Abu Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Nu’man al-Ukbari al-Baghdadi, also known as al-Shaykh al-Mufid, was one of the greatest Shia scholars of the tenth century. He was a mutakallim, theologian, and Shia jurist.
He was among great revivers of Islamic sciences and among the hardworking preachers of Shia culture and Imamiyya fiqh. He was taught by Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Ibn Qulawayh, Abu Abdallah al-Basri and al-Rummani, and Sharif al-Murtaza and Shaykh Tusi were among his students.
Before al-Shaykh al-Mufid, following the appearance of hadiths was very common and using intellect and rational approach to draw out religious rulings was not very popular and this had made an obstacle on the way of development of sciences and the progress of scholars. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid stood against the dominant stagnation and by compiling the principles of fiqh, founded a new fiqh in practice. This approach in ijtihad was a middle way between hadith approach of al-Shaykh al-Saduq and the comparative approach of Ibn al-Junayd in fiqh. At the beginning, al-Shaykh compiled some principles in al-Tadhkira bi-usul al-fiqh for drawing out the rulings, and al-Sayyid al-Murtada in his al-Dhari’a and al-Shaykh al-Tusi in ‘Uddat al-usul followed al-Shaykh al-Mufid’s initiative. However, al-Shaykh himself received the inspiration for this approach from Ibn Abi ‘Aqil al-‘Ummani.
For his al-I’lam fi ma Ittafaqat al-Imamiyya ‘alayh min al-ahkam, al-Shaykh has been regarded as the founder of comparative fiqh, whose work was complemented and promoted by al-Sayyid al-Murtada’s al-Dhari’a, al-Shaykh Tusi’s al-Khilaf and al-‘Allama al-Hilli’s Tadhkirat al-fuqaha.
Al-Mufid died on the eve of Friday, Ramadan 3, 413/November 30,1022. His student al-Sharif al-Murtada led his funeral prayer, in the presence of nearly eighty thousand people, a crowd never seen before in any funeral in Baghdad.