He was born Sayyid Abul Ma'ali Shahab ad-Din Muhammad Hussain ibn Sayyid Mahmud Mar'ashi in the holy city of Najaf in 1315 AH. His father was a well-respected jurist who taught in the Najaf seminary, and it was under his tutelage that he began his religious education. He later traveled to Samarra and Kadhmiyya for higher education. During a trip to the shrine of Imam Ridha (peace be upon him) in Mash'had, he decided to relocate to Qom and finish his higher education under Shaikh Abdul Karim Hairi. In addition to theology and jurisprudence, he also studied mathematics, astronomy, and medicine from a vast range of scholars.
In Qom, he emerged as one of the leading scholars of the seminary. Soon after he started teaching, he was declared a Religious Authority (Marja Taqleed) by several other teachers of the seminary. Over a period of 67 years of continuous teaching, he trained such notable jurists and scholars as Shaikh Murtadha Mutahhari, Shaikh Ibrahim Amini, Shaikh Hussain Mazaheri, Sayyid Ali Qadhi Tababatai, and Sayyid Murtadha Askari. He also led prayers in the shrine of Lady Masooma Qom (peace be upon her) for over half a century.
Since his days in Najaf, Ayatollah Mar'ashi was greatly concerned about the loss of Shia intellectual heritage. He was quite saddened to find out that many rare books and manuscripts were in possession of British colonial officials. With the miniscule stipend he received as a student, Ayatollah Mar'ashi began purchasing as many books as he could. When he ran out of money, he offered to do Qadha fasts and prayers for diseased individuals. He began working nights at a factory. He only ate once a day. He even sold most of his clothes and household items. Whatever money he raised, he used it to purchase books and manuscripts. Over time, this grew into a huge collection.
When he moved to Qom, he brought his books with him and housed them within his residential quarters, which soon became a favorite destination for the seminary students and researchers! As his collection kept growing, a small piece of land was purchased, and in 1394 AH, the library was officially inaugurated with over 1500 rare manuscripts, many of which dated back over a thousand years. As more and more books began pouring in, Imam Khomeini issued an order for a larger tract of land to be allocated to the library.
On 20 Dhil Hijjah, 1410 AH, Ayatollah Marashi laid the foundation stone of the new Ayatollah Marashi Library. When construction finally ended, the seven-story structure occupied a total area of 21,000 square meters. Today it houses over 70,000 volumes, including ancient calligraphies of the Qur'an, centuries-old compendiums on jurisprudence, formerly lost works of exegesis, rare letters and documents, and microfilms of over 13,000 rare manuscripts now unavailable, as well as foreign periodicals, Urdu, Farsi, and Turkish books, and ancient maps and astronomical charts. The library is open to the public, and any seminary student or researcher is welcome to freely utilize its resources for no charge.
Unfortunately, Ayatollah Mar'ashi did not survive to see the grand inauguration of his library. Only a few weeks after laying the foundation stone, he suffered a heart attack and passed away in 1411 AH. As per his wishes, he was laid to rest at the entrance of the library, "so that the feet of the researchers of Islamic sciences step besides my grave."
Last Will of Ayatollah Mar'ashi Najafi
I advise my son:
- Always remain ready to serve the religion of Islam and strive in the defense of Truth. Today the religion of Islam is crying, Hal Min Nasirin Yansuruni, Hal Min Dhabbin Yadhubbu Anni? – "Is there a helper who will come to my aid? Is there a rescuer who will come to my rescue?" O my son, in this age there are very few who answer this plea from Islam, and may Allah reward the few that there are.
- Always ponder deeply over the verses of the Holy Qur'an and follow the advice and instructions contained therein. Visit the graves frequently and think, "where were these people yesterday, what were they, how were they, and where have they come today? Do not sit and indulge in vain and useless gatherings. There are few gatherings today where gossip, slander, and lies are not present; rather, they do not exist. Refrain from excessive attachment to this world.
- Maintain good relations with your close relatives, because by this act you will gain inspiration to do good deeds and earn blessings and an increase in your means and life-span.
- Always refrain from backbiting of the servants of Allah, and especially remain aloof from gossip about the scholars, because that is like eating poisoned dead meat.
- Remain engrossed in the learning of religious knowledge. Continue to progress in it every day, and remain busy in spreading it all the time.
