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Al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Khoei

Ayatollah al-Khoei
Sayyid Abu al-Qasim Khoei.jpg
Personal Information
Birth Rajab 15, 1317/November 19, 1899
Place of Birth Khuy
Studied in Najaf
Death Safar 8th, 1413/August 8, 1992
Burial Place Holy Shrine of Imam 'Ali (a)
Scholarly Information
Professors Aqa Diya' 'Iraqi, Muhammad Husayn Isfahani, Shaykh Muhammad Jawad Balaghi, etc.
Students Husayn Wahid Khurasani, Muhammad Taqi Bahjat, Sayyid Ja'far Shahidi, etc.
Works Dirasat fi l-Usul, Al-Bayan fi tafsir al-Qur'an, Mu'jam rijal al-hadith etc.
Socio-Political Activities
Supporting Imam Khomeini and Islamic Revolution of Iran, Supporting the uprising of Shi'a in Iraq known as al-Intifada al-Sha'baniyya, His social activities span ten countries where he helped the Muslim communities through charity foundations.
Official Website

Al-Sayyid Abū l-Qāsim al-Mūsawī al-Khūʾī (Arabic: السيّد أبوالقاسم الموسوي الخوئي) (b. Rajab 15, 1317/November 19, 1899 - d. Safar 8, 1413/August 8, 1992) was one of the greatest twelver Shi'a jurists and a marja's of 14th/20th century. He studied under many great teachers in Najaf and trained notable students who later became marja's of the next generation.

He was a remarkable teacher in many fields of common Islamic studies in Shi'a seminary. His opinions in jurisprudence, usul, rijal and exegesis of the Qur'an are among the most common opinions in seminaries after him. No scholarly session in seminary can be ignorant about his thoughts. Al-Khoei wrote many books, two of which are very famous: Al-Bayan fi tafsir al-Qu'ran and Mu'jam rijal al-hadith. He served many years as the general marja' of Shi'a in the world. He was so eager to spread Islam worldwide, therefore he established many Islamic and scholarly centers in various countries.


Birth and Lineage

Al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Musavi al-Khoei was born in Rajab 15, 1317/November 19, 1899 in Khuy –a city in the province of Azerbaijan Gharbi, Iran. His lineage reaches Imam Musa al-Kazim (a). His father, al-Sayyid 'Ali Akbar al-Khoei, was a great scholar and a student of Shaykh 'Abd Allah Mamaqani. After finishing his studies, he returned to his home town and engaged in his cleric duties. After the beginning of Iranian Constitutional Revolution, and different stances toward it, he left Khuy to live in Najaf in 1328/1910.


In 1330/1912 at the age of 13, al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Khoei and his brother, al-Sayyid 'Abd Allah joined their father in Najaf where they studied Arabic literature, logic, and high levels of Islamic studies in seminary. When he was about 20, he attended the kharij class of Shaykh al-Shari'a Isfahani. In addition to this eminent teacher of Najaf seminary in those days he studied various subjects in different levels under several teachers, some of whom he named in his book Mu'jam rijal al-hadith.


In the book Mu'jam rijal al-hadith, al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Khoei writes about his great teachers in fiqh and Usul:

"I have studied under many teachers and masters, from whom I only name five:
I have taken benefit from the last two teachers more than the others. Not only I participated in their classes; but also re-taught their lessons for other seminarians, some of whom were notable scholars. The late Na'ini was my last teacher whom I was companion for to the end of his life, and received narration certificate from. He gave me the certificate to narrate the Four Books which he narrated them from his master Muhaddith Nuri (b. 1254/1838-1839 - d. 1320/1902-1903) who narrated them from al-Shaykh al-Ansari whose chain of narrators is clear and obvious."

Among al-Khoei's narrating masters there is al-Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Sharaf al-Din, from whom he has narrated Sunni sources and works.

In addition to fiqh and usul teachers, he studied various Islamic fields under other teachers like:


Ayatollah al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Khoei among his students. From right to left: al-Sayyid Ja'far al-Khoei, Musa al-Sadr, Sayyid 'Abd Allah Shirazi, Ayatollah al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim Khoei, Sayyid Nasr Allah Mustanbit, and Sayyid Murtada Hikami.

