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Citizen Voices

Ali Shariati’s Message For Enlightened Thinkers Can Help Them Become Self Conscious

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“Throughout the world, plots have been devised to preoccupy and destroy the young generation. Instead of being presented with the genuine justice and freedom that they need and expect, our youth are given the freedom of sex” Says Dr. Ali Shariati. If I tell you that no minute of my life, from the day I know him, goes without thinking about the peerless personality of Ali Shariati, it wouldn’t be wrong.

Ali Shariati, the man who only lived 43 years in this world, who is regarded as the Imam-e-Inqilab-e-Iran, not only induced the organic intellectuals of his time through his writings, speeches and character but also motivated the youth of Iran. He was a source of motivation especially the students who were most excited to revolutionize and change their ‘occidentotic’ society; a term coined by Ahmad Fardid to criticize the hegemonic attitude of the west, under his leadership by means of Islamic principles and values.

Although Shariati’s books are not easily available in Pakistan, but I, somehow, managed to collect few of his renowned books including; On the sociology of Islam, Marxism and other Western Fallacies, Once again Abu Dhar and Red Shi’ism vs. Black Shi’ism. Before turning towards his books, I first started reading his speeches most of them he delivered at Hosseiniyeh Ershad, a religious center in Tehran. These speeches left a deep impact on my thoughts, and soon I became his passionate reader. Ali Shariati was an enthusiast propagator of modern Islam and Islamic civilization who remained consistent throughout his life. As he talked of modern Islam, therefore, he reinterpreted the teachings of Quran and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in light of the requirements of modern age. His work on the sociology of Islam is marvelous. In this work he tried to explore different approaches to understand the historical development of Islam in particular and society in general.

While reading the works of Ali Shariati, the one thing which dominates as the central theme is the concept of Tawhid. According to Ali Shariati, Tawhid is not a mere belief on the singularity of God but Tawhid provides “the intellectual foundation for all the affairs of society.” All the prophets who were descended they fought against the system of social shirk: A system based on the oppression and tyranny. A system that made people slaves. So making people slaves is a shirk in light of the teachings of Islam. Because this concept goes against the fundamental principle of Islam which says that only God is the supreme and no man has the right to deprive others from the worldly things. Ali Shariati further asserts that the societies that believe in Tawhid must practice jihad. A jihad (resistance) against despotism and brutality above all the racial and national prejudices to create a pro-human system.

Today, our youth is hopeless and disappointed. Our pseudo and traditional intellectuals, whose mission is just to legitimate the interests of the ruling class, ask us to accept our present conditions because it is written that the poor will die poor. They say there is no need to be vocal about our problems because nothing is going to change. They further say that the third-world countries are bound to suffer, class-based societies are natural and the west is going to lead the way. In these circumstances, Ali Shariati addresses to the Enlightened thinkers. He says that all the above said notions of our pseudo-intellectuals are nothing more than becoming a mouthpiece for the bourgeois class. To say that nothing is going to change is actually the negation of history which tells that nothing is static as Heraclitus puts out tjhat “everything is in flux.”

As Ali Shariati’s area of interest is Islam so he gives us examples from the Islamic history. Like before the arrival of the Holy Prophet, we see two big exploitative powers controlling the whole world. The Persians and the Romans. These two corrupt powers ruled over the world for almost eleven hundred years through nefarious methods. Who else had thought that these two powers would fall one day. No one! But it was the Holy Prophet, who aspired for the Islamic revolution and started gathering his team. One thing which is quite notable is that his initial team wasn’t consisted of aristocrats but the poverty-stricken people of Arab including Abu Dhar, Ammar, his son Ammar Yasir and Bilal. The Holy Prophet didn’t tell them to accept these two corrupt powers as their fate because nothing was going to change but he organized them and gave them hope that they will one day conquer the world and the history is witness that these slaves of Arab not only defeated the wicked powers but also established the Islamic system based on simplicity, justice and equality.

In our age, if we look around the world, we see that the condition is almost the same. Oppression and racial prejudice is ruling over the world. Western imperial powers are continuously destroying the economy of other nations through institutes like IMF. In past, the notorious British Empire ruined many countries like India, Africa and later China. And now America is on the driving seat and destroying the nations through imposing evil wars just to make them dependent on them. What should an enlightened thinker do now? He has two options; either to accept these condition or resist collectively, like the Holy Prophet did.

Ali Shariati, a very anti-colonial and anti-imperialist writer, says that, “An intellectual is one who is conscious of his own “humanistic status” in a specific social and historical time and place. His self-awareness lays upon him the burden of responsibility. He responsibly and self-consciously leads his people in scientific, social and revolutionary action.” So the enlightened thinkers of our age must fulfill their responsibility and come forward to develop consciousness in people and lead them practically. Only this commitment can lead to a brighter and peaceful society.


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Naya Daur