Shaykh Baha’i (Baha’ al-Din ‘Amili)

Shaykh Baha’i, Baha’ al-Din Muhammad ibn Husayn ibn ‘Abd al-Samad ‘Amili (1546-1620/1621), Shi’i scholar, jurisprudent, Qur’an exegete, traditionist, theologian, mathematician, litterateur, and poet with the nom de plume Baha’i, bearing the titles Shaykh al-Islam wa ‘l-Muslimin and Mujaddid-i Din. Born in Ba’labak in the seventeenth century, he emigrated in his childhood with his father to Persia under the Safavid Shah Tahmasb. He studied under his father, ‘Abd Allah ibn Shihab al-Din Yazdi, Muhammad Baqir Yazdi, Mulla ‘Ali Mudhahhib, Mulla Afzal, and I’timad al-Din Mahmud Kacha’i and became a scholar of renown in Qur’an exegesis, jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, belles-lettres, transmission authorities, history, philosophy, theology, medicine, mathematics and other disciplines. He traveled for many years to Herat, Azarbaijan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Aleppo, Palestine, Jerusalm, Ceylon, Hijaz, Mecca, Medina, and other cities in the Islamic world. In his travels he engaged himself in scholarly and religious debates. Finally, he returned to Persia and accompanied by the Safavid Shah ‘Abbas departed from Isfahan for Mashhad. He narrated Shi’i traditions on the authority of his father, and Bukhari’s Sahih on the authority of his master, Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad Maqdisi, who in turn had narrated them from Muhammad ibn Isma’il Bukhari through 12 transmission authorities all bearing the name Muhammad. Shaykh Baha’i made every effort in learning and teaching and his teaching sessions were attended by Shaykh Fazil Jawad ibn Sa’d Allah, Mulla Hasan ‘Ali Shushtari, Sayyid Husayn Karaki, Mulla Khalil Qazwinin, Muhammad Khalili Qa’ini, Mirza Rafi’ al-Din Na’ini, Shaykh Zayn al-Din ibn Muhammad Sibt Shahid Thani, Ibn Abi Jami’, Shaykh ‘Ali Bahrani, Sayyid Majid Bahrani, Mulla Muhsin Fayz Kashani, Mullla Sadra, Muhammad ibn Husayn Savaji, Mirza Rafi’ al-Din Tabataba’i, Mulla Sharif al-Din Muhammad Ruydashti, Shaykh Mahmud Jaza’iri, Ibn Khatun, Muhaqqiq Sabziwari, Majlisi the senior, and Mulla Muhammad Salih Mazandarani. He gathered a rich library collection consisting of 4,000 books, sent by Shaykh ‘Ali Munshar, his father-in-law, from cities in India. The rich collection was inherited by his daughter, Shaykh Baha’i’s wife. Shaykh Baha’i endowed all those books for the use of students. He died in Isfahan and was laid to rest beside Imam Riza’s Shrine in Mashhad. He has been popularly believed to be well-versed in mathematics, architecture, and engineering. The architecture of the Shah Mosque in Isfahan and the fortifications of Najaf is attributed to him. He also built a shade clock on the western side of the aforesaid mosque. He was indubitably well-versed in surveying and its best surviving instance is the division of the Zayandih Rud (River) through channels running into different quarters of Isfahan and adjacent villages. A delegation headed by Shaykh Baha’i was commissioned by Shah ‘Abbas to prepare a plan with utmost scholarly precision and fairness recording the shares of different quarters of the city as well as villages to be distributed through channels. The original plan is available in Isfahan. His further construction activities include preparation of the plans of the Zarrin Kamar subterranean aqueduct in Najafabad, Isfahan, one of the most colossal projects of this kind. The length of the aqueduct, from its origin to its end, amounts to nine parasangs (63 km), divided into 11 large channels. He also calculated the qibla, viz. the orientation towards Mecca, of the Shah Mosque on a scale of 40 degrees on the west from the southern point and thereby putting an end to the disagreements of legal authorities in early Safavid reign concerning determination of the qibla of the two Iraqs which lasted for a century and a half. Another astounding architectural activity attributed to him is the construction of a public bath in Isfahan, well-known as the Bath of Shaykh Baha’i and the Bath of the Shaykh. Located between the Jami’ Mosque and Haruniyya, in the old Bazaar, close to the tomb known as Darb-i Imam, the