Given my Persian background and cultural heritage, I was really intrigued in learn from a recent LinkedIn post that as far back as March of 2014 the Grand Ayatollah Rohani from Iran issued a legal ruling, known as a fatwa, that allows Shia Muslims to use entheogens and psychedelics for treatment and spiritual growth. He specified that these substances must be taken under the direct supervision of a qualified expert. A Sufi mystic and scholar named Wahid Azal actually started that dialogue, and I thought it was fascinating how a “third-world country” in the minds of Western consciousness with strict Islamic rule could be ahead of us in terms of its understanding of the use of psychedelics.
Obviously, the Iranian government has a disturbing track record on human rights as witnessed by a recent crackdown on women’s rights and citizens who protested the death in police custody of a young Kurdish woman who was accused of violating the country’s strict law requiring that she over her hair with a hijab. You’d think Shia law would never allow for anything like that, and yet there’s a precedent for this development. Current psychedelic medicines resemble a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor that’s been used for thousands of years in the Middle East. Ayahuasca is a combination of MAO and dimethyltryptamine inhibitors, which allows the DMT to cycle through the body for an extended period of time.
According to Shia tradition, the Prophet Muhammad took a psychedelic for 50 days to gain insight into the nature of humanity and commune with spirits and God. During the long process of vetting this out with the ayatollah, many scholars mentioned that entheogens have mind-altering effects and said there would be visions of paradise. The United States has a very rigid, closed-minded stance with laws that still criminalizes research into the efficacy of psychedelics. This is one instance where we can certainly learn from Iran, which has its own very unique culture and rich heritage.