Jamāl ad-Dīn Hasan ibn Yusuf ibn 'Ali ibn-i Mûtahhar[1] al-Hilli (Arabic: جمال الدين الحسن بن يوسف الحلي), also known as al-Allamah al-Hilli (Arabic: العلامة الحلي, "the sage from Hilla"),[2] born December 15, 1250 CE (19 Ramadan 648 AH), died December 18, 1325, was a Twelver Shia theologian and mujtahid. Known as a Marja' (Grand Ayatollah), he was one of the well known Shia scholars of his time. His full name is Jamal al-Din Abu Mansur Hasan ibn Yusuf ibn Mutahhar al-Hilli. We know of at least one hundred books written by him, some of which are still in the form of manuscripts. Muhammad bin Al-Hassan al Hurr Al- Amili in his work Amal al Amil, p. 40, enumerated no less than 67 works of this learned author.[3]

Names and titles

Al-Hilli’s name is as follows: His kunya was Abu Mafsūr and his first title was 'Allāma "sage", his second Jamāl al-dīn and third Jamāl al-Milla wa l-Ḥaqq wa l-Dīn. His given name was Hassan and his father's given name was Yusuf.[4]


Al-Hilli also known as the sage of Hilla,[5] was born in the still existent town of Al Hillah (in what is now Iraq), commonly viewed as the centre of Shia Islam when Sunni leaders were in control over Baghdad during his life.[5] He entered into a prominent family of Shia jurists and theologians. His father, Sadid ul-Din al-Hilli, was a respected mujtahid and a leading figure in the Shia community. His maternal uncle Muhaqqiq al-Hilli was also a renowned scholar.

He studied theology and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) in Hilla under the auspices of his father and his uncle, as well as other notable scholars, including: Ali bin Tawus and Ahmad bin Tawus.[2] He also spent some time at the newly established Maragheh observatory, where he studied Avicennan philosophy and mathematics under Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and was also introduced to the works of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi. Later, he travelled to Baghdad and became acquainted with the doctrines of Ibn Arabi.[6]

Among his other teachers were Najm al-Dīn al-Qazwīnī al-Kātibī and Maitham Al Bahrani. He also sat with the Sunni scholars to study Sunni Fiqh. Like Al Bahrani and Nasir, 'Allamah-i Hilli was contemporary with the Mongol upheaval, and played a role similar to that of his teacher.

Allamah-i Hilli was a prolific writer whose bibliography comprises about one hundred and twenty titles. Some of his works have been published, while the manuscripts of others have still to be found.[7]

After mastering philosophy, theology and astrology as a pupil of the eminent scholars of his time, he began a prolific career as an authoritative writer in his own right. Some 500 works are attributed to him, although only a few have been published so far. He moved to Persia in 705/1305, where he became most influential in spreading Shia Islam within Il-Khanid court circles.[8]

In 1305, Al-Hilli emigrated to Persia, to the court of the Ilkhan ruler Öljaitü, whom it is believed he converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. As a result of his conversion, Öljaitü proclaimed Shia Islam as the state religion in Persia. Coins were minted in the names of The Twelve Imams. Both al-Hilli and his son, Fakhr ul-Muhaqqiqin were engaged in extensive theological and jurisprudential debates with the local Sunni scholars. Having impressed the Ilkhan, he was appointed to the traveling madrassah sayyarah. Al-Hilli, however, eventually returned to his hometown and spent the last years of his life teaching there.[6]

Intellectual output

According to some sources, Al-Hilli wrote more than a thousand works (including short treatises and epistles) on Islamic law, jurisprudence, theology and Qur'anic commentary.[9] Of these, about sixty are still extant. Yet, only eight of these are published. They are "regarded by the Imami Shi'ia as the most authentic expositions of their dogma and practice".[5] The popularity and influence of his writings on later scholars are demonstrated by the large number of manuscripts and great number of commentaries written on them. He himself is the best source of information on his own works as he has recorded all of his writings up to the year 1294 in his biographical work Khulasat ul-Aqwal (The Summary of Opinions).[6]


