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IRANFrom Religious Dispute to Revolution

Michael M. J. Fischer


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The University of Wisconsin Press1930 Monroe StreetMadison, Wisconsin 53711


3 Henrietta StreetLondon WC2E 8LU, England

Copyright © 1980 by the President and Fellows of Harvard CollegeIntroduction copyright © 2003 by the Board of Regents of the University ofWisconsin SystemAll rights reserved

5 4 3 2

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataFischer, Michael M. J., 1946-Iran : from religious dispute to revolution / Michael M. J. Fischer

p.cm.Originally published: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980.Includes bibliographical references and indexISBN 0-299-18474-9 (pbk. : alk. paper)1. Shiites-Iran. 2. Islam and politics-Iran. 3. Iran-Politics and govemment­

1941-1979.4. Iran-Religious life and customs. I. Title.BP192.7.I68 F57 2003306.6'97'0955-dc21 2002074034

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To the warm, courageous, and complex people ofIran, and to my parents and our intellectual andreligious traditions

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54125714 Iran From Religious Dispute to Revolut Michael M J Fischer - [PDF Document] (10)


ONE OF THE GREA T PUZZLES for anthropologists and phi­losophers is how and why culture and common sense are differ­ently constituted in different historical times and in different

societies. Today in Iran both culture and common sense are undergoingchange. This book examines that transformation, particularly the partplayed by religion. The focus is on religious education, both learned andpopular, and its function in molding character and thereby reinforcingthe common sense. 'This function is what the Greeks called paideia, andwhat today we might call the anthropology of education, taking "educa­tion" in its broadest sense. Paideia, or the anthropology of education,should include a series of questions critical to understanding how com­mon sense changes: intellectual questions (about the organization ofculture, the filiation and sponsorship of ideas), sociological questions(about the interest groups and power relations that cause ideas to succeedor be popular at one time rather than another; about the recruitment,training, and employment of culture carriers), and historical questions(about the reorganization of culture through new goals and new insti­tutions).

The contemporary change in Iran exhibits parallels to and differencesfrom modern European and American history. The parallels lie in thechallenge of science and technology to religious fundamentalism and inthe changes in social consciousness encouraged by modern education anda more modern class structure or division of interest groups. The differ­ences result from'the suppression of the ConstitutioGal Revolution at theturn of the century and a return, from 1925 to 1978, to an authoritarian,albeit modernizing, monarchy, as well as from a still very underdevel­oped industrial economy and a demographic explosion. This last meansan infusion into the national 'political arena of a very young population


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viii Pre/ace

imbued with a popular religious culture and an enthusiastic attitudetoward modern technology. The young people coming into the modernlabor market from the villages and towns of Iran, literate and withmodern education, retain a profound respect for Islamic morals and tra­dition, if not necessarily for the scholasticism of their religious leaders.Their cultural identity is rooted in the past, their vision turns toward thefuture.

The social and cultural contradictions and tensions of modern Iranwere dramatically catapulted into international attention by the 1977­1979 revolution, which ousted the Pahlavi dynasty. The revolution drewon two legacies: the repeated attempts at a bourgeois revolution (1905,1952), and the repeated use of religiously phrased protest. The factionsjoining in the revolution disagreed sharply over the ultimate goals anddefinitions deriving from the Islamic and secular legacies. It is particu­larly with the religious legacy that this book is concerned, and moregenerally with the transformation of the Islamically informed conscious­ness of the majority of Iranians.

The town of Qum is the focus of study because it is Iran's universitytown for religious leaders. Even if much of what is taught there is deni­grated by some of the youth as scholasticism, it is nonetheless the centralreference point for the elaboration of other interpretations of Islam heldby the various segments of the population. Chapters 3 through 5 of thisbook have circulated since 1976 under the title' 'The Qum Report." Theyremain essentially as written at that time: a portrayal of pre-1978 IranianShi'ism under a monarchy that tried to repress it. Qum has a particularmystique. It is a repository of the Shi'ite tradition, a center of conserva­tism rejected by many Iranians and lauded by others; and it served as afocus of opposition to the shah on moral grounds. The atmosphere ofQum in 1975 was one of siege and courageous hostility to a state per­ceived to be the stronger, but morally corrupt, opponent. The ambiencewas picturesquely and symbolically marked in the garb of past centuriesstill worn by the religious leaders: the turban, beard, qaba and 'aba(under- and over-cloaks), and open-heeled slippers. Under Reza ShahPahlavi (1925-1941) this traditional dress was forbidden to all except theclergy, in part a concession and in part a marking for slow destruction ofwhat Reza Shah found backward and repugnant. The research on whichThe Qum Report is based was conducted in Iran during 1975 as part ofthe Islam and Social Change Project of the University of Chicago, underthe direction of Professors Leonard Binder and Fazlur Rahman. Fundingwas provided by a Ford Foundation grant. Professor Shahrough Akhavi,a research partner in Iran, is preparing a complementary volume.

In 1977 chapters 1 and 2 were added and the title was changed to "Per­sian Paideia" to focus attention not only on the traditional educationsystem of the madrasa (Islamic seminary or college), which is rooted in acommon tradition with our own Western traditions, but also on Shi'ism

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Preface ix

as a moral tradition, as a nationalist tradition, and as a pedagogy of theoppressed. Its powerful psychological ambivalences-the dialecticbetween reliance on both reason and faith, between adoration and hatredof the West, between assertion of dignity and fear of inferiority-is notunlike the similar economic, psychological, and cultural dominationsanalyzed by Frantz Fanon, Abdullah Laroui, O. Mannoni, and AlbertMemmi. That paideia is a Greek rather than a Persian word was appro­priate to the long-standing debate between Iran and the West, honored inthe madrasa curriculum through the continued study of the peripateticphilosophers and the response found to them in the Persian mysticalphilosophies of illuminationism (ishraql). (The title was as well a tributeand an aspiration to emulate in a small way Werner Jaeger's magisterialPaideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture.)

In February 1979 chapter 6 was added to sketch the Shi'ite symbolicstructure of the revolution. Fuller studies of the revolution will be neededin the future to sift out the many enigmas and premature interpretationsbehind what has been watched on television by a fascinated world. Onething is reasonably certain: Iran will continue to be a model, in the 1980sas it has been in the 1970s, for thinking about the developing world. Inthe 1970s the country was a major test case for modernization theory. Itwas the case where the constraint of capital theoretically was removedand which therefore was thought to have the best chance of relativelyrapid transformation from a third-world country into the modern indus­trial first world. Many reasons will be adduced for the failure of thismodel in Iran. Among them are what I have playfully called the "orientaldespotism paradox": the contradiction between using top-down "di­rected social change" to speed development and protect against reaction,and the local level initiative and commitment on which self-sustainedgrowth eventually depends. The paradox is trying to suppress and stimu­late local initiative at the same time. Oil revenues essentially made thegovernment independent of any need to be directly responsive to its citi­zenry. In the 1980s Iran will continue to be a major test case of condi­tions of rapid social change and demographic explosion (half the popula­tion is under seventeen), where people feel themselves oppressed by analien culture or world economy and use their traditional religious andcultural heritage as a vehicle of moral protest. What is at issue is the con­struction or reconstruction of a meaningful world in which people do notfeel devalued by an alien culture, but can feel a sense of continuity withtheir own past and feel proud of their identity.

My interest in going to Qum grew out of an earlier research project inthe town of Yazd during 1969-1971, a crucible of four major religioustraditions of Iran: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Bahaism, and Islam. Indescribing those four groups of people and their traditions, I wantedfurther to pursue Iranian Shi'ism to one of its pedagogical centers-as Ihad pursued Zoroastrianism to Bombay, Surat and Nausari in India-

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x Pre/ace

not only because Islam was a multilayered and complex tradition, whichcould reward a lifetime's study, but primarily because Shi'ism was apowerful social force passively mobilized against the shah and critical toany understanding of the future social dynamics of Iran at the local level.The empirical field report, "Zoroastrian Iran between Myth and Praxis"(Fischer 1973), dealt with all four groups; the title was.intended to under­score the construction of Iranian identity from its roots in a pre-IslamicZoroastrian empire to its aspirations for the future. Religion, I had beentrained to believe, provided a reservoir of symbolic terms people coulduse to create a meaningful world. Despite the powerful currents andantagonisms, Yazd and Iran in 1970 were symbolically stagnant: it was aworld of myth not action. Praxis, Aristotle's term popularized by Marx,was an action which changed its agent, as opposed to poesis (of whichmythos was one form), a fabrication which leaves agent and objectseparate. In 1970 Iran was poised for praxis. To be sure there was socialchange, and the shah attempted to elevate the Zoroastrian heritage into anationalist symbolism, but the Islamic clergy (u/ama) effectively blockedit from becoming a mobilizing vehicle: it was merely myth. In 1977-1979an Islamic praxis began; wherever it leads it will probably leave IranianMuslims and Shi'ism, as well as Iran, changed. The new constitutioncalls for territorial integrity, Islamic brotherhood of all men, politicaland economic unification of all Muslims, and establishment of Ja'fari orTwelver Shi'ite Islam-as well as other goals of social justice and internalorganization: enough contradictions to generate lively debate for sometime to come.

Many people have helped in the preparation of this study and informulating my thinking. Special thanks are owed to my research assis­tant, Mehdi Abedi, a member of the young revolutionary generation,who in the final three months of the field work guided me expertlythrough the thickets of Shi 'ism and the social networks of the ulama. Heis responsible for much of my enthusiastic appreciation for Islam, anappreciation he had encouraged five years earlier during the previousfield work in Yazd. Needless to say, although he served as a crucialsoundingboard and helped mold my perceptions, he cannot be held re­sponsible for my mistakes and misapprehensions. All of the Persian andArabic texts and writings referred to have been translated with his help(and commentary).

Appreciation is owed to various helpful people in the Iranian Ministryof Science and Higher Education, in the 'several city and provincialagencies in Qum, and in the Office of Religious Endowments in Tehranand Qum, especially the staff in Qum who helped me circumvent the red­tape obstructions of their superiors.

Above all, this research could never have been pursued without the aid

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Preface xi

of the establishments of the three maraji'-i taqlid in Qum: AyatullahSayyid Mohammad-Kazem Shariatmadari, Ayatullah Sayyid Shahabud­din Marashi-Najafi, and Ayatullah Sayyid Mohammad-Reza Golpaye­ganL I am particularly indebted for the kind personal help I receivedfrom the first two and from Ayatullah Naser Makarem, Sayyid HadiKhosrowshahi, Shaykh Mortaza Haeri-Yazdi, and Sayyid Shamin us­Sibtain Rizvi.

For help on various parts of the manuscript, I am grateful to Shah­rough Akhavi, Said Arjomand, Mangol Bayat-Philip, Anne Betteridge,Leonard Binder, Michele de Angelis, Dale Eickelman, Shmuel Eisenstadt,Byron and Mary Jo Good, William Graham, Nikki Keddie, MuhsinMahdi, Margaret Mills, Jacques Waardenburg, Nur Yalman, and MarvinZonis. My understanding of events described in chapter 6 and the epi­logue gained much from numerous discussions with Ervand Abrahamian.To anthropologists and linguists, especially to Mary Catherine Batesonand William Beeman, my apologies for not sticking fast to a transcriptionof Persian as it is spoken. Because the subject matter has direct linkages toArabic, the language of the Qur'an and of religious scholarship, it wasdecided to use a transliteration. Contemporary names have been left asPersians normally transliterate rather than according to the scholarly sys­tem - Taleghani rather than Taleqani - with some exceptions for consis­tency: thus Khomeyni because shaykh rather than shaikh is used. For helpwith the transliteration I am indebted beyond adequate words to WheelerThackston, Jr. Full diacriticals, for reasons beyond our control, are pre­served only in the glossary. Nonspecialists should be forewarned thatsome of the diacriticals are crucial: rawda is pronounced rawza.

Elaine Akhavi, in her passionate and intensely vital way, desperatelywanted to share with Iranian Muslims the similar struggles which manyEast European Jews underwent in the last two generations. I hope thisbook, which she was not able to live to see, contributes to the dialogueshe envisioned and conveys the sense of experiential reality she sought tocapture in her art. I treasure her enthusiasm for chapter 3 of this bookand her comment: "Don't let them make you change a word."

Finally and most importantly, two models and mentors have inspiredand sustained me intellectually as well as emotionally for many years. Ina number of ways, what follows about logic and- validation, about his­tory and social differentiation, and about liberalism and religious mean­ing grows out of a deep and continuing dialogue with a geographer andhistorian, and with a mathematician and geodesist: my parents, Eric andIrene Fischer.

Cambridge, MassachusettsMuharram 1400/1979


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After Twenty YearsIntroduction to the 2003 edition

On behalfofIran and the new genera­tion and hope in my homeland ... theyoung generation who struggle fordemocracy and a better life in Iran.

-Samira Makhmalbafaccepting the Cannes Prix

du jury 2000for The Blackboard

I N AT LEAST THREE WAYS, Iran continues to provide a majorexample and challenge for building social and political theory: intheories about the media, in theories about revolution and structural

social change, and in theories about the relation between education systemsand civil society.

Throughout the past century, events and movements in Iran have providedsome of the most cited examples for social theory. Ever since, at least: theConstitutional Revolution of 1906-1911, the forced modernization underReza Shah Pahlavi, the nationalist anti-imperialist movement underthe Mossadeq government and its repression under the Pahlavi restorationof the 1950-1970s. In the1960s and 1970s Iran was a major exemplar forthinking about theories of modernization. Limits on development due toscarcity of capital were said to be removed because of oil revenues, but atthe same time Iran illustrated the distortions these revenues introduced. Theenclave treatment of oil, with revenues going directly to state coffers-thusbypassing more stabilizing revenues produced by the taxation and repre­sentation of expanding sectors of enfranchised citizens in the new economy(the model of reform in nineteenth-century England, for instance)-led toan unstable authoritarian form of government not unlike other oil enclaveformations in Nigeria, Venezuela, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and perhaps eventhe Soviet Union.! In the 1980s Iran became a major exemplar for theoriesabout social revolution. It became a model for examining the changes in thepossibilities for social revolution in the late twentieth century as contrastedwith eighteenth- and nineteenth-century conditions in Europe for the so­called bourgeois and proletarian revolutions theorized by Karl Marx, V. I.Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Antonio Gramsci, and the many builders of socialdemocracy in Europe. The Iranian revolution was also a model that con­trasted with the so-called peasant or Maoist revolutions of the mid-twentieth


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Introduction to the 2003 Edition xiii

century, shifting attention back again from agrarian to urbanizing, industri­alizing, and knowledge-based social formations. Above all, Iran continuesto occupy a unique place in the Muslim world, a continuing cynosure of at­tention and focus of constant commentary, much of it misconceived, stereo­typed, or simply ill-informed.2

The study on which this book was based originally circulated as The QumReport, then as Persian Paedeia, before settling into a title amplified by the1977-1979 revolution, Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution. It orig­inally had two introductions with two different audiences in mind. One in­troduction addressed Iranians who had allowed me into their lives at a for­mative period in my own life, and who thus contributed to my own moral,philosophical, and political sense of self and purpose. The other introduc­tion addressed my fellow Americans, academics, social scientists, and thewell-educated, well-traveled, reading publics amid whom I grew up inthe professional and bureaucratic classes of Washington, D.C., and in theacademies of the University of Chicago, the London School of Economics,the Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard University. Publishers, beingwhat they are, refused, of course, the very idea of double audiences.

The Qum Report had a certain drawing power reflected in its "from thefront lines of political conflict" title. First notices came in columns byJoseph Alsop in The New Yorker, and in the unacknowledged background toBruce Mazlish's psychobiographical article on Ayatullah Khomeyni in NewYork magazine, which was done in the mode of his earlier path-breakingpsychobiographies of nationalist leaders with origins not purely of the na­tions they came to represent and lead, thus psychologically playing uponpowerful ambivalences, erasures, and purifications. My own effort to un­pack the rhetoric, political uses, and power of Khomeyni's persona andcharisma sought explanation in four Iranian frames of interpretation: bio­graphy, persona, politics, and gnosis. This approach insists on the interac­tion of multiple levels ofexplanation or interpretive framing (Fischer 1983).

The second title, Persian Paedia, attempted to convey a broader sense ofthe civilizational and epistemological richness of a set ofhistorical horizonsin dialogue with "the West" (as well as "the East") even before the classicalGreek worlds that are often taken to be foundational for Euro-American civ­ilization. But it is, of course, the debate tradition ("dispute," disputation,bahs), highlighted in the third and final title (common to all the scholasticreligious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism,Hinduism, and Confucianism), that would provide much, but not all, of thelanguage for the coming revolutionary process. Two other key media of therevolution, in addition to the literate and oral disputation technologies, werethe social drama technologies, as well as the systematic techniques of sym­bol and paradigm formation and interpretive framing.

Social drama unfolded in two temporal forms. There was a fourteen­month temporality of "the revolution proper," which, in their phases and dy­namics, paralleled in very interesting ways the four bourgeois revolutions

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xiv Introduction to the 2003 Edition

schematized by Crane Brinton in his 1939 Anatomy ofRevolution. Thosephases could also be analyzed in terms the anthropologist Victor Turner pro­posed more generally for dramaturgical social processes, in which conflictsthat initially seem unique, upon reflection display processual forms andphases. Turner was particularly interested in the periodic and generationalconflicts that repetitively erupt within the building pressures and tensions ofongoing social structures. But he was later also interested in understandingsimilar cases under conditions when those social structures themselves be­gin to shift or become re-embedded within new, larger scale colonial andneocolonial conditions.

One cannot, however, understand the fourteen-month revolution properwithout understanding the century-long social revolution from the 1870sto the 1970s (which continues its slow pace today). This longer temporalityof social revolution has quite interesting parallels with-as well as someimportant differences from-the account of social revolution that Marxsketched in his dramaturgical essay on the French revolution(s) in The Eigh­teenth Brumaire ofLouis Bonaparte, the essay that Claude Levi-Strauss saidhe reread before beginning any new writing project to tease out the long­term structural changes that underlie surface, nonenduring changes.

Paradigms of symbol formation and interpretive framing-this century­long social-processual revolution is narrated in quite different ways bydifferent social actors, drawing upon alternative left, liberal, or Islamistgenealogies (Fischer 1987, 1993). It is therefore critical also to focus atten­tion on the rhetorical and symbolic paradigms used to recruit and mobilizethe revolutionary process proper in the fourteen months from November1977 to February 1979. These were drawn from symbolic forms central tocertain of the class-linked religiosities of Iran. Among the most important isthe Karbala Paradigm, which provided a psychology of stoic determinationto fight for social justice even against overwhelming odds. The KarbalaParadigm is enacted in many public theatrical forms from the passion playsand processions of the first ten days of Moharram, to the framings of popu­lar preachments or sermons (rawzas) used on many occasions throughoutthe year. Teenagers in religiously conservative communities enjoy imitatingthe styles and quirks of the most popular preachers, much like they wouldpop stars. Symbolic systems can be deep and enduring, but they are notstatic, nor do all segments of a society appeal to them in the same degree orin the same way. During the revolution, the mourning for Husayn was trans­formed into an active witnessing (marches, demonstrations, confronta­tions), and after the revolution the state and its charismatic leader, Khomeyni,tried to rechannel the witnessing back into more patient forms, less threat­ening to their own management of the gaps between promise and reality.Different classes or segments of society adopt different forms of religiosity,and one of the functions of religious language is to coordinate these differ­ences, at times helping to align them, make them feel unified, and reduce thedifferentiations that otherwise serve as identifying marks of competition,

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Introduction to the 2003 Edition xv

debate, dialogue, and differential sense of self and group among them. The­orists with little on-the-ground experience, who locate the difference in theIranian revolution primarily in Shi'ism or Islam, are often led astray by anoversimplified account ofreligion or ideology when what they need is an ap­preciation of the internal divisions, competitions, and struggles for domi­nant interpretations of the symbols in play.

Targeted Ethnography

We can create a Husayn Sabzian with a wide angle lens who dissolves into his so­cial background and becomes a statistical sample; or with a telephoto lens we canseparate him from the background so that he stands out. Which is realism?.Through color, lens, frame, picture size, story line, acting, we create a reality dif­ferent from the rest, and thus preserve our own interpretation.... Social realismin the Eastern bloc, neo-realism in Italy, magical realism in Latin America-allpoint to the fact that realism is not a singular .

-Mohsen Makhmalbaf, "Realism in the Whole ofRealism: On the Pretext ofRe­

viewing Close Up, Directed by Abbas Kiarostami"

Qum was a strategic site for the study of these rhetorical and symbolicparadigms, but it could not be the only ethnographic locus for this study.Qum was the seminary town of Iran for training religious leaders, an im­portant node in the circuits of sending out preachers and imams around thecountry, a central router in exchanges among the establishments of the lead­ing ayatullahs in Najaf (southern Iraq) and other parts of Iran, the secondmost important shrine town in Iran (after the tomb of the eighth Imam inMashad), and-in accord with the fact that social power often comes fromparadox or social tension-a mausoleum site for Persian royalty, particu­larly of the previous Qajar dynasty. As a town it provided a microcosm ofsocial tensions in those between the seminarians and the town folk. It alsoplayed various roles in national politics, from the shrine providing a placeof neutral refuge (bast) from pursuit by state authority, to gradually becom­ing, since thel920s, with Najaf in southern Iraq, the focal establishment ofa religious counter-elite to the royal state. By the time I did the study inQum, I had already lived for two and a half years in another conservativetown, Yazd, in the center of Iran. Home to the largest population of villageand traditional Zoroastrians, one of the oldest Jewish communities in Iran,an important Bahai community, Yazd was also another conservative centerof Shi'ism passively mobilized against the Pahlavi regime-the currentPresident, Ayatullab S. Muhammad Khatami, is the son of a former Ayatul­lab ofYazd, Ayatullab S. Abbas Khatami (Fischer 1973, 1990: 61-62). I hada sense ofhow both the social networks and the ideology ofShi'ism radiatedout from Qum, in what ways Qum was quite different and distinctive fromall other places in Iran, and how it was central to the tensions of all thoseother places. Moreover, my fieldwork in Qum was part of a larger compar­ative project on madrasas in the Islamic world. This project was designed to

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xvi Introduction to the 2003 Edition

pair an American research student with a native research peer. My companionin Iran was Shahrough Akhavi, an American educated dual citizen (Iranianand American) who did the complementary leg of the fieldwork in Tehran, thepolitical capital ofthe country, where so many ofthe previous political sciencefield projects had attempted to map the institutional structures and (in)stabili­ties of the Iranian state and of the society it attempted to govern and reform(Akhavi 1980; Bill 1972; Binder 1962; Cottam 1964; Zonis 1971; for a morerecent update, see Brumberg 2001). The larger project was a comparativestudy ofmadrasas also in Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, andTurkey, directed by Fazlur Rahman and Leonard Binder.

In the history of social science projects, thus, it lies between the team andarea-study projects of the 1960s, and the multi-locale, multi-sited ethnogra­phies that George Marcus and I promoted in Anthropology as Cultural Cri­tique (1986, 2nd edition 1999). Many have been tickled by the final anec­dote in this book, where I evoke a dialogue between Ayatuallah Mohammad­Kazem Shariatmadari and Claude Levi-Strauss, albeit in the mode of re­flecting upon my shortcomings as young research student and of humanistanthropology in a hard, practical world. This evocation, like the openinganecdote, of my debate with Ayatullah Beheshti stands for a chess-game­like dialogue of position-taking both among the scholastic-religious tradi­tions, and also between these historical, scholarly formations with the con­temporary literary-critical readings and reflections of James Joyce, JacquesDerrida, Edmond Jabes, Emmanuel Levinas, and others, which I elaboratemore fully in the sequel, Debating Muslims: Cultural Dialogues in Post­modernity and Tradition.

Media Theory

There is no lack of knowledge, said the guide,But then it is dispersed 'mongst all the folk.

-Firdausi, Shahnameh

Iranian cinema has reemerged in the 1990s as the most talked about cine­matic tradition on the international film festival circuits, replacing Italianneorealism of the 1950s, East European neorealism or surrealism of the1960s, French New Wave of the 1970s, and Chinese fifth generation film ofthe 1980s. Cinema is of interest in its own right but also as one of a set ofnew activated media. Poster art, cartoons, graffiti, slogans, songs, and poetryalso draw upon and reinvent older traditions of Iran and abroad. Together allthese media create lively public visual and sound spaces. The cover of Iran:From Religious Dispute to Revolution shows one of the extraordinaryposters from the Iranian revolution of 1977-1979, one that draws upon thePersian miniature tradition of painting, as well as upon Qur' anic and Bibli­cal stories and imagery, and a rich tradition of satirical political cartoons.I 1hese posters vividly register the coming together of a contemporary hy­bridity composed with strands of Shi'ite imagery in a palate of green, black,

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Introduction to the 2003 Edition xvii

white (and red); of third world revolutionary imagery and poster-making inred, white, and black; and of commercial art styles from Hallmark card sac­charine to heavy metal in psychedelic colors (Fischer 1989; Fischer andAbedi 1990: chapter 6; see now also Chelkovsky and Dabashi 2000). Theposters are part of the small media-cartoons, graffiti, wall notices, ban­ners, songs, slogans, couplets, poems-that helped fill visual and soundspace: public maidans and demonstration routes, walls and billboards,building interiors and roadside exteriors. These cinematic and small media,in tum, playoff earlier poetry, parables and proverbs, short stories and nov­els, epic narrations (naqqali) and oral storytelling: reworking, commenting,layering; creating allusions and references, reminders and juxtapositions,memorials and immemorials (Fischer 1984,2001,2002).

The transfers from oral-life worlds to literate ones to secondary or elec­tronic oral ones are not relations of replacement, but postings back and forthacross horizons and experiences. The sequel volume, Debating Muslims,registers this in its series of illustrations, beginning with the same posterfrom the front cover of Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution, but withinserted cameos of Sayyed Mahmud Taleghani and Dr. Ali Shariati, effortsby factions within the revolution to claim the legacies of these leaders of the1970s, and to claim the legacies of both revolutions: 1977-1979, 1873­1979. The front and back covers of Debating Muslims juxtapose two imagesof Muslim debate: one from Meshkini's famous miniature painting ofNoah's Ark (a hybridization of Mughal and Persian painting, Biblical andQur' anic story [254]), the other a photograph of the two authors, one recit­ing while holding a copy of Firdausi's Shahnameh, the other recording,inscribing, listening. The juxtaposition signifies a dialogue of paintingand photography, orality and literacy, Islamic and pre-Islamic, Iranian andAmerican. The images are transforms: sage and king, sacred and profane,knowledge and power; cultural performer-guide-expositor and anthropologist­rapporteur; Iran and Houston).

The primary media of Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution are the­atrical performance media. They include: processions, passion plays, andrawdas (preachments that were simultaneously entertainment, politicallycoded, and community-building); oral debates in madrasas disciplined byrules of inference, deduction, and chains of differentially trustworthy au­thoritative hadith and sunnat; spatial and protocol choreographies of shrinesand Ayatullahs' reception rooms. Social dramas of revolution and of politi­cal struggle are also theatrical performance media. The "Karbala paradigm"(foundational story of Shi'ism of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn at Kar­bala) enacted the philosophical and emotional power and charisma ofShi'ism in contrast to Sunni interpretations of Islamic history. Deploymentof the Karbala paradigm in the revolution also was an exemplar of the ex­plosive power of symbolic or theatrical politics that a decade later wouldhelp, in secular forms, to push the former Soviet Union into implosion(Fischer and Grigorian 1993).

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xviii Introduction to the 2003 Edition

Equally important to developments in the 1980s after the revolution werethe devastations and the displacement of refugees across Iran from the eightyear Iran-Iraq War, and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan (followed byAmerican-Pakistani-Saudi supported guerilla war that drove the Russiansout, followed then by a civil war, and the coming of the brutal, fundamen­talist regime of the Taliban). These wars on the borders in Khuzistan, Kur­distan, and Afghanistan became subjects of Iranian films in the 1990s, filmsthat challenged both the religiosity of the hard-line religious conservativesin Iran and the jingoism ofAmerican and Russian nationalisms with a quiet,stoical humanism (occasionally also, in quiet background cues, drawing onthe Karbala paradigm in a more philosophical fashion), and recognizingboth the importance and the limitations of that humanism (Fischer 2003).

While there is a continuity between the New Wave cinema of Iran in the1970s and the films of the 1990s, there are some interesting discursive andethnographic differences. As part of the analysis of discursive class differ­ences in the period leading up to the revolution of 1977-1979, it was use­ful to track the incomprehension between two intelligentsias. The so-called"roshan-fekr" or "enlightened" intelligentsia had its roots in, or drew forcultural purposes on, a village and traditional past, but its education, audi­ence, and aspirations were in urban, secular and Euro-American arenas.It was a liminal stratum of the bourgeoisie caught betwixt and between. Ithad created a discursive tradition of surrealism, elaborated in the wake ofSadeq Hedayat's haunting and powerful short stories and his masterworknovella, Buf-e Kur (The Blind Owl). This "surrealism" differed fromFrench surrealism: its distinctive Persian emotional and philosophical reg­isters were used as vehicles for cultural politics, for allegorical and indirectpolitical engagement. The alternative intelligentsia, from the religiousmadrasas and theological colleges, saw nothing in this discursive forma­tion but nihilism. And in mirroring fashion the roshan-fekran saw nothingin the discourse of the politically engaged religious intelligentsia but repe­titions of obfuscating akhunds. The religious leaders, however, understoodthe power of the media, and that for any real change in society, they neededto control and use the media. Cultural and media politics were high on theagenda of the revolution.

Although in both the visual media ofcinema and prose forms of short storyand novel there was mutual incomprehension in the 1970s, after the revolu­tion, when cinema revived in the mid 1980s, the cinematic tactics of the NewWave came to be wielded as a vital discursive thread of new story and imageformation by such filmmakers as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami,Dariush Mehruji, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Tahmineh Milani, KianushAyyari, Ebrahim Hatamikia, and younger directors at the tum of the twenty­first century such as Bahman Qobadi, Marziyeh Meshkini, and SamiraMakhmalbaf. These films participate in the shift that Gilles Deleuze hascalled the shift from movement-image to time-image, from plot driven genrefilm to more inventive film that experiments with the different sensory and

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perceptual dimensions of story-telling. Thus, interestingly, the war filmsfrom the Iran-Iraq War period do not focus on or demonize the enemy, butrather focus on the Persian themes of stoicism, self-care, and care for others(Sohrabi 1995). And, in general, traditional frames such as religion are onlyevoked as cultural resources, but the films themselves play with their own hu­manist narrations: constructing, deconstructing, trying alternatives, forgingnew stories. As Theodor Adorno argues in his book Aesthetic Theory, "Art­works recall the theologumenon that in the redeemed world, everythingwould be as it is and yet wholly other" (6). I call this "filmic judgment andcultural critique: the work of art, ethics, and religion in Iranian cinema"(Fischer 2001,2002,2003; see also Dabashi 2001; Naficy 2001).

Cinema operates in transnational circuits, and the new media of the1990s-the Internet and the increasing connectivity of satellite television­began slowly also to have an effect both inside Iran and in further keeping theconnections with Iranian diasporas live. One of the more interesting experi­ments was the Quixotic but effective initiative by California-resident ZiaAtabay, journalist Ali Reza Meybodi, and satirist Ali Fakhredin (Ali Dean)as the irascible mulla "Hajji," to air satirical, cultural, and call-in shows bysatellite television (Lewis 2002). Iran responded by jamming the Eutelsatsatellite, Hot Bird 5, which carried NITV, disabling the entire satellite jointlyowned by French, British, Italian, German, and other European telecommu­nication companies. Further technological attack and counterattack ensued:to jam the signal, Iran needed to track the uplink, which was forwarded via aground site in Germany. By moving the uplink to New Jersey, NITV couldavoid the jammers in Iran. After the September 11,2001 attacks on NewYork's World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon in Washington, NITVcalled for Iranians to show solidarity with the U.S. by carrying candles intothe streets. They did, and many were arrested for doing so. Because of theburn rate of capital, NITV will probably have to turn to a scrambled signaland subscription based business model. One wonders how NITV and rivalsatellite channels, some perhaps backed by the Iranian government, will addlayers to the emergent civil society of Iran in the coming years.

Persian Paedeia: Madrasas, Educational Systems,and Civil Societies

Ayatullah Shariatmadari ... very patiently and good humoredly allowed me toelicit his genealogy. When I was done, he asked, with a wry twinkle in his eyes,"Now about this science of anthropology, tell me: is it cooked or raw (pokhta yanapokhta)?"

-Michael Fischer, Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution

One of the most important baselines "to think with" that this volume docu­ments is a religious education system, out of which the Islamic revolution ofIran partly emerged, but that also stands in very sharp contrast to the funda­mentalist madrasas of much of the Muslim world in the 1990s.

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One of the contributions of this volume, and its sequel (particularly thesecond chapter of Debating Muslims, "Qur'anic Dialogics: Islamic Poeticsand Politics for Muslims and for Us"), remains the stress on the critical ap­paratus of the debate and disputation system of the madrasas. It stands incontrast to the rote learning said to characterize madrasas in other parts ofthe Islamic world (Eickelman 1978 on Morocco; Heffner 2000: 34 on In­donesia; see various documentary footage from Pakistan madrasas in the af­termath of September 2001, and the marvelous scene of an Afghan madrasain Mohsen Makhmalbaf's fiction film Qandahar [2001]), and indeed in con­trast to the rote learning that was promoted in parts of the secular educa­tional system. (In some countries, madrasas at the primary level were giventhe task of teaching basic literacy. As such they were incorporated as feed­ers into the state systems and were part of the development strategies of thestate and international literacy programs.) In Iran, the struggles over meth­ods, tools of critical evaluation (from grammatical and rhetorical analysis toevaluation of sources and of contexts of enunciation), and new subject mat­ters were features of both the madrasa system and the secular state systems.It was striking that the higher echelon religious teachers usually sent theirsons to study at the universities, recruiting their new students rather fromthe lower classes in a system of upward mobility. Many of the new gener­ation religious leaders had a dual education in both madrasa and secularuniversity, and the best of their students were encouraged to do the same.

Indeed, today the religious seminaries of Iran no longer admit studentswho do not first have high school diplomas. It is not accidental that the set­ting of a madrasa in S. Reza Mir-Karimi's fiction film Zir-e Nur-e Mah (Un­der the Light of the Moon [2001]) provides a contrast with the madrasa inMakhmalbaf's Qandahar. Mir-Karimi's film follows the ambivalences of amaturing student as he goes on a picaresque journey (meeting a series ofpeople who advance the protagonist's understanding) among the homeless.These people sleep and eat in a makeshift camp under a bridge; however,they teach the young man about mutual care and support under the harshestof conditions, including the way that religion fits into life in a different waythan his fellow students might imagine in their scholastic studies in themadrasa. The madrasa fits here in a very different point in the life cycle,educational sophistication, and moral growth than the madrasa pictured inQandahar. For an American, it has echoes and possibilities of the social call­ing of the 1960s street ministries. It gestures, perhaps, as well toward therole of religious organizations in providing social services, which also hasbeen an important part of the Islamic revival's political power in the Islamicrevolution of the 1980s in Iran and elsewhere in the Muslim world.

But here this social calling of religion is matured into a filmic space forindividual moral development and for critical thought that does not fail toquestion religious authority and institutions by holding them up tothe conditions of societal needs: a space of filmic judgment and culturalcritique.

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The point here is not that the madrasas of the 1970s were already retooledfor the modem world or ideal crucibles for critical thinking. Rather the pointis that critical debate has grounds within Islamic scholarly traditions and isnot just an import from the outside. Nor can the changes in the madrasasystem be viewed in isolation even within Iran. Challenges came in terms ofjob preparation from the secular schools, but in intellectual and emotionalterms as great a challenge came from charismatic lay religious reformers out­side the madrasa system, of whom the most important was Dr. Ali Shariati.Shariati challenged students in both secular high schools and madrasas tothink through the meaning of Islam in the modem world for themselves. Heshowed them that they could incorporate Western thinkers into their framesof reference without giving up Islam, that they could partake in debates onthe world stage, not just within traditionalized worlds. The call to think forthemselves, to not blindly follow ill-educated mullas, to read the sources forthemselves-this was powerfully appealing to the literate young. Literacyfreed them from mullas as gate-keepers of truth and knowledge, democra­tized argumentation, and empowered them as carriers of new ways of think­ing within their families as well as in society at large. Like most leaders ofIslamic modernist movements, Shariati was not a cleric. The call could be adouble-edged sword: liberating for free and critical debate, but also easilyslipping into slogans and ideological enthusiasms without internal dialecti­cal, critical, or institutional checks. But in the 1970s, this felt to many of thestudents in the madrasas, as well as in high schools, to be a lesser dangerthan the closed worlds of the old madrasa curricula and madrasa institutionsthat had been under negative pressure from the state for decades.

In the ensuing years, efforts have been made to use the new electronic me­dia to make the critical apparatuses of the Shi'ism more easily searchable.A Computer Research Center in the Faiziyeh seminary has been makingbooks and responsa ifatwas) available on CD-Rom, including word and sub­ject indexes for books of philosophy, logic, and jurisprudence (jiqh). Website construction is also under way (Hilsum 1998). As Jacques Derrida hasargued in another context, such electronic media have the double-edged ef­fect of both extending and undoing efforts at ideological dissemination.

By contrast to this refreshing and renewing the work of the madrasas intandem or in competition with high schools and universities (which them­selves after the revolution were put through a "cultural revolution"), onestriking feature of many parts of the Islamic world in the 1990s was the de­gree to which educational systems were allowed to devolve out of both statecontrol and an environment of competition with secular schools, and intorote learning and mere Islamic indoctrination.

Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia in the 1990s providefour striking contrasts to Qum of the 1970s as well as to their own nationaland transnational settings in the 1970s. In Malaysia, what was once a vigor­ous reformist youth movement led by Anwar Ibrahim, funded in part by theSaudi Islamic World Youth Organization, became integrated into the state

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structure, and Islamization became the code for affirmative action forMalay (against Malaysian-Chinese). In the 1990s Malaysia became a siteof novel privatization, transnationalization, and franchising of education(Lotfalian 1999).

Indonesia's pesantrans, or Qur'anic boarding schools (given a classic ac­count in Clifford Geertz's Religion ofJava), have recently spawned somefundamentalist variants. In the aftermath of the al-Qaeda attacks on NewYork and Washington on September 11, 2001, and President George W.Bush's war on terrorism, attention has been directed towards a large (1,600students) pesantran in Solo, headed by Abu Bakr Baasyir, "Abdus Samad,"where members of the Southeast Asia-wide Gema'a Islamiyya militant net­work have trained, and made connections with the militant madrasas andfighting groups based in Pakistan. Baasyir was jailed during the 1980s foradvocating an Islamic state, and his brother-in-law leads the Surakarta Is­lamic Youth Front that went through hotels in town after September 11 look­ing for Americans "to protect them." Solo has been the site of communal ri­ots in recent years, particularly the burning ofChinese properties. (On Islamand democratization and the spread ofboth pesantrans and madrasas acrossIndonesia as channels for rapid dissemination of modernist-Islamist ideolo­gies in Indonesia, see generally Hefner 2000; but no good account exists ofsuch radical pesantrans or madrasas aside from current journalism, e.g.,Bonner and Mydans 2002; Bonner 2002; Perlez 2002.)

Pakistan's Deobandi madrasas have received the most attention fromjournalists as Taliban and al-Qaeda preparatory schools for fighters inAfghanistan, and for militant groups in Kashmir and in Central Asia. In2002 there were approximately six hundred thousand students in theseschools, of whom seventeen thousand were Afghanis and sixteen thousandwere Arabs, and another thousand were "other foreigners" (JehI2002). De­scribed as performing an important social function of giving meals and shel­ter to Afghan refugee boys as well as to poor Pakistani village boys, andsupported with Saudi funds (until these were cut off when the madrasassupported the attacks on Saudi Arabia for allowing American troops to bestationed in Saudi Arabia), they are also described as having little pretenseto teaching anything except rote memorization of the Qur'an and militantideology. The connection of these Pakistani madrasas, primarily alongthe border with Afghanistan from Baluchistan to the Northwest Frontier,to the original Deobandi madrasa in Uttar Pradesh, India, founded in 1866,has been disavowed to the media by scholars associated with the latter, par­ticularly regarding violence and jihad. The dars-i nizami curriculum as mod­ified by the Deobandis is said to be fossilized with a prohibition against theintroduction of any new texts written in the last two centuries. But whilethere may be no new texts of fiqh or usul, many religious and political tractshave been written, and the Deobandi movement has also factionated intoat least two main streams. The anti-colonial, anti-Western, nationalist ten­dency led by Husain Ahmad Madni (1879-1957), which remained strong

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in Pakistan, has consistently sounded similar to current day rhetoric. Sincethe days of the anti-colonial movement, there has been a tradition of clos­ing schools to let students take part in political demonstrations. In any case,these madrasas have been part of the cynical use of Islamic fundamental­ism by the Pakistani state, the Saudis, and the United States. This has nowturned savagely back upon the U.s. and contributed to the sectarian andclass violence, and deterioration of education and civil society in Pakistan(Hoodbhoy 1991; Malik 1996; S. V. Nasr2001; Rashid 2000; Bonner 2002).3

The Deobandi madrasas, and the associated JUI (Jamiyyat-i 'Ulama-i Is­lam) party, are not the only madrasas or fundamentalist party influential inPakistan. The JI (Jama'at-i Islami) party founded by Sayyid Abu'l-A'la'Mawdudi (1903-79), and now led by Qazi Husain, is a more modernist­fundamentalist, and middle-class, reform movement. In recent years, theJI has expanded its own madrasa network and pursued a "revolutionary"cadre-style party structure among the elites of the bureaucracy and mili­tary, in addition to pursuing electoral politics. There is also the Ahl-i Hadithmovement, which supports the militant Lashkar-e Taiba. Other importantmovements are the Tablighis, who have a strong base among small business­men, and the Barelwis, who have a more sufi saint-and-follower organi­zational structure. Twenty years after the University of Chicago Islam andSocial Change Project focused on the then Maulana Maudidi-inspired funda­mentalist madrasas (M. Ahmad 1980; see also Rahman 1980), the militantmadrasas today are said to have turned more violent and "jihadist." (On thePakistani madrasas connections to Central Asia, as well as the radicaliza­tion of Central Asian Muslims who served in the Russian army in Afghan­istan, see Rashid 2002a, 2002b). In 2002, Pakistan, under the Presidencyof General Pervez Musharraf, has announced policies to regulate and mon­itor the madrasas. A key dilemma is that pressuring the madrasas may gen­erate strong resistance especially if nothing is done about the deterioratingstate public schools.

Saudi Arabia presents another kind of comparison and contrast with Iran.An oil producing rentier state, somewhat like, but with a different socialstructure than, Iran, money for Saudi citizens was not an issue in the 1980s,not an issue until after the Gulf War against Iraq, and even then it was pri­marily a long-term planning problem rather than desperation. The clearestcomparison with Iran in the 1970s is the double-edged sword of success inraising literacy to over ninety-percent among the young generation, and in­creasing the number of university graduates from 2,500 in 1970 to 200,000a year by the end of the 1990s, at least a third of whom cannot find jobs con­sonant with their sense of entitlement. These numbers are similar to Iran'stwenty years ago, when 300,000 high school graduates sat exams for 30,000places in university; the best and the brightest went to the U.S. for uni­versity education, or to Europe and India. The structural alienation and po­litical discontent is similar. It is also similar, perhaps, to the university­educated students recruited to the militant jama'at islamiyya groups in

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1970s Egypt. But Saudi Arabia (with tacit U.S. support) has allowed the ed­ucational system to be occupied by reactionary clerics. In the 1970s, con­ventional wisdom assumed that the more conservative Wahhabi clerics werebeing gradually marginalized in all institutions of the state, and being re­placed by professional technocrats. In the aftermath of the September 11,2001, attack on the U.S. by fifteen Saudis and four others, attention refo­cused on the virulence of not only popular preachers and columnists in thestate controlled newspapers, but also on what the public schools were teach­ing. Tenth-grade classes in public high schools nationwide, it was reported,are given a Ministry of Education textbook, Monotheism by Sheikh SallehAI-Fawzan, full of violent anti-Christian and anti-Jewish interpretations ofIslam. About Judgment Day, for instance, it proclaims, "The Hour will notcome until ... Muslims will kill all the Jews" (Sennott 2001: AI). The alien­ation and militant calls for violent jihad are most intense in those areas by­passed by the economic boom of the 1970s, especially the southwestern ar­eas along Highway 15, whence came twelve of the fifteen Saudi hijackers(of the nineteen total) who seized four commercial airliners on Septem­ber 11, 2001, (the eightieth anniversary of the Caliphate's abolition, notedOsama bin Laden) flying two into the World Trade Center towers in NewYork and one into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. (the fourth crashingin Pennsylvania) killing approximately three thousand civilians. The excusethat attacks on the U.S., Jews, and Christians are just a pressure valve in acountry where political debate is minimal or indirect, has, as with the cyni­cal use of Islam in Pakistan, turned to bite its sponsors. Indeed, Osama binLaden taunted the Saudi leadership in his videotapes by repeatedly invokingthe names oftribes-al-Shahri, al-Ghamdi, al-Hazmi-from which the hi­jackers came as if to signal that he could mobilize internal resentmentagainst the regime and drive a wedge between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.The latter is a tactic like what the Iranian students used to great effect in tak­ing the American hostages in order to stop any rapprochement between theinterim revolutionary government and the U.S. (or the subordinating politi­cal-economic forces represented by trade with the U.S.). As much as theanger of this region may be directed towards the U.S., Jews, and Christians,it is also directed at the internal colonization within Saudi Arabia. Thesouthwestern region is often denigrated by other Saudis as "primitive," andthe new five-star tourist industry in Asir is felt by locals to reinforce theseinequities by providing only service jobs, making the locals servants toricher Saudi elites.4 Highway 15, between Taif and Yemen, built by Osamabin Laden's father, is a favorite road for bored Saudi youths to race and crashtheir big American cars and a corridor for the passage of those involved inthe attack on the USS Cole inYemen and the bombers of the U.S. Embassiesin Kenya and Tanzania.

The Saudi Arabian public schools are not madrasas, and it would be in­teresting to know what is taught in the seminaries that train the Wahhabiclerics in Saudi Arabia, as well as their connections to the madrasas in Pak-

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istan and to Central Asia. Educational systems are not just marginal institu­tions, but have powerful consequences for civil society, both national andtransnational.

It is crucial to understand that these militant educational settings do notrepresent Islam in general. It may seem ironic that the clearest way of mak­ing this point is to look closely at Iran's madrasas in the 1970s as describedin this volume. Iran's madrasas described here were undergoing modern­ization in an attempt to compete with secular public and private high schoolsand universities.

In the madrasas described here, I try to provide a feeling for how studentswere trained, how they were taught to analyze texts, how they sharpenedtheir critical skills through arguing in pairs, and through engaging theirteachers in debates. The term "dispute" in the title is crucial for the localsense of pedagogy, critique, and political stakes. I try to provide a compar­ative understanding of the disputation traditions in the medieval traditionsof Christianity, the talmudic ones of Judaism (formed together with Islamicinterpretive methods in Babylonia or today southern Iraq), and the Islamicones of the Shi'ite madrasas. In the sequel, Debating Muslims, written withMehdi Abedi, who was a research assistant for this volume as well, weextend the analysis by exploring both the debates between Dr. Ali Shariatiand Morteza Mutahheri, and more importantly why Ayatullah Khomeyni wasunable, by his own account, to show firm textual grounds for political ruleby the clerics, and how he was forced instead to argue "arbitrarily" (with nofirm textual authority) the intent of lines interpreted otherwise by tradition.In fact, Khomeyni's arguments drew from Western political theory as wellas Islamic sources, just as his understanding of Islam drew from mystical aswell as rational sources. (Hence the importance of understanding the pow­erful paradoxes of his persona and charisma analyzed in "Imam Khomeini:Four Levels of Understanding" [Fischer 1983].) As symbolically power­ful is the remarkable fact that Ayatullah Ali Khamaene'i, who became thesupreme leader (velayat-efaqih) after Khomeyni, is widely recognized notto have earned the title Ayatullah by traditional scholarly or institutionalstandards (technically, in 1970s language he was a Hujjat aI-Islam), and in­deed many would argue that events have come to pass as Ayatullah Shariat­madari warned they might in this volume.

And yet, the extraordinary aspect of the Iranian revolution is that, how­ever glacially, the underlying demographic, educational, and generationaldynamics have continued to push the revolution forward in a democratic di­rection. The election, twice now, ofPresident Muhammad Khatami is a con­tinuing powerful expression of this process, even if it is still blocked by pow­erful reactionary clerics who control the security and judicial systems andmuch of the parallel institutional structure. Iran may yet prove to be a leaderin an escape from what has been a fundamentalizing direction of politics inthe Islamic world where, in places other than Iran, Islamic welfare and fight­ing organizations have stepped into voids of the disintegration of state ser-

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vices, and the creation of "sacrifice zones" outside the enclaves of wealthand transnational trade. This was the fear of the 1980s articulated by suchintellectuals as the Palestinian Ibrahim Abu-Lughod (1966), the MoroccanAbdullah Laroui (1976), and the Pakistani Fazlur Rahman (1980). In theIran of the 1970s, where less dire circ*mstances prevailed, and a more clas­sic form ofrevolution unfolded, we can perhaps hope for a more Islamic lib­eral future. It is a different model and historical trajectory than the hopes forliberal Islam in other parts of the Islamic world: "civil Islam" in Indonesia(Heffner 2000), or a possible de facto pluralism and Islamic liberalism inEgypt constructed out of contending groups holding each other in check,rather than sudden procedural democracy or any of the other sudden "solu­tions" proposed by various contending ideologies (Binder 1988).

Theories of Revolution and Social Changes

The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain ofthe living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves andthings, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such peri­ods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past totheir service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes in order topresent the new scene of world history in this time-honored disguise and thisborrowed language.

-Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

You usually had two sorts ofArab operatives to deal with: one set acted as ifhaving an agent from Iran was like having the Prophet's own right-hand man atthe helm, while the other lot were pugnacious and sneering, treating the Persiansas if the ancient battle of Qaddissiyah between the two races had neverended.... The man who had answered him in Persian said, "He says you'vecome here to spy." "Well, we all have to get to America somehow." ... "He's aPakistani. Another whiz from over there. They say if it had been his job theWTC building would have come undone in half a minute."

-Salah Abdoh, The Poet Game

In my writings on the Iranian revolution, I sketched out a series of explana­tory frames or models, which I thought needed to be factored together intomulticausal models to help ask informed questions for continuing to moni­tor and make sense of an ongoing social process. Among these questions arethose that consider generations of Islamic response to Westernization, colo­nialism or neocolonialism, the history of Iranian revolutions, the structuralpatterns of revolutions, the institutional dynamics of Shi' ism, and the socialagendas being contested and proposed. The revolution of 1977-1979 wasthe fifth time since 1873 that an alliance of secular and religious forces hadcome together either to force a change in the political system or in major pol­icy directions; it was the first time, however, that the religious forces wereable to play the dominant partner.

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In a comparative essay on Islamic movements over five generations fromthe 1870s to the 1970s and from the Maghreb, or North Africa, in the westto the Indian subcontinent in the east, I sorted through a class and genera­tional analysis (chart 1). Organizationally, the Islamic movements of eachgeneration provided both positive legacies and new problems for the suc­ceeding generations. With renewed (and lay) ijtihad (interpretations for newconditions) and sociopolitical engagement in the eighteenth and nineteenthcentury came also a weakening of older evaluative skills, and as yet a lackof new technocratic ones. In the next generation of the modernist reformers(Afghani, Abduh), science and technology and tutelary democracy becameslogans, but the political economy of dependency was severely underesti­mated, and an elitism vis-a-vis the lower classes was cultivated. In themid-twentieth-century, neofundamentalism brought political organizationof the masses and a kind of ademocratic populism (Muslim Brotherhood,Maududi's Jamiat-i Islam) with a continuing devaluation of traditional eval­uative skills and a totalitarian anti-pluralist attitude towards those who werenot members of the organization. In the post-World War Two generation, Is­lamic socialism brought ideals of economic reconstruction and social wel­fare as responsibilities of the state, but dictatorial means were reinforcedand these decayed into corrupt authoritarianisms. In the 1970s and 1980s,the Islamic resurgence brought movements against corruption and searchesfor moral identity, but where these became instituted in states (Iran, Pak­istan, Saudi Arabia provide very different modes of established state Islam)there was an inability to live up to ideals ofjustice (renewed corruption), anda lack of clarity about strategies for the economy and social welfare.

Within Iranian history over the past five centuries, a similar structuralanalysis of cleric-led struggles could be done sorting by factions, organiza­tional form, and political engagement with the state (chart 2). Across thewestern Islamic world in the past century, there has been a shift of classpower from the shahs, sultans, and upper elements of the patrimonial struc­tures of the Safavid-Qajar-Pahlavi and Ottoman empires into the hands ofthe bureaucratic and petite bourgeois classes. The locus of the dramatic mo­ments of these structural changes occurred in the politicized arenas of thebig cities, where masses of urbanizing peasants and overeducated, under­employed, declasse bourgeoisie could be mobilized in demonstrations thathad the power to constrain, if not change, political power. At times, as in theIranian revolution, these became the sites to demonstrate that political andsocial power had already shifted. The comparative canvas allowed for amapping of religiosities as they varied by class and social segment, and asthey were reformatted and reformulated under changing conditions.

Against this broad comparative canvas, the changes within Iran could besketched with sharper focus. The earlier essay "Islam and the Revolt of thePetite Bourgeoisie" (Fischer 1982), was inspired both by Marx (the ideas ofa social revolution across generations with organizational learning acrosscountries and regions; structural changes being confirmed and legitimated

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Chart 1. Contributions and Failings of the Six Generations

(1) Puritanical religiousreformism (premodernfundamentalism-18th-19thcenturies)

(2) Modernist reformism(Afghani, Abduh, Sir SayyidAhmad Khan, Ataturk,Iqbal-early 20th century)

(3) Neofundamentalists(Muslim Brotherhood,Maududi's Jamiat-i Islam­1930s, 1940s)

(4) Islamic socialism (Nasser,Destour, Ba'th, Bhutto­post-World War II)

(5) Islamic Resurgence of the1970s, 1980s

(6) Transnational, politicalIslam (postnational,amodernist) 1990s, 2000s

• [Afghanistan-Pakistan-SaudiArabia-Sudan-Central Asia­Indonesia: (Taliban, Al-Qaeda,Hizbul-Tahrir, Inter-ServicesIntelligence of Pakistan,Islamic Movement ofUzbekistan, Egyptian IslamicJihad, Indonesia's Gema'aIslamiyya)

• Iran-SYria-Lebanon-Palestine:(Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad,Hamas, al-Aqsa MartYr'sBrigade, Iran RevolutionaryGuards)



• Ijtihad;• Sociopolitical


• Science andtechnology;

• Democracy

• Politicalorganization;

• Populism(ademocratic)

• Economicreconstruction;

• Social welfare

• Leverage againstcorruption;

• search for moralIdentity

• Telemedia: extension &undoing of religiousposition-taking;

• Democratization (Iran,albeit with religioushardliner constraints);

• Global alliances acrosstraditional sectarian andnational divides


• Loss of old scholarly historicaland evaluative skills.

• Lack of new technocratic skills.

• Underestimation of the politicaleconomy of dependency.

• Elitism vis-a-vis the lowerclasses.

• Continued devaluation ofhistorical skills.

• Totalitarian (antiplurist attitudetoward nonmembers).

• Need for dictatorial means:decay into corruptauthoritarianism

• Inability to live up to Islamicideals of justice.

• Lack of clarity aboutfundamentalist versus modernistprogram.

• Deadlocked struggle betweenideals of jumhuriya (republic) vsimara (emir, imam; autocracy);

• Narrowing space for pluralism;• Increased para-state violence,

terror;• Increased vulnerability to


by renegotiating the legal structures of property and civil rights regulatingthe mixed modes of production; and the constraints imposed by the globalpolitical economy whereby crises occurred first not necessarily at the centerof power, but eventually to succeed had to force change at the center andthroughout the system) and by Max Weber (the idea of multicausal heuris­tics with four or five levels of interaction including: psychological anxiety

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Introduction to the 2003 Edition xxix

Chart 2: Clerical Struggles in Iran

Generation (1-6)internal factions (a--c)

State-Clergy Relations

1. Puritanical Reformism

Safavid Dynasty (1501-1722)a) immigrant clergy (e.g. Majlesi) patronage by the state: seminary

activist, dominance-seeking; students, shaykh ul-Islam, judges,vs endowment administrators

b) native gentry clerics, tolerant, withdrawal of clergy to Iraqphilosophically catholic and into quietism (Akhbaris)

Qajar Dynasty (1785-1925)competition

a) Activist dominance-seeking Usulisvs

b) Scholarly, quietist (e.g. Ansari)

2. Modernist Reformism (al-Afghani,Dowlatabadi, Roshdiyeh):

a) Conservatives: anti-constitutionanti-modernists: Nuri, Imam Jomehof Tehran;vs

b) Moderates: pro-constitution, anti­modem schools: Khorasani,Behbehani, Modarris;vs

c) modernists: Dowlatabadi, Roshdiyeh;

struggles for constitution, againstforeign debt enslavement:

1873: de Reuter protests1891-92: Tobacco Regie protests1905-11: Constitutional Revolution

secularization of schools:1851: Dar al-Fanun1911: 123 elementary schools in


4. Social democracy,Mossadeq, National Front

3. Neo-Fundamentalists:Fada'iyan-e Islam, Kashani;

Pahlavi Dynasty (1925-1979)1925-1941

suppression of clergy:• seminary students: from 5-6,000

(1924) to 3,000 (1935) to740 (1940);

• secularization of schools, law, dress,endowments

1941-1960a) Conservative, clerical elite, pro- reemergence of clergy,

stability: Borujerdi, Behbehani, cooperation with crown:Sharestani; 1947: 5-6,000 seminary students;vs 1949: Borujerdi convocation;

b) Neo-Fundamentalist, non-elite 1953: Behbehani and Sharestaniclergy: Kashani; praise the shah;vs 1955: Anti-Baha'i campaign;

c) leftist clergy (Borge'i, Lajevardi)

vsb) opposition clerics (Islamic renewal:

1960-1977opposition to the state in parliament andextralegally; struggle against becoming adeclasse stratum:

1960: Borujnerdi breaks state-clergy truce1960-63: Goftar-e Mah, debates about

marja 'iyyat (leadership of the clergy)

5. Islamic Revivala) conservative, clerical elite (Kho'i,

Shariatmardari, Golpayegani,Khonsari;

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Chart 2 (continued)

Khomeyni, Shirazi, Sadeq Rohani,Taleqani, Mahallati, Montazeri);vs

c) mediating reformers (Motahhari,Beheshti);vs

d) royalists (Mahdavi, Imam Jom'eh ofTehran;

xxx Introduction to the 2003 Edition

1963: 15 Khordad demonstrationsagainst the shah's White Revolution;

1965-73: Hosayniyeh Ershad, Shariati;1970: arrest of Taleqani, exile of 48

seminary teachers from Qum;1971: Khomeyni tells people to boycott

shah's 2,500 years of monarchy;celebration; guerrilla actions begin

1972: 5 Mujaheddin guerillas executed(students of Taleqani);

1975: 15 Khordad demonstrationsagainst the Rastakhiz Party;

1977-79: revolution overthrows Pahlavimonarchy

Islamic Republic of Iran6. Transnational Political Islam

1980s, early 1990sa) protection of the revolution:

• assasination of faction leaders inEurope, America (e.g. Baktiar,Tabataba'i)

• Iraq-Iran war• seizure of American Embassy

b) export of the revolution• coup plots in Bahrain; uprising in

Saudi Arabia;• arms, money, men support of

Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad inLebanon, Syria, Palestine;

• guerilla, terrorist, paramilitarytraining camps for foreignnationals

• efforts to project influence intoAfghanistan, Central Asia;

• appeal to African Americans;• use of the Hajj as venue for

propagating the revolution;

struggle over velayat-e jaqih• Hojjatiyeh Society: linked to bazaar

anti-statist, many opposedoctrine of velayat-e jaqih;

• 1989: Constitution:-separates positions of jaqih

and marja;-separates authority of jaqih

and President; of Majlis(parliament) and Councilof Guardians;

• In first 4 years as jaqih, Khamene' idid not issue a single religiousedict (jatwa), lacking thereligious status

• 1990: Ayatullah 'Ali Araki issuesjatwa contradicting one byKhomeini, thereby assertingindependent religious authority

• 1990: followers of AyatullahMontazeri question Khamene' i'squalifications to be jaqih;

• 1991: Majlis passes amendmentto election law: absoluteloyalty to the faqih is conditionfor running for elective office;100 parliament deputies visitMontazeri in Qum in protest;

• 1992: purge of Majlis, cabinet, andcandidates for election;

struggle over the media:• Voice and Vision ojIran Broadcast

chief, Mohammad Hasemi­Rafsinjani promotes openness;

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Introduction to the 2003 Edition xxxi

• Minister of Culture & IslamicGuidance, Khatami, promotesrevival of film industry;

• 1992-93: purge of Khatami andHashemi-Rafsinjani;

vsb) pro Velayat-efaqih: Khamenei'i;

• newspapers: Jomhuriyeh Eslami,Resaleh;

• control of judiciary and coercivestate institutions: Council ofGuardians; Judiciary chiefAyatullah Mohammad yazdi;Special Clerical Tribunal;Revolutionary Guards; Ministryof Information (linked to murderof six intellectuals);

• Combatant Clergy Association; QumTheological Lecturers'Association

1997-2002jumhuriyeh vs velayat-e jaqih:

a) pro Jumhuriyeh :• 3 generations: Ayatullah Montazeri;

President Khatami, Soroush;students;

• newspapers: Salam, Khordad, Asr-eMa, Rah-e No;

• groups:-Islamic Iran Participation Front

(est. 1998): many fromAssociation of Combatant;

-2 Khordad Front: Islamic left,IIPF; and Servants ofConstruction (centrists andright of center);

-former Students of the Imam'sLine: Abbas 'Abdi, AyatullahMusavi Kho'eyniha, BehzadNabavi, Massoumeh Ebtekar,Sa'id Hajjarian;

vsc) projection of pragmatic geopolitics:

• cooperation with the U.S. in supportof Northern Alliance againstTaliban in Afghanistan;

• enforcing of oil embargo on Iraq intacit cooperation with the U.S.;

• attention to building oil pipeline toIndia, bolstering relations withSouth Asia;

vsb) projection of fundamentalist Islam:

• continued support of arms, men,for Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad;secret arms shipment toPalestine Authority;

a) projection of liberal Islam:• international success of Iranian

cinema;• President Khatami's call for a

dialogue of civilizations;civil society; rule of law;

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xxxii Introduction to the 2003 Edition

structures, locus in the stratification system of different forms of religiosity,consequential differences of organizational forms of discipline, symbolic orcultural forms of motivation and valuation, the "world-historical" horizonor context of the global political economy).

A later essay "The Iranian Revolution: Five Frames for Understanding"(Fischer 1993) sketched overlays of five structural temporalities or socialdramatic forms of unfolding. Two of these were the five generational anal­ysis and the five centuries of cleric-led struggles in Iran. The third remindsthat revolutions have a processual form-they are not events, but unfoldover time-and asks whether this revolution fits into the pattern of otherrevolutions. There were two temporalities of revolution as outlined above,and elaborated in Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution: a drama of ashort (fourteen month) unfolding, and a structural process of a century-longunfolding. Neither are deterministic, both can have alternative paths andoutcomes, and even retrospectively can be given alternative accountings,and recontextualizations. The fourth frame is the Shi'ite form of this revo­lution-the power of symbols and drama, rhetorical framing and persuasivecultural interpretations-which served as the mobilizing idioms. The fifthframe resides in the social agendas of the revolution, which are still twodecades later being fought over, and which is why this book ended not withthe triumphalism of the revolution proper, but with "victory and its prob­lems," with the challenges that the revolution had put on the public agendafor itself. These included political development, economic policy, social andcultural policy, and foreign policy.

Concerning political development, it is worth recalling that the initial slo­gans ofthe revolution in 1977-1979 were: to implement the 1905 Constitution,to allow Parliament to be more than a rubber stamp, to implement the clause al­lowing mujtahids to veto legislation that violated Islam, to allow open trials anddue process, and to have political pluralism, decentralization, and regional au­tonomy. With the radicalization of the revolution during 1979-1981, a new Is­lamic constitution replaced the 1905 Constitution. As the revolution took overthe institutions of the state, the dominant Khomeyni faction of the revolution­ary coalition (initially the Islamic Republican Party) created parallel institu­tions to the existing state institutions to enforce its revolutionary goals in a clas­sic maneuver. So, for instance, the Revolutionary Guards became a parallelmilitary force, and revolutionary committees were set up in ministries and eco­nomic enterprises. Slowly the Islamic Republic consolidated, and there waslater a slow movement toward a more democratic process, albeit hampered byoversight institutions controlled by the more theocratic wing of the revolution.Still, by the end of the 1990s, the more democratic forces had twice over­whelmingly elected a President ofthe Islamic Republic, Ayatullah MuhammadKhatami, who had campaigned on the slogans ofcivil society and open democ­racy. (See also Brumberg 2001 for an account of the political maneuvers sincethe revolution to "reinvent Khomeyni.")

Regarding economic policy, the original goals of the revolution con-

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Introduction to the 2003 Edition xxxiii

cerned the reduction of oil production so as to utilize more effectively therevenue to stimulate other domestic economic production, and the reorien­tation of trade in order to break out of dependency relations with the U.S.and Europe. The eight-year war with Iraq during the 1980s forced Iran'seconomy into a nationalization of banks and industry in a kind of commandor state capitalism, from which it is only gradually trying to free itself.

Social and cultural policy-women's rights, the position of minorities,land reform, wealth redistribution, and cultural revolution through reform ofeducation and control of the media-all continue to be heavily contested.The demographics of a population explosion with a majority under the ageof having firsthand memory of the revolution seems to suggest that the pu­ritanical and theocratic reaction of the 1970s and 1980s will wane, allowingIran's more tolerant traditions to reemerge. But such predictions are notori­ously unstable in environments of continuing difficulties in the politicaleconomy.

As concerns foreign policy, early foreign policy goals of the Islamic Re­public dealt with asserting independence of action and escaping the subor­dination felt to ensue from supplying oil to the U.S. and Europe by chang­ing the configuration of foreign trade. A degree of success in this area camefrom increased trade with India, South Africa, and East Africa. A corollaryof this objective was the protection of the revolution from external attack(the Iraqi invasion) and being drawn back into the same political economyrelations with the U.S. and Europe that the revolution sought to break. Theseizure of the American personnel as hostages was a dramatic gambit to en­sure this break (as well as helping to pass the highly contested new Islamicconstitution). As often noted, this was also a media event, with demonstra­tions being skillfully staged in front of rolling American news cameras. As­sassination of dissidents in Europe and the U.S. was also a tactic used to dis­courage the kind of mobilization abroad that had helped topple the shah.(Shapur Bakhtiar in Paris in 1991 and Ali Akbar Tabataba'i in Washington,D.C. in 1980 were two of the higher profile of some twenty plus assassina­tions.) Active "export of the revolution" was another foreign policy goal thatemerged with the Khomeyni faction's consolidation of the revolution, al­beit, initially, largely by demonstration effect and cultural propaganda. Theexample of "Khomeyni" reenergized Islamic fundamentalist groups else­where with the hope that seizure of the state and the creation of an Islamicstate were possible. Appeals to African-Americans to rise up against theu.s. fell on deaf ears, but an artistic legacy of this propaganda and culturaleffort may be seen in the early stamp issued by the Islamic Republic of Iranon which the faces of Bilal, the first muezzin of Islam, and Malcom X arefused (see Fischer and Abedi 1990: 254).

Direct export of the revolution was considerably less successful. Shi' iteswere arrested in Bahrain in 1996 for plotting a coup, and there was repeatedconflict with the Saudis during the annual hajj in Mecca over using thatglobal meeting as a stage for mobilization. In the 1980s, Iran supported

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xxxiv Introduction to the 2003 Edition

Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad in Lebanon, the latter claiming responsibilityin 1983 for the suicide car and truck bombings in Beirut of the U.S. Embassy(killing 69), the U.S. Marine barracks (killing 243), the French paratroopheadquarters (killing 58), and in Sidon an Israeli military building (67 died).After the end of the Iran-Iraq War, open as well as covert use of funding andweapons supply to Islamic movements elsewhere began to increase. By the1990s, a RAND corporation analyst claims Iran was spending $100 millionper year in support of terrorist groups abroad, and providing in Iran trainingcamps for several groups (Hoffman 1998) . By 1996, Iran was sending threecargo jets a month to Damascus with weapons for Hezbollah. Iran also sup­ported Shi'ite and Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan, becoming evenan ally to the U.S. of sorts in the ousting of the Taliban in 2001-2002. In De­cember 2001, a ship off Israel was seized while attempting to smuggleweapons from Iran to the Palestinians. Iran's participation in the growinguse of international terror by resistance and insurgency movements and bystates using terror as a covert form of foreign policy is difficult to track givenboth its covert nature and its contested status within the leadership of the Is­lamic Republic of Iran. It appears that such operations as the smugglingof arms to the Palestinian Authority-not just to Hezbollah and Islamic Ji­had-are further internally contested policies between the so-called con­servative hard-liners and the proponents of President Khatami's efforts toopen relations to the West.

What remains clear is that the current generation of violence has becomeincreasingly sophisticated, the world a more dangerous, not less dangerous,place in the past twenty years, particularly for the Middle East from theLevant to Central Asia, with Iran caught in the middle, caught in the cross­currents, but also an active player both trying to protect itself and work itsway through an often deadlocked revolution.


Any film is like a poem, it is not interesting just to repeat. And that is what Ira­nian cinema is doing, like poetry bringing out something different. ... Filmshould depict reality and transform it. ... Something happens in front of thecamera, and it is the first moment it happens, new life takes shape in front of thecamera.

Samira Makhmalbaf, in Meysam Makhmalbaf's How Samira Made the Blackboard

Nonetheless, for Iran I remain an optimist: it strikes me that the Iranian rev­olution, while excessive during its Terror, was never as bloody as it was por­trayed to be by its opponents (not as bloody as the French or Russian revo­lutions for instance), and that despite the many terrible events and hardshipsthe Iranians have had to suffer over the past several decades (including thevery bloody Iran-Iraq War ), there does seem to be a long duree processtoward transformation. Above all, I think Ayatullah Shariatmadari will beproven correct: the hard line religious leaders have discredited themselvesand the idea of a theocracy. The young generation of Iran will decide. We

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Introduction to the 2003 Edition xxxv

will see in the coming years what the balance will be between those whocontinue the revolutionary guards and other parallel institutions of the rev­olution (including the Committee for Special Operations5 of the Ministry ofIntelligence named in the German arrest warrant for Ali Fallahian, the Min­ister of Intelligence, in the case of the assassination of three Kurdish dissi­dents and their translator in Berlin in 1992; Fallahian also is named withthree others in an Argentine indictment for the 1994 bombing of a BuenosAires Jewish community center that killed eighty-five and the 1992 attackon the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed twenty-eight) versusthose who have so vocally rallied to the call of President Khatami for build­ing a new and open civil society.

Although a firm political secularist, I am unpersuaded that a society mustchoose to be either secular or religious: I live, after all, in a majority Chris­tian country, where Christian politicians are held in check by strong tradi­tions of separation between church and state. Separations ofdowlat (govern­ment) and din (religion) have also operated through the history of Muslimpolities. Increasingly culturally and religiously diverse citizens get along be­cause of separations between church and state, democracy, and civil society.And it works particularly well when we can share one another's traditions,which serve as reservoirs of generations of human experience and ethicalstruggle, rather than as to-the-death-dogmas. Iran's struggles to achieve itsown balances ofsocial justice and tolerance, economic and social well-being,and sense offair play in the community ofnations draw upon its considerablecultural resources and experiences, much ofwhich over the centuries it giftedto the fund of humanistic stories and understandings of both Western andworld-wide civilization.


1. Exports of oil and gas provided two thirds of Soviet exports to the capitalistworld in the 1980s; ninety percent of the exports were oil, gas, raw materials and pre­cious metals-"an external trade structure typical of underdeveloped countries"(Castells 1998: 6,21). There were ofcourse other sources ofdistortion in what Castellscalls a statist system of surplus value appropriation, in which "about 40 percent of in­dustrial production was defense related, and the production of enterprises that wereengaged in the military-industrial complex reached about 70 percent of all industrialproduction (ibid 22). The similarity is to the revenue stream that protected the state,for a time, against demands from the citizenry for decision-making participation.

2. This continues to be an important caution, but see Pinto (1999) for a soberingreminder that policy debates contain quite a range of positions. The United Statestends to guide foreign policy by economic and political considerations alone, but inthe field ofcontestation over how to respond to, for instance, the use of internationalterrorism by "political Islam" targeted often at the U.S. in the Middle East, there area range of confrontationalist and accomodationist positions.

3. Pakistan's literacy rate, barely 30 percent, is below that of Haiti, Rwanda, andSudan according to UN figures, and its spending on education has declined toaround two percent of GNP, far below that of Bangladesh, Iran, or Turkey. Public

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xxxvi Introduction to the 2003 Edition

schools have decayed in facilities and ability to recruit teachers. Some five hundrednew madrasas opened in the past year (Bonner 2002c).

4. Dr. Said al-Harthi, an advisor to the Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia, says,"We believe that bin Laden may well have tried to put a Saudi face on this attack,knowing that it would damage our relations with the United States.... We believethis was his intent." (Sennott 2001: AI).

5. See also the fictionalized spoof in Abdoh 2000.


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mann. Translated by Robert Hullot-Kentor. Minneapolis: University of Min­nesota Press, 1970/1997.

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1 CULTURE, HISTORY, AND POLITICSCulture, Common Sense, and Symbolic Structures 3History, Politics, and the Sociology of Iranian Islam 8


The Karbala Paradigm and the Family of the Prophet 13;Paradigm, Passion, and Drama 21; The Establishmentof Shi'ism as a State Religion 27; Formation and Defenseof the Canon 31

The Scriptural School Form 32:The Islamic Madrasa 38; The Jewish Yeshiva 42;The Christian Studium 50; Decline of the ScripturalSchool Form 55

3 MADRASA: STYLEANDSUBSTANCEThe Madrasa as a Free University 61The Institution: Students, Innovations, Problems 76The Ruling Elite and the Role of the Marja' -i TaqIid 86The Vocal Elite and the Role of Wa'iz 97

4 QUM: ARENA OF CONFLICTEvolution of the Shrine Town: Shi'ite and Royal 106The Religious Establishment and the Expanding

Bureaucratic State 108The Demonstrations of 15 Khordad 1975 123Technocratic versus Religious Style 129


Sufism, Self-Development, and the Upper-Class Idiom 139Social Utopia and the Religion of the Ulama 147:

Political Theory: 'Ali and Husayn 147; IslamicEconomics 156; Personal Morality 159; ReformingUtopia? 164

Ritual Drama and Popular Shi'ism 170






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xl Contents


The Social Drama: Political Liberation 184:Prologue 184; The Breach: Muharram 1977 190;Ramadan and Black Friday, 1978 196; Military Ruleand Muharram, 1978 202; Victory 1979 and ItsProblems 209

Ideological Revolution 213:Karbala in the Active Mood 213; Governing in the Moldof 'Ali and Muhammad 216

A New Era 230

EPILOGUE: MUHARRAM 1400/1979The Muharram Drama 232Revolutionary Processes and Youth 239Continuing Conversations 241



APPENDIXES 2471 Courses of Study 2472 Maraji'-i Taqlid since the Twelfth Imam 2523 Qum Statistical Profile 2544 Chronology of Religious and State Administrations 2565 Budget of the Shrine of Fatima,

Hadrat-i Ma'suma, in Qum 2586 Karbala 260



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The New or Atabegi Courtyard of the Shrine of Fatima, Hadrat-iMa'suma (photo by Roger Wood) xviii

Ayatullah Shariatmadari receiving visitors (photo by MichaBar-Am/New York Times Pictures) 62

1979 revolutionary poster portraying Ayatullah Khomeyni andthe shah (photo by Franz Brunner, Tages Anzeiger) 183


3. t Maraji' in Borujerdi's ancestry3.2 Shirazi maraji'3.3 Marriage alliances among the ulama elite4. t Qum location map4.2 Shrine of Fatima, Hadrat-i Ma'suma, Qum




2.1 Chronology of education until the twelfth century 342.2 Denominational colleges in eastern Islam, A.D. 1050-1250 393. t Qum talaba (1975), by place of origin, sayyid status, and

marital status 793.2 Madrasa Golpayegani students (1975): social background,

education, origin 803.3 Stipend levels of unmarried students (1975) 813.4 Madrasas in Qum: Traditional 823.5 Madrasas in Qum: Modern 833.6 Males in genealogies of religious elite, by generation and

occupation 944.1 Hajjis, by occupation (1972) 1355.1 Shariati's mistakes in dogma, according to "Husayni" and

Makarem (1350/1971) 168

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Chronology ofSignificant Dynasties

Pre-IslamicAchaemenians (Cyrus

to Alexander)Sassanians (Ardashir

to Yazdigird III)

Early IslamicRashidun (first four

Sunni caliphs)UmayyadsAbbasids

Twelve Imams (Shi'ite)

Buyids (Shi'ite)Seljuks and II-Khanids


Muslim Dates (A.H.) Christian Dates (A.D.)

558 B.c.-331 B.C.


11-40 632-66141-132 661-750

132-656 750-1258

11-260 632-872

320-447 932-1055

429-754 1037-1353

Iran since establishmentof Shi'ism as thestate religion

SafavidsAfshars and ZandsQajarsPahlavis

Reza Shah (1925-1941)Mohammad Reza Shah(1941-1979)



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Anno Hejirae or Qamari ("lunar"): the Islamic calendar, dated fromthe morning after the withdrawal (hijra) of the Prophet Muhammadfrom Mecca to Medina on July 14, A.D. 622. The year 1975 was A.H.

1395 or 1395 Q. The months are Muharram, Safar, Rabi' ol-avval, Rabi'os-sani, Jomadi ol-avval, Jomadi os-sani, Rajab, Sha'ban, Ramadan,Shavval, Zol-qa'da, Zol-hejja.

