Al-Sayyid Nur Allah al-Husayni al-Shushtari
Sayyid Nur Allah Husayni Shushtari سید نورالله حسینی شوشتری (956/1549-Shushtar, Iran_ 1019/1610-Agra, India) famous as Qadi Nur Allah or Shahid Thalith (the third martyr) was the Shia Faqih (Jurist), Usuli (expert in jurisprudential principles), Theologian, Muhaddith (expert in narrative sciences) and Poet during Safavid era who resided in India and authored many books among which are: ‘’Ihqaq al-haq wa izhaq al-batil’’ (consolidation of the truth and annihilation of the falsehood) and ‘’Majalis al-mu’minin’’ (sessions of the believers). He was Qadi al-Qudat (the chief judge) of India who could and would give Fatwa (religious verdict) based on each of the Sunni Four Schools of Jurisprudence. However as a result of talebearers’ animosity who forged reports against him, he was sentenced to death by then Indian king, Jahangir Shah. He is buried in the Indian city, Agra. Some use the title “Shahid Thalith” (the third martyr) for Mulla Muhammad Taqi Baraqani, who was martyred at the hands of Baha’is.
Birth and Linage
Sayyid Nur Allah Hussayni Mar’ashi was born in 953 in Shushtar, a city in Khuzestan province. His linage goes back to Imam Zayn al-‘abidin al-Sajjad (a). His father, Sayyid Sharif al-din was a great scholar of his time, who had several books in narrative and rational branches of religious science. Along his ancestors was Najm al-din Mahmud Husayni Mar’ashi Amuli who had migrated from Amol to Shushtar. Qadi Nur Allah was always proud of his linage and this is evident in his writings.
Sayyid Nur Allah started his education in Shushtar. He studied narrative and rational branches of religious sciences under his father and medicine under Hakim Mawlana ‘imad al-din. Mir Safi al-din Muhammad and Mir Jalal al-din Muhammad Sadr were of his teachers. At the age of 23 In 979, Sayyid Nur Allah migrated to Mashhad along with his brother Sayyid Wajh al-din Muhsin to pursue higher education. In Mashhad, Sayyid Nur Allah attended the classes of Mawla ‘abd al-wahid Shuashtari where he received most of his knowledge on Fiqh (jurisprudence), Usul (principles of Jurisprudence), Kalam (apologetics and theology) Tafsir (Qur’an’s exegesis). In the classes of Mawla Muhammad Adib Qari Tustari he studied Arabic grammar and syntax and Qur’an’s Tajwid (proper recitation/pronunciation). He also received narration (of Hadith) certificate from some of the known scholars like: Mawla ‘abd al-rashid Shushtari son of Khwaje Nur al-din Tabib (the author of Majalis al-imamiyya –the sessions of Imamiyya/Shi’a- on Shi’a apologetics) and Mawla ‘abd al-Wahid Tustari.
Da’wa of Shi’a
Biographers believe that Qadi Nur Allah was the first Shi’a scholar in India who announced his beliefs publicly, tried to spread Shi’a faith and engaged in debates with Sunni scholars there.
Migration to India
Sayyid Nur Allah was forced to leave Mashhad to India in 992-993/1584-5. The reason for this uncalled for migration was the constant disasters caused by continued rebellions. Sayyid Nur Allah’s brother was killed in one of Uzbik’s attacks to Mashhad. At this point, Shah ‘Abbas had not yet been enthroned; therefore the political instability in Khurasan forced Sayyid Nur Allah to leave Mashhad in pursuit of a safer residence. Meanwhile, India was experiencing one of the most peaceful periods in its history. Perhaps such peace was the result of the Indian king, Akbar Shah and his personal character. Akbar Shah, grandson of Baber, a descendant of Taymur son of Homayun Shah, came to the throne when he was only 14; yet he displayed remarkable level of competency and tact by seizing the territories of Gujarat, Bangal, Kashmir and Sind thus expanding his large and mighty kingdom and establishing several new cities. Along territorial expansion and civil developments, Akbar Shah was interested in philosophical issues; however he was not a firm believer in any kind of organized faith. Such attitude toward religion enabled him to think of a new synthetic religion which constitutes of commonalities of all religions. Upon reaching Agra, Qadi Nur Allah first went to the court of Akbar Shah in Fath Purskri to meet Abu al-fath Masih al-din Gilani, the great Iranian physician and poet. Masih al-din Gilani had migrated to India in 983/1575 and become a high ranking courtier due to his excellence and competency. He introduced Qadi Nur Allah to Akbar Shah. Qadi presented to the king a book which he had authored about Imam Ali (a). The book and its author gained the special attention of Akbar Shah.
