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Sayyid Ash Sharaf Ar Razi

The compiler of Nahjul Balagah     His Life and Work   Thaqalayn Journal article al-islam.org

By: Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi Ja'fari   Translated by Mahdi Chamanzar from Imamreza.net

Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Musawi, popularly known as Sayyid or Sharif Razi, lived a brief but highly fruitful life. So great has been his contribution to Islamic sciences that a study of his life and works requires an analysis of almost all works on history, biographies and literature written since the 5th century AH.

The life of Sayyid Razi who was born in 359 AH/970 CE in Baghdad and died in the year 406/1015 in his hometown, coincided with the era of the Buyid dynasty (334-447/946-1056) which had reduced the Abbasid caliphs to mere nominal rulers. It was the golden age of Arabic literature and among his contemporaries mention could be made of the great poets Al-Mutinabbi and Abual-'Ala'Mu'arri.

Sayyid Razi was born in a prominent household directly descended from the Prophet (pbuh), as is clear from the epithets of 'Sayyid' and 'Sharif, by which he was referred. His father Abu Ahmad Husayn bin Musa was fifth in line of descent from the 7th Imam, Musa al-Kazim (a.s.), and held the prestigious position of the Naqib al-Nuqaba ' of Iraq, a responsibility which required the managing of affairs of the Sadats (Prophet's descendants).

He was given the title of 'Tahir Awhad Dhu al-Manaqib' and died in 396 and was buried in the shrine of Imam Husayn (A.S.) in Karbala'. At his death, Sayyid Razi, who had been acting as his father's deputy since 381, officially became the Naqib al-Nuqaba' and held the position till his own death in 406/1015. His father's genealogy reads: Husayn bin Musa bin Muhammad bin Musa bin Ibrahim Mujab bin Imam Musa al-Kazim ( a.s.).

Sayyid Razi's mother Fatimah also traced her lineage to the Prophet (pbuh) and was the daughter of Husayn bin Abu Muhammad al- Hasan al-Utrush bin 'Ali bin Hasan bin 'Umar al-Ashraf the son of the 4th Infallible Imam, 'Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-'Abidin (a.s.).

She was a pious and noble lady, and was held in high esteem by scholars and other notables. At her request, the great scholar Shaykh Mufid compiled the book Ahkam al-Nisa' which contains the fiqhi rules for women. Her family had carved out an independent principality in Tabaristan on the southern coasts of the Caspian Sea. She died in Baghdad in 385 AH. 

There is an interesting story how Sayyid Razi and his elder brother 'Ali Abual-Kasim Sayyid Murtaza started their formal Islamic education. According to Ibn Abi al-Hadid in Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, Shaykh Mufid saw a dream that a lady appearing to be the Prophet's daughter Hazrat Fatimah Zahra' ('a) entered his mosque in the Karkh locality of Baghdad with two small boys and asked him to teach them fiqh. The Shaykh woke up in a rather perplexed state of mind in view of his own paucity of knowledge when compared to Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husayn (a.s.).

But the next day when Fatimah, the wife of the Naqib al-Nuqaba ', entered the mosque with her two sons and requested him to teach them Islamic sciences, he understood the purport of his dream and accepted her request with great honour.  

The two brothers together soon mastered different branches of Islamic sciences under Shaykh Mufid and other leading scholars of Baghdad, but unlike Sayyid Razi who was more inclined towards politics and literature, Sayyid Mortaza was deeply interested in fiqh. 

Sayyid Murtaza, who acquired the epithet of 'Alam al-Huda, was four years older than his brother and died at the age of 81 years in 436/ 1044.  He served as Naqib al-Nuqaba' after the death of Sayyid Razi and was considered a master of kalam, fiqh, usul al- fiqh, literature, grammar, poetry and other fields of knowledge. His divan or poetical composition runs into more than 20,000 verses. He authored several books such as al-Shafi fl al-Imamah, al- Dhakh'irah fi Usul al-Fiqh, al-Ghurar wa al-Durar, and al-Tanzih.

Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Musawi, popularly known as Sayyid or Sharif Razi, lived a brief but highly fruitful life. So great has been his contribution to Islamic sciences that a study of his life and works requires an analysis of almost all works on history, biographies and literature written since the 5th century AH.

