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Chapter 18: From Secularism to Islamic Revolution

Population of Iran in millions

1800                under 6 (estimated)
1900                10        (estimated)
1932                13        (estimated)
1960                21.5
1980                39.1
1990                54.4
2008                72.0
Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators

Ayatollahs


Comment on ayatollahs by Sir John Malcolm, British ambassador to Iran, probably about 1810 (quoted by Robin Wright in In the Name of God: The Khomeini Decade, New York, etc.: Simon & Shuster, 1989, p. 72 fn):
"It is not easy to describe persons who fill no office, receive no appointment, who have no specific duties, but who are called - from their superior learning, piety and virtue - by the silent but unanimous suffrage of the inhabitants . . . to be their guides in religion and their protectors against the violence and oppression of their rulers, and who receive from those by whose feeling they are elevated a respect and duty."

From the Constitution of 1906-7


Supplementary Constitutional Law of October 8, 1907.
Article 1. The State religion of  Iran is Islam, according to the true Ja‘fariya doctrine, recognizing twelve Imams. The Shah of Iran must profess and propagate this faith.
Article 2. At no time may the enactments of the sacred Nation Consultative Assembly, which has been constituted with the aid and favor of His Holiness in Imam of the Age (Twelfth Imam), may God hasten his appearance, the support of his Imperial majesty, may God immortalize his reign, and under the supervision of the learned doctors of theology, may God increase their number, and by the whole Iranian people, be at variance with the sacred precepts of Islam and the laws laid down by His Holiness the Best of Mankind (the Prophet), may the blessings of God rest upon him and his descendants! It is plain that the learned doctors of theology, may God prolong their beneficient lives!, are charged with the duty of determining any contradiction between the laws made by the Assembly and the principles of Islam. It is, therefore, solemnly laid down that at all times here shall be constituted as follows a body of at least five devout doctors of Islam law and jurisprudence who shall at the same time be conversant with the exigencies of their age: [leading scholars will nominate twenty, of whom the Assembly will choose at least five] so that they may carefully discuss and deliberate the bills proposed in both Houses, and reject (veto) any that contravene the holy principles of Islam, so that they shall not become law; the decisions of this body of doctors of theology on this  point shall be followed and obeyed. This clause may not be modified until the advent of the Imam of the Age, may God hasten his reappearance!
Some other provisions of the Constitution:
Article 8. The inhabitants of the Empire of Iran shall enjoy equal rights before the law.
Article 26 The powers of the state are derived from the nation. The method of  exercising these powers is regulated by the constitutional law.
Articles 35.. Sovereignty is a trust confided, as a divine gift, to the person of the shah by the nation.
(Source: Constitutions of the Countries of the World, ed. Blaustein and Flanz, Historic Constitutions, Vol. I)

Statements by Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi:


From E. A. Bayne,,  Persian Kingship in Transition (American Universities Field Staff, l968), which is based on conversations between the Shah and a sympathetic but not uncritical American scholar.
"The myth of kingship here, together with my own education, my nature - for instance, what I felt about the peasants who form the majority of this country - I think made me knowingly or unknowingly adopt the attitude that a king and his people cannot be separate . . . this view is the reason for my strength." (p. 70)
"Iran needs religion, but we should modernize it with more schools and regularized salaries.  The mullahs should wear uniform clothing and be recognized as clergy.  They must no longer be dependent upon the casual contributions of shopkeepers or be subject to their wishes." (p. 53)

Ali Shariati


Quotations from his writings/lectures (see p. 250 in Introducing Islam)
The first passage comes from a lecture, “Where Shall We Begin”, delivered in 1971, in which Shariati contrasts the usual understanding of an “enlightened person” as an intellectual (usually Western influenced) with his view of an “enlightened person”  as an inspired leader usually arising from the people. Abu Dharr was one of the first generation Muslims who rebuked the leaders for worldliness and injustice.

In the tradition of Abu Dharr, who is my mentor, whose thought, whose understanding of Islam and Shi‘ism, whose ideals, wants and rage I emulate, I begin my talk in the name of the oppressed (mustad‘ifin)" . . .

"An enlightened Muslim . . . should be fully aware of the fact that he has a unique culture which is . . . a mixture of faith, idealism and spirituality, and yet full of life and energy with a dominant spirit of equality and justice, the ideology that Islamic societies and other traditional societies of the East are in desperate need of. Therefore . . . a Muslim enlightened person should engage himself in discovering extracting, and refining the life-giving and powerful spirit of his society. . .
One characteristic of this spirit is that, unlike other religions which justify poverty, Islam condemns it. A great student of Islam, Abu Dharr, says, “When poverty enters a home, religion exits from the window.” . . . .

