Ali Shariati

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Ali Shariati
Dr Ali Shariati.jpg
Native name علی شریعتی
Born Ali Shariati Mazinani
(1933-11-23)23 November 1933
Kahak, Iran
Died 18 June 1977(1977-06-18) (aged 43)
Southampton, United Kingdom
Resting place Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Nationality Iranian
Alma mater Ferdowsi University of Mashhad
Occupation Sociologist, Historian
Years active 1952–1977
Employer Ferdowsi University of Mashhad
Organization Hosseiniye Ershad
Political party Freedom Movement of Iran[1]
Spouse(s) Pouran Shariat Razavi
Children Ehsan, Sousan, Sara and Mona
Parent(s) Mohammad-Taqi Shariati
Zahra Amini

Ali Shariati Mazinani (Persian: علی شریعتی مزینانی‎‎,  23 November 1933 – 18 June 1977) was an Iranian revolutionary[2] and sociologist who focused on the sociology of religion. He is held as one of the most influential Iranian intellectuals of the 20th century[3] and has been called the 'ideologue of the Iranian Revolution'.[4]


Ali Shariati (Ali masharati) was born in 1933 in Kahak (a village in Mazinan), a suburb of Sabzevar, found in northeastern Iran.[5] His father's family were clerics.[6] His father, Mohammad-Taqi, was a teacher and Islamic scholar, who opened in 1947 the 'Centre for the Propagation of Islamic Truths' in Mashhad, in the Khorasan Province,[7] a social Islamic forum which became embroiled in the oil nationalisation movement of the 1950s.[8] Shariati's mother was from a small land-owning family.[6] His mother was from sabzevar, a little town near mashhad.[9]

In his years at the Teacher's Training College in Mashhad, Shariati came into contact with young people who were from the less privileged economic classes of the society, and for the first time saw the poverty and hardship that existed in Iran during that period. At the same time he was exposed to many aspects of Western philosophical and political thought. He attempted to explain and provide solutions for the problems faced by Muslim societies through traditional Islamic principles interwoven with and understood from the point of view of modern sociology and philosophy. His articles from this period for the Mashhad daily newspaper, Khorasan, display his developing eclecticism and acquaintance with the ideas of modernist thinkers such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal of Pakistan, among Muslims and Sigmund Freud and Alexis Carrel.[10]

In 1952, he became a high-school teacher and founded the Islamic Students' Association, which led to his arrest after a demonstration. In 1953, the year of Mossadeq's overthrow, he became a member of the National Front. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Mashhad in 1955. In 1957 he was arrested again by the Iranian police, along with 16 other members of the National Resistance Movement.

Shariati then managed to obtain a scholarship for France, where he continued his graduate studies at Sorbonne University in Paris. He worked towards earning his doctorate in sociology, leaving Paris after getting a PhD certificate in sociology in 1964 from Sorbonne University. During this period in Paris, Shariati started collaborating with the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in 1959. The next year, he began to read Frantz Fanon and translated an anthology of his work into Persian.[11] Shariati would introduce Fanon's thought into Iranian revolutionary émigrée circles. He was arrested in Paris during a demonstration in honour of Patrice Lumumba, on 17 January 1961.

The same year he joined Ebrahim Yazdi, Mostafa Chamran and Sadegh Qotbzadeh in founding the Freedom Movement of Iran abroad. In 1962, he continued studying sociology and history of religions, and followed the courses of Islamic scholar Louis Massignon, Jacques Berque and the sociologist Georges Gurvitch. He also came to know the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre that same year, and published in Iran Jalal Al-e Ahmad's book Gharbzadegi (or Occidentosis).

He then returned to Iran in 1964 where he was arrested and imprisoned for engaging in subversive political activities while in France. He was released after a few weeks, at which point he began teaching at the University of Mashhad.

Shariati then went to Tehran where he began lecturing at the Hosseiniye Ershad Institute. These lectures proved to be hugely popular among his students and were spread by word of mouth throughout all economic sectors of the society, including the middle and upper classes where interest in Shariati's teachings began to grow immensely.

Shariati's continued success again aroused the interest of the government, which arrested him, as well as many of his students. Widespread pressure from the populace and an international outcry eventually led to his release after eighteen months in solitary confinement, and he was released on 20 March 1975.

