ARDABĪLĪ, AḤMAD B. MOḤAMMAD, known as MOQADDAS and MOḤAQQEQ ARDABĪLĪ, Imamite theologian and jurist of the early Safavid age. As his nesba indicates, he probably originated from Ardabīl in Azerbaijan, but nothing is known about his family, date of birth, and early life. He studied theology and philosophy under Jamāl-al-dīn Maḥmūd Šīrāzī, a student and commentator of the Asḥʿarite theologian Jalāl-al-dīn Davānī (d. 908/1502-03), most likely in Shiraz. Among his co-students were ʿAbdallāh b. Ḥosayn Yazdī (d. 981/1573), who later, at the same time as Ardabīlī, taught in al-Naǰaf; and the Shafeʿite Asḥʿarite theologian Mīrzāǰān Ḥabīballāh Bāḡnavī Šīrāzī (d. 994/1586), who later went into exile in Bukhara. Ardabīlī studied feqh with some students of the Šahīd al-Ṯānī Zayn-al-dīn al-ʿĀmelī (d.966/1559), especially with Sayyed ʿAli al-Ṣāʾeḡ al-Jazzīnī (d.780/1572). These feqh studies were pursued by him evidently after his study of theology and probably in the Jabal ʿĀmel, since ʿAlī al-Ṣāʾeḡ is not known to have taught elsewhere. Later he lived and taught in al-Naǰaf until his death in Ṣafar, 993/February, 1585. In his Ḥadīqat al-šīʿa he mentions a former stay in Isfahan and a trip to Mecca, presumably for a pilgrimage. He is also reported to have repeatedly visited the shrines of the imams in Karbalāʾ, al-Kāẓemayn, and Sāmarrāʾ. Many edifying and miraculous stories are related about his saintly conduct, which earned him his epithet Moqaddas. He is reported to have regularly been given, at night, the answers to his scholarly questions by a voice from ʿAlī’s tomb and to have met the Twelfth Imam in the mosque of al-Kūfa. The Safavids Shah Ṭahmāsp and Shah ʿAbbās are said to have revered him and to have tried to induce him to come to Iran. However, a story about Shah ʿAbbās’s attempt to lure him to Isfahan as imam of the Masǰed-e Šāh is clearly anachronistic. Among his students were Sayyed Moḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Abu’l-Ḥosayn al-ʿĀmelī and al-Ḥasan b. Zayn-al-dīn al-ʿĀmelī (known respectively as ṣāḥeb al-madārek and ṣāḥeb al-maʿālem, after their popular feqh works), Mollā ʿAbdallāh b. al-Ḥosayn Tostarī, and Sayyed Fayżallāh b. ʿAbd-al-Qāher Tafrešī.
The following works by him are known: (1 ) Maǰmaʿ al-fāʾeda wa’l-borhān fī šarḥ eršād al-aḏhān (lith. Iran, n.d., and Tehran, 1274/1858), a commentary on the feqh compendium al-Eršād of ʿAllāma al-Ḥellī, begun in Karbalāʾ in Ramażān, 977/February, 1570 and completed on 2 Ṣafar 985/21 April 1577. Ardabīlī composed it for his son Moḥammad. The section on marriage and some other parts were lost, because they were found unreadable in the author’s original. Shaikh Yūsof al-Baḥrānī characterizes Ardabīlī on the basis of this feqh work as a pure moǰtahed like al-Ḥellī. However, Ardabīlī appears to have relied less on the principle of eǰmāʿ than had been common before his time and greatly refined the methods of judging and interpreting legal traditions. (2) Zobdat al-bayān fī barāhīn aḥkām al-Qorʾān (ed. Tehran n.d., and 1369/1949), a commentary on the sūras of the Koran containing legal rules. It was completed before 2 Ḏuʿl-ḥeǰǰa 986/30 January 1579, the date of a manuscript of it. (3) Two treatises on the land tax (Resāla ḵarāǰīya), in which he supported the position of Ebrāhīm al-Qaṭīfī that government grants of ḵarāǰ land were illegitimate in his time and could not be accepted by the Imamite ʿolamāʾ; this was against the view of ʿAlī b. ʿAbd-al-ʿĀlī al-Karakī. They were printed together with Dorar al-fawāʾed of Mortażā al-Anṣārī, Tehran, 1381/1900; in al-Kalemāt al-reżāʿīyāt wa’l-ḵarāǰīyāt, Tehran, 1313-15/1895-97; and in Kalemāt al-moḥaqqeqīn, Tehran, 1313-15/1895-97. (4) Ḥadīqat al-šīʿa, in Persian. The first part, containing the biography of the Prophet and his ancestors, is apparently not extant. The second part dealing with the imamate and the biographies of the twelve imams has been repeatedly printed in Iran. The authenticity of the work has been questioned by several scholars since the late 11th/17th century and is still subject to dispute. (See in particular the discussion in Maʿṣūm ʿAlī Šāh, Ṭarāʾeq al-ḥaqāʾeq, ed. M. J. Maḥǰūb, Tehran, 1369/1950, I, pp. 186-88; al-Nūrī