Introduction to “And Once Again Abu Dharr” by Ali Shariati


From that day when Muhammad (pbuh & hf) left Makkah after thirteen years of anguish and continuous struggle and went to Madinah, he knew that the period of weakness and concealment of Islam has terminated and that he must, with the help of his loyal and valiant followers, build the foundation of a structure of the glory of an Islamic organization and build the basis of his political regime in the way which God so desired.

At this time, to the east of the peninsula, the King of Iran had a splendid palace and sumptuous court in which thousands of female slaves, thousands of enslaved persons and servants had been appointed in order to perform the ceremonious duties there and the product of the labor of the miserable and hard-working people was spent in order to manage that system.

To the north of Arabia, also, Heraclitus was looming with his frightful regime and sumptuous empire .It could be said that which showed itself off in these two large countries were these palaces which reached towards the sky, exclusive to the rulers and art, literature, war, collection of taxes, taste and invention were all undertaken so that the monarchial and imperial ceremonies could be held with the greatest splendor possible.

But as to the Prophet of Islam, the moment he entered Madinah, he built a mosque and his humble house beside it. The door to it opened from inside the mosque. Until the end of his life when Islamic rule was established throughout Arabia, he did not change his life-style.

He was the absolute ruler of a country and he ate barley bread . He would sit with the poor upon the dust at their spread just like a humiliated slave. He would ride a donkey bare-backed and, most often, he would sit another person behind him.

This method of rule of the ruler was to show the difference between his regime and the monarchial regime of Iran and the Roman Empire. The people could see with their own eyes that a new regime and a young organization had come into being between two aristocratic bases in which there is no difference between ruler and ruled, commander and commanded, master and slave and that all stand in one rank upon the threshold of God and justice.

The founder of this regime passed away and with the deprivation of ‘Ali and political positioning, the first brick of the wall of the caliphate was laid crooked. Abu Bakr, then, designated ‘Umar as his successor and the second blow comes to the Islamic regime.

Even though ‘Umar and Abu Bakr were themselves the cause for this deviation, yet the political organization of Islam was established upon the very bases which the Prophet had structured: simplicity, equality, fair distribution of wealth, and prevention of its centralization, just as could be seen.

‘Umar also left and ‘Uthman, this incapable, pseudo-religious old man took over the reins of rulership and instability which had come into being in the foundation of Islamic rule had become so strong that the structure of Muhammad (pbuh&hf) all at once was destroyed. During his rule, the caliphate was changed into a monarchy and the mud homes of the Islamic rulers were changed into monarchial palaces, simplicity into splendid ceremony of the court of Mu’awiyah and the extravagant organization of ‘Uthman.

Abu Dharr,who was the [fourth or] fifth person who joined Islam and whose sword was most effective in the pro gress of the Islamic movement, saw this deviation. ‘Ali, the image of piety and truth, became isolated and the enemies of Islam had found their way into the caliphate organization and like termites, they were eating away Islam.

The liberated truth-seekers were each one driven away into a corner and made silent. The day when Abu Bakr pushed ‘Ali aside from the political scene, and he himself sat upon the throne of the caliphate, Abu Dharr became anxious and terrified. The future of Islam darkened in his mind and appeared frightful but he still saw that, at any rate, the caravan of Islam still moved forward upon its main way and even though a great right was disregarded, the Islamic system had not been rend apart. Even though he was incensed and boiling with indignation, he imprinted the seal of silence upon his lips. When the regime of ‘Uthman dominated Islam, the abased, working masses and the help- less were suppressed under the steps of usurers, slave mer- chants, the wealthy and aristocrats who were ‘coming and going’ in the courts of ‘Uthman and Mu’awiyah. Class differences and the concentration of wealth were revived; Islam, threatened with a great danger, was changed from the position of the Prophet and the simplicity and unpreten- tiousness of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, who were living like average people and even poor and indigent. Thousands of dinars were spent to build a Green Palace for an Islamic governor [Mu’awiyah] and a regime was established like the monarchial court.

Abu Bakr, in order to earn his livelihood, had milked the goats of a Jewish woman yet, now, a necklace of the wife of ‘Uthman, the Prophet’s caliph! was worth a third of the taxes of Africa!

‘Umar, for one horse, sent a boy, who misused his father’s position and his father, who was one of his leading commanders, to court because they tried to take a horse with coercion whereas ‘Uthman had made Marwan Hakam- that is, a person who the Prophet had exiled-his consultant and had given Khaybar and the taxes (kharaj) of the north of Africa, part and parcel, to him!

