|A rare photo of the top Shi’i jurist of his time, Grand Ayatollah Sayed Mohsen Al Hakim (d. 1970), teaching most likely in the 1960s in the famous Masjid Al Hindi in Najaf.|
He was born Sayyid Mohsin ibn Sayyid Mahdi Tabatabai al-Hakim to a scholarly family in the holy city of Najaf in 1306 AH. He received his religious education in Najaf, studying under such great giants of the seminary as Akhund al-Khurasani, Sayyid Abul Hasan al-Isfehani, Sayyid Kadhim Tabatabai Yazdi, and Shaikh Muhammad Hussain Naini. Upon the demise of his teachers, Sayyid Mohsin al-Hakim was recognized as the de facto leader of the Najaf seminary, and upon Ayatollah Burujardi's death in 1380 AH, he was accepted as the sole Marja Taqleed (Religious Authority) by Shias around the world.
Under Ayatollah Mohsin al-Hakim, the seminary grew extensively. He embarked on a program to collect various books and manuscripts that had hitherto been ignored or disorganized, culminating in his famous library containing over 30,000 books and nearly 5,000 various manuscripts.
It is said that in times of financial shortage, Ayatollah Mohsin al-Hakim used to offer the prayers and fasts for diseased individuals and would use that money to buy these books and manuscripts from their owners. He also established several new religious schools, including the Madresa Sharif al-Ulema in Karbala, Madresas Sayyid Yazdi, Dar al-Hikma, and Ilmiya in Najaf, Madresa Ilmiya in Hilla, as well as a religious school especially for students of Afghan and Central Asian origin. His list of students includes such great names as Sayyid Abul Qasim al-Khoei, Sayyid Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini, Martyr Sayyid Qadhi Tabatabai, Martyr Sayyid Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr, Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani, Sayyid Sa'eed Tabatabai Hakim (his grandson), Shaikh Husain Waheed Khurasani, and Shaikh Nasir Makarem Shirazi. Read full