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Biographical Data :

Name :Abdolkarim Soroush
Period :1945 -
Biographical detail : Abdolkarim Soroush is an engaging contemporary Muslim thinker, born in southern Tehran in 1945. He has emerged as a potent and formidable intellectual critic of the post-Khomeini theocracy in Iran. He is a leading scholar on Maulana Rumi and his readings and interpretations of the Mathnavi are given to packed houses.

Soroush underwent his primary schooling in the Qa`imiyyeh School, in south of Tehran. After spending six years there, he began his secondary education at Mortazavi High School, and a year later moved to the newly inaugurated Alavi High School.

Upon finishing high school, Soroush took part in the universities nation-wide entrance examinations in both physics and pharmacy. He was successful at both exams and so opted for pharmacy on the recommendation of the late Mr Ruzbeh. After completing his degree, he spent two years in the army rendering the national compulsory service, and after that he set off for Bushehr to render part of his medical service, the ``Out-of-Centre Service'', where he was director of a chemical laboratory.

When the Revolution began, Soroush returned to Iran and there he published his book "Knowledge and Value" (Danesh va Arzesh) the writing of which he had completed in England. After returning to Iran, he went to Tehran's Teacher Training College where he was appointed the Director of the newly established Islamic Culture Group. Not a year had elapsed that the movement for closure of universities by some students began and culminated in total closure of all universities. Shortly afterwards, a new body was formed by the name of the Cultural Revolution Institute comprising seven members, including AbdulKarim Soroush, all of whom were appointed directly by Imam Khomeini. The purpose of this institute was to bring about the re-opening of the universities and reviewing of the syllabuses. Some students and certain individuals who had been involved in the Cultural Revolution expected the universities to remain closed for a period of at least twenty years in order that they may undergo fundamental reforms. Soroush and his colleagues brought their case to Imam Khomeini and requested him to issue instructions for accelerating the re-opening of the universities, which he did in one of his public speeches. After a year and a half, the universities began to be re-opened and, with new syllabuses, gradually resumed their work.

In 1983 (1362), owing to certain differences which emerged between him and the management of the Teacher Training College, he secured a transfer to the Institute for Cultural Research and Studies where he has been serving as a research member of staff until today. In the same year, the Cultural Revolution Institute was changed to the Cultural Revolution Council and its membership was increased to seventeen. Soroush participated in no more than one of this Council's sessions; he submitted his resignation from membership to Imam Khomeini and has since held no official position within the ruling system of Iran, except occasionally as an advisor to certain government bodies.

From the year 2000 onwards Abdulkarim Soroush has been a Visiting Professor in Harvard University teaching Islam and Democracy, Quranic Studies and Philosophy of Islamic Law. Also a scholar in residence in Yale University, he taught Islamic Political Philosophy at Princeton University in the 2002-3 academic year. For 2003-4 he will be a visiting scholar in the Wissenschaftkolleg in Berlin.
 (Compiler : Source: http://www.seraj.org/biog.htm)

Comments :
By Jamil Sherif, on 2007-04-10
In his recent essay 'On Reason', Dr Soroush offers an account of his personal disillusionment with the path of revolution,and compares it with alternative modes of achieving social change - rationality, love and revelation.

In pugnacious style, he notes, "Revolution is a blistering explosion of hatred and the discharged energy of this ruinous emotion. And it can have no affinity with the coolness of analytical reason. What affinity can there be between a hatred that wants to destroy tradition, monarchy, property, etc. and a reason that wants to know and understand? In revolutions, love and emotions are invariably given their due, but reason is not so well served. Much time passes before a revolution’s leaders turn to rationality and construction and rein in the destruction. To be fair, revolutions are not without rationality, but their rationality mostly manifests itself as the rejection of the outgoing rationality. Revolutionaries know what they oppose, but they are a long way from knowing what they favour."

