The 1979 Revolution in Iran is associated with the Shiite clerics. It was not, however, the first time that the clerics were involved in a popular movement in Iran. They took an active part in the movement for the establishment of a Constitution, even though the secular elites introduced the idea of Constitution and played a key role in its success in 1907. The 1979 Revolution was mainly aimed at removing the Shah from power, not least because he had ignored the application of the Constitution for the benefit of his autocracy. Significantly, however, while the clerics took power thanks to the 1979 Revolution of democratic aspirations, they endeavoured to destroy the legacy of Constitutional Revolution that they had supported a century earlier. This module will study this shift of attitude from 1907 to 1979 as a mirror of socio-political and intellectual developments during a period of “modernisation” in the twentieth century.
Part 2 will examine the 1979 Revolution and explore the socio-political factors behind the Revolution and the triggering incidences that led to its occurrence. Relating to this period, we will scrutinise the different ideologies (socialism, liberalism and Islamism) and socio-political forces behind the 1979 Revolution and will discuss its religious and/or secular nature(s). Even though the first incidences that led to the Revolution began on university campuses with students seeking more freedom and democracy, the fact that the clerics were able to take over the helm of the Revolution and change its course towards an “Islamic” Revolution, warrants exploring the question: Was the Revolution of 1979 inspired by socialism and Marxist-Leninist ideology or did it originate in the idea of the sovereignty of the jurist (velâyat-e faqih) that Khomeini tried to theorise since the 1940s? We will also examine the impact of the end of the Cold War on the timing of the 1979 Revolution. We will also look into the so-called “Islamic Revolution”, its aims and projects, based on the messianic ideology according to which clerics should rule until the return of the Mahdi. This study will provide insights into the current crisis in the Middle East, considering the involvement of the clerical regime in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Islamic world.