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HAKIM, MUHSIN AL- (1889-1970), most widely followed ShN mujtahid (interpreter of Islamic law) of the 1960s. Sayyid al-Hakim was born in Najaf, Iraq, into the religiously prominent Tabataba’i family of Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and Pakistan. He was trained in Islamic law and theology in Najaf, studying with Ayatollah Muhammad Kazim Yazdi, Ayatollah Muhammad Husayn Nd’ini, and others. Recognized as the leading teacher at the seminaries in Najaf, he became Shiism’s chief authority when Ayatollah Mohammad Hosayn Borujerdi of Qom died in 1962. With the tithes of the faithful, forwarded to him by his clerical representatives around the ShM world, Ayatollah al-Hakim administered the hawzah (theological center) of Najaf and provided for the financial needs of educational centers in Iraq and other countries. His hallmark was giving mosques and Islamic centers gifts of books and libraries.

Ayatollah al-Hakim was moderate in his theology. His initiatives were educational, and in his later years, political, as he led Shi’i clerics in an offensive against communism. His relations with Iraq’s Hashemite government (1923-1958) were amiable, but Iraq’s subsequent governments he deemed to be religiously illegitimate. He sought to meet the challenge of secularism through a series of steps aimed at educating Muslims to the need for Islamic standards in government and society and through cooperation with practicing Sunni Muslims. Among his initiatives were the sponsorship of Jama’at al-`Ulama’ (Society of Religious Scholars) and endorsement of Hizb al-Da’wah (Party of the Call [to Islam]), clandestine groups that strove to educate Shi’is to the need for government that meets minimum Islamic requirements. To this end, he dispatched politically activist clerics to Lebanon and elsewhere and sanctioned political assertiveness by Shi’is, a major change from traditional Shi’i quietism and a major contributor to subsequent political ferment in such countries as Iraq.

Ayatollah al-Hakim opposed the Iraqi Government of `Abd al-Karim Qasim (1958-1963) because it was secular and because its land reform involved confiscation of private property, considered to be protected by Islamic law. Alarmed by the appeal of “atheistic” communism to Muslims, he issued a fatwa (religious proclamation) in 1960 forbidding Shi`is to have any connection with the Communist Party. He lent his name to a joint Shi`iSunni political party during the brief period in 196o when the Iraqi government allowed organized opposition. He also led the Shi’i clergy in opposition to the Iraqi governments of `Abd al-Salam `Arif and `Abd alRahman `Arif (1963-1968), judging them to be sectarian, as well as secular and socialistic.

During the last two years of his life, Ayatollah alHakim was tormented by Iraq’s Ba`thist Government. In 1969, when he declined to side with the government in its quarrel with the shah of Iran, he was placed under house arrest. His son Mahdi was sentenced to death and funds belonging to the hawzah were confiscated by the government. Ayatollah al-Hakim responded with a fatwa forbidding practicing Shi’is from membership in the Bath party.

Ayatollah al-Hakem fathered ten sons, many of whom, along with their sons, were executed by the Bath government of Saddam Hussein during the 1980s.

[See also Iraq.]


Husain, Sayyed Murtaza. Hayat-e-Hakeem: The Life of Syed Mohsin al-Hakeem. Karachi, 1973. The only book-length biography of Ayatollah al-Hakim.

Khatib ibn al-Najaf, al-. Tarikh al-Harakah al-Islamiyah al-Mu` asirah ft al-`Iraq (History of the Contemporary Islamic Movement in Iraq). Beirut, 1982. Insider’s account of the Iraqi shi’i clergy’s attempts to counter secularism and unbelief.

Momen, Moojan. An Introduction to Shi`i Islam. New Haven, 1985. Excellent depiction of Shiism and its prominent leaders.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/hakim-muhsin-al/

  • writerPosted On: June 10, 2013
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