Ali Shariati Mazinani 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", although his ideas ended up not forming the basis of the Islamic Republic. Ali Shariati (Ali Masharati) was born in 1933 in Mazinan, a suburb of Sabzevar, in northeastern Iran. His father's family were clerics. His father, Mohammad-Taqi, was a teacher and Islamic scholar. In 1947, he opened the Centre for the Propagation of Islamic Truths in Mashhad, in Khorasan Province. It was a social Islamic forum which became embroiled in the oil nationalisation movement of the 1950s. Shariati's mother was from a small land-owning family. His mother was from Sabzevar, a little town near Mashhad. 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 1952, he became a high-school teacher and founded the Islamic Students' Association, which led to his arrest following a demonstration. In 1953, 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 1955. In 1957, 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 University of Paris. He left Paris after earning a PhD in sociology in 1964. During this period in Paris, Shariati started collaborating with the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in 1959. The following year, he began to read Frantz Fanon and translated an anthology of his work into Persian. Shariati introduced Fanon's thought into Iranian revolutionary émigrée circles. He was arrested in Paris on 17 January 1961 during a demonstration in honour of Patrice Lumumba. The same year he joined Ebrahim Yazdi, Mostafa Chamran and Sadegh Qotbzadeh in founding the Freedom Movement of Iran abroad. In 1962, he continued studying sociology and the history of religions in Paris, and followed the courses of Islamic scholar Louis Massignon, Jacques Berque and the sociologist Georges Gurvitch. He also came to know the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre that same year, and published Jalal Al-e Ahmad's book Gharbzadegi (or Occidentosis) in Iran. Shariati then returned to Iran in 1964, 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 next 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, along with many of his students. Widespread pressure from the people, and an international outcry, eventually led to his release on 20 March 1975, after eighteen months in solitary confinement.
Shariati raised the issue of returning to oneself, which means returning to Islamic culture and ideology. At the same time, he discusses the return to self, religious reform, and the Islamic Renaissance, and his intention was to turn religion into a dynamic and constructive factor. He calls on the intellectuals to present Islam in the form of Islam as a protesting and progressive consciousness and as an enlightening ideology in the form of repetitive and unconscious traditions, the greatest factor of which is its decline. The concept of degeneration has two aspects from Shariati's point of view; One is economic and industrial backwardness and the other is the loss of the divine spirit of man as a manifestation of freedom, creativity and awareness in the new era. In response to the question, what should be done to get rid of degeneration and backwardness? He expresses his return to himself and believes that by creating an Islamic renaissance and religious reform, degenerative factors can be removed. Through the relationship he establishes between religious reform and liberation from degeneration, he raises the issue of returning to oneself in order to find a way to liberate Muslims and Iranians from degeneration and backwardness.
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