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The Mostadha’fin’s Confusing Journey from Sharia’ti’s Revolutionary Utopianism to Khomeini’s Dystopian Reality 1976-1982

Ronen A. Cohen

Among the players in the Iranian Revolution were tens of groups, including the Mojahedin-e Khalq, the Forqan Group, the Hojjatiyeh, and the Tudeh, among others. Yet, one was not so well-known and, unlike others that embarked on revolutionary paths, this group was not big or active enough to do any serious damage to anybody, except perhaps to themselves, by scratching out their own innovative brand of ideological revolution. Sharia’ti’s ideology and revolutionary thought was on the front lines of the Revolution playing its modest part. Moreover, on second, third, or even fourth look, the Islamic Revolution could not have gone on without them. Though their contribution may have been modest and not easily detected, their role was nonetheless very important and must be understood to fully comprehend the main theme of the Revolution.

This book speaks to the Arman-e Mostadha’fin’s story. Confused and frustrated, this group tried to make its contribution to the Revolution’s spirit, in particular how to understand Sharia’ti’s ideological path. At the end of the day, their impact was too little to influence the wave of the Revolution; however, their existence within it helped to serve Sharia’ti’s ideology in a way that changed the shape of the Islamic Revolution’s first days.

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Chapter 3. Ali Sharia’ti—The Rise and Fall of a Revolutionary Ideologue


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One of the main ideologues of the Islamic Revolution who did not grow up among the clerics was Ali Sharia’ti who was born in 1933 in Kahak of Mazinan in the Khorasan region of North West Iran to a family of farmers on his mother’s side but on his father’s side there was a connection with clerics.1 During his early years in the 1940s and 1950s Sharia’ti was mainly influenced by his father Mohammad-Taqi Sharia’ti who, according to many people, was an unconventionally religious person who did not wear the traditional garb and went to high school. He opened and operated an independent and progressive Islamic center from which he earned his living giving lessons and in the early 1940s he set up a printing business. During the middle of the 1940s he established a local branch of the “Socialist Workers of God” and during the 1950s was an enthusiastic supporter of Mossadeq and the National Front. During both the 1950s and 1940s Sharia’ti the father ran discussion groups in his house in which, together with his friends, he studied modern thinkers that included Arab socialists and the well-known Iranian historian Ahmad Kasravi. Sharia’ti the son described his father as his “first teacher” and the discussion group and father’s family library at home as an intellectual treasure.2

At the beginning of the 1950s, when he was a student in a...

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