Sheikh Hadi Tehrani was born on 20th of the month of Ramadhan, 1253 Hijri (December 18th, 1837), in Tehran. His father’s name was Muhammad Amin, but was famously known as Waa’iz. He began his studies in Isfahan, which was the largest Hawzah in Iran at the time, after which he went to Najaf and benefited from the teachings of Sheikh Murtadha Ansari. After the demise of Murtadha Ansari, he went to Karbala and studied under Sheikh Abdul Hussain Tehrani (known as Shaykh al-Iraqiyeen). After Sheikh Abdul Hussain’s demise (in 1286 Hijri), Sheikh Hadi went back to Najaf and studied under Mirza Muhammad Hasan Shirazi (famous for the Tobacco Protest).
He was known for being blunt in his views and not being scared of being unorthodox, despite facing severe opposition. He would try to back up his arguments with proofs, and was not hesitant to critique the views of senior scholars of his era, like Sheikh Murtadha Ansari. This created an excuse for some of his opponents to do takfeer on him.
This was because during that time, there was a great dispute between Mirza Habeebullah (died 1312 Hijri), who was one of the greatest exegete of the views of Murtadha Ansari, and Sheikh Hadi who was one of the biggest critics. However, it was their students and followers who really fueled the disagreements between their teachers. The students of Sheikh Hadi exaggerated his status and would consider him greater than the rest of the scholars of his time, and even greater than the qudama (scholars of the past). Whereas the students of Mirza Habeebullah would consider taunting Sheikh Hadi permissible and convinced a large portion of the population of the same.
The dispute got so out of control that in one of the funeral gatherings of one of the scholars of Najaf – where a lot of the scholars of Najaf were present – one of the followers of Mirza Habeebullah stood up and said: wash that cup of coffee from which Sheikh Hadi drank from. Mirza Habeebullah himself remained silent and it was assumed that he approved of this statement and the implied takfeer. At that very moment, Sheikh Muhammad Kazmi (author of Hidayah al-Anaam), called for a jug of water and asked Sheikh Hadi to drink from it and then Sheikh Kazmi himself drank from what was left in it.
This act of Sheikh Kazmi caused the issue of takfeer to decrease amongst the people. It can perhaps also be argued that the statement of that student didn’t imply takfeer and there is no proof of Mirza Habeebullah himself ever doing takfeer on Sheikh Hadi. His silence could also be due to various reasons, not the least being the gathering they were all sitting in and him not wishing to get involved in a brawl at that point – and perhaps saw no other option but to remain silent. Furthermore, the views of Sheikh Hadi were never such that would make him deserving takfeer.
After this incident, the people of Najaf got split up into two groups. The majority were against Sheikh Hadi, and very few scholars would defend him such as Sheikh Kazmi and Mullah Muhammad Irwani (died 1306 Hijri). Even the great scholar, Mirza Shirazi who was located in Samarrah, did not comment on Sheikh Hadi despite knowing his views.
The propaganda against Sheikh Hadi became so extreme that many of his students left studying under him out of fear. Thus, Sheikh Hadi began giving lessons at his own home in the morning and during Asr. He would give the evening lessons of the summer on one of the locations on the roof of the shrine of Imam Ali (as) and in the winter he would give them in one of the rooms in the courtyard of the shrine. He had about 15 students at most, and some of them would cover their heads with their cloak in order to not be identified while coming to his lessons.
What is evident about Sheikh Hadi is that he had a sharp tongue. His critique was very blunt, and one of his critiques that he wrote on the works of Sheikh Ansari was titled: The Unsheathed Sword Upon Sheikh Ansari. It has also been mentioned that he was accused of being a Shaykhi (follower of Sheikh Ahmad Ahsai) – however he had a treatise refuting the views of Shaykhis so this accusation was not correct. He was known for having very different views on Usool, Philosophy and Fiqh.
The below is a translation of what Ayatullah Shubeyri Zanjani has narrated about him on May 17th, 2008 published in the book A Drop From the Sea, Volume 2, Page 385-386. I found it to be a very good story, with a very good lesson to be learnt for those who are students of any given scholar or ideology, or admirers of any given scholar or ideology.
Syed Ibrahim Alawi Maqbarayee Khoei said: Shuja Khan Makuyee – who was from the Khawaneen – narrated to me that: I took the advice of your uncle in regards to doing taqleed and would do taqleed of the deceased Sheikh Hadi Tehrani. However, I heard things about him due to which I had doubts (about him). Around those days, thanks to Allah (swt), my uncertainty was resolved. This is what happened: In a dream I saw that I was walking towards the shrine of Imam Ali (as). Near the gate of Najaf I saw that a few horse-riders were coming towards me. In the front was Imam Ali (as) and behind him was Sheikh Hadi Tehrani and behind him was Mirza Habeebullah Rashti. During those days, there was an ideological dispute between Sheikh Hadi and Mirza Habeebullah. I decided to go near Imam Ali (as) and kiss his hands, when suddenly my servant woke me up from the dream.
While upset and regretful over that incomplete dream, I slept again. The dream repeated itself, and this time Allah (swt) gave me the opportunity to kiss his (as) hands. Imam Ali (as) ordered me to also kiss the hands of Sheikh Hadi. Thus I also kissed the hands of Sheikh Hadi. Sheikh Hadi then asked me to kiss the hands of Mirza Habeebullah. I obeyed him and also kissed his hands.
From this order of Imam Ali (as), this conclusion can be made that this ideological difference between these two great scholars was never due to their hawaa and hawas, rather it was upon what they considered to be proof upon them according to their reasoning. So, near Allah (swt) they are excused and deserving of reward, and respecting them both is incumbent and necessary.
Abu Dhar Has Been Killed Oppressed
Sheikh Hadi Tehrani was one of the great scholars of Najaf in his time. Many famous unorthodox opinions of his became the reason for his isolation near the end of his life. This was to such an extent that his ablution, shrouding and burial was like that of a stranger, with a few handful of people participating in it. He passed away in the ear 1321 (Hijri).
Syed Ibrahim Alawi Maqbarayee Khoei narrated from his uncle or from his father in law that: when Sheikh Hadi passed away, on that hot scorching day a few of us took his body to a locality outside of Najaf called Cherri – which is a little river – and became busy with giving him the ablution and other acts related to it. Meanwhile, we all became extremely surprised when we saw the pious scholar Sheikh Ismael Quaraybaaghi, who was one of the greatest scholars of the time, coming and joining us for the funeral. The extreme heat and the state that the funeral procession of Sheikh Hadi was being carried out, provoked us to ask him about the reason for his presence. Ayatullah Sheikh Ismael said: I was sleeping an hour ago, and in my dream I was informed that Lady Fatima (sa) is present in the shrine of Imam Ali (as) sitting on the pulpit. I quickly got myself there and I heard her say:
قتل أبو ذر مظلوما
I woke up from the dream very confused. I asked around whether anyone had passed away? They said: Sheikh Hadi Tehrani has passed away.
Afterwards, Sheikh Ismael Quraybaaghi himself led the funeral prayers of Sheikh Hadi.
(May 17th, 2008)