Revolution is a modern concept in Islamic countries. Prior to the 20th century, no social or political change was either perceived as or called “revolution”. However, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was the biggest revolution of the 20th century after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Earlier in the century, Iran had also experienced the “Constitutional Revolution” of 1907, and then the “White Revolution” of 1962, although the latter was bloodless and consisted of a range of reforms presumably to pre-empt a bloody revolution. The idea of “revolution” was thus dominant in the political discourse across 20th-century Iran. It is significant that whilst the 1907 and 1979 revolutions were inspired by Western ideas, they were also distinguished by being led by the Shiite clerical establishment.
Following the 1979 Revolution, Iran has entered a “Post-Revolution” era since revolution is no longer deemed a solution to socio-political crisis. However, for the Ayatollahs, another type of revolution, namely the “Islamic Revolution” has begun and is now the mission of their regime in Iran; bound to continue until the return of the Mahdi, the hidden Imam, who will be assisted, according to Shiite traditions, by Jesus Christ.
This module will discuss these revolutions in Iran and their perceptions by the different social and political forces who participated in them.
Part 1 will examine the role of the clerics in the Constitution, in the light of their political motivations and intellectual background (the Shiite theory of government). We will also study two major events in the 20th century that, while they were not called revolutions, were certainly bloody: the coup d’état of 1953 and the insurgence of the followers of Khomeini in 1963 to oppose the “White Revolution” of the Shah.