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I was first introduced to the Masa'il Fiqhiyya when I was a student in Qumm, Iran. Sayyid 'Ali Asgher Milani, the grandson of the late Ayatullah Milani, gave me a copy of the book and urged me to translate it so as "...to let the world know the truth of the Twelver Shi'i practices."
When I read the book, I was impressed by the author's erudite and academic approach. Although he was dealing with very delicate and sensitive issues regarding Muslim liturgies, he approached them in a non-polemical, non-rhetorical and non-provocative manner. I was also impressed by his copious citations of his sources, in virtually every issue he dealt with.
I decided to translate this book as it deals with questions on ritual issues which Muslims frequently ask about. I believe that both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars of Islam will benefit immensely from the translation of this work especially as many of them are not aware of the genesis of the Twelver Shi'i practices.
Translating a text on Islamic jurisprudence is fraught with difficulties. I have remained as faithful as possible to the original Arabic version. However, where necessary, I have used square brackets to insert words in a sentence so as to facilitate a more meaningful translation in English. The normal brackets have been used to translate or explain Arabic terms.
The translation of this work would not have been possible without the help extended to me by many people. I am indebted to Sayyid Fadhil Milani, Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Jalali and Dr. Mahmud Ayoub for their help in dealing with some difficult parts of the text.
Shaheen Lakhani helped type parts of the text. Hasanain Kara was instrumental in designing the cover of the book. Taha Jaffer and Tehsin Takim both made invaluable contributions towards the final text.
Finally, I am also indebted to my wife, Fatima, and our two children for their sacrifices so that I could devote time to the translation. Needless to say, I am entirely responsible for any errors that may have occurred in this work.
Dhu'l Hijja 1416
Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din was born in Kadhimiyya, Iraq, in the year 1290 A.H./1872 A.D. He left Lebanon to pursue his studies in Iraq at the age of 17.
Sayyid Sharaf al-Din attained the level of ijtihad (independent reasoning in legal issues) at the age of 32 in the year 1322 A.H., returning to his home in Jabal 'Amil after having been away for fifteen years. He based himself in the city of Sur and became known to his people in a short period of time. Later, the highest ranking religious authority in Lebanon, Sayyid 'Ali al-Amin, authorized him to issue fatawa (juridical rulings).
In addition to his engagement in social work in Sur and Jabal 'Amil, Sayyid Sharaf al-Din continued his efforts writing and publishing. He also struggled for the unity of the Muslims. In the year 1327 A.H. he published al-Fusul al-Muhimah fi Ta'lif al-Ummah, a book which emphasized the necessity to unite the Muslims. In this text, he addressed the disputes and differences between the Shi'is and the Sunnis.
In 1331 A.H., he had the opportunity to implement his views on Muslim unity. He visited Egypt and met Shaykh Salim al-Bishri, the head of al-Azhar. The outcome of their discussions and long correspondence was the book al-Muraja'at, which is highly recognized and circulated in the Muslim world, having been translated into twenty languages. Al-Muraja'at is one of the best known books in Islamic studies due to its objective approach, depth, concise language and the strength of its arguments.
One of the steps he took to unite the Muslim umma was choosing the 12th of Rabi' al-Awal to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad rather than 17th of Rabi' al-Awal. He deliberately chose this date because it was the one recognized by the Sunni Muslims, and he wished to bring all the Muslims, Shi'is and Sunnis, closer to each other. After observing this event in his mosque, Sayyid Sharaf al-Din would go the Sunnis to celebrate the occasion with them.
Sayyid Sharaf al-Din died in the year 1377 A.H or 1957 A.D.
An effort of the Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project.