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the foundation of political philosophy in Iran-constitutional period

The foundation of political philosophy in Iran-constitutional period


Iranian Contemporary History No. 60


History Hall


  Ayatollah Seyyed Abdollah Behbahani 
Akbar Mash’uf

A religious authority and spiritual leader of Iran’s constitutional movement, Seyyed Abdullah Behbahani was born in Najaf, 1840. His great grandfather, Seyyed Abdullah Baladi Bahrani was from the Bahraini village of Ghoraifeh. It is said his father, Seyyed Esmail was born in Behbahan, and after receiving elementary education in his hometown, he left for Najaf, and attended the classes of Shiekh Morteza Ansari and Shiekh Hassan Al Kashefolqata. In 1870, he returned to Tehran on the request of Nasseraddin Shah to teach theological courses and become the Imam Jamaat. Accordingly, he had followers. He died in 1878 in Tehran and his body was carried to Najaf and was buried in the courtyard of Imam Ali’s shrine. Seyyed Abdollah spent his elementary education Najaf and attended the courses of Sheikh Morteza Ansari, Hajj Mirza Hassan Shirazi, Hajj Seyyed Hossein Kuhkamarei, and Shiekh Razi Najafi. He became a religious authority. In 1878, he returned to Tehran and inherited his father’s social position.


It was during the tobacco incident that he became famous in political circles. Of course some sources claimed that he did not cooperate with other clergies in tobacco affair, and in Ottoman embassy’ feast, he smoked pipe and in reply to the protest of some clerics, he said that he was a religious authority himself and that he knew his religious duties. He explicitly gave the fatwa that the tobacco monopoly is useful and even the use of tobacco is not religiously prohibited. His not accompanying the population on tobacco affair decreased his prestige among people. At this time, Aminossoltan paid much attention to Behbahani and their friendly relationship deepened. During Atabak’s premiership, most judicial cases were referred to Ayatollah Behbahani, leading to the strengthening of his social position, political stance and even his financial potentiality. However, due to internal and external pressures, Atabak was forced to resign and leave the country. Einoddowleh replaced him and though Behbahani was dissatisfied with his appointment, he did not show his feelings towared him. On the other hand, Einoddowleh aware of his supporting Aminossoltan tried his best to sow discord between Behbahani and his counterparts, Sheikh Fazlullah Nuri and Imam Jome, Seyyed Aboulqassem, and to isolate Behbahani.


When the pictures of the Belgian minister of customs, M. Neuse in clergy’s costume was published in Moharram of 1905, Behbahani showed his picture from pulpit and asked for his removal and punishment. Then from, he embarked on a full struggle against the despotic regime. He sent messages for the four leading religious authorities of Tehran, asking for their support. Seyyed Mohammad Tabatabai accepted to cooperate with him, and since then there was a strong association between the two authorities. Kasravi. The importance of this Treaty was to the extent that Kasravi called it the start of constitutional movement. At this time, Mozzaffaraddin Shah was in Europe.


Upon the return of the king to the country, some incidents occurred that expanded the grounds for the opposition of people and clergy against the government. Subsequent to the removal of Einoddowleh and appointment of Moshiroddowleh as the grand vizier, the shah issued the decree of constitutionalism in 9th, August 1906. The national consultative assembly was inaugurated after the elections in 18 shaban. Despite the fact that according to the supplement of the constitution, the clergy could send representatives to the Majlis, but Behbahani and Tabatabai did not become a member of it. However, they participated in its sessions actively. A few days after the opening of Majlis, Mozzaffaraddin Shah died and Mohammad Ali Mirza took oath in the majlis as a constitutional monarch.


Sheikh Fazlollah Nuri insisted on the compatibility of the constitution with the Islamic rules. However, there were some leading figures inside and outside of the assembly who opposed to it. Behbahani and Tabatabai were not against the compatibility of constitution with Islamic rules. Sheikh Fazlollah’s opposition to the others led to his isolation and complete separation from the others.  Subsequently, Mohammad Ali shah ordered for the bombardment of Majlis, and exiled Behbahani. The Ottoman governor of Khaneqein opposed to his entering the Ottoman territory. Seyyed Abdollah returned to Kermanshah and was under watch in the Bezehrud village for 8 months. Upon the conquest of Tehran, he arrived in Tehran among the warm welcome of Tehranians. Upon his return he had opposed to his son’s keeping silent and not protesting to Sheikh Fazlollah Nuri’s execution.


In the second majlis, he joined the moderate faction of the majlis against Behbahani. Their disputes reached to a point that the radicals decided to make an attempt on his life.

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