Shamsi ("solar"): the Iranian civil calendar, derived from the pre­Islamic Zoroastrian calendar, beginning each year on March 21. Theyear 1975 was 1353-54 She The months are Farvardin, Ordebehesht,Khordad, Tir, Mordad, Sharivar, Mehr, Aban, Azar, Dey, Dahman,Esfand.

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The New or Atabegi Courtyard, built in 1883, of the Shrine of Fatima, Hadrat-iMa'suma, sister of the eighth Imam. Nobles and ministers of the Qajar dynastyare buried along the sides. Entry to the shrine is through the mirrored portal andunder the gold dome. The present dome was constructed under the Safavids andgilded by the Qajars. Four Safavid shahs are buried in a mosque behind the mainshrine, as are three leaders of the Qum center of learning. Behind that mosque isthe new A'zam or Borujerdi Mosque, a major teaching space for the highest levelof study, the dars-i kharij. Two Qajar shahs are buried to the right of the shrinein the Old Courtyard, behind which are two more courtyards, turned by theSafavids into the Madrasas Dar al-Shifa and Faydiyya, centers of political activ­ity in 1963, 1975, and 1977-1979. See diagram, page 110.

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1Culture, History, and Politics

Do not step on a Persian carpetor a mulla for it increases its

value.- Persian proverb

A N ANTHROPOLOGIST is as much a character in the arena ofresearch as the people from whom he tries to learn. Recognizingthis fact is important to readers of an anthropological analysis

because of its bearing on the objectivity, validity, and comprehensivenessof the description from which the analysis proceeds. More important,any interchange between anthropologist and respondent - the questionsposed, the answers supplied - constitutes a micro-model of how cultureis constructed. Compare, for instance, an encounter I had with a teacherin a madrasa in Isfahan in 1975 with one between a Christian and aMuslim in the eighth century as reconstructed by H. A. Wolfson.

I sat down in Madrasa Jada Buzurg. A couple of mullas immediatelycame to ask who I was and to sit and debate. Aqa Hajj MohammadBeheshti then came and took over, aided by a younger man, Mulla Ab­dullah Said Sharifi. A crowd gathered. They kept pressing me on the ab­surdity of the Trinity: three is one and one is three. While pointing outthat I did not believe in the Trinity I tried to suggest, first, that religiouslanguage is symbolic, that is, it has multiple meanings, and requires ex­egesis-to which they agreed; second, that man's limited mind cannotdescribe God - to which they agreed; and, third, that the Trinity is a for­mula for God's mystery-which they rejected. They insisted that anydivision into two already implies division into three, five, nine, seven­teen, and so on: two fingers are divided by a space and thus are threethings, three things are made distinct by two more divisions (and so arefive), five by four (making nine), nine by eight (seventeen). In otherwords, anything but the unity of God implies polytheism, Hinduism,idolatry. I could not resist asking jocularly what was wrong withpolytheism - all aspects of the world are divine. More seriously,


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2 Culture, History, and Politics

however, I countered by refusing to allow implication of the sort theywere using, maintaining that the Trinity is simply a formula for God'smystery, and scored my only minor triumph by interrupting AqaBeheshti at one point to say, "Look, it is you who keep insisting on thephrase 'God is three'; I say he is one!" Everyone laughed. Afterwards wethree debaters shared a watermelon and agreed to meet under more quietcirc*mstances-there were well over fifty students crowded around-todiscuss more fully.

Obviously, the argument could not proceed in any but a trivial way un­til I learned more of the tradition of argumentation invoked against me.Upon my return from Iran, I discovered that Wolfson (1976: 129-131)provides a clue that, had I been able to employ it at the time, might haveshifted the debate to a deeper plane than that of monotheism andpolytheism or the absurdity in ordinary common sense of "three is one."The clue is this: argumentation about the Trinity derives from the Greekneoplatonic triads of being (esse), living (vita), and reason (logos, in­telligentia). This Greek tradition conditioned the controversy in Islam,Christianity, and Judaism over the attributes of God. In tracing thedevelopment of the controversy, Wolfson sketches a "typical debate be­tween a Christian and a Muslim," drawing on the Disputatio Christiani etSaraceni of John of Damascus (d. ca. 754):

The Christian presumably begins by explaining that ... in the Trinitarianformula ... by Father is meant what is generally referred to by both Chris­tians and Muslims as God, and by Son and Holy Spirit are meant the prop­erties life and knowledge or life and power or knowledge and power. Turn­ing then to the Muslim, the Christian asks him if he has any objection tothe Christian application of these properties to God. Immediately, theMuslim answers that he has no objection, adding that the Koran explicitlydescribes God as "the living" (al-hayy), as "the knowing" (01- •alitn) , and as"the powerful" (al-qadir) (Sura 2:256, Sura 2:30, Sura 30:53).

The Christian then establishes that these hypostases are distinct from theessence of God but inseparable from it. The Muslim finds nothing in theQur'an to contradict this. The Christian then wishes to call anything thatis "eternal" God, and prove these three Gods are but one God. TheMuslim cites the Qur'an (Sura 5:77) against this: "They surely are infidelswho say, God is the third of three, for there is no God but one God."

Wolfson's sketch is but a variation of my encounter.' Would that I hadbeen able to sketch out for Aqa Beheshti the history of the debates overthe attributes of God and perhaps even included the Nestorian reworkingof the Thinity, which is more in accordance with Muslim formulations!

For the present purpose, however, my anecdote not only shifts theburden of ignorance onto me but raises the question of how we uscassumptions and metacommunications (commentaries about the form or

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Culture, History, and Politics 3

level of messages). From a contemporary Western point of view, AqaBeheshti is the quaintly ignorant one. Language philosophy or the use ofmetalinguistic analysis ("The Trinity is but a formula for the mystery ofGod") to establish a common ground for the comparison of differentbelief systems has not yet been learned in the madrasas of Iran. To us,the mullas appear at times backward and literalist: they have not yetlearned of Ludwig Wittgenstein or J. L. Austin, of Wilhelm Dilthey orAlfred Schutz. At other times they are as sophisticated as we, in, for in­stance, finding multiple levels of meaning in poetic metaphors and inanalyzing the rhetoric of Islamic discourse. The problems arise at theboundaries of belief systems or in the comparison of belief systems. Tothem, it is we who are ignorant: secularists who do not understand whatwas distinctive and essential to Christian doctrine.

Another element in the encounter is the political need to convince theother. The mullas feel themselves engaged in a life-and-death defense ofthe coherence, rationality, and integrity of a culture under seige. For us,the use of metalinguistic analysis is a sine qua non for genuine cross­cultural communication and thus for global modernization; otherwise weare each locked into the limited cultural frames of our accidental and dif­ferent backgrounds. The tragedy of the mullas is that they would be ableto defend their heritage much more effectively if they could make use ofthe tools of linguistic analysis.

The mullas, of course, are simply wrong when they argue that there isa simple, unambiguous "essence" to Christian doctrine. Western jour­nalists have shown themselves to be similarly wrong and ignorant in theircoverage of the 1977-1979 Iranian revolution when they expected theslogan "Islamic republic" to refer to an unambiguous catalogue of doc­trines and rules for behavior. Doctrines, interpretations, even generalperspectives or world views, are defined in terms of contrasts to alter­natives held by political competitors; thus they always have a historicalcontext. This does not mean there is not also an internal logical structureto beliefs and ideologies. Both the internal logic and the external definingcontrastive features go into the construction of a distinctive culture orcultural form.

We need to examine, at least briefly, these three basic terms ofanalysis: culture, history, and politics.

Culture, Common Sense, and Symbolic Structures

"Culture" is the term American anthropologists have long used to labeltheir distinctive object of study. What culture is, how it is constructed,and how one can capture it for study and analysis are major problemsthat have undergone refinement over the past century. The effort hasbeen to combine what the nineteenth-century Germans called the"human sciences" (Geisteswissenscha!ten) , a historical-linguistic ap-

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4 Culture, History, and Politics

proach, with the criteria of objectivity and validation appropriate toscience. In the European tradition this goal is usually referred to as theobjectivity of socially constituted intersubjective worlds, or simply inter­subjectivity, in which even knowledge of oneself is achieved throughpublicly accessible semantic categories. 2 In other words, an individual'ssubjective experiences are in large part, if not entirely, formulated by hissocial participation, by his use of language, and by his use of culturalsymbols. Insofar as communications between individuals are understoodor have agreed-on meanings, those communications are public and ob­jective and available (at least theoretically) for analysis. Viewing cultureas relatively crystallized communication patterns with longer durationthan messages repeated only a few times makes the notion of culturehighly dynamic. Individuals have different positions in society, differentperceptions, interests, and roles. Out of the negotiations and conflictsamong them emerges a plural social universe in which many opposedoutlooks may coexist and compete.

Two of the most interesting portions of culture are symbolic structuresand common sense. Symbols (as the term is used here) contrast with signsand metaphors: a sign is a relation between a word or other signal andone reference or meaning; a metaphor establishes a relation between twomeanings; a symbol usually has more than two references. 3 One of theimportant objectives in dealing with symbolic structures (sets of inter­related symbols) is to control the complex resonances that a particularsymbol, action, or statement has for the actor or speaker.

Shi'ism, the established form of Islam in Iran, and its several forms ofexpression, such as preachments, passion plays, and the curricula anddebates of the madrasa, can be viewed as cultural forms composed ofsymbolic structures. Within this perspective Islam is not a set of doc­trines that can be simply catalogued. It is a "language," used in differentways by different actors in order to persuade their fellows, to manipulatesituations, and to achieve mastery, control, or political position. Thereare in Iran at least four main styles of using Shi'ism: the popular religionof the villages and bazaars; the scholarly religion of the madrasas or col­leges where the religious leaders are trained; the mystical countercultureof Sufism; and the privatized, ethical religion of the upper classes. Onemight add as a fifth style, the combination of the second and fourth,which Dr. Ali Shariati's followers have argued is the ideology of the1977-1979 revolution.

More subtle than symbolic structures but just as important is commonsense, often thought of as the underlying assumptions of everyday life.The rhetoricians of classical times defined common sense as the right wayof talking about things: one feels satisfaction, competence, and aestheticclosure from saying things right. But that satisfaction is bought at theprice of constraint on individual creativity: the individual may make

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Culture, History, and Politics 5

some statements or assertions, or propose some ideas, that the culture orcommunity finds ill-formed, repugnant, ugly, or untrue; and the in­dividual either yields or is perceived as deviant. What is puzzling andwhat presents a challenge to anthropological explanation is why con­straints are placed where they are. Why do the Aqa Beheshtis of theworld accept certain kinds of argument and not others?

Perhaps the most interesting example of the shifting of the boundariesof common sense in Iran is to be found in the speeches and writings ofDr. Ali Shariati, the hero of Iran's youth in the 1970s and one of thepatron saints, as it were, of the 1977-1979 revolution. Shariati attemptedto bridge the gap between traditional Shi'ism and contemporarysociology. In the 1970s, when he was still alive and reformulating hispositions, he found that he had to constantly shift his formulationstoward conformity with those of the traditional clergy. After his death,and during the revolution, his teachings were appropriated by the moreprogressive wing of the religious movement, although a close reading ofhis texts with reference to the practical political questions of the dayreveals that they were quite conservative. Indeed the the striking contrastbetween Shariati and culturally analogous figures in the 1930s and 1940swho also wished to purify Shi'ism and make it consonant with modernlife raises the question of why such a figure had to be less secular in the1970s than a generation earlier. (The answer has less to do with religiousrevivalism and more to do with the suppression of open politicaldiscourse by the Pahlavi regime, which forced politics into a religiousidiom.)

The reorganization of culture, it should be clear, is an elusive quarry totry to pin down for study. Several accounts of religion and political con­flict in Iran have been written, including an earlier effort of my own. 4 Tosay that most of them fail to convey accurately the nuances of religioussensibility and its transformation would be imprecise and ungrateful, forwithout those efforts this one would have been much more difficult. Theproblem has been partly theoretical- failure to use a sufficiently richconcept of culture - and partly a matter of method, that is, of presentingdescription in such a way as to allow the reader to see the sources ofvalidation of generalizations. Modern historians and Orientalists study­ing Iran tend to spend as much time in the country as do anthropologists;yet there is often a curious difference in flavor in the writings of thosewhose myopia is focused on the written word, on piecing togetherdocumentary fragments of a past reality, and those whose myopia isfocused on oral expression, on the nuances of reference, social allusion,and style, which make up the rich web of lived-in experience.

A minor example may illustrate. In recent years it has become popularfor Orientalists and historians to claim that according to Shi'ite doctrineall temporal states are illegitimate. S This (false) claim they then use to ex-

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6 Culture, History, and Politics

plain why the religious leaders have a proud record of public oppositionto state tyranny, including the participation of many (but significantlynot all) in the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911). The legitimacy ofany given ruler has always been the subject of political discussion byShi'ite religious leaders. All agree that were an Imam manifest in theworld,6 he would be the only legitimate ruler. According to traditionalShi'ite interpretation (modified, as we shall see, by the reinterpretation ofthe followers of Shariati), the last Imam went into occultation in theninth century (he is not dead, merely not manifest in the world); hence,Muslims are faced with the obligation to live as best they can by theQur'an and its principles of doing good and avoiding evil. 7 Any state thatattempts to govern according to Islam is therefore accorded a degree oflegitimacy. The religious leaders claim a right, based simply on study andknowledge of Islamic law, to advise and guide. When a ruler goes wrong,it is the responsibility of any knowledgeable Muslim to say so. WhatShi'ites reject is the legitimacy of the caliphateS or of blanket divine-rightclaims of the sort that the Safavid and Qajar kings asserted with theirtitle "God's Shadow on Earth."9 In other words, kings should not befollowed blindly, but that does not necessarily mean that whatever kingsor other temporal governments do is illegitimate and wrong.

According to the followers of Shariati, an Imam is a charismatic figurewho arises out of the people and expresses the general will. For Shariatihimself this is only a translation of the traditional theological term, Im­am, into the Weberian sociological category, charismatic leader. For therevolutionaries of 1977-1979, however, a problematic logic allows themto apply the title Imam to Ayatullah Ruhullah Musavi Khomeyni, thesymbolic leader of the revolution and the charismatic leader who ex­presses the popular will. How far infallible knowledge, an attribute ofthe theological Imam, is to be accorded Khomeyni remains to be re­solved. Khomeyni himself, while never denying the title Imam, has hisofficial portraits carefully captioned "Nayib aI-Imam" (Aide to the Im­am). Moreover, Imam in Arabic usage among Shi'ites in Iraq andLebanon - but not in pre-revolutionary Persian usage - is a proper titlefor leaders of a religious community as an extension of the term ofreference for a prayer leader (imam).

There are two reasons, one political and one cultural, for objecting tothe Orientalists' facile generalization that Shi'ism doctrinally denieslegitimacy to all temporal governments. Politically, the objection is im­portant because though the religious leaders (the ulama) would like toappropriate a monopoly on learning and moral guidance, doctrinallythey cannot do so, except in the trivial sense that anyone who studiesIslamic law is a religious leader ( (alim). This means that a king or othergovernment can wage a moral battle against the ulama on the groundsthat the ulama have perverted Islam - for example, by misappropriating

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Culture, History, and Politics 7

religious endowment funds, by blind traditionalism, and by self­interested political activities (charges used by both the Pahlavi regimeand by Shariati followers against the majority of the ulama) - while thegovernment has been attempting to implement such Islamic values asequality, social justice, and economic opportunity. When used by thePahlavi kings the argument was not persuasive, but under other cir­c*mstances it could be.

Culturally, the objection to the Orientalist generalization is importantinsofar as historians often selectively pick out rhetorical items inreligious preachments to support their claims about the illegitimacy ofany temporal government. Accounts such as that by A. K. S. Lambton(1964: 120-121) of Ayatullah Khomeyni's opposition in 1963 to the shah'sWhite Revolution stress Khomeyni's use of words like zulm (hurt, op­pression, injustice) and 'adalat (justice) and his comparison of the shahto Yazid (according to Shi'ites, the archtyrant and transgressor againstIslam). Lambton seems to suggest that zulm is such a loaded term thatKhomeyni would use it only to indicate that quite suddenly "injustice hadpassed all reasonable bounds," and that Khomeyni's comparison of theshah to Yazid was so provocative that "the government had no choice butaction." Although not in itself incorrect, Lambton's presentation isoverstated. What is missing is the specific flavors that such terms andcomparisons hold for believers. I will develop the notion of a Karbalaparadigm (Yazid was the villain at the Battle of Karbala) in order to ex­plore these flavors and how certain terms come to be emotionallycharged.

Zulm, for instance, is not just contemporary tyranny. It gains itsrhetorical power in circ*mstances like those of 1963 because it expressesan existential, almost cosmic, situation which at certain times sheds itsvague general truth value and becomes an exact description of contem­porary events. In Shi'ite rhetoric, Muslims have since the time of the Bat­tle of Karbala been subjects of oppression and injustice. (Unless other­wise indicated, "Muslim" always means a Twelver or Ja'fari Shi'ite, aspiritual descendant of those who opposed Yazid, one who continues touphold the ideals of the first and third Imams, 'Ali and Husayn.)'Adalat, the term for justice, also has several meanings depending oncontext; when used as a criterion of being a king or other office holder(including being a religious leader), it means in part the equipoise ofGreek philosophy to which Lambton refers (1962, 1964): that is, findingcompromises between conflicting interests, balancing just causes, coor­dinating the various impetuses to good ends. But 'adalat has a narrowertheological formulaic definition: never having committed any major sin(such as adultery) and trying to avoid the minor sins (such as shaving ordressing like a non-Muslim). In other words, behind these more or lesscritical terms lies a structure of thought full of traditional formulas, stan-

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8 Culture, History, and Politics

dardized metaphors, allusions, and implications, which are taught in themadrasas and are familiar to Shi'ite believers but so far have not beentapped for English readers.

My aspiration is to tease out this structure of thought. This aspirationis more than a wish for ever more rich detail, or "thick description. "10 Tounderstand a cultural form requires an appreciation of its internal sym­bolic structure, its historical boundaries, its sociological boundaries, andits lines of cleavage or change. The Shi'ism of the Qum madrasas is amedieval religious structure, a symbolic structure, quite similar tomedieval Catholicism and the Judaism of not so long ago. To say thatsome kind of epistemological revolution separates this medieval worldview and the modern perspective is nothing new. But to have it be morethan self-congratulation, to specify what is meant, what is systematicallydifferent, one needs first of all to describe the medieval perspective andits sources of validity, some of which are intellectual and some institu­tional. One needs to describe rhetorical frames of meaning, such as theKarbala paradigm, how they are elaborated, and how the elaborationsbecome either beautiful arabesques of mental agility or sterile scholasticexercises. Their validity is demonstrated insofar as members of the com­munity will correct those who try to change the formulation or inter­pretation. Such frames of meaning exert a certain intellectual force in acommunity, even over those who are critical but must communicate withothers; as long as they are central to discourse, they constitute part ofeveryday common sense. There are always critical minds, dissidents,unbelievers, people with different backgrounds; these people are held incheck by social constraints until they become sufficiently numerous orpowerful to break away from, or to erode, the previous common sense.Schools like the madrasas are more than places where people learn theframes of meaning in their fullest and most coherent form: the schoolsare themselves political arenas in which success is demonstrated by abil­ity to use the frames.

In sum, the current anthropological notion of culture involves sen­sitive elicitation of native conceptualizations; attention to language as amedium of social activity; analysis of action as skilled performanceswhich are episodic, are interpreted retrospectively, have results that arenot always intended, and are embedded in sociocultural structures overwhich the individual has little control. Culture is dynamic, with symbolicstructures that grow and decay through repetition and the addition ofmeanings to symbols, or through the reduction of polysemic symbolsinto mere signs. This dynamism requires sociological and historical con­text for comprehension.

History, Politics, and the Sociology of Iranian Islam

The transforming of Shi'ite sensibilities is an emotionally charged bat­tle. It is perhaps no more tense than the similar struggles,·which the Ger-

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Culture, History, and Politics 9

mans called the Kulturkamp!, in the West during the eighteenth andnineteenth centuries, but those battles are by and large behind us. I I Thepolitical struggle over religion in Iran has at least two dimensions: a classdimension and a related but separate dimension of state control.

Under Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (1941-1978) the state-a neo­patrimonial form of monarchy relying heavily on built-in rivalries,overlapping responsibilities in the bureaucracy, and secret police terrorto concentrate power at the top 12 - attempted to control or neutralizereligion, while the religious leaders struggled to preserve a narrowingsphere of autonomy. The struggle between the state and the religiousauthorities becomes highly subtle and interesting as soon as one realizesthat the relative success of the state in suppressing overt political opposi­tion and critical discussion made religion the primary idiom of politicalprotest.

Religious opposition to the aggressively modernizing state was notsimple fanatic adherence to outworn ideologies of a bygone era, as theshah would have liked one to believe. Much was valid in the religious op­position. The tragedy was that it was difficult to separate valid criticismof oppressive state interference from reflexive traditionalism. The effectof suppressing political discourse was that arguments became diffuse andfuzzy. Generalized alienation against the state was heightened by thereligious discourse, without much creative thinking about social change.To be clear and fair, the point is not that there was no creative thinkingabout social affairs- given the repression, a surprising number ofcourageous and" stubborn innovative thinkers persisted in being vocal inpublic. Rather, as the Iranian educated classes argued, there could havebeen much more creative thought, it could have been more incisive andconstructive, and it could have had a broader social base had the statebeen less repressive.

A case in point is that of higher education in Iran. 13 Refusal to allowthe teaching of social science as a relevant set of policy sciences, or toallow university people in general to debate the course of social develop­ment, meant a highly disaffected student body and intelligensia. Thestate, however, needed people trained in policy making. The solution wasto train much of its technocratic elite abroad.

The Shi'ism of political protest within this patrimonial state was not anundifferentiated form. Different social classes constructed differentideologies from a common religious grounding. Three broad ideologicalorientations will be considered: those of the secularized educated middleand upper classes, the traditionally educated religious students, and thepopular folk. For an understanding of the common religious grounding,the learning of the religious students is pivotal. The religious center ofQum has itself been an arena of combat between the religious leaders andthe state with its middle-class allies.

There were few heroes in this combat as it existed in i975. The middle

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10 Culture, History, and Politics

classes (professionals, bureaucrats, technocrats), particularly in Qum,were bitter opponents of the religious leaders, viewing them as ignorantand reactionary, manipulative misleaders of the masses. On the otherhand, there was sympathy for the religious leaders as representatives ofthe personal heritage of members of the middle classes, many of whosegrandfathers had been religious leaders. But for the modern middle

.classes, heritage is something to build upon and to grow from, notsomething to be reproduced. In the battle with the religious leaders, themiddle classes were the implementers of state policy. Yet the state wastrying to hold back the forces leading to a more popular distribution ofpower and decision making, keeping the pressures for socioeconomicchange under its own aegis; in this endeavor the middle classes werepotential opponents and unwilling accomplices, co-opted by thenecessities of earning a living.

The religious leaders, though courageously speaking out against therepression in this sort of state (and to that extent uneasy allies of the mid­dle classes), seemed to be able to draw only on romantic visions of thepast and to have little creative sociological imagination. This is not to saythat Shi'ite Islam as they preached it did not contain a valid ethicalperspective, but general ethics are no substitute for social understanding.Nor is it to say that Shi'ite leaders were not socially innovative in prac­tical ways where they were allowed to be so, especially in establishingchannels of welfare and medical aid. The criticism of the religious leadersis directed to their preachments and to conceptual formulations in theirteaching.

The situation is complicated in a further way, one that needs more ex­ploration than it has been possible to present here: the interaction be­tween the religious institution and the life cycle experiences of youngpeople reveals an emotionally powerful dialectic between conformity totradition and self-reliant free thought. The followers of the religiousleaders - whether madrasa students or merely devout Muslims - fre­quently undergo a life cycle development from narrow fundamentalistbelief as highly articulate and argumentative youths (argumentation isencouraged by the system) to a gradual liberalization of belief andunderstanding as adults. Many do not develop this more liberal outlook,however; they constitute a constant conservative drag on religiousleaders, who might be more liberal if they did not fear losing their consti­tuency. The madrasas have the potential for focusing the energies neededto break this circular effect; but in the pre-1978 situation the madrasaswere forced to remain largely (though with important exceptions) stag­nant, both for internal reasons and because of external pressures by thestate.

The historical nature of the symbolic structure I call the Karbalaparadigm has been highlighted by the 1977-1979 revolution. One beginsto see that its coherence depended in part, for one set of meanings, upon

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Culture, History, and Politics 11

certain political and cultural contingencies. When these changed, a newcoherence and set of symbolic structures were needed. The Karbalaparadigm had been honed over the years into a device for heighteningpolitical consciousness of the moral failings of the government. With therevolution, certain interpretations, such as the reformulation of the termImam, suddenly took on a meaningfulness not previously possible, andthe Karbala paradigm as a whole became politically less relevant thanother parts of the cultural symbolism of Shi'ism and Islam. The eventsrelated in chapter 6 follow easily from the climate of Qum in 1975, asdescribed in chapters 3 through 5. Future chapters in the religious andpolitical history of Iran may well look quite different.

Cultural structures such as the Karbala paradigm, however, havemultiple uses. The rawda-the form of preaching which draws on theKarbala paradigm and is used on occasions of death memorials, religiouscommemorations, and communal gatherings-may continue to play animportant role in the emotional life of many Iranians, serving, for in­stance, to model and channel expressions of grief or to instill an attitudeof quiet determination and humility in the face of life's tribulations.Cultural structures, because they are multifaceted, are both relativelychangeable over time and extraordinarily tenacious. This is not aparadox, merely a challenge for controlled analysis.

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2Rise and Decline of the Madrasa

Call thou to the way of the Lord with wisdom[hikmat, "philosophy'1, and admonition [maw'iza,

"preaching"], and dispute with them Uadilhum,"reasoned debate"] in the better way.

-Qur'an 16:126

T HE MADRA SA SCHOOLS are a form of education well knownto Western tradition, for they are essentially the same as the Jew­ish yeshiva and the Catholic medieval studium. The dynamics of

the growth of all three examples of what I call "the scriptural school" arethe same and are perhaps most clearly illustrated by the development ofthe yeshiva. All three had lost their creative vitality by the thirteenth orfourteenth century~ In Christian Europe the Protestant Reformation, therequirements of the Prussian bureaucracy, and the industrial revolutioncombined to produce the modern university, which grew out of theuniversities of Halle and Berlin, not directly from the old medievalcenters of Paris, Oxford, or Bologna. The Jewish yeshiva carried onthrough the nineteenth century in Eastern Europe and still exists in aparochial form, though essentially encapsulated, isolated, and pushedaside from the mainstream of intellectual life. The same thing is happen­ing to the Islamic madrasa today.

The madrasa is a symbolic structure as well as an educational forum.In order to understand the stability over time of the educational and sym­bolic content of the madrasa, one needs to understand how Shi'ism isconstrued by its believers, especially how they think it differs from SunniIslam.

Shi'ite Islam

Three sets of information are basic to an understanding of Shi'ism: (1)information about the founding legend or history, which I will call theKarbala paradigm, and which others such as R. Strothman (1953) havenot inappropriately called by the name of the Christian parallel, the Pas­sion; (2) information about the establishment of Shi'ism as the state


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religion by the Safavid dynasty in 1501, an establishment that continuesto the present and has always involved a struggle between religious par­tisans of the state and religious opponents of the state; and (3) informa­tion about the formation and defense of the legal, theological, andmythological canon.

The Karbala paradigm is the story of Husayn, the third part of theorigin legend of Muhammad, 'Ali, and Husayn. It is the part that is themost emotionally intense and concentrated, and is the reference point foralmost all popular preaching. It is, however, only intelligible as theclimax to the story of 'Ali. Its focus is the emotionally potent theme ofcorrupt and oppressive tyranny repeatedly overcoming (in this world) thesteadfast dedication to pure truth; hence its ever-present, latent, politicalpotential to frame or clothe contemporary discontents. The completeorigin legend, which might be called the paradigm of the family of theProphet, focuses rather upon model behavior. Muslims should modelthemselves on the behavior of Muhammad, 'Ali, Fatima, Husayn, andZaynab (the Prophet, his cousin and son-in-law, his daughter, his grand­son, and his granddaughter).


According to the Shi'ite account, 1 when the Prophet Muhammad died,leadership of the community was to pass to his cousin and son-in-law'Ali. Muhammad had raised 'Ali as a child, adopting him even before hismarriage to his first wife, Khadija. 'Ali was one of those to whom theProphet dictated his revelations (the Qur'an); he was a constant aide anda champion warrior in Muhammad's cause. When Muhammad withdrewfrom Mecca under the cover of night, forewarned of an assassinationplot, 'Ali remained behind as a decoy in Muhammad's bed.

Among the many indications put forward by Shi'ites to demonstratethat the prescribed and proper succession was to go to 'Ali are the follow­ing six, preserved in the form of hadith (traditions).2 First, when theProphet called upon his kin to accept Islam and promised that the first todo so would become his successor, all hesitated except 'Ali, who was thendeclared Muhammad's successor and vice-regent. Second, Muhammadreaffirmed the succession after 'Ali led an exhausting but victorious bat­tle against the Jews of Khaybar and the Bani Ghatafan in A.H. 7, sevenyears after the hijra, Muhammad's flight from Mecca (in A.D. 622).Third, the famous hadith of the mantle relates that 'Ali, who had beenleft in charge of Medina while the Muslim forces invaded Tabuk (A.H. 9),complained to Muhammad of a whispering campaign against theMuslims in Medina. Muhammad thereupon took his family (his son-in­law, 'Ali, his daughter, Fatima, and their sons, Hasan and Husayn)under his cloak and received the revelation of Sura 33:33, "People ofthe House, God only desires to put away from you abomination and to

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cleanse you." This verse relates to the doctrine that the family of theProphet ("the five pure souls" under the mantle and later the Imams,descendants of 'Ali and Fatima) are immaculate and sinless (ma'sum). Atthe same time the Prophet again affirmed that 'Ali was to him as Aaronto Moses and would be his successor. Fourth, during the effort to con­vert the Christians of Najran (A.H. 9), 'Ali was reaffirmed as the suc­cessor upon the revelation of Sura 3:53. 3 Fifth, upon Muhammad'sreturn from his final pilgrimage to Mecca, he stopped at a watering placecalled Ghadir Khumm to declare that he was leaving for the guidance ofthe community the Holy Book and his family, raising 'Ali's hand at thatpoint. He invested 'Ali with the title Amir-ul-Mu'minin (commander ofthe faithful) and had the assembly swear allegiance to 'Ali. Sixth, andfinally, there is the hadith of the pen and ink: upon his deathbedMuhammad tried to reaffirm in writing the succession but was foiled by'Umar, who claimed that Muhammad was delirious.

Muhammad died in A.H. 11. 'Ali was with him at his last breath andwas designated by the Prophet to wash the body, Muhammad havingcursed anyone else who should look on the nakedness of the corpse. Theburial was done in the house of 'A'isha, Muhammad's youngest wife.While 'Ali and the true Muslims ('Abbas, Zubayr, Salman, Abu Oharr,Miqdad, and 'Ammar) were engaged in mourning Muhammad and giv­ing him a proper burial, Abu Bakr and 'Umar hurriedly held an electionfor the leadership. Abu Bakr, with 'Umar's support, emerged as thechoice. He was a father-in-law of the Prophet (the father of 'A'isha), andas the senior male close to the Prophet he was a natural choice in a tradi­tional clan-oriented leadership election. 'Ali's response wascharacteristic: he refused to yield his claim and withdrew from activepolitics so as not to split the community, but he gave freely of his advicewhen asked. He spent his time teaching quietly and compiling anauthoritative edition of the Qur'an.

For 'Umar, 'Ali's behavior was unsatisfactory: he came to 'Ali's houseto demand a public swearing of allegiance. In his rough approach, heopened the door violently, pushing it into Fatima's side and breaking herribs. Fatima, who was pregnant, subsequently was delivered of astillborn son (Muhsin). Although 'Ali was willing to swear allegiance inthe interest of community solidarity, Fatima adamantly opposed allbreaks with her father's injunctions: 'Ali was the rightful caliph. Norwould she remain silent: she delivered a public sermon on the wrongjudgment Abu Bakr made in not allowing her to inherit the gardens atFadak. He had judged that they were not the private property of herfather but had been held by him in trust for the community.

In Shi'ite rhetoric, Fadak has come to mean the rightful domain of thefamily of the Prophet; that is, Abu Bakr decided by his acceptance of the

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caliphate to deny the validity of the Prophet's message, and his judgmentabout Fadak serves Shi'ites as a symbolic statement of this denial. AbuBakr is not generally regarded by Shi'ites as an evil man; rather, in theirview he shows by his faulty decisions that he was unsuited for the leader­ship role. He cut off a thiefs left hand instead of the prescribed righthand; he had a man burned to death inappropriately; he could notremember what share of inheritance a grandmother receives; he excusedone man for the same crime for which another was executed.

Abu Bakr died after two years. 'Umar succeeded him. Again in theShi'ite view 'Umar's faulty decisions showed how unsuited he was for theleadership. He stoned a pregnant woman and a crazy woman (thesecategories of people are not to be so punished). He outlawed things thatare permitted in the Qur'an: temporary marriage and pilgrimage toMecca out of season. Shi'ites say he had libraries in Egypt and Irandestroyed, on the grounds that if their contents disagreed with the Qur'anthey were inimical to the community and if they agreed with the Qur'anthey were superfluous. In a gesture of distributing wealth, he hadvaluable Persian carpets cut up into valueless little pieces that could bepassed out. He distributed funds from the community chest inequitably,leading to incipient class conflicts. Before he died, he nominated six mento choose the next caliph, hardly a democratic procedure, as Shi'ites sar­castically comment.

There were two leading candidates in this election: 'Ali and 'Uthman.Both were asked whether they would abide by the Qur'an, the rulings ofthe Prophet, and the rulings of the two previous caliphs. 'Ali replied thathe would, of course, abide by the first two, but only those rulings of thelatter that accorded with the Qur'an and the rulings of the Prophet.'Uthman replied that he would abide by all four, so he was appointed.Under 'Uthman, evidences of bad government, which had begun to showunder 'Umar, grew worse. There was conflict in Kufa and Basra, the twogreat Arab garrisons of Iraq: conflict between the ruling clans fromMecca and Medina, on the one hand, and newer converts, on the other;and conflict between Arab Muslims and non-Arab Muslims. 'Uthmanwas eventually assassinated by soldiers who had come to him to seekjustice: although 'Uthman had promised them redress, they discoveredthat secretly he had ordered their death.

'Ali was finally elected the fourth caliph and began to put the house ofIslam in order. But so many conflicts had been created that he had tospend most of his brief rule fighting, especially against the governor ofSyria, Mu'awiya, a brother-in-law of the Prophet. Mu'awiya and 'A'isha(the widow of the Prophet, who bore grudges against 'Ali)4 demandedthat the death of 'Uthman be avenged. 'Ali, who had been elected withthe support of the assassins and their defenders, was placed in a difficult

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position. The assassins argued that 'Uthman had not ruled according toIslam and so had been legitimately killed, for which there must be norevenge. 'A'isha's troops were defeated by 'Ali's forces at the Battle of theCamel, but at the Battle of Siffin, Mu'awiya's forces put Qur'ans on theirlances, bringing the battle with 'Ali to a stalemate and forcing arbitra­tion. 'Ali's representative was outwitted, and Mu'awiya was declaredcaliph, something 'Ali did not concede. A group of erstwhile supportersof 'Ali (the Kharijites) were so incensed that 'Ali had even agreed to thearbitration procedure that they determined to kill 'Ali, Mu'awiya, andMu'awiya's lieutenant 'Amr ibn al-'As, all on the same day, so that onecould begin anew and live according to the Qur'an. 'Ali was assassinatedon the nineteenth of Ramadan A.H. 40 while praying in the mosque ofKufa. Mu'awiya and 'Amr ibn al-'As, however, escaped death.

The details of 'Ali's martyrdom - his foreknowledge that he was to beslain, his generosity toward his assassin, Ibn Muljam, during the threedays it took him to die - plus his courage in battle, knowledge of Islamiclaw, humility as an office holder, and wisdom as a judge (in contrast tothe three previous caliphs) are celebrated today by the Shi'itecommunity,especially during the month of Ramadan. For instance, a contrast iselaborated between the deaths of 'Umar and of 'Ali. 'Umar, when struckby his assassin (Firuz, the Persian), cried, "Grab that Magian who haskilled me!" 'Ali, when struck by his assassin, cried, "0 God, most for­tunate am I!" The contrast is between one who saw death as the end andone who saw it as the beginning of a return to God. This contrast andtheir respective stories serve as much-discussed parables of truth versusjustice and generosity versus revenge.

First the death of 'Umar: Firuz was a Persian artisan, a slave of anArab who unfairly confiscated all of Firuz's outside earnings. Firuz ap­pealed to the caliph 'Umar, introducing himself as a maker of manythings. 'Umar asked what Firuz could make for him, and Firuz replied,"A mill turned by the wind." Seeing that 'Umar would give him no relief,Firuz made a two-bladed dagger with the handle in the middle and withthis he killed 'Umar. He then ran out of the mill where the act had beencommitted. 'Ali happened to be sitting outside; as Firuz ran past, he roseand changed his seat. When pursuers came to 'Ali, they asked if he hadseen Firuz. 'Ali replied, "As long as I have been sitting on this spot, Ihave not seen him." Having provided a temporary alibi for Firuz, 'Alithen advised Firuz to return to Iran and quickly take a wife. With aspecial prayer 'Ali transported Firuz to Kashan, normally a journey ofseveral months. There he was welcomed and married. When his pursuersarrived in Kashan several months later inquiring about a certain Firuzrecently come from Iraq, they were told that there was such a man but hehad come several months ago and had married then, so he could not bethe one they sought. Firuz's windmill, then, was the wind-borne news

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caused by his double-bladed slaying of 'Umar, which spread from theeastern to the western ends of the world.

The moral theme is that whatever is done for the good of society is of ahigher value than absolute truth spoken regardless of consequences,often expressed in the words of Sa'di: durugh-i maslahat-amiz beh azrasti-i Jitna-angiz ("a well-intentioned and calming lie is better than atruth that brings calamity"). Humane pragmatism rather than an imper­sonal rationalized system of rights and wrongs is what is valued.

The story of 'Ali's death is rich with detail and associations: On thethirteenth of Ramadan, 'Ali told Husayn that he would soon die andwould not be able to participate in the hajj that year. When he told theMuslims that Ibn Muljam would kill him, they asked permission to killIbn Muljam first, but 'Ali refused, saying that revenge before the eventwas not proper. (According to the version in Rumi's Masnavi, Ibn Mul­jam himself asked to be killed and 'Ali responded that such a preventivekilling would not be in defense of Islam but merely a personal defen­siveness: see note 5 for the same argument in a different part of thestory.)

The night before his assassination, 'Ali went on the roof to sing muna-jat (literally "whisperings," a form of elegaic prayer). He sang to the starsand moon that they should intensify their light because he himself wasleaving the world. When he warned his family that he would be killed onthe morrow, his daughter pleaded that he not leave the house but hereplied that one cannot stop death. Even an animal attempted to blockhis path as he left the house for the mosque. Then his sash got caught inthe door and his robe fell open. All to no avail. As he retied the sash, heremarked to himself, " 'Ali you must be dressed and ready when you arecalled." When he came to the mosque, he found Ibn Muljam sleeping onhis stomach. 'Ali roused him and told him, "Sleep on your back like theProphet, or on your right side like the Imams, or on your left side like thegovernors, but not on your stomach, for that is the sleep of the devils.Now arise and desist from what you intend: if I wished, I could tell whatyou have hidden [a sword under the clothing]."

They both stood for prayer. At the second sijda (prostration) Ibn Mul­jam struck 'Ali in exactly the same place as the sword of 'Amr ibn AbuDa'ud had once struck 'Ali. s 'Ali fell forward into the mihrab (the nichein a mosque wall which orients one toward Mecca). He took some dirtfrom the floor of the niche to put on his wound. The angel Gabriel filledthe air with the cry that 'Ali was slain and the muezzins (those who callthe faithful to prayer) took up the cry from the rooftops.

Ibn Muljam fled through the alleys. A man, awakened by the tumult,went into the streets; seeing a man with his cloak over his head running,he challenged him. The man replied he was in a hurry. Again he chal­lenged the man, this time with the words "Have you not heard that 'Ali is

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slain?" The man replied that he had more important things to do. To thisthe man jestingly suggested, "Then it must be you who are themurderer." Ibn Muljam admitted it and at that moment a gust of windraised his cloak to reveal the bloody dagger. They wrestled and Ibn Mul­jam was brought to the mosque. There 'Ali asked Ibn Muljam if he hadbeen such a bad Imam; and Ibn Muljam, embarrassed, exclaimed thatGod had created him for hell; could anyone change his fate so that heshould go to heaven? 'Ali ordered him detained but comforted him thatif he, 'Ali, survived, Ibn Muljam would be set free. Each time 'Ali's sonsbrought him food or drink, 'Ali insisted that Ibn Muljam be served first.When it became clear that he would die, 'Ali remarked that it was ashame that for the sake of Islam Ibn Muljam would have to be killed;otherwise he would like to release him. As he died, 'Ali ordered that IbnMuljam be executed with one blow only, for he had struck only oneblow, and that Ibn Muljam's family not be molested.

Aside from the rhetorical form of tragedy in which the moral themesof generosity, fairness, and appropriate punishment are embedded, tworitual features intensify and support the rhetoric. First, 'Ali was stabbedat the second prostration of the stylized namaz prayer. One meaninggiven to the prostrations is that the first refers to "from dust w'e arecreated"; the worshiper then sits back, resting upon his haunches, whichrepresents life; the second prostration refers to "and to dust we return";the concluding rising to one's feet represents the final judgment. Thus'Ali's putting of dirt on his wound reinforces the second prostration.Second, the details of the story were collected from several popularpreachments (rawda) given during the month of Ramadan, between thenineteenth when 'Ali received his fatal wound and the twenty-first whenhe died. After the words" 'Ali took the dirt of the mihrab to put on h~s

wound," the preacher next recites the verse from the Qur'an about man'sbeing from dust. In one of the preachments the story is ended, "Husayncried, and Hasan cried, and Zaynab cried; but 'Ali told Zaynab not tocry, to save her tears for Karbala." The story then turns to the mourningby Zaynab for the martyrs at Karbala.

Shi'ites draw many other contrasts between 'Umar and 'Ali, rangingfrom simple knowledge of the law, to ability to search out the truth injudicial cases, to proper government administration. Rather than de­pending on government by force, of which Shi'ites accuse 'Umar, 'Aliwrote to his governors not to extract taxes until they were sure the pro­ductive capacity of the land could sustain a given amount of taxation,and he appointed governors, such as Salman Farsi in Khuzistan, whor*fused to inhabit costly palaces but humbly placed themselves amongthe common people. Salman Farsi is said to have rented half ashoemaker's shop as his gubernatorial office.' 'Ali himself is said to haveworn poor clothing, eaten poor barley bread, and ridden on a donkey,

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that there be no Muslim envious of him. 'Ali's martyrdom was tragicabove all because since then there has been no truly just government.Nevertheless, 'Ali's martyrdom was not the key martyrdom of Shi'ism.

After 'Ali's death, Mu'awiya became the uncontested caliph (A.H.

40-60). 'Ali's elder son, Hasan, was too weak to make an effective bid forthe political leadership of the community. He therefore came to anunderstanding with Mu'awiya and was sent off with a handsome pensionto live in Medina: when Mu'awiya died, the caliphate was to revert to thefamily of the Prophet. The understanding was not honored. First,Mu'awiya had Hasan poisoned; second, he made his own son Yazid hissuccessor even while he was still alive. Husayn, the second son of 'Ali,refused to swear allegiance to Yazid. Mu'awiya was shrewd enough to ig­nore this, but after his death Yazid was determined to force the issue.

It is alleged by the Shi'ites that Yazid sent assassins to mingle with thepilgrims at the hajj. At the same time, Husayn received messages fromKufa in southern Iraq to come and lead a revolt against the tyranny ofYazid. To avoid bloodshed during the hajj, Husayn cut short hispilgrimage. Foreseeing his martyrdom, he released his followers ·fromany obligation to follow him. With his family and seventy-twomen-thirty-two horsem*n and forty on foot-he made his way towardKufa. Meanwhile, in good Oriental despot fashion, Yazid was able to co­opt the Kufan leadership and the Kufans abandoned Husayn.As Husaynapproached Kufa on the first of Muharram A.H. 61, he was interceptedby forces loyal to Yazid under the command of Hurr, and forced tocamp on the desert of Karbala. Negotiations to secure Husayn's submis­sion to Yazid failed. Husayn's forces were even denied access to water(the Euphrates was nearby). 6 On the tenth of Muharram, a bloody battlewas joined in which all but two of the males in Husayn's party were slain,Husayn's body was desecrated, and the women were taken prisoner. Thedetails of this battle at Karbala form the key imagery of the Passion ofthe Shi'ites. "Much more than the blood of 'Ali who was murdered by asingle Kharidji it was the blood of Husayn who perished under theswords of the government troops that was the seed of theShi'a church"(Strothman 1953: 534).

Husayn's martyrdom occurred ,at noon on Friday the tenth of Muhar­ram. The details heighten the significance of Yazid's tyranny anddesecration of the sacred and proper order of life and Islam. Not onlyhad Yazid usurped the caliphate and not only was he using that officetyrannically, but he had attempted to desecrate the hajj, he haddesecrated the time of communal prayer (Friday noon), and he haddestroyed one by one the elements of civilized life: water, an elementaryhuman need that by the desert code of honor is never refused to thirstyindividuals, was denied not only to warrior opponents but to women andchildren; three sons of Husayn were slain: the infant 'Ali Asghar, the

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five-year-old child Ja'far, and the twenty-five-year-old youth, 'AliAkbar. Destruction of family, community, government, and humanityare all themes of the Karbala story, retold and relived today in everyreligious gathering and reaching dramatic and emotional crescendo dur­ing the month of Muharram when the events of A.H. 61 are re-enacted,day by day.

Only two males survived the slaughter: the ill twenty-two-year-oldfourth Imam and his four-year.;old son (the fifth Imam). It was awoman, Zaynab, the sister of the third Imam, who kept the Shi'ite causealive until the fourth Imam was sufficiently well to give a famous sermonthat shamed the audience, a sermon that is repeated today in the Muhar­ram mourning ceremonies. The body of Husayn was trampled in themud and his head was taken to Damascus, where the caliph Yazid is saidto have beaten it with a stick in a vain attempt to keep it from reciting theQur'an.

Among the more heartrending stories are those of the marriage on thebattlefield of Qasim, the son of the second Imam, to a daughter of thethird Imam, and his immediate shedding of his earthly body; the attemptby 'Abbas, half-brother of Husayn, to fetch water, his success in filling awaterskin and refusal to drink himself until the women and children hadwater, and the loss of the waterskin, his arms, and his life to the slashesof bullying Syrian soldiers; and, above all, the crying of Husayn's three­year-old daughter, who demanded to know what she had done that herfather had gone away and would not come to her and, upon being shownher father's head, became quiet, fell asleep, and died.

After Husayn there were nine more Imams. The last, a young boy, issaid to have gone into occultation when his father died in A.H. 260.Withdrawn from the world, he does not provide daily social leadership,although occasionally he manifests himself to individual people. He isthe Imam aI-Zaman (the present Imam, the Imam of all time) and themessiah, or Mahdi, who will usher in the final battles leading to the dayof judgment. One prays for his return. Aside from the twelfth Imam, thesixth Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq, ·is probably the most important; he is thesource of many hadith and was the teacher of learned men in both ex­oteric and esoteric knowledge. Of the twelve Imams only one is buried inIran: the eighth, Imam 'Ali al-Rida (Imam Reza), is buried in Mashhad;his shrine is the greatest in Iran. His sister Fatima is buried in Qum, andthis is Iran's second shrine. Otherwise these last nine Imams, intriguingas they may be for the historical development of Shi'ism (see Hodgson1955), are of relatively less importance for the Karbala paradigm. Withinthat paradigm they are the carriers of the spirit and knowledge of Hu­sayn; they are the true guides for men. Since 260/872, when the twelfthImam went into occultation, or rather since the brief subsequent periodduring which he gave instructions through four special representatives

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(the period called the lesser occultation), proper knowledge has been thepossession of those who study, the ulama.


There are two reasons for preferring the term "paradigm" to"passion." First, it focuses attention upon the story as a rhetorical devicerather than on either the (albeit important) emotional component or thetheological motifs common to Islam and Christianity (such as epiphanyand parousia). The story can be elaborated or abbreviated. It providesmodels for living and a mnemonic for thinking about how to live: there isa set of parables and moral lessons all connected with or part of the storyof Karbala which are themselves not obviously contradictory and towhich almost all of life's problems can be referred. The story can take ondramatic form: during the first ten days of Muharram, shabih or ta'ziyaplays are performed re-creating the events of the Battle of Karbala andother events, such as the Joseph story, which are related to Karbala:Jacob is told by the angel Gabriel that his suffering is nothing comparedwith the sufferings the family of 'Ali and Husayn will endure; those wholose their lives at Karbala compare themselves to Joseph, leaving theirbloodied cloaks "of many colors" (bodies) behind while they go on to aworld of plenty. (See Appendix.) During these ten days there are proces­sions with floats representing the events of Karbala, interspersed withdouble columns of black-shirted young men chanting and rhythmicallyflagellating themselves with two-pound chains or beating their chestswith both open palms and occasionally slashing their foreheads withknives (this last was banned by the Pahlavi government). The flagellantsrepresent the Kufans repenting their abandonment of Husayn and, moregenerally, all Muslims who bear responsibility for not helping the Imaminstitute the true, just Islamic society. Muharram, and especially 'Ashura(the tenth of Muharram, when Husayn was slain), is the emotional highpoint of the ritual year. But throughout the year religious preachments(rawdas) have a stylized form that frames the subject of the preachmentin references to Karbala. (Muharram and the rawdas will be described inchapter 5.)

The second reason for preferring the word "paradigm" is that it pro­vides a way of clearly demarcating Shi'ite understanding from Sunniunderstanding of Islam and Islamic history. To Sunnis, Abu Bakr,'Umar, and Mu'awiya were good caliphs, men without whom the survivalof Islam would have been in question. For Shi'ites they are three of thekey men who perverted Islam so that from then till the present, Islam hasbeen unable to fulfill its promise as a just social system. For Shi'ites,'Uthman and Mu'awiya also attempted to pervert the Qur'an and hadith,'Uthman refused to accept 'Ali's authoritative Qur'an, and Mu'awiya in­stituted a Ministry of Hadith Fabrication. The esoteric or rather private

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passing of knowledge through the Imams circumvented these Sunni at­tempts. The exoteric Qur'an, standardized by 'Uthman, is not challenged(see Pooya 1971), but the meaning of the verses is. The sifting of correctfrom false hadith is a major task of the ulama.

But let us now hear the tale of the first four caliphs as it is usually toldby Western historians, drawing upon Sunni rather than Shi'ite perspec­tives. 7

Muhammad had created a system of alliances among Bedouin tribesthat controlled the trade between the three great agriculture-based em­pires: Byzantium, the Sassanian empire, and Abyssinia. Each of thesethree empires had Arab clients and mercenaries. Muhammad's attemptto reform the Meccan ritual cult according to the call he believed himselfto have received produced a dynamic of expansion. Mecca was an impor­tant trade crossroads and its cult was a ritual technique of allying notonly its local clans, but expanding the alliance to include outside tribes.This cult seems to have been losing ground to the Christianity andJudaism of the three empires. Muhammad's call was to institute a com­parable confessional faith that would help preserve the independence ofthe Arabian trade area rather than subordinate it to ideological systemswhose centers were in these other empires. The resistance he encounteredin Mecca eventually led to his famous withdrawal to Medina, the hijra.Although Medina was originally a Jewish Arab oasis, various pagantribes had settled there, and no unified cult had been worked out to pre­vent the town from being plagued by feuds. Muhammad brought a solu­tion to this local problem. The Meccans who came with Muhammad (theMuhajirun, "emigrants") were paired as guests with the new Muslim con­verts of Medina (the Ansar, "helpers"); but for material support theMuhajirun were sent out to raid caravans and later to take tribute fromoases. Tribes that converted became part of a new alliance system,gradually replacing the old Meccan system (Mecca itself was taken in9/630); tribes that resisted had heavy tribute exacted. When Muhammaddied, this delicate polity of alliance and protection began to fall apartand tribute from various tribes stopped.

'Umar was the architect of reconsolidating and expanding the polity.He nominated Abu Bakr, a gentle and well-meaning soul even in Shi'iteaccounts, as caliph, both because he was the senior kinsman and becausehe was one against whom few could object while the wars of the Ridda(bringing back the apostates) were conducted. Abu Bakr died after twoyears, having appointed 'Umar his successor. 'Umar took the title Amir­al-Mu'minin (commander of the faithful). Under him expansion pro­ceeded quickly: the Fertile Crescent, Egypt, and much of Iran were con­quered. Byzantium had ceased supporting the frontier Arabs in Syria,and the Syrians fairly readily joined with the Muslim advance: Arab

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mercenaries in the Byzantine army defected; Syrian Jews had beenpersecuted by the Christian Empire and Syrian Christians had beenpersecuted for their refusal to accept the leadership of the Greek church.So the conquest of Syria was fairly easy. Iraq proved also to be easy forsimilar reasons. The Sassanians had dismantled their Arab vassal fron­tier state of Lakhmid, and the huge, centrally run irrigation agricultureof the Mesopotamian plain had fallen into disarray owing to the civilwars following their latest defeat by Rome and a shift in the course of theEuphrates. The local population had little direct stake in the system; theywere mainly Christians, Jews, and Manichaeans, and suffered disabilitiesunder the Sassanian Zoroastrian hierarchy. The upper classes also hadno direct stake in the local economy, being based rather on the Iranianplateau. The soldiers were largely Arab.

'Umar established a state based on the separation of the Arab militarygarrisons from the conquered populations. His governor in Syria,Mu'awiya, commanded from Damascus, but elsewhere garrison townswere established: Kufa near Ctesiphon, Basra on the Gulf, Fustat at thehead of the Nile delta. A register of Muslims was established so that fromthe booty of war and revenue from lands conquered, these garrisonscould be paid. In time this system would cause problems: with fewer con­quests, less booty came in; there were complaints about social distinc­tions, reflected in the amounts to which one was entitled through theregister, based on when groups had become Muslims. The Muhajirunand Ansar still formed a ruling aristocracy; below them were the otherArab Muslims; much more disadvantaged were the gro\ving numbers ofnon-Arab Muslims. Under 'Uthman, all these problems and competinginterests began to come to the fore. 'Uthman's solution to the problem ofcontrol was to rely increasingly on his own clansmen, the Umayyads.This raised further complaints of nepotism. There was pressure to beallowed to buy land or control its revenue directly rather than throughthe register and pressure to be allowed to compete in mercantile ~nter­

prises with the local merchants. In an attempt to enforce at least sym­bolic unity, 'Uthman imposed a standardized Qur'an. This too led toresentment, especially among the Qur'an reciters who had their ownvariants. 'Ali apparently became a center of opposition to several ofthese policies. 'Uthman, as already related, was assassinated in 36/656 bymutineers from Egypt, who proclaimed 'Ali caliph.

'Ali's caliphate might possibly be seen as an attempt to stabilize thestate by using the religious position of Imam to strengthen the secularposition of Amir-al-Mu'minin (Shaban 1970). It did not work: strongermeasures were required. The Prophet's widow, 'A'isha, and Mu'awiya,still governor of Syria, demanded revenge for 'Uthman's death; throughthe arbitration following the Battle of Siffin and the assassination of 'Aliby the Khariji Ibn Muljam, Mu'awiya prevailed. He was a brother-in-law

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of the Prophet, but his state was based less on kinship or religiousloyalties than on Syrian-based power. The Syrians appear to have beenrelatively satisfied with his government, and Muslims elsewhere seem tohave recognized that disunity could threaten their precarious position asoverlords. The real center of power, however, was not in Syria: most ofthe army and most of the revenues were in Iraq. Eventually, with the Ab­basid Revolution, the political center of power would shift there, to thenew capital of Baghdad.

Mu'awiya had his son Yazid appointed his successor in his lifetime, forbringing in anyone else, with other family ties, might have upset thedelicate balance of political forces established in Syria. The Hejaz re­fused to recognize Yazid, and Kufa in southern Iraq invited Husayn tolead a revolt there, a revolt that failed before it started, ending in Hu­sayn's death at Karbala. A revolt in the Hejaz under 'Abdullah ibn al­Zubayr had been almost crushed, when Yazid died. For a time Ibn al­Zubayr was the most widely recognized caliph, even by a major part ofSyria. But eventually Marwan (who had been 'Uthman's chief adviserand was a cousin of Mu'awiya) established supremacy. Marwan, and hisson Abd aI-Malik, the latter with the help of a strong governor in Iraq,Hajjaj, who was not afraid to use terror, firmly established a hereditarydynasty (the Umayyads), which lasted almost a hundred years.

What is at issue in Sunni and Shi'ite accounts is not history per se butthe abstractions from history and the different valuations. Sunnis focusattention on the life of Muhammad; Shi'ites, though they too citeMuhammad's life, are much more concerned with the lives of 'Ali andHusayn. For Sunnis there is a hadith that Abu Bakr, not 'Ali, was thefirst man (after Khadija, Muhammad's first wife) to accept the Prophet'scall to Islam; 'Umar was a great statesman; election was the proper pro­cedure for succession; Hasan died of consumption not poison; Muham­mad (at least according to popular Egyptian tradition) died of naturalcauses not by poison, as Shi'ites maintain;8 the tenth of Muharram ismerely a day of voluntary fasting, which has to do with Muhammad'scareer and nothing to do with Husayn; and so on.

The difference in ritual calendars perhaps shows the contrast mostclearly. Take, for instance, the month of Ramadan, the month offasting. Muhammad first instituted a fast on the tenth of Muharram,adapting the Jewish Day of Atonement (asire or tenth of Tishre); whenhis relations with the Jews became strained, he made that fast a volun­tary one and instituted a month of fasting in Ramadan, but still withmany features reminiscent of the Jewish practices.

For Sunnis, Ramadan is a month primarily concerned with the careerof Muhammad and the day he selected to commemorate the revelation ofthe Qur'an (the revelation occurred over a long period), which he com-

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pared to the bringing down from Sinai by Moses of the second set oftablets. (The tenth of Tishre is the day God forgave the Hebrews for thegolden calf; the second tablets then follow on the sixth of Sivan.) Ac­cording to al-Biruni,9 the sixth of Ramadan is the birthday of Husayn,the Prophet's grandson; the tenth is the death day of Khadija, theProphet's first wife; the seventeenth is the Battle of Badr (Muhammad'sfirst important military victory); the nineteenth is Muhammad's occupa­tion of Mecca; the twenty-first is the death day of both 'Ali and Imam al­Rida (the eighth Shi'ite Imam); the twenty-second is the birthday of 'Ali;and the twenty-seventh is the day of revelation.

According to Shi'ites in Iran today, however, Ramadan is a monthprimarily concerned with the martyrdom of 'Ali: he was struck by IbnMuljam on the nineteenth, he died on the twenty-first, and Ibn Muljamwas executed on the twenty-seventh (a day celebrated with a kind oftrick-or-treat procedure called dust ya 'Ali dust).l 0 The happy occasionsare removed to other months: 'Ali's birthday to the thirteenth of Rajaband Husayn's birthday to the third of Sha'ban. The other importantdeath day, that of Imam al-Rida, is also removed, to the twenty-seventhof Safar. The night of revelation is important, but it is by designunknown whether it is on the nineteenth, twenty-first, twenty-third, ortwenty-seventh. It is said that prayers on that night are worth a thousandprayers on any other night; therefore, to encourage people to pray on allnights, the date remains unknown. The dates of the Battle of Badr andthe occupation of Mecca are acknowledged but not ritually marked.

The recognition of such systematic differences between Sunni andShi'ite versions of history is but the essential first step to a recognitionthat Shi'ism today is not so much the expression of partisan struggle onbehalf of a political faction (as it perhaps. was in Umayyad and Abbasidtimes). It is rather a drama of faith (iman). (That this is a problem forthose concerned with fostering pan-Islamic unity is something to whichwe shall return.) Believers are witnesses (shuhada) through their acts ofworship ('ibadat) to the metaphysical reality which is hidden (gha'ib).This is the meaning of the Karbala paradigm. Note the play with thewords. Shuhada means both martyrs and witnesses. Husayn, knowing hewould die, went to Karbala to witness for the truth, knowing that hisdeath would make him a martyr, an enduring, immortal witness, whoseexample would be a guide for others. Gha'ib refers to a series of innertruths: a God who is not visible, a twelfth Imam who is in occultation, apersonal inner faith, and the special light that created Muhammad, 'Ali,Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn. flbadat is the formal acts of worship suchas prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage; further, it is the ten items of foru' id­din or religious duties: the five daily formal prayers (namaz, salat), thefast in Ramadan, the one-fifth tax (khums), alms (zakat), the hajj, thedefense of the faith Uihad) , the urging of people to do good (amr

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bi-ma'ruf) , the dissuading from evil (nahy az munkar), the defense ofthose who support the message of God and the Imams (tawalla), and theavoidance or fighting of those who are the enemies of God and the Im­ams (tabarra); II further yet, worship is everything a Muslim does. Foriman is not just faith or conviction, it is also professing with the tongueand acting according to the principles of Islam.

There is a hermetic, recursive quality to the Karbala paradigm. It canbe expanded or elaborated. Thus there is a cosmological part to itassociated with the so-called nur (light) doctrine. 12 In the beginningMuhammad, Adam, and all the prophets (of whom there are 124,(00)and Imams were created from a ray of divine light. These divine sparkswere breathed into human form at appropriate points in the unfolding ofhistory, often making for a miraculous birth. Thus, Fatima, the wife of'Ali, went bathing one day and when she emerged from the water she waspregnant with Husayn. That pregnancy lasted only six months. In thesixth month her womb glowed with incandescent light; just before thebirth the angels Azrael, Michael, and Gabriel came to her; at the birthMuhammad took the child from the midwife and placed his tongue in thechild's mouth, whereupon Husayn began to suck.

This nur doctrine provides a way of connecting all the prophets. Theyhave come to different peoples with essentially the same message, and attimes God gives them foreknowledge of their successors, especially of thetragedy of Karbala. AI-Burqani 13 gives the following account of Adam:

When the Prophet Adam, may peace be with him, descended upon theearth, he was looking for Eve around the world until he traversed to theDesert of Karbala. When he entered the Desert, waves of sorrow andsadness approached him. When he reached the death place of the MartyrImam Husayn, may peace be with him, his foot caught a rock and bloodstarted to flow from it. Then he raised his head to Heaven and said: "0Creator, I travelled in all the lands and I experienced no sadness and miserywhich has come to me here. Have I done any sin that you are punishing mefor it?" Then God replied, "0 Adam you have done no sin, but a son ofyours shall die here from injustice and oppression. I wanted your blood toflow on this land the way his blood shall flow here." Adam asked, "0Creator, is Husayn a Prophet?" God answered, "[Husayn] is not a Pro­phet, but he is the son of my Prophet Muhammad." Adam asked, "Who ishis murderer?" God replied, "His murderer is Yazid whom the people ofHeaven and Earth curse." Then Adam asked Gabriel, may peace be withhim, "What should I do?" Gabriel said, "Curse Yazid." The Prophet Adamcursed the Damned One [Yazid] four times.

Similar revelations of Husayn's martyrdom were made to Noah,Abraham, Ishmael, Moses, Solomon, Jesus, Muhammad, and 'Ali.Some of these have been elaborated into passion plays for Muharram.The analogy between Joseph and the martyrs at Karbala has already been

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mentioned. Similarly the sacrifice of IshmaeP4 has become a standardlesser analogy for the martyrdom of Husayn.

The doctrine of the immaculate sinlessness and perfect knowledge ofthe family of the Prophet (Fatima, 'Ali, and the Imams) dovetails nicelywith the nur doctrine. In Qur'anic terms it is grounded in Sura 33:33, theverse of purification revealed under the mantle of Muhammad, whencethe family has gained the title "the five pure souls."

There are, then, three parts to the notion of paradigm: (a) a story ex­pandable to be all-inclusive of history, cosmology, and life's problems;(b) a background contrast against which the story is given heightenedperceptual value: in this case, primarily Sunni conceptions, but otherreligions at times serve the same function; and (c) ritual or physicaldrama to embody the story and maintain high levels of emotional invest­ment: the rituals of daily worship (prayer, purity rules, dietary rules);pilgrimage to the tombs of 'Ali in Najaf, Husayn in Karbala, the otherImams, and the hajj; preachments (rawda), mourning processions(ta'ziya), and passion plays of Muharram (shabih).


After the defeat of Husayn there were a number of revolts in southernIraq and Iran under Shi'ite banners using one or another descendant ofthe Prophet or of his family as a figurehead Imam. An early attempt inKufa to avenge Husayn's death under the banner of his half-brother Ibnal-Hanafiyya was directed primarily against Ibn al-Zubayr. Somewhatlater a descendant of 'Ali's father raised an even more important revolt,also based initially in Kufa but forced to retreat to Iran. The most impor­tant took hold first in Khurasan, and moving across Iran overthrew theUmayyads and established the Abbasid dynasty in A.D. 750.

From a Shi'ite point of view, as soon as the Abbasids establishedthemselves, they sold out the ideals of Shi'ism, for they did not establishthe rule of the Imam; so Shi'ite revolts and underground resistance con­tinued. But the Abbasid Revolution was an early major use of the Kar­bala paradigm as an ideological tool of mobilization; with black flags,prophecies, legends, and slogans. The revolt was in the name of al-ridamin 01 Muhammad (a member of the house of the Prophet acceptable toall), and the leader took the name Abu Muslim 'Abd aI-Rahman ("Fatherof a Muslim, he who worships the Compassionate"). The famous, prob­ably apocryphal, story about the first Abbasid caliph, al-Saffah, has aShi'ite elaboration: after slaughtering every member of the Umayyadfamily he could find, he pretended to relent and invited those who re­mained to a banquet of forgiveness. When they were seated, attendantskilled them; carpets were spread over them and the banquet continued.The Shi'ite elaboration is that al-Saffah was incited to this bloody act by

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listening to the poet Sudayf read mathiya(s) (dirges of more than a hun­dred couplets) about Karbala (Javaher-Kalam 1335a/1956:20).

The period of the later Umayyads and the Abbasids was when Shi'ismbegan to crystallize into a definable set of sectarian groupings. The sixthImam, Ja 'far al-Sadiq (d. 148/765) - a contemporary of the founders ofthe Sunni legal schools, Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767) and Malik (d.179/795)-was the most widely ,recognized leader among all Shi'itegroups (the succession after him being disputed, most importantly by theIsmailis) and the source of many authoritative traditions. In thethird/ninth century Zaydi principalities were established in northern Iran(Daylam around present-day Qazvin, and Tabaristan in the Caspianarea). These were succeeded by Twelver Shi'ite principalities. Most im­portant, the Shi'ite Buyids ruled most of the Fertile Crescent and muchof Iran for over a century (320-447/932-1055) just before the Seljuq inva­sions. Under them the four major collections of Shi'ite hadith werecodified (a full generation after the Sunni collections):

al-Kafi fi "11m ad-Din (A compendium of the science of religion) by Ku­layni (d. 328/939);

Man la Yahduruhu'I-Faqih (Everyman's lawyer) by Ibn Babuya (d.381/991);

Tahdhib al-Ahkam (Corrections of judgments) by Shaykh al-Tusi (d.457/1067);

lstibsar (Examinations of differences in traditions) by Shaykh al-Tusi.

Mu'izz al-Dawla, the Buyid king who captured Baghdad, instituted thefirst public ceremony on record commemorating Husayn's death, in352/936; observance of the ceremony continued until the Seljuq rule ofTughril, over a century later. 15 For a very brief period during the reign ofthe II Khanid Uljaitu Khudabanda (703-716/1304-1317) also the statereligion was Shi'ite.

These various Shi'ite struggles are primarily of interest here to makeone point: before A.D. 1501 the religious situation in Iran was one ofmultiple Islamic groups, Shi'ites dominant here and there (includingQum), the four Sunni schools' dominant in most places, with cities fac­tionalized between these several groups and loyalties shifting from timeto time. 16 It is a fascinating period in its own right, but in 1501 the situa­tion was dramatically changed and simplified. Shah Isma'il Safavi, uponseizing power, proclaimed Shi'ism to be the state religion.

The Safavids originally had been a Sunni mystical sect but graduallyduring the fifteenth century had assimilated a messianic version ofShi'ism. The leaders of the sect began to claim not only descent from theseventh Imam but to be the current link in the chain of divine inspirationpassed from God through the Prophet to 'Ali and the Imams. ShahIsma'il and his successor, Shah Tahmasp, even had themselves treated as

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deities. With the establishment of the Safavid state and the need to ex­pand their popular base these extremist enthusiasms subsided into a moreorthodox form of Shi'ism. At most a Safavid ruler claimed to be the vicarof the twelfth Imam and to reign as "God's Shadow on Earth." Theirform of Shi'ism was gradually transformed from a messianic ideology,capable of motivating a fervent fighting force that could seize power,into a political tool to counter the Sunni Ottoman empire to the west andto unify their own state internally. Shah Isma'il is said to have knownrelatively little about the orthodox tradition he was raising to dominanceand to have had difficulty in finding books on the subject. The Qawa'idai-Islam by Ibn al-Mutahhar al-Hilli (648-726/1250-1325) is said to bethe only book he could find, and for this he had to send to Anatolia.

Shi'ite ulama were invited from what is today Lebanon and southernIraq. Theological colleges were endowed for them, and some were givenposts within the state organization. The highest of these posts was theministerial post of Sadr, in charge of the propagation of Shi'ism, the ad­ministration of religious endowments, some supervision of judges(though the state stressed customary, or ~urf, law over religious, or shar~

law and judges in general were under the supervision of the Divanbegi),the appointment of shayks-al-Islam in the major towns, and the appoint­ment of heads of the sayyids (or naqibs).

In all this enthusiasm for Shi'ism there was considerable persecution ofSunnis, Sufis, and non-Muslims. As the influx of ulama continued, acritical mass or class of religious men was formed apart from the state.Only toward the end of the Safavid period was an officer appointed tohead them, the mulla-bashi.

It is often claimed that under the Safavids, Shi'ism was altered to bemore nationalist and less universalist. The anti-Ottoman posture, atleast, encouraged an upsurge in denigrations of the first three caliphs.Said Arjomand (1976: 83, 92) points also to the interest shown by theMulla-bashi Muhammad-Baqir MajIisi (d. 1700)-the greatest, if alsoone of the more intolerant, of the Safavid mujtahids - in details ofeschatology, such as proving that there will be physical resurrection atthe end of time, rather than in such concerns as the nature of God's at­tributes, reason, and faith, which were usual among earlier mujtahids.That is, he argues, there was a kind of theological involution toward fun­damentalism. Majlisi also elaborated concerns with shrine pilgrimagesrather than the hajj. Arjomand gives the following page counts as arough measure: the four great hadith compendia spend the followingratios of pages on hajj and ziyarat (pilgrimages elsewhere than toMecca): 197:42, 149:39, 198:0, and 493:118, but in Majlisi's encyclopedicBihar ai-Anwar (Oceans of Light) the ratio is just the reverse: 387: 1055.Arjomand argues that this change also indicates a shift from univer­salism: the psychological effect of the hajj is to stress the worldwide

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Islamic community and the unity of God, whereas local shrine worship,even of the Imams, stresses individual concerns for intercessors withGod. In any case, the revival of intolerant orthodoxy under Majlisi hadthe ultimate result of contributing to the downfall of the Safavids: by in­terfering in Sunni Afghan affairs, the destructive Afghan invasions wereprovoked.

With the fall of the Safavids in 1722, many ulama emigrated to theshrine towns of southern Iraq. 17 They also became predominantlyliteralist, emphasizing transmission of knowledge (naql) rather than useof interpretive reason ('aql). The Akhbaris, as the holders of this orienta­tion to knowledge were called, were dominant until Aqa Muhammad­Baqir Bihbahani (1705-1803) reenergized the more aggressive Usuli posi­tion. His students became the great religious leaders of the Qajar period.The Qajar monarchs, especially Fath-'Ali Shah (1797-1834) curried thefavor of the ulama, which together with their newfound assertivenessgained them a position of popular power. Isfahan was still the maincenter of the ulama in Iran, as it had been under the Safavids. The mostpowerful of the Isfahan ulama was S. Muhammad-Baqir Shafti, who set­tled there in 1801 and remained until his death in 1842. An index of hisassertive use of his mujtahid status is that he condemned to death be­tween eighty and a hundred offenders of religious law. He was alsoperhaps one of the richest ulama in history: endowed by a khan of hisnatal village near Rasht, he owned four hundred caravanserais and overtwo thousand shops in Isfahan, plus many villages near Isfahan, Buru­jerd, Yazd, and Shiraz (Algar 1969: 60). He was strong enough to sup­port the ultimately unsuccessful claims of Husayn-'Ali Mirza Farman­farma to be king against Muhammad-Shah; until his death he opposedthe Sufi-leaning Muhammad-Shah and used bands of lutis (toughs) tocreate disturbances.

The ulama in the Qajar period steadily moved toward an oppositionalrole. Under Fath-'Ali Shah they were favored and there was a kind ofalliance with the monarchy. Under Muhammad-Shah both the king andhis vizier, Haji Mirza Aqasi, leaned toward Sufism, and whateveralliance had been forged was loosened. Nasir aI-Din Shah (1848-1896)was religious but in a popular style that did not appeal to the ulama.More important, his ministers began Western-inspired reforms and thestate became heavily indebted to the British and Russians. The ulama op­posed this subordination to foreign unbelievers. The most dramatic andimpressive of their protests was the successful boycott of tobacco in1891-1892, which forced the cancelation of a tobacco monopoly conces­sion to an English firm. The Tobacco Protest in a sense marks the begin­ning of the agitation for a constitution. 18 The constitutional revolutionwas sustained by an alliance of intellectuals, merchants, and ulama,though there was considerable division among the ulama both about

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whether to support the constitutionalists against the king and about theultimate goals of a constitutional revolution. The constitution itself is amonument to the accommodations made in an alliance of groups withopposed goals. The constitution specifies that five mujtahids should passon the legitimacy of all bills proposed to parliament on the grounds oftheir acceptability by religious law; that the king and ministers andjudges must be Ja'fari or Twelver Shi'ites; and that education andfreedom of the press should be so limited that nothing repugnant toShi'ism would be allowed. Yet as Abdul-Hadi Ha'iri points out (1973:437), although ostensibly the constitution is a document of compromisein which the liberals yield to the religious forces, clauses on the judiciaryare formulated ambiguously so as to set the stage for the undermining ofreligious power by allowing appeal against ecclesiastical courts.

Under the Pahlavis (1925-1979) there was at first an outright attack onthe powers of the ulama in jurisprudence, education, and supervision ofpublic decorum. Secularization later became less strident, but the con­stitution was largely window dressing (not only for religious affairs), andthe state attempted to enforce a separation between religion and state.This was a constant source of outrage to the ulama and their followers.

In sum, perhaps the most important observation about the notion ofreligious establishment in Iran is that despite its legal status by Safaviddecree and in 1906 by a written constitution, the pressures and sanctionsto behave in proper Shi'ite fashion come less from the state than frompublic opinion. Public opinion in Iran - not uniformly, but nonethelessin widespread fashion - shows deep respect for the ulama and themadrasa, despite much public and private cynicism and joking about thecorruption, outmodedness, ignorance, and charlatanry of many of theulama. Again, therefore, the commonsense needs to be explored.


Codification of the several elements of Shi'ism began long before theSafavids. The Qur'an was given its definitive form in the caliphate of'Uthman (A.D. 644-656). The hadith were collected during the sevenththrough ninth centuries (the first three centuries of the Muslim era), werecodified for Shi'ites in the ninth century, and are still undergoing criticalclassification. The popular, dramatic forms of mourning Husayn wereintroduced in the tenth century, though marthiyas (mourning dirges) andsimilar poetry may well be older. The passion plays, however, seem tohave taken form only in the seventeenth century under the Safavids, andbecame important in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries under theQajars, especially under Nasir aI-Din Shah, who built a royal stage fortheir production in Tehran. A glance at the traditional madrasa course ofstudy, outlined in the appendix, will show that most of the texts ofjurisprudence used today have been composed over the past four cen-

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turies - since the Safavids - but they depend directly upon older texts.Defense of the faith takes place on three levels or in three spheres: the

popular, the political, and the scholarly. These three levels are clearlyseparable only analytically. The most scholarly of the ulama claim to op­pose the passion plays and the flagellation. Yet their prime means ofcommunication to their lay following is through the preaching of theirstudents, if not themselves; these preachments depend in part on learningcitations and proper argumentation and in part on stirring the emotionalchords of the Karbala paradigm.

Shi'ism is defended in the streets, from the pulpits, and in books; butthe center of the defense in a very real sense is in the madrasa. Thepopulace at large knows the Karbala paradigm, many of the hadith, andsome of the legal and theological argumentation. Its knowledge is con­tinually renewed by popular preachers and sometimes by study circles(hayat-e madhhabl) in which the Qur'an and religious poetry may be readand discussed. The preachers and scholars of the traditions, however, areeducated in the madrasas.

The Scriptural School Form

The history of the madrasa system is most interesting when seen incomparative perspective and in the context of three issues of generalsignificance: epistemology, pedagogy, and politics. By epistemology,here, is meant the degree of openness or closedness encouraged by a par­ticular style of thought. It is a common opinion of both outsiders andIslamic modernists that the madrasa inculcates a mentality that for themodern world is overly closed. 19 One need only recall the twelfth-centuryintellectual vitality of Islam to recognize that this is not a static feature ofthe madrasa or of Islam but a historically contingent state of decay. Thequestion of the relative openness of a style of thought shades into issuesof dogma, fundamentalism, formulation of common sense, and socialcontrol of belief and expression. Shi'ism since the sixteenth century haselaborated a symbolic world ever more focused upon the events in thelives of the first and third Imams. This cultural involution is a process ofintellectual closing rather than opening. In 1962 a group of Shi'iteleaders - including future leaders of the 1978-79 revolution, such asEngineer Mehdi Bazargan and S. Mahmud Taleghani - began to discussthe urgent need to revitalize the clergy, to throw off the stagnation andscholasticism of the past, to create a modern interpretation of Islam notonly compatible with but relevant to a fully modern technological so­ciety. What is important at the moment is to formulate the concerns ofthese modernists more generally, as concerns about the form of pedago­gy - what I will call the scriptural school- and the kind of understandingit produces.

