Navab Safavi and the Devotees of Islam

The regime of the ayatollahs in Iran grew out of a secret society called the Devotees of Islam (فدائیان اسلام), a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate whose founder and leader in the 1950s, Sayyid Navab Safavi, was a close associate of Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini.

Khomeini, Navab Safavi and the flag of the Devotees, فدائیان اسلام

Navab Safavi founded the Devotees of Islam in 1946.

Chart of the Devotees of Islam, handwritten by Navvab Safavi

The Devotees of Islam Society had a direct role in the assassination of Tehran University scholar Ahmad Kasravi.

Kasravi was finally killed in a government building, a bullet in his body and 27 knife wounds. The secretary accompanying him was also killed.

Abbas Milani, professor of Political Science at Stanford University, wrote that Ahmad Kasravi was a martyr of rationality in modern Iran. Khomeini had issued a fatwa to kill Kasravi, and in response Navvab Safavi came to Tehran with the intent to kill Kasravi.

Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini, young and old.

Members of the islamic clergy paid for Safavi’s travel expenses to the city. Ayatollah Mohammad Taleghani, however, apparently convinced Safavi to discuss with Kasravi before attempting murder.

Mohammad Taleghani, زبان گویای انقلاب (more photos here)

So Navvab Safavi met his future victim met and discussed with him several times. After a few sessions of discussion, Navab Safavi decided to proceed. Kasravi followed the scholar into an alley and shot him with a pistol. The first shot was not fatal, and the pistol got stucked. Kasravi was hospitalized for several days.

Navab Safavi was sentenced to only three weeks in jail, in virtue of a policy of appeasement to islamic terrorists.

After his release from prison, the Devotees of Islam Society turned into a powerful movement, gaining strength and unity. The elements of martyrdom, revenge and retribution were added to the original chart.

So powerful became the Devotees of Islam Society that it was able to use its clerical supporters to free its rioters and even assassins from punishment.

But in the mid-1950s, after the Shah did consolidate its power of the Shah, the Society was repressed and Safavi was executed.

The Devotees of Islam Society survived as supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

Founding Board Members of the Muslim Devotees (with the head of the Expediency Council Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani:

first: سید محمد علی لواسانی (Seyed Mohammad Ali Lavasani)
second: سید مهدی طباطبایی (Seyed Mehdi Tabatabai)
third: محمد مهدی عبدخدایی (Mohammad Mehdi Bdkhdayy)
fourth: سید جعفر شبیری زنجانی (Sayed Jafar Shobeiri Zanjani)
fifth: حجتالاسلام سيدجواد واحدي (SJ Hojjatoleslam 1st)

Safavi was also closely associated with Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani.

Safavi helped Kashani organize bazaar strikes against Prime Minister Ahmad Qavam, public meetings in support of Palestinian Arabs, and a violent demonstration in 1948 against Prime Minister Abdolhossein Hazhir.

However, the relationship between Kashani and Safavi eventually soured.


“It is an interesting sign of Safavi’s influence that in a recent memorial to his legacy, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote that his foray into politics began when he heard a young cleric named Safavi give a rousing sermon in Mashad.”
— Milani, Abbas . (2011). The Shah.

Navvab Safavi is reputed to be “the man who introduced Ayatollah Khomeini to the Muslim Brotherhood and their ideas,” who “spent long hours together” with Khomeini in discussion, and visited him in Qom on a number of occasions during 1943 and 1944.

In 1953, a coup d’état put General Fazlollah Zahedi in power. By 1955 it became clear the regime would not institute Shariah law and Islamization of Iran, and was instead becoming more pro-Western. On 22 November, after an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hosein Ala, Navvab Safavi and his followers were arrested and were executed on December 25.

The Islamic Republic of Iran considers Navvab Safavi an islamic martyr: an highway and a station are named after him in Tehran.

آیت الله العظمی بروجردی


Known population of the Devotees of Islam, their leader was a man named Mojtaba Navab Safavi, really brave and mighty, feel the truth of islam as hard as rock on his chest. One could not beat him far from from the truth. My dear friend, the late Syed Abdul, number two, they were single. The parties had long lived in Qom. We had the time and the distance of Mypayydym Qom. It was night until the last few hundred students, some carrying sticks and clubs, attacked them and beat them with the other reached the end (died?) and the other could not be in Qom. Tehran finally took the boy to stay Rhl Reza Khan and shot them dead in silence. That my friend Syed Abdul suffered in other places destroyed and filled our hearts.
Ayatollah Seyyed Mostafa Khomeini

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