A Zoroastrian Educational Institute



HomeArticlesAuthorsBook ReviewCommunityLibraryProminentsRegisterStoreArticle SubmissionAbout Us




Communicative Reason & Medieval Iranian Thought
Dr. Kambiz Sakhai

Book Review

Comparative Religion
Gathic Illustration

Dr. Mehrborzin Soroushian

About the Author
About the Book
On... thought
On.. Theodicy
On... Technical Rules

Related Links:
Order Information

Editorial Support:
Annahita Pesi Sidhwa















About the Author:

Kambiz Sakhai was born in Tehran Iran, in the decade of the 1970.  He received his elementary and secondary schooling in Tehran, and continued his studies in Sociology and Social research at the university of Rome, Italy.  Following completion of his studies in Rome, he enrolled at New York’s Columbia university, in their Ph.D. program in Iranian cultural history.

The areas in which Dr. Sakhai has conducted research include: Medieval Islamic and Zoroastrian Thought, Anti-Islamic trends of thought in Sufism, Sociology and Soviet legal thought during the twenties. The common theme of his work is the analysis of the revolutionary theory and practice, and emancipatory struggles of the poor and powerless people of the world over the centuries.

Dr. Sakhai’s interest  in the field of Iranian studies and specifically in Zarathushtrianism has been rooted in the existential questions that had occupied his mind since he was a young student. He had always pondered the meaning of life, truth and justice, and was always yearning to comprehend the reason for all the pain and misery in the world and why people were not able to find a solution to the problem of evil. He has been seeking  to do something to help the poor, powerless and the oppressed people.  Quoting Dr. Sakhai, “I learned very soon that neither the Western capitalist solution that was based on instrumental reason and utilitarian ethics nor the Oriental mystical approach that preached flight from that type of rationality and that type of ethics provided a satisfying answer. I found my answer in the life affirming, emancipatory and communicatively rational approach of Zarathushtra.” Dr. Sakhai’s reason for selecting his field of Ph.D. studies derived from the above considerations. In his own words,  “There were obviously other influences but Zarathushtrianism was among the main ones.”

About the Book:

Dr. Sakhai authored this book based on his Ph.D. thesis research at Columbia. In this book the theories of Marx, Weber, and Habermas are critically evaluated and tested against the cultural background of the Medieval Islamic and Iranian thought.In this context, Islam, Sufism, and Zarathushtrian thoughts, are compared and contrasted.  These three discourses are among the important contributors to the social and political milieu that has shaped the fate of the people in the Middle East, Central Asia, Asia Minor, the Indian subcontinent, and many other parts of the world.  Each discourse is scrutinized in respect to a variety of issues such as ethical and cognitive rationalization, linguistification of the sacred, theodicy, flight from the world versus domination over it, etc.

Judging by all the references that has been used, the materials presented in this book is very well grounded in the latest understandings in all the fields that Dr. Sakhai has touched upon in his book.  Reading this concise packet size book provides some profound perspective on the uniqueness of Zarathushtra’s thought in comparison with the life view derived of the Abrahamic religions as well as Eastern schools of thought.  Dr. Sakhai draws informative comparison with the Western norms based on instrumental reason and utilitarian ethics and points out the areas of deviation from Zarathushtra’s philosophy on similar themes.  Although at times the book gets rather technical, reading this text is highly recommended to anyone intent on understanding the uniqueness of Zarathushtra’s vision.   Despite its brevity, this book serves as a good reference on aspects Zarathuhstra’s thought.

The author’s approach to addressing social justices, and the problems of human misery is very note-able.  He does so by emphasizing the life-affirming and positive approach to the question of existence embodied in Zarathushtra’s philosophy based on individual’s role in actualizing their own salvation. This is truly a breath of fresh air compared to the other approaches.

Some excerpts from the book are included below to give a better perspective on the insights that can be gained from this valuable book.

On the relation between Zarathushtra’s thought and the other schools of thought:

“The Zarathushtrian religion and its social ethics represent to this writer, a synthesis of the traditions of the Western and the Eastern worlds. In Zarathushtrianism, the activity of the Theocentric and Ascentic religions of the west coalesce in inner peace and harmonic life with the nature that is characteristic of Cosmocentric and Mystical world views of the orient.  Zarathushtrianism is further distinguished from both traditions by its Life-Oriented  approach.  For example, in Zarathushtrianism, there is no notion of the necessity of pain and suffering as a precondition to human participation in the process of “being”.”

On the Problem of Theodicy:

“Islamic, Sufi and Zarathushtrian solutions to the problem of Theodicy fit the typology that we have discussed up to this point.  The Islamic solution is Theocentric, the Sufi one is Cosmocentric-mystic and the Zarathushtrian solution to the problem is revolutionary- life affirming.”

“Zarathushtrianism does not postulate an omnipotent God in the sense of the Abrahamic religions. Human beings are the ones who stretch the dominion of the supreme being through their fights against evil.  Promotion of life and happiness is the means through which evil will eventually be eradicated from the world.  The human beings create their world through the promotion of happiness. Whatever opposes this process is evil.”

On Differentiation of Moral, Legal, and Technical Rules:

“Zarathushtrian non-differentiation of rules, norms, and Laws although blocks the development towards a western type society, it promotes another kind of development.  It prevents the instrumental use of nature through technical rules but promotes an environmentally concerned approach to technical rules and technology in general.  Moral norms on the other hand are not egological and subjective but inter-subjective and based on discourse ethics.  Finally, law in this tradition is neither objectified and identified with the technical rules, like Figh, nor it is totally ignored, as in Sufism.  Laws, norms and even technical rules have to be discussed and agreed upon in an unrestricted inter-subjective world until the forces of the better argument prevail.”

In short, this is an informative book based on qualified arguments.