Ali Dashti

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Ali Dashti (Persian: علی دشتی, pronounced [æˈliː dæʃˈtiː]; 1894 – January 16, 1982) was an Iranian rationalist of the twentieth century. Dashti was also an Iranian senator.

Ali Dashti: His Life and Work

By: Sayeh Dashti

Introduction from: The Realm of Sa'di published by Mazda Publishers in California, 2013

My great-uncle, Ali Dashti (1894-1982), was a well-known figure in twentieth-century Iranian society, noted for his contributions to journalism, politics, and literature. During his long and prolific career, Ali Dashti was a journalist writing about contemporary politics and sociopolitical issues, an influential politician, a translator of Arabic and French works into Persian, an essayist, a writer of fiction, a literary critic, and an author of books of religious criticism. Not only his articulate writings but also his dynamic personality and progressive ideas remain legendary among those of us who knew him. Ali Dashti’s studies of the principal Iranian classical poets are his works that are most likely to stand the test of time. He had a very unique and singularly personal approach to literary criticism. In the eight books he wrote on Iran’s classical poets he expresses his personal reaction to their works with an intuitive style that was new and different and that distinguishes him from other authors. I was motivated to undertake this translation of his book on the classical poet Sa’di due to my heartfelt respect for and admiration of my great-uncle both as an author and as an individual. By translating his books I hope to perpetuate his legacy. The translation of Dashti’s words into an international language such as English makes his works and his ideas more accessible to scholars and students of Persian literature around the globe. Also, as an Iranian born and raised in Iran but who has spent the greater part of my adult life living outside the country, I am acutely aware of how much Iranians who were born and raised outside Iran have missed out on their very rich cultural heritage. In part it is for expatriate Iranians that I have done this translation. Qalamrow-e Sa’di [The Realm of Sa’di] is the second of Ali Dashti’s books I have translated into English. My first translation was of Dashti’s volume on Molana, Seyr-i dar Divan-e Shams [A Voyage through Divan of Shams] (Tehran: Ketab Sara Publishing, 2003). I elected to translate that book because I myself was emotionally attached to Molana. This book, however, I chose because Ali Dashti himself was so enamoured of Sa’di. Of the seven classical authors about whom he wrote it was Sa’di he admired the most. He expressed time and again that Sa’di’s ghazals are “a leap towards bliss.” Dashti chose the title The Realm of Sa’di because he considered Sa’di to be the king of vast territories of prose and poetry. He also recognized that Sa’di was widely travelled and familiar with many different cultures. Throughout the book Dashti expresses his sincere devotion to Sa’di. He admired Sa’di for his commitment to “order.” As mentioned in the Encyclopaedia Iranica article on Dashti, his ideals in life were “freedom,” “reason,” and “order.” Dashti declares Sa’di’s language to be the purest form of the Persian language, Farsi. In Dashti’s view, Sa’di is a master of the Persian language and provides a standard for the language. Most Iranians have been raised with poetry and words of wisdom from Sa’di’s writings. Sa’di’s works are taught to all Iranian students at every level of elementary and high school as standard Farsi texts. Many people have written about Ali Dashti and a number of his books have been translated into English. In my view, Dashti’s writing is similar to a harmonious symphony. All the aspects of his writings—the poets he chose to introduce, the poems he selected to include in his books, the distinctive titles of his books—are perfectly synchronized. In my opinion it is unfortunate that some translators, editors, and publishers have added or subtracted some material to and from his works. I consider Dashti’s writing to be uniquely flawless. In my view, tampering with any part changes the perfectly balanced meaning of the whole. For instance, Dashti chose the title Qalamrow-e Sa’di [The Realm of Sa’di] to sum up what defines Sa’di: the master of a vast territory. The publishers of a posthumous edition of this book have changed the title to Dar qalamrow-e Sa'di [In the Realm of Sa’di]. This is a small change but it is a change nonetheless. It is this edition that I have used for my translation. As his translator I have made concerted efforts not to interfere with the original writing of Ali Dashti and to keep my translation as faithful as possible to his original. The one liberty I have taken is to add footnotes in order to introduce names or concepts that might be unfamiliar to English-speaking readers. I also accept the fact that no matter how much I have strived, some points are lost in translation. A further aim of this introduction is to use Dashti family sources and collective memory to correct misinformation regarding Ali Dashti’s life and career that has been published in books, journals, and on the Internet. For example, the Library of Congress gives Dashti’s year of birth as 1895. In his introduction to his translation of Dashti’s Dam-i ba Khayyam [In Search of Omar Khayyam], L. P. Elwell-Sutton