Murtada Mutahhari in the Eyes of His Teacher

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Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari

A close scrutiny of the Sahifeh-ye Imam’schronological and descriptive accounts of Mutahhari shows that the martyred Ayatullah Professor Murtada Mutahhari undoubtedly occupies a distinct station in the sight of the Great Leader of the Islamic Revolution and the Idol-Breaker of the 20th Century. In the words of Ayatullah Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Beheshti,

“I think the reason for the Imam to hold such Professor Mutahhari in such high esteem and respect was not only because the Professor had been a student of him, but more as a close friend. The Imam believed in his knowledge and virtues, and was confident of his way of thinking, and his discernment in all things.[1]

Imam Khomeini’s communications with Ayatullah Mutahhari in the forms of religious permissions and personal letters, as well as descriptions of him in letters, speeches, messages, statements, interviews, autobiography, and memorial note during and after his lifetime as indicated in the encyclopedic authentic reference source suggest that the former considers the latter a trustworthy representative, compassionate teacher, erudite scholar, competent jurist, eloquent speaker, combatant ‘alim, and an epitome of martyrdom in the way of truth and freedom of thought. These benevolent views on him are consistent from the first volume of the anthology in which Professor Mutahhari is indicated having been granted authority [ijazah] on Dhu’l-Hijjah 24, 1388 AHS (March 13, 1969) by the Imam in the financial and religious law affairs up to the 21st volume (volume 22 being the indexes of the whole voluminous treatise) wherein he—in the Imam’s message dated Shahrivar 14, 1367 AHS (September 5, 1988) addressed to the Muslim nation of Pakistan and the ‘ulama’ of Islam on the occasion of the martyrdom of Sayyid ‘Arif Husayn Husayni—is mentioned as among “the freedom-loving ‘ulama’ of the Islamic world subjected to conspiracy and terrorism”.

As a trustworthy representative

According to the principles of Shi‘ah jurisprudence [fiqh], any expenditure of the religious payments and management of the Islamic financial affairs during the period of occultation of the twelfth Imam is not authorized without the permission of a fully qualified jurist; so it has been customary for the maraji‘ at-taqlid to issue letters of authorization for the qualified persons. These authorizations are granted by persons who meet the criteria of authority of imitation [marja‘iyyah] in terms of general qualifications, devoutness and commitment, or their qualification is certified by two just informed persons. In turn, the competent jurist [marja‘] issues authorizations to his official representatives who are either the prominent and pious scholars or persons who were closely in contact with and known to him, or those others with written endorsement of the just informed persons.

An index of the religious authorizations issued by Imam Khomeini during the period of his stay in the holy city of Najaf at the end of Volume 1 indicates that Ayatullah Mutahhari, apart from being an official representative of the Imam in the financial and religious law affairs, belong to the first category of representatives—“the prominent and pious scholars or persons who were closely in contact with and known to him”:

334. To: Hujjat al-Islam Mr. Haj Shaykh Murtada Mutahhari Khorasani, in Tehran

Recommender: Renowned

Scope of Authority: Financial; delivering a half

Date: Dhu’l-Hijjah 1388 AH[2]

As a close associate and confidant

Apart from being a trusted proxy in financial and religious law affairs, the Imam’s personal letter to Ayatullah Mutahhari on the death of the latter’s father[3] and another letter concerning the regrettable state of affairs in the religious seminary at that time exemplify that the latter is also a close associate and confidant of the former. The following lines reveal the depth of communication between the former who was then in Najaf, Iraq and the latter then residing in Tehran:

I would like to say that I have received your esteemed letter… Most of the topics that have been mentioned were and are under consideration… there is no remedy except that the gentlemen who are acceptable and who, with respect to knowledge, can be provided, stay in the seminaries and take hold of the initiative. You are in a better position to select these people… these digressions must be prevented in practice. This should be accomplished by the efforts of the concerned notables including yourself.[4]

As a beloved son and student

Being known and close to him for more than twenty years,[5] the late Mutahhari is a beloved son and student for the Imam:

I have lost a very beloved son and mourn for him, for he was among the personalities that were considered to be the achievement of my life. With the martyrdom of this honorable son… it is a blow dealt on the beloved Islam that nothing can substitute… I have lost a beloved child who was a part of my being.[6]

Mutahhari was a dear son to me…[7]