al-Ṭabarsī, Mostadrak al-wasāʾel, Tehran, 1318-21/1900-03, III, pp. 393-95; al-Ḏarīʿa VI, pp. 385-87; M. T. Dānešpažūh, Fehrest . . . Meškāt III, pp. 600-05). These doubts have arisen partly because of the popular, unscholarly character of the book, in contrast with Ardabīlī’s other works, and because of the scathing condemnation of Sufi doctrine and practice and of philosophy, while in another work he appears to espouse the Sufi doctrine of waḥdat al-woǰūd. There exists, moreover, a slightly different version of the book, sometimes entitled Kāšef al-ḥaqq, which was written in Hyderabad in 1058/1648 and dedicated to the Shiʿite ruler Qoṭb Shah. This version does not contain the section denouncing Sufism, and Ardabīlī’s references to his own works in the first person are either given in the third person or are missing. This version is attributed to Moʿezz-al-dīn Ardestānī who is reported to have claimed it as his own original composition. The chapter on Sufism is, on the other hand, also extant in manuscript as a separate work. Though the question may not definitely be settled until a manuscript or a reference to the book earlier than 1058/1648 is found, there are indications that the former version is the original one. The book, in which the practice of cursing the first three caliphs is expressly endorsed, was written late in Ardabīlī’s life, as is evident from the references to his other works, and has to be viewed on the background of the renewal of extreme antagonism polarizing supporters of Shiʿism and Sunnism after the death of Shah Ṭahmāsp and the attempt of Shah Esmāʿīl II (984-85/1576-77) to restore Sunnism in Iran. Ardabīlī’s repudiation of Sufism and philosophy may reflect the aim of dissociating himself from the school of Davānī in Shiraz, which had superficially been converted to Shiʿism at best and to which he had belonged before joining the more strictly Shiʿite school of the Šahīd al-Ṯānī. This purpose is indicated by the fact that his former co-student Mīrzāǰān (Bāḡnavī) Šīrāzī is singled out for sarcastic comment as a “mofti” of the Sufi libertinists. (5) Oṣūl al-dīn or al-ʿAqāʾed, in Persian, also called, after its first chapter, Resāla fī eṯbāt al-wāǰeb, a short exposition of the creed with chapters on the proof of the existence of God, prophecy, the imamate, and the hereafter (maʿād). (6) Ḥāšīat al-taǰrīd le’l-Qūšǰī, a commentary on al-Qūšǰī’s commentary on the theological part of Naṣīr-al-dīn al-Ṭūsī’s Taǰrīd al-ʿaqaʾed containing a lengthy chapter on the imamate. It was written for his son Abu’l-Ṣalāḥ Moḥammad and completed on 13 Rabīʿ I 986/21 May 1578. (7) Ḥāšīat šarḥ moḵtaṣar al-oṣūl al-ʿAżodī, a commentary on the section on consensus (eǰmāʿ) of ʿAżod-al-dīn al-Īǰī’s commentary on Moḵtaṣaral-oṣūl, Ebn al-Ḥāǰeb’s compendium of legal methodology (oṣūl al-feqh). (8) Al-Naṣṣ al-ǰalī fī emāmāt mawlānā ʿAlī, referred to in Ḥadīqat al-šīʿa, does not seem to be extant. (9) Resāla fi’l-eǰtehād waʾl taqlīd (see M. T. Dānešpažūh, Fehrest-e Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Markazī-e Dānešgāh-e Tehrān, Tehran, 1340 Š./1961, p. 821 ). ( 10) Resāla fī masʾalat al-šarṭ fī żemn al-ʿaqd (see Dānešpažūh, loc. cit.). (11) Resālat al-layl wa’l-nahār, on the legal rules concerning day and night (see ʿAbd al-Ḥosayn Ḥāʾerī, Fehrest-e Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Maǰles-e Šūrā-ye Mellī IX/1, Tehran, 1346 Š./1968, p. 152). (12) Estīnās al-maʿnawīya, on theology. The authenticity of this work has been questioned.
Al-Tafrešī, Naqd al-reǰāl, Tehran, 1318/1900, p. 29.
Al-Ḥorr al-ʿĀmeli, Amal al-āmel, ed. Aḥmad al-Ḥosaynī, Baghdad, 1385/1965, II, p. 23.
Yūsof al-Baḥrānī, Loʾloʾat al-Baḥrayn, ed. Ṣādeq Bahr-al-ʿolūm, Naǰaf, 1386/1966, pp. 148-50.
Tonakābonī, Qeṣaṣ al-ʿolamāʾ, Tehran, n.d. pp. 343-46.
Al-Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawżāt al-ǰannāt, ed. A. Esmāʿīlīān, Qom, 1390-92/1970-72, I, pp. 79-85.
Aʿyān al-šīʿa IX, pp. 292-302.
M. T. Dānešpažūh, Fehrest-e Ketāb-ḵāna-ye... Meškāt, Tehran, 1330-38 Š./1952-59, III, pp. 1763-56.
Originally Published: December 15, 1986
Last Updated: August 11, 2011
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Vol. II, Fasc. 4, pp. 368-370