Martyred professor, Allameh Morteza Motahhari, was born on February 2, 1919 in the town of Fariman, 75 kilometers from the holy city of Mashhad. At the age of twelve, he set off for Mashhad seminary to embark on learning the basics of Islamic sciences. In 1937, despite Reza Khan’s intense confrontation with clergymen and also opposition by some of his friends and relatives, he left for Qom seminary to complete his studies.
During 15 years of his stay in Qom, he benefited from the presence of Grand Ayatollah Borujerdi (in jurisprudence and the principles of jurisprudence), Imam Khomeini (12 years in the philosophy of Molla Sadra, gnosis, ethics and principles of jurisprudence) and Allameh Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Tabatabaiee (in philosophy). He had also benefited from the presence of the late Ayatollah Haj Mirza Ali Aqa Shirazi in ethics and gnosis. Among other teachers of professor Motahhari mention can be made of the late Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Hojjat (in principles of jurisprudence) and the late Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Mohaqqeqdamad (in jurisprudence). While he was in Qom, in addition to education, he participated in socio-political affairs as well and he was in contact with Fadaiyan-e-Eslam group.
In 1952, he migrated to Tehran though he was one of the renowned teachers and among the future hopes of the seminary. In Tehran, he taught at Marvi School and delivered well-researched speeches. In 1955, the first session of the exegesis of the holy Qur’an in the Students' Islamic Association was held by professor Motahhari. In the same year, he began teaching at the faculty of divinity and Islamic teachings of Tehran University. In 1958-59 concurrent with the establishment of the Physicians' Islamic Association, professor Motahhari was one of the main speakers of the Association and during 1961-1971 he was the only speaker of the Association leaving behind a number of important deliberations.
In 1962, with the start of Imam Khomeini’s uprising, professor Motahhari accompanied him to the extent that one can consider the organizing of the June 5th uprising in Tehran and its coordination with Imam Khomeini’s leadership as being indebted to him and his companions. Having given an enlightening speech against the Shah on Wednesday, 5th of June 1963, Ayatollah Motahhari was detained by the police at 1 a.m. and sent to the interim police headquarters and was imprisoned with a number of Tehrani clergymen. 43 days later, following the migration of Ulema from other provinces to Tehran and public pressure, he was freed together with other clergymen.
After the formation of groups called “Mo’talefe Eslami”, which was among the combatant groups of the time, Imam Khomeini called on martyr Motahhari to lead these groups along with a number of clergymen.
Following Imam Khomeini's exile, professor Motahhari and his companions shouldered a heavier responsibility. At that time, he wrote books covering social requirements and delivering speeches at universities, the Physicians' Islamic Association and mosques. Professor Motahhari made a lot of ideological efforts to Islamicize the content of the movement and strongly fought against diversions and falsehoods. In 1967, he established Hosseinieh Ershad with the help of some friends.
In 1969, after releasing an announcement signed by him, Allameh Tabatabai and Ayatollah Haj Seyyed Abolfazl Mojtahed Zanjani calling for collection of aid for the displaced Palestinians and because of publicizing it during a speech in Hosseinieh Ershad, he was detained and held in solitary confinement for a short while. From 1970-72 he supervised publicity works by Al-jawad mosque where he was the main speaker until the mosque and the Hosseinieh were closed and professor Motahhari was detained for a while. Later, Ayatollah Motahhari gave speeches at Javid, Ark and a number of other mosques. After a while Javid mosque was also closed. Around the year 1974 he was forbidden to speak which lasted till the triumph of the Islamic revolution.
Presenting genuine Islamic ideology through teaching, speech and writing books were among the valuable activities of professor Motahhari reaching its climax particularly during the years 1972-78; since in those years the leftists had increased their propaganda and groups of leftist Muslims and also those with a hotchpotch of ideas had emerged. After Imam Khomeini, professor Motahhari was the first figure who found out the ideological deviation of the heads of the so-called “Mojahedin-e-Khalq” organization and prevented others from cooperating with them and even foresaw their change of ideology. In those years, upon Imam Khomeini’s recommendation, professor Motahhari traveled to Qom twice a week to teach at its seminary where he taught important courses and at the same time he taught some courses at home in Tehran. In 1976, following an ideological dispute with a communist teacher of the faculty of divinity, he became retired prematurely. Furthermore; in those years Ayatollah Motahhari, in collaboration with some clergymen, established “Jameye Rohaniat-e-Mobarez” of Tehran hoping that such an institution would be gradually established in other cities as well.
Although professor Motahhari’s contact with Imam Khomeini continued after the Imam’s exile in France via letters and other means, in the year 1976 he managed to travel to the holy city of Najaf and consulted with Imam Khomeini on the important issues of the revolution and also seminaries. After the martyrdom of Ayatollah Seyyed Mostafa Khomeini and the start of the new phase of the Islamic revolution, professor Motahhari fully devoted himself to the revolution and hence played a fundamental role in all of its phases.