- O my son, make a habit of reciting Sura Yaseen after morning prayers every day. After Dhuhr prayers, recite Sura Naba, after Asr prayers, recite Sura Asr, after Maghrib prayers, recite Sura Waqia, and after Isha prayers, recite Sura Mulk. In this practice are amazing gains. My teachers advised me to this, and I have seen its blessing more than once.
- In the Qunoot of obligatory prayers, always recite the following: Allahuma Inni Asaluka Bi Haqqi Fatimata Wa Abiha Wa Ba'liha Wa Baniha Wa Sirril Mustaudihi Fiha, An Tusalli Ala Muhammadin Wa Aali Muhammad, Wa An Taf'al Bi Ma Anta Ahlu, Wa La Taf'al Bi Ma Ana Ahlu. – "O Allah, I beseech you in the name of Fatima, her father, her husband, her sons, and the secret she is buried with: shower your blessings upon Muhammad and his Progeny, and do unto me that which is worthy of Your mercy, and not that which is worthy of my actions." This supplication was taught to me by both my father as well as my teacher Shaikh Muhammad Hussain Shirazi. He has narrated this authentic narration from Sayyid Murtadha Kashmiri by Ibn Taoos from the Holy Imams (peace be upon them).
- O my son, in the Ruku, especially of the last Rak'at, after Dhikr, recite Salawaat in this way: Allahumma Salli Ala Muhammadin Wa Aali Muhammad Wa Taraham Ala Aajizna Wa Aghizna Bihaqqihim.
- Always recite the Tasbih of our wronged grandmother Fatima Zahra. That Tasbih is not only for recitation after prayers; rather, it should be recited all the time.
- O son, there is a memorable speech by Lady Fatima which she gave in the Mosque of the Prophet in front of the Ummah. Even the scholars and proficient linguists have failed to understand it fully. Think deeply about her words and try to understand them.
- Study the famous sermon of the Chief of the Believers and the Leader of the Oppressed called Shiqshiqiyyah.
- I stress to you to never abandon the Night Prayer. Do Istighfaar in the early mornings.
- Be gentle and merciful to the poor and needy, and especially take care of the Sadaat and students of Islam.
- Avail yourself of the blessings of visiting the Holy Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them). Reach the places where they are buried and after reciting salutations, repent and recite supplications – in these actions there are untold benefits.
- O my son, regard your life's time as precious, and do not waste it on useless talks. Allah is strongly displeased with a young man who wastes his time.
- I have gathered the earth from the graves of the Ahlul Bayt, the Holy Imams, their children, their companions, and the pious scholars in a small bag. Bury it in my grave with me so that I am blessed.
- Also place in my grave the black clothes I use to wear in the grief-ridden remembrance of the suffering of the children of the Holy Prophet during the months of Muharram and Safar.
- After shrouding me, place on my chest the handkerchief with which I used to wipe my tears in mourning my grandfather Hussain (peace be upon him).
- O my son, always remain in a state of purity. By that act, the soul of a person remains content and is free from grief.
- After my death, perform the Hajj and Ziyarat of the grave of the Holy Prophet on my behalf. All my life I longed to do this, but due to hardship, I could not go. Similarly, visit the sacred places in Iraq on my behalf. For both these good acts, I do not have anything except a few books. I hope my children will pay from their own wealth and do this kindness to me. My Lord is a witness that I do not have an inch of land nor any wealth of any sort.
- O my son, if possible, use some of your wealth as Radd al-Madhaalim on my behalf, in case I have any dues outstanding.
- O my son, every Thursday night, ask someone to come to the side of my grave and recite about the suffering of Imam Hussain.
- When my bier is carried, announce to the people that if I owe anything to anyone, he should forgive me before I am buried.
- Every Thursday night, my sons should come to my grave and recite the Holy Qur'an and listen to the remembrance of Imam Hussain.
- The rosary made from the earth of Kerbala with which I used to recite my Istighfaar should be buried with me.
This will is by Allah's worthless slave, servant of the knowledge of the Ahlul Bayt, Abul Ma'ali Shahab ad-Din al-Hussaini al-Mar'ashi al-Najafi, written today the 20th Rabi al-Akhar, 1398 AH, in the sanctuary of Lady Masooma Fatima, daughter of Musa ibn Ja'far (peace be upon them all). I pray for Allah's forgiveness.