Educational Justice in the Opinions of Seyyed Muhammad Baqir Sadr and John Rawls: A Comparative Analysis

Document Type : Original Article


1 Associate Professor, Department of Jurisprudence & Fundamentals of Islamic Law, Faculty of Theology and Islamic Studies, Ilam University, Iran

2 PhD Student, Department of Jurisprudence & Fundamentals of Islamic Law, Faculty of Theology and Islamic Studies, Ilam University, Iran


Realizing educational justice is one of the common goals of social reformers and educational policymakers. Considering the ideological foundations and social context, philosophers have explained the theoretical foundations of justice and its dimensions in different ways. The aim of research was to compare this concept from the point of view of the Shiite philosopher Seyed Mohammad Baqir Sadr with opinion of the liberal philosopher John Rawls with an emphasis on educational justice. The research method was qualitatively comparative, and documentary method has been used to collect data. For data analysis, Fairclough's critical discourse analysis method, which shows the role of social text in the discourse of two philosophers, was used. The first finding of the research revealed that Rawls and Sadr's common view of justice – and its types - as a moral virtue can easily ignore the role of cultural/social factors in the analysis of this concept. Another finding of the research is that the opinions of two philosophers imply the emphasis on right to education - as a basic need - on the basis of fair equality. Also, while Rawls considers the government mainly responsible for providing justice, Sadr insists on the role of the Islamic government and social takaful. In addition, in Rawls's thought, man is an active being who, through the principles of collective life and social contracts, achieves a common understanding about the concept, dimensions and way of realizing justice. On the contrary, Sadr's interpretation of justice is mainly religious. Another finding of the research indicates that Rawls emphasizes the establishment of educational justice by citing principles such as the original good, ignorance, fair equality and the role of a democratic and liberal society, while the principles accepted by Sadr include religion’s role, revelation, social takaful and social balance




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Article Title [Persian]

عدالت آموزشی در آراء سید محمد باقر صدر و جان رالز: یک تحلیل تطبیقی

Authors [Persian]

  • عبدالجبار زرگوش نسب 1
  • اردشیر فتحعلیان 2
1 دانشیار، گروه فقه و مبانی حقوق اسلامی، دانشکده الهیات و معارف اسلامی، دانشگاه ایلام، ایران
2 دانشجوی دکتری، گروه فقه و مبانی حقوق اسلامی، دانشکده الهیات و معارف اسلامی، دانشگاه ایلام، ایران
Abstract [Persian]

تحقق عدالت آموزشی یکی از آرمان های مشترک مصلحان اجتماعی و سیاست گزاران آموزشی است. با توجه به بنیان های ایدئولوژیک و بافت اجتماعی ، فیلسوفان به صور مختلف به تبیین بنیان های نظری عدالت و ابعاد آن پرداخته اند. هدف پژوهش حاضر ، مقایسه این مفهوم از نظر فیلسوف شیعی سید محمد باقر صدر با دیدگاه فیلسوف لیبرال جان رالز با تاکید بر عدالت آموزشی است. روش تحقیق ، تطبیقی کیفی و برای جمع آوری داده ها از روش اسنادی بهره گرفته شده است . برای تجزیه و تحلیل داده ها از روش تحلیل گفتمان انتقادی فرکلاف که نشانگر نقش متن اجتماعی در گفتمان دو فیلسوف است ، سود جسته شد. اولین یافته تحقیق نشان داد نگاه مشترک رالز و صدر به عدالت - انواع آن - به عنوان یک فضیلت اخلاقی می تواند به راحتی نقش عوامل فرهنگی/اجتماعی را در تحلیل این مفهوم نادیده انگارد. دیگر یافته تحقیق اینکه نظرات دو فیلسوف متضمن تاکید بر حق برخورداری از آموزش – به عنوان یک نیاز اولیه - بر بنیان برابری منصفانه است. هم چنین در حالی که رالز عمدتا دولت را مسئول تامین عدالت می داند ، صدر بر نقش حکومت اسلامی و تکافل اجتماعی اصرار می ورزد. علاوه بر این، در تفکر رالز انسان موجود فعالی است که ازطریق اصول زندگی جمعی و قراردادهای اجتماعی ، به یک تفاهم مشترک در باره مفهوم ، ابعاد وچگونگی تحقق عدالت دست می یابد. بر عکس ، تفسیر صدر از عدالت عمدتا جنبه مذهبی دارد. دیگر یافته تحقیق نشان می دهد که رالز با استناد به اصولی همچون خیر نخستین ، جهل ، برابری منصفانه و نقش جامعه دموکراتیک و لیبرال بر استقرار عدالت آموزشی تاکید می ورزد ، در حالی که اصول مورد قبول صدر شامل نقش دین ، وحی ، تکافل اجتماعی و توازن اجتماعی است. در یک جمع بندی اجمالی می توان گفت برای سیاست گزاران اجتماعی و برنامه ریزان آموزشی جوامع در حال گذار خاورمیانه – همچون عراق و ایران - توجه به نظرات هر دو فیلسوف می تواند پلی بین سنت ومدرنیسم در تحلیل اموری همچون عدالت آموزشی برقرار سازد.