From the early years of studying, al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Khoei paid special attention to teaching. In his 30s, he became a great teacher in seminary of Najaf and taught for about 60 years. In this period he taught a complete course of all the chapters of fiqh and a few full courses of usul.

After the demise of Ayatollah Na'ini and Aqa Diya' 'Iraqi, his class was considered as one of the important classes in seminary of Najaf. Gradually his class became the most prosperous and crowded scholarly session, which occupied the central role in scholarly atmosphere. He was expert and proficient in training students. He taught so methodically that his students also learned the way of deduction in addition to what has been taught, so that they could use this way to analyze their information; yet his method of teaching was not tedious or perplexing. In fact, he had his special framework, research methodology and certain principles, which his students could understand well. That's why al-Khoei –terminologically- was "school owner" (had a special school of thoughts).

Following his method of deduction, many of his students, who later became leading teachers of fiqh in seminaries of Qom and Najaf, made his method the dominant and acceptable way of deduction in the few last decades.


There have been different reports about the beginning of his marja'iyya, but this is certain that the issue of his marja'iyya was seriously raised after the demise of Ayatollah Burujirdi and he was considered as the superior marja' after the demise of Ayatollah al-Hakim. At that time al-Sayyid Yusuf al-Hakim, Ayatollah Hakim's son, gave all the remaining religious funds (al-wujuh al-shar'iyya) from his late father to Ayatollah al-Khoei as the next marja'.


Some of his remarkable students formed al-Khoei's Istifta committee, who answered questions according to his jurisprudential bases, some of which are: al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Mirza Jawad Tabrizi, Sayyid 'Ali Husayni Bihishti, Sayyid Murtada Khalkhali, al-Sayyid 'Ali al-Sistani, Muhammad Ja'far Na'ini, and Murtada Burujirdi.

Some of his famous students are:


He has done various works in different fields of Islamic studies specially jurisprudence, usul, rijal, tafsir and Qur'anic sciences, which can be listed in 4 categories:

