Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism & Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan Saeed Barzin University of Exeter, Phd. 1992

Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

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Page 1: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

Islam in Defence ofConstitutionalism

& Democracy:A Political Biographyof Iranian Ideologue

Mehdi Bazargan

Saeed BarzinUniversity of Exeter, Phd. 1992

Page 2: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

Islam in Defence ofConstitutionalism

& Democracy:A Political Biographyof Iranian Ideologue

Mehdi Bazargan

Submitted by Saeed Barzin to the University of Exeter as a thesis for the degree of Doctorof Philosophy in Politics in the Faculty of Social Studies, May 1992.

The thesis is available for library use on condition that anyone who consults it is understoodto recognise that its copyright rests with its author and that no quotation taken from the thesisnorany information derived from it may be published without the author's written consent.

1 certify that all material in this thesis which is not my own has been identified and that nomaterial is included for which a degree has previously been conferred upon me.

Page 3: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

Contents ... 3Acknowledgements ... 5Summary ... 6

1 Introduction ... 8

2 The Roots ... 15Family and early education ... 16France ... 23The civil servant ... 34

3 Islamic Work Ethics ... 49Social Developments (1940-53) ... 50Socio-political Activity ... 65

Religious currents ... 66Political currents ... 72

The Pamphleteer ... 78Moralism or the critique of secularism ... 84Labour or critique of traditionalism ... 90Moderation or the critique of Marxism ... 102Islamic work ethics ... 111On Colonialism ... 121

4 Historic and Social law ... 130Social Developments (1953-60) ... 131The National Resistance Movement ... 140

Nationalism ... 145Freedom and constitutionalism ... 149Charismatic leadersip ... 152Non-alignment ... 154Organization ... 156Religion ... 159Internal conflicts ... 162

Law & Social Evolution ... 164Evolutionary cause of religion ... 166

Natural Law of Society ... 177

5 Islamic Mass Appeal ... 185Social Developments (1960-63) ... 186The Freedom Movement of Iran ... 190

Islamic identity or the ideology of appeal ... 193Consciousness ... 200The religious establishment ... 202Constitutional and democratic government ... 209Tactical issues ... 216The White Revolution ... 223

Page 4: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

Negation of Tyranny ... 226Tyranny as the source of social instability ... 230Tyranny as the source of moral corruption ... 236Tyranny as rejection of religion ... 239Tyranny as the cause of underdevelopment ... 249

6 Constitutional Islamic Ideology ... 254Social Developments (1963-77) ... 255Making of an Ideology ... 266

Natural Law ... 274Freedom ... 282Social obedience and rebellion ... 301War and peace ... 313Economics ... 325

7 The Liberal Defeat ... 352Social Developments (1977-80) ... 353

The Revolutionary offensive and the royal defence ... 356The Provisional Goveriunent ... 366

The appointment ... 367The events ... 373The liberal strategy ... 377Reform of the state ...378Democracy and political freedoms ... 387Challenge of the popular revolutionary movement ... 396Challenge of the radical Islamic tendency ... 404Challenge of the Left ... 417Bazargan and Khomeini ... 421

8 Conclusion ... 428

9 Bibliography ... 438Bazargan's worksSelected bibliography

Page 5: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan


For the preparation of this thesis I have had the good fortune of

relying on the assistance of a number of distinguished scholars

and I am in debt to them all. My particular gratitude is for my

supervisor and friend, lain Hampsher-Monk whose intellectual and

personal support proved essential through out the period of my

study. What he taught me most were the stuff of academic life;

hard work, scientific thoroughness, scholastic vigour, impersonal

critique, and intellectual honesty. Mention should be also made of

Dr. Tim Niblock and Dr. Nazih Ayubi (both of the Department of

Politics, Exeter) whose initial guidance in the field of Middle

Eastern Studies was vital for my work. I would also like to thank

and pay my respect to all those scholars whose work I have used

and whose names appear in the bibliography. It is this community

of men and women whose efforts have shed light on the contemporary

Iranian political history and whom the student of Iranian

politics, no doubt respects dearly. But I would like to

particularly mention the restless Iranian scholar, Dr. Homa

Katouzian (Oxford) as well as Dr. Ervand Abrahamian (New York) and

Dr. Houshang Chehabi (Harvard) for reading and commenting on parts

of my work. This study would not have been possible without the

support of my parents. Dedication to education and intellectual

progress is a way of life for them and I can only hope to maintain

their standards. Last but not least I would like to thank my wife,

Ladan. Without her compassionate patience I would have found it

difficult to finish this work. For her kindness I dedicate this

work to her.

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Contemporary Iran has experienced a variety of authoritarian

rules; initially with the ancient house of the Qajars, followed by

the modernist rule of the Pahlavis and then the religious republic

of the clerics. Throughout these periods a significant number of

Iranian intellectuals, of all persuasions, have provided the

rational for despotism, iron fist authoritarianism and absolutist

rule. By contrast constitutional and democratic notions of

government have been marginal on the theoretical level and have

had little influence on the exercise of power. This work seeks to

understand the political ideas of the Iranian theoretician and

activist, Mehdi Bazargan, whose membership in the latter tradition

(in a country where "liberal" politics constitute a recent

phenomenon) is a matter of controversy. The study therefore seeks

to identify whether Bazargan in fact belongs to this current of

thought and whether he has a significant political position within

the context of social developments of post-WWII Iran. To achieve

this aim the study sketches out the general course of contemporary

developments in a number of periods (1941-53, 53-60, 60-63, 63-77,

77-79) corresponding to the manner and nature of authoritarian

rule. The study also looks at the political ideas of the

organisations with which Bazargan cooperated throughout his career

(the National Resistance Movement, and the Freedom Movement of

Iran). This is followed by a detailed, descriptive, analytical,

and functional discussion of Bazargan's own ideas in each period.

The study thus hopes to establish the content and form of

Bazargan's discourse as well as his interaction within the general

course of intellectual developments.

Page 7: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

Othello: Soft you; a word or two before you go.

I have done the state some service, and they know't-

No more of that. I pray you, in your letters,

When you shall these [...] deeds relate,

Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,

Nor set down aught in malice.

[Scene II, Act V]


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Contemporary Iran has been in the midst of great changes touching

every aspect of its social heritage. The events of the past one

hundred years including the constitutional revolution, the

emergence of a modern state, the role of the Pahlavi autocracy and

the Islamic revolution have taken place through increasing

challenges to the country's historic and modern institutions. One

feature of this process has been efforts by Iranian intellectuals

to deal with the conflicting forces and ideas which have

legitimized their role in the socio-political arena. The tensions

are numerous but the dominant ones include arbitrary authoritarian

rule of the state in opposition to demands by various social

classes for a right in determining their own destiny, forces of

tradition favouring the status quo in opposition to those seeking

change, indigenous movements working against external influences

and efforts to develop a prosperous functioning economy against

the magnitude of an underdevelopment which perpetuates poverty.

In this context one could ask how contemporary Iranian

intellectuals have responded to the problems of tyranny,

colonialism and underdevelopment and how successful have they been

in this regard? Furthermore what political ideas and ideological

language have they presented to the people so as to help towards

articulating the great ideals of justice, freedom and well being?

It is with these questions in mind that the political ideas of

Mehdi Bazargan are of interest.

The main features of Bazargan's ideas, written over five

decades are; efforts at synthesizing various and often

contradictory intellectual movements, adaptation of rational

Page 10: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

methods (in place of repressive measures) towards conflict

resolution, continuity and moderation in place of a spasmodic and

violent change, an ability to establish dialogue and (a degree of)

a common language with various intellectual currents, and a

willingness to work with others instead of trying to monopolize.

Of course these characteristics (even if he was to adhere to them

consistently) could and would bring about political and

ideological weakness, for to sit on the fence often means

alienation from both sides. Rationalism could lead to idealism,

moderation is often unrealistic in terms of third world politics,

continuity has little glitter for the masses, dialogue is scorned

by those holding authoritarian ideas and a willingness to work

with others is shunned as appeasement.

The challenge of studying Bazargan's ideas is of interest

also for it opens a new area in Iranian studies. Much of the

underdevelopment which the country suffers in economic and social

spheres is also evident in the field of Iranian studies. Although

Iranian studies seem to have made advances in European and

American educational and research institutes (particularly

following and possibly as a consequence of the 1979 revolution)

there still remains a large area to be covered. The body of the

existing literature on contemporary Iran is based extensively on

political history and a degree of political economy but there is a

lack of work particularly in the field of the history of political


The secondary source material for the present research was

based on this body of literature, which principly shaped the views

presented here on the historical, political and intellectual


Page 11: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

context of contemporary Iran. However it was a matter of great

privilege and good fortune that a significant amount of primary

sources on Bazargan was available. His articles, pamphlets and

books have been reproduced a number of times by several publishing

houses, including the Sherkat-e Sahami-ye Enteshar (Tehran) and

the Book Distribution Centre (Houston, TX) both of which have

political affiliation to Bazargan's political associates.

Furthermore the Freedom Movement of Iran (Nehzat-e Azadi-ye Iran)

had produced over 10 volumes of documents in the early 1980s,

providing abundant material for research. Even more material was

made available for this study in the form of private collections

of pamphlets, statements, and press releases. The writing of

political memoirs by elder Iranian statesmen and intellectuals,

which has become fashionable in the post 1979 revolution period as

an effort to reassess the more recent history, has been of

tremendous help in this regard. A number of interviews,

particularly with the person of Bazargan in Tehran have provided

valuable data and analysis.

The existing studies of Bazargan's political career are

haphazard. His role in the initial stages of the 1979 revolution

has insured him a part in all history books and political studies

of the period. Almost all books discussing the Iranian revolution

refer to him in one way or another. However there is only a single

book which deals with Bazargan in greater details and depth.