All Shi'ia and Sunni scholars acknowledge that Sayyid Murtaza was the greatest scholar of his era and groomed many outstanding 'ulama' including the famous Shaykh al-Ta'ifah Abu Ja'far al-Tusi, the founder of the celebrated theological Centre of Najaf.


Sayyid Razi's only son Abu Ahmad 'Adnan was also a prominent scholar of his time and after the death of his uncle Sayyid Murtaza, he was entrusted with the post of Naqib al- Nuqaba'. He was given the title of his grandfather 'Taher Dhu al- Manaqeb' by the Buhid ruler and was highly respected for his knowledge and nobility of character.

'Adnan died issueless in 449 and with his death the physical line of Sayyid Razi came to an end. However, Sayyid Razi was destined for lasting fame in view of his valuable works, especially the compilation of the sermons, letters, and maxims of Imam Ali ( 'a) under the title Nahj al-Balaghah.

Sayyid Razi's genius flowered in early youth under the celebrated Abi 'Abdullah Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Nu'man known popularly as Shaykh Mufid. Among his other teachers, mention could be made of the Malikite jurist Abu Ishaq Ibrahim bin Ahmad Tabari, the grammarian Abu 'Ali Hasan bin Ahmad 'Abd al-Ghaffar al-Farsi, Abu Sa'id Hasan bin 'Abdullah bin Marzban al-Baghdadi who was known as Qazi Sirafi, the Mu'tazalite scholar Abu al-Hasan Qazi 'Abd al-Jabbar bin Ahmad al-Baghdadi, and many more.

As is evident Sayyid Razi studied under scholars of different religious persuasions in order to master the various branches of the sciences and to state with authority his own views and beliefs.
Sayyid Razi started holding his own classes at a very young age, by setting up a school near his house in the Karkh locality and named it Dar al-'Ilm.  It was a large school consisting of several buildings and halls for convening classes, presenting speeches and holding meetings and academic debates with researchers. It also had resident quarters for eligible students and was equipped with a large library filled with important Arabic and Islamic reference books and sources.


Sayyid Razi, personally administered the school, student affairs and the library. He constantly sought to meet the welfare needs of the students, so that they could go about their studies with a clear mind. As a result, a great number of intellectuals graduated from his school, which had become popular throughout the Islamic lands including Iran and Egypt. Needless to say, these graduates in turn taught and transferred their knowledge acquired through Sayyid Razi to other generations.

Sayyid Razi was an outstanding Arabic poet and a literary genius, and his aesthetic taste could be evinced from his works. Abd al-Latif Shararah says of him:
This great man in his relatively short life as compared to Abu al-'Ala al-Mu'arri, besides keeping pace with important events and political developments, was engrossed in literature, literary research, and the study of rhetorical aspects and fiqh. As the Naqib, he assumed responsibility of the affairs of the Talibiyyin (descendants of Abu Talib) and led the Hajj pilgrimage.

At the same time he established the Dar al-'Ilm Academy and wrote a number of books. His most famous work, for which he made great efforts and named it Nahj al-Balaghah, is a collection of the sermons, letters and maxims of Imam 'Ali lbn Abi Talib ('a).  Ibn Abi al-Hadid has written a commentary on this book in 20 volumes while Shaykh Muhammad 'Abduh has made it available to the common man in a summarised interpretation.

Sharif Razi also devoted himself to research on the rhetorical and linguistic aspects of Arabic, and the fruit of his efforts is the book Talkhis al-Bayan ji Majazat al- Qur'an, which has been researched and published in 464 pages by Muhammad 'Abd al-Ghani Hasan.  Sayyid Razi had referred to this work many times in his other book  Majazat al-Athar al-Nabawiyyah but it was given up for lost for several centuries until the accidental discovery of its manuscript by Sayyid Muhammad Mishkat who published it as a Photostat edition in 1950. It is a detailed study on the metaphorical aspects of the surahs and ayahs of the Holy Qur'an and is considered among the greatest literary treasures of Islam

Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Musawi, popularly known as Sayyid or Sharif Razi, lived a brief but highly fruitful life. So great has been his contribution to Islamic sciences that a study of his life and works requires an analysis of almost all works on history, biographies and literature written since the 5th century AH.

