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SHI`I ISLAM. [This entry comprises two articles. The first provides a historical overview of the Shi `ah, the partisans of ‘Ali; the second traces the development of Shi thought in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.]

Historical Overview

The term shi`ah literally means followers, party, group, associate, partisan, or supporters. Expressing these meanings, shi hh occurs a number of times in the Qur’an, for example, surahs 19.69, 28.15, and 37.83. Technically the term refers to those Muslims who derive their religious code and spiritual inspiration, after the Prophet, from Muhammad’s descendants, the ahl albayt. The focal point of Shiism is the source of religious guidance after the Prophet; although the Sunnis accept it from the sahabah (companions) of the Prophet, the Shi’is restrict it to the members of the ahl al-bayt. This pivotal point, which distinguishes Shi`i from Sunni Islam, is based on two important factors: one sociocultural and the other drawn from the Qur’anic concept of the exalted and virtuous nature of the prophetic families.

To understand the sociocultural factor we must keep in mind the nature and composition of the Muslim community at Medina under the leadership of the prophet Muhammad. This community was homogeneous neither in its sociocultural background and traditions nor in political-social institutions. The formation of a religions community, the ummah, under a new religious-moral impulse, did not eliminate or drastically change some of the deeply rooted tribal values and traditions. It was therefore natural that some of these tribal inclinations would be reflected in certain aspects of the new religious order.

The two main constituent groups of the ummah at the time of the Prophet’s death at Medina in 632 were the Arabs of northern and central Arabia, of whom the Quraysh of Makkah  was the most dominant tribe, and the people of south Arabian origin, whose two major branches, the Aws and Khazraj, had settled at Medina. The Arabs of north and central Arabia developed along different lines from the southern Arabs of Yemen in character, way of life, profession, and sociopolitical and sociocultural institutions. More important, the two groups differed widely from each other in religious sensibility and feelings. Among the people of the south there was a clear predominance of religious ideas, whereas among the people of the north religious sentiments were not so strong.

This difference in religious sentiments was naturally reflected in patterns of tribal leadership. The chief or shaykh in the north had always been elected on a principle of seniority in age and ability in leadership. There might sometimes be some other considerations, such as nobility and lineal prestige, but in the north these were of little importance. The Arabs in the south, on the other hand, were accustomed to succession in leadership based on hereditary sanctity and divine rights. To this we must also add the nature and character of Islam itself as it appeared in seventh-century Arabia. Islam has been both a religious discipline and a sociopolitical movement. Muhammad, the messenger of God, was also the founder of the new polity in Medina. The Prophet thus left behind a religious heritage and also a political legacy.

The question of succession to the Prophet thus became involved with the vision of the leadership of the Muslim community, with different approaches to and varying degrees of emphasis on its political and religious aspects. To some it was more political than religious; to others it was more religious than political. The majority of Muhammad’s companions, with their north Arabian background, conceived the function of his successor in terms of safeguarding the community’s political character and of propagating the message of Islam beyond Arabia. Some others, mainly but not solely of south Arabian origin, however small in number, conceived the succession in terms of Muhammad’s spiritual authority. They believed that the divine guidance had to continue through his successors, who should combine in themselves the Prophet’s religious as well as temporal functions. Such leaders were the Imams, who inherited the mantle of the Prophet in providing the revealed guidance for the creation of the Islamic order.

Besides these sociocultural traditions, another factor, derived from the Qur’anic concept of the exalted position of the prophetic families, also played a significant role in defining the succession. The Qur’an describes the prophets as having been particularly concerned with ensuring that the special favor of God bestowed on them for the guidance of people be maintained in their families and be inherited by their descendants. Thus, Abraham prays to God to continue God’s guidance and special favor in his descendants so that the divine purposes would continue to be fulfilled. Prophetic progeny is expressed in the Qur’an in several places through four key terms: dhurriyah (“direct descendant”), al (“offspring”), ahl (“progeny”), and qurba (“nearest of kin”). When mentioned in relation to the Prophet, the commentators of the Qur’an have interpreted these terms as referring to Muhammad’s nearest of kin: `Ali, his cousin and son in-law, Fatimah, his daughter; and Hasan and Husayn, their sons. The Shi`is also extend the status of ahl albayt to the descendants of Hasan and Husayn.

Rashidun Period. Taking into account the abovementioned factors the origin of the Shl’i movement can be traced to the Medinan period of the Prophet’s life. Some prominent companions saw the Prophet’s cousin `Ali ibn Abi Talib as his wasi (legatee) and the Imam to lead the community after him. But soon after the death of the prophet, the beginning of the Rashidum period (632-661), this special regard for `All found an unequivocal expression when he was denied the leadership of the community. The supporters of `All thus constituted the first nucleus of the Shi’ah. [See the biography of `Ali ibn Abi Talib.]

However, after the initial defeat of `Ali’s supporters and his own recognition of Abu Bakr’s administration six months later, the circumstances were such that Shi i tendencies lost most of their open and active manifestations. The period of the caliphates of Abu Bakr and his successor, `Umar (r. 632-644), is thus one of comparative dormancy in the history of Shi’ism. After the death of `Umar, Shi’i feelings once again found expression in the protest made by `Ali’s supporters when `Uthman was declared the third caliph. It must be noted that the office was first offered to `Ali on the condition that he follow the precedents established by the first two caliphs, which he stringently refused and `Uthman readily accepted. This refusal of `Ali forms the earliest theoretical point which ultimately gave rise to the later development of two different schools of law under the titles of Shi’i and Sunni, the former including the Ithna `Ashariyah, Isma’iliyah, and Zaydiyah, the latter comprising the Hanafi, Malik!, Shafi’i, and Hanbali. If ideological differences between the two schools date back to the election of Abu Bakr, the differences in legal matters, at least theoretically, must be dated from `Ali’s refusal to follow the precedents of the first two caliphs. This refusal thus serves as a cornerstone in the development of Shi’i legal thought, although, like the Sunni legal system, it took a long time to be fully distinguishable. [See Law, article on Shi’i Schools of Law.]

Unlike the first two caliphs, `Uthman belonged to the powerful clan of the Umayyads which, in his accession, found an opportunity to regain its past political importance, which it had lost after the emergence of Islam. Within a few years of `Uthman’s accession the Umayyad claimed among themselves all the positions of power and advantage and appropriated to themselves the immense wealth of the empire at the expense of the masses. The resulting disequilibrium in the economic and social structure naturally aroused the resentment of various sections of the population and provided ample combustible material for an explosion. The simmering discontent exploded into violent revolt and the caliph was killed by the unruly mob in 656. It is important to note that the hatred against `Uthman and the support of `Ali grew side by side. The pious opposition to the Umayyad aristocracy became eagerly involved with the partisanship for `Ali. He was thus forced by the majority of the people to accept the caliphate, which he did with great reluctance. `Ali’s accession was, however, strongly resisted by the Umayyads, represented by Mu`awiyah and some of the companions who were aspiring for the caliphate for themselves. This resulted in the first civil wars in Islam and ultimately led to `Ali’s assassination in 661.

The sixteen-year period beginning with the caliphate of `Uthman and ending with the assassination of `Ali represents a marked difference from the preceding period in the development of Shiism in many ways. First, it created an atmosphere which encouraged the Shi’i tendencies to become more evident and conspicuous. Second, the events which took place gave an active and sometimes violent character to the hitherto inactive Shi`i movement. Finally, the circumstances that prevailed involved the Shl i outlook, for the first time, in a number of political, geographical, and economic considerations fused together. This fusion not only provided a new sphere of activity for the Shi’i movement, but also widened its circle of influence to those who needed an outlet for their political grievances, especially against the Umayyad aristocracy and Syrian domination. The emergence of the political Shi’ah at this stage is thus characterized both by the increase in its influence and numbers and by its sudden and rapid growth thereafter.