Chehabi's Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: The Liberation

Movement of Iran Under the Shah and Khomeini 1 is a historic and

1 Chehabi, H. Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: TheLiberation Movement of Iran Under the Shah and Khomeini (Tauris,London, 1990). I have preferred to use the word freedom instead ofChehabi's liberation in translating Azadi for the fact thatfreedom is closer to the movement's more liberal notion of"freedom to choose" rather than "liberation from restraint."


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analytical study of the Freedom Movement and those associated with

it. In his lengthy eight-year study Dr. Chehabi has done great

justice to the movement and I have made ample use of his research.

However I have tried to present my study as a complimentary piece

to Chehabi's. While he has emphasized the political,

organizational and historic aspects of Bazargan's activities and

associates I have tried to concentrate on the intellectual and

ideological content of his discourse.

To determine the scope of the present thesis I have been

conservative rather than not, and for good reason. I chose to

concentrate on the descriptive, functional and methodological

reconstruction of Bazargan's discourse, rather than the

comparative, with the awareness that non-availability (bordering

on poverty) of studies on intellectual development in twentieth

century Iran demands procrastinating efforts. The first step is to

identify the main arguments and distinguish the spectrum of the

ideas. This would provide concrete grounds on which further

studies, including the comparative, could be based.

The current study then suffers from two limitations.

Firstly a lack of extensive comparative analysis with other

thinkers and reformers, not only in Iran and other Middle Eastern

countries, but those from the Western political heritage, where

reformation of the Christian church as well as the liberal

discourse on democratic and constitutional government provide

ample cases of symmetry and parallel study. Secondly Bazargan's

political pose in the 1990s, following his fall from government,

has not been included for a lack of time and space. By all

standards, and most of all to the man himself, this is an


Page 13: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

injustice which has to be addressed in future reviews of this


The methodology of the study developed as the work

progressed and although I have revised certain sections of the

work, discrepancies might be evident between various chapters. 2

The methodology included the identification of: principal ideas,

the main method of argumentation, the source of intellectual

inspiration, the author's intellectual innovations, the areas of

juxtapositioning, synthesis and/or logical contradictions, the

function of the discourse vis-a-vis socio-political currents, the

audience, as well as the examination of the historical and factual

evidence, classification of Bazargan's general methodology and

detection of the general political consequence of his ideas. In

parallel the social, political, economic and intellectual context,

as he saw it and further, was sketched out.

The first chapter looks at the early circumstances in

which Bazargan grew as a youth and the influence of his family,

early schooling, university and European life. Bazargan's early

reaction to the first Pahlavi monarchy is also studied. The second

chapter follows Bazargan's intellectual development in the 1940s

and early 1950s within the Iranian experimentation with political

2 On establishing a methodological paradigm the followingstudies were used: Skinner, Q. Meaning and Understanding in theHistory of Ideas, in History and Theory, 8 (1969), pp. 3-53. &Motives, Intentions and Interpretation of Texts, in Philosophy. Politics, and Society, series IV, ed. Laslett, P. Runciman, W.G. &Skinner, Q. (Blackwell, Oxford, 1972) pp. 136-57. Tully, J.Meaning and Context: Quentin Skinner and His Critics (PolityPress, Cambridge, 1988). Furthermore parallels were drawn from:Hampsher-Monk, I. The Political Philosophy of Edmund Burke(Longman, London, 1987) and Rhetoric and Opinion in the Politicsof Edmund Burke in History of Political Thought, V.IX, No.3,winter 1988, pp.455-484.


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tolerance. The third chapter looks at his early reaction to the

authoritarian return of Mohammad Reza Shah to the seat of power in

the 1950s. The fourth chapter discusses the ideology of Bazargan's

Freedom Movement as well as his Islamic defence of democracy

following his arrest at the end of the early 1960's liberalization

period. The fifth chapter reconstructs Bazargan's ideological

ensemble as he tries to address the various intellectual trends

during the Shah's autocratic rule and build an Islamic political

discourse. The sixth chapter identifies the main arguments of

Bazargan as he rises to power as the first prime minister of the

Islamic regime and tries to pursue a liberal reformist line of

action. A comprehensive bibliography of his work which includes

the dates of composition, details of the first publications and

details of the available editions follows.

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The Roots

Page 16: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

Family & early education 1908-27

Civil war had broken out between Constitutionalists and

Royalists (1908) when Mehdi Bazargan was born in Tehran. His

father Haj Abbasqoli Tabrizi (1868-1954) came to the capital, from

Azarbaijan at the age of eighteen to marry and had five sons all

of whom were brought up in the Persian culture of the capital. 1

Aqa Tabrizi was a self-made merchant who, before the age of

eighteen, had participated in the annual Muslim pilgrimage to

Mecca, as was required of affluent men of faith. In Tehran's

Bazaar he had advanced to become the head of two independent

Guilds of Merchants. 2 There are no accounts of his wealth but his

social activities indicate that he ranked among the propertied

classes and it was he who chose the family name, Bazargan,

literally merchant. 3

Aqa Tabrizi was active socially. In the year of drought

and famine, 4 he joined a group of merchants in organizing an alms

house. At the time of the 1906 Revolution, he supported the

Constitutionalists and once, acting on behalf of the Azarbaijani

merchants stood as a candidate for the National Consultative

1 Little remained of Azarbaijani culture particularly sincethe mother was from Kashan. No one spoke Azarbaijani in the houseand Mehdi never learned to speak the language. What was left ofAzarbaijani culture was a popular belief in hard work andentrepreneurialism. In his later writing there were to be noreferences to his ethnic roots.

2 Hey'at Tojjar, and Otaq Tojjar. Both associations, alongwith others, were later forced to close at the time of Reza Shah.

3 Bazargan, M. Interview, Tehran, December 1989. A series ofconversations were held with Bazargan during a trip to Tehran.Notes of the meetings are in the position of the author.

4 During the nineteenth century Iran faced periodic droughtwhich would cause decimation of flock leading to mass famine anddeath. The longest recorded case of drought and famine was in1869-72. However after the WWI famine, typhus and typhoid are saidto have carried off 50,000 people in Tehran out of a population of300,000. Lambton, A.K. Qajar Persia (I.B.Tauris, London, 1987).p.48. & Lenczowski, G. (ed.) Iran Under the Pahlavis (HooverInstitution Press, Stanford, 1978) p.88.


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The Roots

Assembly, Majlis (parliament) but failed to gain enough votes. His

political connections were good and included links with the

Monarch, Ahmad Shah, 5 and the distinguished parliamentarian Hasan

Modarres. 6 He consulted with several of the senior religious

figures including Haj Abdolkarim Esfehani on social matters. 7

During the government of Mohammad Mosaddeq (1951-53) Aqa Tabrizi

lobbied on behalf of the prime minister to attract the support of

the senior Ayatollah, Mohammad Hosain Borujerdi 8 for National

Bonds which were to strengthen the government in the face of the

British trade embargo. 9

Aqa Tabrizi was a practising Muslim. He had traditional

religious schooling at a Tabriz maktab (school) and read the

Koran. His religious activities included holding philosophical

meetings in his house between Muslim scholars and their

5 Ahmad Shah succeeded to the throne at the age of 11 (1909)and in later years showed little ability in carrying out hisduties. He managed to pass through the turmoil of the post-constitutional period and the WWI, but fell victim to Reza Khan'spolitical ambitions and was deposed, bringing down the house ofQajar. For a study of the dynasty see Bosworth, E. Qajar Iran (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1983).

6 Modarres, D.H. (d.1938) clerical Majlis leader opposed toReza Khan's ascent to power. Staunch supporter ofconstitutionalism and nationalism and known for his fieryspeeches. His opposition to Reza Shah landed him in jail where hewas murdered. Modarres, V.1 & 2 (Bonyad-e Tarikh-e Engelab-eEslami-ye Iran, Iran, 1987).

7 Apparently Bazargan's reference in the interview was tothe middle ranking cleric Sayyed Jamal al-Din Isfehani who had alarge following among artisans and labourers of the Bazaar duringthe Constitutional Revolution. He is known as an unorthodoxreformer and freethinker. Martin, V. Islam and Modernism: The 1906 Iranian Revolution, (Tauris, London, 1988) p.39 & 56.

8 Ayatollah Mohammad Hosain Borujerdi (d.1960) the mostsenior Shiite cleric leader in Iran until his death. Followed aconservative and quietist approach to politics and is reported tohave been on friendly terms with the Shah.

9 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.17

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opponents. 1° Comparatively speaking, it seems he was not a

traditionalist. The holding of open debates shows a critical

attitude, and (as we shall see) agreeing to have his son sent to a

European university indicates an absence of xenophobia. He was

fond of the relatively new social phenomenon of newspapers and

kept foreign books in his house. 11

Aqa Tabrizi saw to the welfare of his family through the

turbulent times that witnessed the disintegration of the

traditional order, the 1906 revolution, the first world war, and

the three nationalist rebellions 12 which increased social

tensions to near total collapse of the state. By the time his son,

Mehdi, entered secondary school Reza Khan had staged a coup to

pursue a new authoritarian trend under the banner of Modernism,

centralism, nationalism, secularism and political quietism. From

the view of the Aqa Tabrizi's family what must have been of

importance were the anti-religious campaign and the controls

imposed on the traditional Bazaar merchants. Reza Shah's religious

persecutions are said to have had two aims; the destruction of

Iranian Shiism as a symbol of backwardness and the removal of the

independent social religious institutions as autonomous channels

of public association and communication. 13 Furthermore during the

reign of Reza Shah the traditional merchant classes suffered on

10 Bazargan, M. Modafe'at Dar Dadgah-e Ghair-e Saleh-eTajdid Nazar Nezami, Defence in the Non-jurisdicto Military Court of Appeal (Modarres Publications, Bellville, Ill. 1978) p.75.Henceforth Defence.