“After his arrival (i.e. the arrival of Ayatullah Burujerdi in Qum), I had to teach jurisprudence in the highest level [dars al-kharij] upon the request of such gentlemen as the late Mr. Mutahhari…”[8]

This affection to a beloved son and student can also be discerned in the Imam’s replies to the messages of condolence. [9] Equally, the Imam’s offer of the memorial note of Mutahhari to his daughter-in-law is also revealing.[10]

As an outstanding author and man of knowledge

As his student for many years, Mutahhari is remarkably acknowledged by the Imam as an outstanding author and man of knowledge as the following quotations from the Sahifeh-ye Imam indicate:

I express my condolences and congratulations to Islam, to its exalted prophets, to the nation of Islam and in particular, to the combatant people of Iran for the sorrowful loss of the honorable… thinker, philosopher and esteemed faqih [jurist] the late Haj Shaykh Murtada Mutahhari—may his soul rest in peace… condolences on the martyrdom of a man who was peerless in Islamology and various Islamic studies and the glorious Qur’an studies… With the martyrdom of this immortal scholar… it is a blow dealt on the beloved Islam that nothing can substitute…[11]

I received the telegram of condolence of Your Excellency, which was transmitted on the sorrowful martyrdom of the late Hujjat al-Islam wal-Muslimin Professor Mutahhari. I thank you for the expression of your sympathy. The martyrdom of one of the greatest scholars of Islam was a loss for the world of Islam and all the Muslims.[12]

The telegram of condolence of Your Highness on the sorrowful martyrdom of the late Professor Mutahhari, the esteemed Islamic philosopher—may his soul be sanctified—has been received.[13]

He was… a man who was an author of books; a man who was a philosopher and an intellectual…[14]

Similar is the case of the treacherous assassination of the scholar and specialist in Islam, His Eminence Hujjat al-Islam Hajj Shaykh Murtada Mutahhari, may God have mercy on him… The thing that I can tell about him is that he rendered much valuable services to… learning. It a matter of sorrow that the traitors’ hand has uprooted this fruit-yielding tree from the institutes of leaning… They deprived all from the valuable fruits of the late professor. Mutahhari was a strong backing to the religious and academic institutions… I recommend the students and the class of open-minded ones to not let the books of this scholar be neglected.[15]

It is the martyrdom anniversary of Mutahhari who, in his short lifespan, has left immortal works which are a reflection of an awakened conscience and soul filled with love of the creed. With his versatile pen and a gifted mind in analyzing Islamic issues and explaining philosophical truth… he engaged in teaching and educating the society. Without exception, his writings… are all educational and life-giving… It is hoped that from this fruitful tree, more than what have been left fruits of knowledge and faith would be picked up and valuable scholars be offered to the society. Unfortunately, the hand of the traitors did not give respite (as it assassinated him) and deprived our dear youth of the wholesome fruit of this fruitful tree. Thanks to God that what have been left by this martyred professor having rich substance are educational and instructive.[16]

It is hoped that she (Fatimah Tabataba’i, Imam Khomeini’s daughter-in-law) would benefit as much as she can from the valuable books of our martyr and remember him in her benevolent prayers.[17]

All the literary works he (Mutahhari) has are all excellent without exception… Without any exception, all his works are excellent, gearing toward the molding of man…[18]

As an eloquent speaker and combatant ‘alim

Apart from being a man of the pen, the Imam has recognized the late Mutahhari as an eloquent speaker and combatant ‘alim as substantiated by the following statements:

Condolence on the martyrdom of a personage…who struggled ferociously with deviations and perversions… Mutahhari, who was peerless in…the power of oratory, has departed and joined the exalted souls.[19]

The orators (preachers), of course, should also come to the university; I suggest that Mr. Sayyid ‘Ali Khamene’i[20] come. If possible, please go and tell him on my behalf to come in the place of Mr. Mutahhari. He is very good; he is intelligent; he can talk; he can express himself.[21]

With the language (level of understanding) of the people and tranquil and tranquility-giving words, he engaged in teaching and educating the society. Without exception, his … speeches are all educational and life-giving. His preaching and admonition which emanated from a heart full of faith and conviction are beneficial and pleasant for both the gnostic [‘arif] and the commoner [‘ami].[22]

