ʿAṢṢĀR, SAYYED MOḤAMMAD-KĀẒEM (b. 1302/1884-85; d. Tehran, 19 Dey 1353 Š./9 January 1975), outstanding Shiʿite scholar and professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran, who reviewed the new civil jurisprudence drafted under ʿAli-Akbar Dāvar to ensure its accommodation in the framework of Shiʿite law (for the discrepancy in dates, see Sāl-nāma, p. 312, Āštiāni, 1997, p. 154). His father, Sayyed Moḥammad b. Maḥmud of Lavāsān (d. 1937), was a scholar and author of religious and philosophical works, including a commentary on the Šarḥ al-manẓuma of ḤOājj Mollā Hādi of Sabzavār (q.v.; Moḥaqqeq, pp. 13, 29; Jalāli Nāʾini, pp. 44-45). According to ʿAṣṣār himself (in Āštiāni, 1997, p. 154), he began his formal education at the age of three when, along with learning the basics, he started memorizing the Qurʾān. He then joined ʿAbd-Allāh Khan traditional school (madrasa) at the age of five, where he studied Arabic language and literature for three years and spent six years at Khan Marvi and Ṣadr schools studying Islamic jurisprudence and theology (feqh wa kalām). He also studied mysticism and philosophy with Mirzā ḤOasan of Kermānšāh and Mirzā Hāšem of Gilān and attended the teaching discourses of Mīrzā Ṣadrā, while mastering old mathematics with Mīrzā ʿAlī Akbar of Yazd, an expert on Islamic sciences. On the latter’s advice, he later joined the modern school of Dār al-Fonūn where he studied new mathematics and the French language. Due to ʿAṣṣār’s eagerness about the new educational system, ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Mohandes, the head of the Dār al-Fonūn, asked him in 1909 to go to Tabriz and establish a similar college there. ʿAsṣār, who needed a job to improve his financial situation, left for Tabriz, and became a teacher of Mathematics; it was an inopportune time during the Constitutional Revolution. Moḥammad ʿAli Shah had staged a coup d’état in the summer of 1908 against the constitutional government and Tabriz, the major center of resistance to the coup, was being threatened by Russian forces. The city was eventually occupied by the Russian army, which summarily tried and executed a number of local leaders including Mirzā ʿAli Ṯeqat-al-Eslām, ʿAṣṣār’s close associate who was studying Mollā Ṣadrā’s Asfār with ʿAṣṣār. With the help of a local merchant, ʿAṣṣār managed to leave Tabriz for Paris, where he went to study medicine at the Sorbonne, but his dire financial situation soon forced a to Tehran, and from there to Najaf to resume his traditional education. There he studied under the leading religious authorities of the time, including Shayḵ--al-Šariʿa of Isfahan, Mirzā Moḥammad-Taqi of Shiraz, and Żiāʾ-al-Din of Arāk over a period of nearly twelve years and received the license of ejtehād (Anjoman-e āṯār wa mafāḵ-er-e farhangi, pp. 33-34). He returned to Tehran in 1921 and began a new teaching career in both traditional and modern schools, and later at the University of Tehran, which had been recently established (ʿAṣṣār’s autobiography, in Āštiāni, 1997, pp. 155-57; Moḥaqqeq, pp. 23-27). When the University’s faculty were banned from wearing the turban, ʿAṣṣar decided to resign from his post rather than replace his religious outfit in accordance with the new regulations. ʿAṣṣār died at the age of ninety and was buried at Shah ʿAbd-al-ʿAẓim shrine in south Tehran at the tomb of Abu’l-Fotuh Rāẓi (Moḥaqqeq, p. 27).
ʿAṣṣār’s contribution to the Persian educational system lies in his reconciliation of traditional learning with the concepts of modern knowledge. His conciliatory approach is reflected in his work on comparative mathematics (al-Jamʿ bayn al-riāżiyāt al-qadima wa žl-ḥadiṯa “Conciliation between old and new mathematics”) and culminated in 1927 in the comprehensive review he undertook, together with his father-in-law Shaikh ʿAli Bābā of Firuzkuh, of the text of the new civil code that had been drafted, upon the request of the government, by a small group of well-informed jurists. This civil code is still considered to be among the best texts of Persian law.