Since the time of the Prophet, several scholars have diligently recorded, compiled, quoted and written commentaries on Prophetís sayings, to the extent that numerous collections, which could fill up libraries, have been published.

However, what Sayyid Razi, the literary genius has been able to accomplish in this respect, in the same manner as his unique compilation of Imam 'Ali's (a) literary output under the title of Nahj al-Balaghah, is quite different. It is clear that this work was undertaken after completing Nahj al- Balaghah, since he often refers to Nahj in Majazat al-Athar al- Nabawiyyah.  Sayyid Razi selected 361 sayings of the Prophet which have a metaphorical import, and explained the meaning of each one of them. This book was written before Talkhis al-Bayan and has been published several times in Egypt, Iraq and Iran.

In his introduction to Nahjal-Balaghah SayyidRazi says:  In my youth, I resolved to write a book on the distinguishing qualities of the Twelve Imams (a.s.), their history, their exemplary way of life and their wise sayings. I completed a book on the merits and qualities of Amir al-Mu'minin Imam 'Ali (A.S.), but unfortunately, the countless complexities of daily life and other obstacles prevented me from continuing the work."

The poetical talents of Sayyid Razi blossomed while he was a mere lad of 10 years, and the first qasidah (panegyric) composed by him made the literati of Baghdad spellbound.  Since his days, efforts were made to collect his poems and the last one to compile them as a book was Abu Hakim al-Mu'allim 'Abdullah al-Khayri (d. 476). The diwan of Sayyid Razi consists of 16,300 verses and has been popular since his lifetime.

The Buyid Wazir of Iran, Sahib ibn 'Abbad, who was a prominent writer and bibliophile, was so deeply touched on hearing a poem of Razi, that he sent an emissary to Baghdad to procure a copy of the whole diwan. Interestingly, this happened in 385 when Razi was only 26 years old, and he was so pleased that he composed a qasidah in praise of Sahib ibn 'Abbad and sent it along with the diwan.

Another instance of Razi's popularity as a poet is the incident in 399 when Taqiyyah, the daughter of the Hamdanid Amir of Aleppo, Sayf al-Dawlah, sent a special messenger to Baghdad to get a copy of his diwan. Although Razi's diwan is a literary masterpiece containing valuable historical, social, scientific and cultural information and has been published several times, it is yet to be examined in an academic manner in order to realise its proper worth.

The masterpiece of Sayyid Razi, not as a writer but as an aesthetic literary compiler, is of course Nahj al-Balaghah, which has ensured lasting fame for him. It is a selection of sermons decrees, letters, maxims and counsels of Amir al-Mu'minin Imam 'Ali ibn Abi Talib(a.s.).

Sayyid Razi in his introduction to Nahj al-Balaghah writes:
In my early age at the dawn of youth, I commenced writing a book on the characteristics of the Infallible Imams (a.s.) covering the account of their virtues and masterpieces of their expression of words. The purpose of the compilation has been stated by me in the beginning of the book. Therein I completed the portion dealing with the account of Amir al-Mu'minin (a.s.), but I could not finish that part concerning other Imams due to the impediments of the time and obstacles of the days. I divided it into several chapters and sections. Thus its last section comprised whatever had been related from Imam 'Ali (a.s.) out of his short sayings such as counsels, maxims and proverbs but not long lectures and detailed discourses.

A number of my friends and brothers-in-faith, while wondering at its delicate and blossoming expressions, admired the contents of this particular section, and urged me to complete a book which should cover all the forms of the sayings of Amir al- Mu'minin (a.s.) and their diverse forms such as lectures, letters, counsels, aphorisms, etc., as they were convinced that it would comprise wonders of eloquence and rhetoric, brilliant jewels of Arabic language and shining expressions of faith, and this had not been collected in any other work, nor found together in any other book, because Amir al-Mu'minin (a.s.) was the fountain of eloquence and (his expressions), the source of rhetoric. Through him hidden delicacies of eloquence and rhetoric came to light, and from him were learnt its principles and rules.

