Know Your Marja | Grand Ayatullah Al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim

Shaoore Wilayat Foundation

Ayatullah Al Uzma Sayyid Muhsin al-Tabatabaei al-Hakim an eminent personality among the Shia Muslim religious leaders became the leading marjae in Najaf of the majority of the Shia world in 1961, after the death of Ayatullah Sayyid Hossein Boroujerdi. He was among the renowned Maraja of Najaf and was considered to be one of the most famous scholars of the time after Ayatullah Abu Al Hassan Al-Isfahani and Ayatullah Hossein Borujerdi.
A colleague of Ayatollah Sayyid Abul Qassim Al-Khoie, he nurtured many students among whom few are contemporary Marajei namely, Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Al-Husseini Al-Sistani, Ayatullah Wahid Khurasani, Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi and few others.
His magnum opus ‘Mustamsak al ‘Urwat al Uthqa’ in 14 volumes is widely used in contemporary academic circles.
He had been always an insightful and inspirational personality for the entire community. Apart from religious guidance, he also motivated the donors to strive for the upliftment of Shias in Africa and Indian sub-continent.

Al-Hakim was born in Najaf on Eid al-Fitr, 1306/May 31, 1889 in a very well-known household in Iraq. His father, al-Sayyid Mahdi al-Hakim, was a great religious scholar in Najaf.[2] Al-Hakim was six years old when his father passed away.

When he was seven years old, al-Hakim started learning the recitation of the Qur'an, basic writing and reading skills, and when he was nine years old, he started learning Islamic disciplines. He studied some preliminaries, such as Arabic literature and logics as well as some textbooks of principles of jurisprudence (such as al-Qawanin and Ma'alim al-din) and some textbooks of jurisprudence (such as Shara'i' al-Islam and al-Lum'at al-Dimashqiyya) with his brother, al-Sayyid Mahmud, and then he started intermediate educations in Islamic disciplines with prominent scholars, such as Sadiq al-Jawahiri and Sadiq al-Bihbahani.

When Muhammad Husayn Na'ini died in 1355/1936, some of his followers (muqallids) consulted al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim as their marja', and when Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Isfahani died in 1365/1946, Al-Hakim's marja'iyya among Shiites became established, and when Ayatollah Burujirdi died 1381/1961, Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim became a marja' of all, that is, almost all Shiites became his followers (muqallids).

Cultural and Social Activities :-

Here are some of al-Hakim's cultural and social activities:
The construction or reconstruction and repairing of tens of mosques, Husayniyyas, and cultural buildings.
The establishment of a public library in Najaf under "Maktaba Ayatollah al-Hakim al-'Amma" (The Public Library of Ayatollah Hakim), and then the establishment of other branches of this library in some other cities of Iraq as well as in countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Bahrain, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and India.
Financial and spiritual support of periodicals such as al-Adwa', Risalat al-Islam, al-Najaf, al-Iman, al-Thaqafa al-Islamiyya, and a series of books and pamphlets under "Min huda al-Najaf" (From the guide of Najaf).
Support of writers, preachers, and poets who propagated the Islamic culture and criticized atheist, communist or deviated thoughts.
Sending a commission to India in order to solve disputes among scholars there.
Public objection to the massacre of Muslims in Pakistan.
Supporting the establishment of "al-Majlis al-Islami al-Shi'i al-A'la" (The Supreme Islamic Shiite Council) in Lebanon.
Taking a position with regard to Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood] in Egypt.

Activities Concerning the Organization of Shiite Seminary:-

Here are some of al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim's activities concerning the organization of Shiite seminary:
Making plans and efforts to increase the number of religious students (tullab); under this plan, the number of students of the Shiite seminary of Najaf increased from 1200 to about 8000 ones.
The establishment of the school of Islamic disciplines and the enrichment of materials to be learned in Shiite seminaries by adding courses such as philosophy, theology, the exegesis of the Qur'an, and economics.
Making plans to acquaint the students of Shiite seminary with atheist ideas, such as Marxism, and making Shiite scholars aware of their perils and threats.
Decentralization of seminaries by the establishment of seminaries in remote cities and areas and even other countries, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and African countries.
Taking care of international students' facilities, requirements, and accommodations, such as the dedication of a seminary in Najaf to Indian students and another seminary to Afghan and Tibetan students.