Shariati was allowed to leave the country for England. He died three weeks later in a Southampton hospital under 'mysterious circumstances' although in Ali Rahnema's biography of Shariati, he is said to have died of a fatal heart attack. Shariati is buried next to Sayyidah Zaynab, the granddaughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the daughter of Hazrat Ali in Damascus, Syria, where Iranian pilgrims frequently visit.


Ali Shariati and his family, one day after his release from prison.

Shariati developed a fully novel approach to Shiism and interpreted the religion in a revolutionary manner.[12] His interpretation of Shiism encouraged revolution in the world and promised salvation after death.[13] Shariati referred to his brand of Shiism as "red Shiism" which he contrasted with clerical-dominated, unrevolutionary "black Shiism" or Safavid Shiism.[14] His ideas have been compared to the Catholic Liberation Theology movement founded in South America by Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez and Brazilian Leonardo Boff.[15]

Shariati was a prominent Islamist philosopher who argued that a good society would conform to Islamic values; he suggested that the role of government was to guide society in the best possible manner rather than manage society in the best possible manner.[16] Shariati believed that the most learned members of the Ulema (clergy) should play a leadership role in guiding society because they best understand how to administer an Islamic value system based on the teachings of the Prophets of God and the 12 Shia Twelver Imams.[17] He argued that the role of the clergy was to guide society in accordance with Islamic values to advance human beings towards reaching their highest potential—not to provide/serve the hedonistic desires of individuals as in the West.[17]

Shariati's works were highly influenced by the Third Worldism that he encountered as a student in Paris—ideas that class war and revolution would bring about a just and classless society—from one side, and the epistemic Decolonization thinking of his time from the other side. He is said to have adopted the idea of Gharbzadegi from Jalal Al-e Ahmad and given it "its most vibrant and influential second life."[18]

He sought to translate these ideas into cultural symbols of Shiism that Iranians could relate to. He believed Shia should not merely await the return of the 12th Imam but should actively work to hasten his return by fighting for social justice, "even to the point of embracing martyrdom", saying "everyday is Ashoura, every place is Karbala."[19] When he was writing the three letters to Fanon, contrary to him, Shariati believes that it is not true that we have to put away religion because of fighting with imperialism. Shariati believes that people could fight with imperialism solely through the recovering their culture identity. In some countries such an identity interrelated with religious foundations. Shariati refers to the maxim of returning to ourselves.[20]

Shariati and socialism[edit]

It seems that his eagerness to socialism begun with the translation of the book”Abu Zarr: the socialist God worshiper by an Egyptian thinker namely Abdul Hamid Judat. According to this book, Abu Zarr was the very first socialist.Then, the father of shariati declared that his son believed that the principles of Abu Zarr are fundamental. Even some thinkers described Shariati as the Abu Zarr of Modern Time in Iran.[21] Of all his thoughts, there is insistence on the necessity of revolutionary action. Shariati believed that Marxism could not provide the third world with ideological means for its own liberation. One of his premise was that Islam by nature is a revolutionary ideology. Therefore Islam could relate to the modern world as an ideology. According to shariati, the historical and original foundation of human problematic returns to the emergence of private ownership. He believes that in modern era, the appearance of machine counted as the second most fundamental change in the human condition. In fact, the private ownership and the emergence of machine considered as two curves of history and those changes belong to the second period of history. The first period is to collective ownership. However shariati gives a critique about the historical development of religion and the modern philosophical and ideological movements which has relation with both the private ownership and the -emergence of machine.[22]


Shariati developed the idea of the social, cultural and historical contingencies of religious knowledge in sociology. Shariati believed in the earthly religion and in social context in which meaning of society construed. Also he emphasized that he understands the religion historically because he is a sociologist. As he said he concerned with the historical and social tawhid not with the truth of the exalted book of Quran or Muhammad or Ali.[23]

Philosophy of history[edit]

Completely contrary to Hegel and his philosophy of history, Shariati believes that it is not true that the civilized human is less consciousness than now peoples but rather there is a difference between them. The civilized man could talk on himself more that universe and the new people are so concerned with reality and universe that there is no place for himself and mysticism and religion. Of course he knows the movement of soul in Hegel’s philosophy and history in one sense as right.[24]

Political philosophy[edit]

