BORQAʿĪ (Ar. Borqoʿī), AYATOLLAH ʿALĪ-AKBAR, religious leader of the postwar period to whom leftist tendencies were imputed and whose name became embroiled in a significant incident in Qom in January, 1953. He was born in Qom on 11 Ramażān 1317/13 January 1900, and received his entire education in that city. Among his teachers were Ayatollah Mīrzā Moḥammad Arbāb, Shaikh Abu’l-Qāsem Ṣaḡīr, Shaikh Abu’l-Qāsem Kabīr, Shaikh Ḥasan Fāżel, and—most importantly—Shaikh ʿAbd-al-Karīm Ḥāʾerī, the regenerator of the religious teaching institution in Qom. He received certificates of ejtehād from the first of these, as well as from Shaikh ʿAbbās Qomī, Mīrzā Moḥammad Ṭehrānī, and Āḡā Bozorg Ṭehrānī. In the late 1320s Š./1940s he joined the growing opposition to the British control of the Iranian oil industry and, in addition, involved himself in the affairs of the Iranian branch of the International Partisans of Peace (Anjoman-e Bayn-al-melalī-e Ṭarafdārān-e Ṣolḥ), a Soviet-affiliated organization. This latter activity brought him into effective alliance with the Tudeh (Tūda) party. In 1331 Š./1952 he was elected to the seventeenth session of the Majles, and at the end of the year he traveled to Vienna as a member of the Iranian delegation to the World Peace Conference. On returning to Iran he decided to visit Qom and was accompanied there by a number of supporters, either members or sympathizers of the Tudeh party. As he was leaving the shrine, clashes broke out between his party (which included a number of the madrasa students of Qom) and a large body of religious students and scholars who felt insulted by this leftist intrusion in Qom. When the first clashes died down, a group of students gathered at the Madrasa-ye Fayżīya and decided to expel Borqaʿī’s party from the city. The following day a general strike took place in Qom, and the punishment of Borqaʿī’s followers—held responsible for the clashes because of their allegedly provocative behavior—was demanded. Matters came to a head on 3 January 1953, when a large crowd of demonstrators advancing on the police headquarters of Qom to repeat the demand was met with tear gas and gunfire. One person was killed, and fourteen were injured. Ayatollah Ḥosayn Borūjerdī thereupon sent an angry telegram to Prime Minister Dr. Moḥammad Moṣaddeq, insisting on the dismissal of the police chief and governor of Qom. His demands were met.
The incident was significant in that it marked the first mass mobilization, for political purposes, of the religious institutions in Qom and contributed markedly to the distrust with which the majority of Iranian ʿolamāʾ viewed the government of Moṣaddeq.
As for Borqaʿī, he faded into obscurity after the incident. His only other claim to mention lies in a series of popularizing religious works (especially lives of the imams) that exemplified the burgeoning genre of modernistic Islamic literature and the mediocre occasional verse that he wrote.
S. Akhavi, Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran, Albany, N.Y., 1980, pp. 65-66.
E. A. Doroshenko, Shiitskoe dukhovenstvo v sovremennom Irane, Moscow, 1975, p. 88.
M. Šarīf Rāzī, Āṯāral-ḥojja, Qom, 1332 Š./1953, II, pp. 31-35.
Idem, Ganjīna-ye dānešmandān, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973, IV, pp. 389-93.
Ḥājj Mollā ʿAlī Wāʿeẓ Ḵīābānī Tabrīzī, ʿOlamāʾmoʿāṣerīn, Tabrīz, 1366/1947, pp. 288-89.
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
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Vol. IV, Fasc. 4, pp. 374-375