Shaikh Murtadha is considered one of the greatest jurists in the history of Shia academia. His ideas and methodology truly revolutionized the seminary system. While a detailed discussion of his ideas is beyond the scope of this article, it suffices to say that his contributions to the study of jurisprudence earned him the title Khatimul Fuquha wal Mujtahideen (the seal of scholars and jurists).
The Arab entered and sat a little distance away from the scholar. "I have a question for you, O Shaikh," he said. The scholar and all the students present there looked up, and the Arab queried, "Suppose that God were to punish a man by turning him into an animal or into stone. What would be the legal status of his wife in such a situation?" The students were puzzled by such a bizarre question of jurisprudence, but the scholar said, "First of all, that is a faulty question. In the era of our beloved Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny), Allah does not punish people with such a form of punishment. However, even if it were to happen, it depends on the type of transformation. If the man is transformed into an animal, that means he is still alive and has a soul, and therefore, his wife should observe the Iddah (waiting period) of a divorcee. Meanwhile, if the man has been turned into a rock, that means he has gone from a condition of life to a condition of lifelessness. Therefore, his wife should observe the Iddah of a widow." The Arab man looked up and said, "Praise be to God! Truly you are a Mujtahid!" The man then got up and immediately left. The students looked at each other, and after a few moments of confusion, they all realized what had just transpired in the room. For many years now, their teacher had refused to declare himself a Mujtahid (jurist), saying that he wouldn't do so until his Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance) himself approved it. As the students ran outside after the Arab man, only to find a deserted street with no human being in sight, they realized that their Imam had finally given his seal of approval to their teacher and had personally confirmed his scholarly rank.
He was born Murtadha ibn Shaikh Muhammad Amin in Dizful, Iran, in 1214 AH. His lineage could be traced back to Jabir ibn Abdullah al-Ansari, the esteemed companion of the Holy Prophet. He received his early education in Iran but eventually moved to Iraq to study under some of the most prominent scholars of the time. His teachers included Shaikh Muhammad Hasan Najafi al-Jawahari, Shaikh Muhammad Mazandarani, and Mullah Ahmad Naraqi.
Upon the demise of many of his teachers, Shaikh Murtadha was recognized as the most knowledgeable Religious Authority of his time. However, he refused to publish his code of practice, saying that as long as his teacher Shaikh Mazandarani was alive, he would not publish his own edicts. He wrote to Shaikh Mazandarani, who had retired from academia, asking him to return and assume control of the Najaf seminary. Shaikh Mazandarani wrote back that he did not wish to return to the seminary, and that he believed Shaikh Murtadha was more than qualified to lead the seminary now. However, Shaikh Murtadha still refused, saying he would not issue fatawa (edicts) until the Imam of his Time gave him permission to do so. As a result, narrations mention that the above incident took place, after which Shaikh Murtadha finally agreed to publish his book of edicts.
Shaikh Murtadha is considered one of the greatest jurists in the history of Shia academia. His ideas and methodology truly revolutionized the seminary system. While a detailed discussion of his ideas is beyond the scope of this article, it suffices to say that his contributions to the study of jurisprudence earned him the title Khatimul Fuquha wal Mujtahideen (the seal of scholars and jurists). His Ar-Rasa'il and Al-Makasib are considered centerpieces of upper-division jurisprudential study.
Given the proliferation of colonial ideologies in the Islamic world, as well as the rise of deviant sects within Shi'ism, Shaikh Murtadha arranged for large monetary donations from the Shia emperors of Oudh, India, and used the money to finance the seminary as well as establish religious schools all over the Shia world for the masses. His tutelage produced among the greatest jurists and scholars of Shia history, including Sayyid Muhammad Hasan Shirazi, Akhund al-Khurasani, and Muhaddith al-Nuri.
Shaikh Murtadha Ansari passed away in the year 1281 AH. He was buried in the courtyard of Imam Ali's (peace be upon him) shrine in Najaf.