Hilla- The Center for Shiite Learning:
History bears witness to the fact that untold torture was inflicted on the Ahl al Bayt (a.s) but they never took one retaliatory step which would cause harm to the interests of their followers. Those were the days when the followers of the great Imams (a.s) had to observe absolute dissimulation and the slightest inkling of their beliefs attracted the wrath of the establishment. They were unable to offer the congregatory prayer as enunciated by the Prophet (s.a) and Ahl al Bayt (a.s). In such excrutiating circumstances there was no question of constructing their own place of congregational prayers. Despite all these hardships, the injunction of the Imams (a.s) for their followers was not to assert their identity. The dissimilution was so acute that in many families the parents were unable to guide their own children to the Right Path. The families which enlightened their children about their Faith exhorted them to observe absolute patience in dealing with people of the other school in their day to day lives. They were asked to maintain stoic silence even when they saw the establishment heaping torture on their Holy Imams (a.s). The enemies of Aal e Mohammed (a.s) always used to be on the lookout for them to inflict their ire on them. But the Shias, from the very early days, were living highly disciplined and organized lives. The 7th Imam (a.s) was incarcerated for 14 long years and martyred thereafter. There was no reason for the tyrant to desecrate the mortal remains of the Imam (a.s) by bringing it to the bridge in Baghdad and forcing every passerby to utter invectives against him. The purpose of the tyrant was to force the Imam (a.s)’s followers to react angrily and expose their belief. We can well imagine the patience of the followers those days that they suppressed their feelings of anger and bore with all the indignities heaped on them. When the tyrants realized that their strategy didn’t succeed, they tried to create a rift between the followers of the Imams (a.s) and the other people in Baghdad. The result was that while Baghdad, that was once a haven of peace, became the victim of unrest. Debates started between the Hanafees and the Shafaees, between Hanbalis and Malikees. Because of this disturbed environment, all the Shia scholars, under the leadership of Sheik Toosi, migrated to Najaf e Ashraf. But Baghdad remained a cauldron of strife and Allah sent his curse to them in the form of Changez Khan. Baghdad city was besieged by his hordes. But the people didn’t notice the danger lurking at their very threshold. Halaku Khan, who didn’t even know the meaning of compassion and kindness, was commanding the army of Changez Khan.  His strategy was to massacre all the male residents when his armies entered any city and form a minaret with the heads of the slain persons. The females were made slaves. Oblivious of all this, the people of Baghdad were assembled at the banks of the river Haqeela having a futile debate between the Hanafis and Shafaees whether consuming the owls meat was taboo or not! The result of this attitude was that Halaku Khan occupied Bahgdad and massacre of very high magnitude took place without any resistance whatsoever. The result of this invasion was that riots had become an everyday happening in Baghdad. These weren’t riots between the Sunnis and Shias, but were a result of conflict between Hanafis, Shafaees, Hanbalis and Malikis. In such fissiparous circumstances the followers of the Aal e Muhammed (a.s) started migrating out of Baghdad. The erudite scholars were already in Najaf e Ashraf. The seminary started by Sheik Toosi was fully functional there. Large numbers of Momins settled down at Hilla, a small town about a hundred miles from Baghdad. This happened when Halaku was fast approaching the city and the people were busy in their debates about the “Owl’s Meat”! The settlers at Hilla formed a delegation and made a representation to Halaku Khan seeking amnesty from him. He met the delegation from Hilla along with his prime minister, Naseer ul deen Toosi, and granted amnesty to the town of Hilla. He promised that his men will not move towards their town and that they would be allowed to live in peace. It is a pity that the people of Baghdad didn’t have sense to rise to the occasion and seek amnesty from the ire of Halaku Khan. Najaf e Ashraf is comparatively closer to Baghdad and the hordes of Halaku were to pass through there. With a view to avoid any damage to the mausoleum of Hazrat Ali (a.s), the scholars from the seminary preferred to move to Hilla as well. Therefore, the center of Shia learning shifted from Najaf to Hilla. For about a hundred and fifty years many eminent Shia scholars came from Hilla and the first eminent scholar from there was Mohaqqaq Hilli or “The Researcher Hilli”. Whenever reference is made in the books of history to Muhaqqaq, only Muhaqqaq Hilli is meant. Muhaqqaq Hilli was the maternal uncle of Allama Hilli.
