Islam and Modernism the Iranian Revolution of 1906
I. B. Tauris
Since the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, Shi'ite Islam has acquired a formidable reputation for militant opposition to secular government. Shi'ite clerics have become synonymous with political agitation.
This book looks at Shi'ite relations with the state in the earlier part of the century and considers the Shi'ite clerics' struggle to control the processes of modernization against a background of social and economic change. Through a detailed examination of the role of Iranian clerical leaders in the Iranian constitutional revolution, it queries the view that in the nineteenth century the Persian ulama viewed the Shah as a usurper and therefore illegitimate. It examines the social and economic base of clerical influence and the underlying causes of that revolution. It also looks at how the revolution affected the clergy as an elite in traditional society. It makes particular reference to the ulama of Teheran and to those clerics who opposed constitutional change, and establishes beyond question that the clergy were divided both in their attitude to modernism and constitutionalism, and by their family and factional connections to the court and the bazaar. Though several prominent clergymen played a crucial role in anti-government agitation, the ulama in reality often responded to pressure from their followers rather than acting from personal conviction.
This is the first study of the Iranian clergy's response to Western political ideas and institutions to be based on a detailed examination of their role in the constitutional revolution. It draws extensively on original sources and presents without ideological bias the opinions of clergymen who both favoured and opposed political reform. It also surveys the changes in the relationship between the religious establishment and the state between 1909 and 1979 and provides crucial background information on Iran's unprecedented experiment with theocratic government.
Vanessa Martin is a historian specializing on Iran whose research was undertaken at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies. She has lived and worked in Iran and Egypt.