11 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.12 Sheikh Mohammad Khiyabani in Tabriz, Mirza Kuchek Khan in

Gilan, Colonel Pesiyan in Khorasan.13 Katouzian, H. The Political Economy of Modern Iran

(Macmillan Press Ltd. London, 1981) Refer to Shah's absolutism.18

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The Roots

account of heavy tax burdens, state monopolies over foreign trade

and government interference in matters of the guilds. 14 The

independent Guild of Merchants which Bazargan senior headed for a

term was shut down by government order.

However it would be a mistake to think of Aqa Tabrizi as a

member of the traditional class. It would be similarly wrong to

place him within the ranks of the emerging modern classes of early

twentieth century Iran. During the rule of Reza Shah, when both

the religious and the merchant classes were under pressure, Aqa

Tabrizi seems not to have been greatly disturbed. While retaining

his religious ideas and Bazaar position he was fond of the

monarch, the symbol and ruler of the new order. 15 In many ways he

represented the attraction and the conflict between the

traditional and the emerging social classes.

Mehdi Bazargan's education was privileged in the sense

that he attended, not a traditional Islamic maktab, but a European

style school of which only several hundred existed in the

country. 16 The head of the secondary school, Abu al-Hasan Khan

14 Abrahamian, E. Iran Between Two Revolutions (PrincetonUniversity Press, New Jersey, 1982) p.151.

15 He seems to have been genuinely attached to both Pahlavimonarchs, a cause of embarrassment to his son. See his role in theAzarbaijani crisis. Bazargan, Interview, 1989.

16 There were 56 primary and secondary European styleschools in 1917 in Iran and 724 in 1924. Bharier, J. Economic Development in Iran: 1900-1970 (Oxford University Press, London,1971) p.38. The first date corresponds to Bazargan's entrance toSultani primary school and the latter to his attendance at Dar al-Moa'lemin secondary school. Bazargan, A. Moshkelat va masa'el-eAvalin Sal-e Engelab, Problems and Issues of the First Year of theRevolution (Freedom Movement of Iran, Tehran, 1982) inside cover.


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Forughi 17 played an important role in forming the ideas of the

young student. Forughi was a man of philosophy and history as well

as religion and faith. He taught classes on "Geographical

Discoveries" and Philosophy as well as "Interpretation of the

Koran". In one class he spoke of social issues and ideas and in

the other he would familiarize the mind of the student with the

religious text. The Koran verse he would often write on the

blackboard; "Verily never will God change the condition of a

people until they change it themselves" 18 was to become one of

the political slogans that Bazargan used in later years. Forughi

would use scientific theories in support of Koranic verses, such

as the theory of optics in explaining the Sura (chapter) of

Light. 19 In contradiction with a dominant view among the Muslims

that took naturalism to be atheistic, Forughi often said that God

must be sought through the study of nature. These ideas influenced

Bazargan significantly and he was to stay close to this

interpretation of religion throughout his life. In support of this

view and with Forughi's encouragement Bazargan read God in Nature,

a treatise by the French Catholic astronomer, Camille


At the age of nineteen Bazargan was sent to study in

Europe with one of the first groups supported by government

17 The brother of Mohammad Ali Forughi, the last primeminister of Reza Shah and the author of Sir-e Hekmat Dar Urupa TheHistory of European Philosophy.

18 The Koran (translated by Yusuf Ali, A. 1946) XIII, 11.19 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.20 Astronomer Camille Flammarion (d.1925) established the

Juvisy observatory (1883) and the French Society for astronomy(1887). Won the French Academy's Montyon Prize for popularizinghis subject (1885). Wrote a number of books including God inNature (1869) and The World Before the Creation of Man (1885).


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grants. The students were chosen through exams. Bazargan came

fifth and chose to read electrical engineering. 21 The conflict

between the religious and the non-religious that was to haunt

Bazargan throughout his life, surfaced before his departure for

Paris. His parents (in addition to himself) were concerned that

the modern world might rob the young man of religious and moral

standards. To show his determination in staying true to religious

sentiments Bazargan argued that France could only be a challenge

in strengthening his beliefs. Furthermore he asked Ahmad

Nakhjavani, a low grade neighbourhood mulla and a distant

relative, for a Fatwa (religious decree) on the matter of a Muslim

living among infidels. Nakhjavani replied that if the purpose was

to propagate the true faith among Christians, the visit would be

permisable. 22 Thus Bazargan became further determined to uphold

his religious views.

The influence of religion over the ideas and life of

Bazargan must be seen within the context of the domination of

religion over public culture and perceptions. In the first quarter

of the twentieth century for the majority of Iranians, both in

cities and rural areas, life had only started to change since the

Middle Ages. They had little means of communication with each

other let alone the outside world. There was little chance of

travel for there were no proper roads. The telegraph system was

limited and only between major cities. Life, even in urban

conditions, was basic. Illiteracy and superstition were

21 The other choices were education, natural sciences,medicine and law. Bazargan, Defence p.39.

22 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.21

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widespread. 23 In the mid 1920s, when Reza Shah had consolidated

his position and was to initiate his state building campaign,

there were only some 700 modern European style schools for Iran's

10 million population.

In accordance with tradition, religious institutions such

as the mosque, the theological school (madreseh) and the Sufi

retreat (Khanqah) were the centres of local, social and political

information, and in addition to their religious functions, moulded

the ideas and perceptions of the people. Even the merchant guilds

and the athletic associations (zur Khaneh) had religious

associations, best evident in their responsibility in organizing

public religious events. The traditional schools, on which the

clerics relied, had an unsophisticated curriculum: basic reading

and writing, recitation of the Koran, Arabic grammar, and some

Persian poetry.

Changes to public culture started to take place when the

press began to have a greater impact on the urban population. In

the 1910s, following the weakening of the state despotism due to

the victories of the constitutional movement and until the rise of

Reza Khan to power, the press flourished and European ideas began

to filter through to the public. Reading aloud of newspapers, even

old copies became common practice throughout the country.

Nevertheless it was only among the small intellectual urban

classes that there was any understanding of the theoretical basis

23 No data is available but take into account that somefifty years later, in the 1970s, the illiteracy rate was estimatedto be around 60-70%.


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of the ideas that were filtering into Iran. 24 The majority of the

people remained attached to their traditional way of life and

religious perceptions. The popular mind maintained its attachment

to a culture based on fatalism as divine providence, and coloured

by the tragic versions of the lives of saints, particularly Imam

Hosain, and myths of semi-supernatural beings intervening in the

daily life and events. It was to be many decades before the

trickle of modern education could substantially change some public


Before Bazargan's departure for Europe two distinct

clusters of ideas are detectable in his intellectual makeup; on

the one hand a religious view of life, although somewhat non-

traditional, and on the other hand an influence of natural

sciences explaining the workings of the universe in modern terms.

While his school teachers, particularly his headmaster Forughi,

were responsible for the formation of both ideas, it was his

family, particularly his father who contributed to the formation

of the former. The young man left for France via the Soviet Union

in 1927. 25

Prance (1927-34)

In France Bazargan's ideas on religion and sciences

developed and a new element, a socio-political one, attracted his

24 Avery, P. (Ed.) The Cambridge History of Iran V.7,p.768, 840. Wilber, Riza Shah Pahlavi, pp.21-36. Sutton, Modern Iran, p.63. Lenczowski, G. (ed.) Iran Under the Pahlavis, p.86,304.

25 Document of the Ministry of Education. A copy of thedocument is in the position of the author.


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attention. Expected or not, the impact of the seven years of

living in France was tremendous and many of Bazargan's later ideas

on social affairs, politics and religion have their roots in this

period. Even when forty years later Bazargan wrote his memoirs,

all the expressions indicate the depth of shock when entering


Everything was very interesting, strange, and confusing

... with extraordinary voracity we looked at things around

us ... may the creator be glorified 26 ... the mind of the

European did indeed surprise us their advanced

cultural values left a deep impression. 27

It is natural to expect that the modern Europe of the

1920's should have a significant effect on persons coming from a

traditional country, particularly if they are young and

intelligent. Indeed many were to totally abandon their former

ideas in favour of new ones believing liberation from backwardness

demanded that "from head to toe - we should turn European". 28 But

Bazargan's case was different; despite the impact of French

society, he resisted change at a time when such resistance was a

rare phenomenon among Iranian students. Furthermore the resistance

was a conscious one. In his first public speech entitled "Souvenir

28 Jalal-Khaleq!27 Bazargan, Defence p.42.28 A quote popularized by Sayyed Hasan Taqizadeh (1879-).

Taqizadeh was educated in Egypt, member of the first IranianParliament (1906), leader of the Democratic Party, held a numberof ministerial posts, ambassador to Britain, lecturer at CambridgeUniversity. Chand Pardeh Az Zendegi Rejal Scenes From the Life of the Elite (amid Publications, Tehran, 1945).


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From Europe" he blamed his fellow students for surrendering too

much to the European way of life.

Iranians have a wrong impression of Europe. Europe is not

at all a heaven of comfort, love, cinema and novels. There

is also misery, poverty, injustice and war ... It is not

correct to Europeanise Iran because on the one hand it is

not clear what we mean by European ... and on the other

hand Europe is not good in every respect ... Superficial

imitation of culture in dress and behaviour [is wrong. We

must] take up the spirit of creativity rather than the

product of [their] creation ... To be European we have to

be creative not imitative. There has to be initiative,

creativity. 29

Although European culture and civilization soaked Bazargan

to the skin, it failed to change him totally. New ideas were

introduced to him but they did not lead to total destruction of

the former ones. Rather a new combination of the old and the new

was created.

Here the study of Bazargan's religious ideas is important

for two reasons; on the one hand they were to be of importance in

the formation of his political ideas, on the other hand religion

was to play a significant role in future Iranian politics. In the

later stages of the Third Republic (1871-1939) two political

29 The address was made at a student meeting in Iran's ParisEmbassy May 3, 1943. A copy of the text is in the position of the


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trends, among others, were of significance in France; the Catholic

and the Republican. The former represented the bastion of the

conservative right and the latter that of the centre and the left.

