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10 February 2010updated 24 Sep 2015 10:46am

Ali Shari‘ati

The revolutionary.

By Ian K Smith

Shari’ati has been called the “ideologue of the Iranian Revolution”. His fusion of Islam and Marxism created an ideal of revolutionary martyrdom that led many young Iranians to sacrifice their lives in defiance of the Pahlavi regime.

His father, Mohammad Taqi Shari’ati, was a prominent lay spokesman for the faith and an important figure in 1950s Iran in the oil nationalisation movement led by Muhammed Mossadeq. Adopting his father’s religious and nationalist identity, together with the Marxism he had studied in Paris, Shari’ati developed an eclectic theology of liberation. His writing drew upon sources as diverse as Charlie Chaplin and Imam Hussein, the original martyr of the Shia tradition.

Before he could see the change that he had struggled for, Shari’ati died of a heart attack in England in 1977. His supporters allege that he was murdered by the shah. Ayatollah Khomeini would go on to ride the crest of the revolution and establish a republic formed on a clerical authority that Shari’ati had opposed all his life.

Shari’ati remains a figurehead for those who oppose the religious establishment, but still wish to frame progressive ideas within Islam. Those in power cannot dispel his influence, grounded as it is with theirs in the events of 1979.

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