Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid

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Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Nu'man
Personal Details
Title al-Shaykh al-Mufid
Born 948 CE
Died 1022 CE
Era Islamic golden age
Religion Islam
Main interest(s) Kalam, Hadith, Ilm ar-Rijal, Usul and Fiqh

Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Nu'man al-'Ukbari al-Baghdadi known as al-Shaykh al-Mufid and Ibn al-Mu'allim (c. 948-1022 CE) was a prominent Twelver Shi'a theologian.[1][2] He was son of Muallim, hence called Ibn Muallim. The title "al-Mufid" was given to him either by Muhammad al-Mahdi, Shia twelfth Imam[3] or by al-Rummani, a Sunni scholar, after a conversation with him.[4] The leader of Shia community,[5] was a Mutikallim, theologian and a shia jurist.

Taught by Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Ibn Qulawayh, Abu Abdallah al-Basri and al-Rummani, Sharif al-Murtaza and al-Shaykh al-Tusi were among his students. Only 10 of his 200 works have survived which include Amali, Al-Irshad, Al-Muqni'ah, Tashih al-Itiqadat and etc.

Early life and education

He was born on 11th Dhul Qa'dah, 336 Hijra (or 338 A.H. according to Sheikh Tusi) in 'Ukbara, a small town to the north of Baghdad[1] and later migrated together with his father to Baghdad, where the Shiite Buwayhids were ruling. He studied with Ibn Babawayh.

His students included Sharif al-Murtaza and al-Shaykh al-Tusi. His career coincided with that of the Mu'tazili theologian and leader of the Bahshamiyya school, 'Abd al-Jabbar. He was often attacked and his library and school was destroyed.

He was called Ibn Muallim, i.e. son of the teacher.[6] Muallim was his father and His teachers included the Shia theologian Abu ALi al-Iskafi as well as Abu Abdallah al-Marzubani, Abu Abdallah al-Basri, Abu al-Hassan Ali ibn Isa al-Rummani.[4]

Commonly known as the leader of the Shi'a,[5][7][8] Al-Mufid is considered the most famous scholar and an eminent Jurisprudence[2][5] in Buyid period mainly due to his contributions in the field of Kalam. According to Ibn al-Nadim who knew al-Mufid personally, he was the head of the Shia Mutekallimun in field of Kalam and al-Tawhidi, who was also personally familiar with al-Mufid, described him "eloquent and skillful at dialectic (jadal)". His skill at polemical debates was so that he was quipped to be capable of convincing his opponents "that a wooden column was actually gold".[4] He was taught Islamic science of Hadith by Al-Shaykh al-Saduq.[2]

His nickname "al-Mufid"

It is said that al-Mufid earned his title of al-Mufid as a result of a dispute about the relative merits of the two events - Ghadir Khumm and the Cave. Al-Mufid participated a lecture by Isa al-Rummani where al-Rummani claimed that Ghadir Khum was merely based on a riwayah, i.e. transmitted tradition, while the story of the Cave was based on diraya, i,e. knowledge, in a response to a question. After the lecture, al-Mufid visited al-Rummani and asked him about Talha and Zubayr who had rebelled against Ali, " a legitimate Imam". Al-Rummani responded that they had repented and al-Mufid claimed that their repenting was merely based on riwaya. Then, al-Rummani sent him to al-Basri with a note nicknaming the bearer al-Mufid, i.e. "the Instructor".[4] However, according to Ibn Shahr Ashub in his Ma'alimul Ulamaa, the title was given to him by Muhammad al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam of Shia.[1][3]

As a theologian

Taught by Abdallah al-Basri, the Mutazili theologian and hanafi jurist,[9] He adopted many theological opinions.[10] According to Macdermott, Mufid's theology is more like to the old Baghdad school of Mutazilism to Abdul Jabbar's late Basran system. Therefore, his methodology is close to Baghdad school. It seems that Mufid followed of Baghdad school and Mutazilism in explanation of questions such as God's unity and Justice. Of course Mufid has difference with Mutazilism in problem of Imamte and position of grave sin in this life. Al-Mufid tried to defend the role of reason-he described it as Al-Nazar- and also disputed for the truth and put a way faults with the help of argument and proofs. Also Mufid believed that the task of a theologian is according to reason and argument. His pupil, namely Abd Al Jabbar and Al-Murtada also followed of Al Mufid.[11]