At first place he criticizes the western liberal democracy. He points out that there is a direct relation between Democracy, liberalism and plundering of nations. He believes that liberal democracy is the enemy of human mankind. He also refers to the fact that the ruling economical system of liberal democracy is unjust and contrary to the rights of people. He maintains that in such a society, someone who is weak already subjected to defeat and annihilation. There are basic foundations in Shariati’s thought on criticism about liberal democracy. The first foundation is related to contrast between religious worldview and non-religious one. In fact he explains the history, society and human according to monistic worldview. He explains liberalism as something with inequality and discrimination. Freedom and equality based on spirituality are the very basis of pre-modern societies which devastated in one period of history. Shariati believes that the government of Imam Ali could be considered as the best form of Democracy, In this occasion, He try to interpret the behavior of Imam Ali in contrast with his enemy.[25] He called this democracy as Commitment democracy. It seems that Shariati doesn’t accept the definition of Democracy based on western explanation although there is no problem between him and democracy. According to him, the religious government is the right of Muslim citizens in terms of democracy. He believes that one of the basic problem of western democracy is demagogy. Nowadays the votes of voter direct to special channels with the help of advertising instruments. In such a condition only one who is critic and consciousness could be away. He maintains that the western democracy based on gold, cruelty and tricking (Zar ,Zour va Tazvir) is a anti-revolutionary regime which is different with ideological Guidance.[25]

Commitment democracy[edit]

For explaining better the commitment democracy, he at first divides between two concepts. One of them is Syasat and the other is politic. Syasat is a philosophy by government that want to have the responsibility of changing and becoming the society not its being and existence. In fact Syasat is a progressive and dynamic thing. The aim of government in the philosophy of Syasat is to change social foundations, institutions and even all the norms of society namely culture, morality and desires etc. in simple word, Syasat want to make exist the people. In contrary, there is no making in politic. In other word politic is follow of having people not making them. Of course Shariati prefers Syasat on politic because the former is more progressive. He considers with making human(Ensan Sazi). In fact his utopia is constructed with three concepts of Gnosis, equality and freedom. Commitment democracy appeared out of his lecture in Hoseyniyeh Ershad; a famous lecture with the name of Ummah and Imamate. According to him, Imam is one who want to guide humans not only in political, social and economic dimensions but also in all existential dimensions. He believes that Imam is alive everywhere and every time. In one hand Imamate is not a metaphysical belief but a revolutionary guide philosophy. He added that Imam has to guide people not according to his desire like dictator but to Islamic ideology and authentic values.[25]


Some scholars known him among the current of religious neo thinkers. According to this stand point, Shariati accepted the rationality of west. Shariati known the theoretical foundation of west as civilization and called its appearances as Tajadod. He emphasized on accepting of civilization and criticized tajadod. He is known civilization as something deep. He also known very well of the importance of empirical science and knowledge. The empirical methodology appreciated by him. He also criticized traditionalism for regardless of scientific methodology. In other hand he criticized Modernists for confusing the western ideological theories with valid scientific epistemology. According to him, the knowledge of reason is self-evident. Therefore he suggested to thought reason as the axiom for understanding the other sources namely holy book or Quran, tradition, syrah and consensus. Also he denied consensus as a source in religion. He insisted on the concepts of knowledge and Time along with holy book and tradition. Consequently he had emphasized on the important role of methodology and changing of viewpoint. Also Shariati, who was the fan of Georges Gurvitch in analysis of sociology, believes that there is no one special pattern for analysis of social affairs and historical events. He thought that there is no unity of religion and society but rather there are many religions and societies. Also shariati referred to active role of scholar of human science during investigation. There is a relation between values of scholar and affecting of those values on the conclusions of investigation. He believes that we haven’t to extend the other conclusions of other western scholars to our society. However he given to criticize the western ideological schools such as nationalism, liberalism and Marxism and etc. He maintains that there is no conformity and correspondence between western ideology and Iranian society. According to him, the democracy is inconsistent with revolutionary evolution and progress. One of his criticism to western ideology is to regardless imitation of those ideology. One of the other his criticism is to denying spirituality in the western ideology. In fact, those ideologies try to stop humans from arriving at transcend goals and any evolutionary movement. In this occasion he firmly criticized capitalism. In contrary, he admired socialism because of guiding human to evolution and freeing from utilitarianism. He firmly criticized Karl Marx. According to Shariati, since that Marx knows the economy as the beneath and foundation of human and society. Just in contrary, shariati knows human as the foundation and origin not economy.[26]