Abu Dharr was watching these shameful scenes and because he could no longer bear it, could no longer remain silent, he rose up, a manly and wonderous arising; an arising which caused rebellion in all of the Islamic lands against ‘Uthman; an arising, the waves of enthusiasm of which can be seen at the very present moment in the scenes of human societies.

Abu Dharr was trying to develop the economic and political unity of Islam and the regime of ‘Uthman was reviving aristocracy. Abu Dharr believed Islam to be the refuge of the helpless, the oppressed and the abased people and ‘Uthman, the tool of capitalism,was the trench to preserve the interests of the usurers, wealthy and aristocrats.

This struggle between Abu Dharr and ‘Uthman began and Abu Dharr, in the end, lost his lifc upon this way. Abu Dharr would cry out, “This capital, wealth, gold and silver which you have hoarded must be equally divided among all Muslims. Everyone must share in the others’ benefits in the economic and ethical system of Islam, in all blessings of life.” But ‘Uthman saw Islam in ceremonies, external show and pretense at piety and sanctity. He did not believe that religion should ‘interfer’ in the poverty of the majority and the opulence of the minority. Abu Dharr, who had begun the struggle for the development of Islamic equality, would not be soothed and would not let the enemy be soothed, either…

Whenever I think about the wonderous life of Abu Dharr and I see his worship of God, I recall Pascal. Pascal says, “The heart has a reason which the intellect does not attain. The heart bears witness to God’s existence, not the intellect; faith comes in this way.”

Abu Dharr says, “In this shoreless existence, I have found signs by which I have been guided to God. There is no hope that the intellect will reach His Essence through discussion and analysis because He is greater than any of that and there is no possibility of encompassing Him.”

Abu Dharr, just as Pascal believed, knew God through the heart and three years before he met the Prophet, he had worshipped [God].

When he was speaking of capitalism and the hoarding of wealth and he was strongly defending the wretched and when he was turning against aristocrats and the palace dwellers of Damascus and Madinah, he recalls an extreme socialist like Proudhon [1] but the truth is that Abu Dharr is one thing and Pascal and Proudhon are something else. Abu Dharr knew God; from that day, he never stopped upon His Way; not for a moment did he weaken in thought or action. Neither does Proudhon have the purity, devotion and worship of Abu Dharr nor does Pascal have his activity and ardency. Abu Dharr had become a ‘complete human being’ in the school of Islam and this commentary is sufficient to show his greatness.

It is possible for this question to arise for many of the persons who are studying Islamic history: What was the glorious result of this movement, other than a few move- ments of armies, victories and the creation of a great empire which dispersed after a few centuries? What is the difference between the Islamic movement and other political and mili- tary movements of history which attained similar victories and even greater triumphs, particularly when we see that the Islamic movement, from the very first phase, was faced with political differences, was made to deviate from its main line and the real leaders of Islam were also aware of this point?

Then what did Islam do? What results were attained from all of those sacrifices and struggles of the Prophet and his God-worshipping, brave followers? If it had victories, they are not deserving of importance in the way we look at religion, in particular since these victories were gained through the Bani Umayyid and Bani ‘Abbas sultans and people like them, not having a real and direct relation with the truths of Islam.

This judgment to this point is somewhat correct and we must not conceive that this expansionism,these military victories and the Islamic empire’s power to be the goal of Islam nor believe them to be among the great results of this movement. If we look at Islam with the view in which we must look at religion, this problem will not only be solved but rather we will wonder at the glorious results, progress and victories of Islam, as well.

Religion is the only factor which has a duty towards the universal elevation of creation obliging humanity to progress and ascend and just as some causes made the inanimate into the plant and the plant into an animal and an animal into a human being and they find completion, religion is also a cause which is the continuation of this amazing story of creation and carries the human being, as well, to the final station which he or she must reach, allows the human spirit to fly to the highest summits of the loftiness of gnosis and humanness, even elevates one beyond that desert and puts one above time and place. Thus one can use this commentary that religion is the instigator, stimulant and impetus for the human being to move up the ladder of transformation . In other words, religion is a factory in which the real human being is built and we should expect nothing other than this from religion.

Now it must be seen whether or not Islam has been able to attain success upon this way and offer examples or models of its product to the market of humanity.

