AMAL AL-ĀMEL FĪ ʿOLAMĀʾ JABAL ʿĀMEL, biographical dictionary of Shiʿite (Etnāʿašarī) scholars originating from the Jabal ʿĀmel in south Lebanon, composed by Moḥammad b. Ḥasan b. ʿAlī Mašḡarī, known as Ḥorr-e ʿĀmelī (1033-1104/1624-1693). The author was born at Mašḡar in the Jabal ʿĀmel, where he studied with his father and several other relatives. By about the age of forty he had exchanged a precarious status as a member of an ill-regarded minority in the Ottoman empire for a new life in Safavid Persia, which offered itself as a natural ally to all Etnāʿašarīs outside its borders. In 1073/1663 he settled in Mašhad and functioned there as the šayḵ-al-eslām of the sanctuary of ʿAlī al-Reżā, but in spite of his scholarly reputation he remained a foreigner; when he was presented to Shah Solaymān (1077-1105/1667-94) by his colleague Moḥammad-Bāqer Maǰlesī (1037-1110/1627-99), he seems to have left the impression of a certain rusticity. This may have been the deeper reason why at the end of his life, taking up a suggestion that had come to him in a dream shortly after his arrival at Mašhad, he undertook to demonstrate the intellectual heritage of his native land through the biographies of its scholars. He says explicitly that he seeks to show the antiquity and importance of Shiʿite culture in the Jabal ʿĀmel; in this respect, and in view of the constant influx of ʿĀmelī scholars into Safavid Persia, he intends to supplement older—and purely “eastern”—reǰāl works, the last of which had been Manhaǰ al-maqāl by Mīrzā Moḥammad b. ʿAlī Astarābādī (d. 1027/1618).
It has always been noted that, in its present form, the book does not entirely correspond to the program expressed in the title. Only the first part deals with the Jabal ʿĀmel; it contains more than 200 biographers of ʿolamāʾ and rowāt originating from this region. Among them, no less than twenty six names belong to the closer family of the author himself. But he resists the temptation to make extensive propaganda pro domo: The biographies of his father (no. 52) and his grandfather (no. 138) are surprisingly short. In his autobiography (no. 154) he is equally sparing of detailed information, but he gives a list of his books and reproduces much of his poetry. Part II was originally destined to have a different title: Taḏkerat al-motabaḥḥerīn fī ʿolamāʾ al-motaʾaḵḵerīn. Its intention differs accordingly; it is conceived as a short manual calling to mind the names of Shiʿite scholars who lived after the time of the Šayk-al-ṭāʾefa, Moḥammad Ṭūsī (d. 459/1067), down to Ḥorr-e ʿĀmelī’s own days. It comprises more than 1,000 biographies, many of which are short and incomplete as to dates. The author frequently quotes, under the name Montaǰab-al-dīn, the famous Fehrest of Montaǰab-al-dīn ʿAlī b. Bābūya Qomī (d. after 585/1189; cf. the text in the last volume of Maǰlesī’s Beḥār al-anwār). Although he pretends to have included all the material found in this work, this is evidently not the case.
The author does little to explain the strange discrepancy of the two parts. He may have originally planned to write two books. But at least in the stage of actual composition, he must have decided to put them together; for we hear that he started writing the first part in 1096 (cf. biography no. 205), whereas the entire work was already finished one year later. A note in the manuscript of Naǰaf, Āyatallāh 245, says that it is based on the fourth copy of the third moswadda which was finished in early Šaʿbān, 1097/late June, 1686. The author’s autograph copy was—(and still is?)—in the possession of Ḥorr-e ʿĀmelī’s descendants in south Lebanon. There are two lithograph editions (Tehran, 1302/1884-85, together with the Montaha ’l-maqāl by Moḥammad b. Esmāʿīl Ḥāʾerī; and Tehran, 1304/1886-87, together with the Manhaǰ al-maqāl by Astarābādī) and a printed edition in two volumes, Naǰaf, 1385/1965.
Like many other biographical works the Amal al-āmel found numerous continuations and supplements (cf. al-Ḏarīʿa III, pp. 337f., no. 1222-25; IV, p. 411, no. 1812; Amal al-āmel, intro., I, pp. 59f.). Among them, the Tatmīm Amal al-āmel by Moḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Ebrāhīm Baḥrānī (second half of the 12th/18th century) also included the poets and the scholars of Bahrain, from where that author stemmed. The most recent continuation is the Takmelat Amal al-āmel by Ṣadr-al-dīn Ḥasan ʿĀmelī (d. 1354/1935).
Brockelmann, GAL2 II, p. 542; S. II, p. 578.
al-Ḏarīʿa II, p. 350, no. 1400.
Aʿyān al-šīʿa XLIV, p. 56.
G. Scarcia, “al-Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī,” EI2 III, pp. 588-89.
K. H. Pampus, Die theologische Enzyklopädie Biḥār al-anwār des Muḥammad Bāqir al-Mağlisī, Dissertation, Bonn, 1970, pp. 22-23.
(J. van Ess)
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: August 2, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 9, pp. 917-918
J. van Ess, “AMAL AL-ĀMEL,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/9, pp. 917-918, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/amal-al-amel (accessed on 30 December 2012).