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Chapter 7.

The life of ash-Shaykh Muhammad Rida al-Muzaffar

The writer of this book comes from a respected family called by the name of al-Muzaffar. This family of academics and scholars has been recognised by this name in Najaf since the twelfth century of the hijra. Some members of the family reside in al-Jaza'ir, which is in the district of Basra (in Iraq).

The father of ash-Shaykh Muhammad Rida al-Muzaffar, ash-Shaykh Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah, a jurist and a mujtahid, was a marja' at-taqlid. Born and educated in Najaf, he spent his youth in studies, his only other activity being prayer and teaching, until he had distinguished himself as a great jurist. He wrote a very comprehensive commentary on the 'Shara i' al-Islam'[13] which he named 'Tawhid al-Kalam'.

Muhammad Rida al-Muzaffar was born on the 5th of Sha'ban, 1322 A.H., .1904 A.D., five months after the death of his illustrious father. Since his father died before he was born neither could meet each other, and Muhammad Rida grew up under the guardianship of his elder brother ash-Shaykh 'Abdu 'n-Nabi, who devoted so much love and affection on the child that he did not feel the absence of his father.

Ash-Shaykh al-Muzaffar grew up in the learned atmosphere of Najaf. He took part in the meetings of its groups and circles of learning, as well as attending lectures and classes. He took part in the most advanced seminars, and received recognition of the highest order from the most celebrated jurists and teachers. He developed his full potentiality within one of the most scholarly families in Najaf, under the guardianship of his two elder brothers, ash-Shaykh 'Abdu 'n-Nabi and ash-Shaykh Muhammad Hasan.

After he had completed the syllabus which is customarily taught in the Islamic madrassahs in Najaf, and after he had achieved great distinction, he attended the classes given by his brother, ash-Shaykh Muhammad Hasan, as well as the classes of ash-Shaykh Aqa Dia'd-din al-,Iraqi in Islamic jurisprudence, and the lectures of Mirza Muhammad Husayn Na'ini in law (fiqh) and jurisprudence. However, he was most deeply impressed by the classes of ash-Shaykh Muhammad Husayn al-Isfahani and was most particular in attending all the talks and lectures of this eminent scholar of law, jurisprudence and philosophy. He was so impressed by this teacher that he never failed to pay him the highest tributes whenever the occasion presented itself. He followed the method of this scholar in the arrangement of his own famous work on Islamic jurisprudence, 'Usul al-Fiqh'.

His keen interest in his studies was noted by all his teachers, and by the authorities of the religious academies of Najaf. so he was given the highest degree of ijtihad. It will he remembered that all throughout his studies, ash-Shaykh al-Muzaffar remained an active teacher of law, jurisprudence and philosophy. However, his chief occupation was the establishment of 'Muntada an-Nashr', an institute for the publication of books on modern lines, with the purpose of renovating the syllabus of the madrassahs. He devoted his life to the growth and development of this institute, the need for which he was most aware of because he had undertaken to acquaint himself with modern ways of thinking and intellectual trends right from the very beginning.

He made it the main purpose of his life to bring about a rebirth of Islamic learning, and to achieve this aim he wrote many books in a more modern style for students, and in this he was extremely successful. He combined beauty of expression with exactitude of meaning, and he had such a command over words he neither sacrificed his simple style to the exigencies of the subject matter, nor a correct exposition of his themes to the demands of style. He wrote with a fluency and conviction that carries the reader along with him wherever he wants to take him. He is at the height of his powers in his book 'Ahlam al-Yaqzah' (The Waking Dreams) where he enters into a kind of communion with his spiritual teacher Mulla Sadra (ash-Shirazi). This book places him securely among the masters of metaphysics, for in it he puts questions before his mentor and then supplies answers on his behalf. clarifying the deepest metaphysical problems by means of the most beautiful anecdotes. He manages to preserve this same superb style in his book on logic 'al-Mantiq'.

No less remarkable is his ability as a story-teller when he relates the eventful meeting at the Saqifah of the Banu Sa'idah after the death of the Holy Prophet, which has proved to be the cause of all the differences and divergences among Muslims.

Eventually, ash-Shaykh al-Muzaffar, because of his zeal to improve the educational and academic status of the traditional Islamic teachers and speakers, became a most active member of all organisations formed for this purpose. Because of his sincere efforts, he succeeded in discovering the cause of the prevailing mental lethargy, and took positive steps to eliminate it. He felt that reform was necessary not only in the academic field but also in the field of the propagation of Islam.

It should be pointed out here that the teaching in the madrassahs of Najaf comprises two stages. The first stage is a preparatory one in which the main texts are taught so as to prepare the student to move on to the second stage in which he must attend the classes of the leading teachers and acquire specialised knowledge, It was the preparatory stage which w as in need of reshaping and revising. M uzaffar realised that new books had to be written and new subjects added to the curriculum, and in furtherance of his aims he founded Kulliyah al-Fiqh' the College of Islamic Studies.

As far as the presentation of Islamic thought is concerned, this also consists of two branches : speaking and writing, and ash-Shaykh alMuzaffar paid attention to both of them. Through his Muntada an-Nashr, the institute mentioned above, he was able to form a new generation of speakers and teachers, and publish a new style of books. The College, Kulliyah al-Fiqh' also mentioned above, was founded in 1355 A.H., and in 1376, Muzaffar managed to lay the foundation stone of a complete educational institute, which obtained government recognition from the Ministry of Education in 1377 A.H. Both of these establishments remained his responsibility up to the end of his life, and he spared neither energy nor money to see his institutes flourish and prosper.

As a man he was free from egotism, and never held any grudge against any person. He rendered his services to the Creator alone, and paid no attention to rewards from others. His selflessness knew no bounds. It is fitting to end this short biography with his own words.

"We are prepared for new sacrifices, we are ready to resign and give up our activities as soon as we find someone else to take on these responsibilities, all the more so if this were to result in a widening of these institutions. These people should be confident that after we have given over the reins of office into their hands we should not cease serving this venture in whatever capacity it may be. These expressions of ours are sincere, and not merely to show our good intentions. It is no significance that we should play a part, what is important is that the venture should go ahead in a way befitting Najaf, and that persons perform their duties to perfection.

It is of no importance what price is demanded, even if it be the price of our souls, and how cheap this price is if one's duty is done."

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