Mulla Mahdi Naraqi and Bahr ul-Ulum

There is a remarkable story narrated in regards to Mulla Mahdi Narāqi, the author of Jāmi’ al-Sa’ādāt. It is narrated that after he finished his precious and valuable book on ethics a copy reached the hands of Syed Bahr ul Ulῡm, the marja’ and great scholar of Najaf. Syed was amazed by the contents of this book and wished to one day meet its author. From the other side, Narāqi wished to perform pilgrimage to the holy sanctuaries within Iraq, and after a while, this opportunity was granted to him.

As was the custom at the time, when Narāqi entered Najaf all of the scholars went to greet him, the only scholar who refrained from this was Syed Bahr ul-Ulῡm. The people of Najaf were baffled at this and not long had passed till they started discussing among themselves the possible reasons why Syed had not gone to meet Narāqi. Narāqi, on the other hand, had asked the scholars (who came to meet him) about the condition of Syed and asked for his address. Without any delay, Narāqi swiftly went to the residence of Syed to meet him. This was contrary to the custom and the actions of Narāqi left people further confused.

When Narāqi entered the home of Syed, the students who were gathered stood out of respect for Narāqi whereas the Syed didn’t pay any attention to him nor afford him any special respect. After a while, Narāqi without showing any signs of unhappiness (at this treatment by Syed) bade farewell and left the gathering. News of this spread and the scholars of Najaf were bewildered by what Syed had done. A few days passed and Narāqi once again went to the residence of Syed to meet him. Once again Syed treated him the same, in fact perhaps even worse, but just like before without any display of irritation or ill-feelings Narāqi bade everyone present farewell and left.

As Narāqi’s time in Najaf was coming to an end, once again he decided to go to the residence of Syed to say his final goodbye, but this time as he entered Syed’s place to everyone surprise Syed had humbly come to the door to welcome him and greet him. Syed then embraced Narāqi warmly, showed him great respect and sat him next to himself like he would do to his own close students.

After the gathering finished Syed was asked for the reason why he acted in the first and second meetings with Narāqi. The Syed responded: “I read the great book Jāmi’ al-Sa’ādāt and I found it to be unparalleled in its field. I had wanted to meet the author and test him to see if he himself was practising what he had written about the virtue of ethics. I tested him in those two gatherings and I saw that he was extremely well versed with faith, ethics, forbearance and humility. And for this reason in the third gathering I treated him with great respect and saw that he was the very embodiment of ethics and righteous acts”.

Source: Website of Ayatollah Makārim Shirāzi

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