Pre-revolutionary philosophical ideas on the subject of modernity in Iran

Pre-revolutionary philosophical ideas on the subject of modernity in Iran

Tehran (source: Pixabay, CC0)

What are the understandings of Iranian thinkers Jalal Al-e Ahmad, Ali Shariati, Ruhollah Khomeini and Morteza Motahhari about human subjectivity and human agency in the earthly world?

Vladimir Mitev

This article is part of the proceedings of the international conference “Iran and the World in the Mirror of History”, which took place in University of Sofia in February 2019. It was organised by the University of Sofia, the Allameh Tabatabai University (Tehran), and the Islamic Free University (Tehran).

A more recent, thorough and more precise understanding of Al-e Ahmad’s Occidentosis can be found here. The interview with the president of the Iranian Academy Reza Davari can be read here.

The intellectual debates for modernity in Iran in the 60s and 70s are marked by the search for authenticity. The process has been catalyzed by the coup d’etat in 1953 and the modernization project of shah Reza Pahlavi in 1961, also known as the “White Revolution”. 

The White Revolution is an attempt to limit the influence of the land lords and to gain support among the villagers and the working class. Parts  of the reform package are: expropriation of land from the landlords and their  distribution among 1,5 million rural families; nationalization of forests and  pastures; privatization of state companies, etc. 

In fact, the White Revolution strengthens the social conflicts, instead  of resolving them. Reforms increase significantly the dimensions of two of  the dissident classes – the intellectual class and the urban working class. The  land-given peasants become independent and oppositional farmers. The attitudes among a big part of Iranians turn out to be fertile soil for a successive  wave of critical attitude towards the West, which is seen as a supplier of security and inspiration for the policy of Reza Pahlavi’s regime. 

Judging from the philosophical ideas of the period, there is a key understanding for the contemporary Iranian in this period – as somebody who is  alienated from his roots and essence. The leading intellectuals of the 60s and  70s create a discourse of authenticity.  

Jalal Al-e Ahmad 

Jalal Al-e Ahmad articulates strong criticism of Western society and  paves the way for the search of the authentic Iranian and intellectual in Iran  with his works “Occidentosis – a plague from the West” (literally Occiden tosis is a kind of disease, which is afflicted by the West, but it might be interpreted also as a kind of “westernization” – in Persian gharbzadegi, and “On  the Service and Betrayal of Intellectuals”. 

In 1962 Al-e Ahmad published a monograph, called “Occidentosis”, which is a report for the Congress on the Aim of Iranian Education at the  Ministry of Education. The thinker renounces categorically in this text the  imposed Western modernity and sets forth on a quest to recreate the traditional Iranian “self”. It is not accidental that the notion “occidentosis” reminds  “tuberculosis”. Al-e Ahmad borrows it from Fakhroddin Shadman and Ahmad Fardid – intellectuals of the previous generation. In Fardid’s view the  westoxication starts in a time far away with the Hellenic influence upon the  Persian culture. Fardid searches not for the pure race, but for the pure culture.  In Shadman’s view “cursing Alexander (the Great), the invading Arabs or  the Mongols will only hinder solving our current problems” (Shadman 2004: 34 in Ghamari-Tabrizi 2008: 181). Both of these  authors understand westernization as shallow imitation of the West, as affirmation of the Western culture through the negation of the Iranian “self”, but  both of them have no complex understanding for the Western essence (Ghamari-Tabrizi 2008: 181). Al-e Ahmad sees in occidentosis not so much cultural confrontation  between the East and the West, but rather the predicament of colonialism  and dependency (Ghamari-Tabrizi 2008: 180). In Al-e Ahmad’s view westernization is:

“the aggregate of  events in the life, culture, civilization, and mode of thought of a people having no supporting tradition, no historical continuity, no gradient of transformation, but having only what the machine brings them… Occidentosis thus  characterizes an era in which we have not yet acquired the machine, in which  we are not yet versed in the mysteries of its structure”. (Al-e Ahmad 1984: 34)

Al-e Ahmad points out that the West extends and imposes its influence in the world, using the power of machines. In the spirit of the Marxian dependence  theory the intellectual reminds us that the world is divided into two halves – the  owners of the machines and the owners of the resources, the former exploiting the latter. The battle for markets of the developed industrial nations  leads to economic and cultural death of the people of the Third world.  In Al-e Ahmad’s view Iran’s road lies in appropriation and taming of the  machine, without catching West’s disease. In the name of this goal, he argues  for the need of a new Iranian intellectual, such as “the organic intellectual” of  Antonio Gramsci. Al-e Ahmad’s views on intellectuals are formulated in “On  the Service and Betrayal of Intellectuals’ ‘. 