Jacques Derrida (1967) has made the radical suggestion that the very

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nature of a scriptural tradition and of writing as the major medium ofculture has a determining effect on the way people think and specificallyleads to monotheistic theologies. In a much weaker form, the Derridathesis is widely accepted: that there are radical differences betweenmythopoetic-oral cultures, literate cultures, and the emerging electronic,nonlinear, postliterate civilization. 20 Within Iran, these three modes offormulating and inculcating cultural perspectives may be represented bythe priestly tradition of Zoroastrianism,21 the scholarly tradition of theIslamic madrasa, and the new secular mass education. 22 The madrasa isbut one example of the scholarly tradition and the scriptural school. Twocomparable examples are the Jewish yeshiva and the medieval Catholicstudium. (The Buddhist sanga colleges and the Chinese mandarin systemprovide interesting variants but will not be considered here.)2 3

Let us first deal briefly with the contrasts and then turn to thesimilarities in order to gain an understanding of the scriptural schoolform. The contrast with priestly training is fairly sharp. Descriptions ofpriestly training usually mention mnemonics, inspiration, rote learning,hereditary recruitment, and lack of importance attached to whether ornot the priest understands or is a scholar. By contrast, in the madrasatype of education, though ritual accuracy and rote learning may be im­portant, understanding and scholarship are never incidental; they are themost valued goals to be attained. There is a practical reason for this im­portance. The madrasa or yeshiva is not merely a place of preparationfor a ritual leader. It is also a kind of legislature and judiciary. To vary­ing extents, depending upon the nature of the state within which thescriptural school is set, the opinions of the scholars have the force oflegal and judicial decisions. In the case of the Jewish yeshiva, from thedestruction of political autonomy to the establishment of the modernstate of Israel, this has only occasionally posed a political problem. 24 ForIslam the political problem has been endemic because there have beentwo sources of authority, located in the madrasa and in the royal court.

The contrast on the other side with mass education is also fairly clear.Mass education is concerned with training a labor force, with institu­tionalizing scientific innovation, with mobility, and with citizenshiptraining. Education has become separated from the other functions ofthe madrasa or yeshiva. In the madrasa or yeshiva, though there is activeconcern with society and citizenship, with justice and welfare, the focusof concern is the relation between the individual and God or the socialcollectivity and God, not the labor force and scientific truth per see Theproper training of the labor force and the fullest understanding of natureat best are demonstrations of the harmony between man and God.

If one looks at the evolution of the scriptural school, one finds that thethree examples are similar in the way their textual canons were compiled;in their pedagogical styles of disputation; in their scholarly apparatus of

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logic, hermeneutical rules, and appeals to authority; and in the substanceof their theological and legal argumentation. This similarity is hardlysurprising, since Judaism, Christianity, and Islam developed in constanthistorical dialogue. With regard, for instance, to their commontheological problems, I would draw attention to Wolfson's selection(1976) of six central theological issues - attributes of God, the nature ofthe scriptures, creation, atomism, causality, and predestination - and hisbrilliant demonstration of how the three traditions played chess with thepossible solutions so that no one would be caught taking the same posi­tion as an opponent yet so that each one could defend his choice. Eachtradition also built upon itself, usually encompassing, but occasionallyexcluding, what had gone before. It is fascinating that not only weresolutions in one period reversed in the next but that similar battles shouldbe fought repeatedly, especially over how literally to interpret the scrip­tures and what kinds of critical controls to place on freedom of inter­pretation: the repeated battles in Christianity over the literalness of tran­substantiation (the body versus the spirit of the Word), in Islam overmethods of interpreting the Qur'an, and in Judaism over peshat (simpleexplanation, sticking to the original intent of the scripture) versusmidrash (allegorical, mystical explanation).

The form of pedagogy and the scholarly apparatus in the three tradi­tions are similar in evolution; they converge, and they have been indialogue with one another. Each tradition needed first to establish a tex­tual canon and then to develop methods for deriving laws from thecanon, methods for dealing with inconsistencies in the texts and amongcommentaries on the texts, pedagogies for introducing elementarystudents to ritual duties and ideological justifications, other pedagogiesfor initiating advanced students into both the canon and the legal tech­niques, rules for disputation that could serve either to stimulate explora­tion of a subject or to set boundaries on what was permissible to query,and degrees for competence.

Finally, if one looks at the transition from the scriptural school to themodern university, one finds in all three traditions more discontinuitythan continuity. The case is clearest for Christianity, since it was inChristian Europe that the transition first occurred and both Jewish andIslamic scholarship have had to adapt to that precursor. The argument isthat the modern university is not a direct outgrowth of the medievaluniversities of Paris, Bologna, or Oxford, but rather of Halle (foundedin 1694) and Berlin (founded in 1810). What is unique about Europe isthe complex historical fact that there the threshold of the industrialrevolution was first crossed. The modern university system is associatedwith that transition in the basis of civilization and in the nature of social­class organization. It was not so much the original industrial revolution(c. 1770-1840) of textiles, heavy machinery, and iron goods (in which Bri-

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tain was the leader) but rather the second or scientific industrial revolu­tion (1870-1890) of chemicals, explosives, electrical engineering, andsteel, which was sustained by and required a new mode of education. Inthis new education Germany was the leader. Fearing itself lagging behindBritain, Germany made a commitment early in the nineteenth century toa state educational system. As the second industrial revolutiondeveloped, Germany had the technical personnel to sustain its expansion.It took France two defeats by Prussia, in 1866 and 1870, and Englanduntil the 1902 Education Act to make similar commitments. Indeed, it isstriking how many scholars of the early twentieth-century universities inEngland, France, and the United States received at least some of theirtraining in Germany.

Iran today is undergoing a similar transition to mass education and in­dustrial civilization. A few statistics may serve to establish the structuraldifference between Iran today and Germany in 1885 and thus help throwlight on one source of the extraordinary tension in contemporary Iran. In1885 Germany had 47 million people; today Iran has 36 million. Yet thenumber of students in the upper levels of the mass education system inIran is several times what Germany had; Germany's system was muchmore exclusive or elitist as one proceeded into the higher grades.

Germany, 188525 Iran, 1965 Iran, 1974-7526

Primary 7,500,000 2,181,600

Secondary 238,000 493,700Gymnasium 128,000Other 100,000

Higher education 31,400 28,900 135,300 in IranUniversity 27,000 + 30,000 inTechnical U.S. and G.B.

institutes 2,500 (others inOther India,

institutes 1,900 Germany)

The economic expansion of Germany in that era was extraordinary. It isunlikely that Iran's expansion today is qualitatively similar, and a prob­lem is that the system rapidly produced a swollen bureaucracy ratherthan a highly productive labor force.

Our interest here is not the manpower problem itself- the lack ofvocational and management training, and so on, for which there is aspecialized literature available26 - but rather the fact that the madrasa

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system does not link into this modern educational vortex of energy andattention. Not only are the madrasa students excluded, they are viewedby the newly professional elite as an embarrassment that should behelped to wither away as quickly as possible. In terms of numbers (a totalof about 11,000 students) the madrasa students have already become anencapsulated and bypassed minority, a fact that adds to their existentialanxieties.

The power and influence of the madrasa today, then, does not dependeither on size or on any institutional centrality in Iranian society. Nolonger does the madrasa supply the teachers, notaries, judges, lawyers,scientists, or physicians of society; all these professionals are recruitednow from the universities, domestic and foreign. The influence of themadrasa depends upon Shi'ite Islam's still being part of the commonsense of everyday life and hence it is politically potent.


The conventional date for the beginning of the madrasa system is A.D.

1066, the date when the Seljuq' vizier, Nizam al-Mulk, opened theNizamiyya College in Baghdad. This was the first of a series ofnizamiyyas across the Seljuq empire, publicly endowed with stipends forstudents and salaries for teachers. The purpose was to strengthen SunniIslam. Important figures such as al-Ghazali (1058-1111) taught at thesenizamiyyas; al-Ghazali taught for four years at the one in Baghdad andthen for a short time at the one in Nishapur; Sa'di (1194-1291), the greatPersian poet of Shiraz, studied under a fellowship at the Nizamiyya Col­lege at Baghdad.

What is important about the nizamiyya system is that it is a "nation­wide" public system of education. There had been madrasas before this.AI-Azhar in Cairo had been founded in 970 by the Fatimids to institu­tionalize their version of Shi'ism. Mehdi Nakosteen (1964: 43-44) gives alist of fifty-nine denominational madrasas in Eastern Islam (Iran andIraq today) between 1050 and 1250. (They are listed in table 2.2) Butthese were individual and local efforts. The nizamiyas were a kind ofculmination of the first five centuries of Islamic education. That is, theymark the end of a period of creativity and are a first early attempt to in­troduce a widespread system and reduce diversity of opinion. They marka kind of division in the history of Muslim education.

The earliest period of Islam was a period of collecting and translatingmanuscripts. There is a now-discredited legend that the first years in­volved destruction of ancient centers of learning. The caliph 'Umar is al­leged to have replied to his commanders in Egypt ('Amr ibn al-'As) andPersia (Ibn Waqqas) that if the information in the books in the librarieswere in agreement with the Qur'an, the books were superfluous, and if

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Table 2.2 Denominational colleges in eastern Islam, A.D. I050-1250a



Shi'ite Sunni: HanafiKashan 4 Baghdad 3Qum 8 Isfahan 1Rey 7 Sunni: (school unspecified)Saveh 2 Baghdad 1Varamin 2 Gorgan 1

Sunni: Shafi Hamadan 1Baghdad 2 Isfahan 1Balkh 1 Kashan 1Basra 1 Kirmanshah 3Herat 1 Merv 1Isfahan 1 Nishapur 5Mosul 1 Rey 1Nishapur 1 Shah laban 2

Yazd 5

aAdapted from Nakosteen (1964).

the books disagreed with the Qur'an, they were not worth preserving; ineither case the books should be destroyed. The manuscripts of thelibraries of Alexandria are said to have provided fuel for the city's bathsfor six months. But the Persian center of Jundishapur survived until thetenth century, and much of its activity had shifted closer to the Islamiccenters of Baghdad and Samara by the end of the ninth century. At leastby the time of the later Umayyads the collecting of ancient manuscriptshad begun; it grew into an important full-scale activity under the Ab­basid caliphs aI-Mansur, Harun aI-Rashid, and al-Ma'mun. Translationand library centers such as the Bayt al-Hikma founded in Baghdad by theCaliph al-Ma'mun in 213/833 provided also the grounding for creativeextensions of knowledge in the sciences, mathematics, medicine, andhistory. Many of the translators were non-Muslims: Jews, Mazdians(Zoroastrians), Nestorians, and new converts from these older religionsto Islam.

The period between the victory of Islam and the establishment of thenizamiyyas, thus, is one of reconstruction and creativity generated by at­tempts to solve puzzles thrown up through the activity of translation andcollation of ancient manuscripts. As Franz Rosenthal (1947) puts it, acreative tension arose from the conjunction of several sources of intellec­tual interest: a dialectic between acceptance of Greek authority and acritical attitude, stimulated above all by attempts to harmonize Plato andAristotle while recognizing that there were fundamental differences be-

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tween the two; the feelings of the superiority of Persian civilization (theso-called shu' ubiyya movement); and the feeling, interlinked with sub­mission to Islam, of an Arab supremacy based on the revelation of theQur'an as the true source of all knowledge. The tenth century (fourthcentury A.H.) saw a movement to stress the oneness of intellect, based ona hadith that the Prophet had said, "If Aristotle had lived to know mymessage, he would have adopted my religion." This sort of resolutionand harmonizing grew eventually into the noncritical, all-encompassing,mystical strains of Islam, known loosely as Sufism.

What is important about this early creative period is that, aside fromthe caliph-supported centers of translation, education and intellectual ac­tivity centered on individuals and depended upon possessing particularmanuscripts. Places of education attracted students or declined inpopularity as particular scholars were present, moved, or died. Suchfluctuation is to some extent true of all educational systems, but it iscrucial in systems that do not have institutionalized schools that continueirrespective of the comings and goings of particular individuals. Perhapsless obvious to the contemporary mind is the dependence on manuscriptsin an age before the printing press. Rosenthal (1947) cites al-Biruni'sforty-year search before he found a copy of Mani's Safar al-asrar (Secretjourney), Ibn Rushd's desire to consult certain Mu'tazilite works but in­ability to find copies of them, and the Christian scholar Hunayn's unsuc­cessful search for a Galen manuscript. Hence the emphasis amongstudents on taking careful notes on their professors' lectures, 27 the repeti­tion of older sources in new works, the tremendous loss occasioned bythe destruction of a scholar's personal library, and the peripatetic lives ofscholars traveling great distances in search of knowledge, that is, ofmanuscripts. 28 The following description of an Italian Renaissanceuniversity applies equally well to Muslim colleges even today in Iran andwould have been absolutely true a century ago before the printing presswas introduced in Iran in the late nineteenth century:

[The students] had no notes, grammars, lexicons, or dictionaries of anti­quities and mythology to help them. It was therefore necessary for the lec­turer to dictate quotations, to repeat parallel passages at full length, to ex­plain geographical and historical allusions, to analyze the structure ofsentences in detail, to provide copious illustrations of grammatical usage,to trace the stages by which a word acquired its meaning in a special con­text, to command a full vocabulary of synonyms, to give rules for or­thography and to have the whole Pantheon at his fingers' ends. In additionto this, he was expected to comment upon the meaning of his author, to in­terpret his philosophy, to point out the beauties of his style, to introduceappropriate moral disquisition on his doctrine, to sketch his biography,and to give some account of his relation to the history of his country and tohis predecessors in the field of letters . . . Scores of students, old andyoung, with nothing but pen and paper on the desks before them, sat pa-

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tiently recording what the lecturer said. At the end of his discourses on theGeorgics or the Verrines, each of them carried away a compendiousvolume, containing a transcript of the author's text, together with amiscellaneous mass of notes, critical, explanatory, ethical, aesthetical,historical, and biographical. In other words" a book had been dictated, andas many scores of copies as there were attentive pupils had been made. Thelanguage used was Latin. No dialect of Italian could have been intelligibleto the students of different nationalities who crowded the lecture-rooms.The elementary education in grammar requisite for following a professorialcourse of lectures had been previously provided by the teachers of the Latinschools which depended for maintenance partly on the State and partly onprivate enterprise. (John Symonds, cited by Laurie 1903: 35)


For a description of the Iranian madrasa, merely substitute "Arabic" for"Latin."

The process of reconstruction of ancient knowledge and its creative ex­tension is conventionally said to have peaked by the end of the eleventhcentury. Thereafter scholarship became repetitive compilations of en­cyclopedias rather than innovative. Religious orthodoxies set in andreduced the intellectual freedom of expression. In the sixteenth century,with the establishment of the Safavid and Ottoman religious ideologies,political conditions also reduced tolerance for diversity of opinion. Inter­nationally, after the eleventh century the Arabic translations began to beretranslated into Latin and generated a creative impulse for the develop­ment of the Renaissance and modern European universities. The torch ofcreative scholarship was passed from the Muslim world to Europe.

Madrasas continued to be built by the rulers. Most of the old madrasasof Qum were initially constructed and endowed by the sixteenth-centurySafavids. At the same time the religious leaders attempted successfully toseparate the actual administration of the madrasas from state in­terference. Here the development in Iran differs radically from that inthe Ottoman empire, where the madrasas were integrated into thebureaucratic structure. But in both cases the result was a kind of religiousinvolution: an intellectual stagnation and an elaboration of the kind ofreligious learning consisting of commentaries on hadith and the Qur'anand commentaries upon commentaries, usually in the form of notesupon one's teacher's lectures, which in turn were his notes upon histeacher's.

Although the madrasa system that developed in Iran was not a statesystem on the nizamiyya or Ottoman models, yet it was statewide and in­ternational. There was a standard curriculum. There was teacher cer­tification: ijazas or letters of permission were given by recognizedscholars to certify that one was qualified to teach specified items.Students started their ABCs in the local maktab (elementary school),often run by women. Boys might proceed from the maktab to provincial

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42 Rise and Decline ofthe Madrasa

towns for the lower levels of education. Then they went to the largercities for the upper levels, ultimately trying to go where the mostreknowned scholars lectured. The madrasas and students were supportedby religious "tithes" (the sahm-i Imam, or "share of the Imam," that is,half the one-fifth khums tax), by private endowments, and by en­dowments from high officials, including the king. At times the royalcourt attempted to supervise these endowments through a Ministry ofEndowments, but the sahm-i Imam and voluntary contributions haveprovided a major source of independence for the religious institution,although paradoxically also a source of anti-innovative conservatism.


Three points of comparison between the yeshiva and the madrasa areworth considering: the social role of the scriptural school, that is, thelegislative and judicial role, and how this role varied; the pedagogicalsystem, that is, the sequencing of study, the rules of method, and thedegrees obtained; and the evolution of the form of schooling, both itsrise and its decline. It is not surprising that early Muslim scholars shouldhave adopted Judaic techniques of legal and theological argumentation(and that both should have been influenced by the Greco-Roman world):the scholarly tradition of Islam arose in Mesopo"tamia shortly after (inpart concurrently with) the talmudic and rabbinic tradition. (In themedieval period the debt would be repaid, with Jewish scholarship bor­rowing from Islamic.) Indeed according to Marshall Hodgson (1974: I,310), "A significant part of the population that accepted Islam in its for­mative centuries was composed of Jews, whose narrative traditions,called [sra'iliyyat (Israelitics), dominated the popular legendry of earlyIslam." The same should hold for scholarship.

Similarly, at the modern end of the scriptural school's development,the yeshiva was confronted with the Enlightenment and the modernuniversity before the madrasa was. In both cases a process of isolationand parochializing ensued, with the brightest and most socially mobilestudents leaving for the modern educational system. But even longbefore this, both systems had been relegated to primarily religious studiesand so had stagnated. Shlomo Dov Goitein (1971) points out that evenreligious leaders in Jewish medieval Cairo tended to come from scien­tific, and especially medical, training. (Maimonides was the example parexcellence.) Despite the claims of the madrasa and yeshiva to be based oncreative disputation, it is practical affairs that ensure creativity. Both theyeshiva and madrasa, through the late medieval and early modernperiods, served as guarantors of a certain amount of literacy, the yeshivamuch more successfully than the madrasa, for a reason that I think hasto do with the nature of the synagogue liturgy.29

The history of the yeshiva begins with the destruction of the Temple,

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or with the destruction of the priestly tradition of Judaism. 30 This was along process extending from 586 B.C.E.3) (the destruction of the firstTemple by Nebuchadnezzar) to 70 C.E. (the destruction of the secondTemple by Titus). Just as the completion of the madrasa system is con­ventionally said to have been instituted in 1066, so the yeshiva is conven­tionally said to have begun in 70 C.E. with what was known as "thevineyard" at Yabneh, established by Johanan ben Zakkai. In both casesthe conventional date is the culmination of an important preparatorytransition.

After the Persians conquered Babylonia, Cyrus the Great allowedNehemiah and Ezra to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the (second) Tem­ple (completed in 516 B.C.E.). An academy (bet ha-midrash) was builtnear the Temple. Although the majority of the population which hadbeen removed by Nebuchadnezzar to Iraq remained there, and althoughthere seem to have been academies in Iraq, this bet ha-midrash quicklybecame the premier academy, drawing students from everywhere. Therewere apparently several early academies in Palestine as well, but thesemerged into the one at the Temple, with two heads (the zugot, or "pair"):the nasi (president) and the ab bet din (head of the court).32 From thisacademy were recruited the seventy members of the great assembly(Hebrew knesset ha-godol, Greek sanhedrin), headed by the high priest,and the members of the several lesser courts of twenty-three members. 33

At the same time as this academy began to take shape, Ezra organizedmass meetings at which the scripture was read and instituted readings insynagogues four times a week (Monday and Thursday mornings andtwice on Saturday); a quorum of ten was required, and the readings weredone in both Hebrew and the vernacular Aramaic, which had beenadopted in Babylonia.

This was the period of the canonization of the Bible, the creation ofthe synagogue liturgy, and the evolution of methods of deriving the lawfrom biblical texts (midrash halakhah, the parallel to the later Islamicdiscipline of usul or methods of deriving the fiqh or law from Qur'anicverses). The nature of the community was quite different in this "secondcommonwealth" from that under the first Temple; no longer were thereprophets, the tribal divisions no longer had meaning, the Temple con­tained no Ark of the Covenant, and rather than a king and nobles, acouncil of sages headed by a high priest led the community. The com­munity paid tribute to the Persians, then the Greeks, the Ptolomies ofEgypt, and the Seleucids of Syria. In 165 B.C.E. the Maccabbee revoltestablished the independence of the state of Judea with the high priest asking. This theocratic rule lasted until 37 B.C.E., although the kingdomlost its independence to Rome in 63 B.C.E.

Toward the end of this period, around 75 B.C.E., Simeon ben Shetah,nasi of the sanhedrin and brother of the queen, Salomeh, instituted

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secondary schools to prepare students for the academy. This reformseems to have been connected with the dispute between the Pharisees(Perushim, "separatists"), the traditionalist faction led by Simeon, andthe Sadducees (Zedokim) , who rejected the Oral Law, invoking theslogan to return to the Torah alone and thereby attempting to restrict thesphere of religious law so that there might be greater freedom to emulateGreek civilization. 34 The educational reform, systematizing preparationin the school rather than in the home, instituted to protect the faith, hadthe effect of producing so many students that the great academy split in­to two: the famous academies of Shammai and of Hillel, the first twotannaim ("repeaters" or transmitters of what they had learned, parallel tothe later Islamic "transmitter," or ravi). 3 5 These two leaders and schoolsfigure continually in the Talmud as the sources of opposed opinions onany given subject.

Indeed, one of the first subjects of dispute for an account of thedevelopment of education is their opposed positions on who is to beeducated. The Talmudic tract Aboth begins: The men of the greatassembly "said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up manydisciples, and make a fence around the Law" (Aboth 1: 1). But later thereis a comment upon "raise up many disciples": "For the school of Sham­mai says: One ought to teach only him who is talented and meek and ofdistinguished ancestry and rich. But the school of Hillel says: One oughtto teach every man, for there were many in Israel who had been sinnersand were drawn to the study of Torah, and from them descendedrighteous (saddiqim), pious (hasidim), and worthy folk" (Aboth 1:3).

The school of Hillel eventually won out. The school of Shammai con­tinued the old practice of charging student fees. Hillel opposed fees:teaching and learning are religiously meritorious and ought not to besubject to fees; a scholar should not support himself by teaching if he canotherwise earn a living. 36 This shift toward open education for all quick­ly went to its logical conclusion. No longer was there a primacy accordedto those of priestly, noble, or wealthy ancestry. Indeed the leaders of thesanhedrin after Simeon ben Shetah were two men of proselyte origin(Shemaya and Avtalyon).

Nearly a hundred years later a system of elementary schools was in­troduced by Joshua ben Gamala (64 C.E.). Those parents who refused tosend their children were disparagingly called 'amm ha-arez (peasants,hicks).

In 70, Jerusalem was taken by the Romans, and the story goes thatduring the siege Johanan ben Zakkai, a student of Hillel, had himselfsmuggled in a coffin through the lines to the Roman camp. From Vespa­sian he obtained the pledge that he could establish a school in Yabneh,for Jews were to be excluded from Jerusalem. This yeshiva exercised thefunctions of the sanhedrin: setting the ritual calendar, being the supreme

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court, collecting financial support. After the death of Johanan, yeshivaswere established in several places so that if one were closed by theRomans, others could continue. As the yeshivas had different teacherswith slightly different styles and interpretations, students would movefrom school to school.

There were no fees, but Johanan tried to establish admission pro­cedures. However, student pressure was so great that these were abol­ished. The custom of standing to listen to the lecture (out of respect forthe word of God) was also abolished and semicircular benches were in­troduced. 37 In the front were three rows of twenty-three seats assigned tothe advanced students, called shield bearers, men who could defend theiropinions (similar to Muslim mujtaheds). Behind them came less ad­vanced students, and in the back the rest of the students, with first-yearstudents and common people seated on the ground. This semicircularpattern resembled a grape vine, and the "vineyard" metaphor wasemployed; it reproduced as well the arrangement of the sanhedrin, wherepriests and Levites had been seated in the front rows. Support for theyeshivas were obtained by sending messengers to various communities totake up collections, replacing in part the annual obligations of Templesacrifice dues. There was an ordination (smicha) leading to the title rabbi("master") already introduced under Hillel and Shammai, as well as cer­tifications of expertise (reshut) , which did not carry the title rabbi(parallel to the later Muslim mujtahid and ijaza).38

Thus the institution that had emerged by 70 C.E. was, first of all, athree-tiered system of public education, graded and with certifications ofseveral sorts (reshut, smicha), and open to all. Second, its masters (rab­bis), both in councils (sanhedrin, yeshiva, havurot ha-sedeq)39 and incourts (bet din)40 were the legislative and judicial authority for the com­munity. To be sure, the rabbis did not exercise political authority. InPalestine, political authority was placed by outside powers upon the nasior patriarch, and in Babylonia upon the exilarch (rosh ga/uta); later thetitle in Cairo became nagid ra'is a/-yahud (leader of the Jews).41 And so,despite the claim of religious law to be all-encompassing ("not only areligion but a way of life"), a de facto distinction arose between religiousand secular law, exactly as would be the case in both Islam andCatholicism.

The education itself consisted of a tripartite curriculum. The elemen­tary level (miqra) began, after mastering the alphabet, with the Pen­tateuch, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa, all of which were extantbefore the second commonwealth began (c. 500 B.C.E.).42 The child orolder beginner memorized and translated or paraphrased into the ver­nacular (Aramaic or, in Alexandria, Greek). An interesting practice,established at least by the time of Rabbi Akiba (40-130 C.E.), was thatone begins the Torah not with Genesis but with Leviticus, that is, not

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with the legends of creation but with the rules of sacrifice and purity.Various reasons have been given, the most probable being that thePharisees wished to emphasize the separation of Jews, in opposition tothe assimilation into Hellenic culture being promoted by the patriciansand many of the Sadducees. In any case the practice continued intomodern times in the yeshivas of Eastern Europe. 43 The Talmudic reasongiven for the practice is that "children are pure, sacrifices are pure, let thepure (children) study the pure (sacrifices)." In the nineteenth-centuryelementary schools (heder) of Eastern Europe, the Pentateuch was stillthe basis of the learning, together now with the commentaries of Rashi(1030-1105); the Prophets and Hagiographa were usually left for the stu­dent to learn by himself.

The most immediate purpose of this elementary education is notliteracy per se, but to prepare a boy44 to take part in the synagogue (asthe scholae cantora of Europe were to train priests to sing the Offices,and the Muslim maktab to give a child the minimal knowledge of theQur'an). Goitein (1971) suggests that the heavy stress on memorizationderived from a period in which there was a need to preserve not only anexact reading but also the proper cantilation; hence the Talmudic line"The world exists solely through the breath of the school children."(Compare the Muslim apologia that the authenticity of the Qur'an isguaranteed by the oral memorization of numerous early Muslims.) Bythe eleventh and twelfth centuries, however, Goitein points out, the am­biguity of the Hebrew alphabet (an ambiguity from which Arabic alsosuffered) had been resolved by notations for pronunciation and cantila­tion. (Arabic also evolved notation for vocalization, and the Qur'an toogained cantilation notes.) Further, by this time the Targum (Greektranslation) had become not a translation aid to understanding theHebrew but yet another obscure text to be memorized. Reading waslearned but not writing: writing was only an aid to learning, and thosewho did not continue their studies often could not read or write the curs­ive script. The reward for studying well was to be allowed to ascend theplatform in the center of the synagogue (bimeh, anbol, minbar)45 andread a portion of the week's section of the Torah.

The intermediate level of education revolved around the Mishnah(from shanah, "to repeat") or Oral Law. In the early days (until 200 C.E.)this followed the order of the Pentateuch. Thus, Nathan Drazin (1940:85-90) gives the following example: when one came to the verse "Theseventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not doany manner of work" (Exod. 20: 10), the teacher would recite:

The main classes of work are forty save one: sowing, plowing, reaping ...how much must a man build to become culpable? He is culpable who builds[on the Sabbath] aught soever, or who at all hews stone, or wields a ham­mer, or chisels, or bores a hole. This is the general rule: if man performs

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work on the Sabbath and his work is enduring, he is culpable ... he isculpable who writes two letters (of the alphabet), whether with his righthand or his left, whether the same or different letters, whether in differentinks or in any language.

Note the use of numbers as mnemonics (thirty-nine classes of work). In200 C.E. the Mishnah was reorganized by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi Rabbaninto six orders, each divided into tractates, totaling sixty-one. This thenbecame the standard text. The text, however, is but a summary of theteachings of the tannaim (from Shammai and Hillel to the Rabbis Akibaand Rabban), an aid to oral teachings. And so the tannaim (repeaters)were followed by the amoraim, or "interpreters" (c. 200-5(0), who madeadditional compilations of traditions and explanations; with chains oftransmission going back to Moses (parallel with the isnad of the Muslimhadith), and developed critical methods for evaluating and applying theOral Law. This then is the period of the development of the gemara orthe two talmuds, the Babylonian and the Palestinian. They contain ser­mons by the sages, records of debates, and explanations. After the com­pletion of the two talmuds, the amoraim were succeeded by gaonim,scholars who replied to questions about the law. In the eleventh centuryin France, Rashi produced a definitive recension with commentaries ofthe Babylonian Talmud, which is accepted to the present. Further com­mentaries were produced in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (theTosafot) and then not again until the sixteenth century in Poland.

The Talmud was the subject of study for the highest level of education:the yeshiva. The distinction between the intermediate studies and the ad­vanced studies was not so much the subject as the detail and subtlety ofexposition. Even each letter of the text might be examined.46 Variouscritical rules were established: Hillel had listed seven hermeneutical rules,Rabbi Ishmael (a contemporary of Akiba) established thirteen rules forinterpreting legal decisions (halakhah) and thirty-two rules for inter­preting legendary material (haggadah) rules such as gezerah sharah(deriving the meaning of a word in an unclear passage from its meaningin a clear passage), and kal va homer (deducing from a minor to a majorcase, or from a concrete case to a general law). In the nineteenth-centuryyeshivas of Eastern Europe there were two school terms (April-July,October-June) during which there w<?uld be a daily assembly with thepresident in the chair and the students standing around him. 47 The presi­dent or head of the yeshiva (rosh yeshiva) would give a lecture, followedby an argumentation called hilluk or pilpul in which the contradictions inthe Talmud and commentaries would be pointed out, solutions pro­posed, these solutions shown to be contradictory, and further solutionsproposed, until the subject matter was fully explored (compare the bahthof the Muslim madrasa). Toward the middle of the term there would beless pilpul and more attention to textual materials, and toward the end of

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the term the students would be allowed to try their hand at pilpul(Gamoran 1925). The varieties of interpretation are endless, though atraditional mnemonic classifies them into four levels: PaRDeS("orchard"), an acronym of the first letters of peshat, remez, derush, andsod, referring to "the plain, the typological, the homiletical, and the sym­bolic method of interpretation" (Avi-Yonah 1968).

The yeshivas of the early gaonim period were three major academies,one in Palestine and two in Iraq (Sura and Nehardea). In Iraq thescholars were dispersed among the various Jewish communities ofMesopotamia and Iran, but they would gather twice a year for study andmaking decisions. The gaon or head of the yeshiva would announcewhich sections of the Talmud would be discussed at the followingsemiannual meeting so scholars could study ahead. The gaon's expositionwould be carried to the large audience by interpreters who would alsorelay questions. At the spring assembly questions would be discussed thathad been sent from various parts of the world (students and inquiriescame to Iraq from as far afield as Italy and France). The Palestinianyeshiva had no such semiannual convocations, but the scatteredmembers would meet to discuss communal and religious issues onpilgrimages to Jerusalem, particularly at the Feast of Tabernacle (Suk­koth). In 1071, when the Seljuks conquered Jerusalem, the Palestinianyeshiva moved to Tyre, then to Damascus, and finally to Cairo (1127),where it lasted as a continuous institution until it was replaced by aschool formed around Maimonides in the late twelfth century. A Jewishconvert to Islam, Ya 'qub ibn Killis, became vizier to the Fatimid caliphin the 970s and presided over the beginnings of al-Azhar. The Fatimidsalso provided financial support to the yeshivas for a brief period. 48

In the tenth to thirteenth centuries, heads of the local congregations inthe Mediterranean were nominated by the congregations and appointedby the heads of these three yeshivas. In Cairo some congregations fol­lowed the Palestinian yeshiva, others followed the Babylonian yeshivas.Although there was competition for membership, the public chest,courts, and endowments were jointly administered. When the Palestin­ian yeshiva moved to Cairo, it remained composed of seventy members,but an unlimited number of scholars were associated. Only a person oc­cupying a seat in the rows was allowed to participate in the disputations;each row had a head (rosh ha-seder) who in turn might be the head of thelesser academies or midrashim (compare Islamic madrasa). These lessercolleges sprang up all over the Mediterranean, and as the schools inBaghdad began to decay in the tenth century, those in Tunisia(Qayrawan) and elsewhere began to grow. The Iraqi yeshiva was finallyreduced to relative insignificance at the time of the Mongol invasions.

Regional differences in competence arose, depending upon politicalconditions. Europeans had less legal autonomy and so became better

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At age 5:


Talmudic scholars but poor judges.49 The concentration on Talmud inEurope led to a neglect of precision in knowledge of the Bible and its pro­nunciation, skills that were maintained in Egypt and especially in Yemen.For Europeans the Talmud was more practical than the Bible: it hadmore about prayers, family law, and commerce. In Cairo, on the otherhand, Jews were more integrated into national life, and their religiousconcerns focused on problems of adjudicating legal cases and ontheological issues. 50 In the tenth and .eleventh centuries the gaonim(heads of the yeshivas) began to write monographs on aspects of the law,using Arabic or Islamic terms (compare the Muslim taqrirat); and theresponsa or answers to questions of the gaonim began to be collected asthe basis for local rulings (compare the risala-i tawdih al-masa'il ofMuslim mujtahids).

To recapitulate, Rabbi Jehuda ben Tema said that at five years of ageone should begin the Torah, at ten the Mishna, and at fifteen theGemara. 51 A thirteenth-century description is more detailed (Gamoran1925: 9):

First month - alphabetSecond month - vowelsThird month - syllablesLeviticus and the weekly Torah

portionThe TargumProphets and HagiographaMishna and TorahYoungster can be taken to the

house of the devoted to studyDuty of separation for study in

the yeshiva for seven years: twoyears each for Mo'ed, Nashim,Nezikim, Kodashim

The focus of study is always the Torah and Talmud, but other thingsmight be added. Goitein remarks that the eleventh-century kuttab taughtlittle writing or arithmetic, but Hay Gaon (d. 1038) allowed botharithmetic and Arabic calligraphy. The Talmud speaks of the ex­periments of Rabbi Simon b. Halafta who examined ants to verify abiblical assertion that the ant has no chief, overseer, or ruler, and thedisciples of Rabbi Ishmail who dissected the cadaver of an executedprostitute to discover the number of bones, 250, in a woman's body(Drazin 1940). A twelfth-century Spanish curriculum claims to includethe Bible, Hebrew poetry, the Talmud, the relations of philosophy andrevelation, the logic of Aristotle, Euclid, arithmetic, the mathematics ofNicomachus, Theodosius, Menelaus, Archimedes, optics, astronomy,

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music, medicine, natural science, and metaphysics (Gamoran 1925: 10).More seriously, Goitein points out the importance of physicians both ascommunity leaders and as religious scholars, of which Maimonides is theoutstanding case; of the ten named Egyptian nagids between 1050 and1400 all were physicians. Even sticking narrowly to Talmud and Torah,the method of study stressed the multifaceted nature of truth,pragmatism, and reducing social dissension. Pilpul or dialectics mayeventually be self-defeating, but it is not simply dogmatics.


Like the yeshiva and madrasa, Christian education in western Europebegan with scriptural schools. 52 In the Byzantine East, classical schoolscontinued and Christians attended them-albeit with much unease, forthe method of teaching was inextricably bound to the pagan content. Inlearning to read, one went from syllables to the names of gods and thento the various poetical forms, the content of which was not only paganfigures but the values of a pagan age. Tertullian went so far as to forbidChristians to be teachers in such schools; and when the Emperor Julianbanned Christians from teaching what they did not believe, the twoApollinari (father and son) tried to write new texts using the classicalliterary forms but with Judaeo-Christian contents: the Pentateuch in thestyle of Homer and the historical texts of the Old Testament as drama,for example. These and the attempts of Origen to establish Christianschools with both catechism and theological exegesis were short-livedreactions. Christians took part in the classical education. Parallel Chris­tian schools were eventually established in monasteries and by thepatriarch, their curricula including theology, rhetoric, grammar,philosophy, and mathematics. In 1453, with the conquest of Constan­tinople by the Turks, this tradition of Christian education was brokenand priests resorted to local scriptural schools, as had the early Chris­tians of Western Europe.

In Western Europe, where classical education collapsed along with theRoman political authority, schools were set up in monasteries to teachmonks to read the scripture (Iectio divina) and in cathedrals to trainpriests. Encouragement of these schools, established first in the fourthand fifth centuries, was later given by Charlemagne and Alfred (ninthcentury), 5 3 and until the thirteenth century the Church more or less had amonopoly on learning. The process of building a textual corpus foreducation was not very different from that of the yeshiva and madrasa.The first need beyond the catechism, plainsong, psalms, CanonicalHours, and the Bible itself, was to make available at least extracts fromwritings of the early Church fathers. This was the task of Alcuin at thecourt of Charlemagne. Inconsistencies in the texts led to commentaries,to distinctions between the letter and the spirit of a text, and tosystematizations. The development of the Gloss, or standard commen-

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tary on the text (sacrina pagina), was similar to that for the Mishna andTalmud; indeed when textual criticism became important in glossing,Jewish rabbis were freely consulted, both for the Hebrew and forhistorical context, in order to clarify the meaning. This consultation, infact, apparently reintroduced to Jews a number of forgotten Hebraictraditions preserved in the patristic writings (Hailperin 1963: 6).

The standard commentary, Glossa Ordinaria, was begun by Anselm.The next generation then glossed the Gloss. Physically the texts, likethose of the Talmud and Islamic commentaries, became crowded withmarginal notes, which in turn became authoritative. Quaestiones ontheological matters began to be separated out with their answers asseparate texts. Of these Abelard's Sic et Non set the style: a compilationof 158 questions, each followed by a series of quotations from theChurch fathers giving conflicting views and arguments, with no solutionattempted. Peter Lombard, a student of Abelard, used the same form inhis Sentences, which began as questions raised during his glossing ofAnselm (the Magna Glosatum), but he indicated the accepted solutions.The Sentences became the universal textbook of theology. In law, asimilar style of codification occurred. Irnerius (c. 1113) compiled a digestof responsa of the classical jurists, and thereby made civil law a full-timecourse of study, separate from the liberal arts. Slightly later (1142-1151)the monk Gratian compiled the Decretum or Concordantia Discordan­tium Canonum in the manner inaugurated by Abelard's Sic et Non anddoing for canon law what Peter Lombard's Sentences was to do fortheology. That is, on every disputed question in ecclesiastical law, helisted all the authorities on either side and indicated those doctrines thatare to be preferred for their superior authority, more recent date, orreasonableness. Not only did this help differentiate canon law from civillaw as a separate course of study, but Pope Gregory IX used this modelto publish five books of his own and his predecessors' Decretals, whichhe then sent to the universities of Paris and Bologna to be taught, therebyto create an international legal training such as had been provided byRoman law for the old empire. Even medicine (particularly at Paris)relied on this scholastic style of presenting opinions.

Systematization in this scholastic mode, using syllogistic reasoning tosupport the accepted opinions on disputed issues, is conventionally saidto have culminated, at least in theology, with St. Thomas Aquinas (d.1274). The thirteenth century began to see the recovery of many newAristotelian and other classical texts, through the efforts of translationfrom Arabic, especially at Toledo under Archbishop Raymond. One wayof characterizing the turning point of the thirteenth century is given byRichard McKeon (1975: 185):

If you wanted to know what the culture of the twelfth century was, youcould list, let's say, three thousand quotations that every intellectual wouldknow. And you would have a method by which to deal with these quota-

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tions because each of the collections of canon law and the Sic et Non givesthe method. If you have a pair of statements which seems to be contradic­tory on the same question, you consider who said it, to whom, under whatcirc*mstances, and for what purpose. . . So the culture of the twelfth cen­tury is easier to describe than the culture of any other period that I knowbecause you can tabulate it. By the thirteenth century, this is totallychanged. It is changed because three thousand quotations are no longerenough. The new translations bring in new data ... there is a multiplicityof methods.

With this explosion in materials to be worked with, the cathedralschools had begun to evolve into universities. The scholasticus, or canonin charge of training priests, had become a chancellor of a university withthree senior faculties-in theology, law, and medicine-and onepreparatory faculty - in arts. The university54 became, by charter of thePope, a place that offered a studium generale (open to all, foreigners andnative, laymen and clerics) and gave degrees jus ubique docendi (the rightto teach in the same faculty at any university). At the beginning of thethirteenth century there were three main studia: Paris for theology andarts, Bologna for law, and Salerno for medicine. By 1650 there were thir­teen to seventeen universities in France (depending on how you draw itsboundaries). The first Papal bull of jus ubique docendi was issued in1233 to raise Toulouse to equality with Paris and Bologna. Other newuniversities obtained similar bulls, and in 1292 they were formally givento the old universities of Paris and Bologna. (Oxford and Padua did notreceive bulls, but were declared studia generalia "by custom"; Paris,however, refused to recognize Oxford degrees without further examina­tions, whereupon Oxford repaid the compliment in kind.)

To take Paris as the example of this evolution,55 the university grewout of the cathedral school of Notre Dame. The Lateran Council of 1179had decreed that each cathedral school endow a master to teach gratis,that no fee should be exacted for a license to teach, and that the licenseshould not be refused any qualified applicant. A scholasticus-chancellorsupervised the licensing to teach. From about 1170 there was a guild ofmasters who asserted the right to strike and in 1200 received a charter ofprivileges from Philip Augustus, including the right to protection fromthe provost of Paris (against the chancellor, if need be); and in 1209 PopeInnocent III allowed the guild to appoint a representative in Rome torepresent them in disputes with the chancellor. Involved in these con­stitutional developments were major disputes between the chancellor, themasters, and the city. In the 1250s further disputes developed, this timeover the role of Dominican and Franciscan monks in the university, sincethey operated their own houses of teaching and demanded licenses toteach without being subject to the guild rules. One of the results of thisconflict was the founding .of residential colleges for secular theologians,

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such as that of Robert Sorbonne, chaplain to Louis IX, as rivals to thereligious houses. The conflict over privileges and jurisdiction eventuallyled to the destruction of the university as an international institution:under Louis XI, in the latter part of the fifteenth century, the rector (thetitle that replaced scholasticus) had to swear loyalty to the crown, andforeign students were expelled. Gradually the quality of educationdeclined and the universities were overshadowed by Protestant and Jesuiteducational ventures.

It is interesting to look at the life of students in these universities anddiscover the centrality of disputation (like the bahth of the madrasa andthe pilpul of the yeshiva). At the beginning there was little regulation ofthe sequence of studies and students wandered from school to school.Abelard (1079-1142) was one of the masters who drew students to Parisin its early days, though he too wandered from place to place and wastwice ousted from his chair at Notre Dame. 56

John of Salisbury studied in France from 1139-1149: first, logic inParis for two years; then the quadrivium 57 in Chartres for three years;and then theology again in Paris. He has left a description of the gram­matical lectures of William of Conches at Chartres:

After questions on parsing, scansion, construction and the grammaticalfigures or 'oratorical tropes' illustrated in the passage read, the Lecturernoticed the varieties of phraseology occurring therein, and pointed out thedifferent ways in which this or that may be expressed - in short subjectedthe whole diction of the author to an elaborate and exhaustive analysis ...He then proceeded to comment on or explain the subject matter, enlargingupon any incidental allusions to physical science or any ethical questionstouched on by the author. The next morning the pupils were required,under the severest penalties, to repeat what they had been taught on thepreceding day; and there was daily practice in Latin prose and verse com­position in imitation of specified Classical models. (Rashdall 1895: I, 65)

In the next century, things became more regularized. A boy aged four­teen or so would come to the university. There he would begin Latingrammar; or, if he already had some training in the liberal arts (whichwere more widely taught in the provinces than the higher subjects), hewould go to the arts classes, where he would sit on the floor around thelecturer's desk (benches were introduced in the mid-fifteenth century).To get the bachelor's degree he had to "respond" in December (have adisputation with a master in grammar or logic); next he had to be ex­amined by a board of examiners; and finally in Lent he had to face a"determination" (a disputation in which he defended a thesis against anopponent) to which many came, since the candidate provided drinks anda feast. The bachelor then became an assistant teacher, going to classesbut also taking part in disputations and giving some lectures. At agetwenty he could apply for a master's degree. This involved an examina-

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tion, a disputation, a second examination, an inaugural lecture, and afeast. He then had duties of public disputations for forty days and lectur­ing for two years (though by the mid-fourteenth century this requirementwas dropped). A master's degree in theology could be taken at agetwenty-five after six years' study (four on the Bible and two on theSentences). A doctorate of theology could be obtained at age thirty-five.Inception, the admission to being a master, was marked by giving an in­augural lecture seated in a magisterial cathedra and being invested withthe insignia of an open book, a ring, and a cap (biretta).

Peter the Chanter (c. 1170) has left a famous description of scholasticlearning which could just as well be a description of what goes on in themadrasas of Qum:

The practice of Bible study consists in three things: reading (Iectione) ,disputation, preaching ... Reading is, as it were, the foundation and base­ment for what follows, for through it the rest is achieved. Disputation is thewall in this building of study, for nothing is fully understood or faithfullypreached if it is not first chewed by the tooth of disputation. Preachingwhich is supported by the former, is the roof, sheltering the faithful fromthe heat and wind of temptation. We should preach after, not before, thereading of Holy Scripture and the investigation of doubtful matters bydisputation. (Smalley 1964: 208)

Lectures (the reading and glossing of a text), repetitions (special discus­sions of particular questions, often led by bachelarii not yet qualified tolecture on the scripture itselt), and disputations (a thesis is maintainedagainst all comers) were separate teaching devices. Students took noteson their teachers' lectures, and these became the basis of their own lec­tures. Interpretive senses were often distinguished into four, as by St.John Cassian in his classic example of the meanings of Jerusalem:"Jerusalem, according to history, is a city of the Jews, according toallegory it is the Church of Christ; according to anagoge it is the heav­enly city of God which is the mother of us all (Gal. iv. 26); according totropology it is the soul of man, 'which under this name the Lord oftenthreatens or praises' " (Smalley 1964: 28). Or into three senses, as byPeter Lombard: "This historical sense is easier, the moral sweeter, themystical sharper; the historical is for beginners, the moral for the ad­vanced, the mystical for the perfect" (Smalley 1964: 245).

Tables of meanings of words with- texts illustrating the several senses(distinctio) , parables (exempla), glosses, and concordances, all aided inexposition and teaching. As in Judaism or Islam, there was alwaysdanger that during the process of "grinding the corn of scripture into thebread of tropology" or moralization, one would be accused of doingviolence to the meaning of the text; vice versa, too literal an interpreta­tion of the text or acceptance of too many of what Jews identified asliteral meanings led to accusations of Judaicizing and perverting themessage of the Lord.

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Decline of the Scriptural School Form

A variety of factors contributed to the decline of the scholastic univer­sities: continuing discovery of more and more classical texts, the rise ofnational vernacular literatures, the nationalization of the universitiesaway from an international system nominally coordinated by the Pope,the rigidifying of scholastic methods, and the Protestant Reformation.Histories of Western education and culture tend to stress the first andfourth of these factors, but the rise of the Protestant minister is perhapsequally important, both in indicating social changes in the basis of publicsensibilities and in changing the style of education.

Preaching is an activity for which madrasa and yeshiva students aretrained, as were the medieval friars. In medieval Europe there were col­lections of parables, sermon manuals, and canons issued by bishops thatpriests must preach the ten commandments, the creed, the Lord's Prayer,the seven sacraments, the seven virtues, and the seven deadly sins. Anoutline from the popular fourteenth-century Fasciculus morum is givenby Wenzel (1976: 38):


Simile from everyday life

Restate theme

Divide theme in three

"You should follow in His foot­steps" (I Peter 2:21)

Masons, carpenters and writersall need a model. If you wantto go to heaven, you also needa model: the life of Christ.

Hence after the blessed words ofPeter: You should followChrist, who like a good leaderwent before us on a three-foldpath:

Humility and obediencePoverty and patiencePurity and continence

Restate theme with a quotationfrom the Bible

"Let my Lord pass before Hisservant, and I will softly followin His footsteps"

(Compare this with the Shi'ite rawda, or preachment, described inchapter 5.)

Various devices were used to enliven these sermons: anagrams fromkey words, verbally painted pictures of abstract ideas, and versified"preachers tags" for both wit and rhetorical persuasion. To illustrate that

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pride can be overcome by thinking about death, the Latin word for death(mors) is used to talk about four words, each beginning with a letter ofmors, indicating things associated with death: mirum speculum (mirror),orologium (clock), raptor (thieO, (s)citator (summoner). Or an abstractconcept is allegorized by describing a person with a series of attributesrelated to the concept. Finally, versified tags not only could sum up apoint but could add the flavor of a divine voice or a wail of a damnedsoul: "Whoso will not when he may, He shall not when he would; Alas,alas, that I was born, Both life and soul I am forlorn." By 1500, com­ments Wenzel (pp. 49-50), denouncing the vices (and commending thevirtues), "with its innumerable proof texts and illustrative stories, hadbeen heard so many times that it would no longer stir an audience to con­trition, but lull them into a peaceful doze."5 8

The Protestant minister reacted against the routinization of theChurch message, the overritualization of the liturgy, and the corruptionof the Church itself. Instead he emphasized a message of personal con­version, simplicity of expression, and active dedication to spiritual goalsin one's social life. The typical career of an English Protestant ministerstill began at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, but financialsupport for his lectures increasingly came from local communities andthe rising bourgeois merchants. Several strands of thought reinforcedeach other: the anti-Catholic and the humanist. As early as 1524, MartinLuther sent a letter to German municipalities asking them to providetheir own schools and not depend on the Church. Vitorina da Feltre(1378-1446), the Brethren of the Common Life in the Netherlands, andErasmus (1467-1536), though critical of the Church, were not hostile toit; yet their emphasis on the classics sowed the seeds of non-Church­related schools. Indeed at one point, dismayed at how efforts tosecularize ecclesiastical property resulted in closing many grammarschools, Erasmus complained that where Lutheranism flourished, learn­ing decayed. But the Protestants-Melanchthon (1497-1560), Trotzen­dorf (1490-1556), Sturm (1507-1589)-slowly began to found their ownschools and universities. As a counter, the Society of Jesus was foundedin 1534 and set up one of the most disciplined and effective systems ofeducation, refurbishing the old scholasticism and also concentrating onthe classics. Latin ceased to be the language of learning, and royalacademies in France and the Ritterakademien in Germany began to at­tract more scholars than the old universities.

Of the various efforts at creating a new educational system, that ofGermany was the most dramatic and was to provide a model forreformers in France and England and the United States.

In 1694 the University of Halle was founded to train "servants of thestate," breaking with scholastic tradition by teaching in German and by

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the direct concern with staffing the state. "Servants of the state" was acategory outside the traditional estate system and included doctors,lawyers, and syndics; even Fredrick the Great called himself a servant ofthe state. In the eighteenth century the Prussian state gave royal grants toset up schools (1736) and decreed compulsory school attendance (1763).Civil service exams were introduced in 1794. Universities similar to thatat Halle were founded at Frankfurt (1731), Gottingen (1734), and Jena(1790). The attempt by the state to establish full control over educationwas resisted in the name of academic freedom, so in the early nineteenthcentury a Ministry of Culture was established to supervise relations withthe educational institutions. The Abitur, or secondary-school leaving ex­amination, was standardized and made a prerequisite for entry to theuniversity (1812). About the same time the University of Berlin wasestablished, with Johann Fichte as the first rector (1810). It became themodel for the modern university. The Abitur was the school leaving ex­amination for the Gymnasium, a secondary school that taught the fullcomplement of Latin and Greek. The Realschulen, or secondary schoolsthat focused on math, natural science, German, and foreign languages,channeled students to positions in commerce and industry rather than tothe university. Knowledge of the classics now became a badge of socialclass, of belonging to the academic elite. The system was modified duringthe nineteenth century, but it was sharply tracked: in 1885, there were 7.5million primary school students, yet less than 333,000 students went onto secondary school and of these only about half to the Gymnasium; only27,000 were enrolled in the university, plus 4,500 more in other institutesof higher learning.

In England, state concern with education began a century later than inGermany: in 1832 small annual grants were first established for schoolbuildings; later a Committee of Council on Education was set up, gram­mar schools were organized, and a pupil-teacher system was introduced.But not until 1902 was a fully integrated state educational system at­tempted. Meanwhile public schools were established with special ties toparticular professions: Wellington was a training ground for the army,Marlborough for the Church, and Haileybury for the East India Com­pany. The public schools rapidly became the way of absorbing the risingmiddle class into the elite. As in Germany, the classics were emphasizedand used in the open civil service examinations introduced in 1870 for thehighest category of administrative class. The public schools stressedgentlemanly manners, and there was an increasing emphasis on custom,tradition, and etiquette. The operation of the system is shown by a fewstatistics. Of 69 cabinet ministers between 1885 and 1905, 46 were fromthe public schools; in 1928, public schools had educated 152 of 225 senioradministrative class officials, 33 of 45 senior Indian civil servants, 30 of

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47 dominion governors, and 52 of 56 bishops. As long as Oxford andCambridge continued to stress the classics, so did the public schools. In1905 Eton had 32 masters of classics, 14 of math, 9 of modern languages,4 in science, 1 in history, and 1 in drawing. In 1936 classics dons still werehalf the faculty. In 1932-1936 27 percent of foreign service recruits wereEtonians. Although chemistry was taught at Cambridge and Oxford andnatural science programs were established in the 1850s, the first impetusfor scientific training at the university level came from the new civicuniversities supported by private merchant and citizen collections (Man­chester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, and Birmingham).Even so, commercial firms often imported scientists and engineers fromGermany.

In sum, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw a reorganizationin education. It involved, first, what the Germans call a Kulturkampf,the struggle to free education from the church. Second, it involved thegearing of education to the expanding bureaucratic and scientific needs.And third, both of the former implied a change from scholasticism to ahumanism based on the classics and then to a scientific episteme.Whereas the state was substituted for the church as the organizingagency of education, the rising merchant and urban classes played an im­portant role in supporting the Protestant reformation, especially inEngland, and then the demand for scientific training.

The fight to wrest education from church control, the demand for pro­fessional education, and state-supported education have all come to Irantoo. By the turn of the twentieth century there had already been a seriesof new educational initiatives. In 1811 the first student was sent abroadfor study by the government, though by 1851 only twenty-nine studentshad so been sent. In 1851 the Dar-ul-Fanun was established to traingovernment officials: it was free, was meant for elite sons aged fourteento sixteen, and included a curriculum of foreign languages, naturalscience, math, history, geography, engineering, medicine, pharmacy,geology, and military sciences. Several more schools were opened: aschool of languages (1873), military colleges in Isfahan and Tehran(1883, 1886), a school of agriculture (1900), and a school of politicalscience within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1901). In 1918 some fivehundred Iranians were studying in Europe, and in 1930-31 this figure hadrisen to fifteen hundred. Meanwhile a series of lower level modernschools had been established by Zoroastrian (1850s), Christian (1880s)and Jewish (1920s) philanthropic agencies. Local Muslim leaders alsoestablished new schools, starting with those of Rushdiyya (see chapter 4).In 1935 the University of Teheran, incorporating some of the earlier pro­fessional schools, opened. It was followed in 1949 by the Universities ofTabriz, Isfahan, Mashhad, and Shiraz; and then by Ahwaz in 1955, Jun­dishapur in 1956, National University in 1960, and Aryamehr TechnicalUniversity in 1966.

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By 1979 twelve more universities had opened or were under construc­tion. There are also a large number of nonuniversity institutes of highereducation, so that in 1975 only 45 percent of students in higher educationwere enrolled in the universities.

The lower levels of education have also seen a series of dramaticdevelopments. Since the 1920s both public and private education hasbeen expanding systematically. In 1963 as part of the White Revolution,high school graduates were drafted into the army to form a literacy corpsand were sent out to staff village schools. By 1966 the schoo,l attendanceof urban seven- to fourteen-year-olds was estimated at 75.8 percent. Therapid development of the mass education system quickly led to structuralproblems in relation to the labor market. In 1966 high school graduateshad a higher rate of unemployment than did the illiterate. There has beenincreasing pressure in number of high school students seeking places inthe universities: 45,000 for 17,000 available places in 1968,300,000 for30,000 places in 1976 (Eicher et al. 1976). University graduates expectand often find employment only in some state bureaucratic agency. Theeducation system is failing to adequately supply the productive part ofthe economy, where industry and business suffer a lack of middle levelmanagement and technical personnel. This is directly reflected in poorquality control of products such as textiles, so that despite large-scaleproduction, export capacity is inhibited. In 1965, the primary and sec­ondary school system was overhauled in an attempt to track studentstoward the needs of the economy. And in 1974 all education was declaredfree if students promised to serve the state two years for each year of freeeducation from the upper grades of high school on. This was an attemptto stem the brain drain of the educated to more rewarding or better-paidjobs abroad.

The various problems and dynamics of the mass education system vis­a-vis a changing social structure are interesting in their own right anddeserve separate treatment elsewhere. For instance, although elitestudents have many advantages - from better initial training to beingable to pull strings and to having powerful aid in finding initialjobs - university recruitment is to some extent meritocratic. 5 9 Ananalysis of the medical students at the University of Teheran showed thatin 1976 only 31 percent of their parents had incomes of over Rls. 240,000per year ($3,600), only 20 percent of their fathers had at least a B.S.degree, 20 percent had a high school education, and 10 percent were il­literate (Ziai et al. 1976).

What is of primary interest is to recognize that the madrasa studentshave become a small isolated minority, many of whom are trying to get asecular education also so that they will have more job options. Althoughin 1976 some 300,000 people competed in the entrance exams for 30,000university places, there were only some 11,000 students at all levels in themadrasas. The power and influence of the madrasa lies elsewhere than

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in numbers or institutional centrality. It lies in a symbolic centrality. It isthe repository of a tradition out of which the various religious ideologiesof the several Iranian social classes are constructed.

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3Madrasa: Style and Substance

We have a hadith: The people are dead except the ulama.The ulama are dead except those who practice their

knowledge. All those who practice their knowledge are deadexcept the pious ones, and they are in great danger.

- Agha Najafi-Quchani

T HE PEDAGOGICAL IDEAL of the madrasa is posed by itsmembers as a criticism of the secular education system, which isspreading at the expense of the madrasa system. The madrasas

have been deteriorating in quality and scope of curriculum despite effortsto stop the deterioration and to accommodate to modern demands. Butas long as the state and the religious establishment each considered theother a threat to its own legitimacy, no serious thought could be given toan independent quality development of the madrasa ideal.

The Madrasa as a Free University

The picture that members of the madrasa system draw of the secularschools stresses their coercive and antilearning nature in contrast togreater freedom and more learning for learning's sake in the madrasas.In the state institutions students are forced to take classes they do notlike. They are pressured to study for grades and for diplomas rather thanfor knowledge. Both teachers and students anxiously await release by thebell at the end of the class period. Students and teachers often do notrespect each other. Teachers pontificate; students are captive audiencesrather than partners in learning.

The pedagogical ideal of the madrasa is just the reverse. There are nogrades, so students study only for learning's sake. Students who do notstudy are not flunked out, but neither are they elevated by bribery orfavoritism. For each there is a place according to his capacity and in­clination: a village preacher (akhund) need not be a legal expert (muj­tahid). Students study with teachers of their own choice. There is thusnever a disciplinary problem or a problem of lack of respect for teachers.Indeed the bond of respect and devotion of students for their teachers is


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Ayatullah Sayyid Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari (in the black turban thatindicates sayyid status) in a characteristic daily activity; receiving visitors, in­quiries, requests for advice and guidance.

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proverbial in almost the sense of the Indian term guru. Teachers do notpontificate; rather, all teaching is on a dialectic principle of argumentand counterargument in which students are encouraged to participate in­sofar as they have the preparation to do so.

That is the ideal, and to a greater or lesser extent it is also what in factexists. Teachers, of course, have their different styles, some of which en­courage more and some less interruption. For example, to turn to themadrasas in Qum, Ayatullah S. Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari tendsnot to interrupt the flow of his discourse; he hears interjected questionsfrom the audience but responds to them in his own time. Ayatullah S.Mohammad Reza Golpayegani, on the other hand, stops and listens toeach question and answers it as it comes up. Style of give and take alsodepends upon the level of the class, there being more freedom and reasonfor questioning and debate at the most advanced levels. When, after abreak of several years, Naser Makarem reopened his classes in 'aqa'id va­madhahib (doctrines and religions), he found himself forced to rulemany questions out of order and to demand that only people with a cer­tain level of training come to class; otherwise the debate could never getoff the ground.

Two styles of pedagogical discourse can be briefly illustrated. First, anexample from the most advanced level of teaching, the so-called dars-ikharij ("external studies" or studies beyond the strict sequence of text­books). In Qum this occurs in the great mosque built by Ayatullah S.Hoseyn Borujerdi adjacent to the Shrine of Fatima, Hadrat-i Ma'suma(sister of the eighth Imam). Several parts of the mosque aresimultaneously used by' different classes, each teacher seated upon hisminbar (a set of stairs that serves as lecturn, or podium) and the studentsseated on carpets around him. The three important dars-i kharij (givenby Shariatmadari, Golpayegani, and Marashi) are scheduled so that onecan attend them all. The students range from youths approaching theirtwenties to whitebeards in their eighties. The serious students take notes;others may occupy their hands with worry beads, or may even doze.

Ayatullah Shariatmadari is discussing the status of intention (niyyat)in the formal namaz prayer, enjoined on each Muslim to be performedfive times a day. There are prescriptions for ablutions preceding theprayer, the number of prostrations to be performed at different prayertimes, the direction of prayer, and the words to be used. ,The issue iswhether one can do a ritual perfunctorily, or how much conscious intentthere must be at each step of the ritual. We shall follow the discussion asit progressed over a few days, merely to get the flavor of the debate. Webegin with some fine points of scholastic casuistry, involving first the twomeanings of the word 'ibadat (worship).l Namaz, of course, is the moststrict meaning of the word; but it also means simply worship of God,which need not be confined to a ritual form. When worship does not take

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64 Madrasa: Style and Substance

a ritual form, then obviously intention is all important. But when onefollows all the prescriptions of a ritual form, does a lapse in con­sciousness of the purpose invalidate the worship, forcing one to beginanew? And from what point does intent become important?

The question (posed by Shariatmadarl): Does wudu' (the ablution begin­ning the namaz) require deliberate intention (niyyat) or no? There isno riwayat (tradition) specifically on intention; rather, over time theconsensus (ijma') of the religious authorities came to regard intentionas mandatory (wajib). Does this then mean that, strictly speaking, in­tention is not really necessary?

A strategy: Now if we can show that the ablution is technically part of'ibadat (worship), then ipso facto intention is shown to be mandatory,because for 'ibadat to be valid, there must be intention.

One answer (Shariatmadari continues): We have a riwayat that says thatworship is composed one third of ablution (wudu'), one third of recita­tion (rak' at), and one third of prostration (sujud). Namaz begins withwudu'.

Query from the audience: Maybe wudu' should be considered as somethingdone before namaz?

Answer: There is no word "before" in the riwayat: when you do the namaz,you begin with wudu'. It is part of the preliminaries of namaz togetherwith knowing the right time to do it, knowing the direction of the qibla(orientation to the Ka'ba in Mecca), wearing of clean clothes, notwearing clothes made of skins of animals one is forbidden to eat orclothes belonging to someone else, and not praying in spots where theowner has not given permission.

Shariatmadari then throws in a pragmatic caveat:

But all of this is not fiqh (law) but kalam (theological casuistry) and is ofuse only to those who are waswas (overly fastidious ritualistic people).Waswas is the thinking of the devil. In the Qur'an it says that Godwants heaven for us, not difficulties.

The castigation of waswas ("doubt," extreme concern with ritual preci­sion) is an interesting concern of teachers about their half-educatedstudents, and the lore on the subject is considerable. There is a storyabout the nineteenth-century marja'-i taqlid (supreme authority on thelaw) Shaykh Mortaza Ansari that one day when he went to the baths, hesaw a student at the pool making the same sound over and over. He in­quired what the youth was doing. The youth replied that he wanted tosay the niyyat (intention) for a ghusl (full ritual ablution). Shaykh Mor­taza asked who his teacher was. The youth replied that Shaykh MortazaAnsari had taught him about the necessity of proper niyyat, that he con­tinually fell into doubt as to whether or not he had the proper intention,and that as long as one doubted one could not proceed to the ablutionproper. Shaykh Mortaza replied curtly: I do not hold niyyat to be man­datory (wajib); get on with it, get it done.

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In Yazd, the folk story is told of the student who had sawda (the Yazditerm for waswas). His fellow students decided to cure him. They took adog, sprayed it with water, and then let it loose in the student's room.Now, dogs are ritually polluting and water conducts pollution. The dogshook itself, thereby making everything from books to carpet najis(ritually unclean), at least to one fanatically concerned with ritualcleanliness. The poor student had only one recourse: he shut his eyes andsaid, "May God will, it was only "a goat (insha' allah buz bud)." (Goatsare not polluting, and insha' allah buz bud is the saying for occasionswhen someone does not want to face reality.)2

The disease of waswas is common. Even the late marja'-i taqlidAyatullah S. Hoseyn Borujerdi (d. 1960) is said to have fallen under itsinfluence as a student. 3 The reaction of pragmatic Muslims is encoded ina story of 'Ali, the first Imam, that when he went to urinate, he wouldalways sprinkle a little extra water on his garments so that in the event alittle urine splashed on them, he could say it was the water and therewould be no major commotion over a minor ritual matter. (Urine, likedogs, is one of the ten or twelve items of pollution.)

Shariatmadari's discussion of niyyat and what sort of intention makesworship valid or invalid continues:

There are three reasons why people might pray: (a) for fear of hell, (b), forhope of heaven, (c) for love of God. Sayyid Ibn Ta'us issued a fatwa(opinion) that the first two reasons invalidate prayer and only the thirdmakes prayer valid. But the fatwa is wrong for four reasons: (I) Thereare very few people who could live up to the fatwa, that is,· pray onlyfor love of God all the time, maybe 'Ali could, maybe Sayyid IbnTa'us. But such a ruling would make most people's prayers batH (in­valid). (2) The Qur'an talks of heaven and hell as reward and punish­ment. (3) the Prophet Muhammad said of himself, "I am the bringerof good and of frightening news." (4) There are hadith going againstthe fatwa of Ibn Ta'us. On the other hand, it is clear that praying forthe love of God is more valuable than praying out of fear of hell orhope of heaven. 'Ali said that slaves worship out of fear; shopkeepersworship out of hope: I will worship you, and you will give me beautifulfemale houris in heaven; but worship for love of God is the real thing,worship of God.

Student objection: When Husayn and Hasan were taken ill as children,their parents, Fatima and 'Ali, vowed to fast for three days if the boysbecame well. After the three days of fasting, each time they wanted tobreak fast and prepared food, some poor person would come to thedoor and they would give away their food. The verse of the Qur'an re­vealed after this was, "These people asked no reward for their gooddeeds."

Answer: But what precedes and follows this aya (verse of the Qur'an)? Fearof God.

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Another day, Ayatullah Shariatmadari, in order to make the issueseven sharper, introduced niyyat in the case of 'ibadat isti'ari (the namazprayers said on behalf of someone else, such as the prayers said on behalfof a recently deceased person to make up prayers he might have missedduring his life, prayers for which the reciter earns a fee). The issuebecame so heated that the students constantly interrupted and the debatedid not move very far forward. Some supported Sayyid Ibn Ta'us, othersargued that 'ibadat (worship) has intrinsic value. But Shariatmadariwould not allow them to ignore the problem of self-interested prayer:

Do you mean that namaz for a wish is batH (invalid)? What aboutwhen the Qur'an says, "For wish, fear of hell?" Do you overridethe Qur'an?

We need not follow the debate further. The elements of the style ofdebate are evident. The subjects of debate in such classes have become astandard sequence: purity rules (taharat), prayer (salat), fasting (sawm),pilgrimage (hajJ), and manumission from slavery ('itq), although the lastis usually omitted. There are no set texts. One is assumed to havemastered all the basic works of law (fiqh) and principles of legal deduc­tion (usul, or how one derives the rules of fiqh from the Qur'an andhadith). One calls upon these standard sources as well as all other sourcesone can command: the opinions of various scholars, the etymology oftechnical terms, the context of Qur'anic and hadith injunctions, thevalidity of the sources, and one's own ingenuity. The drama can beheightened when two mujtahids playoff one another, as happened in the1920s in Qum when Ayatullah Shaykh Abdol-Karim Haeri-Yazdi and hisassistant, Ayatullah S. Mohammad-Taghi Khonsari, would citearguments against each other (Razi 1332/1953: II, 57).

A second style of discourse can be illustrated from the dars-i 'aqa'idva-madhahib (course in doctrines and religions) of Naser Makarem. Thiscourse is an elective. It is not based directly on the standard series ofbooks that every student must master but on a freer sort of debate.'Aqa'-id, or kalam (theological casuistry), is a sort of free reason­ing-what sort will be indicated later. This particular course is designedfor middle level students, those who have at least begun reading theKifayah of S. Mulla Mohammad-Kazem Akhond-e Khorasani and theMakasib of Shaykh Mortaza Ansari. Just as for the dars-i kharij,students sit around the minbar. Nearly eleven hundred students signedup for the course in both 1974-75 and 1975-76; attendance at the weeklysessions runs on the order of seven hundred. A mimeographed outline ofthe evening's subject is handed out at the door. It is usually divided intofour parts: statement of the problematic concept; description and re­search (dictionary meanings, usages in other religions, historical context,Islamic usage); sanad or proofs (citations from Qur'an, hadith, otherMuslim writings); and results, the clarified philosophy of the concept.

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One of the first subjects Makarem took up in 1975 was thetroublesome issue of predestination, fate, free will, and causality.Predestination and lack of free will do not exist in Islam. This wasclarified by using determinists, Zoroastrians, materialists, and Com­munists as contrastive straw men. Makarem's argument, in brief, was asfollows: 4

If all is simply determined by the will of God, what is the point in Islam ofstressing taklif (duty), the virtues of striving, heaven and hell, jihad(defense of the faith), making promises, questioning and judging? Fate isqada-wa-qadar. The terms qada (ordering) and qadar (measure) aretechnical terms in the philosophy of creation (takwinl) and the philosophyof duty (tashri'l). In the former, cause and effect are part of qada: a win­dow is broken by a stone; the size and force of the stone are its measure(qadar), the breaking of the window by i stone is the law of nature, causal­ity, creation (qada). There is no opiate to free will here but rather astimulus to learn how the world works, so as to be an effective agent withinit. Six aya (verses) in the Qur'an are cited as proof of this usage of theterms. S The usage with regard to duties is parallel: the command to pray isthe qada, to do seventeen rak'at (units of namaz prayer) is the qadar. One'aya and three hadith testify to this usage.

'Ali is supposed to have credited idolators with originating the notion ofdeterminism Uabr) and Satan with being the leader of determinists, for it issaid in the Qur'an that Satan complained to God, "You caused me to losemy way." Zoroastrians, Makarem adds, are also determinists, for all goodis caused by Yazdan and all evil by Ahriman. Clearly, neither is man fullyfree nor fully determined (hadith of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq), and materialistsgo to absurd lengths when they attempt to account for drinking a glass ofwater through changes in body chemistry producing thirst (an example at­tributed to Dr. Arani, former leader of the Iranian Tudeh party).

To try to account for all of history for economic reasons is equally ab­surd. If a man observes the Ramadan fast in summer, may he not refrainfrom drinking Dr. Arani's glass of water? Communists deal adequatelywith causality but not with individual responsibility; the individual issubmerged in the social. In Islam everything turns on individual efforts(five aya confirm this).6 Lazy people who excuse thenlselves for defeat byciting fate are counted as bad in the hadith literature. There is a hadith that'Ali rose from sitting by a crooked wall and sat under a straighter one. Hewas asked if he was trying to run from God's qada, for surely God couldmake the straight wall fall as easily as the crooked. 'Ali replied, "We runfrom the divine order to the divine order, for God gave us reason to use."

Other subjects discussed in Makarem's course also display thispragmatic ethic:

Zuhd (asceticism) does not mean a turning away from the world, but thatone not be captured by materialist interests, money, or ceremony.Without zuhd, political leaders and judges cannot be trusted but willbe corrupt and oppressive.

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Ruhbaniyat and dunya-tarik (monasticism and world rejection) are evilbecause they are a separation from society and lead the individual tomental illness. It is a negative reaction to defeat; the positive reactionwould be to analyze the causes of failure and correct them. Separationfrom the world in the name of piety also opens society to dominationby colonialists. Sufism is thus bad.

Sabr (patience) does not mean resignation but persistence in the face ofodds. .

Taqiya (dissimulation) is acceptable under three conditions: (a) Youshould not throw yourself to martyrdom by your own hand whenamong hostile people; rather save yourself to fight another day. (b)You should not waste your breath with those who are intellectually in­capable or whose minds are closed. (c) In the interest of commongoals, you should forget differences with other branches of Islam,though you may argue the differences in a friendly way.

The argument is always couched in the framework of sanad (citing ofQur'anic, hadith, and later authorities) and tafsir (alternative exegeses).After the discussion on monasticism, I approached Makarem privatelywith three queries:

1. Given the importance of Sufi orders in Islamic political history, I wassurprised that he castigated them as world rejectors.

2. Was the comparison with Christian monks, which he had drawn asthe case type of monasticism, really apt to his purpose? It is true thatmonks are supposed to be celibate, but otherwise many orders aremeant to serve in the world not leave it. They have set up hospitals,schools, and so on.

3. If one wished to speak of world rejection, should one not rather referto Hinduism or Buddhism? But even in Hinduism one is supposedfirst to become a householder and raise a family.

His response was to devalue my historicism and to insist on the mean­ing for Islam. In early Christianity, he said, monasticism meant being ahermit off by oneself; the Dominicans and Jesuits are relatively recent.Yes, tariqats (Sufi orders) have been important in Islamic history as akind of political party, but that does not make them correct. Sufism is anaccretion from Hinduism and has nothing to do with real Islam.

I tried a second tack: Leaving history aside, there is a philosophicalissue having to do with differences in interpretation as one becomes moreknowledgeable and having to do with the esoteric/exoteric (batini/zahirl)distinction. Yes, he acknowledged, the great mystical poet Rumi spokeof the seed and the skin, (maghz va-pust), the skin for the animals, theseed or brain for us; but that is nonsense. There is no batini/zahiri, noesoteric/exoteric, distinction in Islam.

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I persisted: In the West there is much interest in the analysis of sym­bolic language; religion is symbolic and always requires exegesis whetherthe core text be the Bible or the Qur'an. He replied: Of course, but thereis a danger in treating things as symbolic. That is precisely what the Sufisdo. 'Do you mean that every man can build meanings for himself? heasked. We have a hadith that begins, "You should eat red meat and[golden-] red wheat, for they are healthy." Sufis interpret the two redthings as the two lips, and so interpret the hadith as an injunction thatyou should observe silence. My last thrust before changing the subjectwas the comment that tasawwuf (Sufi doctrine, mysticism) is taught inthe al-Azhar curriculum in Cairo. He replied: In classes on beliefs anddoctrines we have a section on tasawwuf as we do on Christianity, onBahaism, and so on. We debate tasawwuf; it is in the curriculum; butthat does not mean we accept it.

The issue of the limits of acceptable freedom in interpretation is an ex­tremely important one. The degree of limitation is perhaps nowhereclearer than in a new genre of book issued now by any major mujtahidwho lays some claim to being a marja'-i taqlid. Called Risalat tawdih al­masa'il (Explanatory text on problems [of Religion]), the books are sup­posed to be compendiums of legal opinions on problems of ritual andreligious duty. The first such book was issued by Ayatullah Borujerdi; itwas compiled by Ali-Asghar Kalbazchi (now a high-school principal inTehran) as a kind of abstraction from and commentary on S. KazemYazdi's 'Urwat al-wuthqa. What is new about this genre is that the booksitemize rules and opinions succinctly, with no justifying arguments; eachis a short guide on how to act as a Muslim. What is striking and revealingis that there is very little variation between the Risala of different mu­jtahids, for the opinions are not the free opinions of different men: theyare the disciplined elucidation of the intent of the Qur'an. That is themeaning of ijtihad (exercise of interpretive reason), of being a mujtahid.One almost feels that a mujtahid could hold two opinions, one his ownand one the result of his technical skill in a disciplined form of deduc­tion. Of course, for any believing Muslim the latter must takeprecedence; it would be the difference between whim and reason. Thereis, however, also another rationale: for new opinions with political im­pact, like the outlawing of tobacco in 1891 or the making of Pepsi Colareligiously undesirable (makruh) in the 1950s,7 mujtahids attempt as faras possible to maintain a united front so as not to dissipate religiousauthority.

To any Westerner conversant with post-Hegelian theology, the moststriking thing about Shi'ite theological debate surely must be the refusalto deal with theological discourse as itself a social and linguisticphenomenon in a wider sense than the rhetoric and hermeneutics internalto Islamic belief. So many things that are still dealt with in the Muslim

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world as questions of truth (and therefore also questions of heresy:believer versus unbeliever or at best misguided believer) could be handledas modes of expression, as symbolic idioms. One does not abolish truthby adding a new consciousness with a metalanguage tool; on the con­trary. Perhaps to admit this, however, would diminish what is left ofpwitical authority in making things forbidden (haram) or undesirable(makruh). Part of the problem is the distinction between the initiated(the khass) and the uninitiated (the 'amm), and between believer andnonbeliever (dealt with under the rubric of taqiya or dissimulation). Theissue can be illustrated through a remarkable series of questions elicitedby Naser Makarem from his students in doctrines and religions in the fallof 1975.

