Haeri was born in the city of Meybod in Mehrjard village in southeastern Iran. He studied at Yazd, then at Samarra under Grand Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi, completed his training at Najaf with Mohammad-Kazem Khorasani and
Muhammad Kazim Yazdi. In 1906, he reportedly became disenchanted with the politicization from the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and moved back to Najaf, Iraq. When Najaf became political, he moved to Karbala until political excitement cooled in 1913 when he moved back to Arak in Iran. By 1921, he was a "well-known and respected teacher" and "good administrator" and he accepted an invitation of Mullahs in Qom "to act as doyen" to the circles of learning in that Shrine town.
Under Haeri, Qom moved from a respectable provincial Madrasah to a major center of learning close to the level of Najaf. Although "some of his contemporaries outshone" him as jurisconsults, Haeri became the marja for "many religious Iranians."
Haeri's quietism was reflected in his willingness to meet cordially with both Shah Ahmad Shah Qajar and Prime Minister Reza Khan.