Although Muhaqqiq al-Naraqi first studied under Shaikh Bahrani, he was soon captivated by the lectures of a small-town scholar who had recently arrived in Karbala.
It was the day of Eid, and the scholar and his companions were on their way to a gathering when they passed through a cemetery. As they decided to sit down and rest, one of them humorously turned towards a grave and said, "O inhabitant of the grave – will you accept us as your guests on this day?" And to their mutual shock, the response came from the grave, "Insha'Allah next Tuesday you will all be my grave." Silent overcame each of them, as they began to panic over their fates. By the time next Tuesday came around, each of them had prepared a will. Once again, they assembled near the grave. To their amazement, the grave opened, and they found themselves in a most beautiful garden. Around them were flowing streams and lush plants, and beautiful birds flew overhead. They were greeted by a beautiful young man, whose voice they recognized as that of the grave's dweller. A most appetizing meal was served, and they all ate to their full. After some time, they asked his permission to leave, and he bade them farewell. Before they left, however, the lead scholar asked the young man, "Who are you? And why has Allah blessed you so much?" The young man replied, "I was a simple butcher in your own native town. There are two reasons why I am blessed so highly in the afterlife: because I always offered my Salat on time, and because I never cheated my customers."
He was born Muhammad Mahdi ibn Abu Dhar in a small village called Naraq near Kashan, Iran, in 1128 AH. After receiving his early education in Naraq, he moved to Isfehan, where he studied under Aqa Mirza Nasir Isfehani and Maula Ismail Khajuwi. Gven the influx of Western preachers and missionary into the Middle East at the time, he also learned Latin and Hebrew in addition to theology and jurisprudence.
After a brief return to Kashan, he moved to Karbala, which was the center of Shia learning at the time. The most prominent Shia scholar in Karbala was Shaikh Yusuf Bahrani, an avowed Akhbari. (For a detailed discussion regarding Akhbari and Usuli schools of thought, see Martyr Murtadha Mutahhari's Principle of Ijtihad in Islam.) Although Muhaqqiq al-Naraqi first studied under Shaikh Bahrani, he was soon captivated by the lectures of Waheed Behbahani, a small-town scholar who had recently arrived in Karbala. After many discussions and debates, the specter of Akhbarism was removed, and Usuli thought once again gained prominence in Shia academia. Muhaqqiq al-Naraqi joined Allama Behbahani in the struggle to eradicate Akhabism as well as continued in his tutelage for almost eight years.
In 1183 AH, he returned to Kashan and revived the Islamic seminary. Despite his prominence as a religious authority, he lived a very simple and austere life, often times going without meals for days. Under his leadership, Kashan produced several notable scholars and jurists, including his own son, Mullah Ahmad Naraqi, as well as Muhammad Baqir Dashti and Muhammad Kalbasi. In addition, he penned nearly a hundred different volumes on jurisprudence, narration, biography, philosophy, mysticism, and ethics. Most famous of these is the three-volume Jami al-Sa'adat ("Collection of Felicities"), a groundbreaking work on ethics and mysticism. A partial English translation of the book is available online. For his academic contributions, he was given the title Muhaqqiq ("researcher").
In 1209 AH, Muhaqqiq al-Naraqi passed away. His body was taken to Najaf, where he was laid to rest in the shrine of Imam Ali (peace be upon him).