Sayyid Razi on the compilation of Nahjul Balagah

A number of my friends and brothers-in-faith, while wondering at its delicate and blossoming expressions, admired the contents of this particular section, and urged me to complete a book which should cover all the forms of the sayings of Amir al- Mu'minin (a.s.) and their diverse forms such as lectures, letters, counsels, aphorisms, etc., as they were convinced that it would comprise wonders of eloquence and rhetoric, brilliant jewels of Arabic language and shining expressions of faith, and this had not been collected in any other work, nor found together in any other book, because Amir al-Mu'minin (a.s.) was the fountain of eloquence and (his expressions), the source of rhetoric. Through him hidden delicacies of eloquence and rhetoric came to light, and from him were learnt its principles and rules.

Every speaker and orator had to tread on Imam Ali (a.s.)ís footprints and every eloquent preacher availed of his sayings.  Even then they could not equal him so that the credit for being the First and foremost remains with him, because his words are those that carry the reflection of divine knowledge and savour of the Prophet's words.

Accordingly I acceded to their request as I knew that it meant a great reward, a handsome reputation and a treasure of recompense.  The object of this compilation is that I should focus on Amir al-Mu'minin's (a) greatness and superiority in the art of rhetoric, which is in addition to his countless qualities and innumerable distinctions, and to show that he was at the highest pinnacle of this attainment, is singular among all those predecessors whose sayings are quoted here and there.

His words are an onrushing and irresistible and such a treasure of subtleties in language that it cannot be matched. In my view Amir al-Mu'minin's (a.s.) sayings may be divided into three categories; firstly Sermons and Decrees, secondly Letters and Communications, and thirdly Maxims and Counsels.

Allah- willing I have decided to compile first the Sermons, then Letters, and then the Maxims and Counsels and have chosen a separate section for each category, leaving blank pages in between each so that if anything has been left out and becomes available afterwards it may be inserted therein, whereas any expression which is routine or in reply to some question or has some other aim and does not fit in any of my divisions should be included in the category for which it is most suitable or to which its subject matter is most akin. In this compilation of mine in some places there is repetition of words or subject matter.

The explanation for this is that Amir al- Mu'minin's (a.s.) wordings have been related in numerous forms. Sometimes it happened that a particularly saying was found in a particular form in a narration and was taken down in that very form. Thereafter the same wordings were found in some other narration either with acceptable addition or in a better style of expression. In such a case with a view to further the subject of compilation and to present a beautiful expression from being lost it was decided to repeat it.

It has also happened that a particular wording had appeared earlier but due to remoteness it has been entered again. This is through omission, not by intent. In spite of all this I do not claim that I have collected Amir al-Mu'minin's (a.s.) wordings from everywhere and that no single sentence of any type or construction has been left out. In fact I do not rule out the possibility that whatever has been left out might be more than what has been collected and what has been in my knowledge unused is far less than what has remained beyond my reach. My task was to strive to the best of my capacity and it was Allah's part to make the way easy and guide me to the goal.

And, at the end of the book, Sayyid Razi concludes: This is the end of our selection of the wordings of Amir al- Mu'minin (A.S.), and now, it is time to conclude the selected words of Amir al-Mu'minin (A.S.). We are grateful to Allah the Glorified for having enabled us to collect the scattered sayings and wordings from various sources and to bring together from different places the material that was laying far away... This book has been completed in the month of Rajab in the year 400 AH.  May Allah send His blessings on our Master Muhammad, the Last of Messengers and the Guide to the best path, and on his infallible progeny, and his companions who are the stars of conviction. 


Lineage of al Radi and his Life

In the galaxy of the outstanding Shia Scholars two brothers from an eminent family of the descendants of the Prophet (saw) outshone all the others due to their extraordinary brilliance in their time. They were al Sharif al-Murtada, who occupied the chair of his teacher as his successor to the marji'iyyah of the Shi'ah world of scholarship, and his younger brother al- Sharif al-Radi, acclaimed to be a great genius of versatile talents, still unprecedented in the history of Islamic scholarship and Arabic literature.
Al-Radi (359-406/970-1015) died young, much earlier than his elder brother, but left his mark on the history of Muslim thought and poetry, which in no way can be described as less significant than that of any other Imamiyyah scholar who lived much longer than him. He shone on the bright horizon of the fourth century Hijri, regarded as the most extraordinary period of all round intellectual and cultural renaissance in the history of Islam, lived for a short period of forty-seven years but generated enough light to lead human quest for excellence for centuries.