The author criticizes Iranian intellectuals for their disconnectedness from  the masses, for their rejection and lack of understanding of the traditional beliefs, for the easiness, with which they subordinate to the rulers. Al-e Ahmad’s  touch with Western social theory makes him search for authenticity, which  means for him a turn towards an alliance with the Shi’a clerics. 

Al-e Ahmad defines the Enlightenment with the notion roushanfekri (روشنفکری – Enlightenment, enlightedness – from roushanfekr” – intellectual  or enlightener): We can say that roushanfekri “is peculiar to the period in  which human societies are no longer organized on the basis of blind obe dience or fear of the supernatural… In more general terms, rushanfekri “is  a period in which man is cut off from natural elements… and his destiny is  separated from that of nature. [He] finds himself alone vis-a-vis his destiny, without any celestial or terrestrial support… forced to act relying on himself  only, without any expectation from the Outside or the Sublime world… to  choose, to be free and responsible”.  (Vahdat 2002: 117)

In Al-e Ahmad’s view freedom and free thought are the essence of Enlightenment. However, he confronts unresolvable dilemmas. On one hand, the writer establishes that secular ideologies can’t penetrate deeply in the social fabric, especially in Iran. On the other hand, the greatest obstacle for the spread of the enlightenment idea is namely religion. Al-e Ahmad believes  that the Shi’a idea for expectation of justice through the return of the last  Imam is based on “ignoring the present reality and living only by hope of the  [promised] Day or relegating the solution of all problems to that [promised]  Advent (Al-e Ahmad 1980: 271 in Vahdat, 2002: 119). In his view this is pure faith in the predestination – the greatest brake  before the activity and taking of decisions, characterized by the enlightened  mind.  

The second dilemma of the author is connected with his search for ”the  authentic intellectual”. This authentic thinker has to lead Iran towards liberation and true enlightenment. Al-e Ahmad considers the Shi’a clergy as possible realizers of this role. But clerics are also the most skeptical social force  with regard to the Enlightenment. The writer doesn’t clarify whether if the  clerics participate in the social-political movements, they will abandon their idea for government, based on revelation, or whether it is better to refrain  from any political activity at all.  

If the Iranian in the times of Al-e Ahmad is alienated from himself, and, respectively, unfree, there comes the question towards which “self” should the  westoxicated Iranian return. This is the third unresolved issue for the author.  

The loss of the real “self”, which is characteristic for the West, is a key  topic for a number of Iranian intellectuals – before and after the Revolution.  Al-e Ahmad’s search for authenticity is a search of the “Iranian essence” in  personal terms too. However, it is going to become a political program for  large social layers. Even though Al-e Ahmad realizes that only Shi’a clerics  can offer the deficit connection with tradition, he remains a secular person.  His ideas are developed by Ali Shariati – a man with religious essence, who is  looking for a missing connection of tradition with modernity. 

Return to the roots – the pre-revolutionary Islamic discourse of Ali Shariati 

Al-e Ahmad stirs debates and reactions among secular intellectuals, such  as Darius Shayegan and Ehsan Naraqi. But his message is met with enthusiasm by lots of religious groups and figures too, including ayatollah Khomeini.  The systematic state oppression of the left movements in Iran in the 60s and  70s is combined with tolerance towards the Islamic organizations. Their affirmation in philosophical and ideological dimension is related to a large extent  with the person of Ali Shariati.  

Shariati is formed by two cultures – the Iranian and the French one, and  is a product of at least two worldviews – the traditional (Islamic) and the modern (Marxian) one. Shariati creates an eclectic theory for society and man.  Taking from the Western left the notion of “alienation”, the sociologist  plants in Iranian soil, in order to search for its cure – the authenticity. According to Shariati the superficial religion, magic, polytheism, asceticism, mechanization, scientism, money, civilization, goal seeking, society, materialism, and idealism as causes for man’s alienation from its authentic self (Shariati 1972: 328-366 in Vahdat 2002: 136). Through  such a loss of the self (khodbakhtegi) Eastern people are misled by the West  to become modern. The dilution of the local essence takes place through a  cultural way – through the equalization between” modern” and ”western”, and in a purely material way, with the introduction in Iranian culture of for eign modes of consumption and imported goods to satisfy them. That is how  Shariati supports the thesis of Al-e Ahmad that cultural imperialism is the  dimension in the field of ideas of the built-in need of imperialism to open new  markets for the excess of goods.

