Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Hosayni Tehrani (ʻAllamah Tehrani)
Place of birth: Tehran – Iran
Place of Demise: Mashhad – Iran
‘Allamah Tehrani was born in Tehran-Iran in 1345 A.H./1925 (1303 solar) and passed away in Mashhad-Iran in 1416 A.H./1995 (1374 solar).
His grandfather, Ayatullah Hajj Sayyid Ibrahim had studied in Najaf with Ayatullah Mirza Hassan Shirazi (among the Ulama known as Mirza yi awwall/first mirza d. 1312/1894). The Allamah’s father, Ayatullaih Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq was a student of Mirza Muhammad Taqi Shirazi (known as mirza yi duwwum/second mirza d. 1339/1920).
After completing his education in Samarra, Muhammad Sadiq returned to Iran and settled in Tehran. Little is written about Muhammad Sadiq's life and career during the reign of Rida shah (1925 1941). There is much evidence, however, which points to his active involvement in open appositional activity against Rida shahs government.
Several observers, including ‘Allamah Tehrani himself, testify that like many other members of the clergy, Ayatullah Muhammad Sadiq strongly opposed secularization and Westernization of Iran.
He was particularly active in organizing and leading the government’s opponents in Tehran against the law for uniformity of dress introduced in December 1921/1307 (solar), and the law for the abolition of women’s veil promulgated in 1935/1314 (solar). As a result of these activities Muhammad Sadiq was arrested and imprisoned several times. Despite the government ‘ s attempt to discredit him, he survived and remained one of the top ranking and most respected mujtahids of Tehran in the early and middle decades of the twentieth century.
Ayatullah Allamah Tehrani is related to many prominent Shia lranian Ulama of previous centuries by birth and/or marriage, including such notable scholars as Muhammad Baqir Majlisi Ayatullahs Mirza Muhammad Tehrani the author of Mustadrik al Bihdr, Muhammad Salih khatunabadi and Sayyid Mahdi Bahral ulum
Unlike his father, the young Muhammad Husayn did not receive his early religious education in the theological schools of Qum or Tehran. He studied with his father at home until he became well versed in the Islamic sciences. He also received a modern education during the 193os and 1940s in Tehran. After completing elementary school and three years of secondary school he entered the German Technical School in Tehran, and in 1942, graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.
It was only then in 1364 A.H./1943 (solar 1322) that Muhammad Husayn entered the Hawzah Ilmiyah of Qum and joined the circle of students of ‘Allamah Tabataba’I For the next seven years, the young Muhammad Husayn studied in Qum receiving instruction from Shaykh Murtaza Hairi Yazdi and Sayyid Muhammad Damad in addition to ‘Allamah Tabataba’i After seven years of studying with the ‘Allamah, Tehrani reached the rank of “mujtahid” and decided to go to Najaf to continue his education.
Tehrani stayed in Najaf for seven years, during which time he studied with Ayatullahs Aqa Buzurg Tehrani, Sayyid Mahmud Shahrudi Sayyid Abul Qasim Khui, Shaykh Husayn Hill and several other scholars.
Several scholars and gnostics played important roles in ‘Allamah Tihraini’s spiritual life. As Tehrani himself has stated, his first teacher and spiritual guide was ‘Allamah Tabatabai, who initiated Tehrani into gnosis (irfan), took him under his spiritual guidance, and closely supervised his wayfaring and spiritual advancement while he was studying in Qum Until the end of his life, Tehrani constantly admired Tabatabai and acknowledged his role in his intellectual and spiritual achievements. Thus, when Tehrani left Qum for Najaf, he had already started wayfaring and pursuing an active spiritual life.
During the years in Najaf, as ‘Allamah Tabataba’i had instructed him, Tehrani was to seek guidance in spiritual matters only from Ayatullah Abbots Quchani and whomever he deemed appropriate. Ayatullh Quchani taught Tehrani further details and theoretical principles of the doctrine.
In 1376 A.H./1957 (solar 1336) Tehrani met the most eminent spiritual master in Karbala namely, Hajj Sayyid Hashim Haddad (d. 1984), an incident that changed Tehranis soul and destiny.
‘Allamah Tehrani states that he had heard Hajj Sayyid Hashim Haddads name from ‘Allamah Tabataba’i who always spoke of him with respect and admiration. When he went to Najaf and visited Ayatullah Shaykh Abbas Quchani, Tehrani inquired about Hjj Sayyid Hashim Haddad and found out that he lived in Karbala’. A mysterious yearning to meet Sayyid Hashim finally led Tehrani to make a pilgrimage to Karbala In that same year he met the great master. The young Tehrani’s soul was totally captured by the spiritual eminence and charisma of Sayyid Hashim Haddad.