Al-Rad'i's parents' lineage came directly from the Imams (as) of the Prophet's Family. From his father's side he descended from al-Imam Musa al-Kazim (as)
ibn Ja'far al-Sadiq (as) ibn Muhammad al-Baqir (as) ibn 'Ali Zayn al-'Abidin (as) ibn al-Husayn (as) ibn 'Ali (as) in the following order: Abu Ahmad Husayn Tahir al-'Awhad Dhu al-Manaqib ibn Musa ibn Muhammad ibn Musa ibn Ibrahim al Mujab ibn Musa al-Kazim (as). All his forefathers were eminent in their own right. From his mothers side he descended from the famous al-Nasir al-Kabir also known as Nasir al-Haqq (225 or 230-304/840 or 844-916) who descended from the second son of al-'Imam 'Ali ibn al-Husayn (as) ibn Ali (as).
Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, in Nasiriyyat, a commentary upon al-Nasir al- Kabir's book Mi'at mas'alah, writes that:

My mother Fatimah [was] the daughter of Abu Muhammad al- Husayn al-Nasir (al-Saghir) ibn Abi al-Husayn Ahmad ibn Abi Muhammad al-Hasan al-Nasir al-Kabir (the conqueror and ruler of Daylam) ibn al-Husayn ibn 'Umar al-Ashraf ibn Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn 'Ali ibn Abi Talib.

Al-Sharif al-Radi's name was Muhammad and his kunyah was Abu al Hasan.
He was the second son of al-Husayn ibn Ahmad, known as al-Tahir al-Awhad and Dhu al-Manaqib. Al-Radi's title 'al-Sharif' was a common title used for those who were descendants of the Prophet (saw) from both the maternal and paternal sides.

The word which is now commonly used for al-Sharif is al-Sayyid in Persian and Urdu. Al-Radi's father was the most eminent among the Alawids of his time. He held all the important positions which a Shi'ah could attain under the 'Abbasid regime during the fourth century H.Al-Thalibi (d. 429), in Yatimat al-dahr, a bibliography of poets and writers of Arabic, writes about the father of al-Radi:

His forefathers were held in high respect by the people of Iraq. His father, Abu Ahmad for a long time occupied the post of Naqib of the Talibiyyin, a position that empowered him to look after the Sayyids of Abu Talib's lineage. At the same time he held the office of the Nazarat Diwan al-mazalim (headship of the highest court of appeal) as well as the office of the chief of hajjaj (pilgrims to the Holy Ka'bah). In the year 380/990 he relinquished these posts in favour of his son al-Sayyid al-Radi.

Ibn Abi al-Hadid (d. 655 or 656/1257 or 1258), in his preface to the Sharh Nahj al-balaghah, confirms this statement saying:

His father al-Naqib Abu Ahmad was held in high regard at the courts of Banu 'Abbas and the rulers of Al Dayalimah, and was entitled as al-Tahir Dhu al-Manaqib.