And the Muslim nations definitely have realized the reason behind this incident, why in Iran “Mutahharis,” “Beheshtis,” martyrs of the altar, and other dear clerics, and in Iraq “Sadrs” and “Hakims,” and in Lebanon “Raghibharbs” and “Kurims,” and in Pakistan “‘Arif-Husaynis,” and in all countries the clerics who well-acquainted with the pure Muhammadan Islam are the subject of conspiracy and terrorism.[23]

As a dedicated and pious servant of Islam and the nation

In terms of general service to the people and religion, in the view of the Imam, Mutahhari is a dedicated and pious servant of Islam and the nation as he said:

Condolence on the martyrdom of a personage who spent his noble and precious life in the cause of the sacred objectives of Islam… Mutahhari who was peerless in purity of soul and strength of faith… has departed and joined the ranks of the exalted souls.[24]

He was a man who had toiled for this nation…[25]

[Mutahhari is] a person who spent his life for the propagation of Islam… a theologian whose life was spent in the service of Islam and no one had heard a thing from him that was contrary to the interest of Islam…[26]

The thing that I can tell about him is that he rendered much valuable services to Islam… It a matter of sorrow that the traitors’ hand has uprooted this fruit yielding tree from Islam… He was a useful servant to the nation and the country.[27]

The service that has been rendered by the late Mutahhari to the youth and others has been done by only a few… He has rendered service to the country. Amidst the state of suppression, this prominent man has done great services…[28]

As an epitome of martyrdom and self-sacrifice, and reviver of the movement

In many instances, the Imam highlighted the point that Shahid Mutahhari is an epitome of martyrdom and self-sacrifice, as well as a reviver of the movement:

And felicitations on the possession of these self-sacrificing personalities who spread and are spreading light with their appearance, both in this life and the hereafter… who with their luminous light give life to the dead and spread light in darkness… They (the enemies) should know that by the will of the powerful God, with the departure of great individuals our nation will become more determined in its resolve to fight against immorality, tyranny, and oppression… The beloved Islam proliferated with the sacrifice and martyrdom of its most beloved ones. From the age of revelation until now, Islam has thrived on martyrdom interlaced with moral heroism.[29]

Our movement was resurrected. All sections of the people of Iran started life all over again. If it had developed lethargy or a weakness, it was resurrected. Was it not because of the martyrdom of this great man (Mutahhari); and had this great man died in his bed; this would not have been substantiated; this wave would not have arisen. Now a wave, all over the world; the entire world; all the world that is interested in Islam has arisen.[30]

…we must give such martyrs, for the cause of Islam. From day one when Islam was born, it has propagated this righteous religion with martyrdom. Islam has had great martyrs and it is honored to have given great martyrs in the way of God and in the path of its objective. We too are honored to give martyrs in the cause of Islam and in the path of our objective—and this man is not the last of our martyrs. We may again have to give martyrs…[31]

This Islam has been founded in this manner right from its inception and it has marched forward while giving martyrs; it has constantly given martyrs and moved forward. It was the same in the era of the Holy Prophet too. In the Battle of Uhud, so many people were killed and in the other battles, so many Muslims were killed but they were not worried at all. They would give martyrs and move one step forward; again they would give martyrs and move one step forward; And, praise be to God, now the situation is such that by giving a single martyr an upsurge is created all over Iran and outside Iran. Outside Iran also, the incident of the death of the late Mr. Mutahhari—which justifiably was a great loss for us and for the whole of Iran—as you are aware was a loss too, they broadcast on the radio stations that in Pakistan or in such and such place—everywhere—it has created a wave. These people too are making a mistake by killing Mr. Mutahhari. They must understand that the question is not that with the killing of a single person the people will retreat, when one is killed the whole lot comes forward and their cry becomes louder; the disgrace of the enemy also becomes more. And I hope that this spirit stays with us and with our nation.[32]

Today, that you have gathered here to express your condolences on the death of one of our beloved, and for the assassination of a scholar, knowingly and determinedly you are resolved to continue the struggle against the taghuti regime, colonialism, and arrogance. My brothers! My sisters! My dear ones! Be resolute, do not be afraid of assassination; do not be afraid of martyrdom, and for sure you are not. Martyrdom is an eternal honor; it is immortality.[33]

