Short Life History of Allama Majlisi
The Safavid dynasty was in power in Iran, and many Safavid rulers had appointed Shia scholars as overseers of the law.Upon the demise of Mullah Faiz Kashani, Allama Majlisi was eventually appointed as Shaikh al-Islam by Shah Suleiman. It is during this time that Shi'ism was publicly preached and practiced in Iran, and Shia festivals and commemorations like Ghadir and Ashura became part of the culture.
The scholar ascended the pulpit, and eventually the crowd in the mosque became quiet. He began with his usual praise of the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them), but soon there was a change in his tone. He began talking about the various beliefs of the Shia faith, and to the shock of many people, a funeral shroud was brought in. As tears started rolling down people's faces, the scholar held it up and said, "These are my beliefs. I wish for each of you to place your signature on my shroud as witnesses that I subscribe to and adhere to these beliefs!"
One of the most prolific scholars in the history of Shi'ism, he was born in Isfehan in 1037 AH. His father, Mullah Muhammad Taqi Majlisi, was himself a prominent scholar, and it is under his tutelage that Allama Majlisi acquired much of his education, starting at a tender age of four.
As time progressed, he also studied under Mullah Sadra, Mullah Faiz Kashani, and Allama Hassan Ali Shustari. In all, he received permission to perform Ijtihad (derivation of Islamic law) from 21 different teachers.
Over several years, Shaikh Kulayni, Shaikh as-Saduq, and Shaikh Tusi had compiled four different collections of narrations they had found fairly authentic. In Allama Majlisi's period, Mullah Faiz Kashani and Shaikh Hurr Ameli had also compiled collections which contained rearrangements of these four books as well as other narrations. Yet Allama Majlisi knew that there still existed dozens of booklets and notebooks belonging to students of the Infallibles (peace be upon them) that contained invaluable narrations. So he took it upon himself to compile a collection of every single narration that was attributed to an Infallible.
He took it upon himself to compile a collection of every single narration that was attributed to an Infallible.
After several years of struggle, he produced the renowned Bihar al-Anwar al-Jami'atul Darar Aimmatul At'har ("Sea of Lights of the Collection of the Pearls of the Pure Infallibles"), his 110-volume magnum opus that contains narrations of the Infallibles on every topic imaginable, ranging from articles of belief and issues of jurisprudence to recommendations on personal hygiene and matters of everyday routine.
However, it must be kept in mind that Allama's goal was to collect every single narration available, not sift through and find the reliable ones, so only a trained scholar can determine which ones are authentic. In addition to Bihar al-Anwar, he also wrote several other noteworthy books, including Miratul Uqool ("Mirror of Intellects") and Malazul Akhyar ("Shelter of the Pious"). His three-volume Hayatul Qulub (a historic account starting with Prophet Adam and culminating with a discussion regarding the Infallibles) and Ainul Hayat (a discourse on ethics and morals) have been recently translated in English.
A well-rounded scholar, he also wrote a treatise on engineering.
In addition to dozens of volumes of books, Allama Majlisi also produced over a hundred jurists, among them his own daughter.
An extremely pious man, the Allama had a keen sense of humor. During the compilation of Bihar
al-Anwar, one of his students once brought in a book in which the Allama found a few crumbs of bread. He jovially remarked to his student, "Young man, if you wish, I will give you a cloth on which to keep your bread while you eat it! Oh my students, I wish that you are more considerate about these books. I hope you don't eat on them or leave them in the sun or use them to swat flies!"
On the 27th of Ramadhan, 1111 AH, Allama Majlisi departed this world. He was buried in
his native Isfehan, where he had spent his entire 77 years in remarkable service to Islam and Shi'ism.
About his book Bihar al-anwar (Oceans of Lights):
Bihar al-anwar (Oceans of Lights) is a monumental encyclopedia of hadiths which attempts to collect all Shi'ite traditions in a single work and which classifies them by subject matter. It was compiled in the Safavid period by the famous theologian Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (d. 1110/1698-9 or 1111/1699-1700). The importance the work has possessed since its compilation as the standard reference work for all Shi'ite studies can hardly be overemphasized.
One indication of its popularity is that, despite its enormous size, it was published twice in lithographed form in the nineteenth century.
The modern edition of the work fills 110 volumes of approximately 400 pages each.
Majlisi collected his traditions from numerous earlier sources. As examples, we can mention a few of the works from which he derived the hadiths in the present collection, works which have been independently published in modern times.
Majlisi wrote it to gather all the wisdom he could find, in order to preserve that knowledge for following generations. The collection is the most comprehensive (as a single collection) among all Islamic hadith collections. The author collected narrations related from the Prophet Muhammad, along with statements by Fatima (the daughter of Muhammad) and the Shi'i Imams, using both Shi'i and Sunni sources. The collection also includes his well-researched commentary on these narrations.
Shaykh al-Saduq, the author of one of the four basic works on Shi'ite hadiths referred to above, compiled dozens of authoritative hadith collections, each of which usually follows a particular theme. His al-Tawhid collects traditions which illustrate the profession of God's Unit. His 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida gathers together everything that has been related about Imam 'Ali al-Rida, the eighth Imam, whose tomb in Mashhad is the holiest site of pilgrimage in Iran. The work contains such things as descriptions of the Imam's mother, explanations of the reason his name was chosen, all the sayings which have been recorded from him, and traditions concerning his death and the miracles which have occurred at his tomb. Shaykh al-Saduq's al-Khisal demonstrates the importance of numbers in the traditions. In twelve long chapters he records all the hadiths which mention the numbers one to twelve.
Other related links:
Mulla Sadra’s Works
Khajeh Nasir Tousi
Allamah Sayyed Muhammad Husayn Tabatabae