Shari’ati and Marxization of Islam

A very large segment of Shari’ati’s work is concerned with Marxism, thought in the ‘loosest sense’ (Connell 2007: 128) of it, injecting a religious approach, thus spiritualising the Marxist standpoint. This may appear peculiar; but by radicalising Marxism in this way he activated and stimulated the hidden potential of social and political forces in Iran throughout the 1960s and 1970s in order to transform the political situation. Like Gramsci, placing an increased emphasis on superstructure Shari’ati can be seen as profoundly radicalising Marxism by supplying a religious spirit into orthodox Marxism. The ‘theological Marxism’ or ‘theologised Marxism’ is Shari’ati’s most innovative intellectual activity. In doing so, he re-read the religious mythology, such as the story of Adam and Eve, Abel and Cain using the Marxist concepts such as historical determinism and class struggle to ‘re-interpret’ Islam.


What is important to Shari’ati is not a revelation of truth, even of religious truth, neither does he seek to explain Marxism in a deep philosophical sense. Shari’ati seeks to uncover the role that religion can play in his anti-colonialist discourse in liberating the society.  In doing so, many ‘fundamental Islamic principles’ have been radically modified in Shari’ati’s discourse, most importantly adding morality as an structural element of historical change, parallel to the role of mode of economic production in orthodox Marxism. The oneness of God and social-economic justice are the two faces of the same coin.  He took Marxism as the social theology for Islam.


Essential reading:

Rahnema, Ali. An Islamic Utopian. New York: I. B. Tauris, 2000

Bayat, Asef.  Karl Marx and Ali Shari’ati. Cairo: Journal of Comparative Poetics. April 1990, pp 19-41


Further Reading:

Connel, Raewyn. Southern Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007, pp 111-137

Rajaee, Farhang. Islamism and Modernism. Texas: University of Texas Press, 2007, pp 131-141



How does Shari’ati solve, or avoid the ontological and epistemological difficulties of his religio-Marxist approach?

Why was such an approach politically necessary?

What does spiritual Marxism mean?



Submitted by Behzad Baghidoost


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