Born:  602 H at Hilla               Died: 676 H                    Age:  74 years
Name: Jafar ibne Yahya ibne Hassan ibne Saeed
Title: Muhaqqaq Hilli
Muhaqqaq Hilli was the first religious leader in Hilla. While Baghdad became the center of Shia learning during the time of the Seventh Imam (a.s) and the Four Deputies of the Imam (a.s) too were in Baghdad. But the persecution of the followers of the Prophet (s.a)’s Progeny reached its zenith and they started migrating from the city in large numbers to Hilla. It was around this time that the Shia scholars, in the leadership of Sheik Toosi, moved to Najaf e Ashraf in the year 448 H. When Halaku was plundering Baghdad, the people of Hilla sent a delegation to him and sought amnesty for their town. During the next century and half Hilla produced several eminent Mujtahids and Muhaqqaq Hilli was one of them.
The Shia Scholars have been classified into three groups: the first is called the Mutaqaddameen (Early), the second is the group of Mutakhareen (The later) and the last group is Mutakhar al Mutakhareen (The Later of the Later or the Modern). Muhaqqaq Hilli was a very important Mujtahid of the period of transition between the epochs of the Mutaqaddameen and Mutakhareen. We have mentioned this here so that the reader will find it easy to understand these terms while perusing the books of history and Fiqh. In fact Muhaqqaq Hilli is considered the last of the roster of the Mutaqaddameen. The Mutakhareen start with the advent of his nephew Allama Hilli, about whom we shall discuss later in this chapter.
Muhaqqaq Hilli was so learned and erudite in the field of Fiqh that he was known with the title of Muhaqqaq or the researcher. If in some paper the author refers to Muhaqqaq in his dissertation, it will be understood that he is referring to Muhaqqaq Hilli. Any other person could be a muhaqqaq but this sobriquet will be prefixed or suffixed with his given name.
The monumental work that established the name and fame of Jafar ibne Yahya ibne Hassan ibne Saeed as Muhaqqaq Hilli is the book “Sharaeh al Islam”. This book is a very important reference for the scolars who do research on the Shia Fiqh. This is a much translated book and its English version is on the curriculum of the Oxford and Cambridge universities where Shia history and jurisprudence is taught.The book has also been translated into the French, German and the Russian languages. This book is in two volumes. The immense value of this book is evident from the fact that there isn’t any Shia seminary in the world where it isn’t a very important part of the curriculum. This is studied by the students in small Madrassas as well as the great seminaries in Najaf and Qum. One very popular commentary on the book has been written by Sheik Mohammed Hassan under the title and style of “Jawahar al Kalam”. Reading this commentary the rector of the Azhar University, Cairo, had perforce to admit that the Shias are truly Muslims! Another very important fact about this book is that only the works of 5 authors are mentioned to be in Jazeera e Khizra (the Green Island). One of the five authors is Muhaqqaq Hilli. The interesting thing is that the traveler who visited the Jazira e Khizra and met the Naib e Imam (a.s) there and had the privilege of discussing with him about Muhaqqaq Hilli’s book. He had said that all the questions discussed in the book were authentic and correct, excepting two questions. He didn’t elaborate what those two questions were. Muhaqqaq Hilli has left behind this book for the posterity and also a disciple like Allama Hilli who was also his nephew.
