Manual Art Awaiting the Savior (Islamic Renaissance Series)

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Ali Shariati 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. He was born in in Kahak a village in Mazinan , a suburb of Sabzevar, found in northeastern Iran, to a family of clerics.

Shariati developed fully novi Ali Shariati was an Iranian revolutionary and sociologist who focused on the sociology of religion. Shariati developed fully novice approach to Shi'ism and interpreted the religion in a revolutionary manner. His interpretation of Shi'ism encouraged revolution in the world and promised salvation after death.

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Shariati referred to his brand of Shi'ism as "Red Shi'ism" which he contrasted with clerical-dominated, unrevolutionary "Black Shi'ism" or Safavid Shi'ism. 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 ", although his ideas ended up not forming the basis of the Islamic Republic.

In his years at the Teacher's Training College in Mashhad, Shariati came into contact with young people who were from less privileged economic classes of 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 offer 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.

In , he became a high-school teacher and founded the Islamic Students' Association, which led to his arrest following a demonstration. In , 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 In , he was arrested again by the Iranian police, along with sixteen other members of the National Resistance Movement. Shariati then managed to get a scholarship for France, where he continued his graduate studies at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Art Awaiting the Saviour by Ali Shariati

He left Paris after earning a PhD in sociology in from the Sorbonne. The following year, he began to read Frantz Fanon and translated an anthology of his work into Persian. He was arrested in Paris on 17 January during a demonstration in honour of Patrice Lumumba. In , he continued studying sociology and history of religions , and followed the courses of Islamic scholar Louis Massignon , Jacques Berque and the sociologist Georges Gurvitch.

Shariati then returned to Iran in 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 were hugely popular among his students and were spread by word of mouth throughout all economic sectors of society, including the middle and upper classes, where interest in his teachings began to grow immensely.

His continued success again aroused the interest of the government, which arrested him as well as many of his students. Widespread pressure from the people, and an international outcry, eventually led to his release on 20 March , after eighteen months in solitary confinement.

Shariati was allowed to leave 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. He is buried next to Sayyidah Zaynab , the granddaughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad , and the daughter of Ali , in Damascus, Syria, where Iranian pilgrims often visit. Shariati sought to revive the revolutionary currents of Shiism. 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 it in the best possible way. 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 decolonisation 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". He sought to translate these ideas into cultural symbols of Shiism that Iranians could relate to. Shariati 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 ".

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When he was writing the three letters to Fanon, unlike him, Shariati believed that it is not true that we have to put away religion to fight imperialism. He felt that people could fight imperialism solely by recovering their culture identity. In some countries such an identity was intertwined with fundamental religious beliefs.

Shariati refers to the maxim of returning to ourselves. It seems that his eagerness to socialism begun with the translation of the book Abu Zarr: According to this book, Abu Zarr was the very first socialist. Shariati believed that Marxism could not provide the Third World with the ideological means for its own liberation.

One of his premises was that Islam by nature is a revolutionary ideology. Therefore, Islam could relate to the modern world as an ideology.

Art Awaiting the Saviour

According to Shariati, the historical and original origin of human problems was the emergence of private ownership. He believed that in the modern era, the appearance of the machine was the second most fundamental change in the human condition. In fact, private ownership and the emergence of the machine, if considered one of two curves of history, belong to the second period of history. The first period is collective ownership. However, Shariati gave a critique about the historical development of religion and the modern philosophical and ideological movements and their relationship to both private ownership and the emergence of the machine.

Shariati developed the idea of the social, cultural and historical contingencies of religious knowledge in sociology. He believed in the earthly religion and in the social context in which the meaning of society is construed. He also emphasized that he understood religion historically because he was a sociologist. He said he was concerned with the historical and social Tawhid not with the truth of the exalted book of Quran or Muhammad or Ali.

Completely contrary to Hegel and his philosophy of history, Shariati believed that it is not true that the civilized human is less consciousness than modern people [ clarification needed ] 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.

In the first place Shariati criticised western liberal democracy. He pointed out that there is a direct relationship between democracy , liberalism and the plundering of nations. He believed that liberal democracy is the enemy of humankind. He also referred to the fact that the ruling economic system of liberal democracy is unjust and contrary to the rights of people. He maintained that in such a society, someone who is weak is already subjected to defeat and annihilation.

The first foundation is related to the contrast between the religious worldview and the non-religious one. He explained history, society and humanity according to a monistic worldview. He explained liberalism as something with inequality and discrimination. Freedom and equality based on spirituality were the very basis of pre-modern societies which were devastated in one period of history. Shariati believed that the government of Imam Ali could be considered the best form of democracy. On this occasion, he tried to interpret the behavior of Imam Ali in contrast with his enemy.

It appears that Shariati did not accept the western definition of democracy although he had no problem with democracy. According to him, a religious government is the democratic right of Muslim citizens. He believed that one of the basic problems of western democracy is demagogy. Nowadays the votes of voters direct to special channels with the help of advertising instruments. In such a condition only one who is critically conscious can dispose of distractions and surface-level arguments, and vote effectively for themselves and their communities.

He maintains that the western democracy based on gold, cruelty and tricking Zar, Zour va Tazvir is an anti-revolutionary regime which is different with ideological Guidance. 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 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.


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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.

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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. 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 also believed that the civilization has to be considered as something deep. He also known very well of the importance of empirical science and knowledge. The empirical methodology appreciated by him.