Surprisingly both were to influence Bazargan's social perspective.

For the Catholics the last ten years of the Third Republic

were a time when their political and social attitudes were in a

state of confusion because despite a more general decline in

religious thought there was a temporary revival of Catholicism.

The popularity of the revival was apparent in the moral and

intellectual atmosphere as well as the socio-economic conditions

of the time. The loss of attraction of the scientific pretensions

of modernism, dominance of the Einsteinian concepts of relativity,

decline of nineteenth century positivism, and the growth of

Freudian ideas of the unconscious had all contributed to undermine

the critique of religion and promoted a revival of Catholicism.

Politically, horrified with the growth of the Republicanism and

Socialism, Catholics favoured either the conservative or the

reactionary right. The Catholics enjoyed an urban bourgeois social

support rather than that of the rural peasantry or the industrial

working class. Tactically there was a significant emphasis on

social work, rather than overt political activity. This logically

followed the awareness that de-Christianisation was widespread,

and that to many Catholics, religion was merely social


30 Bernard, P. & Dubief H. The Decline of the Third Republic (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985) pp.253-257.


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The revival of religious thought in the 1926-36 period saw

the emergence of Catholic organizations and trade unionism on a

number of social levels. These associations included ones for

peasants, teachers, and workers. The one for students; Jeunesse

Etudiant Catholique was formed in 1932, 31 at the time when

Bazargan had settled down in university life and French society.

Bazargan was impressed by the Catholic activity of urban France to

the extent that the formation of Islamic Associations, including

that of students, engineers, doctors, etc. was to become a life

long preoccupation in Iran.

Taking into account his religious background, drawing

close, interacting and being influenced by French Catholic circles

and ideas was useful for Bazargan in a number of ways. First, the

existence of a religious vision in Europe re-enforced Bazargan's

own religious convictions. When he pointed out -later- that

contrary to what Iranians thought, he had not seen atheism in

Europe, 32 he was in fact indicating the degree of his involvement

with the religious environment. This allowed him not to feel the

need for change in his basic religious views since the French, an

advanced European people, were also a religious nation. For a

student from a traditional and non-developed country the

availability of such a defensive position was significant. Thus

the existence of religion in Europe became a defence against the

secular and anti-religious Iranians. The presence of Catholic

thought among the young, urban, prosperous and educated classes

31 Bernard, The Decline of the Third Republic, p.254.

32 Bazargan, Defence p.73.27

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was a relief. One of his first impressions of France was the Paris

Notre-Dame cathedral:

A great number of people, in very chic and modern cloths,

were kneeling, praying in silence. A co-traveler murmured

'amazing, these Europeans also pray, and with such

sincerity'. 33

Furthermore, the Catholic interpretation of religion

became a weapon against the traditionalist Iranians with the logic

that the worship of God can have an active role in a modern and

progressive society without any need for the frameworks that the

Muslim traditionalists insisted on. The fact that 76% of students

at the University 34 belonged to the Association of Catholic

Students -which Bazargan frequented- the fact that the Association

was more active in social work than any non-religious group, 35

and the fact that all this took place within a framework of

devotion and prayer presented an exciting alternative for

Bazargan. 36 There was no need for the orthodox interpretations

that the traditionalists back home called for. Bazargan thus

became entrenched in opposition to a purely traditional Muslim

interpretation of religion. 37

33 Bazargan, Defence p.43.34 Bazargan first attended Lycee Clemenceau at the city of

Nantes and then Ecole Centrale, Paris, one of the France's best

schools.35 Bernard, The Decline of the Third Republic, p.253.36 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.37 Bazargan, Defence, p.24.


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Finally, Bazargan found a suitable framework within which

he could explain, at least to himself, the progress of European

civilization. He came to believe that the motive of the European

progress could "not be material pleasures or self interest [rather

it] could only be that of religion and the worship of God." 38 It

was through the acceptance of "religion as an element in

civilization" that the French were able be enjoy moral virtues of

strength, social planning, co-operation, righteousness,

selflessness, hard work as well as freedoms of association and


Such functional interpretations of the Catholic position

led Bazargan to further insist on his own Islamic vision of

things. One report indicates that he embarrassed his more secular

compatriots by constant performance of his daily prayer rituals.39

On Saturdays when the French students participated in the Military

Exercises, Bazargan read French books on Islam, including Life of

Mohammad by Emile Dermengham. He also attended a series of

lectures on the history of the Shiites and the Druze by the great

French Orientalist Louis Massignon. 48 When the colonial magazine

Afrique Noire printed an article in criticism of Islam, Bazargan

wrote a defensive tract and had it published in the same magazine.

38 Bazargan, Defence p.63.39 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p.458.40 Louis Massignon (1883-1962) distinguished Catholic French

Islamist scholar, whose life long research on the tenth centurymystic martyr Hallaj has made him popular among Islamicmodernists. He had a number of Iranian associates includingMohammad All Forughi (see note 17). In the early 1930s, whileBazargan was in Paris, Massignon was seeking ways of bringingChristians and Muslims together. Holy Land, Louis Massignon,Summer 1991, pp.60-70.


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The interaction between the semi-traditional Muslim ideas

of an emerging modern Iranian society with that of revival of

French Catholicism led to a new vision. In his later writing

Bazargan said that by the time he returned to Iran it was with

greater religious faith than when he had left, but it was no

longer the "deviated Islam of superstition, ritualism, and

individualism, but the original, vital, social and creative Islam"

that he was keen to follow. 41 Although the remark is somewhat

exaggerated and can not be taken as a true measure of change (for

instance take into account that the material he was to publish for

the next ten years had no such radical reinterpretations of Islam)

it is nevertheless questionable how he could have discovered the

original Islamic faith in Paris after frequenting Catholic

associations and studying French orientalist literature. Clearly

European civilization had left its mark on the young man and had

altered his beliefs. He saw in Europe a more civilized way of life

but instead of abandoning his original identity and totally

accepting the western, he had internalized the modern concepts

into his own language. He had experienced a mixture of traditional

Muslim faith and modern Catholic society and wished to reconcile

the two.

A new element that entered Bazargan's frame of mind was

the purely political. Enjoying the social freedoms of Europe, he

developed an interest in social and political matters and found

41 Expressed some thirty years after the original events.Bazargan, Defence p.64.


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that he "had a knack for it." 42 The little political conditioning

that he had left him open to various influences. Interestingly

enough it was Catholicism's fierce rival, Republicanism, that was

to influence him most.

In the early 1930's, when presumably Bazargan was

sufficiently interactive with his environment, the French Socio-

political make up as presented in the Chamber of Deputies indicate

the largest block (40%) being controlled by the right, while the

Radical Socialists and Republican Socialists had a second place

(30%) and the Socialist Party the third (20%). 43 Radical

Socialism and Republican Socialism, were primarily committed to

the defence of Republicanism rather than socialist Ideas. After

the shortlived experience of the first and second republics the

new Republicans wished to protect the fragile third by rooting it

in the hearts and minds of the people. Thus educational

establishments became the missions of the Republican thought,

presented over and above the political system as a cultural

atmosphere and a secular ritual with its own symbolism, hymns,

festivals, and emblems. While the ideological and theoretical

orientation of the Republican Socialists kept them close to their

socialist roots, their electorate, that of middle classes,

peasants, shopkeepers, and small businessmen, tended towards

distinct social conservatism. Such a centrist position made the

Republican Socialists the indispensable element in the formation

of almost any coalition of the left or the right. While throughout

42 "Saram dard mikard bara-ye in jur chizha." Bazargan,Interview, 1989.

43 Bernard, The Decline of the Third Republic, p.302.31

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the 1920's power rested with the right, the political scene

gradually changed in the face of leftist unity that ultimately led

to the socialist-communist Popular Front coalition of 1936.

However the Leftist advance was not without serious and violent

challenges from the right, including efforts by the Fascists to

take over power (February 1934) as they had already done in

Germany and Italy. 44

It was within such an atmosphere that Bazargan attended

meetings of almost all political associations on the campus,

including that of the Socialists and the Royalists, but

particularly that of the Republicans. His first socio-political

activity, some ten years later, indicates the significant

impression that these free associations had left upon the young

student. He tried to understand the spectrum of French politics by

reading the quality morning newspapers which at the time were the

principal source of information. These included that of the

Communist Party, L'Humanite, the Socialist Party, Le Populaire, as

well as the Monarchists', L'Action Francaise. 45 Furthermore he

would attend campaign meetings for electoral candidates. Under the

influence of the Republicans, Bazargan started reading their

literature and even started to dress as a young republican. At the

same time the communists' anti-religious propaganda left him with

a bitter experience and a dislike for the communists took roots."

44 Jackson, J. The Popular Front in France DefendingDemocracy (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988) seeintroduction and part one: section two, passim.

45 Bernard, The Decline of the Third Republic, p.262.46 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.


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Mention should be made of Bazargan's field of study;

thermodynamics, which constitutes a fundamental part of all the

physical sciences and which (particularly its concept of

equilibrium) was to be a source of inspiration for Bazargan's

subsequent reflections on social relations, as we shall see later.

Thermodynamics is the systematic study of the relationship between

heat, work, temperature and energy, encompassing the general

behaviour of physical systems in a condition of equilibrium. A

central consideration of thermodynamics is that any physical

system, whether or not it can exchange energy and material with

its environment, will spontaneously approach a stable condition

(equilibrium) that can be described by specifying its properties,

such as pressure, temperature or chemical composition. If the

external constraints are changed (for example the system is

allowed to expand) then these properties will generally alter. The

science of thermodynamics attempts to describe mathematically

these changes and to predict the equilibrium conditions of the

system. 47

The subject was developed in the nineteenth century when

much interest existed on the question of the efficiency of heat

engines, in which heat is converted into useful work. In all such

devices there is an irreversible dissipation of useful energy

because heat can never be converted to work with 100 percent

efficiency. The law of conservation of energy, known as the first

law of thermodynamics, states that whatever energy is converted in

47 The New Encyclopedia Britannica, V.11 (EncyclopediaBritannica, Chicago, 1991) p.701.


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form its total quantity remains unchanged. The second law states

that in a closed system, the entropy does not decrease. The third

law states that as minimum temperature is approached, the further

extraction of energy becomes more and more difficult.