Authenticity is most of all psychological and philosophical notion, which became popular in the 60s and 70s and is popularized by supporters of existential therapy in the West. Just like the young Shariati these supporters are placed in the left social sector. The search for authenticity is an escape from the eternal imitation and internal impossibility to be something  different from yourself. Just like Al-e Ahmad he turns towards the intellectuals with the hope that they will stop imitating European colleagues and  will embrace the cause of the ”organic” and socially responsible enlightener. A new type of intellectual is needed for the new type of society. Shariati becomes a model for the future Iranian religious intellectuals.  

In Shariati’s view it is logical that the escape from the material and oppressive world of consumption and machine should be searched for in the  world of ideas. But to which “self” should the Iranian return? The Iranian culture has too many layers – it is Shi’a, but there is also a purely Iranian pre-Islamic part in it. The intellectual, which many consider the Iranian Voltaire, because of the importance of his ideas for the following revolution, believes  that each society has to achieve its own enlightenment. Just like Al-e Ahmad  Shariati uses the notion “roushanfekri” in order to describe the desired social  condition.  

“Since the eighteenth century, the West, with the ad of its sociologists, historians, writers, artists, and even its revolutionaries and humanists has imposed on the world the thesis that there is only one kind of civilization, and  that is the Western form”, explains Shariati in 1976. He explains his searches  this way: 

”The real or authentic existence is an existence which crystallized in the  “I” in the course of centuries of building history, culture, civilization, art. It is  what gives me a cultural identity vis-a-vis other cultures – the West, the East, the American and African… This authentic personality, my human personality, distinguishes me from the others.”

Shariati has certainly understood that the appearance of a person, of self“  is a separation from the whole. Life starts running indeed, only when the  subject of separation is sufficiently self-conscious as separate. But Shariati  doesn’t fight for a return to the lost traditional “self”. In his basic work – “Return to the self”, the intellectual underlines: “If the return to the self means  a return to who we are, to our existing national culture and religion, we are  much better off to become western from head to toe.”  (Ghamari-Tabrizi 2008: 183) The phrase is key to  the understanding of Shariati’s project. He searches not for a return to the past, but a return to a desired present condition.  (Boroujerdi 1996: 113)

”When we say return to one’s roots”, we are really saying return to one’s cultural roots… Some of you may conclude that we Iranians must return to  our racial (Aryan) roots. I categorically reject this conclusion. I oppose racism, fascism, and reactionary returns. What is more, Islamic civilization has  acted like scissors and has cut us off completely from our pre-Islamic pasts…  Consequently, for us to return to our roots means not a rediscovery of pre-Is lamic Iran, but a return to our Islamic roots.” (Abrahamian 1989: 116 in Boroujerdi 1996: 113)

That is one of the main dilemmas in the Iranian discourse on authenticity  before the revolution is resolved. But Shariati is not the typical Islamic leader.  He is rather a Western graduate, who discovers in Islam a tool for rebellion  and social change. The works of Shariati represent a form of “liberation theology”, whose form is Islamic and not Catholic. This makes him an Iranian  representative of the Western Third-Worldism, an Iranian anti-imperialist  fighter, who reminds of Franz Fanon. It is not accidental that Shariati translated Fanon’s masterpiece “The Wretched of the Earth” – a key work of revolutionary left and the anti-colonial movement. Fanon explains in this book  the need for violence on behalf of the oppressed against their colonizers – as  a tool for liberation.  

In Shariatis’s view Iran lives in the age between the end of Middle Ages  and the beginning of the Renaissance (Shariati 1981: 281 in Boroujerdi 1996: 114). That is why Shariati believes that  Iran needs its Luther and Calvin, who are to unleash an Islamic Reforma tion: “The Islamic intellectual must first embrace the Islamic Protestantism  just as it happened with Christianity in the Middle Ages, to destroy all the  degenerating factors, which have been an obstacle in the name of Islam to  the process of thinking.” 

