Motahhari, Mortaza (1920–1979)

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Born in Iran in 1920, Mortaza Motahhari was assassinated on 1 May 1979 by members of Forqan, a radical Muslim anticlerical group. He attended the prestigious Mashhad seminary and in 1936 moved to Qom to pursue his interest in Islamic philosophy. However, philosophical issues were seldom discussed in Shi˓ite seminaries. Both philosophy and mysticism were subjects marginalized in favor of jurisprudence. In 1944, he studied jurisprudence with Ayatollah Borujerdi; one year later he embarked on studying seminal philosophical texts with Ayatollah Khomeini; and finally he attended ˓Allama Tabataba˒i's seminars on the philosophies of Mulla Sadra and Ibn Sina.

Motahhari is considered to be one of the most influential modernist clerics in contemporary Iran. Although Motahhari was a disciple of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and one of his closest aides during the first months of the Islamic revolution, he remained critical of Khomeini's juridical conception of velayat-e faqih. He emphasized the role of reason in the comprehension and practice of religion, and admonished traditional jurists for their promotion of a blind imitative faith. Motahhari believed that the orthodoxy that dominated Shi˓ite seminaries alienated pensive youth from religion and created a fertile soil for the growth of Marxism. Accordingly, he intended to advance a Shi˓ite philosophical rationalism, which engaged contemporary issues and was accessible to modern intellectuals.

See alsoKhomeini, Ruholla ; Reform: Iran ; Revolution: Islamic Revolution in Iran ; Velayat-e Faqih .


Dabashi, Hamid. Theology of Discontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Iranian Revolution. New York: New York University Press, 1993.

Motahhari, Mortaza. Fundamentals of Islamic Thought: God,Man, and the Universe. Translated by R. Campbell. Berkeley, Calif.: Mizan Press, 1985.

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi