بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
known for his expertise in philosophical theology, he was an eminent Twelver Shi'ite theologian. Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid was born in 'Ukbara
, a small town to the north of Baghdad and later migrated together with his father to Baghdad
, where the Shiite Buwayhids
were ruling. In Shi'ite tradition, he studied with the famed traditionist al-Shaykh al-Saduq Ibn Babawayh al-Qummi. Prominent students of his included al-Sharif al-Murtada, al-Shaykh al-Tusi, commonly known as the leader of the Shi'a and al-Karajaki. His career coincided with that of the famous Mu'tazili theologian and leader of the Bahshamiyya
school, 'Abd al-Jabbar al-Asadabadi al-Hamadhani
and with the disputations and intra-sectarian conflicts in Baghdad. He was thus often attacked and his library and school destroyed. But he remained a faithful and significant intellectual defender of Twelver Shi'ism and was respected by friends and opponents.
Al-Mufid is quite often accused of incorporating the modes of theological reasoning common in the Baghdad school of the Mu'tazila
as exemplified by his teacher Abu'l-Qasim al-Ka'bi al-Balkhi
into Twelver Shi'ite theology. This is however on the basis of studies relying on a Sunni interpretation of Shi'ite theological history. The Shi'ite interpretation is that the Mu'tazila borrowed from the Shi'ah long before al-Mufid and the Shi'ah doctrine was already in place at the time al-Mufid.
Al-Mufid died on the eve of Friday, 3rd of Ramadan, 413 A.H. His student Sayyid al-Murtada prayed the Salat Mayyit for him, in the presence of nearly eighty thousand people, a crowd never seen before in any funeral in Baghdad. Shaykh Tusi
(d. 460 A.H.) describes this sad event in al-Fihrist:
"The day of his death drew the largest crowd ever seen in any funeral, and both, friends and foes, wept uncontrollably".
Al-Mufid remained buried in his own house for two years, and then his body was transferred to Kazimayn where it was interred near his mentor, Ja'far ibn Qawlayh's grave facing the feet of Imam Muhammad al-Taqi, al-Jawad
. His grave is still visited by those who visit the holy shrines in Kazimayn.How Al-Mufid was named
Once his tutor Abu Yasir recommended that he attend the lessons in theology by Ali B. Isa al-Rummani, so as to gain deeper insight into the subject. Sheikh excused himself by saying that he was not acquainted with al-Rummani, and therefore needed an introduction. Abu Yasir gave him a letter and also arranged for someone to go with him to al-Rummani.
Sheikh al-Mufid says, I entered his class, and was impressed by the great number of students. So I sat at the end of the crowd, managing to creep forward as some members of the assembly left. Then I saw one man enter, saying: "(O Master), there is someone at the door who insists on being admitted to your presence. He is from Basrah." The master said: "Is he a man of any erudition?" The servant said: "I do not know, but he seems very keen to be let in." The Master relented, and the man from Basrah entered.
The Master welcomed him respectfully, and they had a long conversation between them. Then he asked the Master, Ali b. Isa: "How do you view the event of ghadir khum and the event of the cave in which Abu Bakr accompanied the Prophet during Hijrah?"
Ali b. Isa replied that "the report of the cave was a recognised event (Dirayah), while the event of ghadir was just a narrative (Riwayah). A narration (riwayah) does not require the same (acceptance) as a recognized event (dirayah). The man from Basrah then left without making any reply.
Al Mufid says: Then I came forward and said: "O Sheikh, I have a question."
He said: "Ask."
Then I asked: "What do you say about the one who fights a just Imam?"
He said: "Such a person would be an infidel." Then, after a pause, he rectified himself and said: "He would be a transgressor."
I asked: "What do you say about Amirul Momineen Ali b. Abi Talib, peace be upon him?"
He said: "I believe he was an Imam."
So I asked: "Then what do you say about the day of Jamal and Talha and al-Zubair?" He retorted that both of them had repented.
I said: "The battle of Jamal is a recognised event (Dirayah), while their repentance is a mere narrative (Riwayah)."
Thus al-Mufid had turned the tables on him. The event of the cave was something all Muslims accepted as fact but there was no point in giving the well-reported tradition of Ghadir Khumm inferior status, since if this was done, the same terminology could be used to question the repentance of the said companions, which was also accepted by most Muslims.
Upon hearing this, he said: "Were you present when the man from Basrah put his question?"
I said "yes."
He said: "Well, a narrative compares a narrative, and a recognised event compares a recognised event." Then turning to me again, he asked: "What is your name and who is your tutor?"
I said: " I am known as Ibn al-Muallim, and my tutor is Abu-Abdillah, al-Jual."
He said: "Stay where you are."
Then he entered his room and came out with a letter, instructing me to hand over to my tutor.
When I gave the letter to my tutor, he read it and then laughed. "What transpired between you in his class? He has asked me to confer upon you the title of al-Mufid. (one who benefits others)" I related to him the story, so he smiled.
The above incident has been recorded by Mirza Muhammad Baqir al-Khwansari in Rawdhat-ul-Jannaat (vol. 6 p. 159), quoting from al-Saraa-er of Ibn ldrees and from Majmua'h Warraam. But Ibn Shahr Ashob in his Ma'alimul Ulamaa says that the title 'al-Mufid' was given to Sheikh al-Mufid, by our twelfth Imam, al-Hujjah, Sahebuzzaman, may his advent be soon.