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NURI, FAZLULLAH (December 24, 1843 in Mazandaran – July 31, 1909 in Tehran), more fully, Hajj Shaykh Fazlullah ibn Mulla `Abbas Mazandarani Nuri Tihrani, a distinguished Iranian Shi’! scholar. His father, Mulla `Abbas Nuri, was a prominent jurist. Nuri studied Shi’i jurisprudence with Hajj Mirza Muhammad Hasan Shirazi (d. 1312/1894) in Najaf. Shirazi is famous in nineteenth-century Iranian history because of his antitobacco edict during the Tobacco Revolt of 1891-1892. Finishing his studies in Najaf, Nuri returned to Tehran and became a maija` altaqlid (“source of exemplary conduct”) in the Qajar capital. Among his writings is Tadhkirat al-ghafil wairshad al -jahil, which contained a harsh condemnation of proconstitutional ideas and forces (see Dabashi’s translation of this text in Arjomand, ed., 1988, PP. 354-70; see also Hairi, 1977b).

Nuri played an active but controversial part in the Constitutional Revolution of Iran (1905-1911). His role along with that of the entire clerical class has been debated extensively (for the nature of this debate, see Haiti, 1977a; cf. Lahidji’s “Constitutionalism and Clerical Authority” in Arjomand, ed., 1988, pp. 133-158). Most historians of the constitutional period are critical of his anticonstitutional stands. Some, including Ahmad Kasravi and Faridun Adamiyat, are more moderate in their observations, although others, such as Nazim alIslam Kirmani, are extremely critical and even accuse him of greed and charlatanism (see Kirmani, 1983, vol. I, pp. 565-566; see also Qazvini, 1984, vol. 4, p. 880). A combination of religious convictions and personal and professional interests must have guided Nuri’s contradictory positions in this period. Initially, he appears to have been one of the most active supporters of constitutional government, but gradually he shifted his position and relentlessly opposed it (Kasravi, 1951, PP. 285-296; Kirmani, 1983, vol. 2, Pp. 535-537). Contrary to Sayyids Muhammad Tabataba’i and `Abd Allah Bihbahani, the two prominent proconstitutional clerics, Nuri became increasingly concerned with the dangers that he felt constitutional government posed for Islam in general and for Islamic law in particular. The phrase mashrutah -yi mashru’ah (“constitutional government compatible with the Islamic law”) is chiefly identified with Nuri, who somewhat diffusely argued for tying the very foundations of a secular form of government to the requirements of Shi’l law.

Historians of the constitutional period insist that personal rivalries between Nuri and Bihbahan-i were instrumental in Nuri’s opposition to constitutional government (Dawlatabadi 1983, vol. 2, p. 185; Kasravi, 1951, pp. 285-286; Adamiyat, 1976, vol. I, pp. 429-430). Adamiyat holds that their opposing positions cloaked their personal rivalries and a struggle for power. He quotes Nuri as having said: “Neither was I an absolutist nor were Sayyid Abdullah and Sayyid Muhammad constitutionalists. They were against me, and I was against them” (Adamiyat, 1976, vol. I, Pp. 430-431). Kasravi, too, believes that none of the clerical antagonists “knew the precise meaning of constitutionalism, or the consequences of the propagation of European laws. They were not quite aware of the blatant incompatibility of constitutionalism with the ShN faith” (Kasravi, 1951, p. 287).

Nuri emphasized the necessity for Islam of both saltanat (monarchy) and niyabat dar `umur-i nabaviyah (clerical viceregency in matters of prophethood; see Martin, 1989, pp. 28-29).

Because of his anticonstitutional activities, Nuri was captured and executed by the constitutionalist forces on 13 Rajab 1327/31 July 1909. One of Nuri’s sons, Shaykh Mirza Mahdi, was, against the wishes of his father, a staunch proconstitutionalist. He is reported (Kirmani, 1983, vol. I, p. 566) to have been a militant advocate of constitutional government and was murdered by anticonstitutional forces in 1333/1914.

[See also Constitutional Revolution.]


Adamiyat, Faridun. `Idi’uluzhi-yi Nahzat-i Mashrutiyat-i Iran. 2 vols. Tehran, 1355/1976.

Arjomand, Said Amir, ed. Authority and Political Culture in Shi’ism. Albany, N.Y., 1988.

Dawlatabadi, Yahya. Hayat-i Yahya. 4 vols. Tehran, 1362/1983. Haiti, Abdul-Hadi. Shi’ism and Constitutionalism in Iran. Leiden, 1977a Haiti, Abdul-Hadi. “Shaikh Fazlullah Nuri’s Refutation of the Idea of Constitutionalism.” Middle Eastern Studies 23.3 (1977b): 227239

Kasravi, Ahmad. Tdrikh-i Mashrutah -yi Iran. Tehran, 1330/1951. Kirmani, Nazim al-Islam. Tarikh-i Bidari-yi Irdniyan. 2 vols. Edited by ‘Ali Akbar Sa’idi Sirjanii. Tehran, 1362/1983.

Martin, Vanessa. Islam and Modernism: The Iranian Revolution of 1906. London, 1989.

Mu’allim Habibabadi, Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali. Makarim al-asar dar ahval-i rijal dawrah-i Qajar. 6 vols. Isfahan, 1976-1985.

Nuri, Fazlullah. Lavdyih-i Aqa Shaykh Fazl Allah Nuri. Edited by Huma Rizvani. Tehran, 1362/1983.

Qazvini, Muhammad. “Hajj Shaykh Fazl Allah Nuri.” In Maqalat-i `Allamah Qazvini. 4 vols. Edited by `Abd al-Karim jurbuzah-dar. Tehran, 1363/1984.


NURSI, SAID. See Nurculuk.

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/nuri-fazlullah/

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