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Iranian Revolution and Ayatollah Khoumeni

Info: 3500 words (14 pages) Dissertation
Published: 10th Dec 2019

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Essay Two: The Iranian revolution and Ayatollah Khoumeni, including ideology and policies?


1. Introduction 

More than thirty years after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power the Iranian Republic remains an outlier in international relationship (Takey 2012). In 1979, Ayatollah Khamenei who had the requisite popular support totally disparage the notion of popular sovereignty as a colonial construct meant to undermine the Islamic concept of spiritual community (Milani 2015). In Khomeini’s treatise on Islamic government, the will of the people is subservient to the dictates of the divine, as articulated by a supreme leader (Milani 2015), totalitarianisms that is, autocratic political regimes that rest on power centralised in one person (Abrahamian 2009). Moreover, the competing political factions have struggled to advance a hegemonic interpretation of what makes the system Islamic and how to reconcile that with the sovereignty of the people embedded in the principle of republicanism (Ghamari-Tabrizi 2013). To avoid the internal political revolution, the Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, one of the founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) accuse the ruling coalition that they should, at least have the courage to declare the government neither a republic nor Islamic, with nobody allowed to protest, comment or criticise (Morady 2015).

Being that a state led by clergy was not anticipated in the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, clergy influence has caused difficulties and confusion ever since as it appears that the Islamic clergy are more traditional and against modernisation (Morady 2015). However, Ayatollah Khamenei’s rise to power through revolution against the imperialism of the United States and the west who supported the Shah’s regime this has been a key pillar of the revolution (Morady 2015). In contract, Sandbrook (2009) stated that Ayatollah Khamenei denouncing the Shah’s regime and he was sent into exile in 1964 due to his fealty to foreign interests, he became the face of a revolution that stirred up a new brand of religious fundamentalism, and bestowed an autocratic regime that manifest corruption, stagnation and brutality, still endures today.

2. The Iranian Revolution

The most notable Iranian revolution occurred due to the paralysed and corrupt Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi regime that violently imposed cultural colonialism on the Iranian people through clerical establishment, and he was the leader of Iran before the 1979 Iranian revolution ( Hinkson 201; Pearson 1982). Furthermore, Pahlavi was a key ally to the United States in a hostile region, he was a controversial figure in Iran, and majority of the Iranian people did not trust Pahlavi due to his allegiance to western lifestyle which is against the Iranian tradition (Pearson 1982). Pahlavi was a corrupt, indecisive man, more weak than wicked, a lover of fine wines and foreign women who dreamed of using his gigantic oil revenues to rebuild the Persian Empire. Elevated to the throne at the age of just 21 after the British ousted his father, he had become increasingly dependent on American aid, especially after he agreed, in a CIA-backed coup in 1953, to topple the nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh (Sandbrook 2009). The American support in the removal of Mosaddeq and the restoration to the throne of the Pahlavi, erupt the negative attitudes many Iranians held for American (Reiffer-flanagan 2009), his continue pally with the western culture ended the imperial power of Pahlavi in 1979 (Yousefi and Abizadeh 2014). In contrast, Ijtemaye (1982) argue that the main causes of the 1979 Iranian revolution were public frustration over increasing rates of unemployment, deteriorating economic conditions as a result of the 1973 oil crisis, as well as resentment towards a political system that was inherently corrupt and primarily favoured the merchant class of Iran.

Moreover, the Iranian Revolution had an impact on United States international relationship during the Cold War. Pahlavi whom the Iranian prople wanted tried for his crime and corrupt practices, fled Iran and was granted asylum by the United States (Pearson 1982). Gürbüz (1982) stated that the Iranian revolution is highly contentious and refuting in terms of both its causes and its results. However, the reality of the Iranian revolution is embedded in the Iranian traditional culture and the Iranian social structures. The culture shaped an Iranian style of politics, which was frequently disrupted by revolutions over the centuries (Gürbüz 1982). Similarly, Akhavi (1983) stated that the Iranian revolution of 1979 presents a case in which religion inspired intense social change, rather than serving only as a basis for social integration. Despite the domestic challenges and counter accusations Pahlavi faced in Iran, Jimmy Carter who was the American president visit the Iranian capital to had a toast with Pahlavi on New Year’s Eve 1977 as the world leader with whom he felt most personal friendship. Carter publicly declared that Iran is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. Carter’s comment remain the most classic example of an American looking at the Middle East and seeing only what he wanted to see, not what was really happening (Sandbrook 2009).

