Mottahedeh - The Mantle of the Prophet (1985) - Synopsis

March 27, 2018 | Author: Mark K. Jensen | Category: Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran, Middle East, Abrahamic Religions, Religion And Belief
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Synopsis of Roy Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985...


UFPPC ( Book Discussion Series @ Mandolin Café (Tacoma, WA) June 5, 2006, 7:00 p.m. Roy Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985). Note to the Reader. The Mantle of the Prophet was inspired when author learned in spring 1978 in Princeton from a Univ. of Tehran professor that the classical trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) is the basis of seminary education in Qom (7-8). “The ‘Ali Hashemi’ in this book is a real person whose wish to remain anonymous I have scrupulously respected” (8-9). No presentation of the history of Iranian culture can satisfy all Iranians, particularly on the subject of religion (9-10). “[L]ittle is told of . . . adult family life . . . Iranian friends were reluctant to speak about such matters, and I have respected their reticence” (10). “This book is, in some sense, the story of all of us in the last part of the twentieth century” (10). Prologue. The afternoon of Feb. 11, 1979, for Ali Hashemi: sees the revolution is real when the police bow not to “the Engineers” but to an ordinary mullah (11-17). Ch. 1. [Mosque and bazaar] Childhood of Ali Hashemi born in Qom in 1943, son of a mullah (18-19). History of the shiah Ali or ‘partisans of Ali’ and their arrival in Qom, where stands the shrine of Fatemah, sister of a great-greatgrandson of Hosain (the grandson of Mohammed whose martyrdom is Shiah’s central event) (19-22). Visiting the tomb with his mother (22-24). To secularized intellectuals, Qom seems both alien and familiar (24-25). Ali’s home, divided between andaruni (‘the inside’) and biruni (‘the outside’) (25-30). First prayers in Arabic with his father (30-31). Shopping in the bazaar (31-34). “The bazaar and the mosque are the two lungs of public life in Iran” (34). The bazaar is where prices and reputations are set,

“the lineal descendant of the Greek agora and the Roman forum” (35). In political crises, bazaar closings are a form of political expression (35-36). Mosques are “virtually the only precinct in which personal opinion could be publicly proclaimed,” where sermons can have political importance and revolutions begin, as in 1906 (36-37). Ch. 2. [Education] Ali’s facility at school (38-45). Friendship with mathematically gifted, poor student, Parviz (45-50). Westernizing education, introduced for military reasons in the mid-19th c., but also liberalism and nationalism (50-52). The Constitutional Revolution (52-53). Early life of Isa Sadiq, historian of Iranian education, who was the son of merchant with liberal friends (54-57), became official of Reza Shah (57-60), observations of American education 1930-31 (61-63), his Dewey-influenced 1931 thesis, Modern Persian and Her Education System (63-64), and subsequent career as minister of education (64-65). Iranian enthusiasm for foreign education (65-67). “[E]ducation decisively transformed Iran . . . it created a deep nationalism and it killed the Koran school, the maktab. . . Of the religious schools only the madreseh, the Islamic college, survived” (67-68). Ch. 3. [Philosophy] Ali in class, studying Mullah Abdollah’s Commentary (69-78). Early history of Muslim education (7881). The triumph of “systematic methods of discussion,” esp. Aristotle, was mainly the work of the prodigiously gifted Persian philosopher Avicenna (9801036), “the first Muslim to make the logical traditions of the classical world his own” (82-86). Avicenna’s influence (86-

