Syed Ali Tabatabaee and the Attack of Wahhabis on Karbala

Another translation from the book A Drop From the Sea – A collection of Papers and Discourses on Shiite Personalities and their Bibliographies by Ayatullah Sayyid Musa Shobeyri Zanjani. The Ayatullah uses the term owner of al-Riyadh (lit.), referring to the author of the book al-Riyadh. I have translated it as author of al-Riyadh and have not replaced it with the actual name of the author (i.e Syed Ali Tabatabaee).

In the year 1216 Hijri (1802), the Wahhabis attacked Karbala and murdered many people in cold blood. They also tried to attack Najaf, but the citizens of Najaf were aware of the potential attack. Therefore they were more prepared for it and therefore the Wahhabis could not do anything serious there. However, the citizens of Karbala were heedless of the threat. During that time (year 1216 Hijri) the head of Karbala was the author of al-Riyadh (Syed Ali Tabatabaee -who passed away in the year 1231 Hijri) and Kashif al-Ghita was the head in Najaf.

They (the Wahhabis) murdered in cold blood, till they reached the house of the author of al-Riyadh and tried to vandalize it and kill him. He hurriedly got his family to leave, but he himself hid under a box with an infant and couldn’t exit the house in time. The Wahhabis spread out and tried to find him in order to kill him and said: Where is the leader of the infidels? They searched through the house, but were not able to locate him. They saw a pile of wood in the corner of the house and thought that he is probably hiding underneath it. They threw the wood around and ended up placing some of it on top of the box under which the author of al-Riyadh was hiding. When they realized their efforts were in vain, they left the place. What is really weird is that during that whole time, the milk-drinking infant did not cry for even a moment and this was a miracle. The Wahhabis murdered people during that day in Karbala and then they left the city intending to go to Najaf.

One of the houses that was well known in Zanjan, was the house of Ayatullah Mirza Abul Qasim. Ayatullah Abul Qasim is the patriarch of the Mirzayees in Zanjan. Aqa Najafi Mirzayee and Ayatullah Mirza Abu Talib Mirzayee were from the same house. Presently, there doesn’t seem to be any scholars from their household. Ayatullah Mirza Abul Qasim Mullah and his father (Ayatullah Syed Kadhim) were the students of the author of al-Riyadh. When they became aware of what the Wahhabis did to the house of the author of al-Riyadh, they decided to get there faster so that they could help their teacher. When they got there, they took the author of al-Riyadh and the infant out from under the box. It was their last few breaths and if they (the students) had arrived any later, Syed Tabatabaee and the infant would have become unconscious. Later they decided to go to the shrine of Imam Hussain (as) for ziyarat. They performed an ablution and left for the shrine. Ayatullah Syed Kadhim (grandfather of the Mirzayees) used to reside at the shrine.

When they arrived at the shrine, they saw that the Wahhabis had burnt the holy shrine and used it to prepare coffee! This is while they considered coffee to be prohibited. They (the scholars) saw that there was a little gap that was present on one of the corners of the grave. Ayatullah Syed Kadhim looked and said: I could sense the presence of a part of the body. The author of al-Riyadh also looked and said: I saw the same thing. Although now I have uncertainty as to what had priority.[1] Then Ayatullah Syed Kadhim said: Now is the time to collect the turbah. He had a white handkerchief and picked up a little sand and placed it in the handkerchief. The handkerchief turned red. He picked up a little turbah himself and gave a bit to the author of al-Riyadh. When Ayatullah Syed Kadhim left this world, his brother Meer Karim – who was a simple man – got a hold of that turbah and turned it into clay tablets (for prostration). He then distributed it amongst the people. Ayatullah Mirza Abul Qasim was only 13-14 years old at that time, and when he become aware of that incident many years later, he went to different places trying to find a bit of that turbah. He finally found one and it was kept continuously at the house of Ayatullah Mirza Abul Qasim.

Ayatullah Mirza Abul Qasim had an anthology and album in which he has written this incident in detail. In it, he advises his sons (Haaj Mirza Abu al-Makarem, Haaj Mirza Abu Talib and Haaj Mirza Abu Abd Allah)[2] to recognize the value of this turbah and its qualities. This turbah remained in the house of the Mirzayees and it is possible that it is still there, but they do not reveal its location.

I am guessing that this clay tablet was given to the grandsons of Aqa Muhammad Ali – son of Waheed Behbahani – because the house of the author of al-Riyadh was in very close proximity to theirs. There was some of the original turbah in the house of Aqa Muhammad Ali. I heard from the deceased Ayatullah Sheikh Mustafa Jaleeli that: The library of the Imam of Jum’ah of the city of Kermanshah – who was from one of the grandchildren of Aqa Muhammad Ai – caught fire. All of its books burnt, even the Qur’an. Except the Qur’an, upon which there was some turbah placed. I am assuming that this was that same turbah. That library itself was a very important library. I went to the house of Aqa Najoomi in Kermanshah and I saw that one of the grandchildren of that Imam of Jum’ah presented some of the burnt papers from that library to Aqa Najoomi.

(Rabi al-Akhir 1431/2010)


[1] Translator: I translated this sentence as literally & accurately as possible, though I personally did not understand what this priority of events is referring to.

[2] The names of all the sons of Mirza were Muhammad and the difference was only in their titles and agnomens. They were famous with the following agnomens: Izz al-Deen Abu al-Makarem Muhammad, Shams al-Deen Abu Talib Muhammad, Fakhr al-Deen Abu Abd Allah Muhammad

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