  • Scripts of his own classes: the most important scripts of his classes which has been published are as follows:
    • Dirasat fi l-usul; written by Sayyid 'Ali Hashimi Shahrudi, the complete script of the 3rd course of al-Khoei's usul class.
    • Muhadirat fi usul al-fiqh; written by Muhammad Ishaq al-Fayyad, al-Khoei liked this book.
    • Mabani l-istinbat; written by Sayyid Abu l-Qasim Kawkabi Tabrizi.
    • Masabih al-usul; written by Sayyid 'Ala' al-Din Bahr al-'Ulum.
    • Risalat fi l-amr bayn al-amrayn; written by Muhammad Taqi Ja'fari. A theological and philosophical issue which is also discussed in a part his usul class.
    • Misbah al-fiqaha fi l-mu'amilat; written by Muhammad 'Ali Tawhidi. Al-Khoei in his comment on the book admired the writer's researches, precision and vast knowledge.
    • Al-Tanqih fi sharh al-makasib; written by 'Ali Gharawi Tabrizi.
    • Muhadirat fi l-fiqh al-Ja'fari; written by Sayyid 'Ali Hashimi Shahrudi.
    • Al-Mustanad fi sharh 'urwat al-wuthqa; written by Murtada Burujirdi.
    • Tahrir al-'urwat al-wuthqa; written by Qurban 'Ali Muhaqqiq Kabuli.
    • Durus fi l-fiqh al-Shi'a; written by Sayyid Mahdi Khalkhali.
  • Scholarly books and treatises:
    • Al-Bayan fi tafsir al-Qur'an: this work includes a comprehensive introduction about the commentary of Sura al-Hamad and also some topics discussed in Qur'anic sciences. From the early publication, the book received scholarly attention and became a source for lessons in this field in both seminary and university. Consequently, it has been translated to Farsi and summarized by several scholars.
    • Risalat fi nafahat al-i'jaz: a theological work defending Quran's glory by disproving the book Husn al-ijaz fi ibtal al-i'jaz written by a person under the pseudonym Nasir al-Din Zafir. He wrote this book at the age of 25.
    • Mu'jam rijal al-hadith: without a doubt and exaggeration, no comprehensive, fluent and useful book has been written in rijal in the Shi'a history except than this. In its informative and comprehensive introduction many subjects of rijal have been discussed thoroughly. The book which has been published in 24 volumes (in 1409/1988-1989 in Qom) includes the profiles of 15,676 narrators, including names of their teachers and students and their narrations in the Four Books. Also a supplement was added by the author and a few indexes of the book were compiled.
    • Mabani takmilat minhaj al-salihin: a demonstrational commentary on his book of Islamic laws Takmilat minhaj al-salihin. In this book, he explained and proved his fatwas by providing evidences. This work which is dedicated to criminal jurisprudence (fiqh al-jaza') is one of the most important and well-phrased scripts of criminal law in Shi'a jurisprudence.
    • Risalat fi l-libas al-mashkuk (treatise in dubious clothes): it was written while he taught it.
    • Manzuma shi'r: his poems contains 163 verses which are mostly about Imam 'Ali (a) and Ahl al-Bayt (a). Muhammad Mahdi Kharsan has written a commentary on this poems. It has been published under the title 'Ali imam al-barara with an introduction by Sayyid 'Ali Husayni Bihishti.
  • Fatwa books:
    • Minhaj al-salihin: his most important book containing his Fatwas. At first it was glosses on the Minhaj al-Salihin written by al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim, then he replaced his glosses with al-Hakim's fatwas, and finally he rewrote the book according to his own fatwas.
    • Glosses on al-'Urwat al-wuthqa: at first he wrote glosses in sessions held with his remarkable students, but after teaching the book al-'Urwat al-wuthqa completely, he wrote another glosses on the book about a third of which is said to be different from the first one.
    • Mawsu'at al-Imam al-Khoei: published in 50 volumes which contain almost all of al-Khoei's works.

Charity Foundations

He cared so much about propagation and promulgation of Islamic studies and also about helping needy people; thus he helped the society by establishing libraries, schools, mosques, husayniyyas, dormitories, hospitals, clinics, orphanages, and many charity institutes and foundations in at least 12 countries like: Iran, Iraq, India, Lebanon, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, U.S., U.K., France, Canada …. Some of these institutes are:

  • Library of Ayatollah al-Khoei; Qom, Iran
  • Library and school of Ayatollah al-Khoei; Mashhad, Iran
  • Al-Imam al-Khoei Islamic Center; New York
  • Mosque and Islamic Center; Los Angeles
  • Al-Imam al-Khoei Center; London
  • Al-Majma' al-Thiqafi l-Khayri; Mumbai
  • Al-Imam al-Khoei Charity Center; Beirut, Lebanon
  • Dar al-'Ilm School; Najaf, Iraq
  • Dar al-'Ilm Institution; Bangkok, Thailand
  • Al-Imam al-Khoei Institution; Montreal, Canada
  • Religious School; Dhaka, Bangladesh

Political Activities

During Islamic Revolution in Iran

His viewpoint about the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1399/1979 can be divided into two periods:

  • Ayatollah al-Kheoi was the only prime marja' in Najaf who supported the Revolution in Iran led by Ayatollah Khomeini. He issued several statements supporting the Revolution. He also had other political activities before that, mostly sending telegrams criticising Muhammad Rida Shah or his government decisions, or supporting Imam Khomeini or other Shi'a scholars who opposed Pahlawi regime.
  • The relations between al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Kheoi and Imam Khomeini went into deep freeze. It is said that some of disagreements in viewpoint caused this. In this stage, Ayatollah al-Kheoi kept silent, a move that later was described by opposers of Imam Khomeini as opposition of Ayatollah al-Kheoi to Imam Khomeini. Ayatollah al-Kheoi was not a very popular personality in Iran due to general revolutionary atmosphere in the post-Revolution years.