Furthermore, American only had pleasant relationship with Iran during the World War II. The two powerful nations that had interest in Iran had been Russia and Great Britain, and the Iranian people had seen the struggle for influence and hegemony between Russia and Great Britain over the control of Iran (Mottale 2015). But British control of India made it inevitable for London to have an interest in Iranian affairs. Britain’s role in Iran became even more pronounced as oil was discovered in 1908, following the successful search for it by a British businessman and oil prospector William Know D’Arcy (Mottale 2015).

Moreover, clergy are the most influential, respected and organised political opposition to the monarchy. In this case, the charismatic leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini saw a new Shiite theocratic state challenging the United States, the West, Israel, and the Arab world (Mottale 2015). In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini inspires the Iranian people to rebuke the western lifestyle and to stage a revolution against Pahlavi regime. Before the revolution, Khomeini told the Iranian people that it was their right to demand a new social contract and to determine their own mode of governance. This led to the dethronement of Pahlavi and the emergent of Mehdi Bazargan, who served as prime minister from February to November 1979. Bazargan was a well-respected and reasonable man who has a clear proclivity for democratic rights leading the Iranian people. At the same time, Khomeini founded a parallel government in Bazargan regime, every institution in the country, also had special representatives of Khomeini who increasingly asserted their authority to the detriment of government officials (Milani 2015). After the failure of the royal regime, Khomeini skillfully and systematically gripped every opportunity to monopolise power. This became the reality despite Ayatollah Khomeini’s earlier assurances in September 1978 that religious leaders would refrain from participating in the official government or the administration of the state (Yousefi and Abizadeh 2014).

Ayatollah Khomeini’s ideology

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was the first supreme leader of the 1979 revolution of the Islamic republic of Iran. From the mid-1960s, Khomeini had already natured his self-centered ideology to overthrow Pahlavi, who was regarded by many Iranians as slavish to American interests. Khomeini attempted to lead a religious uprising against Pahlavi in 1963, but he was arrested and sent into exile. He went to Turkey briefly, and then settled in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, where he taught and wrote, and ended up leading the opposition from Paris (REUTERS 2009). In contrast, Mavani (2013) argue that Khomeini started the formulating and communicating his ideological concept of wilayat al-faqih in Najaf in 1970. Khomeini intended to solve the religious tension between Iran’s clerical establishment and its theocratic government whose roots date back to the very inception of the Islamic Republic (Khalaji 2010).

Khomeini advocated an Islamic state led by a qualified jurisconsult who would ensure that Islamic rulings are adhered to and implemented within the broad outlines and general principles of shari‘a. Thus, his scope of authority was at least circumscribed by the fallible human interpretation of the nebulous concept of shari‘a (Mavani 2013). Ayatollah Khomeini led the jehād-e sāzandegī cultural framing when announcing the movement’s (nehżat) official establishment on June 16, 1979. In spite of being a senior cleric, Khomeini skillfully utilised the available technologies to further his political aims. While in exile in Iraq and France, the enigmatic and hardnosed Khomeini delivered messages through the cassette tape and international media to inspire, stimulate, and ultimately sponsored a mass movement, which overthrew Pahlavi After achieving this, Khomeini adopted a similar approach when officially announcing Jihad (jehād-e sāzandegī) on the Iranian people (Lob 2013). The last shah of Iran, Pahlavi, went into exile and died in Egypt (Mottale 2015). Ayatollah Khomeini then took over as the supreme leader of Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini was once a political prisoner of Pahlavi in exile. The Ayatollah came back from exile into the new Iran (Pearson 1982).

On his return to Iran in 1979, Khomeini turned his ideology into a strict guardianship of the Islamic Jurists, creating the office of supreme leader, the clerical dictator who stands at the zenith of the system, subordinating the elected president and parliament to himself (EUTERS 2009). By ensuring that the legitimacy of clerical rule is based on an ideology developed from Shiite thought by him and his neo-fundamentalist followers. Furthermore, Khomeini ensured that his ideology is embedded in the Iranian constitution, which institutionalises rule by Islamic clerics, contrasting his earlier assurances that religious leaders would refrain from participating in the official government (Yousefi and Abizadeh 2014). However, the Iranians sense of legitimacy has been reinforced by Khomeini’s commitment to maintaining clerical rule, by his claim to leadership on the basis of a divine calling, and by a monopolisation of the interpretation of the sacred law (Ghamari-Tabrizi 2013).

