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NA’INI, MUHAMMAD HUSAYN (May 25, 1860-1936), the leading theoretician of the 1905-1909 Persian constitutional movement and the leading clergyman who granted legitimacy to the rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi. His life can be divided into three periods. During the first, he was actively engaged in bringing about the Constitutional Revolution and wrote a famous treatise. During the second period, he was an important lecturer and became one of the most important Shi’i mujtahids, clergymen entitled to exercise ijtihad (individual inquiry into legal matters). He led the Iraqi nationalists against the British and worked actively for independence. During the last period, he lost his fighting spirit, devoted his life to teaching, and acquiesced to the powers that be.

Nd’ini studied in Samarra, Iraq, with Muhammad alFisharaki al-Isfahani (d. 1899) and Muhammad Hasan Shirazi (d. 1896), whose secretary he became. After his master’s death, he moved to Karbala and studied with Mulla Muhammad Kazim Khurasani (d. 1911). Both Shirazi and Khurasani played important roles in political events in Iran. Nd’ini drafted the telegrams that Khurasani sent to Iran during the Constitutional Revolution. He was heavily involved in the planning of `ulama’, (religious scholars) involvement in the politics of Iran. However, he and other constitutionalists became disillusioned with subsequent events. Nd’ini therefore concentrated on teaching, became involved in Iraqi politics at the outset of World War I, and led the Iraqi opposition against the subsequent British mandate. This latter action led to his departure from Iraq in 1923. Nd’ini was then drawn into Iranian politics, namely, the campaign to establish a republic in that country. Together with `Abd al-Karim Hi’iri Yazd! (d. 1936) and Abu al-Hasan Isfahani, he was able to convince Reza Khan to give up this idea in 1924. Reza Khan assisted in the return of Nd’ini to Iraq by first arranging compensation for the British insult against him in expelling him in the first place, followed by an invitation to return to that country. Na’ini showed his gratitude by sending a letter plus portrait of Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib to Reza Khan, thus conferring legitimacy on his regime. One year later, he and Isfahani jointly sent a letter depicting those opposing Reza Khan’s rule as enemies of Islam. This opened the road to the deposing of the Qajar dynasty (1785/97-1925). On Reza Khan’s accession to the throne, Nd’ini sent a telegram of congratulations to the shah and continued to send him similar messages on holy festival days. The remainder of his years he spent teaching in Najaf, Iraq.

Nd’ini’s most famous work was Tanbih al-ummah va tanzih al-millah dar asds vausul-i mashrutiyat (An Admonition to the Nation and an Exposition to the People Concerning the Foundations and Principles of Constitutional Government), written in 1909. It is still the most detailed and coherent justification of constitutional government from a Shi’i point of view. It aims to reconcile the impossibility of legitimate rule (in the absence of the Hidden Imam) with the practical need for government that promotes the well-being of the Shi’i community, but in a way that is not too much at odds with the dictates of religion. In his book, Nd’ini does not advocate actual administration of government by the `ulama’, but he embraces an islamization of constitutionalist principles, and he accepts certain principles of democracy that are in conformity with Islam. The importance of the book, even for modern times, is emphasized by the fact that its third edition (1955), with notes, was prepared by Ayatollah Mahmud Taleqani (d. 1979), a major religious figure who played an important role in the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

[See also Constitutional Revolution; and the biographies of Ha’iri Yazdi and Pahlavi.]


Arjomand, Said Amir. “The State and Khomeini’s Islamic Order.” Iranian Studies 13.1-4 (1980): 147-164. Contains a pertinent summary of Na’ini’s doctrinal justification for supporting the Constitutionalists (see especially pp. 150-152).

Bayat, Mango]. Iran’s First Revolution. New York, 1991. Minimizes the importance and originality of Na’ini’s ideas (see especially pp. 256-258).

Hairi, Abdul-Hadi. ShNsm and Constitutionalism. Leiden, 1977. Full treatment of Nd’ini’s thought and activities in Shi`i Islam and Iran.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/naini-muhammad-husayn/

  • writerPosted On: March 21, 2017
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