Abdolkarim Soroush

Abdolkarim Soroush

date of birth : 16/12/1945 | date of death :
Born on 16 December 1945,Tehran, Iran ,thinker , He is named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2005 and by Prospect magazine as one of the most influential intellectuals in the world in 2008

Birth, Birthplace, Time of birth:

Abdolkarim Soroush was born in Tehran in 1945.

Father's name: -
Mother's name: -
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Sister: -
Spouse: -
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Life events:

Tough education

Abdolkarim Soroush was born in Tehran in 1945. Upon finishing high school, Soroush began studying Pharmacy after passing the National Entrance exams of Iran. After completing his degree, he soon left Iran for London in order to continue his studies and to become familiar with the modern world. It was after receiving a Masters degree in Analytical Chemistry from University of London that he went to Chelsea College, (clarification needed Chelsea College in London is an arts and fashion school) for studying history and philosophy of science, spending the next five and a half years there.

His activities

During these ayears, confrontation between the people and the Shah's regime was gradually becoming more serious, and political gatherings of Iranians in America and Europe, and Britain in particular, were on the increase. Soroush, too, was thus drawn into the field. After the Revolution, Soroush returned to Iran and there he published his book Knowledge and Value (Daneshva Arzesh), the writing of which he had completed in England. He then went to Tehran's Teacher Training College where he was appointed the Director of the newly established Islamic Culture Group. While in Tehran, Soroush established studies in both history and the philosophy of science. A year later, all universities were shut down, and a new body was formed by the name of the Cultural Revolution Institute comprising seven members, including Abdulkarim Soroush, all of whom were appointed directly by Ayatollah Khomeini. In the following three-year period of the shut down of the Iranian Universities...also known as Iranian Cultural Revolution (1980—1983)...a total restructuring of the syllabi based on the idea of Islamization of Universities took place. Soroush played an active role in the decisions made by this committee which particularly involved expulsion of a significant number of academics and students from universities that were felt anti-revolutionary or non-religious. Among direct and indirect consequences of the Institute's activities were arrest, imprisonment and execution of many Iranian scholars, force exile of University Professors and "a major blow to Iran's cultural and intellectual life and achievement", continued today.
In 1983, owing to certain differences which emerged between him and the management of the Teacher Training College, he secured a transfer to the Institute for Cultural Research and Studies where he has been serving as a research member of staff until today. He submitted his resignation from membership in the Cultural Revolution Council to Imam Khomeini and has since held no official position within the ruling system of Iran, except occasionally as an advisor to certain government bodies. His principal position has been that of a researcher in the Institute for Cultural Research and Studies. During the 90s, Abdolkarim Soroush gradually became more critical of the political role played by the Iranian clergy. The monthly magazine that he cofounded, Kiyan, soon became the most visible forum ever for religious intellectualism. In this magazine he published his most controversial articles on religious pluralism, hermeneutics, tolerance, clericalism etc. The magazine was clamped down in 1998 among many other magazines and newspapers by the direct order of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic. About a thousand audio tapes of speeches by Soroush on various social, political, religious and literary subjects delivered all over the world are widely in circulation in Iran and elsewhere. Soon, he not only became subject to harassment and state censorship, but also lost his job and security. His public lectures at Universities in Iran are often disrupted by hardline Ansar-e-Hizbullah vigilante groups. From the year 2000 onwards AbdulkarimSoroush has been a Visiting Professor in Harvard University teaching Rumi poetry and philosophy, Islam and Democracy, Quranic Studies and Philosophy of Islamic Law. Also a scholar in residence in Yale University, he taught Islamic Political Philosophy at Princeton University in the 2002-3 academic year. From 2003-4 he served as a visiting scholar at the Wissenschaftkolleg in Berlin. He spent the fall semester of 2007 at Columbia University and the spring semester of 2008 at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs as a visiting scholar. Education:

Upon finishing high school, Soroush began studying Pharmacy after passing the National Entrance exams of Iran. After completing his degree, he soon left Iran for London in order to continue his studies and to become familiar with the modern world.It was after receiving a Masters degree in Analytical Chemistry from University of London that he went to Chelsea College, (a constituent college of the University of London which was merged with two other constituent colleges: Queen Elizabeth College and Kings College in 1985) for studying history and philosophy of science

Occupation and Career:

Abdolkarim Soroush is a thinker. Returning to Iran in 1979, he became a vocal advocate of the newly inaugurated Islamic Republic of Iran. Adopting the name Soroush (meaning angel, especially the archangel Gabriel, in Persian), he became a major promoter of Islamic ideology, mainly writing against and debating Marxists, who were seen as ideological rivals. In the early 1980s Soroush was involved in the Cultural Revolution, a project that imposed "Islamic" curricula on Iranian universities and purged them of dissidents - mostly leftist students and professors - many of whom were imprisoned or executed. However, as the Islamic Republic faced mounting problems in its second decade, Soroush emerged as a leader in a movement of loyal dissidents calling themselves "religious intellectuals." In numerous books, essays, and public lectures, he argued against turning religion into a political ideology and urged that Islam was open to a plurality of interpretations. Eclectically drawing on philosophy of science, modern hermeneutics, rationalist theology, and mysticism, Soroush holds that humans are able to understand and appreciate revelation according to their rational faculties and cultural limitations. His constant challenge to the clergy's claim to binding religious authority thus prompts some to portray him as something of a Muslim "Protestant." Similarly, his controversial proposal for a "democratic religious government" is a challenge to the Shiʿite clergy's hold on political power in Iran. Soroush's ideas gained further attention during the first presidential term of another "religious intellectual," Mohammad Khatami (1997 - 2001). However, during Khatami's second term (2001 - present), the limitations of "Islamic democracy" as envisioned by Soroush and his like-minded colleagues became more evident as clerical hard-liners contained the movement to reform the Islamic Republic from within.

Awards /Honors:

  • 2004 Erasmus Prize
  • 2005 Time 100 most influential people
  • 2008 Prospect magazine's 7 of 100 most influential intellectuals in the world
  • 2009 Foreign Policy magazine's 45 of 100 world's elite intellectuals
  • 2010 Foreign Policy magazine's 40 of 100 top global thinkers


  • Dialectical Antagonism (in Persian)
  • Philosophy of History (in Persian)
  • What is Science, what is Philosophy (in Persian)
  • The Restless Nature of the Universe (in Persian and Turkish)
  • Satanic Ideology (in Persian)
  • Knowledge and Value (in Persian)
  • Observing the Created: Lectures in Ethics and Human Sciences (in Persian)
  • The Theoretical Contraction and Expansion of Religion: The Theory of Evolution of Religious Knowledge (in Persian)
  • Lectures in the Philosophy of Social Sciences: Hermeneutics in Social Sciences (in Persian)
  • Sagaciousness, Intellectualism and Pietism (in Persian)
  • The Characteristic of the Pious: A Commentary on Imam Ali's Lecture About the Pious (in Persian)
  • The Tale of the Lords of Sagacity (in Persian)
  • Wisdom and Livelihood: A Commentary on Imam Ali's Letter to Imam Hasan
  • Sturdier than Ideology (in Persian)
  • The Evolution and Devolution of Religious Knowledge in: Kurzman, Ch. (ed.): Liberal Islam, Oxford 1998
  • Political Letters (2 volumes), 1999 (Persian).
  • Intellectualism and Religious Conviction (in Persian)
  • The World we live (in Persian and Turkish)
  • The Tale of Love and Servitude (in Persian)
  • The definitive edition of Rumi's Mathnavi (in Persian)
  • Tolerance and Governance (in Persian)
  • Straight Paths, An Essay on religious Pluralism (in Persian)
  • Expansion of Prophetic Experience (in Persian)

Quotes and Memoirs:

Establishing an equilibrium between the Islam of truth and Islam as an identity is one of the most difficult tasks of religious intellectuals.
We coin concepts and we use them to analyse and explain nature and society. But we seem to forget, midway, that these concepts are our own constructs and start equating them with reality.
Compromise has a negative connotation.
Energy is a concept that has been coined by physicists. There is no observable thing known as energy anywhere.
In many of the things that people do, they themselves are the centre of attention, but they inscribe some other name on their banner.
Goals and objectives are based on theories and foundations.
As a result of the awareness and consciousness of decline, an awareness and consciousness of a national ethnicity or an Islamic identity also came into being.
If a group of people feels that it has been humiliated and that its honour has been trampled underfoot, it will want to express its identity and this expression of an identity will take different shapes and forms.
We must break problems down into small, digestible bits. We must define the concepts that we use and explain what components they consist of. We must tackle small problems.