Lineage of 'Allamah ash-Sharif ar-Radi and His Life 1

In the galaxy of the outstanding Shia Scholars two brothers from an eminent family of the descendants of the Prophet (saw) outshone all the others due to their extraordinary brilliance in their time. They were al Sharif al-Murtada, who occupied the chair of his teacher as his successor to the marji'iyyah of the Shi'ah world of scholarship, and his younger brother al-Sharif al-Radi, acclaimed to be a great genius of versatile talents, still unprecedented in the history of Islamic scholarship and Arabic literature.

Al-Radi (359-406/970-1015) died young, much earlier than his elder brother, but left his mark on the history of Muslim thought and poetry, which in no way can be described as less significant than that of any other Imamiyyah scholar who lived much longer than him. He shone on the bright horizon of the fourth century Hijri, regarded as the most extraordinary period of all round intellectual and cultural renaissance in the history of Islam, lived for a short period of forty-seven years but generated enough light to lead human quest for excellence for centuries.

Al-Rad'i's parents' lineage came directly from the Imams (as) of the Prophet's Family. From his father's side he descended from al-Imam Musa al-Kazim (as) ibn Ja'far al-Sadiq (as) ibn Muhammad al-Baqir (as) ibn 'Ali Zayn al-'Abidin (as) ibn al-Husayn (as) ibn 'Ali (as) in the following order: Abu Ahmad Husayn Tahir al-'Awhad Dhu al-Manaqib ibn Musa ibn Muhammad ibn Musa ibn Ibrahim al Mujab ibn Musa al-Kazim (as). All his forefathers were eminent in their own right. From his mother’s side he descended from the famous al-Nasir al- Kabir also known as Nasir al-Haqq (225 or 230-304/840 or 844-916) who descended from the second son of al-'Imam 'Ali ibn al-Husayn (as) ibn Ali (as).

Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, in Nasiriyyat, a commentary upon al-Nasir al-Kabir's book Mi'at mas'alah, writes that: My mother Fatimah [was] the daughter of Abu Muhammad al-Husayn al-Nasir (al-Saghir) ibn Abi al-Husayn Ahmad ibn Abi Muhammad al-Hasan al-Nasir al-Kabir (the conqueror and ruler of Daylam) ibn al-Husayn ibn 'Umar al-Ashraf ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn 'Ali ibn Abi Talib.

Al-Sharif al-Radi's name was Muhammad and his kunyah was Abu al Hasan. He was the second son of al-Husayn ibn Ahmad, known as al-Tahir al-Awhad and Dhu al-Manaqib. Al-Radi's title 'al-Sharif' was a common title used for those who were descendants of the Prophet (saw) from both the maternal and paternal sides.

The word which is now commonly used for al-Sharif is al-Sayyid in Persian and Urdu. Al-Radi's father was the most eminent among the Alawids of his time. He held all the important positions which a Shi'ah could attain under the 'Abbasid regime during the fourth century H. Al-Thalibi (d. 429), in Yatimat al-dahr, a bibliography of poets and writers of Arabic, writes about the father of al-Radi: His forefathers were held in high respect by the people of Iraq.

His father, Abu Ahmad for a long time occupied the post of Naqib of the Talibiyyin, a position that empowered him to look after the Sayyids of Abu Talib's lineage. At the same time he held the office of the Nazarat Diwan al-mazalim (headship of the highest court of appeal) as well as the office of the chief of hajjaj (pilgrims to the Holy Ka'bah). In the year 380/990 he relinquished these posts in favour of his son al-Sayyid al-Radi.

Ibn Abi al-Hadid (d. 655 or 656/1257 or 1258), in his preface to the Sharh Nahjul Balaghah, confirms this statement saying: His father al-Naqib Abu Ahmad was held in high regard at the courts of Banu 'Abbas and the rulers of Al Dayalimah, and was entitled as al-Tahir Dhu al-Manaqib. Baha' al-Dawlah al-Daylami called him al-Tahir al-'Awhad, which meant "uniquely purified". He was appointed the Naqib of the Talibiyyin five times, and apart from this job; he occasionally performed duties of great political sensitivity also; for instance, he served as a negotiator to settle certain disputes between the Caliphs and the Buwayhids on the one hand, and the Hamdani rulers on the other.

Because of his political influence he was so feared by Baha' al-Dawlah's son 'Adud al-Dawlah (reigned 367-72/978-83), that in 369/980 he imprisoned him in a fort in Fars, where he underwent the hardships of prison life for seven years. 'Adud al-Dawlah (d. 372/982-83) arrested along with him his brother Abu 'Abd Allah ibn Musa and another influential 'Alawid, Muhammad ibn 'Umar, also. Abu Muhammad, the chief qadi of Baghdad, and Abu Nasr Khwanshadh were also arrested and imprisoned in the same year, 369/980.

