On the Sociology
On the Sociology
A J SHARI'ATI
Translated from the Persian
Copyright CO 1979 by Mizan Press
All Rights Reserved
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 79 83552
Designed by Heidi Bendorf
ISBN: 0 933782 06 3 hard cover
ISBN: 0 933782 00 4 paperback
Manufactured in the United States of America
HE RECENT SERIES of demonstrations and uprisings against the dictatorial regime of the Shah has served to bring into renewed prominence two facts frequently overlooked by most observers of the Iranian scene: the continued loyalty to Islam of the mass of the Iranian people, and the vitality of the Iranian religious leadership in directing popular aspirations. A superficial glance at the westernized exterior of the major cities of Iran might leave the impression of one of the most radically transformed and "de Islamized" societies in the Islamic world, but it is precisely in Iran that one of the most vital and deep-rooted movements exists for the reassertion of the political and social hegemony of Islam.
To a large extent the direction of this movement lies in the hands of the Shi'i 'ulama who, for a variety of reasons social, historical and theological have maintained their independence from the state and their alignment with popular feeling more effectively than many of their Sunni counterparts. But an important role has also been played by a number of intellectuals and thinkers who, especially in the post War period, have endeavored to integrate the fruits of modern learning with traditional belief and thus evolve a new Islamic idiom capable of securing the allegiance of the secularly educated. Particularly significant in this group are Muhandis Bazargan, formerly professor at Tehran University, and Dr. All Shari'ati, author of the present collection.
The translated extracts from his work are preceded by a biographical sketch from the pen of one who was close to Shari'ati. We may, however, summarize here the chief facts of his life. Born in 1933 in a village near Sabzavar on the edge of the Kavir desert, he was educated first by his father, Muhammad Taqi Shari'ati, one of the foremost Iranian 'ulama of the present age. He then studied in Mashhad and simultaneously began
his career of political, social and intellectual struggle, which, in the years of repression following the overthrow of Musaddiq, resulted in his imprisonment for a number of months. In 1959, he went to Paris to continue his studies in sociology and related fields, but there too, he did not restrict himself to the conventional life of a student. He participated actively in the organization abroad of an Islamically oriented opposition to the Shah's regime. In 1964, he returned to Iran, but was immediately arrested. Six months later, as a result of international pressure on the Iranian regime, he was released and permitted to assume a succession of teaching posts, culminating in an appointment at the University of Mashhad. But he was compelled to resign from the university, and there began instead what was possibly the most creative period of his life, despite its brevity. He lectured at the celebrated Husayniya yi Irshad, a religious center in Tehran that succeeded in attracting overflow audiences to its meetings and lectures on Islamic themes. In his numerous lectures, at the Husayniya yi Irshad and elsewhere, he pursued the evolution of his distinctive theories on the sociology and history of Islam, some of which are reflected in this book. Not surprisingly, the Husayniya yi Irshad was closed down, and Shari'ati was imprisoned again, this time for a period of 18 months, during which he suffered severe hardship and deprivation. Shortly after his release, he went to England, dying there under mysterious circumstances that suggest the almost certain involvement of the Iranian secret police, on June 19, 1977. He was buried in Damascus, next to the shrine of Hazrat Zaynab. Rahimahullah!
The title of the present collection, On the Sociology of Islam, requires certain elucidation. The book does not pretend to offer a complete scheme of Islamic sociology, nor did Shari'ati himself claim to have developed a complete scheme. He himself wrote: "I never believe that what I say is the last word on the subject; what I say now I might change or complete tomorrow." (Islamshinasi, Vol. 1, p. 47). With his original and courageous mind, he did, however, put forward a number of totally fresh concepts relating to the sociology of Islam, and it is these we have sought to present in English translation as a stimulus to
thought among Muslims. The book contains a number of topics that are not, strictly speaking, sociological, but even they are treated in a sociological tone, so that the title of the book, on the Sociology of Islam, appears justified.
Most of Shari'ati's books consist of the lectures he delivered. They are marked, therefore, by a certain repetition of theme that is characteristic of lecturing style. In some cases, we have deleted or abbreviated statements that appear to be repetitious. A number of other phrases and sentences that do not affect the main theme have also been omitted for various reasons. Otherwise, the translation is an integral and faithful reflection of the original. Elucidatory footnotes added by the translator are identified with JR.); all other footnotes are by Shari'ati himself.
