Abul-Hasan Muhammad ibn Al-Husayn Al-Musawi
|Era||Islamic golden age|
|Main interest(s)||Tafsir, Arabic literature|
|Notable work(s)||Peak of Eloquence (collection of Imam Ali quotations)|
Abul-Hasan Muhammad ibn Al-Husayn Al-Musawi known in Arabic as al-Sharif al-Radi (Arabic: الشريف الرضي) and in Persian as Sharif Razi (Persian: شريف رضی) or Seyyed Razi (Persian: سید رضی) was a Shi'ite Muslim scholar and poet, who was born in 359 AH/970 CE in Baghdad and died in the year 406/1015 in his hometown. His grave is located in Kazmain, Iraq. He is popularly known by his laqab (nickname) Razi. He wrote several books on Islamic issues and interpretation of the Quran. His best-known book is Nahj al-Balaghah, whose manuscript copy dating from 1158 AD is preserved in the Raza Library established by Nawab Faizullah Khan of Rampur, India in 1774 AD.
Family and lineage
Razi was the third of four children, having two sisters and a brother. Khadija and Zaynab were his two sisters. His younger sister died in his lifetime, and he lamented her death in a mournful elegy expressing deep sorrow. His father, Abu Ahmed Husayn bin Musa, held fifth position in line of descendant from the 7th Imam Musa al-Kazim as follows:
- (i) Husayn bin Musa (ii) bin Muhammad (iii) bin Musa (iv) bin Ibrahim Mujab (v) bin Imam Musa al-Kazim
Sayyid Razi's mother Fatimah also traced her lineage to the Prophet and was the daughter of Husayn bin Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Utrush bin Ali bin Hasan bin Umar al-Ashraf the son of the 4th Shia Imam, Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-Abidin. His father, Abu Ahmad, for a long time occupied the post of Naqib of the Talibiyyin, a position that empowered him to look after the affairs of the Prophet's descendants ( Sadat). His father was first appointed as Naqueeb and later as "Naqib al-Nuqaba" an official responsibility as a chief which required the managing of affairs of Sadat. After death of father, the portfolio "Naqib al-Nuqaba" of Iraq, was transferred to Sharif Razi who had already been assisting his father in his official duties.
His family was well-to-do on both the paternal and maternal side. His mother Fatima inherited a good fortune from her father. She sponsored the family when the property of her husband was confiscated by the Buyid prince Adud al-Dawla. She used to help people who suffered hardships and patronized her relatives. Her interest in theology was respected by theologian Shaikh Mufid.
His elder brother Sayyid Murtadhā, popularly known by his nickname Alum-ul-Hudda was also a theologian and poet. His work is still published in the universities of Cairo and Beirut and form part of the course of Arabic literature.
Education and teaching
Upon completion of his primary education, his mother took her two sons to Shaykh al-Mufid for their education. He started teaching at the young age of 17 when he was himself studying. He completed his education at the age of twenty with different teachers. Most of his teachers were scholars and writers of Arabic. Due to the climate of tolerance prevailing in that era, Shia and Sunni students used to attend classes of teachers belonging to different sects, that is why many of the teachers of Sharif Razi were Sunni and Mu'tazili e.g. (i) Abu 'Ali al-Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Farsi (307-77/919-87) belonged Mutazili school (ii) Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Ahmad al-Tabari (d. 393/1002-3), follower of Maliki school). In addition to his Master al-Mufid, he also studied Arabic language and grammar under Abu Sa'id al-Hasan ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Marzban al-Sirafi (284-368/897-979), an expert in Arabic language and literature. His teacher in fiqh, was Muhammad ibn al-Abbas al-Khwarizmi (d. 383/993).
Character and literary status
Syed Razi was a significant figure in his time. He occupied responsible positions both secular as well as religious. Since his childhood he was a student of learning, acquiring Islamic Sciences of his time and applied his life span as a man of principle and collector of wisdom from literature. In his lifetime Abbasid rulers of Baghdad were at war with Fatimid Caliphs of Egypt and attempted to have all Sunni and Shia important figures to sign a Mahzur (public attestation decree) in favour of the legitimacy of war with the Egyptian rulers. Sharif Razi, his father and brother were also asked forcefully to sign it. But Sayyid Razi refused to sign this Mahzur at the cost of losing political privilege and official status of his family, even many a times he refused to accept financial support from the ruling kings in order to save himself from undue government influence. He devoted twenty years of his life in compiling Nahj al-Balaghah, and travelled to many libraries to collect texts that had recorded the lectures, letters, and sayings that Ali had written or delivered on different occasions. However, Nahj al-Balaghah does not contain all of Ali’s speeches, it is the most complete of any book to date. His life reflects the quote he has compiled in his compilation (Nahj al-Balagha) that Muslims are our brothers in faith; those who are non-Muslims are our brethren in creation.