Bazargan completed his studies of thermodynamics at

Paris's Ecole Centrale and went on work training in a number of

factories around the country. In 1934 with great anticipation he

left France to return home. Modern France had made deep

impressions on the young Bazargan encouraging him to revise his

understanding of traditional Iranian religion and to acquire

modern socio-political ideas. For years to come Bazargan was to

speak with respect of the French and maintain his fondness of the

French language.

The Civil Servant (1934-40)

Upon his return to Iran Bazargan came to face with what is

commonly termed, by both political scholars and activists, Iranian

Modernism. 48 He adapted the idea (as we shall see) with some

modifications and gave it a leading role in his intellectual

framework. In understanding the context within which Bazargan

developed his subsequent social discourse it is sufficient to

identify three core clusters in the Modernist ideological make up

of the first Pahlavi monarch and the forces that generally

supported him: 1. Statism. 2. Nationalism, 2. Secularism.

48 Tajadod Talabi.34

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At the time of Reza Shah the dominant interpretation of

Modernism was found in the effort to create a modern national

state. However the roots of the concept and its most distinct

initiation were in the 1906 Constitutional Revolution. The

revolution has been analyzed as a democratic movement of the urban

middle class, where the dominant ideological element was that of

constitutionalism and the basic source of inspiration for the

modern educated intellectual element in the leadership that of the

French Revolution. 49 This dominant ideological element developed

primarily as the result of the European influence exerted upon

Iran throughout nineteenth century and followed the conclusion

reached by the intellectuals that there was a need for a proper

code of law to which government would be accountable. This

perception was based on the fact that there was a lack of written

law 50 which meant that government was unsystematic and that

judicial judgment was subject to arbitrary actions of powerful

men. 51 In other words the Constitutional Revolutionaries demanded

freedom in the form of the ending of official lawlessness and the

establishment of the rule of law and an independent legal

49 Adamiyyat, F. Fekr-e Demokrasi Ijtema'ye The Concept ofSocial Democracy (Payam, Tehran, 1984) p.3. There have been fiercedebates within the Iranian intellectual community as well asIranian specialists on the meaning of the Constitutionalism of therevolution and the freedoms it bestowed. The Marxist interpreterssaw the anti-feudal bourgeois elements playing the dominant role.The Modernist Pahlavi apologists saw the movement in itsopposition to the corruption of the Qajar dynasty and a foundationof legitimacy for the Pahlavi's constitutional monarchy. Theliberals have emphasized the constitutionalist (legalistic) anddemocratic aspects of the movement. For a standard historicnarrative see Browne, E.G. The Persian Revolution of 1905-09 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1910).

50 Except that of the Shari'a religious canon which was thenconcerned mainly with customary rather than civil code.

51 Martin, V. Islam and Modernism, The 1906 Iranian Revolution (Tauris, London, 1988) pp.4-10.


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framework. They hoped that the division and sharing of the

absolute power of the state, through constitutionalism, would lead

to some form of check on the rule of government and thus the

establishment of law and subsequently a democratization process.52

Within this framework and upon the success of the 1906

Revolution attempts were made by the Majlis to implement reform in

the realms of judiciary, finance, military and state

organizations. 53 However the centrifugal force of the

revolutionary upheaval allowed the re-emergence of the ancient

mosaic of fragmented Iranian society paralyzing the little

existing state leverage that the revolutionaries might have hoped

to employ. 54 Furthermore the outbreak of the First World War with

its foreign invasions and nationalist rebellions undermined the

already fragile state. 55

These constraints forced the mainstream of the political

intelligentsia to revise their idea of the evolution of the modern

state so by the time of the emergence of the first Pahlavi monarch

they were seeking, at any cost, the establishment of the rule of

law as well as social reform and progress, not necessarily through

liberal representative institutions but through a centralized

52 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran, p.58.53 Amir Arjomand, S. Turban for the Crown (Oxford University

Press, Oxford, 1988) pp. 40-62.54 For an analysis of Iran's social mosaic, based on tribal,

religious, cultural, ethnic, geographical and urban divisions seeAbrahamian, E. Oriental Despotism: The Case of Qajar Iran, inInternational Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, V.5, 1974.

55 For a study of the Reza Shah see Sutton, L.P.E. ModernIran (George Routledge and Sons, London, 1941) and Wilber, D.N.Riza Shah Pahlavi (Exposition Press, New York, 1975).


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system of a national administration. This is the reason that the

initial political tendency used by Reza Shah to establish himself

in power was constructed not only by the younger generation of

politicians associated with reformist and radical politics of the

1920s but also the old constitutional elite of the 1900s. 56 The

continuation of the ideas from the initial liberal constitutional

movement into the authoritarian rule is well evident in the fact

that both generations initially portrayed the coup leader as a

modernist reformer representing the constitutional ideals.

It was with this background that Reza Shah constructed

from a skeleton of several thousand men, a modern national army,

based on a professional officer core and compulsory national

conscription as the spearhead of his modernization movement that

was to lead to the establishment of military, bureaucratic and

economic state monopolies. Better organized, better disciplined

and better equipped than any military force the country had seen

for centuries, Reza Shah used it in the elimination of opposition

and the creation of the nation state. The new bureaucratic

standards which applied for military discipline were also used for

the organization of the work force in the government bureaucracies

and state industrial monopolies (including the production of tea,

sugar, tobacco, opium, as well as the running of the national

railway and the control of the foreign trade). Reza Shah and his

Modernist entourage encouraged the building of these mass

producing industries, and the related services, with the aim of

capturing what they thought was the secret of success of European

56 Amir Arjomand, Turban for the Crown, p.62.37

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civilization, but also meeting the requirements of his military

supported state. 57

Reza Shah's tendency towards industrial statism, which

included a programme of financial and legal reforms, is reputed to

have been directed by Ali Akbar Davar, a leading member of the

government. Davar is believed to have picked up the concept of

state monopolies and the role of state in directing the economy

while studying law in Europe. 58 In the implementation of these

programmes Davar pushed forward a programme of financial and legal

reforms, the bulk of which 59 were copied from or at least

inspired by French and Belgian institutions and laws. However

elements of traditional Islamic law was kept within the new

framework. 60 The economic strategies of the newly founded Soviet

Union with their emphasis on centralized development plans were

also influential in this regard. The Soviet influence in the

development strategies of the Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk,

including those of statist mercantalism, is well documented and it

is sufficient to point out here that Reza Shah was encouraged by

Ataturk's example.

57 On Reza Shah's industrial drive see Avery, Modern IranChaps. 14-18, or Keddie, Roots of Revolution, pp.93-112.Maclachlan, K.S. Economic Development 1921-1979, in Cambridge History of Iran, V.7. pp.608-639.

58 Tabari, E. Jame'eh-e Iran dar Doran-e Reza Shah Iranian Society at the time of Reza Shah (np 1977). p.99.

59 Particularly the first civil laws and parts of the legaland criminal code as well as regulations concerning establishmentof organizations. See Tabari, Iranian Society, p.99.

60 Keddie, N. Roots of the Revolution (Yale UniversityPress, New Havens, 1981) pp.95-98. & Tabari, Iranian Society,p.100.


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The nationalism of the Reza Shah period, better known as

"nation-worship" 61 was the dominant theme in the body of

Modernist ideas. The nation-worship appealed to the pre-Islamic

golden age of the autocratic rules particularly that of the

Achamenids and Sassanian empires. This emphasis on the pre-Islamic

heritage as the foregone glorious age was a pragmatic exaggeration

aimed at stabilizing the emerging national bureaucracy at the cost

of existing traditional institutions, particularly the religious.

Furthermore it had an element of Persian Chauvinism in that it

aimed at undermining the diversified ethnic component of the

Iranian society and it was thus particularly anti-Arab. 62 Here

nationalism aimed at the transformation of primary communal

identity from parochial ethnic communities to that of nationhood.

Indeed it was the intense identification with the idea of the

Iranian nation which generated the fierce determination needed to

carry out policies of rapid social change during the period. 63

This nationalism drew considerably -though not entirely-

on European culture and historic resources and was thus similar to

its European counterpart. 64 The publications of several books

including Old Iran 65 and the three volumes of Ancient Iran 66 by

Moshir al-Doleh Pirniya and the translation of Iran at the Epoch

61 Mihan Parasti.62 For instance the Iranian Academy was commissioned to

purify the Persian language from Arab words and to prepare adictionary of modern Persian words.

63 Elwell-Sutton, L.P. Modern Iran (George Routledge,London, 1941) Chap. VII, passim. Cottam, R. Nationalism intwentieth Century Iran in Bill, J.A. & Louis, R. (eds.) Mosaddeq, Iranian Nationalism and Oil (I.B.Tauris & Co. London, 1988). p.25.

64 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran, p.82.65 Iran-e Qadim.66 Irane Bastan


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of Sassanian 67 by the Danish author Christensen, as well as new

publications of old literature, particularly Ferdowsi's heroic

nationalist epic, the Shah-Nameh influenced the development of

these national concepts. 68 The theme was also vitalized by a

number of composers of political poetry. 69 including Mohammad

Reza Eshqi, Abolqasem Aref, Farrokhi Yazdi and Abolqasem Lahuti.70

The secularism of Reza Shah was the culmination of a

process that had its roots in the nineteenth century. Secularism

67 Iran dar Zamane Sassanian, Rashid Yasami (trans.)68 Tabari, E. Iranian Society at the time of Reza Shah,

pp. 98-108.69 Katouzian, Political Economy of Modern Iran, p.82.