With his radical views Shariati naturally wins “enemies in the circles  of the conservative Shi’a thought. He himself is not kind to the Shi’a clergy.  In his essay “Red Shiism against black Shiism” Shariati thesis on Shiism as  an ideology for mobilization of the suppressed masses. The author names  “red shiism” the pure religious form, which is by definition caring for social justice and salvation of the collective. Black Shiism is a deviation, which  has appeared under the influence of the monarchic and clerical institution.  The touch with power distorts even the purest religious power. The ideal  for social justice and fight reminds the Marxian one, but with the difference  that the religion and not the class is the banner for the masses. Such a thesis  is very important, because it shows the flexibility of the Islamic ideology. It  could borrow ideas and attract supporters from the left movement, while the  opposite doesn’t seem to happen.  

The authentic self “of Shariati is a key insight in the debates on modernity in Iran. His views on this matter are shared by two other Islamist thinkers  – the ayatollahs Khomeini and Mottahari.  

On one hand, in Shariati’s view man “possesses His character and shares  His spirit… he is responsible for his time, society, faith, culture, history and future”2. Such views show a modern theory for subjectivity in the Western sense.  

But on the other hand, in Shariati’s view man is a process (set in motion)  – from matter to God’s spirit. The thinker believes that man possesses  God’s attributes, but after the Fall he has forgotten his “primal self-divinity”  and dwells in the “desolate abode” of nature, alienated from his true “self”. This  alienation doesn’t allow the people to feel at home in nature and turns their  bodies into “prisons”. In Shariati’s view the road to real subjectivity passes  through transcending the body, matter and earthly world, of “pollution of existence” and reaching to God. Paradoxically, reaching of supreme subjectivity  and merging with God are complete negation of earthly subjectivity and its  sacrifice.  ( Shariati 1983a: 555-556, 560, 566 in Vahdat)

Shariati’s views on the authentic “self” are telling about the so-called “mediated subjectivity” – the man as a creature with its own will, which  is at the same time subordinated to the god’s will. On the basis of his theory for subjectivity Shariati rejects the consumerist ethos of the West, which  has found its expression in the special attention to the body. If the body is  something, which must be overcome (as the Shariati believes), the excessive  care for the body, which the westernized Iranian women of the middle class  give, can’t be justified.

Similarly, in his work “Fatemeh is Fateme” Shariati  excludes the sexual rights and freedoms from the human rights. These are  deviations in the philosopher’s view, which have been created by the cultural  imperialism of the West. That is how the West has been diverting attention of the  youth in the West and in the East away from exploitation and colonization. (Shariati 1971: 62 in Vahdat 2002: 142) Shariati is amazed by the God-like possibility of humans becoming creators of their destiny – the situation, which is being affirmed in the West. At  the same time the philosopher is terrified by the results of the journey, which the West had undertaken (Shariati 1983b: 119, 135, 185 in Vahdat 2002: 144). In Shariati’s view the subject of modernity is “a  lone wolf”, who after opposing God and nature, accepts the loneliness of his  subjectivity with anxiety. In Shariati’s view the solution of the problem lies in  the subordination and loss in the creature, in God, followed by the discovering of a “new” self, which lives in peace with God and Love. This must be the  subject of the new world in the utopia of the mediated subjectivity: 

“I return. I seek the paradise I left. I wash my hands of the original sin, the  rebellion. I will liberate all the corners of the original paradise of my ”self”.  

[I will liberate] nature, history, society, and even myself [from my “self”].  There I, Love, and God will scheme together to create the universe anew, to  create the creation again. In the new beginning, God will not be alone. In this  universe, I will no longer be estranged… We will bring heaven to earth, a  heaven in which all trees are the forbidden tree, we will create a world whose  architects are our skillful hands.” (Shariati 1983b: 203-204, in Vahdat 2002: 144)

The works of Al-e Ahmad and especially of Shariati are proof for Foucault’s thought that new ideas are born in the border territories in any kind  of sense, but most of all in the no man’s land between the East and the West.  Martin Luther accomplished religious reform with the collaboration of his  ruler – prince Frederik III the Wise, elector of Saxony. Such a symbiosis between ideas and power is unthinkable for Shariati, as well as for many Iranian  religious leaders of the 70s. Iranian society develops with its own dynamics, which for sure surprises not only the shah’s power, but also the oppositional forces themselves.  

