Dr. Shariati Funeral in London

Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian


I was in Bochum (a city in the west of Germany) at that time. From Stuttgart, Mr. Nawab phoned and reported Dr. Shariati’s death. Well, it was very shocking for us. Mr. Nawab suggested that we should go to London soon because there were whispers. Indeed, the SAVAK and the regime’s propaganda organs had reported Dr. Shariati’s death in the newspapers and implicitly said that the body was to come to Tehran and that a funeral would be held. We believed that because Dr. Shariati had a profound impact on the youth and academia, and due to concerns about his religious, political, and ideological enlightenment, SAVAK intended to regard him as an element affiliated with the Pahlavi regime. Arriving in London, we were told that the Iranian embassy had contacted the forensic morgue stating that this person was an Iranian citizen and did not belong to the UK, so the body should be given to the Iranian embassy as the custodian of such cases to be transferred to Tehran.

That day at noon, we were in the house of Mr. Minachi’s son, where I described the formation of Hosseinieh Ershad in exile and Mr. Sadr’s appointment with Dr. Shariati. Mr. Minachi burst into tears and asked sympathetically, "Don’t you think that it was divine wisdom and a providence that God ended the doctor’s physical life in this way?" I replied, ‘Well, based on our beliefs, we believe that nothing is without sapience. There must be good in it. It may become a cause and create new vibrancy and blood in the veins of the movement, as Shariati himself said that Hazrat Ali’s life began after his death. Dr. Shariati was fascinated by Imam Ali (AS). Perhaps his life also will start after his death, God willing, with the difference that he will no longer be the target of cowardice. And his thoughts will become more and more widespread and will draw more young people into the body of the revolution, as he wished every house to become a Housseinieh. His opponents won’t have anything to set up a false quarrel and deviate from his path and goals, so the memory of Ali and his works will flourish from now on, and so it was.

At night, we sat together and discussed how to thwart the conspiracy of the Iranian embassy and seek a solution. Suddenly, it crossed Mr. Habibi’s mind to ask Ehasn, Dr. Shariati’s son, who was in the United States at the time, how old he was. Mr. Minachi first called Tehran and found Ehsan’s phone number, and then rang him. It was interesting that the next day, Ehsan would have turned eighteen, so he was told to telegraph to a forensic doctor and request not to hand over his father’s body to anyone so that he will come and pick the body up. Receiving the telegraph, we made a copy of it and gave it to two lawyers to present it to the embassy as a proof document. During this time, we were very anxious and worried.

 The next problem was where to bury him. It was certain that we would not bring the body to Iran at all, because we could do anything in Iran, and the regime sought only its benefits. One option was the shrine of Hazrat Ali (AS) in Najaf. We phoned Mr. Doaei. He announced that the Ba’athist authorities would not allow it. Bani Sadr rang and said, "I will tell Seyyed Mousa Isfahani to talk to the Ba’athists and satisfy them", but we did not wait any longer. The next option was Syria. I called Mr. Sadr, and he said, ‘do not worry, I will arrange it.’ Mr. Sadr’s guarantee was very valuable. We were supposed to arrange the transfer of the body, but we also wanted to make political use. Thus, we announced a funeral in London. To do this, the Union of Islamic Associations mobilized all its forces throughout Europe. At that time, one of the issues that helped us travel freely to European countries was the agreements that the Iranian government had with European countries to cancel the travel visa, of course, for the citizens of both parties. In addition to a large number of members of the Islamic Student Associations in Europe, representatives of other militant groups, including friends of the militant clergy abroad, and representatives of the Islamic Student Association in the United States, attended the ceremony. We had already obtained a permit from the police. We gave our unknown members, either sibling, masks to wear on their faces because we thought SAVAK might want to identify them. Well-known people like me played the role of law enforcement officers, and we went with the police. A very big funeral was held. Ehsan Shariati and other friends moved behind the ambulance. When the crowds gathered and a long, regular line of foursome formed, Mr. Habibi pointed me to tell the police to move. As the crowd moved and the cry of ‘Allah-o Akbar’ rose, I saw Dr. Habibi is crying, and his face turned red. Many were the same. The shout of ‘Allah-o Akbar’ had shaken the doors and walls of London. During the funeral, one of the people, who collaborated with Mohammad Montazeri’s group and wore a mask, told me, "Did your wife wear a mask?" I said yes, he added, ‘she drives your baby’s carriage, so they can identify her.’ I said she did it to coordinate with the other ladies.

