Persian Voices: Shaykh Fazlollah Nuri

During the revolution some naturalist intellectuals presented concepts such as constitutionalism, the legitimacy of the opinion of the majority, and soon, and because of supporting social justice, I tolerated them. But afterwards when they came to write the Constitution, I felt that there as a heresy there; otherwise, what does the deputy of the majles [parliament] mean? What is a parliamentary system? …If it aims to codify ‘orf’ [secular] law, there is no need of such a system; if it aims to interfere in religious affairs; such [parliamentary] deputies are not entitled to interfere in this area [Islamic law]. In the period of the Occultation [absence of the 12th Imam] this right belongs only to the ulema [Islamic clergy], not to people like grocers or cloth-sellers.”

—Shaykh Fazlollah Nuri, 1907


Enayat, Hadi. Law, State, and Society in Modern Iran Constitutionalism, Autocracy, and Legal Reform, 1906-1941. New York: Palgrave MacMilland, A division of St. martin’s Press LLC, , 2013. Print. Page 57


Editor’s Note 1: The shaykh was eventually executed by constitutionalists in 1909 for turning royalist, and was hailed many years later as a martyr in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Editor’s Note 2: There are two periods of Occultation in Twelver shi’ism. The Minor Occultation begins when the Twelfth Imam disappears in 874 by the Gregorian calendar, and the Major Occultation begins in 941 which continues to present-day. Twelver Shia Muslims believe this Imam will one day return as a messiah. As centuries wore on with no return, the professional class of clergy emerged to lead the believing community and administer Islamic law.