"When Ali assumed power he ordered all existing pay scales to be cancelled, and began paying equal salaries to everyone whether highest ranking military officer, who was at the same time an important social and political figure in the society, or the slave of the same officer. Is there any government in the contemporary world which is committed to the principle of equality as much? Is there any contemporary socialist system which would be ready to implement such a measure? We ought to state and express the outlook, the objectives and the inclinations that make up Islam and tell the enlightened persons that, in the context of their society and culture, in order to be able to obtain mutual understanding with the masses and in order not to be separated from the masses not only must they rely on religion (i.e. Islam) but also honestly believe that the elements of this religion do not invite people to think of the past instead of the present. These elements are based on constant string (jihād) and justice. Islam pays attention to bread, its eschatology is based on active life in the world, its God respects human dignity and its messenger is armed." (Ali Shariati, What Is to Be Done: The Enlightened Thinkers and an Islamic Renaissance, ed & trans. Farhang Rajaee, Houston, Texas: Institute for Research and Islamic Studies, 1986, pp. 22-23)

Confronting the threefold classes of king-owner-aristocracy is the class of the people, al-nas. The two classes have opposed and confronted each other throughout history. In the class society, Allah stands in the same rank as al-nas, in such a fashion that whenever in the Qur’an social matters are mentioned, Allah and al-nas are virtually synonymous. The two words are often interchangeable, and yield the same meaning. . . .
In the affairs of society, therefore, in all that concerns the social system, but not in creedal matters such as the order of the cosmos, the words al-nas and Allah belong together. Thus when it is said, “Rule belongs to God”, the meaning is that rule belongs to the people . . . .  When it is said, “Property belongs to God,” the meaning is that capital belongs to the people as a whole . . .. (Ali  Shariati, On the Sociology of Islam, trans. H. Algar, Berkeley, Cal.: Mizan Press, l979, pp. 116-7)

The political philosophy and the form of regime of the umma is not the democracy of heads, not irresponsible and directionless liberalism . . . It consists rather of “purity of leadership” (not the leader, for that would be fascism) committed and revolutionary leadership, responsible for the movement and growth of society on the basis of its world view and ideology, and for the realization of the divine destiny of man in the plan of creation. This is the true meaning of imamate!" (Op. cit. pp. 119-20)


Khomeini on vilayat-i faqih.


(See Introducing Islam, 250-1)
This passage comes from a series of lectures to students in 1971, when Khomeini was in exile in Najaf, Iraq. They articulated the basic arguments that for the kind of government that was to be established after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Source: Khomeini, R.M.,  Islam and Revolution, Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini, trans. H. Algar, (Berkeley, California: Mizan Press, l981), pp. 61-62. Note the argument toward the end that governmental functions carried out by knowledgeable and just faqihs are no less authoritative and valid than when they were carried out by the Prophet and Ali, a point that I think would be problematic for most Shi‘is.

"Now that no particular individual has been appointed by God, Exalted and Almighty, to assume the function of government in the time of Occultation, what must be done? . . . "

"Not to have an Islamic government means leaving our boundaries unguarded. Can we afford to sit nonchalantly on our hands while our enemies do whatever they want? . . . Is that the way it should be? Or is it rather that government is necessary, and that the function of government that existed from the beginning of Islam down to the time of the Twelfth Imam (upon whom be peace) is still enjoined upon us by God after the Occultation even though He has appointed no particular individual to that function?"

"The two qualities of knowledge of the law and justice are present in countless fuqaha of the present age. If they would come together, they could establish a government of universal justice in the world."

"If a worthy individual possessing these two qualities arises and establishes a government, he will possess the same authority as the Most Noble Messenger (upon whom be peace and blessings) in the administration of  society, and it will be the duty of all people to obey him."

"The idea that the governmental powers of the Most Noble Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) were greater than those of the Commander of the Faithful (upon whom be peace) [Ali], or that those of the Commander of the faithful were greater than those of the faqih, is false and erroneous. Naturally, the virtues of the Most Noble Messenger were greater than those of the rest of mankind, and after him, the Commander of the Faithful was the most virtuous person in the world. But superiority with respect to spiritual virtues does not confer increased governmental powers. God has conferred upon government in the present age the same powers and authority that were held by the Most Noble Messenger and the Imams (peace be upon them) with respect to equipping and mobilizing armies, appointing governors and officials, and levying taxes and expending them for the welfare of the Muslims. New, however, it is no longer a question of a particular person; government devolves instead upon one who possesses the qualities and knowledge and justice."


Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran: The Leader


The following are the provisions of the constitution concerning the Leader as amended in 1989. The 1979 constitution provided that the leader should be a marja‘-i taqlid but this was removed in the amended version. The status of the current Leader, Ali Khamene’i as marja‘ is disputed. Source:  International Constitutional Law (ICL) http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ir00000_.html#A107_
Article 5  [Office of Religious Leader]
During the occultation of the Wali al-'Asr (may God hasten his reappearance), the leadership of the Ummah devolve upon the just and pious person, who is fully aware of the circumstances of his age, courageous, resourceful, and possessed of administrative ability, will assume the responsibilities of this office in accordance with Article 107.