The questions fall into several groups. There are simple points of in­formation:

1. What madhhab (religious school) is Majus (usually Zoroastrian)?2. When was Wahhabism founded?

There are questions asked by future preachers wanting to know whatto answer to popular questions:

3. Why was the Prophet illiterate?4. Why did the Imams practice taqiya (dissimulation)?5. If generosity is makruh for women, why was Fatima al-Zahra so


The answers to these questions have implications for dogma. That theProphet was illiterate is part of the proof that the Qur'an is divine, forMohammad could not have written it. The question about dissimulationbecomes more involved, for the immediate answer is that in times of realShi'ite weakness it was important to the very survival of the doctrine thatpeople not reveal themselves and not be martyred. Dissimulation is per­missible under a limited set of circ*mstances; it is not permissible if thereligion is thereby endangered, however-if, for instance, there is dangerthat the youth will not be taught properly. In the last two decadesAyatullah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeyni has insisted that Islam is preciselyin. this danger and that therefore Shi'ites must not dissimulate. Duringthe time of several of the later Imams the reverse was the case: by keepingpublicly quiet and conformist, the doctrine could be passed on secretly.The problem is, as some of Makarem's students asked, why God did notgive the Imams more power so 'that they could institute a just society onearth; that, of course, involves all the problems of individual re­sponsibility past and present. The generosity-of-women question has todo not only with female codes of behavior-that they should not makethemselves conspicuous - but perhaps more with the notion that awoman should not be too free with her husband's wealth; Fatima neveroverstepped such bounds. Generosity per se is never bad.

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Some of the questions give a glimpse into adolescent concern withworking out what truth is, a concern intermingled with enjoyment ofscholastic games. Ali these questions are found in the hadith, many comefrom Greek sources:

6. Can God create something like himself?7. Can God create a stone so heavy he cannot lift it?8. Can God miniaturize the world?9. If creation is material and God is immaterial, how could He create a

material world?10. We must know God with our reason; our reason is limited; God is

unlimited; how can we know God?11. How does one reconcile the Qur'anic verse saying that whoever is

more pious is more loved by God with the verse saying that an edu­cated man ('alim) is worth more than seven thousand worshippers?

12. Since most people go to hell and only a few to heaven would it nothave been better if God had not created us at all?

13. If Muslims go to hell, what is the difference from being a kafir (un­believer)?

14. Why were not all men created equal?

Many of the questions have to do specifically with the articulation ofsymbolic domains: that is, with social boundaries, the application oftheological formulas, and the juxtaposition of different modes ofcategorical thought. Simplest are the questions about social boundaries:

15. Who are the Shaykhis and what are the reasons for opposing them?16. If piety (taqwa) exists among Jews and Christians, why are they un­

clean (najis)?

More interesting are the questions having to do with teleological bound­aries:

17. Why does not Mohammad's being the last prophet mean that men donot need prophets any more?

18. How do we know the Qur'an has not been changed?

Islam is a teleological structure of the form: if everyone acted accordingto the divine and immutable rules dispensed through Muhammad, so­ciety would be just and equitable. Insofar as one accepts Islam, Mu­hammad's prophethood is ever-continuing. To say that men do not needa prophet any more is to say that Islam belonged to a historical stage ofthe past. Question 18 has the form of a factual question, but its answerhas to do with the defense of the revealed word (see Pooya 1971).

Connected with these fundamental questions are those that touch onthe development of the teleological scheme:

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72 Madrasa: Style and Substance

19. The Qur'an says prophets committed sins; why do we protest somuch that they never sinned?

20. Why did Husayn go to Karbala when he knew he would be killed?21. Are heaven and hell currently in existence?22. Is it mandatory (wajib) to believe everything about resurrection?

Question 19 in part has to do with the proof that the Old and NewTestaments have been tampered with: how could they be the originaldivine books when they say that the prophets were such sinful people?The allegations of drunkenness and incest of Lot, adultery by David,idolatry of Aaron and Solomon, and so on, are counted here as evidencethat the Jews, in particular, tampered with the divine book. Question 20is the key question around which popular Shi'ism is built. People wereabandoning the true religion; Husayn had to witness for Islam andthereby shock people back to the true path, to serve as an examplethroughout the ages that sometimes death can create a lasting testamentthat people will remember. Question 21 provides an opening for existen­tialist interpretations of the variety favored by Bishop Ian Ramsey(1969): Hell as a place of physical torture after death is morally repulsive,cosmologically implausible, and theologically contradictory with theChristian doctrine of God's mercy; but hell as the separation between selfand other which occur~ when one does wrong makes eminent sense. Fun­damentalists of course will play the question another way, drawing onthe rich physical imagery of the Sirat Bridge leading to the other world. 8

Many of the questions reflect category confusions:

23. If ghusl (ritual ablution) has to do with microbes (or cleanliness, ajustification added by popular apologists), what does niyyat (in­tention) have to do with it?

24. Why is human excrement najis (unclean) when the food eaten isclean?

25. The Imam aI-Zaman (messiah), can he fight atomic weapons?(When he returns he is supposed to wage war against the unjust andthen establish a period of peace and justice on earth.)

26. How can we believe in metaphysical things we cannot see?

Lewis Carroll's Red Queen, of course, went even one step further inanswering question 26: every morning before breakfast she practicedbelieving in three impossible things.

Still other questions have to do with social issues and general intellec­tual issues of the day:

27. Given that Islamic law is not practiced in the world, isn't communistlaw the next best choice?

28. Why do we say Islam fits all societies, but no country has Islamiclaw?

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29. Why is the character or morality of Muslims no better than that ofnon-Muslims?

30. Why should women get only half an inheritance share, and whyshould women not participate fully in society?

31. If Darwin is incorrect, with what do we replace his theory?32. What has religion done for us? The advanced societies are without


The final category of questions has to do with their own educationalsystem and profession:

33. Why do not ruhani (religious leaders) work? Why do those who donot work eat the sahm-i Imam (a portion of the religious tax)?

34. Why does the hawza (religious college system) not give diplomas?35. Why do the ruhani not make use of television, radio, and cinema?36. Why are those who have studied Arabic for sixty years unable to

speak it?37. Why do the ruhani disagree? What is the road to unity among the ru­

hani? Why do the maraji'-i taqlid (leaders of the community) notissue fatwa shaura (joint opinions)?

38. Why are the ruhani and the people at odds?39. Why is the prohibition against riba (usury) and maybe against inter­

est of all kinds discussed so little?40. Does not the law of khums (the portion of the religious taxes that

should support poor descendants of the Prophet) promote a kind ofaristocracy?

Many of the questions 33-40 will be dealt with in the following pages.These forty questions are only a sample of more than three hundred col­lected by Makarem, but I think they provide an insight into the nature ofthe thought of the students, as adolescents and young adults and as ques­tioning young professional religious leaders.

Another insight, perhaps focusing a little more on one of the sourcesof student dissatisfaction, came from a discussion I had after the firstsession of Makarem's course I attended. Seven students invited me totheir rooms. They wanted to make sure I was introduced to the properIslam and did not mistakenly assume that the dry Islam taught in themadrasas and by Makarem was all there was. "Dry" (khuskh) is a fre­quent word of disdain: dry preachers (akhund-i khushk), dry religion(din-i khushk). They gave me a list of names of important members ofthe religious counterculture: Dr. Ali Shariati, Shaykh Mohammad-TaghiFalsafi, Professor Mortaza Motahhari, S. Mahmud Taleghani, Gholam­Reza Saidi, Engineer Mehdi Bazargan, Jalaloddin Farsi, S. Abdol KarimHashemi-Nezhad. They were pleased that I was already familiar withthese names and offered to supply me, one by one, with the books of

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74 Madrasa: Style and Substance

these authors (those of Shariati, Taleghani, Bazargan, and Hashemi­Nezhad being banned by the government).9 They then engaged me in adiscussion that though inconclusive and unstructured was friendly andenjoyable on all sides.

We began with tawhid (unity). Tawhid does not mean merely that Godis one; to say only that is to play with a word, a kind of word worship,and thereby to be kafir (an unbeliever). Tawhid involves the unity of self­society-nature, thus the living of a just existence. Land, for instance,does not belong to individuals or countries per se but should be for theuse of society, and individuals should be free to develop their abilities. Isuggested that this was not far from socialism, the only difference beingthat they insisted on referring to God whereas socialists couldn't careless. They became rather animated at this: socialism was essentiallygood, but there was a significant difference. We never really resolvedwhat that difference was, because we got hung up along the way on theexistence of the soul (ruh).

The example was given of two individuals, one alive, one recentlydeceased: what is the difference between the two? Their answer was theabsence of ruh. I took the position that there is no distinction betweenbody and spirit, that the dead individual is merely a machine that hasstopped working: that the cells are natural, and they decay and con­tribute to further life. (The students recognized the word "entropy"; wehad a bit of trouble with "cell," but I think we agreed; RNA and DNAwere beyond us: I was trying to include the attempts to synthesize the lat­ter.) We got to the point where I had a young sayyid, who had emergedas their debate captain, agreeing that ruh was merely a word forsomething metaphysical. Where did the ruh go at death? He did notknow. So, then, I asked what was really different between his saying thatthere is a ruh and we do not know what happens to it and my saying thatwhether there is or is not a ruh is unknowable. OK, he said, forget theword ruh, that is a matter perhaps of philosophy. Merely of language, Icountered. OK, conceded he, of language; well, forget the word ruh.What is the referent of "I"? Is it my head? my finger? What is the in­saniyyat (being, personality, character) of an insan (person)? In reply, Ibegan to speak of socially molded and learned perceptions, behavior,and so on. The conversation shifted to the difference between man andanimal. First, however, another student wanted to pursue the question ofthe ruh and the electricity analogy, but the sayyid immediately saw thefallacy: the source of electricity is in the generator and is not a parallel tothe cessation of a sentient being.

The students insisted on a sharp man/animal distinction: animals can­not talk, think; this was to be an argument for something special aboutruh. I countered with the chimpanzee Sarah who can communicate withmen and possibly do some very simple grammatical thinking. But they

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said it took four thousand years to do that. So I said, if man's thinkingcapacity was so great, why couldn't he design a just society? To this theresponse of course was that the design exists in the Qur'an; what properMuslims do not have is power: if I grab a piece of candy from you, itdoes not mean you would not know what to do with it if you had thepower to keep it. There are people who know how to live and operate ajust society. So I asked whether such a society has ever existed, trying tosuggest that man-made societies were imperfect not only because ofman's inability to think them through but because social forces have theirown imperatives. Yes, they replied: at the time of the Prophet. (Theytook the position that before the Prophet the Arabs were savages andthat the Prophet and Qur'an transformed them overnight into a justsociety.) For but a few years, I retorted. No, no, they said, down to thepresent day, wherever people understand the Qur'an.

Just one example, I said: The Qur'an says riba (usury) is haram (for­bidden); now what about interest in the bank? They brought up a distinc­tion between riba and i' tibarat (credit), denied that this was a distinctionin amount (a just versus an unjust return on money), and cited the notionof an Islamic bank (which gives no interest and charges none on loans).But they rapidly capitulated, pleading ignorance of economics, when Ipointed out that the Islamic banks were funded as a kind of charity bycapitalists and that under current conditions to return the same facevalue of money to the lender (which was what they meant by i'tibarat)would cause the lender to go broke, given that an egg that cost 2 rials twoyears ago costs 5 rials today.

A standard conscious contradiction contributing to a feeling of aliena­tion among religious students can be seen in this exchange. On the onehand there is a faith in Islam as a guide for a just society: people havebeen unfairly dispossessed and thus there is no just society; Muslims havenot been allowed the power to mold society; if they were, they wouldcreate a just society. Statements are frequently made that had the1963-1971 land reform not occurred (that is, had private property notbeen unjustly confiscated), Iran would have no need to import food to­day. On the other hand, as the capitulation on the issue of bank interestshows, the students realize they are not getting the technical educationthat could allow them to defend their faith in pragmatic terms. Theproblem of agriculture in Iran is serious; even government experts andforeign advisers debate whether it could not have been handled in a bet­ter way. For instance, had the same scale of monetary credit, protection,and technical aid been given agriculture as has been given to industry,perhaps a whole series of less drastic and more immediately productiveoptions could have been utilized. Not all landlords were bad, and manystill retain an important and appreciated role as buffers between villagersand the bureaucracy; the religious students' protest underlines this. It is

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76 Madrasa: Style and Substance

self-deception, however, to think that the agricultural sector did not needupgrading and transformation.

We shall return to student alienation. The point here is that there arelimits to debate. One limit is a conscious limit of knowledge and a forcedreliance on authority figures who presumably know more. In the realmof social issues this limitation has become an open source of studentdissatisfaction. A second limit is again a conscious one, the marking ofcertain things as questionable and other things as explicable only throughtraditional procedures. A middle level student put it this way: "Amongahkam (actions one is enjoined to do) there are things that should bedone and not questioned (ta'abbudl); that is, they may have ultimatereasons, but if one begins to question them without the proper learning,it will be counterproductive. These are such things as the unity of God,prayer, fasting. But there are also tawassuli or things that should be ex­plored and understood. There is a riwayat (tradition) that all learningshould begin and end with an appreciation of God: awwal al-'ilmma'rifat al-jabr wa-akhir al-'ilm ta'wid al-amr Ii' Ilah." A third limit isless conscious, the force of the dramatic aesthetic. Shi'ite idiom iselaborated around the events of the lives of the first and third Imams inparticular; anything that reduces the dramatic impact of these stories isstrongly resisted.

The Institution: Students, Innovations, Problems

Ali is a high school dropout from Mashhad. His parents forced him totake up religious studies, but he learned to like it and after three years hedecided to move to Qum to get the best possible training. He seems like avery sharp student and evidently is doing well. His roommate, Mahmud,also a high school dropout, worked for his father for a few years until amulla discovered him, praised him as zerang (clever), and encouragedhim to become an akhund (a cleric). Hasan is the son of a weaver. Hechose to become an akhund and would now be at the level of dars-ikharij, if he had not preferred to do research on his own. He is associatedwith Dar-i Rah-i Haqq, a missionary institute that sends out a kind ofcorrespondence course to Muslims in Iran and publishes various tracts,including a series on Christianity (in Persian) which it vaguely hopes willsomehow convert someone. Hasan is not of the missionary sort and feelsa sense of anomie. He is marking time because the army refuses either toissue him exemption or to draft him; he refuses to pay the requisite bribeto get the exemption, partly because he does not have the money butpartly because as a man of religion he cannot countenance it. He wasalmost engaged once, but the marriage negotiations fell apart.

Mohammad is a middle level student, the son of an akhund, who cameto Qum because it is the best place to be trained. He would like eventu­ally to be trained to go abroad to do missionary work, ideally in Europe

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Madrasa: Style and Substance 77

or America. He studies religious subjects during the day and at night at­tends secular high school to complete his diploma. Abbas is a village boy;five lads from his village, with their parents' encouragement, came toQum. Abbas has been continuing his secular education at night and willget his diploma this year. Although in mu'min (believer) style he keeps astubby beard, he does not wear religious garb. He plans to go to univer­sity next year, or perhaps the year after, since anti-governmentdemonstrations caused him to miss a set of examinations. He is leavingthe religious life.

Ahmad completed his religious studies in Qum and teaches varioussubjects tutorial style, including several European languages. He attendsphilosophy classes at the University of Tehran's Faculty of Literature,testing the secular waters, as it were. Reza is from a family of weavers.After six years of education he too became a weaver; then at age seven­teen he began religious studies in a provincial town. He has a job as aclerk in that town and slowly over fifteen years has reached Ahhund-iKhurasani's text in usul-; j;qh, the Kifaya (see the traditional course ofstudy outlined in the appendix). During the troubles over Ayatullah Kho­meyni in 1963, although technically exempted, Reza was seized on thestreets and pressed into the army.

Mohammad-Reza is a high school dropout from Tehran. He styleshimself a "missionary to the youth" and is active in several religiouscircles in Tehran. He studies in Qum. He does not wear religious garb, soas not to put off the modern youth. Volatile and enthusiastic, he wouldmake an ideal undercover agent provocateur for the secret police.

Then there are the foreigners: the son of a missionary in east Africa;the Tanzanian who will return home to teach Islam during the hour forreligion in high school; the serious Afghan who regards with disdainpopular Iranian Shi'ism - particularly its rawdas and dastas (preachingand flagellation) - but views Qum as a mecca of learning; the Pakistaniwho has been kicked out of Najaf and regards Qum as second best; andthe Pakistani who has selected an Iranian Ayatullah ·as his personal "HisHoliness" and light of inspiration. Then there are the occasional Euro­peans: the anthropologist who is to be treated as a dangerous germ; theex-hippie who has kicked a drug habit, found religion, and now wants tofind out what it is he has found; and the wandering scholar withoutdegrees who has been converted to Sufism and wants to learn Arabic andPersian but can get into no formal university program.

In 1975 there were over 6,500 students in Qum, approximately 1,800 inMashhad, 1,000 in Isfahan, 500 in Tabriz, 250 in Shiraz, and 300 inYazd. lOIn Yazd it is estimated that 80 percent of the students come fromrural backgrounds; Shiraz also receives a large percentage from rural andsmall-town areas toward the Gulf.

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78 Madrasa: Style and Substance

For Qum the figures can be broken down somewhat further (see table3.1). Of the 6,414 students listed in the registers in the fall of 1975, aquarter (1,574) were sayyids (descendants of the Prophet); more surpris­ingly, apparently only a quarter were unmarried. If one includes a liberalarea northwest of an arc from Kirmanshah to Qazvin, Turkish-speakersaccounted for nearly a third of the students. Refugees from Iraq (since1970 the Iraqis have been expelling foreign religious students andteachers) were the second largest group after Azerbaijanis. Foreignstudents constituted only a small percentage of the student body but weresignificant connections to other parts of the Shi'ite world. In rough orderof number of students, they were Pakistan, Afghanistan, India,Lebanon, Tanzania, Turkey, Nigeria, Kashmir, and Indonesia.

The father's occupation, unfortunately, could be obtained only fromsmaller and possibly biased samples. The largest was a sample of 236students at the Madrasa Golpayegani (table 3.2). This sample wasgeographically somewhat skewed in favor of students from the centralplateau. Well over half were of rural background (125 farmers, 2 poultryfarmers, 1 shepherd); not quite a quarter (56) were of ruhani (clergy)background; nearly as many were from the bazaar: 24 shopkeepers, 18craftsmen, 2 barbers, and a merchant. The Golpayegani school was aninnovative one designed to prepare younger students for entry to thehigher levels of the madrasa system. It had a preparatory two-year pro­gram (210 students in 1975) and then a five-year program (312 students).The director had a degree from the Faculty of Theology of the Universityof Tehran and served as an Arabic teacher in the secular high schoolsystem as well.

A second new innovative madrasa, Haqqani, yielded an even smallersample of 30. The skewing in this case resulted from a rather careful ad­mission procedure, which selects for well-educated, intelligent students.Consequently, father's occupation ran strongly in an urban directionwith craftsmen and white-collar workers leading (7 each), ruhani (6),shopkeepers (5), and only 5 rural. The students were older than theGolpayegani students, ranging in age from fifteen to thirty-one, half be­ing between seventeen and nineteen years old. Of the sample of 30, onehad a B.A. degree, 12 had completed high school, and 19 had had at leasthalf of the secular high school course (first cycle).

Finally in a nonscientific random sample of 35 students in the moretraditional sections of the madrasa system (ages ranging from sixteen totwenty-five, except for one thirty-two-year-old), father's occupation splitevenly between ruhani (14) and farmers (13), with craftsmen (2),shopkeepers (1), manual laborers (3), and clerks (1) trailing.

One may conclude from these figures and from impressions of peoplein the madrasa system that the two major sources of students are sons offarmers and sons of ruhani. To what extent the religious elite is drawn

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Table 3.1 Qum talaba (1975), by place of origin, sayyid status, and marital status




IsfahanMazandaranQumZanjanArakRashtTehranHamadanQazvinYazdKermanShirazKashanKhoramabadAhwazSavehKermanshahBandar AbbasUnknown: e

at MadrasaKirmani

at MadrasaHaqqani

at MadrasaMahdiyya

at MadrasaMu'miniyya

(no stipend;bread only)

Total f




















a. That these students were unmarried is inferred from the fact that they re­ceived 5 man of bread each month from Ayatullah Mar'ashi-Najafi; marriedstudents received 10 man (1 man = 3 kilo).

b. Includes 6 Turks.c. Includes 32 Afghans, 34 Pakistanis, 13 Indians, 18 Lebanese, 2 Kashmiris,

and 4 Africans.d. Includes 28 Pakistanis, 18 Afghans, 13 Indians.c. Out of a total of 122 at Madrasa Kirmani, all but 8 are distributed by place of

origin; the 11 sayyids are a total for the 122 students. No geographical distribu­tions available for Madrasas Haqqani, Mahdiyya, and Mu'miniyya.

f. In this population there were 57 deaths and 21 changes in marital status over a17-month period.

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80 Madrasa: Style and Substance

Table 3.2 Madrasa Golpayegani students (1975): social background, education,origin (N = 282)

Father's occupation

Rural: farmerpoultry farmer, shepherd

Clergy (ruhani)Urban: merchant, broker, clerk


No information

Religious education prior to Qum5 years (or more)1 to 4 yearsLess than 1 yearNoneNo information

Town of origin(In order of places sending 5or more students)

125 Qum3 Isfahan

56 Yazd7 Golpayegan

24 Hamadan18 Amol20 Arak

3 Damghan, Malayer, Tabriz26 Kirman, Qazvin,

Shahreza, TehranMahallat, Shiraz, ShahrudOther

Secular education1 High school diploma

105 Primary school (6 years)16 5 years

129 1 to 4 years31 None

No information


7 ea.

6 ea.5 ea.



from the latter group will be explored in the next section; although manyobservers think that the proportion of ruhani is declining and that of therural folk is increasing, the data are insufficient to draw any conclusions.

The schools are attempting to innovate to meet not only the needs of apossibly changing student body composition, but also of a changingsociety. The traditional course of study is detailed in the appendix. It isorganized into three levels corresponding to three levels of studentstipend. To pass to a higher level of financial support, a student mustpass a written and an oral examination. Stipend levels in 1975 werearound 150 tomans (10 rials = 1 toman), 260 tomans, and 470 tomansmonthly, plus an allotment of bread. These were cumulative sums fromall sources: in Qum seven leaders distributed stipends and each studentcould take from each leader (see table 3.3). In 1975, the largest amounts'were given by representatives of Ayatullahs Khoi and Khomeyni (whothemselves resided in Najat), followed by Shariatmadari, Golpayegani,and Khonsari (the last residing in Tehran), and trailed by Amoli;Ayatullah Marashi-Najafi followed the old tradition of giving breadcoupons instead of cash: 5 man (15 kilos) for unmarried students, 10man for married students.

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Table 3.3 Stipend levels of unmarried students, in tomans (1975)


1st 2nd 3rd

Khoi 40 60 100Khomeyni 40 60 100Golpayegani 20 40 80Khonsari 20 40 80Shariatmadari 20 40 80Amoli 10 20 30

Total 150 (= $22) 260 (= $38) 470 (= $69)


The madrasas of Qum are listed in tables 3.4 and 3.5. The less tradi­tional schools - Golpayegani, Dar-al-Tabligh, Haqqani, Amiral-Mu'minin, and even Razaviyya - are set up to serve needs not suppliedby the traditional system. The goals of the Golpayegani school havealready been indicated: to train younger and religiously unpreparedstudents for entry into the Qum system, which considers itself to beessentially a university, a place of higher learning. With the improvementof transportation, more lower level students have been coming directly tothe great centers of learning (Qum, Mashhad, Isfahan) rather than firststudying as far as they could in the smaller provincial centers. Schoolslike the Golpayegani school and now the Razaviyya school are intendedto deal with this population. In order to be accepted in the Golpayeganischool, a boy must be introduced by someone of known character, whois held responsible should the boy misbehave or not attend classes. Thecourse of study is a slightly simplified version of the traditional course ofstudy (see appendix). Theoretically the program can prepare a student upto the third level (dars-i khari}), although the middle level training maybe somewhat less thorough than one would get in the traditional madrasaclasses.

The Madrasa Haqqani was founded with a slightly different concep­tion. It is aimed toward research students and thus is a kind of alternateand modernized hawza-i 'ilmi (center of religious learning) in itself.When fully complete it will provide a sixteen-year course, the first ten ofwhich are formal classes, the rest guided research and reading. Again thelower level classes are modeled on the traditional course of studies, butsimplified with new books: for instance, Sarf-i Sada (Etymology MadeEasy) and Nahw-i Sada (Syntax Made Easy) were produced for use here,and Allama Tabatabai wrote Bidayat al-Hikma (Beginnings ofPhilosophy) and Nihayat al-Hikma (Results of Philosophy) to be used asthe philosophy texts here. Modern languages - English and spoken

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xx x x x


x x x x x x x x x





































































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Table 3.5 Madrasas in Qum: Modern




Dar al-Tabligh 1965 400 150 ShariatmadariGolpayegani 500 GolpayeganiHaqqani (Muntaziriyya) 1964 186 30 QoddusiImam Amir al-Mu'minin 1975 1096 Makarem

Arabic - are stressed. Great emphasis is placed on recruiting well-trainedstudents: at first most students were of rural background; by 1975 thefigures were reversed and the principal (Mr. Qoddusi) was proud that hehad attracted not only a large number of students holding high schooldiplomas but some with university degrees. In 1974 there were 340 ap­plicants of whom 30 were admitted. Thirty is the target size of each class,though in the past for lack of space not every year had a class; in 1975there were 186 students. When the school's program is complete, it ishoped there will be twelve major subjects (see appendix), including themoral sciences, to be composed of morals, psychology, sociology, andIslamic economics. The last three did not yet exist in 1975: not enoughmaterial existed to construct a program. Dr. Ali Shariati (d. 1977), theFrench-trained idol of the religious youth, who attempted to formulatethe beginnings of an Islamic sociology, was, in the opinion of theteachers in Qum, not Islamically well informed, and one would not wantto begin a program using his flawed texts. Presumably the course textswill have to be developed out of the higher level studies in the madrasaitself (years eleven and on). Associated with the Madrasa Haqqani thereis even a new school for girls: in 1975 it had 30 students and 5 femaleteachers.

The Madrasa Haqqani is thus almost a complete cell set apart from therest of the hawza structure. Its students do not participate in the generalstipend system but get their stipends directly from the school, and thosestipends largely come from the Mashhad establishment of the lateAyatullah Milani. The philosopher Allama Tabatabai is the father-in-lawof the school's director and intellectually has had an impact upon the for­mulation of the school's identity through the texts he has written for theschool. This school is one of an interesting set of four in the Milaniestablishment. Milani's largest school in Mashhad, physically razed in1975 by the government to make way for a green belt around Mashhad'sshrine, was similar in conception to the Golpayegani school in Qum; ithad an eleven-year program and trained many of the Mashhadis whohave subsequently come to Qum for higher level studies. Milani set uptwo other kinds of madrasa in Mashhad. In 1971 the Madrasa 'Ali­Husayni was opened as a specialized institute of higher learning to train

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84 Madrasa: Style and Substance

mubaligh (missionaries, preachers); there were plans to send students toAfrica and Pakistan for training in English and then to use them abroad.In 1974, the Madrasa Imam Sadiq was opened as a second and parallelspecialized institute to train mujtahids.

In Qum, the Dar-al-Tabligh, set up in the mid-sixties by AyatullahShariatmadari, was a cross between the modern lower level schools andthe Madrasa 'Ali-Husayni. It had a five-year program (see appendix),organized on a credit system with course exams. There was also a four­year preparatory program for those unable to pass the entrance exams.In 1973 a parallel school for girls was set up, and two years later therewere 150 students; male teachers spoke from behind a curtain, using aseating chart to aid them in directing questions. Foreign students were asource of pride to the Dar-al-Tabligh, and through a semiformal ar­rangement with the passport office the Dar-al-Tabligh acted in locoparentis for all lower level foreign students.

The Dar-al-Tabligh was, in fact, the center of an interlocking series ofpropaganda activities. It itself trains preachers. Together with Dar Rah-iHaqq, it produces a correspondence course on Islam: short lessons aresent out in the mail with questions to be filled out and returned for cor­rection. Four journals are produced in association with it, three inPersian - Maktab-i Islam (School of Islam) for adults, circulation60,000; Payam-i Shadi (Glad Tidings) for children; Nasl-i Naw (NewGeneration) for adolescents - and one in Arabic, al-Hadi. A circulationof 60,000 for Maktab-i Islam may seem modest for an Iranian popula­tion of 34 million, but it has excellent distribution and arguments in thebazaars invariably will lead someone to pull out a copy to use as anauthority. Nasl-i Naw often translates items from foreign journals likeReaders Digest. AI-Hadi not only finds its way to the Gulf and Iraq, butserves as a link to Muslim institutions as far afield and as otherwise un­connected as the new Jam'iyya Nizamiyya college in Ceylon. Books arealso published by the Dar-al-Tabligh, usually in runs of 50,000 copies.Finally, Dar-al-Tabligh provides a letter answering service on queriesabout religion and morality, in Persian, Arabic, Urdu, and English.Perhaps the major frustration of the activities centered on the Dar-al­Tabligh is an inability to develop - outside the two Pakistani staffmembers - sufficient expertise in English to really engage in discussionwith Western audiences.

The last and newest of the madrasas in Qum is the Madrasa ImamAmir al-Mu'minin opened in 1974-75 by Naser Makarem. Its major ac­tivity is the large course in 'aqa'id va madhabib (doctrines and religions).It also teaches English and Qur'an reading, has a letter-answering serviceand a publishing section, and supports a group of aides to help Makaremwith a tafsir commentary on the Qur'an.

The picture thus was one of a functioning traditional madrasa systemwith a series of complementary newer institutions being built around it.

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Madrasa: Style and Substance 85

How well the enterprise as a whole functioned was a matter of opinion.No one appeared to think that things did not need improvement; the ma­jor difference of opinion was whether the major obstacles lay within themadras,! system or in the government hostility to any religious revival.

Those who stressed the internal problems included Mortaza Motahhari(1341/1962), a graduate of Qum who taught in the Faculty of Theologyat the University of Tehran and was assassinated on May Day 1979 inTehran when he was a leading member of the Revolutionary Council.They pointed to lack of matriculation examinations, inadequateguidance counseling, bad language teaching methods, failure to updatethe teaching of fiqh, contraction of the curriculum (the almost completelack of mathematics, medicine, and science; the decline in teaching ofphilosophy and morals), and lack of a proper financial base. By lack of aproper financial base, Motahhari meant in part the loss of madrasa en­dowments (either from their having been converted, over time, to privateholdings or, more recently, by their falling under government control);primarily, however, he referred to the paradoxical fact that though thefunds came largely from tithes (the sahm-i Imam, which is half of thekhums) and were independent of the government, such funding had con­servative and anti-innovative force. For instance, he cited the frustrateddesire of Shaykh Abdul Karim Haeri-Yazdi in the 1920s to send someyoung ruhani to Europe to learn the foreign languages and introduceIslam abroad; Tehran bazaaris threatened to cut off their payment of thesahm-i Imam if he went forward with this plan to send youths to learnkafir (unbeliever) ways. Subsequently the marja'-i taqlid, AyatullahAbdol-Hasan Esfahani, refused to allow pedagogical innovations in Na­jaf, citing what had happened to Haeri-Yazdi. Motahhari cited al-Azharin Egypt as the opposite side of the paradox: because the rector is stateappointed, he can lead rather than follow public opinion, but he has noindependence from state policy. Thus we had - though Motahhari didnot say this-the sad spectacle during the Nasser period of al-Azhar con­vocations and publications producing crude propaganda, which made amockery of Islamic scholarship. Indeed it is a supreme article of prideamong Shi'ite ulama that they are the only body of ulama in the worldwho have not been reduced to state functionaries. The cost, asMotahhari pointed out, is a problem of a different kind.

Those who stressed the constraints of government hostility andgovernment designs to control the ulama and the madrasas pointed to therepeated exile from Qum of teaching personnel for either actual or al­leged political stands; to the attempts by the government to divertreligious endowments from the madrasa system; to attempts to introducegovernment examinations and control over curriculum; to threats ofdrafting students into the army, of imprisoning them for any political ac­tivity, or simply intimidating them; to the closure of religious innovativeinstitutions such as the Husayniya-Irshad in Tehran; to the efforts to

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86 Madrasa: Style and Substance

establish government religious leaders through bribery, the Sipah-i Din(religious corps) and the Murawwij-i Madhhabi (religious aides); and toefforts in general to isolate religious Personnel. These government ac­tivities will be discussed in greater detail in chapters 4 and 5. They pro­vide a clear context, however, for the alienation of students who feel theyhave been led into an educational' cul-de-sac: lack of technical training,lack of diplomas recognized by society at large, and thus lack of access tojobs and means of self-improvement outside the religious institution.

The hawza leadership in 1975 - Qoddusi, Shariatmadari,Golpayegani, Makarem, and (before his death) Milani - were movingcautiously to respond in positive directions, despite the polarized climatebetween an anxious and alienated student body deeply suspicious ofgovernment goals, and a government which perceived repeated evidencethat the' madrasa population was refusing to be anything but arecalcitrant opponent of its modernization goals.

The Ruling Elite and the Role of the Marja'-i Taqlid

Picture the marja'-i taqlid (leading mujtahid) as a grandfatherly manwith a white beard and twinkling eyes seated on a mat in a small roomamid piles of books, or seated upon a wooden platform in a courtyardamid pomegranate trees, or seated against a wall of a simple carpetedroom amid attendants and visitors also arranged along the walls. Glassesof tea are served to visitors before they approach.

A group of akhunds (clerics) enter, one of whom is an Arab sayyidwho has been in East Africa. Greetings are conducted with the intimatejoking of long ~amiliarity. The sayyid moves closer to the marja', claim­ing to be hard df hearing. The marja' retorts that obviously he hears whathe wants and not other things. The sayyid claims not to hear. They alllaugh. The marja' asks him if he is going to preach (it is Ramadan). Theanswer is affirmative. Has he been getting a good response? Affirmative.Does he talk for a full hour? No, not so long. Does he read a rawda forthe people (a tear-jerking account of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn)?No, says the sayyid, his heart is not strong and he himself gets worked upby rawdas.

An old man comes in with a 4OO-toman sahm-i Imam (portion of thekhums religious tax). He is a caretaker of a mosque: he says he has givensome of the khums to poor sayyids in the neighborhood but is bringingthe rest here. The marja', seeing the man is not well off, takes the moneyand says, "I accept this as a sayyid and return it to you." Several youngstudents come with similar offerings from villages in which they havebeen preaching and are similarly treated.

A woman enters and is politely ignored until she arranges her pieces ofpaper and her veil. She lists all her possessions and income and asks thather khums be calculated and the receipts of previous payments be sub­tracted. The marja' does this quickly, giving a bank account number to

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Madrasa: Style and Substance 87

which she may deposit further payments. The woman asks what kind ofmonthly payments should be made and is told that she should see howher situation is; the work of God does not proceed on monthly payments;whenever she has it she should contribute. The woman then gives him anapple to say a prayer over for her heart condition. This he does andreturns the apple.

An old shaykh from a village of Isfahan comes to say that the villageprayer leader has died; having studied in Qum, he (the shaykh) wishes toget written permission from the main ayatullahs (the aqayan) to take thepost; the mosque should not remain empty (an indirect plea for moneyaccompanies the phraseology). The marja' puts him off, saying he willlook into the shaykh's education and for the time being only affix hisseal. He adds, bringing grins to the onlookers, that if not enough peoplewere coming to the mosque a good imam could milk the jinn.

A young Arab comes to ask for help in claiming his father's house. Themarja' says he does not know his way around such administrative prob­lems. An akhund volunteers that you advertise in the newspaper that so­and-so has died, and unless other heirs come forward with claims- TheArab interrupts protesting that he does not know Persian. The akhundreplies, "For that there are lawyers."

A seventy-year-old Shirazi, a man of the old school of rural gentryperhaps, enters in a shabby suit, the zipper on his pants broken, a knitcap on his head, and an old-fashioned collarless white shirt, with a wadof money pinned in a pocket inside the shirt. He has brought 6,000tomans to help support the students. He lists also the other contributionshe has made to the Bayt aI-Mal (community chest), contributions forpreaching, and so on. He asks if he. has given enough or if he may givemore, say for passion plays on Ashura. The marja' says he should givemore, especially in these days when the fa"aliyyat-i Wahhabi is sowidespread (those who scorn popular styles of devotion: preaching, pas­sion plays, shrines). The two are good friends. The marja' asks after thefamily and is told that the children are not behaving properly, especiallythe educated one. The wife is to blame. For twenty years they have beenhaving daily fights. The family is becoming so irreligious that in his ownhouse he cannot even say shukrullah (thank God). The Shirazi breaksinto a sob: even his own trust in God has become little. He says hisprayers and means it when he says, "0 God, only your help do I need."But it is all a lie; he knows he needs the help of others too. He had goneto Aqa Mahallati (the leader of the Shiraz community) and the lattertried reading some hadith to him but it did not help. Finally, to comforthim, the marja' says he (the Shirazi) has now given money to support7,000 students, which with their dependents is some 20,000 people. Inpraise of being allowed such a good work, the old man does a prostration(sijda) toward the qibla (the Ka'ba in Mecca). He asks for a memento andis given an agate ring.

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88 Madrasa: Style and Substance

There is a theory prevalent among Shi'ites that at any given time thereshould be only one marja'-i taqlid (leading mujtahid). This theory ap­pears to be neither very old I I nor firmly grounded, since it is a duty ofevery man to follow his own reason as far as he is competent and to seekexpert advice where he is not. Although it is admitted that, beyond thecertification of mujtahid status, the question of who is the most learnedof all is merely a matter of opinion, the theory holds that a consensusslowly emerges. Shi'ites today do attempt to trace a line of maraji'-i taq­lid back to the time of the twelfth Imam (see appendix). That is, theyclaim that before the twelfth Imam went into occultation he first selectedfour special assistants (nayibha-yi khass or nuwwab-i arba'a); after them,leadership passed to those most learned in the law or nonspecifiedassistants (nayib-i 'amm).

In 1975 there were six first-rank maraji'-i taqlid: Khoi and Khomeyniin Najaf; Golpayegani, Shariatmadari, and Marashi-Najafi in Qum;Khonsari in Tehran; (Milani, the seventh, in Mashhad, died in August1975). The term, however, is also used more loosely to refer to peoplewho administer the several hawza-i 'ilmi (learning centers), who give outstudent stipends, and who thereby are really patrons. Though there weremany more maraji' in this sense, these six remained the most important,having the most funds to distribute. Funds are a way the Muslim publicvotes for maraji'-i taqlid, so the roles of intellectual leadership and ad­ministration are not distinct. Some intellectual leaders do no administra­tion, the philosopher Allama S. Mohammad-Hoseyn Tabatabai beingthe most prominent; there is, however, no marja' who does none. This isas it should be: the greater part of the funds given the maraji' are countedas fulfilling the religious tithes, which should be given to the mostreligiously qualified person available.

Among maraji' there is at least tacit administrative cooperation: eachstudent on stipend receives funds from them all. Intermarriage and tac­tical cooperation on selected issues also bind the leadership together. Butfor the time being it stops short of issuing joint opinions, as has beenurged by a number of writers (see, for instance, the essays of Motahhari,Taleghani, and Jazayeri in Tabatabai 1341/1962) but opposed by otherson grounds of reducing the flexibility of the law and internal checks onquestionable interpretations (Ziai n.d.).

A second popular theory, stemming from people's cynicism about thecorrupting influence of position and power, is that sons of the majorreligious leaders (aqazada) almost invariably are intellectually lazy andmorally corrupt. They are at best functionaries in their fathers'establishments and rarely become leaders in their own right. This is usedat times to argue that the recruitment to the religious elite is democratic,achievement-based; not a case of a closed nepotistic caste. Thedemocratic theory is partially confirmed by the few first-rank leaderswho rose from village boys, the most prominent recent example being the

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Madrasa: Style and Substance 89

founder of the present hawza-i 'ilmi in Qum, Shaykh Abdol-KarimYazdi-Haeri. Naser Makarem is a case of someone making it to near thetop from a non-ruhani background. Both Shariatmadari andGolpayegani came from modest, if religiously educated, backgrounds. Itis furthermore true that although all the first-rank maraji' today aresayyids, it is not true of the historical list of sixty-odd maraji' throughhistory.

On the other hand, the elite do tend to intermarry and to recruit newtalent to their marriage alliances as well as to their work. Shaykh Abdol­Karim Yazdi-Haeri is a particularly clear example (see figure 3.3). If onelooks at the historical list of maraji' (see appendix), one sees many sets ofrelatives. For example, at least five maraji'-i taqlid appear in the ancestryof the late marja'-i taqlid Ayatullah Hoseyn Borujerdi (figure 3.1).Again, the Shirazis not only count four maraji' within two generations,plus the current marja' of Kuwait, but are intermarried with theMahallati-Shirazis (the leaders of the Shiraz community) and with acadet line of Marashis (figure 3.2).12

Majlisi II(#37)

Vahid Behbahani(#42)



Majlisi I(#34)

Mulla Salih Mazandarani(#35)

Hajj Mirza Mahmud(marja' of western Iran)

Ayatullah Husayn Borujerdi(c. #63)

Figure 3.1 Maraji'in Borujerdi's ancestry (numbers in parentheses refer to thelist of maraji' taqlid given in Appendix 2).

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Madrasa: Style and Substance 91

Far more impressive is the interrelation of contemporary maraji'.Although the links between Ayatullahs Hojjat, Marashi, and Milani arerelatively distant, all seven first-rank maraji' of 1975 can be put on onegenealogy, as in figure 3.3. On this simple diagram (essentially twogenerations) there are twelve first-rank maraji', four second-rankmaraji', six other leading teachers, and two professors. Extensions couldeasily be made: the late marja'-i' taqlid Khonsari (a cousin to the currentKhonsari), the marja' of Rey (a son of Milani), and four importantteachers of the Mashhad hawza (two sons and a grandson of Milani; abrother of Shariatmadari).

It may be objected that close kinship is only prima facie evidence ofany meaningful cooperation. Similarly that Golpayegani, Shariatmadari,and Khomeyni were classmates in Qum" is only circ*mstantial evidence.But it is an observable fact that second-rank aides and friends freely cir­culate in the establishments of the maraji', so that there is constant com­munication. During the 1963 opposition to the enfranchisem*nt ofwomen, the maraji' and leading mujtahids met together and sent jointprotest telegrams (see Davani 1341/1963 for an incident-by-incidentdescription).

Mild competition, of course, also occurs. A minor case, but one thatwent on for several years, occurred after the death of Ayatullah Hojjatover which of his two sons should receive the right (and the 10 percentadministrative fee that goes with the right) to administer the MadrasaHojjatiyya. One son was supported by Shariatmadari and Zanjani, theother by the two great leaders in Iraq at the time, Abol-Hasan Esfahaniand Zia'oddin Eraghi. The issue was claim by primogeniture versus claimby intellectual superiority. The Endowments Office, backed up (butnever used) by the open and secret police, appointed the lattercandidate. 13

More important is the friendly rivalry in setting up new schools,hospitals, missionary activities, and so on. Indeed it was almost as ifQum were divided into three territorial sections with the Azerbaijanisand Shariatmadari to the southwest (upriver: the Sahami Hospital, theDar-al-Tabligh and its library, Dar Rah-i Haqq, Maktab-i Islam,Madrasa Hojjatiyya), Marashi in the center (his library, tekke, andmadrasa, with further to the southeast another madrasa and married stu­dent housing), and Golpayegani to the northeast (downriver: his hospitaland two schools). (See figure 4.1). The territorial division was more ap­parent than real: the main Golpayegani school was upriver, a Shariat­madari dormitory was downriver. The apparent competition also arisesin activities abroad. Shariatmadari through the Dar-al-Tabligh and thejournal AI-Hadi was perhaps the best known to non-Persians; visitorscame from Lucknow and Karachi in the east, and from Cairo. and Fez inthe west. In Lucknow at the several Shia colleges, however, except for

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the top leadership, people in 1975 were very vague about a marja'-i ta­qIid: pressed to haul a name out of their memory, several came up withHakim, then dead nearly five years; a few said Shariatmadari, and a' fewsaid Khomeyni "because originally he is from Kashmir and so is an In­dian" and because a few Indian students in Najaf had written that he wasthe best. Golpayegani in the 1970s began more active efforts abroad: hebuilt a mosque in London, began giving shahriyya (monthly stipends) tostudents in India, bought land for a madrasa in Kashmir, and claimed in1975 to be negotiating for a similar madrasa in Tibet. Marashi wasprimarily known abroad through his scholarship in rijal (biographies)and exchange of ijazat (certifications) with numerous religious leaders,Sunni, Shia, Zaydi, and Ismaili alike. He has a small institute, Lajna-iIhqaq al-Haqq, which collects and publishes Sunni hadith and writingsfavorable to Shi'ism.

Perhaps more important than either the internal cohesion of the eliteor its friendly competition is the degree to which it is interrelated with thepolitical and economic elites, for here it clearly emerges how closely tiedto a passing order the elite is (see table 3.6). Links to thebazaar-especially to the wholesale merchant class-are most clearly evi­dent in the Shariatmadari genealogy, but they also exist in the Marashi,Milani, and to a lesser extent Golpayegani genealogies. Golpayegani in­stead comes from a family of small landowners and ruhani (as did Boru­jerdi) and married into a family of shopkeepers and ruhani.

There is a tendency for the new category of professionals to grow, atendency illustrated schematically by the fortunes of the former royalfamily, the Safavids. Originally, the leadership of a militant Sufi sect,they became Shi'ite (or explicitly Shi'ite), seized power, made allianceswith various religious and government elites (including the Marashi fami­ly), then lost the throne, becoming themselves religious leaders, andfinally in the last two generations, through a brief one-generation flirta­tion with military careers, became professionals.

Of all the families, the Mar'ashi record is the most fully preserved,thanks to the labors of Ayatullah Shahaboddin Mar'ashi. It illustrates,moreover, changes in.the organization of society at large. The ancestorsof the Mar'ashi, descendants of the third Imam, first lived or ruled innorthern Iraq, then moved to Rey and Mazandaran where they served asnaqibs (chiefs of the "guild" of sayyids as it were). Later, through war­fare, religious propaganda, and marriage alliances with local notables,they became kings of Tabaristan. Qavamuddin "Mir Buzurg," the first offifteen Mar'ashi kings of Tabaristan (A.D. 760 to c. 1(07), began as a dar­vish , heir to an important popular following which was feared by thelocal king. When attempts to humilitate Qavamuddin and defeat hisfollowers failed, he seized the throne; marriage alliances with the KiaJalalian, Kar Kia, Yazvaran, and Kayomars families helped stabilize the

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94 Madrasa: Style and Substance

Table 3.6 Males in genealogies of religious elite, by generation and occupation


EOY EOY E 0 Y Total



governmentProfessionalClerkMilitaryOther or

unknown(but notruhani)






7 0o 05 0o 0

o 0o 1o 1o 0

2 0

12 5 5

6 11 5010o 4 0222

320328o 0 0030


13 4 12

1 11 3000022000


2 7

2 19 23










15 20 338

35 38 2295

16 25 2566

4 32 4076 275

own generation; Y = younger,a·E elder, ascending generations; 0descending generations.

political balance. War, defeats, and accommodations with Timur fol­lowed. Mar'ashis became mutawalli (administrators) of the Shrine of Im­am Reza in Mashhad.

Meanwhile a Mar'ashi, Mir Najmuddin, married the daughter of thenaqib of Shushtar, succeeding to the post and to some lands. The fifthMar'ashi in this post, Mir Nurullah (d. 925/1519) began to convert thepeople to Shi'ism. When Shah Isma'il, founder of the new Safavid dy­nasty (see chronology facing page 1), arrived in Shushtar, he confirmedMir Nurullah's position and gave him more lands. Mir Nurullah's grand­son, Qadi Nurullah, after being educated in Mashhad, went to India andserved as minister and military judge in Akbar Shah's court. (Exposed asa Shi'ite, he was later killed by Jahangir Shah.)

In Iran under the Safavids, Mar'ashis served as viziers to the kings andintermarried with them: daughters of Shah 'Abbas II, Shah Tahmasp II,Shah Sulayman, and Shah Sultan-Husayn. They continued to serve asmutawalli of the Imam Reza Shrine, and one (Mirza Sayyid Muhammad,"Shah Sulayman II") even seized the throne in Mashhad for forty daysfrom Shahrukh, whom he blinded in the process - for which deed MirzaMuhammad's tongue was removed. Mar'ashis served as naqibs in Reyand Tabaristan, and as sadr or mutawalli of all religious endowments in

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Madrasa: Style and Substance 95

Iran. Under the Qajars one married a daughter of Fath-'Ali Shah, severalbecame court doctors, one was an ambassador to Istanbul, and a numberwere ayatullahs.

These various exalted positions illustrate, first, something of the quasi­hereditary nature of posts like naqib and mutawalli and, second, possiblysomething about the changing interrelation of the religious and politicalelites. It is possible to argue, as Ayatullah Mar'ashi himself on occasionwill, that his line of the family is the religious line and has little to do withpolitics. 14 He himself certainly tried to steer clear of overt politics,although he refused, for instance, to give youths positive permission tostudy social science at university because it seemed clear that such profes­sionally trained people would be corrupted and used by the immoralPahlavi government system. Yet his grandfather and uncles were courtdoctors and a great grandfather was an ambassador. These men clearlywere of the Qajar nobility if not professional politicians. Again the argu­ment is that though kin linkages are only prima facie evidence, certain ofthese linkages are observable in action. The political linkages probablyceased under the Pahlavis: that was one of the changes in society at large,namely, that top bureaucrats were recruited from the university ratherthan from the madrasa. In 1975, a Mar'ashi happened to head thegovernment's Endowments Office in Tabriz, but he was of the newsecular bureaucratic class. The linkage between the new professionalclass and the religious leaders is one of replacement or new occupationnot one of support, as was the linkage with the old political elite and isstill today with the bazaar merchants. These latter links with the bazaarare quite observable: Tabriz merchants who come to pay their respects(and monetary contributions) to Shariatmadari; merchants who serve asintermediary links between the general public and the maraji' (if youneed to get past Ayatullah Khonsari's attendants, say Hajji Hoseyn sentyou). Nor is the linkage one of uncritical support. A merchant, askedwhether he gave khums to the aqayan (religious leaders) or dispersed ithimself, put it this way: "I do not give money, but rather I say may Idonate a new door to such and such a mosque to replace the one that isbroken, or may I donate a piece of equipment to your hospital."

The role of marja'-i taqlid is thus both an active dual leader­ship - intellectual and administrative - and socially limited by its sup­porters, the students and the financial backers. A Tabriz mujtahid of thesame generation as Shariatmadari noted that the limitation ha.s becomestronger recently for another' reason: in the past many of the religiouselite were landowners and could thus be gentlemen scholars. After landreform, not only was it less possible to be a gentleman scholar, but thatroute of recruitment to the religious elite was closed.

The Pahlavi government also limited the role of marja'-i taqIid andlesser provincial ayatullahs. The role of marja'-i taqlid is ideally suited to

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setting up social services, but social services became an area of competi­tion with the state. When a major flood destroyed many homes in 1933,Shaykh Abdol-Karim Yazdi obtained from the Endowments Office aninety-nine-year lease on Mobarakabad, a suburban village of Qum, andorganized the rehousing of the victims. He was also instrumental in start­ing the Sahami and Fatimi hospitals. Both he and Ayatullah Borujerdiagitated until finally the government built flood walls along the river.Ayatullah Golpayegani later executed Yazdi's plan to build a hospital forMobarakabad by getting a forty-nine-year lease from the EndowmentsOffice and facilitating its building. Similarly when the Sahami Hospitalbegan to fail, it was taken over by Shariatmadari and was rebuilt.

Libraries are another facility that the religious leaders have providedfor community use, not only in Qum. Rationalized welfare programs areanother area of activity. Perhaps the most impressive program was theone organized by the Mahallati establishment in Shiraz: based on pledgecards (with some 2,000 contributors in 1975) and giving regular aid inrent supplements and medical needs, some 300 families were beinghelped month by month. Welfare applicants were first thoroughlychecked out, and there was a staff of nine to collect pledges. This Daj­tar-i Khayrat-i Islam (Office of Islamic Charity), nine years old in 1975,had by then built twenty-five houses for needy families and was buildinga further five; other families were helped to buy houses. A clinic was con­nected to the Daftar and there were plans for a hospital, but the familyplanning section of the clinic had been closed at government request inan effort to systematize and not duplicate. A similar but less formalwelfare program was operated in Qum by Shaykh Mortaza Haeri-Yazdi(the son of Shaykh Abdol-Karim Haeri-Yazdi). Another area ofendeavor was to encourage Islamic banks (which neither charge nor giveinterest and are primarily used for small loans to set up shops, pay forweddings, and the like).

Both the welfare and Islamic bank endeavors in part were attempts toaid the truly needy and those who can be helped, separating them fromthose merely looking for a handout, and thus avoiding confrontationsthat reflect ill on all, scenes like the following, which I witnessed in 1975.

The mosque in the Tehran bazaar was not very full for eveningprayers. A sayyid walked in and did a couple of prostrations. The youngman sitting next to me went up to him and obviously asked for money.He was refused and returned to his place next to me cursing the sayyidaloud: "He says he has not brought any money. These bastards collectthe money from the people and then eat it. We have nothing and theydrive to the mosque in a [Mercedes] Benz. In the days of 'Ali this wouldnot have happened, he who ate poor barley bread." He explained that hewas unemployed because there was something wrong with his foot; hehad been to the hospital but the foot was not better. Not only had the

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sayyid not given him any money; he had told him to go to work. Severalothers also tried to get money and were turned away. An aide then an­nounced that those who had come for money should return on Saturday;today there was none. The ayatullah then came in and took his place inthe front row. Some money was handed out to a few people who came upand apparently were known. Prayers began immediately.

Of course, rationalization involves its own problems of bureaucraticand status procedures trampling on the dignity of charity recipients. Thetraditional dignified style of giving charity is to slip some money to therecipient as unobtrusively as possible. That is hard to accomplish with abureaucracy, as the following scene in Shiraz demonstrates.

Donors and one better-dressed recipient were offered tea immediatelyupon their arrival; the regular recipients did not get any. The clerk wasbrusk and firm with the obviously poor. One old couple was given moneyfor his eyeglasses but not for medicine. Another old woman was givensomething for an eye doctor and apparently was expected to contributesome money herself (the bill would run 300 to 400 tomans); this she saidshe did not have. She was sent away after some moral admonitions to seewhat she could do and return to let the office know what had happened.An amputee was turned away: his case had not been researched. Herefused to leave and just sat. Five tomans were offered; he refused them.The five tomans were put into his hand; he sat some more and then gotup on his crutches and walked across the room to return the money. Heleft the office, but sat on the steps outside to await the ayatullah. He hadat least been given tea and the explanation that his case had not beenresearched; he replied that he had applied some time ago and had beenback several times, yet nothing had happened. After he left, the clerk ex­plained that there were two kinds of people: those who were really needy,often not even pressing their legitimate claims, were good people; andthen there were those, like this man, who ran their troubles as a kind ofbusiness and even would use children as a way to extract money. Thusthe need to check out each case.

Although these endeavors are praiseworthy from a humanitarian pointof view, the Pahlavi government apparently found their too open successa threat; it placed various limitations on the kinds of medical facilities itwould license and in general attempted to provide all major servicesthrough its own bureaucracy. The situation in 1975 was ill-disguisedcompetition on both sides. Government medics scoffed at the quality ofservice the religious hospitals could offer. The ulama spoke of thehospitals "we built" without acknowledging the help of others, includingthe lands acquired at no cost from the government Endowments Office.

The Vocal Elite and the Role of Wa'iz

In 1935 Reza Shah was mounting a campaign to persuade people to

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dress like Europeans. Since 1928 men had been ordered to wear thePahlavi cap and Western trousers; now the Pahlavi cap was to be re­placed by the fedora hat and women were to unveil. In Fars, the religiousleaders Ja'far Mahallati and Sayyid Nuroddin protested and werepunished by having their waqf (endowment) pensions taken away. Atfirst there was newspaper propaganda and lectures, and only schoolgirlswere unveiled. But toward the end of 1935 the police began to orderveiled women off the streets and out of public places such as cafes,cinemas, and hospitals. On 8 January 1936, Reza Shah, accompanied byhis unveiled wife and daughter, made a speech on the emancipation ofwomen. Social events were organized, which government officials (andincreasingly others) were required to attend with their unveiled wives.Even members of the ulama received -such invitations and a Britishdiplomat, Urquart, described their dilemma: "There is much talk of howthe various mullahs wept over this rape of Islamic tradition, and peopleare enjoying with a morbid horror and indignation definitely cautious,the prospect of some of the religious leaders dying of grief and strain, orelse committing suicide ... it is rumoured that a sayyid, prominent atKhoi, in resisting the order to unveil was arrested, shaved and sent homewearing a European hat, and that he was found dead in bed on thefollowing morning. "15

Pressures came to one climax in 1935 on the twentieth anniversary ofthe Russian bombing of the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad. A littlemulla, sent by Hajj Mirza Hoseyn Qummi to talk against the unveiling ofwomen, climbed onto the minbar in the Gawhar-Shad mosque of theshrine. To gain attention, he pulled off his turban and squatted over it.The place quieted and he began to speak, demanding repeal of the ordersabout male headgear and female emancipation, demanding that taxes belowered, and abusing the shah and local officials. A few people shoutedslogans to help emphasize his points. Navvab Ehteshanl and other shrineofficials snatched off and ripped up their official headgear. The policearrived and were greeted with insults and missiles. Infantry (200 strong)and 50 cavalrymen blocked off the shrine. As the British consul, Day,reported it: "A fracas occurred during which the general officer com­manding was pushed into a water channel. He appears to have lost con­trol of himself and ordered machine gun fire to be opened."15 The of­ficial death count was 32. Appalled at what he had just done inside thesacred precincts, Sartip Iraj Khan pulled his troops back and notifiedTehran. The shah ordered the shrine cleared by persuasion, failing whichby sticks and rifle butts, and only failing that by bayonet. Crowdsgathered during the three days it took to consult Tehran, beating theirbreasts to the chant "Husayn protect us from this shah." Villagers beganto come into town armed with sticks, sickles, shovels, and daggers. Thebazaar closed. The garrison, largely in sympathy with the populace, was

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disarmed and confined to barracks, with the exception of one detach­ment. That detachment was given a feast and then, at 2:00 A.M. on thefourth night, it forced the door of the shrine, opened fire with machineguns, and cleared the shrine. Officially 28 were killed. Unofficial sourcesclaimed 128 were buried in trenches prepared before the event. Some 800were arrested and flogged. Blame for the event was pinned on Asadi, thecaretaker of the shrine, who, after torture, confessed and was executed.

Amid the chaos of the first day, the little mulla, Bahlul (ShaykhMohammad-Taghi Sabzevari), slipped away and fled across the Afghanborder, beginning a forty-year exile from Iran. He had, however,become a folk hero. "Bahlul" is an affectionate nickname. The originalBahlul pretended to be crazy when the sixth Imam (Ja'far al-Sadiq) wasimprisoned, as a way of spreading the Imam's message. When peoplethought about what he said, they realized that he was not crazy. For in­stance, one day Abu Hanifa was preaching about the problem that ifGod is not visible how can one know something is there to be worshiped?In the course of his argument he elaborated on the notion that like ob­jects cannot irritate one another. Bahlul threw a clod of dirt at him andhit him on the forehead. Abu Hanifa took Bahlul to court, complainingthat his head hurt. Bahlul responded: if there is a problem about wor­shiping God because we cannot see him, show me your pain. Further­more, you say like cannot irritate like; you are from dirt, as was the clod,so your pain cannot come from it. There are many such Bahlul storiesand the contemporary Bahlul, "crazy" for having sat on his turban,revels in the comparison. He is known as not particularly learned butwith an excellent memory for all the stories and rhetorical devices thatamuse audiences. Indeed he himself says he had gone to Najaf to becomea mujtahid under Hajj Mirza Hoseyn Qummi, but the latter seeing thathe would never become a good mujtahid sent him to preach instead. Noris he known for his elegance of speech; on the contrary his folksyKhurasan accent and style endear him to his audiences.

He is a folk hero not only for his style but for his courage in defense ofIslam against the state. He had been sent by Qummi to make his wayfrom town to town to preach against unveiling but to leave if troublethreatened. Response among the populace had to do not only with veil­ing and headgear, but also with economic conditions: regressive taxessqueezing the lower classes, state foreign trade monopolies squeezing themerchants, printing of money increasing the cost of living, unfavorablestate-monopoly wheat prices to the farmer and forced closing ofbakeries, making bread prices rise 20 percent. And, with the growingpolice state: the army of informers, the crackdown on the free market(smuggling). After Dahlul fled Iran, his image was bolstered with storiesof how he settled in Afghanistan as a farmer and raised a number of or­phans to become doctors and teachers, and how earlier when he had gone

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to study with Qummi he had carried his aged mother on his back fromMashad to Najaf that she might make that pilgrimage. Nor was his imagedamaged by briefly broadcasting for Nasser from Cairo against the shah.In 1975, he had made his peace with the shah and was again in Iran andallowed to preach, as long as he stayed away from political topics.

There are two main terms for the preaching role. Wa'iz is the morerespectable and means really a lecturer. Professors who are well-knownlecturers on the religious circuit -like Javad Managhebi - are wa 'izin.The other term rawda-khwan or akhund, refers literally to the reading ofthe dirges about the tragedy of Karbala. Akhund has come also to be thecommon term for a cleric; it is not particularly respectful, but it serves asthe colloquial term rather than, say, mu//a. Ruhani is the respectful termfor those who wear religious garb. Terms for what is delivered follow aparallel semantic structure: a wa'iz delivers a speech (sukhanranl) , arawda-khwan "reads a rawda," an akhund may do either. A khutba (ser­mon) is not a didactic event in Iran; khutbas are given by the imam-jum'aafter Friday noon prayer, but they are not important events. (This wouldchange after Ramadan 1979).

The didactic event in Shi'ite Iran is the rawda. This begins with an aya(verse) of the Qur'an; at each mention of the Prophet's name, and atother signals, blessings (sa/awat) are chanted by the audience; a speech orsermon forms the body of the performance; and the closing is always aturning (guriz) to the events of Karbala (the rawda proper), during whichthe audience engages in the pietistic exercise of weeping. One wishes toweep for the martyr of Karbala so that on Judgment Day he will in­tercede and one's sins will be weighed more lightly and with compassion.The capacity to weep with true repentance, humility, and regard for Hu­sayn is called ha/-i khosh (the good state). One who makes a pilgrimageto an important shrine but is unable to weep in this fashion will sadlycomment, "I stayed ten days, but I could not find the good state (hichha/-i khosh payda nakardam)."

Of interest is the fact that with a few exceptions - Khomeyni in par­ticular-the maraji-i taqlid do not go onto the minbar to preach, thoughthey support preaching to commemorate the death of, say, AyatullahBorujerdi or during the months of Ramadan and Muharram. Instead,there is a whole other set of prominent names associated with this ac­tivity: Bahlul, Shaykh Mohammad-Taghi Falsafi, Dr. Javad Managhebi,Rashed, Sayyid Abdol-Karim Hasheminezhad, Dr. Ali Shariati,Engineer Mehdi Bazargan, Shaykh Ahmad Kafi, Abdol-Reza Hejazi,Fakhroddin Hejazi, Mohammad Khasali, and so on. The youth knowthese names and their stylistic idiosyncrasies the same way they knowmovie actors. It is in this role that the passion of Shi'ism is most clearlyfocused. Consequently, the Pahlavi government took great care to

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monitor such speeches. An occupational hazard of being a minbari wasthe possibility of being silenced or jailed from time to time. In early 1975Falsafi was not being allowed to speak, S. Abdul Reza Hejazi was inprison, Khasali was banished to Baluchistan, Shariati was in prison,Bazargan and Hasheminezhad were not being allowed to speak. ButBahlul, after his forty-year exile, was back and speaking. Shariati wasreleased from jail later that year, so seriously ill that he died within twoyears. Another akhund - Ghaffari - allegedly died in jail undergruesome conditions.

Despite this occupational hazard-though if one remained totallybland, talking only of general ethics as Rashed did, there was nohazard-the role had its elements of glamour for the madrasa students.This for most was to be a major element in their professional lives. Evenas students, they supplement their incomes in an important way duringRamadan and Muharram by accepting speaking engagements. Villagesoften solicited rawda-khwans through the maraji'-i taqlid or provincialayatullahs. Ayatullah Milani initiated a regular service to take studentson circuit around the villages of Mashhad on Thursdays and Fridays tolead prayers and deliver rawdas (though for this program the studentswere not allowed to accept fees).

The dean of the wa'izin was perhaps Shaykh Mohammad-Taqi Falsafi.Regarded as a careful researcher of sources, his collected lectures servedas a basic reference on issues of psychology and personal developmentfrom childhood to adulthood. Students also respected him for havingbeen in the center of social issues of his day. During the disturbancesover Bahaism in the mid-1950s, Falsafiwas one of Ayatullah Borujerdi'smain spokesmen in Tehran. The religious establishment at that point inMohammad Reza Shah's reign was strong enough to intimidate thegovernment, not only to allow Falsafi to regularly broadcast againstBahais on radio but to get the leading members of the government topublicly support the hysteria against the Bahai threat to Islam. 16 Falsafihappened also to be on the minbar at the death memorial for AyatullahFayd (the rebuilder of the Qum hawza) in 1951 when shots rang out andGeneral Razmara, the prime minister, who only the day before hadthreatened the nationalists in the parliament if they did not support hiscompromises with the British over Persian oil, was assassinated by amember of the fanatic Fida'iyan-i Islam. Falsafi's freedom to speak onthe minbar was finally taken away after a speech in Tehran, at a gather­ing in 1970 convened by Ayatullah Khonsari to protest the expulsionfrom Iraq of Persian nationals and to protest the attack on Najaf, whichthose expulsions represent. The speech, to which ambassadors of thevarious Muslim countries were invited, was taped for radio broadcast butwas edited in several places before it went on the air. One of the deletedsections is alleged to have contained the taunt that when Muslims throw

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stones at Satan in the ritual of the hajj, they only think they are stoningSatan, but when Iranian students threw rotten eggs and tomatoes at theshah in Germany they were really stoning Satan. The government is saidto have responded by circulating a doctored photograph of Falsafi in bedwith a naked woman; to which Falsafi allegedly retorted:

Kun-i' dawlat para kardam;Hala mikhwahand vaselin bimaland.

I buggered the government;Now they want to soothe it with Vaseline.

1975 was but prologue to 1977-1979. The madrasa and its alumni werebut microcosm to the society at large. Just as the members of themadrasa defended their institution as a free university in contrast to theregimented state schools, so they also saw freedom, flexibility, andultimate moral modernity as riding with the custodians of the IranianIslamic heritage, not with the state. Just as the madrasa was perceived ashaving been hampered and constricted in its development, so too thepromise of a just Islamic society. To reap. the fruits of the promise wouldrequire hard work and learning from the modern world. Thus the revolu­tion of 1977-1979 would use the network of preachers and the ad­ministrative structure already in place, but it would not hesitate to utilizean alliance with people outside the ulama hierarchy.

Khomeyni would be the leader, the only marja' who consistently, from1963 on, did go on the minbar and preach, sending tapes of his sermonsand speeches to Iran, criticizing the shah. But Khomeyni would beopenly or tacitly aided by a variety of other maraj'i-i taqlid, ayatullahs,and figures of lesser rank. Shariatmadari would be vocal, as would thetwo Mahallatis (father and son) in Shiraz, and Ayatullah Shirazi inMashhad. The modernist wa'izin-Ayatullah Sayyid MahmudTaleghani, Engineer Mehdi Bazargan, and the numerous followers ofDr. Ali Shariati - would play a crucial role. Indeed, one of thesefollowers, Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi-who as a young man had been groomedby Bazargan, had spent years in the United States as a medical·researcherand as a devoted preacher to the Islamic students there, and wouldbecome first deputy prime minister for revolutionary affairs and thenforeign minister in 1979-rescued Khomeyni when he was deported fromIraq in 1978 and refused entry to Kuwait. Yazdi convinced Khomeynithat in Paris he could become a focal point for a modern media revolu­tion: not only could tapes and written statements be easily massreproduced, but easy access could be had to the international newsmedia, above all the BBC. For weeks during the revolution, in Shiraz andother towns of Iran, preachers would end in time for people to go home

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and catch the BBC Persian broadcasts. It all would have happenedwithout the BBC, television coverage, tapes, and telephones: these werejust modern, speedier accessories of an old system, symbolically focusedin the person of Khomeyni and in the town of Qum.

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4Qum: Arena 0/ Conflict

There are a number of things which kings should learn. Oneis digging with a shovel and earning his bread, so that hewill not lightly take the bread from the hands of others;

another is for him to suffer the pains of torture so that hewill not without good reason order anybody tortured;

another is that he should experience hunger so that he willgive to the hungry; and another is that he should know thetoil of traveling on foot so that he will no longer make peo­

ple go on foot to where he goes.- Darabnameh

QUM IS THE RELIGIOUS HEART of Shi'ite Iran; what happensin Qum has national importance. Insofar as Iran has a fairly cen­tralized political structure, the social pressures operating in Qumare not very different from those operating elsewhere. In these

two senses Qum's unique characteristics provide both a kind of localcolor to patterns observable elsewhere in Iran and a special access to thereligious aspects of those patterns.

The task now is to place Qum and the religious personnel of themadrasa system in the context of a modernizing, nondemocratic state: toshow how the provincial town of Qum as a unit of the state has beentransformed; to show where and how in that transformation the freedomof maneuver (power, leadership, control) of the religious personnel hasbeen circ*mscribed, and to indicate how in the transformation classesdifferentiate themselves in religious idiom.

Qum has a peculiar set of reputations in Iran. Foreigners and evenmany Westernized Iranians avoid it as a hotbed of fanaticism. Thehagiographies of the town portray it from its earliest Islamic days as aShi'ite refuge and stubborn stronghold. For shrine goers, only Mecca,the 'atabat (the shrine towns of southern Iraq), and Mashhad surpassQum as a site of experiential intensity. In the popular folklore ofcharacter types Qummis are bad gens (bad types, clever, scheming, two­faced).

Despite the census claims that Qum has a population of over 200,000people, it is a small town with practically no industry. It is still a verytraditional town based on farming, weaving, some herding, some carpen­try, brick making, selling to pilgrims (garrish pottery, prayer beads,souvenirs), and services to the sizable madrasa and shrine population.


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Figure 4.1 Qum location map



Key: Major mosquesA A ~zam (Borujerdl)BImamC Jum'a

Madrasas1 Faydiyya2 Dar al-Shija3 Hujjatiyya4 Dar al-Tabligh

Other major institutionsS Shrine (Hadrat-i Ma~suma)R Dar Rah-i HaqqL Mar~ashi Library

M Maktab-i IslamK Mobarakabad•••• Bazaar

5 Imam Amir al-Mu'minin6 Golpayegani7 Mar~ashi

8 Khan9 Kirmani

10 Razaviyya11 Mu'minin12 Haqqani13 Jani Khan

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106 Qum: Arena of Conflict

Opium and prostitutes (primarily the former) are still the major forms ofmale entertainment, rather than alcohol and cinemas.

Although Qum has a long madrasa tradition - traced back to the thirdcentury A.H. - the current set of madrasas are only some fifty years old.Their growth and social power has had a decided effect in making thetown more puritan, more conservative, less amenable to change than itwould otherwise be; the effect is by no means appreciated by all Qummisand was perhaps intensified unintentionally by the Pahlavi government'santiclericalism. During the sixties and seventies, government efforts tointroduce changes in social welfare (education, health care), physicalplanning (parks, modern buildings, roads, diversified economic oppor­tunities), and civic administration (price control and political partymaneuvers) gathered momentum, making the madrasa system increas­ingly a backwater.

Evolution of the Shrine Town: Shi'ite and Royal

Qum's historians revel in its reputation as an obstreperous Shi'itecenter, tracing this posture back to the early Shi'ite resistance to theUmayyads. Abu Musa Ash'ari, the ineffective and somewhat stupidrepresentative of 'Ali,l visited Qum in A.H. 23, but Qum remainedZoroastrian and paid ji*zya (the tax on protected minorities). Indeed thegreat Sassanian ritual fire in the nearby village of Mazdijan was ex­tinguished only in A.H. 288 by Bayram Turk, the governor of Qum.Nonetheless, Qum and Kashan became refuges for opponents of theUmayyads. After Mutraf ibn Mughira's revolt against the governor ofIraq, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Thaqafi, failed (66-67/685-687), a group of hisfollowers, the Bani Asad, came to settle in a village outside Qum, calledJam Karan (now an important secondary shrine of the area). A decadelater refugees from the unsuccessful jihad (holy war) of 'Abd aI-Rahmanibn Muhammad ibn Ash'ath (governor of Seistan) against Hajjaj alsocame to Qum (c. 78/697). 'Abd al-Rahman's army had included seven­teen tabi'in 2 (disciples of the Prophet's companions), and among therefugees who came to Qum were the sons of Sa'ib who had fought withMukhtar in the unsuccessful attempt to revenge Husayn in Kufa underthe banner of his brother, Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya. The first of'Abd al-Rahman's followers to arrive in Qum were the brothers 'Ab­dullah and Ahwas Ash'ari. They were welcomed by the Zoroastrian,Yazdan Fezar of Abrastigan Qum, and were given a village, Muham­madan, apparently in recognition of aid the Ash'aris had previouslygiven Qum in efforts to stay independent of the Daylamis. The alliancewas short-lived, however: a quarrel broke out, the Ash'aris were asked toleave; instead they slaughtered the leading Zoroastrians. The otherZoroastrians began to leave or converted to Islam. Among the Ash'arisons were twelve rawi (transmitters of riwayat or hadith) of Imam Ja'faral-Sadiq, the sixth Imam.

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From these beginnings Qum next developed a reputation for resistingSunni governors and their tax demands. S. Hoseyn Modarresi-Tabatabai(1350/1975) lists five occasions in the third century A.H. alone when thetown had to be militarily reduced before taxes could be collected. In con­trast, a Shi'ite governor was given so much cooperation that he wasremoved by the caliph lest he claim independence. During the third cen­tury there were 266 Shi'ite ulama and 14 Sunni ulama in the town; amongthe former were the·Babawayh family and their most renowned son, themarja'-i taqlid (number 2 in Appendix 2). Shaykh al-Saduq ibnBabawayh. On these grounds, Qum lays claim to being an older hawza-iilmi (center of religious learning) than Najaf, although the scholarlytradition had periods of virtual disappearance.

It was to this Shi'ite town that Fatima, the sister of the eighth Imam,'Ali al-Rida, came when she fell ill in Saveh (a Sunni town) en route tovisit her brother in Mashhad. She died in Qum, and over the years hergrave has come to be the second most important shrine of Iran: theShrine of Hadrat-i Ma'suma, Fatima. The first mutawalli (administrator)of the shrine appears to have been a representative of the eleventh Imam;he was of the Ash'ari family. 3 The first dome was constructed over thegrave in the sixth century, and the shrine apparently served as apilgrimage site for Sunnis as well as Shi'ites. The dome was redone in theSafavid period and gilded in the Qajar period. Fatima's sister has asmaller shrine in the uplands village of Kohak, a place that at times com­peted with Qum for predominance.

By the ninth century A.H. Qum's identity had begun to crystallize: itbecame, in addition to a Shi'ite center and a shrine, a place of royal in­terest. lahan Shah, Uzun Hasan, Sultan Ya'qub, Alvand Sultan, andSultan Murad all used Qum as a winter hunting capital (Uzun Hasan wasvisited here by envoys from Venice), Sultan Muhammad Bahadur brieflyestablished a semi-independent state centered on Qum. lahan ShahQaraquyunlu issued the earliest extant farman (royal order), dated867/1462, naming S. Ahmad Nizamuddin as mutawalli of the shrine andnaqib (local head) of the sayyids. He also sponsored maj/is wa'iz(preachments) in Qum. From later farmans it becomes clear that the twojobs of naqib and mutawalli always went together and were assumed tobe hereditary in the Razavi sayyid family of Musa Mobaqa, which hadcome to Qum in the third/ninth century. (This family has a large set ofmausoleums on the edge of town.)

The Safavid shahs Isma'il arid Tahmasp continued the tradition ofusing Qum as a winter capital. But the Safavids built Qum into some­thing much grander than it had ever been. The tombs of Shah 'Abbas II,Shah Safi, Shah Sulayman, and Shah Sultan-Husayn were placed here,near the Shrine of Fatima, Hadrat-i Ma'suma. The shrine was refur­bished, and two of its four courtyards were turned into the MadrasaFaydiyya with a small hospital behind for pilgrims, the Dar-al-Shafa.

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Important teachers were brought: Mulla Muhsin Fayd, Mulla 'Abd al­Razzaq Lahiji, Mulla Sadra Shirazi, Mulla Tahir Qummi, and QadiSa'id. Several administrative arrangements were tried: for a while thegovernor was the mutawalli; for a while there were three mutawallis, oneeach for the tombs of Fatima, Shah 'Abbas II, and Shah Safi. But themain mutawalli was Mirza S. Habibullah ibn Mir S. Husayn Khatim al­Mujtahidin and later his descendants; he had been brought fromLebanon by Shah Tahmasp with his father and two brothers. The twobrothers were made mutawalli of the Shah ~Abd al-'Azim Shrine in Reyand the Shah Safi Shrine in Ardebil. These jobs remained hereditary un­til 1965 when shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ousted them. 4 Whether thecustom is older is unclear, but under the Safavids the shrine became aplace of sanctuary (bast-nishin), where one could take refuge from thelaw until a judgment thought to be unfair could be sorted out. At timesthis legal recourse tended to degenerate into a device used mainly bydebtors.