Umayyad and `Abbasid Periods. If the Rashidun period provided Shiism with its theoretical foundation, the Umayyad period (661-750) proved to be decisive in the formulation of its attitudes, whereas the `Abbasid era (750-945) witnessed consolidation of the Shi’i identity.

During the first twenty years of Umayyad rule under Mu’awiyah, Hasan, the elder son of `All, who was acclaimed caliph by the overwhelming majority of the Muslims, was forced to abdicate. Some of the ardent supporters of the Shi`i cause were ruthlessly executed, `Ali was cursed from pulpits all over the empire as an official duty proclaimed by the governors, and the Shi’is were kept in a state of extreme oppression and terror. But the single event which set the seal on the nature of official Shiism was the martyrdom of Husayn in 681 at Karbala. Husayn, the only surviving grandson of the Prophet and the center of Shi’i aspirations, along with eighteen male members of his family and many companions, was brutally killed, and the women and children of his caravan were made captives to be humiliated in the markets and courts of Kufa and Damascus.

The tragedy of Karbala became the most effective agent in the propagation and spread of Shiism. It added to Shi`i Islam an element of passion, which renders human psychology more receptive to doctrine than anything else. Henceforth the element of passion in expressing the love (walayah) for ahl al-bayt became a characteristic feature of Shiism. [See Walayah.] Within a year the tragedy gave rise to a movement known as Tawwabun (Penitents), three thousand of whom sacrificed their lives fighting the overwhelming force of the Umayyads as a way of repenting for their inability to help Husayn in his hour of trial. Since this passionate act of self-sacrifice took place without a leader from among the ahl al-bayt, it gave a new turn to the mode and nature of the Shi`i movement, making it an independent and self-sustaining undertaking. [See Karbala; Martyrdom; and the biography of Husayn ibn `Ali.]

The death of Husayn and the quiescent attitude of his only surviving son, `All Zayn al-`Abidin, however, marks the first conflict over the leadership of the followers of the ahl al-bayt, resulting in their division into various groups. The Shi’is in Kufa, especially the mawah, the non-Arabs and the downtrodden masses, wanted an active movement which could relieve them from the oppressive rule of the Syrians. Mukhtar ibn Abi `Ubaydah al-Thagafi, a Shi`i activist who failed to obtain the support of Husayn’s son, started projecting ‘Ali’s third son, Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyah, born of a Hanafi woman, as the Mahdi. Confused and frustrated, the Shi’is saw a ray of hope in the messianic role propagated by Mukhtar for Ibn al-Hanafiyah and followed him as their Imam-Mahdi, abandoning Zayn al-`Abidin. Mukhtar’s uprising was put down in 686 and Mukhtar himself was killed, but the propaganda on behalf of Ibn alHanafiyah continued, and when the latter died in loo a group of his followers, known as Kaysaniyah, believed that he had not died but had gone into occultation and could return. Mukhtar and the followers of Ibn alHanafiyah were thus the first to introduce two key ideas that were henceforth to be of great importance in the development of Shi’i thought; the idea of the Mahdi and the concepts of ghaybah (occultation) and rajah (return).

After Mukhtar’s uprising, the first `Alid of the Husaynid line who rose against the Umayyad was Zayd, the second son of Zayn al-`Abidin. Zayd and his followers wanted no quiescent or Hidden Imam, like al-Bagir and Ibn al-Hanafiyah. The imam, in their eyes, although he had to be a descendant of ‘Ali and Fatimah, could not claim a allegiance unless he asserted his imamate publicly and, if necessary, fought for it. Zayd’s activist policy toward the imamate earned him the support of the majority of the Shi i groups, his adoption of the Mu`tazilah’s doctrines secured him their support, and his acceptance of the legitimacy of the first two caliphs gained him the full sympathy of the traditionist circles. Zayd’s revolt, however, was unsuccessful. He and many of his followers were killed in 740, and his son Yahya, who continued his father’s activities for three years, met the same fate in 743.

After the collapse of Zayd’s revolt, no serious Shl’i uprising took place during the Umayyad period except that of the `Abbasids, which began as a manifestation of the Shi`i cause. The agents of the `Abbasids called the people to rise in the name of an imam to be chosen from among the ahl al-bayt. To the extremists of the Kaysanlyah, the followers of Ibn al-Hanafiyah and his son Abu Hashim, the activists of the Zaydiyah, and the other groups of the Shi`ah, this implied an `Alid, and they wholeheartedly supported the `Abbasids. The `Abbasids thus succeeded in overthrowing the Umayyad regime. Once in power, they realized that the ShVis would not accept them as legitimate rulers, so they turned toward the ahl al-hadith for their religious support and began to persecute the Shi’is. The series of Zaydi revolts, particularly among `Alids of the Hasanid line, which had begun toward the end of the Umayyad era, continued into the `Abbasid period. Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyah, a great-grandson of Hasan who had long coveted the role of Mahdi for himself, rose against the `Abbasids. However, he and his brother Ibralum were defeated and killed in 762. Some of al-Nafs al-Zakiyah’s followers believed that he was not dead but went into occultation and would return.

With these movements in the formative phase of Shiism, three major trends of thought-activism, extremism, and legitimism-dominated the Shi`i perception of the imamate. For the early period, however, it is difficult to identify well-organized groups representing each of these trends, a there was considerable fusion among these ideas. The activists, for example, sometimes adopted extremist ideas, as was the case with the Kaysaniyah. The extremists, known as ghulat (exaggerators) because of their ascription of divinity to the Imams, often resorted to activist methods. It is, however, important to note that the ghulat, identified as Sh’is by Sunni heresiographers, remained a minority that was never accepted by the main body of the Shi`is, and their Imams and were vehemently condemned and cursed by them. In the course of history, however, extremists and other small branches died out of were merged into the three main branches which have survived today.

The Zaydiyah, followers of Zayd ibn `Ali ibn alHusayn, are mainly in Yemen and also in small numbers in Iraq and some parts of Africa. They represent the activist groups of the early Shl’ah, as Zayd believed that the Imam ought to be a ruler of the state and therefore must fight for his rights. [See Zaydiyah.]

The Isma’iliyah, named after Isma`il, the eldest son of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, who predeceased his father, declared Isma’il’s son Muhammad as their seventh Imam (instead of following Ja’far’s second son, Musa alKazim). The Isma`ifyah are also known as the Batiniyah, that is, those who maintained the central role of the esoteric aspects of Islamic revelation in their religious system. Isma’111s rose to great political and religious prominence at times and founded the Fatimid Empire (909-1170. [See Isma’iliyah]

The majority of the Shi’is belong to the Twelvers, the Ithna `Ashariyah. Their theological position is regarded as relatively moderate. They represent the legitimist or central body of the Slu`is who believe in twelve Imams beginning from ‘Ali as the first Imam followed by his two sons, Hasan and and Husayn, as the second and the third Imams, respectively. After Husayn, according to the Twelver Shi’is, the imamate remained with his descendants until it reached the twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who went into occultation to return at the end of time as the messianic Imam to restore justice and equity on earth. [See Ithna `Ashariyah.]