Meeting with Shah's Wife

On Dhu l-Hijja 24th, 1398/November 25th, 1978, Farah Diba, Muhammad Rida Pahlavi's wife, visited Ayatollah al-Kheoi. The press of that time claimed that Farah Diba has presented a ring to him, and spread propaganda about that. Regarding this event Ayatollah al-Kheoi said, "According to what I heard, there were different interpretations about a visit which was paid to me on the day of Eid al-Ghadir. Hereby, I state that according to my religious duty, I seized the opportunity and reminded them the legitimate demands of Iranian decent people and also expressed our strong disapproval about the horrible events and disasters taking place in Iran." Husayn Fardust (deputy head of SAVAK, the Iranian intelligence agency at that time) says, "Ayatollah al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Kheoi has ignored the meeting request of Farah Pahlavi; but Farah personally went to Ayatollah al-Kheoi's house wearing Islamic hijab."

Iran-Iraq War

During the war between Iraq and Iran, the government of Iraq put Ayatollah al-Kheoi under pressure so that he would speak against war; but he avoided this and said that he would not interfere in this issue. He was asked "What's your opinion as a marja' about a war between two Muslim brothers?" Ayatollah al-Kheoi answered, "When you started the war you did not ask me about my opinion, now you want my opinion about finishing it!"

1991 Uprising in Iraq

Main article: Sha'ban Uprising

Al-Sayyid Abu l-Qasim al-Kheoi was arrested by Ba'th Party and was sent to Baghdad because of his direct support and appointing the leadership council of 1991 uprising in Iraq (al-Intifada al-Sha'baniyya). He was held in custody for two days and then was taken to Saddam Hussein, who insulted him very much and threatened him.


  • Al-Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Khoei: Ayatollah al-Khoei's eldest son who spent most of his life on his father's marja'iyya and leadership. He traveled to Iran to receive cancer treatment. He passed away in 1404/1984 in Iran and was buried in the holy shrine of Lady Fatima al-Ma'suma (a) in Qom. Some of his works are: commentary on Kifayat al-Usul, Bahth fi l-falsafa wa 'ilm al-kalam, Tawdih al-murad fi sharh Tajrid al-'i'tiqad, Shrah diwan al-Mutanabbi, Diwan shi'r in Persian, etc.
  • Al-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Khoei: after establishment of "Al-Khoei Islamic Institute" in 1409/1989, he was appointed as its general secretary. After 1991 uprising in Iraq (al-Intifada al-Sa'baniyya in 1411/1991) he was chosen as a member of his father's special commission for management of liberated lands. Following the suppression of the uprising and massacre of Shi'a, he and his father were put under house arrest. Eventually he passed away in Dhu l-Hijja 17, 1409/July 21, 1989 in a suspicious car accident. In addition to scripts of his father's fiqh class, he wrote a book under the title Al-Iltizamat al-taba'iyya fi l-'uqud.
  • Al-Sayyid 'Abd al-Majid al-Khoei: After the defeat of 1991 uprising in Iraq, he fled Iraq to London. After the death of his brother, al-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi, he was chosen as the head of "Al-Khoei Islamic Institute". After invasion of Iraq by U.S. and overthrow of Ba'th regime, he returned to Iraq but soon after he was killed in a terrorist attack in Najaf.


The grave of Ayatollah al-Khoei, the Holy Shrine of Imam 'Ali (a).

He had an excellent memory. He was very hard-working, great critic and liked discussions. He had debates with Sunni and other religions' scholars. In addition to his simple and honest life, and he was famous for his patience, humbleness, respect to clients, saying "Salam" ahead of others, honoring scholars specially marja's of his time, and a special determination to perform Ziyarah of Imam 'Ali (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a).


He passed away from heart disease in Saturday Safar 8, 1413/August 8, 1992 at the age of 94 in Kufa, Iraq. He was buried in Masjid al-Khadra' located in the courtyard of the holy shrine of Imam 'Ali (a). Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Islamic Republic of Iran, expressed his condolence on his demise in a message.


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