Sayyid Abu al-Hasan Isfahani and Banning a Racist Preacher

Āyatullah Sayyid Shubayrī Zanjānī (Jura’ay-ī az Daryā, vol. 3, pg. 442-444):

There was a very famous Iraqi preacher known for his excellence, extra-ordinary qualities and propagation1, such that if the Arabs would generally give their speakers 1 Toman, they would give this speaker 100 Tomans. He was a contemporary of Sayyid Abu al-Ḥasan Isfahānī (d. 1946). I’ve heard from some that the Arab speakers would all speak from memory (and were repetitive), except this preacher who was very creative and outspoken. He was a scholar and had studied under Ākhund Khurāsānī (d. 1911). His example amongst the Arab preachers was like the example of Āqā Muḥammad-Taqī Falsafī amongst the Persians.

This preacher was against Sayyid Abū al-Hasan al-Isfahānī and perhaps due to his opposition, he was against the Persians as well. Since his lectures were very outspoken, getting into a confrontation with him was not a simple matter. Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasan wanted to prohibit his lectures, but because there was a chance people may have thought this prohibition is being given due to personal reasons, he was looking for some other valid reason to issue this verdict. During this time he consulted with some other seniors and informed them about the situation so that they would know not to go against this prohibition unknowingly.2

I heard from Āqā Qudsī Maḥallātī – who was a close friend of Sayyid Abū al-Hasan and later moved to Qom – that Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasan did not want the prohibition of the preacher’s lectures to be perceived as a personal matter. So for this reason he was looking for a reason for the preacher to say something which would give Sayyid Abū Al-Ḥasan a justified reason to prohibit his talks.

Like always, one time the preacher was speaking for the Arabs audience and was motivating them against the Persians and said: “You should learn prejudice from the Persians. Even though the Imams are 12, they mostly seek the intercession of Imam Riḍā (a) and call out to him as Yā Zāmin-i Āhū, just because he is buried in Iran. Likewise, they seek the intercession of Imam Sajjād (a) and call out to him as Yā Imām-i Bīmār because his mother was Persian. Until he said, all the infallibles are Imams and I love all of them, but I do not like Imam Sajjād (a) at the same level as I love and admire all the other Imams, because his mother was Persian!

When he said this on the pulpit, Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasan had found a reason to prohibit the preacher’s talks. The Arabs still remained prejudiced and would continue to invite him, until, during one of his talks that had been organized by the Arabs, one of the influential scholars known for his piety and was admired by all Arabs (apparently this scholar was Shaykh Muḥammad Bāqir Qāmūsī or Shaykh Jawāhirī) walked past this gathering. The Arabs invited the scholar inside to participate, but he responded: “These are gatherings in which other than Allah is being sought!” When Shaykh Muḥammad Bāqir Qāmūsī or Shaykh Jawāhirī said this, that preacher’s reputation had been totally ruined amongst the Arabs and he was ultimately forced to come to Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasanī and ask for forgiveness. He asked for forgiveness one or two times, but each time he would break it.

Finally, Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasan asked him to repent and ask for forgiveness in a public gathering in the courtyard of the shrine of Amīr al-Mu’minīn (a). Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasan led the congregational prayers in the courtyard that day and then the preacher went up on the pulpit to give his lecture. As he spoke, there was nothing in his words that signified his regret and forgiveness, and in fact, it seemed as if he would attack the Persians again. When Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasan saw there are no signs of forgiveness in his speech, he grabbed his cane and wanted to get up, but there was a man who was apparently the one who organized the gathering, who requested Sayyid Abū al-Hasan to stay and said: “If you get up (and leave), people will kill him.”

Eventually, he made sure Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasan remained seated and the preacher eventually asked for forgiveness and then looked at Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasan and said: “Is that sufficient?” Meaning, is your heart at ease now?!

The story was narrated during the first half of Ṣafar, 1432 AH, in Qom and as well as on 22nd Ramaḍan 1433, in Mashhad


  1. Ayatullah Shubayrī Zanjānī: I have heard this preacher had attended the lectures of Shaykh Ghulām-Riḍā Ṭabasī – the father of Shaykh Abbas Wā‘iẓ Ṭabasī (d. 2016) who was the chairman of Astan Quds Razavi – and was inspired by them. Shaykh Ghulām-Riḍā was a top-level preacher in Mashhad and was very well known for his sanctity and piety. [22 Ramaḍān, 1433 – Mashhad]
  2. Āqā Riḍā Ṣadr says: Sayyid Abū al-Ḥasan also consulted with my father and asked whether my prohibition on attending his lectures will gain traction or not? My father said: Āqa, you prohibit it, your prohibition will bear fruit!

    I don’t know whether Sayyid Ṣadr al-Dīn Ṣadr was in Najaf at that time or whether he had gone for the visitation of the shrines in other cities. The reason why Sayyid Ṣadr al-Dīn believed the prohibition would be successful is because that preacher had no control over his tongue and by then he had annoyed a lot of other seniors who were all fed up with him, and all hoped someone could admonish him. Just one example of what the person would say was transmitted by Āqā Riḍa who said this preacher was on the pulpit one day and said, “We have been tested by three Kāẓims: Kāẓim Khurāsānī, Kāẓim Yazdī and Kāẓim Subbī!” Kāẓim Subbī who was destitute and a mugger, while the preacher put his name alongside the name of Ākhund Khurāsānī and Sayyid Muḥammad Kāẓim. The preacher himself would confess that he has no control over his tongue and would often say: There is a blemish in my tongue.