Sheikh Fazlollah Noori

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Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri (Persian: شیخ فضل‌الله نوری; also Hajj Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri Tabarsi, Sheikh Nouri; 24 December 1843 in Mazandaran – 31 July 1909 in Tehran) was a prominent Shia Muslim cleric in Qajar Iran during the late 19th and early 20th century and founder of political Islam in Iran. Despite his sympathy with the Iranian Constitutional Revolution in the beginning for its opposition to tyranny and rule of law, he soon turned against it upon realizing that the movement established a Western-style government with secular law rather than a government with Islamic law.[1][2] He was executed for treason by Constitutionalists as a result. Today he is considered a martyr (shahid) in the fight against democracy by Islamic conservatives in Iran.[3][2][4]

Noori opposed the constitutional movement and an elected parliament as a danger to Islam, separating religion and state, and colonial intervention in the affairs of Qajar Iran.[5][6]

Life and times[edit]

Early life[edit]

Sheikh Fazl Allah was son of cleric Mulla Abbas Kijouri. After receiving his early education in Kojour and Tehran, Sheikh Fazl Allah moved to Iraq shrine cities where he studied under a prominent Shia scholar, Mirza Hasan Shirazi. After returning to Tehran he grew to become a prominent scholar and teacher. Businessmen and officials also referred to him for settling their legal cases. He also represented the grievances of ordinary people to the government. He was also the author of many outstanding works on jurisprudence and philosophy. He is reported to have lived a period of secluded and austere life while enjoying high respect.[7]

Political doctrine[edit]

In 1880s, Fazl Allah was drawn into politics in response to the Qajar government's increasing business concession to foreign businessmen. Drawing upon the views of his mentor, Shirazi, he argued that during the period of Occultation when government and religion have become separate, running the country has to be a shared responsibility of the government and clerics so as to prevent unIslamic decisions by the rulers. This thesis justified the clerics active involvement in politics.[7]

Anti-colonial efforts[edit]

Sheikh Fazl Allah played some role in the successful Tobacco protest movement against concession of Tobacco monopoly to the British Regie Company.[7]

Constitutional movement[edit]

Along with other clerics such as Seyyed Abdollah Behbahani, Sheikh Fazlollah contributed to the uprising which led to the issuance of the constitutionalism decree.[8] He had initially sympathized with the Constitutional Movement’s opposition to tyranny and demand for rule of law. But once he learned that the parliament that came out of it was to enact laws rather than apply the existing laws of Sharia, he turned against it. He argued that during the Occultation of the Muslim Messiah, Mahdi, an absolutist government which enforces Islamic law was the best government, considering it the lesser of the two evils in comparison to a secular parliamentarian government. His vigorous opposition to the movement led to his arrest by the Constitutionalist forces and his execution.[2] The movement was led principally by merchants, intellectuals and some clerics. Nouri initially gave restrained support to the uprising, but he soon became an extreme critic and enemy of the constitutionalists.[5]

He authored pamphlets and incited mobs against constitutionalism and constitutionalists preaching that they would bring vice to Iran. He issued a fatwa declaring all members of the new parliament and government "apostates", "atheists," "secret Freemasons" and koffar al-harbi (warlike pagans) whose blood ought to be shed by the faithful.[9][6]

According to the Islamic Revolution Document Center, Nouri "played a prominent role in the victory of Constitutional movement, but upon seeing its deviation he began to oppose Westernized Policy" and "was among the first Muslim scholars who found out colonial conspiracy to replace Islam with secularism in the disguise of constitutionalism and constitution and so endeavored to prevent nationalism from surpassing Islamism as well as to obstruct domination of western licentiousness and immorality in the society under the name of democracy and freedom."[10] (On colonial power, Britain supported the Constitutionalist movement. Another, Iran's large neighbor Russia, opposed it.)


