Clerical Modernism Beyond Salafism and Wahhabism

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Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto
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First year PhD candidate at the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto, specializing in Modern Middle East, Islam and Iran.

The Iranian intellectual tradition has enjoyed a long and rich history, that includes intellectuals from various backgrounds. Religious intellectuals and activists of the 1950s and 60s such as Mahdi Bazargan, Ali Shariati, Ayatollahs Mottahari and Taleghani, and others, are personalities with which many Iranians are acquainted. Historical scholarship generally focuses on the discourses and ideas of these thinkers, widely considered to be the earliest religious intellectuals in Iranian history. However, there exists a historical amnesia concerning a group of innovative thinkers who belonged to the preceding decades. Thus religious reformers such as Ahmad Kasravi, Kazem Zadeh Iranshahr, Ali Akbar Hakami Zadeh, and Shariat Sanglaji have  each been, to some extent, ignored and relegated to the margins of Iranian intellectual history.
The most unfortunate aspect of this historical amnesia is the indifference with which the works of these intellectuals are received by the public. Although they have contributed greatly to the Iranian intellectual tradition, introducing novel ideas and creating a momentum for reform, their views have been largely ignored and even distorted. Furthermore, due to their radical, non-conformist ideas, these scholars--and in particular Shariat Sanglaji-- have been labelled as proponents of Wahhabism and Salafism, during their own lifetime as well as now.
The aim of this paper is to establish that contrary to widespread accusations associating Shariat Sanglaji with Wahhabism and Salafism, Sanglaji and his like-minded contemporaries were not the followers or proponents of either of these two groups. Instead, their attempt to purge Shi'i Islam of some unnecessary and excessive practices and beliefs resulted in a unique reformist movement, quite distinct from Salafism and Wahhabism.

Academic Discipline : 
Modern Middle East Studies
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