A number of Shaykh Aḥmad’s contemporaries in the scholastic establishment were not his students or disciples strictly speaking, but some of them were both pillars of that establishment as well as admirers who sought and received licenses from him for the narration of the
) of the Imāms
. Being scholars in their own right, they had no need for these licenses except to have the honor of being able to claim association with the Shaykh. We restrict ourselves to mentioning four of the most famous as well as one lesser known figure:
Ḥājj Muḥammad Ibrāhīm Karbāsī
Of the most influential scholars of Isfahan, he was probably the most outwardly devoted to Shaykh Aḥmad. After the passing of the Shaykh, Ḥājj Muḥammad Ibrāhīm led three days of mourning dedicated to praying for his departed spirit, attended by both the notables of Isfahan as well as the elites (Khwānsārī 1938, p. 232). Like his friend Mullā ʿAlī Nūrī, he was also a student of the mystical philosopher Āqā Muḥammad Bīdābādī. The specialty of Ḥājj Muḥammad Ibrāhīm was philosophy of law, a field in which he wrote a famous multi-volume work,
Sayyid ʿAbdullāh Shubbar was especially famous as a theologian and a commentator on the Qurʾān. One of his most popular books is his two-volume
, on the essentials of
Shaykh Muḥammad Ḥasan al-Najafī
Shaykh Muḥammad Ḥasan is the author of
, an encyclopedia of jurisprudence that is arguably the very most important work in that field up to today. Despite his (relatively minor) connection with Shaykh Aḥmad, he was critical of the efforts of the latter’s student, Sayyid Kāẓim. Given the polemical nature of the sources, this is an area that needs more careful research.
It was Shaykh Murtaḍā who revolutionized the foundations of the philosophy of law so much so that it is not an exaggeration to say that virtually all of the
of today follow his school of legal philosophy in one way or other. He is famous for the advanced text
. In his personal life he exemplified, in palpapble ways, some of the practical philosophy of Shaykh Aḥmad. He is quoted by some as having privately praised the Shaykh for understanding, more than anyone else, the cosmological meanings behind the rules of, e.g., the daily rituals of cleanliness.
Mullā Muḥammad Mahdī ibn Muḥammad Shafīʿ Astarābādī
Already an established scholar, he happened to be living in Kirmanshah around the time that Shaykh Aḥmad established residence there. About a year before the passing of Shaykh Aḥmad he moved to Lucknow, India (Momen 1991, p. 56), where he worked as an important scholar. Three or four of the treatises of Shaykh Aḥmad were written in response to sets of questions submitted by this
Mullā Muḥammad Mahdī occupies something of an intermediary position. Despite his close association with Shaykh Aḥmad in Kirmanshah, it is not clear that he was a disciple in the strict sense of the word, as is the case of the scholars in the earlier list of students; apparently he later became a critic of
of Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī (Ṣadr 2008, Vol. 6, p. 120). His name merits mention in this list of contemporaries for at least two reasons:
One of the sets of questions sent by Mullā Muḥammad Mahdī to Shaykh Aḥmad includes some inquiries pertaining to some fine points in the Peripatetic philosophy of Ibn Sīnā and Fārābī (Aḥsāʾī 2009, Vol. 2, pp. 469–504). This is unusual; usually philosophical questions presented to the Shaykh were in the context of either his own thought or that of the Illuminationists in the school of Mullā Ṣadrā. The answers given by Shaykh Aḥmad in his reply are thus important for examining his relationship to the earlier, classical, period of Islāmic Philosophy.
Mullā Muḥammad Mahdī may provide an example of what appears to have been the relatively common phenomenon of a contemporary who was deeply impressed by the knowledge and personality of Shaykh Aḥmad while at the same time kept a certain distance as the controversies within the establishment were escalating.
An important contemporary, admirer, and sometime critic of the Shaykh was
Mullā ʿAlī ibn Jamshīd al-Nūrī
), head of the followers of Mullā Ṣadrā in Isfahan. According to Hamid Algar (1969, p. 67) this Mullā also received an
) from Shaykh Aḥmad. Despite his concerns with regards to the Shaykh’s criticisms of Mullā Ṣadrā, that could very well be the case. On the other hand, it is not yet clear to this author that Algar’s claim is correct, and it needs to be investigated further. We will say more about Mullā ʿAlī Nūrī in Section 4.2.
Despite Shaykh Aḥmad’s severe opposition to Sufism and Ṣūfī influences within philosophy, some of the more Shīʿī-oriented Ṣūfī orders tried to claim him or associate themselves with him in a positive way.
Shaykh Jaʿfar Qarāgazūlī Hamadānī
, also known as Majdhūb ʿAlī Shāh (d. 1239
), head of the Niʿmatullāhī order at that time, was facing considerable pressure from his opponents within the scholastic establishment. In 1237
, about a year before passing away, he reached out to Shaykh Aḥmad by way of submitting his statement of religious belief to the latter for review. That is, he sought Shaykh Aḥmad’s assessment of that statement and even asked him to correct it. At the beginning of his letter, Shaykh Jaʿfar mentions a meeting he had with Shaykh Aḥmad and the deep impression the latter left on his own heart. The Shaykh replied with a respectful yet dispassionate critical commentary on Shaykh Jaʿfar’s creed (Aḥsāʾī 2009, Vol. 5, pp. 5–14). That the head of the Niʿmatullāhī order would make Shaykh Aḥmad the arbiter of his own
) speaks for itself.
Representatives of the Dhahabī order have also claimed that Shaykh Aḥmad studied under their own
, Sayyid Quṭbuddīn Muḥammad Shīrāzī, during a trip he made to al-Aḥsāʾ (Shīrāzī 196?, Vol. 3, p. 217). However, as pointed out by Mīrzā ʿAlī ibn Mūsā, also known by the honorific
Trustworthy in Islām
), Sayyid Quṭbuddīn passed away in 1173
), when Shaykh Aḥmad was at most seven years old; this makes the Dhahabī claim chronologically impossible.