This assassination of martyr Murtada Mutahhari has proven that the more blood the people of Iran see and the more hardship they suffer, the stronger they become. The steely determination of our nation is not in a manner that you can defeat it with these desperate moves. Our nation has found its course, and now will not rest until it has implemented the beloved Islam, until it has chopped off the hands of all traitors, and until it has put a stop to the plunder of the parasites.[34]

The Americans and other superpowers should learn that our nation is alive. The mass rallies staged in the past few days go a long way to prove that the Revolution is alive. These people can never kill our Revolution through their stupid approaches. They can never eliminate humane and Islamic personalities of Mutahhari and Hashimi through their terrorist acts.[35]

The assassination of personalities such as Mr. Mutahhari or Mr. Mufatteh is just an excuse in the hands of these troublemakers to weaken our Islamic movement. And their stupidity is even felt more when they see that people unite when a scholar like Mr. Mutahhari is assassinated. If after each assassination half of the people had withdrawn from their supporting Islam and the Islamic government, then they would have tried to assassinate another personality, such as Mr. Qadi or Mr. Mufatteh, to let the other half of the population disperse. However, much of their astonishment, they have realized that after each assassination trial, the movement takes up more momentum, and is welcomed more by people.[36]

They kill our dignitaries one by one in the hope to strike a blow over us. But after each assassination, we will see the Revolution becomes warmer and takes on a momentum. When the late Mutahhari was taken from us, people did not sit idle. The same thing is happening not that Mr. Mufatteh is martyred. People now are different in that they would not quit even if they are confronted with many disasters. The enemy’s efforts are in vain since our nation is invincible now.[37]

As a furqan [criterion and acid test]

Viewing Mutahhari as with the truth and the truth with Mutahhari, the Imam considered him a furqan [criterion and acid test]. For example, for him, the assassination of Mutahhari is a standing criterion that distinguishes those who are really serving Islam and the people, on one hand, and those who saboteurs and conspirators aiming to uproot the religion:

Now that they have witnessed their defeat in the referendum—their convincing defeat—and felt the attraction of the nation to Islam; and tasted their own defeat, they have resorted to desperate actions; to desperate moves. They have assassinated our important personalities, and they perceive that with their assassinations, things will go their way. This assassination of martyr Murtada Mutahhari has proven that the more blood the people of Iran see and the more hardship they suffer, the stronger they become.[38]

Make sure to find out what types of people make up these groups. They first try to insinuate themselves into our circles, but then they have nothing to say about Islam. Find out what types of groups are trying to leave the clergy out, as they killed the very clergies who had led the movement to victory at the beginning of the Constitutional Revolution. This is the very same conspiracy. In those days they assassinated Sayyid ‘Abdullah Behbahani and the late Nuri,[39] and then they changed the course of the people’s movement. It is that very same plot for which they killed Mutahhari today, and they may kill me tomorrow and kill somebody else the day after that.[40]

We must ask a question from these people that some of these groups that create this chaos and regard themselves as Islamic or supporters of the people and the masses and so forth, that well, if you are Islamic and are Muslims, then how is it that your actions are contrary to Islam? The killing of a person who spent his life for the propagation of Islam; for attestation of the religion of Islam such as Martyr Mutahhari or making an attempt on the life of theologian whose life was spent in the service of Islam and no one had heard a thing from him that was contrary to the interest of Islam…[41]

Which one of us is the dictator? Which one of us acts democratically: you, who become brain-washed by others, or us who prepare two cased for people’s voting? Everywhere in the world election is done once, we have done it twice. Is this dictatorship? You have seen that some group of people, captured the television network.[42] This group is called “The devoted guerrillas,” whom everyone of you recognize, who martyred Mr. Mutahhari—may God bless him—who killed major general Qarani, who shot M. Hashemi to assassinate him and who killed Mr. Qazi. And you should see what sort of agitators have come together to further their cases of agitation.[[43]]

In the same vein, according to the Imam, the figure of Mutahhari also exposes that hypocrisy and fallacy of those self-proclaimed defenders of democracy, human rights and freedom of thought:

Once again, these human rights activists did not write a word about Mr. Mutahhari or say a word. At least we have not heard them utter a word. Was he not a human being? They did not protest, they said nothing; they did not condemn the person who killed him. Now they claim not to know him. Well, why did not they condemn the group who committed this act? Now, if we are to find Mutahhari’s killer and punish him for his crime, in retribution, then they will raise their voice that it is an act of violence. Is it not violence to kill an innocent man for no reason? … Where are the human rights groups that they are not uttering a single word? Now, if we find the person who has killed him and sentence him to death, then all of a sudden the pens of the human rights activists will begin to write and publicize it as an act of violence.[44]

We must establish a religious government that could be a model in the world, to show the foreigners what democracy is, what does freedom mean. They complain about lack of freedom and human rights violations in Iran because we detain and punish the assassins and thieves, but when the enemies kill influential people like Mr. Mutahhari, they remain silent.[45]

They (West) say that these people are their friends. Well, we are executing them for this very reason. They say, “These people are of us; they have helped us!” and so they are raising a hue and cry over our killing their lackeys. We are punishing them for this very reason, on these very grounds, of being your servants, of acting against our nation and Islam and of killing the people. Not a word was uttered, not a single word, when they assassinated the late (Ayatullah) Mutahhari! But they raised a hue and cry when Hoveyda was executed.[46]

As a multi-dimensional and exceptional figure

Mutahhari’s multi-dimensionality and exceptional figure has not also escaped from the Imam’s notice. In his words,

[t]he late Mr. Mutahhari was a person who embodied different aspects. The service that has been rendered by the late Mutahhari to the youth and others has been done by only a few. All the literary works he has are all excellent without exception. I know nobody about whom I could say that all his works without exception are excellent. Without any exception, all his works are excellent, gearing toward the molding of man. He has rendered service to the country. Amidst the state of suppression, this prominent man has done great services. By the truth of the Noble Messenger, may God include him in the company of the Noble Messenger…[47]

[1] “Prominent Figures Hail Mutahhari,” Tehran Times Special Issue on the Martyrdom Anniversary of Ayatullah Mutahhari, May 1, 1997, p. 4.

[2] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 1, p. 488. Emphasis added. See the full text of the permission at Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 2, p. 221.

[3] Ibid., vol. 3, p. 328.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “He was a person whom I had known for about twenty years, and I was informed of his condition and status, and I know that he has not hurt any person.” Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 7, p. 312.

[6] Ibid.p. 178.

[7] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 12, 187-188.

[8] Ibid.,vol. 19, 427.

[9] Sahife-ye Imam,vol. 7, pp. 194, 197, 202, 207-210, 241, 247, 325.

[10] Ibid.,vol. 15, p. 523.

[11] Ibid., vol. 7, p. 178.

[12] Ibid., p. 202.

[13] Ibid., p. 247.

[14] Ibid., p. 312.

[15] Ibid., vol. 12, 187-188.

[16] Ibid., vol. 14, p. 325.

[17] Ibid., vol. 15, p. 523.

[18] Ibid.,vol. 16, p. 242.

[19] Ibid., vol. 7, p. 178.

[20] It refers to the present Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Āyatullah al-‘Uz)ma Sayyid ‘Ali Khamene’i.

[21] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 8, p. 138.

[22] Ibid., vol. 14, p. 325.

[23] Ibid., vol. 21, p. 120.

[24] Ibid., vol. 7, pp. 178.

[25] Ibid., p. 312.

[26] Ibid., vol. 9, p. 96.

[27] Ibid., vol. 12, 187-188.

[28] Ibid.,vol. 16, p. 242.

[29] Ibid.,pp. 178-179.

[30] Ibid., p. 183-184.

[31] Ibid., vol. 7, p. 197.

[32] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 7, pp. 219-220.

[33] Ibid.,p. 241.

[34] Ibid.,pp. 328-329.

[35] Ibid.,p. 495.

[36] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 11, p. 334.

[37] Ibid., p. 392.

[38] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 7, p. 329.

[39] Fadlullah Nuri.

[40] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 7, p. 459.

[41] Ibid., vol. 9, p. 96.

[42] The occupation of radio and television at Tabriz.

[43] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 11, p. 308.

[44] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 7, p. 312.

[45] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 7, p. 416.

[46] Sahifeh-ye Imam, vol. 8, pp. 81-82.

[47] Ibid.,vol. 16, p. 242.

(An excerpt from Mansoor Limba, “Mutahhari is Mutahhari: The Making of a Thinker,” trans. Mansoor Limba (, pp. 49-62. Paperback edition available at

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