God's attributes

Al-Mufid defined God's unity as such:

I say that God is one in divinity and eternity. Nothing resembles Him, nor can anything be compared with Him. He alone deserves adoration. He has no second with Him in this, in any respect or connection.[11]

According to Shaykh al-Mufid, except "some eccentric anthropomorphists" all the believers in God unity agree with this. Like Mutazilies, al-Mufid rejected "the simple realism

of the Ash'arite theory of attribution." However al-Mufid and Abd al-Jabbar differently explain exactly to what an attribute refers, in the object or in the mind.[11]


According to al-Mufid, there's an absolute necessity for prophets, because to know God and the moral principles man needs revelation and he noted that "every apostle [rasul] is a prophet but every prophet (nabi) is not an apostle." Although he cared to distinct between these different titles as Quran do, he did not believe in difference in their functions which enabled him to the levels of the prophets and the apostles except in terms of their names.[11]


Al-Mufid defined the Imamiya as those who believe in the necessity of Imamah, Ismah and personal nass, i.e. personal designation. He tended to the belief that the Imams are superior to all the prophets and apostles except Muhammad. According to him Imams can "take the place of the prophets in enforcing judgments, seeing to the execution of the legal penalties, safeguarding the Law, and educating mankind," the definition which not only makes the Imam "the head of the community in administrative, judicial, and military matters," but also makes him "the authoritative teacher of mankind."[11]

His criticisms on Al-Shaykh al-Saduq

On number of occasions he was critique of his teacher, Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, and his Tashih al-Itiqadat was a correction of al-Saduq's Risalat al-Itaqadat. Not limiting himself to theological matters, he rejected al-Saduq's refuge to akhbar al-ahad (single tradition) specially when a legal statement is to be issued. However, he did not object al-Saduq's views concerning the extent of the Quran and he only criticized al-Saduq's views on the nature of Qur'an.[5] He accepted "religious and specualtive theology", unlike al-Saduq.[4] While al-Saduq allowed controversy "only in the form of quoting and explaining the words of God, the Prophet, and the Imams", reporting a tradition from Jafar al-Sadigh, the sixth Imam of Shia, Shakh al-Mufid believed that there are two kinds of disputation, namely "true" and "vain".[11]


Shaykh Al-Mufid is said to have written 200 works of which only little more than ten have survived.[2] Some of his works are as follows:

  • Al-Amali also known as "Al-Majaalis"; Traditions recorded by Mufid's pupils during the sessions where al-Mufid gave the chain of narration ending up to himself [1]
  • Tashih al-Itiqadat; a correction of Saduq's Risalat al-Itiqadat
  • َAwail Al Maqalat; An elaboration on al-Mufid's theology and " a practical catalogue of Imamite positions on disputed questions"[2][12]
  • Kitab al-Irshad or Al-Irshad fi ma'rifat hujaj Allah 'ala al-'ibad; On the lives of the Shia Imams
  • Al-Fusul al-`Ashara fi al-Ghaybah[13]
  • Ahkam al-Nisa; On the legal obligations regarding women[9]
  • Fifth Risalah on Ghaybah [14]
  • Al-Muqni'ah (The legally Sufficient); The commentary on this book by Shaykh al-Tusi, Tadhhib al-Ahkam fi Sharh al-Muqni'ah, is among the Shia four books.[15][16]


Al-Mufid was received two Tawqees by Muhammad al-Mahdi during major occultation.[17]


Sheikh Mufid died on Friday, 3rd of Ramadhan, 413 A.H. According to the shi'ite writer Shaykh Tusi "The day of his death drew the largest crowd ever seen in any funeral, and both friends and foes wept uncontrollably". Al-Mufid remained buried in his own house for two years, and then his body was transferred to Al Kadhimiya Mosque, where his teacher Ibn Qulawayh al-Qummi was buried next to him.[18][19] His grave is near the feet of two Shia Imams namely Musa al-Kadhim and his grandson Muhammad al-Jawad.[3]

In popular culture

Ninth day of Azar in Iran official calendar is the commemoration day of Shaykh al-Mufid.[20]

See also

Secondary Studies

  • Tamima Bayhom-Daou, Shaykh Mufid, Makers of the Muslim World, Oxford, 2005
  • Paul Sander, Zwischen Charisma und Ratio, Berlin, 1994.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Al-Amali, The Dictations of Shaykh al-Mufid".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Marcinkowski, Christoph (2010). Shi'ite identities : community and culture in changing social contexts. Wien: Lit. p. 59. ISBN 978-3-643-80049-7. Retrieved 23 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Ak̲h̲tar, Vaḥīd (1 January 1988). Early Shīʻite Imāmiyyah Thinkers. Ashish Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-7024-196-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Kraemer, Joel L. (1992). Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: The Cultural Revival During the Buyid Age. BRILL. pp. 67–. ISBN 90-04-09736-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 McAuliffe, Jane Dammen (1991). Qurānic Christians : an analysis of classical and modern exegesis (Digitally printed version. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-521-36470-6. Retrieved 23 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Glassé, Cyril (1991). The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. HarperSanFrancisco. p. 279. ISBN 978-0-06-063126-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Shaykh Abu Jaʻfar Mohammad ibn Hasan ibn ʻAli al-Tusi (2008). Al-nihayah : concise description of Islamic law and legal opinions (al-Nihayah fī mujarrad al-fiqh wa al-fatawa). by A. Ezzati. London: ICAS Press. pp. i. ISBN 978-1-904063-29-2. Retrieved 23 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Walbridge, Linda S. (6 August 2001). The Most Learned of the Shi`a : The Institution of the Marja` Taqlid: The Institution of the Marja` Taqlid. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 216–. ISBN 978-0-19-534393-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Powers, David; Spectorsky, Susan; Arabi, Oussama (25 September 2013). Islamic Legal Thought: A Compendium of Muslim Jurists. BRILL. p. 175. ISBN 978-90-04-25588-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Heemskerk, Margaretha T. (2000). Suffering in the Mu'tazilite Theology: ʻAbd Al-J̆abbār's Teaching on Pain and Divine Justice. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-11726-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 McDermott, Martin J. (1978). The Theology of Al-Shaikh Al-Mufīd. Dar el-Machreq éditeurs. ISBN 978-2-7214-5601-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. J. McDermott, Martin (18 August 2011). "AWĀʾEL AL-MAQĀLĀT". Irannica.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Young, M. J. L.; Latham, J. D.; Serjeant, R. B. (2 November 2006). Religion, Learning and Science in the 'Abbasid Period. Cambridge University Press. pp. 30–. ISBN 978-0-521-02887-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Rizvi, Sayyid Saeed Akhtar. Prophecies about Occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.). Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania. p. 13. ISBN 978-9987-620-23-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Nāṣirī, ʻAlī (28 February 2013). An Introduction to Hadith: History and Sources. MIU Press. p. 265. ISBN 978-1-907905-08-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Dabashi, Hamid (7 May 2012). Shi'ism. Harvard University Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-674-05875-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Hadad Adel, Gholam Ali (1375). The Islamic world encyclopedia (in Persian). 3 (secound ed.). Tehran: Islamic Encyclopedia Foundation. p. 577. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "The Past Master: Sheikh Al-Mufid".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. McDermott, Martin. "EBN QŪLAWAYH, ABU'L- QĀSEM JAʿFAR". Irannica. 8. p. 47.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Staff. "Shakh Mofid; The great reviver of Islamic sciences". Islamic Development Organization. Retrieved 24 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links