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Religious Background of the 1979 Revolution in Iran

by Moojan Momen

  1. Introduction
  2. The Role of the Ulama in Society
  3. Political Authority in Twelver Shi`ism
  4. The Karbala Paradigm
  5. Conclusion
  6. Notes

The intensity of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the suddenness with which it appeared "out of the blue" surprised many people both in Iran itself and in the rest of the world. In this presentation, I hope to examine some of the factors that contributed to that revolution. There were, of course, many and varied factors and we are probably still too close to the event to be able to make any meaningful assessment of their relative importance, but I think we can at least begin to list these and discuss them.

In this presentation, I am not going to deal with the economic factors that led to the Revolution. There is undoubtedly an important economic background to the Revolution. The large amount of money flowing into the country following the oil price rise led to a boom, which eventually rebounded with ensuing hyper-inflation and unemployment. The results included much corruption in the upper echelons of society and a sense of disappointment and frustration among the people at the non-appearance of the prosperity that had been promised them. I am also not going to deal with the political factors leading to the Revolution. The suppression of protest and even of political discussion in the country, the activities of foreign powers within the country, and the organization of the opposition forces are among factors that should be looked at in any full analysis of the background of the 1979 Revolution. I am not even going to examine in this presentation what may be called the general religious and cultural factors that form an important background to the Iranian Revolution. What I mean by this are general factors that apply in many societies of the Middle East (and elsewhere) and are not specific to Iran. For example, it should be noted that the movement towards religious fundamentalism is not confined to the Iranian or Shi`i world alone. We can detect it occurring in all parts of the Muslim world (and elsewhere also). Therefore it must represent a response to factors that are affecting a wider area than just Iran. There appears to be a widespread perception that the adoption of the practices and standards of Western civilization has not only failed to bring about improvement, it has led to a deterioration in moral standards, causing a loss of sexual morality and a rise in the taking of alcohol and drugs. In Islamic societies, there is also the humiliation of seeing the Muslim world subservient, economically and militarily, to the countries of the West, together with the associated factor of the creation of the state of Israel. These may be considered to be the general religious and cultural factors contributing to the Revolution.

What I will be doing in this presentation is to look at factors that were specific to the religious environment of Iran, factors in Shi`ism that contributed to the intensity and pattern of the Iranian Revolution when it broke out in 1978-9. In this presentation I want to look at a number of threads running through Twelver Shi`i Islam which culminated in the 1979 Revolution in Iran. Although the threads may appear to be disparate when described individually, it was the coming together to these and other factors that gave such intensity to the 1979 Revolution.

A. The Role of the Ulama in Society

The active role of the Shi`i religious scholars (the ulama) in the Revolution has been noted by almost everyone who has commented on this episode. How then did it come about that the ulama, who in the rest of the Islamic world tend to maintain a low profile in social and political matters, were able to take such a prominent part in the 1979 Iranian Revolution?

The early history of Shi`i Islam was that of being a persecuted minority within the Islamic community. Since those in authority were inimical to the Shi`is, it was only natural that the leadership of the Shi`i community fell to their religious scholars. It is therefore part of Shi`ism's history and ethos that the ulama have been seen as leaders, spokesmen of and intercessors for the Shi`i community. When Shi`i states did eventually arise, the role of the ulama nevertheless continued as upholders of individual and community rights in the face of any tyranny from the authorities.

The theoretical basis for this role of the ulama was through the evolution of the na'ib al-`amm (collective or general vicegerency) concept. The history of this concept goes back to the earliest period of Twelver Shi`i history. With the occultation of the Imam, all of his functions, including the giving of judgements on points of religious law, the collection of religious taxes, the leading of the Friday prayers, etc. were at first considered to have lapsed. However, as time went by and the Imam did not reappear, the theoretical absence of all religious authority became a doctrine that was increasingly difficult to maintain. Therefore the ulama began gradually to argue that they, as a body, had been designated the deputy of the Imam. The basis of this assertion was the existence of a number of traditions that appear to give the ulama the authority to act on behalf of the Imam. These traditions relate to specific circumstances, and not all of them are considered reliable; but those who wished to advance the scope of the activities of the ulama argued that these traditions gave them the authority to act as the deputies of the Hidden Imam. Using this argument, the ulama began gradually to assume more and more of the functions of the Imam in the religious sphere: the giving of judgements on religious law, the collection of religious taxes, the leading of the Friday prayers, etc.

