A brief biography and academic record of Ayatollah Sayed Kamal al-Haydari
A) Personal life:
Sayed Kamal al-Haydari was born in the holy city of Karbala in 1957. He developed interest for religious studies during his teenage while pursuing his mainstream education and started attending various classes of prominent scholars on Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and principals of Jurisprudence (Usul). He was involved in various socio-political activities which led to his arrest by the Ba’ath regime and finally he was forced to leave his hometown and settle in the holy city of Qom, Iran. Ayatollah Haydari’s three brothers were martyred by the Ba’ath regime.
Serving Ahul Bayt’s school of thought academically is a divine blessing and honor attained by a few scholars. This mission is achieved through proximity to the holy verses and narrations and by spending an entire lifetime in contemplating over them with utmost determination in studying and learning various Islamic sciences and values including Tafsir, Hadith, jurisprudence, Usul, mysticism, philosophy, theology and ethics.
B) Education and teachers:
Sayed Kamal al-Haydari began his education in Karbala and later Najaf under some of the most renowned scholars, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr, Sayed Abul Qasim Khoei, Mirza Ali Gharavi and Sayed Nasrullah Mustanbit being the most prominent of them. He was so influenced by the scientific methods and persona of Shaheed Sadr amongst all of them that he was appointed as Sadr’s representative in Karbala. Shaheed Sadr’s strong influence on Ayatollah Haydari can be visibly seen in his books and works.
After moving to Qom, he studied Tafsir, philosophy and mysticism under Ayatollah Jawadi Amoli and Allama Hassanzade Amoli and Fiqh and Usul under Ayatollah Mirza Jawad Tabrizi and Ayatollah Shaykh Hossein Vahid Khorasani. Now, he himself teaches Darse Kharij (Higher stage) in the subjects of Fiqh, Usul, philosophy, mysticism, Tafsir and theology from a few years after successfully teaching many Sat’h courses (Lower stage). Owing to the Arabic medium of his classes, he has been able to impart a lot of the profound knowledge present in the Shi’a seminaries especially the Qom seminary, particularly works of Imam Khomeini and Allama Tabatabaei to the Arab world. Because of huge public reception to his classes, he has recently started to instruct courses in Persian as well.
C) His methodology in religious studies:
Holism in Islamic sciences:
One of the most important characteristics of Ayatollah Haydari’s approach to religious studies is his holism and application of various religious sciences. A religious scholar is holistic only if he has knowledge of all the dimensions of the religion’s teachings. This does not mean that a mere basic knowledge is enough, instead he ought to have a deep understanding of them and have Ijtihad in them. And if possible, be a theorist in all fields. Simply speaking, a complete and holistic scholar must be an expert in all three fields of theology, ethics and jurisprudence.
Introducing new ideas and theories:
Sayed Kamal al-Haydari introduces new concepts, methods, approaches and principles in various Islamic sciences which are thought provoking, and sometimes against the popular belief of the scholars. Those who read his books or listen to his lectures, will definitely be exposed to new horizons and matters in various fields of knowledge.
A strong hold over contemporary thought and theories:
Sayed Kamal al-Haydari has a strong hold over the influential contemporary ideas and theories which he has acquired by deeply studying the works and views of both, Shia and Sunni Muslim scholars. He is one of the few scholars who have a good grasp over important ideas and thoughts present in Iran and the Arab world as well as non-Muslim thinkers.
Free thought and courage
Another feature of Sayed Kamal al-Haydari’s research in religious sciences is his intellectual independence and freedom of thought regarding basic religious beliefs and an active and non-abiding approach to others’ opinions. According to him, the consensus of the scholars, popular belief and postulates have no credibility. Logic and proof is the only criterion he accepts in intellectual discussions. He, at times questions and contemplates on various principles and foundations that have been accepted by religious scholars without questioning for ages. When some of these ideas are looked at critically, it becomes clear that they are not supported by strong logic and scientific proof and thus need a re-evaluation.
A strong faith on the comprehensiveness and interdependence of Islamic sciences:
Fifth characteristic of Sayed Kamal al-Haydari’s religious thought and the foundation of the first characteristic is his strong faith on a strong relationship between different Islamic sciences.
He believes that separation of Islamic sciences is possible only for the sake of studying and teaching them, otherwise limiting oneself to only one subject is meaningless when solving an issue related to jurisprudence or beliefs and will result in tremendous mistakes and contradictions. If we see different subjects are taught separately in universities and seminaries, some study jurisprudence, some theology and some philosophy, it is because there is no other option but to separate them and to learn each of them in a particular time and conditions, academically. This, although has led to the incorrect idea that it is possible to learn Islamic sciences independent from each other.
According to the said approach, he apart from teaching various subjects, by the grace of God, has had tremendous success in writing books too. Sayed Kamal al-Haydari has published more than 130 works in the fields of Fiqh, Usul, Tafsir, Hadith, theology, philosophy, mysticism, ethics, logic and epistemology, etc. Most of his works are in Arabic and some of them have been translated to Persian. Around 20 other books have been translated to Persian and will be published gradually, Insha Allah.