The Chief Judge of India
Sayyid Nur al-din resided there for two months. Then he went to Lahore with the king. The judge of Lahore was an old man known as Shih Mu’in. Akbar Shah resigned the old judge and assigned Sayyid Nur Allah to that position. Before assuming the seat, Sayyid had informed Shah about his ability to evaluate religious and jurisprudential issues according to their original sources, thus he hadn’t had to strictly follow only one of the jurisprudential schools; however he made it clear that he would not trespass the limits of Four Sunni Schools of Jurisprudence (Shafi’i, Hanbali, Maliki and Hanafi) and would give Fatwa based on them. His knowledge on Sunni Fiqh (jurisprudence) and Hadith (Narration) was unrivalled. Despite his being a Shi’a, Akbar Shah appointed Sayyid Nur Allah, because of his excellence and mastery in religious knowledge, as the chief Judge of India. Due to his comprehensive familiarity with the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, their similarities and differences, he could issue Fatwas that would fit people’s conditions and also were closer to Shi’s principles. That’s why, even ‘abd al-qadir badiwani, an intolerant Sunni scholar who was a fierce opposition to Akbar Shah’s policies, would nevertheless praise the nobility, virtuous character and knowledge of Qadi Nur Allah.
Scholarly Career and Works
The author of Riyad al-ulama writes about the scholarly career of Qadi Nur Allah: “The late Shushtari was well-educated, knowledgeable, pious, virtuous, ‘allama (having comprehensive knowledge in different branches of religious studies) Faqih (jurist) Muhaddith (expert in narrative sciences) well-acquainted with history and biographies, containing all virtues, having ability of criticism in all branches of knowledge, poet and author. He has praiseworthy poems and could compose poems both in Arabic and Persian. He also has famous poems praising the Ahlulbayt (a).” Under the cover of Taqiyya, Qadi Nur Allah not only was able to attain the seat of chief judge of India, but also could produce some very valuable books for Shi’a community. As he writes in one of his letters “I have not mentioned my name in my works so that they may be for the sake of Allah (and not for gaining reputation) and neither have I told any of Mukhalifun (the opposition, meaning: Sunnis) that they are my books.” There’s a disagreement over the accurate number of his writings. However, in his introduction to Ihqaq al-haqq wa izhaq al-batil, Ayatollah Mar’ashi Najafi mentions 140 titles of his books among which are: 1-Ihqaq al-haqq wa izhaq al-batil 2-Ajwiba mas’il Sayyid Hasan al-Ghaznawi 3-Ilzam al-nasib fi al-radd ‘ala mirza makhdum sharifi 4-Ilqam al-hajar, to refute Ibn Hajar 5-Bahr al-ghadir fi ithbat tawatur hadith al-Ghadir 7-Tafsir al-Qur’an 8-Tuhfat al-‘uqul 9-Hall al-‘uqul 10-Gloss on Tafsir al-Baydawi
==His Magnum Opus
Among the books of Qadi Nur Allah, four titles are more important: 1- Ihqaq al-Haqq: the book represents Qadi’s mastery in religious knowledge. He has authored this book as a response to the book: Ibtal al-batil by the Sunni author: Fadl b. Ruzbahan Isfehani. By this book Fadl intended to refute the book: Nahj al-haqq wa kashf al-sidq by al-‘allama al-Hilli. In his book, Qadi Nur Allah logically, politely and adequately responds to Fadl’s book and cites Sunni sources to refute Fadl’s positions. 2- Majalis al-mu’minin: this work presents the biography and social circumstances of scholars, Hukama (philosophers), Udaba (grammarians) poets, early figures and narrators who, according to Qadi Nur Allah, were all Shi’a. in addition to this, the book contains their stories, narrations and quick glance at their cities and social lives. 3- Al-Sawarim al-muhriqa in response to al-Sawa’iq al-muhriqa. And also: Masa’ib al-nawasib. Since Shaykh Uurr al-‘amili (d.1110/1698) mentions these two books along other books like Ihqaq al-haqq, in his biographical book, Amal al-‘amil, it shows these titles among Qadi’s works were famous during Safavid era.
Out of his debates, Qadi himself mentions his debate with the Sunni scholar, ‘abd al-qadir b. milkuk shah bidwani, in the book Muntakhab al-tawarikh. Also he mentions his debate with Sayyid Qazwini in Majalis al-mu’minin.
Qadi Nur Allah taught Fiqh (jurisprudence) according to the principles of each of the five schools (i.e. Shafi’i, Hanbali, Maliki, Hanafi and Shi’a) for their followers. Yet he would tacitly prove the validity of Shi’a’s stance in disputed areas. The Anti-Shi’a atmosphere after his martyrdom and his practice of Taqqiyya during his lifetime led to the failure of an accurate historical documentation of his students except for few, some of whom were in fact his sons. However, his documented famous students are: 1-Shaykh Muhammad Hirawi Khurasani 2-Mawla Muhammd Ali Kishmiri 3-Sayyid Jamal al-Din ‘abd Allah Mashhadi
Qadi Nur Allah had five sons, each of which is considered one of the authors, poets or scholars of that time and has some books: 1- Sayyid Muhammad Yusuf 2- Sharif al-Din (992/1584-1020/1611) 3- ‘ala’ al-Mulk 4- Sayyid Abu al-ma’ali (1004/1595-1046/1636) 5- Sayyid ‘ala’ al-Dawla (1012/1603-?)
Qadi Nur Allah was martyred under torture (during continuous flagellation) in 1019/1610, during the reign of Jahangir Shah, son of Akbar Shah. The reason for his martyrdom was his authorship of the book Ihqaq al-haqq wa izhaq al-batil, or according to another account, the book: Majalis al-mu’minin. In India, he became famous as Shahid al-thalith (the third martyr). Muhaddith Qummi writes about the story of Qadi’s martyrdom: “Qadi Nur Allah was busy with writing his hidden books and his duties as the judge. Akbar Shah died and Jahangir Shah was enthroned. The courtier scholars tried to defame Qadi and spoke ill of him at the presence of the king; like “Qadi is Shi’a and does not make it his duty to follow any of four Sunni schools.” “He gives fatwas according to Shi’a principles.” At first, Jahangir Shah believed these were not conclusive evidence; after all, Qadi had accepted that position on the condition that he would give Fatwa based on his own Ijtihad and not necessarily within the frameworks of four Sunni Schools. They (Qadi’s enemies) tried another way. They assigned someone to attend Qadi’s classes under the cover of a Shi’a student. After a long time and continuous participation in Qadi’s classes as a Shi’a student, he could gain the trust of Qadi Nuri Allah. He knew about the book Majalis al-mu’minin, so he asked Qadi for a copy of that book. He took the book to the courtier Sunni scholars and they presented the book to the King as an evidence for Qadi’s Shi’a faith. They convinced the Shah that “since Qadi believes in such and such, he deserves Hadd (specific Islamic punishment).” “What is his Hadd?” Jahangir Shah asked; to which they replied “flagellation.” Shah gave them a mandate to execute the Hadd which they immediately carried out. In 1019/1610 when he was nearly 70 years old, Qadi Nur Allah was martyred during intense and heavy flagellation. It’s been said that they lashed him with thorny sticks in such a way that his body was torn in pieces.” Today, his tomb in Agra, India, is a pilgrimage site for the Muslims in the Subcontinent.