Campaign against Communism:-

After a coup d'état by 'Abd al-Karim Qasim in Iraq and his overtaking the power in 1377/1958, the ground was paved for the propagation of communist ideas, and many laws incompatible with the laws of shari'a were ratified.
Ayatollah al-Hakim objected to the ratification of such non-Islamic laws, calling Shiite scholars and preachers to make people aware of the anti-Islamic nature of those laws. Moreover, he issued two historical fatwas in 1379/1959, announcing that it is religiously forbidden to be a member of a communist party since it amounted to the propagation of atheism. Similar fatwas followed this by other scholars of Najaf, which finally forced 'Abd al-Karim Qasim to apologize.

Political Activities in Iraq:-

The establishment of "Jama'at al-'Ulama fi l-Najaf al-Ashraf" (The Association of Scholars in Najaf)
A travel to Baghdad in 1383/1963 to announce his objections to the Ba'th regime of 'Abd al-Salam 'Arif regarding the imprisoning and torturing of opposition activists
Objection to sectarian policies and religious discriminations
Objection to the ratification of the laws concerning the nationalization of some commercial companies in 1384/1964, since the law would lead to the undermining of the financial power of Shiites
Strong reaction to the decision of 'Arif's government to oppress the Kurds in Northern Iraq; he issued a fatwa that it is impermissible to fight the Kurds and thereby prevented their massacre.[10]
Activities Concerning Muslims Around the World
With respect to foreign affairs, al-Hakim was particularly sensitive about the issues of Palestine. Against the Zionist attack on Palestine in 1387/1967, he called all Muslims to resist and mobilize their forces against the Israeli regime. He condemned the recognition of the Israeli regime by Mohammad Reza Shah's government in Iran. And when Masjid al-Aqsa was set on fire in 1389/1969, he issued a statement reminding Muslims of their religious and historical responsibilities against Zionists.[11]
When Sayyid Qutb (a leader of Egypt's Islamic Movement) was sentenced to death by Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir's regime, Ayatollah al-Hakim sent a telegraph to Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir on Jumada I 6, 1386/August 23, 1966 and asked for the abolition of the sentence.

Al-Hakim's Positions Concerning the Events in Iran:-
With regard to some political events in Iran, Ayatollah al-Hakim expressed his objections to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's decisions and acts, such as:

A strong reaction to the ratification of the Provincial Associations Bill
Expression of strong concerns about the murder of some students of Faydiyya seminary in Qum. Al-Hakim suggested that all Shiite scholars in Iran immigrate to seminaries in Iraq in flocks so that he could express his explicit opinion about the Iranian government. However, Imam Khomeini and other scholars of Qum did not find the suggestion helpful since they found it necessary and crucial for scholars to stay in Iran.
Condemnation of June 5, 1963 event (Khurdad 15, 1342 Sh), announcing that the Iranian government could not administer the country.
However, Husayn Ali Muntaziri believed that some people had given misinformation about Imam Khomeini to Ayatollah al-Hakim, which was why he did not assist Imam Khomeini in his revolution against the Shah of Iran


After Hasan al-Bakr's coup, the Ba'th party increased pressure on Ayatollah al-Hakim and tried to make him give up his struggles against the regime. During the last years of his life, he underwent house arrest, and the Shiite seminary in Najaf and Shiites in Iraq faced many hardships.
Eventually Sayyid Muhsin al-Tabataba'i al-Hakim died of a disease on Rabi' I 27, 1390/June 2, 1970 in Baghdad at the age of eighty four. His corpse was taken from Baghdad to Karbala and from there to Najaf, and it was buried in a private grave that he had prepared for himself near his library.


Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim wrote over forty works, some of which are monographs and some are commentaries or annotations on works by other scholars:
Mustamsak al-urwat al-wuthqa, which is the first detailed, well-argued exposition of al-Urwat al-wuthqa ,
Haqa'iq al-usul which is a commentary on Kifayat al-usul ,
Nahj al-fiqaha, which is a commentary on al-Makasib ,
Manahij al-nasikin concerning a detailed elaboration of the hajj rituals,
A well-argued commentary on 'Allama al-Hilli's Tabsirat al-muta'allimin,
A commentary on al-Shaykh al-Baha'i's Tashrih al-aflak in ancient astronomy,
A commentary on al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli's al-Mukhtasar al-nafi'—this is the first written work of al-Hakim,
Al-Masa'il al-diniyya,
Risala fi irth al-zawja (an essay concerning the inheritance of a wife from her husband),
Minhaj al-Salihin, which is al-Hakim's essay of fatwas regarding different parts of jurisprudence.