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KASHANI, ABOL-QASEM (1882 in Tehran, Iran – 14 March 1962 in Tehran, Iran),   more fully, Ayatollah Hajj Sayyid Abu al-Qasim Kashani, Iranian religious and political leader during the national movement in the 1950s. Born in Tehran, Kashani made a pilgrimage to Mecca at the age of fifteen and settled in Najaf, Iraq, to pursue his education. He studied under Ayatollahs Khurasani, Khalili Tihrani, and Kamarah’i and became a mujtahid at twenty-five. His political activity began against British rule in Iraq when his father was killed in an uprising in April 1916. Sentenced to death in absentia, he escaped to Iran around February 1921.


Between 1921 and 1941, Kashani initially enjoyed Reza Shah Pahlavi’s support and was elected to the Constituent Assembly, which approved the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925. However, he soon lost the shah’s friendship, abstained from politics, and confined himself to teaching.

Toward the end of Reza Shah’s reign, Kashani became involved in pro-German activities. In January 1942, Kashani, General Fazlullah Zahedi (Fazl Allah Zahidi), and several army officers and politicians founded the Nahzat-i Milliyun-i Iran (Movement of Iranian Nationalists). The group was soon discovered, its members were arrested, and Kashani was sent into exile.

After World War II, Kashani, in cooperation with the grand mufti of Jerusalem, al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni, and the Iraqi military officer, Rashid ‘Ali al-Kilani, opposed the establishment of Israel, mobilized volunteers to aid Palestine, and collected funds for Palestinians. At home in Iran, Kashani opposed nearly all governments after 1945 either on policy or personal grounds. Prime Ministers `Abd al-Husayn Hazhir and Hossein ‘Ali Razmara were both assassinated by the Fida’iyan-i Islam-presumably with Kdshdni’s blessing.

On 4 February 1949, after an attempt on the shah’s life, Kashani was exiled to Lebanon. In June 195o, he returned from exile and was elected to the Majlis (“parliament”) from Tehran.

Kashani’s power and popularity increased enormously during the movement to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. In the Majlis and outside, his followers began to mobilize support for the National Front under Mohammad Mossadegh’s leadership. On 30 April 1951 Mossadegh was appointed prime minister.

Kashani’s relations with Mossadegh had three phases: April 1951-2o July 1952 marked the strengthening of their friendship and cooperation; the 20 July 1952 uprising saw Kashani working actively to remove Qavvam alSaltanah and bring Mossadegh back to the premiership; October 1952 until the coup d’etat of i9 August 1953, when differences emerged between them, Kashani finally broke with Mossadegh and turned to General Zahedi and the Pahlavi court. The main reasons for the break were: Kashani’s expectation of more power and control over the cabinet; Mossadegh’s desire to keep the clergy out of the governmental process; Mossadegh’s inability to settle the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute; and the clergy’s fear of the growth of communism.

The coup d’etat of 19 August 1953 that overthrew Mossadegh’s government also ended Kdshdni’s political career. General Zahedi, the new prime minister, offered Kashani a seat in the senate. Kashani rejected the offer and pressured Zahedi to implement the oil nationalization law. Zahedi ignored the ayatollah, who then declared Zahedi a dictator; Kashani’s continued activities against Zahedi’s government resulted in his arrest and imprisonment in July 1956 on charges of cooperation with the Fida’iyan-i Islam in Razmara’s assassination in 1951. However, K ashani’s old age and the mediation of Ayatollahs Mohammad Hosayn Borujerdi (Mohammad Husayn Burujirdi) and Abu al-Fazl Zanjani saved his life. In 1958 his son, Mustafa, was mysteriously poisoned. This tragic event and disillusionment with politics caused Kashani to leave politics. He died on 14 March 1962.

Kashani was a nationalist, a Constitutionalist, antiBritish, anticolonialist, anticommunist, Pan-Islamist, and a pragmatist. He was combative, loved power, and lacked modesty but did not seek worldly and material possessions. Indeed, he died a poor man. He advocated the unity of the spiritual and the temporal spheres, seeing the separation of religion and politics as a colonial plot. However, he never sought direct rule by the clergy.

Kashani welcomed technological modernization and adoption of certain aspects of Western institutions. He advocated political reform in Iran but did not desire structural change in its political system. He strongly believed in legality and saw a role for both secular and religious law in public life.

Kashani’s major contribution to the status of the Iranian Wamd’ was his revival of their traditional leadership role as spokesmen of popular discontent. The clerical opposition toward the government after 1963, and the developments that led to the 1979 revolution, were considerably influenced by Kashani’s ideas and activities. Although his views differed greatly from his clerical successors regarding Iranian nationalism, the place of shari’ah in society, and attitudes toward the West, many of his ideas were elaborated by Ayatollah Khomeini and formed the foundations of his government. The messianic mission for the Wamd’ that Kashani so often emphasized was expanded by Khomeini and formulated in the doctrine of vilayat-i fagth (wildyat alfaqih). Finally, Kashani’s most important legacy was his dream of a nonaligned political bloc of all Muslim states, which found resonance in Khomeini’s “neither East nor West” policy.

[See also Fida’iyan-i Islam; Iran.]


Akhavi, Shahrough. “The Role of the Clergy in Iranian Politics, 1949-1954.” In Musaddiq, Iranian Nationalism, and Oil, edited by James Bill and Roger Louis. London, 1988.

Ayat, Hasan. Darshd’i as Tdrikh-i Siyasi-i Iran. Tehran, 1984. Faghfoory, Mohammad H. “The Role of the Ulama in TwentiethCentury Iran with Particular Reference to Ayatullah Hai Sayyid Abulqasim Kashani.” Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1978.

Guruhi az Havadaran-i Nahzat-i Islaml-i Iran dar Urupa. Ruhaniyat va Asrar-i Fash Nashudah az Nahzat-i Milli Shudan-i San’at-i Naft dar Iran. Qom, 1358/1979

Kashani, Mahmud. Qiyam-i Millat-i Musulman-i Irdn. Tehran, 1359/ 1980.

Richard, Yann. “Ayatollah Kashani: Precursor of the Islamic Republic?” In Religion and Politics in Iran: Sh’ism from Quietism to Revolution, edited by Nikki R. Keddie, pp. 101-124. New Haven and London,1983.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/kashani-abol-qasem/

  • writerPosted On: July 20, 2014
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