Mohammad al-Husayni al-Shirazi

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Mohammad Shirazi
File:Mohammad Shirazi.jpg
Born August 31, 1928
Najaf, Iraq Kingdom of Iraq
Died December 17, 2001
Qom, Iran Islamic Republic of Iran
Nationality Iraqi
Other names King of Authors (سلطان المؤلفين)
Occupation Grand Ayatollah, imam
Known for "The New Order for the World of Faith, Freedom, Welfare and Peace"[1]

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad ibn Mahdi al-Hussaini al-Shirazi (Arabic: آية الله العظمى السيد محمد بن مهدي الحسيني الشيرازي‎‎; August 31, 1928 – December 17, 2001), commonly known as Mohammad Al-Shirazi, was a Shia Muslim author, politician and religious leader.

Early life

Muhammad Shirazi was born in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, in AD 1928 (1347 AH) into a Persian clerical family. Other members of the Shirazi family are Grand Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi, leader of Iran's constitutional movement, also known as the Tobacco Movement, and Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Shirazi, leader of the 1920 revolution in Iraq. His nephews, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi and Ayatollah Hadi al-Modarresi, are leading jurists. Al-Shirazi's father, Grand Ayatollah Mehdi Shirazi, was a leading scholar and the Marja'. He was subsequently able to assume the office of the Marje' at the early age of 33 in 1961.

In 1971 he was exiled from Iraq to Lebanon by the Ba'thist regime. From Lebanon Al-Shirazi moved to Kuwait where he was influential in the rise of religious radicalism, and also indirectly affecting religious discourse among Sunnis.

At the time Al-Shirazi came into conflict with other prominent Shia religious figures in Najaf. Perhaps the most prominent Shia religious leader of the time, Grand Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei, sought to dismiss Al-Shirazi's status as a scholar.[2]

Through personal charisma and intellectual arguments, Al-Shirazi built up a large following in the Persian Gulf and Iraq. His followers became known as the 'Shiraziyyin' and tended to be critical of existing Shi'i religious establishments. In 1979 with fellow Shia Islamist clerics in power in Iran, Al-Shirazi moved to Iran and settled in Qom.

Theory of clerical rule

Al-Shirazi was a leading Islamist political theorist and devised the Hukumat al-Fuqaha' principle of theocratic rule. According to Cambridge University's Toby Matthiesen: "The political theory of Muhammad al-Shirazi and the MVM [Movement of Vanguard Missions] was quite close to Khomeini’s notion of velayet-e faqih (the guardianship of the jurisprudent), although al-Shirazi favored the theory that not a single cleric, but a council of scholars should govern the Islamic State (hukumat al-fuqaha’/shurat al-fuqaha’)."[3]

Under Al-Shirazi's theory government would be in the form of a 'Consultative System of Leadership' composed of senior clerics, and he called for the establishment of the 'Leadership Council of Religious Authorities'. He argued for the establishment of a Universal Islamic Government to encompass all the Muslim countries run in accordance with Hukumat al-Fuqaha'.

Iranian Revolution

Al-Shirazi was initially an important figure within Iran's Islamic Republic with his supporters in key roles within the Iranian state in the 1980s. He was the spiritual guide of the Movement of Vanguard Missionaries,[4] an umbrella group for Iran-based Islamist paramilitaries that included military groups like the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain. Iran maintained support for these paramilitaries in the 1980s through the Office of Liberation Movements, part of the Revolutionary Guards. The Movement of Vanguard Missionaries operated as a military organisation and it was active in Bahrain and Iraq.

Iran power struggle

Al-Shirazi expected a bigger role in the Islamic Revolution and this was a point of tension between him and Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. In addition, Al-Shirazi believed he was the senior cleric to Khomeini, as both competed for the position of marja al-taqlid.[5] As the revolution progressed Al-Shirazi fell out with Ayatollah Khomeini and particularly his successor, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Movement of Vanguard Missionaries was close to radicals in the Iranian government within the Revolutionary Guards. As the radicals were increasingly sidelined by the more moderate Sayyid ‘Ali Khamenei and ‘Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Al-Shirazi's influence waned.[6] Al-Shirazi was highly critical of Khamenei's bid to become a marja and assumption of the position of Iranian supreme leader.

