Lineage of 'Allamah ash-Sharif ar-Radi and His Life 2

There is a common misunderstanding regarding al-Nasir al-Kabir's faith. As he supported the Daiis of the Zaydi rule and was instrumental in laying the foundation of the Zaydi dynasty, he was called a Zaydi by many historians as well as by the Zaydis themselves. Al-Najashi (d. 450/1058), a contemporary of al-Radi and al-Murtada, dispels such claims: Al Hasan ibn Ali ibn al-Hasan ibn 'Umar ibn 'Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn 'Ali ibn Abi Talib Abu Muhammad al-'Atrush believed in the imamah, and wrote several books in strict adherenee to this faith, viz. Kitab al-'imamah, Kitab at-talliq, a larger book on the Imamah, Kitah Fadak wa al-khums, Kitabb al-shuhada', Kitab fasahat Abi Talib, Kitab ma'adhir Bani Hashim fi ma nuqim 'alayhim, Kitab ansab al-A'immah wa mawalidihium (up to the Twelfth Imam (as)).

However, it seems to be a mere conjecture that he was a Twelver Imami, for al-Murtada, his grandson, in al-Nasiriyyat, criticized some of his views for being against the Twelver Imami faith. 'Ali Dawani, subscribing to the views of some early Shi'i 'ulama', holds that he was a Twelver Imami but without any conclusive evidence. Most probably he was a Zaydi Shi'ah. According to Ibn Abi al-Hadid, he fought battles against the chiefs of the Samanids and died in Mazandaran in 304/916 at the ripe age of seventy-nine. Ahmad ibn 'Ali ibn Dawud al-Hasani, known as Ibn 'Anabah (d. 828/1425), a Sunni descendant of the Hasani Sayyids, in his famous work 'Umdat al-talib, describes him as being called Nasir al-Haqq, and writes that he died in Amul in the year 303/915.

Al-Nasir al-Kabir's father, 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, and his grandfather, al-Husayn ibn 'Ali, were both regarded as eminent scholars and men of virtue. The latter is reported to be a narrator of hadith also. 'Umar ibn 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, son of the Fourth Imam (as) and known as al-'Ashraf, was among the eminent personalities of the 'Alawids. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid, in al-'Irshad, writes about him: 'Umar b. 'Ali b. al-Husyn, peace be on them, was a man of merit and of high standing.

He was in charge of the endowments (sadaqat) of the Apostle of God may God bless him and his Family, and the endowments (sadaqat) of the Conmmander of the Faithful, peace be on him. He was pious and God-fearing. Dawud ibn al-Qasim, on the authority of al-Husayn ibn Zayd, who was a nephew of 'Umar al-'Ashraf, described him to be extremely honest and cautious in dealing with the matters related to the income of the endowments and their proper management. Some traditions of the Prophet (saw) and the Imams (as) are also reported on his authority. He was treated with respect even in the court of the Umayyads.

Al-Sayyid al-Radi's mother Fatimah bint al-Da'i al-Saghir was a pious and learned lady, who brought her two sons and daughters up with care and arranged for their proper education during the seven-year period of her husband's imprisonment. It is said that al-Shaykh al-Mufid wrote his book Ahkam al-nisa' at her instance, as she asked him to compile a book according to Islamic Law, which could serve as a guide for women.

It was she who took her two sons to al-Shaykh al-Mufid after al-Murtada and al-Radi had completed primary stage of their education. Ibn Abi al-Hadid, in Sharh Nahjul Balaghah, narrates a story which is indicative of the high position of this lady of great virtue. The story goes that one night al-Shaykh al-Mufid dreamt that Fatimah (as), the Prophet's daughter, came to his place in Karkh bringing her two young sons, al-Hasan (as) and al-Husayn (as), and asked that he take up the task of teaching them. Al-Mufid awoke amazed at the dream.

The next morning Fatimah, mother of al-Sayyid al-Murtada and al-Sayyid al-Radi, came to his mosque surrounded by her servants, bringing her two small sons, asking that he teach them. Al-Sayyid al Radi in his elegy on her death paid rich tributes to her virtue, piety, religiosity, courage and other qualities of the heart and the mind. She died in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah 385/995. Al-Sayyid al-Radi was twenty-six years old at the time of his mother's death.

Al-Radi was born in 359/970 four years after his elder brother al-Murtada. His genius came to the notice of his family and teachers at a very young age. He started composing poetry at the tender age of nine. His wit and alertness of mind surprised all. He went to different teachers to study various branches of Islamic sciences, Arabic language and literature. He studied Sharh al-'Usul al-khamsah and Kitab al-'umdah under al-Qadi 'Abd al Jabbar al-Mu'tazili (b. circa. 325/936, d.415/1025), and studied Arabic language and grammar under Abu Sa'id al-Hasan ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Marzban al-Sirafi (284-368/897-979), an expert of Arabic language and literature.

