīyya al-ʿulyā fī l-Najaf al-ashraf. Beirut: [n.p] ,1424 AH.
  • Bahādulī, ʿAlī Aḥmad al-. Al-Ḥawza al-ʿilmīyya fī l-najaf, Beirut: [n.p], 1413 AH.
  • Bāmdād, Mahdī. Sharḥ-i ḥāl-i rijāl-i Iran dar qarn 12, 13, 14. Tehran: [n.p], 1357 Sh.
  • Dawānī, ʿAlī. Nihḍat-i ruḥānīyūn-i Iran. Tehran: Muʾassisa-yi Farhangī-yi Imām Riḍā, 1360 Sh.
  • Fayyāḍ Ḥusaynī, Hāshim. Al-Imām al-mujāhid al-sayyid Muḥsin al-Ḥakīm. London: [n.p], 1999.
  • Qāsimī, Faraj Allah. Sākhtār-i sīyāsī ijtimāʿī-yi Shīʿayān-i Iraq. Tehran: Mashʿar, 1393 Sh.
  • Sirāj, ʿAdnān Ibrāhīm al-. Al-Imām Muḥsin al-Ḥakīm. Beirut: [n.p], 1414 AH.
  • Tabarrāʾīyān, Ṣafāʾ al-Dīn. Iḥyāgar-i ḥawza-yi Najaf. Tehran: Markaz-i Asnād-i Inqilāb-i Islāmī, 1387 Sh.