Tehrani’s acquaintance with Sayyid Hashim Haddad had a profound impact on his scholarly and spiritual life. From his first meeting with Haddad, the young Tehrani’s soul was greatly transformed. In Haddad Tehrani found a sincere Muslim, and a great spiritual master and guide who had passed from the realm of multiplicity and was completely annihilated in Divine Unity (tawhid):
… Sayyid Hashim Haddad, was so absorbed in Divine Unity tawhid that words cannot describe his station and his personality. He was beyond description and comprehension. He was one of the most powerful figures in spiritual journeying who had passed beyond the realm of angels (malakut), had reached the realm of Divine Names lahut and Divine Invincibility jabarut and had been totally annihilated in the Divine Essence.
One can hardly exaggerate the impact that Haddad, had on Tehrani’s spiritual life. In Ruh I muJarrad, Tehrani has described in detail haddad’s spiritual station and the way he trained his disciples in spiritual matters. Suffice it to mention that after acquaintance with Haddad, until the master’s death, Tehrani made considerable advancement on the path, to such an extent that Haddad honored Tehrani by granting him the title of “Sayyid al taifatayn Master of two peoples (i.e., scholars and gnostics).
After seven years studying in Najaf and benefiting from Sayyid Hashim Haddad presence and instructions, the master advised him to go back to Tehran. Despite his own desire, Tehrani reluctantly returned to Iran and began his career as teacher, prayer leader, and orator in the Qaim mosque in Tehran. In the meantime, by Haddad’s recommendation, Tehrani took spiritual guidance from Shaykh Muhammad Jawad Ansari another prominent master who lived in the city of Hamadan in western Iran.
For the next twenty-two years, Tehrani visited Najaf and other shrine cities in Iraq regularly and greatly benefited from association with hajj Sayyid Hashim Hadda.
Another Aspect of Him
Another aspect of Allamah Tehrani’s life that has not been examined to this day is his interest in politics and his participation in political activity during the two decades that preceded the Islamic Revolution Of 1979.
The nature and details of Tehrani’s political activities before, during, and after the Islamic Revolution are important issues that cannot be dealt with here and must be studied separately. The available information suggests that despite his preoccupation with preaching, teaching and writing, Tehrani had turned his mosque into an active center of opposition against the shah’s government before the revolution; and a center for mass mobilization and political education after the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
In one of his publications, Tehrani reports how he organized certain members of the clergy into small groups and defied the Shahs government and its reforms in the early 1960s, how he urged Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini to issue declarations against the government and formed networks for their distribution, and how he met or communicated with Ayatullah Khomeini and advised him on taking positions on different occasions.
Of particular interest is Tehrani’s discussion of the events of 15 Khordad, 1342/june 5, 1963 and his activities in support of Khomeini When Khomeini was arrested by government forces and the rumors of his upcoming execution spread, Tehrani maintains that he met many prominent Ulama of Qum and wrote to others in cities throughout Iran asking them to declare that Khomeini was an Ayatullah and one of the country’s sources of emulation (marj;a’ i taqlid and therefore, his execution was not permissible according to the Constitution of 1905.
As a result, instead of execution, Ayatullah Khomeini was sent to exile first to Turkey and then to Iraq. After the victory of the revolution, Tehrani states, he met with Ayatullah Khomeini several times and presented the outline of a twenty point program for consolidation of the new regime including the establishment of a new military force and suggestions to modify the new constitution.
Despite his interest in politics, before the revolution Tehrani concentrated most of his time and energy on an extensive cultural campaign for purification of Islam and Shiism from beliefs and practices he considered corrupt and non Islamic. Concomitantly, he devoted himself to teaching, studying and practicing “irfan” in a serious but quiet manner.
We know that in the late 1960s and the 1970s, when Allamah Tabatabai conducted a class for a select group of his students in Tehran, the young Tehrani, along with the late Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari and professors Henry Corbin and Seyyed Hossein Nasr attended those sessions and benefited from ‘Allamah’s knowledge and presence. During those sessions, important religious and intellectual questions on Islam in general, and Shi’ism and Sufism in particular, were discussed, and Professor Nasr acted as the main translator and interpreter.
