شیخ مفید در ذیقعده سال ۳۳۶ (قمری) در نزدیکی بغداد متولد شد. او استاد شیخ طوسی و سید مرتضی علمالهدی بود. او فقیه و کلامی شیعی بود که بسیار در علم کلام تبحر داشت و مکتب کلامی شیعه در عصر او به اوج کمال رسید.
او مورد تحسین و احترام بزرگان اهل تسنن از قبیل، ابن حجر عسقلانی، ابن عماد حنبلی، شافعی و دیگران بود. شیخ طوسی دربارهٔ او در الفهرست مینویسد: «محمد بن محمد بن نعمان، معروف به ابن المعلم (ابوالعلی معری این لقب را به وی داده)، از متکلمان امامیه است. درعصر خویش ریاست و مرجعیت شیعه به او منتهی گردید. در فقه و کلام بر هر کس دیگر مقدم بود. حافظه خوب و ذهن دقیق داشت و در پاسخ به سؤالات حاضرجواب بود. او بیش از ۲۰۰ جلد کتاب کوچک و بزرگ دارد.»
شیخ مفید در شب جمعه ۳ رمضان ۴۱۳ در بغداد، در سن ۷۵ سالگی درگذشت. هشتاد هزار تن از شیعیان او را تشییع کردند و سید مرتضی علمالهدی بر او نمازگزارد و در پایین پای محمد بن علی التقی (پیشوای نهم شیعیان) و استادش ابن قولویه مدفون گردید.
معروفترین شاگردان او عبارتند از:
«شیخ مفید» از عالمان و دانشمندان جهان اسلام است که با پایهگذاری اندیشه کلام شیعه در عرصههای علمی، فکری و فرهنگی مسلمانان تاثیر بسیار شگرفی نهاد و راهگشای دانش پژوهان و اندیشمندان بسیاری شد. شیخ نجاشی که از شاگردان اوست در کتاب رجال خود ۱۷۱ اثر او را نام بردهاست. برخی از آثار او عبارتاند از:
Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Nu'man al-'Ukbari al-Baghdadi known as al-Shaykh al-Mufid and Ibn al-Mu'allim (c. 948-1022 CE) was a prominent Twelver Shi'a theologian. He was son of Muallim, hence called Ibn Muallim. The title "al-Mufid" was given to him either by Muhammad al-Mahdi, a Shia twelfth Imam or by al-Rummani, a Sunni scholar, after a conversation with him. The leader of Shia community, was a Mutikallim, theologian and a shia jurist.
Taught by Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Ibn Qulawayh, Abu Abdallah al-Basri and al-Rummani, Sharif al-Murtaza and al-Shaykh al-Tusi were among his students. Only 10 of his 200 works have survived which include Amali, Al-Irshad, Al-Muqni'ah, Tashih al-Itiqadat and etc.
Early life and education
Al-Mufid was born in 'Ukbara, a small town to the north of Baghdad, on 11th Dhul Qa'dah in 336 Hijra. He was born in 338 A.H., according to Sheikh Tusi and later migrated together with his father to Baghdad, where the Shiite Buwayhids were ruling. He studied with Ibn Babawayh.
His students included Sharif al-Murtaza and al-Shaykh al-Tusi. His career coincided with that of the Mu'tazili theologian and leader of the Bahshamiyya school, 'Abd al-Jabbar. He was often attacked and his library and school was destroyed.
He was called Ibn Muallim, i.e. son of the teacher. Muallim was his father and His teachers included the Shia theologian Abu ALi al-Iskafi as well as Abu Abdallah al-Marzubani, Abu Abdallah al-Basri, Abu al-Hassan Ali ibn Isa al-Rummani.
Commonly known as the leader of the Shi'a, Al-Mufid is considered the most famous scholar and an eminent jurist in Buyid period mainly due to his contributions in the field of Kalam. According to Ibn al-Nadim who knew al-Mufid personally, he was the head of the Shia Mutekallimun in field of Kalam and al-Tawhidi, who was also personally familiar with al-Mufid, described him "eloquent and skillful at dialectic (jadal)". His skill at polemical debates was so that he was quipped to be capable of convincing his opponents "that a wooden column was actually gold". He was taught Islamic science of Hadith by Al-Shaykh al-Saduq.