There was, however in Shi`i history, an ongoing tension between those who pressed forward the social role of the ulama and those who held back. There have been at various times in Shi`i history different issues over which this unresolved tension has played out. In the earliest period, Shi`i ulama such as Kulayni (d. 940 C.E.) and Ibn Babuya (d. 991 C.E.), felt themselves to be primarily transmitters of the Traditions (hadith) of the Imams. They decried the Sunni used of analogical reasoning (qiyas) and innovative exegesis (ijtihad). In the later Buyid period, the balance swung towards those ulama, such as Shaykhu't-Ta'ifa al-Tusi (d. 1067 C.E.) who wanted to be able to give judgements in an increasingly wide range of social matters. This was accompanied by a move towards Mu'tazilite rationality and increased social involvement of the ulama in directing the affairs of the community. The same conflict between different attitudes of the ulama can be seen in the conflict between the Akhbari and Usuli schools of jurisprudence. This disagreement, which had undoubtedly been brewing for some centuries, emerged during the Safavid era (16th - 17thcentury C.E.). The Akhbaris were conservative in giving legal judgements. They confined themselves to those areas in which they felt there was clear, unambiguous guidance from the Qur'an and Traditions and were content to leave other matters to secular courts. They tended towards piety, mysticism and mystical philosophy. The Usulis were prepared to use the tool of ijtihad to deliver legal judgements (fatwas) on almost any social or personal issue. They were therefore able to extend the social role of the ulama. This conflict was eventually won by the Usulis at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The Usulis were faced with two major challenges in the 19th Century. The first was the Shaykhi movement, which through its emphasis on piety and mysticism, was again an attempt to move Shi`ism away from its social involvement. The ulama moved against the Shaykhis and succeeded in eliminating this threat. A more significant threat emerged in the form of the Babi movement in the middle of the 19th century. The Bab claimed to be the author of a new revelation, superceding Islam; he claimed his message was a new teaching from God and his writings a new holy book, superceding the Qur'an. This claim, together with the denunciations of the ulama that the Bab made, was a direct challenge to the ulama. While they had succeeded in dealing with the challenge of the Akhbaris and Shaykhis largely through debate, they were not successful in halting the Babi movement in this way. Eventually they resorted to violence and succeeded in inciting the Iranian government to launch a campaign which succeeded in driving the Babis underground. Eventually the Babi movement transformed into the Bahá'í movement and has gone on to become a world-wide religion. But its persecution in Iran has always prevented it from being a threat to the position of the ulama.

Although in formal terms the Usulis won over their adversaries, the tension between greater and lesser degrees of involvement of the ulama in social affairs has remained. In general one can say that three courses of action have been open to the ulama in their social and political role:

1. Political Aloofness. This attitude stems from the belief that the ulama should concern themselves only with the shari'a. The secular authorities have the obligation to ensure that conditions are suitable for the carrying out of the shari'a. As long as they do this, then the ulama do not concern themselves with political matters. This has traditionally been the attitude of the majority of the leading ulama from the time of the Qajar dynasty until recent years. Many of the most important figures in Shi`ism from this period exemplify this attitude, for example: Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari (d. 1864) and Ayatollah Burujirdi (d. 1962).
2. Support for the Government. Those that advocated this position argued that the shari'a can only be promulgated in conditions of political stability and social order. Therefore it is the duty of the ulama to support the Government in the execution of its duties. This view seems to have predominated during the Safavid period when the interests of the ulama the state were more or less identical. The foremost ulama of the period - such figures as Shaykh Baha' al-Din Amili (Shaykh-i Bahá'í, d. 1622 or 1623) and Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (d. 1699 or 1700) - accepted state positions (both of them held the post of Shaykh al-Islam in Isfahan), and were incorporated into the state apparatus. During the Qajar period, a few of the ulama remained supporters of the state. Not surprisingly, the majority of these were those whose positions depended on state appointment, for example the successive Imam-Jum`ihs of Tehran.
3. Opposition to the Government. This position was buttressed by the theoretical illegitimacy of all temporal authority in the absence of the Hidden Imam. In practice this position was adopted whenever the ulama felt their position threatened either directly, through secularizing reforms, or indirectly, when their main financial supporters, the merchants of the bazaar, were threatened. Some of the ulama were more prone to adopt this position than others, for example Shaykh Mahdi al-Khalisi (d. 1925) in Iraq, and Sayyid Abul-Qasim Kashani (d. 1962) in Iran.

It should not be imagined, however, that these three positions represent three different schools of political thought, and that Shi`is would choose one position to follow. Rather they represent three options to be exercised by Shi`is according to circumstances. Thus it is common to find individual ulama who moved backwards and forwards between these three positions, according to circumstances. For example Mirza Hasan Shirazi (Mirza-yi Shirazi, d. 1895), the leading Shi`i scholar of the late nineteenth century, is usually remembered by most historians as the person who issued a fatwa forbidding the consumption of tobacco, [1] and thus brought about the collapse of the Tobacco Regie in 1891. He is therefore usually thought of as having been a revolutionary figure. In fact, for almost all of his life, following the example of his teacher Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari, he studiously avoided any interference in political affairs. Then in the matter of the Tobacco Regie he decided to abandon this policy and become actively involved. A few months later, when the issue was over, he reverted to his former position. Conversely, Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Na'ini was politically active for some twenty years, at first opposing the Shah as one of the most active supporters of the Constitutionalists, and later opposing British rule in Iraq. And yet after he was expelled from Iraq in 1923 for his political agitation, he played no further political role even though he returned to Iraq in 1924 and lived until 1936.

The majority of the ulama were flexible in their social and political attitudes, being fully able to vary their approach according to what they perceived to be their best interests. Prior to Khomeini, we can find almost no figure in Shi`i history who was opposed to the existing government in the sense that he advocated its complete overthrow and replacement with a clerical government. [2]

The most that Shi`i ulama have demanded in the past has been that the government of the day make its policies conform more closely to the shari'a, which in practical terms has meant that the government should make its policies conform with what the ulama perceived to be their own best interests. It is really only with Khomeini, and then only in his later years, that opposition to the Government became a fixed and unnegotiable position based on a political theory that made the very existence of the government illegitimate.

One factor that has helped the ulama whenever they have wished to take an active social role is the fact that, in contrast to the Sunni ulama, they have a financial base that is independent of the state. Shi`i law states that the religious taxes of khums and zakat should be paid to the Imam. In the absence of the Imam, the ulama have asserted that they were the rightful recipients of these taxes. The income derived therefrom gives the ulama an independent financial base which makes it much easier for them to oppose the government if they should choose to do so.

As economic conditions in Iran in the 1970s deteriorated, political repression became more pronounced, and Western influence increasingly penetrated Iranian society, the people increasingly turned to the ulama in their traditional role as the spokesmen of and intercessors for the masses. While most of the ulama contented themselves with their traditional aloof attitude towards social and political questions, a few under the leadership of Khomeini began to take a more active stance.

B. Political Authority in Twelver Shi`ism

Among the questions that must be asked is: how did a sect that at its outset in early Islamic history was regarded as the most least aggressive and most accommodating of the Shi`i sects become transformed into a revolutionary force that was able to sweep away what had been regarded as one of the most stable regimes in the Middle East?