After the Islamic Revolution Of 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, Tehrani settled in Mashhad where he devoted his time to teaching, writing and spiritual wayfaring. Many more students and aspirants of irfan gathered around Tehrani, benefited from his scholarship and received spiritual guidance from him until he passed away in 1416A.H. /1995.
As was mentioned before, ‘Allamah Tehrani was initiated into the Divine mysteries while he was still fairly young. In Lubb al Lubdb, allamah Tabatabi discusses the doctrine and the method of the tariqah (order) they both followed. In this order equal emphasis is placed on exoteric and esoteric aspects of Islam as well as on love and devotion to the ahl al Bayt of the Blessed Prophet (may peace and blessing be upon them).
In Lubb al-Lubab, Tabatabai details these ideas and goes so far as to say that the station of the Universal Man (al-Insan al-Kamil) can be fully attained only by the imam the status of the imam in Shiism being identical to that of the qutb or Spiritual Pole in Sufism, whose existence in the world is always necessary and indispensable.
‘Allamah Tehrani was a man of great piety and noble character. His presence is still felt strongly in the intellectual and spiritual circles in Mashhad several years after his departure from this world. Three years be¬fore his death in 1995 and with the support of his students and disciples, the ‘Allamah established in Mashhad the Foundation for Translation and Publication of the Collection on Islamic Sciences and Culture (mu’assasaayi tarjumah wa nashr dawra yi ulum wa maarif i islam).
He appointed some of his trusted students to manage and supervise the publication of his writings and the translation of some of those works into other languages. Most of the writings of the ‘Allamah had been published by Hikmat Publication Company while he was still alive.
When he passed away, the Foundation took over this arduous task. To this date, the Foundation has published most of the writings of the ‘Allamah in Persian. Many of his works have also been translated into Arabic and published by dar al¬Mahajjaht al bayda in Beirut, Lebanon. The Lubb al Lubab is the first in the series to be translated in its entirety into English.
At the same time, he devoted most of his time and effort to preaching and spreading the principles of traditional Islam as well as teaching and training students who came to him from different parts of the country. In his public sermons, which were very popular, Tehrani dealt with purely religious issues as well as socio-political questions. Some of these speeches were published later in Tehran or Mashhad Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Husayni Thirani was a traditional scholar in the true sense of the term, and highly respected in scholarly and religious circles in Tehran, Qum and Mashhad. Like his teacher and mentor,
‘Allamah Tabataba’i, Tehrani can be considered a student of the school of Muhyi Al-Din Ibn Al ‘Arabi, while at the same time being greatly influenced and inspired by the ideas and writings of Sadr al-Din Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) He admired and respected Iranian philosophers of previous centuries, particularly such thinkers as Abu Rayhan Biruni, Ibn Sina, Nasir al Din Tusi and Mulla Muhsin Fayz Kashani.
Frequently in his writings, Tehrani referred to these thinkers and philosophers. In addition, he used verses from the Qur’an extensively.
Like ‘Allamah Tabatabai he uses the same technique of commenting on and interpreting each verse with the help of other verses. As Thirani states, this approach is based on certain ahadith of the Prophet and rawdytit (narrations) of the Shia imams as well as on the Nahj al-Balaghah of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib:”Verily, some verses of the Quran interpret and comment on sonic others.” And “The Book of Allah is the one by which you can see the Truth, say the Truth and hear the Truth. Some of its verses interpret other verses, some are witness and reason for others. The Quran contains no contradictions in the affairs of Allah and does not separate from Allah whoever adheres to its injunctions”.
Another feature of Tehrani’s writings is his dealing with social, political historical, moral, and philosophical issues, in addition to purely religious and metaphysical ones. In his writings, he addresses many questions facing contemporary Muslim society and provides appropriate Islamic solutions.
Like Allamah Tabataba’i, Ayatullah Tehrani devoted his life to scholarship as well as spiritual journeying and wayfaring. He wrote on metaphysics and a variety of Islamic subjects and expanded greatly our scope of understanding the relationship between Shi’ism and Sufism. His writings are characterized by their lucidity, originality and depth, and are indicative of his mastery of the Qur’an, Shi’ism, Sufism, and Persian and Arabic literature.
His spiritual orientation and his esoteric ideas were particularly influenced by teachings and instructions given to him by Hashim Haddad as well as ‘Allaamah Tabataba’i and Muhammad Jawad Ansari Like them, he admired Muhyi al din Ibn al ‘Arabi, Shaykh Mahmud Shahastari, Mawlana Jalal al din Rumi, Hafiz and Ibn al Farid His devotion to these Sufi poets and thinkers is well reflected in his writings where he frequently presents relevant examples from their works. However, he was more outspoken than his teachers in criticizing the opponents of Sufism.