70 Here it is necessary to clarify a point with regard tothe fact that there have been four different and at times opposinginterpretations of nationalism in twentieth century Iran and sincethe four lay claim to the term national (Melli) and itsderivatives, this has become a source of formalistic andcontextual confusion. The concept of Melli became prominent at thetime of the constitutional revolution (1906) and again at the timeof Mosaddeq (1951). (The Majlis-e Shuora-ye Melli, the NationalConsultative Assembly was the achievement of the constitutionalmovement while Mosaddeq was supported by Jebhe Melli, the NationalFront.) A number of groups continue to lay claim to the heritageof this tradition, for example the Jomhurikhahan-e Melli-e Iran,the National Republicans of Iran (formed 1983). The main elementsof this tendency, albeit fluctuations, include constitutionalism,anti-colonialism, and democratic government. The other currentfinds its articulation in the ideology of the Pahlavi dynasty,with its main elements being the revival of an ancient Iranianidentity, Persian supremacy, anti Islamic/Arab mentality,industrialism, and centralized authoritarian government. Forclarification it might be useful to deal with the former asliberal or popular nationalism while referring to the latter asauthoritarian nationalism. The third tendency has been under thedistinct influence of pan-Islamism and thus its most recentvanguard, the Islamic Republic's claim to "Islamic motherland" orthe identification of nation with that of religious symbols. Itseems while the first current has the most classic interpretation,the second has had difficulty in establishing a claim in thisdomain, while the third has been the most successful in mobilizingthe national/mass potential. The fourth interpretation of Mellibelongs to the Marxist-Leninist groups who equated Melli withvarious interpretations of the bourgeois class. Throughout thisstudy we shall be looking at the various aspects of the fourcurrents as far they interact with the political ideas of MehdiBazargan.


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came with the European influence and the main catalyst for

European ideas were the western educated reformers and writers.

They saw Islam, as the bastion of the traditional society, the

cause of backwardness and an obstacle to progress. In their effort

to move the country towards social reform and progress they sought

to undermine the traditional culture and institutions,

particularly that of the clerics. Although the participation of

the clergy in the 1890 Tobacco uprising and later in the

Constitutional Revolution against the house of the Qajar had

reduced antagonism between the traditional and modern elites, the

subsequent opposition of a group of clerics to the constitutional

movement had reversed the trend. The inability of the clerics to

introduce reforms within their own ranks further aggravated the

situation. The fundamental features of the secularization process

were the reduction of the influence of the clerics in their

traditional spheres of authority ie. the judicial and educational

domains. Reza Shah's drive against the religious community, and

thus the secularization process, came in the context of his

efforts to curtail the political influence of the clergy as a

rival and impose the state hegemony. By late 1930s he had totally

excluded the clerics from the judicial procedure (although

elements of Islamic law continued to be exercised) education had

come under the control of the modern sections of society and the

cleric's source of finance (endowments) were under the effective

rule of the state. Vigorous efforts were also made in the

secularization/modernization of popular culture, including the

Uniform Dress Law (1928), the banning of women's veils (1936) as

well as the harassment and prohibition of religious ceremonies.

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Developments in the region were also significant in

determining Reza Shah's opposition to religion. The disintegration

of the Ottoman Empire, the collapse of Pan-Islamism and the

formation of secular Turkish and Arab states with nationalist

ideologies and Western secular tendencies are significant in this

respect. Indeed Reza Khan's earlier and unsuccessful effort at

creating an Iranian republic was reinforced by developments on the

western borders of Iran and it was after his trip to Turkey (1934)

that he intensified his secularization drive.

It was within this framework of emerging secularism,

statism, and nationalism that Reza Shah maintained his despotism.

Initially the modern intellectuals who constituted the rank and

file of Reza Shah's regime and who were weary of the slow process

of parliamentary and judicial deliberations (scorning the

corruption and selfishness which it sometimes involved) and

impatient with the pace of the modernization drive, had given Reza

Khan support in his anti-democratic policies. 71 And once

established in power Reza Shah undermined the political

achievements of the 1906 revolution by banning political parties,

dispersing independent politicians, controlling the media and

turning the parliament into a rubber stamp body. He did not allow

the creation of political institutions for the modern middle

classes that had supported and maintained his state machinery.

Neither did he establish a political environment where power could

be delegated or transferred peacefully once he was gone. The

71 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran, p.82.42

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period between the return of Bazargdn from France dnd the fall of

Reza Shah (1934-41) coincided with the absolute exercise of power

by the Monarch.

Bazargan's reaction to the various components of the

Modernist social thought shall be studied at later stages and in

detail, here it is sufficient to sketch Bazargan's reaction to the

regime of Reza Shah. Referring to his own intellectual position at

the time Bazargan (later) wrote:

I belonged to that social tendency which despite its

reservations, entered government service with the hope of

reform and modernism. 72

Indeed after passing his compulsory military service he

had thrown in his lot with the establishment and joined the ranks

of the civil service with good pay. 73 During the rule of Reza

Shah the growing number of civil servants alongside other modern

educated social segments (as the backbone of the new middle class)

had supported the monarch en route to power. Although it would be

an exaggeration to say that Bazargan identified with the ideas of

the ruling establishment, it would be correct to say that Bazargan

72 Bazargan, Defence, p.92.73 He served five months at Military Academy, seven months

at the barracks and the rest of his period at the engineers corps,translating military documents. At the invitation of the ministerof culture Hekmat, he joined the Teacher's College of Technologyas a lecturer in Thermodynamics. At the same time he was employed-for two years- by a state owned engineering company before itpacked up. Seeking better opportunities he started (with sevenEuropean educated friends) Iran's first consultative engineeringcompany; Ettehad-e Mohandesin-e Iran. Bazargan, Interview 1989.


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did believe the main force of reform and progress to be that of

the state and it was within this context that he later wrote (even

some three decades later):

With the initiative and leadership of Reza Shah, a general

offensive had been launched towards reform. Great

achievements had been gained in the creation of a powerful

modern army, a national railway (masterpiece of industry

and art) modern industries, government ministries and

educational establishments. As with regard to customs and

practices - without considering their positive or negative

points - great changes were made as in the dress code, the

veil, etc. 74

The person of Reza Shah too seems to have impressed

Bazargan. He was privileged to see the monarch, once, before his

departure for France. The impression of the King addressing the

selected students at the Royal Palace was strong enough that

Bazargan was to remember, with respect, his very words by heart.

With a calm yet assuring expression and with his typical

gaze that seemed both watchful and hazy, His Majesty the

King addressed us for a quarter of an hour: "You will be

surely surprised that we are sending you to a country

whose regime is different from ours and is democratic and

74 Bazargan, Defence p.98. Of course it has to be kept inmind that Bazargan spoke these words in a militarily tribunalaccusing him of un-constitutional activities.


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republican. But they are also patriots. You shall bring

back home their patriotism and technical know-how". 75

However his working within the establishment did not mean

unconditional surrender or obedience without criticism. Initially

the return home of the sensitive graduate had been tinged with

bitterness. Humiliating treatment at the hands of the customs

officers and payment of bribes to the highway gendarme, little

official attention paid to the new graduates and the harsh nature

of the military service "was enough to make one regret one's

return". 76 He was critical of the ruling elite's shallow

understanding of progress and European civilization. His

cosmopolitan eyes saw little of significance in the state reforms

and he preferred to call the reforms a veil of cosmetic modernism

behind which the establishment hid its face:

Reforms did not go further than white-washing the walls

and changing peoples' clothes. It was a shallow and

childish imitation of foreigners. Rarely was any attention

paid to the foundations. 77

Such criticism was natural for a young European educated

engineer returning home. Having in mind the modern social

institutions of Europe and having lived at the heart of an

industrial society, he now found only poorly educated men running,

without plans, dis-organized establishments. What the regime

75 Bazargan, Defence p.39.76 Bazargan, Defence, p.67.77 Bazargan, Defence p.69.


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introduced as modernism was not acceptable to Bazargan and this

criticism was to take significant proportions in times to come.

Bazargan was also disturbed by the Modernist disgust with

all affairs of religion which were interpreted as a symbol of

backwardness and underdevelopment, and as already noted, the

articulation of such a vision was the suppression of the religious

establishment by Reza Shah. 78

It was very painful to witness the distancing and the

disgust shown towards religion, morals and ethics in the

name of reformism and modernism. 79

Although this claim is questionable, for there seems to be

no reason why Modernists or even pseudo Modernists should

necessarily be opposed to morality and ethics, it is without doubt

correct to say that many of the Modernists within and outside the

establishment wished and worked towards the destruction of Shiism

and its social institutions.

When Bazargan left France several clusters of ideas

preoccupied him: His ideas of Islam (so far as their social and

political implications are of significance to this study) were

mainly concerned with national identity as well as social (though

not political) activity. To a lesser extent Republicanism had left

a mark. Years of study in mechanical engineering gave him a strong

78 look at the section on family.79 Bazargan, Defence, p.72.


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background in sciences. In contrast to the French period, in the

years between 1934 and 1940 the idea of Modernism came to dominate

the mind of the young civil servant. It seems Bazargan accepted

the dominant Modernist view of the establishment although there

were certain reservations (as discussed above) on: 1. the meaning

and interpretation of modernism and 2. the persecution of the

religious community.

The acceptance of the dominant Modernist view could well

have been due to several reasons. Bazargan's familiarity with the

non-political Catholicism of the early 1930's made the acceptance

of Reza Shah social order - where political activity was limited -

much easier. 80 His religious views, with emphasis on social

activism and critique of traditionalism, made him attracted to

modernism rather than rebellious against it. His training in

natural sciences inclined him towards a position in the

establishment, which he thought would be the only outlet for his

specialization. Finally after living in a modern European country,

he now faced a traditional society with it's bitterness of

underdevelopment. The attraction towards some form of modernism

was therefore natural.