In theology, Al-Hilli was clearly acquainted with the Basran school of Mu'tazilism, as his earliest writing on theology Manhaj ul-Yaqin fi Usul il-Din, demonstrates. He was also deeply influenced by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and wrote a commentary on the latter's famous Tajrid ul-I'tiqad. This commentary is one of al-Hilli's most widely read works, being the first commentary written on the Tajrid and thus forming the basis of later commentators understanding of Tusi's work.[6] Also due to his work in Tajrid ul-I'tiqad, Al-Hilli has been noted as one of the first Shia Imamiyyah scholars to use the term, ijtihad (i’tiqad) in the sense of "putting in of the utmost effort in acquiring the knowledge of the laws of the Shariah".[10] From this point Shia accepted this term.

Another of his most famous theological works is The Eleventh Chapter (Al-Bab al-Hadi 'Ashar - the title is an allusion to an earlier work of his, Manhaj ul-Salat, which was composed of ten chapters), which he composed towards the end of his life as a concise summary of Shia doctrines for the learned lay person (rather than aspiring scholars). Judging by the number of commentaries written on it, and its translation into Persian and English, it represents his most popular work.[6]

He wrote several polemical treatises during his time at the court of the Ilkhan. These were largely directed against Sunni, Ash'arite theology. In them, he was largely concerned with espousing and defending the Shia view of the Imamate and Mutazilite notions of free will (as opposed to Asharite determinism).[6] He was also acquainted with Avicennan and Ishraqi philosophy. He wrote several works of his own, dealing with subjects such as logic, physics, metaphysics and mathematics. In general he is very critical of the opinions held by Islamic philosophers and sets out to rebut them whenever they appear to disagree with mainstream theology.[6] According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, "his services were so much appreciated by the Shi'is that soon after his death his grave in Mashhad became one of the centres of veneration for those who go on pilgrimage to the tomb of Imam 'Ali-al-Rida".[5]


Al-Hilli's role in shaping Twelver jurisprudence is of great importance. As well as several works and commentaries on usul al-fiqh, he produced a voluminous legal corpus. Of this, two of the most important works are al-Mukhtalaf (The Disagreement) and al-Muntaha (The End). Mukhtalaf is a legal manual devoted to addressing legal questions in which the Shia jurists hold differing opinions, whereas the Muntaha is a systematic and detailed exposition of al-Hilli's own legal opinions. He also wrote a summarized legal manual, Qawa'id ul-Ahkam, which was popular amongst later scholars, judging by the number of commentaries that would be written on it. Amongst his later legal works is Tadhkirat ul-Fuqaha, which is a legal manual intended for use by lay persons. He also composed legal works on specific issues (for example, Hajj or Salat).[6]


One of his works on the concept of the Shia Imamate (Minhaj al-karamah) was criticized by the Sunni scholar Ibn Taymiyyah in his nine volume work Minhaaj As-Sunnah An-Nabawiyyah. Besides various treatises on religious law, 'Allamah established a systematic version of the science of tradition (hadith and akhbar), based on principles which were later to antagonise the usuliyun and the akhbariyun. In the kalam tradition, he left a commentary on one of the very first treatises to be written by one of the oldest Imamite mutakallimun, Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al Nawbakhti, who died about 350/961. Similarly, he wrote commentaries on the two treatises by Nasir mentioned above, Tajrid and Qawa'id-commentaries which have been read and re-read, studied and commentated by generations of scholars. He left a summary of the vast commentary by his teacher Maytham al-Bahrani on the Nahj al-Balagha. Using the methods both of a man of the kalam and of a philosopher, he wrote studies on Avicenna's Al-Isharat wa-‘l-tanbihat (Remarks and Admonitions) and Kitab Al-Shifaʾ (The Book of Healing); attempted to solve the difficulties (hill al-mushkilat) of al-Suhrawardi's Kitab al-talwihat (Book of Elucidations); wrote a treatise comparing (tanasub) the Ash'arites and the Sophists; two other encyclopaedic treatises, The Hidden Secrets (al-Asar al-khaffyah) in philosophical sciences, the autographed version of which is at Najaf, and a Complete Course of Instruction (Ta'lim tamm) on philosophy and the kalam, etc. He casts doubt on the principle Ex Uno non fit nisi Unum (only One can proceed from the One), as his teacher Nasir Tusi, inspired by al-Suhrawardi, had done before him, and he concedes the existence of an intra-substantial motion which heralds the theory of Mulla Sadra.[11]


