The World Federation Islamic Laws

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Translator's Preface

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In the name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the Ever-Merciful. All praise is for Allah, Lord of the worlds. May Allah bless Muḥammad and his pure progeny.

This work is a translation of the Persian Tawḍīḥ al‐Masāʾil (literally, Explanation of Rulings) of His Eminence al-Sayyid Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani. The text used for this translation is the thirty-first edition, pub- lished in 2014 by the Qum office of His Eminence. The following is a list of the most important conventions that have been adopted in this work.

  1. The particular wording employed by a jurist in his rulings is highly significant; sometimes, even small differences in expression can impact greatly on people’s lives. With this in mind, and given that the present work is a translation of a manual of jurisprudential rulings, the aim has been to produce a translation that is as close to the original wording as possible. However, where this approach would have produced unfamiliar or unclear expressions in English, a more idiomatic style has been adopted.
  2. Annotations and glosses have been added in an effort to enhance the reader’s understanding of the rulings and to facilitate cross-referencing with other parts of the work. Many of these annotations and glosses have been based on al-Sayyid al-Sistani’s other works on Islamic law, particularly Minhāj al‐Ṣāliḥīn.
  3. In order for all aspects of the work to be accessible to as many English-speaking people around the world as possible, the standard Arabic spelling and pronunciation has been used as a model for the transliteration of legal terminology; for example, amānah and ‘awwal’ have been preferred to ‘amānat’ and ‘avval’. For the same reason, in the case of compound terms, the Arabic form has been preferred; for example, ‘ahl al‐kitāb’ and al‐iḥtiyāṭ al‐wājibhave been used instead of ‘ahl‐i kitāb’ and ‘iḥtiyāṭ‐i wājib’.
  4. The transliteration of those Arabic parts of the text that in practice are meant to be articulated verbally has aimed to facilitate a more natural and uninterrupted pronunciation of the words and sentences. For example, in the section on the translation of prayers, ‘ihdinaṣ ṣirāṭal mustaqīm’ has been preferred to ‘ihdinā al‐ṣirāṭ al‐mustaqīm’.
  5. To avoid making the text longer and more complex than necessary by constantly stating ‘he/she’ in rulings common to both genders, the word ‘he’ is used to refer to both a man and a woman in those rulings.
  6. The words ‘should’ and ‘should not’ are used in the context of recommendations and disapprovals, whereas ‘must’ and ‘must not’ refer to instructions that are obligatory to follow.
  7. In the original work, many parts of the text that are in Arabic – including nearly all the supplications – are not translated into Persian. However, it was felt that all the Arabic text should be translated into English and included in the current work for the benefit of readers with little or no knowledge of Arabic.
  8. In order to produce a more fluid text, the use of square brackets to indicate the inclusion of words that are not in the original work has been kept to a minimum.
  9. Legal terminology has been translated into English on the first occasion in each chapter. Upon subsequent use of these terms, only the original Arabic word or its English equivalent is given, depending on which one was deemed to be more familiar to the majority of English-speaking Shia Muslims, or in some cases, more suited to the particular context. In the main headings, however, both the key Arabic and English terms have been mentioned. Original terms and their translations can also be found in the glossary and appendix at the end of the book.
  10. The translation of nearly all the Qur’anic passages are from Ali Quli Qara’i’s The Qur’an: With a Phrase‐by‐Phrase English Translation (London: ICAS Press, 2005).
  11. The invocation ‘ṣallal lāhu ʿalayhi wa ālih’ (may Allah bless him and his progeny) after the mention of Prophet Muḥammad has been indicated by the abbreviation ‘Ṣ’; similarly, the invocation ‘ʿalayhis/ʿalayhas/ʿalayhimus salām’ (peace be upon him/her/them) after the mention of one or all of the Imams, or Lady Fāṭimah, has been indicated by the abbreviation ‘ʿA’.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Shaykh Abbas Mohamed Husein Ismail and Dr Amir Dastmalchian for copy-editing and proofreading this work. I am also grateful to Mohammad Mehdi Baghi for his assistance with the meaning of certain words and phrases in the original text, and to Dr Haider Bhogadia for his help with anatomical terms. Warm thanks are due to Shaykh Kumail Rajani, The World Federation’s Head of Islamic Education, for his perceptive observations in the final draft of the text. I am grateful to the offices of His Eminence al-Sayyid al-Sistani in Qum and in London for providing clarification on certain rulings. My appreciation also goes to Sayyid Aliraza Naqvi, formerly The World Federation’s Assistant Secretary General responsible for Islamic Education, for initiating the project which has resulted in this translation and for his support throughout. For this combined edition, some of the revisions I have made are based on the feedback and suggestions I received from various members of the community, particularly Shaykh Rizwan Arastu; I am grateful to them all. Finally, I am thankful to my wife for all her valuable contributions, and to my children for their patience during the course of this work.

I beseech Allah, without whose grace nothing can come to fruition, to accept the efforts of all those who have been His agents in this project, and to bless us all with the success to worship Him and to live our lives as His true servants.


London, Rajab al-Murajjab 1438 / April 2017