Iran under a theocratic regime embarked on a radical foreign policy that changed for decades Iran’s relationship with its neighbors and with the United States (Mottale 2015). Khomeini conflicting vision of an Iranian state emanate through his greediness and quest for power. Cheering the Iranian people to believe that the Islamic religion was couched in the revolutionary theology of Shi’a Islam, which unlike its Sunni counterpart has always had an elite clergy, it was socialist, dedicated to social justice, economic empowerment, and wealth redistribution. It was absolutist, where, despite elected bodies and democratic institutions, his word was the final word (Fazili 2010). His ideology systematically turns the Shia Islam from an informal relationship between believers and clerics into a system of government. He reinterpreted early Islamic texts to argue that seminary-trained clergy should be guardians over the whole of society, claiming that the word for mediator (hakam), often used for clerics, is from the same root as the term for ruler (hakim) (REUTERS 2009). The rifts that have always existed between different segments of the clerical elite have grown since Khomeini’s death, threatening the essence of Shi’a Islam and the viability of the Iranian Republic as a theocracy (Fazili 2010). In contrast, Morady (2015) argue that Khomeini’s interpretation was represented as a break rather than continuity with Islamic political traditions of his processors or even the Prophet Mohammed. Such a break illustrates that Khomeini and his followers are operating ideologically and politically within the context of a modern nation state. According to GUPTA (2014) Khomeini’s ideology of the Iranian revolution was actively exported to other parts of the Shi‘i world. In addition Mottale (2015) point out that Iran Shiite rhetoric made the world believe that its heroic revolutionary guards had defeated Saddam Hussein’s armies by using a well-armed modern military formation right after the revolution, Iran was able to defeat Iraq. The aftermath was attributed to Ayatollah Khomeini’s theocracy.

The Khomeini’s doctrine of the guardianship

The Khomeinist doctrine of the guardianship of the jurist requires that all clerics be subject to the orders of the supreme leader and jurist just as any other Shiite worshiper would be. This policy is premised on the view that the ruling jurist is the heir of the Prophet Muhammad and the representative of the infallible Hidden Imam and benefits from all of their divine authorities (Khalaji 2010). But majorities of the Sunni refused to accept Khomeini’s doctrine of the Guardianship of the Jurist (velāyat-e faqīh) or the idea that the government should be ruled by a leading, Shiite cleric (Khomeini) in accordance with Islamic law sharīʿa (Lob 2013). At a time when authoritarianism was gradually receding all over the world, Ayatollah Khomeini was fighting against the tide of history, erecting an authoritarian state founded on the divine edicts of God and the absolute wisdom of the faqih (Milani 2015).

Indeed, the absolute authority of the Islamic jurisprudence set by Ayatollah Khomeini remain the most contentious dimensions of constitutionalism and constitutional debate in contemporary Iran (Abrahamian 2009). Moreover, the political spectrum in Iran is best defined by varying degrees of commitment to the country’s two defining adjectives: “Islamic” and “Republic.” It is the tension between a society predicated on socialist and democratic values, which concomitantly champions a non-elected clerical elite believed to realise God’s will on earth. As such, it is best to view
 conservatism and reform in Iran by
 degrees of commitment to the political philosophy of the founding father, Ayatollah Khomeini, and
 his vision of rule of 
the jurists (Fazili 2010).

Moreover, Richard et al. (2002) view Ayatollah Khomeini to be a clever political thinker who succeeded in toppling the Shah and establishing the astonishment of all, a lasting revolutionary regime modelled on the Platonic paradigm of the philosopher-king. The very constitution of the Islamic Republic is constructed on a series of discriminations in favour of clerics. Permitting clerics to be the head of the government, the head of the judiciary, all the members of the Assembly of Experts, the six members of the Guardian Council, the Minister of Intelligence and several other positions should be necessarily mujahidin or jurists (Khalaji 2010). The death of Khomeini in 1989 would have marked a major crossroad for the Iranian Republic.

Philosophically the creation of the expediency council was a profound change in the nature of Iranian politics. Islam was no longer the final word. Instead, the needs of the state could supersede Islamic law (Fazili 2010). However, it has little to say about the Iranian revolution itself and how an alliance of mostly secular forces having toppled the Shah ended up saddled with a quasi-clerical system dominated by the figure of Ruhollah Khomeini. This is in many ways the most interesting dilemma about the whole period, because there were few signs before 1979 that this radically new system was inevitable, let alone that it would come to be dominated by Khomeini’s idiosyncratic doctrines (Houghton 2014). Just as Nouri’s ideas had divided the Shia clergy after the constitutional revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini’s ideas as well as those of his successor, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei not only split the clergy, but also was unsatisfactory with the wishes of the people and the split has corroded the core of clerical ruling power itself in the contemporary Iran (Milani 2015).


