Ayatollah Behjat was considered one of the greatest Gnostics of our era. Indeed, not since the time of Imam Khomeini and Allama Tabatabai has the Shia world seen such an incredible fusion of the spiritual and the academic.
Eminent jurist, Gnostic, and Marja Taqleed (Religious Authority) Ayatollah Shaikh Muhammad Taqi Behjat Foumani passed away in Qom Sunday morning. He was 96 years old. According to a report by Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), he was admitted to the Vali-e-Asr Hospital for heart problems, where he returned to his Lord on Sunday, May 17.
Muhammad Taqi Behjat was born in the Fouman province of Iran in 1334 AH (1916 CE) to a respected religious family. Upon completion of his early education in his hometown, he moved to Iraq at the age of 14 to study at the Islamic seminaries in Karbala and Najaf. In Najaf, he studied under such eminent scholars as Sayyid Abul Hasan Isfehani, Shaikh Muhammad Kadhim Shirazi, Mirza Muhammad Hussain Naeni, and Shaikh Muhammad Hussain al-Gharawi. He also studied spirituality and Gnosticism with Sayyid Ali Qadhi Tabatabai.
Upon completion of his education, Shaikh Behjat returned to Iran and began teaching in the seminary in Qom, where he also attended the lectures of Ayatollah Muhammad Hussain Burujardi. In Qom, Shaikh Behjat taught higher-level jurisprudence classes for over 40 years. Upon the demise of Ayatollah Ali Araki in 1415 AH (1994 CE), Ayatollah Behjat was one of seven scholars who were recognized as Maraja Taqleed by the scholars of the Islamic seminary of Qom.
In addition to his jurisprudential credentials, Ayatollah Behjat was considered one of the greatest Gnostics of our era. Indeed, not since the time of Imam Khomeini and Allama Tabatabai has the Shia world seen such an incredible fusion of the spiritual and the academic. His students narrate that “as soon as Agha Behjat begins his prayer, tears flow from his eyes; frequently he has to pause, because his voice is choked with emotion – such is his awe in God’s presence. One day, after Maghrib prayers, he commented, ‘If only the kings of this world realized how much pleasure a servant experiences in worship, they would never even glance at the worldly delights.'”
Yet despite this high spiritual position, he lived a life of utmost humbleness and austerity. Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi narrates, “Till our day, the mentor (Ayatollah Behjat) does not own a house big enough for a large number of visitors. There are no more than two or three small rooms in his house furnished with their floor covered with the same covering which he placed more than forty years ago. He did not change his house after he had become a Marja, although it cannot accommodate the visitors and those who used to see him frequently and whose number was daily on the rise; therefore, the mentor used to sit during the feast or commemoration occasions at the Fatimiyya Mosque to receive people.”
Ayatollah Behjat was also well-known for his love and devotion to the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon him). Every morning, he began his routine by visiting the shrine of Lady Fatima Masooma (peace be upon her) and reciting Ziyarat Ashura. As well, he frequently encouraged others to recite Ziyarat Jamia and Ziyarat Ameenallah.
In regards to commemoration sessions for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), Ayatollah Behjat once said, “The brethren who are busy lauding Ahlul Bayt, those who recount the virtues of the Imams and the tragedies that befell them, must know their station, what action they undertake, and why. They must know that they are practically implementing the commandment of being ‘kind to the Prophet’s close ones’ to which the Holy Qur’an refers. Whether they recount the virtues of Ahlul Bayt or their tragedies, they thus repay the wage of conveying the Message and keep people firm on the path of the Qur’an.”
Funeral prayers for Ayatollah Behjat will be held on Tuesday, May 19, and he will be laid to rest in the vicinity of the shrine of Lady Fatima Masooma (peace be upon her).
A detailed biography of Ayatollah Behjat, containing many of his spiritual and practical admonitions, is available online.