Shi`ism was, of course, the expression of support for the claims of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, and his descendants to leadership of the Islamic community. Three main sects of Shi`ism have survived from the earliest period of Islam to the present day. Historically, the first of these to come to prominence was Zaydi Shi`ism. Politically, this sect believed that authority belonged to any descendent of Ali who rose to claim it, and was able to achieve it. A large number of revolts during the Ummayad and early Abbasid periods were Zaydi in origin, but apart from some limited success in Yemen and Tabaristan in Iran, the Zaydis were never able to achieve much political power. The second of these Shi`i sects to come to prominence was Isma`ili Shi`ism. It held that political authority belonged to its line of Imams, who were descendants of Ali. This Shi`i grouping arose in revolt in North Africa, and was able to establish its line of Imams as the Fatimid caliphate in Egypt from 909 to 1171 C.E. However, these two sects today represent only a minority of the world's Shi`is.

By far the largest grouping of Shi`is today are the Ithna-`Asharis (Twelvers), which is the group that we are concerned with in this presentation. They believe in a succession of twelve infallible religious leaders called Imams, the first of whom was Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, and the twelfth of whom is believed to have gone into occultation in 874 C.E. Since Twelver Shi`ism cannot be said to have come into existence until this latter date, it was the last of these three Shi`i sects to be established. But it differed from the other two Shi`i sects in a radical way. Zaydi and Isma`ili Shi`ism were revolutionary, and never really succeeded in establishing themselves in any appreciable numbers in the Islamic heartlands, where their revolts were crushed and they were persecuted relentlessly. They were always a phenomenon of the fringes of the Islamic world. The Twelvers on the other hand, from the very start, existed primarily in the Islamic heartlands. Their main centre was for many years in the Abbasid capital at Kufa and, later, Baghdad. Many of their most prominent figures were leading statesmen in the Abbasid power structure; the al-Furat and Nawbakhti families, for example who held the highest positions in the Abbasid administration.

For these Shi`is at the centre of Abbasid power, the Shi`i tradition of revolt and opposition was clearly undesirable and unwanted, as it made them suspect in the eyes of their Abbasid patrons. The resolution to this problem was found among the influential circle in Baghdad that included the Nawbakhti family. Politically this involved the declaration that the Imam had gone into hiding (occultation). This mystic removal of the Imam from the eyes of men served two purposes. Firstly, it effectively removed the Imam from being a focal point for opposition. For no-one could raise a rebellion in favour of an Imam who was not there. The second consequence of the occultation was that, since the Imam was still alive, although occulted, no one else could claim to be the Imam (and there had been numerous claimants to the Imamate in Shi`i history). The Imamate, which for the other Shi`i sects was a political institution, a rival for the caliphate, had been depoliticized by the Twelvers and transformed into a focus for theological elaboration and eschatological expectation. It was no longer a threat to the political establishment and so the Twelvers could be seen as loyal citizens within the Abbasid power structure.

It may be thought that if the Twelver Shi`is were not militant and revolutionary in their early history, then this tendency arose within the sect prior to the Safavid conquest of Iran in 1501 and the establishment of Twelver Shi`ism as the state religion. But in fact, the Safavid assumption of power in Iran had little to do with Shi`i militancy. The Safavids were primarily a Sufi order that became increasingly militaristic and Shi`i in orientation. This Shi`ism was not however of the Twelver kind, but of the kind that is generally referred to as ghulat (extremist). This designation refers to various doctrines held by these groups which were considered, by orthodox Shi`is and Sunnis alike, to make them heretics and outside the pale of Islam. Thus, for example, Isma`il the first Safavid ruler of Iran, wrote poetry in which he equated himself with the Divinity. It was this mixture of 'extremist' Shi`ism and militaristic Sufism that gave the Safavid order the fervour and dynamism to rise against the established order in Iran, and take over the country in a very short period of time. However, once the conquest was achieved and the new state established, Isma`il proclaimed Twelver Shi`ism as the state religion. Part of his thinking was no doubt that Twelver Shi`ism would be a more quietist, and therefore more stable, religious basis for the new state than the extremist Shi`i/Sufi admixture of his Safavid supporters. Once again, we find Twelver Shi`ism being identified with stability and quietism, rather than with revolution and militancy.

