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Teachers and preachers

Below are excerpts from Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s writings, a “central figure in the construction of the Islamic authenticity discourse in Iran” (1) prior to the 1979 revolution. Al-e Ahmad was, earlier in his life, involved in and a leader of secular socialist political movements, retreating, after the 1953 CIA-backed coup that overthrew Mosaddeq’s secular democratic government and reimposed the Shah as absolute ruler, to creative work founded upon Iran’s rural communities. His later writings helped inspire many of the foundations of a new Islamic political movement that sought to master modernization while challenging the Shah’s authority.

“There is a difference between a teacher and a preacher. A preacher usually touches the emotions of large crowds, while a teacher emphasizes the intelligence of a small group. The other difference is that a preacher begins with certitude and preaches with conviction. But a teacher begins with skepticism and speaks with doubt… And I am professionally a teacher. Yet I am not completely devoid of preaching either. I don’t know what I am.”

— Jalal Al-e Ahmad, “Karnamahi Sih Salah,” (Tehran: Revagh Publisher, 1979), p. 159.

“One must have the machine, one must build it… the machine is a means, not an end. The end is to abolish poverty and to put material and spiritual welfare within the reach of all…Thus first we need an economy consistent with the manufacture of machines, that is, an independent economy. Then we need an educational system, then a furnace to melt and impress it with human will.”

— Jalal Al-e Ahmad, “Occidentosis.”


(1) Ali Mirsepassi, “Intellectual Discourse and the Politics of Modernization: Negotiating Modernity in Iran,” (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 97. The above quotes are found in this same book.

Categories: Iran, Middle East, Politics Tags: ,
  1. July 23, 2009 at 12:00 am

    I may not agree with a lot of what Al-e Ahmad did (or said) … But I think he was an authentic soul … Too bad there aren’t too many of them anymore.

  2. July 23, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Pedestrian. I’m not as familiar as I would like to be with Al-e Ahmad’s writing. As I begin to read more of his writing, I am amazed by the change it seems to have undergone throughout his career, yet underpinned by a broad consistency. I look forward to my continued studies of creative and intellectual works from Iran as well as the world over. As for there being not too many people of an authentic soul active in our lifetime, I no longer believe this to be true. In my case, at least, I believe I was once influenced by my own lack of knowledge in once thinking this to be the case, but the more I scratch the surface the more I become inspired by the poetic social astuteness of those I’m exposed to in person or through a virtual medium. I remain inspired and hope to learn and support the creative capacity of others by actively seeking to engage in the discourse of every new generation of ‘artists’, who remain to be recognized for their insight and contributions.

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