Shariati and Tollab: Forty Years Later

 Suggested abstract for the first conference of “Shariati and the the future of Humanities”

Shariati and Tollab: Forty Years Later

Shariati’s image of Tollab’s lifestyle and educational system of Hawza in comparison to current situation of Hawza

Mahdi Soleimanieh

PhD student of Sociology in Tehran University, researcher of Sociology of Shia (Rowhaani’at)

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How does Shariati describe Tollab in his works? How does he describe the style of Talabe’s life and the norms of their lifestyle? Forty years after his death and after experiencing a religious Shiite sovereignty, Hawza and Tollab’s lifestyle have gone under serious alterations. Now is the time we ask ourselves how the present is educational and management system of Hawza working in comparison to what Shariati had in mind as the ideal state of lifestyle and educational system for this institution? Has Hawza and Tollab’s lifestyle become closer to what Shariati considered to be desirable or has it gone further away from what he had in mind? Or maybe it is a more complex equation than such a mutual evaluation?

Answering such questions is important at least in three different aspects:

First, undoubtedly this issue is at the center of one of the most serious intellectual discussions and most challenging social interactions between Rowhaani’at and intellectual forces in last fifty years in Iran: the complex issue of Shariati and the Hawza. Half a century later, it still echoes among society, the intelligentsia, and part of the humanities and Hawza sphere. The fact that the issue of “Shariati and Tollab” is still alive is one of the reasons justifying the fundamental importance of discussing this subject.

The second importance of this argument is because of Shariati’s position as one of the classic ones who started conceptualization of Iran’s sociology and were pioneers of introducing sociology to Iranian society. He was a pioneer sociologist in “Sociology of Shia” and sociology of Rowhaani’at and one of the first people who paid special attention to Hawza as the only educational system with a history of hundreds of years, probably the most important institution with preferred affinity to humanities discussions. Where Shariati, as an Iranian sociologist starts the conversation with the Hawza and Tollab as the institution and actors of Intellectual arena (with traces of humanities) is undoubtedly a situation which could be very important for humanities in Iran.

The third aspect of importance lies in the complexity of the relation between Shariati and Tollab. In institutional level the relationship between them is not easy to describe and we have to analyze it by using intersecting axes from attraction to tension and from criticism to banishment and excommunication. Determining the relationship Tollab (as the actors of Hawze sphere) have had with him would be even more complex. The fact that from beginning, there were Tollab who admired Shariati and loved him and at the same time there were Tollab who hated him is a sign that shows us how complicated this relationship has been. This is an issue that Iran’s humanities and social sciences cannot pass by easily. In order to understand it we can start by describing Shariati’s perspective on Tollab and comparing the current state of Hawza with his perspective.

This study tries to firstly, give a description of Shariati’s perspective on Tollab’s lifestyle and the desirable educational system of Hawza trough referring directly to Shariati’s books like “Ravesh-e-Shenaakht-e-Eslam” (The Method of understanding Islam) and “Tashai’o Alavi va Tashai’o Safavi” (Safafid Shiite & Alavid Shiite) and some other books, and then compare this image with current situation of Tollab’s lifestyle and educational system of Hawza to determine the relation between his perspective and the current situation. 

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