The consolidation of the Ithna `Ashari position was owed to the efforts of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, the sixth Imam of the quiescent Husaynid branch, who expounded his theory of the imamate based on nass, that is, by explicit designation by the previous Imam, and the special knowledge of religion coming down in the family from generation to generation. With the efforts of Ja’far, the quiescent line of the Husaynid Imams once again achieved prominance, which it had lost after the death of Husayn. Ja’far was surrounded by a large number of traditionists, theologians, and jurists who played an important role in establishing the ShN legal and theological system. By the time of Ja`far’s death in 765, the Shi`is (later to become the Twelvers) were fully equipped in all branches of religion and had acquired a distinctive character. The remaining six Imams of the Twelvers’ line living under the `Abbasids in varying circumstances further strengthened the Imami Shiism until the twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, went into occultation.

Buyid Period. The Buyids (945-1055) accorded the Shi`is the most favorable conditions for elaboration and standardization of their tenets. In this period compilation of the major collections of Shi’! hadith and formulation of Shl’! law took place. This elaboration began with Muhammad ibn Ya`gfib al-Kulayni (d. 490), author of the monumental Usul al-kaft, and was followed by such figures as Ibn Babuyah, also called Shaykh al-Sadfiq (d. 991), Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 1022), and Shaykh alTa’ifah, or Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tfisi (d. io67), with whom the principle doctrinal works of ShN theology and religious sciences were finally established. This was also the period of a number of other renowned Shl’! scholars, such as al-Sharif al-Radi (d. 1015), who compiled the sermons and sayings of ‘Ali, and his brother, Murtada `Alam al-Huda (d. io44).

These intellectual activities continued after the fall of the Bfiyids through such Shi`i scholars as Fadl al-Tabarsi

(d. 1153), known for his monumental Qur’anic commentary; Radi al-Din `Ali ibn al-Taws (d. 1266), theologian and gnostic; Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 1273); `Allamah Hilli (d. 1326); and Haydar al-Amuli (d. after 1385), who set a new trend of systematic rational theology.

It was also in the Buyid period that two popular Shi’i commemorations were instituted in Baghdad: the martyrdom of Imam Husayn on 1o Muharram, which was observed with great religious fervor and zeal; and the festival of Ghadir al-Khumm, commemorating the Prophet’s nomination of ‘Ali as his successor at Ghadir al-Khumm on 18 Dhu al-Hijjah. It was also during this period that public mourning ceremonies for Husayn were initiated, shrines were built for the Imams, and the custom of pilgrimage to these shrines was more popularly established. [See Shrine; Ziyarah.]

In short, by the close of the Buyid era Shiism’s basic formulations were completed, leaving to the following periods only further elaborations, interpretations, rationalizations, and certain adaptations and additions. The list of the scholars who immensely enriched Sh!’! literature in the past eight hundred years in all branches of learning, especially in philosophy, theology, and law during the Mongol, Safavid, and Qajar periods, is too long to be enumerated here. However, mention must be made of such great figures of the Safavid period as Mir Damad (d. 1631) and Mulla Sadra (d. 1640), masters of metaphysics with whom Islamic philosophy reached a new peak; Baha’ al-Din al-`Amili, theologian and mathematician; and finally the two Majlisis, the second, Muhammad Baqir, being the author of the most voluminous compendium of the Shi’! sciences, the Bihar alanwdr. [See Safavid Dynasty; Qajar Dynasty; and the biography of Majlisi.]

Although Ithna `Ashari Shiism attained its final position under the Buyids who ruled over Baghdad and Iran, the Isma’iliyah and the Zaydiyah also consolidated their doctrinal positions almost in the same period. The Isma’ilis controlled Egypt, southern Syria, much of North Africa, and the Hejaz, and the Zaydis established their rule in northern Iran and Yemen. This political supermacy provided the Isma’iliyah and the Zaydiyah with opportunities to elaborate and standardize their doctrinal positions. Thus by the end of the tenth century, all the three branches of Shiism, were established firmly enough to withstand the vicissitudes of history and the strains and stresses of the sectarian role to which they were pushed by the Sunni majority.

[See also Imam; Imamah; Mahdi.]


Classic histories such as Muhammad ibn Janr al-Tabari’s Tarikh alrusul wa-al-mlulk (2d ed., to vols., Cairo, 1979), Ahmad ibn Abi Ya’qub Ya’qubi’s TarTkh al-Ya’qubt (2 vols., Beirut, r98o), and Abu Hanifah Ahmad ibn Dawud Dinawari’s Al-akhbar al-tiwal, edited by `Abd al-Mun’im `Amir (Cairo, 196o) give historical accounts of the political events and religious thought of the first three centuries of Islam. Some heresiographical works of both the Shi`is and the Sunnis are Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Isma’il Ash’ari’s Magalat al-Islamiyin waikhtilaf al-musallin, edited by Muhammad Muhyi al-Din `Abd alHamid (2d rev. ed., Cairo, 1969), Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Karim Shahrastani’s Al-milal wa-an nihal, edited by Muhammad Sayyid Kilaru (2 vols., Beirut, 1982), and al-Hasan ibn Musa Nawbakhti’s Firaq al-Shi ah (2d ed., Beirut, 1984); the first two give the Sunni account and the third the Shl’i view of various Shi’i sects which emerged in the first two centuries of Islam. Theological and creedal works of the Shi`is include Shaykh Saduq ibn Babawayh al-Qummi’s Risalat al-I’tigdd (translated by A. A. A. Fyzee as A Shiite Creed, London, 1942), Hasan ibn Yusuf al-Hill-i’s Al-Bab al-Hadi `Ashar (translated by W. M. Miller, London, 1928), Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i’s Sht ah dar Islam (edited and translated by Seyyed Hossein Nasr as Shiite Islam, Albany, N.Y., 1975); the first two provide the most authentic Shi’i creed by scholars of the fourth/tenth century and the last a philosophical exposition by a modern scholar. Two modern studies are my Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam (London, 1979), which examines the development of Slu`i thought in historical perspective until the time of Imam Ja’far; and Moojan Momen’s An Introduction to Shi i Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shiism (New Haven, 1985), which mainly gives political and dynastic history until modern times.


Modern Shi’i Thought

The intellectual dimension of Shiism has a long and varied history that includes political, juridical, theological, philosophical, and mystical traditions. Although practically all these branches of Shi i learning have continued and flourished to the present time, it is only the political dimension of Shiism that has significantly responded to the issues and problems posed by modernity. The metaphysics of “reason” and “progress,” defining the claims of “modernity” on its history, came into direct and radical conflict with the Islamic metaphysics that has doctrinally sustained and legitimized Shiism as a world religion. As a result, even the nonpolitical dimensions of Shiism, for example its juridical and philosophical traditions, responded to modernity with a fire and tenacity indicative of their political and not necessarily juridical or epistemological crisis. Consequently, such issues in Shi i juridical and philosophical discourses that do not address their problems in and with modernity remain principally premodern in the terms and dispositions of their engagement. In addressing the political dimension of modern Shi`i thought, this article thus examines such points of contact and dialogue between Shiism and modernity that have been instrumental in placing it in its contemporary history.