The Qajars continued the tradition of placing royal and noblemausoleums at the shrine of Fatima, with the tombs of Fath-'Ali Shah,Muhammad Shah, and the many Qajar ministers: Qa'immaqam andMirza 'Ali-Asghar Khan, among others (see figure 4.2). They rebuilt sec­tions of the shrine, the grand Sahn-i Jadid (new courtyard) being built byAmin aI-Sultan in 1883. The bast (sanctuary) tradition continued despiteefforts by the prime minister, Mirza 'Ali-Asghar Khan, to abolish it. Themadrasas, however, lost their vitality after the death of the scholar MirzaQummi in 1231/1804, although several of them were rebuilt underFath-'Ali Shah (1797-1834), and the Jani Khan Madrasa was rebuiltunder Nasiruddin Shah (1848-1896) (see table 3.4).

The Religious Establishment and the Expanding Bureaucratic State

In the twentieth century two social vectors became increasingly impor­tant: First, the hawza-i 'ilmi (center of religious learning) was reestab­lished in Qum, but this time not through royal or aristocratic patronage.Second, the state began to eliminate or reduce, one by one, the spheres ofinfluence claimed by the religious leaders: law, education, endowments,registry of contracts, and, through control of television and radio, eventhe dissemination of religious propaganda.

On the national level education began to be removed from ulama con­trol at the turn of the century: secular schools were established beginningin 1897; laws were passed in 1907 and 1911 making all schools, includingreligious ones, subject to the Ministry of Education (Akhavi 1980). From1926 on, the jurisdiction of religious courts was more and more limiteduntil nothing was left. In 1932 the lucrative notary republic and registryfunctions were made secular (although under state supervision ruhaniwere still usually the ones who registered marriages). From 1934 on, state

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supervIsion of religious endowments became increasingly stringent.Regarding the dissemination of religious propaganda, the state claimedthe right to regulate the curriculum of religious schools, but the regula­tion remained ineffective. The state monitored rawdas, still a keymedium of religion, but the intimidation value of the monitoring varied.Television and radio, however, are new media; under Mohammad RezaShah they purveyed a nonpolitical programming on religion congenial toa modernizing state: the leading wa'iz on the radio, Rashed, confinedhimself to general ethical pronouncements; television coverage of ritualevents and studio programming, much of which were very good, wereboth handled artistically and presented as "our cultural heritage."

In brief, the recent history of the ulama can be summarized as follows.Under Reza Shah (1924-1941) the ulama were openly under attack andon the defensive. In the following period (1941-1963) under MohammadReza Shah they were freer and able to take some open stands, issuing fat­was (opinions) in favor of nationalizing oil (in the 1952 period), againstthe emancipation of women (in the 1962 period), and so on, although in1949 a large meeting had been convened by Ayatullah Borujerdi to urgethe ulama to eschew political activism (Akhavi 1980). From 1963 until1978 they again came under pressure, perhaps with less openly avowedhostility than in the 1930s, but perhaps with more covert policemeasures.

We turn to Qum. The date 1920 is the one usually given for the modernfounding of the Hawza-i 'Ilmi of Qum. That is the date of the arrival ofShaykh Abdol-Karim Haeri-Yazdi from Arak (Soltanabad) and beforethat from Iraq. It was part of the exodus back to Iran by Shi'ite leaderswho were concerned that the uncertain transition between Ottoman andBritish rule in Iraq might jeopardize their position in the 'atabat (shrinetowns of Iraq). Shaykh Mortaza Ansari earlier had sent MirMohammad-Ali Shushtari-Jazayeri to reconnoiter Qum and Mashhad.Then in 1916 Ayatullah Fayd Qummi, joined later by others, returned toQum to reclaim the old madrasas to their original purpose. Shops andstorage areas had to be converted back to student rooms in ~he MadrasaFaydiyya. Even wheat bakeries had to be set up. Over the course of a fullcentury-since the death in 1815 of Mirza Qummi, author of theQawanin (Laws)-Qum's madrasas had fallen into disuse and ruin andthe town had suffered what a leading editor and pedagogue calls "an in­tellectual famine" (Rahimi 1339/1961). After establishing a minimalbasis for a hawza, Ayatullah Mirza Mahmud Ruhani and Shaykh Ho­seyn Qummi were dispatched to Arak to invite and persuade ShaykhAbdol-Karim Haeri-Yazdi to come. He did so, bringing with him a largefollowing, including those who were to succeed after his death (in 1935):Ayatullahs Shaykh Mohammad-Ali Haeri-Qummi (d. 1939), and S.

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to MadrasasFaydiyya &Dar-a/-Shija


Sahn-i NawAtabaki

A 40


Adapted/rom: Astana~iMuqaddas-i Qum 1354/1975

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Figure 4.2 Shrine of Fatima, Hadrat-i Ma'suma, Qum

• Holy ShrineA Where Mar'ashi-Najaji leads

festival prayers (namaz-i 'id)B Where Shariatmadari leads daily

prayers iformerly the Museum courtyard;now the Museum Mosque)

C Where Mar'ashi-Najaji leads daily prayersD Old Treasury

c candles

w waterp passage

k left shoes

m mosquet teahouse

Masjid Baw Sar1 Shah Sulayman2 Shah Sultan-Husayn3 Shah 'Abbas4 Shah Safi5 Shaykh 'Abd ai-Karim Ha'iri­

Yazdi6 Sayyid Sadruddin Sadr7 Sayyid Muhammad- TaqiKhwansari

Sahn-i Kuhna (Old Courtyard)8 Fath- 'Ali Shah9 Qahraman Mirza

10 Sadr al- 'Vlama11 Mustawfi a/-Mama/ik12 Mudabbir a/-Dawla13 Sa/ar Muharram-i Tabrizi14 Vuthuq a/-Daw/a15 A 'lam a/-Sa/tana16 Mirza 'Ali-Asghar Khan Atabak17 Fuladvand18 Muhammad-Shah19 Mahd-i 'V/ya20 A 'in al-Mulk21 Amir Afkham22 Amin al-Dawla23 Manuchihr Khan

Sahn-i Naw Atabaki (Atabegi NewCourtyard)24 Hajji Sarkeshik

25 Mu' avin ai-Sultan26 Sa'd al-Saltana27 Hajj Shaykh Fadlu//ah Nur;28 Shaykh al-Mulk29 Isfahaniyyan30 Diya' al-Mulk Tafrushi31 Hajj Amin a/-Darb32 Maw/avi Nahavandi33 Thiqat a/-Islam Borujirdi34 Mirza Muhammad-Husayn

Sakana35 Sayyid Mahmud Kashi36 Baha' a/-Mulk37 'Abd a/-Rahim Nahavandi38 Zafar a/-Sultan39 Sarhang Murtada-Quli Khan40 Khazin a/-Khalvat Hajji Rabi'

Agha Fariburz41 Beg/arbegi42 Hajj Sayyid Radi Rashti43 Nusratullah Khan Bakhtyari44 A 'zam a/-Sa/lana45 Mushir a/-Saltana46 Mu'in al-Dawla47 Hajj Mirza 'A/i Sarraf48 Shukuh-Nizam49 Hajj Mu'in Bushihri50 Hajj Aqa Nuruddin51 Varatha-i Asghar Khan52 Hajib a/-Daw/a53 Qayimmaqam

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112 Qum: Arena of Conflict

Mohammad Hojjat Kuhkamari came immediately as did the then youngS. Ruhollah Musavi Khomeyni and S. Mohammad Reza Golpayegani; S.Ahmad Khonsari came in 1923, S. Shahaboddin Marashi and S.Mohammad-Kazem Shariatmadari in 1924, and Ayatullah S. SadroddinSadr in 1930. Almost immediately upon the reestablishment of the Qumhawza, it was able to play host to refugees from Iraq: Shi'ite resistance tothe British caused for short periods both the voluntary and nonvoluntaryexile of students and teachers.

How much of a change the growth of the madrasas made to life inQum can only be estimated from a series of incidents: the campaign ofAyatullah Bafqi to keep men from cutting their beards, the staging byNurollah Esfahani in Qum of calls for the ousting of the dictator RezaShah (1925), the clash between Bafqi and Reza Shah over the veiling ofthe royal women in the shrine, the burning of wine shops, the oppositionto modern schools, opposition to the enfranchisem*nt of women, thestudent harangues against the Tudeh party, and the opposition to the in­troduction of the cinema and television. S Not all the acts of the religiousleaders, however, were conservative in this sense: their leadership inbuilding hospitals, welfare systems, libraries, and flood walls havealready been mentioned. Indeed some of the conservatism was reactionto Pahlavi government-led anticlericalism. As one official in theReligious Endowments Office put it, "They [the ulama] fall behind ontheir own, and we help kick them back whenever we can."

The burning of the wine shops is perhaps a good example of thedynamics of one kind of conservative pressure. (For similar cases ofdisplacement along "religious" lines, see Fischer 1973: appendix 1.) Justafter Reza Shah abdicated in 1941, an Armenian from Qazvin had thetemerity to open a liquor store near the shrine. Ayatullah Bafqi, freshlyreleased from exile in Rey, led a campaign to buy him out and close theshop, or simply destroy the shop. Meanwhile, a chronic civic disturbanceerupted over the division of the river water between Qum and Mahallat.Being further downstream, Qum began to get less water, so the farmersmarched on the congregational prayers of the ulama, stopped the prayersby seizing the muhr,6 and demanded that something be done. An akhundmanaged to seize leadership and shouted that this was no way fqrMuslims to behave: the farmers should pray themselves, should not at­tack the ulama, but should attack the real enemies, the liquor stores.Some youths got some gasoline and the crowd set the Armenian store onfire; then they crossed the river to the new town and gutted the remainingliquor stores and whor*houses there. Ever since, liquor has beenavailable only through private houses: the police will not license a liquorstore. The government quelled the disturbance with firearms - a fewwere wounded, some perhaps killed, and others were arrested. After this

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release of frustration, Ayatullah Fayd brought together the variousparties to the water dispute and worked out a solution.

A different sort of case, but also illustrating this religious "overdrive,"seems to be the expulsion from Qum in 1975 of a woman school principalat the wish of one of the maraji-'i taqlid. 7 It began with the principal'ssupport for her mother's brother's son (her cousin, with whom she hadbeen raised) in his plea for a divorce on the grounds of his wife's infidel­ity. The judge, a friend of one of the wife's alleged lovers, kept continu­ing the case, until the principal used her middle-class credentials to insiston action. The wife then accused the principal of wanting the manherself, a cultural, if not a psychological impossibility since harflshir(those suckled at the same breast) may not marry and sexual relationsbetween them constitute incest. In any case, the wife complained to themarja' who in turn complained to the Office of Education that the prin­cipal- who incidentally had tutored the marja"s own daughters - was ofloose morals and should be dismissed. The Office of Education, tominimize possible conflict with the religious establishment, transferredher to Tehran.

Schools-and more recently the visual mass media-have long been anarena of ambivalent hostile acceptance by the religious population, forslightly different reasons of conservative dynamics than those describedfor the wine riot. The alleged contradiction in the behavior of the marja'in the story of the school principal- summary condemnation without in­vestigation of a teacher formerly trusted with the education of hisdaughters - perhaps fits the patterns of ambivalance.

Before the first government school opened in Qum in 1919, sevenprivate modern schools had been started, the first in 1898 by MirzaHasan Roshtiyya, an ex-cleric, the third in 1906 by S. MohammadBagher Mesbah-Towliyat, the head of the shrine and later a friend ofShaykh Abdol-Karim Haeri-Yazdi. Despite the involvement of someulama and their friends in these efforts, people who grew up in Qum tellstories of having to dodge heckling talaba (religious students) on theirway to school, especially, of course, the girls. The ambivalence may havesomething to do with the growth of the government regulatory functionin education and in the administration of endowments. From their earlydays the Offices of Education and Endowments contributed funds toprivate as well as government schools; indeed all schools had to be li­censed by the Office of Education; it officially opened an office in Qumin 1915, and in 1925 the Office of Endowments was joined to it. Seculareducation beyond elementary school did not exist until 1935, and the bigpush for schools came in the· next two years: a coeducational schoolopened in 1935; that same year Reza Shah ordered adult education to be

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offered and fifteen schools were opened in 1935-36; by 1937 there werethree high schools.

These were, however, also the years of great pressure against thereligious establishment. The great struggle over dressing like Europeansand unveiling women came in 1935-36. Attempts were made to licensethose who had a right to wear religious garb, and the number of religiousstudents in Qum began to decline, reaching a low of 500 or less at the e.ndof Reza Shah's reign in 1941 (Razi 1332 Sh./1954: 11,119). When Haeri­Yazdi died in 1935, not only were laws in effect against rawda-khwanipreachments, but a formal death memorial for him was disallowed(though the inpouring of people to Qum to chant in the streets could notbe prevented). In 1938 the government tried to introduce examinationsfor the religious students in order to regulate their progress and to for­malize procedures for exemption from the army. The examinations wereevaded by a plea from the hawda leadership that the date set for themhad fallen upon the anniversary of the death of Shaykh Mohammad-AliQummi and the students had to convene a memorial service. The govern­ment acquiesced and did not try to reinstitute the examinations. In 1975those who were at least middle level students and had six years of seculareducation could ask a committee of hawda teachers to certify to the Of­fice of Education that they were students in good standing. The Educa­tion Office forwarded this document, with the student's letter requestingdeferment from the army, to the gendarmerie draft board. Direct controlover religious students thus was abandoned in favor of informalsurveillance. Resistance to open procedures had led to expansion ofcovert procedures.

In the area of endowments, feelings of being encroached upon, beingmade redundant, and having traditional moral leadership challenged aresimilar to those in education and even more central. An endowment(vaqj', pI. awqaf, or mawqufa) is a donation of property for specific pur­poses; its administrator (mutawalli, tawliyat) has, by Muslim law, rightsto 10 percent of the annual income. 8 General supervision of awqaf hasalways been a duty of the state, but since in the past the ulama have pro­vided state councillors, have often served· as mutawalli, and have beenlegal and notary specialists, there is a lingering feeling of proprietorshipover endowments for religious purposes. Degree of centralization of con­trol, corruption, misuse of funds or misregistry so that awqaf wereturned back into private holdings have varied. In a famous exchange,Nadir Shah (1736-1747) asked the 'alim who served as the last Safavidminister of endowments (sadr-i sudur) what he did with the funds; thereply was: disperse them to the ulama that they may pray for the king.Nadir Shah noted that it had not done the Safavid kings much goodagainst the Afghan invasion (1722) and dismissed the man.

Under the Pahlavis, state administration of awqaf operated under setsof regulations issued in 1934, 1942, 1945, and 1968. The Office of En-

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dowments was separated from the Ministry of Education in 1964 and wasoverseen by an eleven-member council under the prime minister. Thecouncil included the head of the Endowments Office, representatives ofthe Ministries of Interior and Education and the Office of Land Registry,two law professors, and four notables or mujtahids. It intervenedwhenever there was no mutawalli, when it was unclear who the mutawalliwas, when the Endowments Office had been named as mutawalli, or dur­ing interim periods between the death of one mutawalli and the appoint­ment of a new one. It also could suspend a mutawalli for not adhering tothe terms of a deed of endowment. In 1966 a form of administration bycouncil for some awqaf was approved. These hay'at-i umana (councils ofhonest men) consist of three to twelve persons acceptable to the localmayor and, if an ancient monument is involved, to the ArcheologicalService. The Shah Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz, for instance, was ad­ministered under such an agreement (A. Betteridge-Sadeghi, personalcommunication), as is the Jam Karan Shrine outside Qum.

From 1965 to 1979, the Shrine of Fatima in Qum was under amutawalli appointed by the shah, but the Endowments Office retainedbudgetary review powers, providing an interesting example of overlap­ping responsibilities: the mutawalli had two masters. For instance, in1974 the local Endowments Office in Qum refused to approve the budgetof the shrine on the grounds that it included a series of items that had nojustification in the deeds of endowment or in precedent. Specifically, ob­jections were raised to the large figures for medicine, miscellaneous, ajeep, flood victims in Bangladesh, and a salary rise of 20 percent over theprevious year. Eqbal, the mutawalli, replied, not to the head of the officein Qum, but to the latter's boss in Tehran, that the jeep had been ap­proved by the Tehran Endowments Office, the salary rise was a generalgovernment policy, and he had a direct order from the shah to use themoney for flood victims and medicine. The complications became moreinvolved between the 1974 and 1975 budgets: at the shah's order, land inQum was sold and the proceeds invested in the Cement Company of Farsand Khuzistan. This transaction is registered in the 1974 budget; incomefrom the investment is given as "unknown." In the 1975 budget,however, these shares (worth Rls 12 million or $176,470) do not appearat all.

Holdings under the shrine and directly under the Endowments Officewere handled with a view toward productive growth: for instance, inTehran a ruined little mosque with no income was turned into a large of­fice building; in Qum the little shops along the shrine square (Maydan-iAstana) were being replaced in 1975 by modern hotels and shopping ar­cades. More funds thus became available for all sorts of needs, rangingfrom the traditional upkeep of the shrines and increased support forhospitals and schools to humanitarian gestures like food and medicine

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for flood victims in Bangladesh and famine victims in the Sahelian regionof Africa.

The old, pre-1965, administration of the shrine was accused by thepost-1965 administrators of being corrupt and inefficient. MohammadMehran's indictment of the old order after he came to reorganize thingsin "the dawn of 3 Esfand 1344" (1965) is a marvel of technocratic horror(Astana Muqaddas Qum 1346/1967: 4-7):

Rls 4 million outstanding in back salaries, with some employees unpaidfor 19 months

Rls 390 total assetsMoney taken in for shoes, candles, and the right of burial merely eaten

by the caretakers (except the 10 percent paid to and collected by themutawalli)

No personnel files of any kindNo systematic documents filesNo budgetLapse of the ceremonial khutba (an invocation including a blessing of the

shah, sung at changes of the watch)Loss of an illegal sale of valuables belonging to the shrine

Within two years Mehran claimed to have righted all this: he set up per­sonnel files, paid off all debts, introduced double-entry bookkeeping,raised salaries, reinstituted celebrations of national and religious occa­sions, reinstituted the twice-daily khutba with its praise and prayer forthe shah, issued two sets of clothing per year to the caretakers, openedadult education classes for illiterate caretakers, opened dining facilitiesfor the caretakers, and registered all the graves (p. 17). He also began torationalize the personnel; over the next few years a number of caretakerswere eased into retirement. In 1968 when Abdul Wahab Eqbal took over,a new darih (latticework guard around the tomb) was unveiled by thequeen and a new "dusting ofr' (ghubar-rubl) ceremony was initiated ofinviting officials to the annual opening of the darih and counting of thecontributions left by pilgrims. The shrine was thus rejuvenatedceremonially as a state-linked religious center, as well as being reorgan­ized administratively.

There is no doubt that the pre-1965 mutawalli was something of arogue. Silk brocade (termeh from Yazd) covers on the graves and finecarpets in Shah Abbas's tomb were sold off. He misrepresented lettersfrom Ayatullah Borujerdi as support for his election to parliament(where he represented Qum for fourteen years). He seized land outside ofQum and preserved his ownership of it, despite the post-1963 landreform laws, by declaring it "mechanized agriculture." (Later he soldmuch of it but became a partner in a development corporation for theland.) On the other hand, the traditional administration of the shrine wasan organic part of Qum society, relying on informal procedures not so

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different in kind from the Eqbal-shah relationship. Whole families ofcaretakers had hereditary positions in the shrine dating back at least toSafavid times. And presumably the mutawalli acted as a patron to all.Local opinion, at least, was divided: there was indignation over the issuesraised by Mehran in the new middle class; there was also amused,nostalgic tolerance by some of the older shrine employees.

The rejuvenation of the shrine as a state-linked religious center and theexpansion of control by the Endowments Office were viewed by thereligious establishment as parts of one process directed against its claimsto leadership in all religious and moral matters. The Endowments Officelitigated all possible loopholes in endowment deeds to establish itself asadministrator or at least supervisor. Religious leaders claimed that forthis reason people stopped making endowments and preferred to givefunds directly to the maraji'-i taqlid. Funds thus flowed more informallyand less publicly, adding to the ambience of underground resistance tothe state. It remained unclear, however - though it was often alleged as amajor reason for rerouting of funds - that government control in itselfled to a serious decline in income to madrasas from endowment sources.The agricultural land and the nominal shop rents, which make up thebulk of the endowments, did not in Qum add up to very much wealth (asopposed to Mashhad's very rich endowments). It is likely that to some ex­tent the government allocated discretionary endowment funds differentlyfrom the way religious leaders would have done. But surely a majorreason for decline in funds available during the 1960s and 1970s if therewas a decline, was that (unlike under the Safavids and Qajars) high of­ficials of the state were no longer making significant endowments forreligious purposes or putting under religious administration such en­dowments as existed. 9 The endowments of the royal Pahlavi Foundationwere divided into five categories of which "religion" was one, but thoughno information is available on how this money was spent, clearly it wasnot spent by religious leaders; the other four categories were health,culture, the poor, and social problems (Mostafavi-Rejali 1351/1973:159). In other words, there was no major inflow of new endowments tooffset the decay of older endowments through abandonment, loss, ortransformation into private holdings.

The question perhaps is really less one of simple diversion of funds bythe government than whether, under less constrained conditions, thereligious establishment could have organized the property productivelyin a capitalist sense as the Endowments Office was attempting to do; forexample, would it have insisted that agricultural land remain agriculturaland not be upgraded (on the reasoning that what was donated wasagricultural land in perpetuity and not something else). Part of theanswer would depend on the position taken on interest: can money earninterest; is that a violation of the Qur'anic prohibition against usury?Opinion is divided, but at least one mujtahid argued there was no real

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theoretical obstacle to investment, and another provincial ayatullah hadset up his "Islamic Bank" as an account within the Bank Saderat, aprivate commercial bank. Furthermore, while the terms of a deed of en­dowment are supposed to be inviolate, there is a principle of tabdi/(substituting something better). So the real complaint was not loss offunds per se but loss of control of opportunity.

The government response was that proper mutawalli are free to ad­minister their endowments, subject to the terms of the deed, without in­terference. Furthermore, those endowments made specifically for thesupport of students under Endowments Office control were used asspecified. It was not the fault of the Endowments Office if these en­dowments were small. For instance, in Mashhad, twelve of the twenty-sixmadrasa were administered by the Endowments Office; of these twelve,only four had sufficient income to give out some monthly stipends tostudents. To qualify, the students must have passed the muqaddamat ex­aminations (preliminaries). Thus in 1975, 80 of the 180 residents inMadrasa Navvab got 80 tomans per month; in Madrasa Baqirayya all 38residents got 100 tomans; in 'Id aI-Khan 48 of 78 residents got 50 tomans;and in Sulayman Khan 55 residents got 200 tomans per month. A similarsituation existed in Shiraz. In Qum the situation was slightly less clear: allthe madrasas were administered by the religious leaders, though the en­dowments were supervised by the Endowments Office. The shrine andthe Endowments Office both claimed to make monthly payments toreligious students (ta/aba). The 1974 shrine budget listed Rls 1,750,000($25,735) aid to pilgrims and talaba. The head of the EndowmentsOffice, a source of wild misinformation, claimed to givemonthly stipenas to half of the 13,000 talaba in Qum in 1975. His clerkssuggested instead that some 300 ruhani got 200-300 tomans per month,but directly from Tehran.

Government regulation of endowments was not simply autocratic butoperated through a set of negotiable bureaucratic and litigation pro­cedures, 10 as illustrated by two contrasting cases, one in which thegovernment secured control and one in which it did not.

Since at least 1804 there had been a dispute over a small piece of landoriginally donated by Shah Sultan-Husayn (1694-1722) for the upkeep ofa little shrine, Imamzada Khak-i Faraj. In 1804 Muhammad Khak-iFaraj, the descendant of the original mutawalli, complained to Fath-'AliShah that the mutawalli of the great shrine (Hadrat-i Ma'suma, Fatima)was trying to take over. Fath-,'Ali Shah confirmed Muhammad Khak-iFaraj's right. Beginning in 1955 the Endowments Office decided to con­test the claims of Muhammad Khak-i Faraj's descendants on the groundsthat it was never specified in any of the documents that the position ofmutawalli was a hereditary job. The court had repeatedly ruled in favorof the Endowments Office, but as late as 1975 the case was still being ap­pealed.

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Far more interesting and amusing is the case of what is now the newMadrasa Mu'miniyya, rebuilt during the 1960s by Ayatullah Marashi.Originally a madrasa built by Mahmud Gavanlu at the end of the Safavidperiod, it fell into disrepair and became known as Madrasa Tawilkhana(stables). In 1943 the place enters the records of the Endowments Office.The nominal mutawallis (the Azadegan brothers) complain that despitetheir objections one S. Hasan Maktabdar has taken over the madrasausing one of the rooms as a maktab (religious elementary school), thatthe Endowments Office has confirmed him as the khidmat-guzar-imaktab (one who is doing public service by running a school), and thathe has been given as his haq-i khidmat (fee for the title) the fruit from thetrees in the courtyard. They complain that S. Hasan is a bad character,the place is dirty and unfit for children, he is lazy and does not clear thesnow from the roof, and he is using the bricks of the madrasa to build hisown house.

The next year (1944-45) Mortaza Azadegan, a bookseller, is confirmedby the Endowments Office as the sarparast (overseer) of the madrasa. Hesuggests that he collect rent from S. Hasan and from a policeman whohas moved in. He complains the madrasa has become a locus of gambl­ing and prostitution (qumar and 'amal-i nashayista); he names threegamblers, has the police arrest them, and then asks forgiveness for one ofthem. One of the reasons for the deterioration of the madrasa, he says, isthat the neighbors' drainage gutters run off into it.

In 1945-46 a certain Hasan Bashiri rents three hujra (rooms) for aschool. Two more policemen move in as squatters; they agree to a rentalfee but refuse to pay. S. Hasan meanwhile has locked up his school andgone away. In 1947 there is newspaper propaganda to rebuild this eyesoreas a public elementary school (dabistan). Hasan Bashiri complains theplace is a den of iniquity and demands reimbursem*nt for three thousandrials he has put into the building (he has never paid his rent). The follow­ing years see more complaints about the den of iniquity (arajij andarazil). In 1957 someone complains that Arbab Hasan is storing straw ina hujra. Ali Dastpak then rents the whole madrasa for nine years. Peoplecomplain that he is using it for his sheep. Ali Dastpak in turn complainsabout the squatters who now include a woman and her daughters. AliDastpak's contract is canceled.

Finally in 1959 the Endowments Office begins thinking seriously aboutturning the place into a school. It asks Ayatullah Marashi's opinion. Hesays no: we need the space for housing for talaba; the building is soundand only needs some repair; you repair it and give it to us. Tehrandecides that Marashi is right: it is a madrasa and cannot be turned intosomething else; but the Endowments Office has no money for repairs, soMarashi should do it. Two years later the Qum office is still trying outprojects: maybe turning part of the madrasa into shops would get someincome flowing. But again it is decided that this would be illegal unless

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the property were producing no income at all, the ulama were un­interested in it, and the buildings were irreparable. In 1965 Marashi fi­nally begins rebuilding it; he gets the plot number from the EndowmentsOffice so he can reregister it as waqf under his administration; he rents itfor nine years and the Endowments Office tells him to apply the rent tothe utility bills.

In this case, however much the government would have liked, it wasunable to alter the use of the plot. Intermediate between these two casesis that of the old Madrasa Ghiyathiyya, built in 938/1531 in the reign ofShah Tahmasp by Ghiyathuddin Mansur and given into the trusteeshipof the Razavi Borgai sayyids as mutawallis. Completely ruined by floodsin 1044/1665 and 1313/1933, by 1975 it had been turned into a kindof caravansery - a place for off-loading trucks and work areas forcarpenters. Again the government first attempted to build a school onthe site, but financing was not forthcoming and the plot was finally auc­tioned off on a fifty-year lease. Over the course of time only four-sixths(four dang) of the property has remained waqf; two-sixths is heldprivately.

If government initiatives in education and endowments were felt to beattacks on the prerogatives and leadership of the ulama, potentially evenmore direct threats were in the plans of the Endowments Office in theareas of the madrasa curriculum, the Religious Corps (Sipah-i Din) andthe Religious Aides (Murawwij-i Dinl). State control over the madrasacurriculum remained in the talking stage. Curriculum reform was at­tempted only at the Theological Faculties of the universities, which nowfollow an essentially Western style reading list and have nothing to dowith the Endowments Office; and at the Madrasa Sipah Salar in Tehran,which was a kind of royal court-sponsored madrasa. The ReligiousCorps (Sipah-i Din), on the other hand, though instituted, was com­pletely subverted from its purpose. Intended to train religious leaderswho would take to the villages a progressive religion in line with the statemodernization ideology, it became instead a make-work program foruniversity graduates in theology, political science and law, geography,and sociology. Established in 1971 by a royal farman, by 1975 there hadbeen four classes, of 39, 49, 42, and 50 students. They served tours ofduty as clerks in the Endowments Office. The Murawwij-i Dini(Religious Aides) consisted in 1975 of 460 ruhani who had agreed towork for the Endowments Office, to go out to the villages and help coor­dinate the upkeep of mosques and shrines, and incidentally to supportgovernment programs in birth control, sanitation, education, and so on.Again the program was not pursued with any great vigor.

Despite the lack of vigor in these three programs, they contributed tothe perception of a noose being tightened around the independent ulama.Was such a noose merely the unavoidable side effect of modernization,

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of building a nation-state? The sometimes vague, sometimes oppressivesense of the noose was not confined to the ulama, and was one of thepowerful emotional strings upon which they played for wider popularsupport. In education, not only were the madrasas under pressure, butthe semireligious schools, such as the 170 Ta'limat-i Islam schoolsestablished by Shaykh Abbas Eslami over the previous several decades 11

and similar schools established by Hajj Abedzadeh in Mashhad, were be­ing absorbed by the government, as in the 1970s were all private schools.The process was gradual: after the banning of foreign-run schools byReza Shah during the thirties, private schools received state aid inteachers' salaries and personnel; by the late 1970s tuition was being madefree for those students who signed promises to work for the government,and being raised for those who refused. In the marketplace, the politicalarena, and city planning, similar incentives and punishments were ex­plored.

In the marketplace, the government struggled on several levels to pro­vide rational planning. Periodically, however, it launched an anti­inflation campaign singling out "parasitic middlemen" as villains forsuch practices as overcharging or hoarding. Since the government itselfcould not supply the rotating credit functions of the middlemen, thecampaigns tended to be unstable and punitive rather than constructive.The short-term logic of price control was based on the crisis managementthat worked relatively successfully, for instance, in England duringWorld War 11. 12

After 1956, shopkeepers and craftsmen were gradually organizedunder government supervision into guilds. In 1974-75 an anti-inflationcampaign was launched using the guilds as an enforcement mechanism.Price levels were lowered by fiat from Tehran, price lists being posted inshops and printed in newspapers. In Qum there were thirty organizedguilds, the heads of which elected an executive council of seven; theseseven elected a schoolteacher as their head. The executive council was tomake policy recommendations and oversee a staff of ten people (mainlyyoung schoolteachers) who daily checked the posting of prices and profitmargins. In Tehran students and housewives were recruited to do thechecking. Offenders were brought before a special court for fines or jailterms at 50 tomans per day until the fines were paid. The whole opera­tion was overseen by a higher council composed of the head of the ex­ecutive council, the governor, the chief of police, the head of SAVAK(the secret police), and the chief justice. This latter council issued exileorders against large and repeated offenders. For a short time the pro­cedure worked, to some extent: at least the number of offenders broughtinto court dropped dramatically over a three-month period.

Qum is a small distributive bazaar (aside from carpentry and sweets,there is not much production or wholesale activity), so after a short time

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complaints were being filed not locally but against the suppliers inTehran. By the end of the summer of 1975 the campaign began to falter.Quality goods were being hidden behind counters and sold only toknown and safe customers. Many of the local guild councils weredisbanded, including finally also the one in Qum, and the functions ofpolicing the market were transferred to the mayoralty.

Part of this last shift was a tactic to disallow the crystallization ofworking relations between merchants and polic~ng officials which mightallow circumvention of the law. Keeping uncertainty about who wasdoing the policing, and how, was a way of extending the campaign. Thesame tactic was used in the political arena. Under the Rastakhiz party(established in 1975), nomination procedures initially were in the handsof local politicians; nominations then went to Tehran for approval. In1975, twenty-eight people presented themselves as candidates for parlia­ment from Qum. A commission was set up to pick three nominees on thecriteria of who had a following and who owned property in the town.One of the twenty-eight filed a complaint that Bani-Fatima (head of thecity council, head of Kamkar Hospital, and husband of the head of thelocal women's organization) was unduly exerting pressure on behalf ofhimself and a relative. The dispute went to Tehran where the committeefor the Central Province, headed by Hushang Nahavandi (chancellor ofthe University of Tehran), crossed out all parties to the dispute andplaced another name - the eventual winner - as one of the threenominees.

This action led a number of commentators to speculate that the partyhad been concerned to loosen the previous power structure in Qum tomake Qum more directly responsive to Tehran policy initiatives. Notonly was the city council leadership rebuffed, but the previous Qumrepresentative in parliament (Dr. Shokrai, also director of health forQum) was defeated by a proindustrialization candidate, the owner of theonly textile mill then functioning in Qum. The facts that the as yet un­crystallized master plan for Qum called for industrialization and thatsome dozen factories were under construction only served to confirm theanalysis.

At first sight city planning would appear to be the most innocuous ofthe arenas of expanding government control. The possibility of abusesunder conditions of no planning seems self-evident. Benevolent coali­tions could emerge, such as those that constructed the hospitals. TheFatima Hospital, for instance, was initiated by the son of Hajj Mirza S.Mohammad Fatima with money left by the father; Shaykh Abdol-KarimHaeri-Yazdi suggested it be used for a hospital. The government con­tributed a third of the cost. Haeri-Yazdi presided over the ground­breaking; the prime minister (Mahmud Jam) presided over the opening.Fatima made the lands of Masumabad waqf(endowment) to support the

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hospital. 13 Not-so-benevolent coalitions could also emerge such as the at­tempt by a mulla named S. Mehdi Rouhani to seize 32,457 square metersof land along the Tehran road. The land had been land of Arbab Jam­shid (the famous Zoroastrian banker and money changer of the turn ofthe century). Arbab Jamshid gave the land to the government rather thanpay taxes on it. In 1953 S. Mehdi ~ouhani allegedly arranged with thehead of the local office of the Finance Ministry and with General Zahedifor a poorly publicized auction of the land so that he could buy itcheaply. The plan was foiled by a newspaper, which publicized the pro­posed auction and even found another bidder. S. Mehdi moved to Pariswhere he claimed to be a representative of Ayatullah Borujerdi, a claimdisavowed by Borujerdi to little effect (Paykar-i Mardum, 19 Esfand1336 / 10 March 1958).

A candid city planner put the problem in 1975 thus:

After land reform, agriculture declined because the new small holders didnot have the money to keep up the water supplies. Therefore there was agreat influx of people into town [see Qum statistical profile, in appendix,for population figures for the city and metropolitan areas between 1956and 1966], and this together with the growth of industry led to a boom landsituation. A number of big shots seized land and just began sellng itwithout concern for hospitals, parks, or other needs. A proper road systemwas not laid out, and so we have roads that just end, and all traffic is fun­neled through the center of town. A number of obvious things have to bedone: complete the road pattern so there can be circulation; build a bus ter­minal on the Tehran road; create parking facilities for visitors to the shrine;.map out a proper land-use zoning system.

Many of these projects were then under way. Qum was one of the lastcities to get a master plan: sketched out only in the spring and summer of1975 it was slowly making its way through the Tehran bureaucracy. Bythen some new parks, boulevards, public buildings, and a children'slibrary had already been constructed. The religious establishment fearedthat other boulevards and parks would be driven through several of theirimportant buildings; the bulldozing of madrasas in Mashhad to create agreen belt around the shrine there was cited as a precedent and omen.

The past existence of chaos, corruption, and inefficiency-the prob­lems the government claimed to be solving - was not disputed by thereligious establishment. But that did little to lessen the sense of the clos­ing noose of a growing bureaucratic state. In June 1975 the fears andfrustrations erupted in a three-day demonstration.

The Demonstrations of 15 Khordad 1975

On the fifteenth of Khordad (June 5) in 1963, Ayatullah Khomeyniwas arrested for leading opposition to the enfranchisem*nt of women,the Local Council Election Bill of 1962, land reform, the six-point White

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Revolution, and a major military loan from the United States includingimmunity from Iranian law for American servicemen. Three monthsearlier, demonstrations by the religious students had led to the occupa­tion of the madrasas of Qum by security forces. Ayatullah Milani sent awidely publicized letter to Khomeyni remarking that the. "religious andnational interests are threatened and violated by the corrupt Ruling Body... It would be strange for a Moslem to allow himself to remain silentunder such circ*mstances and fail to defend Islam" (Zonis 1971: 45). Onthe fifteenth of Khordad, at the end of the emotional first ten days ofMuharram that year, Khomeyni was arrested, and. resistance among thereligious students in the central Madrasa Faydiyya was quelled, a numberof students losing their lives by being tossed by gendarmes from the roofof the madrasa down into the dry riverbed below. Within two hours ofKhomeyni's arrest, crowds had also gathered in front of the Tehranbazaar; by 10:00 A.M. troops had fired upon them. For three days distur­bances continued in Tehran, Qum, Mashhad, Isfahan, and Shiraz, andprecautionary measures were taken elsewhere. Thousands died.

Twelve years later, the fi fteenth of Khordad fell just after the newsingle-party state had been declared and during the registration for thefirst election under the new party. Khomeyni, exiled since 1964 (in Iraqsince 1965), had smuggled into Iran pamphlets decrying the new party asnothing other than a tool for tightening the dictatorship. The secretpolice tried to keep systematic track of all akhunds who referred to theissue in their preaching. Rumors were spread of dire consequences if onedid not join the party and register to vote, registration being used as ameans of checking and renewing all adult identity cards. The threat waseffective in corralling most people. At the same time the anti-inflationcampaign was moving into high gear: names of violators, fines, andexiles were publicized; included among the violators were a sprinkling ofprominent businessmen and industrialists. Publicity was also given towomen's rights (an attack on the family in the conservative scheme ofvalues).

The fifteenth of Khordad in 1975 was a Thursday. People began arriv­ing for weekend visits to the shrine. In the evening religious studentsgathered for prayers in the Madrasa Faydiyya. After the prayers anumber of the students began to recite 20,000 blessings (sa/awat) uponthe defenders of Islam (Khomeyni) and la' nat (curses) upon the enemiesof Islam (the shah), keeping count on their prayer beads. As wordspread, the police moved quickly to disperse a crowd gathering outsideand to arrest all students leaving the Faydiyya in case they intended tocoordinate interior and exterior demonstrations. A water cannon wasthen brought up to the door to keep all the students inside, and the court­yards were filled with tear gas. When the tear gas came, students wouldscurry to their rooms "like mice for their holes," as one of them described

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it, only to reappear and continue the chant when the gas cleared. Thiswent on until 7:00 A.M. the next morning. That day, after a few selectedarrests, the police allowed free entry and exit.

Friday evening the demonstration renewed. From the roof of MadrasaKhan, across the square from the Faydiyya, students threw stones at thepolice, hitting one in the mouth. The police cleared the roof and sta­tioned their own men upon it while the students fled into their rooms anddoused the lights. A few windows were broken by overly enthusiasticpolice. This time the students in the Faydiyya were shut in by the watercannon for good, and the police called for military support.

On Saturday morning the police contented themselves with dispersingthe crowds, arresting and beating with billy clubs and shields thosereligious students bold enough to appear on the streets in their distinctivegarb. Around noon a dozen religious students, wrapped in headclothsagainst both the blazing sun and police identification, climbed onto thearchway between the Faydiyya and Dar al-Shifa Madrasas and raised aflag. Subsequently red, white, and black banners were put on the wallswith slogans: "Muslim brothers, stand up like men; it is three days sincethe Faydiyya was attacked"; "Death is better; war is our duty." Around4:30 a green army helicopter reconnoitered the area; shortly thereaftergendarmes and a special commando unit attacked. The commandos aresaid to have marched around the roof of the Faydiyya five times shouting"Javid shah" (long live the king). They then descended to round upstudents, force them to say "Javid shah," and empty each room of peopleand books. Almost all windows and doors and, allegedly, a few livesfailed to survive the commandos.

Rumors of deaths spread quickly: two students were said to have beenthrown from the roof of the Madrasa to the riverbed below, othersmerely from the second story to the courtyard; eight were said to havebeen killed directly, five others to have been hospitalized in critical con­dition. Some three hundred students were arrested and sent to Tehranjails.

Their work finished, most of the eighty-five commandos weremarched out of the area in columns, grinning and happy, their busfollowing behind. A ··small boy threw stones at them; one commandobroke ranks to chase him good-naturedly. It was a beautiful, balmyspring riot day. The thirty-odd gendarmes were more discreetly removedin two trucks, leaving the police behind to guard the Faydiyya anddisperse the crowd. Towards evening things again began to turn ugly,and there are stories of several severe beatings, one student expiring in apolice car; but by midnight order was restored.

Not for another two days was any notice taken in the press. Then afront-page story, under headlines about masked red and black reac­tionaries, "Islamic Marxists," reported the finding of bombs and com-

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munist propaganda and made allegations that the students were responsi­ble for the physical damage to the madrasas and that they weremanipulated from abroad. The shah then referred to the disturbances ina nationally televised speech calling for an analysis of the problems in im­plementing the White Revolution (in 1975 called the Shah and PeopleRevolution).

Within two weeks, at least half of the detained students were released.Exact counts of demonstrators killed and rumors of leaders being pushedout of an airplane over the desert began to fade into a general admissionof lack of information as the intense emotions, paranoia, and antistatesolidarity of the demonstration days faded. At a minimum, people nowsaid students were identified by pictures taken during the demonstrationsfrom the minarets of the shrine; those not sent to detention directly fromthe Faydiyya were picked up around the country. One destination waswhat was known as the Committee Prison in Tehran: two-man cells toosmall to stretch out to sleep in, wet and cold. Food and tea were given insingle utensils to each pair; should your cell-mate be ill, you had to takeyour chances of contagion or forgo food. Mornings were grim and fear­ful, for interrogations were in the morning. Afternoons were more re­laxed and gregarious. Lucky students were taken to the plush EvinPrison: large carpeted rooms for thirty or more, warm water, showers,cigarettes on request (but to be smoked and finished under guards' eyes),spoons without handles, cold foods ("cold" in the Galenic sense). Thosereleased spoke gratefully of good treatment. Those uninvolved remainedintimidated by the continuing occasional raids into the madrasas to takethis or that person and by the examples of radically aged or changed ex­prisoners released in the past.

Three kinds of questions need to be asked: Why did the studentsdemonstrate? Why was the response of the state so heavy-handed? Andwhat was the meaning of the symbolic staging on both sides?

The why of the demonstration has already been indicated: worriesabout the direction of social change, feelings of a bureaucratic noose be­ing tightened, and the deadendedness of religious education. There weremany causes for worry about Iran's forced pace and mode of economicand physical change. Technocrats worried about bottlenecks - insuffi­cient port capacity to handle the building material and equipment, insuf­ficient truckers, doctors, managers, to keep things moving. Social criticsworried about consequences of the state drive for modernity: gallopingbureaucratization, not so creeping authoritarianism, proletarianization,destruction of the older amenities of family and neighborhood. Morecomprehensive analyses had to be phrased cautiously and indirectly in­side Iran. Religious language was often used to express alienation if notany clear understanding. These ranged from S. Hossein Nasr, a univer­sity professor whose interest in Islam was internationally recognized but

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whose demands that society be restructured according to the Qur'an andnot the Qur'an reinterpreted according to the needs of the day somehownever achieved more credibility than polite co*cktail-party repartee. (He,of course, became a refugee to the United States from the 1979 Islamicrevolution.) At the other extreme were the bewildered religious studentswho insisted that if only the government were placed under the super­vision of the representatives of the divine Imam (already in 1975 many ofKhomeyni's followers referred to him as "Imam" Khomeyni), sacrilegeagainst private property (land reform) and family stability (equality ofwomen) would cease, the income redistribution taxes of Islam would beinstituted, and a just civilization would be achieved, one without ex­ploitation, the taking of interest, or imperialism.

The. vulnerability and confusion of these religious students was notmerely unrealistic idealism: they were caught in a situation for whichthey did not bargain. The course of study in which they were apprenticedno longer had practical application, except as a solid grounding forpreaching. It led to no degree recognized in the wider society which couldserve, as does a high school diploma or a B.A., as a mark of aptitude fora variety of jobs or further study. The general society, furthermore, wascoming to have increasingly little respect for their learning, appreciatingonly the entertainment value of their preaching; and the role of theaverage akhund was popularly dismissed as parasitic and oftenhypocritical. Many religious students were attempting to completesecular high school at night, but many also merely drifted.

The difference may be illustrated by two reactions to events of the fif­teenth of Khordad. One student who had returned to Qum from Tehranon the third day reacted to the sentiment that it was lucky he had notbeen in his room in the Faydiyya by saying"Badbakhtam! (I am de­prived, impoverished!) Would that I had been martyred with the othersin the cause of Husayn; that is what Shi'ism is all about." The other reac­tion was of a younger student who told me that a mutual friend had beenamong those inside the Faydiyya; we commiserated for the friend, avillager who had just completed his high school degree at night; he waspreparing for his college entrance examinations and planned to leave hisreligious studies behind. For him the missing of the examinations wouldmean at the very least the loss of a year. In the event, he was releasedafter ten days.

The vulnerability of the students is clear, but what of the government?Why did it react with equal fear and paranoia? The problems of manag­ing a volatile expanding economy and of using international expertisewhile still maintaining independence no doubt lent an aura of walking atightrope. Equally to the point was the nature of the political system. Nota carefully centralized bureaucratic state with a dedicated party cadrelike the communist model, Iran in 1975 was rather a menage of vaguely

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balanced and changing centers of power with overlapping responsibilitiesand multiple secret and open information gatherers. The attempt to con­trol and run such a system from the top, even with a relatively efficientsecret police and apparently loyal army, involved disarming potentialloci of competitive power-in 1975, for instance, the demand thatcapitalists sell 49 percent of shares to workers and the public (including astate holding corporation on the public's behalf) and that merchants takeonly a government-fixed percentage over their purchase price of goods.Charges of dictatorship ran too close to home to be tolerated, especiallyif they came from several quarters at once.

On the fifteenth of Khordad 1975 university students in Tehran alsostaged a demonstration. Students there had vulnerabilities somewhatsimilar to those of religious students. There were not enough universityplaces for all those holding high school degrees and wanting universityplaces; those who did get in received for the most part education inferiorto that of classmates who studied abroad - or at least the prestige of hav­ing studied abroad guaranteed a better job; the jobs available to degreeholders were largely pencil-pushing rather than stimulating. Universitydemonstrations had been going on all year. One complaint was about thegovernment's forced reservation of seats in technical universities forarmy personnel, since the army was having difficulty competing withprivate industry in recruiting engineering graduates. Among the occa­sions for demonstration was the anniversary of the army's brutal inva­sion of the University of Tehran in 1963.

The government also had to contend with small groups of terroristssuch as the eleven persons sentenced to death in January 1976 for theassassinations of three United States colonels, a Persian general, a Per­sian sergeant, and a Persian translator for the United States Embassyover the preceding two and a half years. And there were the adversepropaganda efforts of Persian students abroad.

The government thus attempted to portray the June affair as a con­spiracy of communists infiltrating Qum and fomenting violent rebellionagainst the state. Proofs of communism were the red flag and red ban­ner, and the various antistate tracts and pamphlets allegedly found in thestudents' rooms such as one named "The Necessity of Armed Struggle inIran." Proofs of the violent intentions were the pamphlets, the bombsallegedly found, and the damage done to the madrasa buildings. One ofthe leaders named was an old man known for his opposition to the statebecause of the jailing of his son; he was a Qum character, hardly a guer­rilla leader. The other names appear not to have had ready recognitionvalue.

For the religious students, the events of 15 Khordad 1975 provided avalidating drama of the Shi'ite persecution paradigm: idealism overrun,right determined by might, truth obscured in a maze of defensive

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maneuvers, sacrifice required for speaking out. The slogan "It is threedays since the Faydiyya was attacked" referred both to the events twelveyears earlier and the repeat of the three days of demonstration in 1975,focusing attention on the nature of the Iranian policy as a whole. Theslogan "Death is better" is part of a well-known line from the story ofKarbala: Husayn, the third Imam, says to those who warn he will bekilled, "Death is better than life under oppressors." It is more likely thatthe red flag, identified by the press as marxist, was the red flag placedover the grave of an unavenged soldier killed in a holy war: ten of theeleven slain Imams of Shi'ism have green flags over their graves; one,Husayn, has a red flag.

Technocratic versus Religious Style

At issue was, in part, a conflict of styles. The growth of thebureaucratic state is not an indifferent social process: there was a compo­nent of hostility as well as a mutual patronizing "understanding." In thetwenties and thirties Reza Shah had denigrated the ulama as skilled onlyin making people cry and had attempted to substitute public holidays ofjoy for the religious flagellation and mourning ceremonies. In 1936 thewomen of his family not only appeared in public unveiled but so enteredthe shrine in Qum. They were accosted by Ayatullah Bafqi who de­manded, "If you are Muslim, why do you appear this way; if you are nQtMuslim, why have you come here?" Reza Shah went to the mosque ­legend has it --- with his minister Teirmurtash (in fact already dead by1933). He entered the shrine without removing his boots, dragged Bafqifrom the mimbar, and kicked him and hit him with his whip. The conflictof style, however, did not need to be this overtly"hostile. Friendly reparteecould also illustrate the difference in attitude.

The setting is a guild office during Ramadan 1975. No one is fasting;all are drinking tea on various excuses of illness. In the followingdialogue Hajji is a small factory owner, G and H are school teachers, andMF is the anthropologist.

Hajji: Is alcohol haram or halal (forbidden or permitted) in Christianity?MF: It is halal, but of course one should not drink too much.Hajji: That is like makruh in Islam: eggs are makruh. You should not eat

too many. But alcohol is haram because whatever is bad for the bodyis haram. (Takes out a cigarette.) Do you smoke?

MF: No thanks, I don't smoke. Why were cigarettes not made haram?Hajji: They did not have cigarettes in those days.H: Drinking a little as long as one does not bother anyone is halal.Hajji: No it is not; it is haram.H (to MF): He says that now because he used to drink, but he has become

an old man and cannot drink any more, so he tells us not to.G: You know the poem of Ibn Sina (Avicenna): ... halal gashta ba fatwa-

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yi 'aql bordan/ haram gashta ba dastur-i shar' bar ahmaq ("by the de­cree of reason wine is halal for intelligent people; by religious law it isforbidden for the crazy or unthinking").

Hajji: 'Ali said that if a drop of wine falls into a well and a sheep drinks ofthe water, I will not eat the meat of the sheep. Now who is higher, 'Alior Abu 'Ali (Avicenna; the name is a pun: Abu means "father of')?

Nonobservance of the fast among bureaucrats seemed more pro­nounced in Qum than in Yazd or Tehran. Perhaps this was an observereffect, perhaps it expressed a need for stronger rebellion against thepsychological domination of religion in this shrine and madrasa town.But the attitude· to religion of deritualization and ethnicalization waswidespread. An engineer I invited to visit me in Qum observed he rarelyhad reason to come to Qum. I suggested, "Come when you come onpilgrimage (ziyarat)" - a picniclike recreation even for those who are notritually inclined. There was a pause, then a sharp reply: "I am not aheathen, I do not worship graves."

This issue of so-called heathenism has been the subject of a runningbattle for a long time. In the 1940s it was picked up by two well-knownwriters, Ahmad Kasravi and Ayatullah Khomeyni. Kasravi, although hetried to create a syncretistic religion himself, essentially stated the casefor a kind of puritan rationalism, appealing to middle-rank bureaucrats.He accused Shi'ism (and each of the other religions in Iran) of irrationalsuperstition:

Prayer, crying, vows, and so on, have no efficacy . . . People think Godwatches this country in particular and as soon as someone commits a sin,He sends a famine or flood or epidemic or a Ghengiz Khan. They think thatGod is emotional and that in response to a sheep sacrifice he will forgive.People learn all this from the preachers [pishvayan] ... a mulla on themimbar during Ramadan talking about famine ... turned to the womenand said: you go with bare legs without stockings and you go to the cinema;the famine is the result ... I am surprised that no one stands up at least toprotest that these are sins of women in Tehran and Tabriz: why shouldhunger strike the women of Bushire? ... the beliefs in miracles ... areblasphemies against God. . . If God does not answer prayers, what kind ofGod is He, they ask, and so are interested in fortune-telling and magic ...Du 'a-nivis (prayer writers), sayyids, and mullas who tell you to make vowsin order to be cured do not know God. (Kasravi 1321 Sh./1943).

One of the faults of Kasravi and modern Shi'ite writers, almostwithout exception, is that they misrepresent their opponents' position toscore cheap rhetorical points. Attacks on fortune-telling, magic, dealingwith the jinn, dealing with the occult, and so on, are supported by thereligious hierarchy too: such things are haram in Islam (Khomeyni1363/1944). But to attack the various psychological supports ofreligion - prayers for aid and cures, commemoration of significant past

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and events and people, techniques to aid decision-making - is silly andcounterproductive. There is refusal to agree on the grounds of argument.

Kasravi attacks the cognitive absurdity of customs like divination fromthe Qur'an, praying to the Prophet and the Imams for cures and wishes,and building shrines. Khomeyni defends the psychological uses of suchpractices and scores points against Kasravi's commonsense language withtheological casuistry. Thus Khomeyni formulates the query of prayingfor cures and wishes to the Prophet and Imams as a query about shirk: isone making something other than God a partner with God, a heresyagainst the doctrine of tawhid (unity, monotheism). The answer, ofcourse, is a linguistic sleight of hand and a shifting of the argument'sgrounding: if such prayer or request is worship (' ibadat, parastidan) ofthe invoked personages, then it is shirk; but if it is merely expressions ofrespect (ihtiram, tawadu') and affirmations of solidarity with the Islamicpath mapped out by these personages, then there is no problem.

The basic philosophy is, for Khomeyni as for Kasravi, that forwhatever man can do himself he has no business asking divine aid. Kho­meyni simply goes a step further to say that where man cannot helphimself (as in the case of illness after all medical knowledge has been ap­plied), or where there is no basis for deciding one way rather thananother, prayers for cures and divinations from the Qur'an arepsychological aids to avoid hopelessness and psychic paralysis. Further­more, ritual props like shrines and the muhr (sacred soil from Karbalaused in prayer) are visual aids to put one in a proper frame of mind andto recall to mind the martyrs of the past and the principles they died for.The charge that prayers of request are shirk because to request impliesthat God's mind may be changed is dismissed by Khomeyni as a childishquestion that can be answered only as one would answer a child: thechanging states of the world are an unfolding of God's divine plans; whatappears as a change to men (from deteriorating illness to health, say) is acontinuous process from a universal point of view.

But Khomeyni undercuts his own arguments by his in-group rhetoricalcuteness. Thus his attempt at redutio ad absurdum on the issue of themuhr: if one insists that use of a piece of dirt from Karbala or other sitesin prayer is a kind of idolatrous shirk, then all namaz would be shirk andonly those who do not pray would not be idolators (mushrik). But this isexactly the charge, and it is no argument to say that since everyone wecall Muslim has adopted the custom of using the muhr, it is right, par­ticularly since it is widely accepted that there are few proper Muslims inthe world. The argument is rather that the muhr is an aid to mental recalland formation of religious intent, or more simply that because we do it,it is right, and it is legitimate because those who know the law do not findit wrong. Perhaps the clearest example of Khomeyni's directing attentionin one direction while the argument really lies in another is his dismissal

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of citing hadith against the building of domes (gunbad) or shrines. Thereare hadith pro and con, but those against shrines use the word sawiyyat("to level"), the opposite of "to mound up," and the context is the pre­Islamic practice of making a mound over a grave and putting an idol orstatue on top; it is these domes as idol platforms and idols that are to beleveled. Muhammad, Abu Bakr, and 'Umar all built domes for theirgraves and the Imams never asked that these be leveled. But if one is will­ing to make the distinction betwee~ worship and respect, then the onlyrationale for allowing Islamic grave markers and destroying non-Islamicgrave markers is that Muslims define non-Muslim practice as worshipwhile they define their own practice as respect. If one is given the powerto define boundaries of who is legitimate and who is not, then one candefine them any way one wishes. (And indeed the Wahhabis of SaudiArabia, like Kasravi, define Shi'ite shrines to be idolatrous worship.) Thesame process, but without any propositional argument at all, is clear inKhomeyni's demogogic rhetoric against the rationalist reformers:

The intellectuals (rawshan-jikran) want progress (pishrajt) and releasefrom taqlid [in the pejorative sense, "blind imitation" of traditional modelsor of the mujtahids; in the positive sense, "following" the opinions of thosewho know]. But they are really followers of the camel-herding savages(wahshl) of Najd [the Wahhabis] ... These arguments have been aroundsince the beginning of Islam. . . They think that if we abandon religion, wewill advance and catch up with Europe, but they do not realize whatEurope has to offer is not civilization (tamaddun) , but savagery(tawahhush). Nor do they realize that people in Europe are still religious,that the great men of Europe and America pray every morning ... Nor doour writers realize how little progress there is in the deserts of Najd and theHejaz: we should seek advice on development from them? (Khomeyni1363/1944: 2-7).

The basic problem, of course, is an asymmetry in the right to interpretideology, the insistence that Shi'ism is perfect, only flawed in practice,whereas all others (Wahhabis, the West) are fundamentally wrong. Thestyle of debate thus relies heavily on sarcasm, arguments ad hominem,and other rhetorical devices, since direct confrontation (which wouldassume equality in the right to interpret) is ruled out: 14

Kasravi (on the claims of the mujtahids to veto powers over laws passed byparliament and the differences of opinion among mujtahids): So, I ama mujtahid and I hereby give permission (ijaza) to parliament to dogood things for the country.

Khomeyni: Great! Now all the problems have been solved. May he givesimilar permission to all governments that all the problems of theworld be solved.

Kasravi: Whence comes the right of the mujtahids to judge the laws? Forthem to be legitimate in this function, parliament must pass a law to soacknowledge them.

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Khomeyni: You have learned circular reasoning well. Who knows better,God or Millspaugh [American financial advisor to the Iranian govern­ment 1922 to 1927, and 1942]? Which do you say: Islam is not the lawof God, or God does not know what is good or bad?

Kasravi: The rule that you can follow only the opinions of a living marja'-itaqlid means that when an old one dies, you have to read the book ofthe new one. What a waste of time.

Khomeyni: Big deal, maybe four maraji' die in a man's lifetime and thefour books cost less than a novel or going to a film. Besides they arenot new works but notes on previous works. We do not throw out theworks of dead ulama; we perfect them.

Kasravi: Ruhani are parasites; they should work.Khomeyni: If you want mujtahids, they must have time to study. Besides

who is more of a parasite, lawyers or ruhani? Just look at their respec­tive houses and life styles. Who is more patriotic? I know an 'alim whonever used anything foreign. Lawyers use everything foreign includingcloth for their children's clothing.

Kasravi: Why on the eleventh of Muharram should the radio still be filledwith programs of mourning?

Khomeyni: May you go blind! You once were a rawda-khwan (preacher)..Programming is so filthy, it hurts to have one program devoted to reli­g,ion?


A relatively clear arena of stylistic differentiation among the tradi­tional believers, the modernizers, and the state itself is mourningceremonies. The differences are stylistic because the underlyingphilosophy and the justifying slogans of a Khomeyni or a Kasravi (andeven of Reza Shah) are not so different: appeals to reason and accep­tance that ceremony is useful in maintaining public health. Khomeynispecifically defends the psychological uses of ritual acts; Reza Shah triedto substitute happy national ceremony for religious mourning; Kasravi'sfollowers used book burnings of "superstitious religious books" as a ritein his syncretistic religion Pak-din.

Three main kinds of mourning ceremonies (' azadarl) have been dif­ferentially valued by the state, the modernizers, religious leaders, and thepopulace. The most dramatic are the passion plays (shabih, ta' ziya) inwhich the events of the Battle of Karbala and a few other associatedevents are re-enacted. Organized on the local level in villages and urbanneighborhoods, these plays were also supported by the Qajar state; theywere devalued by the Pahlavi state. They have always been looked ataskance by the religious leaders. Shaykh Abdol-Karim Haeri-Yazdi ex­plicitlY disapproved of them. Under Mohammad Reza Shah passionplays were mildly discouraged until the late 1970s, when the courtpatronized them not as religion but as folklore.

On the other hand, Haeri-Yazdi and religious leaders in general sup­ported rawdas, the style of preaching that is framed within the dramaticrecitations about the Battle of Karbala. Among rawda-khwans (the

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preachers) a distinction is drawn. Some wail about the'injustice of theworld and the misfortunes that befell Husayn and Shi'ites and imply thatHusayn will intercede on behalf of his partisans in the next world for sinsthey have committed in this world; these are the lower-class rawda­khwans, who sing in graveyards and do little preaching. More respec­table and acceptable to religious leaders are rawda-khwans who stressHusayn as an example of bravery and courage in the fight for freedomrather than as a victim. The more middle-class oriented the preachers,the less of Karbala their talks contain, the less preaching, and the morelecturing. The Pahlavi state, of course, was suspicious of the politicalpotential of both kinds of rawdas and attempted to monitor them, jailingor intimidating preachers who made political statements. To be so jailedbecame a badge of honor in the struggle against the state.

A third form of 'azadari is engaged in by dasta, the lines of breast­beating young men (during Muharram they also use chains to beatthemselves on the back, and in the past used knives on their foreheads).This exercise, like the carrying of huge wooden structures representingHusayn's coffin (the naql) by several hundred men, was outlawed byReza Shah in the 1930s. It remains a popular pietistic exercise as much asweeping during rawdas. Even religious leaders like Haeri-Yazdi in theiryouth took part, although in general it is rare for religious leaders to par­ticipate. Until 1955, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi gave annual dona­tions to dasta groups in Qum.

One might diagram the stylistic variation in terms of approval ( +),disapproval ( - ), and ambivalence (0) thus:

PASSION PLAYS RAWDA DAsTAQajars + + ?Reza ShahUlama + 0Populace + + +Mohammad Reza Shah 0

The role of the state in religious ceremonies should be given some at­tention: where there is loss of state support, ceremonies may atrophy ormay even take on antistate characteristics (as the message of Husayn inthe passion plays mayor may not do); state support of religious activitieson the other hand is a method of control. Pilgrimage is a case in point.There are two kinds of pilgrimage: the hajj to Mecca, which came to becompletely state controlled; and ziyarat, or pilgrimages to shrines likethose in Mashhad and Qum, which were only state coordinated on majoroccasions, in the sense that the police scheduled the different dastagroups entering the shrines. Group ziyarat provide an instructive con­trast to the modern hajj, for they are organized through local religiousmeeting groups (hay'at-i madhhabl). These local groups are often run bybazaar merchants. During Ramadan they support public rawdas; during

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the year they may meet in members' houses with a cleric as leader todiscuss the Qur'an. On the annual ten-day death memorial of the seventhImam (the father of Hadrat-i Fatima who is buried in the Qum shrine)these groups in Qum go to Mashhad (as many as forty busloads). Thereis a Qum (upriver from the shrine). Similar activities go on in other cities.This bazaar-neighborhood organization provides the skeleton of muchpopular religion.

In the old days hajjis traveled with a guide (hajj-avar, ham/a­dar). Being a good guide was good business; some even took people oncredit or lent them funds on interest. By the mid-1970s all hajjis wereflown by Iran Air to Saudi Arabia. Prospective hajjis had to register withthe Endowments Office, pay their money into a bank, and get medicalclearance from government doctors. Their numbers were regulated byIranian and Saudi government quotas. The bureaucratic proceduresallowed a fair amount of corruption (a recent national hajj leader wasdismissed for embezzling fi~e million tomans) and discrimination againstlower classes: requiring repeated trips to town, with time deadlines thatwere often missed by villagers and shepherds, the sort of people who saveall their lives to fulfill this religious obligation. 1S Nonetheless, graduallymore preference was given to those who had not gone before and whowere genuine hajjis. The number of hajjis rose steadily, from 12,000 in1961 to more than 57,000 in 1972. Nearly a fifth of the peasants whowanted to go in 1972 (18,000 applied) were rejected by the doctors or atother steps in the procedure; nonetheless peasants still formed the largestgroup of hajjis (see table 4.1).

The contrast with the ziyarat is clear: the hajj has become a processingmachine of vast bureaucratic dimensions, although hajjis are dividedinto small traveling units. The ziyarat organized by meeting groups(hay'at-i madhhabl) are totally local enterprises integrated as semi­permanent fixtures of community organization.

Table 4.1 Hajjis, by occupation (1972)




SOURCE: Sazman-i Awqaf 1353:140.







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5Discourse and Mimesis:Shi'ism in Everyday Life

Mulla shodan,che asan,

Adam shodan,che moshkel.

How easy to become amulla [learned];

How hard to becomeAdam [a man].

- Persian proverb

T HE NOTION OF RELIGIOUS styles needs to be pursued in sev­eral directions: the degree to which there is class-linked pattern­ing, the degree to which the discourses of the class-linked styles

are hermetic and exclude one another, and the dilemma of individualscaught at points where two styles interact and contradict each other. Asimplified three-class analysis should suffice at this stage: village andworking-class communities; the traditionally educated, urban middleclass - merchants, landowners, and the ulama; and the new middle andupper classes with modern secular education. I wish to stress the neces­sity of pursuing analyses of cultural styles. The three-class analysis hereis emphatically simplified and is capable of refinement. It is only suffi­cient to demonstrate that there are different styles and that they arehighly informative about social cleavages. Any analysis concerned withemerging class consciousness in Iran, or elsewhere in the Middle East,should take them into account. To rely instead on a tradition versusmodernity dichotomy, as so many accounts of the Middle East do,relegating Islam to the former, is to ignore a wealth of socially critical in­formation.

Religious settings in villages and old urban neighborhoods are manyand cater to a variety of social needs: the mosque with its daily routine ofprayer; the rawda with its homiletic entertainment; the majlis madhhabi,or weekly gatherings for religious discussion, recitation, or pietistic exer­cises; the annual passion plays, special pilgrimages,l celebrations on'Umar's death, mournings on the death days of the various Imams andcelebrations of their births; the zurkhana, or traditional gymnasium,used primarily by high school boys and craftsmen (but also others),


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where the virtues of Islamic chivalry are acted out; the sufra (ritualfeasts) attended primarily by women, for vows, cures, sociability, andhomiletics; the tombs and stopping places of saints (imamzada, qadam­gah), and the sacred trees and wells (where picnics may be brought) forvows and cures; the khaneqah or Sufi conventicles; the bazaar with itslanguage of Islamic morality, its decaying Islamic commercial codes, andits fading taboos circ*mscribing non-Muslims; the Thursday afternoonziyarat (visits, pilgrimages) to the graveyards to reaffirm ancestral tiesand duties, including charity to the assembled beggars; and, of course,the gatherings for weddings and deaths.

Of these eleven settings, only four or five normally involve the ulama.Preachers (rawda-khwans, wa' izin) are involved in rawdas and, whenthey are invited to give rawdas there, in sufras, or ritual feasts. There arealways low-level religious singers and rawda-khwans at graveyards.Ulama may be involved in majlis madhhabi if invited. They participateperipherally in weddings, to supervise the public contract, and centrallyin the rawdas associated with funerals. The imam or prayer leader of themosque is usually a member of the ulama by virtue of his dress and someformal madrasa training. The imam may even be an important com­munity leader: the great ayatullahs all serve as imams.

On a slightly less elevated level an educated village imam can be an im­portant community leader, as is a certain shaykh near Rezaiyeh inwestern Iran. The ideal place to meet this handsome shaykh, with asilvering black beard and flowing black on grey cloaks ('aba and qaba),is iIi his gardens amid the cucumbers. There he has a small shelter and abench where he likes to sit and drink tea away from the flies of thevillage. The son of a line of ulama who originally came from Khonsar, hespent twelve years as a married student in Qum. He speaks elegant Per­sian and Arabic as well as the local Azeri Turkish. When the village watersystem broke down, he not only talked from the minbar about solutionsbut was deputed to talk to the relevant ministry. He is also a source ofeducated opinion on such subjects as sanitation and birth control. Re­garding birth control, for instance, he has a pragmatic position: the gov­ernment program to lower the birth rate is a misordering of priorities.There are enough resources to support new births if the resources areused sensibly. Islam teaches faith that God will provide for Muslims.Rather than an antibirth campaign, the government should do more toprovide nursery care, schools, and social services. The government .isshirking its responsibilities. He himself has many children, but finally hiswife told him the factory was closing down. So now he practices birthcontrol. This is an akhund who is not a social parasite: he works his ownland, he contributes pragmatic leadership, he can lend his linguistic andeducational skills to broker relations between the Turkish-speaking

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villagers and the Persian administration - and he can perform rawdasand lead prayers.

The position of imam-jum' a, or leader of Friday prayers, in big citiestraditionally has been, and remained under the Pahlavis, a state appoint­ment (although it may in fact also be quasi-hereditary); thus, unless theimam-jum' a was a person of unusual integrity and learning, he had littleauthority among the people. The last Pahlavi-appointed imam-jum' a ofTehran - Western educated, allegedly (at the beginning of his appoint­ment) totally innocent of Arabic, allegedly addicted to sports cars, wine,and women in Switzerland-was a standing joke among religious folk.

The ulama under the Pahlavis were at the fulcrum of two social op­positions: First, they usually spoke for a conservative moral vision in op­position to the state's mode of modernization and to the notion thatIslam and traditional religious forms are archaic. On the contrary, theywould insist, Islam is perfect and has a design for the just society, whichis in need of implementation not alteration. Second, they spoke for idealsthat often transcend the possibilities of practical life. They were thusalways vulnerable to the charges of hypocrisy and pretension. Thisvulnerability was recognized both by the many jokes about them and bythe ulama themselves in their constant admonitions to the anthropologistnot to judge Islam by their activity, for they were inadequate Muslims,not to do sociological investigations, but to study Islam itself. 2 There is acommonly used folk verse:

Islam bi dhat-i khod nadarad 'aybi,Har 'ayb ke hast dar musalmani-i mast.

There is no essential fault in Islam;Whatever fault exists is in us Muslims.

The vulnerability is evaluated in different ways, as shown by responsesto a minor incident in Qum. Two young religious students approachedtwo women in the square outside the shrine, mistaking them for pros­titutes. The women screamed curses and injunctions of shame, and acrowd quickly gathered. The two students escaped in a taxi. Members ofthe crowd clucked at this display of vulgarity by persons wearingreligious garb: "They should practice what they preach; so much for thedefense of Islam these days." A young man replied that Islam was nottainted by the character of its preachers: "When you receive a letter, youdo not inquire into the character of the postman before reading it."Another young man, sympathizing with the embarrassment of the twooffenders, quietly confided to me that a major reason he had decidedagainst a career in religious garb was precisely the elevated moral expec­tations imposed on a mulla and not on ordinary men. But the majorityrejected these defenses, and people itemized the immoralities of the

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maraji-' i taqlid and especially of their sons and sons-in-law: one wasphotographed in adultery and was forced to appeal to the secret policefor aid against repeated blackmail extvrtion; another had brought anactress-prostitute to Qum; another two were hom*osexuals; and the com­munity's tithe money was being dissipated on fine cars, trips to Europe,and support of idle followers. A couplet from the poet Sa'di about acuckolded stargazer, who knows what is going on light years away butnot what is going on in his own house, was invoked to give authority andaesthetic punch to this line of reasoning. Indeed religious law (fiqh) sup­ports this attitude by requiring justice (' ada/at) as a criterion of a mu­jtahid, prayer leader, or other religious official. Lack of morality (fisq) isby definition a lack of faith. 3

If the ulama only teach Islam and do not embody it, upper-class andWesternized Muslims have an even more tenuous relation to the tradi­tional religious settings. Indeed their major contact often is only throughforced attendance at life-cycle rituals, which may be quite artificial,though the following is extreme: 4

There is a tradition in my family to read a rawda on the twelfth day of thelunar month. While my great-aunt was alive, it was done in her home inShiraz. When she died, one of my sisters picked it up. A guy comes, does arawda, and collects twenty tomans. Happy-go-lucky mulla: turban, motor­bike. I came back from Europe and went to my sister's. He is sitting in aroom reciting; nobody is listening. So I said I would sit through one toshow respect. It is supposed to be read to a group of people. This isridiculous to have him sitting and doing it by himself. It is so commercial.There he was sitting doing his rawda, reading Zan-i Ruz (Today's Woman)magazine.

Religious feeling among many of these people remains quite strong,nonetheless, and often is expressed through the language of Sufism andIslamic modernism. What these upper-class and Westernized Muslimshave to say about the beauty, value, and truth of Islam, however, is oftenangrily rejected by the more traditional classes, especially the madrasastudents and religious high school and university students.

Sufism, Self-Development, and the Upper-Class Idiom

Sufism in several different forms remains important to the Persianconsciousness: its poetry as constant epigrams to frame everyday life, itsorganized meetings as a kind of social club consciously apart from thereligion of the ulama, its philosophy and cosmology as a contemplativeframe for the intelligentsia, and its psychology as a moral referent in acorrupt world. In the past there were other forms: the pietistic and mis­sionary Sufi orders, which threatened the legitimacy of local rulers andon occasion seized power (for instance, the Mar'ashis, the Safavids); the

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mendicants who wished to escape the duties of ordinary life; the lodgessupported by the state as a mode of stable influence in the body politic.Organized orders today in Iran serve as weekly meeting places primarilyfor men in the wealthier, better-educated traditional occupations. 5 A fewof the more exotic orders exist on the peripheries of the coun­try - especially in Kurdistan - but their influence is not on the same scaleas in the Indian subcontinent or North Africa.

For upper-class and Westernized Persians the appeal of Sufism israther in its links to metaphysics, psychology, and aesthetics. Two dif­ferent uses of Sufi idiom can be illustrated in the work of the Culture andPersonality Circle and in the publications of S. Hossein Nasr. In­terestingly, although the latter is more religiously erudite, he is also moreisolated from ordinary belief and practice.

The Culture and Personality Circle was a small group of Persian andAmerican intellectuals in Tehran in the 1970s whose core members weretwo anthropologists (Mehdy Soraya, Mary Catherine Bateson), apsychoanalyst (Hasan Safavi), and a business school professor (BarkevKassarjian). Various others, including myself, participated for shorter orlonger periods. The purpose of the circle was to explore the socio­linguistic structuring of Persian behavior and attitudes. A file of tapeddiscussions was collected and so far two short papers have been pro­duced; one is of relevance here because it, together with as yet unworkedtaped material, provides another kind of access than that provided byNasr's books to upper-class Muslim usages of Sufism.

The paper, Safa-yi Batin (Inner Purity), in part is a corrective todescriptions of Persian social interaction as fraught with insecurity, fearof double dealing, and cynical expectations. Safa-yi Batin points out thatthese descriptions reveal only one pole of Persian conceptions of self­and-other. In a corrupt world, self-preservation forces one to play thegame, to lie, to be dishonest, to take nothing at face value. Butunderneath this mandatory mask, the individual's self-respect dependson a view of himself as essentially pure, honest, and trustworthy. Fur­thermore there is a constant search to find others with whom one can bethis true self. Such friendships are the strongest relationships there are;biddings will be done without question of motive.

Those rare individuals who can flout the normal protective devices ofsocial interaction, who can always be open, trustworthy, hospit­able-these are the true Sufis or darvish. A darvish need not worry aboutproper clothes or rules of propriety; what is essential is his moral activity.Safa-yi Batin develops a series of character types who have more or lessof these darvish qualities: luti, the neighborhood strongman who takescare of the weak and protects morality; jahil, the young street tough whogets into trouble but, as he grows older, may develop into a luti; dash, alesser luti who has only strength and moral authority whereas a luti

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also has funds to distribute; and darvish, essentially powerless but simpleand honest. A luti does not swear; his worst curse is nakas na/uti ("youare a nobody, you are not luti"). If his desires overpower him (say helooks unchastely at a woman), he punishes himself (archetypically bychopping off a finger). He often speaks in the third person with the voiceof community morality: "A man does not behave this way." A luti is sup­ported by nocheh, men who are willing to sacrifice themselves ([ida), toexecute his orders, and to uphold community morality. A dash on theother hand does swear, and a jahil always flirts with trouble. If, then, thecontinuum between luti and jahil is one of morality, darvish belongs tothe same pole as lutL But a darvish, unlike a luti, dash, or jahil, has nopower. The character of being a darvish (adam-i darvish), as opposed tobeing a member of a Sufi order, has to do with humility. One may be richand powerful, but if one ignores status distinctions, if one interacts witheveryone as an equal, then one is a darvish. A darvish is the opposite ofbeing mutakabbir, one who always invokes status distinctions, whor*fuses to talk to those below him.

The paper Safa-yi Batin and additional tapes make clear the use ofthese character types as mental frames in all spheres of life. Some ex­amples: students consider me a luti professor; the general, despite hisrank, behaved like a darvish; one who runs a firm has to be a bit of a luti;and so on.

These words, darvish and luti, are associated with an entire networknot only of neighborhood strongmen and protectors but with thechivalry and physical prowess celebrated in the zurkhana (gymnasium)and the poetry and parables about its patron, 'Ali, as well as its heroesfrom the epic Shahnameh (pahlavan, for example, means both athleteand hero). Exercises in the zurkhana are done to the beat of a drum andchanting of the Shahnameh or other poetry. The exercises are prefacedand concluded with prayers and punctuated with salawat (praises to thefamily of Muhammad) and la'nat (curses upon the enemies of Islam). Inthe past ill people were brought to the zurkhana for particularly ef­ficacious prayers and collections were taken up there for the unfortunateof the community. 'Ali, as early Islam's greatest fighter (his swordDhu'l-fiqar was a wondrous double-bladed instrument), is the patron,but he is celebrated for his darvish and luti moral qualities as much as forhis valor in battle: he ate poor barley instead of wheat bread, wore poorclothes, and rode a mule that others be not jealous. He treated all equallyand always acted justly. Once having bested an opponent and beingabout to kill him, the latter spat in 'Ali's face; 'Ali released him andwalked away, that he might kill him justly for God, not improperly outof personal anger. When his anger had cooled, 'Ali returned and killedthe man. 'Ali rebuked the caliph 'Umar after a decision in favor of 'Aliand against a Jew, because 'Umar had not accorded equal respect to the

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Jew during the proceedings. The notion of equality used to be architec­turally enshrined in the zurkhana by the tiny entrance door throughwhich all had to stoop and squeeze, even the most powerful athlete.

Outward identification with the concept of darvish/luti is sometimesmarked by a large mustache, just as identification as a mu 'min (believer)is marked by a beard of at least three days' growth. The darvish and lutiimages are powerful ones among all classes, and popular films makemuch of them. Among the upper classes interviewed by the Culture andPersonality Circle, they provide psychologically positive self-images thatcan be used with greater or lesser seriousness to establish masks for in­teraction with others; and they provide a positive moral image of Islam(through 'Ali, Salman Farsi, Imam Ja' far al-Sadiq, and others) whichcan be used as a framework to accept others in society. As a luti one is aprotector of social life: to what extent one prays oneself or goes torawdas or knows the minor trespasses of local ulama is not relevant; onesupports the women and believers for whom rawdas, sufras, funeralmeetings, and the distribution of charity are important. One of the infor­mants illustrated with the story of a general who periodically let a poorjinn-catcher rid the house of jinn in return for payment, although he didnot believe in jinn.

S. Hossein Nasr represents an entirely different usage of the Sufiidiom, an intellectual elitism that manages somehow to be more discon­tinuous with the lower religious classes than does the behavioral elitismof would-be lutis. (For an elaboration of how protestation of simpleness,directness, and so on, is used to disavow one's own superiority, seeBeeman 1976.) It is an intriguing discontinuity that operates on threelevels; least interesting and most obvious is the rejection by the religiousclasses of someone who had become aligned with the Pahlavi politicalestablishment; more interesting is the constant definition and redefini­tion of the differences between Sufism and Shi'ism, which in other situa­tions may be allowed to blur; least explored is the hint by Nasr (1972: 13)that the Ni' matullahi order in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ex­perienced an important revival among the educated, a political current ofunclear significance. Understanding Sufism, says Nasr, is reserved forthe "intellectual elite (khawass) of the traditional classes" (p. 14), but itsmessage, if explained properly by someone as talented as Nasr, couldprovide spiritual answers for modern men of both East and West.

The ad hominem objections to Nasr must be cleared away first so as toallow the more interesting questions to emerge. The first objection ispolitical. Although Nasr briefly flirted with the group of reformers at theHusayniyya Irshad around Dr. Ali Shariati, he was one of the first todrop out when friction developed between the Pahlavi government andthis group. He was closely associated with the Pahlavi establishment, andwrote such technically admissible (see below Khomeyni's 1943 opinion),but politically unacceptable (to the vocal religious elements), statements

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as: "As for political life, since Shi'ism in contrast to Sunnism does notaccept the religious legitimacy of the institution of the caliphateand believes monarchy to be the best form of government in the absenceof the Mahdi, the Persian monarchy possesses a positive religious aspect"(1975: 112).

The second objection has to do with Nasr's self-association with agroup of European (Swiss, French, Belgian) scholars of a mystical bent:Frithjob Schuon, Rene Guenon, Titus Burkhardt, Martin Lings,and-the only well-known academic-Henry Corbin. For the Westernerthe objection is their partisanship in an ecumenical mysticism, albeiterudite, that obfuscates the historical and sociological dynamics ofreligion. For Persians the objection is that Nasr is associated with non­Persians, even a European Sufi circle deriving from a North Africansaint, who miss entirely what is a major element of Islam for ordinarybelievers: sociopolitical criticism of the state. Madrasa students in Qumhave on occasion reacted quite heatedly to Nasr's name: "Nasr-youknow why we do not like him, because he is trying to turn Islam intoSufism."

To this Nasr's response is that what is most valuable in Islam for themodern world is its esoteric psychology, philosophy, and eschatology.As to phrasing politics in Islamic terms, he says skeptically,

Islam can only gain respect and even adherence among intelligent non­Muslims as well as young, Western-educated Muslims themselves by beingexpounded, not as another version of such Western ideologies as happen tobe fashionable today, but as a clear-cut alternative to these ideologies ...If Islam is presented, for example, as socialism or rationalism, then thethoughtful modern man who stands outside the world of faith will seek thepurer form of socialism and rationalism in the Western philosophies andideologies themselves, rather than in their Islamic imitation. (1968b: 60)

The rejection of Sufism by the Shi'ite hierarchy, Nasr argues (1972:118), was a political phenomenon of the late Safavid period when theulama reacted both to royal patronage of Sufis and to an increasingflood of charlatan mystics who claimed to be Sufis. The ulama then drewa sharp distinction between gnosticism or speculative mysticism ('irIan),which was acceptable, and Sufism (tasawwuj), which was not, a distinc­tion that holds to the present. An excellent example of this now tradi­tional boundary is given by the diatribe in a rawda of Javad Manaqebi,Professor at the University of Tehran and son-in-law of AllamaTabatabai:

[Most Sufi chains of initiation go back to 'Ali, the first Imam.] Of 'Ali weknow that he was born in the Ka' aba and that as a child he came toMuhammad before Muhammad had revealed the Qur'an and asked permis­sion to read from it. [Poem of thanks to God composed by 'Ali's father isrecited.] But do not think therefore that 'Ali is greater than the Prophet.The Prophet is the master, and 'Ali the student. However much we praise

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'Ali, the Prophet is greater. It is too bad that there are a few who believe in'Ali so much that they forget God and Muhammad. 'Ali says that we mustpray, but they do not pray even two rak'at. 'Ali when he prayed sometimesfell to the ground like a stick of wood, so did he fear God. Some say that'Ali is God and forget the Prophet and God.

In Mashhad I went to see a murshid (Sufi leader) in the MahallaGombad-e-Sabz. I began politely, greeting him in his own idiom, and Iasked him how he had arrived at his station. He looked at me sideways as ifI were a child. It took a great deal of effort, he said. For thirty years I didnot go to the baths, not a drop of water fell on my body. And indeed hewas right: his skin smelled like that of an animal. He was very dirty, his facewas very dark, and his beard was all matted. But as for his stomach, he atewell enough: do not think that he had nothing to eat. I knew from the firstthat he would say some nonsense, but I wanted to engage him in argument.I asked him, "You never took wudu' (ritual ablutions) to recite namaz?You never experienced seminal emission?" He got angry and shouted, "Youare a child, do not be rude, you have no cause to talk to a lover of God so.We have reached God. You are still on the way. We do not need wudu',ghusl, namaz." At this I too got angry and cried, "Fie upon you, you havegrown up and need no prayer, but 'Ali whom you love prayed in the mihrab[and was martyred there]; so he did not reach God, but you have?[Shouting:] /a ilah '//ah ... haqq hu haqq . .. You have reached God butMusa the seventh Imam did not, he who imprisoned spent his days frommorning till night praying and yet did not reach God!" At this point I sawhis friends were coming to beat me and I left. 6

If Sufism is intellectually the same field as gnosticism or speculativemysticism, Nasr can save it both on historical grounds and in terms ofwhat is currently taught by the ulama. Important Sufis were members ofthe entourage of the Imams until the ninth Imam. Important theologiansopenly wrote of Sufism and gnosticism until, in an anti-Sufi campaignunder the Safavids, Mulla Muhammad-Baqir MajIisi (number 37 ontable in appendix) even denied the Sufism of his own father (number 35)(Nasr 1972: 103-114). Khomeyni was a professor of gnosticism in Qum,and Nasr likes to claim discipleship under Allama Tabatabai, the dean ofthe field in Qum, with whom he spent a number of sessions (1975b: 24).Not only can Nasr save Sufism, but by dismissing most of what is taughtin the madrasas as transmitted (naqll) sciences, he can elevate it to centralprominence as one of the intellectual ('aqll) sciences, and then say, "Mostof the teaching of the Islamic intellectual sciences in Persia today is per­formed outside formal institutions and in private circles" (1975a: 109).

At its best, Nasr's exposition of Sufism as the intellectual core of Islamis an elegant antirationalist plea for a return to metaphysical play. He be­moans the impoverishment of man's mental universe by Western ra­tionalism: "With the weakening of gnostic elements in Christianity, therational faculty of Western man became gradually estranged from the

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twin sources of immutability, stability, and permanence: namely, revela­tion and intellectual intuition. The result was on the one hand thenominalist trend, which destroyed philosophical certainty, and on theother this reduction of man to the purely human, cut off from anytranscendental elements, the man of Renaissance humanism" (1968a:244).

There is even an occasional nod to those, like Mircea Eliade (1969),who in quite self-conscious terms state their goal as making the worldpregnant with associations so that when the physicist steps out into thestar-studded night, he can contemplate Greek, Chinese, or Hindumythology and their aesthetic and moral realms as well as his ever moreinvolved equations:

[Traditional] cosmologies describe the whole Universe as an icon for con­templation; they are not childish attempts to find fantastic causes fornatural occurrences (Nasr 1967a: 37).

Razi, by rejecting prophecy and the process of to 'wi! which dependsupon it, also rejected the application of this method to the study of nature.In so doing he transformed the alchemy of Jabir to chemistry. That is notto say that he stopped using alchemical terminology or ideas, but in hisperspective, there was no longer any balance to measure the tendency of theWorld Soul, nor any symbols to serve as a bridge between the phenomenaland noumenal worlds. The facts of nature were studied as before, but asfacts, not symbols. (1967a: 93)

But for Nasr, "A symbol is not based on man-made conventions. It is anaspect of the ontological reality of things, and is as such independent ofman's perception of it" (1968a: 247).

Nasr, to the charitable reader, avoids inconsistency in affirming theshari' at as divine revelation (1967a),7 denying the value of ecumenicism(1970),8 acknowledging that Islam is only one of the true religions (1972),asserting that symbols are ontologically given (1968a) and religion ad­dresses that "which is immutable and permanent in man" (1972: 170)through the doctrine that there are many theophanies, infinite aspects ofthe one truth. In the same fashion he comments on the Shi'ite-Persianethos and apparent conception of life as tragedy: "Few people are givenas much to the enjoyment of life's pleasures and beauties as the Persians,but this attitude is always compensated for by the realization that a mo­ment once gone never returns" (1975b: 106).

He cites the weeping while "chanting the Holy Qur'an" (he must meanrawdas or the incidental tear brought on by dilating on a fine sound) inbeautiful surroundings, the sad quality of Persian music which is reallynostalgia for the divine, and the repetition in poetry of the theme thattheophanies never repeat: tragedy and sadness (huzn) alternate with butdo not negate joy <tarah) and "it is a tragedy based on the realization thatthe human condition contains an apparent contradiction. Man is in

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desperate need to realize the Divine and to become aware of his ownspiritual nature. Yet this realization is made well nigh impossible by thedistance that separates him from the Divine and by his need to awaitDivine assistance to accomplish this end" (1975b: 107). The divineassistance is by way of Sufi initiation, the esoteric instructions (asrar,"secrets") brought by Muhammad back from his ascent to heaven. Theseinstructions take one's soul through the various stages and states ofspiritual development.

The commonality between Nasr's use of Sufism and the moral­character use cited in the work of the Culture and Personality Circle liesin the concern with the self. It is quite irrelevant whether Nasr himselfever was initiated or knows any mystical secrets. It is a mind-expandinggame of an intellectual, what the Germans called Hi/dung, with all thelatter's connotations of developing virtue and learning high culture.

The contrast with the ulama, with the popular religion, and withpopular Sufism becQmes striking. In popular religion, the divineassistance is the intercession of the Imams, and Husayn in particular, onthe Day of Judgment, plus the rules for social life given in the Qur'an.For Nasr it is ultimately ambiguous whether esoteric knowledge is passeddown through a chain of adepts or whether it is learned from someonelike Tabatabai, who claims only to be a philosopher, a scholar. But forpopular Sufism, spiritual guides are of the essence, as the leader of theQum Ni'inatullahi group stated in a weekly meeting, but directedespecially to me:

Jews count no one as ma'sum (sinless, perfect) and so all their beliefs arebatH (void) since anyone they follow might err. Christians count Jesus asma'sum but they have no laws from him directly and count no one else asma'sum, the result being the same as the Jews. Sunnis, our Muslimbrothers, count the Prophet as rna' sum but no one else, so they are in thesame boat as the Christians. Shi'a count the Prophet and the Imams to thetwelfth Imam as rna' sum but no one after that, so they again are in thesame boat. We believe that from Adam to Noah the rules were passed fromhand to hand and thence to Abraham and on to the Imam ai-Zaman, whowent into occultation, and then on hand to hand to the present. ["Hand tohand" refers in part to the physical bay'at or oath of allegiance consistingof kissing a fist made of two right hands, a practice which went intoabeyance among the Shi'a but was kept up by the Gonabad Ni'matullahiSufis.]

For the ulama, gnosis is not a different realm of experience but only adeeper level of comprehension. For Khomeyni, kashif-i asrar ("revealingthe secrets," which he titled his 1943 book) is merely the unfolding of ex­planations of the Qur'an's intent discovered over generations of scholars,esoteric only in the sense of expertise. Above all, ulama are less interestedin the self than in society.

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Social Utopia and the Religion of the Ulama

The religion of the ulama, beyond the rules of ritual, is essentially amoral and social ethic. Relative to Sufism it is concerned with the com­munity rather than the individual, or with the moral person(ensan) - which by definition involves more than one - rather than thedevelopment of the individual soul (ruh). At points this becomes a dif­ference of emphasis: both ulama and Sufis talk of perfection, unity withthe divine, gnosis; but the interpretations are different. For the ulama thelaw (shari 'at) is a sine qua non; for the darvish or Sufi the law is a merefoundation to be transcended. "Shari' at, tariqat, rna' rifat, haqiqat"(law, path, knowledge, truth) is their frequent counter to criticisms offailing to obey the letter of the law. The archetype opposition betweenthe ulama and the darvish is the ulama attitude toward the shath (ecstaticstatement) of Mansur Hallaj, who proclaimed "ana'l-haqq" (I havemerged with, I am, the truth), for which blasphemy he was executed bythe ulama. The higher ecstatic states of contemplation are, for them, lossof discipline, mere irrationality, and thus lapse into heresy. The concernof the ulama with justice and social morality, with rationality and com­munity, is only natural given their training in the law and its principles,with, as Nasr complains, philosophy of the soul given secondary billing.

Their mode of communication is response to private queries, books,and, most important, preachments (rawda). One of their key didacticdevices is the retelling of events in Islamic history and drawing of morallessons, the reflection upon a utopia and consideration of how to make itpracticable. To construct a just society, three major areas of concern areelaborated: politics, economics, and personal codes of conduct.


There are two sides to Shi'ite political theory, appropriate to life withpolitical power and life without political power. 'Ali's brief caliphaterepresented the former: procedures for reconstructing society along justlines are recorded in his letters to his governors and in the various tradi­tions about him. For instance, he admonished his followers to first makethe land productive and then worry about extracting taxes. In the case oflack of power, which is the rest of Shi'ite history, there are rules of ac­commodation without abandoning principle, represented by 'Ali underthe first three caliphs, and rules of drawing the line where principle is en­dangered, represented by the martyrdoms of 'Ali and Husayn. 'Ali is themeasure of governments, Husayn the model of perseverence in the faceof injustice.

The style of popular discourse can be easily demonstrated. InMashhad on Friday mornings, the courtyard of the Madrasa Milani nearthe shrine used to be covered with canvas roofing. Starting at about

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seven o'clock various men would go to the minbar and sing munajat (agenre of praise to God). Regular attenders and pilgrims attracted by theloudspeakers would gradually assemble, first sitting around the edgesand then gradually filling in the central space in straight rows. All wouldstand in respect when Aqazada Mohammad-Ali Milani entered and pro­ceeded to the minbar. A hefty man with a full black beard, he was theyoungest son of Ayatullah Milani and ran the Milani establishment forthe last few years of his father's·life. On Friday morning he led the du'anudaba, the prayer for the return of the twelfth Imam. Before leadingthe prayer, he would deliver a rawda.

One of the Fridays shortly before his father's death and shortly beforethe madrasa was razed by the Pahlavi government to make way for agreen belt around the shrine (in 1975) he spoke of 'Ali, the paragon ofreligious knowledge and justice, using stories about him as illustrations.

One day 'Ali sees a youth being led away and asks why. He is told thatthe caliph-'Umar ordered the boy to be bastinadoed because he had calleda certain woman his mother. 'Ali finds it strange that this should be a causefor lashes and stays the punishment. He asks 'Umar to explain. 'Umar saysthe lad called the woman his mother, but she claimed to be a virgin. The ladhad lied, and Islam provides a punishment of eighty lashes if a man in thebazaar or street should with maligning insinuation call a woman "Hey,mother of so-and-so, hey, daughter of so-and-so." One must take care ofone's tongue. One's tongue must not rattle on with evil idleness (zaban-ilaghw nabashad).

[To stress the moral issue of male conduct, Milani here called for the au­dience to chant a salawat, a blessing upon the Prophet and his family:a//ahumma sa//i 'ala Muhammad wa al-i Muhammad.]

The woman's brothers then testify to 'Ali that they had been so poor theyhad been unable to marry off their sister. 'Ali has a solution: he will marrythe woman to the youth. He, 'Ali, will supply the dowry. The womanshould go to the baths and prepare herself. At this point the woman speaksup. She fears the fires of hell and will tell the truth. She had married andbecome pregnant, but her husband died and her brothers refused to raisethe child. They forced her to leave it in a pit. Secretly she watched over itand saw it rescued by some tribesmen. As it grew up, she kept watch fromafar. Somehow the lad learned his origin, but she, fearing her brothers, didnot acknowledge him. 'Umar at this point cried out, "Oh, how without 'Aliwould 'Umar have caused justice to miscarry!" [Milani calls again for asalawat and follows it with the admonition: "May you and I until our lasthour and dying day and until resurrection cry, Ya 'Ali!"]

Many such stories are told about 'Ali to demonstrate his ingenuity,knowledge, and fairness in contrast to characteristics of Abu Bakr,'Umar, and 'Uthman,9 and thereby establish the Shi'ite claims that thelatter three were illegitimate caliphs. The stories also suggest indirectcontrasts with contemporary society and indicate how justice should be

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administered. In another story, Salman Farsi, 'Ali's gubernatorial ap­pointee, is contrasted with the rapacious governors appointed by othercaliphs: Salman rented half a shoemaker's stall as his office. In anotherstory it is related that 'Ali conducted business at night under a tree bycandlelight; whenever some personal matter arose, he would extinguishthe candle, for it belonged to the community. The stories of how 'Ali wascheated of his rightful succession to Muhammad are told with indignantresignation: it is the way of the world still that those who know are notasked, whereas the ignorant and unjust rule.

In theological terms this is the problem of the uli'l-amr (issuer oforders) and of the relation between imamat (guidance of the Imams) andthe ulama. It became a major issue at the time of the 1905 ConstitutionalRevolution and continues unchanged in the minds of the ulama today.

According to Kasravi's account (1330 Sh./1946) during the strugglesover the 1905 Constitution, the ulama took essentially three positions.Some-led by Mulla Mohammad-Kazem Khorasani, Hajj Shaykh Ab­dollah Mazandarani, and Hajj Mirza Hoseyn Tehrani - argued that sincethe Imam aI-Zaman, the twelfth Imam, is not taking an active role in theworld, lOa constitutional government of the wise should replace the ruleof the cruel. Others-led by S. Mohammad Tabatabai and S. AbdollahBehbahani - agreed with this ideal but argued that it could prove to bedifficult to implement and that it was at least important to establishconstitutional checks upon the arbitrary cruelty of the rulers, checksmodeled on those adopted by the European democracies. Yet others­led by Shaykh Fazlollah Nuri - insisted on the establishment of a con­stitutional government, but constitutional in the literal sense of the wordmashruta ("constitutional"), wh~ch comes from the Arabic root shart("condition"): that is, conditioned by the Qur'an and sunna practices ofthe Prophet). Nuri's slogan was inqilab-i mashrutiyyat-i mashruta-areligious constitutional revolution.

Merely to follow the European model, he argued, was contradictory toIslam: a European taxation system was contradictory to the Islamiczakat and other taxes; European notions of equality before the law of allcitizens was contradictory to Islamic insistence that Jews, Zoroastrians,Christians, and kafirs (unbelievers) not be equal to Muslims (enshrinedin article 8 of the 1905 constitution); European notions of obligatoryeducation to create an enlightened (indoctrinated) citizenry was opposedto the freedom of the individual and must in any case not prejudiceIslamic teachings (article 19 of the constitution); European notions offreedom of the press would allow all sorts of scurrilous anti-Islamic, im­moral, and antisocial ideas to be disseminated and therefore the pressshould be restricted to what is in Islam's interest (article 20 of the con­stitution). Finally it was Shaykh Fazlollah Nuri who proposed theamendment that no laws be passed by parliament until approved by a

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group of ulama as consonant with Islam; this became article 2 of the con­stitution.

There was of course a fourth group: the ulama in the pay of the shah,who were used to block moves to limit royal power. For instance, MirzaAbu'l-Qasim, the imam-jum'a of Tehran and son-in-law of the shah,Muzaffaruddin, was used as an agent provocateur in a meeting of bazaarmerchants and ulama, called to discuss the government mismanagementof a price-control campaign. I I The imam-jum' a urged Sayyid Jamalud­din Isfahani (father of the founder of modern Persian prose stories,Sayyid Mohammad-Ali Jamalzadeh) to go on the minbar. Althoughdistrustful of the imam-jum'a, Behbahani said to trust in God and goahead. Jamaluddin began by recounting the events that had closed thebazaar and said that if the shah were a Muslim he would join the protest,if - -. Here he was interrupted by the imam-jum' a: "0 irreligioussayyid, what disrespect do you show the shah? 0 kajir, 0 Babi, why doyou malign the shah?" Jamaluddin replied, "You do not even know whatmy next words will be." But the imam-jum'a cried, "Get him; kill him."Troops entered, there was bloodshed, the participants fled. The ulamaled an exodus from Tehran to take asylum in the shrine of Shah 'Abdal-'Azim. The government reacted with two punitive measures: shops inthe bazaar which refused to open would be broken open; the administra­tion of the religious madrasas in Tehran were to be taken away fromanti-shah and given to pro-shah people. The negotiations with the ulamaand merchants who took asylum eventually led to the granting of theconstitution, though in no direct or honest fashion.

The point is that though there were persons in religious garb like theimam-jum' a of Tehran (and the Mutawalli-bashi in Qum, if onestretches a point to include him in the religious personnel) who opposedthe constitutional movement, the fluidity of politics made others adoptvarious stances; yet the Islamic position was clearly formulated and hasbeen maintained to the present.

To deal first with political fluidity: Shaykh Fazlollah Nuri, a relativeof the shah by marriage, did not join in the first exodus to the shrine ofShah 'Abd al-'Azim, although his son did. When the prime minister hadthe antiroyalist Muwaqqar al-Saltana imprisoned and forcibly divorcedfrom the shah's daughter, who was then given in marriage to the imamjum'a, Nuri performed both the divorce and the marriage, the latter onthe very day the administration of the madrasas Marviyya and IbnBabawayh were taken away from their previous mutawallis and given tothe imam jum' a. When the Russians wanted to build a bank in agraveyard and S. Mohammad Tabatabai refused permission for the sale,saying the land was waqf, Nuri agreed to the sale, saying it was waqf forthe dead and produced no profit: another piece of land could be boughtto replace it. The opposition ulama - seeing the bank as a colonialist

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foothold - marched on the bank and the Russians claimed damages fromthe shah. Nuri's reputation temporarily suffered. Yet Nuri, in thepopular memory of religious people today, is remembered as the protec­tor of the Islamic conception of state, selling out neither to a corruptshah 12 nor to the Western imperialists. Again when the ulama debatedwhether or not to accept the proposed constitution, S. Kazem Yazdi senta telegram from Najaf saying anything opposed to religion should beblocked; Akhund-e-Khorasani phrased the same sentiment in the op­posite rhetoric: if a parliament is so formed as to help protect Islam, thenit is a duty to support it (Kasravi 1330 Sh./1946:382). In popularmemory, Khorasani is pro-constitution, Yazdi anti-constitution.

Nuri and Yazdi have become the heroes who foresaw that the constitu­tion would be a meaningless trick allowing more, not less, Europeandomination. Nuri's arguments have been repeated, down to the most re­cent Khomeyni work on the state, Hukumat-i Islami (1391/1971), andrawdas on u!i'I-amr and imamat and wilayat (three differently derivedtheological terms for the leadership of the community). Essentially allthree positions on the constitution can be seen as pragmatic versions ofthe Islamic position derived from the Qur'anic verse (Sura Nisa': 62): "0you who have faith, obey God, obey the Prophet of God, and obey theu/i'I-aml' (literally, "issuer of orders"). Who is the u/i'I-amr? The theoryadopted by the Sunnis is that it is the sultan of the moment: that as longas a sultan rules according to Islamic law, Muslims should support him.This was also the theory adopted by the clerics aligned with the Pahlavigovernment (akhund-i dawlatl) and by Nasr: that obedience to the shahwas clearly indicated in the Qur'an. A few purists insist that uli'I-amrrefers to the Qur'an; this would depoliticize the verse insofar as it wouldno longer point to any particular leader. Shi'ites, however, insist thatu/i'I-amr is clearly a term for the twelve Imams. Reason as well as themyriad references in the Qur'an and hadith to the role of the Imams andthe necessity of following them indicate the necessity of a more securesuccessor to the Prophet than anyone as fallible as a king. Khomeyni(1363/1943: 132-153) gives a series of Qur'anic verses that, accord­ing to hadith recognized by Sunnis as well as Shi'ites, refer to the role of'Ali and the Imams. The rhetoric used both by undistinguished rawda­khwans like S. Mahmud Khatami (rawda on the eve of Imam Husayn'sbirthday, 14 Ramadan 1 September 21, 1975) and by Khomeyni fails todo justice to the "sultan" interpretation of uli'I-amr, that support isdemanded only so long as the sultan obeys Islam; they insist on talkingabout the absurdity of following kings who do evil (Khomeyni1363/1943: 109-111; Khatami 1975). The stories of the mistakes inIslamic law made by the first three caliphs are cited in this context, andthe evilness of Mu'awiya, Yazid, Mutawakkil 'Abbasi, and so on arereferred to with curses. Man-made law must be imperfect, as is evident

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from its frequent changes (Khomeyni 1363/1943: 182). The Imams, bycontrast, have perfect knowledge of the divine law, and in Khatami's ac­count even miraculous powers:

If he [an Imam] says to a wall or a tree, "Come here," it must obey. ImamHasan raised the Ka' ba into the air. He struck the earth with his heel, and alake opened up, complete with ships and fish - he gave some of the fish tofriends and they could not consume all there were. For three days ImamHasan went into the heavens and threw the stars about. On the minbar oneday, Imam Hasan said that if he wanted, he could make Syria and Iraqchange places, or make the heavens change places with the earth, or turnmen into women. A man got up and said this was all nonsense. [Khatamitells of how Hasan turned the man into a woman, his wife into a man, andhow their subsequent child was neither male nor female; the manrepented.] The ninth Imam at age eight solved 30,000 difficult problems inone meeting. When 'Ali ibn-Ishaq came to ask some questions of theeleventh Imam, he was referred to that latter's two-and-a-half-year-old son(the twelfth Imam), who not only knew all the answers but the questionsbefore they were asked ... 'Ali destroyed the hom*osexual city of Lut bylifting it into the air and letting it drop and smash.

When the Imams are no longer active in the world, their role is takenover by the mujtahids or the jaqih 'adi/ Gust experts in the law).

At this point the logic of the dogma allows Khomeyni to formulate atheory of ethical opposition not far removed from opinions of those whowould interpret the uti' /-amr as referring to the sultan or king: "Badgovernment is better than no government. We have never attacked thesultanate; if we criticized, it was a particular king and not kingship thatwe criticized. History shows that mujtahids have aided kings, even kingswho did wrong: Nasir aI-din Tusi, Muhaqqiq-i Thani, Shaykh Baha'i,Mir Damad, Majlisi" (Khomeyni 1363/1943: 187). And again (p. 189):

Some say that government may remain in the hands of those who have it,but they should get approval (ijaza) from the legal experts (faqih). Yes, buta mujtahid can give such approval only under the condition that the law ofthe country is the law of God. Our country does not meet this conditionsince the government is neither constitutional nor the law of God. Yet badgovernment is better than no government, and mujtahids do not simply at­tack it, but if necessary help it as they did with semi-independent Iraqunder the leadership of Mirza Mohammad-Taqhi Shirazi. The ulamaalways cooperate with the government if that is needed. The governmentmade a great mistake in its hostility to the religious leaders and in trying toseparate the youth from them. I cannot believe this came from the drybrain of Reza Khan, but he acts on the advice of others.

One is reminded of S. Mohammad Tabatabai's letter to Muzaffarud­din Shah saying, "We are often accused of being antigovernment; we arenot. You are a good king, but you- do not know what is going on"

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(Kasravi 1330 Sh./1952: 86). One is reminded also of the meetings duringthe constitutional agitations convened by religious students to take upcollections to liquidate the state's external debt (pp. 171-172).

There was a brief period in the early years of Reza Khan's rule (1924)when the ulama took an explicit position against republicanism and forconstitutional monarchy, but this had to do with the strategic maneuversin the 1920s for leverage in preventing secularization of the sort beingprovided by Kemal Ataturk in Turkey, and retaining some influence as athird force between Reza Khan and the British in Iraq (see Akhavi 1980).By 1971 Khomeyni's attitude had hardened and he called for non­cooperation with the then-current order and work toward creating a neworder (Khomeyni 1391/1971: 205). The theory of Islamic government isnicely set out (pp. 52-53): it is neither authoritarian, allowing a ruler toplay with people's money and punish and execute at will, nor is it con­stitutional in the modern sense, but conditioned (constitutional) by theQur'an and sunnat. Since all Muslims wish to follow God's law, govern­ment does not depend on force but merely serves to map out programs.There are no castles or stipends for the royal family which eat up half thebudget of the state. With all the oil, minerals, and other natural en­dowments, there should be no need for Iran to borrow from England andAmerica. Justice should be swift and simple; cases should not drag onfor a lifetime, providing only lawyers' fees and graft.

These ideas, which Khomeyrti restated in 1971 in a series of lectures,published as Islamic Government: Guidance by Religious Experts(wiiayat-e jaqih) , insist on the supremacy of the moral law. The theory ofwilayat-i jaqih proceeds from the debate over the ulil amr. Islam abol­ished absolute, hereditary monarchies: to recognize one man above allothers is a form of idolatry (shirk, the sin against the doctrine of theunity of God). Rulers (hakim-i shahr) - monarchs or otherleaders-must be subordinated to the moral law. We want to have aleader (hakim-i shahr) who would punish his sister for selling heroin (p.179), a clear reference to Princess Ashraf, the shah's twin sister. Muj­tahids or faqih know the moral law and can provide guidance. They donot seek power as an end; like the Imams, they should wait until oppor­tunities arise which they can exploit to foster just government. Except for'Ali, the Imams waited until the end of their lives for such opportunity.In 1979 Khomeyni found himself with such an opportunity. But how, heasks in 1971, does one begin to establish an Islamic government? Withpersuasion (tabliqat), by creating enough like-minded people to have thepower to struggle and establish an Islamic government (p. 173). The roleof the just and knowledgeable faqih is the same as that of the Imam orthe prophet: to institute the divine law. It is the law which is supreme: nofaqih can dismiss the opinions of other faqih, and so the guidance of thejust government may be collegial.

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Khomeyni's 1971 book was to become controversial in 1979 during thedrafting of a new constitution. Just how much power should be given tothe clergy? Should wilayat-i faqih be interpreted as a call for theocracy?Was there a distinction between general moral guidance and daily ad­ministration? Would the Islamic form of moral principles not be unac­ceptably restrictive of human rights, especially those of non-Muslims andsecular Muslims? Would the particular living faqih of the moment med­dle excessively in the affairs of government? Although Prime MinisterBazargan would feign surprise in October 1979 that Khomeyni waspushing for so many provisions for clerical supervision, and seeminglyfor so much personal control, in the new constitution, what was at issuewas not the form of Khomeyni's arguments, which were the same as his1971 arguments, and as those articulated by his predecessors in 1905.Rather, what was at issue was the interpretation and implementation.Ayatullah Shariatmadari and Ayatullah Nasser Makarem championedthe interpretation that wilayat-e faqih could be accomplished very nicelyunder a fully democratic form of government, without multiplyingboards of clerical overseers in all areas of government. A committee offive mujtahids, such as was provided for in the 1905 constitution, wouldbe quite sufficient. This position of Ayatullah Shariatmadari in opposi­tion to Khomeyni, plus his invocation of the right, as a faqih, to be con­sulted, caused a major crisis in the autumn of 1979.

Perhaps the most interesting parts of Khomeyni's 1971 lectures fornon-Iranian readers who became aware of the book only in 1979 was t.herhetorical vehemence against Jews, Zionists, and colonialists. But againit was fairly old standard rhetoric. The Jews from the beginning of Islamhad been enemies. In recent times, even worse were the colonialists, forthey divided the Muslims into competing nations, they introduced lawsfor organizing usury and fornication and endless legal processes, andthey introduced an education which misrepresented Islam to Muslims asbeing incomplete and only concerned with rules of ritual purity, as nothaving the means for really organizing society. False religious leaders,who propagated these views and said that Islam should be separatedfrom politics, were supported. Indeed the centers of religious educationwere now centers for the propagation of such false views, and there was aneed to reform the clergy and retrain them.

The most interesting modern reformulation of the Shi'ite theory ofstate is that of Ali Shariati, a French-trained intellectual and Islamicreformer. He draws a distinction between the Western concept of politicsand the Oriental notion of siyasat, which, originally, he claims, meant"taming a wild horse." Politics (from the Greek polis, "city"), he says,has a problematic of satisfying the citizens; it is essentially administra­tive, conservative, status-quo oriented, allocating the most happiness tothe greatest number. In contrast, the problematic of siyasat is one of edu-

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cation, reform, bringing perfection into being. It involves leadership andforce if necessary. The Islamic terms ummat (community) and imamat(leadership of the Imams) fall on the Oriental side of this distinction.They form a dynamic pair, derived, he claims, from amm, "decision togo." The emphasis on movement toward perfection (takamul), disciplin­ing and teaching (tarbiyat), and an active society of believers (ummat) isradically different from the democracy of bourgeois capitalism.Backward people, like children, cannot be expected to be able to chooseintelligently; they will always choose present pleasure over discipline forfuture improvement. Even in the West, vote buying and deception makea mockery of democratic ideals. Liberal democracy, not the governmentof kings and priests, bombarded Algeria and killed 45,000 people inMadagascar. Lenin said it took half a century to create a social revolu­tion; the Chinese say it is an endless process; in the meantime one cannotdepend on democracy.

At the end of the process of social development, Shariati concludes,one can have democracy and at the same time the Sunni and Shi'atheories will coincide, for then one can run society through democraticcouncils and the twelfth Imam will not have to be in occultation. In themeantime, one should beware of Western arguments to give up religiousfanaticism (ta'assub, "tenacity of belief'): ta' assub is our integrity. TheWest wants us to accept a division between politics and religion; that is away of making us impotent. The West wishes to make us assimilatedmen, who, Sartre has pointed out in the introduction to Frantz Fanon'sThe Wretched of the Earth, are emptied of their heritage and turned intomindless imitators. Such mindless imitators will desire to buy Westerngoods and thus will provide markets to keep Western capitalism going.

There are many problems with Shariati's formulations, but perhapsthe most revealing is that despite his claim to being a revolutionary re­formist voice in contrast to the backward-looking religious establish­ment, his message is essentially identical with that of, for instance, thesupposedly nonpolitical scholar Allama Tabatabai (1341 She b/1943):

Just as children, orphans and the insane need guardians, so society needs asupervisor. If there is only law and no head, society falls apart ... Thenecessity of such a head is called wilayat, or in Persian sarparasti. (p. 74)[Islam] is neither democratic nor communist. The lawmaker is God, andchanges are not made by majority opinion ... haqq (truth), not khwas­tan-i mardum (popular will). (p. 86)

What people want is the result of what they are taught. They can be taughtto want what God wants. The abandonment of the sunnat was not anatural death (murdan) but murder (kushtan) by Arabs who substitutedfalse for true sunnat. (p. 88)

For fifty years we've had democracy, but for all the glory it has given othersit has brought us only grief. If one says we have democracy only in name,

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we don't practise it, the same can be said of Islam. Is democracy perfec­tion? Then why is it on the decline and being replaced by communism? (p.89)The ill done our part of the world by democracy is only a social form ofwhat was done individually earlier by Alexander and Genghiz Khan . . .Now it is done more subtly by technology and psychology, so people do noteven realize what is happening and are not aroused to revenge. (p. 91)

Again Shariati's notion of the active Islamic society and need fordiscipline and leadership is not very different from that expressed by thepreacher Shaykh Mohammad Taqi Falsafi in a rawda on the expulsion ofIranians from Iraq (c. 1971): "Does man naturally turn towards justice?No. Man is first an animal and then a person ... The verse I cited ['Wesend our Prophets with signs and miracles, a book and scales of justice')is followed by 'and we created iron,' that is, the sword. Justice withoutthe sword is impossible. Justice and freedom must be forced on people.Islam eased this by basing itself 90 percent on belief and 10 percent onforce."

And in turn, how different is this from the position held by Moham­mad Reza Shah that the Persian people were not ready for democracy;that they needed to be educated in civic behavior, that society needed tobe transformed before democracy could be introduced, that democracywas not necessarily a good thing, that Persians wanted a strong father­figure; and that all of these attitudes are ingrained in Persian traditionand national character?

There is one crucial difference perhaps: the balance between force andlegitimacy is reversed. The shah depended upon a good deal more forcethan the 10 percent Falsafi claimed for Islam. Theoretically this may beproblematic: if Islam is divine and people do not wish to obey, may notforce Uihad) be used to the utmost extent necessary? Doctrinally theanswer is that all reasonable men will admit Islam's perfection and soforce does not arise as an issue; historical examples to the contrary arereally examples only of perversions of Islam. But even if one admits therewas a convergence of political philosophy between shah, Shariati, andFalsafi, it should serve only to focus attention on strategies for develop­ment and on Islamic claims to having a more just way than eithercapitalism or communism.


The protest from Nuri to Khomeyni and Shariati was not onlygeneralized moralism: an Islamic economics goes along with the ideals ofjustice in political theory. For some reason, however-presumably owingto the lack of education in Western economic theory-discussion ofIslamic economics seemed both less frequent and less sophisticated thanin the more developed literature in Pakistan (see, for example, Qureshi

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1946, Yusuf 1971, de Zayas 1960, Rahman 1964). Beyond the slogan thatIslam was a third road between capitalism and communism, the faiththat interest-free banks must be possible, and the unquantified assertionthat Islamic taxes would be sufficient to run the state, debate seemedlimited to the century-old Makasib (On Trade) (the manual of ShaykhMortaza Ansari of rules for exchange in the bazaar). The only seriouscontemporary work on the subject was Iqtisad-i Ma (Our Economics,1381/1961) by Mohammad-Bagher Sadr, which was translated into Per­sian from the Arabic; it seemed widely agreed in Qum that both thetranslation and the subject matter were incomprehensible. An in­complete version of S. Sadeq Shirazi's 'An al-Iqtisad al-Islami wastranslated as Rah-i be-suy-i Bank-i Islami (Setting up Islamic banking,1393/1973); the original was not allowed to be published in Iraq. Other­wise there are a series of popular books on the general philosophy of pro­perty and social commitment such as Taleghani's Islam wa Malikiyyat(Islam and Property, 1340/1942), S. Abdol-Karim Hasheminezhad'sRah-i Sivvum Bayn-i Komunism va-Sarmayadari (Third Path BetweenCapitalism and Communism), and S. Abdul Reza Hejazi's Sistim-iIqtisadi-i Islam (The Islamic Economic System). Most of these were nor­mally under government ban until the 1978 revolution.

Nonetheless the basic principles provided a valid basis at least for anethical social criticism of state policies under Mohammad Reza Shah. Alltransactions - as in laissez-faire capitalism - are calculated as contractsbetween willing and knowledgeable partners. Unlike the situation inlaissez-faire capitalism, however, property does not ultimately belong toindividuals but to God or the community: individual rights are protectedas usufruct rights. The taxation system is intended to redistribute to thepublic domain and to the poor what is not being used and what, throughinevitable inequalities, builds up in the hands of the fortunate. Manualsof commercial morality like the Makasib of Shaykh Mortaza Ansari orthe commercial sections of the various Risalat Tawidih al-Masa'il (Ex­planatory Text on Problems [of Religion]) are concerned with ensuringthe conditions of knowledge and volition: for instance, children may notbuy and sell but may only be agents of competent adults; goods may bereturned if the buyer finds he bought them above the fair price or if theseller is uncertain of the price and finds he sold for too little. Of theserules, the rules concerning usury are most central and problematic. InEurope, both Christians and Jews eventually came to terms with thebiblical injunctions against usury by differentiating between unjustreturn on money (usury) and just return (interest), thereby bringing thelaw into harmony with commercial practice and commonsense economicmorality. In Islam also this distinction is argued, but it has not yet gaineduniversal acceptance. Indeed the majority opinion in Qum was that allinterest is usury. The result is the use of hiyal-i shar'i or kulah-i shar'i

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(lawful deceits), qard-i hasana (loans of goodness) or mihrabani (kind­ness), and mukhatira (contracts) - ways of calculating interest as if itwere something else. 13

There are problems with these principles. The relation between in­dividual rights and the good of the community is but vaguely regulatedby personal morality and litigation. This vagueness is recognized by al­Ghazali's metaphor that the bazaar is an arena of jihad, an internal holywar to maintain one's morality when there is temptation to take unfairadvantage. Ibn Khaldun similarly spoke of the role of merchant as an oc­cupation taken up as a service to the community but not for its own sake(fard kijaya). Another formulation is that the bazaar should be regulatedunder hisba (the religious obligation to avoid evil), and at times therewere officials, muhtasib, who helped maintain order, set prices, and col­lect taxes. Second, the theory of ownership - that all may appropriatefrom nature what they can use-involves a premise of nonscarcity ofresources and also perhaps small-scale organization. Given industrialorganization, do workers have a free choice to strike a contract onwages? How does one calculate the value of labor in an economy inwhich, unlike an agro-mercantile economy, one cannot ignore labor as acommodity? Or how would one organize such an economy if one insistedthat labor is not to be calculated as a commodity but that private prop­erty rights still be respected? Third, can khums, zakat, and the othertaxes of Islam be applied in a modern economy? Until 1978 this was onlyan academic question, but one which, for instance, de Zayas (1960) inSyria had tried to work out. Finally there is the debate over usury, orrather over the interpretation of the Qur'anic word riba.

From the legal history of the word and its use in the early traditions, itseems clear that the prohibition of riba was intended to counter excessiveinterest rates and especially debt enslavement that resulted from doubl­ing the principle if a debtor asked for an extension of time for repay­ment. It was also intended to make explicit equalities and inequalities ofexchange and to reduce the uncertainties of speculation, such as in buy­ing pregnant animals or crops that were not yet ripe. In time all interestpayments came to be considered riba. The practical arena for debate in1975 centered on the Islamic banks. These had been set up in many Ira­nian towns by merchants and ulama as a kind of charity operation:money was contributed and then lent out for small needs such as weddingexpenses, opening a shop, and so on; maximum loans were usually2,000-2,500 tomans ($375) for fifteen months. The borrower paid backthe same amount he borrowed. Theoretically this is but one of the twoforms of transaction an Islamic bank may engage in, what Shirazi(1393/1973) calls "charity loans," the other being business loans on amudariba basis, that is, as a partnership in which the bank suppliescapital for a share of the returns of the venture, whether profits or losses.

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As long as Islamic banks were really only for charity loans, they existedon the philanthropy of the rich who did not expect their money back andwhose further contributions kept the purchasing power of the bank'scapital from deteriorating over time.


The linchpin in both the Islamic political and economic theoryultimately is faith and the morality it inspires: without the volition of allMuslims the edifice of justice collapses. Attention focuses on thisespecially· in the rawdas of the month of Ramadan. The fast itself ismeant to be a rededication to Islam, a slight discomfort and rearrange­ment of routine in order to be more continually conscious of moral com­mitment. Ramadan is also the month of 'Ali's martyrdom, and he is thefocus of many rawdas.

The following rawda was given by Hashem-Iraqi on 8 Ramadan1395/1975 in the Masjid Husaynabad of Qum:

Khulba (invocation)Aya (Quranic verse): 0 believers, prescribed for you is the fast, even as itwas prescribed for those that were before you - haply you be God fearing[Sureh Baqare: 177].Du'a (prayer): That God help us avoid sin.Sa/awal (blessings upon the family of the Prophet)

The subject we were discussing yesterday was ghaybal (talking behindsomeone's back). Some friends suggested ... I should expand my com­mentary . . . I am also asked why I always give hadith and not qissa(stories). If I tell stories, people go to sleep. (Voice: No we won'L) Muslimsmay go to sleep; all things Muslims do is worship; sleep also is worship. Iwant to tell a story; now don't go to sleep ... [He tells the story of a Jewwho asks the Prophet the reasons for the Ramadan fast and the sevenanswers of the latter.]

A Muslim who fasts but after breaking his fast speaks ill of his fellowMuslim does as if he were eating the corpse of his fellow Muslim. Ghaybatis the food of the dogs of hell ... ghaybat-i kafir (speaking ill of anunbeliever) is unimportant, and even ghaybat-i Musa/man ghayr-i mu'min(speaking ill of Muslims who are not believers), who are not Shi' a, is unim­portant. If you slander them it is too bad, but no matter. God does not ac­cord them honor. Sure, non-Shi'a Muslims are clean according to the law(fiqh): we can marry with them. But in meaning (az Iihaz-i ma'na) there isno difference between them and unbelievers. Whoever does not love 'Alicounts equally with an unbeliever. It is only through politics that one saysthey are Muslims ... [Ghaybat i's forbidden to both speaker and listener.Telling lies is worse. If what you say about a third party is obviouslytrue - if he drinks openly or is openly an eater of usury, a nuzu/­khor-then commenting on it is permissible.]

Abdu'l-Salt Harawi [servant of Imam Reza] tells the riwayat that God orthe Prophet gave Imam Reza the five commands: the first thing you see in

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the morning, eat it; the second thing you see, hide it under the soil; thethird thing, accept it; the fourth thing, do not disappoint it; the fifth thing,run away from it.

The first thing Imam Reza saw was a large mountain. How shall I eat amountain? Still God would not order me to do something I cannot do, solet me go a bit closer. The closer he came, the smaller it got, until it was on­ly a bite and a tasty one at that. The second thing he saw was a goldenbowl; this he buried. The third thing was a small bird, which an eagle waschasing. He caught the bird. The eagle complained: I am a hunter and I'veexerted a lot of energy. So Imam Reza gave him something to replace thebird. The fifth thing was a stinking corpse, from which he ran away. Yes,there is a riwayat of Jarain that a back-biter and a liar's mouth give off abad smell such that even the angels are irritated. All the people on Judg­ment Day are irritated . . .

The next night God sent a message: Do you know what all this wasabout? The dead body from which you ran was ghaybat: whenever you seea corpse eater, do not let him continue. . . The mountain that got smallerwas anger (ghadab): You should swallow anger and joke it away fromothers; anger allows us to do all kinds of evil . . . The golden bowl: whenyou serve someone, hide it from others [poem of Sa'di]; if you dosomething for others, people will gradually learn of it, you don't have toblow your own horn. The bird was a good advisor: whenever you get goodadvice, grab it and pay attention. If someone is saying something good andyou are not dozing, send a sa/awol. (Audience: Salawat.) Don't let it in oneear and out the other ... Some of you take it in your ear and hold it, butwhen you leave the mosque you shake your head and pull your ear and it allfalls out ...

[He tells what a person he would be had he listened to all the good advicehe had ever received; he jokes about his age, with audience response; andhe relates a story about giving money to beggars even if most beggars are il­legitimate. He ends with the guriz (the turning to Karbala), a story of Hu­sain giving to a beggar, and finally with a rawda proper (versified version ofKarbala intended to draw tears).]

Ghaybat and the idle tongue inveighed against in this rawda are part ofa series of sins having to do with honor and reputation, sex roles, thefamily, and ultimately the harmony of society. One center of concern to­day is the challenge to male and female behavior patterns presented bythe issue of women's liberation. In the rawdas, women are enjoined to bemodest, to dress modestlY, and not to be zabandar (literally, "having atongue," flirtatious, exhibitionist). Men are enjoined to keep both theirgaze and their tongue chaste and to respect the honor of other men (thevirtue of ghayrat, conceived as a kind of male strength). There areseveral forms of honor protected by the religious code (bab-i diyasat) , in­cluding the honor of men which can be lost through the misbehavior oftheir women (namus). But honor can be jeopardized from attacks onreputation and status as well as on the bodily or sexual integrity of the

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family. 14 It can be imperiled by the tongue as well as by actions such asadultery or murder. Hence the frequent cautionings in rawdas thatcharges of adultery require direct witnesses; else they are punishableslander.

The ulama have formulated a defense of the Islamic position onwomen against the pressures of the Pahlavi government and middle classwomen to follow Kemal Ataturk and the West; see, for example,Motahhari (1353 Sh./1974), Nuri (1343 Sh./1965), Tabatabai (1338Sh./1960), Voshnui (1392/1972)"5 They begin by attacking the basis forthe emancipation movement as rooted in the peculiar experiences ofEurope and as destructive of social and psychological harmony. The in­dustrial revolution in Europe caused the atomization of social relations,the breakdown of family and village cooperation, migration to the citiesand increased sexual opportunities there, and consequently less need tomarry. World War I followed, causing an oversupply of women andforcing widows and unmarried women to work and work for low pay.The ulama argue that Iranian women did not undergo these experiencesand that demands for liberation are misplaced imitation of the West,even an imperialist trick of the West to sell European cosmetics and othersex-linked goods (Shariati n.d.: 26).

More important than that the proposed reorganization of male-femalerelations is being pursued for the wrong reasons is that regulation of sex­ual passion and morality is felt to be essential lest love, family, andpsychological equilibrium be destroyed. The argument ranges from theprimal power of passion to the aesthetics of love. Women and men, inthe great poet Maulana Rumi's image, are like water and fire; if there isno separation the water extinguishes the fire (Motaheri 1353 Sh./1974).Open display of female beauty leads men to mental illness through desir­ing more than they are allowed or able to have, and through the allegedill effects of masturbation, aggravated by the availability of explicitfilms, books, and magazines (Makarem 1350 Sh./1972). Free sex isempty sex, destroying both love and marriage as a family bond: wheresex is limited to husband and wife, marriage is the arena of sexualfreedom; where sex is not so limited, marriage becomes a restriction, aprison (Motaheri 1353 Sh./1974). Love is a volatile force which causes asmuch misery as joy; the misery is tragic or evil depending on how volun­tary the affliction. Ibn al-Qayyim (fourteenth century A.D.) likened loveto alcohol: the intoxication is involuntary, for it is the effect of alcoholon the body, but taking the first drink is voluntary (cited by Giffen1971). The intoxication of love leads to the overpowering of the rationalsoul ('aql) by baser nature (nafs); the ensuing madness can lead to sins ofincest, murder, suicide, and the enslavement of the self to another ratherthan only to God (islam). Veiling is a natural device of the female, not

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only for modesty but in the sexual game of the chased-chaser, spider-fly.Where in the West is love? Where in the modern West are to be foundtruly great love stories such as those of Layla and Majnun or Khusrawand Shirin?

Third, the ulama argue, Islam raised the status of women from that ofchattel to that of full persons with legal rights: women may work, de­mand wages, get inheritance, control property, choose their spouses, in­itiate divorce. And they point to legal disabilities of women in the West.A Muslim woman is required to be modest, but she is not technically re­quired to cover her face or hands; therefore she may engage in any ac­tivity and go any place a man may, but only up to the point of disturbingsociety by arousing desires.

Women are not-in the male ulama apologia-equal to men. They areafter all biologically different: they bear children, they menstruate, theyare more emotional. If they are more emotional, then society is better offif government, war, and justice are left to men. In household manage­ment the philosophy of Islam, says Tabatabai (1338 Sh./1960: 25): isthat one should keep management in the hands of the partner with morereason and spending in the hands of the partner with more emotion. Forthe consent necessary for a good marriage, both men and women must beable to choose their spouses and initiate divorce, but to give fully equaldivorce rights to emotional women would only drive up the divorce rates,an antisocial result. It is good for women to study, and there are learnedwomen who have taught men as well as women, but technically - say themale mujtahids - a woman may not become a mujtahid. Why'! To be areligious leader and model for others to follow, one must not be in­capacitated religiously, intellectually, or biologically. And, to quote thefamous sermon of the first Imam, 'Ali, 16

[Women] are deficient in faith, deficient in shares, and deficient in in­telligence. As regards the deficiency in their faith, it is their abstention fromprayers and fasting during their menstrual period. As regards deficiency intheir intelligence, it is because the evidence of two women is equal to that ofone man. As for the deficiency of their shares, that is because of their sharein inheritance being half of men. So beware of the evils of women. Be onyour guard even from those of them who are reportedly good. Do not obeythem even in good things so that they may not attract you to evils. (Qibla1972: 116-117)

All the apologia avoid the fact that Iranian society is changing.Perhaps it is not changing exactly as Europe did, but a transformationfrom a patrimonial-agricultural society to an industrial-technocratic oneis going on. In an agricultural society it is plausible to argue that men andwomen have different but equal roles which conform to the Islamicmorality revealed in 'Ali's sermon. When the sale of labor becomes thebasis of income and personal valuation, it becomes increasingly difficult

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to justify differential access to work and pay on the basis of sex. But, theapologists would argue, Islam does not do this: there is no reason for awoman not to work and not to get equal pay as long as she deportsherself with modesty. Indeed, say some of the religious young women,why all the hullabaloo about veiling: why should wearing a veil preventone from going to the university or driving a car?

There are two sources of confusion. First, the Pahlavi state was not asflexible as it might have been. It pressed for unveiling and gave little sup­port to young women who tried to work out solutions of modern Islamiclife styles. This was particularly the case in education, where conservativeparents frequently would take their daughters out of school after thesixth grade because the girls were forbidden to veil in school-and becausethey would be taught by men as well as women. Some semireligiousschools were established in a number of cities, where girls could veil andwere taught only by female teachers. But there was concern that theseschools, like all other private schools, gradually would be absorbed bythe state system. I 7

Second, the ulama were in practice much more conservative than theirmildly liberal statements implied. There was no real reason, for instance,that women should not be mujtahids if they were sufficiently learned.Yet the Risala-i Tawdih al-Masa 'il of all the current maraji' -i taqlid in­sisted that one may only be a muqalliid (follower) of a mujtahid who ismale (see Shariatmadari 1353 Sh./1975: 9; Khoi 1391/1971: 2). An in­teresting case in point was a woman in Isfahan, Banu Amin, author of arespected tafsir.

Informally she was called a mujtahid and she herself claimed the titleand claimed to have an ijaza (license) from Ayatullah Marashi-Najafi,among others. Upon reflection, however, most ulama said that technical­ly she could not be a mujtahid, 18 and they would cite the litany of femaleinferiorities starting with those in the sermon of 'Ali just quoted. YahyaNuri, a professor at the Theological Faculty of the University of Tehran,even cited the nineteenth-century argument that women statistically havesmaller brains hence less reason; and he gives a series of hadiths sup­porting the thesis that because women are emotional, justice, war andgovernment should be left to men (1343 Sh./1965: 268-270). Particularlyinteresting in the Banu Amin case is that although she claims the title ofmujtahid, she does agree that women are more emotional and thereforeshould not have fully equal rights of divorce (A. Betteridge, personalcommunication).

A more curious arena of personal morality is that of music and even,according to some, poetry. Why are they forbidden (haram)? This pro­hibition is particularly curious in a society that prides itself on its musicand poetry. The prohibition is traced to several Qur'anic verses (Hajj: 30;Luqman: 6; Furqan: 72; Asrar: 39) and their explanation in several

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hadith (see 'Alam al-Huda 1352/1977). The key terms are laghw (idletongue) and ghina' (song, pointless noise): one should not have an idletongue; songs arouse the emotions and thus, in one tradition attributedto the Prophet, are a preliminary to adultery. 19 The question then ariseswhether the call to prayer, rawdas, the chant of the Qur'an, and nawha(praises to God) are not music. To this the answer is the Qur'anic verse"Read the Qur'an prettily (tarti!)" and the hadith "He is not my followerwho does not read the Qur'an with- taghanni," where taghanni is said tobe a form of ghina (richness) not ghina' (song). Clearly the concernparallels that of reason in matters of law: just as one is not free to issueany opinion (fatwa) as one is in philosophy, so there is a distinction be­tween music that is disciplined and subordinated to intellectual andspiritual control and music for the sake of emotional expression.


The charges that the ulama have fallen behind the times and that theirtraining system and their mode of interpreting Islam need reform are notnew charges. Khomeyni, responding to Kasravi in 1943, established somecriteria for the acceptability of reformers:

There are good and bad in every occupation. The ruhani do need reformbut it cannot be done by someone illiterate like Reza Khan, who does noteven know whether ruhani is spelled with Jb or t [a he havvaz or a hehottll. All his attempts have been bad. He turned the Sepah Salar Mosqueinto the Danishkada-i Ma'qul va Manqul to train ruhanis for parliament,but he had them mix with unveiled women and they turned out badly ...Conditions for a reformer: a ruhani himself who knows the Course ofstudy; belief that ruhani are needed and religion is needed; pure intentionand not pursuing self-aggrandizement; wisdom and influence; that is, beingone of the first-rank ulama. (pp. 202-203)

In 1962 a group of Qum graduates and others met to discuss the needfor reform after the death of Ayatullah Borujerdi. They subsequentlypublished a volume of essays: Bahth-i darbara-i marja~iyyat varuhaniyyat (1341/1962). They argued for the establishment of somestronger form of collective leadership and for a strengthening of thehistorical understanding of hadith and ijtihad, subjects in which Boru­jerdi had had great interest. They demanded the modern mujtahids beconversant with contemporary problems (see especially Bazargan1341/1962: 112) and that specialization and division of labor, as ShaykhAbdol-Karim Haeri-Yazdi had earlier suggested, was a most reasonableway of helping them attain the necessary familiarity.

Borujerdi had called for a further codification and annotation of thehadith literature collected in Shaykh al-Hurr al-'Amili's Wasa 'il al-shi ~a(Methodology of Shi'ism). 'Amili had separated correct hadith fromquestionable ones; the further annotation was completed by Borujerdi's

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students as Tahdhib a/-wasa 'i! (Refinement of the Methodology). Boru­jerdi himself had constructed a table of generations of rawis (relators ofthe traditions), counting himself among the thirty-sixth generation, as away of codifying the chains of transmission. This presumably could leadto a better appreciation of the development of the religious sciences,against the charge that the ulama treated religion as totally ahistorical.The Qum graduates also gave some attention to the budgetary and cur­riculum problems of Qum (see chapter 3).

In 1959-1962 a group of ulama, including many of those laterrepresented in the Marja' iyyat va Ruhaniyyat volume, began to collectsome of their speeches in a journal called Guftar-i Mah (MonthlySpeeches). The speeches so collected were ones that reflected upon theneed to redefine Shi'ite positions vis-a-vis the contemporary world. Anoutgrowth was the establishment in northeastern Tehran of the Hu­sayniyya Irshad, a mosque and modern teaching facility that served as aforum for working out modern Shi'ite views. Around the same time, orsubsequently, other institutions were being founded such as the journalMaktab-i Is/am and the school, Dar al-Tabligh, of Shariatmadari inQum; the Kanun-i Bahth Wa Intiqad-i Dini (Center for Religious Discus­sion and Criticism) of Abtahi and Hasheminezhad in Mashhad; and latera Husayniyya Irshad in Shiraz under Mahallati, which was aborted whenthe Pahlavi government began to exert pressure on the original group inTehran. The discussions generated debate quite widely among religiousfolk, and a number of lay preachers as well as ruhani became prominentleaders: professors Mehdi Bazargan (thermodynamics), Ali Shariati(history), Morteza Motahhari (theology); and ruhani S. MahmudTaleghani, S. Mortaza Jazayeri.

Of these, Dr. Shariati emerged as the cynosure of attention. Firedfrom the University of Mashhad for his Islamic activities, he moved toTehran and organized classes in the Husayniyya Irshad, billing them asworking sessions toward an Islamic sociology. Trained at the Sorbonne,his intellectual terms of reference and use of examples are French - thushis use, already cited, of Algeria and Madagascar rather than Vietnam topoint to the moral failings of liberal democracy.2o Both the challenge tocreate an Islamic sociology and the claim that he embodied through histraining a direct dialogue with the latest thinkers of the West providedShariati with a vast audience, particularly among the religious youth inthe secular educational system, but also in the madrasas.

In perhaps his most popular work, Ummat wa Imamat (Communityand Leadership) (1351/1972), Shariati does three important things:

(1) He calls for rethinking the Islamic message. He states the need inthree ways. One needs to think about Islam in sociological terms ratherthan metaphysical terms. Islam has become like medieval Catholicism,negative toward life and full of alien beliefs; it needs a Protestant refor-

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mation. The methods of the old akhunds are no longer suitable; methodsare needed for new generations that can and will insist on thinking forthemselves.

(2) He attempts to introduce critical methods. He does a rough contentanalysis of the Qur'an to demonstrate that the Qur'an is primarily con­cerned with social rules rather than with details of worship.21 He does alinguistic-phenomenological analysis of key Islamic terms contrastingthem with Western concepts. For instance, in discussing the contrast be­tween politics and siyasat he tries to show that the Islamic terms for com­munity (ummat, imamat, from amm "decision to go") are dynamic in asense unlike all other terms for community: "nation," or those of com­mon birth; "class," or those of one life style; "society" (ijtima', jami'a),or those of one set; "race," or those of one body form; "tribe" (ta'i/a,qabila) or those who circumambulate (Iawa./) around one center or haveone goal (qibla), such as a common pasture-all these Shariati dismissesas static. The Imam or leader in Shi'ism is both a model to other men anda leader; he is not a hero created by the fantasies of men in their need toidentify with a powerful figure.

(3) He makes a preliminary political statement about the fundamentalopposition between Islam and the backward countries on the one sideand bourgeois democratic capitalism on the other. There is the assertionthat social reform is impossible in a democratic context and thus thestandard Shi'ite observation that Islam is not something created bypopular election but is a set of divine directives for a just society. There isalso the warning that Western models and exhortations are in the serviceof subordinating Islam and other third-world countries to the needs ofWestern capitalism. Here the mechanisms of underconsumption and ofalienation and assimilation are introduced, together with the analysis ofwomen's liberation as a form of colonial domination by the West.

These should be fundamental intellectual breakthroughs for modernistShi'ite thought: the emphasis on new responses for changing conditionsrather than the deadening insistence that Islam is timeless, ahistorical,and changeless; the possibility of comparative phenomenology whichcould allow an appreciation of other people's points of view rather thanthe traditional blinders "we are right, they are wrong"; and the possibilityof an analytic understanding of historical forces such as capitalist im­perialism. Further, one should remember that Shariati claimed only to beone Muslim trying to think things through, with all the impliedpossibilities for error and need for help from others. Indeed, accordingto the ulama, when Shariati first began, he made a large number of bla­tant mistakes (see table 5.1). For example, in the first version of Islam­shenasi (Islamic Studies) he tried to illustrate Islam's progressivedemocratic spirit by citing two Qur'anic verses which he said referred tothe election of the caliphs. The rejection of the election of the caliphs is a

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cardinal doctrine of Shi'ism, and so Shariati raised a furor. 22 Since thenhe has adjusted his formulations in accord with traditional Shi'ism23 andreevaluated his democratic liberalism.

The same sort of corrective process was not available regarding his useof Western ideas as the ulama provide for his Shi'ism. So what shouldhave been fundamental intellectual breakthroughs were vitiated by whatwas perhaps a necessity imposed by his audience to insist on the Islamicmonopoly over truth and in so doing to misrepresent non-Islamicthought. He failed, in other words, to provide the bridge between Islamand the basically secular thought not only of the West but also of thePersian ruling elite. By falsifying the outside world, he reinforced isola­tion and increased the possibilities for political demagoguery rather thanknowledgeable self-reliance.

For instance, it was unfortunate, but not surprising, that Shariatishould not rise above the popular theory of a Jewish conspiracy controll­ing Western capitalism. In describing how liberal democracy is made amockery by behind-the-scenes maneuvering, he asked rhetorically whyAmerican presidents were so friendly to the Jahudha-yi khar-pul (Jewswho have so much money they need a donkey to move it). There was lessreason to contrast Buddhism as worship of leaders who serve as brokersto escape the world with Islam as worship of God, with leaders as onlyguides (1350 Sh./1972: 78). What would be so humiliating to Islam aboutrecognizing that for Buddhists the Buddha is an exemplary model as theImams are for Shi'ites or that there are Muslims and Buddhists who wor­ship these extraordinary human figures? Again, why must Camus bedescribed as saying that since morality is an empty form of talk, oneshould enjoy oneself until death (p. 90), ignoring the onerous butpositive philosophy that makes man the sole moral agent and creator ofmeaning, particularly when this could be either contrasted to Islam's ad­vantage or incorporated in an Islamic framework of individual respon­sibility? Again and finally - though there are other examples - hadShariati never read Marx or was it deliberate falsification when he said hecould not forgive Marx and the socialists for their lack of concern aboutthe third world and for only worrying about getting the European lowerclasses a share in the profits of raping the third world?

To the uncharitable reader, Shariati displays a cavalier attitude towardfacts and consistent explanations. To the charitable reader, he is in a pro­cess of working out acceptable formulations. Thus the notion of third­world assimile as an emptied blind imitator clearly intrigues and bothershim, perhaps because (as a former friend of his caustically commented)he was a prime potential example. The assimiles clearly cannot provideleadership to their own countrymen, for they have become alienated andtools of the West. As in the past with prophets, so today, moral and in­tellectual leaders arise not from the nobles or priests, not from the

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assimile, but from the ordinary folk, from the masses. His examples arenot totally convincing - Leopold Senghor, Aime Caesire, FrantzFanon - all French-educated, elite, thinking people, but not exactly menfrom the masses who use their religion tenaciously (taasub) to shield theirpeople against cultural imperialism. Indeed Shariati admits his failure toconvince Fanon of the usefulness of Islam in this regard. Whereas inFarhang wa Ide%ji (Culture and Ideology, 1350/1971) Shariati says allthe prophets arose from the people, in Are, Inchunin Bud, Baradar (Yes,This Is How It Was, Brother, 1391/1971) he admits that all exceptMuhammad and his successor 'Ali were bought off by or were themselvesof the ruling class, as were the ruhani of Islam. That Muhammad is thechampion of the working class makes an interesting slogan, though ofdoubtful historical validity, just as is his claim (disputed by the ulama)that the Safavids completely remolded Shi'ism.

Despite all reservations, Shariati's call for reevaluation, self-reliance,and relevance was popular, and during the revolution it proved to be apowerful reference frame for ideological mobilization in which Kho­meyni could be seen as the leader arising from the masses, withoutthereby abdicating to clerical rule:

We need a leader like ['Ali] now. Our ruhani are as if they were in a dakhma(platform for exposing corpses) only concerned with worship. A newslavery had come under the name of freedom. Education, culture, sexualfreedom, consumption, are the slogans. But they have taken from us pur­pose and responsibility. We are like a water jug: pretty but empty and tak­ing in whatever is given us. We debate idiotically that this group doesnamaz with folded arms while that group does it with arms open; that thisone uses a muhr and that one does not. (1351/1972)

Ritual Drama and Popular Shi'ism

On the eve of 'Ashura (the tenth of Muharram) the city of Yazd throbswith activity -lantern lights, chanting, preparations - as did the camp ofImam Husayn on the desert battlefield thirteen centuries ago. The greatshrine, Imamzada Ja' far, its recently mirrored interior (a gift of the mer­chant Hajj Mohammad-Ali Rohanian) glittering and reflecting light, ispacked with people sitting, praying, weeping, and invol\ing divine aid.At each of the two town squares, Maydan-i Shah and Mir Chak Mak,there is a black-draped and mirrored naq/ (a huge, tear-shaped, woodenstructure, requiring a hundred men to lift it, representing the coffin ofHusayn). Groups of black-shirted young men (dastas) light candles thereand chant simple lines:

Shab-i 'Ashurast,Karbala ghawghast,Karbala che jur shin-ast,Shab-i akhir shab-ast

It is the eve of Ashura,Karbala is in commotion,How sandy is Karbala,It is the final evening.

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In the square by the shrine Shahzadeh Fazel other dastas, in parallel linesfacing each other, beat their backs with chains or beat their chests withopen palms and chant. From all "seventeen" neighborhoods, they paradethrough a tent decorated with printed cloth from Isfahan,24 keeping up asteady rhythm of flagellation and chanting. Many of these dastas pro­ceed to the house of Herati, the first great factory owner of Yazd, wherethey perform and are given financial contributions. Near another square,in the house of Golshan, and along Iranshahr street, ash-i Imam Husayn(a thick stew in the name of the martyr of Karbala) is brewed in hugecauldrons. In the Akbarabad neighborhood a sufra (feast with freshlyslaughtered sheep and rice) is given. In Bagh-e-Safa - a large forum onthe edge of town - a huge rawda is held for women only. Smaller rawdasare held in various neighborhood mosques. In the Husayniyya 'Arabha(the forum for refugees from Iraq), the pitch of flagellation by the dastasreaches such an emotional level that women are excluded, because themen strip themselves to the waist to beat themselves. 25

The naql is supposed to be carried at noon on Ashura, marking thethree-fold desecration committed by the army of Yazid under Shimr andIbn Sa' d: they shed the blood of the Imam, they shed his blood duringthe time for Friday noon prayer, they shed blood during the holy monthof Moharram when fighting is supposed to be suspended. In 1936 RezaShah outlawed the carrying of the naql in the city, the ceremony con­tinues in three large villages outside Yazd, accompanied by parades offloats representing the events of Karbala (see appendix for lists of floats).As in town, activities build to a climax during the first ten days ofMuharram. Each evening there are rawdas in the several neighborhoodmosques, consisting of a series of speeches lasting from ten minutes tohalf an hour each. At mid-evening lines of dastas form; beating theirbacks and chests in rhythm with their chanting, they lead the localassemblies to the central Congregational Mosque of the village, wheremore rawdas are read by more important preachers brought from as faras Tehran, punctuated from time to time by processions of dastas. On'Ashura (the tenth), the day Imam Husayn was martyred, crowds gatherfrom Yazd city and surrounding areas to watch the dastas, the floats,and finally at noon the carrying of the naql to the chant of "Husayn, Hu­sayn." Some men may still cut themselves on the forehead, although thisis illegal.

Meanwhile in town on 'Ashura Day, the Barkhordar Mosque (en­dowed by the industrialist of that name) becomes the focal center towhich all dasta groups come. On the edge of the town, in the Arestangraveyard, processions of people collect to march with standards andcarry two small naqls to their villages. Given the ulama's hostility toSufism, one of the interesting dasta groups is that of Posht-e-BaghNeighborhood, which is led by a darvish singing to the accompanimentof a flute:

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Baz divana shodamZanjir ku!

Man HusaynullahamTakfir ku!

Discourse and Mimesis

I've become ecstaticWhere are the chains?

I'm God's own HusaynCall me kafir [if you will]!

On the third day after Ashura, the Mulla Ismail Mosque, behind thebazaar, becomes the focal center for the dasta groups. This is the daythat the Bani Asad found the headless body of Husayn and buried it. Aspecial shovel-and-pick dasta, carrying mats and headless bodies, oftenwith a mourning lion putting straw on its head, chants: "The Bani Asadhave come to bury Husayn."

In 1932 Reza Shah outlawed the performance of passion plays (shabihand ta 'ziya) but in the villages of Yazd (and elsewhere in Iran) they arestill produced with greater or lesser elaborateness. Where they are mostelaborate, each night there is a play corresponding to the events of thatday thirteen centuries ago (see appendix). Although the followingdescription was written of events observed in India in the last century, itgives a flavor of the passion of Ashura:

The thronging visitors at first cover the whole area of the enclosure,laughing and talking like a crowd at a fair ... a signal is given ... muffledbeating of a drum in slow time, the measured beats becoming faster andmore faint, until step by step the people . . . are hushed . . . a moullahenters the pulpit and intones a sort of "argument" or prelude . . . uQ yeFaithful, give ear! and open your hearts to the wrongs and sufferings of HisHighness the Imam Ali, the vice regent of the Prophet, and let your eyesflow with tears" ... For a while he proceeds amid the deep silence of theeager audience, but as he goes on, they will be observed to be swaying toand fro, and all together; at first almost imperceptibly, but gradually with amotion that becomes more and more marked. Suddenly a stifled sob isheard, or a cry, followed by more and more sobbing and crying and rapidlythe swaying to and fro becomes a violent agitation of the whole assembly,which rises in a mass, everyone smiting his breast with an open hand, andraising the wild rhythmical wail of "Ya Ali! ai Hasan! ai Hussein! ai Hasan!ai Hussein! Hussein Shah!" As the wailing gathers force, and threatens tobecome ungovernable, a chorus of mourners, which has formed almostwithout observation on the arena, begins chanting, in regular Gregorianmusic, a metrical version of the story, which calls back the audience fromthemselves and imperceptibly at last soothes and quiets them again. At thesame time the celebrants come forward, and take up the "properties"before the tabut, and one represents Hussein, another ai-Abbas, hisbrother. (Pelly 1879: 1, xix)

This annual ritual drama in fact lasts the entire year. The Shi'ite calen­dar invests the entire year with meaning in terms of Karbala-relatedstories. This is clearest in the month of Ramadan, which in contrast withthe Sunni calendar has become a memorial for 'Ali, with preliminaries in

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the preceding month (Sha' ban) and intensification of activity during thelast ten days, the days of i'tikaf (retreat into prayer), ending with thegreat feast of 'Id-i Fitr; all of these moments are invested with specialShi'ite meaning. The fifteenth of Sha' ban is the night on which thenames of the living are written on the leaves of the tree of life, and theleaves that fall are those who will die in the coming year; but in Shi'iteIran, the fifteenth of Sha 'ban is also the birthday of the twelfth Imam.The days of i' tikaf, the last ten days of Ramadan, are dedicated to thememory of 'Ali and celebration for the gift of revelation of the Qur'an.

This process of systematizing and focusing attention on the parables of'Ali and Husayn can be seen elsewhere as well. Other aspects of Islamichistory are not necessarily denied, but emphasis is selective. The focus ison positive family relationships when discussing the family of theProphet, the five pure souls (Muhammad, Fatima, 'Ali, Husayn andHasan). During rawdas and ta' ziya, tears are most easily brought byreferring to parents seeing their children martyred, to orphaned childrencrying for their parents, and to siblings caring for one another. An­tagonistic family relationships are played down or left unexplored, withthe exception of the mother-in-law problem in the Disobedient Son pas­sion play collected by Lewis Pelly, although even here the Shi'ite explana­tions stress harmony. 26 Such family antagonisms as are recognized areexternal to the Prophet's family and are treated more as defects incharacter and faith than structural problems of the family. Thus 'A' isha,the vivacious young wife of the Prophet and daughter of Abu Bakr, car­ries on a feud with 'Ali for a variety of fairly obvious reasons; 27 but inShi'ite homelitics this conflict is reduced to admonitions about the properplace of women. To Western observers, much of the feuding over thecaliphate seems to be of a piece with the kinship relations between AbuBakr, 'Umar (both fathers-in-law of the Prophet), 'Uthman (son-in-lawof the Prophet, also from a clan whose leadership of the Quraysh wassurplanted by the Prophet's grandfather), and 'Ali (son-in-law andcousin of the Prophet). Even Shimr, an archvillain without redeemingfeatures, is maternally related to 'Abbas, the loyal half-brother of Hu­sayn.

If one compares the story of Joseph in the Bible with the same story inthe Qur'an and as it is elaborated in the passion plays, one sees this pro­cess at work. In the Bible, family antagonisms are open and complicated:Joseph creates difficulties by favoring one son; the story is alreadygrounded in a legacy of intrigue by Jacob and his mother in getting thebirthright from Isaac; Joseph's brothers clearly wrestle with ambivalentfeelings: jealousy and hatred of Joseph, yet guilt and desire merely to gethim out of the way, plus love of but annoyance at their father. In theQur'an and the passion plays, this is all simplified: only Joseph's seconddream occurs and it is interpreted by Jacob; the dream is a significant

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one - a message from God - hence the jealousy of the brothers is a defectin faith and lack of submission to the will of God; Joseph is very muchaware of the jealousy of his brothers and has to be repeatedly assured bythem of his safety before he agrees to accompany them.; Jacob has to becajoled to let Joseph go; there is foreknowledge on the part of bothJoseph and Jacob, a sense of sacrifice being demanded like that de­manded of Abraham and Ishmael, and an explicit reassurance by Gabrielthat the sacrifice and suffering demanded of them is nothing comparedwith what will be demanded of the family of the Prophet at Karbala; thefailure in faith and duty of the brothers is underlined in their refusal togive Joseph water, as Shimr would refuse water to the family of Husaynat Karbala. In the passion plays the parallel is taken one step further: themartyrs of Karbala, especially Husayn, refer to themselves as Josephswhose coats/bodies are rent by wild wolves and besplattered with blood,but who will themselves go on to be viziers in the next world, able to in­tercede for their people. Although it is worked out somewhat differently,it is interesting that in the Jewish rabbinic tradition, too, willingness tobe sacrificed and suffer as a sign of obedience to God becomes the inter­pretation of the Joseph story.28

These comparisons of codification - Sunni, Shi' a, biblical, qur'anic,rabbinic - provide an initial access to the processes of keeping religionmeaningful. There is a dynamic of rationalization - explaining the storiesethically and systematizing them. Indeed a major claim of Islam over theJudaeo-Christian tradition is that the Bible is full of contradictions andof allegations of sin against the messengers and upholders of God's law,indicating (to the Muslim) falsification of the divine book. But that isonly step one. Step two is the provision in Islam of the proper versionwithout the contradictions. On the other hand, rationalization has alimited claim on the mind; after a point, what once were complexmultifaceted stories illuminating reality in a variety of ways becomelifeless formulas of dogma and ultimately decay into obsolescence. Thisis the charge of the white-collar reformers (and their allies among theulama) such as Ali Shariati and Engineer Bazargan, and, in the sametradition earlier, Zeynol-Abedin Rahnema, the author of what was in the1930s considered an audacious and impertinent, nigh blasphemous,biography of the Prophet (treating the story as one would any popularbiography).