Sha'ban 1398/july 1978
TRANSLATOR'S FOREWORD 5
A Bibliographical Sketch 11
Approaches to the Understanding of Islam 39
Mail and Islam 70
The World View of Tauhid 82
Anthropology: The Creation of Man and
the Contradiction of God and Iblis, or
Spirit and Clay 88
The Philosophy of History: Cain and Abel 97
The Dialectic of Sociology III
The Ideal Society the Umma 119
The Ideal Man the Viceregent of God 121
IN THE NAME OF GOD
Do not imagine those killed in God's path to be dead; rather they are alive, nurtured in the presence of then Lord.
Seeking refuge in history, out of fear of loneliness, l immediately sought out my brother Ayn al Quzat,1 who was burned to death in tile very blossoming of his youth for the crime of awareness and sensitivity, for the boldness of his thought. For in an age of ignorance, awareness is itself a crime. Loftiness of spirit and fortitude of heart in the society of the oppressed and the humiliated, and, as the Buddha said, "being an island in a land of lakes," are unforgivable sins.
AL.I SHARI’ATI, from the
introduction to Kavir (Desert)
A Blobibliographical Sketch
ES, AWARENESS, sensitivity, boldness of thought, loftiness of spirit and fortitude of heart these were the great human attributes that he found he had in common with Ayn al Quzat, and with his sharp insight, he perceived that his fate would be like that of Ayn al Quzat premature death in the earliest part of youth. It is not surprising that when he applied his insight and perception to himself, he foresaw everything and was unafraid to speak. But he knew that in a society composed of the oppressed and the humiliated, in an age of ignorance, in the desert of neglect or, better to say, in an age that pretends to neglect and ignore the truth awareness and sensitivity are no longer synonymous with boldness of thought and fortitude of heart; on the contrary, the quality of intellectuality has become equated with ambition and the desire for position, and is thus
in itself one cause for the oppression and humiliation of the conscious. It was he who chided and reproached with a painful smile those intellectuals who do not have the courage even to participate in corruption, who remain waiting, in perplexity and confusion, at the crossroads and who never take any examination for fear of failing. For him, the choice of a path was not the "first step"; it was the whole of life, and hesitation and doubt were the result of our present intellectual servitude, which we designate metaphorically as "intellectualism." Throughout his extremely brief but fruitful life, he struggled boldly with all his strength and capacity against this ancient and familiar enemy of thought and humanity.
At the same time, he waged a campaign of resistance against the habit of regarding the actual as normal and acceptable, instead of seeking to replace it with the ideal; against the view of human life as vain and pointless; against banality and the sense of vanity; against the morphine that has submerged, in a state halfway between sleeping and waking, in the dream of neglect and a state of uselessness, not only the overwhelming majority of the people, but even a segment of the guardians of the religion of tauhid, and diverted them from the path of truth, with its rises and falls a path demanding vital faith, dynamic thought, and a wakeful conscience. He waged a constant struggle against the evil temper of our age and our society, the withered root of which can be watered only by the renunciation of all things, even life itself, by martyrdom!
I cannot endure remaining silent and being unable to say anything. I shall remain silent, but I feel like a person enduring the pangs of death who knows that peace and salvation await him, who is tired of the troubles of life, for whom there is nothing but a waiting that lasts a whole lifetime ....
Do you not see how sweetly and peacefully a martyr dies?
For those fully accustomed to their everyday routine, death is an awesome tragedy, a horrendous cessation of all things; it is becoming lost in nothingness. But the one who intends to migrate from himself begins with death. How great are those men who have heeded this wondrous command and acted accordingly "Die before you die."
Kavir, p. 55
Everyone acquainted with Dr. Shari'ati knows well that not only is the study and reading of his works and thoughts instructive and rewarding, but also his way and method of life were the reflection of a correct and profound vision of the world, a ray emitted by his faith. Here, we will set forth only an outline, a sketch, of a life that consisted entirely of work, activity, faith, love and responsibility the life of a conscious and dedicated man. We ask forgiveness of him and his friends for the inadequacy of our presentation.