His nickname "al-Mufid"
It is said that al-Mufid earned his title of al-Mufid as a result of a dispute about the relative merits of the two events—Ghadir Khumm and the Cave. Al-Mufid participated a lecture by Isa al-Rummani where al-Rummani claimed that Ghadir Khum was merely based on a riwayah, i.e. transmitted tradition, while the story of the Cave was based on diraya, i,e. knowledge, in a response to a question. After the lecture, al-Mufid visited al-Rummani and asked him about Talha and Zubayr who had rebelled against Ali, " a legitimate Imam". Al-Rummani responded that they had repented and al-Mufid claimed that their repenting was merely based on riwaya. Then, al-Rummani sent him to al-Basri with a note nicknaming the bearer al-Mufid, i.e. "the Instructor". However, according to Ibn Shahr Ashub in his Ma'alimul Ulamaa, the title was given to him by Muhammad al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam of Shia.
As a theologian
Taught by Abdallah al-Basri, the Mutazili theologian and hanafi jurist, he adopted many theological opinions. According to Macdermott, Mufid's theology is more like to the old Baghdad school of Mutazilism to Abdul Jabbar's late Basran system. Therefore, his methodology is close to Baghdad school. It seems that Mufid followed of Baghdad school and Mutazilism in explanation of questions such as God's unity and Justice. Of course Mufid has difference with Mutazilism in problem of Imamte and position of grave sin in this life. Al-Mufid tried to defend the role of reason-he described it as Al-Nazar- and also disputed for the truth and put a way faults with the help of argument and proofs. Also Mufid believed that the task of a theologian is according to reason and argument. His pupil, namely Abd Al Jabbar and Al-Murtada also followed of Al Mufid.
Al-Mufid defined God's unity as such:
According to Shaykh al-Mufid, except "some eccentric anthropomorphists" all the believers in God unity agree with this. Like Mutazilies, al-Mufid rejected "the simple realism of the Ash'arite theory of attribution." However al-Mufid and Abd al-Jabbar differently explain exactly to what an attribute refers, in the object or in the mind.
According to al-Mufid, there's an absolute necessity for prophets, because to know God and the moral principles man needs revelation and he noted that "every apostle [rasul] is a prophet but every prophet (nabi) is not an apostle." Although he cared to distinct between these different titles as Quran do, he did not believe in difference in their functions which enabled him to the levels of the prophets and the apostles except in terms of their names.
Al-Mufid defined the Imamiya as those who believe in the necessity of Imamah, Ismah and personal nass, i.e. personal designation. He tended to the belief that the Imams are superior to all the prophets and apostles except Muhammad. According to him Imams can "take the place of the prophets in enforcing judgments, seeing to the execution of the legal penalties, safeguarding the Law, and educating mankind," the definition which not only makes the Imam "the head of the community in administrative, judicial, and military matters," but also makes him "the authoritative teacher of mankind."
His criticisms on Al-Shaykh al-Saduq
On number of occasions he was critique of his teacher, Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, and his Tashih al-Itiqadat was a correction of al-Saduq's Risalat al-Itaqadat. Not limiting himself to theological matters, he rejected al-Saduq's refuge to akhbar al-ahad (single tradition) specially when a legal statement is to be issued. However, he did not object al-Saduq's views concerning the extent of the Quran and he only criticized al-Saduq's views on the nature of Qur'an. He accepted "religious and specualtive theology", unlike al-Saduq. While al-Saduq allowed controversy "only in the form of quoting and explaining the words of God, the Prophet, and the Imams", reporting a tradition from Jafar al-Sadigh, the sixth Imam of Shia, Shakh al-Mufid believed that there are two kinds of disputation, namely "true" and "vain".
Shaykh Al-Mufid is said to have written 200 works of which only little more than ten have survived. Some of his works are as follows:
Al-Mufid died on the the third day of Ramadan in 413 A.H. According to the Shi'ite writer Shaykh Tusi "The day of his death drew the largest crowd ever seen in any funeral, and both friends and foes wept uncontrollably". Buried in his own house for two years, Shaykh al-Mufid's body then was moved to Al Kadhimiya Mosque and was buried next to his teacher, Ibn Qulawayh al-Qummi. His grave is near the feet of two Shia Imams namely Musa al-Kadhim and his grandson Muhammad al-Jawad.
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