He was born in Rabi' I 11, 1293/April 6,1876 in Tehran. His father and grandfather were of scholars of the city. His great grandfather Haj Muhsin was a businessman. With the help of Manuchihrkhan I'timad al-Dawla Gorji, he founded the first print shop of Iran. Agha Buzurg married two times and had 5 sons and 4 daughters.
Agha Buzurg started his primary education in Dangi school, continued it in Paminar school, and then in Fakhriyya school (Marvi school).
He learned Arabic literature from Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Khurasani and Shaykh Muhammad Baghir Mu'izz al-Dawla, learned logic from Mirza Muhammad Taqi, learned usul from Sayyid 'Abd al-Karim Mudarrisi, Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Gurgani, and Shaykh 'Ali Noor Ilka'i and learned some mathematics from Mirza Ibrahim Zanjani. Also he studied history of literature and rijal.
On Jumada II 10, 1315/November 6, 1898 he went to Najaf for further studies and from this date until 1329/1911 he educated under scholars like Mirza Husayn Nuri, Shaykh Muhammad Taha Najaf, Sayyid Murtada Kashmiri, Mirza Husayn Mirza Khalil, Mulla Muhammad Kazim Khurasani, Sayyid Ahmad Ha'iri Tihrani, Mirza Muhammad 'Ali Chahardahi, Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Yazdi, and Shaykh al-Shari'a Isfahani.
Compilation of al-Dhari'a
Main article: al-Dhari'a ila tasanif al-Shi'a
The need for a listing of Shi'a books was being felt for a long time. In similar listings of books of Muslim writers, collected by writers of other Islamic sects, writings of Shi'a scholars was being ignored. Jurji Zaydan, the Christian Arab literary, in his book Tarikh adab al-lugha al-'Arabiyya (The History of Arabic literature), had considered the impact of Shi'a scholars in Islamic culture very little. This was tough for Shi'a faqih's, so three of them decided to introduce Shi'a scholars and their books and confront Jurji Zaydan's claim. Explaining the effect of Shi'a scholars in Islamic sciences was given to al-Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr, so he wrote his book Ta'sis al-Shi'a al-kiram li-funun al-Islam (The foundation of Islamic Sciences by the respectable Shi'as). Al-Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita' describing errors of the Zaydan's book, wrote the book al-Muraji'at al-Rayhaniyya and Aqa Buzurg wrote the al-Dhari'a.
He went to Kadhimiya in 1329/1911 and started the research for compilation of al-Dhari'a ila tasanif al-Shi'a, the greatest encyclopedia of Shi'a bibliography. Later he went to Samara and while continuing his work on his book, attended the class of Mirza Muhammad Taqi Shirazi.
He came back to Kadhimiya in 1335/1917 and stayed there for two years, then went to Samarra again. In 1354/1936 he came back to Najaf and founded a print shop, named "Matba'at al-Sa'ada", for publication of al-Dhari'a, but the imperial government of Iraq prevented his work with various excuses. He printed the first volume of al-Dhari'a in "Matba'at al-Ghura" but again its publication delayed 6 months due to resistance of the Iraqi government.
Agha Buzurg went to long travels in order to research and complete this encyclopedia. He visited most of public and private libraries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Hijaz and studied their books. He personally searched 62 libraries and studied the listings of many other libraries.
After a long period of illness, he died in Dhu l-Hijja 13, 1389/Feburary 20, 1970 in Najaf and according to his will, buried in the library he devoted for usage of scholars.
Permission for Hadith Transmission
Aqa Buzurg has permission for hadith transmission from narrators of different Islamic sects:
Mirza Husayn Nuri
Sayyid Muhammad 'Ali Shah 'Abd al-'Azimi
Shaykh 'Ali Khaqani
Shaykh Muhammad Salih Al Ta'an al-Bahrani
Shaykh Musa Kirmanshahi
Sayyid Abu Turab Khwansari
Shaykh 'Ali Kashif al-Ghita'
Al-Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr
Shaykh Muhammad 'Ali al-Azhari al-Maliki (the head of Masjid al-Haram teachers)
Shaykh 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Shafi'i (Imam of congregational prayer of Masjid al-Haram)
Shaykh Ibrahim b. Ahmad al-Ahmadi (one of faqihs of Medina)
Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Tarabulusi (teacher in Masjid al-Haram)
Shaykh 'Abd al-Rahman 'Alish al-Hanafi (teacher in al-Azhar)
Some of scholars who have permission for narration from Aqa Buzurg are:
Sayyid Husayn Burujirdi
'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din al-'Amili
Shaykh 'Abd al-Husayn Amini
Sayyid 'Abd al-Hadi Shirazi
Shaykh Muhammad Rida Al Yasin
Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Muzaffar
Sayyid Hibat al-Din Shahristani
Mirza Muhammad 'Ali Urdubari
Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i
Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq Bahr al-'Ulum
Sayyid Shahab al-Din Mar'ashi
Aqa Buzurg Tihrani has authored several works including al-Dhari'a ila tasanif al-Shi'a in 29 volumes, and Tabaghat a'lam al-shi'a.
Tabaghat a'lam al-shi'a including:
Nawabigh al-ruwat fi rabi'a al-mi'at, Beirut, Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi, 1391/1971.
Al-Thiqat wa al-'uyun fi sadis al-qurun, Beirut, Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi, 1392/1972.
Al-Dia' al-lami' fi 'abaqira al-qarn al-tasi', Tehran university, 1983.
Ihya' al-dathir fi ma'athir ahl al-qarn al-'ashir, Tehran university.
Rawda al-nadra fi tarajim 'ulama' al-mi'a al-hadia 'ashara.
Al-Kawakib al-muntashira fi l-qarn al-thani ba'd al-'ashara (handwritten).
Al-Kiram al-barara fi l-qarn al-thalith ba'd al-'ashara, Najaf, 1373/1954-1377/1958.
Nuqba' al-bashar fi l-qarn al-rabi' 'ashar, Najaf, 1373/1954.
Musaffa al-maghal fi musannifi 'ilm al-rijal, Tehran, 1958.
Al-Mashikha, Najaf, 1356/1938.
Hadiyya al-razi ila al-mujaddid al-shirazi, Karbala, 1383/1963.
Al-Naqd al-latif fi nafy al-tahrif 'an al-Qur'an al-sharif (handwritten).
Tawdih al-rashad fi tarikh hasr al-ijtihad, Qom, 1401/1981.
Tafnid qawl al-'awam bi qidam al-kalam (handwritten).
Dhayl al-Mashikha, Najaf, 1355/1937.
Diya' al-mafazat fi tariq mashayikh al-ijazat (handwritten)
Ijazat al-Tusi, Najaf, 1376/1956 (also published in the introduction of Tafsir al-tibyan, Beirut, Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-'Arabi).
Mustadrak kashf al-zunun or Dhayl kashf al-zunun, Tehran, Maktabat al-Islamiyya and also Ja'fari Tabrizi, 1387/1967.