Modern problematic[edit]

According to shariati, human history is composed of two stages, the stage of collectivity and the stage of private ownership.[22] He explains that the first stage namely the stage of collectivity concerned with socially equality and spiritual oneness. But the second stage which is our era, could be considered as domination of the many by one. The second stage begins with the emergence of private ownership. The types of private ownership in history showed in many variety such as Slavery, serfdom, feudalism, and capitalism.[22] According to social ownership, all material and spiritual resources are accessible to everyone. But the monopoly polarized the human community.In fact, according to shariati the private ownership is the main cause of all modern problematic. these problems are to new ills, changing men’s brotherhood and love to duplicity, deceit, hatred, exploitation, colonialization and massacre.The polarization by monopoly manifested during history by different forms. For example in ancient times we encounter with slave economies transferred to capitalist society in modern times.In other word, Machinism considered as the latest stage of private owner ship. Machinism begins in nineteenth century and human beings confronted with many anxieties and problem aroused out of machinism.

Other views on Shariati[edit]

There are many adherents and oppositions on Shariati’s views. But we have to pay attention to the point that the image of shariati is not such that some revolutionary groups, in early days of Islamic republic of Iran, attributed to him. In fact, Sharati has an unknown figure and personality. Ali Khamenei know shariati as a pioneer in Islamic teaching according to requirements of his generation. According to Sayyed Ali Khamenei, Ali shariat had also both positive and negative characters. Ali Khamenei believes that it is unfair that we consider shariati as someone who was firmly disagree with Mullahs. One of the positive side of Shariati is to explain the thought of progression with suitable and simple language for his generation. Shariatie not only was not the opposition of Mullahs but rather he believes in the currents of Mullahs in Iran.[27] Some Scholars like Elizabeth F.Thompson tries to envisage some similarities between Shariati and his role in Islamic revolution in Iran with Sayyed Qutb’s ones in Egypt. Some similarities are to both of them paved the way the eminent revolution in Iran and Egypt. Both had the desire of Islamic cultural dominance. Both were the fan of being revolutionary about ruling values and norms. For them, Islamism considered as third way between American and Soviet patterns. At the same time they were not wholly utopian and they were partly Islamic. Of course there are difference between them such a way that Shariati was along with leftist but Qutb with conservative.According to Taleghani, Ali shariati was a thinker who created a school for revolution. The school guided youth people to revolutionary action.Beheshti believes that Shariati’s work were principal Islamic revolution.[9] According to Hamid Enayat, Shariati not only was a theorizing man but also he was an adherent of Islamic radicalism. Hamid Enayat believed that shariati could be considered as the founder of Islamic socialism. Therefore Shariati considered by Enayat as someone who is the most beloved and popular in Islamic radicalism and socialism. The affection of shariati on the youth was so that anybody else had not such an effection among Islamic intellectual.[28]

According to Hamid Elgar, shariati was the number one ideologue of Islamic revolution.[29]

In contrast, some scholars not only didn’t consider shariati as theorizing man but they removed such a character of him. Berque said that we are not able to talk about on the thought of shariati as a system.[29]