Ayatullah Husayni Tehrani was a teacher, eloquent speaker, and prolific writer. He wrote, edited, and translated numerous works on different aspects of Islam, Shiism, Sufism, eschatology and other related subjects. Like his teacher, Tehrani’s contributions to Islamic studies and gnosis earned him the honorable title of Allamah while he was still alive. Not only do these writings reflect the depth of his knowledge and mastery of philosophy, jurisprudence, theosophy, Shi’ism and the holy Qur’an, they are also indicative of the purity of his heart, faith, sincerity and genuine yearning for knowledge and truth.
Synopses of some Books
Allah Shinasi (Knowing Allah) is a collection of speeches that the Ayatullah gave in Mashhad. It starts with a commentary on the verses thirty five through sixty four of chapter twenty four of the Qur’an (surat al-Nur). In this collection, he discusses some of the most profound metaphysical issues such as the Unity (tawhid) of the Divine Names, the Attributes, and the Essence. the descent of Divine Light in the manifestations of existence (wujud) the reality of walayat, the question of unity with the Divine, the meaning of lahuwa illa huwa (there is no he but He), and other related questions.
Imam Shinasi (Knowing Imams) is an encyclopedic work in eighteen volumes based on the Qur’an and the hadith that addresses the question of the imammate from historical, social, philosophical, and esoteric points of view, and the imamate of Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) in particular.
Important and often controversial issues such as the necessity for the presence of an infallible and living imam Prophetic traditions concerning the question of walayat, the Ghadir Khumm incident and the Farewell Pilgrimage of the Prophet (hajj al-wida), the development of Shi’i sciences and the role of Imam as-Sadiq (as) and other issues of similar nature are discussed in this collection.
Ma’ad Shinasi (Knowing the Afterlife) is another comprehensive work in ten volumes dealing with eschatology from the point of view of the shiites in this collection, ‘Allamah Tehrani deals with such questions as the intermediate world (alam i barzakh), the creation of Angels and their duties, life after death, and finally, resurrection and the day of judgment. Like his other works, this collection is also predominantly based on the Holy Qur’an, Ahadith and rawayat of the Shi’ite Imams.
Other important books that Ayatullah Husayni Tehrani wrote and have been published by the Foundation include the following:
1. Hadiya Gadiriyah (The Gadiriyah Present)
2. Lamatat al-Husayn (Divine flashes of [Imam] Husayn)
3. Lubb al Lubab dar sayr wa suluk i ulu’l albab (Kernel of the Kernel Concerning the Wayfaring and Spiritual Journey of the People of Intellect)
4. Mihr i Taban (Shining Sun: A biography of Allamah Taba taba’i)
5. Nami Yi Pish Niwis I Qanu I Asasi (Introduction to the First Draft of the Constitution [of Iran])
6. nigarishi bar maqala yi bast wa qabz i turik i shariat (An Examination of the Essay by Dr. `Abdulkarim. Surush on the Theoretical Expansion and Contraction in the shariah
7. nur i malakut i Quran (The Angelic Light of the Qur’an) [in 4 volumes] 8. Risaia yi badiah (The Original Treatise)
9. Risalah hawl i mas’ala yi ruyat i hilal (Treatise on Seeing the Moon)
10. Risalah yi nikahiiyah (Treatise on Marriage)
11. Risalah yi nuwin (The New Treatise)
12. Risalah yi sayr wa suluk (Treatise on Wayfaring and Spiritual Journey Attributed to Sayyid mahdi bahr al ulum [edited with an introduction and comments]
13. Ruh i Mujarrad (The Detached Soul)
14. Tawhid i ilmi wa’ ayni (Objective and Intellectual Tawhid)
15. Wilayat i faqih dar hukumat i islam (The Rule of juristconsult in the Islamic Government)
16. Wazifa yi fard i musalain dar ihya’ i hukamat i isldm (The Duty of Individual Muslims in Reviving Islamic Government)
Sections of Lubb al Lubab, as well as selected parts of Ruh i Mujarrad, were previously rendered into English by Mr. Ali Quli Qarai and appeared in Tawhid, a quarterly journal that was once published in the city of Qum though its publication has ceased for some time.
He passed away in 1416A.H. /1995.14 in Mashhad and buried in Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (P.B.U.H)