Nouri allied himself with the new Shah, Mohammad Ali Shah, who, with the assistance of Russian troops staged a coup against the Majlis (parliament) in 1907. In 1909, however, constitutionalists marched onto Tehran (the capital of Iran). Nouri was arrested, tried and found guilty of "sowing corruption and sedition on earth,"[6] and in July 1909, Nouri was hanged as a traitor. According to the Islamic Revolution Document Centre, Nouri might have been saved by taking of refuge in the Russian Embassy or putting the Russian flag above his house, but his principles would not allow it. He allegedly told his acolytes: “Islam never goes under the banner of evasion ... Is it allowable that I go under the banner of evasion after 70 years of struggle for the sake of Islam?” Then, (according to the Islamic Revolution Document Centre) "he demanded his companions to empty the house in order to be immune from any harm".[10] He is described as a man of conviction and courage for resisting rather than fleeing the Constitutalists's armed attack on his locale which led to his arrest and execution.[2]


According to Ali AbolHassani (Monzer), author of Sheikh Fazlolah Nouri and the Chronological School of Constitutionalism, “... The study of constitutionality is not possible without the study of intellectual and political attitudes of Hajj Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri. He has been influential in various phases of the process and if constitutionality is the first real ground for the serious confrontation between religion and modernism, in those days, Sheikh sided for the defense of religion and paid a great expense for it…” [11] The Islamic Revolution Document Centre quotes author Jalal Al-e-Ahmad as calling Nouri an "honourable man", and comparing his hanged corpse to "the flag of domination of occidentosis raised above the country after 200 years of struggle".[12][10]

According to Afshin Molavi, "Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri's heirs - Iran's ruling conservative clerics - have taken up his cause in the early 21st century" in the fight against democratic reform movement.[1] He is "hailed as a champion who had fought against corrupt Western values", in Tehran a major expressway is named after him, and features "a huge mural commemorating him".[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Molavi, Afshin (April 20, 2001). "Popular Frustration in Iran Simmers as Conservative Crackdown Continue". Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Moin, Baqir. Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah. I.B.Tauris. p. 19.
  3. ^ Molavi, Afshin (2002). Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 192-. Retrieved 1 June 2015. The Tehran billboard of Nouri, erected shortly after the revolution by the Islamic Republic of Iran, presents a different story, one of martyrdom. ... The message is not subtle: the Unjustly hanged Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri, ... was martyred for his defense of Islam against democracy and representative government.
  4. ^ a b Basmenji, Kaveh (2005). Tehran Blues: Youth Culture in Iran. Saqi. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  5. ^ a b Jahanbegloo, Ramin (2004). Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity. Lexington Books. p. 82. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999 p.24
  7. ^ a b c Martin, Vanessa. "NURI, Ḥājj Shaikh FAŻL-ALLĀH – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2017-11-14.
  8. ^ Babai, Farzaneh. "Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri". Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies.
  9. ^ Taheri, Amir, The Spirit of Allah by Amir Adler and Adler (1985), p.45-6
  10. ^ a b c "The martyrdom of Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri, the leader of Iran's constitutional movement". Islamic Revolution Document Center. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  11. ^ "Sheikh Fazlolah Nouri and the Chronological School of Constitutionalism". Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  12. ^ On the Services and Treasons of Intellectuals, Jalal Al-e-Ahmad

Further reading[edit]

  • Ahmad Kasravi, Tārikh-e Mashruteh-ye Iran (تاریخ مشروطهٔ ایران) (History of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution), in Persian, 951 p. (Negāh Publications, Tehran, 2003), ISBN 964-351-138-3. Note: This book is also available in two volumes, published by Amir Kabir Publications in 1984. Amir Kabir's 1961 edition is in one volume, 934 pages.
  • Ahmad Kasravi, History of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution: Tārikh-e Mashrute-ye Iran, Volume I, translated into English by Evan Siegel, 347 p. (Mazda Publications, Costa Mesa, California, 2006). ISBN 1-56859-197-7