ʿAṣṣār was a teacher devoted to his profession. He never aspired for a high-profile position and was always generously willing to share his vast knowledge with others. He was a modest man of a friendly, gentle personality with a witty sense of humor and, at the same time, of uncompromising high principles, as evidenced by his refutation of his own father’s so-called suggestions for improvement concerning ḤOājj Mollā Hādi’s Šarḥ al-manẓuma, rightly considering it quite inferior to the original version (Moḥaqqeq, pp. 16-17).
Resāla dar barḵ-i az masāʾel-e elāhi-e ʿāmm, ed. Manučehr Ṣaduqi, forthcoming.
Tafsir, Tehran, 1938.
“Taṣwir dar Eslām,” Maʿāref-e eslāmi 1/2, 1966, pp. 5-19.
“Waḥdat-e wojud,” Maʿārf-e eslāmi, no. 7, 1947, pp. 7-15 (Pers. tr. of the Ar. original, done by Maḥmud Šehābi, Anjoman-e āṯār wa mafāḵ-er-e farhangi, p. 145).
Tafsir al-Qorʾān al-karim, Surat al-fāteḥa, ed. with commentaries, Sayyed Jalāl-al-Din Āštiāni, Tehran, 1971.
ʿElm al-ḥadiṯ, Tehran, 1990.
Ṯalāṯ rasāʾel fi’l-ḥekma al-eslāmiya: Waḥdat al-wojud, Šaḏarāt fi’l-jabr wa’l-eḵ-tiār, Ejābat al-doʿā wa masāʾel al-badāʾ, Pers. text with Arabic tr. by Ṣalāḥ Ṣāwī, Tehran, 1971.
Majmuʿa-ye āṯār-e ʿAṣṣār, ed. with commentaries, Sayyed Jalāl Āštiāni, Tehran, 1997.
Anjoman-e āṯār wa mafāḵ-er-e farhangi, Zendagi-nāma wa ḵ-adamāt-e ʿelmi o farhangi-e marḥum-e Sayyed Moḥammad-Kāẓem ʿAṣṣār Ṭehrāni, filsuf-e faqihān wa faqih-e filsufān, Tehran, 1983.
Sayyed Jalāl-al-Din Āštiāni, “Ostād-e akbar Āqā-ye Sayyed Moḥammad-Kāẓem ʿAṣṣār,” Waḥid 5, 1968, pp. 950-58.
Idem, “Ba yād-e Ostād Sayyed Kāẓem ʿAṣṣār,” Kelk, no 89-93, August-December 1997, pp. 154-61.
Sayyed Moḥammad-Reżā Jalāli Nāʾini, “Yādgār-e madani,” in Anjoman-e āṯār wa mafāḵ-er-e farhangi, Zendagi-nāma,pp. 43-45.
Noṣrat-Allāh Kāsemi, “Ostād-e ʿallāma Moḥammad-Kāẓem ʿAṣṣār,” Gowhar 2, 1974, pp. 933-35.
Mehdi Moḥaqqwq, “Piš-goftār,” in Anjoman-e āṯār wa mafāḵ-er-e farhangi, Zendagi-nāma,pp. 11-30.
Moḥammad Mowaqqatiān, “Ostād Sayyed Moḥammad-Kāẓem ʿAṣṣār,” Armaḡān 44, 1975, pp. 181-87.
Manučehr Ṣaduqi, Tāriḵ--e ḥokamā wa ʿorafā-ye motaʾaḵ-ḵ-er bar Ṣadr-al-Motaʾahhelin, Tehran, 1980.
Sāl-nāma-ye Dānešgāh-e Tehrān: sāl-e taḥṣili 1334-1335, Tehran, 1956.
Personal interview with Mr. Naṣir ʿAṣṣār in Washington, D.C., May 1999 and April 2006.
(Ahmad Kazemi Mousavi and EIr.)
May 25, 2006
(Ahmad Kazemi Mousavi and EIr)
Originally Published: November 15, 2006
Last Updated: August 17, 2011