states that Dashti was born in 1896. A Wikipedia article entitled “Ali Dashti” gives his place of birth as Dashti, Bushehr Province, Iran and the year of his birth as 1896. This same incorrect information appears on a number of other websites. Family members recall that Ali Dashti was born in March 1894. According to Iranian historian Abdollah Shahbazi, Ali Dashti was born on 11 Farvardin 1273 (= 31 March 1894) in Karbala in what is now Iraq but which was then in the Ottoman Turkish province of Mesopotamia. His ancestors were from Dashtestan near Bushehr in southwestern Iran. Dashti’s paternal grandfather, Akhond-e Molla Abbas, was a renowned religious figure in the Dashtestan region. He left Iran to pursue advanced studies in Karbala, the mecca of higher education in the Middle East of the 1800s. There he married a woman from a prominent Iranian family who lived in Kazemain. Their only child, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Hossain Dashti, became a student of theology. He married an Iranian from Karbala, Maryam, and together they had three sons and two daughters. Ali Dashti was the eldest child. After completing his primary education in the traditional Islamic schools, or madrasahs, of Karbala and Najaf, he went on to become the apprentice of an Iranian religious teacher, Hajj Sheikh ‘Abd al-Karim Yazdi. Dashti continued his education and mastered Arabic, commentary on the Qur’an, history of Islam, world history, philosophy, and logic. According to Dashti family recollections, it was while he was a student in Najaf that Ali Dashti’s extensive knowledge of Arabic was discovered by the French Consulate General in that city. He was invited to teach Arabic to consulate staff. In return he asked to be taught French. This was the beginning of his lifelong study of the French language. In the autumn of 1918, at the end of World War I, then 24-year-old Ali Dashti, his parents, and siblings returned to their native Iran. They settled in the southwest of the country, the home of their ancestors. Dashti's forefathers and most of his family members were outstanding statesmen, politicians, and decision makers for their country. It is true that most of them were also religious people. The majority of them, including my own father (his nephew, who was a member of the House of Representatives), were educated in Najaf and Karbala and wore the traditional Islamic turban as students. Once they returned to Iran, they were either in the government or working for the government and the people of their country. Despite being the son and grandson of Shiite clerics and having been educated in traditional Islamic schools, it was never Ali Dashti’s intention to pursue a career as a cleric. Instead, his earliest career choices involved politics and journalism. The early twentieth century was a time of great sociopolitical and intellectual turbulence in Iran. A number of national crises had led to the constitutional revolution of 1906, the primary aims of which were rule of law and a parliamentary system meant to curb the absolute power of the country’s monarchs. In his early political career, Dashti was deeply impressed by the 1906 constitutional revolution and its ideals and goals. Along with a number of like-minded intellectuals, he took bold measures to pave the way for societal and political reforms. Upon his arrival in Iran, Dashti had joined forces with his brother-in-law Mohammad Hossain Borazjani, who was the leader of a resistance movement against the invasion of the south of Iran by the British. He moved to Shiraz and was subsequently elected as a representative to the Majles, the lower house of the Iranian Legislature. Shortly thereafter he moved to Isfahan. It was in Isfahan that he was informed about the 1919 Anglo-Persian Agreement. If ratified, this pact would have guaranteed British access to Iranian oil fields and control over the country’s military and financial affairs. Dashti was devastated by the injustice inherent in that document and responded promptly by rushing to Tehran to intervene. Due to his outspoken criticism of the 1919 Anglo-Persian Agreement Dashti was detained in June 1920 and sent to jail for a short time. This, the first of several periods of incarceration, was followed by a brief exile to Kermanshah. During many of his years of resistance against the unlawful acts of the government, Dashti was either imprisoned or placed under house arrest. Despite this, he never ceased to voice his humanistic and liberal ideas through journalism, politics, and the writing of books. It was during his second stint in prison, from February 1921 for three months, that he began writing about the experience. His prison notes, first published in instalments in his newspaper Shafaq-e sorkh [Red dawn], were later published in book form. Dashti expressed his reactions to his imprisonment as follows:

“This is unthinkable! How is this possible? How is it feasible that I am guilty because my ideas are opposite the unlawful style of the government? How could they put me in prison for my ideas! I have just begun to express my views—I have not killed anyone, I have not stolen anything, and I love my country. I have never wanted anything but the best for my country. What is the reason? Why are they putting me in prison? What kind of freedom is this? What kind of constitutional system is allowing this?”