bath is popularly believed to work with one single candle burning in a closed spaced beneath the bath ponds. He had reported said that the candle would die upon the demolition of the wall and aiming to renovate the bath, the wall was demolished later and attempts at reconstruction of the bath and heating the ponds by the candle failed. Construction of the surviving Moving Minarets (Munar Junban) is also ascribed to him. According to the author of ‘Alamara, he composed many exquisite works in prose and verse. He was also familiar with Turkish. The earliest source in which mention is made of his name is ‘Arafat al-‘Ashiqin (compiled in 1613-1615). The best source for collecting Baha’i’s poetry is Kashkul, such that some scholars maintain that his poetry not included in it may not be ascribed to him with certainty. Two collections of his Persian poetry and further works have been compiled; one by Sa’id Nafisi, with a detailed introduction on his biographical account, and another by Ghulam Husayn Jawahiri Wajdi, who has also included the mathnavi entitled Rumuz-i Ism-i A’zam which is falsely ascribed to Baha’i. Nonetheless, the two compilations do not include all the Persian works and poetical compositions of the Shaykh. His poetry includes mathnavi, ghazal, and quatrains. In his ghazals, he followed Fakhr al-Din ‘Iraqi and Hafiz, in his quatrains Abu Sa’id Abu al-Khayr and Khwaja ‘Abd Allah Ansari, and in mathnawis he followed Rumi. His poetry is chiefly marked by strong inclination towards asceticism, Sufism, and mysticism. His well-known mathnawi include Nan u Halwa, also well-known as Sawanih-i Safar al-Hijaz. This bilingual mathnawi, as its title indicates, treats of pilgrimage to mecca and it is versified in the meter of Rumi’s Mathnawi, in which Baha’i versified couplets keeping in view some couplets from Rumi’s Mathnawi. The poet interspersed his Kashkul with couplets from his Mathnawi, but failure to study the former, the compilers have presented an incomplete text of the latter. Nan u Panir has been also composed in the meter and on the model of Rumi’s Mathnawi. In his edition of Tutinama, Nafisi states that it is the best of Shaykh’s literary compositions and the closest of Baha’i’s mathnawi to Rumi’s work composed in the same form. Although Nafisi had access to the work, but he has included few couplets of it in Shaykh Baha’i’s Diwan and has also chose the title based on the contents of the work. Shir u Shakkar is the earliest of Persian poetical compositions in the meter of khabab or mutadarik, though the meter had been used by earlier poets composing in Arabic. It is imbued with enthusiasm and ecstasy and despite briefness it is rich in maxims and counsels. Epic in tone, it is unsurpassed in Persian literature in terms of style. Mathnawi like Nan u Khurma, Shaykh Abu al-Pashm, and Rumuz-i Ism-i A’zam have been attributed to him, though Mir Jahani Tabataba’i reports that the last one is by Sayyid Mahmud Dihdar. Baha’i’s style in composing mathnawi has been followed by other poets the majority of whom are Shi’i scholars. His only Persian prose works, included in his printed Divans, is Risala-yi Pand-i Ahl-i Danish va Hush bih Zaban-i Mush. He also made exquisite Arabic compositions in verse and his Arabic works on syntax and badi’ (metaphors and good style). His most significant work on syntax is al-Fawa’id al-Samadiyya, known as Samadiyya, was composed for his brother, ‘Abd al-Samad. It is an intermediate seminary textbook. His Arabic poetry has also been accorded particular attention, the most well-known and significant of which is Vasilat al-Fawz wa ‘l-Aman fi Madh Sahib al-Zaman ‘Alayhi ‘l-Salam, running to 63 couplets. He was well-versed in making didactic compositions in verse. Two of his poems in this genre survive: Haratiyya or al-Zuhra, devoted to a description of the city of Herat, and a mystical one entitled Riyaz al-Arwah. His twin couplets are also quite fluent and well-known, the majority of which are devoted to expressing enthusiasm in visiting the holy shrines of the Infallibles. Shaykh Muhammad Riza (1698), son of Shaykh Hurr ‘Amili, compiled a beautiful collection of Shaykh Baha’i’s