Baha' al-Dawlah al-Daylami called him al-Tahir al-'Awhad, which meant "uniquely purified". He was appointed the Naqib of the Talibiyyin five times, and apart from this job; he occasionally performed duties of great political sensitivity also; for instance, he served as a negotiator to settle certain disputes between the Caliphs and the Buwayhids on the one hand, and the Hamdani rulers on the other. Because of his political influence he was so feared by Baha' al-Dawlah's son 'Adud al-Dawlah (reigned 367-72/978-83), that in 369/980 he imprisoned him in a fort in Fars, where he underwent the hardships of prison life for seven years.
'Adud al-Dawlah (d. 372/982-83) arrested along with him his brother Abu 'Abd Allah ibn Musa and another influential 'Alawid, Muhammad ibn 'Umar, also. Abu Muhammad, the chief qadi of Baghdad, and Abu Nasr Khwanshadh were also arrested and imprisoned in the same year, that is 369/980.
With Abu Ahmad's arrest his entire property was confiscated, and his family had to live for seven long years in dire poverty. It was, most probably, in this period that al-Radi and his brother al-Murtada were brought to al-Shaykh al-Mufid by their mother for being educated in fiqh and other religious sciences. And perhaps it was during this period that Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Ahmad al-Tabari, a Sunni Maliki faqih, gifted a house to al-  Sayyid al-Radi when he came to know that the brightest of his pupils had no residence of his own for his wife and had to live with his mother.
During the period of his father's imprisonment, al-Radi composed many poems to pay tribute to him. Abu Ahmad was set free by Sharaf al-Dawlah, son of Adud al-Dawlah, while proceeding to Baghdad from Kirman in 376/ 986-87 to depose his brother Samsam al-Dawlah, who also had not released Abu Ahmad and other captives. It is to be noted that 'Adud al-Dawlah was a Shiah of Zaydi inclination, but for him, like most of the monarchs of the Muslim world, political expedieney and interest were much more important than the matter of faith. As even the 'Abbasid caliph of his time was afraid of
al- Radi's connection with the Prophet's Family and his influence among the people, probably 'Adud al-Dawlah was also afraid of al-Radi's father, fearing that if at any time he aspired to wrest power out of his hands he could pose a serious challenge to him. Abu al-Faraj al-Jawzi has also referred to the arrest of Abu Ahmad in the course of recording the events of the year 369/979-80. The influence of Abu Ahmad and his family assumed greater dimensions in the eyes of the rulers due to the tense and highly explosive situation ereated by the rivalries and conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shi'ah and the Turks and the Daylamites. These clashes resulted in looting, killing and burning of al-Karkh, a predominantly Shi'ah locality, for one week continuously, in the year 361/971-72, that was repeated in 363/974. Moreover, there was a conflict between Bakhtiyar al-Daylami, the vizier, and 'Adud al-Dawlah, in which the latter emerged victorious later. Abu Ahmad was on good terms with Bakhtiyar also, which was a sufficient reason for 'Adud al-Dawlah to regard him as an enemy.

Abu Ahmad died at the age of 97 in 403/1O12-13, and the high offices held by him fell upon al-Radi.

>From his mother's side al-Radi belonged to a lineage that was more distinguished for its political activities than the former. His grand- father al-Nasir al-Saghir al-Husayn ibn Ahmad (d. 368/979) was a pious and respected man. According to al-Sayyid al-Murtada he was held in high regard by Mu'izz al-Dawlah (reigned 320-56/932-967), who appointed him to the office of the Naqib of al-Talibiyyin in 362/972-73 when Abu Ahmad was stripped of this post. Al Wasir al-Saghir's father Ahmad ibn al-Hasan served as a commander in his father's army, and was known for both his valour and virtue. Al-Nasir al-Kabir whose name was al-Hasan ibn 'Ali, was responsible for propagating Islam among the Daylamites after himself conquering Daylam. He was a commander of the army of his cousin Muhammad ibn Zayd al-'Alawi, popularly known as al-Da'i al-Kabir, who conquered Mazandaran in 250/864 and laid down the foundation of the 'Alawis'
rule there. Al-Mas'udi, in Muruj al-dhahab, has mentioned him at two places as al-'Atrush, which meant "the deaf". At one occasion, he writes:

Al-'Atrush appeared on the seene of Tabaristan (Mazandaran) in the year 301/913-14, and drove away the 'Abbasids, called "the Black robed people, from there. He was a gifted man with great intelligenee,scholarship, knowledge and conviction of faith. He lived for a long time among the Daylamites, who were Zoroastrians, and some even pagans, living in complete darkness. The people of Gilan also lived in the same conditions. Al-Nasir al-Kabir invited them to worship the One God, and they embraced Islam accepting his call. In those days the Muslims reached Qazwin and the adjoinmg areas. Al Nasir al Kabir built a mosque in Daylarn.

At another place, mentioning al-'Atrush's efforts to convert the Zoroastrians to the fold of Islam, he writes that it was he who built mosques in the cities of Tabaristan (Present Mazandaran and Gilan), and extended the frontiers of the Muslim rule up to Qazwin and Chalus.

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-'Atrushbelieved in the imamah, and wrote several books in strictadherenee 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 wamawalidihium (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), aSunni 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) arealso 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 Nahj al- 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 dreamed 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 eldet 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/lO25), 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.
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 AhmadX 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-Sahibibn '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 fi shi'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 couplet 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 Ishdq 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.

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