There was, however, at the heart of Twelver Shi`ism a certain tension. Over against this history of quietism and political accommodation, there was the doctrine that all political and religious authority belonged by right to the Hidden Twelfth Imam and anyone who held power was therefore a usurper of the rights of the Imam. There was thus a contradiction between what the Shi`i texts said and what in practice the Shi`is themselves did. The difference was bridged, in part, through the doctrine of taqiyya, the Shi`i doctrine of pious dissimulation. This doctrine held that a Shi`i could deny their faith or assert a different position from that which the Shi`is believe in order to protect themselves from danger. The difference was also in part accounted for by other teachings which stated that since it was necessary for there to be social order for the Shari`a to be implemented, it was necessary to obey a just ruler.

It cannot be said that Shi`ism in its early history developed any coherent political theory, in the same way that Sunni Islam did. With a Hidden Imam, all political questions were frozen. No-one had the authority to replace the Imam, but equally no Shi`i could claim religious authority for trying to overthrow the existing regime. Those Shi`i writers of the early period who do mention the question of opposition and rebellion were of the opinion that revolt and rebellion against the established ruler, even if he be unjust, were not permissible as the overthrowing of oppression and wrong, and the establishment of justice, constituted one of the tasks that the Hidden Imam would perform on his return.

Typical of early Shi`i expressions of opinion is the following passage from the Buyid scholar, al-Shaykh al-Mufid. Writing about the return of the Hidden Imam, he states:

'His fathers [i.e. the preceding Imams] on the other hand allowed [their followers] to practise dissimulation before their enemies, engage in social intercourse with them and be present at their assemblies. In fact they forbade [their followers] to draw the sword against them and warned against inciting anyone to do so.' [3]

Very few of the Shi`i ulama have written political treatises. Those that have been written date mainly from Qajar times up to the present. Several treatises were written in the early Qajar period by eminent ulama who were supporters of the state. The Qajars, having established themselves by force and not having a supposed descent from the Imams which the Safavids claimed, were in need of a basis of legitimacy to act as a buttress for their authority. In these treatises, the principle was enunciated that the political rulers were the agents of God, and of the Hidden Imam, in establishing social order and thus promoting the Holy Law.[4]

In a later period, some of the ulama wrote treatises in favour of the Constitutional Movement.[5]Although modern scholars have sought out and brought these political treatises into prominence, in their own time they were not held to be of any great importance, and were among the more obscure of the writings of their authors.

When Imam Ruhullah Khomeini (1902-1989) began to write on political matters, therefore, he was going outside the tradition of the major Shi`i ulama. In order to understand the revolution in Shi`i political thought that he brought about, it is necessary to review briefly the background of the basis of the authority of the ulama. The authority of the Sunni ulama is based on their appointment to a particular office by the State. Thus the authority on the basis of which a Mufti gives judgement is by virtue of his appointment as Mufti. The theoretical basis for the authority of the ulama in Shi`i Islam is quite different. Their authority is based on the concept that they are collectively the deputies of the Hidden Imam (na'ib al-Imam al-'amm, see above). Thus, according to the most authoritative texts, even if they are appointed by the government to a position such as judge in a court, their authority to give judgements is still by virtue of the na'ib al-'amm concept.

Until the advent of Khomeini, however, none of the leading ulama formally laid claim to the right to deputize for the political authority of the Imam. This political authority was either held to have lapsed with the occultation of the Imam or, as described above, the ulama would sometimes advance arguments to justify the interim derivative legitimacy of the secular political authorities.

