Iran as an Islamic State and Contrast with Islamic Political Thought

Iran as an Islamic State and Contrast with Islamic Political Thought


An ideology is a set of normative beliefs and values that a person or other entity has for non-epistemic reasons. The reason behind a system which could be an ideology has to have these values and same enthusiasm. On the other hand, context is the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood. The recent instance of Islamic political thought on practice is Iran and it shows how an Islamic thought appearance on politics both ideologically and practically. What happened in Iran after the Islamic Revolution is an important experience for the whole Islamic world should be examined in particularly Turkey. Because the administration established after the revolution claims to take its legitimacy from values based on both Islam and the republican regime. In this paper, it will be examined what shapes Islamic political thought in Iran in accordance with Islamic Revolution and what it brings on political strategy among the representativeness of political leadership.

Iran is a country, which located at western Asia. Soviet Union and the Caspian Sea located at north of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are at south of Iran, Turkey and Iraq are at west of Iran, Persian Gulf and Oman are at south of Iran. Therefore, Iran as a Middle Eastern country has geopolitical importance in the region. The relationship with Western countries are important for Iran to gain balance against border threats. However, Iran had good relations with the US until Hostage crisis which happened in 1979, after that period many things changed in the relation with the US, so they became enemies of each other. The Islamic Revolution against Shah Pahlavi regime in Iran, in 1979, caused radical changes both inside of Iran and it also pushed changes in international area. Islamic political thought, which is practiced in Iran by Khomeini, had different reasons. 2500 years long monarchy was collapsed by Khomeini and opposite of the regime. This was a huge movement Khomeini achieved in Iran via using Islam as a mobilizing strategy among people who gave up the regime’s arbitrary attitudes. The ideological impact of Islamic political thought was also an important factor that shapes society’s attitudes, and important for achieving or to fight for an ideal type of government. There were other oppositions in Iran to gain power against Pahlavi regime, but Islamists succeed, however their capability to govern which has true way of two margins like capitalism and communism according to Mustafa Mahmud (Shepard, 194). In this paper, it will be examined what shapes Islamic political thought in Iran in accordance with Islamic Revolution, also what it brings on political strategy among the representativeness of political leadership. Then, it will be emphasized in chronological order, whether Islamic political thought is coming from context or an ideology.

First, historically in the years of 1940’s, there was a nationalist wave in Iran. That wave had been ended with the establishment of National Front at the end of 40’s. Different segments of society had come together in the National Front under the leadership of Mosaddeq. With the campaign of National Front, the Iranian Oil had been nationalized and Mosaddeq became the Prime Minister in 1951. Mosaddeq and his movement had been effective on Iran’s policy until the coup which was organized by CIA-MI6 in 1953. The coup was planned by British and American because Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) in Iran which had oil reserves like their own was nationalized via with the popular will and under Mosaddeq leadership. This movement in Iran had pushed people to be against the Western countries, and they became nationalized. In 1953, the coup had been happened against Mosaddeq. Therefore, both internal and external factors did lead the coup happen. After 1953 coup, Shah Pahlavi had come back from Roma to Iran. However, opposition of Pahlavi regime had increased. There were three different oppositions and they are republicans, leftist and conservatives. The tension in the society was increased day by day because of the Shah’s arbitrary attitudes which are kind of Westernism. After a while, John F. Kennedy who wanted to do political reforms in Iran came to power in America, and the Shah had fast modernity plan in Iran. In 1963, White Revolution was done by the regime. It consisted of several elements, including land reform, sale of some state-owned factories to finance this land reform, construction of an expanded road, rail, and air network, a number of dam and irrigation projects, the eradication of diseases such as malaria, the encouragement and support of industrial growth, enfranchisement of women, nationalization of forests and pastures, formation of literacy and health corps for rural isolated areas, and institution of profit sharing schemes for workers in industry. However, the revolution did not bring satisfaction on population, because even the revolution itself concerned about westernization needs of Iran. There was a said “What is white in this movement is actually White House effect on it.” Therefore, oppositions of Shah regime were getting stronger and even the harsh attitudes of regime could not prevent them. White revolution means there will be no blood in this revolution, and it was important for legitimizing the Shah’s power. After that, the White Revolution contributed towards the economic and technological advancement of Iran, the failures of some of the land reform programs and the partial lack of democratic reforms, as well as severe antagonism towards the White Revolution from the clergy and landed elites, would ultimately contribute to the Shah’s downfall and the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Second, the member of clergy Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was sent abroad for avoiding from his influence in Iran, and Shah declared Khomeini as an agent in the beginning of 1978. Then the opposites had made protests the regime. The feedback of the regime was violence against demonstrators. The Shah declared martial law, and the protests around Iran were tried to suppress by the regime and it caused thousands of deaths. The leftist group did not want Khomeini as a leader which they thought a non-capable to govern a country. In accordance with their thoughts against Khomeini, they were silence and waited Khomeini to prepare the chaotic atmosphere and then they would want to come to picture as the owner of the revolution. However, with audio cassettes of him recorded and they are come through Najaf, Iraq to Iran. In his lectures in Najaf, Khomeini had claimed that the monarchy, constitutionalism and republic are as invalid systems of government under the name of “faithful political plan for revolution” thoughts of him, and also he had thought only the Islamic government would be lawful. According to Khomeini, only “jurists”, who were claimed as fair jurists by Khomeini, have could practice this sort of Islamic government. Many of Khomeini’s statements focused on the claim that the Shiite jurisprudence had the capacity to form a political and social system. Based on this argument, Khomeini, who founded the Shiite ulema on the top of the state, believed that they would develop political jurisprudence if the Shiite basins were allowed, and that Shiite ulema would provide solutions to all social, economic and political problems. At this point, the political guardianship belonged to the Shiite jurists which are subjects to the provisions of fiqh. Therefore, all of these are how 1979 Islamic Revolution can be shaped by the context as giving background of it. It may be said that the ideas that were seem as coming from Western counties into Iran had made a wakening up in the society. The enemy of my enemy is my friend understanding can bring people who have different ideologies.

