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Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi

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Personal Information
Birth 1935
Place of Birth Yazd
Residence Qom
Studied in Yazd , Qom
Scholarly Information
Professors Ayatollah Burujirdi, Imam Khomeini, Allama Tabataba'i, Ayatollah Bahjat
Works Amuzish falsafa (Teaching philosophy), Akhlaq dar Qur'an (Ethics in the Qur'an), Nazariyya-yi siyasi-yi Islam (Islamic political theory)
Socio-Political Activities
Socio-Political
Activities
Member of the 2nd, 3rd and forth Assembly of Experts of Leadership

Muḥammad Taqī Misbāḥ Yazdī (Persian: محمدتقی مصباح یزدی) (b. 1935) is a mujtahid, philosopher, Qura'nic exegete, and a professor in the Islamic Seminary of Qom. He has been the head of Imam Khomeini Educational and Research Institute, a member of the Assembly of Experts of Leadership, a member of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, a member of the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom, and the head of the Supreme Council of Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly.

His teachers include Ayatollah Burujirdi, Imam Khomeini, Allama Tabataba'i, and Ayatollah Bahjat. He rejects the possibility of different readings of the religion and believes that the clergy are authorities in the interpretation of the religion. He believes that the Islamic culture is not compatible with the Western culture. Misbah Yazi has been one of the most important theoreticians and defenders of the theory of Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist in Iran in the last decades.

Misbah Yazdi wrote several books concerning Islamic disciplines, such as Qur'anic exegesis, Islamic philosophy, and Islamic doctrines. His work includes Amuzish falsafa (Teaching philosophy), Akhlaq dar Qur'an (Ethics in the Qur'an), and Nazariyya-yi siyasi-yi Islam (Islamic political theory).

Biography and Education

Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi was born in Yazd in 1935. After finishing his primary education, he began studying religious sciences in Shafi'iyya Seminary School in Yazd under the influence of one of his relatives, Shaykh Ahmad Akhundi. He studied preliminary seminary courses in Yazd. Along with formal seminary courses, he also studied modern sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and physiology, as well as French, with a clergy called Muhaqqiqi Rashti.

He then moved to Najaf to continue his seminary studies. However, he returned to Iran after six months because of financial hardships his family was undergoing.

After a while, Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazidi migrated to Qom and studied al-Makasib in jurisprudence, Kifayat al-usul in principles of jurisprudence, and Sharh-i Manzuma in Philosophy. He then attended advanced lectures of jurisprudence taught by Ayatollah Burujirdi and Imam Khomeini. In this period, he met Allama Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i and attended his philosophy and ethics lectures. He also attended the lectures of Ayatollah Bahjat for fifteen years. During his education, Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi was friends with some of his classmates such as Muhammad Husayn Bahjati Ardakani, Ali Bahjati, Ali Pahlavani, Mirza Hasan Nuri, and Ali Akbar Mas'udi Khomayni.

Teaching

Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi began teaching Qur'anic exegesis, as well as ethical and training issues in Haqqani Seminary, where he taught Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr's Falsafatuna (Our Philosophy) and Iqtisaduna (Our Economy). In the next years, he taught al-Asfar al-arba'a and al-Shifa' in Dar Rah-i Haqq, Baqir al-'Ulum, and Imam Khomeini Institutes.

Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi began teaching since when he was a seminary student and he still continues to teach.

Social and Political Activities

Political Activities before the Islamic Revolution

Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi was politically active in two periods: from 1963 to 1965, and from 1978 to 1979. His activities include the following:

  • He was a writer in Bi'that and Intiqam periodicals. The first issue of Bi'that was published in December 1963. Intiqam was also published by Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi since December 20, 1964 as the second secret periodical of students of the Islamic Seminary of Qom. It was published until October 7, 1965. Overall, eight volumes of Intiqam was published in this period. Both periodicals had political approaches and criticized the Pahlavi government.
  • Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi was a member of the 11-member society. Early in 1964, a number of scholars and teachers of the Islamic Seminary of Qom formed a secret group under the "Eleven-Member Society" in order to coordinate their political activities. The members tried to create a center for campaigns against the Pahlavi regime under the cover of reforming the Islamic seminary.
  • Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi signed some political statements and letters against the Pahlavi government in the years before the Islamic Revolution of Iran. One letter was that of scholars and teachers of the Islamic Seminary of Qom on September 30, 1963 addressed to the cabinet at the time in protest to the arrest of Imam Khomeini. Another letter was that of the scholars of Yazd in February 1965 to Hoveyda in protest to the banishment of Imam Khomeini to Turkey. He also signed a statement about murders in Yazd on April 5, 1978, as well as a letter from a number of teachers at the Islamic Seminary of Qom to the French president of the time in support of Imam Khomeini in December 1978.

Scholarly Activities

  • In 1967, Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi joined the Haqqani Seminary at the request of Ayatollah Bihishti. At first, he was part of the school's administration, but later, he rested content with teaching Qur'anic exegesis, philosophy, and Islamic jurisprudence. Since 1974, there was a serious dispute between proponents and opponents of Ali Shari'ati in Haqqani Seminary. Ayatollah Misbah and a group of seminary students were opponents of Shari'ati, since they found his interpretations of Islam to be deviated, while others were proponents of Shari'ati's ideas. Because of the tensions, Ayatollah Quddusi, the headmaster of Haqqani Seminary, fired a number of the opponents and proponents from the school, and then Ayatollah Misbah left the school.
  • When the educational department of Dar Rah-i Haqq Institute was established, Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi was invited to join the institute. The institute aimed to provide replies to skepticisms about religious doctrines. The educational department of the institute began by admitting a number of seminary students, aiming to train seminary students so that they would be able to reply to such skepticisms. With the expansion of the activities of the educational department, "Baqir al-'Ulum Cultural Foundation" was founded, which was administered by Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi.
  • In 1995, Imam Khomeini Educational and Research Institute was founded with the goal of deploying Islamic doctrines in different branches of human sciences and training researchers in Islamic doctrines and human sciences. The institute was administered under the supervision of Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi.
  • Since summer 1996, the "Wilayat Project" was launched under the supervision of Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi in cooperation with the Organization for Mobilization of the Oppressed (Basij). The goal of the project was to introduce university professors and students to principles of the Islamic thought. The texts of courses taught in this project were summaries of the views of Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi and his students.
  • For years now, Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi's ethics lectures have been held in Ayatollah Khamenei's office in Qom.

Dialogues and Debates

A photo of Maisbah Yazdi's Debate with Ehsan Tabari, Farrokh Negahdar, and Abdolkarim Soroush

In 1981 when Marxist groups had increased their propagations and cultural activities, Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi participated a debate with Ehsan Tabari, Farrokh Negahdar, and Abdolkarim Soroush. In this debate, Misbah Yazdi and Soroush criticized Marxist views. The debate was broadcast on IRIB TV. Ayatollah Misbah continued to criticize Marxism, which cultivated in writing six volumes under Pasdari az sangar-hayi idi'ulujik (Protecting ideological trenches). The volumes consist of his critiques of Marxist views, the first volume of which was published in 1981 and the other five volumes were published in later years.

After May 23, 1997 (Khordad 2, 1376), Misbah Yazdi attended a TV debate with Muhammad Jawad Hujjati Kirmani. The debate was centered on the cultural policies of the government at the time (the government of Seyyed Mohammad Khatami). Ayatollah Misbah attended the debate as a critic of the governmental policies.

Official Positions

  • When the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution was established, Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi joined it as a member. For the goal of the Islamization of university textbooks, the Office for Hawza and University Interactions was founded, where Misbah was a main member.
  • Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi was a representative of people of Khuzestan in the second term of the Assembly of Experts of Leadership, and a representative of people of Tehran in its third and fourth terms.
  • In 1997, Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi delivered lectures before the sermons of the Friday Prayers in Tehran. The lectures were later published in two volumes under Nazariyya-yi siyasi-yi Islam (Islamic political theory).
  • From 2011, a group of Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi's students and advocates founded a political organization under the Front of Islamic Revolution Stability (Paydari). They introduced Ayatollah Misbah as a member of the Council of the Jurists of their organization. Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi has endorsed their statue and still gives them advice, but he has never accepted an official membership in the organization.

