Read: Shi'ism


Shi'ism, Resistance, and Revolution. Ed. Martin Kramer, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1987. Pages 127-28.


[page 127]

      The emergence of the Hojjatiyya faction may be worth a brief digression here because it is one of the remarkable "repetitions" of the Revolution from the nineteenth century and because it may help to throw doubt on Bashiriyeh's optimism. The Hojjatiyya group originated in the 195?. [text blurred -J.W.] It was led by Shaykh Mahmud Halabi of Meshed, who got permission from Ayatollah Borujerdi for a national organization against the Bahá'ís. It was named then the Anjoman-e Imam-e Zaman. The name was intended to serve as a denial that either the Bab or Bahaullah could in any sense be considered the Imam-e Zaman or messiah. After the 1979 Revolution the organization Arabicized its name to Hojjatiyya, after the title of

[page 128]

Mahdi or Imam-e Zaman Hojjatoleslam. Halabi, moreover, hinted that he was in daily contact with the Imam-e Zaman and eventually he came out against Khomeini, denying that he was a legitimate representative of the lmam-e Zaman. The name Hojjatiyya thus now performed two denials: first, the Babi-Bahai claim that the lmam-e Zaman had come, or that there was a new dispensation; second, Khomeini's title Nayeb-e Imam or Imam (aide to the Imam, or Imam). Halabi's slogan was: "Should any flag be raised before the coming of the Mahdi, its carrier is taghut (an idolator) and worships something other than God." This is an extraordinary replay of the nineteenth-century disputes between the Babis and the Usulis, with Halabi endorsing the old Usuli view (also endorsed by Borujerdi) that the Imam-e Zaman would come when the world was filled with injustice; the world must decay before it can be renewed; and believers must await Him. Khomeini appears in this debate as a supporter of the old Babi view that the Mahdi may not come for a long time, that believers must prepare the way. The slogan at the head of Reza Hakimi's pro-Khomeini pamphlet Khorshid-e Maghreb (The Sun Rising in the West, one of the signs of the return of the Mahdi), issued first in 1963 and reissued in 1979, is the Babi sentiment that khalq-e ke dar entezar zuhur-e mosleh be sar mibarad bozad khod saleh basbad (a people awaiting a reformer must itself be reformed). Much of today's Islamic debate about Islamic government (Khomeini), about purification of Islamic terminology of literalist and excessively otherworldly meaning (Shariati), and about social reform are continuations of nineteenth-century terms of debate. There are striking parallels between the millenarian-theocratic visions (theosophically-graded individuals, hierarchy, creating a pure land of believers) and social programs (rich should aid the poor) of Babis and Khomeini. One major difference is that Khomeini is more explicitly attuned to the need for long-term transformation of consciousness.

      It is amusing to tag Khomeini as a latter-day Babi (it serves him right). But more seriously, just as there is a perennial debate in Islamic discourse over the role of force and over hierarchy, so too it seems that this repetition points to a perennial debate between millenarian activism and more liberal individualism. And thus, to slightly alter Bashiriyeh's argument, the reemergence of the Hojjatiyya may not be so much a signal of Thermidor, as a sign of oscillation between the social demands for radical mobilization, economic redistribution, and an economic command structure on the one hand, and on the other hand for reassuring the independent middle class and bazaar. The result ultimately may be an uneasy mix of state socialism or state capitalism, cooperatives, and private industry.

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