National Contours for Moral Education: Iran

Moral Contours





Human Rights

Military Strength + Weapons Exports


Sustainable Development

Historical figures

1058 - 1111CE


Probably the highest regarded Muslim scholar in the early centuries following Muhammad. He was renowned teacher in all of the Islamic academic disciplines - law, philosophy and theology - and prolific writer - more than 400 books attributed to him. In his last fifteen years he retrenched all this outward learning in inner personal experience, without which he realised life is hollow. This brought together the mainstream public learning of Islam and the more intimate Sufi tradition found in the lives of ordinary believers. The truth of Islam is to be found in living morally and ethical action, but reason alone has its limits.


Selected writings


1817 - 1892

Founder of Baha'i religion. Initially influenced by the Sufi mystical tradition of Islam, he was increasingly attracted by a new religious movement associated with the Bab. He lived successively in Baghdad in Iraq, Edirne in Turkey and Acre in Palestine. He was recognised as a community leader and then the Babi messiah. He wrote extensively, including a book of Baha'i laws, and in his last years concentrated on promoting disarmament, world government and inter-religious understanding.



Kitab-i-Aqbas The Most Holy Book

Tablets of Bah'u'llah Revealed After the Kitb-i-Aqdas


Life of Baha'u'llah (11 mins)



HATARIA, Manekji
1830 - 1890
India Iran


Gujerati born Parsi/Zoroastrian, who became the representative of the ‘Parsi Society for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Zoroastrians in Persia’. During a period of nearly 40 years he founded schools, repaired fire-temples, challenged forced conversions and economic constraints on his co-religionists who continued to live in their country of origin. He developed mutual regard with the newly emergent Baha’is.



c110 BCE - c 10CE
Iran Palestine

A leading source of Jewish wisdom and judgement, providing careful interpretations and applications of the Torah. He taught alongside Shammai, a more rigorously inclined and also highly respected scholar. Hillel was elected President of the Sanhedrin. A most frequently told story about him related to his response to an honest enquirer seeking an instant response to ‘what is the Torah?’ He said “What is hateful to you, do not do to others. That is the whole of Torah; the rest is commentary on it. Now go and study.” Such was Hillel’s reputation that his descendents continued to have the position as official leader of the Jewish community for the next 400 years and in 1923 when an organisation for university Jewish students was founded it was named after him.


KHOMEINI, Ayatollah
1900 - 1989


Leader of revolutionary overthrow of the pro-western Shah of Persia to create the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 requiring strict observance of Muslim legal prescriptions. He was previously a well respected Shi’ite scholar and teacher of ethics, law and philosophy, exiled in 1964 for his theological challenge to the government. He continued this critique whilst in exile – in Turkey, Iraq and especially France, and he developed a persuasive case for Muslim clerical government in sharp contrast with the secular regime of the Shah. This was propagated through powerful speeches disseminated by tape recordings. His ten years as leading Imam had a dramatic effect on the country and the wider Islamic world. His promulgation of a fatwah death sentence on the author Salman Rushdie for his book Satanic Verses became an international advert of the belief that Islam should determine the whole of life and not just a religious compartment. Without doubt any moral education must be rooted in religious education.




Khomeini's first speech on returning to Iran in 1979 (3 mins)

215 - 276


Mani or Manichaeus was from a Jewish-Christian family background, breaking away in his mid-twenties to form a new movement, inspired by prophetic teaching derived from his heavenly twin brother. This he shared throughout the region and as far away as India, until its suppression and his own execution (by crucifixion) within Persia in 276. Subsequently Manichaeism gained extensive following in N Africa, Western Europe, Turkey and China in centuries to come. His distinctive belief was in a radical cosmic split between good and evil, which led to an opposing duality between the inferior, polluted material world and that of the spirit. Physical activity, including meat-eating and the drinking of wine, and sexual relations, was renounced by the ‘righteous elect’ although acceptable for the ‘auditing’ followers.




RUMI, Jalal al-Din
1207 - 1273
Iran Turkey


Best known mystic and poet of Islam and founder of its Sufi tradition (the Mevlevi Order). Love for God and the whole of life is central for him and expressed in poetry, music and dance. A glowing heart and inward eye is at the centre of moral education. It finds expression in daily experience and the refined expression of poems and of circular ‘whirling dirvish’ dancing.

1933 - 1977


Ali Shari'ati was the central intellectual inspiration in developing the politicised Shi’ism behind the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrowing the Shah’s westernisation programme. His motivation to engage in nationalist politics throughout his twenties was reinforced by his studies in sociology and philosophy in France in the 1960s; these also brought him into contact with anti-colonial literature and activists. Back in Iran his teaching was regarded as dangerous and in spite of his appeal to early Sufi sources for legitimation he was imprisoned and tortured.

c 1200 BCE

Prophet-priest of the Zoroastrian/Parsee tradition, whose dating has ranged from 6000 to 600 BCE; scholars’ current dating is based on parallels between his writing and the contemporary Indo-Iranian tradition (especially as in the Rig Veda). Hymns or Gathas, collectively known as Yasna are the main source for his beliefs and values. He taught that there is a continuing struggle between the forces of Good and Evil, brought home to him in a vision he had of the Wise Lord, Ahura Mazda. There is an everyday need requiring strong resistance destructive powers in life. Choosing well in the light of conscience is vital for future of life within the world and beyond. He was continually faced with opposition from established traditional interests.

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