Monday, January 13, 2014

Shiʿi exegesis in South Asia

While there is still much to do on the Shiʿi intellectual tradition in South Asia - and the late Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi's two volume survey is an excellent starting point - exegesis is certainly one area to consider. The most famous work in Urdu seems to be Sayyid ʿAlī Naqī Naqavī's Faṣl al-khiṭāb, originally published in seven volumes but more recently in 3 large volumes.

However, another work that is much praised is Lawāmiʿ al-tanzīl wa-sawāṭiʿ al-taʾwīl, a large multi-volume work in Persian started by Sayyid Abū-l-Qāsim b. Ḥusayn Riżavī Qummī (1833-1906) who had only just got to sūrat al-Yūsuf when he died and completed by his son Sayyid ʿAlī al-Ḥāʾirī (1879-1941). It was planned as a 30 volume work, one for each juzʾ of the Qurʾan. Sayyid Abū-l-Qāsim was responsible for the first 13, and then his son continued it until volume 27. Of these 10 (or perhaps 12) were published in Lahore - especially volumes 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16. The Marʿashī Library in Qum supposedly has autographs of volumes 7, 8, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 27. The Āstān-i Quds library in Mashhad has some volumes - links are given below.


Sayyid Abū-l-Qāsim was born in Farrukhābād in Avadh into a family of Riżavī sayyids originally from Qum. He studied in India, primarily with Sulṭān al-ʿulamāʾ Sayyid Muḥammad b. Dildār ʿAlī Naqavī Naṣīrābādī (d. 1867) and came to the fore in the Shiʿi religious establishment of Avadh after the events of 1857. He received his licenses (ijāzāt) from Sulṭān al-ʿulamāʾ and his brother Sayyid al-ʿulamāʾ Sayyid Ḥusayn Naṣīrābādī (d. 1856). Later, he entered the service of the brothers Nawāb Nawāzish ʿAlī Khān (1828-1890) and Nawāb Nāṣir ʿAli Khān Qizilbāsh (d. 1896), taluqdars of Nawabganj in Bahraich district in Avadh with holdings in Lahore, whom he guided through the ḥajj pilgrimage and visitations to the shrines in Iraq and Iran. On this trip, he met and debated leading scholars including Shaykh Murtaḍā Anṣārī (1781-1864) who apparently bestowed upon him the title of Fāżil-i Hindī. Given the dates concerned, and the loyalty of the Qizilbash family to the British in 1857, this trip probably was around 1860. On returning to India, he settled in Lahore, and established the Madrasa Imāmīya where he taught. He also established mosques and made the Mochi darvāza area a Shiʿi centre with a congregational prayer mosque all on the expenses of the Qizilbash nawabs [Of course, this claim seems exaggerated since one assumes Shiʿi presence in Lahore much earlier].  Sources attribute the major development in the commemoration of Muḥarram rituals in Lahore to him, and especially the famous procession that leaves from the Qizilbash mansion (Niṣār ʿAlī havēlī as it's called) at Mochi darvāza on the night of ʿĀshūrā. He taught a generation of important ʿulamāʾ of Punjab including Sayyid Ḥashmat ʿAlī, Sayyid Muḥsin ʿAlī, Shāh Sabzavārī and others. When he died in Muḥarram 1324/1906, he was buried in the Karbala Gāmay-Shāh Imāmbargāh Lahore with his father. At that time he had completed 13 volumes of the exegesis. 


According to the Taẕkira-ye bē-bahā of Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Navgānvī (which was written in 1931), he wrote the following works: 



