Ali Shariati

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Ali Shariati in 1972

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


  • Since Ummah is a society on the move, a society not in place, but on the way, towards an objective, having a direction, [then we need an Imam (from the same root as umma) to lead us toward that objective].
    • Ali Shariati, in: The Islamic Quarterly, Vol. 27-29, (1983), p. 215.
  • 'Party,' in the general vocabulary of world intellectuals, is basically a unified social organization with a 'world-view,' an 'Ideology,' a 'philosophy of history,' and 'ideal social order,' a 'class foundation,' a 'class orientation,' a 'social leadership,' a 'political philosophy,' a 'political orientation,' a 'tradition,' a 'slogan,' a 'strategy,' a "tactic of struggle," and … a "hope" that wants to change the "status quo" in man, society, people, or a particular class, and establish the "desired status" in its stead.
    • Ali Shariati, in: The Islamic Quarterly, Vol. 27-29, (1983), p. 215; as quoted in: Ali Mirsepassi (2000), Intellectual Discourse and the Politics of Modernization, p. 126.
  • The sky was dark, the night was black, obscurity reigned, the gleam of the wolves eyes was the only light that came to sight, the howling of the jackal was the only sound to be heard, conspiracies were in the making while slanderers and the malicious were busily chattering
    • Quote in: Ali Rahnema An Islamic Utopian: A Political Biography of Ali Shariati. (2000), p. 258
    • Rahnema commented that "Shariati did not believe he had any chance of returning to Ershad and evaluated his situation in a poetical and macabre fashion".

On the sociology of Islam: lectures. (1979)


Ali Shariati, (1979) On the sociology of Islam: lectures.

  • Islam is the first school of social thought that recognizes the masses as the basis, the fundamental and conscious factor in determining history and society not the elect as Nietzsche thought, not the aristocracy and nobility as Plato claimed, nor great personalities as Carlyle and Emerson believed, not those of pure blood as Alexis Carrel imagined, not the priests or the intellectuals, but the masses.
    • p. 49; as cited in: Ali Mirsepassi (2000) Intellectual Discourse and the Politics of Modernization, p. 126.
  • In the world view of tauhid, man fears only one power, and is answerable before only one judge. He turns to only one qibla, and directs his hopes and desires to only one source. And the corollary is that all else is false and pointless all the diverse and variegated tendencies, strivings, fears, desires and hopes of man are vain and fruitless.
    • p. 97; partly cited in: John L. Esposito (1996) Islam and Democracy. p. 25.

ʻAlī Sharīʻatī. Reflections of Humanity: Two Views of Civilization and the Plight of Man : Lectures, Free Islamic Literatures, 1 jun. 1984. (Online).

  • Debates on the definitions of culture versus barbarism, or on the question of who is civilized and who is modern are best discussed in the light of Islamic doctrine. Quite significantly, this point must be kept in mind, particularly as a matter of concern to individuals of the educated classes of Islamic societies upon whom lies the burden of responsibility and leadership of the Umma.
    • p. 17; Lead paragraph.
  • Modernity is one of the most delicate and vital issues confronting us, the people of non-European countries and Islamic societies. A more important issue is the relationship between an imposed modernization and genuine civilization. We must discover if modernity as is claimed is a synonym for being civilised, or if it is an altogether different issue and social phenomenon having no relation to civilisation at all. Unfortunately modernity has been imposed on us, the non-European nations, in the guise of civilization.
    • p. 17: Second paragraph.

Where Shall We Begin, 1997-2013


Dr. Ali Shariati. "Where Shall We Begin: Part 1" at, 1997-2013.

  • In the tradition of Abudhar, who is my mentor, whose thought, whose understanding of Islam and Shi'ism, and whose ideals, wants, and rage I emulate, I begin my talk with the name of the God of the oppressed (mustad'afan). My topic is very specific.
    • p. 1 Lead sentence.
  • The enlightened soul is a person who is self-conscious of his "human condition" in his time and historical and social setting, and whose awareness inevitably and necessarily gives him a sense of social responsibility.
    • p. 1; as cited in: Robert Deemer Lee, Overcoming tradition and modernity: the search for Islamic authenticity, (11997), p. 127.
  • Similar to the prophets, the enlightened souls also neither belongs to the community or scientists nor to the camp of unaware and stagnant masses. They are aware and responsible individuals whose most important objective and responsibility is to bestow the great God-given gift of "self- awareness" (khod-agahi) to the general public. Only self-awareness transforms static and corrupt masses into a dynamic and creative cantor, which fosters great genius and gives rise to great leaps, which in turn become the springboard for the emergence of civilization, culture and great heroes.
    • p. 1.

Speeches: On Religious Government and Islamic Leadership

  • The Imamah (religious leadership) and ummah (religious community) shed light on...the principle of progress [which society should strive towards], of reforming the relations of society, ideology, belief, life, and the pulling and driving of society and the souls, thoughts, and minds that make up this society to the best possible form. The ummah is not a society where human individuals feel a stagnant form of comfort and happiness, or feel a free, careless sense of irresponsibility and make static comfort the goal of life.