Khomeini was the first to outline a theoretical position which involved an uncompromising assertion that only a government by experts in religious jurisprudence (vilayat-i faqih) is an accept able form of Islamic government. This was not always Khomeini's position. His earliest writings only insisted that the Shah's government should conform to Islamic norms as defined by himself. It was only after his exile to Iraq in 1964 that he began, in his lectures to the religious students at Najaf, to call for the vilayat-i faqih. His position was that an Islamic ruler needs to rule in accordance with the Holy Law (the shari'a), and only an Islamic scholar, an expert in jurisprudence (the faqih), can have a sufficient knowledge of the shari'a. Therefore leadership in an Islamic country belongs by right only to a faqih.[6]

There is however nothing illogical in Khomeini's extension of the na'ib al-'amm concept to include the political authority of the Hidden Imam. The distinction between church and state which exists in the West is meaningless in Islam. Islam is not just a religion, but a religio-political entity in which all religious and social matters come under the purview of the shari'a. And if the ulama are the general vicegerents of the Hidden Imam in all religious matters, why not in the political sphere also?

Although Imam Khomeini's concept of the ulama's right to supervise political affairs (vilayat-i faqih) can thus be seen as a logical extension of the na'ib al-'amm concept, it is nevertheless a radical break with the Shi`i tradition that the leading ulama concern themselves in political matters only very rarely; and then only when issues of major importance arise. This had certainly been the attitude of the major ulama right up to and including Ayatollah Burujirdi (d. 1962), the last Ayatollah who could claim to be sole marja al-taqlid.[7] Even now, despite Khomeini's prestige, the concept is not universally accepted among Shi`is. In Iran itself, opposition to the vilayat-i faqih concept was led by a group calling itself the Hujjatiyyih. Outside Iran, the major marja al-taqlid, several important ayatollahs have voiced reservations about it (in particular the late Ayatollah Khu'i).

C. The Karbala Paradigm

Much of the power and intensity of the 1979 Revolution came from the willingness of ordinary people to go out onto the streets and court death by confronting armed troops. What was it that inspired ordinary people to risk their lives, to move from a pattern of ordinary every-day life into the mould of heroism and self-sacrifice?

In traditional societies (and even in modern societies to large extent), people are inspired by and try to live their lives in accordance with certain mythic paradigms. In the telling and retelling of the myths of the society, the psychological and ethical norms of the society are built up, the role models by which people live their lives are inculcated and the general ethos of a society is created.

In Shi`i Islam, as indeed with most religions, popular religious activities play a major role in the life of the individual by creating the myths by which the individual lives. In Shi`i Islam, centre place in popular religion is taken by the various re-enactments of the Karbala episode. From early childhood, most Shi`is have been immersed in a culture in which the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn plays a very prominent role. The martyrdom of the third of the Shi`i Imams, Husayn, at the hands of the Umayyad armies of the caliph Yazid at Karbala in AD 680, is undoubtedly one of the most important and emotive episodes in Shi`i history. The first ten days of the month of Muharram are completely given over to commemorating the martyrdom, culminating on the tenth day, `Ashura, the day of the martyrdom of the Imam. This forms the most important religious event of the year, far outweighing any of the commemorations associated with the Prophet Muhammad, or any other of the Imams. The commemorations take the form of orations recounting the episode, plays depicting the events, and ritualized processions of mourning at which it is usual to see people whipping themselves, and cutting themselves in a state of frenzied mourning for the martyred Imam. For the rest of the year also, it is not uncommon to hold meetings at which narrations of the Karbala episode are given, and at which expressions of grief abound. Thus the Karbala episode is not an event in distant history, but rather a powerful symbol kept alive among the Shi`i masses by frequent emotive rituals and ceremonies.

In the rest of the year, there are numerous commemorations of the other Shi`i Imams who were persecuted and martyred by their enemies in the first three centuries of the history of Islam. The other ten Imams of Twelver Shi`ism did not, however, rise up in rebellion to assert the leadership that they believed had wrongfully been taken from them. They lived quiet lives of prayer and piety, restraining their followers from any active opposition to the Sunni caliphate and ordering them to practice taqiyya (pious dissimulation, see above).