Religious interpretations on the subject of modernity 

The Muslim philosophy proposes two solutions to the problem for man’s  will and the imperfectness of the creation. The first one claims that God  has created laws for the world, which act independently of his original will.  Through reason man can understand these laws, use and obey them. This  deist concept is attributed by ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to the medieval  Muslim rationalists, known as Mu’tazilites. The other point of view – of negation of human will, is attributed by Khomeini to the Ash’arites.  The Iranian cleric rejects both points of view and searches for a position  in-between the positions” (amri bein al-amrain). Instead of duty “he speaks  about “need”.  

“Freedom… implying that [human] beings may be independent in their  agency… and necessity, implying the denial of all aspects attributed to any  entity other than God and claiming that God directly organizes and affects  everything are both impossible. Therefore, the true position is a position in  between. This means that [humans] are effective possibilities “and capable of  causality, but not immediately and independently. In all the universe there are  not immediate agents except the sublime God. And all beings, because they  are not independent in their essences, are not independent in their actions and  attributes either. These [humans] have certain attributes, and effect certain  actions, and achieve certain deeds, but independently“.

“Libertatea… care implică faptul că ființele [umane] pot fi independente în acţiunile lor… și necesitatea, care implică negarea tuturor aspectelor atribuite oricărei alte entități în afară de Dumnezeu și care susține că Dumnezeu organizează și realizează totul în mod direct, sunt ambele imposibile. Prin urmare, adevărata poziție este o poziție intermediară. Aceasta înseamnă că [oamenii] sunt posibilități efective “și capabile de cauzalitate, dar nu imediat și independent. În tot universul nu există agenți imediați, cu excepția sublimului Dumnezeu. Și toate ființele, pentru că nu sunt independente în esențele lor, nu sunt independente nici în acțiunile și atributele lor. Aceștia [oamenii] au anumite atribute, și efectuează anumite acțiuni și realizează anumite fapte, dar în mod independent” (Khomeini 1983: 73 in Vahdat 2002: 157-158).

What matters for Khomeini is the Muslim to be an active subject. Back  in 1944 the future leader of the Islamic Revolution warned about the danger  of the passive goodness of the faithful. He explains that the imperialists care  about the natural resources and markets and fear that Iranians might become  active subjects.

In Khomeini’s view, to be a subject means to control your nature. The  strengthening of will could be achieved only through negation of the body. In  his 1973 book “The struggle against the self or the greatest jihad” Khomeini  stipulates that the ascetic revolutionary is the subject of social change and of  the future society. This thesis could serve to trace later the evolution of the  idea for the active subject in Iran. In one of his first public discourses towards  the people after landing on Iranian soil Khomeini says: 

“We are not opposed to the cinema, to radio, or to television; what we  oppose is vice and the use of media to keep our young people in a state of  backwardness and to dissipate their energies. We have never opposed these  features of modernity in themselves, but when they were brought from Europe to the East, particularly to Iran, unfortunately, they were used not to  advance civilization, but to drag us into barbarism. The cinema is a modern  invention that ought to be used for the sake of educating the people, but, as  you know, it has been used instead to corrupt our youth.” (Khomeini 1981: 287 in Vahdat 2002: 161) 

Another nuance in the idea for mediated subjectivity is introduced by  ayatollah Morteza Motahhari. In Motahhari’s view man has two natures –  animalistic, material and corporal on one hand, and spiritual, cultural – on the  other hand. Marxism recognizes only one of these natures. Just like Shariati  thinks, in Motahhari’s view the road to true subjectivity passes through  movement from the material towards the spiritual side of man.  (Vahdat 2002: 169).

Just like Shariati and Khomeini, Motahhari considers the realm of consciousness and subjectivity as the highest point of being. But if the final point  for these the former two authors is self-consciousness, for Motahhar it is religious faith: 

“The evolved individual is the one who has been freed of dominance by  the inner and outer environments but depends upon belief and faith… The  more evolved human society becomes, the greater the autonomy of its  cultural life and the sovereignty of that life over its material life. Man of the  future is the cultural animal; he is the man of belief, faith, and method, not the  man of stomach and waistline.” (Motahhari 1985: 29-30 in Vahdat 2002: 29-30)

