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Globalized Islam

THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION

INTRODUCTION
If we go through the nature of the thought process of man we come across
two core domains, one is his intellect or wisdom and the second is the linking
process by which man overpowers the different schools of thought and being
secondary the linking process always had deep roots in culture and religion.
Man always had an urge to mold his life in an ocean of his wishes with his
wild intellect acting like strong waves directing his numerous ideologies to a
suitable end for a dramatic beginning. This so called “urge” is what we know
in the developing era as CHANGE or on a major platform inculcating major
disciplines to it as REVOLUTION.
Here it is a must mentioning aspect that change or a revolution must be
examined on two levels. A primary level according to me is the masses which
have the sheer need of it and Secondary level is the one which specifies the
individual whom is overburdened by the storm of thoughts which make the
Now if I correlate my discussion with the history of the most controversial
Islamic nation i.e. Iran a better understanding of revolution can be visualized.
Shifting through the pages of history it speaks that Iran underwent two major

interlinked revolutions during the last half of the 20th century. Here
constituting the secondary level of revolution the individuals who were
overburdened by the revolutionary task in Iran were Muhammad Reza Shah
with his WHITE REVOLUTION and Ayatollah Khomeini and Ali Sheriati with the
Iranian Revolution1.

Core question:
What was the role of Shia Islam in the Iranian revolution?
Secondary question:
What were the contributions of Ruhollah Khomeini in the Iranian revolution?

METHODOLOGY
The data has been gathered from the secondary sources such as articles, books and
online material from web. The data from these sources has been critically analyzed
to get the answer of the research question.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Marxist theory has been applied here to support the data. Marx can be
thought of as having offered two sets of ideas, the first of which we can
accept if we wish to, without accepting the second. Marx gave us a theory of
society, i.e., an explanation of how society works, of how and why history has
1 History Studies Volume 5 Issue 3Haziran/June 2013

unfolded, and especially an account of the nature of capitalism. These are of
great value for the task of describing what is going on in the world and for
understanding the problems and directions of our society today. It basically
describes two important things which are
1. A violent revolution is necessary to achieve a classless society.
2. Reforms cannot bring us a classless society.
If we go through the history of Iran before the revolution, the society was
divided into two classes, one belongs to the ideas of the Reza Shah and other
is the common masses who were against them. To make a society of
common masses Ayatollah Khomeini's with his supporters bring revolution in
Iran2.
MOHAMMAD REZA SHAH AND HIS WHITE REVOLUTION
World War I 1918 proved to be havoc for Middle East including Iran much of
which was a major battlefield during the war. Iran was screaming with the
cries of deteriorated economy, political malfunctioning and national disunity
associated with much of the social conflicts. The core Iranian Administration
had plunged down into the deep dark dungeons of despair which led to social
insecurity and a major downfall at national and individual levels. It was much
of an oppressive rule of Mohammad Reza Shah (last of Pahlavi dynasty) at
that very time but soon he directed his journey abroad when it was the
2 The information has been access form, http://www.revleft.com/vb/marxistassumptions-t42518/index.html?s=c552aca74cb15b25c54165140fb8845d&

Nationalist Mohammad Musaddag Government (1951-53).

Shah made his

way back with a British and American coup ousted Musaddag which was
interestingly supported by the Ulema.
Now it was the time for Shah put forth his views of how to rebuild Iran in a
way to resemble JAPAN and FRANCE in power and economy. And here took
birth the WHITE REVOLUTION in 1963 which was nothing but a mere
production of westernized minds and culture bringing with it a sheer insult to
the religion and customs of the inhabitants of Iran. On short figures this
revolution was a need of the age but didn’t meet the long term
advancements. Satisfactorily the WHITE REVOLUTION presented the growth
of schools and hospitals with further land reforms and bringing the extension
of votes for women. Furthermore, there came the trend of privatization of
factories, forests nationalization and profit sharing for industrial workers3.
Though

the

WHITE

REVOLUTION

brought

quick

development

and

modernization within the Iranian society but Shah failed to cope up with a
sound and effective political system which out of his vision was primarily
dependent on religion as per the Iranian ideologies. The decline soon started
in the 60s when he ignored the multiparty system putting aside all the
religious factions. There was a huge opposition by the Ulemas. The Islamic
perspective of the Iranian society here can be considered a conclusion of this
downfall.
3 History studies Volume 5 Issue 3Haziran/June 2013, pg 35

IRAN UNDER THE ISLAMIC HOOD
Iran largely is under the hood of the Shia community of Islam and as per
believes of the Shias, Shia Islam finds is foundation in the doctrine of
Imamate. According to Shias they present their Imam as a spiritual leader
whom is a direct descendent of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and is responsible
for their guidance in religious and worldly matters in light of Quran and
Hadith. Near to them and according to the context of Ayatollah Khomeini like
the Prophet, Imams are innocent and must be obeyed and this is an
obligatory and unquestionable abeyance for all Muslims. Moreover, Imams
are the religious and lawful heads of Muslims in all affairs and the ultimate
proof of GOD over his creatures cannot be established without an Imam and
it is the Imam through which man must obtain knowledge and awareness of
Islam.
In the Shia context in light of the sayings of Imam Jafar Sadiq and Imam
Bakar if the world is left even for a short period of time without an Imam the
earth will sink and the whole universe will be destroyed.
So they say that after the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), till the end of
the world, God has appointed twelve Imams through the Prophet for
guidance. And according to their believes the twelfth Imam, Imam
Muhammad al Mehdi disappeared mysteriously but will return and be the
salvation of the problems of all Muslims.

So here we can establish a relation with regards to the rule in Iran that
without the Islamic ways of approach and the concept of guidance through
an Imam any other rule cannot anchor its roots specially a westernize one
which denies and insults the believes of the Shia Muslims of Iran and it was
the root cause which became the deteriorating factor of the downfall of the
WHITE REVOLUTION of Muhammad Reza Shah.
But Iran afterwards was in sheer need of a different concept which was
brought about by the Iranian Religious Leader Ayatollah Khomeini in the form
of the IRANIAN REVOLUTION assisted by the views of Ali Sheriati and others.
AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI AND THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION
Being one the greatest Religious and Political leaders of Iran Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini was born on September 22, 1902 in the village of
Khomein in Iran. From the very beginning due his scholarly success his
brother sent him to the religious scholar Yazdi Hai’ri in the city of Arak in
1920. Ayatollah Khomeini committed all his efforts to furthering his own
religious studies there.
As a part of the teachings of his scholars including Yazdi Hai’ri and Ayatollah
Boroujerdi, Ayatollah Khomeini had in his mind that religion should not
involve itself with government affairs. So it was there that Muhammad Reza
Shah weakened the power of religious leaders and promoted a more
secularized country, there much of the most powerful religious leaders
remain silent and encouraged their followers to do the same. Ayatollah too

remaining silent but still aggressive enough started Islamic teachings instead
to bring any sort of change. With many of his publications on Islamic science
and doctrines he emerged as Marja e Taqlid (a person to be imitated) near to
the Iranian Shi’ites. From the 1960s observing the situation of Iran and the
insult created by Shah’s new Iran to the religion Ayatollah started protesting
against him and a couple of times he was taken into custody for which many
of his followers emerged on streets protesting hard and common. And it was
what, was the beginning of the great IRANIAN REVOLUTION. But Ayatollah
Khomeini was asked by Shah to leave the country and he did. While his
return from Paris in 1979 and as a result of the immense protest against
Shah in the country the decline of Shah Rule took place and Ayatollah came
to be known as the supreme leader of Iran.

THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION; KHOMEINI STRATEGIES
Ayatollah Khomeini went for four strategies as his basics for the revolution,
as Shaul Bakash mentions.
 Khomeini actually needed certain platforms for conveying his message
to people and for which as a first strategy he used the mourning days
of the funerals (ashure).
 The second motive was to encourage the movement to overthrow Shah
as he was the sole person for the secularity in the country.

