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  • 5/11/2005

Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Husseini Sistani

(9th Rabi Al-Awwal 1349 A.H./ August 4, 1930)

Sayyid Ali Sistani was born inMashhad and was brought up into a family known for its religious background. He learned theological and rational sciences from many eminent and well-known religious scholars. His grandfather was the great 'Sayyid Ali' whose detailed biography has been brought in the book 'Tabaqaat Al-a'laam Al-Shi'a (Categories of Shi'a Scholars) by Aqa Buzurg Tehrani.
At the age of 5 he started learning the Holy Qur'an. A woman who was known as 'Mother of "Aqaye Mudir" helped him learnt the Qur'an. He was then admitted in a religious center for reading, writing, and for learning basic mathematics and geography. He graduated from the center after he had learnt calligraphy.
He took his introductory 'Arabic studies, including eloquence (balagha) from one of the renowned teachers of 'Arabic in Khurasan, Muhammad Taqi Adib Nishaburi. He also studied Fiqh, Usul, Mantiq (logic), and Aqaid under the great 'Ulama and teachers of Khurasan, and in that same city, took part in Dars-e-Kharij (the highest level ofstudies in the Hawza). At this time, he also benefited by the presence of Allamah Muhaqqiq Mirza Mahdi Isfahani.
In late 1368 A.H. he migrated toQum to accomplish his studies in Fiqh and Usul. He was benefited by the two well-known scholars, Sayyid Hussan Tabataba'i and Grand Kuhkamari. The first gave lectures in Fiqh (Jurisprudence and Usul (Fundamentals of Jurisprudence) and the second gave lectures in Fiqh only.

On having arrived in Najaf, he began attending Ayatullah Khoei and Shaykh Husayn Hilli's lectures in jurisprudence and fundamentals of jurisprudence for a considerably long time. Meanwhile, he attended lectures of other prominent scholars like Ayatollah Hakim.
In early 1371 A.H., he leftQum for Najaf Ashraf and reachedKarbala on the occasion of Arba'in (40th day) of Imam Hussein. Then he went to Najaf and for more than 10 years he took part in the lessons of Ayatullah Khoei. At this time, he also took part in the lessons taught by Hakim. He also completed one complete course in Usul al-Fiqh under the auspices of Ayatullah Husayn Hilli.
In 1380 A.H. Ayatullah Sistani traveled back to his hometown, the holy city ofMashhad, expecting to stay and settle in it. In the same year, he was awarded a permit by Imam Al-Khoei and another by Shayk Hilli, certifying that he had attained the level of (ijtihad)- deduction of legal judgment in matters of religion. He was also awarded a diploma by the distinguished traditionalist and scholar Agha Buzurg Tehrani testifying to his skill in the science of "Rijal" (biographies of hadith narrators) and that of hadith. Upon returning to Najaf Ashraf in 1381, he embarked on research and teaching jurisprudence. He started giving lectures (externals) in fundamentals of jurisprudence in 1384 A.H.

Ayatollah Khoei died in 1992, but not before naming Sistani as his replacement. Ayatollah Sistani cemented his relationship as successor to Ayatollah Khoei by leading the funeral prayers of his teacher. Khoei's death was followed by those of other notable clerics in Najaf, bringing Sistani to the fore as the most respected of the Shi'itereligious leader in Iraq. His position was contested by other clerics, including Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, but his role as successor to the legacy of Abdul-Qassem Khoei gave him an edge.

In early August 2004, Ayatollah Sistani, who has long been suffering from a heart condition, reportedly suffered serious health problems. He is said to have been transported to Beirut and from there to London for treatment. It was the first time in many years that Sistani had left his home in Najaf, which seems to indicate that his medical condition was serious. On August 25, Ayatollah Sistani returned from London to broker an agreement that eneded the standoff in Najaf at the holy Imam Ali shrine between U.S. marines and Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army.
Sistani's edicts and rulings have provided many Iraqi Shi'a religious backing for participating in the January 2005 elections -- he urged, in a statement on October 1, 2004, that the people should realize that this was an "important matter" and he also hoped that the elections would be "free and fair ... with the participation of all Iraqis".

His works:

Ayatullah Sistani held many lectures about the book titled as "makaasib", and many subjects such as purity, prayers, judgment, khums, and some other rules on Fiqh like usury, Taqiyyah (precaution), and the rule known as "ilzam" (obligation).
Sistani also taught the Usul for three complete courses, some of which are ready for publication, like his research on the scientific roots (principles), "ta'adul and taraajeeh", some researches on Fiqh and some chapters about prayers.

Here are some of his books and treatises:

1. A Sharh (explanation) of Urwatul Wuthqa
2. Al-Buhuth ul-Usuliyah
3. Kitab al-Qadha
4. Kitab al-Bay' wa al-Khiyarat
5. A Short treatise on the topic of Salat al-Musaffir (Arabic)
6. A Short treatise on the topic of the Qiblah (Arabic)
7. A Short treatise on the topic of Ijtihad and Taqlid (Arabic)
8. A Short treatise on the topic of Interest (Riba')
9. A Short treatise on the topic of the compilation of Hadith in Islam (Arabic)

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