Keywords [Persian]

  • عدالت آموزشی
  • عدالت اجتماعی
  • ایدئولوژی
  • تکافل اجتماعی
  1. Introduction

              The establishment of justice in social relations has always been one of human desires. Also, throughout the history of thought, one of the common features of philosophers and religious leaders is to pay attention to the "Concept of Justice" and how to realize it. The emergence of modern civilization and social and scientific advances have provided new opportunities for these two groups to pay more attention to different aspects of justice. At the same time, the attention of sociologists, politicians, economists and educational specialists - each for different reasons - was directed to the role of justice and its various dimensions. Thus, today justice has become an interdisciplinary subject, although the analysis, interpretation and explanation of its theoretical frameworks are still the responsibility of philosophers (Bell, 2009). In fact, philosophers, considering factors such as social context, intellectual ideologies, cultural frameworks and political/economic systems - which they deal with -, have tried to provide a definition of justice and its various dimensions (Barry, 1989). In this evolutionary process, one of the relatively new dimensions of justice which can be seen as the result of the progress of human societies, especially during the last hundred years, is educational justice. In fact, educational justice can be seen as the last link in the evolution of the concept of justice (Figure 1).



Figure 1: Evolution of the concept of justice



       Philosophers initially paid attention to social justice as a general concept that affects all aspects of life in interpersonal and collective relationships. At this stage, the world witnessed the presence of great philosophers such as Socrates and Plato. According to Socrates, justice means observing proportionality and harmony; while Plato considered it as balance in affairs (Jamshidi & Daroudi, 2011). In the next step, to explain the concept of justice, in addition to the relationship between humans, the relationship between humans and God was also discussed. Therefore, for many centuries, humanity witnessed the explanation of the concept of justice through the eyes of religious philosophers - such as St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Khaldoun and Farabi - who tried to explain the concept of justice by looking at philosophy and religion at the same time (Bobbert, 2017). In the third stage, industrial developments after the 17th century and the existence of thinkers such as Luther, Machiavelli, Bacon, Descartes, Kant, Hume and Locke, a step forward to expand the concept of justice from the perspective of politics - and the emergence of concepts such as political justice, state-nation, human rights and citizen's rights (Kymlicka, 2002). Although the realization of political justice is still one of the dreams of many human societies, the development of urbanization along with the increase in economic competition and lack of resources turned the eyes of thinkers to the concept and role of economic justice (Shiman, 1999). What actually happened to many human societies was that economic growth without human development leads to an increase in economic injustice. On the one hand, the modern economic system of the world is based on the knowledge economy, information and communication technologies, scientific competitions and more access to the teaching-learning system. On the other hand, fulfilling the wishes of philosophers, religious leaders, and politicians to realize justice depends on expanding public literacy as much as possible (Suresh Lal, 2015). Thus, a new dimension of the concept of justice namely "educational justice" was proposed (Brighouse & Swift, 2014; Carson, 2007; Jasso & Resh, 2002). First, the implicit message in educational justice is that education is the "right" of everyone; second, education is the most effective tool for individual development and; third, education is the most effective way to realize the ideals of philosophers, religious leaders, politicians, economists and educational leaders. Therefore, in accessing this right, method or tool, justice must be observed. In this way, paying attention to educational justice can be considered a common intellectual concept (overt or implicit) of all thinkers who think about the issue of justice.

            Various definitions of educational justice have been presented so far. Educational justice is a process that firstly seeks to distribute or redistribute educational resources, opportunities and facilities; secondly, it seeks to identify the roots and causes of injustice; thirdly, it seeks to strengthen the capabilities of individuals so that they can discover their talents to independence and reach their perfection, and fourthly, by using the satisfaction of all people - through the distribution of educational facilities -, it tries to create social participation among the members of the society (Resh and Sabbagh, 2016). In addition to the many definitions of educational justice, various theories have been presented in this regard. Some theorists have divided educational justice into two horizontal and vertical dimensions. Educational justice in the horizontal dimension refers to the equality of educational facilities (such as the number of seats, classes, and teachers) in different urban and rural areas. In educational justice in the vertical dimension, efforts are made to provide educational services and resources for each student - according to her/his needs and conditions. Therefore, educational justice can be considered as an independent goal or a means to realize social justice (Mousazadeh & Sanati, 2016). In the first case, education is a universal human right that no one can be deprived of. In the second case, educational justice emphasizes the equality of all people - regardless of race, language, religion and social status - in enjoying all educational opportunities. In this case, education is the main tool for equalizing and erasing social differences (Walker, Boe & Lawson, 2019). For educational policymakers and educational specialists, educational justice is considered a noble and main goal, while philosophers, sociologists, politicians, economists, and religious thinkers see it as a means to achieve a greater goal, namely social justice. In fact, educational justice can be considered from three aspects: First, the fair distribution of educational resources and opportunities in order to develop the perceptive capacities and intellectual freedom of individuals; Second, the cultivation of righteous people who, as agents of social institutions, help spread of fair behavior , policy, planning and enacting law based on justice, and Third, producing the necessary science and knowledge to establish fair development mechanisms and create justice-oriented structures (Aram & Seyyed Emami, 2015).

             Regardless of these theoretical discussions, nowadays educational injustice has become a global challenge (Ainscow, 2016; Walker, Boe & Lawson, 2019). In their recent research, Mohan et al (2021) found that the social and economic differences of parents have increased educational inequalities during the outbreak of Corona virus in Ireland. These researchers believe that unequal learning environments at home may increase existing inequalities between learners. For this reason, it is necessary to make appropriate policies and plans to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on educational inequality. The UNICEF report (2021) about Brazil shows that inequality is still a problem in this country, so that in 2020, more than 5 million boys and girls aged 6 to 17 did not have access to education (more than 40% of them are children from 6 to 10 years old). The European Commission (2020) report showed that children who had access to less educational resources and opportunities before the outbreak of Covid-19 had weak performance - compared to other students- during the outbreak of this disease, so education inequality has increased. According to the report of UNESCO Institute of Statistics (2018) for the academic year ending in 2018, about 258 million children and young people are deprived of education. This number includes 59 million children in primary schools, 62 million in middle secondary schools and 138 million in upper second secondary schools.