The revolution devastated the Shah, and he skip from Iran to never come back, on 16 January 1979. Therefore, 2500 years long Iranian monarchy collapsed. The following event of the revolution was the declaration of establishing Iranian Islamic Republic. It is to say that all the reforms and experiences which were brought by the monarchy destroyed and the fundamental Islamists have taken the control of the government. Ideology and context can be effective at the same time, but sometimes one of them must be dominant to accept and introducing yourself who you are. If the Iranian Revolution would not happen, they would be having no self-identity and culture, because being a tie of Western culture to be a modern state cannot bring happiness to indigenous people. For instance, the biggest communist party of Muslim countries is TUDEH, in Iran. During the Cold War, the US was threatened by them in the sense of stability in the Middle East. At the same time, clerics closed the universities for two years, because being a secular is a crime, being side of westernism is a crime and being non-religious is a crime. Mehdi Bazergan was appointed to power by Khomeini to gain support from opposites who were leftist and supporter of military. By the way, the clerics were judging many people, in addition to these events, Ayatollah Ali Muntezari thought the judgements were arbitrary. Eventually, they did the declaration to establish Iranian Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979. The relation between the US and Iran had getting tension when Iranian students did hostage-taking 90 Americans from ambassy of the US for 444 days. After that period, they become enemy of each other. In 1980, Iran-Iraq war had begun, and UN supported Ceasefire Agreement took place in August 1988. While Iran was in the war, Pahlavi dead on 27 July 1988. The conjuncture inside Iran was complicated and they efforted too much to collapse the monarchy. The fact that Khomeini did not achieve this revolution alone, there were other enemies of the regime, and the hate brought them together to rebel against Pahlavi regime.

In addition, the geography is destiny understanding came to picture in Iran. Historically, the US had good relationship with Iran, and it is because of the threat of Russia. However, as it is said in the introduction the other neighbors of Iran in the region can be threat for the US as well. The fact that geographically, the US has no ties in the Middle East, except from Israel in a sense, the strategy of US was being in a good relation and support the stable government in the country like Iran. Unfortunately, since the hostage crisis, the relation lost its positive side and they become enemies. The context is important here even the ideology is the shaping power on both making foreign and internal policy. The relations are dynamic, especially in politics. Whether they are Islamist or not they have to follow the World conjuncture, regional conjuncture, and internal issues to control power and for making rational strategy. If so, Islamist movement will be suitable for their needs as a country’s interests, and for stable governing. Otherwise, Islamism as a type of government would not bring peace while there was a war around the country.

On the other hand, Currently there exists three main types of Islam in Iran: traditionalists (represented by Hossein Nasr, Yousef Sanei), modernists (represented by Abdelkarim Soroush), fundamentalists (represented by Ali Khamenei, Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazidi, and several Grand Ayatollahs the youngest one Mahdi Hadavi). Subsequently, religious fundamentalism in Iran has several aspects that make it different from Islamic fundamentalism in other parts of the world. The terms Iranian “conservatism,” “fundamentalism” and “neo-fundamentalism” are all subject to numerous philosophical debates. According to Bernard Lewis:[1]

“Even an appropriate vocabulary seemed to be lacking in western languages and writers on the subjects had recourse to such words as “revivalism”, “fundamentalism” and “integrism.” But most of these words have specifically Christian connotations, and their use to denote Islamic religious phenomena depends at best on a very loose analogy.”

