ḤELLI, NAJM-AL-DIN ABU’L-QĀSEM JAʿFAR b. Ḥasan b. Abi Zakariyā Yaḥyā b. Ḥasan b. Saʿid Hoḏali, known as Moḥaqqeq or Moḥaqqeq-e awwal, a leading jurist of the Twelver Shiʿite school of Ḥella. He was born in about 602/1205-06 and spent most of his life in his home town. He studied with his father, with Faḵār b. Maʿadd Musawi, Ebn Namā Ḥelli and Sadid-al-Din Sālem b. Maḥfuẓ (ʿAbbās Qomi, p. 155). When Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi arrived in Ḥella on a mission from Hülegü, he addressed Ḥelli as the representative of the scholars of the town and attended one of his study sessions (Ebn Moṭahhar, pp. 64-65). This visit occasioned Ḥelli’s epistle al-Tayāsor le-ahl al-ʿErāq, where he defended the position that it is commendable (mostaḥabb) for those in Iraq to pray in a direction somewhat to the left of the Kaʿba. Ḥelli’s numerous students included his nephew Ebn Moṭahhar Ḥelli, Jalāl-al-Din Moḥammad b. ʿAli b. Ṭāwus (d. 680/1281-82) and his cousin Ḡiāṯ-al-Din ʿAbd-al-Karim b. Aḥmad (d. 693/1294), and Taqi-al-Din Ḥasan Ebn Dāwud, to whom Ḥelli transmitted all his works (Ebn Dāwud, p. 83). Ḥelli died in Rabiʿ II 676/ September 1277, or on 23 Jomādā II 676/22 November 1277 (the date of 726/1325 given in some sources is a result of confusing him with Ebn Moṭahhar.) Some maintain that his body was carried to Najaf for burial; according to others, he was buried in Ḥella, where his tomb was turned into a shrine (Ḵᵛānsāri, p. 187). When the shrine fell into disrepair, Moḥammad-Bāqer Behbehāni (q.v.) ordered it rebuilt (Aʿyān al-šiʿa, p. 372; for a photo see Karakuš, II, facing p. 20).

Ḥelli’s best known work is the Šarāʾeʿ al-eslām, which became one of the most influential Twelver Shiʿite legal compendia (al-Ḏariʿa, XIII, pp. 47-50, no. 161). In this work Ḥelli divides feqh into four categories: ʿebādāt (acts of devotion, e.g., prayer), ʿoqud (bilateral legal acts, e.g., marriage), iqāʿāt (unilateral legal acts, e.g., divorce, ṭalāq), and aḥkām (rules, e.g., laws of inheritance). This classification was followed by later jurists. The style is clear and concise. Where there are conflicting views Ḥelli notes them and often gives his own preference, using terms such as ašbah, ašhar, aṣaḥhá, aḥwaṭ (more likely, better known, sounder, more cautious). The expression fihe taraddod is employed to indicate uncertainty as to the correct view on a given issue. Very occasionally Ḥelli identifies his sources, citing author (e.g., Mortażā [Ḥelli, 1970, I, p. 66, II, p. 309]), title (e.g., Man lā yaḥżoroho’l-faqih [II, pp. 290, 291]) or both (e.g., qāla’l-šayḵ fi’l-Ḵelāf [II, pp. 93, 205, 208, 229]). Numerous commentaries were written on the Šarāʾeʿ, and it was translated several times into Persian (Modarressi, pp. 67-70). A Russian translation by Kazembeg was published in St. Petersbug in 1862, followed by Querry’s French rendition (Paris, 1871-72; cf. Kohlberg, p. 37). Ḥelli wrote an abridgement of the Šarāʾeʿ, entitled al-Nāfeʿ fi moḵtaṣar al-šarāʾeʿ or al-Moḵtaṣar al-nāfeʿ (al-Ḏariʿa, XX, p. 213, no. 2636). In addition to being published several times in the Shiʿite world, it also came out in Cairo (in 1376/1957) as part of efforts to promote Sunnite-Shiʿite ecumenism. Over 30 commentaries on the Nāfeʿ are extant (Modarressi, pp. 65-66). The earliest, by Ḥelli himself, is the Moʿtabar, dedicated to Amir Bahāʾ-al-Din Moḥammad b. Jowayni (d. 678/1279), son of Ṣāḥeb-e Diwān Šams-al-Din (d. 683/1284). This commentary remained incomplete (al-Ḏariʿa, XXI, p. 209, no. 4648). Another legal work by Ḥelli is the Nokat al-nehāya (also known as Ḥall moškelāt al-nehāya), a commentary on Abu Jaʿfar Ṭusi’s legal compendium al-Nehāya fi mojarrad al-feqh; the most recent edition was published as al-Nehāya wa-nokatohā (Qom, 1412/1991-2). In this work Ḥelli defends Ṭusi against the critique of Ebn Edris (d. 598/1202) in his Sarāʾer, while refining and systematizing Ṭusi’s legal doctrine. Ḥelli also composed a considerable number of epistles on legal and theological matters; nine are available in al-Rasāʾel al-tesʿ (ed. Reżā Ostādi, Qom, 1371 Š./1992-93).