Motahhari sees history as a process of de-alienation, in which the subjects overcome the built-in alienation in order to achieve their authentic self  “through self-consciousness and intellect. But while for Kant the only source of  duty is consciousness “ (Motahhari 1980: 35-36 in Vahdat 2002: 171), Motahhari searches for the sanction of the supreme, celestial source, the Absolute. Even though it is permitted to humans to use their reason in order to achieve some goals, these goals are marked in advance  by the revelation. Either the goals are based on instinct and consequently are  inadmissible, or are set by a foreign source, which overwhelms human reason  (Motahhari 1978: 26, 43-46 in Vahdat 2002: 171). That is how man is moving in the strictly set limits of the Holy Script.  Like Khomeini, Motahhari wants to oppose the traumatizing Western  modernity, which robs man. Again, just like Khomeini, Motahhari reaches in his thoughts to the two Islamic schools of the Mu’tazilites (rationalists)  and Ash’arites (orthodox ones). Motahhari agrees with the former that human notions for good or evil can be used, in order to evaluate God’s acts (Motahhari, 1974: 9 in Vahdat 2002: 173). At  the same time like the Ash’arites the ayatollah believes that by granting human subjectivity to people the god’s subjectivity is denied (Motahhari, 1974: xxiv, in Vahdat 2002: 173). The resolution  of this contradiction leads Motahhari just like Khomeini to “the position between the positions”: “In the Shiite philosophy and theology, man’s freedom  is posited without man being portrayed as a partner in “God’s property”, and  without God’s volition being subjugated and subordinated to human will. Divine providence has been established in the entire universe without implying  man’s compulsion by God’s will.” (Motahhari 1974: xxx in Vahdat 2002: 173)

Motahhari reflects on one of the questions which will be central to the  reformist movement of the 90s – is it possible to have a change in the Providence, because of providence “through human agency:  (Motahhari 1979: 48 in Vahdat 2002: 174).

“Is God’s knowledge subject to change? Are God’s decrees subject to  revolution?… Yes, God’s knowledge can be changed, that is some of God’s  knowledge is subject to change. Yes, the lower can influence the higher.”the  lower order” – particularly man’s will and action may shake the “higher order” and cause changes in it. This is the highest form of man’s control over  destiny. I confess this is bewildering, but it is true. These are sublime and exalted issues of the change in an earlier divine decree, discussed in the Quran  for the first time in the history of human culture.” (Motahhari 1979: 49-50 in Vahdat 2002: 174)

Like other religious thinkers in Iran Motahhari discusses one of the  most important issues in the Shia thought – the ijtihad, the right of high-ranking clerics to introduce changes in the Islamic law. The ijtihad is the main division line between the two large tendencies in the Iranian Islamic worldview  after the revolution – the conservatives and the reformists.  


The desire to find union and resolution to contradicting principles is one  of the characteristics of the pre-revolutionary philosophical ideas on the subject of modernity in Iran. 

Al-e Ahmad is indignant that Iran is subordinated to occidentosis, that  Iranians lose their subjectivity vis-a-vis the owners of the machines in the  world in the 60s. However, he appeals that the country learn technologies and  appropriate machines. This could be interpreted as a desire that Iran become  a real part of the West, and not only its fading copy. Al-e Ahmad sees the Shia  clergy as a social base for developing an anti-colonial discourse, but judging  from his secular positions he refers critically to the clergy’s ability to be part  of the spirit of times.  

Shariati searches constantly for pacification between Marxism and Shia  religiosity, between the West and the East. At the end, he also reaches his  synthesis, which is popular among those Iranians, who want to be both a part  of the world and not to lose their traditions and locality.  

Ayatollah Khomeini and Morteza Motahhari developed their own concepts, which could be summarized with the notion “mediated subjectivity“.  The medium ground they’re looking for is between the human and the celestial.  The concept of velayat-e faqih“ (rule of the jurisprudent), which is the basic  concept of the Islamic Republic, steps on this very same “mediated subjectivity“. Velayat-e faqih” could be translated as “rule of the initiated”, of those  who have found balance between the human and celestial subjectivity.  Iranian philosophers’ constant search for a third way, for syntheses and  peace between various contradictions gives ground to believe that the Iranian  subjectivity has become extremely complicated in the last decades. The resolution of  contradictions often leads to their mutual neutralisation and nihilism, and life  in such a reality of “mediated” subjectivity requires high spiritual qualities.  

In 2016 in an interview given to the author of this article the contemporary Iranian philosopher and president of the Iranian Academy Reza Davari  explained that unlike the greatest part of the countries in the world Iran has  had its philosophical tradition for more than 1200 years. This great tradition  allows the country to think in its own way for the world and to become a part of it in its own way. 

