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The Origins of the Early Iranian Enlightenment: The Case of Akhundzade’s “Qiriˉtiˉkaˉ”

Mohammad Rezaei


Akhundzade is one of the greatest Iranian modern intellectuals. Addressing nationalism, literary criticism, and alphabet reform in the Muslim world, and, most importantly, provoking trenchant criticism of the Islamic religion, he initiated a persistent controversy among the Iranian intellectuals. It is often argued that he approached the European thought through the lens of self-orientalism and grounded a so-called will to imitation. Drawing on his method of Qirītīkā (criticism), particularly in Maktūbāt (1865), I argue that he confronted the Western ideas instrumentally and was aware of the historical and social context of Iran. Furthermore, despite his apparent secular approach, which is labelled usually as garbzade (West-struck), he articulated an ensemble of elements that can be traced back to pre-Islamic Iran, India, and the West. His intellectual works not only stand as the figureheads of regional studies but also represent a path breaking approach to the problem of backwardness in Muslim societies.

Keywords: Iran-India relations, Islamic revisionism, Qirītīkā, Question of the West, secular intellectuals, tajaddud (modernity)

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pp. 9–21