With regards to his concept of Islam and as far as social

issues were concerned it is fair to say that the idea of Islam

lost its predominance. In contrast with the university days when

Bazargan's concern was to develop an Islamic identity in the face

80 Compare this with other Iranian students who becamepolitically active while in Europe.


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of an imposing European civilization, in Iran now, his urgent

concern was with the meaning of Modernism. His interpretation of

the social role of religion which in France had become non-

traditional (by Iranian standards) now took a somewhat more

traditionalist position in the face of the secularist offensive of

the ruling establishment.

Such were the elements in the intellectual framework of

Bazargan when World War Two ushered the allied invasion and the

overnight collapse of Reza Shah. The fall of the monarch was a

"tremendous shock that awakened" Bazargan to question the ongoing


Like a locomotive, the country was passing from one gorge

of progress to another. Then all of a sudden, a barrier

and a crash. The train and its passengers were badly

shaken, wagons were derailed. Amid the dead and the

wounded, amid the screams and the groans, nothing was left

of hope ... [but] it was only then that people decided to

stand on their own feet and to get the train moving

towards the destination. 81

With the exile of Reza Shah a chapter was closed in Iran's

contemporary history. From a new vantage point Bazargan, now aged

32, began to look at his environment. It was time for active

revision, both in thought and action.

81 Bazargan, Defence p.100.48

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Social Developments 1941-53

From the fall of Reza Shah (1941) to the military coup

that consolidated the position of his son Mohammad Reza (1953) the

most significant socio-political development was the collapse of

the old political order and the struggle for shaping the emerging

one. This process was set in motion and to a degree shaped, by the

Allied military invasion of the country. Two events typified the

trends of this period: First the emergence of the Tudeh party

leading to the rise and fall of the Azarbaijan Autonomous

Government (1946) and second the formation of the National Front

in the later parts of the decade culminating in the

nationalization of the oil industry and the strategic defeat of

the liberal and constitutional tendency. The two movements were

typical in the sense that they were highlights of the efforts to

change and reshape the political structure.

The events of the period, that is the foreign invasion of

Iran, the collapse of the old order, the emergence of new

political forces, the appearance of economic difficulties, the

Azarbaijan crisis, the nationalization of the oil industry, and

the 1953 military coup and their various consequences have been

the subject of a number of studies and it is not intended to

discuss these issues in detail here. However this study seeks to

look briefly at Iran's social structure, the conflict between the

emerging conservative and radical tendencies, and the political

impact of the economy in the 1941-53 period. It is against this

backdrop that the particularities of Bazargan's political thinking

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and activities will be subsequently discussed. 1

At the beginning of the 1940s Iran's population stood at

around 14.8 million rising to 19 million by 1953. Of this some 25%

were urban dwellers, residing in several major cities including

Tehran, Tabriz, Isfahan, Mashhad. For the purpose of this study

the structure of Iranian society could be divided to rural and

urban sectors. A vast army of poor peasants and a relatively small

elite of large and small landlords made up the former while the

urban population was split into the traditional Bazaar merchants,

urban craftsmen, modern middle classes (ie. civil servants,

professionals) and a large body of unskilled labourers.

In the rural areas the nomadic people constituted 10-15%

of the total population. With an end to the rule of Reza Shah who

had systematically enforced settlements there was an upsurge and a

return to nomadic life. However the general historic trend was to

their disadvantage and the nomadic people were to disappear

gradually altogether. The peasants made up the largest segment of

Iranian society and the most deprived. Their wealth and life was

1 The study in this section is an effort in synthesizingdata and arguments presented in the following works: Abrahamian,Iran Between Two Revolutions, chaps. 6-8 passim., Amjad, Iran FromRoyal Dictatorship to Theocracy, chap. 4 passim, Bharier, J.Economic Development in Iran 1900-1970 (Oxford University Press,London, 1971) chaps. 2-3 passim, Bill, J.A. (ed.) Musaddiq, Iranian Nationalism and Oil (I.B.Tauris, London, 1988) pp.23-47,Najmabadi, A. "Hazards of Modernity and Morality: Women, State andIdeology in Contemporary Iran" in Kandiyoti, D. (ed.) Women, Islamand the State (Macmillan, London, 1991) pp.48-77, Ratouzian, ThePolitical Economy of Modern Iran,.pp.141-183, Reddie, The Roots of Revolution, pp.113-142, Nyrop, F. (ed.) Iran: A Country Study (TheAmerican University, Washington, D.C. 1978) pp.55-60, Ravasani,Sh. Dulat Va Hokumat Dar Iran, Government and State in Iran (Sham'Publications, Tehran, nd.) pp.142-165.


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determined by the landlords who generally maintained them on basic

subsistence. 2

During the 1940s and 1950s the development of a cash

market, expansion of central government apparatus and the general

deterioration of national economy (particularly increases in

prices and interests) undermined the peasant position. 3 True to

its historic practice the rural population was non-political.

Geographical isolation, 4 poverty, illiteracy, cultural simplicity

and apathy kept the Iranian peasant away from greater social

matters and that of politics.

The landowners were possibly the richest and most powerful

class outside those involved in the running of the state. Reza

Shah himself had become the biggest landowner, through forceful

confiscation of other people's property, and was reported to have

had some 5,600 villages by the time he was exiled. The landowners

2 Historically the vast majority of peasant population ofIran were crop-sharing peasants, tenants or landless labourers.By the virtue of a contract, written or merely often verbal, acertain area of land was handed to the farmer on a share croppingbasis for a specified or unspecified period. The peasants providedthe seed, drought animals and agricultural implements, or only oneor two of these, in addition to the labour, whereas the landlesslabourer, although he might have been paid by a share of the crop,was differentiated from the crop sharing peasant by the fact thathe provided only labour and could be dismissed at will. Securityof tenure was a matter of vital concern to the peasant. Someslight security was given to him by law with regard to any cropwhich he may have sown but in practice in the majority of areas hehad no real security of tenure. The landlord could in fact, turnhim out at will, except in a few areas. Custom, however, gave thepeasant a measure of protection in some areas. Lambton, A.K.S.Landlord and Peasant in Persia (Oxford University Press, London1953) p.295 & 393.

3 Keddie, Roots of Revolution, p.122.4 There were an estimated 32,000 villages spread in Iran's

1.5 million square kilometers.52

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were generally absent from their property and were little inclined

to re-invest substantially to modernize the traditional farming

practices. They resided in the major cities or abroad and managed

their wealth through delegation. The Bazaar, the ancient urban

Iranian institution, continued to maintain its political and

economic existence in the 1940s. The bulk of the Bazaar merchants

constituted the lower middle class and their position in domestic

trade and distribution made it vulnerable to the influx of foreign

goods. Their traditional status and their closeness to the

religious community made them further anti-foreign.

The political elite or the ruling class was a small circle

of upper bureaucrats, senior army officers as well as a number of

merchants and industrialists close to the Royal Court. From 1941

to 1953 the political efforts of the ruling class were the re-

imposition of the hegemony they had enjoyed prior to Reza Shah's

departure. Alongside these classes were the modern professional

middle classes. A product of the period following the 1906

constitutional revolution and particularly the rule of Reza Shah,

the middle classes were comparatively small but expanding. These

classes were fundamentally dependent on government bureaucracy

(ie. bureaucrats in search of Bureau as well as contractors and

traders dependent on government licenses) and in terms of social

perception looked for economic stability and efficiency of

government. The middle class exercised little political

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influence .5

The working classes too were small but growing. The

industrial workers constituted only about 0.5% of the population.

A slightly higher number (of about 67,000) were employed by the

British oil industry in the south. The largest industry employing

waged labour was the carpet weaving where some 130,000 workers

were involved in the production of the traditional item. In the

1940's the working classes gained political significance and were

organized in unions and federations demanding radical social

changes. 6

The politically conscious and active sectors of the

population who dwelt in the cities could not have been more that

5% of the total population. These came from the ranks of the

military/bureaucratic elite, the landowning and merchant

aristocracy or the newly articulated, modern educated professional

middle classes.

Beside the horizontal social stratification of class there

were the vertical stratifications of ethnicity, language and

5 The political limitations of the middle class in the 1941-53 is exemplified by the number of cabinet minister who came froma salaried, professional modern educated middle class. Of the 148minister only 15 belonged to the above categories, the rest wereof wealthy aristocracy or landowning classes. See Abrahamian, IranBetween Two Revolutions, p.170.

6 The first labour law was passed in 1949. For a view onIranian labour movement see Abrahamian, E. The Strengths andWeaknesses of the Labour Movement in Iran in 1941-53 in BonineM.E. & Keddie N.B. (ed.) Continuity and Change in Modern Iran (State University of New York Press, Albany, 1981) and alsoQassemi, Sandikalism dar Iran Trade Unionism in Iran (Bonyad-eMosaddeq Publications, Paris, 1985).


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religion. Structurally the most important segment of the

population were the Persian speakers who constituted about two

thirds of the population. 7 The Persians, with the Azarbaijanis

along side them, made the core of this socio-political elite. They

had had modern education more than other social segments and

filled the majority of positions in government and finance. Beside

them the Kurds, the Bakhtiaris, the Arabs and other ethnic

minorities made up the richly fragmented mosaic of Iranian social

structure. During the Rule of Reza Shah the domination of romantic

Persian nationalism 8 had meant glorification of the ancient Aryan

and Persian empires 9 at a cost to other cultural communities. But

the collapse of Reza Shah's order and active foreign military

interference highlighted ethnic identity and politics. Since the

twenty-year-old domination of state was over, society was

manifesting its ethnic undercurrents and remolding the platform of

political conflicts.

Political players and institutions

The conflicts of the 1941-53 period can be seen as efforts

by various social classes to obtain a greater share of the state's

political power. Unlike the period under the rule of Reza Shah,

when the exercise of power and regulation of social affairs had

7 Brewer, M. Atlas of the Middle East (Macmillan, New York,1988) p.89.

8 For a discussion on the romantic aspect of Iraniannationalism in literature see Katouzian, H. Iran, in Ostle, R.(ed.) Modern Literature in the Near and Middle East 1850-1970(Routledge, London, 1991) pp.130-161.