Although the origins of modern Shi’i political thought can be traced back to the sixteenth century and the rise of the Safavid Empire (Corbin, 19’71; Arjomand, 1984), it was not until well into the nineteenth century that the major characteristics of a distinctly Sh-P! political imagination were noticed (see Arjomand, 1984). In fact, a fuller understanding of modern ShN political thought is possible only through a careful tracing of some salient features of Shiism from its earliest roots in the time of Muhammad (570-632), following the problem of succession to his authority (see Jafri, 1979; Madelung, 1982, 1988; Dabashi, 1989) and particularly after the so-called Ghaybah period (see Modarressi, 1993), to the crucial, even revolutionary, doctrinal changes in modern Slu’i political dispositions (see Arjomand, “Ideological Revolution in ShINsm,” in Arjomand, 1988, pp. 178209). In fact, radical political change has been a hallmark of Shiism throughout its history (see Lewis, 1967; Arjomand, 1984; Moosa, 1988; Daftari, 19go; Momen, 1985, PP. 1-104).

The centrality of the first and the third Shi`i Imams, `Ali and Husayn, in resuscitating Shi’i political sentiments are noteworthy. The figure of Husayn in particular has been the subject of much imaginative recreation for specifically political purposes (see Al-serat, vol. 12, 1986). The sermons, letters, and sayings attributed to `Ali and collected as Nahj al-balaghah have also been the subjects of much creative repoliticization (see Sachedina, 1988; English translation of Nahj albalaghah, 1984). The lives of other Slu`i Imams (see alMufid, 1981; see also Chittick, 1981) have also been the subject of contemporary political renarration. The concept of ghaybah (occultation, or “disappearance,” of the last Shi`i Imam) has proven equally conducive to repeated political uses (see Sachedina, 1981). But the Safavid establishment of Shiism as the official state ideology is a defining point in the long and arduous history of this small but significant branch of Islam.

The rapid and effective universalization of Shi’ism during the Safavid period gave historical expression to the potentialities of the faith, creating what Weber called a world religion (Weber, ig2o). The theological, juridical, philosophical, mystical, and literary imagination coalesced during the Safavid period to rejuvenate earlier traits in the Shi`i sacred imagination.

The whole categorical validity of modern Shi’i political thought can be understood as the dialogical outcome of the encounter between Shi’i political, therefore, juridical and philosophical, sensibilities and institutions, on one hand, and the preeminence of such modern forces as rationalism, secularism, constitutional democracy, socialism, and nationalism, on the other. The history of modern Shi’i political thought is the history of premodern Shi’i sensibilities and institutions negotiating their relevance and continued validity against the onslaught of modernity (see Enayat, 1982).

Despite the political demise of Shiism after the fall of the Safavids in the eighteenth century, its institutional dimensions had grown so large that it soon became reincarnated in the Qajar body-politic. In both political and doctrinal institutions-from palaces to bazaars and madrasahs-Shiism stretched its ideological domains over a vast and pervasive political culture.

As an ideology, Shiism was the most important aspect of Qajar political legitimacy. The Qajar monarchs took full advantage of Shiism in buttressing the ideological foundation of their reign (see Algar, 1969; see also Algar, in Keddie, 1972). By the nineteenth century, the institution of the `ulamd’ had been established on solid social grounds (see Lambton, 1956; Keddie, 1962 and 1972; Algar, 1969; Cole, in Keddie, 1983; Modarressi, 1984). Rooted in both their juridical learning and popular support (see Amanat, “In Between the Madrasa and the Marketplace: The Designation of Clerical Leadership in Modern Shi’ism,” in Arjomand, 1988, pp. 98132), the `ulamd’ solidly institutionalized their power of self-legitimation and had a major legitimizing authority in relation to the Qajar dynasty.

The doctrinal legitimacy of the authority of the `ulamd’ as the principal constitutional cornerstone of modern Shi’i political thought was challenged by internal strife over the problematic of Akhbariyah. Amir Arjomand (1984, chap. 5) has offered a solid sociological explanation for the rise of an autonomous clerical class in the Safavid period. But Akhbariyah, a literalist movement that considerably limited the political power of the `ulamd’, lasted until the Constitutional Revolution of i9o6-1911 in Iran. Having doctrinally defeated Akhbari literalism, the Usull hermeneutics, which put much interpretative power at the disposal of the `ulamd’, became the doctrinal basis of ij6had and its practitioners, the mujtahids. The ultimate triumph of Vsuliyah must thus be considered the institutional success of a politically conscious `ulamd’, which had released itself from the fetters of literalist conservatism. [See Akhbariyah; Usufiyah.]

Beyond its institutional bases in the formation of an Usuli-oriented `ulamd’, modern Sh!’! political thought emerged in conscious or tacit responses to historical events entirely outside the purview of Shl’! political culture. Arjomand has warned against the confusion of Sh!’! political culture with the political culture of the Shi`is (1988, pp. Io-11). The historically evolving political culture surrounding a nominal or practicing Shi`i has been a multicultural and multifaceted phenomenon entirely irreducible to particular tenets of Shiism. In fact, “Shiism” is an essentializing term put forward at considerable risk to historical realities. In a permanent dialogical engagement with historical forces beyond their control, the changing sensibilities of Shi’i authorities have constantly redefined the received symbolics of their faith. The perception of the central drama of Shi’i faith, the martyrdom of the third Imam, Husayn, has moved from a revolutionary episode to a quietist act of piety only to emerge yet again as a radical event in the changing configuration of the Shi’i collective imagination. The specific components of that collective imagination have historically responded to political and cultural forces of diverse origin and destination. In the context of specific communities to the east of the Mediterranean world, Sh!’! doctrines, symbolics, sensibilities, and institutions have emerged in interaction with religious, cultural, social, and political forces of Arab, Iranian, Indian, and Turkish origins. Historical communities consciously tracing themselves to such designations as Arab, Iranian, and so forth have been the material space on which ShN doctrines, symbolics, and institutions have been articulated. In both premodern and modern circumstances, Shi`i political thought has thus been produced in dialogical responses to external material forces.

Having had its institutional bases consolidated in the self-conscious formations of the `ulamd’, and having been squarely based on the ideological rhetoric of Usuli hermeneutics, Shl’! political thought entered the Qajar phase with its classical medieval baggage. In dialogue with Arabic, Persian, Greek, Indian, and other conceptions of legitimate authority, Shi’i political thought continued in its traditional genre of royal advice to the Qajar princes, thus legitimizing both the princes and the `ulama’. One can detect a gradual increase in the power and authority of the `ulama’ during the Qajar period, judged by colorful accounts of prominent clerics given in Tunikabuni’s Qisas al-`ulamd’ (for a sample of these accounts, see Arjomand, 1988, chap. 14). It is evident that the relation of power between the political and the religious establishment was a constant struggle of oneupsmanship. The Qajar kings noted a worthy rival in such prominent clerics as Mulla Ahmad Naraq! and Hajji Sayyid Muhammad Bagir Shafti who matched their wealth with their sahm-i imam revenues and their army with their devoted followers. In addition, the `ulamd’ had the exclusive historical access to the legitimizing rhetorics of the Qur’an, and claim to the metaphysical presence of God on their side. The dialogical relationship between the Qajar kings and the Shi`i`ulama’ resulted in a clear recognition on the part of the clergy that they were potentially capable of mobilizing considerable political power.

Mulla Ahmad Naragl is a crucial figure in the emerging power of the `ulamd’ during the Qajar period (see Dabashi, in Nasr et al., eds., 1989). He persuasively resuscitated the early Imam! traditions that claimed sweeping authority of the `ulama’ as the legitimate successors of the Prophet. Later, in the course of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the ideas of Naraqi would be further elaborated on by Ayatollah Khomeini.