Shariati's most important books and speeches


Shariati translated many books to Persian language. Besides of Abu Zarr mentioned above, he given to translate some book such as the book of Jean Paul Sartre namely “what is poetry”, the book of “Che Guevara the guerilla warfare”. He also began to work on the books of Ernest Fanon like A dying colonialism. He admired the Ouzegan as a major Marxist Muslim and began to translate his book “ the better warfare”.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Houchang Chehabi, Rula Jurdi Abisaab (2006). Distant Relations: Iran and Lebanon in the Last 500 Years. I.B.Tauris. p. 183. ISBN 1860645615. 
  2. ^ "30th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Islamic Republic". Qantara. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Gheissari, Ali. 1998. Iranian Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  4. ^ Abrahamian, Ervand. 1993. 'Ali Shariati: Ideologue of the Iranian Revolution'. In Edmund Burke and Ira Lapidus (eds.), Islam, Politics, and Social Movements. Los Angeles: University of California Press. First published in MERIP Reports (January 1982): 25–28.
  5. ^ Rahnema, Ali. 1998, 2000. An Islamic Utopian. A Political Biography of Ali Shari'ati. London: I.B. Tauris, p. 35.
  6. ^ a b Rakel, E.P. (2008). The Iranian Political Elite, State and Society Relations, and Foreign Relations since the Islamic Revolution. University of Amsterdam. 
  7. ^ An Islamic Utopian, p. 13.
  8. ^ An Islamic Utopian, pp. 13–18.
  9. ^ a b Ervand Abrahamian (1989). Radical Islam: The Iranian Mojahedin. I.B.Tauris. p. 105. ISBN 1850430772. 
  10. ^ An Islamic Utopian, pp. 61–68.
  11. ^ «La jeune génération est un enjeu», interview with Gilles Kepel in L'Express, 26 January 2006 (French)
  12. ^ Ostovar, Afshon P. (2009). "Guardians of the Islamic Revolution Ideology, Politics, and the Development of Military Power in Iran (1979–2009)" (PhD Thesis). University of Michigan. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  13. ^ Abbas Milani (31 July 2010). The Myth of the Great Satan: A New Look at America's Relations with Iran. Hoover Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-8179-1136-2. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  14. ^ Ali Shariati, "Red Shi'ism vs. Black Shi'ism".
  15. ^ Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, Norton, (2006), p. 129
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ Mottahedeh, Roy, The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran, p. 330
  19. ^ Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, Norton, (2006), pp. 128–9
  20. ^ Naser Gharagozlu (2006). From blank revolution to Islamic revolution. p. 87. 
  21. ^ Ervand Abrahamian (1989). Radical Islam: The Iranian Mojahedin. I.B.Tauris. p. 106. ISBN 1850430772. 
  22. ^ a b c Manouchehri, Abbas & Ali Shariati and The Islamic Renaissance Phd dissertation, p. 78
  23. ^ Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Abdolkarim Soroush,The Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics, Edited by John L. Esposito and Emad El-Din Shahin,online pub date: Dec 2013
  24. ^ Ahmad Rasekhi (1198). "Shariati and the hegel's philosophy of history". Keyhan Farhangi (142). p. 41. 
  25. ^ a b c Sayyed Javad Imam Jomeh Zadeh,Hosein Rouhani (2007). comparative inquiry on western democracy and commitment democracy of Ali Sharity. Social sciences of Mashhad university. pp. 59–78. 
  26. ^ Fardin Qoreishi (2001). Shariati and thinking on west from religious neo reflection. Nameh Pajouhesh. pp. 178–179. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ Hamid Enayat (2008). Modern Islamic Political Thought. Acls History E Book Project. ISBN 1597404608. 
  29. ^ a b Abdollah Vakili (1991). Ali shariati and the mystical tradition of islam. Institute of Islamic studies,Mc Gill University. pp. 30–37. 
  30. ^ "Hajj – Dr. Ali Shariati". Al-islam. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  31. ^ a b c d "Ali Shariati علی شریعتی". Shariati. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  32. ^ "Shariati, Ali". Ezania. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  33. ^ "Martyrdom: Arise and Bear Witness – Ali Shariati". Scribd. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  34. ^ Ervand Abrahamian (1989). Radical Islam: The Iranian Mojahedin. I.B.Tauris. p. 109. ISBN 1850430772. 
  35. ^ Ervand Abrahamian (1989). Radical Islam: The Iranian Mojahedin. I.B.Tauris. p. 107. ISBN 1850430772. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Rahnema, Ali. 1998. An Islamic Utopian. A political biography of Ali Shariati. London: I.B. Tauris.
  • Gheissari, Ali. 1998. Iranian Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Hosseini, S A. 2000 "[Ali Shariati's Islamic-Critical School of Thought (1)] مکتب انتقادی دکتر علی شریعتی (1)", Farhang-e-Tose'eh, 9, 44, [1][dead link]
  • Hosseini, S A. 2000 "[Ali Shariati's Islamic-Critical School of Thought (2)] مکتب انتقادی دکتر علی شریعتی (2)", Farhang-e-Tose'eh, 9, 47. [2][dead link]

External links[edit]