As a journalist, Dashti was invited to be chief editor of the newspaper Setareh-ye Iran [Star of Iran] in Tehran. This weekly newspaper, along with a few others, such as Tufan [The storm] and Iran-e Azad [Free Iran], still believed that the constitution was there to safeguard them against censorship. Some of the articles he wrote for Setareh-ye Iran fearlessly criticized actions of the government that he viewed as anti-nationalistic. These newspapers were soon shut down and the owners put in jail—where some were physically punished—or exiled from Iran. The day after Setareh-ye Iran went dark, Dashti, without hesitation, started his own newspaper, Shafaq-e sorkh [Red dawn], a candid publication through which readers became acquainted with his nationalistic ideas and quest for lawfulness. Published three times a week at first, it later became a daily paper. His style of writing, courage, and frank criticisms not only provided guidelines for lawful governing, but also opened a new chapter in Iranian literature. For example, in the tenth issue of Shafaq-e sorkh (31 March 1922), Dashti addresses the future Reza Shah:

“Mr. Commander in Chief: Read this, and read it carefully, for ever since you have become the commander in chief these valuable words have seldom reached your closed ears …”

The newspaper was closed down many times, however Dashti continued its publication under alternative titles. In 1931 he had turned over the editorship to another individual but continued to be the owner, publisher, and a regular contributor. Eventually in 1935 Shafaq-e sorkh was closed for good and Dashti was arrested. He was in prison from March until May. Then, due to illness, he was confined to a private clinic for five months. When finally allowed to return home he was under house arrest for the next seven months. In 1946 Russia withdrew its army from northern Iran, but it still held claim to the oil of this area. Between the years 1923 to 1945, Dashti had been a member of the House of Representatives, the Majles, (eight terms in all) and, along with Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, had opposed the demands of the Russians. In the spring of 1946 he gave a rousing speech in the Majles against the Russians as well as the government of Prime Minister Qavam-al-Saltaneh for supporting the treaty. Following this speech, he was arrested and put in jail. The two months in prison were followed by four months of house arrest. In mid-October Dashti left for Europe and spent twenty months in France where he mastered the French language and also became personally acquainted with some of the great French authors of the time. In June 1948 Ali Dashti returned to Iran. When I was born later that year it was he who gave me the name Sayeh (= shadow or shade), the title of one of his books. As he had recently been appointed Iran’s ambassador to Egypt, he decided that my middle name should be Qahirah (= Cairo). After serving as ambassador to Egypt from late 1948 to early 1951 he returned to Tehran and, for a brief time in 1951, he was a minister in the short-lived cabinet of prime minister Hossein Ala. In 1953 the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, appointed Dashti to the Senate where he served with distinction until 1979. During that time period he also served as Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon in 1963. In parallel with his political contributions, Ali Dashti’s career as a writer was brilliant and most significant. He was a dominant and daring journalist, a noble novelist, a true nationalist, and finally, an admirer and advocate of the great Iranian classical poets. Some members of the reading public knew Dashti only for his three collections of short stories that have as their titles the names of their female protagonists: Fetneh (1944), Jadu (1951), and Hendu (1955). Most of these short stories are titillating tales of a love affair between a suave, articulate bachelor and a married, Europeanized, upper class Tehran society woman. Written in his characteristic fluid and polished style, these stories “display Dashti’s gift for analyzing the emotional and spiritual attitudes of the women of the upper classes, caught between the traditional status of their sex in Islamic Persia and the new craving for social equality with men.” Dashti’s book Sayeh—a collection of essays, articles, and translations published in 1946—is another example of his acute intellectual analyses. When he was in his sixties and at the peak of his political career, Dashti began delving into and writing about Persian classical poets such as Hafez, Molana (Rumi), Sa‘di, Khaqani, Khayyam, Sa’eb, and Naser-e Khosrow. In the words of Elwell-Sutton, “in these works he has, in contrast to academic scholars both Western and Eastern, adopted a very personal approach—an imaginative and sensitive evocation of the poet’s personality and genius, based on sound scholarship and a deep understanding and love of the Persian literary tradition.” In his book Seyr-i dar Divan-e Shams [A Voyage through Divan of Shams], he wrote:

Molana’s Divan-e Shams is a sea: Its calm is serene and its agitation awesome. Like the sea, it is made of waves and motions. Like the sea, it is a profusion of colors. Like the sea, it is a mirror to the sky reflecting the sun, the moon, the stars and the shadowy designs of dusk within itself. Like the sea, it is full of movement and life. Beneath its smooth and calm surface, there exists a world of passion and turmoil. The Divan-e Shams is not merely a book of verse; rather it is the sound of the sea in a howling gale. The Divan-e Shams is the image of the uneasy soul of Molana that is at once filled with excitement and intoxicated with passion and charm. The intelligentsia, to which Dashti belonged, believed that the major causes for Iranian sociopolitical underdevelopment were domestic and rooted in the outdated concepts and percepts of laws and religion which, in reformers’ minds, needed serious overhaul, criticism, and improvement. Dashti believed, as some of his major works later proved, that genuine and lasting reforms for a sustainable modernization of Iran could not take place without a reform also of religious thought. One of the books he wrote in this vein was ‘Oqala’ bar khelaf-e ‘aql [Intellectuals versus Intellect] (1975), a most influential criticism of classical Sufi and mystical literature. Dashti held that such literature and its deep influences within the Iranian social milieu were partially responsible for the sociopolitical as well as religious backwardness and the widespread lack of sense of responsibility in Iranian society of the time. His other books—Takht-e Pulad [dialogues between a learned theologian and his students in Isfahan’s historic Takht-e Pulad cemetery], Jabr ya ekhtiyar [Fatalism versus Free Will], and Bist o seh sal [Twenty-three Years]—are also invitations to society to engage in more lucid thinking and to move away from fallacies. In his controversial book Bist o seh sal, published anonymously in Beirut in 1974 and translated by F. R. C. Bagley as Twenty-Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad, Dashti advocates the demystification of the Prophet Mohammad. Some have viewed this as heretical, while others feel that his treatment of his subject is very fair-handed. Knörzer sums up Dashti’s books of religious criticism as follows: “Dashti’s early madrasa training and his religious background must have been good preparation for the writing of such books. His approach to religion was, once more, personal and intuitive, and far from uncritical; he was not afraid to point out problems and to discuss them in a frank manner.” There is not enough space in this short introduction to talk about Dashti’s political role in modern Iran. However, family members reported that the last words he penned were a few lines of wisdom about politics. Found next to his bed, shortly before his death, was a quote from Iran’s national epic poet Ferdowsi’s The Shahnameh. By bridging poetry and politics, these three couplets symbolize Dashti’s passion for both realms during a good portion of his illustrious career. They also represent his political philosophy and dedication to Persian literature, on which his restless soul had thrived since his early years. Perhaps by leaving the following words, he intended to offer some last political advice and will for future generations in Iran:

Three acts unseat Monarchs off their throne: First is when the head of state rules unjustly. Second, when he promotes the ignorant and empowers him over the knowledgeable. And the third is when he accumulates wealth beyond what is needed for his limited lifespan.

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Dashti was imprisoned twice when in his eighties. In poor health when released, he lived with family members for seven months before passing away in Tehran’s Jam Hospital on January 16, 1982 at the age of 87. �

A Bibliography of Ali Dashti In her 1994 Encyclopaedia Iranica article about Ali Dashti, Jutta Knörzer writes: “It is next to impossible at this time to produce a definitive bibliography of Dashti’s works that would include every article and editorial that he wrote.” The bibliography of Ali Dashti’s published works presented here has been compiled from a variety of sources. Even though a thorough search has been done in order to provide the most precise dates on which his works were published in any form (as a newspaper article, a magazine article, or as a book), the fact remains that not all sources show identical data. Prior to their publication in book form, some of the earliest works by Dashti were first published as articles or notes either in his own newspaper, Shafaq-e Sorkh, and or in other popular literary newspapers or magazines of his time such as Bahar, Ettela’at, Omid, Sokhan, Yaghma, etc. Most of his works have been published numerous times (for example, Fetneh, 12 editions) and each time some material has been added or excluded from either the content of the book or the introduction. Sometimes the titles of the books have been altered. For example, Qalamrow-e Sa’di has been published as Dar qalamrow-e Sa’di [In the realm of Sa’di]. Tehran: Amir Kabir Publishing House, 1381 [2002]. Dashti signed some of his articles and books using pen names such as Fakhteh, Nevisandeh-e Nashenas [Unknown Writer], Tak, etc. According to Mirza Ali Asghar Hekmat (in the introduction to Fetneh, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1948): Sometimes Dashti writes his articles in the newspapers and the magazines of the capital and signs them with a different name. It is as if by using a different name, he draws a lace cover over his incredibly sweet and enjoyable works. Does he not know that this is not enough to hide his brilliant face? Everyone recognizes Dashti’s writing. The style of Dashti, his uninhibited language, his clear logic, gives him away every time. In the introduction to the second edition of the book Hendu, Ebrahim-e Ramezani, chief editor of Ebne Sina Publishing, writes: “