Viewpoints

Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi wrote many books in different fields of the Islamic thought, in which he has introduced his intellectual system. The tenets of his worldview include a maximal interpretation of the religion, alterity with the Western culture, the rejection of the possibility of different readings of the religion, the authority of the religious clergy in the study of the religion, and a defense of the Absolute Guardianship of the Muslim Jurist.

Maximal Interpretation of the Religion

In Ayatollah Misbah's view, the religion is a comprehensive set of rulings and commands that cover all human needs both in this world and in the afterlife. For him, religious doctrines encompass all individual and social aspects of the human life. The religion, in his view, specifies axiological dimensions of phenomena. That is to say, the function of religion is to evaluate phenomena and instruct people on how to deal with them in order to achieve happiness. However, science explains how phenomena come to exist.

Conflict between Islamic and Western Cultures

According to Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi, the Western culture should be fully dismissed as a culture of disbelief and atheism. He rules out any coexistence and comprise with the Western culture, although he believes in the necessity of deploying modern technologies. In his view, humanism, secularism, and liberalism constitute essential elements of the culture of disbelief and atheism, which is contrasted to theism, the centrality of the religion, and the Guardianship of the Muslim Jurist, as well as human activities being constrained by the obligation for obedience of God as essential elements of the Islamic thought. The two cultures are polar opposites: the former invites human beings to absolute freedom from any constraints, and even freedom from obeying God, while the latter invites people to only obey God.

Rejection of the Possibility of Different Readings of Religion

In Ayatollah Misbah's view, it is not acceptable to have different readings of the religion, since religious judgments and propositions are obvious, and their understanding does not require scientific interpretations and justifications. Qur'anic verses and hadiths can be understood by anyone who knows Arabic language and literature, and the idea of different readings of religious propositions is an atheistic view. The domain of conclusive religious doctrines is very wide-ranging, and they must be acted upon.

Authority of Religious Clergies in Understanding the Religion

According to Ayatollah Misbah, interpretations by Muslim scholars with respect to specialized domains are valid. He concedes that there is ijtihad and disagreement with regard to ancillaries of the religion. However, only the views of religious experts are valid in these areas, rather than the views of those who are not knowledgeable enough. Interpretations of experts in these areas are valid insofar as they are pious in their behaviors, understanding, research, and inferences, and are not affected by personal desires and propagations.

Guardianship of the Muslim Jurist

Ayatollah Misbah believes in the Absolute Guardianship of the Muslim Jurist. Since mind-1990s, he has been a main advocate of the view. According to him, the Guardianship of the Jurist is required in the Period of Occultation in order to enforce Islamic rulings and realize the Islamic government. Misbah believes that Islamic rulings cannot be fully enforced in a democratic government. Thus, the only possible form of an Islamic government is the one under the Guardianship of the Muslim Jurist.

He also emphasizes on the "absolute" or the "unconditional" nature of the Guardianship of the jurist. For one thing, this rules out the limited Guardianship of Jurists in the periods of non-Islamic sultans and governments, and for another, it implies that in an Islamic government, the Jurist has all the authorities of an Infallible. Thus, according to the theory of Absolute Guardianship of the Jurist, the qualified jurist has all the authorities possessed by the Infallible Imam, and all regulations, instructions, and procedures within an Islamic government are legitimate only after the Jurist's endorsement. In this framework, the Jurist Guardian is thought to be appointed by God, and his rule is not considered to be legitimized by people's votes. People can only play a role in the realization of his rule.

Thus, the Jurist Guardian has a place above the law. In fact, it is the constitution that derives its validity from the Jurist's endorsement, and not vice versa. People's votes and wants are valid as long as they fit the framework of Islamic values and are endorsed by the Jurist Guardian.

Work

Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi's work is concerned with the exegesis of the Qur'an, Islamic philosophy, Islamic beliefs and Theology, ethics, and Islamic political thought.

References