It seems that the mellowed Soroush is drawing to Sufism: "The lofty and sturdy tradition of Islamic Sufism was the product of reactions to two things: first, a reaction to the unrestrained and unfettered carousing, revelry, corruption, materialism and pleasure-seeking of the courts under the Umavid and Abbasid caliphates, and, the other, a reaction to the terrifying, tyrannical and omnipotent God of the Ash’arites and the Mu’tazilites relentless philosophical digressions into God’s attributed and actions, particularly His justness. The first reaction produced ascetic Sufism and, the second, the Sufism of love. The Sufism of love drew a line under both reason and fear. It wanted to love God, not to fear God. And it wanted to be enchanted by God, as a lover is enchanted by the beloved, not to unravel God as a philosopher unravels a puzzle..... Love became the rival of both theoretical reason and practical reason. For one thing, Sufis claim that love grants a lover eyes to see vistas that are beyond the realm of reason. Jalal-al-Din Rumi, the greatest Iranian/Afghan mystic and poet, born in 1234, says to his master and friend Shams-e Tabrizi: “Shams-e Tabriz, love can know you, not reason.”. In other words, love grants knowledge. It is capable of making discoveries and its findings have cognitive import. For another thing, Sufis believe that reason is a selfish, profit-seeking and conservative creature and is not prone to selflessness, benevolence and self-sacrifice; whereas love reduces selfishness to zero, “kills the self”, makes the lover generous, good-natured, hardy and gallant, and it heals all the lover’s spiritual ills. Although this love is the kernel of religiosity, it, in fact, lies beyond the believer’s duties. Most believers seek some benefit and reward from their religiosity. And although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, it is far from the lofty heights attained by the lover, who leaves behind the realm of benefits and rewards and takes the course of a lover’s gamble. A Sufism that is built on this kind of love is cheek by jowl with revelation ant it more or less sees prophets as great mystics who placed the products of their contemplations at people’s disposal, whereas mystics who are not prophets have no such mission. At any rate, the relationship between Sufism and philosophy or love and reason - like the relationship between reason and revelation – has not been smooth. Muslim philosophers have benefited from mysticism just as they benefited from revelation, and they have seen neither as contrary to pure reason. The least that can be said here is that philosophers have taken on board those mystical findings that have lent themselves to reason and have opted for silence on the rest. But mystics preferred minds that were unencumbered by philosophy and they considered philosophical musings and “attachment to causes” to be incompatible with a lover’s position. Moreover, although the pre-conceptual/pre-theoretical understanding of mystics could be poured into philosophers’ conceptual moulds, they lost their novelty and authenticity once they were poured into such moulds, and this made mystics steer away from philosophy. Having taught both philosophy and mysticism, I have dwelt in the heart of this duality all my life and I have watched my students well to see which way they jumped. I have rarely come across anyone who can endure this tug-of-war and continue to hand on to both these ends. Ultimately, either reason or love has triumphed, and, more often than not, love has proved stronger".

In a reference to the Pope's comments on Islam, Dr Soroush notes, "Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent controversial speech, boasted of the collaboration between Christianity and Greek philosophy, and described their reconciliation and alliance as auspicious and epoch-making. He criticized Islam and Protestantism for not having established as strong a link as they should have done with rationality, particularly philosophical and Greek rationality. He even described the God of Islam as an irrational God or even an anti-rational God. This is not the place for assessing the Pope’s at times inaccurate and ill-judged remarks. The point is that the relationship between reason and revelation has never been a smooth and altogether friendly one. Revelation-independent reason has always been viewed as a rival of revelation and prophets never liked to be called philosophers. Theologians, who made religious belief reasoned and rational, and saw themselves as serving religion in this way, were considered traitors by religions’ orthodox followers. The latter ere of the opinion that rationalizing religion meant subjecting religion to reason and measuring its truth and veracity on the scale of rationality, and that this was, at the very least, a suspect and useless thing to do. Believers maintained that revelation had come to assist reason; how, then, could this relationship be turned on its head by having reason assist revelation? Some would go even further and say that the candle of reason was useful in the gloom that preceded revelation; once the sun of revelation dawned, that candle had to be snuffed out.

Cooperation between reason and revelation was, of course, another option. That the God who created reason was the same God who sent us revelation provided a basis for this cooperation. Many great Christian and Islamic philosophers, such as Avicenna, Farabi, and Thomas Aquinas, belonged to this line of thought. Sadreddin Shiraz, the XXVII century Iranian philosopher went so far as to say: “Woe betide any philosophy that is not confirmed by God’s religion!”. The Mu’tazilite school of theology, which unfortunately suffered a devastating historical defeat at the hands of its Ash’arite rival was founded on the basis of the compatibility of reason and religion and it was also on good terms with Greek philosophy. The God of the Mu’tazilites was a just and moral God, and all His conduct was in keeping with rational criteria. This was also their understanding of the Prophet and his teachings. Reason in this school was so corpulent as to make religion seem emaciated by comparison; unlike the Ash’arite school of theology, which had a corpulent religion and an emaciated rationality. The Sufis, for their part – who were a different creed altogether – had attained a corpulent love, alongside which both religion and reason appeared emaciated".

For full text see http://www.resetdoc.org/EN/index.php

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