This is characteristic of Mr. Dashti. He constantly polishes his works, edits and makes them closer to perfection. He is like a skillful jeweler who is working on a precious gem; the more he polishes it, the shinier it becomes. (Ebrahim Ramezani, Publisher’s note. Hendu, 2nd ed. Tehran, Ebne Sina Publishing, 1334. p. 3.)

In a foreword to the third edition of Ali Dashti’s book Ayyam-e mahbas, publisher Moshfeq Hamadani expresses his triumph in succeeding with the challenge of first convincing Dashti to agree to have his book republished and also having been given the chance to incorporate some more of Dashti’s notes to the first and second editions of Ayyam-e mahbas into his third edition (Tehran, 1327). In order to provide readers with an accurate bibliography of Dashti’s works, I have checked facts across many sources. The most reliable sources, no doubt, are the actual books, newspapers, and magazines that mostly do still exist in our families’ libraries. I have also obtained necessary information from sources at the Library of Congress in Tehran, the National Library of Iran, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Wikipedia, and the works of authors such as Elwell-Sutton, Ettihad, Khajehnouri, Knörzer, Mahouzi, Sirjani, and others. The following are Ali Dashti’s books listed in chronological order of their first editions:

1. Navamis-e ruhiya-ye tatavvor-e melal. Ali Dashti’s translation into Persian of an Arabic translation of Gustave Le Bon’s book, Lois psychologiques de l’évolution des peuples. Tehran, 1299-1300 [1921]. The Arabic translation by Ahmad Fathi Zaqlool Pasha was entitled Ser al tatavvor al omam. The actual work of Dashti was written on loose sheets of paper while he was in prison during Qavvam al Saltaneh’s ministry. The book was first published by Ketabkhaneh Ebne-e Sina, Tehran, 1924. The second edition was published as Tatavvor-e melal (Navamis-e ruhiya was removed from the title) by Asatir Publishing House, Tehran, Ordibehesht 1350 [April 1971].

2. Ayyam-e mahbas. 1st ed. Tehran: Ketabkhaneh Omoomi Maaref, 1301 [November 1922]. J. E. Knörzer’s work, Ali Dashti’s Prison Days, Life Under Reza Shah, consists of an analysis of the author and the book and translation into English of many passages. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1994.

Ayyam-e mahbas in its final form consists of three separate sections: “Ayyam-e mahbas,” “Dar rah,” and “Taht-e nazar.” Each section has been added to the book on different dates, however the name of the book has never changed. The first section of the book Ayyam-e mahbas was written during the first three months of Dashti’s imprisonment (August 1921). These scattered notes were published as notes in Ali Dashti’s newspaper, Shafaq-e Sorkh, first through fifteenth issues of the newspaper’s first year of publication, Tehran, 1300. The second part of the book, entitled “Dar rah” [On the road], includes the author’s notes from the time he was forced to walk from Tehran via Qazvin to Hamadan when he was exiled to Kermanshah during Vosuq al Dowleh’s ministry. This section was added to Ayyam-e mahbas in November 1922 and was published as the second edition by Ketabkhaneh Mehr with an introduction by Roknzadeh Adamiat. Tehran, 1313 [1934]. Due to its popularity, Safi Ali Shah Publishing made an attempt to publish another edition in 1317, however this failed due to censorship by the Ministry of Culture (Moshfeq Hamadani’s introduction to Ayyam-e mahbas, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1327, p. 5.) The third part of the book, “Taht-e nazar” [Under surveillance], was written when the author was confined to Najmieh Hospital and later at his own residence (Tehran, 1312–1315). Moshfeq-e Hamadani added this part to the other two sections and published it as Ayyam-e mahbas, 3rd ed., Tehran: Safi Ali Shah Publishing House, Azar 1327 [December 1948].

3. Serr-e tafavvoq-e Anglo-Sakson marbut be chist? In 1302 [1923] Dashti first edited the Arabic translation by Ahmad Fathi Zaqlool Pasha of Edmond Demolin’s book, À quoi tient la supériorité des Anglo-Saxons? He then translated the book from Arabic into Persian. Tehran, 1302.

