Grand Ayatollah Imam Muhammad Shirazi is undoubtedly the most eminent Marje’ or authority on Islam in modern times. A charismatic leader who is known for his high moral values, modesty and spirituality, Imam Shirazi is a mentor and a source of aspiration to millions of Muslims; and the means of access to authentic knowledge and teachings of Islam. He tirelessly devoted himself, and his entire life, to the cause of Islam and Muslims in particular, and to that of mankind in general. He has made extensive contributions in various fields of learning ranging from Jurisprudence and Theology to Government, Politics, Economics, Law, Sociology, Human Rights. Through his original thoughts and ideas he has championed the causes of issues such as the family, freedom of expression, political pluralism, non-violence, human rights, and the Shura or consultative system of leadership.
Born in Najaf, Iraq, in 1347 AH, 1928 CE, the young Muhammad Shirazi continued his studies of different branches of learning under the guidance of various eminent scholars and specialists, as well as his father, the renowned Marje’ or the religious authority of the time, Grand Ayatollah Mirza Mahdi Shirazi. In the course of his training he showed an outstanding talent and a remarkable appetite for learning as well as a tireless commitment to his work and the cause he believed in. His extraordinary ability, and effort, earned him the recognition at the age of 25, by the various Marje’ and scholars of the time, of being a mujtahid, a fully qualified religious scholar and lawmaker in the sciences of Islamic jurisprudence and law. He was subsequently able to assume the office of the Marje’ at the age of 33 in 1380 AH, 1961.
Imam Shirazi is distinguished for his intellectual ability and holistic vision. He has written various specialized studies that are considered to be among the most important references in the relevant fields. He has enriched the world with his staggering contribution of more than 1,100 books, treatise and studies on various branches of learning. His works range from introductory works for the youth to literary and scientific masterpieces. Deeply rooted in the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet of Islam, his vision and theories cover such areas as Theology, Philosophy, History, Legislation, Management, Environment, Governance, Law and Islamic Doctrine. His work on Islamic Jurisprudence (the al-Fiqh series) for example constitutes 150 volumes, which run into more than 70,000 pages.
Imam Shirazi came to prominence in Iraq from the early 1960’s for his works and his relentless efforts in setting up educational projects and institutions throughout the country. He endeavoured to bring about a renaissance amongst the Muslims and their countries through education and reawakening the Muslim masses about the teachings of Islam. But education of the masses is not something despotic regimes are fond of. His works and efforts were ruthlessly crushed by the iron-fisted tyrannical regime of the country’s Ba’thist regime run by the then deputy president the notorious Saddam Hussein. Having arrested and subjected his brother, Ayatollah Hasan Shirazi, to near death torture, Saddam’s Ba’thist regime sentenced Imam Muhammad Shirazi to the death by firing squad in absentia, which forced him to migrate to Kuwait in 1970.
Throughout the 1970’s in Kuwait Imam Shirazi continued his movement of mass education as he had in Iraq. In 1980 Imam Shirazi moved to the holy city of Qum in Iran, to continue his endeavour to disseminate the teachings of Islam as taught by the Prophet Muhammad and his impeccable descendents – the Ahl al-Bayt.
Throughout his life, because of his total dedication to the teachings of Islam, and because of his views on various issues of concern, which are based on those teachings, Imam Shirazi came under sustained pressure. His views on, and his call for issues such as freedom of expression, party political pluralism, peace and non-violence brought about the wrath of the authorities. His freedom and activities were restricted; his staff, followers, and family members were subjected to continued harassment, arbitrary arrest and torture, throughout the eighties and the nineties. Having spent the entire of his adult life striving for the greater enlightenment of the Muslims and mankind, Imam Shirazi died in the holy city of Qum, Iran, on Monday the 2nd Shawwal 1422 AH, 17th December 2001.
Imam Shirazi believed in the fundamental and elementary nature of freedom in mankind. He used to call for freedom of expression, debate and discussion, tolerance and forgiveness. He continuously called for the establishment of the universal Islamic government to encompass all the Muslim countries. These and other ideas are discussed in detail in his works of more than 1,100 titles.