Biography of Late Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai

By: Mohammad Yazdi

Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i was born in Tabriz in A.H. (lunar) 1321 or A.H. (solar) 1282, (A.D 1903) in a family of descendants of the Holy Prophet, which for fourteen generations has produced outstanding Islamic scholars. He received his earliest education in his native city, mastering the elements of Arabic and the religious sciences, and at about the age of twenty set out for the great Shiite University of Najaf Ashraf to continue more advance studies.

Most students in the madrasahs follow the branch of transmitted sciences" (al-'ulum al-naqilyah), especially the sciences dealing with the Divine Law, fiqh or jurisprudence and usul al-fiqh or the principles of jurisprudence. Ayatullah Tabataba'i, however, sought to master both branches of the traditional sciences; the transmitted and the intellectual he studied Divine Law and the principles of jurisprudence with two of the great masters of that day, Mirza Muhammad Husayn Na'ini and Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Isfahani.

In addition to formal learning, or what the traditional Muslin sources "acquired science" ('ilm-i husuli), Ayatullah Tabataba'i sought after that "immediate science" ('ilmi-I-hudari) or gnosis through which knowledge turns into vision of the supernal realities. He was fortunate in finding a great master of Islamic gnosis, Mirza Al-Qadi, who initiated him into the Divine mysteries and guided him in his journey toward spiritual perfection.

Ayatullah Tabataba'i returned to Tabriz in A.H (solar) 1314 (AD 1934) and spent a few quiet years in that city teaching a small number of disciples, but he was as yet unknown to the religious circles of Persia at large. It was the devastating events of the Second World War and the Russian occupation of Persia that brought ' Ayatullah Tabataba'i from Tabriz to Qum in A.H. (solar) 1324 (A.H. 1945) Qum was then, and continues to be, the centre of religious studies in Persia. In his quiet and unassuming manner Ayatullah Tabataba'i began to teach in this holy city, concentrating on Qura'nic commentary and traditional Islamic philosophy and theosophy, which had not been taught in Qum for many years. His magnetic personality and spiritual presence soon attracted some of the most intelligent and competent of the students to him, and gradually he made the teachings of Mulla Sadri, once again a cornerstone of the traditional curriculum.

The activities of Ayatullah Tabataba'i since he came to Qum have also included frequent visits to Tehran. After the Second World War, when Marxism was fashionable among some of the youth in Tehran, he was the only religious scholar who took the pains to study the philosophical basis of Communism and supply a response to dialectical materialism from the traditional point of view. The fruit of this effort was one of his major works, UsuI-i-falsafah Wa rawish-i ri'alism (The Principles of Philosophy and the Method: of Realism), in which he defended realism in its traditional and medieval sense against all dialectical philosophies. He also trained a number of disciples who belong to the community of Persians with a modern education.

Ayatullah Tabataba'i has therefore exercised a profound influence in both the traditional and modern circles in Persia. He has tried to create a new intellectual elite among the modern educated classes who wish to be acquainted with Islamic intellectuality as well as with the modern world Many among his traditional students who belong to the class of ulama have tried to follow his example in this important endeavour Some of his students, such as Sayyid Jalal al-Din Ashtiyan'i of Mashhad University and Murtada Mutahhari of Tehran University, are themselves scholars of considerable reputation Allamah Tabataba'i often speaks of others among his students who possess great spiritual qualities but do not manifest themselves outwardly

In addition to a heavy program of teaching and guidance, 'Ayatullah Tabataba'i has occupied himself with writing many books and articles which attest to his remarkable intellectual powers and breadth of learning within the world of the traditional Islamic sciences.


Muntakheb Ul  Aqwaal
"Knowledge is better than wealth because it protects you while you have to guard wealth. it decreases if you keep on spending it but the more you make use of knowledge ,the more it increases . what you get through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears but what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you." MORE..
(Hazrat Ali Ibne Abi Talib (A.S)

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