Allamah al-Hilli

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Hasan ibn Yusuf ibn Ali ibn Muthahhar
Allamah al-Hilli
Allamah al-Hilli
Born 1250
Place of Birth Hilla, Iraq
Died 1325
Buried Najaf, Iraq
Kunya Abu Mafsoor
Hasan ibn Yusuf ibn Ali ibn Muthahhar Al-Hilli (Arabic: الحسن بن يوسف الحلي), more commonly known as Allamah al-Hilli (Arabic: العلامة الحلي) was a theologian and one of the greatest Muslim jurists of his time. Along with Shaikh al-Mufid and Shaikh Abu Ja'far Tusi, he is accredited of having academized much of Shia Fiqh and Usool.


Life and Education

Allamah Hilli was born in 648 AH (1250 AD) in the town of Hilla, Iraq. He started to receive religious education an an early age from his father and uncle in Hilla, which was then the center of Shi'ite doctrines in the days of the Abbasid Caliphate. He was a disciple of other well known names like Al-Katibi al-Qazwini at the observatory of Maraghah in Azerbaijan. Other teachers Al-Hilli had in astrology and philosophy were Nasir al-Din Tusi and Maytham al-Bahrani in fiqh.[1]

He was considered the leading Mujtahid in Hilla at the age of 28, after the death of his uncle, Muhaqqeq Al-Hilli. His time was characterized by Mongolian domination and so he indeed was in continuous upheaval against mongols, preceded by his teachers with that. He passed away in 726 AH (1325 AD) and his body was taken to the city of Najaf, Iraq (or to Mashhad according to some sources) where he was buried under the minaret of the mausoleum of the first Shia Imam; Ali ibn Abu Talib.

Influential in Persia

He was known for his wit and wisdom. Those, together with his solid knowledge in Shi’i doctrines would give strength to his arguments and thereby enormous fame in forums and councils. He was of great influence in Persia where he moved in 1305 and had contributed to wide spreading of the teachings and philosophy of Ahl al-Bayt. He was able to convert Oljaitu, the eight ruler of the Ilkhanid dynasty, into Shi'ism which led to proclaiming Shia Islam as the state religion. His cleverness has been documented on many different occasions in Hilla and Persia. Most famous of his stories was probably when the Sultan of Persia, who divorced his wife thrice, sent for him for an advice. In the royal court of the Sultan, Al-Hilli showed eloquence and prudence utterly superior to all other scholars present, who belonged to other school of thoughts and had gathered for the purpose of sabotaging Allamah Hilli.[2]

He remained in Persia for many years after that, acknowledged by the Sultan, his ministers and the vast majority of Persians. However he eventually returned to his hometown and spent the last years of his life teaching there.

Anecdotes From his Life

His Knowledge and Wit at a Young Age

Once Muhaqqaq Hilli was taking a class and Allama Hilli, who was 6 or 7 years of age then, was sitting near him. The child played some prank and Muhaqqaq Hilli got up to reprimand him. Allama Hilli ran and the Muhaqqaq pursued him. When he thought that the teacher was about to get him, he suddenly recited a verse from the Holy Qur'an where prostration is mandatory. Muhaqqaq Hilli immediately fell into prostration. Allama Hilli got a chance to run. He knew that since he wasn’t of the age when prostration is mandatory, he was able to continue running. After the prostration the teacher again pursued the student! He again recited another verse that required prostration. Now the teacher again prostrated and his anger dissipated and he smiled at the cleverness of his student. He went forward and hugged him and said that the child would reach a stage in learning that the people would even forget the teacher.

Meeting the Imam & Sawab of Ziyarat

As student in Hilla, Allama Hilli learned that if one supplicated on 40 nights of Jum'ah in Karbala near the grave of Imam Husain, he would have the opportunity of meeting his Imam (a.s). When the students got their vacation, Allama Hilli rode on his mule from Hilla to Karbala and spent 39 nights of Fridays supplicating near the grave of Imam Husain. On the 40th night while proceeding towards the Mausoleum he thought that when he completed his supplications that night, he should be able to meet the Imam. During his journey a scholarly question came into his mind. There were many traditions saying that if someone cried with the thought of the hardships faced by Imam Husain, all his sins would be condoned by Allah. He wasn’t able to understand this tradition; how only crying could get condonation of sins for a person.

He was riding with this thought in his mind when he came across an Arab riding on a horse. He came near Allama Hilli and started riding side by side and asked him where he was going. Allama Hilli explained where he was heading and also told to the Arab about the question in his mind. The Arab told him about a king who was out hunting, lost his way and reached a place where there was a vacant hut where an old woman lived on the milk of only one sheep. The king reached the hut absolutely thirsty. The woman preferred the milk to him immediately. When the thirst was quenched, the king complained of hunger. The woman immediately slaughtered her only sheep, made kebabs and offered to the king. While leaving her, the king told her who he was and asked her to meet him whenever she visited the capital. The person asked Allama Hilli how much the king must serve the old woman to compensate for the service she provided to him in his time of dire need!

Allama Hilli replied that if the king gave up his entire realm, it wouldn’t be sufficient. The Arab asked again, “Why not ten sheep, fifty sheep or a hundred sheep in return for that one sheep of the old woman?” Allama Hilli said that the woman had parted with her entire possession that was a life-line for her in that wilderness and she had sacrificed it for the king, on humanitarian concern, without even knowing him or his status! It would mean nothing extraordinary even if the king gave up to her the entire kingdom in return for her sacrifice for him. The Arab said, the answer to your question lies in this. Imam Husain sacrificed everything he had for the sake of Allah. It would only make sense that in return for his sacrifice, Allah would give everything in his universe for Imam Husain.

The Arab told Allama Hilli that the answer to his second question was that the 12th Imam was there in front of him. Allama Hilli got the blessing of meeting the Imam as return for his supplications on 40 nights. Now, when he turned to look, the Imam had already left.

His Works

Allama Al-Hilli had a very productive and influential life, that resulted in around 120 titles, many of them yet to be published. Here we mention most famous:


  1. III Shiite Thought, History of Islamic Thought by Henry Cobin; pg. 321
  2. Lessons from the Lives of our Ulema, Islamic-Laws
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