          In Iran and during the last half century - especially after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran -, educational justice has been one of the subjects of attention of religious and political leaders, parents, teachers and educational experts and researchers. For example, Pushneh, Nobakht & Hosseinzadeh (2018) by examining the realization of educational opportunities in the primary schools of Tehran, faced challenges such as the weakness of the content of textbooks with the culture and language of different ethnicities, access to fair educational opportunities according to gender, non-compliance with the standards related to the ratio of students to teachers, and unequal distribution of experienced manpower. Karimi Moghari, Maqsoodlou & Elmi (2017) by examining the effect of educational inequality on the employment rate in Iran's provinces found that educational inequality is higher in deprived provinces than in prosperous provinces. Shir Karmi & Bakhtiarpour (2013) showed that there is no balance between different geographical regions in terms of benefiting from educational opportunities. In the indicators of educational coverage rate, registration rate and access to primary teachers, urban areas were better than rural areas and boys were superior to girls. Rahimi, Kaka Dezfuli & Kaka Dezfuli (2015) highlighted that there is a big difference between the development levels of the country's provinces in terms of educational indicators, so that Tehran province is ranked first and Sistan and Baluchistan province is last. Also some researchers indicated that there is no educational justice among other provinces. Veisi Nab, Babai Moghadam, Alipour & Niazi (2015) by examining the state of development of the provinces of Zagros region showed that there is a significant gap and inequality among the 15 provinces of this region in terms of educational indicators. Moradi (2004) and Dashkhane (2001) also show that there is inequality between the educational regions of the country's provinces.

             What was said shows two basic points: First, educational injustice is a global challenge in all societies. This challenge is the main factor for further spread of economic, political, religious and social injustices. Second, eliminating educational injustice requires the existence of strong intellectual frameworks and philosophical explanations that can institutionalize the need for this justice in people's thoughts. These strong and supportive frameworks of educational justice can change religious, cultural and social thoughts and put them in the service of educational justice. In fact, until the philosophical explanation of educational justice is well accepted, the practical efforts of social policymakers and educational planners will not reduce or destroy injustice. Based on this thought, the main goal of this research is to introduce, describe and explain the opinions of two famous large-minded of Iran and United States of America, namely the Shiite philosopher Seyyed Mohammad Baqer Sadr (1935-1980) and the Christian philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002) about social justice and educational justice from a comparative perspective.

           The research literature shows that the opinions of these two philosophers have been taken into consideration by researchers in various scientific fields. For example, in the field of educational sciences, Podschwadek (2018) investigated Rawlsian liberalism and public education in his doctoral dissertation. In his opinion, the liberal political system does not need to ban private schools or religious schools unless they contribute to social polarization. Kliewer, B & Zacharakis (2015) by examining leadership training and justice development according to Rawls's theory, concluded that educational justice has several challenges that must be taken into account in order to attract, retain and graduate 21st century learners. Also, curriculum planners should prepare a comprehensive program that promotes justice and moral development in society. Costa (2014) by generalizing Rawls's theory raises questions about education and race, wondering why Rawls as a philosopher of the 20th century did not mention much about justice between races. He emphasizes that understanding Rawls' educational philosophy requires combining a large number of clues to be able to fill some important gaps. Nieuwenhuis (2010) believes that the explanation of social and educational justice should be done according to the geo-historical and social contexts of developing countries. Pravica (2006) emphasizes in his doctoral thesis that Rawls presents explicit ideas about education, such as the teaching of historical texts and civic virtues, in order to create an image of civic education for the liberal democratic government.

         In Iran, some of the books of both philosophers have been translated into Persian language and also articles have been published in various publications (Arman Mehr, 2011; Nadran & Nemati, 2012; Afzali, 2012; Pasbani Soumeh & Dadgar, 2004; Vaezi, 2007, 2009; Bagheri 1998). These works show the interest and familiarity of Iranian researchers - in various scientific fields - with the opinions of these two philosophers. Also, educational experts have paid attention to the views of these two philosophers from the angle of educational justice (Ansari & Rajabi, 2015; Yari Qoli, 2013; Yarigli & Zarghami, 2014). Nevertheless, the current research has tried to examine Sadr's and Rawls's perspective from a comparative aspect - by using Fairclough's critical discourse approach. Based on this, the sub-goals of the research are:



  • Describing and explaining Sadr's and Rawls' views on social justice with an emphasis on educational justice
  • Identifying the similarities between Sadr's and Rawls' views on social justice with an emphasis on educational justice
  • Identifying the differences between Sadr's and Rawls' views on social justice with an emphasis on educational justice


  1. Research Method


        In this research, the researchers use the comparative method with the interpretative approach to compare the views of two selected philosophers. Documentary method was used to collect data for identification of primary and secondary sources. The source search approach was the Boolean approach and the main keywords were social justice, economic justice, educational justice, and educational inequality, which were searched through international information databases such as Google Scholar, Eric, Scopus, and Persian information databases such as AlamNet, ISC, MacIran and Normag. According to the criterion of appropriateness of the sources with the purpose of the research, 68 references were selected through targeted sampling method. Fairclough's critical discourse analysis method (three steps of description, interpretation and explanation) was used to analyze the data. The steps to determine the validity and reliability of the data were:


  • Identification of Sadr's works related to social justice as primary sources,
  • Identification of Rawls' works related to social justice as primary sources,
  • Identifying sources related to social justice as secondary sources,
  • Studying, selecting and reading several related concepts and topics (description stage),
  • Analyzing and examining the topics and implications related to the theory of justice to form a coherent intellectual framework from the opinions of both selected philosophers (interpretation stage),
  • Analysis and examination of common and different meanings in the opinions of two selected philosophers (interpretation and explanation stage).