”We Iranians have over 1200 history of philosophy. This philosophy has  had a peculiar trend and has come closer to the religion over [the last] 1000  years. The link between religion and philosophy in our history is of prime  significance. But we have not paid due attention to it. If we do, a movement  of philosophy may emerge. But its prerequisite is that Islamic philosophy  professors consider the current situation of the world, history of philosophy, and particularly the philosophy of the modern era. Those countries which  have no history of philosophy can merely share the western thinking in order  to have a place in the thinking of the future. But as Iranians have a history of  philosophy, they can refer to it. Lastly, we must reflect on the situation where the future-less contemporary world is situated, and hope for a glimmer of  light in the horizon of the future.”

The pre-revolutionary ideas for the subject of modernity in Iran show  that the Iranian elite has been awakened and has been searching for solutions  to the fundamental questions before its nation. Getting to know these ideas  is obligatory for everyone, who wants to understand the post-revolutionary  social and philosophical development of the country


Abrahamian, Ervand – Radical Islam: The Iranian Mojahedin. London: I.B.Tauris, 1989. 

Al-e Ahmad, Jalal – Dar Khedmat va Khianat Rushanfekran (On the Services and  Treasons of Intellectuals), Tehran: Ravaq,1980. 

Al-e Ahmad, Jalal – Occidentosis: A Plague from the West, Berkley, California:  Mizan Press,1984. 

Boroujerdi, Mehrzad – Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The tormented Triumph  of Nativism, New York: Syrcause University Press,1996. 

Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz – Islam and Dissent in Post-Revolutionary Iran: Ab dolkarim Soroush, Religious Politics and Democratic Reform, London-New York:  I.B.Taurus,2008. 

Khomeini, Ruhollah – Kasf al-Asrar (Secrets Unveiled), N.p. 1944?

Khomeini, Ruhollah – Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam  Khomeini. Berkley, California: Mizan,1981. 

Khomeini, Ruhollah – Talab va Eradeh (Desire and Will), Tehran: Center for Sci entific and Cultural Publications,1983. 

Motahhari, Morteza – Ensan va Iman (Man and Faith), in Moqadameh-i bar Jah anbini Islami (A Prologue to the Islamic Worldview), Qom: Sadra1978 ,

Motahhari, Morteza – Adl-e Elahi (Divine Justice), Tehran: Entesharat-e Eslami, 1974. 

Motahhari, Morteza – Ensan va Sarnevesht (Man and Destiny), Qom: Sadra, 1979. 

Motahhari, Morteza – Qiyam va Enqelab-e Mahdi az Didgah-e Tarikh (The up rising and revolution of Mahdi from the Perspective of Philosophy of History), Qom:  Sadra, 1980. 

Motahhari, Morteza – Fundamentals of Islamic Thought: God, Man and the Uni verse, Berkeley, California: Mizan, 1985. 

Shadman, Fakhroddin – Taskhir-e tamaddon-e farangi (Invaded by the Western  Civilzation), Tehran: Gam-e No, 2004.

Shariati, Ali – Fatemeh Fatemeh Ast (Fatima is Fatima), Tehran: Husseinieh Er shad, 1971.

ShariatiAli – Islamshenasi (Islamology), N.p. 1972? 

Shariati, Ali – Bazgasht be Khish (Return to the self), N.p. 1976.

Shariati, Ali – Ommat va Imamat (Community and Leadership), Tehran: Qalam, 1979. 

Shariati, Ali – Az koja aghaz konim? (From where shall we Begin?), Collected  works, n. 20, Tehran: Office for Compiling and Organising the Collected Works of  Dr. Ali Shariati, 1981. 

Shariati, Ali – Kavir (The Desert), [Collected Works, nr. 13], Tehran: Chapakhsh, 1983a. 

Shariati, Ali – Hubut (The fall), [Collected Works, nr. 13], Tehran: Chapkhsh, 1983b. 

Shariati, Ali – What is to be Done: The Enlightened Thinkers and an Islamic Re naissance, Houston: Institute for Research and Islamic Studies,1986  

Vahdat, Farzin – God and Juggernaut: Iran`s Intellectuals Encounter with Modernity, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002

Photo: (source: Pixabay, CC0)

Read in Romanian language!

Read in Bulgarian language!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s