With Abu Ahmad's arrest his entire property was confiscated, and his family had to live for seven long years in dire poverty. It was, most probably, in this period that al-Radi and his brother al-Murtada were brought to al-Shaykh al-Mufid by their mother for being educated in fiqh and other religious sciences. And perhaps it was during this period that Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Ahmad al-Tabari, a Sunni Maliki faqih, gifted a house to al-Sayyid al-Radi when he came to know that the brightest of his pupils had no residence of his own for his wife and had to live with his mother.

During the period of his father's imprisonment, al-Radi composed many poems to pay tribute to him. Abu Ahmad was set free by Sharaf al-Dawlah, son of Adud al-Dawlah, while proceeding to Baghdad from Kirman in 376/ 986-87 to depose his brother Samsam al-Dawlah, who also had not released Abu Ahmad and other captives. It is to be noted that 'Adud al-Dawlah was a Shiah of Zaydi inclination, but for him, like most of the monarchs of the Muslim world, political expediency and interest were much more important than the matter of faith.

As even the 'Abbasid caliph of his time was afraid of al-Radi's connection with the Prophet's Family and his influence among the people, probably 'Adud al-Dawlah was also afraid of al-Radi's father, fearing that if at any time he aspired to wrest power out of his hands he could pose a serious challenge to him. Abu al-Faraj al-Jawzi has also referred to the arrest of Abu Ahmad in the course of recording the events of the year 369/979-80.

The influence of Abu Ahmad and his family assumed greater dimensions in the eyes of the rulers due to the tense and highly explosive situation ereated by the rivalries and conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shi'ah and the Turks and the Daylamites. These clashes resulted in looting, killing and burning of al-Karkh, a predominantly Shi'ah locality, for one week continuously, in the year 361/971-72, that was repeated in 363/974. Moreover, there was a conflict between Bakhtiyar al-Daylami, the vizier, and 'Adud al-Dawlah, in which the latter emerged victorious later. Abu Ahmad was on good terms with Bakhtiyar also, which was a sufficient reason for 'Adud al-Dawlah to regard him as an enemy. Abu Ahmad died at the age of 97 in 403/1O12-13, and the high offices held by him fell upon al-Radi.

From his mother's side al-Radi belonged to a lineage that was more distinguished for its political activities than the former. His grand-father al-Nasir al-Saghir al-Husayn ibn Ahmad (d. 368/979) was a pious and respected man. According to al-Sayyid al-Murtada he was held in high regard by Mu'izz al-Dawlah (reigned 320-56/932-967), who appointed him to the office of the Naqib of al-Talibiyyin in 362/972-73 when Abu Ahmad was stripped of this post. Al Wasir al-Saghir's father Ahmad ibn al-Hasan served as a commander in his father's army, and was known for both his valour and virtue.

Al-Nasir al-Kabir whose name was al-Hasan ibn 'Ali, was responsible for propagating Islam among the Daylamites after himself conquering Daylam. He was a commander of the army of his cousin Muhammad ibn Zayd al-'Alawi, popularly known as al-Da'i al-Kabir, who conquered Mazandaran in 250/864 and laid down the foundation of the 'Alawis' rule there. Al-Mas'udi, in Muruj al-dhahab, has mentioned him at two places as al-'Atrush, which meant "the deaf".

At one occasion, he writes: Al-'Atrush appeared on the seen of Tabaristan (Mazandaran) in the year 301/913-14, and drove away the 'Abbasids, called "the Black robed people”, from there. He was a gifted man with great intelligence, scholarship, knowledge and conviction of faith. He lived for a long time among the Daylamites, who were Zoroastrians, and some even pagans, living in complete darkness.

The people of Gilan also lived in the same conditions. Al-Nasir al-Kabir invited them to worship the One God, and they embraced Islam accepting his call. In those days the Muslims reached Qazwin and the adjoinmg areas. Al Nasir al Kabir built a mosque in Daylarn. At another place, mentioning al-'Atrush's efforts to convert the Zoroastrians to the fold of Islam, he writes that it was he who built mosques in the cities of Tabaristan (Present Mazandaran and Gilan), and extended the frontiers of the Muslim rule up to Qazwin and Chalus.

Continue in the next article: ( Lineage of 'Allamah ash-Sharif ar-Radi and His Life 2 )