Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei

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Abul-Qassim Khoei
Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei (7738).jpg
Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei in his office at Najaf, probably in the early 1970s
Born(1899-11-19)November 19, 1899
DiedAugust 8, 1992(1992-08-08) (aged 92)
SchoolShia Islam
Main interests
Religious jurisprudence
WebsiteOfficial website

Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei (/ˈɑːb æl ˈkɑːsɪm æl ˈhi/ (About this soundlisten) AH-boo al KAH-sim al HOO-ee; Arabic: أبو القاسم الخوئي‎; Persian: ابوالقاسم خویی‎) (November 19, 1899 – August 8, 1992) was an Iranian Shia cleric and one of the most influential Twelver Shia Islamic scholars (marja'), and the predecessor to Ali al-Sistani. He was the spiritual leader of much of the Shia world until his death in 1992. He was succeeded by Ali al-Sistani, his former student, whereby many of his followers became followers of Al Sistani and foundations headed by Khoei were handed to Al Sistani.


Born in the Iranian city of Khoy, West Azerbaijan province in 1899, Khoei grew up in Iran. Around the age of 13, he moved to Iraq and took up residence in the holy city of Najaf where he began studying Shia theology with the scholars of that city. He eventually attained the rank of Ayatollah and was subsequently made a marja. Khoei would continue to live in Najaf, becoming a teacher for the remainder of his life, and overseeing the studies of scholars who would be qualified to issue fatwas based on Shia theology.

Due to his prominent position as a teacher and scholar in Najaf, he became an important leader of worldwide Shias. He was made the most prominent Grand Ayatollah in 1971 after the death of Muhsin al-Hakim. In this position, he became a patron of numerous institutions across the globe that sought to provide welfare, and also provided scholarships to theological students from across the Muslim world.

He is considered as the architect of a distinct school of thought in the principles of jurisprudence and Islamic law, and one of the leading exponents of 'kalam'-scholastic theology- and 'rijal'- study of the biographies of transmitters of ahadith, the prophetic traditions, 'fiqh'- jurisprudence- and 'tafseer'- exegesis of the Qur'an. His interests included astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy.

Al-Khoei's status as the pre-eminent scholar of his age did not go unchallenged. In the 1970s, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Al-Shirazi, a radical theologian based in Karbala had a long running feud with Al Khoei and his fellow clerics in Najaf over the legitimacy of theocratic rule. The dispute resulted in Al-Khoei seeking to dismiss Al Shirazi's status as a religious scholar.[1]

After the Persian Gulf War, Khoei was arrested by Saddam Hussein during the mass Shia uprising that followed the defeat of Iraqi forces. While under arrest, he was taken to Baghdad and forced to make public appearances with Saddam Hussein. Hussein eventually allowed Khoei to return to Najaf, but he was placed under house arrest. Khoei died on 8 August 1992 in Najaf at the age of 92.[2] His funeral was led by his student Ali al-Sistani. He was buried in Shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf.[3]


Ayatollah Al Khoei had seven sons: Jamaluddin al-Khoei Abbas al-Khoei, Ali al-Khoei, Abdul Saheb al-Khoei, Mohammad Taqi al-Khoei, Abdul-Majid al-Khoei, and Ibrahim Al Khoei. Mohammad Taqi al-Khoei died in a sudden car accident, allegedly set up by Saddam Hussein, on the night of 21 July 1994. Soon after the fall of Baghdad to US forces in 2003, Abdul-Majid al-Khoei returned to Iraq with plans to revive Najaf to the glory and splendor it enjoyed under the patronage of his father. Abdul-Majid al-Khoei was then the head of Al-Khoei Foundation, the organization responsible for the trusts of his father. He was assassinated on April 10, 2003, near the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf.


Sayyid Abul Qasim Khoei (right) with Ayatollah Faqih Imani (left)

He was fervently dedicated to establishing welfare, social, cultural, and educational institutions for Muslims worldwide. The following are some of the institutions he established:

He was also the patron of about 1,000 grant-maintained students of theology from Iraq and other countries like Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Persian Gulf States, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South East Asia. He provided financial support for maintaining the schools including boarding expenses, teachers' salaries and lodging costs.



Khoei with his student Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

Former student Ali al-Sistani is currently the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq and widely regarded as "wield[ing] enormous power over Iraq's Shia majority."[4] The degree of success of his articulation of moderate Shia politics in Iraq have been said to be "in no small part traceable to the legacy of his mentor and teacher", Khoei.[5]

Khoei's post-graduate institute normally accommodated some 150 students, at any given time. Among the other students who attended classes and were personally supervised by Khoei included

Institutions include:

  • Publishing House - Translation, printing and distribution of books worldwide, Karachi, Pakistan.
  • Cultural Complex, Bombay, India. Considered among the biggest Shi' ite Muslims cultural centre-under construction.
  • Representative Offices catering for the religious, social, educational, and cultural needs of Muslims all over the world, with the Headquarters in London, U. K. and branches in the United States, Canada, India, Pakistan, U.A. E., Oman, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Malaysia.


Khoei wrote on various topics, ranging from Islamic jurisprudence to mathematics and astronomy and was a prolific writer in these disciplines. He wrote 37 books and treatises, most of which have been published. His works include:

  • Lectures in the Principles of Jurisprudence - 10 volumes
  • Biographies of Narrators of Tradition - 24 volumes.
  • Islamic Law - 18 volumes.
  • Al-Bayan Fi Tafsir al-Quran (The Elucidation of the Exegesis of The Qur'an and sometimes entitled The Prolegomena to the Quran)
  • Minhaju-us-Saliheen (The Path of the Righteous) - 2 volumes, reprinted 78 times (guide book on religious practice and law) .
  • Anthology of Religious Questions - Concise version of the Path of the Righteous - in Arabic, Urdu, Persian, English, Turkish, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, and Gujarati.
  • Mabani al-Istinbat (Edifices of Deduction) Principles of Jurisprudence.
  • Ajwad-at-Taqrirat (The Best of Regulations) Principles of Jurisprudence.
  • Sharh-el-Urwatul-Wuthqa (Commentary on The Steadfast Handle) - Jurisprudence.
  • Treatise on Suspected Attire - Risala fil Libas Al-Mashkok, Evidential Jurisprudence.
  • Nafahat-ul Ijaz (the Fragrance of Miracles), in defence of the Qur'an.


See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Has Kuwait reached the sectarian tipping point?, American Enterprise Institute, August 14, 2013
  2. ^ Biography of Ayatollah Khoei in English
  3. ^ Biography of Ayatollah Khoei in English
  4. ^ Who's who in Iraq: Ayatollah Sistani, 26 August, 2004
  5. ^ Nasr, Vali (2006). The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam will shape the Future. Norton. p. 145. ISBN 0-393-06211-2.

External links[edit]