89). Madresehs, the counterpart to Western universities but founded “at least a hundred years before,” were founded in the generation following Avicenna’s death to give “a basic education in Islamic religious law” (8992). Shiah approach to philosophy more humanistic than the Sunni approach (9293). Tenuous status of Shiah until Safavid dynasty establishes it as the Iranian national religion (93). Safavids found many madresehs (94). Sayyed Nematollah Jazayeri’s career in the 17th c. (94-98). Ahmad Kasravi (1890-1946), anticlerical (“dogmatic” [336]) philosopher (98-105). Despite their differences similarities of style: love of Arabic language, techniques of argument, sense of the law as “the queen of the sciences” (105-09). Ch. 4. [Politics] Discussion of Algerian war politicizes Ali (110-15). Mohammed Mossadegh’s (1882-1967) powerful influence (115-16). Born “in the heart of court life in the old regime, a son of a high bureaucrat and a great-granddaughter of the Qajar king Fath-Ali Shah” (116). At 15 the treasurer of the province of Khorasan; later studies in Paris & Neuchâtel and earns Swiss doctorate of law in 1914 (117-18). Mossadegh’s philosophy of law, history, and society, based on the schema of inspired, formalist, and positivist epochs (119-22). Russia cedes Iran to British sphere of interest (122-23). Minister in last years of Qajar dynasty (123). Opposes monarchy of Reza Shah (124). Abdication in 1941 makes him a heroic leader, seeks U.S. support against British (125). Nationalization of oil leads to British-American-inspired coup (126-30). The mullahs and Mossadegh; his pragmatic alliance with Abol Qasem Kashani (130-33). Ch. 5. [Mysticism & literature] Ali’s interest in “the mystical ‘knowledge of the true world,’ erfan” (134-35). Ayatollah Marashi, a marja (‘model’)

(135-37). Studies about two months with a teacher, has mystical experience of “the light” on 41st day, is instructed to stop when he develops indifference to life (137-44). “Mysticism, the ambiguity of poetry, belief in the many-faced subtlety of evil, and the never fully resolved choice between the roles of hedonistic cynic and selfless devotee have created the great interior spaces in which the Iranian soul has breathed and survived over at least half a millennium” (144). Islamic mysticism’s roots in asceticism (144-45). Sufis, a mystical movement, convert the Turks, but also inspire hostility (145-48). Sohravardi (executed in 1191 by Saladin), mystical continuer of neglected part of Avicenna’s thought, developing the Koran’s “light mysticism,” with links to Zoroastrian tradition (149-56). Persian language literature revived in ‘new Persian’ by Ferdowsi, author of the epic The King of Kings (157-58). “The modern Persian lyric was associated with the archheretics, the Manichaeans,” followers of Mani (the mid-3rd-c. Iranian prophet Mani, a Gnostic whose contributions to religion include canonicity and a tolerant and multilingual relativism), a taint “that Persian verse never fully overcame,” but despite which “Muslim Iranians [made] poetry the central icon of their culture” (158-61). With its complex multiculturalism, Persian poetry is fundamentally and kaleidoscopically ambiguous (162-65). The complexity of the Islamic notion of Satan (166-67). Omar Khayyam and the pose of the hedonistic cynic (168-70). The selfless devotee is embodied in the cultural tradition of the passion play or taaziyeh, about Husein’s martyrdom, whose locus classicus appeared in the time of the Safavids with The Garden of the Martyrs, and in which “[t]he actor . . . is the role” (173-79). Shiah domestication of mysticism (179-80). Erfan as a method of dealing with sexual temptation (180-83). Erfan’s “hand in creating the all-or-nothing political style