4. E’temad be nafs. This is Ali Dashti’s translation into Persian of an Arabic translation of Samuel Smiles’ (1812-1904) book Self-Help. Tehran: Shafaq Publishing House, 7 Esfand 1305 [February 27, 1927]. The book Self-Help is the nineteenth-century best-seller by Scottish author and reformer Samuel Smiles (London: John Murray, 1882). This book was translated into French and then into Arabic (Ser al nejah) by Yaqub Sorrof, editor-in-chief of Al Moghataf magazine (Syria, 1918). In the introduction of the translation of this book Ali Dashti writes:

At the request of Mr. Mirza Ali Asghar Hekmat, head of Talim va Tarbiat magazine, and due to the immense importance of this book, I have committed to complete its translation. While I was preparing the translation I found some of my handwritten chapters I had translated before. I regret that my engagement with my newspaper and my duties in the Majlis is not giving me adequate time to redo those chapters. However, I am certain that none of the key points the author has made are being overlooked. I am very pleased that this translation is finally completed and the book is accessible to the public, especially to our young people. Ali Dashti, 7 Esfand, 1305, 25 Shaban 1345.

5. Fetneh, a collection of short stories including “Fetneh,” “Majera-ye an shab,” “Do nameh,” “Daftar-e sheshom,” “Marg-e madar,” “Akharin malja,” “Asab-e mariz,” “Akharin nameh,” “Nameh-e yek zan,” “Cheshm-e u.” Tehran: Marefat Publishing, Esfand 1323 [March 1945].

6. Sayeh, shamel-e enteqadat-e adabi, maqalat-e ejtema’i, ta’surat, tarjomeh ha va yad dasht-ha-ye kootah-e khosoosi [A collection of essays, articles, translations of articles and brief memoranda]. Tehran: Ebne-e Sina Publishing, Farvardin 1326 [March 1947].

7. Jadu, a collection of short stories including “Jadu,” “Paris,” “Palang.” Tehran: Ebn-e Sina Publishing, Esfand 1331 [March 1952].

8. Hendu, a collection of short stories including “Hendu,” “Bar sahel-e mina’i,” “Do shab.” The first part of Hendu was initially published in the Farvardin issue of Roshanfekr magazine, Tehran, 1333, under the title “Khab-e tala’i” [Golden dream]. The collection of stories was published in book form by Ebne Sina Publishing, Tehran, 30 Azar 1334 [December 1955].

9. Naqsh-i az Hafez [An image of Hafez]. Tehran: Ebn-e Sina Publishing, Bahman 1336 [January 1958].

10. Seyr-i dar Divan-e Shams [A voyage through Divan-e Shams]. Tehran: Amir Kabir Publishing, 1337 [1958]. Ali Dashti wrote this book in commemoration of the 700th anniversary of Molana Jallal ud Din Mohammad (Rumi). English translation: A Voyage through Divan-e Shams: Celebrating Rumi, translated by Sayeh Dashti. Tehran: Ketab Sara, 2003.

11. Qalamrow-e Sa'di [The realm of Sa’di]. Tehran: Amir Kabir Publishing, 1339 [1960]. This book was translated into Arabic under the title: Afaq-e adab Sa’di al Shirazi by Mohammad Sadeq Nasha’t, Egypt, 1964. English translation by Sayeh Dashti. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, forthcoming.

12. “Khaqani,” Sha’er-i dir-ashna [“Khaqani” A difficult to know poet]. Tehran: Amir Kabir Publishing, 1340 [1962].

13. Dam-i ba Khayyam [A moment with Khayyam]. Tehran: Amir Kabir Publishing, 1344 [1965]. According to Houshang Ettihad, Contemporary Scholars of Iran, p. 313, this book has been translated into Arabic by Mohammad Sadeq Nasha’t, Egypt. The English translation, In Search of Omar Khayyam, is by L. P. Elwell-Sutton. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971.

14. Khalvatgah-e kakh-e ebda’ [The solitude of the palace of innovation; further thoughts on Khayyam]. Tehran, 1351 [1972]. This collection was first published as eleven leading articles, presented consecutively from Ordibehesht till Esfand, 1351 [April 1972–March 1973] in the literary magazine Yaghma without the author’s signature. At the end of 1351, Habib Yaghmaii, head of the magazine, published those articles as a 150-page book and gave it to Ali Dashti as a present. Tehran: Majaleh Adabi Yaghma Publishing, Bahman 1351 [February 1973]. The following editions dated 1352 and onward, by Sazeman-e Entesharat-e Javidan, have the title of the book as Kakh-e ebda; the word khalvatgah has been removed.

15. Jabr ya ekhtiar [Fatalism or free will]. Tehran, 1352 [1973]. The title page of this book reads: “This is a verbal discussion between Hadje Mola Soltan Ali Gonabadi and Sheik Abbas Ali (Keivan) Ghazvini.” The book was first published as two articles in the seventh and eighth issues of Vahid magazine, Tehran, Mehr-Aban 1350 [October–November 1971].

16. Dar Takht-e Pulad [Dialogues between a learned theologian and his students in Isfahan’s historic Takht-e Pulad cemetery]. Tehran: Yaghma Publishing, Aban 1353 [November 1974]. The contents of this book were first published anonymously in twelve issues of the monthly magazine, Khaterat, Tehran, Dey 15, 1350 through Dey 15, 1351 [January 5, 1972–January 5, 1973].

17. Parda-ye pendar [The veil of perception]. Tehran, 1353 [1974]. First published in the daily newspaper Ettela’at, Ordibehesht 18–31, 1353 [May 8–21, 1974], these articles were later published as a book. Tehran: Ettela’at Publishing, Tir 12, 1353 [July 3, 1974].

18. Bist o seh sal [Twenty-three years]. Beirut, 1974. This book was first published anonymously with no place or date of publication. Ali Dashti subsequently admitted to close friends that he was the author and provided the place of publication. At Dashti’s request it was translated into English by British academic F. R. C. Bagley and published after the author’s death as Twenty Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1985 and reprinted with Bagley’s additional changes by Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, California 1995.

19. Dar diyar-e Sufiyan [In the Sphere of the Sufis], a sequel to Parda-ye pendar. Tehran: Ettela’at Publishing, 1354 [1976].

20. Panjah o panj [Fifty-five years of the Pahlavi Dynasty]. Tehran: Amir Kabir Publishing, 1354 [1976].

21.‘Oqala’ bar khelaf-e 'aql [Intellectuals versus Intellect]. Tehran: Yaghma Publishing, 1354 [1976]. First published in Yaghma magazine, 1972-1973. Five chapters of this book (out of a total of seven chapters) were published in different magazines—Yaghma (1351), Keyhan and Yaghma (1351), Rahnama-ye ketab (1352), Vahid magazine (1352), Yaghma (1352)—prior to the publication of the first edition in 1354. At the request of Yaghma magazine, Dashti edited and added two chapters (chapters 5 and 6) to have the whole published as a book in 1354.

22. Negah-i be Sa'eb [A glance at Sa’eb]. Tehran: Ettela’at Publishing, 1355 [1977].

23. Tasvir-i az Nasser-e Khosrow [An Impression of Naser Khosrow]. Tehran: Javidan Publishing Tehran, Tir 1362 [August 1983]. After Ali Dashti passed away on 26 Day 1360 [January 16, 1982] this book was put together by his great-nephew Mehdi Mahouzi.


In the book, 23 Years, A Study of Prophetic Career of Muhammad, Dashti chooses reason over blind faith:

"Belief can blunt human reason and common sense, even in learned scholars. What is needed is more impartial study."

Dashti strongly denied the miracles ascribed to Muhammad by the Islamic tradition and rejected the Muslim view that the Quran is the word of God himself. Instead, he favors thorough and skeptical examination of all orthodox belief systems. Dashti argues that the Quran contains nothing new in the sense of ideas not already expressed by others. All the moral precepts of the Quran are self-evident and generally acknowledged.

The stories in it are taken in identical or slightly modified forms from the lore of the Jews and the Christians, whose rabbis and monks Muhammad had met and consulted on his journeys to Syria, and from memories conserved by the descendants of the peoples of Ad and Thamud.

Muhammad reiterated principles which mankind had already conceived in earlier centuries and many places.

"Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Socrates, Moses, and Jesus had said similar things. Many of the duties and rites of Islam are continuous practices which the pagan Arabs had adopted from the Jews."


  • Dashti on Persian Classics:

Naqshi az Hafez (1936), on the poet Hafez (ca. 1319-1390).

Seyr-i dar Divan-e Shams, on the lyric verse of the poet Mowlavi Jalal od-Din Rumi (1207–1273).this book has been translated by Sayeh Dashti, Ph.D from Persian to English in 2003.

Dar Qalamrow-e Sa'di, on the poet and prose-writer Sa'di (1208?-1292).