He was a scholar, a poet and a man of cultivated taste. Al-Tha’alibi, his contemporary regarded Syed Razi as the most remarkable man among scholars of his time and the noblest amongst the Sayyids of Iraq. He was the most remarkable poet among the descendants of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, though there were many distinguished poets during Golden age of Abbasid and Fatimid caliphs.
Sayyid Razi was an Arabic poet and writer. Besides Peak of Eloquence and his poetry, nearly 40 books are credited to him, including Talkhis al-Bayan an Majazat al-Quran, Al-Majazatul nabaweyyah, Haqa'iq al-Ta'wil fi Mutashabih al-Tanzil, Ma'ani al-Quran and Khasais of Al Aemmah
The Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence) is considered a masterpiece of literature in Shia Islam. The Book is a collection of sermons, precepts, prayers, epistles and aphorisms of Imam Ali compiled by Sayyid Radi in the tenth century. The Nahj al-Balagh literary means peak or way of eloquence, it comprises a wide variety of topics ranging from the creation of the Universe, the creation of first man and end of universe. Syed Razi had inserted every sentence in the same form as he found it, so that the writing should not suffer any meddling. He refrained from applying his own approach of writing or expression. In his compilation work he only did classification of collected materials into sermons, letters and sayings of Imam Ali. As the reference material came to his attention at different times, the extracted materials had no chronological sequence according to content or topic. He died just after five years of his compiled book Nahjul Balagha, his compilation promptly gained the popularity even in his lifetime. A number of his contemporaries started writing commentaries on the compilation of Sayyid Razi, this work of commenting on the text and interpretation of meaning of the words used by Ali Ibn Abi Talib and the historical events mentioned therein is continued till today. A Lebanese Christian scholar, George Jordac, reveals that he has repeatedly studied the Peak of Eloquence up to 200 times.
Extent and scope of compilation
The sermons of Imam Ali were compiled, read and taught long before Sayyid Razi was born. The compilation of Nahj al-Balagha was a holy job for Sharif Razi and he accomplished the duty with dedication and carefulness. During his collection he had been so cautious and left no lacuna refraining himself from adding or subtracting a singular word beyond the text he obtained from the scattered Islamic literature. Even the sermons he received in divided portions were placed in compilation without joining the pieces into a continuous part. This incoherent scripture was criticized by a number of critics. The services of Sharif Razi are now regarded as significant in the philosophy of monotheism. More than 30 writers with name of their books/compilations are generally discussed while compilation work of Nahj al-Balagha is scrutinized e.g.
- (i) Ibn Nadeem and his book Kitabul Jumal
- (ii) Ibn Qutayba Daynawari and his book Uyunul Akhbbar
- (iii) Imam Hakim and his book al-Mustadarak
- (iv) Shaikh Mufid and his book al-Irshad; etc
Collected sermons in the Nahj al-balagha mainly reflects the coverage of topics (i) Islam and the Quran (ii) Human and humanity (iii) Theology and metaphysics (iv) Path and worship, including prayers (v) Social justice and administration (vi) Wisdom and admonition (vii) Prophecies (viii) Philosophy and critique over contemporary society (ix) Ahl-ul-Bait (x) piety and afterworld. Many research scholars in the modern age have presented their theses and published in the journals of different countries. The book compiled by Sharif Razi has also been quoted by the UN Secretary General as a role model of governance in the year 2002 during a meeting of the Arab Development Fund.
However, critics of Nahj al-Balagha generally raise two objections over compilation of Sharif Razi
- Firstly they claim that Sayyid Murtaza (the elder brother of Sharif Razi) is its author; and
- secondly they allege that most of the contents of this book are forged and falsely attributed to Imam Ali
Various commentators and researchers have examined the authenticity of objections and concluded that had al-Sharif al-Radi not collected that which he selected from among the sermons and words of the Imam Ali in Nahj al-Balaghah, we would have been definitely deprived thereof as well. The Urdu translator of Nahjul Balagha Syed Zeeshan Haider Jawadi has compiled a list of 61 books and name of their writers from 204 to 488 AH, in negation of the above-mentioned two objections and pointed the sources in which compilation work of Sharif Razi can be traced out.
Offspring and death
A number of writers traced the death of Razi at 47 years on 6th of Mohurram 406 A.H (1015 AD), whereas some historians recorded his age as 45 years and death in 404 Hijri (1013 AD). His funeral prayer was performed by the Abu Ghalib Fukhrul Mulk then Prime Minister in the kingdom of Sultan al-Dawla.
Abu Ahmed Adnan was the only son of Sayyid Razi. His son was also a prominent scholar of his time and after death of his uncle the official post of Naqib al-Nuqqab was entrawarded to his grandfather. Adnan died issueless in 449 Hijri Calendar, and consequently the physical line of Sayyid Razi came to an end.
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