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Academic Activities of Allama Tabatabai

By: Ahmad Luqmani

Story n. 1
In addition to Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir) and philosophy ‘Allamah Tabataba’i practically brought about Farsi writing into the hawza system. Before this time most publications were in Arabic and importance was not given in society to writing and publishing books in Farsi. However he emphasized that society was in need of reading material in these subjects, and that it was necessary that individuals take the effort to write and spread such material.
I remember that the fist article I wrote was with his help and guidance. Today many of those in the Hawza system who write and publish articles and books, are indebted both to Divine grace and ‘Allamah’s efforts.

Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini

Story n. 2
In the year 1956 Materialist influence and propaganda were on the rise in Iran. The enemies had invaded the thinking and thought of the public, and no religious article or academic publication exited in Iran in answer to these doubts or that addressed the needs of the youth.
[In response] an organization made of elite members of the Hawza was formed. They approached ‘Allamah and requested that he write an article in answer to the view of the Materialists. However ‘Allamah rather than write the article himself, carried out an action that had a much more lasting effect. He put forward topics and requested members of the organization to prepare the articles. Two members of the organization, Shahid Mutahhari and Shahid Quddusi were the ones who prepared a paper on the topic The communal life of ants and birds.
Imam Musa Sadr and a few others wrote a paper on The Qur’anic perspective on patience and perseverance which was a topic under scrutiny by leftist groups. Sections of these articles were published, and in this manner ‘Allamah also brought about the introduction of Farsi texts into the hawza.

Story n. 3
After the death of Ayatullah Al-Uzma Burujerdi, ‘Allamah Tabataba’i canceled a few of his philosophy classes and changed their topics to something new: discussions on an Islamic government. ‘Allamah even wrote a number of articles on this subject and circulated them among a group of jurists (maraj’i) and scholars, in which he emphasized that an Islamic government has great political power. One of the subjects that came up during that time and was also mentioned in his classes was the matter of Governance of the Jurist (wilayatul-faqih) and its relation to an Islamic government.

Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli

Story n. 4
‘Allamah Tabataba’i spoke of an Islamic government after the period which followed the death of Ayatullah Burujerdi because there was a vacuum and a conflict on this subject.
Throughout his intellectual life, ‘Allamah Tabataba’i paid particular attention to addressing those matters which required attention. When Shahid Mutahhari said “whatever academic work I carried out was in response to a need society had” – I am sure that this spirit and practice was taken from his teacher ‘Allamah Tabataba’i.


Story n. 1
Narrated from ‘Allamah himself: When I cam to Qum, I studied the educational program at the Hawza, and I measured it with the needs of the Islamic society. I found deficiencies in it, and I felt it was my duty to try and eradicate them. The most important deficiencies in the Hawza program were in the area of Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir) and intellectual sciences. As a result I began to study tafsir and philosophy. Despite the fact that at the time tafsir of the Qur’an, which is a science that requires research and scrutiny, was not being addressed, it was not considered worthy of study by those who had the ability to do research in the fields of jurisprudence (fiqh) and principles of jurisprudence (usul). Rather teaching tafsir was considered a sign of having weaker qualifications! However I knew I could not use this as an excuse in front of God [so as not to study tafsir] and I continued my studies until I completed the writing of Tafsir al-Mizan.

‘Allamah Tabataba’i

Story n. 2
Narrated by ‘Allamah himself: Initially I carried out an exhaustive research of Biharul-Anwar in order that I might publish a work on a specific subject. Following that I put in a great deal of effort in gathering verses and traditions until it came to my mind that I should write a tafsir. However I felt that the Qur’an was an endless ocean and therefore I separated those verses relating to the hereafter and I wrote on seven subjects, until I came up with a tafsir of the Qur’an that was finally completed, comprising of 20 Arabic volumes. In this tafsir, verses are explained using the Qur’an itself as opposed to the views of the commentator. And I learned this style [of tafsir] from my teacher the late Qadhi.

‘Allamah Tabataba’i

Story n. 3
Tafsir al-Mizan is one of the best commentaries that has been written on the Holy Qur’an, and I can even claim that it is the very best commentary available among both the Shi’a and the Ahl-Sunna that has ever been written to this day.
Our people will only understand the worth of Tafsir al-Mizan after 60-100 years.

Shahid Mutahhari

Story n. 4
The best way to know what a great man he (‘Allamah) was, is through his wayfaring towards God, and the intellectual effects of his teaching and writing. All the great individuals in the religious seminary (hawza ‘Ilmiyah) of Qum who have currently taken upon the task of teaching the principles of the Ja’fari school of thought were his students. His excellent Tafsir Al-Mizan that is the cause of pride in the intellectual world is one of his precious literary monuments and the mother of all his works.

Ayatullah Hasanzadeh Amuli

Story n. 5
From the time that I received Al-Mizan, I no longer used the rest of my library, for this book was always on my studying table.

Imam Musa Sadr narrated from Shaykh Muhammad Jawad Mughniye

Story n. 6
‘Allamah stayed up on the night of Qadr researching and studying the verses of the Qur’an and finally completed his tafsir on this auspicious night, which is the equivalent of 1000 months. At last at the end of Al-Mizan he wrote: “With the praise and grace of God the writing of this book has come to an end on this blessed night, the 23rd night of the Holy month of Ramadhan…”

Ayatullah Hasanzadeh Amuli

Story n. 7
One day he (‘Allamah) called for me and said, “I would like Al-Mizan to be translated and I believe you should do this”.
I accepted the offer and translated the first volume which was in Arabic – and contained very precise and condensed information – into two volumes [of Farsi]. One day I visited him and said, “Agha! You are a learned scholar but I am someone who cannot resort to others (taqlid) in certain matters. Therefore as I translate your discussions do I have your permission to write any difference of opinion I might have in the footnotes?”
He replied with one meaningful sentence, “Let us discuss and criticize between ourselves first, and not among the public.”
Accepting my point of view is an indication of his academic justice and noble spirit. From then on whenever I had an objection to make I would first discuss it with him, and if I was not satisfied then only would I write it in the footnotes.

Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi

Story n. 8
One day I met ‘Allamah Tabataba’i and said to him, “This great tafsir [Tafsir Al-Mizan] has not yet been recognized in the religious seminary (hawza) as it should be, nor have people realized its true value. Only if this tafsir is taught in the hawza and discussed, and its contents critiqued and analyzed, then perhaps after a period of 200 years will its value be truly recognized.”
Another time I said to him, “When I become occupied with studying this tafsir, and when I see how you relate verses to each other and verify one with the other and thereby extract a meaning from them, I cannot explain it except to say that at that time divine inspiration must have taken over your hand.”
He (‘Allamah) shook his head and said, “This is just a positive outlook on your part, we haven’t done anything”!

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