Who was Ostad Elahi

Ostad Elahi was a philosopher, theologian, and musician. He was born on 11 September 1895 in Jeyhounabad, a village in the west of Iran, to a family of notables. His father, Hajj Nemat (1871-1920), was a writer, poet, mystic, and author of several books, including The Book of the Kings of Truth, published by Henry Corbin, who described it as “a bible onto itself.”

Under the careful supervision of his father and from early childhood, Ostad Elahi lived a life of asceticism and spiritual discipline withdrawn from society. He received a classical education alongside a religious and moral one. Indeed, his youth was entirely dedicated to study and contemplation, and it was during this period that he elaborated on the foundations of his philosophical and spiritual thought.

At the age of 24, breaking with tradition and the familiar environment that would have destined him to a contemplative life, Ostad Elahi left his retreat and settled down a few years later in Tehran, where he took a job at the civil registry and enrolled in the National School of Jurisprudence. He would later attribute this radical change in life-style to the necessity of enriching his thought and testing his ethics in the face of the trials and tribulations of daily life in society.

In 1933 he successfully completed his final exams at the National School of Jurisprudence. Thereafter, it was not long before he was distinguished for his insight and equity, and was assigned the most delicate cases for almost thirty years in different provinces across the country as an investigating magistrate, public prosecutor, and ultimately as Chief Justice of the National Court of Appeals for the province of Mazandaran.

Parallel to his professional activities, Ostad Elahi devoted a great deal of time to study and research, particularly in the fields of philosophy and theology. While little is known about the evolution of his thought during these years, it is well established that they richly nourished his investigations and substantially contributed to the edification of his future work. At the same time, the music that he had begun playing during his early childhood continued to occupy an important place in his life. He was recognized by musical specialists as an incomparable master of the tanbour, an ancient Kurdish lute whose repertoire he expanded through numerous compositions.

Upon his retirement, Ostad Elahi authored two authoritative, scholarly works in the fields of religious science and authentic spirituality, as well as a commentary on his father’s works. The practical aspect of his thought, sparsely developed in his written work, was the object of the oral teachings that he relayed until the end of his life in 1974. Notes transcribed from those teachings were subsequently compiled and published in several volumes. His work, which is gradually being translated, reveals a profound knowledge of human beings, a great erudition serving an innovative and intelligent thought.

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