Ayatullah al-Uzma al-Hajj as-Shaykh Nasir Makarim ash-Shirazi 

the eminent scholar, Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi was born in the year 1924 in the city of Shiraz in Iran into a religious family who were well known for their high level of spirituality and noble ethical traits. His Eminence finished his elementary school studies in Shiraz , where his intelligence, excellent memory and eagerness to learn, made him amongst the best students, often completing two years of studies in one year! 

The conditions which existed in Iran in those days obligated this young man - who possessed such talent and aptitude - to choose the path of University and use his gifts to attain a secular qualification. However, the hand of destiny and the blessings of the Merciful Lord and his own secret desire to become better acquainted with, and to delve deeper into the teachings of Islam, drew this young man’s attention towards Islamic studies. Especially because, since after the spring of 1941 (when Iran became embroiled in the 2nd World War), the regime’s restrictions relaxed and the Islamic Seminaries gained renewed popularity.

His Studies

His Eminence started his formal Islamic studies at the age of 14 at Madreseh-ye Agha Babakhan-e Shiraz, and within a short period of time, he was able to complete the prerequisite preliminary studies such as morphology (sarf), Arabic grammar (nahw), logic (mantiq), exposition (bayan), and rhetoric (badi`).

He then turned his attention towards the fields of jurisprudence (fiqh) and principles of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) and once again, due to his exceptional abilities, he was able to finish the study of the complete levels of introductory and both the levels of the intermediate Islamic studies in just four years!  During this time, a group of students from the Islamic Seminary in Shiraz were also benefiting from his classes.

The positive criticisms and personal opinions of His Eminence concerning the classes being held in Qum and also in relation to the need for including extra information within the books that were being taught at the various Theological Seminaries hinted at the bright future which awaited him. Meanwhile in religious gatherings in this city, his capabilities, genius, meticulousness and deep thought were witnessed by others and no one was able to deny his God-given talents.

When this brilliant star was a mere 18 years old, through his penetrating thought and versatile pen, he wrote a commentary on the book Kifayatu’l Usul, in which he shed light on some ambiguous issues mentioned in this traditional work. At the age of 18, he formally entered the Theological Seminary of Qum and for the next five years, he attended the religious gatherings and classes of some of the greatest teachers of those days, such as Ayatullah al-`Uzma Burujerdi (ra) and other great personalities.

In order for His Eminence to become better acquainted with the illustrious scholars who were studying and teaching in one of the greatest Theological Seminaries of the Shi`a, and to better understand their ideas and thoughts, in the year 1950, he made his way to the Hawzatu’l `Ilmiyyah of Najaf al-Ashraf in Iraq. It was here that he was able to take part in the classes of some of the greatest teachers such as: Ayatullah al-`Uzma al-Hakim (ra), Ayatullah al-`Uzma al-Khu`i (ra) and Ayatullah al-`Uzma `Abdul Hadi al-Shirazi (ra) and others.

At the age of 24, His Eminence was granted permission for independent reasoning (ijtihad) from two of the great scholars of Najaf al-Ashraf. In addition, Ayatullah al-`Uzma al-Hakim (ra) wrote a brief foreword to His Eminence’s work, The Book of Taharah.

His acquisition of knowledge continued with the great teachers in Najaf until economical restraints forced him to leave this holy city, and return back to Iran in the year 1951. He chose to settle in the holy city of Qum , which in those days required religious scholars. Once again, he joined the circle of scholars who later on, had a profound impact on his life.

After returning to Iran, Ayatullah al-`Uzma Makarim Shirazi began teaching the intermediate and higher level of studies (kharij) in usul al-fiqh and fiqh – and it is now close to 28 years that he has been teaching these classes, which have benefited a large number of students. In addition, after teaching many of the important books of fiqh, he went on to write summaries and notes of these great works. At present, his sessions at the kharij level on usul are one of the most popular classes in the Hawzatul `Ilmiyyah of the Shi`a and there are close to 2,000 dedicated scholars and students who attend and benefit from his lectures.

From the time of his youth, he used to write books in various fields of Islamic studies such as theology, Islamic awareness and the issue of wilayah (of the Ahlu’l Bait (a.s.)). Later, he started to write on the exegesis of the Qur`an, fiqh and usul al-fiqh and he is currently recognized as one of the important writers in the Muslim world.