of . . . Jamal ad-Din [1839-1897] and Ruhollah Khomeini [1902-1989]” (18385). Ch. 6. [Clericalism] Ali studies with Ayatollah Khomeini in Najaf in 1966 (18694). Ali begins teaching (194-96). An ayatollah privately confesses to agnosticism (196-98). Shiah political thought (198-205). Development of 20thc. Iranian political thought analyzed by recounting the views of a sequence of mullahs: Behbahani (205-07); Shafti (207-10); Ansari (210-14); Sirazi (21418); Khorasani (d. 1911) (218-20); Sheikh Fazlollah (221-23); Modarres (224). Codification of Iranian law as modernizing reform (225-27). Ha‘eri promotes Qom and stays out of politics in the 1920s (228-29). Shah co-opts Ayatollah Borujerdi, clericalizes mullahs, modernizes dress (230-37). 1955 persecution of Baha’is was a sop to mullahs (238-40). Titles in Shiah Islam (241). Khomeini opposes Shah in 1963 and is expelled in 1965 (242-47). Ch. 7. [SAVAK] Ali takes Ayatollah Marashi as ‘model’ (248-49). Distribution of religious tithes (250-54). Begins to write political essays (255-56). Arrest and imprisonment (256-58). Reading (259-60). Hears screams in the night (261). Recognizes Parviz’s voice in poetry recited in the night (261-64). Release after about a month (264). Preaches Friday sermon upon return to Qom (264-68).

Ch. 9. [The hay’at (‘association’); urbanization] Ali cultivated by Bagher, a pious merchant (337-40). Ali uncomfortable in role of spiritual advisor (340-45). The role of hay’ats in mobilizing urban migrants (347-56). Ch. 10. [Modernity] Philosophical dialogue between Ahmad, a pious skeptic, and Ali, the enlightened mullah (357-71). 1978 revolution as “a victory of ‘the word’” (371-78). Epilogue. Reflections on the arduousness of the revolution’s aftermath (378-80). The constitution of the Islamic Republic (381-82). Shock of middle-class Iranians upon discovering “what Shiah Islam as taught in the madresehs really is” (382-83). Analogously to Renan’s recogniztion in his 1865 prayer to the Acropolis that he prefers Greece to his Christian heritage, “some Iranians” have learned that they prefer Cyrus to Hosain (384). The enigmatic character of the revolution for intellectuals; the uncertainty of the future (384-87). In some ways, little has changed; but Parviz has disappeared; Ali feels the need “for another Ansari, who will reach deep into the Shiah legal traditions and show new points at which possible lists of contraries may be constructed and the flexibility and humanity of the law demonstrated” (38790). A Note on Sources. 5 pp.

Ch. 8. [Militancy] Life in Tehran (26972). Parviz tells Ali story of his development (269-87). Jalal Al-e Ahmad, author of Euromania critic of gharbzadegi, ‘West-stricken-ness’ (287323). Leftists embrace Mahmud Taleqani, Islamist political activist (32326). Radicalizing effect of Shah’s 1971 Persepolis celebration (326-28). Guerrillas (329-31). Iran’s economic development, links to U.S.; who was using whom? (332-34).

Acknowledgements. Above all, Dr. Hossein Modarressi’s “endless intellectual generosity” (397). Some anonymous sources. Many scholars critiqued draft, mostly Iranian, but also Peter Brown and Amelie Rorty. Index. 17 pp. [Note on Roy Mottahedeh: “ROY P. MOTTAHEDEH was born in New York in

1940 and graduated magna cum laude in History from Harvard in 1960. He spent the next year traveling in Europe and the Middle East as a Shaw Traveling Scholar of Harvard University. In 1962, after a year of study, he took the B.A. examination in Persian and Arabic at Cambridge University in England and received the E. G. Browne Prize. He then returned to Harvard in order to continue his studies in Islamic History and Civilization with Sir Hamilton Gibb, whose seminars in Islamic History and Arabic poetry he attended for the following two years. In 1967 he was elected to the Harvard Society of Fellows for a threeyear term as a Junior Fellow. In 1970 he was appointed an Assistant Professor at Princeton University and received tenure at that university in 1976. He was

among the first to be chosen as a MacArthur Prize Fellow. He has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1986 he accepted the appointment as Professor of Islamic History in the Harvard History Department and from 1987 to 1990 he was Director of Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He is the author of two books, Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society and The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran. He is also the author of numerous articles, including articles on the Abbasids and the Shu’ubiyah controversy. He resides with his wife and two children in Brookline, Massachusetts.” (Text dated 1999, from symposium at Colorado College.)

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