Grand Ayatollah Seyyid Abulqasim Musawi Al-Khoei (RA) was born in Azerbaijan, Iran 15 Rajab 1317 H. / 1899 A. D. and passed away in Najaf Al-Ashraf, Iraq on 8 Safar 1412 A.H.(August 8, 1992).
Educated in the established traditional way of Shia Theology by well known jurists, he joined the world-renown theological institution in the holy city of Najaf Al-Ashraf in 1912, the year he migrated from Iran.
At an early age, he attained the degree of ijtihad i.e. the process of arriving at judgements on points of religious law using reason and the principles of jurisprudence. This achievement normally warrants the title of ‘Ayatollah’.
Teaching, Juristic, and Writing Merits
He taught in Najaf for over 70 years. For 50 years, he specialized in supervising post-graduate studies, most advanced among which is ‘Bahth-al-Kharij’ – Graduation Classes – equivalent to a Doctoral thesis. Successful candidates are qualified to practice ‘Ijtihad’.
He is considered as the architect of a distinct school of thought in the priciples of jurisprudence and Islamic law, and one of the leading exponents of ‘kalam’-scholastic theology- and ‘rijal’- study of the biographies of transmitters of ahadith, the Prophetic traditions, ‘fiqh’- jurisprudence- and ‘tafseer’- exegesis of The Holy Qur’an. His interests included astronomy, maths, and philosophy.
He was a prolific writer in the aforesaid disciplines. He wrote 37 books and treatises, most of which have been published. His works include:
- Lectures in the Principles of Jurisprudence – 10 volumes.
- Biographies of Narrators of Tradition – 24 volumes.
- Islamic Law – 18 volumes.
- Al-Bayan fi tafsir al-Qur’an (The Elucidation of the Exegesis of The Qur’an).
- Minhaju-us-Saliheen (The Path of the Righteous) – 2 volumes, reprinted 78 times (guide book on religious practice and law).
- Anthology of Religious Questions – Concise version of the Path of the Righteous – in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, English, Turkish, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, and Gujarati.
- Mabani al-Istinbat ( Edifices of Deduction) Principles of Jurisprudence.
- Ajwad-at-Taqrirat (The Best of Regulations) Principles of Jurisprudence.
- Sharh-el-Urwatul-Wuthqa (Commentary on The Steadfast Handle) – Jurisprudence.
- Treatise on Suspected Attire – Risala fil Libas Al-Mashkok,
- Evidential Jurisprudence.
- Nafahat-ul Ijaz ( the Fragrance of Miracles ), in defence of The Noble Qur’an.
His post-graduate institute normally accommodated some 150 students, at any given time. Among the students who attended classes and were personally supervised by Imam Al-Khoei included Ayatollah Al-Udhma Sayyid Sistani, Ayatollah Al-Shaheed As-Sayyid Mohammad Baqir As-Sadr, Iraq, As-Sayyid Mahdi Al-Hakim Mohammad Mahdi Shamsuddin ( Lebanon), Imam Mousa As-Sadr ( Lebanon),As-Sayyid Mohammad Husain Fadhlallah ( Lebanon ), Ayatollah Seyyid Mohammad Al-Rohani ( Iran), Ayatollah Al-Ardabili, former Chief Justice of Iran , As-Sayyid Mohammad Ali Makki (Syria), As-Sayyid Mohammad Ali Bahrul ‘Uloom (UK), Poet Mustafa Jamaluddin (Syria).
After the death of As-Sayyid Mohsin Al- Hakim in 1972, Imam Al-Khoei succeeded him as The Grand Ayatollah (Al-Marja’a Al-a’alam) as he was the most knowledgeable of the 3 living Grand Ayatollahs. He had the greatest following among the Shias worldwide.
Achievements in the Welfare Sphere
He was fervently dedicated to establishing welfare, social, cultural, and educational institutions for Muslims worldwide. The following are some of the institutions he established:
- Darul Hikmah ( House of Theosophy).
- Madinatul Ilm (City of Knowledge) in Qom, Iran, considered one of the biggest theology centres in the Shia world. The complex comprises the school building and living quarters capable of accommodating 500 families.
- As-Sayyid Al-Khoei Center in Bangkok, Thailand.
- As-Sayyid Al-Khoei Center in Dhakkah, Bangladesh.
- Ahlul-Bayt University, Islamabad, Pakistan.
- Al-Kauthar University, Islamabad, Pakistan.
- Imam Al-Khoei Orphanage Beirut, Lebanon.
- Imam As-Sadiq Education Institute for Boys, London, U.K.
- Imam As-Sadiq Education Institute for Girls, London, U.K.
- Al-Iman School, New York, U.S.A.
He was also the patron of about 1,000 grant-maintained students of theology from Iraq and other countries like Lebanon, Syria, Gulf States, India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, South East Asia. He provided financial support for maintaining the schools including boarding expenses, teachers’ salaries and lodging costs.
- Publishing House – Translation, printing and distribution of books worldwide, Karachi, Pakistan.
- Cultural Complex, Mumbai, India. Considered among the biggest Shi’ ite Muslims cultural centre under-construction.
- Representative Offices catering for the religious, social, educational, and cultural needs of Muslims all over the world, with the Headquarters in London, U. K. and branches in the United States, Canada, India, Pakistan, U.A. E., Oman, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Malaysia.
Imam Al-Khoei was a man of peace dialogue and understanding. He advocated non-violence and promoted tolerance,the values which mirror the human and universal principles of Islam.
In the aftermath of the violent crushing of the popular uprising in Iraq after the Gulf War by Saddam’s troops, he was arrested with all members of his family, and many ulama, taken to Baghdad, and under duress was made to appear with Saddam on TV. Under mounting pressure, Saddam returned him, without his family, to Najaf, where he was placed under house arrest on the 20th of March, 1991.
Mass genocide, destruction, arrests, and displacement of civilians in Najaf, as well as in other cities and towns in the South of Iraq and North perpetrated by the brutal Iraqi regime, left many cities virtually deserted and normal life came to a halt. All classes in Najaf came to a standstill, especially after the grave restrictions and constraints on the freedom of the Spiritual Leader. After his death a year later, Saddam’s regime closed down the institute and deported, arrested and harrassed over 1000 students who had been registered with the institute.