Sayed Radhi ud-Deen ibn Taoos

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Sayed Radhi ud-Deen ibn Taoos
Born January 21, 1193
Place of Birth Hilla, Iraq
Death August 9, 1266
Buried Najaf (Disputed)
Sayed Radhi ud-Deen Abul Qasim Ali ibn Sa’aduddin Abi Ibrahim Musa ibn Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Taoos (Arabic: رضي الدين علي بن موسى الطاووس), commonly referred to as Sayed ibn Taoos, is a well known jurist, traditionalist and historian of the 13th century. His ancestry reaches up to the second Shi’a Imam, Imam Hasan from his father’s side and up to the third Shi’a Imam, Imam Husain from his mother’s side.

It is also widely accepted that he was one of the few scholars in history who had met with the twelfth Shi’a Imam (Imam al-Mahdi) numerous times.



Sayed ibn Taoos was born on 15 Muharram 589 Hijri (21 January, 1193 AD) within the city of Hilla in Iraq. During his early years he received his preliminary training and was taught by many teachers that included his father and grandfathers.. He remained in Hilla until the year 602 Hijri (1206 AD), after which he left for Baghdad and stayed there for many years. During this time, he had developed a good relationship with the Abbasid caliph Mustantir.

The caliph had built him a house in the eastern part of Baghdad and even tried to involve Sayed ibn Taoos in political affairs, but ibn Taoos emphatically rejected this.[1] In 641 Hijri, Sayed ibn Taoos had returned home to Hilla and had gone to Najaf in 645 Hijri (1247 AD) where he stayed until 648 Hijri (1250-1 AD). From there he then moved to Karbala in 649 to 652 Hijri (1251-2 to 1254-55 AD). In the year 652 Hijri (1255-6 AD), he further intended to move to the city of Samarrah for another three years, but instead resorted to remain in Baghdad.[2] Ibn Taoos was in Baghdad when the Mongol forces took over under the leadership of Hulaku Khan in 656 Hijri (1258 AD).

Genealogy of the Ibn Taoos Family

During the Mongol Invasion

The Mongol invasion had caused much damage to Baghdad and had ended the long lasting Abbasid regime. Thousands of people were killed and many buildings in the city were destroyed or burnt down. When Hulaku Khan arrived at Mustansariyah he asked the scholars whether a tyrant Muslim ruler is better or a just infidel ruler. To this query, ibn Taoos replied that a just infidel ruler is better and the remaining scholars followed his reply. This reply is known to have saved the lives of many more who could have potentially been killed.

On the 10th of Safar, 656 Hijri (16 February, 1258) Hulaku Khan provided Sayed ibn Taoos protection and a safe passage to return back to Hilla. He took with him about a thousand people, including his family and friends and traveled towards Hilla. Hulaku at the time was also appointing a governor for every city and wanted to appoint Sayed ibn Taoos as the governor of Hilla. Initially the offer was rejected, however due to the advise of Nasir al-Din Tusi he was forced to accept it.[3] He told ibn Taoos that discretion required that he accepted to take the responsibility in the interest of the people and upon taking governorship ibn Taoos was able to manage the affairs of the town and made it safe for the residents there.


Not a lot of details are available to us regarding the last few years of ibn Taoos' life. He passed away in Baghdad on Monday, 5 Dhul Qa'da, 664 Hijri (August 1266 AD). His exact burial location is disputed, though earlier sources explicitly suggest that he was buried in Najaf. Yusuf al-Bahrani declares that his burial site is not known now, whereas a grave popularly known as that of Ali ibn Taoos in Hilla could be of his or his son Ali.[4]

Meetings with the Imam

It is famous that Sayed ibn Taoos had met the twelfth Imam numerous times and some of these accounts have been mentioned in his own notes or in biographies written about him by others. In regards to one of his encounters, he himself states:

“Once I went to Samarrah for visitation. I went to the cellar where the Imam of the time spent some time and then went into hiding. When I went into the cellar I had a meeting with the Imam. At that moment the Imam (as) was praying:

‘O Allah! These Shias of ours are created from the left over soil of which we are made! Our Shias many a time commit sins depending on our intercession! It is true that there are a lot of Shias who become unmindful and commit taboo acts in hope of our intercession! O Allah, pardon them accepting our intercession on their behalf! They take out Khums. Therefore pardon them if they go astray at certain times! O Allah make the Hell taboo for them! Make them eligible for entry to the Heaven! O Allah ! Ensure that they and their enemies don’t stand at the same place on the Day of Reckoning!’[5]

His Works

As a hard working scholar, Sayed ibn Taoos has left behind numerous useful books on various different topics ranging from theology, ethics, jurisprudence to traditions. He has written more than 60 books and some of them have also been translated into Persian, Urdu and English. A few of his works include:

The works of Ibn Taoos represent one of the last generations of early Shi'a literature which was later to be lost or destroyed. His citations of Sunni and Shia texts allows historians and scholars today to view a glimpse of the invaluable and at times unique information for which no primary sources exist today.[6]


  1. Biography of Seyed ibn Tawus, Lohoof (Sighs of Sorrow) by Seyed ibn Tawus; Translated by Seyed At'har Hussani Rizvi. First Edition, 2006. Page 201.
  2. A medieval Muslim scholar at work: Ibn Ṭāwūs and his library By Etan Kohlberg
  3. Syed Razi Ibne Taoos Islamic Laws - Fiqh & Ulema
  4. A medieval Muslim scholar at work: Ibn Ṭāwūs and his library By Etan Kohlberg; Page 14, See Footnote #91.
  5. Ibid
  6. A medieval Muslim scholar at work: Ibn Ṭāwūs and his library By Etan Kohlberg
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