  1. Maʿārif-e maktaba-ye nājiya (Persian)
  2. Nāṣir al-ʿitra al-ṭāhira (Persian - link given below)
  3. Burhān al-mutʿa (Persian)
  4. al-Bushrā sharḥ muwaddat al-qurbā in 2 volumes in Persian
  5. Ḥaqāʾiq-e ladunnī sharḥ-e khaṣāʾiṣ-e Nasāʾi in Persian
  6. al-Shaqq wa-l-qamar (Arabic)
  7. al-Ḥajj (Arabic)
  8. Siyādat al-sāda (Arabic on nasab especially the Riżavī sayyids)
  9. Ibṭāl al-tanāsukh (Persian refuting metempsychosis)
  10. A number of shorter treatises on polemics defending various Shiʿi positions such as the prohibition on eating the meat slaughtered by the ahl al-kitāb
  11. Anvār-e khamsa (Persian on fiqh)
  12. Hidāyat al-aṭfāl (Persian on beliefs)
  13. Taklīf al-mukallafīn (2 volumes on beliefs and practices - his risāla ʿamalīya)
  14. Khulāṣat al-uṣūl (uṣūl al-fiqh in Arabic)
  15. Taʿlīqa on Sharḥ jadīd li-l-Tajrīd (Arabic kalām)
  16. Zubdat al-ʿaqāʾid (Persian)
  17. Taʿlīqa on Miqdād al-Siyūrī's Sharḥ al-bāb al-ḥādī ʿashar (Arabic kalām)
  18. Taʿlīqa on Mabādī al-wuṣūl of ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī (Arabic on uṣūl al-fiqh)
  19. Sharḥ al-tabṣira of al-Ḥillī (Arabic)
  20. Lavāmiʿ al-tanzīl (Persian exegesis under discussion)


Sayyid ʿAlī was born in Lahore in 1879 and after his initial studies with his father, he went to the shrine cities to study. In Iraq - and his residence in Karbalāʾ accounts for his nisba of al-Ḥāʾirī - he received licenses from Ākhūnd Khurāsānī (1839-1911) and Sayyid Muḥammad Kāẓim Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī (d. 1920) as well as Mīrzā Ḥasan Shīrāzī (1814-1896) in Sāmarrāʾ and Mīrzā Ḥabībullāh Rashtī  (d. 1894). His main teachers were probably the former two since the latter two died when he was still rather young - between 15 and 17 years old. He was responsible for establishing a number of Shiʿi institutions: Anjuman-e Isnāʿasharīya in Lahore, Anjuman-e Murtażavī in Amrtisar, Anjuman-e Imāmīya in Peshawar, and Anjuman-e Taẕkirat al-maʿṣūmīn in Ferozpur. In 1914 he also became the president of the All-India Shia Conference; this body was primarily the expression of the taluqdars of Avadh and other notables in Punjab involved in welfare works in communities, and significantly included representation from Ismailis (from Bombay and elsewhere). He continued the exegesis until sūrat al-Qamar when he also died. So the exegesis remains incomplete - but is voluminous and recognised as such. He seems to have been a prominent writer in the press on Shiʿi and more generally Islamic affairs. He is credited with helping the famous poet Muḥammad Iqbāl find the Shiʿi way. He died in June 1941 and was buried with his father and grandfather. 


According to Taẕkira-ye bē-bahā, his published works include:



  1. Ghāyat al-maqṣūd (4 volumes, Arabic on beliefs)
  2. Minhāj al-salāma (Arabic on beliefs)
  3. A number of disputational works defending Shiʿi faith and practice
  4. Fatāwā in 8 volumes 
  5. A number of his disputations and responses to objections were published in 1922 and 1923


In terms of the exegesis, one large volume (402pp) was lithographed by Sayyid Khurshīd ʿAlī in Lahore in 1299/1882 and is available here. Volume two (345pp) also published in Lahore by Sayyid Rajab ʿAlī Shāh is available here. Another volume (the third, 295pp) was published in Lahore in 1325/1907 - it can be viewed here. Volume eight (253pp) published in 1899 is available here


Another work entitled Nāṣir al-ʿitra l-ṭāhira is available here.


There is still so much more work to be done on the intellectual and social history of the Shiʿa in Northern India including Punjab that goes beyond the networks of ʿulamāʾ and notables. One needs to pay attention to the institutions established, the discourses developed, and wider cultural contributions, both within the region but also through the transnational networks going into Iran and Iraq. In the era of nationalist defined historiographies, we need to realise that merely focusing on Shiʿi communities in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan or India is quite insufficient and does not recognise the movements and networks that existed in the pre-independence period and which continue to play a role in politics and intellectual developments today. Luckily we have some new studies - Justin Jones' work on the ʿulamāʾ and notables particularly in Avadh as one response to the impact of 1857, and a number of studies emerging on Pakistan such as Andreas Rieck's much awaited monograph, and Simon Fuchs's Princeton doctoral dissertation. 

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