Editor Arsalan Rizvi continues his discussion regarding one of the greatest scholars in the history of Islam.
It was just another day in the Dars-e-Kharij of Shaikh al-Mufid, but the students could sense that something was different. The Shaikh seemed distracted and concerned about something else. After finishing up some last-minute reading the previous night, the Shaikh had fallen asleep at an odd hour. He had a dream that he was visited by Fatima Zehra (peace be upon her) holding the hands of Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain (peace be upon them). The daughter of the Holy Prophet of Islam had approached him and said, "Teach Fiqh to these sons of mine, O Shaikh!" He had woken up scared and troubled, thinking that perhaps at some point he had acted vainly or arrogantly, and this was a way of being reprimanded by Allah.
During his lecture, as he gazed up after momentarily consulting his notes, the Shaikh saw a sight he could not believe. As if his dream was being reenacted, tears began rolling down his cheeks. Fatima binte Hussain, wife of a prominent Shia businessman of Baghdad, was walking towards him, holding the hands of her two little boys.
"Teach Fiqh to these sons of mine, O Shaikh!" she approached him and said. Little did she know, her sons already had the special benediction of Bibi Fatima Zehra (peace be upon her) and would grow up to become the famous scholars Sayed Murtadha and Sayed Radhi.
Sayed Murtadha was born Ali ibn Hussain ibn Musa ibn Ibrahim ibn Imam Musa Kadhim (peace be upon him) in Baghdad in the 355th year of Hijra. He studied under many teachers, most prominent of them being Shaikh al-Mufid, who learned of his student's high status after his dream with Bibi Fatima Zehra (peace be upon her).
Sayed Murtadha's knowledge and high status can be understood better from an event involving a courtier in the Caliph's palace. The courtier fell ill, and even the best doctors could not cure him. One day he had a dream where Imam Ali (peace be upon him) appeared and told him, "If you wish to be cured, approach my son Alam al-Huda ('Standard of Guidance') and ask him to pray for you." When the courtier asked the Imam who Alam al-Huda was, the Imam told him, "It is my son Ali ibn Hussain." When the courtier was cured by Sayed Murtadha's prayers, the Caliph ordered that he be referred to as Alam al-Huda from then on.
Another event that demonstrates Sayed Murtadha's superior knowledge and high status was when he had a jurisprudential dispute with his teacher Shaikh al-Mufid. When the two could not come to an agreement, they eventually consulted Imam Ali (peace be upon him) through a letter. Shaikh al-Mufid shortly received a response where the Imam stated to him, "You are my shaikh and my trustee, but the truth is with my son."
In addition to illustrating Sayed Murtadha's great station in the eyes of the Infallibles, this letter from the Imam (peace be upon him) also acts as a reply to those who constantly condemn the Maraja for having difference of opinion. By referring to Shaikh al-Mufid as his "trustee", the Imam essentially demonstrated that the difference of opinion among jurists is in fact something natural that lies within the permissible realms of Sharia and which the Infallibles have approved and consented to.
In addition to being a great jurist, Shaikh al-Mufid was in fact one of the wealthiest citizens of Baghdad, hence dispelling the myth among many believers that scholars must always live simple and austere lives. Narrations record that as he travelled for Hajj each year, every town and village between Baghdad and Mecca contained at least one property that belonged to him. However, his piety was seen in the fact that he would give away tens of thousands of dinars to the poor on each of his journeys.
After leading the Shia community for several years, Sayed Murtadha passed away in Baghdad in the 436th year of Hijra. He was succeeded by Shaikh Abu Ja'far Tusi as the spiritual guide of the Shia world.
EDITOR'S NOTE: These articles are adaptations of lectures delivered by Maulana Sadiq Hasan in Karachi, Pakistan, during the 1980s on the lives of the great scholars of Islam. The Urdu lectures can be accessed at Hussainiat.com. For previous articles in this series, please look under the History section.