Obituary of Marhum Ayatollah al-‘Udhma Shaykh Lotfollah Saafi Golpaygani (r)

إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ
Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.

Imam al-Ridha (a) once said: “A jurist is one whose goodness reaches people, and saves them from their enemies…[On the Day of Judgment], he will be told: O guardian of the orphans of the progeny of P. Muhammad (saw); O guide of the meek ones among those who love and follow them, stand so that you may intercede for everyone who benefitted or learnt from you.”[1]

On the 1st of February, the heart of a zealous defender of the school and teachings of Ahlul Bayt (a) and a deputy of our 12th Imam (aj) stopped beating, as his eager soul departed this temporal abode answering the call of The Most Merciful.

It is with utmost sadness that The World Federation of KSIMC has received news of the demise of Marhum Ayatollah al-‘Udhma Shaykh Lotfollah Saafi Golpaygani (May Allah SWT have unending Mercy on him), after he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

On this sad event, we extend our most heartfelt condolences to Imam al-Hujjah (May Allah SWT hasten his reappearance), our grand maraji’ and scholars, the family of Marhum Ayatollah Golpaygani (r) and the whole of our community.

Marhum Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygani was born in the year 1919 AD in the city of Golpayegan, in the Islamic Republic of Iran. His father was the jurist and mystic Ayatollah Muhammad Jawad Saafi, and his mother was the pious Fatima Khanum, daughter of Ayatollah Muhammad ‘Ali. From a young age, they both sowed in him the seeds of passion for knowledge, spirituality, love of poetry and the wilaya of Ahlul Bayt (a).

He was inspired and trained by his dynamic cleric father to answer misconceptions (shubuhaat) and defend belief in Imam Zaman (aj), against deviant groups, which were active in Golpayegan.

In his teenage years, he started his journey on the path of Hawza studies in his native city of Golpayegan, studying various subjects including Arabic literature, tafsir, theology, and jurisprudence and its principles under numerous teachers including his father Ayatollah Muhammad Jawad Saafi.

In 1941, he resolved to bear the difficulties of migration and travelled to the holy city of Qom to continue his studies under the tutelage of its grand maraji’ and scholars including Ayatollah Khonsari and Ayatollah Borujerdi for a number of years, both of whom recognised his exceptional abilities as a student.

However, as his thirst for knowledge was ever deep, he once again migrated, this time to Najaf al-Ashraf, Iraq, where he was exposed to different scholarly approaches and methodologies, in the vicinity of the Gate of the City of Knowledge, Imam ‘Ali (a). Amongst his teachers there were Ayatollahs Sayyid Jamal Gulpaygani, Muhammad Kadhim Shirazi and Muhammad ‘Ali Kadhimi.

Throughout his seminary studies, Marhum Ayatollah Golpaygani demonstrated exceptional intelligence and spiritual excellence, and after 15 years of interactively participating in bahth al-kharij, he attained a unique position with Grand Ayatollah Borujerdi as one of his special advisers regarding religious inquiries, during the latter’s global marja’iyyat, with his own qualification to engage in independent legal reasoning (ijtihad) becoming formerly recognised in the seminary of Qom, approximately fifty years ago. He was also the former’s representative in the seminary of Qom and was responsible for examining advanced students seeking to graduate from the level of bahth al-kharij. Later, as a qualified trusted faqih, he was personally endorsed by Marhum Imam Khomeini and Ayatollah Muhammad Redha Golpaygani to be actively involved in the team of experts responsible for drafting the constitution of the newly born Islamic Republic of Iran.

Even though he was already qualified, however, only after the death of the previous marja’ of our community, Ayatollah al-‘Udhma Sayyed Muhammad Redha Golpaygani (r) in 1993, and upon a lot of insistence from believers, did the reluctant Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygani (q), take up the responsibility of being a marja’ taqlid.

