Abdolkarim Soroush was born in southern Tehran in 1945 (1324 A.H.). On the Islamic lunar calendar, his birthday coincided with the day of Ashura and he was originally given the name Hossein. His parents were of lower middle class background and both originated from Tehran itself.
Soroush underwent his primary schooling in the Qa`imiyyeh School, in south of Tehran. After spending six years there, he began his secondary education at Mortazavi High School, and a year later moved to the newly inaugurated Alavi High School. Then Alavi had just been established by a group of credible merchants - two men being foremost among them, namely Asghar Karbaschiyan (otherwise known as `Allameh’) and Reza Rouzbeh. They were both well-known and respected personalities and, in setting up Alavi, their objective was to educate individuals who were both well-equipped with the modern sciences and also possessed of religious conviction, piety and commitment to society. During his time at Alavi, Soroush was able to acquire a sound grounding in the modern sciences as well as in matters of religion. In particular, the late Reza Rouzbeh who had been educated both at university and in the seminaries in Qum, held regular classes on Islamic law (shar`a) and exegesis (tafsir).
In Britain, a group of young Muslims were active in the Muslim Youth Association (MYA) which Soroush and his friends also used. After some time, however, major differences emerged and a few African friends suggested to him an alternative venue, a certain imam-barah in west London, and thus the centre of activities was shifted to this new site. The imam-barah proved a suitable place - a base for the gatherings of Iranian Muslim students in the UK. Especially during the months preceding the victory of the revolution, it was an extremely crowded place. Major personalities and activists from various parts of Europe, and even from Iran, frequented and delivered speeches in this place, including the late AyatuLlahs Beheshti and Motahhari. When the late Ali Shariati fled to Britain in 1977 and shortly afterwards passed away, his funeral service was held in this Imam-barah. Thus the imam-barah became possessed of a history, and Soroush was honoured to have had a large share in making it so. After the Revolution the imam-barah was purchased and placed under the authority of the Iranian Government. At present it is known as “Kanoon-e Tauhid” and is run by Iranian students.
In England, Soroush’s speeches were gradually transcribed and produced in pamphlet or book form. At the beginning, he delivered a series of lectures on the subject of Dialectical Antagonism (Tazad-e Dialektiki), in an attempt to curb the ever-increasing leftist influence, especially from the Mujahidin Khalq who had succeeded in winning the minds and hearts of many young activists with their Marxist ideology. The first book by Soroush, which was published in Iran while he himself was in London, was the Dialectical Antagonism, which was the product of several lectures delivered in the imam-barah. At the same time he authored “The Restless nature of the World” (nahad-e na-aram-e jahan) which is a book about the harkat-e johari (``quintessential motion’‘). In this book, he tries to bring out the foundations of Islamic philosophy, namely tauhid (Monotheism) and ma`ad (Resurrection) from the heart of harkat-e johari and to present Molla Sadra’s thought as a firm philosophical base for these objects of belief. This particular book was viewed by both the late Mutahhari and also Imam Khomeini, and received their approval and admiration.
In 1988 Soroush started a series of weekly lectures in Imam Sadeq Mosque in northern Tehran. These lectures have in the main revolved around the analysis of the subjects in the Nahjulbalaghah. Two books have so far been produced from these lectures: “Attributes of the Pious” (Awsaf-e Parsayan) and “Wisdom and Subsistence” (Hekmat va Ma’eeshat). The former is an explanation of a famous sermon in Nahjul-Balaghah, known as Sermon of the Pious (khutbeh muttaqin), and the latter book is an explanation of Imam Ali’s letter to his son, Imam Hasan. This is to be published in four volumes, the first volume having come out of press just now.
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