The sources of creativity and maintenance of vitality require twodimensions of investigation: historical and ethnographic.Ethnographically, one can make only two points through evocativedescription and citing of native opinions. First, one source of vitality isthe embodiment of the stories in popular drama and ritual: the events ofMuharram and Ramadan; the weekly meetings (hay'at madhhabl) topractice madh and nawha (songs of praise), prayers (like the beautiful

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du'a Komeil), chants to be used by dastas, Qur'an reading and the ac­tivities of the gymnasiums (zurkhana). This can be elaboratedsociologically in terms of who participates and who provides patronagefunds; but to get a sense of the importance of this sociological informa­tion one needs a historical-comparative perspective.

Second, ethnographic analysis can suggest how the Karbala story, forinstance, pulls together in a universal way anxieties and sufferings onseveral dimensions and attempts to present acceptable solutions. Tocreate a sense of universality, certain images and metaphors are stressedto connect the entire history of the world to Karbala. Thus Adam stepsdown upon the plain of Karbala and cuts his toe, losing some blood; he istold that this is a foreshadowing of the blood of martyrdom his descen­dants will suffer here. The heat and thirst suffered at Karbala by thefamily of Husayn are compared to the heat and thirst on Judgment Dayand paralleled by Abraham's ordeal by fire. The willingness of Abrahamto sacrifice Ishmael parallels the sacrifice of Muhammad's son Ibrahim,the self-sacrifice of 'Ali, and the martyrdom of Husayn. Through suchidentifications and the foreknowledge that prophets are assumed to have(stemming in part from their creation before all other creation - the doc­trines of the light of Muhammad and the luminous virgin birth of Hu­sayn to Fatima), one can go back and forth between stories. In the ver­sion of the seizure of the caliphate by Abu Bakr collected by Pelly (1879)'Ali foretells to Fatima what will befall the family, using a technique ofpairing the indignities and pain he and Fatima will suffer with those ofHusayn at Karbala:

Two necks will be pierced by arrows: 'Ali's neck is only so threatened by'Umar; Husayn's neck will be pierced.

Two heads will droop in chains: 'Ali is dragged before Abu Bakr by'Umar; Zayn-al 'Abidin is dragged to Damascus before Yazid.

Two sides will be hurt: Fatima, when 'Umar forces the door against her,falls down; Husayn, when his side is pierced by a dagger, will roll inagony from side to side.

Two arms will be broken by flogging: Fatima's by 'Umar's whip; Zay­nab's by Shimr.

Two hands will be cut: both belonging to 'Abbas.Two marriages will be funerals: Fatima's wedding at which seventy-two

camels were slain; Qasim's at which seventy-two people were slain.

Death, suffering, political injustice, poverty, kinship emotions, honorand group identity, need for expiation - all these strings are plucked.Death is a welcome escape from a world of tribulation, if one is good anda partisan of Husayn. Being a partisan of Husayn means not onlywitnessing but active work, which holds the promise, as a Christian couldput it, of creating the Kingdom of God on Earth and by attempting that,

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even in failure, of achieving personal redemption. The crying and dastaflagellation represent both the expiation of the sins of the Kufans (allShi'ite sinners) who sold out Husayn and a continuous funeral for themartyr of Karbala, who was not given a proper burial, and for his idealswhich were never implemented. The perseverence of his family withoutfood and ~ater and the similar perseverence of his parents under similarcirc*mstances are models for the believers and badges of their moralidentity. For Yazid to drag Zaynab off to Damascus uncovered anddisheveled is an attack on the honor of the Prophet's family, but one thatis defeated by Zaynab's heroic steadfastness and leadership. As the suf­ferings of the various characters of the family are related, people say theyrecall the trials and sufferings of their own beloved relatives and friends.

It would be of interest to be able to trace the ebbs and flows in theusage of the Karbala story in different historical periods so as to estimatethe effects of royal and local elite patronage as contrasted with effectsof ulama or popular elaboration. Unfortunately, the availablehistoriography is only sketchily suggestive. There are claims that themourning for Husayn runs very deep in Persian culture, going back to apre-Islamic mourning for the hero Siavush. In Abbasid times, the poetSudayf read marthiyas (dirges) about Husayn to the Caliph Saffah,which so worked up the caliph that he had Umayyad bodies cut up intolittle pieces and ate lunch over them (Javahir-Kalam: 1335/1956:20).Singing the virtues of 'Ali (manaqib-khwanl) was a Shi'a propagandatechnique in Buyid times, and the Buyids also supported ta' ziya. In theSeljuq period, manaqib-khwani on the part of Shi'ites was countered bySunni fada 'il-khwans who extolled Abu Bakr and 'Umar at the expenseof Shi'ites. The passion plays apparently began to flower in the seven­teenth century under the Safavids, and were supported by the Qajarswho built a royal tekke (stage) for their performance in Tehran.Fath-' Ali Shah had his personal rawda-khwan, Mulla 'Abbas Gharqi,who read rawdas on Friday eve. There are a number of famous rawda­khwans in the Nasiruddin Shah period, and stories of competitionamong them. In one such story, when Hajj Mulla Aqa came out of theTekke Hajj Mulla 'Arab in Tehran, he found that his rival had stolen hishorse so that he could not proceed to his next engagement. He thereforebegan to sing the Rawda Dhu'l-Jinah (the horse of Husayn) in the street,and all the people poured out of the tekke leaving the rival alone inside;the rival found another horse to send Mulla Aqa on his way. The Pahlavidynasty was hostile to these activities, although in the early years of hisreign, Mohammad Reza Shah gave financial support to a number of thetwenty named hay'at-i 'azadari (mourning groups) of Qum.

It is clear that over the past centuries royal and local elite (like themerchant-industrial elite mentioned for Yazd: Herati, Ruhanian,Barkhorda) patronage has been involved in ta' ziya or 'azadari (mourn-

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ing ceremonies), though to varying extents; but one can only speculatethat one effect may have been a kind of sublimation of discontents in anonpolitical direction. During the 1940s and early 1950s Herati waspainted by the Tudeh party as an archenemy of the people, a Mercedes­driving capitalist exploiter; cartoons showed him dropping his workersinto a meat grinder to squeeze out their lifeblood. It would be of interestto know whether dastas paraded to his house during Muharram in thosedays as they did as late as 1975. Obversely, the emotional power of'azadari is revealed not only in tales such as that of Caliph Saffah but inthe fact that many "religious" riots that can be explained as expressionsof fairly concrete economic, social, and political discontents., weretouched off in the two months of intense 'azadari, Muharram andRamadan (see Fischer 1973: appendix 1).

Some of this dual potential can be illustrated in the now dying celebra­tion of the death of 'Umar. Effigies were constructed of 'Umar withwood, straw, cloth, donkey turds, firecrackers; neighborhoods wouldcompete to make more impressive effigies, and obscene verses would becomposed (see Fischer 1973: 302-304). The effigies would eventually beburned, and in towns with Sunni inhabitants, such as those along theGulf, this often led to fighting. l'he ulama, however, often tried to turnthe date into a moral lesson, saying in their preaching that burning'Umar in effigy was not right, for "You people may be worse than'Umar: you lie, you fornicate, you sin as he never did; 'Umar at timeswas just and good, his main sin was merely that he wanted to be caliph soba~ly he ignored the divine right of 'Ali (haqq-i 'Ali zir-i pa kard)." Apopular rawda for the day is constructed around the hadith that hewhom God loves must wait longest for an answer to a prayer: when anevil person raises his head in supplication, the angels ask God to give himwhat he wants that he may put his head down again, whereas when agood person raises his head in supplication, the angels wish to gaze uponit. There is then a guriz (turning) to a rawda of Fatima, wherein it is toldthat when 'Umar struck her by opening the door into her side, she cursedhim, but it took eighteen years for him to die.

Much of the 'azadari activity is organized by the various hay'at-imadhhabi (religious circles), often led by bazaar merchants or organizedaround neighborhood mosques. One interesting minor development ofthe Shi'ite drama during the 1970s was the addition of legends surround­ing the figure of Ayatullah Khomeyni. It is said that when he was first in­vited to join the Qum hawza, he did a simple divination (istikhara) withthe Qur'an and it indicated that he would die in Qum, sign enough thathe should move there. Khomeyni's followers took this as evidence thatalthough exiled to Iraq, he would return to Qum, for he was fated to diethere; and indeed he did return in 1979. This waiting for the return of themarja '-i taqIid led to elaborations of similarities between "Imam" Kho-

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meyni and the awaited twelfth Imam, who will usher in an era of justicebefore the final judgment.

The social context of the ulama can be stated in terms of religious styleand in terms of class linkages; putting the two together, one can indicatea shift over time in the social position of the ulama. They represent astyle of discourse that contrasts with that of the religious upper class(which is more individualistic, internalized, privatized) and with that ofpopular religion (which is more communal, activity oriented, less in­tellectual). The rawda, however, is a key form that articulates thescholastic learning of the ulama with the popular belief; the rawda is, asKhomeyni defined it (1363/1943: 173), an assembly for moral lessons orlessons for living. Even there, however, interpretation of belief is not apure ulama prerogative but occurs in a social dialectic, informed in partby the dramaturgic ordering of the Karbala story.

A case in point is rapprochement with Sunnis. In many rawdas, defin­ing Sunnis as not true Muslims has been standard rhetoric. Indeed somepreachers have built reputations on being able to successfully debateSunni and other alien religious leaders: S. Mohammad Soltan-ol-Vaezin(d. 1971) and Mohammad-Ali Ansari are two contemporary examples.Even if the festival of 'Umar's death has been in decline in recent years,cursing 'Umar's name has not. Of the three illegitimate caliphs, he issingled out because he finessed Abu Bakr's election, he threatened 'Aliand Fatima, and it is popularly believed that under his leadership Iranwas invaded by the Arabs. The cursing of 'Umar is connected to the ac­tivity of scholarly ulama who collect hadith from Sunni sourcesdemonstrating 'Ali's claim. The greatest of these collections is Shaykh'Abd al-Husayn Amini Tabrizi's ai-Qadir (The Almighty). The grouparound Ayatullah Marshi-Najafi, called Lajna-i Ihqaq al-Haqq (namedafter the great work Ihqaq al-Haqq by Marashi's ancestor Qadi Shushtari(d. A.D. 1610), has continued this work.

It is true that at various times the maraji' -i taqlid have voicedecumenical feelings toward Sunnis, most formally expressed throughBorujerdi's ability to get the Rector of al-Azhar in Cairo, ShaykhShaltut, to admit Shi'ism into the curriculum as a valid madhhab orschool of Islam, a remarkable one-way agreement. In general, one feelsthe occasional ecumenical advances to be that part of the philosophy oftaqiyya (dissimulation) which demands that one not stress ritualistic dif­ferences when there are common goals, but that one continuenonetheless to argue out in a friendly way the underlying differences.Hence the ulama's negative reaction to Ali Shariati's suggestion that oneconsider Sunni and Shi'ite history together as one glorious drama (seeTable 5.1 for some of Shariati's mistakes in dogma); hence also Shariat­madari's explanation at the opening of the Dar al-Tabligh that one ra-

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tionale for the school was the need to send missionaries to non-Shi'iteMuslim communities; and the concern by the ulama over the Pahlavigovernment's attempts to alter the basic Shi'ite credo in the religious textsfor secular schools in a way that would reduce the antagonism toSunnis. 29

If the rawda served to articulate the learning of the ulama with popularbelief, the efforts of modernizers such as Shariati served a similar func­tion in articulating the discourse of the ulama with that of the modernmiddle and upper classes. By focusing on this articulation and its dif­ficulties one can see an emerging shift in the relative political strengths ofthe class constituencies of religious spokesmen, from land­owners in the 1950s and the bazaar bourgeoisie in the 1960s to themodern middle classes in the 1970s. One can argue that at least until1978, the ulama's claims that Islam had rules for all aspects of life wasbut an expressive, generalized stance providing few positive alternativeprograms to those of the government. The ulama saw themselves asguardians of social morality, as social critics, not as planners.Nonetheless, on occasion the ulama took specific stands - for instance,against land reform in the early 1960s on the grounds that it would hurtsmall landowners (Milani), religious endowments (Behbahani), or thebazaar through competition of the proposed cooperative societies (Kho­meyni). In his study of the 1963 opposition to the White Revolution, Ah­mad Ashraf (1971) divides the ulama into spokesmen for the landownersand spokesmen for the bazaar bourgeoisie. In the former group he listsBorujerdi, Behbahani, Khonsari, Tonkaboni, and Amoli; in the latter,Khomeyni, Milani, and Shariatmadari. The second group, Ashrafargues, "never attacked the government on the issue of land reform" butonly on the dictatorial methods of the shah; he cites in support the call inthe "clandestine tract" of the Council of United Muslims: "The estatesand wealth of the majority of the ruling class have been acquired throughillegitimate means. Thus after vigorous investigation their wealth shouldbe confiscated and the shares of public factories should not be transfer­red to the landowners [as compensation for land reform]."

The complaints against dictatorship, the feelings against forcedchanges in male-female relationships, the slogans of right to privateproperty and right to earn an honest living in trade, all transcended par­ticular land- or bazaar-linked interests. The middle class's desire forpolitical participation and a stable commercial environment not subjectto capricious shifts in policy and bribery requirements found expressionthrough these same complaints voiced by the ulama. And if today Kho­meyni still seems to represent an older terminology and constellation ofinterests, other leaders such as Shariatmadari and Taleghani seem tospeak out more clearly for interests of the bazaar bourgeoisie, themodern commercial class, and the white collar professionals. These latter

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groups have their own spokesmen, both secular and religious: MehdiBazargan, the late Ali Shariati, and a large group of younger men, aswell as the secular National Front. It was largely in this ideological spaceof the new and old middle classes that the revolution of 1977-1979 wouldbe fought.

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6The Revolutionary Movement

of 1977-1979

Revolutions are not made. They come. A revolution is asnatural a growth as an oak. It comes out of the past. Its foun­dations are laid back in history.

- Wendell Phillips, American abolitionist

ON JANUARY 16,1979, the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, wasforced from throne and country for the second time. He left be­hind a government headed by an opponent, Dr. Shapur Bakh­

tiar, much as in 1953 he had fled the country leaving Dr. MohammadMosaddegh in charge. On February 1, Ayatullah Sayyid RuhollahMusavi Khomeyni triumphantly returned to Iran after sixteen years ofexile, vowing to institute an Islamic republic. An Islamic republic wouldbe modeled on the just government of the third Imam, 'Ali, not on the in­appropriately named and self-styled "Islamic" governments of contem­porary Libya, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia. The Islamic model of govern­ment in the absence of a divine Imam involved consultation to establishwhat is just, not a military or monarchical dictatorship. On February 11,the government of Dr. Bakhtiar collapsed. Ayatullah Khomeyni'spremier-designate, Engineer Mehdi Bazargan, moved into the officialchambers of government and appointed a seven-man cabinet. OnFebruary 16, the former commander of the secret police, SAVAK,General Nematollah Naseri, was executed by a revolutionary court underAyatullah Khomeyni, together with three other top generals who hadserved the shah. Recognition of the new government came from Pakistanand the Soviet Union, then from others, including the United States andMorocco. l

The social drama of 1977-1979 had been rehearsed many times, and itresonated with many associations of the past. It was a completion of the1906-1911 Constitutional Revolution; throughout the year, the revolu­tionaries had invoked the constitution, which had been set aside in all butname by the Pahlavi regime. It was a fulfillment of the Mosaddegh inter-


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1979 revolutionary poster done in classical Persian miniature style, portrayingAyatullah Sayyid Ruhullah Musavi Khomeyni in the role of a Moses victoriousover the evil pharaoh, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (with broken crown andsword, hanging on to the coattails of imperialism: an Uncle Sam with American,British, and Israeli insignia). The verses say (upper right): "We said: Fear not!Lo, thou art the higher" (Qur'an 20:68); "Go thou unto Pharaoh! Lo, he hathtransgressed" (Qur'an 20:24); "He [God] said: Cast it down, 0 Moses! So hecast it down, and, 10, it was a serpent, gliding" (Qur'an 20:19·20). The single linebelow reads: "There is a Moses for every Pharaoh" (not a Qur'anic line). To theleft the verses read: "In that day their excuses will not profit those who didinjustice" (Qur'an 30:57); "Theirs is the curse and theirs the ill abode" (Qur'an13:25). A hell of tortures is portrayed in the upper left.

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regnum of 1952-53, which had nationalized oil in an attempt to establishan Iranian sense of independence and self-direction. Both Dr. Bakhtiarand Engineer Bazargan had served with Mosaddegh; the leadership ofthe National Front, which had backed Mosaddegh, was incorporated inthe Bazargan cabinet. 2 It was also a vindication of the 1963 popular in­surrection against the shah's White Revolution, a fifteenth of Khordadwrit large; Khomeyni had become a major symbol of opposition to theshah in 1963, and his vindication became the rallying point of the revolu­tion. Finally, it was the ultimate passion play of the Karbala paradigm,shifting from a passive witnessing of weeping for Husayn and waiting forthe twelfth Imam to an active witnessing of fighting and working for theoverthrow of tyranny. For years in rawdas the shah had been identifiedwith the archtyrant Yazid, whereas Khomeyni was seen to uphold theideals of Husayn. In 1978, during Muharram, the religious leadershipcalled for marches instead of the traditional mourning processions. Asthe passion of the year increased, more and more people called Kho­meyni "Imam Khomeyni"; and the religious dates of the year becamestaging times for major demonstrations.

The crucial fourteen months of 1977-1979 can be described as a socialdrama3 or as a successful passion play. But these fourteen months werealso a transformative event. Shi'ite preaching had been honed into ahighly effective technique for maintaining a high level of consciousnessabout the injustice of the Pahlavi regime and for coordinatingdemonstrations. The Karbala paradigm helped unite disparate interestgroups into a mass movement against an entrenched tyranny. But oncethe tyranny was removed, a new rhetorical discourse was required. Forthat, as Bazargan and Khomeyni both pointed out, one had to shift tothe earlier portions of the paradigm of the family of the Prophet and tothe principles of social justice associated with the name 'Ali. This newdiscourse had been pioneered fifteen years earlier by Mehdi Bazargan,the other contributors to Bahth-i darbara-i Marja'iyyat wa Ruhaniyyat(Study of Religious Leadership and the Clergy) (Tabatabai et al. 1341Sh./1962), the late Dr. Ali Shariati (d. 1977), and the others associatedwith the Husayniyya Irshad. It was particularly Shariati who managed toinstill an enthusiasm among the youth of Iran for an Islamic ideologicalrevolution and liberation. The Bahth-i darbara-i Marja' iyyat waRuhaniyyat effort had been largely a call for reforming the clergy, forthrowing off the scholasticism and stagnation of the past, and formodern interpretations of Islam that would be directly relevant to thepolitical and social problems of society.

Shariati's call had little to do with the clergy. It was a call for Muslimsto think for themselves, to rediscover true Islam. The idiom was one ofrejecting thirteen centuries of corrupted Islam and returning to theoriginal purity of an Islam of social justice. An important part of the ef-

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fort was taking key theological and traditional terms, and giving themmodern, ethical, and socially progressive interpretations. There was anintense rejection of referring to anything that had happened in the past asbeing representative or illustrative of Islam (except for the social justiceof 'Ali and the universalism of Muhammad). A sectarian fervor accom­panied the new discourse, making its partisans divide people into friendsand opponents. It was, in sum, a call for a new discourse in the sense thatFoucault has nicely formulated: "We must conceive discourse as aviolence that we do to things, or, at all events, as a practice we imposeupon them" (1972: 229).

With the revolution of 1979, this call for a new discourse suddenlyachieved a credibility and coherence it could not achieve previously: thatis, a compellingness derived from power. The revolutionaries further­more claimed that the revolution itself was a purifying event for the par­ticipants. There are several senses in which this might be true. Accordingto the old Soviet and Israeli theory, the praxis of revolution creates thenew man. According to the Fanon theory, colonized peoples can throwoff their mentality of inferiority only through a violent self-liberatingact. But whatever truth either of those theories might contain, a third,and indubitable, truth is that political victory requires a spelling out inpolitical and institutional terms of what previously could be left in vaguephilosophical and moral language.

What the new discourse of the Islamic republic will look like remainsto be worked out. All that can be said at the beginning of the process isthat Ayatullah Khomeyni, a conservative, midwifed what is, one hopes,the bourgeois revolution begun in 1905 and attempted again in 1952; andthat Dr. Ali Shariati midwifed a new revolutionary discourse, which, likeMoses, he was not allowed to live to experience.

The Social Drama: Political Liberation


For a century, religiously phrased protest has been a regular feature ofthe relation between the Iranian state and its citizenry. The political ar­ticulateness of these protests has varied. Among the more articulate havebeen movements such as the Constitutional Revolution and the NationalFront activity of the 1940s in which Islamic protest was allied withsecular reform movements that included members of the religiousminorities. Among the less articulate protests have been riots against theminorities seen as symbols of foreign exploitation and attacks on Islam,such as the riots around the turn of the century and the 1955-56 riotsagainst Bahais. The movement of 1977 to 1979 was one of the articulateexamples, but one that, because of the political repression of the 1970s,

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was fought entirely in the Islamic idiom. What produced the Islamicform of the revolution was not Islamic revivalism so much as repressionof other modes of political discourse.

This assertion can perhaps be substantiated to some extent by review­ing in summary fashion the Islamic phrasing in protest movements overthe past century. 4 At the turn of the century protests against financial in­debtedness to the British and Russians and against economic concessionsto foreigners often took the form of riots against religious minoritieswho were seen as clients and agents of the European powers. SOftenstaged during Ramadan (a month of rededication to Islam) and Muhar­ram (a month of contemplating the vulnerability of Islam and the need toaid Husayn as the Kufans had not), these riots were frequently directedby the ulama as a way of demonstrating their power against the state.Such demonstrations were conceded to stem from frustration.

When their letters and telegrams to the shah itemizing their dis­contents - spread of Bahaism, increasing numbers of Europeans inthe administration, contracting of foreign loans, flight of gold fromIran - got through and received some response, the ulama were capableof counseling patience. Thus, a message to the ulama and Muslims ofIran from four of the leading mujtahids of the day counseled thatforeigners were to be protected, that suppression of liquor and ofBahaism were to be left to the government. But when their letters were ig­nored, they were quite capable of inciting riots, making threats - "We~ill remove the present dog [shah] and put another dog in his place,"said Mujtahid Sharabiani in 19036 - and using fatwas of impurity and ex­communication. In 1891-92 tobacco was declared unclean, forcing acancelation of the tobacco concession to a British firm. In 1903 tariffswere declared unclean because they included a duty on wine and spiritsinstead of outlawing them, and a writ of excommunication was preparedagainst the prime minister. Committees of ulama condemned Bahais todeath for heresy against Islam, and in the case of the great massacre ofBahais in Yazd in 1903, there was a public ritual of performing execu­tions in the several major public spaces of the city. In the 1920s, Muslimsrecruited by the British to help suppress rebellion in Iraq were declared tobe kuffars, to be unclean, and not to be accorded Muslim burial.

Under Reza Shah in the 1930s, the old Qajar economy was reorganizedinto a self-reliant and nationalistic system; thus the direct connection be­tween foreign domination and local minorities was lost, and the form ofprotests no longer used the minorities as hostages. There was a deter­mination not to contract foreign loans, mercantile capital was no longerallowed to freely go abroad, merchants were forced to invest in statemonopolies, and taxes were experimented with to generate income forthe state. Consequently both the problems of the country and the form

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of popular protest were different from those in the preceding period.Taxes became increasingly regressive, and the printing press was increas­ingly resorted to. 7

Part of Reza Shah's modernizing nationalism was a secularist attackon traditional dress and on the ulama, symbols of Islamic backwardness.In 1935-36 a campaign was launched to have people adopt Europeandress. These issues and problems - the tax burden, the tightening of thedictatorship, the dress code, and the attacks on Islam - elicited the pro­tests culminating in the Mashhad riot of 1935. In this case the rawda wasused at the direction of Ayatullah Qummi to provoke people to expressprotest and to provoke the government into an inappropriate andoutrageous response. The police were seen as invading a religiousmeeting; the order to shoot inside the sacred shrine was seen as an ex­traordinary violation and exposure of an irreligious regime. The Karbalaroles of the victimized Muslims and the tyrannical king were confirmed,and the people chanted, "Husayn, save us from this shah."

The legacy of these two sets of riots carryon into the present. The issueof the dress code has been reduced to a minor but symbolically potenttheme in the struggle over the place of women in Iranian society. In 1977,women who attempted to register for class at the University of Tehranwearing a chador were refused; the issue of the right of hijab (modesty)became rekindled, with many women who otherwise would not wearchadors, turning up in them. The right to choose was at issue, so during1978 the chador at universities became a symbol of protest against dic­tatorship in general. Women at the University of Isfahan were evenreported to put the chador on to demonstrate at the University but totake it off when going out onto the streets to champion women's libera­tion.

More insidious is the legacy of attacking minorities, which carried oninto the 1970s as a kind of daily petty terror. As late as 1970 in the townof Yazd public water fountains were reserved for Muslims only, barbersrefused to serve non-Muslims, public baths had separate facilities fornon-Muslims, glasses in which tea was served to non-Muslims had to bewashed with special thoroughness, and many Muslims would refuse toaccept tea from non-Muslims. Petty desecrations of graveyards andshrines of non-Muslims were also normal adolescent behavior. Such ter­rorism makes it hard for non-Muslims to be enthusiastic about politicalprotest in Islamic idiom, however much the political protest may bejustified. This is particularly the case when the Risalas (explanatory textson problems of religion) of the Shi'ite mujtahids insist that the touch of anon-Muslim is najis (an impurity). Theologically, all this restrictionmeans is that a Muslim must wash before praying. But at times of irrita­tion and conflict, it is turned into a rule of social exclusion. Of all theminorities, Bahais are the most vulnerable, partly because they are stillconsidered by Muslims to be heretical schismatics rather than followers

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of a separate religion and partly because the idiom of Bahaism is so closeto that of Islam that it denies the normal construction of significance thatMuslims place on their idiom. It was this fact that allowed Bahaism in itsearlier more aggressive form, Babism, to appeal to so many Muslims,spread so rapidly, and hence become such a perceived threat.

In 1955 and 1956 the inarticulate antiminority form of riot broke outagainst Bahais. The context was the economic difficulties in the after­math of the collapse of the Mosaddegh government, the roundup ofMosaddegh supporters, especially on the left, and the effort to buy offright-wing Islamic opposition represented by Ayatullah Kashani and theFida'iyyan-e Islam, a political assassination group. The preacher ShaykhMohammad Taghi Falsafi was allowed to use the radio during Ramadanto whip up hysteria about a Bahai threat to take over the country. Themilitary governor of Tehran, Teimur Bakhtiar, participated with Falsafiin destroying the tilework on the Bahai temple in Tehran; and PrimeMinister Alam told parliament that Bahai activities would be outlawed inIran. Mrs. Teimurtash told the United Nations on behalf of the Iraniandelegation that there were no Bahais in Iran. Ayatullah Borujerdi gavehis blessings, meanwhile, to Falsafi's activities. Eventually, when thegovernment reestablished control, it protected rights of all citizensequally while maintaining the fiction that Bahais did not exist. 8 AMuslim organization shadowed people to Bahai meetings and kept listsof suspected Bahais; whether or not religious leaders such as AyatullahMahallati approved of such activities, they knew about them and didnothing to discourage them. It is therefore not surprising that a numberof anti-Bahai incidents occurred in 1978 and 1979.

Once Mohammad Reza Shah secured his rule in the 1950s the form ofprotest remained relatively stable, consisting of university studentdemonstrations, occasional strikes, and preachers using the rawda form.The 1963 demonstrations against the imposition of the White Revolutionduring the suspension of parliament came after three years of economicdepression with high levels of unemployment and low levels of invest­ment, and after election rigging had become so blatant that even the shahhad to acknowledge it and annul the elections of 1960. In 1961 studentsand the National Front demanded annulment of the 1961 elections on thesame grounds as in 1960, teachers struck for higher pay, AyatullahsBehbahani and Borujerdi opposed land reform, and a National Frontdemonstration to commemorate Mosaddegh's accession to power in 1952was met with tanks and troops. In 1962 there were student demonstra­tions and the army invaded the University of Tehran, causing thechancellor, Dr. Ahmad Farhad, to issue a celebrated letter of resignationciting the unheard of "cruelty, sadism, atrocity, and vandaiism" visitedby the troops upon the students. A roundup of opposition figures fol­lowed. In November 1962 the ulama launched a concerted set of protestsagainst the Local Council Election Bill because of its enfranchisem*nt of

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women and failure to mention the Qur'an. There were demonstrations onthe eve of the referendum of the White Revolution and again on Nawruz(March 21) in Tabriz, Qum, Tehran, Shiraz, and Mashhad; hundredsdied in Tabriz and Qum, and the Qum theological schools were invadedby the army. In April came further demonstrations. Fighting broke outagainst the tribes in Fars. Arsanjani, the author of the land reform pro­gram, resigned because not enough money was forthcoming to providesupport for farmers through cooperatives.

The morning after 'Ashura, on June 5, Khomeyni was arrested inQum. By mid-morning massive demonstrations were in progress in Qum,Tehran, Varamin, Shiraz, and Mashhad. They went on for three days.Thousands were massacred by the army, an event symbolized in popularmemory with the image of thousands of black-shirted marchers enroutefrom Qum to Tehran being strafed by air force planes. Afterward, op­position leaders were rounded up, two hundred and fifty in the last fourmonths of 1963, and the arrests continued for the next two years,especially in 1965 after the assassination of Prime Minister Mansur andthe attempt on the shah's life (Zonis 1971a: 75).

Throughout the late sixties and the seventies protests continuedsporadically. They were primarily directed against the tightening politicalsystem, with economic complaints being more scattered until the mid­seventies. From 1974 to 1977 there were some twenty-five major factorystrikes, but they were quickly resolved by arresting the leaders and forc­ing the owners to meet the economic demands. Less controllable was thesmoldering hostility to government meddling in all areas of organizedlife, and especially the intimidation by SAVAK. Reports of torture beganto appear in the international press with consistency from 1965 on.

In March 1970, university students protested bus fare increases as ahardship on the poor; they attacked a hundred buses; five students werekilled, five hundred injured, and a thousand arrested, of whom thirty toeighty were jailed for an extended period. In May there was a protestagainst the selling of Iran to foreigners on the occasion of a conferenceof thirty-five American executives in Tehran and a United States Com­merce Department industrial exposition. Speakers S. Mohammad RezaSaidi and Tehran Polytechnic student, Nikdaudi, were arrested and tor­tured to death (Algar 1972: 250-252). Demonstrations were held in Qum.The government banned memorial services, but they were heldnonetheless in the mosque where Saidi had been imam. S. MahmudTaleghani and Dr. Abbas Sheybani were arrested for attending. In June,Mohsen Hakim, the marja' -i taqlid in Iraq, died. The shah pointedlysent letters of condolence to Ayatullahs Shariatmadari and Khonsari, butnot to Khomeyni. Shariatmadari acknowledged the letter, and wasrewarded by demonstrations at his house. Forty-eight ulama of Qum senta letter of condolence to Khomeyni, for which many were exiled from

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Qum by the government. In December university students demonstratedwith the slogan, "Long Live Khomeyni."

During the month of the hajj (January-February) 1971, Khomeyni senta message to Iranian pilgrims to stay away from the shah's plannedcelebrations of 2,500 years of continuous monarchy: "Anyone whoorganizes or participates in these festivals is a traitor to Islam and the Ira­nian nation" (Algar 1972: 253). Guerrilla activities followed: bank raids,attacks on police posts, explosions, and attempts to kidnap first PrinceShahram, a nephew of the shah, and then the American ambassador,Douglas MacArthur. 9 Before the 2,500-year celebrations, some six hun­dred to a thousand people were taken into protective custody; travel per­mits were required of anyone going near the celebration area.

In 1972 and 1973 three United States colonels, an Iranian brigadier­general, an Iranian gendarmerie sergeant, and an Iranian translator forthe United States Embassy were assassinated. In 1975, a preacher, Ghaf­fari, was tortured to death in prison, and the largest anniversary com­memorations of 1963 in the entire twelve years were held in Qum, pro­testing the introduction of a one-party state, the Rastakhiz party. In 1976an Isfahan mujtahid, S. Abul Hasan Shamsabadi, was assassinated anddeath threats were made against three other ulama (S. Mohammad RezaShafti, fa*ghih-Emami, and S. Hoseyn Ghaderi); the motives and iden­tification of the perpetrators remain unclear, some blaming SAVAK, thegovernment blaming followers of Khomeyni (Mujahidin guerrillas?) inan attempt to radicalize protest. In August 1977 Tehran slum dwellersprotested in large numbers against eviction notices and the leveling oftheir accommodations; a number of people were killed. A series of arsonincidents swept Tehran factories in the late summer. In September therewas an attempt on the life of Princess Ashraf.

The August deaths of the slum dwellers is counted by some as the startof what grew in 1977 into an almost classic form of revolution, albeit in astructurally neocolonial society. The revolution, in its early stages atleast, followed the classic pattern, outlined ·by Crane Brinton (1952), ofthe English, French, American, and Russian revolutions: a society with arising prosperity was hit by recession (in this case engineered to counterinflation), and a government in trouble tried to make exactions not onlyon the lower classes but on the leading sectors of society, so that eventhose persons who should have supported the government turned againstit, giving added weight to the moral ideological force which denied thegovernment legitimacy and succeeded in demoralizing it. The caseagainst the government was intensified by nationalist and anticolonialiststrains. Not only was the government unresponsive to its citizenry, madepossible by its financial independence of its citizenry through the oilrevenues. But anger at its unresponsiveness was exacerbated by a militaryand police build-up intended to maintain the stability of oil production

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for the industrial world. As the various sectors of society increasingly felttheir interests to take second priority to those of the industrial world,pressure against the government grew. As the government came to relyincreasingly on foreigners both for labor and for technical advice, onegroup after another in society was alienated and embittered. The voice ofthe opposition became that of Islam; the demand, the removal of theshah and the reordering of national priorities.


Who took our oil?

Russia.Who took our gas?


Who took our money?Pahlavi.

Death to this Pahlavi dynasty!Death to this Pahlavi dynasty!Cannon, tank, machine gun,They have no more effect.The shah is an ass.He must be chained.

Naft ki burd?Amrika!

Gaz ki burd?Shuravi!

Pul ki burd?Pahlavi!



Marg bar in silsila-yi Pahlavi!Marg bar in silsila-yi Pahlavi!

Chant: Tup, tank, musalsal,Digar asar nadare.Shah khar shoda,

Bayad be zanjir keshida!

('Ashura march, led by Ayatullah Mahallati, Shiraz, 1978).

The causes of the revolution, and its timing, were economic andpolitical; the form of the revolution, and its pacing, owed much to thetradition of religious protest. 10

The economic causes stem from the oil price increases in 1973: manyof the older structural problems in the economy were exacerbated andnew ones were created. I I The increased revenues led to reckless spending,the tripling and quadrupling of urban wages, especially in construction,which drew rural migrants, and a very high rate of inflation. Had thespending been more careful, many of the negative results could havebeen avoided: the squeeze on the salaried classes from inflation; themarket disincentives to farmers; the high labor costs that made buildinga factory in Iran as expensive as in Japan, without any of the benefits ofa disciplined, quality-conscious workmanship; the importation ratherthan local training of semiskilled and skilled labor, leading to nativeresentment; and the expansion of bribery at the top of society to gainlicenses for protected economic ventures. Three of these problems mayserve to illustrate the deep sources of discontent.

(1) Agricultural policy. Agriculture, long a problem sector of theeconomy, was further dislocated in the 1970s. Instead of raising pro­ducer prices and supplying credit to stimulate production, food was im­ported on a massive scale and sold at subsidized prices. Money was chan­neled away from small producers and toward large new mechanized

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projects dependent on large irrigation dams, with many peasants beingliterally squeezed off the land to make way for the agrobusinesses andstate farm corporations. 12

(2) Labor recruitment. Three hundred thousand foreigners were im­ported in semiskilled, skilled, and even unskilled capacities. Afghanlaborers took jobs Iranians no longer wanted. But instead of hiring,training, and providing credit to Iranian truckers, for instance, Koreantruck drivers were imported to handle government business from the portof Khorramshahr, a sizable commission on the deal accruing to the laborrecruiter and the royal patron. Among the professional classes, more im­portant than resentment against foreigners taking jobs was thewidespread resentment at the misuse of their talents: being shunted intomeaningless bureaucratic jobs, being forced to accept the existence ofcorruption, being denied a sense of contributing to policy formulation.

(3) Financing. Commitments for major projects quickly outpaced in­coming oil revenues. Within two years of the 1973 oil price rise Iranbegan borrowing on the international market. By 1977, oil revenues hadleveled off and the only way to keep employment levels up while trying tocounter inflation would have been to siphon money away from the enor­mous military expenditures, a strategy that was not attempted. The anti­inflation policies of the Amuzegar government during 1977-78, intro­duced to relieve the salaried classes, led to widespread unemployment,especially in the construction industry.

At the same time as the economic picture was worsening, the politicalorganization of the state between 1972 and 1977 had first been tightenedand then in 1977 somewhat loosened. SAVAK activities seemed to inten­sifyafter 1972, and in 1975 there was the abortive and widely resented at­tempt to create a one-party totalitarian state through the Rastakhizparty. 13 The political organization of the economy also became an issuein two important areas, causing intensification of anti-shah feeling.First, the bazaar was singled out as a scapegoat for the inflation and amajor price-regulation campaign was directed against it (see chapter 4).Second, the climate for private entrepreneurs was made more uncertainwith the promulgation of laws adjusting the share of capital thatforeigners could hold and the profits they could take out, and requiringmajor companies to sell public shares to workers or to a state holdingcompany if there should not be enough private investors. 14 As a result,many businessmen began to strip their companies of assets and transfermoney abroad. Although the share divestment program was billed as aprofit-sharing initiative on behalf of the workers, there was continuedrefusal to allow labor to organize and negotiate on its own behalf: pater­nalism but not participation.

All of these issues provided the clergy with a receptive audience andfertile moral platforms. Their own material interests-the systematicremoval from their control of education, administration of justice,

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notary responsibility, administration of religious endowments - were lessimportant than their role as spokesmen for the interests of more impor­tant sectors of society, and than their articulation of the general protestagainst the secret police tyranny and the massive corruption.

In 1977, perhaps at the urging of President Carter and the AmericanCongress's statements in support of human rights, the regime slightlyloosened political controls. The intent and sincerity of the Iranian andAmerican governments were ambiguous, but the opposition in Iran madethe most of the opportunity. Open letters critical of the regime were ad­dressed to the shah, Minister of Court Hoveyda, and other officials. InMay, 53 lawyers sent a telegram protesting the decision to degrade theSupreme Court to the status of an ordinary court and asking that thelegal profession be consulted before making major constitutionalchanges. In July, 64 lawyers signed a manifesto reaffirming the earliertelegram and adding demands for the independence of the judiciary, freeelections, and freedom of speech. This was followed by a letter signed by141 lawyers announcing the formation of an Association of Jurists tomonitor the law.

There was some indirect response to these internal pressures and to theinternational initiatives: in April a military trial was held in public, and itwas announced that future military trials would be conducted accordingto a new code. In June it ",'as announced that civilian dissidents wouldhenceforth be tried by civil courts rather than military courts, as before.But in September, when a letter signed by 54 judges and supported by110 retired judges reaffirmed the previous missives of the lawyers,SAVAK intervened, forcing Judge Khan Seresht of Zanjan to resign andthreatening others with dismissal if they did not sign a recantation. Nomore open milita.ry trials were held; the regulations for how they were tobe conducted were never published.

An initiative similar to that .of the lawyers was undertaken by first theIranian Writers Association, then the bazaar guilds, and finally the rem­nants of political parties that had been forced underground. In June, 40writers asked that their association be officially recognized, that they beallowed to publish a journal, and that they be allowed to hold meetings;they also objected to censorship. There was no response, so the demandswere repeated in a letter in July with 98 members signing. In July, thebazaar guilds issued a complaint that the Rastakhiz party was stranglingthem. In August, a Writers Committee for the Defense of Prisoners wasformed. During the summer, dissident political groups emerged inpublic: the National Front, the Tudeh party, and the two guerrillagroups, the Islamic Mujahidin and the marxist Fida'iyyan. In October theWriters' Association held ten days of poetry reading commemorating thedeath of the writer Jalal Al-i Ahmad, who died under mysterious circum­stances and whose works had been periodically banned.

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In November 1977, the shadow boxing began to turn into a real duel.On November 3, Khomeyni's son died mysteriously; funeral ceremonieswere held all over Iran; police clashed with mourners in the Tehranbazaar. On November 13, the shah left for his twelfth visit to the UnitedStates. Students in the United States mobilized for a major demonstra­tion. The Iranian government countered by mounting a pro-shahdemonstration in Washington. Troops being trained in the United Stateswere flown to Washington to demonstrate in civilian clothing. Armenianand Assyrian civic associations were recruited to fly members toWashington from Chicago and Los Angeles, each participant being givena hundred-dollar bill. Some four thousand anti-shah and fifteen hundredpro-shah demonstrators gathered around the White House on November15. A twenty-one gun salute greeted the shah, touching off a clash be­tween pro- and anti-shah demonstrators. Tear gas wafted across theWhite House lawn, causing shah and president to wipe away tears duringtheir speeches.· More demonstrations followed, the next day. Meanwhile,in Tehran the Writers' Association sponsored a second poetry readingwith the poet Said Sultanpour on November 15 and 16, and a thirdpoetry reading on November 25. On both occasions police arrested par­ticipants for chanting anti-shah slogans, leading to protest marches onthe following days, in which there were further clashes between studentsand police, and a number of deaths. Abiding by the June law allowingcivilian trials for civilian dissidents, the students were able to obtainlawyers from the Association of Jurists; all were released or given lightsentences.

Harassment of dissidents continued, however. SAVAK began to putpressure on the members of the Writers Association to drop theirdemands. The names of lawyers who had signed the open letters of thelast months were black-listed in a government circular. Dissidents weredescribed in the press as "hooligans" and "supporters of international ter­rorism." The Rastakhiz party newspaper warned that government pa­tience with dissent was running out. Dissident meetings were broken up.Various individuals were harrassed over the next few months: InDecember, Dariush Foruhar, a lawyer, leader of the Iran NationalistParty and a leader of the National Front, was beaten. In January, HomaPakdaman, a professor, was arrested for signing a petition for freespeech, released, and then beaten up. In April, bombs were exploded atthe homes of Rahmatollah Moghaddam (majlis representative fromMaragheh), Mehdi Bazargan (leader of the Iran Liberation Movement),and Hajj Mahmud Manian (an activist bazaar merchant). In June, Ab­dul Lahiji (lawyer, leading figure in the Committee for the Defense ofFreedom and Human Rights) was beaten and a bomb exploded outsidehis office.

The month of Muharram fell in December 1977 and January 1978.

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The international, internal political, and religious threads began to in­terweave. The government banned any commemoration of the fortieth­day memorial of the death of Ayatullah Khomeyni's son. Khomeynimade no pronouncement on his son's death but renewed his call for theoverthrow of the shah and the reinstitution of the 1905 constitution.President Carter paid the shah a visit at New Year's and praised him ef­fusively. The Iranian government then responded to Khomeyni with anextraordinary bit of miscalculation and overconfidence: a newspaper ar­ticle was printed ridiculing him as a medieval reactionary.

The scene was set. The end of Muharram coincided with civil holidaysintroduced by the Pahlavis to supplement, if not supersede, the religiouscycle of holidays and to celebrate their own accomplishments. Thetwenty-seventh of Muharram (Islamic calendar) fell on 17 Dey (civilcalendar), the date commemorating Reza Shah's liberation of women (7January); celebrations were planned by the government's Women'sOrganization. Counterdemonstrations were held in Qum and Mashhad.On January 8, the Rastakhiz party organized larger demonstrations,especially in Tabriz, with women carrying slogans saying, "We do notwish to return to medieval times." The next day, the twenty-ninth ofMuharram (January 9) coincided with 19 Dey, the anniversary of theshah's land reform. In Qum there was a sit-in to protest the governmentpropaganda against Khomeyni and a reading of twelve demands: im­plementation of the constitution; separation of executive, legislative, andjudicial powers; abolition of the bureau of censorship; freedom ofspeech; freedom for political prisoners; freedom for citizens to formreligious associations; dissolution of the Rastakhiz party; reopening ofTehran University, closed because of the poetry readings; an end topolice violence against students; state assistance to farmers; reopening ofthe Faydiyya madrasa, closed since 1975; and return of Ayatullah Kho­meyni (Abrahamian 1978). This was followed by a march of four thou­sand students; police opened fire killing ten to seventy, and injuringmany more. 15 Incens~d, the leading marja' -i taqlid of Qum, AyatullahShariatmadari, declared the shah's government non-Islamic, called for amoratorium on communal prayers, and threatened a funeral march tocarry the corpses to the Niavaran Palace.

The revolution was on. By mid-summer, all sectors of society hadjoined in: the students, intellectuals, and bazaaris who began things; theconstruction workers hurt by the economic slowdown; the factoryworkers incensed by embezzlement of pension funds and demandinghigher wages (and later the right to unionize); the civil service, which hadsuffered a three-year wage freeze under soaring inflation; the urban slumdwellers, many of whom had been squeezed off the land; the bazaariswho had been the object of the punitive price campaigns; and finally the

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oil workers. Shariatmadari's statement was electrifying because he hadfinally broken the tacit agreement of maraji' -i taqlid within Iran to avoidpublic political pronouncements. In 1975, much to the chagrin of thestudents of Qum, he had remained silent when troops invaded thetheological schools, cracking heads and arresting four hundred forshouting blessings upon Khomeyni and curses upon the shah.

There was a brief calm while the actors considered what had hap­pened. Then the measured pace of the revolution began. On January 10,United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim arrived in Tehran. TheWriters' Association and the newly formed Iranian Committee for theDefense of Liberty and Human Rights sought meetings with him andsent him open letters citing violations of human rights. On January 13,120 ulama backed up Shariatmadari's pronouncement by signing a pro­test of the Qum events and declaring a moratorium on public prayer inthe mosques. Traditional death memorials are held on the third, seventh,and fortieth days. February 18 was the fortieth of the Qum martyrs, andthe ulama called for a day of mourning, of peaceful strikes, and worship.There was, instead, violence and death. Twice more following this for­tieth there were violent fortieths.

The main violence on February 18 was in Tabriz, sparked by theshooting of a young worker by the police and the locking of the publicout of the congregational mosque. For 36 hours demonstrators took overthe city, selectively attacking 73 banks, liquor stores, sexually explicitbillboards on movie houses, any businesses that had not observed thestrike call, offices of the Rastakhiz party, and anything displaying theblue-and-emerald emblem of the 2,500-year anniversary of continuousmonarchy. The government responded with tanks and infantry: at least 9(perhaps 100) were killed, 125 to 300 wounded, 700 arrested. The shahresponded by dismissing the governor-general, publicly reprimandingand shaking up the Tabriz SAVAK, and sending a general to meet with adelegation of ten religious leaders in Tehran. Infantry troops remainedon the streets of Tabriz until March 3; the damage done by the riot wasrepaired with amazing rapidity.

The next major event was the fortieth of Tabriz: March 30. But all wasnot quiet during the interim. Some two hundred political prisoners inTehran's Qasr prison began a month-long hunger strike, protesting theconditions in the prison and demanding civilian retrials under the Junelaw. The government at first denied that a hunger strike was occurring orthat it involved so many people. However, the Iranian Committee for theDefense of Freedom and Human Rights publicized it and sent telegramsto the government in support of the strikers. The police responded byentering the prison and beating the fasters (March 15).

A day of mourning was called for March 30. There was violence this

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time in some fifty-five cities, including Tehran, Babol, Isfahan, Kashan,Qum, Yazd, and Jahrom. The government attributed it to "foreign­inspired" mobs. In Yazd a militant rawda by Rashed Yazdi demandingjustice for Tabriz provoked a police attack in which 2 to 120 died. Thetape of the speech circulated widely.

The next fortieth was May 8-9: there were disturbances in some thirty­four towns. On May 10 in Qum, a funeral was followed by a ten-hourdemonstration. The demonstration was quelled after sunset by shuttingoff the town's electricity and firing upon the demonstrators. At least ninepeople died. The police invaded Ayatullah Shariatmadari's house andkilled two ulama there, allegedly when they refused to shout "Javid shah"(long live the shah). The government made a public apology. On May 11,there was a major clash in Tehran: speeches were held in the congrega­tional mosque of the bazaar; the police surrounded the mosque, tear­gassing the demonstrators when they emerged and then firing uponthem. Many were killed, injured, and arrested. Dissidents claimed thatthrough the cycle of the three fortieth days some 250 had died, 600 wereinjured, and 3,000 arrested. Khomeyni denounced the shah and "hisfamily of looters. . . whose hands are sunk up to the elbows in the bloodof innocents." He made a plea for the army to overthrow the tyrannicaldynasty. It was not in the power of the students to overthrow the govern­ment, he indicated; more powerful forces were required.


So far the demonstrations, though the most serious since 1963, werestill mainly in the mold of demonstrations of past years. By March Kho­meyni was calling for the assassination of the shah, but his May pro­nouncements advised caution to his followers: the enemy was strong andthe task required the army not simply street demonstrations. Shariat­madari began to counsel that strikes be conducted by staying at homerather than in street demonstrations, which would give the shah's forcesthe opportunity to kill. On June 17, Shariatmadari called for a peacefulgeneral strike in Qum, and it was peaceful. By July there were indicationsthat the demonstrations were beginning to involve wider and wider sec­tions of society. Accounts of factory strikes began to circulate: 2000workers in Tabriz demanded better wages, restoration of their NewYear's bonuses, which had been withheld, and better housing; 600 sanita­tion workers in Abadan went on strike for higher wages; 1,500 textileworkers in Behshahr struck for free union elections. On July 25,mourners in a funeral for a well-known religious figure chanted anti­shah slogans and were attacked by the police: 40 died.

Ramadan began on August 5. From the ninth to the seventeenth ofAugust there were continual demonstrations, especially in Shiraz andIsfahan. In Shiraz the annual Festival of Arts was opposed and canceled:there had been lewd plays on a main street the previous year as part of

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the Festival, and, in general, for years there had been conflict betweenlocal sensibilities and the patrons of the avant-garde from Tehran andabroad. Not only the Shiraz Festival of Arts, but the entire series of in­ternational festivals scheduled for various cities (Isfahan, Hamadan,Tus) was canceled. In both Isfahan and Shiraz there were deaths, manyinjuries, and arrests. In Isfahan demonstrators even briefly returned thegunfire of the police. Local religious leaders were arrested in Isfahan onAugust 17 after eighteen hours of rioting and demonstrating.

On August 19th, timed to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary ofthe restoration of the monarchy in 1953, a stunning tragedy wasperpetrated in Abadan: over four hundred people were burned alive inthe Rex Movie Theater. The government tried to blame the dissidents: itwas the sixth theater to be burned during Ramadan; two modernrestaurants catering to the elite and foreigners had been burned in Shirazand Tehran, the latter causing a death and forty injuries; clearly this wasa reaction to modernization. Ten people were arrested, and confessionswere extracted from five of them. The people, however, blamedSAVAK: the film had been an Iranian one with some social commentary,not a foreign one nor a sex-oriented one; the theater was in a working­class district, not catering to foreigners; the fire department wasnoticeably slow to respond and the equipment would not function whenit did arrive; meanwhile the police prevented citizen rescue attempts. Athird possibility placed in the general speculation was that the fire hadbeen set, and the doors locked, by Palestinian trained guerrillas in an at­tempt to radicalize the revolution.

Over ten thousand people came to the funeral. Police and municipalofficials were forced to leave the cemetery, and threats were madeagainst the police chiefs life- should he ever set foot again in Abadan.Mourners chanted, "Death to the shah! Burn him! End the fifty years ofPahlavi tyranny! Soldiers, you are guiltless; the shah is the villain." Onthe seventh-day memorial, mourners streamed out of the BehbehanianMosque, smashing windows of banks and government buildings, for thethird straight night of violence. Ayatullah Kazem Dehdashti called forthe shah's removal. There were student demonstrations in Washington,Los Angeles, and the Hague.

August 22 marked the beginning of the most important final ten daysof Ramadan: normally one would spend the nights of the nineteenth,twenty-first, twenty-third, and twenty-seventh of Ramadan in themosque reading the Qur'an through in commemoration of the day of itsrevelation. The first of these dates coincided with the Abadan funeral,the third with the resignation of the Amuzegar government (August 27),and the fourth (August 31) with the fortieth of the deaths in Mashhad onJuly 22. The fortieth in Mashhad began with thousands gathering at thehouse of Ayatullah S. Abdollah Shirazi; the gathering was moved to amore spacious venue, where a speech was delivered by S. Mohammad-

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Taghi Hashemi-Nezhad (an important religious writer and leader formany years). A peaceful march followed, but afterward there were con­frontations with the police in side streets: several people were killed. Thisfinal weekend of Ramadan saw disturbances in some fourteen cities: fiftyto a hundred died.

After Prime Minister Amuzegar resigned, Jafar Sharif-Emami wasmade interim prime minister and was given a mandate to make conces­sions to the religious opposition. This was seen as, and proved to be, asuperficial attempt at symbolic appeasem*nt. Sharif-Imami ordered theclosing of gambling casinos, the abolition of the Ministry of Women'sAffairs, the creation of a Ministry of Religious Affairs, the approval offorming open political parties, and the lifting of censorship. Symbols ofthe Pahlavi ideology, which had played up Iran's pre-Islamic heritage,were dismantled: the newly introduced calendar, which counted fromCyrus the Great instead of from Muhammad or the arrival of Islam inIran, was abolished; the long-entrenched minister of culture (a brother­in-law of the shah) and the director of the National Iranian Radio andTelevision (a cousin of the queen as well as a director of state ideologyvia the mass media) were removed. Sharif-Emami pandered to the allega­tion that the shah relied excessively on Bahais: the shah's personal physi­cian and three other generals were dismissed; the general in charge ofIran Air was killed and Bahai employees of the airline were dismissed.He announced that seventy officers were to be dismissed and public of­ficials were to be to be tried for their roles in the riots of the past months.The exit tax for Iranians traveling abroad, which had been raised theprevious year without parliamentary approval, was lowered. But nothingwas done about basic government policy: both the finance minister andthe war minister were retained.

Shariatmadari gave the new government three months to prove itcould meet the criteria of an Islamic just government; if it could not, civildisobedience would resume. The government was not to have threemonths.

Ramadan ended with a magnificent celebration (' Id-i Fitr): massesprayed in the streets and handed out flowers to the soldiers. In Tehran asmall march interestingly revealed the widening and shifting publicopinion. The marchers began in middle-class Tehran, chanting theslogan "Istiqhlal, azadi, hukumat-i Islami" (Independence, freedom,Islamic government); as they proceeded south into working-classneighborhoods, the marchers grew more confident; and as they crossedShah Reza Street, some of them began chanting "Marg bar shah" (deathto the shah). An old woman onlooker grew frightened and cried, "Nagid!Nagid! Mikushanetun!" (Don't say it, don't say it, they'll kill you!), andran away; but when she saw that soldiers in the vicinity were not reacting,

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she grew calmer and returned. Other minor demonstrations continueduntil September 6, when the government announced a ban on demonstra­tions. The following day, an enormous peaceful parade of between ahundred thousand and half a million people marched down the hill frommiddle-class Tehran to the Parliament building, carrying pictures ofKhomeyni and banners calling for his return, for an Islamic government,and for the end of Pahlavi rule. Symbolically, it marked a shift in thespatial center of the opposition from the bazaar and university to includemiddle-class territory.

This was the euphoric lull before the great storm of Black Friday,September 8. Although neither the religious leaders nor the NationalFront had called for a second march, several thousand people began togather in Jaleh Square to repeat the message of the day before. Mean­while at six o'clock that morning the government had declared martiallaw for twelve major cities, and troops were sent to disperse the crowd inJaleh Square. Accounts of what happened differ over details andmotives: what is clear is that hundreds or even thousands were killed.Whether or not the government intended to get rid of many trouble­makers or, more likely, to perform an act of terror that would intimidatethe people and end the growing public dissent remains unclear.Eyewitnesses relate that at eight o'clock the students, upon being told todisperse, sat down, facing Parliament and baring their chests to thesoldiers. The troops fired, first over the heads of the demonstrators andthen at them. A few witnesses claim there was provocation, that menstanding behind women and children fired at the soldiers. One soldier, itis said, shot his commanding officer and then himself rather than obeythe command to fire at the demonstrators. The massacre was followed bya rampage of the mob, stoning banks and post offices, building bonfiresand barricades in the streets to slow the movement of tanks, which beganto crisscross through town firing at people. Guerrillas carried out two ac­tions: they killed a sentry at the barracks of the riot police, and theythrew explosives at a bus leaving an air force base carrying British techni­cians.

Immediate reactions included a government crackdown, a publicizedtelephone call from President Carter affirming support for the shah, ademonstration in Qum which was met by police fire, the resignation inprotest of four Pan-Iran party members from parliament (resignationstook fifteen days to go into effect, and several withdrew the resignationfirst), the blowing up of the pipeline carrying natural gas to the SovietUnion, and factory worker strikes in nine cities. The governmentcrackdown included reimposition of censorship, detention of oppositionleaders (Bazargan, Matin-Daftari, Rahmatollah Moghaddam, YahyaNuri, Rouhani in Qum), and symbolic assertions that it could respond to

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opposition demands that corruption be curbed. These latter consisted ofa royal decree that henceforth no member of the royal family shouldhave a role in the government and that Princess Ashraf would no longercontrol the foundation bearing her name, the resignation of the ministerof court and former Prime Minister Hoveyda, and the arrest of eight of­ficials on charges of corruption. Former chief of the Atomic EnergyOrganization, Akbar Etemad, was charged with embezzlement andmismanagement. Former Minister of Health Shoja' oddinSheykholeslami and two deputies were charged with fraud, covering upthe 1977 outbreak of cholera, payments of $6,500 to London prostitutes,taking commissions on sales to the ministry, purchasing overpriced andunneeded computers by the ministry, purchasing substandard am­bulances, and selling narcotics confiscated by the government back to theblack market.

There was almost a cosmic quality to the symbolism when onSeptember 16 a major earthquake struck the area around Tabas, killingsome 26,000 people. The queen went to the stricken area and was bitterlyrebuked by villagers: "Why do you come to look at us? Grab a shoveland help us bury our dead." Dissidents claimed that the religiousorganization was much more effective in relief work than the army andRed Lion and Sun (the Iranian Red Cross).

The next month saw a hardening of the divisions. Ayatullah Khom.eyniwas forced to leave Iraq and after being refused entry to Kuwait flew· toParis (October 6). The French government, after repeatedly checkingwith the shah, who voiced no objection, allowed Khomeyni to. establishresidence in the village of Pontchartrain, 25 miles outside Paris. Strikesintensified all over Iran and became a determined vehicle of forcing thegovernment to its knees. Demonstrations, of course, continued. On Oc­tober 1 strikes and demonstrations protested Iraqi harrassment of Kho­meyni. His expulsion from Iraq prompted three days of demonstrationsall over Iran. Taxi drivers, Iran Air, government ministries, postalemployees, railroad employees, government hospital employees went onstrike, both for economic and social benefits and in support of Kho­meyni. On September 12, Tehran's military governor, General Gholam­Ali Oveysi, sent censors into the two leading newspaper offices; fourthousand employees walked out. Three days later, prime MinisterSharif-Emami signed a charter guaranteeing free press. By then strikeswere rampant in many cities: bus drivers in Kirmanshah, cement factoryworkers in Behbahan, tobacco factory workers in Gorgan, the AtomicEnergy Organization in Bushire, teachers, bank employees, evenemployees of the Tehran Hilton. On October 18, oil workers went onstrike. Between the bank employees and the oil workers the economy wasunder critical seige.

The government was gradually forced to take two serious steps: tocancel major nuclear and military purchases in order to meet wage

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demands of the strikers, and to send troops into the oil fields. On Oc­tober 10, the government announced downward revisions of the $40billion budget and the $20 billion to be spent on nuclear power plants andthe canceling of orders for 70 Grumman F14 planes and 140 GeneralDynamics F16 planes, in order to pay the wage increases granted totelecommunication and state bank employees (100 percent increases,granted October 1 after a brief strike) and to government ministryemployees (25 percent increases), and to make other settlements. Othermeasures were also tried. Amnesties were announced on October 2 and19. On the Shah's fifty-ninth birthday (October 28) 1,126 prisoners werereleased leaving, it was claimed, only 600 still in jail. More allegedly cor­rupt officials were arrested. The former head of SAVAK, GeneralNematollah Naseri,was charged in a military tribunal for ordering illegalimprisonments and torture. The shah made a speech to parliament (Oc­tober 7) in which he stated that liberalization of the political systemwould continue.

SAVAK, however, allegedly organized violent attacks to intimidatedissidents, notably an attack on a mosque in Kirman, in which womenwere stripped to the waist, and an attack in Hamadan on a girls' school,involving the raping of three girls. Major demonstrations were organizedto protest both these events, and to mark the fortieth of the Jaleh Squaremassacre (October 17 and 18). The latter also saw two more guerrilla ac­tions: pipe bombs were tossed into a Bell Helicopter bus in Isfahan caus­ing three injuries; and three days later the houses of two West Germantechnicians were attacked in Bushire. Demonstrations occurredthroughout the month, all over the country, and constantly increasing insize.

Political negotiations finally were initiated; their negative resultsunderscored the seriousness of the revolution. Ayatullah Shariatmadarihad been consulted on the installation of the Sharif-Emami governmentand had been willing to allow it to take office: he neither supported norcondemned it in public. The amnesties announced in October were saidto include Ayatullah Khomeyni, who was now free to return to Iran; buthe said he would not return as long as the shah was on the throne. Inparliament, Sharif-Emami survived three votes of confidence, butdebates remained lively and four cabinet ministers resigned. Eventuallynegotiations were initiated between the government and the leader of theNational Front, Karim Sanjabi. Sanjabi flew to Paris on October 25 toconsult with Ayatullah Khomeyni. Mehdi Bazargan and ArdeshirZahedi, the shah's ambassador to Washington and a close confidant dur­ing the last weeks, also flew to Paris. On November 4 Sanjabi announcedthat he agreed with Khomeyni that no compromise with the shah waspossible and returned to Tehran.

Too many people had been killed, too many promises had been brokenby the shah, too little trust was possible. Any compromise, Khomeyni

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(probably correctly) feared, might well lead to a restoration of the shah'spower and an abandonment of all that had been so dearly won over thepast months. After all, the shah had not yet yielded anything significantin terms of real power or structural change.


For weeks Ayatullah Shariatmadari had warned people to stick tostrikes and not give the enemy any excuse to impose a military govern­ment. In November the excuse was given.

At the University of Tehran, students gathered on November 4 andpulled down the statue of the shah at the front gates. A soldier, in agesture of solidarity, gave his rifle to one of the students. The soldier'ssergeant opened fire with a machine gun, killing the soldier and thirty tosixty others. The next day, November 5, the bazaar closed and studentsgathered at the university to pray for the dead; then the students took tothe streets, selectively attacking banks, tourist hotels, American andBritish airline offices, liquor stores, cinemas, and part of the British Em­bassy. The riot was again interesting for its symbolic form: the object ofattack was property not persons (people were cleared out of the BritishEmbassy before two rooms were torched); symbols of the state and its in­ternational support were attacked (banks, international businesses) butnot other shops, except those that sold things specifically objectionablein Islam (liquor, sexually immodest films). The army did not interfere,leaving many to infer that the day's events had been provoked in order toprovide the excuse for a military government. As if more excuse wereneeded, reports circulated of mutiny in the garrison near the Tehran air­port, and of garrisons in Isfahan, Hamadan, and Babol giving guns tocivilian dissidents.

Sharif-Emani resigned. A military cabinet of six plus four civilianstook over. Later the cabinet was more than half civilian, but it remainedheaded by a commander of the Imperial Guard, General Gholam-AliAzhari, as the prime minister, and the military governor of Tehran,General Oveysi, as minister of labor, charged with getting the oil workersback to work. The oil strike had reduced production from 6 million bar­rels a day to 1.1 million barrels. November 11 was' Id-i Qurban, the dayof sacrifice in the month of the hajj, a ceremonial occasion on which theIslamic diplomatic corps paid its respects to the shah: he appeared Quitedemoralized. That morning, just before a scheduled news conference,Karim Sanjabi was arrested, together with Dariush Foruhar; oddly, thetext of their statement was left behind: it called for no compromise withthe "illegal monarchy" and demanded a referendum on an Islamicrepublic. The new government ordered the oil workers back to work, of­fering them 22-percent pay raises and higher housing allowances but

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refusing to respond to political demands. Strike leaders were arrested;other strikers were threatened with dismissal and eviction from theirhousing. Sixty percent of the oil workers did return to work and produc­tion slowly began to rise, reaching near normal levels by the end of themonth, only to drop again thereafter. The army painted over anti-shahwall graffiti, covering the walls with new slogans: "Long live the shah,The people are ingrates." The anticorruption campaign was continued:former SAVAK chief Naseri and former governor of Khorasan, Valian,were arrested (November 7); Navard steel mill board members and otheralleged racketeers were sought. The newspapers reviewed scandals in theconstruction and management of the plush Kish Island resort and theAsian Games of 1974; speculation was rife about Sharif-Emami's pastrole in administering the Pahlavi Foundation, a source and haven formuch alleged corruption.

The opposition called a general strike to protest the arrests of Sanjabiand Foruhar (November 12). On November 14, demonstrations in theTehran bazaar drew army fire. There were three days of disturbances inthe oil cities of Ahwaz, Abadan, and Khorramshahr. The bazaar re­mained closed for sixteen days, until November 20, when a three-dayopening allowed reprovisioning; then it closed again. Demands thatforeign technicians leave the country began to escalate; some companiesbegan to order dependents out. On November 11, an oil companyhelicopter was stoned by villagers, and the car of an oil drilling companypresident, Cameron, was stoned. On November 14, the car of GeorgeLinks, the managing director of the Oil Services Company, was bombed,injuring the Iranian driver. Bell Helicopter employees were warned tostay away from work. Individuals were threatened by telephone and writ­ten notes, windows were stoned, and a few bombs were left at apartmentbuildings housing foreigners in Tehran and Isfahan (though once againtargeting was selective).

On November 19, the traditional anniversary of the naming of 'Ali asthe successor to the Prophet, the queen made a gesture to the oppositionby going to Najaf in Iraq to visit the Imam's tomb and to ask AyatullahKhoi to make a conciliatory statement; he refused. Indeed the queen wasblamed for having destroyed Khoi's reputation by simply appearing athis house and forcing him to be hospitable to a royal family seen as evil,disgraced, and an enemy of Islam. Two days earlier had been ArmedForces Day, and for the first time the shah had failed to review thetroops. On November 19, 210 prisoners were released; 267 more werereleased on November 23. Demonstrations continued, and on November21 in Mashhad, troops chased demonstrators into the sacred shrine andopened fire there. A major general strike was called in protest for Sun­day, November 26. Some million and a half people marched in Mashhad

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and some two hundred thousand in Qum; the troops withdrew fromthose two cities, leaving them to the demonstrators. There were alsosmaller demonstrations in Tehran, Gorgan, Kangavar, and Isfahan. Thefollowing day, a list of people who had taken large sums of money out ofthe country was circulated by striking Central Bank workers; it im­plicated many members of the current and past governments. OnNovember 29, there were a number of wildcat oil strikes, and oil produc­tion began a steady downward trend.

Muharram began on December 2. For weeks people had speculatedthat 'Ashura would break the military government or would provoke abloody massacre by the army. The government announced seizures ofarms caches in Mashhad, Tabriz, and Tehran, and a ban on 'Ashurademonstrations. Ayatullah Khomeyni issued letters saying that torrentsof blood might be spilled on 'Ashura, but blood would triumph over thesword; that good Muslims must be prepared to die to defeat the enemy ofthe people; that good Muslims in the army should desert if ordered to fireon their brothers; that the oil fields should be blown up if the army in­tervened. Ayatullah Shariatmadari responded to the government ban bysaying that no one needed permission to take part in religious celebra­tions. In Tehran the bazaar was plastered with cartoons of the shah asPharoah lording it over a man representing the Iranian people with awhip marked "Made in U.S.A." Banners proclaimed, "Every day is'Ashura and everywhere is Karbala."

Muharram began with an explosion. For three consecutive nights, menin white shrouds signifying their willingness to be martyred went into thestreets in defiance of the curfew. Others went onto the rooftops to chantanti-shah slogans. The BBC claimed that some seven hundred personsdied in the first days. On December 4, marxist guerrillas attacked a policestation, the homes of three American advisors were firebombed, and theoil workers went on strike. General Azhari called a press conference onDecember 5, in which he tried to present a strong front, threatening a48-hour curfew for 'Ashura, claiming that less than 5 percent of thepopulation was involved in the revolution, calling Khomeyni "a tool ofthe enemies of this country"; but he also conceded that he would allow'Ashura marches if the opposition promised they would be controlled.Sanjabi and Foruhar were released from prison the following day.Promises were made to release 472 prisoners on International HumanRights Day (which incidentally fell on the eve of 'Ashura). There weresome attempts to negotiate with opposition figures about a post-'Ashuragovernment: there were said to be meetings and contacts between theshah, his ambassador Zahedi, and former prime minister Dr. Ali Amini,Ayatullah Shariatmadari, and others. What was achieved was at least acompromise for the marches on 'Ashura. In an attempt to discourage

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mass marches and meetings, the government issued warnings that com­munist guerrillas planned to throw bombs and grenades into crowds andthat women guerrillas were concealing weapons under their chadors.

On Friday, December 8, some six thousand people gathered at theBehesht-e-Zahra cemetery south of Tehran chanting, "Death to the shah,Peace unto Khomeyni." Plans were announced for a massive march onSunday, the ninth of Muharram to be led by Ayatullah MahmudTaleghani (released from a four-year prison term on November 12) andKarim Sanjabi (released after twenty-six days in jail on December 6).General Azhari announced the lifting of the ban on the marches, therelaxing of curfew hours, and the stationing of troops well away from theline of march. Meanwhile in Isfahan, after mosque services, the armydisrupted a march of twenty thousand people, leading to attacks on fivebanks, a movie house, several office buildings, the headquarters of theGrumman Company, and an apartment building in which five Americantechnicians lived. Some two thousand Americans fled the country onDecember 8 and 9, before the scheduled closing of the airport for threedays.

Tasu'a (Muharram ninth, the eve of 'Ashura) saw a massive six-hourpeaceful march in Tehran by three hundred thousand to a million and ahalf people, led by the sixty-eight-year-old Taleghani. Forty abreast, themarchers converged along various major routes to the Shahyad Monu­ment, built with money extorted from merchants for the 2,500-yearcelebrations. Similar peaceful demonstrations were held in Tabriz, Qum,Isfahan, and Mashhad. One major incident of violence was reportedfrom Hamadan: a rebel soldier shot the governor-general.

'Ashura (Muharram tenth) saw an even larger march: eight hours andsome two million people in Tehran. March marshalls tried to stop peoplefrom shouting "Death to the shah," but soon gave up. (The agreementfor Tasu 'a had been that no motorcycles or trucks would be used, forfear they might carry explosives, and that chants would be limited tosixty, none of which would directly attack the shah.) A goat was sacri­ficed by some mullas along the line of march. Green flags (Islam), redones (martyrdom), and black ones (Shi'ism) were interspersed with ban­ners reading in English and Persian, "We will kill Iran's dictator," "Wewill destroy Yankee power in Iran." Groups of women chanted, "Azhari,do you still think it is done with tapes?" (General Azhari had complainedthat the rooftop chanting was partly prerecorded and that the tapes con­tained sounds of firing to make it seem the army was more bloodthirstythan it was.) Other chants included "Arms for the people," "Hang thisAmerican king." In Isfahan there were two marches in the morning; inthe afternoon statues of the shah were pulled down, pictures of Kho­meyni put in their place, a Saderat bank was set afire, two movie houses

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and a restaurant were attacked, and SAVAK headquarters was attacked.In Dezful a soldier shot his officer; in Tehran three Imperial Guardsmenkilled twelve officers and injured fifty men at their Lavizan base.

For three days after 'Ashura, the army tried to organize pro-shahdemonstrations in various cities, sometimes using violent intimidation toget people to join these demonstrations. In Isfahan, troops first sweptthrough the city on December 12, firing into the air, and then brought intruckloads of villagers to demonstrate for the shah. The soldiers toredown pro-Khomeyni posters, put up banners of the national colors(green, white, and red), and painted over anti-shah graffiti. They stop­ped motorists, forcing them to place pictures of the shah on their wind­shields and shout "Javid shah" (long live the shah). A man and his wifewere shot for refusing. They smashed the windshields of motoristsdisplaying pictures of Khomeyni or with their lights on (a pro-Khomeynisign). In Najafabad troops attacked a hospital and set fire to a mosque.In Isfahan troops gunned down a line of people waiting to give blood atSoraya Hospital. At least forty were killed in the two towns.

In Shiraz, Bahai houses in the neighborhood of Sa' di's tomb were at­tacked. Accounts of the attack on Bahais are confused, Muslims claim­ing that Bahais were involved in the army-organized pro-shah violenceagainst the revolutionaries, Bahais hotly denying the charge. One ac­count suggests that the house of a certain arrogant Bahai officer was at­tacked by Muslims who wished to get even, that he opened fire, and thatthey returned fire, after which they went on a rampage. Other accountssay Bahais who had been repeatedly threatened had been stockpilingweapons for self-defense; when the attack came, they went up on theirroofs to return the fire, but by so doing tragically identified their houses.Forty Bahais and Muslims are said to have been killed and hundreds ofhouses and shops attacked in three nights of violence.

In Mashhad, club-wielding civilians and troops invaded three hospitalswhere doctors and nurses had expressed prorevolutionary feelings. Kho­meyni in Paris commented on the violence in some fifty-five cities, sayingthat the shah was mentally disturbed and could be expected to commitmore atrocities before he was removed. A rumor circulated that the shahhad vowed to turn Iran to ashes before he would leave the throne.Former prime minister Amini called for the shah's abdication or at leasthis leaving the country under a regency council. Sanjabi met with theshah. A general strike was called for Monday, December 18. MeanwhileGeneral Azhari banned street demonstrations, threatened to dismiss civilservice employees who did not return to work, and ordered the arrest ofoil strike leaders. On Monday, ten thousand people gathered in theBehesht-e Zahra cemetery to mourn those who had died.

The efforts of the government to get the oil strikers back to work or toprovide some hope of transition to a civilian government gradually broke

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down. Clashes between the army and civilians turned increasingly brutal.In the oil fields, strike leaders were arrested and other strikers dismissedon December 17. Oil production temporarily increased. But onDecember 23, the Mujahidin guerrillas assassinated the American actingdirector of the oil industry's management firm and an Iranian productionsuperintendent. 16 Notes were sent to workers telling them to resign orface death. These actions had the desired effect of stiffening the strike.Within three days, three thousand workers had resigned and many morehad walked off the job. Minor terrorist acts against foreign military andtechnical advisors increased in the form of fire-bombing of cars andhomes, notes warning them to leave the country, and attacks on theUnited States Embassy.

On December 21, Gholam-Hoseyn Saddiqi, a member of the NationalFront, was asked to form a civilian government. Cynics saw this as amaneuver to avoid dealing with the leadership of the National Front andtherefore doomed to fail. It did fail, whether for that reason or because,according to other accounts, Khomeyni's message of support wassabotaged" 7

On December 29, a similar gambit would be tried with Dr. ShapurBakhtiar, another member of the National Front. This effort eventuallywould succeed. Bakhtiar was to become the great unloved hero who pro­vided the means to get the shah out of the country without provoking amilitary coup; the middle class failed to rally to him because they couldnot afford to break with the Khomeyni-Ied momentum, but also becauseBakhtiar was perceived to be using the threat of a coup long after heshould have declared a referendum to abolish the monarchy.

In the meantime, violence in the streets turned brutal, first inMashhad, then Tehran, and then Qazvin. Part of the context was thetakeover of more and more institutions by workers, leaving the army in­creasingly isolated as a defender of the government. Part of the contextwas the buildup to a Day of Mourning called by Khomeyni for December30, the anniversary, according to the Islamic calendar, of the killings inQum.

In Mashhad, doctors had taken over the Sixth of Bahman Hospital,named after the anniversary of the shah's White Revolution, and re­named it Seventeenth of Sharivar Hospital, after the date of the BlackFriday massacre in Jaleh Square. The ministry of justice and the provin­cial administration were taken over. Three sets of incidents in the lastweek of December illustrate the way young men were willing to be mar­tyred as vanguards when backed by crowds, the way physicians turnedagainst the army and the reaction this elicited, the way Islam was potentpolitically rather than ritually, and the way a frustrated army itself ram­paged.

On December 23, a few soldiers tore up pictures of Khomeyni being

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sold outside the house of Ayatullah Shirazi. A scuffle ensued and adozen people were killed. Crowds descended upon the soldiers. Theybegan to retreat, firing at the ground in front of the crowd to keep itback. Young men willing to be martyred formed a vanguard, with therest of the crowd some yards behind. The soldiers fired, again at theground, and again retreated. The young men halted, then followed.Eventually the soldiers were rushed and their officer was killed. Thefollowing day tens of thousands marched to protest the killings by thesoldiers.

On December 27, the day after the Mashhad jail had been burned fromthe inside, 18 a group of royalist toughs 19 were allowed entry to the ShahReza Hospital, now renamed by the physicians Imam Reza Hospital.After incidents in Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, and Mashhad, demonstratingthat the army granted hospitals no privileged sanctuary status, the doc­tors had announced that military personnel would not be treated in thehospital under the military insurance scheme but only as private in­dividuals. 20 Soldiers guarding the hospital let in the toughs, who pro­ceeded to the children's ward, tearing off bandages and generallyroughing up patients and intimidating the staff. After word had beenpassed to a large march farther up the street, a group of young men ap­proached the hospital chanting, "Javid shah" (long live the shah) andwere allowed entry by the guards. They chased the royalist toughs out.Realizing their mistake, the guards opened fire to provide cover for theescaping toughs, riddling the hospital with bullets. Eighteen were shotand two died. Enraged, the demonstrators happened upon a retired col­onel in his car; they dragged him out and demanded he shout, "Marg barshah" (death to the shah). He refused, repeating "Javid shah," as theybeat him, then blinded him, and finally killed him. The mass ofdemonstrators, which had been proceeding along the street, now arrivedand the hospital was made the site of a rally. Afterward people dispersed,although it was prayer time and some of the mullas tried to get everyoneto stay for prayers: it was clearly Islam as a political vehicle not Islam asa ritual system that was bringing people together.