Political Activities

He played an active role in the events which culminated in the Islamic Revolution of Iran, and it is because of this that the Shah imprisoned him several times. He was exiled on three separate occasions to the cities of Chabhar, Mahabad and Anarak. After the Revolution, he was appointed to the first Council of Representatives (Majlis-e Khubragan) where he played an important role in formulating the first constitution.

His Valuable Contributions

Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi has been very active in various fields of teaching and guiding the upcoming scholars of the Theological Seminary of Qum, and has initiated various projects, of which we will mention just a few:

1. A Religious Publication of the Shi`a Centre : For a long time, His Eminence felt the need for the Hawzatu’l `Ilmiyyah of Qum to have a general publication which would be able to defend the Shi`a against the ever-growing works that were being published to misguide people.

In addition, people had always expected this from the great Islamic seminaries and there was pressure from different parts of the community, including the supreme religious authorities (maraja-ye taqlid) of the Hawza and others, to publish a magazine that would be able to answer the religious enquiries of the youth and also to counter the books and magazines that were misleading the people.

Due to the fact that at that time, there were some intellectuals who were not ready to accept such a publication, His Eminence sought out serious and resourceful thinkers to shoulder the heavy responsibility of producing such a publication. In this regard, His Eminence, along with a group of other scholars and the assistance of the leaders of the Hawzatu’l `Ilmiyyah of Qum and the financial support of well-wishers, launched the magazine, “Maktab-e-Islam”. This magazine was unprecedented in the Shi`a world, and perhaps from the point of view of the range of its circulation, it is amongst the leading religious magazines being published in the entire Muslim world. This magazine gave a fresh and new path of direction to the great students and thinkers of the Hawzah.

At present, this publication is in its 39th year - offering its valuable services to the Muslim world and the Shi`a communities. It has found a special spot within the hearts of the youth, the university students, teachers and other learned personalities and it is has spread the light of Islam and Tashayyu` from its centre ( Qum ) to the entire world.

2. Organizing Gatherings to Offer Lessons in Theology and other Religious Teachings:  His Eminence felt that the classical works that had been written in the field of Islamic Theology were no longer sufficient, with the passing of time, to address modern needs. The traditional books of theology had been written in a century when the kind of problems we encounter today did not exist. The older books discussed theological issues such as the disputes between the Ash`arites and the Mu`tazilites and other similar topics, which are no longer applicable today and which have become just of passing interest only.

Due to these facts, His Eminence, once again calling upon his literary talents and abilities, was able to present the subjects of theological and principal beliefs in a novel and unprecedented manner. By organizing theological discussions, he made hundreds of people become conversant with these subjects, and he compiled the summaries of these sessions  in the form of books.

3. Religious Council for the Protection of the Youth: In addition to sessions on theology, His Eminence organised other classes through which his students were also instructed about the teachings of eight current world religions so that they could engage in debates or correspond with the proponents of these faiths and counter their beliefs and ideologies.

Within a short period of time, these classes were able to produce able students who were well informed in their specialized field of study and today, an elite group of youth within the Hawzatu’l `Ilmiyyah, are busy studying these topics. Furthermore, in order to safeguard the youth from the clutches of corruption, His Eminence formed an organization called the Religious Council for the Protection of the Youth. One of the outcomes of this council was the publication of material that was interesting to the youth, and these quickly became established amongst the youth in the country.

4. Struggles against Eclectic Tendencies: On one of his trips to the city of Shiraz , His Eminence noticed that sufism had gathered popular support. A group of people requested him to write a book which would outline the principles of the sufis – one that would explain their beliefs in an agreeable and respectful manner. His Eminence, by making use of the resources available to him, wrote this book in his usual style, and the book was printed in the year 1953 CE with the title, Jalwa-ye Haq (The Manifestation of Truth).

The style in which he wrote this book caught the attention of the late Ayatullah al-`Uzma Burujerdi (ra) and he requested His Eminence to see him and congratulated him for his valuable efforts. In relation to this book, Ayatullah al-`Uzma Burujerdi (ra) made the following commendation, “I have gone through this book in my spare time and did not find even the smallest of weak points in it. May Allah reward you for your troubles.”

5. Establishing Organizations and Centres of Learning:  His Eminence had made the intention of establishing such organizations in the same number as the Ma`sumin (a.s.), which is 14. By the grace of God, he has thus far been successful in establishing four such important schools within the Theological Seminary of Qum and two religious organizations for the welfare of the students who are living in the city of Mashad .

6. Writings – The number of publications of His Eminence currently lies at approximately 130 books which have all been printed – some of which have been reprinted more than 30 times and others which have been translated into more than 10 languages and have been published in various parts of the world.