  1. Findings


            According to Fairclough's critical discourse analysis method, the research findings are presented in three sections: Description, interpretation and explanation. In the description section, while briefly referring to the lives of the two selected philosophers, expressive, relational and interactive values ​​are mentioned in order to represent the experience of these two philosophers. The interpretation section is a combination of the contents of the works of two philosophers about the topic of research. In the third part, explanation, we describe the discourse of the two philosophers - as a part of the social process - with emphasis on similarities and differences. Also, considering that John Rawls was born before Sadr, in the presentation of the material, first Rawls's view on justice and educational justice is expressed.


First) Description


  1. John Rawls


         American philosopher John Rawls was born in the second decade of the 20th century and died at the beginning of the new millennium after eight decades of life. In his youth, he was interested in religious issues, but after participating in World War II and witnessing events such as the bombing of Hiroshima, he became an atheist (Audard, 2007). Rawls received his doctorate in moral philosophy from Princeton University and taught for half a century. He published his famous work "A Theory of Justice" in the early 1970s, which laid the foundation for his fame as one of the political philosophers of the 20th century. Among Rawls' works, three books are more important: In the first book, A Theory of Justice, he focused on distributive justice and tried to reconcile the value of liberty and equality. In the second book "Political Liberalism", Rawls tries to answer the question of how citizens with religious and philosophical differences can agree on the establishment of a democratic system. The third book, "People's Rights", focused on the issue of global justice (Brooks, 2012; Brooks & Nussbaum, 2015).

           According to Rawls, justice is the removal of unjustified privileges and creation of a real balance between conflicting desires of people in the structure of a social institution (Arman Mehr, 2010). From Rawls’ opinion, the two basic principles of justice are liberty & equality and distinction. Rawls emphasizes the maximum attainment of freedom and equality by all people. He believes that people in social institutions should have maximum equal freedom. According to the principle of differentiation, social inequalities can be accepted in two ways: First, inequality should be in positions where full and fair equality is available for the maximum number of people. Second, this inequality should have the maximum benefits for the most disadvantaged sections of the society (Rawls 2001). However, according to Rawls, the principle of equality is preferable to the principle of differentiation. Also, Rawls's theory of justice is based on assumptions that he accepted in the field of moral philosophy (Edgren, 1995). These assumptions include: independence of vote, belief in democracy and practice of justice principles. Regarding the assumption of independence of vote, according to Rawls, in the initial situation where people's conditions are the most important, despite freedom and equality, the conscious and non-coercive choice of people will be fair. To emphasize the importance of the independence of people's votes, Rawls uses the metaphor of "veil of ignorance" to show that people reject any position and social status and natural abilities that may cause collusion or dominance (Rawls, 1971). The second premise is that democracy is based on the majority vote. According to Rawls, moral values ​​have no truth apart from the desire and choice of humans. Therefore, it is not possible to establish a theory about justice - apart from what people themselves like and agree to -, and since the desire and choice of one person does not have priority and preference over the desire and choice of another, the principles of justice, laws, regulations and social relations are formed and justified only based on the agreement of people. The third assumption is a practical requirement for the previous two principles. In the theory of "justice as fairness", Rawls recommends that members of a society should have equal basic freedoms and opportunities, and where inequality is created, the most benefit should go to the most disadvantaged members of society (Merritt, 1973).

         To justify the principles of social justice, Rawls uses a thought experiment called "primitive state". In this experiment, people are asked to say what kind of society they would prefer to live in, even if they don't know what status and class they would personally have in that. Rawls also mentions the "original good". He identifies five such ideas of the good contained within justice as fairness: (1) goodness as rationality, (2) social primary goods as representing a “thin” theory of the good, (3) the idea of permissible comprehensive conceptions of the good, (4) the political virtues expected of citizens, and (5) the good of political society.


  1. Seyyed Mohammad Baqir Sadr


         Almost 14 years after Rawls, Seyyed Muhammad Baqir Sadr was born in the city of Al-Kāẓimiyyah, Iraq, in a Shiite family. His grandfather, Seyyed Ismail Sadr, was one of the Shia taqlid authorities, whose lineage reached the seventh Shia Imam Musa ibn Ja'far al-Kadhim, whose children lived in Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq. Sadr completed his religious education in Iraqi Shiite centers and reached the degree of Ijtihad. Also, as one of the leaders of the Shia minority during the time of Saddam Hussein, he participated in the establishment of Ḥizb ad-Daʿwa al-Islāmiyya (The Islamic Dawa Party). At the same time, Ḥizb ad-Daʿwa al-Islāmiyya was against both the Baathist regime of Iraq and the imperial government of Iran. After the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran (1979) and the start of the Iran-Iraq war, Sadr was repeatedly arrested, imprisoned and finally killed in Baghdad prison in 1980. During his 45-year-old life, Sadr wrote more than 20 books on Islamic jurisprudence and principles, Islamic philosophy, and especially Islamic economics in Arabic. Sadr has paid attention to the issue of social justice in detail in at least 8 of his books, but his most famous work, "Our Economy", was written in 1961, but it was published after a long delay in 1982 (Kazemi Najafabadi & Hosseini, 2016). This book is one of the most important works in the field of modern Islamic economics and banking with an emphasis on Shiite jurisprudence.