He also went to study the language and literary sciences to Abu Muhammad al-'Asadi al-'Akfani, Abu al-Hasan 'Ali ibn 'isa al-Rummani (296-384/908-94), Abu al-Fath 'Uthman ibn Jinn; (330-392/942-1002) and Ibn Nubatah (335-94/946-1004). He studied hadith under Muhammad ibn 'Imran al-Marzabani (d. 378/988) and Abu Masa Harun ibn Musa al-Tal'akbari (d. 385/995). His teacher in fiqh, besides al-Mufid, was Muhammad ibn al-'Abbas al- Khwarizmi (d. 383/993).

Abu Hafs 'Umar ibn Ibrahim al-Kinani was his teacher in qira'ah and the Quran. Most of his teaehers were eminent scholars and writers of Arabic. He had started teaching at the young age of seventeen when he was himself studying. He completed his education at the age of twenty. Very soon he acquired fame as a scholar, commentator of the Quran, thinker and poet. His fame as a poet overshadowed his excellence in all other fields.

Among his teachers a few other names may be mentioned: Abu 'Ali al-Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Farsi (307-77/919-87), a Mutazili; Abu al-Hasan al-Karkhi; 'Ali ibn 'Isa ibn Salih al-Rub'i (328-420/939-40-1029); and Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Ahmad al-Tabari (d. 393/1002-3), a faqih of the Maliki school. In those days due to a climate of tolerance at least among scholars and students, the Shi'ah and Sunni students used to attend classes of teachers belonging to different sects. A number of al-Radi's teachers were Sunni and Mu'tazili.

Al-Sharif al-Radi had intimate friendly relations of mutual respect and love with eminent contemporary scholars, poets and writers professing different faiths, which was an indication of his broad humanism and tolerance. Al-Sahib ibn 'Abbad (326-85/938-95), one of the most influential of Muslim prime ministers and a great scholar of his age, was a patron of scholars and poets.

Yaqut al-Hamawi says that five hundred poets composed qasa'id in his praise. Al-Radi, despite being much younger to him, was highly respected by him. Abu al-Hasan al-'Umari, who is reported to be alive till the end of the first half of the fifth century Hijrah, was from the descendants of 'Umar ibn 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, and was an expert of genealogy. He was in close contact with the al-Sharif family. Abu al-'Ala' al-Ma'arri (363-449/973-1057), one of the greatest poets of Arabic, attended al-Murtada's lectures and was a great admirer of al-Radi.

Upon receiving the news of al-Radi's death in his hometown, al-Ma'arri paid rich tributes to him in an elegy, included in his book Siqt al-zand. Al-Husayn ibn Ahmad al-Nili al-Baghdadi, known as Ibn al-Hajjaj al-Baghdadi (d. 391/1001) was much respected by al-Radi, who compiled two selections of his poetry, viz., 'al-Hasan min shi'r al-Husayn' and 'al-Ziyadat fishi'r Ibn al-Hajjaj, and also wrote an elegy on his death. Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Hilal al-Harrani al-Sabi (d. 384/ 994), a Sabaean by faith and a confidant of the Buwayhids, was so close to al-Radi that once he wrote in a poem addressed to al-Radi: When you get the caliphate, do not forget my wife, son and family...

Al-Radi wrote a moving, emotionally charged elegy on his death, the first couple of which became very famous: Do you know whose coffin people are carrying? Do you know how was the light of our company extinguished? People, particularly the Sunnis, admonished al-Radi saying how could a man like him, belonging to the family of the Prophet (saw), praise a non-believer. Al-Radi said in reply that he paid tribute to his learning and art, not to his faith. Whenever he passed by the side of the grave-yard where al-Sabi was buried, he used to get down from the horse as a mark of respect for the departed soul of the friend and the poet.

Nine years after al-Sabi's death al-Radi happened to visit the grave-yard and saw his friend's grave, he composed another qasidah addressing himself to the departed soul in the following words: Had my companions not been angry with me for stopping near you, I would have saluted your grave O Abu Ishaq!

Al-Radi compiled a selection of al-Sabi's poetry Mukhtar Shir Ibn Ishaq al- Sabi. Among al-Radi's close friends were two other scholarly persons. Shapur Ibn Ardshir (d. 416/1025), who served as the vizier of the Buwayhids till their fall at the hands of the Saljuqis, and who had placed his huge library of rare value at the disposal of al Radi; and Fakhr al Mulk, the vizier of Baha al Dawlah, who led al Radi's funeral congregation, and was himself murdered by Sultan Dawlah in one year after al Radi's death, that is in 407/1016.