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Sheikh Fazlollah Noori

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Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri

Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri (Persian: شیخ فضل‌الله نوری; also Hajj Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri Tabarsi, Sheikh Nouri; born Dec. 24th, 1843, Mazandaran; died 31 July 1909, 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. He fought against the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and 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.[1][2][3]

Noori opposed the constitutional movement and an elected parliament as a danger to Islam, separating religion and state, and colonial intervention (he believed) in the affairs of Qajar Iran.[4][5]

Life and times[edit]

Early life and education[edit]

Sheik Fazlullah was the son of Abbas Kojouri Pishnamaz (Abbas Nouri Tabrassi) and married Sakineh Nouri Tabrasi (Daughter of Mirza Husain Noori Tabarsi). After finishing primary education, he left Iran for Najaf and then Samara to study under Mirza Shirazi. He returned to Tehran in 1883 as an Islamic scholar.[citation needed]

Constitutional movement[edit]

He played a role in the risings which led to the issuing of the firman of constitutionalism. He collaborated with the other constitutionalists including Seyyed Abdollah Behbahani. But his insistence on the compatibility of the constitution with what he believed to be Islamic principles led to a break with the followers of the movement.[citation needed] Nouri was one of the most vigorous opponents of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, a movement to remove foreign influence from Iran, limit the power of the Shah and establish a national consultative assembly that would give the people a voice in the affairs of state. 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.

He believed that the parliament (majlis) was not empowered to make laws since laws of society are set by the sharia under Islam. He wanted a majlis that would nullify all un-Islamic laws passed since the Constitutional Revolution, and would serve only as a forum for consultation to the Shah.[4]

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.[6][5]

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."[7] (On colonial power, Britain supported the Constitutionalist movement. Another, Iran's large neighbor Russia, opposed it.)

Hanging of Fazlollah Nuri - Photo from "Major Haase"


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,"[5] and in July 1909, Nouri was hanged as a traitor. According to the Islamic Revolution Document Center, 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 Center) "he demanded his companions to empty the house in order to be immune from any harm".[7]


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…” [8] The Islamic Revolution Document Center quotes author Jalal Al-e-Ahmad as calling Nouri an "honorable man", and comparing his hanged corpse to "the flag of domination of occidentosis raised above the country after 200 years of struggle".[9][7]

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.[2] 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".[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b Molavi, Afshin (April 20, 2001). "Popular Frustration in Iran Simmers as Conservative Crackdown Continue". Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Basmenji, Kaveh (2005). Tehran Blues: Youth Culture in Iran. Saqi. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Jahanbegloo, Ramin (2004). Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity. Lexington Books. p. 82. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999 p.24
  6. ^ Taheri, Amir, The Spirit of Allah by Amir Adler and Adler (1985), p.45-6
  7. ^ a b c "The martyrdom of Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri, the leader of Iran’s constitutional movement". Islamic Revolution Document Center. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "Sheikh Fazlolah Nouri and the Chronological School of Constitutionalism". Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  9. ^ 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