Sha'eri dir-ashna (1961), on Khaqani (1121/22-1190), a particularly difficult but interesting poet.

Dami ba Khayyam (1965), on the quatrain-writer and mathematician Omar Khayyam (1048?-1131); translated by Laurence P. Elwell Sutton, In Search of Omar Khayyam, London 1971.

Negah-i be Sa'eb (1974), on the poet Sa'eb (1601–1677).

Kakh-e ebda', andisheha-ye gunagun-e Hafez, on various ideas expressed by Hafez

  • On Ethics, Theology and Philosophy:

Parda-ye pendar (1974 and twice reprinted), on Sufism (Iranian-Islamic mysticism).

Jabr ya ekhtiyar (anonymous and undated, contents first published in the periodical Vahid in 1971), dialogues with a Sufi about predestination and free will.

Takht-e Pulad (anonymous and undated, contents first published in the periodical Khaterat in 1971-72), dialogues in the historic Takht-e Pulad cemetery of Esfahan with a learned 'alem who sticks to the letter of the Qur'an and the Hadith.

Oqala bar khelaf-e 'aql (1975 and twice reprinted, revised versions of articles first published in the periodicals Yaghma in 1972 and 1973, Vahid in 1973, and Rahnoma-ye Ketab in 1973, with two additional articles), on logical contradictions in arguments used by theologians, particularly Mohammad ol-Ghazzali (1058–1111).

Dar diyar-e Sufiyan (1975), on Sufism, a continuation of Parda-ye pendar.

Bist o Se Sal بيست و سه سال [Roman transliteration of and Persian for "twenty-three years"] 23 Years, a study of the prophetic career of Mohammad.

  • Novels:

Ali Dashti sympathized with the desire of educated Iranian women for freedom to use their brains and express their personalities; but he does not present a very favourable picture of them in his collections of novelettes: Fetna (1943 and 1949), Jadu (1951) and Hendu (1955). His heroines engage in flirtations and intrigues with no apparent motive except cold calculation. Nevertheless these stories are very readable, and they provide a vivid, and no doubt partly accurate, record of the social life of the upper classes and the psychological problems of the educated women in Tehran at the time.

  • Newspapers:

He succeeded in establishing his own newspaper at Tehran, Shafaq-e Sorkh (Red Dawn), which lasted from 1 March 1922 until 18 March 1935. He was its editor until 1 March 1931, when Ma'el Tuyserkani took over.

  • Political Works Collected Articles:

Ayam-e Mahbas (Prison Days) Panjah o Panj (Fifty Five) on major and influential political personalities of Iran

  • Translations into Persian:

Edmond Demolins's A quoi tient La superiorite des Anglo-Saxons Samuel Smiles's Self-Help translated into Persian from Arabic


Criticism on Ali Dashti dates back to 1940s when Gholamhossein Mosaheb, founder of the The Persian Encyclopedia, wrote a book named "Ali Dashti's plots". Mosahab has another note on Dashti which he published as an anonymous author in the Shafagh newspaper around the same time.[1]

Supporting Reza Pahlavi[edit]

According to Mossahab, "eversince Reza Pahlavi assumed head of the defense ministry and violated the constitution, Dashti supported him". He indicates Dashti's article in a newspaper back in 1930 where Dashti addresses Reza Pahlavi as a "national symbol". Dashti's alleged role in Reza Pahlavi's assumption of power was so large that the famous poet Mohammad-Taqi Bahar mentions his name in his political poem, "Jomhoori Nameh"(The republic letter).

The book "55"[edit]

In 1977, Dashti wrote a book titled "The 55", a sympathetic account of the 55 years of the Pahlavi family's reign. The council of Tehran University nominated Dashti for an honorary Doctora degree. The reviews were polarized. One of his harsher critics, Ehsan Tabari, wrote:((In Iran's contemporary history, there are and have been men like, Taghi-zadeh, Doctor Rezazadeh Shafagh and the very Mr. Ali Dashti, who spent all they ever owned serving the tyrants in return for their personal benefits; or as the poet says "They have enslaved knowledge, freedom, faith and fairness"; or, as in the proverb taken from the Gospel teachings, "spared the pearl for the pigs".))

When the Iranian revolution occurred two years later, Dashti published a book named "The Fall Factors", a critical analysis of the Pahlavi dynasty exploring the reasons behind its downfall.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ The reference for this section of the article is a journal paper published by the Iranian historian, Abdollah Shahbazi titled "Life and timeline of Ali Dashti" available here in Farsi.