The emerging power of the `ulama’ in the Qajar period should not be considered a unilateral phenomenon without resistance and opposition from the political establishment. As evident, for example, from a correspondence between Hajj Mulla ‘Ali Kan! and Mirza `Abd al Vahhab Khan `Asif al-Dawlah (see a translation of this correspondence in Arjomand, 1988, chap. 15), the political establishment was particularly resentful of the rising power of the `ulamd’ and put up a stiff resistance to it. There are also reports of severe punishments publicly executed against particularly disobedient `ulamd’ (Quchanl, 1983).

The institutional and ideological consolidation of the `ulama’ during the nineteenth century, as well as their rising political power, were put to a crucial test during the so-called Tobacco Revolt of 1891-1892. But the greatest challenge to both the clerical and the monarchical authority, challenging the very foundation of their legitimate claim to authority appeared in the form of the most radical millenarian Shi’i movement of the nineteenth century: the Babi movement led by Sayyid `Ali

Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850). Bringing the revolutionary potentials of a crucial Shi’i tenet to radical fruition, the Babi movement was the last and most effective social protest launched from within the medieval terms of the Shi’i political imagination (Amanat, 1989). [See Babism.]

Both the Babi movement and the Tobacco Revolt fade in comparison, however, to the challenge of the Constitutional Revolution of 19o6-1911, in the course of which Shi’i political thought entered its modern phase. The ambivalence of the clerical class in regard to the Constitutional Revolution marks the conflicting impact of patently secular ideas on the modern turn of Shi’i political thought. From the late eighteenth century onward there was a gradual rise of a patently secular political discourse that added momentum and change to the classical repertoire of the Arabic, Iranian, Indian, and Turkish political cultures. The construction of and encounter with the idea of “The West,” which was concomitant with the rise of European colonialism, added a new, mightily potent, ingredient to these political cultures. In Iran proper, where Shi’i political thought had its deepest and widest roots, the encounter with the colonial powers generated an efflorescence of secular ideas. The catastrophic results of the Russo-Iranian Wars of 1804-1824, the unanticipated consequences of the dispatch of Iranian students to Europe by `Abbas M1rza (1787-1833), the presence and rivalry of colonial officers from England and France, the introduction of the printing machine for mass publication, a massive translation movement from European literary and historical sources, publication of newspapers and journals, and, ultimately, the formation of a consciously nationalist political discourse in prose and poetry were among the chief institutional and ideological forces that precipitated the dawn of a new secular imagination in the Iranian political culture. The Shi`i religious establishment was once again put in a position to respond to a historical event beyond its control. some Shi`i `ulama’ responded positively to the new movement, some negatively, and very few had a clear idea what precisely a constitutional government entailed for the social, cultural, political, and ultimately religious future of the nation. As early as the mid-188os, Shi`i men of learning were conscious of and concerned about the rising tide of secularism in the former Ottoman domains. When in 1885 Mirza Muhammad Husayn Farahan! traveled to the Ottoman Empire, he noted with horror and disgust the changes in the Turks from Islamic habits to European manners: “They [i.e., the Turks] have abolished the rules of Islam [din-e ahmadi] and made imperfect civil law in the manner of the Europeans. . . . They act with no regard for this world or the next. Of Islam, there is only the name and nothing more. The customs and ceremonies which they have gradually learned completely from the Europeans are the ways of irreligion and indifference about [matters of] doctrine and religious practice” (Farahani, 19go, p. 129).

The two leading religious leaders of Tehran, Ayatollahs Sayyid Muhammad Tabataba’i (1841-192o) and Sayyid `Abd Allah Bihbahani (d. 1871), fully participated in the revolutionary mobilization launched toward the foundation of a constitutional monarchy. The active participation of proconstitutional clerics in the revolutionary event should not, however, lead to the designation of the event as a “religious revolution.” As Arjomand has noted (1988, p. 15), the active exaggeration of the role of the `ulamd’ by such Orientalist historians as Ann Lambton, Nikki Keddie, and Hamid Algar has led to the erroneous assumption that not only did the ShN clergy lead the Constitutional Revolution but did so from within traditional Shi’i political thought. The view of such Iranian historians as Ahmad Kasravi, Faraydnn Adamiyat, A. H. Ha’iri, `Abd al-Karin Lahiji, and Mangol Bayat, who have had a much more extensive access to, and critical intimacy with, the primary sources, reveals a more paradoxical and limited role for the Shi’i clergy. Indeed, the dominant Orientalist view is a revisionist reading of the Constitutional Revolution very much in line with the exaggeration of the role of Islam in the entire course of Middle Eastern history, a view which the clerical establishment finds conducive to its own class interests. (For the dominant Orientalist view, see Lambton, 1956 and 1970; Keddie, 1962 and 1972; and Algar, 1969. For an alternative view of Iranian historians, see Kirmani, 1983; Adamiyat, 1976; Hairi, 1977; Arjomand, 1981; Lahiji, in Arjomand, 1988; Kasravi, 1984; Bayat, 1991; Fashahi, 1975; Ashraf, 198o; Mahmud, 1974.)

A typical example of a staunchly anti constitutional attitude is to be found in Shaykh Fazlullah Nuri (184319o9), who gave full and powerful expression to an anti modern reading of juridical Shiism. Nfiri’s opposition to constitutionalism was primarily on legal grounds, rejecting the postulation of a political law that, ipso facto, subverted the authority of Shi’i law. Stripped of the community of its legal tradition, Nuri thought, Shiism would dwindle into pale reminiscences of a benign religious culture. In brilliant manifestos, written with a remarkable penchant for political rhetoric, Nuri refuted the legal and ideological validity of a constitutional government in a Shi’i community. Kitdb tadhkirat al-ghafil va irshad al jahil (Book of Admonition to the Heedless and Guidance for the Ignorant) was one such treatise in which Nuri gave full expression to his rhetorical power in opposing the constitutional government. “Imposing man-made law,” he asserted, “is contrary to Islam, and legislation is the prerogative of a Messenger. It is for this reason that every time a messenger appeared, it was to bring a law” (see Arjomand, 1988, p. 355). [See the biography of Nuri.]

A contemporary of Nuri, `Abd al-`Azim `Imad al`Ulama’ Khalkhali, however, represents precisely the opposite view of a Shill cleric fully in support of the constitutional government. In Khalkhali’s treatise one sees as much reference to and reliance on a modernist reading of the Shi`i canonical sources as on abstract notions of reason and progress, thus giving full expression to the rising force of political modernism in Iran. Khalkhali wrote late in 1907, “Today all European states have established constitutions and treat their nations in accordance with them. Perhaps it can be said that, today, the Europeans are better and more intelligent than we Iranians. If this Constitutionalism is nonsense and useless, why is it that they have adopted it? And if it be beneficial, why should the Iranians abandon it?” (see Arjomand, 1988, p. 340).

As constitutionalism became a key catalyst of Shl’i political consciousness, leading religious authorities tried to reconcile between their understanding of what constitutionalism was and their selective remembrance of their received faith. Shaykh Mirza Muhammad Husayn Naini (1860-1936) wrote his famous tract on constitutionalism under such circumstances. Tanbih al-ummah va tanzih al-millah (Guidance of the Public and Edification of the Nation) was written (in 19o9, the year of the public hanging of Nuri) in a deliberate attempt to propagate the course of the constitutionalist government with particular attention to its compatibility to the Shi`i faith. This tract reveals Na`ini’s deep concerns for the future of the political culture and institutions in Iran. Na’ini was equally active in the 1920s uprising in Iraq, giving both ideological and political momentum to the rising revolutionary sensibilities of the reconstructed Shiism. Detectable in Na’ini’s tract is a frustration with depoliticized or compromised Shiism. In his idea dwell one of the earliest and most successful syncratic discourses, wedding elements of Shi`i political culture and the rising force of constitutional modernism. [See the biography of Na`ini.]