          One of the main and favorite topics of Sadr was justice. He considered the Islamic economic system to be a combination of economics and Islamic moral thoughts. Also, before emphasizing the fair distribution of income and wealth, Sadr considers the fair distribution of resources and uses the term "distribution before production" (Taqvi & Jabri, 2014). Since in Islam, an important part of the resources is at the disposal of the Islamic government, this discussion becomes more important. In fact, when the government's ownership is emphasized, it does not mean the exclusive ownership of the government, but it means the determination of an appropriate method for the fair distribution of facilities and primary resources. Based on this, in the first part of “our economy book”, Sadr expresses his opinions about Marxism and capitalism. First, he rejects Marxism by emphasizing the human need for private property. At the same time, while rejecting the capitalist system, Sadr believes that the origin of private and public assets is from God, and therefore the rights and duties of individuals and the government should be determined according to Islam (Sadr, 2017). In addition to the fair distribution of resources, Sadr talks about the fair distribution of opportunities and facilities. For example, the Islamic government should provide educational opportunities for the children of the poor like the children of the rich. Also, create the basis for their access to various jobs and eliminate rent. According to Sadr, if these opportunities are realized, the output of this justice will not be the distribution of poverty, but it will lead to an increase in public welfare (Porfard, 2013). Of course, Sadr does not deny the difference in abilities, talents and tastes of people. Therefore, there will be a difference in the level of income in the Islamic society, which will create more motivation for production and better use of opportunities. To put it better, the result of a fair distribution of opportunities will be an unequal distribution of income, although at the same time, Islam will try to create a balance in the distribution of wealth by using methods such as khums and zakat (Mosaei & Sher Ali, 2015).

         From Sadr's point of view, social justice is based on the two principles of inclusive mutual takaful and social balance (Sadr, 2017). He believes that in Marxism, social security is the government's duty; but in Islam, it is a universal duty that both individuals and governments are responsible for. From Sadr's point of view, the principle of universal guarantee means that every Muslim is responsible to provide the livelihood and life of others to a certain extent and according to her/his ability. The implementation of this principle is obligatory on Muslims even when people do not have an Islamic government (Sadr, 2018). Takaful is a kind of relationship between members of society, like the relationship of family members with each other (Hosseini Shirazi, 2006). From Sadr's point of view, mutual cooperation is the main thing that Islam has made obligatory for Muslims to support each other (Sadr, 2017). For this reason, Islam includes the payment of khums and zakat - whose purpose is to create mutual guarantee - as part of the Shari'ah acts of worship (Sadr, 2017). Social takaful does not only include providing the basic needs of life for the needy people, but its main and fundamental purpose is to remove deprivation, eliminate discrimination and inequality in different areas of life, and reduce the class gap for faster realization of social justice.

        Sadr also believes in social balance, meaning the balance of society in terms of people's livelihood and income. In other words, the facilities and resources should be available to the members of the society in such a way that the society does not suffer from class differences. Not only should all people enjoy general welfare; rather, the class gap between people in the society should not be extreme (Sadr, 2017). Social balance has both a formative and legislative basis. Its formative basis is the fundamental inequality of human beings in terms of talents and abilities. The legislative basis means the acceptance of the criterion of people's efforts to obtain resources. Based on these principles, the difference in wealth between individuals is defensible. In fact, Sadr believes that according to Islam, balance is at the level of living, not at the level of income (Sadr, 2017: 786). Therefore, people live at a certain level of life and at this level; they have differences beyond their ranks. Livelihood provision in the form of social security, observing the principle of the emergence of human talents and negation of begging, takes place in two forms: Public (General takaful) and government (general government revenues). With the difference that public takaful only includes guaranteeing the fulfillment of the basic vital needs of an individual, while in the second type of social security, the government is obliged to pay attention to the right of all people to access wealth sources (Sarabadani Tafarshi & Paygami, 2016).


Second) Interpretation


         Before presenting an interpretation of Rawls and Sadr's opinions, it is necessary to make a brief reference to the method of discourse analysis - especially with an emphasis on Fairclough's method - so that what is presented in this section finds a more logical meaning. The first point is to pay attention to the concept of discourse. Jorgensen & Phillips (2010:17) consider discourse as "a special way to talk about the world and understand it". Fairclough (2000) believes that people present their ideology and view of the world to others through language. Therefore, ideology is a key concept for the scientific understanding of discourse because it "implies the representation of the world from the point of view of special interests" (Fairclough, 2000: 53). Based on this, people's opinions can be seen as the representation of their ideological thoughts. According to what has been said in this section, the interpretation of the opinions of two selected philosophers - according to their accepted ideological frameworks - will be examined.


