The Saga of Ali Dashti (1894-1982)
He was an Iranian rationalist of the twentieth century. Dashti was also an Iranian senator.Born into a Persian family in Dashti in Bushehr Province, Iran in 1896.He is world famous for being an apostate of Islam and writing a world-famous book against Muhammad in 1937.
To read the Entire Book by Ali Dashti
But First,about the Apostates of Islam in the Middle Ages
They include figures like the great scientists Al-Razi and Omar Khayyam.
He spoke Arabic
At a young age he was taken by his father to Karbala in Iraq, which then belonged to the Ottoman empire.
He knew Islamic theology well
Ali Dashti received a traditional religious education. He studied Islamic theology, history, Arabic and Persian grammar, and classical literature in madrasas in Karbala and Najaf (both in Iraq). He returned to Iran in 1918 and lived in Shiraz, Isfahan, and finally in Tehran, where he became involved in politics of the day.
He learned French
Ali Dashti taught himself French and read widely in modern French literature and in English and Russian literature in French translations. He also read material in French on current affairs, music and painting (in which he was interested), and Islamic subjects.
Rather than becoming a cleric, he became a journalist and published a newspaper (Shafaq-e Sorkh) in Tehran from 1922 to 1935. He was a member of Majlis,the lower house of the Iranian Legislature,which existed from 1906 to 1979, at various times between 1928 and 1946. He was appointed a Senator in 1954 until the Islamic revolution in 1979.An Iranian newspaper reported his death in 1982.
His Famous Book against Muhammad
The book is called “23 Years/Bisl O Seh Sal”.In English the title is “23 Years: A study of the prophetic career of Muhammad”.It refers to the 23 years of Muhammad’s career as a religious figure. Dashti chooses reason over blind faith:
“Belief can blunt human reason and common sense, even in learned scholars. What is needed is more impartial study.”
The Ideas of Dashti in his book
1.Dashti strongly denied the miracles ascribed to Muhammad by the Islamic tradition and rejected the Muslim view that the Koran is the word of God himself. Instead, he favored thorough and skeptical examination of all orthodox belief systems.
2.Dashti argued that the Koran contains nothing new in the sense of ideas not already expressed by others. All the moral precepts of the Koran are self-evident and generally acknowledged.
3.The stories in it are taken in identical or slightly modified forms from the lore of the Jews and the Christians, whose rabbis and monks Muhammad had met and consulted on his journeys to Syria, and from memories conserved by the descendants of the peoples of Ad and Thamud.
4.Muhammad reiterated principles which humanity had already conceived in earlier centuries and many places.Dashti said:
“Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Socrates, Moses, and Jesus had said similar things. Many of the duties and rites of Islam are continuous practices which the pagan Arabs had adopted from the Jews.”
Censorship in Iran by the Shah
The Iranian censorship was tightened after the start of terrorist attacks in 1971 and directed mainly against Marxist and Islamic revolutionary writings; but it was also used to prevent the printing of any sort of potentially trouble-causing matter. Publication of criticism of orthodox or popular religion was not allowed in Iran between 1971 and 1977. Ali Dashti was therefore obliged to have Bist O Seh Sal (Twenty Three Years), his major work in this field, printed abroad (at Beirut) and to issue it anonymously.
The book was written in 1937 (before the Islamic revolution) but was published anonymously, probably in 1974, in Beirut, since the Shah’s regime forbade the publication of criticism of religion that time.Even after the revolution, Dashti was not left alone for this type of free thinking, he died in 1981/82 after spending three years in Khomeini’s prisons, where he was tortured even though he was 83 at that time.
It is said that Dashti told a friend before he died:
“Had the Shah allowed books like this to be published and read by the people, we would never have had an Islamic revolution“.
About his Death
Only oral and scanty information about Ali Dashti’s experiences after the Islamic revolution is available. He was arrested, and during an interrogation he received a beating and fell and broke his thigh. To what extent he recovered is not clear. After release he was not allowed to return to his home,a small house with a garden in Tehran.The Iranian periodical Ayanda reported his death in the month of Dey of the Iranian year 1360,between 22 December 1981 and 20 January 1982.