A careful reading of such conflicting ideas as those of Nuri, Khalkhali, and Na’ini reveals that the Shi`i authorities had a much more ambiguous relationship toward constitutionalism than hitherto assumed. Indeed, the work of such scholars as Kasravi, Adamiyat, Ha’iri, Arjomand, Lahiji, and Bayat points out that the clerical establishment entered into a historical negotiation with the secular revolutionaries, and in return for their support of the constitutional government they secured a prominent position for themselves in the institutional fabric of that constitution (see, in particular, Lahiji, in Arjomand, 1988, chap. 6).

After the tumultuous period of the constitutional movement, the i91os was a decade of relative political inaction for Shi`i clerics. The occupation of northern Iran by the Russians did not engender much political concern for the clerics in this period. Much of the clerical attention, as is evident in the work of Sayyid Asad Allah Kharagani (d. 1936), was directed against the clerics’ declining moral authority, which was concomitant with the rapid rise of secularism.

In 1920, Iraqi Shi`i authorities were instrumental in the popular uprising against British colonialism. Mirza Muhammad Tag-1 Shiraz! emerged as the leading clerical authority in Iraqi anticolonial struggles (see Nakash, 1994, PP. 66-72). In collaboration with Shaykh alShari`ah al-Isfahani and other leading Shi`i authorities, Shirazi called for the establishment of “a theocratic government built upon one of the fundamental principles of the Shi`ah doctrine” (Nakash, 1994, P. 68). The Iraqi Shi’is were much influenced by proconstitutional ShN authorities in Iran and wished to emulate that system in Iraq.

Under British pressure, Shaykh Muhammad Khalisi (d. 1963) went to Iran in 1922 and joined forces with Kharagani in an incipient war against the rising tide of secularism in which they found both a political and a moral danger. Kharaqani and Khalisi, in fact, saw a link between the rise of secularism and British imperialism, which sought to undermine clerical authority (see Arjomand 1988, p. 187). The secularizing agenda of Reza Shah and the antisecularization anger of the clerical establishment finally came to a head-on collision in the late 192os, and Kharagani and Khalisi, among other clerical activists, were severely punished.

The 193os and 1940s were decades of Shi`i polemical responses to the rising power of secularism. Mirza Muhammad Husayn Na’ini (d. 1936), Shaykh `Abd alKarim Ha’iri Yazdi (d. 1937), Hajj Aqa Husayn Tabataba’i Qummi (d. 1947) were the leading Shi `i jurists of these decades, chiefly responsible for elevating Qom to a position of prominence in juridical studies, on the same level as Najaf. It was the collective work of these leading jurists that paved the way for Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i Burujirdi (Muhammad Hosayn Borujerdi, d. 1961), who enjoyed unprecedented power and prestige as a Shi`i authority.

The political agenda of the 1940s was chiefly characterized by the continued anger of the clerical establishment against the relentless unfolding of secularism. The enemy of the clerical authority now seemed to have disseminated from the tyrannical absolutism of the state to a widespread and hard-to-grasp diffusion of secular ideas and practices. Khalisi’s treatise on veiling in Islam (see Arjomand, 1988, p. 188), published in 1948, represents the dominant sentiment of the clerics in this period. In this treatise, Khalisi tried to strike a balance between the radical traditionalists who denied women any social presence and status and the rising secularism in which women were actively unveiled and socially present. [See the biographies of Ha’iri Yazdi and Borujerdi. ]

The rising tide of modernity in the 193os and 1940s, which in political terms ultimately led to the establishment of the Pahlavi state apparatus, also witnessed a contrapuntal mode of reform in Shi`i political thought. Mirza Riza Quli Shari `at Sangalaji (18go-1944) is the chief representative of a rather radical notion of modernity who tried to advance such subversive ideas as the total discarding of the institution of taglid, or “emulation of the exemplary conduct of the religious authorities” (see Bigdili, 1944 and Richard, in Arjomand, 1988, chap. 7). What is detectable in Shari`at Sangalaji’s thought is an almost Wahhabi return to absolute monotheism, a rejection of the Shl’i cult of saint that immediately sets Sangalaji next to Kasravi, and a solid streak of rationalism which is meant to rescue the Shl’! faith from medieval absolutism, while equipping it for confrontation with the supposed evils of “The West.”

The two chief antagonist forces to which Shi`i political thought responded actively in the 1940s and 1950s were the Baha’i faith and communism. In 1951 Khalisi published Bandits of Right and Truth, or, Those Who Return to Barbarism and Ignorance in response to the antireligious tract published by the Tudeh Party, Guardians of  Magic and Myth (see Arjomand, 1988, pp. 188-189). The 195os also gave rise to a reemergence of nationalism in Iran, a movement chiefly identified with Mohammad Mossadegh, the champion of the Iranian nationalist resurgence. And it was to nationalism that Shi`i political thought responded in the 1950s. `Ali Akbar Tashayyud was chiefly responsible for an active coordination of Shi`i doctrines with the dominant themes of nationalism in the 1950s. While Tashayyud tried to assimilate nationalism into Shi`i political thought, Sayyid Mahmud Taligani (Talegani, 1910-1979) sought to give an active rereading of such key Shi`i figures as Nd’ini and Kharagani by posing Shiism as an alternative to nationalism (Dabashi, 1993, chap. 4). [See the biography of Tdlegdni. ]

According to Arjomand, “The 196os was a decade of fateful change in Shi`ism” (1988, p. 189). The decade of the 196os began with the death of Ayatollah Burujirdi as the last principally apolitical jurist in the tradition of Shaykh `Abd al-Karen Hd’iri Yazdi and Abu al-Hasan Isfahani. Burujirdi’s passive condoning of Muhammad Reza Shah, very much reminiscent of Ha’ifi Yazdi’s passive acceptance of Reza Shah, had limited ShN political activism to an antisecular, anti-Baha’i, anti-Tudeh Party agenda with which the Pahlavi regime in fact had much sympathy. The death of Burujirdi, however, brought the whole question of supreme political authority in the Shi`i community to a new critical point (see Dabashi, 1993, PP. 264-265).

At this critical moment the leading Shi`i authorities gathered in Qom to ponder the future of religious and political authority. The proceedings of this conference were subsequently published in a volume, Bahsi dar bdrah yi marja ayat va ruhdniyat (A Discussion Concerning the Sources of Exemplary Conduct and the Religious Authorities). Practically all the leading revolutionary ideologues of the late 1970s, with the notable exception of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, contributed to this volume in which such issues as the range of the marja` al-taghd’s religious and political authorities, the viability of the notion of following the most learned, the supervision of sahm-i imam revenue, and many other related issues were openly discussed and debated.

A major institutional development following the death of Burujirdi was the emergence of Qur’anic commentary schools (autonomous religious centers), such as the one established by Taligani in Tehran. Muslim student associations on many university campuses, Muslim professional associations of engineers, physicians, teachers, lawyers, and so forth were among the voluntary associations that began to emerge in the 196os. These organizations provided the institutional bases for the propagation of modern Shi i political thought. Informal gatherings, such as those organized by `Allamah Muhammad Husayn Tabataba”i in Qom and those organized by Murtaza Mutahhari in Tehran, added momentum and energy to Shi`i political thought (see Dabashi, 1993, chaps. 3 and 5). Weekly and monthly journals, such as Maktab-i tashayyu` and Guftar-i mdh propagated the ideas of the rising Shi`i ideologues. But ultimately the establishment of the Husayniyah Irshad in 1965 in Tehran must be considered the most successful modern institution of radical ShN thought.