Those who profess the incompatibility of Islam and democracy could rightfully refer to some theological and historical traits of the Iranian supreme cleric Ayatollah Khomeini. Much of Islam’s history reveals that the continuing influence of a founding prophet who made law, waged war, dispensed justice, and ruled his people. From all indication, one might be tempted to conclude that the secularisation and democratisation of Iran cannot proceed without challenging the religious order, this assertion remain valid since the leaders of the Islamic Revolution claim to have restored a pure Islamic order emplace of democratic tenets. However, the Iranian revolution of 1978-79 was indeed one of the most significant phenomena of the twentieth century ancient (Boroumand 2003). In addition, Ghamari-Tabrizi (2013) stated that the Iranian revolution make Islamic law to be a point of reference in the post revolutionary legal system, being that the formulators of the constitution, albeit unintentionally turned Islam from a religious dogma into a body of knowledge contested in the public sphere.

Abrahamian, E., 2009. The Crowd in the Iranian Revolution. Radical History Review, 2009(105), pp.13–38. Available at: http://rhr.dukejournals.org/cgi/doi/10.1215/01636545-2009-002.

Akhavi, S., 1983. The Ideology and Praxis of Shi’ism in the Iranian Revolution. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 25(2), p.195. Available at: http://www.journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0010417500010409.

Boroumand, L., 2003. Prospects For Democracy in Iran.

Fazili, Y.Y., 2010. Between Mullahs’ Robes and Absolutism: Conservatism in Iran. SAIS Review of International Affairs, 30(1), pp.39–55. Available at: http://muse.jhu.edu.proxyau.wrlc.org/journals/sais_review/v030/30.1.fazili.html%5Cnhttp://muse.jhu.edu.proxyau.wrlc.org/journals/sais_review/v030/30.1.fazili.pdf.

Ghamari-Tabrizi, B., 2013. Women’s Rights, Shari’a Law, and the Secularization of Islam in Iran. International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 26(3), pp.237–253.

GUPTA, R., 2014. Experiments with Khomeini’s Revolution in Kargil: Contemporary Shi ’a networks between India and West Asia. Modern Asian Studies, 48(2), pp.370–398. Available at: http://www.journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0026749X13000759.

Gürbüz, . M. Vedat, 1982. The Iranian Revolution. Political Studies, 30(3), pp.437–444.

Houghton, D.P., 2014. Us–Iranian Relations, Future and Past. European Political Science, 13(4), pp.376–379. Available at: http://link.springer.com/10.1057/eps.2014.28.

Ijtemaye, L., 1982. the Iranian Revolution. Political Studies, 30(3), pp.437–444.

Khalaji, B.M., 2010. The Iranian Clergy’s Silence. , 10.


Mavani, H., 2013. Khomeini ’ s Concept of Governance of the Jurisconsult ( Wilayat al-Faqih ) Revisited : The Aftermath of Iran ’ s 2009 Presidential Election. , 67(2).

Milani, A., 2015. Iran ’ s Paradoxical Regime. Journal of Democracy, 26(2), pp.52–60.

Morady, F., 2015. Iran: Islamic republic or God’s kingdom? The election, protest, and prospects for change, Elsevier. Available at: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/10.1108/S0161-7230%282010%290000026004.

Mottale, M.M., 2015. Title : The Islamic Republic of Iran : The Genesis of its Foreign Policy since The Islamic Republic of Iran : The Genesis of its Foreign Policy since 1979.

Pearson, C., 1982. The Iranian Revolution. Political Studies, 30(3), pp.437–444.

Peters, A., 2004. The Clerics Lash Back as Iranians Question Their Legitimacy.

Reiffer-flanagan, B.A., 2009. Islamic Realpolitik: Two-Level Iranian Foreign Policy. International Journal on World Peace, 26(4), pp.7–35.

REUTERS, 2009. ayatollahs. , (August), pp.10–13.

RICHARD, Y., Iraniennes, E. & Sorbonne nouvelle, P., 2002. Creating an Islamic State: Khomeini and the Making of a New Iran. Library, 0, pp.407–408.

Sandbrook, D., 2009. After the revolution. , (February 1979).

Takey, R., 2012. All the Ayatollah ’ s Men.


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