Article 107  [Religious Leader]


(1) After the demise of Imam Khumayni, the task of appointing the Leader shall be vested with the experts elected by the people.  The experts will review and consult among themselves concerning all the religious men possessing the qualifications specified in Articles 5 and 109.  In the event they find one of them better versed in Islamic regulations or in political and social issues, or possessing general popularity or special prominence for any of the qualifications mentioned in Article 109, they shall elect him as the Leader.  Otherwise, in the absence of such a superiority, they shall elect and declare one of them as the Leader.  The Leader thus elected by the Assembly of Experts shall assume all the powers of the religious leader and all the responsibilities arising therefrom.
(2) The Leader is equal with the rest of the people of the country in the eyes of law.

Article 109  [Leadership Qualifications]


(1) Following are the essential qualifications and conditions for the Leader:
a. Scholarship, as required for performing the functions of religious leader in different fields.
b. Justice and piety, as required for the leadership of the Islamic Ummah.
c. Right political and social perspicacity, prudence, courage, administrative facilities, and adequate capability for leadership.
(2) In case of multiplicity of persons fulfilling the above qualifications and conditions, the person possessing the better jurisprudential and political perspicacity will be given preference.


From Khomeini's spiritual will:


Since the millions of masses are wakeful and conscious of the situation and at the scene, the humanitarian and Islamic aspects of the Revolution will eventually materialize. I say with confidence now that the Iranian nation and the multi-million masses in this country today are better than the people of Hijaz at the time of God's Messenger (SAW), and the people of Kufa and Iraq during the era of Imam Ali (AS) and Imam Hussein (AS)." [because those people often disobeyed and resisted the prophet and Imams, while the Iranian people enthusiastically support the war against Iraq.]  Hereafter, despite the fact that they are living neither at the time of His Holiness the Greatest Prophet (S.A.W),nor at the time of Infallible Imam. In so doing they are motivated solely by their faith in the Invisible, which is the secret to victory in its various dimensions, and Islam should take pride in rearing such offspring, and it is a matter of great pride to live in this era and to be in the presence of such a nation.
(Imam’s Final Discourse, Ministry of Guidance and Islamic Culture, pp. 25-6.


Add on p. 254 of Introducing Islam (just before the last, short, paragraph)
In June of 2009 Ahmadinejad won a second term in an election that had many signs of having been fixed. The result was dramatic street demonstrations by a wide segment of the population, particularly the young. If the Tobacco protests were facilitated by the telegraph and the Islamic Revolution by the cassette tape, now it was the turn of the cellular phone and twitter. The demonstrators were not opposing the Islamic Republic as such, however, but the conservatives and hardliners currently in power. The main opposing candidate, Mir Husayn Mousavi, a former prime minister with impeccable revolutionary credentials, provided a focus for the demonstrations but not aggressive leadership. In December there were demonstrations connected with the death of Ayatollah Montazeri, an early leader of the Islamic Republic who had fallen out of favor, and with Ashura. As of the time of writing, the government has dealt forcefully with all of the demonstrations but the opposition continues and the longer term effects are not predictable.




Khomeini as idol breaker. Cover of a pro-Revolution magazine, depicts Khomeini in the role of Ibrahim, who broke his father’s idols (Qur’an 21:58




Khomeini’s mausoleum in Tehran.

 
(Figure 18.2 from Introducing Islam Inside the Mausoleum.)
Inside the Mausoleum of Khomeini in Tehran, 1999. Sermon is being given by Khomeini's grandson. Large pictures are of Khomeini and Khamane'i, the current leader.


(Figure 18.3 from IeB Tehran hotel)
Sign on the outside of a Tehran hotel in 1984 reads, “Oh God, Oh God, preserve Khomeini until the revolution of the Mahdi.” A comparable sign in 1999 read, “Oh God, Oh God, protect this movement of Khomeini until the revolution of the Mahdi.”

Internet Resources

The Hajj, by Ali Shariati. A revolutionary interpretation (also available as a book). http://www.al-islam.org/hajj/shariati/
“Patterns of Discontent: Will History Repeat in Iran?” by Michael Rubin and Patrick Clawson. Good survey of events from the Revolution to 2006. http://www.meforum.org/921/patterns-of-discontent-will-history-repeat-in-iran
“Death of the Islamic Republic in 5 Acts”, by Daniel Brumberg. Interesting synopsis of the politics of the Islamic Republic. http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/georgetown/2009/06/death_of_the_islamic_republic_in_5_acts.html#more
“Inside Iran, a rebellion that is familiar and unpredictable” Favorable to the demonstrators in 2009 http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-rahmini18-2009jun18,0,451907.story268
“Analysis of Iran’s Presidential Elections”, by Zafar Bangash; pro-Ahmadinejad http://pedulipalestina.blogspot.com/2009/06/analysis-of-irans-presidential.html

© William Shepard

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