At the time of Imam Khomeini’s stay in Paris, Ayatollah Motahhari traveled to France where he spoke with the Imam on the important issues of the revolution and it was then that Imam Khomeini urged him to shape the Islamic Revolution Council. Upon Imam Khomeini’s return to Iran, he personally took the responsibility of the welcoming committee and till the victory of the revolution and after that he always acted as a supporter of the leader of the Islamic revolution and served as a kind and trusted advisor for him. But at 22:20 p.m. of Tuesday, 1st of May 1979 he was martyred by a grouplet called “Forqan” after leaving an ideological and political gathering. This caused profound sorrow and grief for Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Ummah who had a lot of hopes for this great man’s future.
There remain tens of works by Ayatollah Motahhari. These works deal with a variety of religious issues and offer responses to many of the important questions of religious society so much so that we can name his works as a reliable source concerning the Islamic ideology system.
Some of Imam Khomeini’s Words on Martyr Allameh Morteza Motahhari
[Motahhari] was rare in Islamology and different Islamic and Qur’anic sciences. I have lost a very dear child. I am mourning for him who was one of the figures who was considered the fruit of my life. Martyrdom of this righteous child and immortal clergyman created a vacuum in the dear Islam that cannot be filled by any means.
Motahhari, who was rare in purifying spirit, the strength of belief and the power of speech, flew to the ethereal world, but the ill-wishers should know that his Islamic, scientific and philosophical personality won’t perish with his departure.
Motahhari was a dear child for me and a firm stronghold for the religious and scientific seminaries and a useful servant for people and country.
I recommend the students and the committed intellectuals not to let this dear professor’s books be forgotten by non-Islamic schemes.
In his short life, [Motahhari] left behind immortal works which stemmed from a wakeful conscience and a spirit filled with the love for religion. He embarked on educating and training the society with an eloquent style and an able thought in analyzing Islamic subjects and explaining philosophical facts with a popular diction and without uncertainty. His oral and written works are unexceptionally instructive and inspiring; and his advice and admonitions, which sprang from a heart filled with faith and belief, are useful both for the Ulema and the laymen.
Late Motahhari was an individual who had different aspects of personality; and few people have done the service to the young generation and others as Motahhari has done. All his works are unexceptionally good and I don’t know anybody else whose works I could call unexceptionally good. His works are unexceptionally good and constructive for humans.
Professor Motahhari from the Viewpoint of Ayatollah Khamenei
Interview with the Supreme Leader on Martyr Motahhari
‘I consider myself Mr. Motahhari’s pupil’
As you know late professor Motahhari was a philosopher; the science sought by him was mostly the philosophical science. Later on; however, he got to the subjects of theology, i.e. he dealt with Islamic issues with new argumentation method of modern philosophy. But he spent most of his time on philosophical matters. He was considered the philosophical student of Imam Khomeini and Allameh Tabatabaiee. Thus what he maintains in theology is Hekmat Mota’aliah, i.e. the Philosophy of Molla Sadra.
His behaviour was like that of the mystics who would set out to find a perfect instructor. Basically his spiritual and moral condition was in such a way. He would search to know for example if a perfect elderly instructor is somewhere in the world, and he would go to him to stay by him. Indeed, spiritually, such a situation was fitting him. Yet he had found such a perfect instructor in Iran. He was absorbed in Imam Khomeini and Allameh Tabatabaiee. He was captivated by their love and regarded their scientific and mystic status very high.
Morally, late Motahhari was a prominent man; and a pure-hearted, enlightened, just, self-possessed and mature person. In his personal bonds with God he was a mystic, a man of God’s remembrance, journey towards God and worship. He used to say: “I have learnt paying attention to and worship of God from my father.”
Professor Motahhari had a lot of historical information especially about the recent history, and particularly on the issues related to the Ulema, seminaries, scientific, spiritual, philosophical and mystic figures. These pieces of information were not registered in any book and are heard from the professors and great figures and kept in mind. Since he knew all professors and Ulema of Najaf, Samarra and Isfahan, he was well-informed about their events and he would talk of them in the gatherings and visits held on different occasions.
Supereme Leader’s Words on Professor Motahhari’s Personality and Works
“As time passes from his martyrdom, his spiritual and ideological works and bounties manifest more fresh dimensions. The ideological and scientific works of that grand clergyman become clearer in the scene of the country press and religious knowledge; and one understands that an intellectual clergyman with responsibilities could have so fruitful life.”
Martyr Motahhari with his strong and decent thought stepped in the fields of Islamic subjects that hitherto nobody had stepped; and considering the ideas that had prevailed or were going to prevail in the country---through translation and import from the west and east, he entered a profound, vast and interminable scientific challenge. He both embarked on a very clever struggle to confront with the Marxists and entered the scene to confront with the western and Liberalist thoughts. This role is very important; it needs both courage and self-confidence, it requires both thinking strength and Ijtihad (being well- qualified in jurisprudence and different theological fields), it both needs certainty and resolute belief. This great man had all these together; he was both a learned man and very faithful, he was firm in his belief and had self-confidence, too; these are all necessary.”
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