He was the head of the first engineering department of University of Tehran. A well-respected religious intellectual, known for his honesty and expertise in the Islamic and secular sciences, he is credited with being one of the founders of the contemporary intellectual movement in Iran.
Bazargan was born into an Azeri family in Tehran on 1 September 1907. His father, Hajj Abbasqoli Tabrizi (died 1954) was a self-made merchant and a religious activist in Bazaar guilds.
Bazargan was sent by the government to France to receive university education as a scholar of the Reza Shah scholarship fund. He attended Lycée Georges Clemenceau in Nantes and was a classmate of Abdollah Riazi. Bazargan then studied thermodynamics and engineering at the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures (École Centrale Paris).
After his graduation, Bazargan became the head of the first engineering department at Tehran University in the late 1940s. He was a deputy minister under Premier Mohammad Mossadeq in the 1950s. Bazargan served as the first Iranian head of the National Iranian Oil Company under the administration of Prime Minister Mossadegh.
Bazargan co-founded the Liberation Movement of Iran in 1961, a party similar in its program to Mossadegh's National Front. Although he accepted the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as the legitimate head of state, he was jailed several times on political grounds.
On 4 February 1979, Bazargan was appointed prime minister of Iran by Ayatollah Khomeini. He was seen as one of the democratic and liberal figureheads of the revolution who came into conflict with the more radical religious leaders – including Khomeini himself – as the revolution progressed. Although pious, Bazargan initially disputed the name Islamic Republic, wanting an Islamic Democratic Republic. He had also been a supporter of the original (non-theocratic) revolutionary draft constitution, and opposed the Assembly of Experts for Constitution and the constitution they wrote that was eventually adopted as Iran's constitution. In March 1979, he submitted his resignation due to his government's lack of power to Ayatollah Khomeini. However, Khomeini did not accept his resignation. In April 1979, he and the members of cabinet escaped an assassination attempt.
Bazargan resigned along with his cabinet on 4 November 1979 following the US Embassy takeover and hostage-taking. His resignation was considered a protest against the hostage-taking and a recognition of his government's inability to free the hostages, but it was also clear that his hopes for liberal democracy and an accommodation with the West would not prevail.
Bazargan continued in Iranian politics as a member of the first Parliament (Majles) of the newly formed Islamic Republic. He openly opposed Iran's cultural revolution and continued to advocate civil rule and democracy. In November 1982, he expressed his frustration with the direction the Islamic Revolution had taken in an open letter to the then speaker of parliament Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
The government has created an atmosphere of terror, fear, revenge and national disintegration. ... What has the ruling elite done in nearly four years, besides bringing death and destruction, packing the prisons and the cemeteries in every city, creating long queues, shortages, high prices, unemployment, poverty, homeless people, repetitious slogans and a dark future?
His term as a member of parliament lasted until 1984. During his term, he served as a lawmaker of the Iran Freedom Movement, which he had founded in 1961 and abolished in 1990. In 1985, the Council of Guardians denied Bazargan's petition to run for president.
Bazargan is considered to be a respected figure within the ranks of modern Muslim thinkers, well known as a representative of liberal-democratic Islamic thought and a thinker who emphasized the necessity of constitutional and democratic policies. In the immediate aftermath of the revolution Bazargan led a faction that opposed the Revolutionary Council dominated by the Islamic Republican Party and personalities such as Ayatollah Mohammad Hossein Beheshti. He opposed the continuation of the Iran–Iraq War and the involvement of clerics in all aspects of politics, economy and society. Consequently, he faced harassment from militants and young revolutionaries within Iran. Bazargan believes that there is a link and relation between politics and religion but not hokumat.
During the Pahlavi era, Bazargan's house in Tehran was bombed on 8 April 1978. The underground committee for revenge, a state-financed organization, proclaimed the responsibility of the bombing.
Laws of social evolution
Bazargan is noted for having done some of the first work in human thermodynamics, as found in his 1946 chapter "A Physiological Analysis of Human Thermodynamics" and his 1956 book Love and Worship: Human Thermodynamics, the latter of which being written while in prison, in which he attempted to show that religion and worship are a byproduct of evolution, as explained in English naturalist Charles Darwin's 1859 Origin of Species, and that the true laws of society are based on the laws of thermodynamics.
Bazargan died of a heart attack on 20 January 1995 in Switzerland. He died at a hospital in Zurich after collapsing at the airport. He was travelling to the United States for heart surgery.
Bazargan married Malak Tabatabai in 1939. They had five children, two sons and three daughters.