 Thirdly he managed to maintain the momentum of the street protests.
 As a fourth strategy he kept his promise for the establishment of an
Islamic government in Iran.
In an overall approach Ayatollah Khomeini wanted to establish an Islamic
republic or a republic and always stressed to create a constitutional
monarchy that would bring social justice and freedom to everyone including
non-believers. In this path the major hindrance was Muhammad Reza Shah
for whom Ayatollah started to preach to students and pilgrims that Shah was
an agent of anti-Islamic foreign Imperialism. He also took the Ulema into his
consideration. Further Ayatollah Khomeini used the Karbala factor by
declaring Shah as the “present day Yazid”. It was a major move to overthrow
Shah through Shia emotions. Here Khomeini became the embodiment and
fulfillment of numerous Shi’a themes on which the Iranian people had been
raised since childhood.

THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION; CONTRIBUTION OF ALI SHERIATI
Ali Sheriati came with the teachings that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) came with
the idea of creating an “ummat-Nizam-i-tawhid” which was a social order of
equality, brotherhood, justice and peace and most importantly a CLASSLESS
SOCIETY. As a result of Ali Sheriati’s teachings his followers claimed Shi’ism
to be a dynamic religion and it speaks the language of the masses and also
inspired them to revolt against Reza Shah and other Iranian upper classes

and western imperialists. It was also a part of Sheriati’s teachings that Iran
can become modernize without getting westernize.
Here Sheriati presented various risk factors for Iran which included world and
cultural

imperialism,

international

Zionism,

colonialism,

exploitation,

oppression, class inequality, cartels, multinational corporations, and racism.
On similar grounds the Mujahidin also found a ray of hope in Sheraiti’s
teachings and views and it was a result of it that later he helped the
Mujahidin with their prolific literary works. Moreover, focusing on the
revolutionary aspects of Shi’ism Sheraiti preached that they believed it was
the duty of all Muslims to continue struggle to create a classless society and
to destroy all forms of oppression, which, in the modern age included
imperialism, capitalism, despotism, and conservative clericalism.
It was due to his core teachings and a deep understanding of Shi’ism which
promoted people to think and create that “urge/ sense of change” or
“revolution” among themselves. And it was amazingly a very precious
contribution towards the IRANIAN REVOLUTION.

CONCLUSION
There always cannot be a conclusion or end to anything as every end is
accountable for a perfect beginning but to wind up the matter we can surely
summarize the Iranian revolution with regards to the role of Shia Islam and
the part played by Ayatollah Khomeini. With regards to Shia Islam we can say
that it provided a sound pathway which led the Shi’ites to improve their life
and get modernized remaining under the hood of their faith. Furthermore,
Shia Islam provoked the sentiments of its Mujahidin in a manner that
formulated many ways to overthrow Shah out of the Iranian politics and
customs, the most important part of which was played by the Karbala factor
and the doctrine of Imamate. Secondly if we observe the struggle of
Ayatollah Khomeini we surely come to the fact that though there was an urge
in the Shi’ites to overpower their misery but it was he who practically
provided them a vision with which they achieved their objectives without any
compromise or in other words related to Ali Sheriati, Iranians got modernized
without getting westernize, preserving their religion and the mode of
guidance which is beneficial for them not only in this life but the life
hereafter.

References
1. BRITANNICA, E. 2012. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. In: MANSUR G.
ABDULLAH, A. M. C. (ed.) Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi: Article.
Chicago, USA: Encyclopedia Britannica.
2. ANSARI, A. M. 2001. The Myth of the White Revolution: Mohammad
Reza Shah,'Modernization' and the Consolidation of Power. Middle
Eastern Studies,
3. Bakhash, S. The Reign of The Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic
Revolution, Great Britain 1985.
4. H. Katpuzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran, Despotism and
Postmodernism, 1926-1979,(Hong Kong: Macmillan, 1981)
5. http://www.revleft.com/vb/marxist-assumptions
t42518/index.html?
s=c552aca74cb15b25c54165140fb8845d&
6. GABRIEL, S. J. 2001. Class Analysis of the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
In: J.K. GIBSONGRAHAM, R. S. A. W. R. (ed.) Re/Preseting Class essay in
postmodern Marxism. Durham, NC: Duke University press.
7. History studies, Volume 5 Issue 3 Haziran/June 2013