With the political ascendency of Khamenei and Rafsanjani, Al-Shirazi's followers were at times mistreated by the government of the Iranian authorities.[7] In 1995, one of his sons Seyd Morteza Shirazi was imprisoned for 18 months after which "reportedly escaped to Syria and has requested political asylum, the INP reported in Tehran."[8]

Amnesty International reports that in Iran:

several followers of Grand Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Shirazi were detained during [1998]. In January Sheikh Mohammad Amin Ghafoori, a well-known religious figure and writer, his wife, and Sayed Hossein Fali were arrested in Qom. There were reports that they were beaten during arrest and tortured in detention. Sayed Hossein Fali was reported to have been released in June. Sheikh Mohammad Amin Ghafoori was said to have been sentenced in July to two and a half years' imprisonment by the Special Court for the Clergy, whose procedures fell far short of international standards. In October, five other followers of Grand Ayatollah Shirazi, including Reza Sultani, were reported to have been arrested and they remained held incommunicado at the end of the year. Sheikh Sadiq Za'eemiyan has also been harassed.

Seven students arrested in November 1995, apparently on account of their links with Grand Ayatollah Shirazi (see Amnesty International Reports 1996 and 1997), were released in June. However, two of them, Aman Allah Bushehri and Sheikh Mohammad Qahtani, were reportedly rearrested in July and August respectively.[9]

According to reports, methods of torture used against some of these detainees have included beatings, prolonged sleep deprivation, electric shocks and threatened execution by electrocution after attaching electrodes to the body. Sheikh Ali Maash is said to have required medical treatment after his release for the effects of torture, including for a toe on his right foot which was broken and left untreated." [10]

Despite these differences, Al-Shirazi's followers were part of the most pro-Iranian political faction in the post-Saddam Iraq, the United Iraqi Alliance. The Shirazis' Islamic Action Orgazination contested parliamentary elections along with other pro-Iranian parties such as the Badr Organization and SCIRI as part of the United Iraqi Alliance.[11] In 2006, the Islamic Action Organization had one minister in government in Iraq, the State Minister for Civil Society Affairs, Adil al-Asadi.[12]

Literary contributions

Al-Shirazi has written on different subjects including science, ethics, politics, economics, sociology, law, human rights, etc. He has published over 1200 books, treatise and studies. Assad Ali, a poet and professor of Arabic literature, called him the "King of Authors", because of his prolific output. A bid by Assad Ali to get the Guinness World Records to recognise Muhammad al-Shirazi as the most prolific writer in Arabic was rejected by the publisher.

Al-Shirazi believed in the fundamental and elementary nature of freedom including freedom of expression, political plurality, debate and discussion, tolerance and forgiveness. He believed in the Consultative System of Leadership and called for the establishment of the Leadership Council of Religious Authorities. He called for the establishment of the Universal Islamic Government to encompass all the Muslim countries. These and other ideas are discussed in detail in his books.

He had established many Islamic centers, medical and charitable financial services, educational, welfare and social foundations, libraries, and Hawzah's, or universities for Islamic Studies, in different regions of the world. Hundreds of individuals have graduated from his school as scholars, lecturers, authors and intellectuals.


After his death, his legacy and school of thought was continued through the Hawzah'a which he had established. His brother Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi is at the helm of this school of thought [13] today. Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi is a leading religious authority in his own right today.

Selected works

  • War, Peace & Nonviolence: An Islamic Perspective
  • The Qur'an: When was it compiled?
  • On the question of the Bible and Christianity
  • Islamic Beliefs For All
  • The Family
  • Hajj: Duties and Rulings
  • If Islam were to be established
  • The Islamic System of Government

See also


  1. An outline of Ayatollah Shirazi’s views and teachings.
  2. Has Kuwait reached the sectarian tipping point?, American Enterprise Institute, August 14 2013
  3. Toby Matthiesen, Hizbollah Al-Hjaz: A History of the Most Radical Saudi Shia Opposition Group, Middle East Journal, Spring 2010
  4. Toby Matthiesen, Hizbollah Al-Hjaz: A History of the Most Radical Saudi Shia Opposition Group, Middle East Journal, Spring 2010
  5. Toby Matthiesen, Hizbollah Al-Hjaz: A History of the Most Radical Saudi Shia Opposition Group, Middle East Journal, Spring 2010
  6. Toby Matthiesen, Hizbollah Al-Hjaz: A History of the Most Radical Saudi Shia Opposition Group, Middle East Journal, Spring 2010
  7. See also Reza Afshari, Human Rights in Iran, 2001.
  8. FDI News-wire, Number 36. February 18, 1997
  9. Amnesty International Report 1998.
  10. Amnesty International Report 13/24/97.
  11. Juan Cole, Platform of the United Iraqi Alliance, 2004
  12. Iraq Report: May 26, 2006 Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, May 26, 2006
  13. Imam Shirazi World Foundation.

External links