The major event of the i96os was Ayatollah Khomeini’s first revolutionary uprising. Since the 1940s, Khomeini had been active in Qom where he was busy pursuing his juridical studies under H5’iri Yazd!. While such politically conscious and active clerics as Taligani and Mutahhari were busy debating Pahlavi legitimacy, Khomeini seized the moment by publicly calling for the ouster of the shah. The June 1963 uprising was severely crushed, and Khomeini was exiled first to Turkey and then to Iraq (see Dabashi, 1993, chap. 8).

As Arjomand has noted (1988, p. 19o), Khomeini’s 1963 uprising put clerical reform on hold and gave added momentum to the continued validity of the institution of the Wamd’ (see also G6bel, 1984, chap. 3). At least two high-ranking members of the `ulama’, Hasan Farid Gulpaygani and Shaykh ‘Ali Tihrani, carried forward the theoretical implications of Khomeini’s 1963 uprising and in the 1970s wrote treatises in which ideas of supreme collective clerical rule for the Shl’! `ulamd’ were expounded (see Arjomand 1988, p. 191). The result of Khomeini’s radical politicization of the institution of the `Mama’ is so drastic that one can indeed speak of “an ideological revolution in ShNsm” (Arjomand, 1984, chap. to, and 1988, p. 192).

The greatest and most effective challenge to the authority of the `ulama’ as an institution, however, came from `All Shari`ari (1933-1977) In the i96os and 1970s, Shari`at-1 singlehandedly reimagined a whole new, radically active spectrum for Islam. In a series of effectively delivered public lectures and persuasively written essays, Shari ati generated an unprecedented energy and enthusiasm among politically committed intellectuals with a religious bent (for samples of his works in English, see Shari`ad, 1979, 1981, 1986). Educated in Mashhad and Paris, Shari`ati mastered an effective repertoire of rhetorical devices and then returned to his homeland, fully committed to transforming Shiism into a full-fledged political ideology. Shari`ati considered the institution of the clerical establishment as fundamentally outdated and compromised. He sought to release the Shi`i sacred imaginations from the authority of the `ulama’. With a barely concealed disdain for clerical quietism or what he considered irrelevant piety, Shara`ati wed the sacrosanct memories of Shiism to the most serious problems of his time: cultural colonialism, social injustice, political repression, and the worldwide domination of what he saw as “Western imperialism.” Combining his own brand of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism and Frantz Fanon’s Third Worldism, Shari`ati championed an autonomous and independent man fully in charge of his destiny. He also reconstructed outdated figures of Shi’! collective history, such as Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter and the wife of the first Shi’! imam, ‘Ali, whom he turned into a devoted revolutionary woman to be emulated by his contemporaries (see Dabashi, 1993, chap. 2). Shari`at-1 redefined the role of revolutionary intellectuals, ridiculed and dismissed secular intellectuals, and made faith and belief once again acceptable, even fashionable, among young Sh!’Is. In his major work, Islamshindsi (1972), Shari’ati took on himself the stupendous task of redefining what it means to be a Muslim. He went back deep into the most sacrosanct corners of Sh-N and Islamic memories and brought back to life what he thought was “the true Islam,” an Islam which was all but forgotten and yet waiting to mobilize its adherents to an active, radical, and revolutionary commitment in life. He redefined monotheism in classless, expressionless, anti tyrannical terms. [See the biography of Shan-`att.]

The person who had facilitated much of what Shanati accomplished in his radical repolitication of Shl’! Islam was Jalal AI-i Ahmad (1923-1969), who, in such works as Gharbzadagi (Westoxication) and “On the Services and Treasons of Intellectuals,” argued vociferously against what he called “Western” culture, including its revolutionary ideologies, and for a local, domestically viable, construction of a revolutionary ideology (see AM Ahmad, 1984). Al-i Ahmad pointed toward recent Iranian and Iraqi history in which the only successful social mobilizations had occurred when the Shi i clerics were involved. A disillusioned Marxist, AM Ahmad sought to rekindle a radical trait in Shiism. What Al-1 Ahmad had barely noticed, Shari`ati took to its fullest potential, persuasively arguing for the revolu tionary possibilities of Shi`i ideology (see Dabashi, 1993, chap. 1).

By far, the most erudite, systematic, and relentless ideologue who carried the revolutionary potential of a repoliticized Shiism to its logical conclusion was Murtara Mutahhari (1920-1979). On some fundamental issues, particularly on the central role of the `ulama’ in politics, Mutahhari disagreed with Shari’au. Perhaps the unintended consequence of his ideas was the further consolidation of “Islamic ideology” as the most potent revolutionary machinery preceding the events of 1979. Launching his revolutionary zeal from his solid place in the Shi’i clerical establishment, Mutahhari mobilized Sh-N doctrines and institutions to argue against all other (Marxist-materialist and nationalist-liberal) revolutionary alternatives. Islamic philosophy was his principal weapon in a deliberate attempt to dislodge historical materialism (for samples of his writing, see Mutahha C, 1985, 1986, n.d.). He shifted his attention from a popularization of the recondite language of Islamic philosophy to public lectures to various Muslim associations on a variety of issues, including the renarration of popular religious stories. He severely criticized the clerical establishment for its abandonment of politics, and in such works as Akhldq-i jinsi dar Islam va jahan-i gharb, `Ilal-i girdyish bih mdddi-gari, and Islam va mugtaziyat-i zaman, he confronted all the vital issues of his time, preaching to and preparing a massive audience that ultimately joined him and other clerics in 1979 to topple the Pahlavi monarchy (see Dabashi, 1993, chap. 3). [See the biography of Mutahhari.I

Mutahhari’s philosophical preoccupation with historical materialism and his concerns with popularizing a more readily accessible and politically relevant Islamic philosophy was largely indebted to his close association with `Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i (1903-1981), a distinguished Shi`i scholar who was equally concerned with the erosion of Islamic doctrines and ideas. In his major philosophical contribution to the active engagement with Marxism, and historical materialism, Usul-i falsafah va ravish-i ri’alizm (1953-1985), Tabataba’i took issue with those pervasive ideas. His concern was primarily for the seminary students in Qom who had apparently been drawn to radical, secular ideas (for a sample of TabatabaTs writings, see Tabatabai, 1989). But Mutahhari’s extensive commentaries on these texts made them accessible to more secular students in Tehran University. Throughout his Qur’anic commentaries and his participation in questions of supreme juridical/political authority among the Shi`is and a host of related issues, Tabataba’i actively participated in his generation of high-ranking clerics’ concern with the rise of Marxism, historical materialism, secularism, and ultimately the future of the Shl i faith and its social and political contexts (see Dabashi, 1993, chap. 5). [See the biography of Tabdtabd’i]

To address the specifics of those social and political contexts in a language that bore the sacred authority of the Qur’an, another major political thinker of this period, Sayyid Mahmud Taligani, used the discourse of Qur’anic commentary as his preferred narrative. Through a succession of Qur’anic commentaries, pubfished later as Partuvi az Qur’dn (1979-1983), Taligani read an actively revolutionary message into the Islamic holy text. In and out of prison for his political activities over an extended period of time, Taligani preached his radical, revolutionary reading of the Qur’an, linking its sacrosanct message to the most immediate and compelling problems of his time. Taligani felt equally compelled to battle Marxism, especially its economic theory. He wrote a book, Islam and Ownership (1953; for an English translation, see Talegani, 1983), in which he countered the Marxist conception of the economic basis of social structure and then assimilated its principal terms and discourse in narrating an Islamic political economy (see Dabashi, 1993, chap. 4). Taligani’s ideological and political leadership were instrumental in the formation of the Mujahidin-i Khalq organization, an urban guerrilla movement that paralyzed the Pahlavi regime, then joined the 1979 revolution but subsequently broke ranks with Ayatollah Khomeini’s followers (Abrahamian, 1989). [See Mujahidin, article on Mujahidin-i Khalq.]