Quotes about Ali Shariati

  • The bringing down of one of the most oppressive regimes, that of the Shah monarchy, was a remarkable event of twentieth century. Whether one finds the outcome of the Revolution in terms of the establishment of an Islamic Republic under the dominance of Ulama (Islamic clerics, in narrow, contemporary sense) agreeable or disappointing, a most remarkable aspect of this revolution that has become an object of interest of observers of contemporary events is the mass movement that underlies the revolution. Indeed, the kind of mass participation - in terms of both absolute and relative magnitude - in the movement leading to the revolution is still unprecedented.
    While the role of the Ulama, especially that of Imam Khomeini, received overwhelming attention worldwide, there were other powerful influences that shaped the ethos of the revolution. One such source of influence was Dr. Ali Shariati. A sociologist, trained at Sorbonne University (France), he was gunned down in United Kingdom by Savak for his anti-monarchy stance and popular influence among the modern educated and youth of pre-revolutionary Iran.
  • Ali Shariati wrote more broadly ranging critiques and provided important intellectual foundations for the later Islamic revolutionary movement in Iran. Early in the 1970s, some of the last elements of the perceived Western successes were undermined. For a long time, non-Western intellectuals had been willing to admit that at least in terms of material advancement and power, Western civilization was successful. These last spheres came to be seen in a very different light during the 1970s. In terms of sheer military power, the prestige of the West was undermined in the years following World War II.
    • Prasenjit Duara (2004) Decolonization: Perspectives from Now and Then, p. 204.
  • Ali Shariati wrote extensively on an Islamicized version of historical materialism, which sought to offer a radical reading of Shi’ism. According to Shariati, the central teachings of Islam offer the oppressed, the poor, and the excluded the means to achieve emancipation from further class conflict. Most significantly, Shariati argued that the abolition of all institutions associated with property would lead to a more just and classless society. Such arguments found a sympathetic ear in the People’s Mujahedine. Wealth creation is not therefore concerned solely with investment, profit maximization and personal wealth. Under Islamic economics, the duty to use surplus wealth for the good of the um m ah demands that investment and production activity includes social utility calculations before proceeding. This could include the goal of full employment, environmental protection, health provision, social welfare, and social housing.
    • Tony Evans, “The Limits of Tolerance: Islam as Counter-hegemony,” Review of International Studies 36, no. 4 (2010). 89.
  • The fire was sparked in 1977. It began with the death in June of Ali Shariati, the dangerous visionary ideologue of the revolution. Tall and dapper, in his early thirties, with fuzzy hair on top of his balding head, Shariati was a nationalist who had studied sociology in Paris. He was of the same generation as Chamran and the other LMI members, and he too had grown up in the era of Mossadegh. As a young man, he was caught scrawling pro-Mossadegh graffiti and was made to lick the wall clean. Shariati was full of contradictions: the son a religious leader in the holy city of Mashhad, he disliked the influence of the clerics; he was devout but admitted once that if he were not a Muslim he would be a Marxist. Leftist and Islamist, he dressed the Western way, in a suit and tie, always clean-shaven. Nonetheless, he despised the sterile modernity of Europe and railed against Iranians who rejected their own history and embraced everything Western. At the same time, he derided the commoner wedded to tradition and stuck in the past: “A futureless past is a state of inertia and stagnation, while a pastless future is alien and vacuous.” And yet in his search for a future that was anchored in his country’s past and Iran’s distinct identity as well as in Islam, he looked to foreign authors. He was inspired by Frantz Fanon, the anticolonialist thinker from Martinique, and by the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, who was close to many Iranian revolutionaries.
    • Kim Ghattas Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • From all these contradictions, Shariati produced a new brand of Shiism, even more militant and mobilized than what Imam Sadr had been preaching in Lebanon. There was nothing quietist or ritualistic in Shariati’s deeply political and insurgent version of Shiism. He coined the term Red Shiism, one tinged with Marxism ready for sacrifice to attain social justice. It stood in opposition to Black Shiism, the quietist, ritualistic one who submitted to rulers and monarchs. By rediscovering an authentic Islam, he asserted, Iran could be a utopian society with a perfect leader, a philosopher king, as in Plato’s Republic. The similarity to Khomeini’s faqih was striking, except that Shariati did not believe clerics had any role to play in politics. Khomeini despised secular thinkers, but he let the militant fervor that Shariati had awakened serve his purposes. In 1971, Shariati openly called for the masses to rise against the shah. Lecturing at the university of Mashhad, he smoked while he talked, sometimes holding forth for as long as six hours, his audience enthralled, their minds captivated. By 1973, he was in jail. After four years he was released and left for London. He died a month later from a heart attack—though many felt the circumstances were mysterious and attributed his death to the shah’s secret service, the SAVAK. Imam Sadr praised Shariati’s efforts to produce a discourse for emancipation and change that was indigenous to Muslim societies.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
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