Tadhkirat al-Fuqahā',The opening double page of manuscript has an illuminated floral headpiece in the style of the Safavid period in Iran (1501-1732), with colours predominantly in gold, blue and pink. The wide margins are illuminated with bold floral and arabesque decorations in gold and blue, and the text is within gold cloud bands.

His most notable works are the following:

  1. Kashf al-Yaqin fi Faḍā'il Amīr al-Mu'minīn , a short treatise on the excellence of Ali ('Alī Ibn Abī Ṭālib').
  2. Kihalastah al-Nisab, a treatise on the descendants of Ali, Alawi. This treatise also includes the descendants of Ali who migrated to other countries after the rise of Umayyad Caliphate.
  3. Minhāj al-Salat fi kktisar al-Misbah, a work on religious duties especially prayer.
  4. Minhaj al-karamah, a vindication of the Shia doctrine on Imamate.
  5. Manāhij al-yaqīn fi uṣūl al-dīn, a treatise on the fundamental principles of the Shia creed.[12]
  6. Ma'ārij al-Fahm, a commentary by the author on his own work Nazm al Barahin.
  7. Nahj Al Haq Va Kashf Al Sedq, a refutation of the theology and legal system of the Sunnis.
  8. Naẓm al Barāhīn fi Uṣūl al-Dīn, a work on scholastic theology.
  9. Tadhkirat al-Fuqahā, a work on Shia jurisprudence in three volumes.
  10. Tahdhib al-wuṣūl ilā 'ilm al-uṣūl.[12]
  11. Qawā'id al-Aḥkām[13]
  12. "Mukhtalaf al-Shī`a fī Aḥkām al-Sharī`a", a work describing points of legal disagreement among the jurists.


  1. Encyclopedia Iranica, "ḤELLI, ḤASAN B. YUSOF B. MOṬAHHAR"
  2. 1 2 Tehrani, Aga Buzurg, Tabaqat 'Alam il-Shi'ah, v.5 p.52 (Arabic)
  3. Encyclopaedia of Islam 1913-1936: E.J.Brill,s - E. J. Brill,
  4. "Lessons from the Lives of our Ulema – Part 9." ISLAMIC LAWS - Fiqh & Ulemas. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2010.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Jafri, S.H.M. "al- Ḥillī , (1) Ḏj̲amāl al-Dīn Ḥasan b. Yūsuf b. ʿAlī b. Muṭahhar." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010. Brill Online. Augustana. 13 April 2010
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Schmidkte, S. ḤELLI, ḤASAN B. YUSOF B. MOṬAHHAR. Encyclopaedia Iranica (, accessed: 28.09.09)
  7. Al-Suhrawardi and the Philosophy of Light, P.59
  8. Ismaili and other Arabic manuscripts: a descriptive catalogue of manuscripts
  9. Tehrani, Aga Buzurg, Tabaqat 'Alam il-Shi'ah, v.5 p.53 (Arabic)
  10. Mutahhari, Martyr Murtada . "The Role of Ijtihad in Legislation." Al-Tawhid: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Thought & Culture 4.2 (0): n. pag. Web. 10 Apr. 2010.
  11. Al-Suhrawardi and the Philosophy of Light, P.59-60
  12. 1 2 Manuscripts in Microformat: I-M
  13. Persian Literature, by C. A. Storey


External links

1.Ismaili and other Arabic manuscripts: a descriptive catalogue of manuscripts.
2. Abu Mansur Hassan bin Yusuf Al-Hilla

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