Here again we can observe some degree of polarity and tension between two opposite paradigms. The Husayn/Karbala paradigm of qiyamat (uprising) is one of taking an active role, rising up against injustice and tyranny; its opposite paradigm, mazlumiyyat (patient endurance of tyranny) is one of political quietism and was espoused by the other Shi`i Imams. Both are available to Shi`is. Both can inspire paths of social and political action.


In this presentation, I have examined three themes that are specific to Shi`i Islam. The leadership role of the Shi`i ulama, the question of political authority in Shi`ism, and the role of the Karbala paradigm in the popular religion. I have shown how each of these three themes had their origins in the earliest days of Islam and how they culminated by playing a major role in the 1979 Revolution.

But I have also tried to show that each of these three powerful motivating impulses for the Iranian Revolution were in fact only one pole of opposing tensions within Shi`i Islam: the tension within the leadership role of the ulama between political activism and quietism; the tension within Shi`i political theory between obedience to the government and the concept that all government is an unjust usurpation of the authority of the Hidden Imam; and the tension between the qiyamatparadigm of Husayn rising up against tyranny and the mazlumiyyat paradigm of the other Imams patiently enduring the tyranny of others.

In the history of Shi`ism and Iran, these tensions within Shi`ism have at times pulled in one direction and at other times in the other, particular in the last two centuries. It was perhaps the misfortune of the late Shah of Iran to experience the effects of a point in time when all three factors were moving powerfully in the direction of social action and against his government.


    1. There is some doubt as to whether he personally issued it but, if he did not, he certainly made no effort to renounce it when it was published.

    2. Chardin, the French traveller in Iran in the late Safavid period notes that a few of the ulama were making such remarks (Voyages de monsieur de chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l'orient (ed. L. Langles), Paris, 1811, 5, p. 108; 6, pp. 249-250) and see also the remarks of Yusuf Astarabadi after the Ottoman sacking of Karbala in 1843 (J. R. I. Cole and M. Momen, 'Mafia, Mob and Shiism in Iraq: the rebellion of Ottoman Karbala, 1824-1843', Past and Present, 112, Aug 1986, pp. 138-139) but these are almost the only reports that we have.

    3. Ash-Shaykh al-Mufid: Khams rasa'il fi ithbat al-Hujja, Najaf, 1951, fourth letter, pp. 2-3, quoted in M. J. MacDermott: The Theology of al-Shaikh al Mufid, Beirut, 1978, p. 282n. See also statement by Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, the foremost scholar of the late Safavid period, in his Ayn al-Hayat, Tehran 1341/1962~, pp. 49~500, quoted in A. Lambton, State and Government in Medieval Islam, Oxford, 1981, pp. 284 285

    4. Among such political treatises may be numbered: Sayyid Ja'far Kashfi: Tuhfat al-Muluk (see S. Arjomand: 'The Shi'ite hierocracy and the State in pre-modern Iran: 1785-1890', Archives Europ. Sociologie, 22 (1981), pp. 53-55) and Mirza-yi Qummi: Irshad-Namih (see A. K. S. Lambton: 'Some new trends in Islamic political thought in late 18th and early 19th century Iran', Studia Islamica, 39 (1974), pp. 95-128).

    5. In particular, Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Na'ini: Tanbih al-Umma (see A. H. Hairi: Shi`ism and Constitutionalism in Iran. Leiden, 1977).

    6. This line of argument appears in one of his most influential books, a collection of his addresses at Najaf entitled, Hukumat-i Islami. This has been translated in Islam and Revolution: writings and declarations of Imam Khomeini (trans. H. Algar), Berkeley, 1981.

    7. Reference point for imitation - in Shi`i theory, the believers are divided into two groups: the leading ulama, the mujtahids, are considered sources for imitation in all legal matters for the rest of the believers, those who have not striven for the requisite religious knowledge for themselves.

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