  1. Rawls

         Rawls's personal and scientific life shows the change of his ideological position in two time periods during his eighty years of life. At the age of 20, his ideological orientation towards Christianity was very strong, but in the next six decades, he became an atheist and a liberal philosopher. Based on this, the first interpretation that can be presented is that from the ideological aspect, Rawls has a non-religious view in examining justice (Gentry, 2007). The second interpretation refers to the influence of liberalism on his thoughts, an ideology that emphasizes principles such as respecting the rights of individuals, equal opportunities, freedom of expression, limiting the power of governments, the role of law enforcement, free exchange of ideas, market economy or mixed economy, and a transparent government system. Within the framework of these ideological principles, Rawls analyzes the position of justice and its role in society and relationships between individuals (Cordeiro–Rodrigues, 2016). The third interpretation refers to his view as a moral philosopher. While the rightness and wrongness of things, the knowledge of good and evil, and the recognition of virtues constitute the fundamental issues of moral philosophy, Rawls's interest is focused on solving one of the most ambiguous and difficult of these concepts, which is justice (Taschetto, 2015). In the accepted framework of liberal ethics, he naturally believes in legal justice, which is the result of thought and contractual agreement between people. The last interpretation is that the existence of concepts such as individual, moral psychology, first charity and principle of difference shows the potential power of Rawls's theory to interpret educational justice (Costa, 2014). However, it must be acknowledged that Rawls had a very brief view of education - as one of the first charities -, and he cannot be called an educational philosopher in the full sense of the word.


  1. Seyyed Mohammad Bagher Sadr

         Unlike Rawls, who lived for more than eighty years, Sadr had a difficult and short life in Iraq under the rule of the Baath party. The first interpretation that can be made of Sadr's personal and scientific life is the negative impact of the ideology of the political system (Baath party with communist tendencies) at that time on him as a Shia cleric. The conflict between communist ideology and Shiite ideology was so deep that it finally led to Sadr's death (Sakai, 2001). The second interpretation goes back to the ideological language governing Sadr's works. In his works, Sadr clearly supported Shiite jurisprudence. For this reason, at the same time, he saw himself facing two ideological enemies: First, the Marxist ideology of the Baath Party, which was clearly in conflict with Sadr's ideas in various areas such as ethics, politics & economics, and second, the capitalist ideology, which was promoted by the Iran’s royal regime. Sadr had a strong relationship with the opponents of this regime (Aziz, 1993). This ideological conflict is well displayed in relation to the explanation of the dimensions of justice. The third interpretation refers to Sadr's professional position. He was a cleric who was trained in Iraqi Shia schools and reached the level of Ijtihad. Therefore, it is quite natural to say that Sadr used to study and analyze all issues related to philosophy, moral philosophy, politics and economics, including justice from the perspective of Shiite ideology, without turning and changing in his ideological position (unlike Rawls) (Mallat, 1988). The fourth interpretation is that among other Shia scholars, Sadr had more initiative and innovation, and especially he raised new issues in the field of Islamic economics. Among Sadr's innovations - which have strongly influenced his view on justice - are the necessity of the existence of Islamic government, the introduction of Islamic economics as a school, and the theory of the al-Faragh Area, which informs of the existence of a territory without Sharia rules in religion (Kazemi Najafabadi & Hosseini, 2016). The last interpretation is that Sadr viewed social justice as a whole that affects all aspects of people's lives - including education. Therefore, he has not paid attention to the topic of "educational justice" in a completely precise and special way.


Third) Explanation


          According to the interpretations, it is now possible to explain educational justice in a more precise way from the Rawls and Sadr’s opinions. Also, these interpretations showed that the present researchers - as already emphasized by Yari Qoli & Zarghami (2013) - were forced to extend the opinions of these two philosophers regarding social justice to educational justice as well. It is obvious that this generalization is based on the presentation of evidence from the works of these two philosophers, attention to the findings of other researchers and data analysis based on Fairclough's discourse analysis method. In this section, first, the views of two philosophers are expressed with an emphasis on educational justice, and then the similarities and differences of the two views are identified:


  1. Explanation of educational justice according to the opinion of Rawls and Sadr


          The first point related to educational justice in Rawls's theory goes back to the principle of equality. During the last half century, the right to equal education - influenced by modern developments - has become one of the basic and undeniable human rights, and it has been repeatedly emphasized in the documents of international organizations (Beiter 2006). Also, during this time, most countries have recognized this right for all citizens - regardless of gender, race, language, culture, religion, and economic differences. It is obvious that due to the cultural, economic and political dominance of powerful countries - which generally follow the ideology of capitalism - Rawls' opinions have indirectly - but very strongly - influenced educational policies to recognize the right to education. . Another issue that can be considered by educational policymakers in explaining educational justice in Rawls' opinions is the concept of "original good" (Costa, 2014). One of the original goods is the benefit of fundamental rights, which is definitely justified under the right to education. In this sense, the right to education is a primary good that cannot be taken away from a person. Also, Rawls also admits that the determination of the primary good is largely dependent on the determination of the basic needs of humans (Rawls, 2001). In other words, humans are forced to have the right to education in order to achieve their basic rights (Yari Qoli, 2013). In Sadr's theories, educational justice under human rights can be explained as "the best of creations" and from the perspective of Islamic ideology. Based on this right, God has created the entire universe for humans and all human beings are equal to each other in enjoying all the blessings of life - including the blessing of education (Sarabadani & Paygami, 2016). Also, according to Islamic ideology, factors such as race, language, gender, etc. do not play a role in the superiority of a person over others. According to Islam, the two factors that make humans superior to each other are only knowledge and virtue.