As for his books and writings, he authored approximately 150 books and scholarly works, with many being translated to various other languages. Some of these include:

  • “Selected Narrations about The Twelfth Imam (a)”, (prompted by his teacher Ayatollah Borujerdi, and praised by some as one of the best books written about Imam Mahdi (aj); some recommend that every mumin should have a copy of this book).
  • “Theology in Nahjul Balagha”
  • “The Holy Month of Ramadhan: The lofty school of education and ethics”
  • “One hundred and Ten Internet-related Questions”
  • “Religious Inquiries Related to Medical Treatment”
  • “The Call of Islam from Europe”
  • “Theological Articles”
  • “Biography of Jabir ibn Hayyaan”.


In addition, he was a renowned poet with many works about tawhid, ethics, Ahlul Bayt (a),  such as:

  • The Sun of Those Who Shine (Ashura poetry office)
  • The Booklet of a Believer
  • In Anticipation of Meeting (poems of recitations regarding Imam al-Zaman aj.)

Indeed, some characterised him as the mahdawi marja’ for his prolific works on the Living Imam (aj).

During his blessed life, despite his many preoccupations and extremely busy schedule, Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygani (r) was always a keen supporter and fatherly guide to the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri community, whereby he would always be ready to meet and warmly welcome important figures, scholars, students and members of our community, showing affection, answering questions and enlightening their path. He was one of the maraji’, whom newlywed couples from the community would have the honour of meeting, during the Couples Retreats. When youth from the community would visit him, he would sit among them with a smile on his bright face, patiently listening to their queries and answering them with fatherly love.

On the same note, his humility and special care for the African community and African students was a shining aspect of his personality, whereby in appreciation for the efforts and sacrifices that they make, His Eminence once bowed down and kissed the hand of an African student who he had just clothed with a turban, during an acknowledgement ceremony of placing turbans on the heads of graduate Hawza students. One of the Hawza teachers reports that this humble loving gesture made all the foreign students weep at the scene!

He was well-known to bravely promote the good and prohibit the forbidden (amr bil-ma’ruf wa nahi ‘anil munkar) even to influential politicians, and despite being a marja’ he would also personally encourage and appreciate public figures who would carry out nahy ‘anil munkar. Like his virtuous predecessors, he led a simple life and had compassion for the needy and downtrodden. Often, he would issue a blanket permission (ijazah) for half of the blessed sahm-e-Imam (aj) of khums to be used by the public in emergency situations, such as in floods and in the aftermath of earthquakes.

His son reports how the Ayatollah would often say that in all his academic services he rendered to Islam, he was deeply indebted to his wife for her continuous encouragement and support! In fact, he would add that she had done a great favour on all those who read and benefit from these works!

On the 1st of February 2022, after a life of sacrifice, gaining and spreading knowledge, and defending the school of Ahlul Bayt (a), following a cardiac arrest, Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygani’s soul answered the summons of its Lord. He has left behind generations of capable students, deep knowledge, and countless inspired hearts.

We pray to Allah (SWT) to elevate his rank in the hereafter and grant him the proximity of our Holy Prophet (saw) and his immaculate progeny, in the station of the loftiest (‘illiyyeen). We also ask Allah, The Almighty to inspire patience to his family and all those who benefited and learnt from him, and to grant long prosperous lives to our maraji’, especially Ayatollah al-‘Udhma Sayyid ‘Ali al-Sistani (d) – who suitably described the Marhum as a deeply godly scholar (‘alim rabbaniy), who was among the pillars of the Hawza and exemplary servants of the faith – and grant us tawfiq in following their guidance.

We also thank Allah (SWT) for the opportunity to see in our maraji’ practical inspiring exemplars of the Qur’anic and Prophetic lifestyle through the teachings of Ahlul Bayt (a).

Please recite al-Fatiha for Marhum Ayatollah Golpaygani and all of our marhumeen.

The World Federation of KSIMC
Islamic Education Department

[1]Al-Tabarsi, Ahmad ibn ‘Ali (d.apprx. 560 AH): “Al-Ihtijaaj”, v.1, pg.9.