On December 30, a jeep with a colonel and a truckload of soldiersdrove up to the great anniversary Day of Mourning march. They jumpedout, declared themselves on the side of the revolution, and began chang­ing into civilian clothing. They were chased by several tanks, whichcrushed a number of people while the soldiers aboard fired at themutineers. The crowd reacted by going on a rampage. They attacked the­Pepsi Cola Company, the Army Cooperative Stores (the staging site forpro-shah demonstrators), a woman's prison (inmates were freed),American and British libraries, and two police stations; and they lynchedthree members of SAVAK. The following day there was more violence:the troops had been primed by viewing corpses of soldiers on the parade

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ground. When demonstrators attacked an army compound, the troopsreacted and hundreds were killed.

Meanwhile, in Tehran on December 27 there was a major shooting ofcivilians by the army. The preceding day a professor participating in asit-in at the Ministry of Science and High Education had been shot. Hisbody was taken to Pahlavi Hospital (called now Khomeyni Hospital bydemonstrators). On the twenty-seventh, a march of largely middle-classpeople - unveiled women, men in coats and ties - proceeded to thehospital to take the professor's body for burial. The march was stoppedby two tanks and a dozen elite rangers, who tried to disperse the marchwith tear gas, but the marchers regrouped and sat down in front of thetanks. The ranger colonel consulted with martial law authorities andgained permission for the march, and for the rangers to escort the body,by one account as far as 24 Esfand Square, by another account southfrom 24 Esfand Square but not going past the University of Tehran. Theranger colonel marched with the funeral in the front row. Troopsawaited the march at the Square and stationed on rooftops. As themarchers approached, the waiting troops opened fire, to the consterna­tion of the ranger escort, whose colonel was killed in the first rounds.The shooting went on for hours. Enraged youths dipped their hands inthe blood of their comrades to alert the public, and march marshallsstopped cars, begging for blood donations.

In Qazvin, a similar firing on a funeral the next day turned even uglier.On December 27, three men in a demonstration had been shot, and onDecember 28, 120 were shot when troops fired on a funeral. The crowdattacked banks, liquor stores, and other shops. On New Years' day thetroops themselves went on a rampage.

In both Qazvin and Mashhad, reporters interviewing the military com­manders found them extremely upset about attacks on particular officersby the crowds. In Mashhad the commander had gruesome photos ofmutilated officers; in one case he had even received a gift of intestinespacked in a plastic bag with a note "executed by the people's court." InQazvin the commander, Brigadier General Nematollah Motamedi, wasarrested by his own men after the return of Khomeyni and was one of thefirst eight to be executed by the new government. Similar retribution wasto be visited upon the military governors of Isfahan and Tehran andupon General Manuchehr Khosrowdad, who had led the troops into thetheological schools of Qum in 1963.


The year 1979 began with the hope that Bakhtiar would succeed in eas­ing the shah out of the country and the fear that this would trigger amilitary coup. The economy was at a standstill. Gasoline and kerosenewere running out. Garbage collection and bus services in Tehran w~re

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suspended. Barricades and bonfires were being built daily in the streets tohamper troop movements. The military prime minister, General Azhari,had resigned on December 31 in the aftermath of two days of severeviolence in twelve cities as the army appeared to be losing discipline andcontrol.

The new civilian prime minister designate was given preliminary ap­proval by parliament on January 3. Among his first acts were the liftingof censorship on the print media and the easing of curfew hours. Thefirst newspapers since military rule had begun appeared on January 7.Meanwhile, Engineer Mehdi Bazargan went to the oil fields withmessages from Khomeyni asking workers to produce oil for domesticneeds. The workers had to be persuaded: at first they booed Bazargan,but by January 5 an agreement had been worked out. General Oveysi,the much hated military governor of Tehran and minister of labor in themilitary government, fled the country. The United States backed theBakhtiar effort and sent Air Force General Huyser to Tehran to help per­suade the Iranian army not to stage a coup. Most Iranians were con­vinced he was there to organize a coup if it was not too late.

Meanwhile, the various factions of the revolution began display ac­tivities to jockey for position in the post-shah era. The National Frontcalled a national Day of Mourning for January 7 to mark the anniversaryof the Qum killings according to the Iranian civil calendar. Khomeynicalled a separate Day of Mourning for the following day. Bakhtiar an­nounced support for both Days of Mourning and banned music from theradio for the two days. He also lifted martial law in Shiraz. Thedemonstrations were largely peaceful, with scattered disturbances inTabriz, Hamadan, and Qarchak. 21 Forty thousand marched in Qazvin,half a million in Isfahan, tens of thousands gathered at the Behesht-e­Zahra cemetery in south Tehran, and five hundred more gathered infront of Ayatullah Taleghani's house, with chests bared, daring the armyto shoot. Khomeyni and Sanjabi separately condemned the Bakhtiargovernment, but Ayatullahs Shariatmadari and Shirazi pointedly did notjoin in the condemnation. On January 13, a Regency Council was namedto take the place of the shah, so he could "go on vacation." Khomeynicountered with an announcement that he had a ten-member provisionalIslamic Revolutionary Counci1. 22 January 14 was a day of euphoria:crowds put flowers in the guns of soldiers, and soldiers displayed picturesof Khomeyni on their vehicles. On January 15, parliament acceptedBakhtiar's cabinet. On January 16, the shah left the country.

There was jubilation in the streets. Soldiers and civilians embraced.Anti-American slogans were in evidence-"After the shah, now theAmericans," and "Yankees go home, the shah is dead"-but Americanson the streets were treated with friendliness. Pictures of the shah were cutout of banknotes. And the perennial dog metaphor was brought to life: a

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canine trotted about the streets with a sign affixed to its back reading,"My brother-traitor has just escaped; please arrest and punish him."Even the cosmos responded with an earthquake 21 minutes after the shahleft. 23

The final step of easing the Bakhtiar government out proved relativelyeasy. It was also a period of increased factional display. Khomeyni in­sisted that because Bakhtiar had been nominated by the shah, his govern­ment was illegitimate. Bakhtiar's only chance for long-term successwould have been to abolish the monarchy, but he did not have the time.Part of Bakhtiar's function was to reassure and restrain the army.Moreover, the army was the only threat Bakhtiar had againstKhomeyni's simply setting up an alternative government~ The armyleadership was presumed to be royalist.

January 19 was Arba'in, the fortieth of Husayn's death, and Kho­meyni called for a massive march against Bakhtiar. Sanjabi and the Na­tional Front leadership did not participate. Over a million peoplemarched in Tehran, half a million in Mashhad, two hundred thousand inQum. Few banners, however, showed hostility to Bakhtiar. Two dayslater, leftists called a march: ten thousand marched to AryamehrTechnical University, with hostile hecklers following. Included in themarch were socialists, marxists, communists, and factory workers whosaid they would not support an appeal from Khomeyni to go back towork unless they were allowed to organize unions. Marxist newspaperswarned Khomeyni not to try to monopolize the revolution, saying thatthe people would resist any attempt to use Islam as a pretext for imposinga single-party system. 24 Islamic students demonstrated at the KayhanNewspaper offices against leftist editorial biases and were invited in bythe staff. Two days later the Imperial Guard put on a drill display of pro­shah fighting readiness for foreign newsmen at their Lavizan Base paradegrounds. Meanwhile, however, there were reports of air force and armydefections in favor of Khomeyni. 25

Negotiations proceeded between the army, Bakhtiar, Bazargan, andKhomeyni. Khomeyni announc~d his intention of returning to Iran forFriday prayers on the sixth of Bahman (January 26), the anniversary ofthe shah's White Revolution, and for the anniversary of the ProphetMohammad's death (January 27). Bakhtiar closed the airports. Therewere huge demonstrations of a hundred thousand on Friday and half amillion on Saturday, with slogans "Death to Bakhtiar" and "Neither shahnor Shahpur" (a pun: Shah-pur means "son of the shah"). On Fridaythere were several clashes, with twenty deaths near the university. OnSaturday, troops were kept away. The whole cycle of violence threatenedto break out anew. A compromise was reached: Bakhtiar would fly toParis, resign, and Khomeyni would appoint him to set up electoralmachinery for a new government. At the last minute, Khomeyni's aides

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convinced him to change his mind. Bakhtiar reopened the airports. OnJanuary 31, there was a massive display of troops in Tehran, to warnKhomeyni supporters. On February 1, Khomeyni returned to a welcom­ing crowd of some two million people.

Negotiations went on. Bakhtiar retreated from his previous assertionsthat he would arrest any provisional government appointed by Kho­meyni. Such a government could act as a shadow government only. Kho­meyni thereupon named Bazargan as his prime minister designate. Kho­meyni in turn retreated from his assertion that the referendum abolishingthe monarchy had already passed in the streets and that he would presenta new constitution. The 1905 constitution could provide a framework fortransition. The military now began to negotiate with Khomeyni directly.Bakhtiar began introducing bills in parliament to fulfill the demands ofthe revolution: a bill to abolish SAVAK, a bill to establish jury trials forformer corrupt officials, a bill to withdraw from CENTO; he continuedthe cancelation of expensive military contracts begun under the shah.Small demonstrations in support of Bakhtiar now began to be held.Bazargan told a rally on February 9 at the University of Tehran thatstrikes should continue until Bakhtiar resigned but that credit should begiven Bakhtiar for freeing the press, easing the curfew, lifting bans ondemonstrations, and freeing political prisoners.

On Friday night, February 9, and Saturday, February 10, the marxistand Islamic guerrilla groups, concerned by the notion of compromisewith the shah's army, forced the issue by attacking two military bases. 26

On Sunday, the army withdrew its defense of the Bakhtiar government,declaring its neutrality in the political struggle. Bakhtiar wentunderground. Bazargan moved into the prime minister's offices.

The struggle to construct a new political system had begun. On thereligious side the charismatic authority of Khomeyni and the conflict be­tween middle-class, scholarly, and folk interpretations of Islam wouldbecome immediate issues. Khomeyni had allowed his followers to callhim "Imam" Khomeyni. Newspapers and intellectuals now began to ob­ject that at most he was a Nayib aI-Imam (aide of the Imam), hardly amessiah. In the fervor of the revolutionary struggle, even middle-classeducated people voiced the interpretation that Khomeyni was themarja' -i taqlid of the era and therefore whatever he said to do must bedone without question. Ayatullah Shariatmadari quietly reminded peo­ple on several occasions that Khomeyni was merely one of the learnedmen of Islam. The frequent tactical use Khomeyni had made of termslike haram and jihad also caused concern. Bakhtiar responded to Kho­meyni's threats of jihad if he should not resign by pointing out thatjihads were to be called only against non-Muslims, not against Muslimbrothers. Khomeyni's labeling marches by leftists or other activities asharam or didd-i shar' (against the Islamic law) raised eyebrows and fears

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of authoritarianism. Most of all, the exercise of power by a secretivecommittee around Khomeyni without informing the Bazargan govern­ment angered leftists, intellectuals, and Bazargan himself, who on March1 threatened to resign.

One of the contradictions of the religious revolutionary movement hadbegun to be played out. During the past year university students haddenied any contradiction between their two heroes, Khomeyni and AliShariati, between the granting of special authority to a marja' -i taqlidand denying such special authority but insisting instead that Muslimsshould democratically think for themselves. Indeed by the end ofFebruary the Islamic guerrilla organization, the Mujahidin, had becomeallied with the marxist Fida' iyyin against Khomeyni and his moreauthoritarian aides.

One interpretation of this contradiction from the point of view of aliberal Shariati supporter, is that an ideological revolution was part ofthe ferment and disruption of the past year. The interpretation is con­structed partially from the logic of Shariati's writings but primarily fromthe defences of the revolution offered by Muslim students in the UnitedStates in the days immediately following the installation of the Bazargangovernment.

Ideological Revolution

Two important ideological shifts occurred in the course of the revolu­tion. First, it became practical to stress that the Karbala paradigm is nota passive weeping for Husayn but rather an active fighting for Husayn'sideals, and it is not merely a personal and individual commitment but asocial one. Second, after the removal of the shah there was a shift fromHusayn as the symbol of protest against tyranny to 'Ali as the symbol ofconstructive government and Muhammad as the symbol of universalism.


The insistence that the Karbala metaphor should trigger action ratherthan weeping is an old one. It served as a standard admonition in rawdas,especially during Ramadan, the month of commemorating 'Ali. It servedas an objection of the more scholarly and the more middle-class Shi'itesto the lower-class folk religion and to the akhunds who catered to them.And it served as a slogan of the modernists such as Dr. Ali Shariatiagainst the dry religion of the ulama. During the revolutionary year, themost striking illustration of the active interpretation of Karbala was thesuspension of traditional mourning processions during Muharram andespecially on 'Ashura: political marches were substituted.

Ayatullah Khomeyni's first speech upon returning to Iran was also il­lustrative. He spoke in the Behesht-e-Zahra Cemetery in South Tehran,where the Tehran martyrs of the revolution were buried. He spoke in Lot

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number 17, to commemorate the seventeenth of Shahrivar (BlackFriday). He began:

For the children who lost their fathers [of whom he was one], for theparents who lost their children [of whom he was one], I feel very sad. I can­not stand it. I cannot stand it . . . The shah destroyed everything and builtbig and beautiful cemeteries for us ... Is it human rights [0 AmericanPresident, who kept talking about human rights and issuing statements ofunconditional support for the shah] to say that when we want to name agovernment we get a cemetery full of people?

What magnificent possibilities for a rawda. But Khomeyni used none ofthe rhetorical cues for weeping, and no one wept. The form was totallydifferent: it was a speech not a rawda. People listened intently and ap­plauded once, when he said the revolution would continue until theBakhtiar government was replaced by an Islamic one.

Partisans and participants claimed that the revolution was a purifyingprocess. They meant that a catharsis and exposure of the shah's lies hadbeen performed, that the spilling of blood had produced an indeliblecommitment, and that false interpretations of Islam by the ulama andthe state had been laid to rest. A great deal was said during the revolutionabout disgracing the shah and his government (rusva'i kishidan): eachtime the shah or the government experienced a setback, it was com­mented on as a disgrace and exposure. It was self-reassurance that theshah was not invincible, that assertion of civil rights was not hopeless. Abeautiful minor illustration of this growing confidence is the story of thelittle old woman on 'Id-i Fitr who reacted in terror to the chant "Death tothe shah" but then returned to watch the demonstration when she sawthat the soldiers were not going to shoot.

The theme of martyrdom was of course central to the revolution. Hu­sayn is the martyr par excellence. His martyrdom, in the passive versionof Karbala, provided an intercessor for ordinary mortals at the last judg­ment. In a more active interpretation, his martyrdom is the model forothers to emulate: through struggle on the side of good one achievesheaven without need of any intercessor. Since martyrs are said to go toheaven, one need not mourn their deaths as one does those of ordinarypeople. The symbolism of martyrdom was thus omnipresent. Dem­onstrators wore white shrouds to symbolize their willingness to die. Wallgraffiti proclaimed that those who died did the work of Husayn, thosewho' fought did the work of Zaynab (she kept the survivors of Karbalatogether and maintained the message of Husayn until the fourth Imamhad recovered and could assume the political leadership), and those whodid not fight did the work of Yazid. Young men willing to die formedlines at the front of the demonstrations between the soldiers and the peo­ple. Banners at rallies included pictures of the latest male and female

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martyrs. Stories were collected of soldiers who aided the revolution anddied for it, such as the soldier who shot his officer in Jaleh Square onBlack Friday and the soldier who was killed for giving his weapon to thestudents in the November 4-5 events leading to military rule. Two of themost treasured stories were set in Tabriz and Hamadan.

In Tabriz, it is said, an officer asked three hundred men how many ofthem were willing to shoot to kill if so ordered. About half the soldiersstepped forward. He then asked how many of these would shoot theirown relatives. Perhaps a hundred stepped forward. Finally he asked howmany would shoot their own parents, and sixty stepped forward. He thenshot the sixty and himself.

In Hamadan on 'Ashura, it is said, twenty-two-year-old conscriptMohsen Mobashsher Kashani was on guard duty at a meeting of thegovernor-general, the local SAVAK chief, the local military law ad­ministrator, the chief of police, and three other officials. The governor­general told Kashani that they were about to interview a mulla, and in­structed him that at a specified time he should enter the room and shootthe mulla. The soldier slipped out to a phone and warned the mulla tocome ten minutes late to the meeting. At the assigned time, when themulla was originally supposed to be in the meeting, Kashani burst intothe room and opened fire, killing the governor-general and woundingseveral of the others. He was shot in turn. His father in Mashhad refusedto come to Hamadan to claim the body and pay the bond of 15,000tomans ($2000) required by the government as insurance that othermembers of the family would not become involved in revolutionary ac­tivity. (People commonly believed the ransom was a gruesome fee to payfor the bullets used by the government.) Instead, some ten thousand peo­ple escorted the body to an airplane to be flown to Mashhad. When thefather met the body, he was told not to cry, for a martyr ([ida',) goes toheaven.

Most important, especially for the future, was the sense that therevolution was laying to rest the false interpretations of Islam of the pastand that the interpretations pioneered by Shariati would provide theframework for a creative, open, progressive, and just society. In the pastthe state and many of the ulama had misused Islam for their own pur­poses: the justification of second-class status for minorities on thegrounds of ritual impurity (najis), the stress on divisions between Shi'itesand Sunnis, the justification of excluding women from the vote and fromparticipation in public affairs, the allegation that land reform had beenopposed because of the sacredness of private property in Islam orbecause of the material interests of the ulama-all were condemned. In­stead, it was argued, the true Muslim was one who contained in himselffaith (imam), self-purification (taqwa), and practicality (~amal-i salih).The true Islamic society was one in which there was an organic relation

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between the community (ummat) and the leadership (imamat), in whichsocial cohesion reflected divine unity; hypocrites (munajiqin), especiallymaterialists who used Islam as an opportunistic cover, were to be re­jected. In this sense the Muslim guerrilla group, the Mujahidin-i Khalq,were a vanguard: they had already purified themselves several yearsearlier by purging marxists who had tried to infiltrate. They calledthemselves holy warriors (mujahidin), ones who struggle in the path ofjustice. Although they had split from Mehdi Bazargan's Movement forthe Liberation of Iran over the use of force, which Bazargan rejected, inFebruary 1979 they played a vanguard role in bringing Bazargan topower by helping precipitate, through armed struggle, the final fall of theBakhtiar government. It was Iran, the revolutionaries felt, that wouldshow the Islamic world the proper path to a just society.


The rapid inflation of religious titles after the revolution so that almostevery senior mulla was called Ayatullah or Hojjat aI-Islam was a benignoverenthusiasm. But underneath this rhetorical euphoria lay the moreimportant relation between mullas and political authority. Although forthe National Front the revolution was almost complete and what re­mained was to allow the professionals and bourgeoisie to take control ofthe institutions of government, for Khomeyni the revolution would notbe complete if essentially the same policies of the past were continued.For him the revolution was not merely a political or an economic one,but a moral one changing the tone and value orientation of the govern­ment and of social behavior.

Khomeyni did not have a Leninist revolutionary party with a dis­ciplined cadre, nor did he have a clear program. He could only use hischarisma, the rhetoric of a clarified Islam, occasionally the dogmaticstyle allowed old men, and tactics of intimidation to negotiate andpressure the various elements in society toward his vision of an Islamicmoral society. It was to be expected that the dual sovereignty of anominal government headed by Bazargan and an informally constitutedseries of revolutionary councils, largely manned and coordinated bymullas and backed by irregular revolutionary militia, would continue forsome time in an uneasy, unstable, and tense relation to each other. TheBazargan government and the middle class, feeling insufficiently strongto confront or break with Khomeyni, awaited the decay of his charismaand the Islamic fervor as economic and administrative problems piledup. The Khomeyni forces, lacking clear organization or program, oftenrelied on terror tactics adopted from the shah. The very name Revolu­tionary Committee was motivated by the Committee Prison, the mostfeared of the interrogation and torture centers under the shah: that thename was deliberate was made clear by the announcement that the head-

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quarters of the Revolutionary Committee would be in the old CommitteePrison. The names of the members as well as their deliberations re­mained secret. It was announced that a new secret police with a slightlymodified acronym had been set up: SAVAMI. There was a running feudwith the press over the acceptability of political criticism and over themanagement of the news. 27 There were crises over whether Khomeynihad the right to countermand administrative decisions of the Bazargancabinet. 28 It became clear that Khomeyni had the authority to overridethe policies of the Bazargan government on such matters as summary ex­ecutions and ethnic minorities. He did not, however, have the power todismiss completely the political demands of the revolution for constitu­tional processes.

It is not suprising that for some time after the revolution the symbolsand rhetoric of a clarified Islam should remain a potent tool in Kho­meyni's hands, at least as long as he used them flexibly and strategically.Hijab (female modesty), justice, jihad for rural reconstruction, and unity(tawhid) are all examples of redefining terms in an attempt to renegotiatethe rules of society.

Ramadan 1979 (July-August), for instance, was used by Khomeyni asa symbolic tool against the Kurdish resistance to his unilateral decisions,against the criticism by the press and by Bazargan, and against theboycotts of the elections for an assembly to pass on his draft constitutionby the National Front, the National Democratic Front of Matin-Daftari,Ayatullah Shariatmadari's Muslim People's Party, and leftists. He calledfor unity, redefining tawhid (unity of God in all his manifestations) so itnot only included, but specifically denoted, national political unity andsolidarity with all Muslims in the world. He called for the reinstitution ofthe khutba after Friday communal prayers and urged that everyone at­tend Friday prayers. As Ayatullah Taleghani explained in his khutba onthe first Friday of Ramadan (July 27), which Bazargan attended, Shi'iteshad more or less suspended the use of the khutba because the politicalleadership of the community had fallen into the hands of the taqout (op­pressors, corrupters). The Friday assembly originally was intended byMuhammad for both worship and politics. Now that the taqout had beenoverthrown and replaced by a just and equitable imamate, the khutbashould be reinstituted. Khomeyni asked that the preachers use the khutbato stress the need for unity within Iran and among all Muslims, bothShi'a and SunnL He declared the last Friday of Ramadan, JerusalemDay, in solidarity with the Muslim Arab struggle to recapture that city.

Although it is too early to tell how the new discourse of Shi'ism in Iranwill develop, four issues dealt with in chapter 5 can be reexamined in apreliminary way: politics, Islamic economics, the status of women, andthe position of minorities.

Politics. From the beginning the revolutionaries stressed constitu-

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tionalism and the moral role of the ulama. As the movement gatheredforce, the call shifted from reinstating the 1905 constitution tounderscoring more pointedly the illegality of the Pahlavi monarchy andits activities under the constitution, and finally to the need to reconstructthe political system. The 1905 constitution contained a provision forsupervision over legislation by a council of five mujtahid.s. AyatullahKhoQleyni proposed that he continue to exercise an analogous functionfor the new Islamic republic, but he would not participate directly in thenew government and the provisional government that he would namewould not contain any ulama. Ulama would have the right to run forparliament as individuals. The process of transition was to be a referen­dum on the monarchy, a constitutional convention to amend or rewritethe constitution and free elections.

An important part of the demand for constitutionalism was for reformof the judicial system to allow open trials, defense of the accused, andthe protection of due process. A third promise of the revolution waspolitical pluralism, decentralization, and increased regional and localautonomy. All three of these liberal goals - most clearly articulated bythe National Front, given full support by Ayatullah Shariatmadari andapparently only tactical support by Ayatullah Khomeyni - rested uneas­ily alongside the conservative interpretation of Islam articulated by Kho­meyni. This conservative vision denigrated democracy as mindlesspopularity contests, and contrasted the infallible wisdom of divine law.It valued swift and final justice over the celebration of due process,which allows escape to the guilty on technicalities. And it insisted on sub­mission (islam), community (ummat), and correct actions expressed by aunified leadership (imamat), over any demands for autonomy orpluralism.

Thus, in December and January, Khomeyni claimed that the referen­dum on the monarchy had essentially passed in the streets and that hisadvisors would present a constitution for the people's approval. This,together with his failure to consult with his allies in the National Front,with Mehdi Bazargan, or with Ayatullah Shariatmadari, throughout thecourse of the revolution, caused considerable fear of authoritariantendencies. When the Bazargan government was installed, Khomeyni re­tained a Revolutionary Committee, which in short order executed eightgenerals and then a traffic warden accused of setting the Abadan RexCinema fire (a charge few found credible), and another unknown manaccused of being a torture expert. There were neither public trials norconsultation with the new government. Protest was heard from all sides:from Prime Minister Bazargan, from Ayatullah Qummi in Mashhad,from the International Commission of Jurists, from leftists. But Revolu­tionary Committee member Ayatullah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi­Kani replied that the executions would continue, for "we must purify;

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we have to renew." The furor grew as people were executed for sexual of­fenses as well as crimes under the shah. Bazargan made a major speechon March 14 (by which time sixty-eight people had been executed), de­nouncing the executions as "irreligious, inhuman, and a disgrace to thecountry -and revolution." Ayatullah Taleghani disassociated himselffrom the executions.

On March 15, former prime minister Hoveyda's trial began. Khomeynibowed to the outcry against the summary executions and halted the trialuntil a code of procedure could be established. The code he producedallowed him to appoint prosecutors, obligated sentences to be carried outwithin twenty-four hours, and denied the need to provide criminals withlawyers. Hoveyda's trial resumed, and he was executed on April 7. Trialsbecame slightly more public: witnesses were called against the accused,and the accused was allowed to speak in his own defense (thoughHoveyda was denied his request to prepare a full statement of defense).In early May, Khomeyni announced that executions were to be limited topersons proven to have killed people, or issued orders for killing, or com­mitted torture resulting in death. But executions continued for sexual de­viance, p*rnography, prostitution, political dissent (in the case of theKurds), and even for contact with Israel (in the case of a prominentJewish businessman). By the end of August 1979 over five hundred peo­ple had been executed. Ayatullah Sadegh Khalkhali ran for election to theconstitutional convention proudly claiming to be personally responsiblefor condemning two hundred to death (the electorate rejected him).

At issue was the authority of the Bazargan government, revolutionaryretribution (spokesmen justified the executions by pointing out thatmany more people had died in other revolutions), and judicial rights andprocedures. One of Khomeyni's first directives upon return to Iran wasto the Minister of Justice that decisions should be swift and final andthere should be no appeal processes in either civil or criminal cases. Herepeated a number of times that criminals had no right to lawyers. Inpart, he was reacting to the interested slowness in the Pahlavi regime'sadministration of justice which allowed graft. In part, the executionswere motivated by a fear that the military officers and secret police per­sonnel might promote a coup. And certainly there was indignation asstories of torture under the shah were publicized. But Khomeyni's lack ofconcern for deliberation, his blindness to the possibility of error, and hissimple faith in swift justice were not reassuring.

Other areas in which Khomeyni was able to override the wishes of theBazargan government were, first of all, the exercise of power through theloosely coordinated, or even uncoordinated, activities of the Revolu­tionary Committee and the numerous local revolutionary committeeswhich began to spring up, instead of through the public government;second, the reliance on the irregular revolutionary militias instead of

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reconstructing the army and absorbing the irregulars into it29 ; and third,negotiation with the ethnic minorities. Although Ayatullah Taleghani onbehalf of the government had repeatedly expressed willingness tonegotiate the demands of these minorities, and although the Bazargangovernment was opposed to the use of force to decide these issues,Ayatullah Khomeyni refused to consider the demands legitimate and in­sisted on defining their expression as treason against the state to becrushed mHitarity .

Even in the progress toward a constitution Khomeyni bucked thedemands of the other factions of the revolution. A basic promise of therevolution had been political plur~lism and local autonomy. A leitmotifof the year had been the separation of identity of the different allied fac­tions. By spring 1978, Marxist demonstrations had been distinguishedfrom those of the bazaar and of Islamic partisans. The need for the Na­tional Front to ally itself with Khomeyni was underlined by Khomeyni'sability to veto any compromise negotiations between the shah and San­jabi and by the failure of Sadeghi and even of Bakhtiar to shake that Na­tional Front stance. But in January 1979, when victory was almostassured, the National Front and Khomeyni called separate marches toprotest against the Bakhtiar government. Earlier, in the fall, the oilworkers pointedly refused to obey commands from Khomeyni and hadto be cajoled by Bazargan. About the same time factory workers saidthey would not return to work merely on the demand of Khomeyni unlesstheir political demands for free unions were agreed to. So, when Kho­meyni returned to Iran and his Revolutionary Committee began to exer­cise power, the left warned that no single faction should be allowed tomonopolize the revolution. This stand was given support by variousgroups protesting the arbitrary appointment of bosses without consulta­tion with the workers: the National Iranian Radio and Televisionworkers objected to the appointment of Khomeyni aide Ghotbzadeh astheir chief; workers in the oil fields demanded a say in management deci­sions; objections were voiced to a number of police and military appoint­ments; workers in various factories and organizations formed their ownmanagement committees.

There was considerable pressure on Khomeyni to accede to a referen­dum, and it was held on March 30. Ayatullah Shariatmadari, the Na­tional Front, and the leftists, however, all protested the manner in whichit was formulated. One had only a choice of voting for an as yet unde­fined Islamic republic (with a green ballot, the color of Islam), or against(with a red ballot, the color of Yazid). Kurds, Turkomen, and numerousothers announced a boycott of the referendum. To counter a possiblelow turnout, the voting age was lowered from eighteen to sixteen to en­franchise the youths who had helped man the street demonstrations. OnApril I, Khomeyni declared an Islamic Republic and the first day of agovernment of God.

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The next step was to provide a new constitution. Shariatmadari, theNational Front, and leftists demanded a constitutional convention. Kho­meyni and his aides preferred to publish a constitution themselves. Afterrepeated postponements, a draft was leaked to the press at the end ofMay, looking very much like the 1905 constitution. 30 On August 3, anelection was held for a seventy-three-member Assembly of Experts to ap­prove or amend the draft before putting it to a general referendum. Thiselection was boycotted by Shariatmadari, the National Front, and theNational Democratic Front on the grounds that the criteria for candidacywere restrictive (of 417 candidates, 383 were mullas), that there was notenough time to campaign, and that political meetings were harassed anddisrupted by Khomeyni followers. The opening of the Assembly onAugust 19 was overshadowed by demonstrations against new restrictionson the press promulgated by the Ministry of National Guidance, and bythe use of the army to drive Kurdish dissidents from the major towns ofKurdistan.

The Assembly of Experts (majUs khabrigan) redrafted the constitu­tion, placing all aspects of government under clerical guidance. In thepreamble the failure of the constitutional movement of 1905 and the na­tionalist movement of 1952-53 were attributed to a lack of proper Islamicphilosophy. The new movement was dated, coincidentally with Kho­meyni's political career, from 1963. The marja-i taqlid or nayib ul-Imamof the moment - initially Khomeyni - was empowered to preside over theselection of the president of the republic, to dismiss him in concert withthe supreme court or the parliament, to appoint the supreme judiciary, toact as supreme commander of the armed forces, to declare war andpeace, and to appoint six clerics to a twelve-member Council of Guar­dians which could veto parliamentary legislation deemed contrary toIslam and which would select the successor or council of successors toKhomeyni. Exactly how the various checks and balances between thenayib ul-Imam, the legislative, executive, and judicial organs of govern­ment, the Council of Guardians, and the Assembly of Experts (whichcould be convened to change the constitution or remove the nayib ul­Imam or council of leadership should they become incapacitated) wouldwork remained unclear.

Objections to this form of instituting the wilayat-i faqih were voiced invain by members of the Assembly of Experts such as Ayatullah NaserMakarem and the Azarbaijani lawyer Rahmatullah Moghaddam­Maragheh (one of four civilians in the Assembly); by members of thegovernment such as Prime Minister Bazargan and Azatullah Sahabi (alsoa member of Bazargan's Movement for the Liberation of Iran); and byAyatullah Shariatmadari. Shariatmadari insisted that because the notionof wilayat-i faqih was ambiguous and disputed in Islamic jurispru­dence-some interpreting it as merely moral guidance, or even more nar­rowly as financial guardianship for children and for the mentally in-

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competent; others, like Khomeyni, interpreting it as political activism - itshould not be incorporated into a constitution. He was among those whoargued that institutionalization of the wilayat-i faqih contradicted theconstitutional article vesting sovereignty in the people.

On the anniversary of the Black Friday massacre at Jaleh Square,Ayatullah Taleghani, who had received the largest number of votes in theelections for the Assembly of Experts but had been outmaneuvered forits presidency by Ayatullahs Montazari and Beheshti (the latter, head ofKhomeyni's Islamic Republican Party), spoke at the Behesht-e Zarahcemetery, warning Iranians to avoid despotism masquerading as religion.It was against Islam, he reminded his listeners, to deprive people of theright to criticize, to protest, and to express grievances. A few days later,on September 9, he died. He had long argued in behalf of democraticlocal councils; to honor his memory-or to avoid protests in hisname-local councils were hurriedly organized a month after his death inprovincial towns.

Behind Taleghani's warnings lay not only the struggle over the con­stitution but also clerical demands to purge the oil fields, the civil service,and the army. The irregular militias or revolutionary guard (pasdaran)were gradually organized under Ayatullah Lahouti and under Minister ofDefense Mustafa Chamran, a Berkeley-educated activist who had spenttime in Lebanon and .was considered to be a leader of the so-called Amalgroup that had participated in Shi'ite struggles in Lebanon. Revolu­tionary guards were scrutinized by members of Khomeyni's IslamicRepublican Party before being recruited; eventually, in December 1979,Lahouti resigned, charging that the guards were becoming an arm of theParty. Ayatullah Khomeyni's son-in-law, Shahabuddin Eshraqi, led acampaign against Hasan Nazih, the human rights activist lawyer and allyof Bazargan who had been made head of the national oil company. Thecampaign began in early June, with charges by Revolutionary Councilmembers Mohammad Beheshti and Mohammad Mofatteh that Nazih hadcriticized Khomeyni and therefore should be removed. One benevolenttheory had it that Nazih was maneuvering to run for President of the newrepublic as the candidate of Shariatmadari's Moslem People'sRepublican Party, and that Khomeyni contenders wished to see himsidelined. By September 28 Nazih had been removed by order of Kho­meyni and forced underground. He was charged with refusing to purgethe labor force, refusing to remove major pay differentials betweenwhite- and blue-collar workers, and giving financial support tonewspapers critical of the, regime. Nazih responded with detailed refuta­tions of the charges; he demanded a public investigation by a panel in­cluding Khomeyni and Bazargan. The prosecution quietly dropped thecase, and Ahmad Khomeyni, the Ayatullah's son, telephoned Mrs. Nazihwith expressions of sympathy.

The campaign against Nazih was but one of a series of struggles that

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attempted to silence moderate, critical, or independent voices. In April,Ayatullah Taleghani had gone underground for three days after two ofhis sons and a daughter-in-law were arrested. The Mujahidin declaredtheir willingness to fight at his direction, but he met with Khomeyni anddrew back from any challenge. His critical voice was essentially silencedor muted until the final week of his life. At the same time, in mid-April,Sanjabi resigned as Foreign Minister in an attempt by the Bazargangovernment to dramatize its protest against interference by the Revolu­tionary Council. Council member Ibrahim Yazdi replaced him.Hedayatullah Matin-Daftari was driven underground in the summer.Bazargan attempted to disprove criticism that the government was insuf­ficiently revolutionary by nationalizing a number of banks, companies,and industries in early summer; toward the end of July he announced thegradual merging of the secret Revolutionary Council with the publicgovernment. But by September, Mohammad Beheshti, who had becomethe de facto head of the Assembly of Experts, and Abol Hasan Bani-Sadrwere again calling for Bazargan's ouster, complaining among otherthings that he refused to purge the civil service.

What was occurring during the course of 1979 was quite clearly a sec­ond phase of the revolution, fitting very nicely Crane Brinton's Anatomyof Revolution: the collapse of the ancien regime is followed by a periodof dual sovereignty, with a public government and a secret power struc­ture; a terror in which over six hundred executions occurred; and a seriesof crises in which moderates were increasingly neutralized. Bazargan'sresignation, along with that of Foreign Minister Yazdi, ending the periodof dual sovereignty, came on November 6th in the drama surroundingMuharram 1979 (see Epilogue).

Economics. Just as there were fears about the ambiguity of the na­ture of an Islamic constitutional government (mashruta, "constitution,"from shart, "condition," implying conditioned by the Qur'an), so toothere was considerable speculation about what Islam would mean for theeconomy. Ayatullah Shariatmaqari tried to allay fears in January 1979by saying that not all interest was usury, that the future governmentwould need international technical help, and that international bankswith their interest rates would be welcome. But Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr,an economist who seemed to be close to Khomeyni, issued an economicprogram that called for abolishing all interest, nationalizing banks, can­celing all international debts owed by Iran, establishing workers' com­mittees to run all public enterprises (such as the oil industry, the banks,and the media), lowering oil production and raising oil prices, and intro­ducing high taxes on imported industrial goods to stimulate domestic in­dustry. Another major set of demands, much discussed in broad non­specific terms and incorporated into the platform of the National Demo­cratic Front, called for redistribution of wealth and a new land reform.

The call to abolish interest received much attention in the Islamic

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world. Kuwait in particular moved to establish modern banking facilitieson a significant scale which avoided interest calculations and operated ona profit- and risk-sharing basis. The calls for worker participation inmanagement had been present among various groups in the revolutionsince the summer of 1978. University professors threw out their ad­ministrators and elected their own deans and department chairmen.After the revolution, secret committees were established in some of theuniversities, and these conducted the hiring and firing procedures.Workers in the oil fields demanded a say in production and exportstrategies. In January 1979 various workers' committees were set up inthe news agencies, at· the airport, and at other places.

Perhaps the most interesting expression of Islamic economics duringthe revolution were the cooperative organizations set up to support thestrikes, to feed the poor, and to organize relief. This first became evidenton a large scale perhaps at the time of the Tabas earthquake. Relief wasorganized by Ayatullah Shirazi in Mashhad, and television coverageplayed up the contrast between the inefficiency of the government reliefand the efficiency of the religious network. The piece de resistance wasthe television coverage of the peasant who turned to the queen and toldher not to come merely to look at their suffering but to grab a shovel anddo something useful. In Tehran, merchants and the religious networkorganized to subsidize food and to support people who had no incomeeither because they were impoverished or because they were on strike.Most important, the critical oil strike was supported by donationsthroughout the country, with professionally printed receipts being givento donors. Granted that the revolutionary enthusiasm helped maintainthese networks, nonetheless cooperation was demonstrated to be a viableorganizational tool. So much for the ideology of the shah that the peoplehad to have everything done for them. Once again the shah was exposed.

Economic issues after the revolution took second place to politicalreorganization. Oil production was initiated, but while revenues came in,there was little abili~y to infuse the money into the domestic economy.Production levels were lowered to roughly three million barrels per dayas compared with nearly six million barrels before the revolution, but asworld oil prices continued to rise, Iranian government receipts did notsuffer. In addition, Iran expanded the number of customers from aboutten to about forty companies. Banks, insurance, and a number of in­dustrial enterprises were nationalized in June and July. In December,Bani-Sadr, now Finance Minister, announced the amalgamation ofbanks into eight national banks, seven divided functionally (housing,mining, agriculture, and so on) and a provincial bank, divided accordingto province and incorporating the former Bank Sadarat, the most ag­gressive commercial bank with a wide network of local branches. TheseIslamic banks, it was announced, would no longer charge interest on

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loans, but only a fixed 4 percent fee. Wages were raised for workers andlowered for management. Credits were provided for farmers. But therevolutionary economic policy remained unclear.

Peasants and sedentary tribal farmers in Fars, in Turkoman countrynear Gorgan, in Shahsavan country near Ardebil, in villages nearTehran, and in Kurdistan thought the revolution meant a new landredistribution; they seized lands they thought had been taken from themunjustly and resisted landlords who attempted to recover their property.The ulama protested. Khomeyni told the Turkomen that irrigated landspreviously owned by a number of the shah's generals should now belongto the community at large (bait-ul-mal). Shariatmadari issued a similarfatwa against the Shahsavand seizure of the Dasht-e Moghan irrigationproject. Ayatullah Dastgheeb issued similar opinions in the Shiraz area.The Ministry of Agriculture announced that the Dez Irrigation Project inKhuzistan would be sold to private persons rather than restored to thethousands of families evicted from the land. On the other hand, when theMujahidin interpreted the Qur'anic verses on the spoils of war (SuraAnfahl) as support for public or collective property in pursuit of aclassless society Ualna'i tawhidl) and said that this should apply tomines, forests, and other national resources as well as to land seized fromthe shah's retainers, they were condemned as marxists illegitimatelymanipulating Islamic terminology. Mines and forests belong to thediscoverer, as long as he pays Islamic taxes.

A basic problem in the industrial sector and the cities was that of get­ting people back to work. Revolutionary committees were set up to aidmanagement in a number of firms, and many of those who had jobs con­sidered their lot improved, despite high inflation, low productivity, andshortages. A new spirit of proletarian - or ascetic Islamic - austerityreigned in some of the largest firms, where managers received salariesconsiderably smaller than those of their predecessors, occupied smalleroffices, and replaced fancy hand-woven carpets with machine-madefloor coverings in emulation of Khomeyni's simple life style. But manydid not have jobs. On April 11 th~ unemployed demonstrated in Isfahan,Abadan, and Tehran. In Tehran, failing to gain satisfaction from theMinistry of Labor, a thousand people marched to the home of AyatullahTaleghani. During the summer of 1979 Khomeyni called for a jihad forrural reconstruction, asking urban dwellers to go into the villages andvolunteer help to the peasants. When those who did so - either followingthe jihad or simply returning 'to aid their families' seasonal laborneed - returned in the fall, they again swelled the ranks of theunemployed. On October 1 and 2, 1,500 demonstrated, chanting "deathto this fascist regime" and "death to the Islamic republic." On November12 there was a major demonstration of some thousand people at theMinistry of Labor.

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Women. That women participated in all aspects of the revolution isevidence that it was a genuine social movement; it is not necessarilyevidence that their position would be improved after the revolution. InAlgeria women were full partners in a revolution whose ideology was ex­plicit equality of the sexes; yet afterward women were again reduced to atraditional role. The religious leadership of the Iranian revolutionstressed the liberal interpretation cited in chapter 5: women are notprevented from participating fully in the public sphere: they can vote andhold any office; but they should not be used as sex objects divorced fromconjugal and family obligations as ways of selling and packaging thecommerce of the West, which is a form of sexual exploitation andneocolonial domination. Occasionally there were reactionary statements:in the open parliamentary days of early September 1978 a member fromMinab, Heydarzadeh, joined what he thought was the religious band­wagon by proposing a law revoking the gains women had made under theFamily Protection Laws, only to find himself roundly abused by womenmembers. In order to allay the fears of otherwise sympathetic pro­gressives, Khomeyni appointed a female physician as one of a committeeof five to represent him in Washington in January 1979. She appeared onAmerican television to speak for the revolution, her hair covered with amodernistic headcloth. But upon his return to Iran, one of Khomeyni'sfirst instructions to the new Minister of Justice was to review the FamilyProtection Law and strike out what was against Islam. He then caused anuproar by saying that women must not work "naked" in the governmentministries, widely interpreted as an order that women work in chadors,and indeed there were cases of revolutionary militia turning women awayfrom their offices until they came in chadors.

On March 8, International Women's Day, some ten thousand womenmarched from the University of Tehran to the prime minister's office;three thousand went by bus to Qum. Heard during the march were criesof "Down with Khomeyni," "Down with this dictatorship." Khomeyniretreated, saying that he had meant only that it was a personal duty ofdevout Muslim women to wear the veil, not an order to be enforced bythe state. The veil, he said, was to be honored as the flag of the revolu­tion, but anyone insulting women in the name of the revolution shouldbe punished. On March 10, a second march was held to the ministry ofjustice. Although protected by male friends, this time there were uglyclashes with foul-mouthed, knife- and broken-bottle-wielding men. Atissue in the marches was not only women's rights, but also the values ofdemocracy the middle class had fought for during the revolution. Peoplewere protesting Khomeyni's insistence that the referendum on the Islamicrepublic be a yes/no vote, without any chance to indicate support for asecular republic or other form of government than one under hisguidance. They were supported in this by Ayatullah Shariatmadari.

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Although anti-Khomeyni sentiment was building, marches were abruptlycanceled on the grounds that the revolution was too fragile to be split.The women's issue gradually sank into the background, and on the birth­day of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet - May 17 - declared IranianWomen's Day, a march of some ten thousand veiled women was held,with men segregated, but with some veiled women carrying rifles.

Khomeyni suggested bans on coeducation, on music, on the practice ofmales and females swimming together or mingling in public gatheringssuch as political marches. All these remained open to negotiation.Marches were segregated, but women continued to be seen without veils,although progressive activists wore headcloths, and the ban on music wasignored.

Minorities. Because the 1905 constitution had made second-classcitizens of non-Ja 'fari Shi'ites (in the sense that they could not becomecabinet ministers or judges) and because it contained provisions confin­ing freedom of press and education to things that were not harmful inIslam, there was a good deal of concern over what a more fully Islamicinterpretation of the constitution might bring. Minorities had par­ticipated in the National Front movement of the 1940s and felt con­siderable solidarity with the political and social goals of the revolution,but they were uneasy about fighting for those goals in Islamic rather thansecular terms. During the winter of 1978, handbills and wall graffiti call­ing for the death of Zoroastrians, Jews, Assyrians, and Armeniansevoked fearful memories of the religious riots of the turn of the century.

The position of Bahais remained a concern throughout. Sadarat bankbranches were regular targets of demonstrators on the grounds that thebank was Bahai controlled; there was the riot after 'Ashura in Shiraz;Khomeyni repeatedly refused to acknowledge any rights of Bahais,although he said Jews and Christians would be protected. The doubleslander on American television by Dr. Mansur Farhang, a defender ofthe revolution, that hostility to Bahais was understandable because theyhad been recruited in great numbers into SAVAK and had been trainedin Israel did not help. On July 12, 1979, the Bahai temple in Tehran andother Bahai property were seized, and the temple was given to AlamaNuri to turn into an Islamic institute. In September the house of the Babin Shiraz, a major Bahai shrine, was destroyed. Graveyards in Yazd andother towns were desecrated, corpses exhumed and burned. A total ofsixteen shrines and historical sites were confiscated or destroyed,graveyards in at least nine towns were bulldozed or desecrated, andhomes in over a score of villages were burned or looted.

And yet the revolution was remarkably protective of minorities. Jewswere extremely nervous because of Khomeyni's anti-Zionist rhetoric andIsrael's participation in the creation of SAVAK was constantly played upand given as the main reason oil to Israel would be cut off, whereas

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Israeli development aid in the Qazvin plain, the poultry industry, andelsewhere was never mentioned. Five to ten thousand of the eighty thou­sand Iranian Jews left the country during the turmoil, many hoping toreturn. Of the majority who stayed, a few were active in the movement.The November 5 riot in Tehran which swept down Shah Reza and Fer­dowsi streets, destroying Armenian liquor stores, passed by the solid rowof Jewish carpet shops, leaving them untouched.

Jews worried again when Ayatullah Khomeyni and AyatullahTaleghani both repeated the absurd demagoguery that Iranian soldierswould not shoot their Muslim brothers and that it had been Israelisoldiers who had fired on the crowd at Jaleh Square. A Jewish delegationwent to Qum to present a contribution to the movement to AyatullahShariatmadari. Another delegation was received in Paris by AyatullahKhomeyni. Both ayatullahs said Jews would be protected. During thebloody riots a Jewish hospital in Tehran became a center of blood dona­tions and transfusions for the wounded. When Khomeyni returned toIran, a Jewish delegation was present to welcome him. After theBazargan government was installed, four Jewish leaders in Tehran held anews conference in which they announced solidarity with the revolution,that they expected but would overlook minor incidents of discrimination,that they were cutting all ties to international Jewish organizations, andthat they felt themselves to be first and foremost Iranians. This samegroup, eventually calling itself the Society of Intellectual Jews, held amemorial service after the assassination of Professor - and since therevolution, Ayatullah - Mortaza Motahhari, a leader of the Revolu­tionary Committee, and expressed again solidarity with the revolution.

Nonetheless, on May 9, 1979, in an extraordinary warning to theJewish community, the prominant businessman and Jewish communityleader Habib Elghanian, was executed by a revolutionary court. Thecrime was "contact with Israel and Zionism." One of the rumors floatedamong New York's Iranian students was that he had been killed inrevenge for Motahhari's assassination, because only an Israeli agentcould have killed such a central figure in the revolution - this despite thefact that Motahhari's death was claimed by the Forghan guerrilla group,and despite the fact that a Jewish delegation which had visited Khomeyniafter Motaheri's assassination had been promised again that Jews wereprotected. Two months later a Jewish businessman was killed in Isfahanby an anonymous assassin allegedly in retaliation for Israeli raids onLebanon.

Christians too were promised protection by Khomeyni. At the time ofthe November 5 riot, the Armenian bishop issued a statement that thedestruction of Armenian liquor stores was anti-liquor, not anti­Armenian. During 'Ashura a Christian contingent marched chanting:

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Din-i rna rnasihi'st Our religion is Christianity,Rahbar-i rna Khurneyni'st Our leader is Khomeyni.At Khomeyni's request, electricity blackouts were suspended atChristmas and New Year's so that Christians could celebrate. For theArmenian Christmas in January, the Armenian archbishop announcedthat public festivities would be suspended in solidarity with the revolu­tion. A priest in Shiraz was slain early in the revolution, and in October1979 there was an attempt on the life of Anglican Bishop HasanDehghani-Tafti (a convert many years ago from Islam). Shaykhi leader,Abdul Reza Ibrahimi, was assassinated in Kirman in December 1979.Shaykhis are a sect within Twelver Shi'ite Islam which has commonnineteenth-century roots with Babism and Bahaism.

Ismailis (members of a non-Twelver but Shi'ite branch of Islam), likeJews, were anxious: the leadership in Mashhad involved itself in themovement, but Ismaili villagers, like many Muslim villagers, remainedfaithful to a king who had protected them against the excesses of themullas or remained simply bewildered by the events. Zoroastrians alsowere frightened and anxious. Shortly after the installation of theBazargan government, some guerrillas walked into the main Tehran firetemple, removed the portrait of the Prophet Zoroaster, and replaced itwith one of Khomeyni. That, commented an old Zoroastrian woman,was going too far. Sunni minorities also expressed doubts, and in theircase the issue was also compounded by ethnic and linguistic issues.

Despite much speculation during 1978 about the potential for theethnic minorities to attempt to break away from the central government,ethnic divisions did not become an actual political issue until the springof 1979, when the Kurds, the Turkomans, the Arabs of Khuzistan, andthe Baluch began to assert their linguistic differences and make ad­ministrative demands. And once again the religious boundary provedcritical. Kurdish Sunnis armed themselves during the course of therevolution and, while supporting its goals, demanded autonomous statuswithin an Iranian federation. They worried that Khomeyni always spokeof Iran as a Shi'ite state, never acknowledging that there were Sunnis aswell; and they spoke bitterly of past humiliations when they had gone toTehran or to other Shi'ite parts of Iran and were caught, for instance,performing the namaz differently. But there was more to their demandsthan this. The Pahlavis, in the interest of national integration, haddiscouraged the use of Turkish, Arabic, and Baluchi in the schools andas a medium of literary production. For similar reasons, the Pahlavis hadalso systematically throughout Iran appointed governors, heads ofbureaucratic offices, and military personnel to serve in areas where theyhad no local ties. In spring 1979, first the Kurds, then the Turkomans,Arabs, and Baluch, demanded a reversal of these policies. They wanted

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the right to teach and use their own language, to appoint their own civiland military officials, and to have a larger say over regional developmentplans. This became one of the first major struggles for Khomeyni, who,like the Pahlavis, preferred a unitary state over any form of federation.

Interestingly, the Azerbaijanis - previously the most vocal of the op­ponents of the Pahlavis' linguistic policy - were not visibly involved. Inpart the explanation for their relative silence may be that they wererepresented in the revolution by Bazargan (although his Turkishlanguage skills are minimal), Taleghani (although his home village has itsown distinctive dialect and is on the linguistic border between Turkishand Persian speakers), and Shariatmadari. None of these exercised cen­tral power, but all three clearly were jockeying for position. In part theexplanation may also be that they are Shi'ite, and not Sunni as are theKurds, Turkomans, and Baluch. Karim Sanjabi, a Kurd, was nationallyimportant but he is not only an upper-class Tehrani, far removed fromthe concerns of Kurdish villagers, he also is a Shi'ite.

From the movement's point of view, minorities ought to have no fears.The model is 'Ali. 'Ali dealt justly with minorities. He rebuked 'Umar foradjudicating a case against a Jew just because the other party was aMuslim, and he rebuked 'Umar for being discourteous to a Jew in court,even though the Jew's case was weak. A few of the revolutionaries pointout that Jews experienced a period of intellectual glory in Muslim Spainand were better off there than under Christianity. The case might bestronger if they could also claim that minorities were better off underIslam than under the secular modern West. That is a challenge for therevolution to live up to.

A New Era

Four times previously - in 1873, 1891, 1905-1911, and 1952 - religiousand liberal-reformist groups had joined in alliance and forced a majorgovernment policy reversal or a major change in the form of govern­ment. Four times, as soon as_the immediate objective was achieved thealliance unraveled. The question in 1979 is not only whether the alliancecan hold but, more important, whether a liberal civil order can beestablished. Two of the previous efforts - 1906 and 1952 - can be seen asattempts at a bourgeois revolution, with intellectual leadership cominglargely from secular liberals. In the 1978 effort religiousleaders - especially Ayatullah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeyni, but alsoAyatullahs Mohammad-Kazem Shariatmadari and Mahmud Taleghaniand Engineer Mehdi Bazargan - played the key roles. This was not aregressive atavism of religious fundamentalism; nor was there any failureof liberal imagination. Rather, it is argued, Islam could playa unifyingpolitical role because the monarchical dictatorship of the 1930s-194Osand the 196Os-1970s had suppressed all other forms of political debate

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and organization. A variety of divergent interests therefore expressedthemselves through the Islamic idiom. The question now is not onlywhether the use of the Islamic idiom will decay but whether the pro­gressive promise of Islam can be fulfilled.

If 1979 proves to be a turning point for Iranian Shi'ism, a "translation"of Shi'ism will be involved. Over the past decades Shi'ism has beencrafted into a powerful moral platform for criticizing the diseases of thePahlavi regime: the intimidation by the secret police, the massive corrup­tion at the top of society, the destruction of agriculture, the punitiveprice-regulation campaigns against the bazaar, the misuses of the talentsof the middle class, the subordination of Iranian development to outsideimperialist interests, and the separation of the monarchy from accoun­tability and responsiveness to its own people. Today Shi'ite leaders havethe opportunity to translate their moral opposition and social criticisminto a framework for modern politics. Issues such as the nature ofpolitics and economics, the position of women, and the rights ofreligious, linguistic, and cultural minorities take on new relevance. It hasbeen well said that the Western revolutionary tradition stresses individualfreedom, sometimes at the expense of economic justice, that the Eastern(Communist) revolutionary tradition stresses economic justice at the ex­pense of freedom, and that the Shi'ite promise is one of combiningfreedom and justice. We wish the Iranian people well in their attempt toreach for that promise.

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Epilogue: Muharram 1400/1979

To American eyes, everything that goes on in Iran is a bitstrange. It appears to be like an Oz with minarets where theonly hope for not being devoured or otherwise zeroed out bythe wicked ayatollah of the west is to be saved by the goodayatollah of the east.

- Nicholas von Hoffman, 25 December 1979

M UHARRAM 1400/1979 perhaps should have been a celebra­tion of deliverance from the shah and shifting to an activemood of construction rather than protest. Instead, the shah's

entry into the United States for medical treatment virtually on the eve ofMuharram, as the crisis over the constitutional referendum was building,reactivated the Karbala paradigm and touched off a symbolic protestdrama involving the entire world through diplomacy, economics, and themedia. The coincidental seizure of the Kaaba in Mecca by armed Saudifundamentalists on the first day of the new Islamic century was incor­porated into the Iranian drama: Khomeyni used it in his repeated asser­tion that the Iranian revolution was not a nationalist one, but an Islamicone, which respected neither the political boundaries drawn by Westerncolonialism in an attempt to divide the Islamic world nor the tyrannicalpuppet regimes imposed on long-suffering Muslims. The drama endedthe period of dual sovereignty and inaugurated a bid by young Islamicleftist militants to negotiate with the Revolutionary Council and withKhomeyni for a greater voice in policy-making. Using world preoccupa­tion with the Iranian crisis as a cover, the Soviet Union in­vaded Afghanistan, thereby raising the geopolitical stakes in Iran. 1

The Muharram Drama

On October 22, 1979, the deposed shah was flown from his refuge inMexico to New York City for treatment of gallstones, a blocked bileduct, jaundice, and lymphoma cancer. 2 Both the U.S. State Departmentand the Iranian government had repeatedly warned against allowing theshah to enter the United States; former Secretary of State Henry Kis­singer and David Rockefeller, however, argued that the countr~ should


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offer refuge to a man who had been a loyal friend. The Carter ad­ministration cited medical humanitarianism, ignoring the issue of moralhonor invoked' by Kissinger and the moral indictment by the revolu­tionaries that entry of the shah was harboring a criminal of the order ofan Adolph Eichmann (a puppet of others, in this case, American andWestern imperialists). The Carter administration was naive and onceagain demonstrated insensitivity to the rhythm of the revolutionary pro­cess (the crisis over the constitution), its symbolic structure (the approachof Muharram), and the depth of Iranian paranoia about the intentions ofthe United States (the suspicion that the shah was not ill; that a counter­revolutionary restoration was being plotted by the financial and politicaldirectors of Western imperialism; and that foreign press coverage of in­ternal domestic problems was part of a strategy to destabilize the nascentIslamic republic). For Iranians the admission of the shah was a symbolicinsult similar to Carter's much publicized praise of the shah, in Tehran,on the eve of the revolution (January 1978) and telephoned support atthe time of the Jaleh Square massacre. Khomeyni would drive the sym­bolism home in a speech on the eve of Muharram. On previous Muhar­rams, he thundered, Iranians had faced only the offspring of the motherof corruption (the shah); this Muharram they faced the mother of cor­ruption herself (the United States).

The symbolism was used to mobilize support for the Khomeyni forcesin the constitutional referendum. Objections to the new constitutionwere being voiced from various quarters. And there were other signs ofdiscontent: the October and November demonstrations of the un­employed; clashes in Bandar Enzeli and Rasht on October 16 and 17 be­tween fishermen and revolutionary guards over the revocation of rightsto fish caviar in favor of a government monopoly, leaving ten to thirteendead and forty to fifty injured; clashes in Baluchistan, Kurdistan, andKhuzistan (where in one early October week alone nine bombs explodedleaving thirteen dead and many injured); the shooting of two students byrevolutionary guards in Tabriz during a demonstration at a vocationalschool demanding upgraded diplomas; the breaking up with chains andclubs by pro-Khomeyni toughs (or possibly by Islamic leftists) of ateachers' rally addressed by Ehsan Shariati, son of Dr. Ali Shariati.Shariati had been complaining about irresponsible clerics. Khomeyni'sspeeches at the beginning of November were filled with injunctions to"break the pens and tongues" of those who worked for the American im­perialists. The middle class was beset with arbitrary attachments of bankaccounts, seizure of "unutilized landn by the Bonyad-e Mosta­safin (Foundation of the Poor), and regulations that couples could ownonly one thousand square meters of urban Tehran land or two thousandsquare meters in provincial cities.

November 4, 1979, was Students' Day, the anniversary of the slayings

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at the University of Tehran. Shortly after noon prayers, several hundredstudents and activists seized the United States Embassy, taking hostagesixty-three Americans (plus several others who were soon released). Theydem"anded that the shah be returned to Iran to stand trial. In New YorkCity several Iranians chained themselves to the Statue of Liberty with thesame demand.

On November 6 Khomeyni accepted the resignations of Prime MinisterBazargan and Foreign Minister Yazdi, ending dual sovereignty. TheRevolutionary Council was ordered to take over. Bazargan and Yazdihad met briefly with American National Security Advisor Brzezinski inAlgiers, which was held against them, as were their objections to the seiz­ing of the hostages and passive reaction to the shah's entering the UnitedStates. But Bazargan was thanked by Khomeyni for his service and wasnot excluded from the Revolutionary Council, and Yazdi was later ap­pointed emissary to Baluchistan. In Khorassan, meanwhile, GovernorAhmadzadeh resigned, citing interference by the clergy in governmentaffairs. Ahmadzadeh -like Bazargan, a senior figure who had supportedMosaddegh in the 1950s and a religious man - had repeatedly criticizedBazargan for yielding too easily to the demands of Khomeyni and otherclerics.

The first goal of the student activists was successful: removing themoderates ("reformists," to them) from the center of power, forcing thepolitical struggle to move faster (to keep the revolution "on course"). Astruggle ensued over how best to utilize the hostages. The seizure of theembassy and hostages, creating international furor, proved to be a spec­tacular ploy. Foreign journalists, especially the television media, werewelcomed back to Tehran to film daily demonstrations outside the em­bassy. At midday the students inside would come to the front gate andtoss carnations and tulips (symbols of martyrdom) back and forth to thedemonstrators. Demonstrators were bussed in from industrial plants andoccasionally from military units. Although when Fida'i leftistsmarched in support of the seizure they were heckled as American pro­vocateurs, the captors of the embassy seemed to be Islamic leftists: theycalled themselves khat-i Imam (adherents of the "line of the Imam"), aleftist phrasing which also fit their dress (headcloths, as opposed tochadors, for the women, and full beards, as opposed to close croppedbeards, for some of the men). When asked by journalists if they wouldrelease the hostages if Khomeyni ordered them to do so, they replied notthat they would follow the Imam, but rather, "You do not know theImam; he would never order us to do such a thing."

Khomeyni's approval of the seizure of the hostages and his delegationof revolutionary guards to the embassy may have been an attempt to con­trol the outcome. For Khomeyni and for Ayatullah Beheshti, the head ofKhomeyni's Islamic Republican Party, the seizure of the hostages ini-

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tially must have seemed a godsend to silence criticism of the new con­stitution and to smooth passage of the referendum on it, scheduled justafter 'Ashura to capitalize on the heightened religious feelings of Muhar­ram. Indeed, Khomeyni reveled in the confrontation with the UnitedStates, pointing to continuing imperialist oppression when that countryblocked Iran's request for a UN Security Council hearing on its caseagainst the shah. With the approach of Muharram, any military actionby the United States would reinforce its role as Yazid in the Karbala sym­bolism, and Khomeyni repeatedly warned that Iranians were united intheir willingness to be martyred. Thirteen female and black hostageswere released two days before the start of Muharram at Khomeyni's re­quest, in a further attempt to draw attention to the various forms of op­pression associated with the American system of government. 3

At dawn prayers on Muharram 1, several hundred armed Saudi fun­damentalists seized the Kaaba in Mecca and attempted to proclaim theirleader as the Mahdi, the messiah. Khomeyni immediately denounced thesacrilege of Islam's central shrine as the work of the Americans. Withinhours, angry Pakistanis besieged and burned the American Embassy inIslamabad; those inside narrowly escaped after six hours, casting doubton the concern of the Pakistani authorities for them. Anti-Americandemonstrations followed in Turkey, India, Pakistan, Bangia Desh, andLibya. The secretary of the Pakistani student union, leader of a fun­damentalist group that had just won student elections, apologized for theloss of two American lives in Islamabad, though not for the attack on theembassy, and charged that the Jewish lobby in the United States was in­volved in the seizure of the Kaaba. 4 Iran declared a military alert againstAmerican retaliation, and Foreign Minister Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr an­nounced at Friday prayers, November 23 (Muharram 3), that his countrywould not honor international debts accrued illegally under the shah'sregime. 5

The demand for the return of the shah to stand trial was a popular onein Iran. As Bani-Sadr noted on November 11, a Nuremberg-style trialwas needed to renew the dignity of the Iranian people and to raise moralefor reconstruction. The holding of hostages was not so universallypopular; Bani-Sadr himself attempted to mediate, suggesting that if theshah's money were returned to Iran, if there were an international in­vestigation of the shah's regime, if the United States would acknowledgeits role in the tyranny of the shah, perhaps the activists at the embassywould release their hostages. 6 All these compromises were rejected by theactivists, as were subsequent suggestions by Sadegh Qotbzadeh, whor*placed Bani-Sadr as Foreign Minister after 'Ashura. Khomeyni advis­ors were divided on the hostage issue. Bani-Sadr wished to attend a UNSecurity Council meeting requested by the United States so that he couldpresent Iran's case for the return of the shah and prevent that forum

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from concentrating solely on the issue of the breach of international lawin the taking of hostages. But he lost an argument in Qum with Kho­meyni's grandson, Sayyid Husayn. Bani-Sadr argued that the seizure ofhostages was against international law and Islamic tradition; that itwould allow the United States to mobilize world opinion, including thatof other Islamic countries, against Iran; and that it diverted attentionfrom Iran's real economic and social problems. Sayyid Husayn respond­ed that the seizure of hostages was a blow against imperialism that wouldunite the third world behind Iran, and that it would mobilize supportwithin Iran behind Khomeyni, quieting criticism. Qotbzadeh sided withSayyid Husayn. Khomeyni denounced the Security Council as being con­trolled by the United States. 7

Meanwhile, American public outrage at the violation of diplomaticimmunity and seizure of the hostages and at American impotence tosecure their quick release was expressed by the refusal of transportworkers to service Iranian aircraft or Iran-bound ships, by demonstra­tions, by the burning of Iranian flags, by hostility toward individual Ira­nians, and by a flurry of sarcastic cartoons in the press. 8 Statements con­demning the seizure were made by the Pope, Egyptian president Sadat,European and Arab League foreign ministers, the United Nations Securi­ty Council, and the World Court. Iranians countered with charges of il­legalities committed by the CIA in helping restore the shah to his thronein 1953 and by international firms through bribery and collusion with theshah's regime and of the illegalities of the shah's regime itself. The callfor Iranian students in the United States to reregister with immigrationofficials, which would have led to the deportation of those whose paperswere not in order, may have helped inflame the American public, thoughother actions were taken to channel and contain popular indignation. Anend to the import of Iranian oil was a popular symbolic gesture counter­ing any suggestion that economic blackmail by Iran could work, as was afreeze of Iranian assets in American banks in response to Iranian threatsto withdraw funds and create havoc in the banking system. 9 Furthereconomic and military threats were hinted at. 10 Iran attempted to usethese reactions as proof of imperialist malevolence, re­sorting at times to unabashed false and demagogic rhetoric- for homeconsumption as much as to confound the Americans. I I

Despite all the symbolic mobilization, the constitutional referendumdid not do well. Those who voted passed it overwhelmingly; but Kur­distan, much of Khuzistan, Baluchistan, many of Tehran's middle class,and most importantly much of Azerbaijan refused to vote. On the eve ofthe referendum Ayatullah Shariatmadari, the association of humanrights lawyers, the Mujahidin, the Feda'yyin, and the Kurds called forpostponement. Bani-Sadr, Bazargan, Ayatullah Bahonar (of the Revolu­tionary Council), and Ayatullah Marashi-Najafi appeared on television

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urging people to vote for the referendum; the Tudeh Party also lent itssupport. Shariatmadari's statement that there was a serious conflict be­tween the article of the constitution vesting sovereignty in the people andthe articles on wilayat-i jaqih was sufficient to keep many of hisfollowers from the polls. In a crude attempt to circumvent the impact ofhis statement, an edited version was shown on television. The originalstatement began that the constitution was Islamically acceptable, exceptfor the contradiction between the two articles on sovereignty andwilayat-i faqih which would have to be altered. But only the first clausewas broadcast. Some Tabrizis were misled and did vote; when they foundout what Shariatmadari had actually said, they demanded their ballotsback and burned some ballot boxes.

Demonstrations and fighting broke out on December 5. In Qum,Shariatmadari's house was attacked by Khomeyni supporters whoshouted that those who had not voted had no right to criticize; a guardwas killed. In Tabriz, Shariatmadari supporters seized the radio station,called for the ouster of Qotbzadeh as director of the national radio andtelevision network, and chased the pro-Khomeyni governor from his of­fice. On December 7, Shariatmadari and Khomeyni met and agreed that8hariatmadari was to be consulted on changes in the constitution and onall matters dealing with Azerbaijan. A joint committee was to be sent tomediate the tempers in Tabriz by the Revolutionary Council and byShariatmadari. Shariatmadari's appointees included Hasan Nazih, Azer­baijani lawyer and former head of the national oil company who hadbeen driven underground in September, and Rahmatullah Moghaddam­Maragheh, Azerbaijani lawyer and representative to the Assembly ofExperts. The joint committee never materialized; Nazih went backunderground; and Moghaddam-Maragheh was soon driven from hisTabriz offices. The struggle in Tabriz continued: planes carrying revolu­tionary guards were denied permission to land by Shariatmadari forces;Khomeyni forces regained the radio station and ransacked the offices ofMoghaddam-Maragheh. Khomeyni militants in Qum and Tehrandemanded that Shariatmadari disband his Muslim People's RepublicanParty, charging that it was divisive. Shariatmadari, with quiet sarcasm,replied that he did not need to disband the party; the Khomeyni govern­ment would do it soon enough, and would then disband all other partiesas well. Kurdish leader Shaykh Ezzedin Husayn sent Shariatmadari amessage of support. In Baluchistan the governor was taken hostage andfighting broke out: Baluchis charged the governor, an outsider, wasstaffing local offices with his cronies. Far more important, the Baluchireligious leader Mowlavi Abdul-Aziz Mollazadeh accused the revolu­tionary guards of molesting women during their house-by-house searchto disarm the Baluch; guns so seized, it was charged, were being given tolocal Shi'ites. Khomeyni charged that the troubles in Tabriz were

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American-inspired. Shariatmadari responded sharply that to connect allevents to American imperialism would not solve any problems, that hecould not guarantee peace in Tabriz when agents of the Islamic republiccaused death and injury without reason, that civil war could ensue if thesensibiliiies of the Azerbaijanis were threatened or played with, and thatKhomeyni was at fault for having broken the December 7 agreement. AtFriday prayers, December 28, Shariatmadari commented acidly to somethree hundred followers: "Under the shah I was not free to speak andthey came to my house and killed a student. Under this government, I amstill not free to speak and they come to my house and kill a guard."Shariatmadari followers in- Tabriz the night before had taken ninerevolutionary guards hostage, in a kind of mirror image of the AmericanEmbassy hostage situation, with supporters demanding release of twohuftdred persons arrested by the revolutionary guards in the previousweeks and shouting slogans attacking Khomeyni, Qotbzadeh, theKhomeyni-appointed governor, and the Khomeyni religious represen­tative. 12 Shariatmadari, demonstrating that his leadership was differentfrom Khomeyni's, ordered the release of the hostages. The Khomeyniregime subsequently executed eleven members of Shariatmadari's partyin retaliation for this resistance.

The bread-and-circus game into which the Khomeyni regime in parthad been maneuvered by the activists at the American Embassy began towear on the Revolutionary Council, as the activists began to charge,first, Amir Abbas Entezam (a former Bazargan deputy minister, thenAmbassador to Sweden), then Bazargan's Movement for the Liberationof Iran, and then Jamshid Iranpur (allegedly a member of the Revolu­tionary Council) with collusion with the United States. The activists hadthreatened to try the hostages as spies if the shah were moved from theU.S. to another country. When the shah did leave for Panama, and whenthe U.S. managed to get the UN Security Council to entertain discussionson economic sanctions against Iran, the Revolutionary Council at­tempted to divert the threat of spy trials into symbolic trials of the UnitedStates - after which the hostages would be released. Such trials werevaguely scheduled for the period following elections for the president ofthe new republic to be held on January 25, 1980. Ibrahim Yazdi,however, revived the arguments of Sayyid Husayn Khomeyni for con­tinuing use of a show:

In order to rally the masses, this kind of thing should continue. If this cam­paign against the Americans ends just by a trial of these Americans andtheir deportation, it will be a disaster. It has to go further. We have todivert this to the reconstruction of the country. When the masses are com­pletely mobilized against the Americans, it is easier to tell them to go to thefields and do this and that. 13

But the Revolutionary Council began to move away from this use of the

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hostages and support of the activists in an attempt to consolidate con­trol.

Revolutionary Processes and Youth

While the circus media symbolism was of increasing importance on allsides as a critical technique of domestic political persuasion and to alesser extent of international dialogue, bread issues were also slowlybeing pursued. 14 Two major social processes were taking place: a revolu­tionary process, and, perhaps even more important, a demographic ex­plosion which unleashed both popular culture and the young generationas massive social forces for the coming decade. Each of these can only bepointed out, for they are just beginning.

Although we can describe the Iranian revolution in the general stagesoutlined by Crane Brinton, it is still premature to characterize inWeberian fashion how the revolution might function to create a strongerstate with greater mass mobilization, participation, or loyalty. I 5 Is thepromise of a bourgeois revolution, or at least a liberal political structure,still viable, awaiting only the ebb of religious fervor as economic condi­tions deteriorate or as a political arena is organized? So asserts ShapurBakhtiar in Paris, and so did Hedayatullah Matin-Daftari until forcedunderground. Or have the opportunities been squandered? 16 So worryMehdi Bazargan and Ayatullah Shariatmadari. Is the promise of a socialrevolution - a new land reform, a new social contract for industrialworkers, a redistribution of wealth - still on the agenda? Will the terror(nearly seven hundred executed; executions still occurring i~ December1979, though at a slower pace, and with review of sentences rather thanimmediate implementation) be taken in stride or will it increase and causea reaction moving the revolution sharply to the right or left? Bakhtiarwarns that the Tudeh strategy is to support Khomeyni until he collapsesand then seize control. Are the clergy playing the role of the traditionalpetty bourgeoisie (guild craftsmen, rich peasants) of the German 1848revolution: by breaking with the liberal bourgeoisie, inviting a counter­revolution? So hopes Princess Azadeh Shafiq, daughter of the shah'stwin sister, Ashraf, who - also, like Bakhtiar, in Paris - speaks of aroyalist restoration under a younger generation, or at least a militaryCOUp.17 Will the clergy reconstitute the shah's state with a secret police(SAVAMA), a military constructed from the revolutionary guards and thepurged military, public foundations such as the Bonyad-e Mustafasin(the former P'ahlavi Foundation), a controlled media, a controlledlegislature, and oil revenues? Will the clerical leadership survive politi­cally discrediting charges of opportunism and physical assassination? 18

Or will the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (December 1979) provide thegroundwork for either a defensive military coup or a greater sense ofurgency in consolidating a new government? I 9

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A major factor in determining the long-term outcome may well be theyouth of the population. Over half the population of Iran is under seven­teen. Those who compose the revolutionary rank-and-file are young menin their teens and twenties. The leadership of the revolution was the oldgeneration, men in their seventies, who had struggled already in theheady days of the forties and fifties: Bazargan, Khomeyni, Shariat­madari, Sanjabi, Bakhtiar. Relatively few middle-aged men in theirfifties or forties were prominent in their own right: Motahhari and Mon­tazari and, to a lesser extent, Makarem and Qoddusi (who became firsthead of the revolutionary committee in Qum, and then the chief revolu­tionary public prosecutor). Others came to prominence as functionariesof Khomeyni: Rafsinjani (who was Khomeyni's first spokesman when hereturned to Tehran), Yazdi, Qotbzadeh, Bahonar, Beheshti, Mofatteh (thelast three were students of Motahhari; Motahhari and Montazari werestudents of Khomeyni). The youth of the group that seized the UnitedStates Embassy - and their relation to the two older generations - is notunrepresentative of the structure of the revolution, and perhaps a visionof the future. Respectful of the senior generation, they have relativelylittle time for the middle generation, which was largely cowed by thePahlavi regime, and seem only to tolerate the functionaries of theKhomeyni regime - Qotbzadeh, Yazdi, Beheshti, Rafsinjani - accord­ing them little independent authority.

Eli Kedourie some years ago made a shrewd, if bitter, observation:

The young are those who possess the techniques of Europe which MiddleEastern society, so they insist, must adopt or perish. Therefore, they knowbetter than their fathers, and they have the key to political salvation. Thepassion and presumption of youth, their rooted belief in their ancestors' ig­norance and folly, their inexperience and clumsiness in the exercise ofpower combine to deprive them of that decorum and gravitas which im­pressed observers about Moslem ruling classes of past centuries, and whichserved to put a check on the full expression of greed and cruelty. 20

For Iran the stress on lack of restraint - at least so far - is misplaced; therecognition of the changing of a generational guard, however, is correct.The revolutionary youth of Iran are introducing a new populist-religiousidiom.

Writing of a similar and older situation in Turkey, Allen Dubetskypoints out that as demographic explosion led to an inundation of thecities by peasants, a new urban social class emerged: religious yetenamoured of technology, acknowledging their ignorance yet feelingmorally superior to Europe, and derisive of religious fanaticism, ridicul­ing rural preachers but supportive of university trained religiousleaders. 21 It is a similar "class" which carries the revolution in Iran:religious but cynical about the clergy. Politics in Turkey became more

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unruly as it became democratized, and as rural and religious traditionsbecame honored on the national stage. Similarly in Iran the call is for amore popular cultural code in the national arena, for religious discourseand morality, but not necessarily for the discourse of the clergy or forscholastic puritanism. The idiom of clarifying Islam continues todominate the revolutionary debate and political process in Iran.

Continuing Conversations

I began this book on a personal note as well as one self-reflective aboutthe ethnographic and anthropological endeavor. I would like to end thesame way. When I went to Iran I did not know how to translate the Trin­ity into a philosophical discourse on God's attributes. Upon my return Ifound Wolfson's clue. While in Qum, I found it difficult to talk tostudents about the linguistic form of their discourse, and I charged themwith a limited mental framework stemming from not being conversantwith such philosophers as Wittgenstein, Dilthey, or Walter Benjamin,though recognizing their concern with rhetoric and logic. Somethingprevented them from giving any non-Islamic writer a fair reading, not tomention a charitable one. The task they set themselves was rarelyunderstanding, but usually only finding the errors of non-Muslims.

Long after I returned to the United States and struggled with theproblems of getting Americans to give a sympathetic hearing to Shi'ismand, a