         In explaining the concept of justice, Rawls mentions the principle of differentiation to show that social inequalities should be in positions where there is full and fair equality to be achieved for the maximum number of people. Also, this inequality should lead to the maximum benefit for the most disadvantaged sections of the society (Rawls, 1971). Based on this, Rawls implicitly supports the fact that all human beings should have fair equality in enjoying their basic rights - such as the right to have a job, the right to housing or the right to education. Rawls' emphasis on fair equality can be a warning to totalitarian systems that, on the pretext of differences such as gender, race, language, religion or culture, prevent some people from achieving different levels of education (Fraser, 1998). Also, through the principle of differentiation, Rawls accepts that inherited (such as intelligence) or acquired (personal efforts) individual differences - when there are equal and fair opportunities - can cause one student to excel over another student (Rawls , 2001). Sadr is also not oblivious to the role of individual differences in the fair access to facilities and opportunities of the society. According to Sadr, in the first step of this matter, it is important that the facilities and opportunities are equally available to everyone so that the society does not suffer from class differences. At the same time, the formative and legislative foundations of social balance should be considered in justifying inequalities. Based on the formation basis, God has created human beings differently. Therefore, people have different talents and abilities (Sarabadani & Paygami, 2016). Also, the legal basis of educational justice in Islamic ideology has accepted that despite the existence of a fair environment, the efforts of some students make them achieve learning opportunities and academic progress.

          One of the issues that must be considered in Rawls' theory of justice is his emphasis on citizenship education - in line with the expansion of social justice - through the support of various social rights, including the right to education. In fact, Rawls believed that the basis of social justice is based on the collective agreement of human beings and social contract between them. This collective agreement takes place properly when people have proper citizenship education. In this regard, Rawls mentions the role of families in moral development, cultivating human virtues, sense of justice and supporting basic human rights in the young generation - as informed, intellectual and active citizens (Rawls 2001; Yari Qoli, 2013). Sadr also acknowledges the development of social justice and, implicitly, educational justice through the theory of inclusive social takaful. In other words, from Sadr's point of view, the principle of universal guarantee is a strong support for the realization of the right to education for all through collective cooperation. According to this principle, not only families or the government are responsible for educational justice, but all people should strive to provide educational resources and opportunities for all.


  1. The similarities and differences of Rawls and Sadr's opinions


         The first similarity that can be found between the opinions of two thinkers is the attention to justice as the most important component in social life and the effort to establish a fair system in all matters, including equal access to education. Based on this, both Rawls and Sadr see justice as a moral virtue that should be taught and as the main axis; determine the status of other components of collective life around it. The second similarity between the two philosophers refers to the special attention to the need of majority of people in establishing justice. Rawls mentions justice for the most disadvantaged people while Sadr emphasizes on meeting the needs of all people to a fair level of equality. Based on this, educational justice means access to education for the most people. The third similarity between Rawls and Sadr comes back to the emphasis on human beings having basic facilities and the denial of any discrimination. While for Rawls, education is a "primary good", Sadr refers to it as a "divine blessing" that every person should enjoy in order to develop their talents and abilities. The fourth similarity between the views of two philosophers is attention to the concept of sufficiency. According to Rawls, all human beings should have enough basic blessings (such as education) so that the enjoyment of basic freedoms becomes meaningful for them. At the same time, Sadr considers sufficiency as a variable concept and believes that according to place and time, all members of the society should be provided with needs such as education to the extent of sufficiency and through the two principles of "comprehensive social takaful" and "active role of the government".


Regarding the difference in the views of two philosophers, we can point out some cases with emphasis on the concept of educational justice. These differences are:


First) distinction in the origin of justice: this means that according to Rawls, the origin of justice is the social contract between people. In this way, most human societies have approved the right to free and compulsory education for all people up to a certain age. On the contrary, Sadr believes that justice has a divine origin. According to him, God is righteous and loves all the blessings of life for all people. Accordingly, depriving the right to access education means depriving a divine blessing.


Second) Epistemological distinction: This means that Rawls believes that justice has a rational and consensual root and its limits are determined based on pluralism and social contract between humans. Based on this, the observance of educational justice means a collective agreement that has been approved at both the international and national levels nowadays. On the contrary, Sadr believes that in addition to reason, the necessity of observing justice can be proven through intuition and revelation.


Third) Ontological distinction: since Rawls does not believe in the existence of a supernatural world, he considers man to be the most intelligent being to determine her/his life affairs, including justice and freedom. On the contrary, Sadr's thought is based on the framework of religion on the existence of God and the responsibility of man to respond to him. Rawls considers educational justice to be a rational thing that everyone should observe, while based on Sadr's opinion, educational injustice is an act that the person responsible for must be held accountable in the divine court.


Fouth) Anthropological distinction: According to Rawls, the foundation of educational justice is based on personal and collective interest. On the one hand, the equal right to education causes the personal growth of each person, and on the other hand, the whole society benefits from it. In this way, a common benefit under the title of "realization of self-perfection" is created between humans. From Sadr's point of view, as a free and autonomous being, man is responsible for developing her/his potential talents. This self-building as “Great Jihad " gives all human beings the right to benefit from justice in all its forms - especially educational justice.


Fifth) Differentiation in the type of society: According to Rawls, the real implementation of justice requires the existence of a democratic and liberal society. On the contrary, Sadr believes in the equality of human beings and especially considers it the duty of all people to help in meeting the basic needs of others as much as possible because people are either religious brothers or human beings who need help. For this reason, in Sadr's view, establishing social justice as well as educational justice is a universal duty, regardless of the political, social or religious structure of the society.


