The Role of Holy City of Qum in Islamic Revolution

  September 07, 2021   Read time 2 min
The Role of Holy City of Qum in Islamic Revolution
Qum is one of the oldest centers of Shi'i school of thought in Iran. Not coincidentally, it is also one of the few cities in Iran by where Arabs settled in large numbers.

It has traditionally been a stronghold of Shi'i learning. However, until the present century the major centers of Shi'i learning that exercised great authority within Iran were generally situated outside the country in the cities known as the ‘atabat — that is, the cities of Iraq where certain of the imams are buried: Karbala, Kazimayn and above all Najaf. Almost all the prominent ulama received their essential education in Iraq. Many, even though Iranian by birth, would spend most of their lives there.

This situation has continued to a certain extent, but in Iran the city of Qum came to great prominence as a result of the activities of a succession of important ulama, the first of whom was Shaykh ‘Abd Al-Karim Hairi (1859-1936). In 1922 he founded in the city what is known as the Hauza-yi ‘Ilmiya, which roughly translated is “the teaching institution.” It is a conglomerate of different colleges and institutions of learning, informally organized and containing a number of teachers, offering the entire spectrum of the traditional religious sciences, joined by philosophy and mysticism

There is a tradition, attributed to the sixth imam of the Shi'a, that in latter times knowledge would arise in Qum and be distributed from there to the rest of Iran and to the rest of the Islamic world. Shaykh ‘Abd Al-Karim Hairi, in fulfillment of this tradition, consciously decided to revitalize Qum as a center of religious learning and teaching. This took place in 1922, a couple of years before the foundation of the Pahlavi dictatorship. Although Shaykh ‘Abd Al-Karim Hairi was consistently apolitical, it can be said that his achievement indirectly contributed to the ultimate overthrow and destruction of the Pahlavi dynasty.

Although he failed to exercise any effective opposition to Reza Khan and the institution of the Pahlavi dictatorship, Shaykh ‘Abd Al-Karim Hairi came to repent his inactivity in this respect. The second of these two figures who form the immediate background to the emergence of Imam Khomeini, is of course Ayatullah Burujirdi (1875-1962). He is the major mujtahid and marja‘-i taqlid of the immediate postwar period. He continued the twin emphases of Shaykh ‘Abd A1 Karim Hairi -- the strengthening of the teaching institution in Qum as the center of spiritual and religious direction and a certain quietism in political affairs. He organized a network throughout Iran for the collection of zakat, khums, and other religiously sanctioned taxes, which gave a greater financial independence and stability to the religious institution in Qum.

The network established for these purposes later became of great utility in the course of the Islamic Revolution. At the same time, Ayatullah Burujirdi on the purely religious plane instituted an important development which has not received sufficient attention — a deliberate attempt by the leading authorities of Shi'i Muslims to affect a rapprochement with the Sunni Islamic world. Through his efforts and those of the then Shaykh al-Azhar, Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut, an institution was established for taqrib, the rapprochement between the different schools of thought in Islam. This theme has also been taken up by Imam Khomeini, who has repeatedly expressed the need for collaboration and unity between the different segments of the Islamic world.

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