Ḥelli’s most significant contribution was in the realm of legal methodology (oṣul al-feqh), a subject to which he devoted his Maʿārej al-oṣul. Ḥelli maintains that as long as the Imams were present the divine law became known through them. During the occultation, some rules could be derived from Shiʿite tradition; specifically, traditions that are widespread and reliable (motawāter) provide certain knowledge (Ḥelli, 1983, p. 139). In addition, when there is consensus (ejmāʿ) among Imami scholars, this consensus incorporates the opinion of the Imam and is therefore binding (Ḥelli, 1983, p. 132; Stewart, p. 162). Yet Ḥelli was aware that certainty as to God’s wishes cannot always be achieved during the ḡayba. Thus one cannot automatically rely on solitary traditions (ḵabar wāḥed): these are only to be acknowledged when there are indicators of their trustworthiness, for example, when they have been accepted by Imami scholars (Ḥelli, 1901, p. 6; Ḥelli, 1983, pp. 140-48; Calder, pp. 65-66). The role of the scholars is, in Ḥelli’s view, crucial. They practice ejtehād; that is, they attempt to discover the laws (al-aḥkām al-šarʿiya) through theoretical considerations usually not derived from the literal meaning of the texts (eʿtebārāt naẓariya laysat mostafāda men ẓawāher al-noṣuṣ fi’l akṯar; Ḥelli, 1983, p. 179; Madelung, 1982, p. 168). Such methods do not include the use of legal analogy (qiās; Ḥelli, 1983, pp. 179-80, 188-94). The mojtahed may err, but such an error is no sin (Ḥelli, 1983, p. 181). Ḥelli stressed the role of the mojtaheds as moftis to whom any lay member of the Imami community (called ʿāmmi, mostafti, or moqalled) could turn for answers to legal questions (Ḥelli, 1983, pp. 197-99). Yet he also set limits to their authority, stating that it is not permitted to follow their opinions on matters of creed when these opinions are not based on textual proof (ḥojja; Ḥelli, 1983, p. 199), and giving his support to those who rule that they may not impose the divinely prescribed legal punishments (ḥodud; Ḥelli, 1970, I, p. 160; Madelung, 1980, p. 27, note 25). Ḥelli’s methodology owed much to Sunni thought. It was further elaborated by Ebn Moṭahhar Ḥelli and eventually became part of mainstream Oṣuli Shiʿism.



ʿAbd-Allāh Efendi, Rīaż al-ʿolamāʾ, ed. A. Ḥosayni, Qom, 1401/1980-81, I, pp. 103-7.

Āḡā Bozorg Ṭeḥrāni, al-Anwār al-sāṭeʿa fi’l-meʾa al-sābeʿa, Beirut, 1972, p. 30.

Idem al-Ḏariʿa, Tehran and Najaf, 1353/1935-, II, p. 18, no. 49, XXI, p. 180, no. 4503.

M. M. Āṣafi, “Ḥayāt al-Moḥaqqeq al-Ḥelli,” in the introduction to Moḥaqqeq Ḥelli, al-Nehāya wa-nokatohā, Qom, 1412/1991-92.

Moḥsen ʿĀmeli, Aʿyān al-šiʿa XV, Damascus and Beirut, 1354-82/1935-63, pp. 371-91.

Baḥrāni, Loʾloʾat al-Baḥrayn, Najaf, 1386/1966, pp. 227-35. Brockelmann, GAL I, pp. 514-15; S I, pp. 711-12.

Rainer Brunner, Annäherung und Distanz: Schia, Azhar und die islamische Ökumene im 20. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1996, p. 112.

Norman Calder, “Doubt and Prerogative: The Emergence of an Imāmī Shīʿī Theory of Ijtihād,” Stud. Isl. 70, 1989, pp. 57-78.

Ebn Dāwud, Rejāl, ed. Jalāl-al-Din Ḥosayni, Najaf, 1383/1983, pp. 83-84.

Ebn Moṭahhar Ḥelli, al-Ejāza al-kabira le-bani Zohra, in Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesi, Beḥār al-anwār, Tehran, 1376-94/1956-74, CVII, pp. 62-65.

Moḥaqqeq Ḥelli, Maʿārej al-oṣul, ed. Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Rażawi, Qom, 1403/1983.

Idem, Moʿtabar, Iran, 1318/1901.

Idem, Šarāʾeʿ al-eslām, ed. Moḥammad-Jawād Maḡ-niya, Beirut, 1390/1970.

Ḥorr ʿĀmeli (Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Mašḡari), Amal al-āmel, ed. A. Ḥosayni, Najaf, 1385/1965, II, pp. 48-52.

ʿOmar Reżā Kaḥḥāla, Moʿjam al-moʾallefin III, Beirut, n. d., p. 137.

Kᵛānsāri, Rawżāt al-jannāt, Beirut, 1411/1991, II, pp. 178-87.

Yusof Karakuš, Taʾriḵ al-Ḥella, Najaf, 1385/1965, II, pp. 20-22, 72-75.

Etan Kohlberg, “Western Studies of Shiʿa Islam,” in Shiʿism, Resistance, and Revolution, ed. M. Kramer, Boulder, 1987, pp. 31-44; repr. in his Belief and Law in Imāmi Shiʿism, Aldershot, 1991.

Wilferd Madelung, “A Treatise of the Sharīf al-Murtaḍā on the Legality of Working for the Government (Masʾala fi’l-ʿamal maʿa’l-sulṭān),” BSOAS 43, 1980, pp. 18-31; repr. in his Religious Schools and Sects in Medieval Islam, London, 1985, art. IX.

Idem, “Authority in Twelver Shiism in the Absence of the Imam,” in La notion d’autorité au Moyen Ãge: Islam, Byzance, Occident, Paris, 1982, pp. 163-73; repr. in his Religious Schools and Sects in Medieval Islam, art. X. Hossein Modarressi Ṭabāṭabāʾī, An Introduction to Shīʿī Law, London, 1984, index.

ʿAbbās Qomi, al-Konā wa’l-alqāb, Beirut, 1403/1983, III, pp. 154-56.

Abdulaziz Abdulhussein Sachedina, The Just Ruler (al-sulṭān al-ʿādil) in Shiʿite Islam, New York and Oxford, 1988, index.

Sabine Schmidtke, The Theology of al-ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī (d. 726/1325), Berlin, 1991, pp. 10, 12-14, 38.

Devin J. Stewart, Islamic Legal Orthodoxy, Salt Lake City, 1998, index.

Tonakābonī, Qeṣaṣ al-anbiāʾ, n. pl., 1304/1886-87, pp. 276-78.

(Etan Kohlberg)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 22, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 2, pp. 169-170