Sixth) Differentiation in consequence: The starting point of justice is important for Rawls, and therefore he pays more attention to the method of determining the limits of justice. Based on this, Rawls's theory is mainly focused on how humans create fair equality by determining justice. While Sadr, in addition to the method of determining justice - which he considers to be divine laws - also pays attention to the result of justice - which is the afterlife reward. Thus, the right to fair enjoyment of social justice and educational justice includes worldly and hereafter consequences.


Seventh) Difference in the person responsible for the administration of justice: The similarity of both philosophers is focused on emphasizing the role of the government with regard to differences between individuals. While Rawls's theory is focused on providing educational facilities for the greatest number of children of the poor class, Sadr's view is on preventing the accumulation of wealth by reducing social gaps - such as educational gap - through the simultaneous participation of the government and people (comprehensive social takaful).


Table 1: Similarities and differences of Rawls's and Sadr's views on various dimensions of justice with an emphasis on educational justice










Position of justice,

moral virtue

moral virtue



Basis of justice

meet general needs / literacy of majority

meet general needs / literacy of majority



Responsible for the administration of justice




People and government


Nature of educational justice


Primary good

Gift from God



Level of educational justice


Sufficient up to the level of general education


Educational adequacy according to time and place



Origin of educational justice


Human right


Gift of God


Epistemological foundations




Intellect & revelation




Human nature






Education as a means of realizing individual/collective interests


Education as a tool for human perfection


Distinction in society


Educational justice is a characteristic of democratic and liberal societies

educational justice is a characteristic of human societies


Distinction in outcome


Right to education is a way to achieve justice


Right to education as a method and result for the realization of justice






  1. Conclusion


          The purpose of research was to examine the theoretical foundations of educational justice as a right from the point of view of the Christian philosopher Rawls and the Shiite scholar Sadr. Conducting this research was based on several mental presuppositions of the present researchers: the first presupposition is that educational injustice has become a global challenge nowadays, and the reports of international organizations and research findings have mentioned several reasons for the occurrence of this phenomenon. The second mental hypothesis of the present researchers is that although the role and importance of many causes of educational injustice cannot be denied, as long as the primary and basic mentalities of the people - which generally have a philosophical and moral origin - do not change, a fundamental transformation will not also occur for the establishment of educational justice. The philosophical and moral origin of educational justice shows the view of the intellectuals and social reformers on the role and place of justice. The third premise is based on the argument that the philosophical and moral origins of societies are heavily influenced by factors such as geography, religion, history, culture, economy and politics. Therefore, investigating the philosophical and moral origin of justice (in its general sense) and especially educational justice is not possible without considering these environmental factors. According to these presuppositions, the findings of the research show the similarities and differences between the opinions of these two philosophers regarding educational justice.

          The first finding of the research showed that Rawls and Sadr's common view of justice as a moral virtue can easily ignore environmental factors. This finding also shows that comparative researches in the field of ethics still contain valuable lessons for some social and educational policymakers who try to provide a different interpretation of human rights by resorting to social/cultural differences between societies. This finding are also aligned with the results of Mellat (1988); Aziz (1993); Saki (2001), Costa (2014). Another finding of the research shows that both Rawls and Sadr believe in human dignity. Based on this, both philosophers believe that the basic needs of every person should be provided based on justice and fair equality. Jamshidi & Droodi (2013); Musizadeh & Sanati (2017), Aram & Seyed Emami (2016), Arman Mehr (2011) have also emphasized this point in their research. One of the important findings of the research is that both philosophers emphasize the duty of society to observe justice. Of course, while Rawls mainly considers the government responsible for providing justice in all areas - including education, Sadr, in addition to emphasizing the role of the Islamic government, obliges all Muslims to observe justice and their active role in helping to meet the basic needs of others such as housing, work, and education. This finding has received less attention in previous researches.

         In addition, the findings of the research showed difference in the views of two philosophers regarding the concept of justice and its various dimensions. Of course, the present researchers acknowledge the difficulty of comparing the views of these two philosophers, especially when considering their mental structure, educational background, and effects of different cultural and social environments on their thought. Although both Rawls and Sadr as philosophers have a deep moral view of the issue of justice in their society, their interpretation and analysis is certainly not done in a vacuum. Rawls is a non-religious philosopher and evaluates all human affairs, including justice, through the lens of human reason and action. In Rawls's thought, man is an active being who interprets the concept and dimensions of justice and its realization through the principles of collective life and social contracts. On the contrary, Sadr is a completely religious person who analyzes and interprets all affairs of the world from the perspective of the ruling principles of Shiism and Islam. Accordingly, man must be righteous because God likes it. The ideological difference of the two philosophers has been the focus of researchers such as Sarabadani & Paygami (2016) and Yari Qoli & Zarghami (2013). In addition, the findings of the research show that Rawls mainly emphasizes principles such as the primary good, ignorance, fair equality and the role of democratic societies in the establishment of justice - including educational justice, while the principles accepted by Sadr in explaining the concept justice relies on the role of religion, nature, revelation, takaful and social balance. It is obvious that Rawls's analysis in explaining the concept of justice - especially when he refers to principles such as the primary good and evil - is more accepted by the scientific community that tries to examine human affairs regardless of the influence of personal ideologies. At the same time, for religious communities, Sadr's message has more influence. Therefore, it is suggested that the social policymakers and educational planners of the transitioning societies of the Middle East and other developing countries in different parts of the world, which have young populations and demand more and more change every day, should follow the opinions of both philosophers who it can be very valuable and establish a bridge between tradition and modernism in the analysis of matters such as justice.


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