To study this perplexing issue, one must seek out, in the margins of history, some of the men and women who arose from among the nameless masses, oppressed slaves and the exhausted. That is, one must search out the names of those very people who history has always been too ashamed to register. History has most often been kneeling before the splendid palaces of the sultans, in the battlefields and on the threshold of the gods of gold and coercion. But this time we see that this very aristocracy-worshipper history is going to the old tents, to the destroyed mud houses of the African slaves, to the nameless, bare-footed of the Arabian desert, to unknown and unimportant people like Abu Dharr, a man from the Ghifar tribe, Salman, homeless, from Iran and Bilal, a cheap slave. History, one by one, records their lives with great greed and covetousness. With the highest of honors, it offers them to the future generations of humanity. And it must also be studied why and as of when this pharaoh-seeker, royal court dweller history became so humble.

Thus, in order to attain the results which the Islamic movement has achieved, one must not look at the victories in Asia and Africa and the lands in southern Europe. Rather, one must become attentive to the progress that this movement had in the depths of the thoughts, brains, hearts and souls of a limited group of its followers.

The victories which Islam had in the twists and turns of the spirits of these people appear more splendid, more extensive and more wonderous to those people who place greater value on truth and humanness than on power and external military domination.

The Islamic victories in the history of countries like Rome, Iran and in the fate of expansionists like Ghengis Khan, Dara, Napoleon and others like them, these ‘famous brainless’ are not exceptional but structuring a nameless, desert dweller and half-savage like Jundab ibn Junadah into an Abu Dharr Ghifari is unique in every ideology or movement. If the result of Islam was no more than educating these four or five human beings like Abu Dharr, Salman, ‘Ammar Yasir and Bilal, it would suffice for the intellect to be amazed at the victories of Islam.

But unfortunately the rights of great men who are considered to be an honor to the history of Islam have been wasted: because the followers of that very religion, who were nurtured by the power of thought and swords of these people in the world, do not know them, have not understood the highest levels which these models of humanness attained in the chain of transformation and are uninformed about even a brief biography about them.

With this indifference and nonchalance in the destroying of a right of these rightful pioneers and images of piety and courage, we have struck blows to the truth and to humanity, which are difficult to make up for and all Muslims share in this fault.

More amazing than this is that, in general, persons who were considered to be leaders of the Islamic Revolution, continue to support truth and even sacrifice themselves for it, during the time of the rule of Abu Bakr and his successor, when ‘Ali, the leader of the Shi’ites, is abased and his right was disregarded. It can be said with certainty that because of their struggles with the regime and because of their efforts, the pure Islam was given into the hands of history. They helped humanity attain the source of truths and wisdom, inspite of the desires of the hypocrites and the ambitious, and because of their struggles and brave resistances in the changes of the Islamic regime.

Abu Dharr is one of these few persons, one of those leaders and liberated saviors who humanity today desires. From the time when the machine created a severe crisis in the world of economics, making economics the most sensitive issue of life and the basis of all things, his opinions have found greater importance and today, once again they recreate those scenes in Damascus and Madinah. He who gathered the abased and the needy around him, instigating them against usury, money-worshippers, gold gatherers and aristocrats, has now caused Muslims of the world to listen to his heart warming words, opinions, his fiery points. It is as if they see him in the distant history with their own eyes; he who gathered the oppressed and wretched in the mosque, truly instigating them against the dwellers of the Green Palace and regime of ‘Uthman, cries out, “And there are those who treasure up gold and silver and spend it not in the Way of God… “(9:34)

“O Mu’awiyyah! If you are building this palace with your own money, it is extravagance and if with the money of the people, it is treason.”

“O ‘Uthman! You have made the poor, poor and the wealthy, wealthy.”

Mashhad, 1334 AH (1955 AD)
Ali Shariati Mazinani


[1]. Proudhon is the author of a bokk entitled ‘What is Ownership?’ the most famous sentence of which is ‘ownership is to steal’ and as a result of which he has become a leader of the radical socialists.

read all of “Once Again Abu Dharr” here.

Ali Shariati (November 23, 1933 – 1977) was an Iranian revolutionary and sociologist, who focused on the sociology of religion. He is held as one of the most influential Iranian intellectuals of the 20th century and has been called the ‘ideologue of the Iranian Revolution’ as well  as one of the modern fathers of Islamic Socialism.



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