However, according to Khomeini, Islam is the perfect style of both for ruling and living conjuncture, because Islam has answers on what Western countries needs separated into different ideologies. The revolution in Iran has done as a feedback for modernity or it can be said that it emerged against Western imperialism.

The broad ideological contents of an Islamic state are as follows: sovereignty belongs to Allah alone; man is a vicegerent of Allah and people are individually and collectively responsible for behaving as such; the state has a representative character; and the state is required to implement sharia for the welfare of man.[2] This is an important aspect of Islamic society in the contemporary context, which implies that people cannot be ruled without their will and contrary has never happened in the early days of Islam. In that sense, it is to say that Islam includes democracy itself via giving representativeness and will of population in politics and to be ruled by expected one. The ideology is important here to see how the population can be shaped in accordance with context. The environment which is living in and the mind-gap people have collectively creative effect on thoughts. It is always hard to eliminate whether somebody decide because of their thoughts or the context that they come from. However, they are all integrated to each other. When we look at the governance of Iran after the Islamic Revolution, it is not much successful to be encouraging for all of its citizens, because the government eliminated all the oppositions who might have a say against them. If it is true to mention George Orwell’s famous work Animal Farm, there the same appearance of revolution existed, they rebelled against the regime and when they have come to power, they did prevent the others to bring stability inside of the country. Khomeini did not exactly do whatever the Shah Pahlavi had done, meaningly like SAVAK[3]. But Khomeini closed universities to cover its power among them. People who had the capability to be against clergy had killed. Also, Khomeini was affected by Kemalism to bring independency from the West. Then, nationalism came to picture in 1950s in the Arab region. The idea of establishing an Islamic state and being independent from western modernity includes they will have been capable to create and living in their own culture. If so, they could be able to live what their religion aspects from them to be as a Muslim and integrated with the ummah.

According to my way of thinking, Islamic revolution in Iran has brought a state which is ruled by Islamic law. The reason why the revolution has happened is coming from both ideology and context they have. As it is said in the paper, ideology is a need to shape the context to link with interests of the population. However, to have an ideology, people must have a mean. It is to say that ideology and context are linked with each other. In Iran, the Pahlavi regime had pushed people to rebel against the regime and a suitable and common ideology in the region shaped into this way. The dominant one is more likely seem as context, due to the way of thinking something is related to your past, present and the stand you see yourself in the future. There must be some exceptions in that sense. None the less, G. Michael Hopf who said that “Hard times create strong people, strong people bring good times; good times create weak people, weak people bring hard times.” means there will be always a chance to shine like a hero in hard times. In this regard, the important thing that pushes people to be aware of what is happening around is actually the context, so the context is essential on background, and the ideology is important while someone has something to do.

To conclude the paper, Khomeini had a will to change something in Iran and the other oppositions of the Pahlavi regime which are republicans and the leftist group had rebelled against the regime and won. Khomeini who has Islamic sense of political thought had feeded people to encourage them to be united against western imperialism. Ideology of Islamism, the context of Iran at that time, and nationalism were efficient to bring people together to gain what they want. From Khomeini’s point of view, Islam itself has the capacity to answer what all western sort of ideologies demand to answer for social, political, economic, and spiritual needs. The administration established after the revolution claims to take its legitimacy from values based on both Islam and the republican regime, and the events, again the context, has shown the thing did not be on process as well. The essential point here is that the context and the ideology collectively work together in political movements. In this regard, instead of saying, it is hard to suppress on whether the context is more important or the ideology is more important; both of them influential, but the context creates the enthusiasm to do something, and even to think about something.


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Abdullah. «Ideology and State .» Pluto Journals, 2010: 75-103.

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Taflıoğlu, Serkan. «İran İslam Cumhuriyeti’nde Egemenlik ve Meşruiyet Kaynağı “Velayet-i Fakih”.» Ankara Üniversitesi SBF Dergisi, 2013.

  1. Bernard Lewis, “Islam in history: ideas, people and events in the Middle East”, 1993, 402.

  2. Abdullah, Ideology and State, 2010, 7.

  3. The secret service of the Pahlavi regime which has used harsh methods among people of Iran to prevent any kind of opposition against the Shah.

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