BAḤRĀNĪ, YŪSOF B. AḤMAD B. EBRĀHĪM DERĀZĪ, Imami author and jurisprudent. He was born in 1107/1695-96 to a merchant family in the Baḥrānī village of Māḥūz. In the wake of Bahrain’s occupation by the imam of ʿOman in 1129/1717, the family fled to the mainland, settling in Qatif (Katif). After his father’s death in 22 Ṣafar 1131/14 January 1719, Yūsof took charge of the family affairs and commuted between Qatif and Bahrain while pursuing his studies. He finally left Bahrain for Iran soon after the abdication in 1135/1722 of the last Safavid shah Solṭān Ḥosayn. He went first to Kermān and then to Shiraz, where he enjoyed the patronage of its ruler Moḥammad-Taqī Khan. Baḥrānī lived in Shiraz longer than is usually assumed: his Masāʾel šīrāzīya, Kašf al-qenāʿ (both completed in 1149/1737) and Resāla moḥammadīya (written for his brother in 1155/1742) were all composed in that city. He then moved to Fasā, where he likewise benefited from his close connection with the governor, one Moḥammad-ʿAlī, who exempted him from taxes on his investments in agriculture. In Fasā Baḥrānī began his monumental legal work al-Ḥadāʾeq al-nāżera which, though it occupied him for the rest of his life, remained uncompleted. During disturbances in 1163/1750 Baḥrānī’s home was attacked and many of his books and other possessions were looted. He fled with his family to the countryside, and then proceeded to Karbalāʾ. There he soon became one of the foremost religious authorities: he had a large circle of pupils, and also composed numerous fatwās in response to questions reaching him from various places. He died in 4 Rabīʿ I 1186/5 June 1772 at the height of the plague which ravaged Iraq, though it is not stated that his death was caused by it.
Baḥrānī is a pivotal figure in the Aḵbārī-Oṣūlī dispute in the 18th century. He originally adhered to the Aḵbārī position, in opposition to his father’s Oṣūlī views. Later he adopted a modified Aḵbārī stance, accusing the hard-line Aḵbārīs of dividing the ranks of the Imamites, and praising Majlesī for taking a middle course (ṭarīq wosṭā) between the two camps. In his Dorar najafīya (completed in Ḏu’l-qaʿda, 1177/May, 1764) Baḥrānī rejects the extremist Aḵbārī view that all believers are moqalledūn. He defines taqlīd as the acceptance of someone else’s view without that view being accompanied by a proof text (dalīl). This practice, he maintains, only existed during the period of the presence (ḥożūr) of the imams. In his own times, says Baḥrānī, the ʿāmmī expects each fatwā to be based on the sources, and the scholar, of course, uses his judgment. Thus the Aḵbārīs engage in ejtehād no less than the Oṣūlīs, and only avoid using this term because they regard it as pejorative. In his Ḥadāʾeq Baḥrānī reverts to a more traditional Aḵbārī position; yet his overall conclusion is that both Aḵbārīs and Oṣūlīs are devoted followers of the imams, and that even if individuals from either camp veer from the path of truth out of ignorance or inadvertence, this is no reason to heap abuse on the group as a whole.
Baḥrānī’s moderate views were not shared by all his colleagues and students: some were fiercely anti-Oṣūlī while others, in contrast, forsook the Aḵbārī school altogether in favor of the Oṣūlīs. Baḥrānī himself engaged in disputations with the leading exponent of Oṣūlī Shiʿism, Moḥammad-Bāqer Behbahānī (d. 1205/1790); however, relations between the two appear to have been civil, and Behbahānī, led the prayers at Baḥrānī’s funeral.
Many of Baḥrānī’s works have survived. These include (in addition to those already referred to) the Loʾloʾat al-Baḥrayn, comprising biographies of leading Imamite scholars from Bahrain and elsewhere, and the Kaškūl (also known as Jalīs al-ḥāżer wa anīs al-mosāfer), a compilation of edifying stories, anecdotes and poems of a typical adab type. His al-Nafaḥāt al-malakūtīya fi’l-radd ʿala’l-ṣūfīya, which may no longer be extant, included an attack on the more extreme aspects of popular Sufism.
Baḥrānī, Loʾloʾat al-Baḥrayn, Najaf, 1386/1966, pp. 442-51 (an autobiographical notice).
Abū ʿAlī Ḥāʾerī, Montaha ’l-maqāl, [Tehran], 1300/1882-83, pp. 334-35.
Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawżāt al-jannāt, ed. A. Esmāʿīlīān, Qom, 1390-92/1970-72, VIII, pp. 203-08.
Nūrī Ṭabarsī, Mostadrak al-wasāʾel, Tehran, 1382-84/1962-64, III, pp. 387-88.
Tonakābonī, Qeṣaṣ al-ʿolamāʾ, n.p., 1304/1886-87, pp. 203-06.
Modarres, Rayḥānat al-adab, [Tehran], 1364-73/1945-54, II, pp. 421-22.
ʿAbbās Qomī, Fawāʾed al-rażawīya, Tehran, 1367/1948, pp. 713-16.
G. Scarcia, “Intorno alle controversie tra Aḫbārī e Uṣūlī presso gli Imāmiti di Persia,” RSO 33, 1958, p. 224.
Aʿyān al-šīʿa LII, Beirut, 1381/1961, pp. 71-74.
Ḥ. Modarresī Ṭabāṭabāʾī, An Introduction to Shīʿī Law, London, 1984, pp. 55-56.
J. Cole, “Shiʿi Clerics in Iraq and Iran, 1722-1780: The Akhbari-Usuli Conflict Reconsidered,” Iranian Studies 18, 1985, pp. 14-15, 19.
E. Kohlberg, “Aspects of Akhbārī Thought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in Eighteenth Century Renewal and Reform Movements in Islam, ed. N. Levtzion and J. Voll, Syracuse (forthcoming).
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 24, 2011
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Vol. III, Fasc. 5, pp. 529-530