Muhaqqaq Hilli’s greatness can well be gauged from one anecdote. Halaku Khan’s prime minister, Naseer ud Deen Toosi, who was also an eminent Mujtahid, wanted to visit Hilla to meet the scholars there. When Muhaqqaq Hilli got news of his schedule, he started making arrangements to give befitting reception to Naseer ud Deen. The eminence of Naseer ud Deen can well be fathomed from the fact that he is considered as the Shia Mujaddad (Revivalist) of the Seventh Centuray Hijri. It is said about him that excepting the Holy Imams (a.s) none other has propagated the Shia Faith more than Naseer ud Deen Toosi. When Naseer ud Deen got word that Muhaqqaq Hilli personally wanted to come out and receive him, he requested him not to do this and continue with his day’s routine. Muhaqqaq Hilli abided by the request of the guest. When Toosi entered Hilla, he learned that Muhaqqaq was in the mosque giving lessons to the children from his book “Sharaeh al Islam”. Naseer ud Deen entered the mosque. Muhaqqaq Hilli discontinued his talk to meet the guest. Toosi said politely that he had come there traveling the long distance particularly to take part in the Muhaqqaq’s lessons and he requested him to continue with the talk. It was an event when one great scholar was keen to learn from another erudite scholar!
The status of learning of Naseer ud Deen Toosi was of such caliber that even Allama Hilli was once his disciple. The amazing thing about him was that he was learned in most of the disciplines of knowledge. Particularly he was recognized as an expert in the subject of geography. Coming back to our discussion, Muhaqqaq Hilli continued with his lesson that he had stopped with the arrival of Naseer ud Deen in his classroom. The topic of discussion was rather intricate. Everyone may not be able to comprehend the intricacy of the subject, but I shall throw a little light on it here. His talk was on the subject of facing towards the Qibla (Kaaba) while standing in prayer. In this regard there are certain traditions of the Infallibles (a.s) as to how to determine the right direction of the Qibla. Whenever people from any city visited the Imams (a.s) they used to guide them with regard to the direction of the Qibla from there. The general procedure was to take into account the location of certain stars It is mentioned in the books of Fiqh that the direction of the Qibla is determined in Iraq observing the location a certain star and facing towards it, but it was said that it is Mustaheb (Desirable) to turn ones face a little to the left while standing in prayer.When Muhaqqaq Hilli came to this point, Naseer ud Deen Toosi raised a question. He asked if the Qibla is towards that star why is it Mustaheb to turn a little to the left from that direction? His contention was that facing the Qibla was Wajib (mandatory) and deviating from it would be Haram (taboo). Muhaqqaq Hilli gave only one reply, “Min al Qibla ilal Qibla—turn from the Qibla towards the Qibla!” Turning a little towards the left was advised to ensure that the direction of prayer was positively towards the Qibla. Naseer ud Deen Toosi kept quiet hearing this clarification. After he returned to his head-quarters, Muhaqqaq Hilli wrote a treatise on the subject and sent to Naseer ud Deen Toosi who acknowledged that his objection wasn’t correct. Although Naseer ud Deen was an expert geographer, he had to accept the argument of Muhaqqaq Hilli in the matter of the direction of the Qibla.
On 13th Rabi al Aakhir 676 H Muhaqqaq Hilli was walking on the terrace of his house when he slipped and fell down on the ground from that height. He instantly passed away because of the grievous hurt that was caused with the impact of the fall. The great scholar was interred in the graveyard of Hilla. On the passing away of Muhaqqaq Hilli, his disciple and nephew, Allama Hilli, was rightly endowed with the position of the Mujtahid in Hilla although he was a youth of 28 years at that time.Allama Hilli was such a great scholar that the sobriquet of Allama has assumed specificity for him. If a historian writes that the Allama said something, he would certainly mean Allama Hilli. There have been other scholars who have been given the title of Allama but it has invariably to be prefixed with their names like Allama Majlisi etc. Before I go into any details about the life and work of Allama Hilli, I want to mention here that the foundation of the renaissance of the Shia Faith in Iran was laid by this great scholar.

 Source Urdu Lectures of Moulana Sadiq Hassan Book