Anyway, people welcomed the funeral very much. We published a proclamation in which we introduced Dr. Shariati and spoke against the regime. The event was covered by radio and television news programs and London-based newspapers.

After the end of funeral and the delivery of the body to the Syrian Airlines, which was leaving for Damascus at midnight, all the participants were invited to the Pakistani mosque. Dr. Shariati’s first funeral ceremony was held that day. The first speaker was Dr. Shariati himself! A tape of his speech, which was excerpts from "After the Martyrdom," was played. Hearing the doctor’s voice had created such an emotional state in the audience that it was indescribable. After that, Ehsan Shariati stood behind the podium. His trembling voice, which was very similar to his father’s voice and reflected his sadness and grief on the one hand, and his decision and will of the struggle on the other hand, gave a strange state to the audience. He began his speech by mentioning the name of God and reciting a few verses from the Holy Qur’an, "Brothers, we gathered here not for the end but another beginning." After him, I spoke on behalf of the Islamic Associations of Europe and the United States, and then a member of the union read a poem in Shariati’s mourning. Finally, Mr. Bani-Sadr gave a detailed speech, which was published in one of ‘Islam issues’, titled ‘Maktab-e Mobarez’.

As I said earlier, after the funeral, we took the body to the airport. Mr. Qutbzadeh and the others handed over the body to the Syrian Airlines. We tried to be careful at all times. It was late at night when the flight took place and we arrived in Damascus near the Morning Prayer. Mr. Sadr and Dr. Chamran and others came to welcome. Mr. Doaei came from Iraq. Some, who were militant clerics abroad, and some Iranians living in Syria, also had come. We had sat and waited in the pavilion. Mr. Sadr said that a grave had been prepared in Zeinabieh. We would hold a small ceremony after the burial, and then would go to Beirut together. Some brought cars. A small ambulance was prepared to play reciting of the Quran. After a while, one of the officers came and said something in Mr. Sadr’s ear. He got a little confused and asked me where the body is? I replied that we delivered the body to the Syrian plane. He said they say there is no body. Qutbzadeh, who was surprised by my confusion and Mr. Sadr, came and asked what had happened. I said we are deceived. They say there is no corpse. He shouted and swore. I asked Mr. Sadr, "Are they sure?" He said they evacuated all parts of the plane, but there is some hope. Fortunately, at that moment, the sound of the Quran recitation was raised. He smiled and said it seems it is found. He inquired about it from one of the officers. It turned out that because the body had been embalmed, it had been placed in the postal section of the plane, not in the cargo compartment. At first, when they emptied the cargo, they said there was no corpse. In short, we were terrified for a quarter, twenty minutes. We moved the body and performed a Tawaf in the shrine of Hazrat Zainab (PBUH). The prayer was performed by the leadership of Imam Musa Sadr. Then, we moved the body to the prepared grave with special spiritual and emotional rituals and buried it. Some photographs of this ceremony were taken. Dr. Chamran had written a piece with great emotion and read it. I remember the following attendees: Mr. Doaei, Mr. Yazdi, Mr. Chamran, Mr. Qutbzadeh, and Mr. Ehsan Shariati.

Source: Tabatabai, Sadegh, Socio-political memoirs of Dr. Sadegh Tabatabai, vol. 1, Student Movement, Tehran, Orouj Publishing Institute, 2008, pp. 141-136.


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