Arabic and Persian poetry in a Diwan. His Arabic poetry, mainly consisting of riddles, has been published by another compiler. A survey of Baha’i’s style, reflected in the majority of his works, indicates that he was very skillful in terse expressions and riddles. Even his jurisprudential works, e.g. the five treatises entitled al-Ithna ‘Ashariyya and particularly Khulasat al-Hisab, Fawa’id al-Samadiyya, Tahdhiz al-Bayan, and al-Wajiza fi ‘l-Diraya, are marked by this characteristic. He was well-versed in using riddles in his works and short Arabic treatises including numerous and well-known riddles survive, e.g. Lughz al-Zubda (a riddle whose solution is the word ‘zubda’, lit. chosen); Lughz al-Nahw; Lughz al-Kashshaf; Lughz al-Samadiyya; Lughz al-Kafiyya; Fa’ida. His most famous work, Kashkul, well-known as Kashkul-i Shaykh Baha’i, is a compendium of learning of a diverse nature reflecting Baha’i’s inclinations. The terse works of this prolific author have been accorded attention by later scholars and numerous commentaries have been written on some of them. He also wrote detailed commentaries on some of his works. His most significant published works include: 1. Mashriq al-Shamsayn wa Iksir al-Sa’adatayn (1703) treating of argumentative Shi’i jurisprudence based on the Qur’an (ruling verdicts) and traditions. He wrote a very significant introduction to the work in which he deals with classification of traditions, meanings of some of the terms used by earlier scholars, and the justification for such classification. The work only deals about purity in which the author incorporates 400 sound traditions. 2. Jami’-i ‘Abbasi, one of the earliest and most famous works in Persian on jurisprudential rulings. 3. Habl al-Matin fi Ihkam Ahkam al-Din (1598) on jurisprudence written to the end of the chapter devoted to prayers (salat) dealing with exposition of 1,000 jurisprudential traditions. 4. Ithna ‘Ashariyya, in five chapters devoted to purity, prayers, alms-tax, one-fifth tax, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. In this innovative work, he treats of the jurisprudential questions and innovatively includes them under 12 subheadings in each chapter. He has also written a commentary on it. 5. Zubdat al-Usul, which has been a textbook used in Shi’i seminaries for long and more than 40 commentaries and super commentaries and versified versions have been written on it. 6. Arba’un Hadithan (1586), well-known as ‘Arba’in-i Baha’i. 7. Miftah al-Falah (1606) on the religious obligations and daily prayers together with an exegesis on Surat al-Hamd (Surat al-Fatiha, the first Qur’anic chapter). 7. Hada’iq al-Salihin, an incomplete commentary on Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya each of whose prayers has been explained under a suitable title. The only surviving section of the work is al-Hadiqat al-Hilaliyya, a commentary on the prayer for seeing the crescent moon (forty-third prayer in Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya), including valuable astronomical studies amply used by further commentators on Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya, e.g. Sayyid ‘Ali Khan Madani in his Riyaz al-Salikin. This terse work is also rich in literary, mystical, jurisprudential, and traditional material. Baha’ al-Din composed poetry in Arabic and Persian with the nom de plume Baha’i. He was neither a court poet nor a professional one earning a living by it. His poetical renown is indebted to his erudition in religious disciplines and his social and religious recognition. In terms of themes and style, he was unrivalled, but he had learned Persian by studying Persian works, his diction is accurate but abounding in vocabulary of a diverse nature. He expressed his thoughts in a simple and fluent diction influenced by the language of his time. The strongly mystical themes used in his poetical compositions have led to their popularity. The significance of such mystical tendency is that it was used freely by an influential religious scholar.

Tarikh-i Adabiyyat dar Iran (5, 1039-1047); Tarikh-i Falsafa-yi Irani (502-515); Fuqaha-yi Namdar-i Shi’a (209-228); Manzumaha-yi Farsi (353-356).