The economic aspect of “Islamic Ideology,” as the Shi`i ideologues now actively identified their rallying cry, was more extensively elaborated by Sayyid AbolHasan Bani Sadr (Abu al-Hasan Bani Sadr, b. 1933) Long before he attained the distinction of becoming the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Bani Sadr actively participated in anti-Pahlavi movements and wrote extensively on the political economy of oil production in the Middle East in general and Iran in particular (for his political views, see Bani Sadr, 1981). In such works as Igtisdd-i tawhidi (1978) and Naft va sultah (1977), Bani Sadr argued enthusiastically that the Pahlavi regime was plundering Iranian natural resources and selling them cheaply to the United States and Europe (see Dabashi, 1993, chap. 7).

Mehdi Bazargan (b. 1907), a quiet revolutionary, with an unending admiration for Mohandas Gandhi, became the link between revolutionary ideologues and their targeted audience. Long before he had the precarious distinction of becoming the first (transitional) prime minister after the fall of the Pahlavi regime in 1979, Bazargan had been actively involved in the political mobilization of the professional classes. Having received his engineering education in France (he was sent to Europe along with a group of other students by Reza Shah in 1929), Bazargan returned to his homeland determined to reawaken religious sensibilities against the rising tide of secularism and to activate political mobilization to gain power. In 1961, Bazargan, Taligani, and a number of other Muslim activists established the Liberation Movement of Iran (see Chehabi, 19go). Imprisoned for his political activities, Bazargan spent much of his time rewriting a history of the Indian independence movement as a disguise to express his own wishes for a similar revolutionary movement in his homeland. Bazargan used the occasion of his defense at the Pahlavi court to issue a strong condemnation of tyranny and injustice. After his release from prison, Bazargan wrote and gave public lectures on a variety of issues, all targeted at an active resuscitation of a religious sensitivity conducive to revolutionary changes in the status quo (see Dabashi, 1993, chap. 6). [See Liberation Movement of Iran; and the biography of Bazargan.]

By far the most rhetorically successful revolutionary Shi`i was Ayatollah Khomeini (1902-1989), who ultimately engineered the downfall of the Persian monarchy. Born in the small village of Khomein (Khumayn), near Tehran, Khomeini grew up in the immediate aftermath of the Constitutional Revolution, which ushered in the rapid institutionalization of modernity in Iran. He received his early education in Khomein and Arak and then moved to Qom to pursue his higher scholastic studies, where he was even more aggravated by the rise to power of the Pahlavis and the even more rapid dissemination of politically mandated modernization. Khomeini watched with visceral contempt the shah’s absolutist rule in the late 195os and early 196os. Khomeini’s 1963 uprising against the shah was based on decades of resentful deliberation in religious and political terms. The increasing secularization of Pahlavi society and the American domination of Iranian political, social, economic, and cultural life were the principal points of contention that moved Khomeini to open revolt. After the June 1963 uprising and exile, Khomeini launched a major campaign against the legitimacy of the Pahlavi regime and of the monarch’s authority. The principal text that was produced in this period was Vilayat-1 fagih (1970), in which Khomeini defined the principal doctrines of his Islamic government (for a translation, see Algar, 1981). The major thesis of Vilayat-i fagih is quite simple: The Islamic government established by the prophet Muhammad and (according to the Shi`is) continued by the Imams was not meant to be a transitional government. In the absence of the Twelfth Imam, who is now in occultation, the world is plunging deeply into corruption and despair. The Shi`is cannot know exactly when the Twelfth Imam is to appear. In the meantime, the responsibilities of leading Muslim nations cannot be entrusted to corrupt and tyrannical rulers like the shah, who simply aggravate the situation because they are deeply corrupt themselves. At this point, Khomeini accumulates a series of Qur’anic passages and prophetic traditions that he interprets to mean that the (Shi’i) jurists are to assume power, because, by virtue of having access to the specifics of the sacred law, they know how to regulate the daily affairs of Muslims that assures their salvation. Other than Vilayat-i fagih, Khomeini wrote letters incessantly to Muslim student associations in Iran, Europe, the United States, and Canada, inviting and encouraging them to unite and revolt against the Pahlavi regime. Khomeini wrote extensively on other issues-juridical, mystical, and philosophical in particular. Even some of his poetry has been posthumously published. But the main access to his political ideas remains in his letters, in his proclamations, and in Vilayat-i fagih (Dabashi, 1993, chap. 8). [See Wilayat alFaqih; and the biography of Khomeini.]

As Khomeini’s leadership of the Iranian Revolution was gaining momentum late in 1970, in Lebanon another Iranian cleric, Imam Musa al-Sadr, gave charismatic expression to the hopes and aspirations of the disenfranchised Shi’i community in that war-torn country. Musa al-Sadr was instrumental in turning the Shi`i minority of Lebanon into a major political force that not only the Sunnis and Maronite Christians had to take seriously, but that the two occupying powers, the Syrians and the Israelis, had to contend with. In the summer of 1978, Musa al-Sadr disappeared while on a short visit to Libya (Ajami, 1986). [See the biography of Sadr.]

In the meantime in Iran, after the success of the Islamic Revolution in February 1979, there followed a period of ideological institutionalization of Shi`i political ideas. In this respect, the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran must be considered the latest document in the saga of modern Shi`i political thought (for a translation, see Algar, i98o).

The most prominent Shi`i political theorist after the success of the Islamic Revolution is `Abd al-Karen Surush, whose theory of gabz va bast-i sharii at (“contraction and expansion of religious law”) created much controversy in Iran. In a series of highly effective essays, Surush read the ideas of such major ideologues of the Islamic Revolution as Murtaza Mutahhari into a metanarrative of Islamic revolutionary revivalism. With the same stroke he tried to elevate the level of ideological debate in Iran beyond the incessant factionalism of the opposing parties that fought for the immediate fruits of their revolution. The result was of course a typical response to such highly effective propositions: while the entrenched clerical establishment smelled disenchantment and trouble from the writings of Surush, a group of young and disenfranchised Muslim intellectuals began to gather around him. Surash’s serious engagements with the ideological and philosophical consequences of the success of the “Islamic” revolution thus went without any serious critical judgment meeting it on its own terms and turf. But as the most philosophically engaged ideologue of the postIslamic Revolution, Surush will undoubtedly emerge as the future systematizer of yet another master-dialogue of Shiism with its history.

[See also Constitutional Revolution; Iran; Iranian Revolution of 1979; Qajar Dynasty; and Safavid Dynasty. For biographies of Reza Shah and Muhamad Reza Shah, see under Pahlavi.]


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Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/shii-islam/

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