The commentary of the Qur`an authored by him, Tafsir-e-Namuneh (The Model Commentary) has been translated into many languages, including Arabic (al-Amthal Fi Tafsir al-Qur`an), and can be found in many homes. An English commentary of the Qur`an entitled, “Light of the Holy Qur`an” is also currently being published which is largely based on this work. In addition to this commentary, he has also authored a thematic commentary of the Qur`an entitled, Payam-e-Qur`an (The Message of the Qur`an) in ten volumes. These two commentaries have opened up a new chapter in the field of exegesis of the Noble Qur`an.

One complete course in usul al-din has been covered in the first series of Payam-e-Qur`an, while the author has recently embarked on a second series covering ethics (akhlaq) in the Qur`an. The first volume of this commentary has recently been translated into English and will be printed soon by the World Federation of KSIMC, based in the United Kingdom .

In addition, the books he has written on theological beliefs have ably provided a defence for students and scholars against the onslaught of books containing false beliefs and untruths.

Of the books of fiqh that he has written, we can mention the following:  Anwar al-Fuqahah, al-Qawa`idu’l Fiqhiyyah, Anwar al-Usul and the notes and commentaries on the complete text of `Urwat al-Wuthqa which have been printed many times over.

His practical guide for Muslims (Tawdhih al-Masail) has also been printed many times and has also been translated into Arabic, Urdu, Turkish, Azari and English.

A complete list of other publications of this great scholar which have been translated into English and are available is as follows. Most of these can be read on his website at www.makaremshirazi.org.

1.       Ethical Discources [40 Lectures on Ethics and Morality] – volume 1, 2 & 3 translated by Saleem Bhimji –published by the World Federation of KSIMC [www.world-federation.org]

2.       Khums: The Islamic Tax translated by Saleem Bhimji – published by the Islamic Humanitarian Service [www.al-haqq.com]

3.       Lessons in Islamic Beliefs – Tawhid, `Adalah, Nubuwwah, Imamah, and Ma`ad translated by Laleh Bakhtiyar – published by Ansariyan Publications [www.ansariyan.org]

4.       Life Under the Grace of Ethics translated by Monir Shafiei - published by the Office of Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi [www.makaremshirazi.org]

5.       Message of the Qur`an – A Thematic Exegesis of the Noble Qur`an volume 1 of 10 translated by Saleem Bhimji - published by the World Federation of KSIMC [www.world-federation.org]

6.       One Hundred and Eighty Questions – volumes 1, 2 & 3 translated by Shahnawaz Mahdawi - published by the World Federation of KSIMC [www.world-federation.org]

7.       One Hundred and Fifty Lessons for Life translated by the office of Ayatullah al-`Uzma Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi – published by Ansariyan Publications [www.ansariyan.org]

8.       Our Beliefs translated by the office of Ayatullah al-`Uzma Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi - published by the Office of Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi [www.makaremshirazi.org]

9.       Philosophy of Islamic Rulings written in co-operation with Ayatullah Ja’far Subhani Translated by Sayyid Athar Rizvi – published by Ansariyan Publications [www.ansariyan.org]

10.   Summary of the Islamic Rulings translated by `Ali Abdul Rasheed - published by the Office of Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi [www.makaremshirazi.org]

11.   Tafsir of the Noble Qur’an – Suratul Jinn translated by Saleem Bhimji – published by the Islamic Humanitarian Service and the World Federation of KSIMC [www.al-haqq.com] & [www.world-federation.org]

12.   The tradition of Ghadir – The Expressive Evidence for Imamate translated by the office of Ayatullah al-`Uzma Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi - published by the Office of Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi [www.makaremshirazi.org]

13.   The Noble Qur`an – Translation and Commentary – volume 1 translated by Mansoor Amini - published by the Office of Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi [www.makaremshirazi.org]

14.   The Noble Qur`an – Translation and Commentary – volume 2 translated by Mansoor Amini - published by the Office of Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi [www.makaremshirazi.org]

15.   The Noble Qur`an – Translation and Commentary – volume 3 translated by Mansoor Amini - published by the Office of Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi [www.makaremshirazi.org]

16.   The Noble Qur`an – Translation and Commentary – volume 4 translated by Mansoor Amini - published by the Office of Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi [www.makaremshirazi.org]

17.   The Islamic Laws translated by the office of Ayatullah al-`Uzma Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi - published by the Office of Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi [www.makaremshirazi.org]