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HA’IRI YAZDI, `ABD AL-KARIM (1859-1936), the most prominent teacher among the `ulama’ (community of religious scholars) in the city of Qom from 1921 to 1936. He received religious training in Iraq from Mirza Hasan Shirazi (d. 1896), Muhammad al-Fisharaki al-Isfahani (d. 1899), and Mulla Muhammad Kazim Khurasani (d. 1911). He persisted throughout his life in maintaining a position of strict noninvolvement in political matters. Between 1900 and 1913 he moved between the western Iranian town of Arak, where he had established a center of learning, and Iraq in order to avoid being involved in political matters, such as the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1909 and the antiBritish movement in Iraq. From Karbala, Iraq, he moved to Arak in 1913, and then to Qom in 1920. There, he founded a seminary called the Hawzah-yi `Ilmiyah, which became the premier institution of religious education in Iran (Tihrani, vol. 3, pp. 1158-1167; Hairi, p. 136).

Ha’iri maintained his policy of strict nonintervention in political affairs throughout his stay in Qom and until the end of his life in 1936. This is clear from his silence during the British expulsion of Shi’i leaders from Iraq in 1923 and the insurrection by some Isfahan clergy in Iran in 1924 (over opium production) and in the case of the exiling of Ayatollah Muhammad Taq-i Bafqi (owing to his criticism of the behavior of ladies of the royal court in the Qom shrine) in 1928. Apart from his wish not to invite military intervention by Reza Khan Pahlavi, which might hurt the Hawzah-yi `Ilmiyah, there was also the fact that he considered these activities as political (Tihrani, vol. 1, p. 249; vol. 3, pp. 1158-1167; Hairi, pp. 135-136). This position of political noninterference over the years was a cause of wonderment to many, but, according to one of his sons, was rooted in his natural disposition (Hairi, p. 136). During his stay in Qom, he became involved with political issues only twice, and even then only momentarily and against his better judgment. It was Ha’iri, together with Muhammad Husayn Na’ini (d. 1936) and Abfi al-Hasan Isfahaln (d. 1945), who convinced Reza Khan in 1924 to drop the idea of making Iran a republic (Hairi, pp. 142143). In 1932 Hd’irli sent a strongly worded message to Reza Shah in which he said that, although up to then he had not interfered in any political matters, certain new policies (the Dress Law of 1928 and the general curtailment of the `ulama’s social standing) were contrary to Sh-`Y law and that he was duty-bound to inform the shah that his actions were intolerable (Razi, pp. 35-36).

Ha’iri did not press this and other issues and, out of concern for the long-term well-being of Islam and the clerical community, he did not exhort other `ulama’ or his followers to openly revolt against the government. He once publicly stated, “It is due to this security [brought by Reza Shah] that I can fulfill my duties to Islam and teach in this city,” and he exhorted all Iranians to follow their progressive monarch (Faghfoory). Ha’iri’s most famous student was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (d. 1989), who clearly disagreed with his teacher on the role of the marja` al-taglid, the most distinguished rank among the religious leaders. Ha’iri advanced the notion that a Shi’i could follow more than one marja` al-taglid on different aspects of Islamic law, a position later supported by Ayatollah Murtaza Mutahhari (d. 1979), who was one of Khomeini’s most famous students and who believed that Islamic jurisprudence had grown too complex to be mastered by one individual in all its aspects (Mutahhari, vol. 1, p. 218). [See also Constitutional Revolution; Qom; and the biographies of Na’ini and Pahlavi.]


Agha Buzurg al-Tihrani, Muhammad Muhsin. Tabaqdt A’lam alShi ah (The Shi’i Clergy). 3 vols. Najaf, 1954-1962. Standard source for the biographies of modern shi’i clergy.

Faghfoory, Mohammad H. “Modernization and Professionalism of the `Ulama’ in Iran, 1925-1941.” Journal of Iranian Studies 26.3-4 (Summer-Fall 1993). Discusses trends in the religious institution during the rule of Reza Shah.

Fischer, Michael M. J. Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution. Cambridge, Mass., 198o. Study of cultural idioms, religious discourse, and the Iranian clergy, particularly in Qom, in the Pahlavi period.

Hairi, Abdul-Hadi. Shi ism and Constitutionalism. Leiden, 1977. Investigates the role of the clergy in the early twentieth century, with a focus on the Constitutional Revolution and the early Reza Shah period.

Mutahhan, Murtaza. “Asl-i Ijtihad dar Islam” (The Basis of Ijtihad in Islam). In Guftdr-i Mah. 3 vols. Tehran, 1959-1961. Argues that fiqh has become too complex to be mastered by any one religious leader.

Razi, zangipuri Muhammad. Astir-i Hujjah va Tarikh va Da’irah yi Ma’arif-i Hawzahyi `Ilmiyah yi Qumm (The Works of Proof and the History and Cycle of Learning of the Qom Seminary). Qom, 1959 History of Qom’s seminary, with a focus on personalties.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/hairi-yazdi-abd-al-karim/

  • writerPosted On: June 10, 2013
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