He was born Sayyid Muhammad Hussain
Tabatabai in a small village near Tabriz, Iran, in 1321 AH. Upon completing his initial education in the seminary of Tabriz, he traveled to the holy city of Najaf for his higher education. In Najaf, he studied under such eminent scholars as Sheikh Muhammad Hussain al-Gharawi, Mirza Hussain Naini, Sayyid Abul Hassan al-Isfehani, Sayyid Muhammad Hujjat Kohkamri, and Sayyid Ali Qadi Tabatabai. Although he was by all means a competent and qualified jurisprudent, Allama Tabatabai's main areas of interest were philosophy, spirituality, and Gnosis. He was also quite knowledgeable in astronomy, mathematics, engineering, and several occult sciences (i.e. numerology, , etc.).