9 These included the Achaemenids Empire (550-330 B.C.) andthe Sassanian Empire (A.D. 226-641). The former extended as far asNorth Africa and was in constant state of war with the Greeks andwas finally defeated by Alexander the Great. The latter enjoyedsimilar expansion and was overthrown by the Muslim Arab army.


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The same case holds true for the religious establishment which had

suffered extensively at the time of Reza Shah. The collapse of the

old order encouraged them to try to re-establish their religious

influence. But once a degree of respect and authority had been

achieved, the senior clerical figures representing the traditional

community tended towards the conservative power bloc and

collaborated with them in ending the democratic process in 1953.11

In the five parliaments of the 1941-53 period, the

conservatives continually had the majority. The lack of

established political processes and institutions meant almost

daily shifting of alliances between the various factions that

emerged with the tide of political events. Such was the unstable

and unpredictable nature of things that at times even a small

determined political minority could initiate radical policy in the

parliament and despite the conservative majority achieve its end

(as in the case of the National Front in the 17th Majlis). However

regardless of their factionalism and weakness the conservative

forces exercised a significant degree of power and were to

ultimately bring back an authoritarian regime to power.

Within the 1941-53 period two reformist and radical

popular urban movements developed. Both the Tudeh Party and the

National Front which had roots among the modern middle and working

11 The tribal chiefs had a similar position. In bitteropposition to the first Pahlavi court, they rose to reassert theirprevious position. Foreign powers specially Britain saw anopportunity in helping their cause as instruments of pressuringthe central government. However the times had changed and thetribal chiefs were never able to recover their lost heritage.


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classes, sought social change, fought against the state and the

conservative power bloc and were finally defeated by them. The

Tudeh emerged immediately after the abdication of Reza Shah 12 and

was initially formed on a broad national and democratic programme.

The party's growth was unprecedented in Iranian history. Within a

year and by the time of the party's first Provisional Conference

the party had some 6,000 active members and this number was to go

as high as 25,000 by the end of the decade. 13 The party programme

called for an internal structure of "democratic centralism" and

was designed to appeal to workers, peasants, women and the lower

ranks of the middle classes. 14 Despite the expansion of party

apparatus in northern and southern parts of the country, the party

suffered strategic set backs on the account of its policy of

alignment to the U.S.S.R. over the latter's demand for Iranian oil

concessions and the creation and subsequent fall of the Soviet-

backed Azarbaijan Autonomous Government. Forced underground in

February 1949, the party emerged during the rule of the National

Front (1951-53) but failed to establish a working relationship

with the Front on grounds of mutual suspicion over matters of

policies. 15

In its first twelve years of activity the Tudeh party had

challenged the political order and the power of the state as a

12 For the standard text on the Tudeh Party see AbrahamianIran Between Two Revolutions. Also Zabih, S. The Communist Movement in Iran (University of California, Berkeley, 1966).

13 Rahbar, the official organ of the Party quoting R.Radmanesh (30, January, 1943) and reproduced by Abrahamian, IranBetween Two Revolutions, p.284.

14 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p.284.15 . Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, Chap. six,


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mass urban organization, representing the interests of the middle

and working classes. But its alliance with the Soviet Union as

well as its Marxist inspired radicalism distanced it from the

modern liberal, moderate and constitutionalist National Front.

Furthermore the radicalism and Marxism of the Tudeh party 16

caused fear amongst the more conservative social elements,

including the religious establishment and the landlords as well as

the western super powers, particularly the United States at the

time of cold war in the early 1950s. The ideology of the party 17

was dominated by Marxism and specially the Soviet interpretation

of it. Until the end of WWII the Tudeh party followed a policy of

conciliation with the 'national bourgeoisie'. But with the

emergence of the Cold War those who were not active friends of the

Soviet Union were seen as the enemy.

Subsequent to the demise of the Tudeh party the National

Front emerged in October 1949 and presented a new challenge to the

conservative bloc and the emerging political order. The National

Front brought together a wide selection of social forces who were

ideologically less homogeneous than Tudeh but whose political aims

as well as social base kept them together. The ideological

spectrum of the Front covered a wide range. The Iran Party

presented the liberal and constitutionalist view and based itself

on the support of the European-educated professionals. The Pan-

Iranist Party held ultra nationalist sentiments. Ayatollah Sayyed

16 Specially after the 1948 second party congress.17 Articulated by such men as Ehsan Tabari (leader of the

party's youth league and member of central committee) IrajEskandari (founding member and editor of party organ Rahbar),Abdol-Samad Kambakhsh.


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Abolciasem Kashani and the Fadaiyan-e Islam in turn represented the

pragmatic and fundamentalist views of the Muslim community. What

brought these groups together was attachment to an Iranian/Islamic

and anti-imperialist identity and commitment to some form of

constitutional government which would ensure a degree of rights

for the individual and the rule of law. What separated them

however was tactical issues, commitment to a secular as opposed to

a religious concept of society and the direction as well as speed

of change. 18 The National Front held power for nearly two and a

half years within which the sweeping nationalization of the

British run oil industry was carried out. The Front's inability to

maintain is own ranks and to settle the oil dispute to end caused

its downfall.

From the fall of Reza Shah to the coup in support of his

son, the radical forces seeking change to the political order and

the conservative bloc wishing to re-establish the authoritarian

elitist regime were engaged in a series of shifting alliances and

conflicts. However by the end of the period the conservatives had

gained enough momentum to outweigh those seeking change towards

national independence, constitutionalism and democracy. In the

August 19 coup a bloc of military/bureaucratic elite, the

religious establishment, landowning classes and elements of the

middle class moved decisively against both the National Front and

the Tudeh Party. The move ended a period of experimentation with

18 On the causes of differences in the Front see Katouzian,Musaddiq & the Struggle For Power in Iran (I.B. Tauris, London,1990).


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constitutional government and led to the consolidation of the

government of the Shah.

Political Economy

The immediate political impacts of economic developments

within the 1941-53 period are of significance but not of such

strategic nature which lead to shifts in the social structure. The

two main events were the economic crisis brought about by the

Allied invasion in the first half of the 1940s and the

nationalization of the oil industry (in the early years of the

following decade) which functioned as the backbone of the Iranian

economy .

The war-economy policy was taken up under pressure by the

Allied armies who needed Iran's financial backing in their war

efforts. The policy included the devaluation of the Iranian

currency, from 68 to 140 Rials to the Pound Sterling, the four

fold expansion of the money supply and extension of credit to the

Soviet Union and Britain. Although in a treaty following the

invasion the Allies had promised to safeguard the Iranian economy

from negative effects of the war and to pay reparations once it

was ended, neither of the promises were kept. 19 As the result of

the policies there was a collapse in the growth of GNP in the

first half of the 1940s. High inflation and price hikes dominated

the economy. The cost of living index soared almost six fold in a

matter of four year. General urban activity declined, little

investment was taking place and unemployment was high. Famine set

19 Katouzian, Political Economy of Modern Iran, p.142.61

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in parts of the country. Bread riots broke out in the capital

(December 1942). The government was forced to spend all income on

current expenditure. There is no detailed data available on basic

economic factors such as the Gross National Product for the period

but projections from the later years suggest that the GNP suffered

its most disastrous crisis of the 20th century as the result of

WWII and the economic policies adopted following the allied

invasion. 20

However there were sections of the economy which

flourished during the period. A boom of sorts took place in

sectors servicing the demands of foreign troops. The purchasing

power of the foreign troops further stimulated black market

speculation and the hoarding of goods. While in the rural areas

there was a relative decline in productivity, high demand for

goods in the cities pushed up the prices in favour of some

landowners who could supply the urban markets.

Throughout the period oil became the increasingly

significant source of financial support for the state without

which the political structure could have collapsed. The

significance of the oil industry in the Iranian economy has been

the subject of a number of studies and it is not intended to re-

open the debate here. 21 However, it is necessary to point to some

general trends with regards to the role of oil in the economic

20 Bharier, Economic Development in Iran, p.58.21 For instance see Amuzegar, J. Iran: Economic Development

Under Dualistic Conditions (University of Chicago, Chicago, 1971)& Karshenas, M. Oil State and Industrialization (CambridgeUniversity Press, Cambridge, 1990).


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activities of 1941-53. Oil exports and the revenue from their sale

constituted the main foreign earnings for the government and oil

remained the centre piece of the economy. Non-oil exports and

imports followed closely the rise and fall of the oil sales, with

the exception of the 1952-53 period when the government was

pursuing a policy of "Non-oil Economy". Despite the internal

economic crisis oil exports kept a steady increase, from 1,000

million Rials (1941) to 17,100 (1948) and then jumping to 22,300

m. (1950). The oil exports then collapsed to almost zero following

the nationalization of the oil and the embargo imposed by Britain.

However it is significant to note that the 22 fold increase in the

oil revenues in the initial eight-year period was the factor

maintaining Iran's economy and its dependent political structure


Political Thinking

In the decade following the Allied invasion the issues of

foreign intervention and colonialism became paramount. The anti-

colonial theme was elaborated by several groups. On the one hand

the old establishment felt embittered with the allied invasion and

the subsequent fall of Reza Shah, on the other hand the

Nationalists had long standing suspicions of the foreign powers,

but it was the third group, the communists, which gave the theme

vigour and drive. The campaign was led by the Tudeh party.

A series of works published by Tudeh party intellectuals

indicate that the main ideological drive was on the theme of class

struggle and its main manifestations in Iranian society. These

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manifestations included the question of imperialism. The party

believed that the most immediate threat to Iran came form Britain

which owned the country's main source of income and controlled

bases in Iran and the Persian Gulf. Britain was also seen as the

chief advocate of the conservative upper classes. Furthermore

Tudeh intellectuals who accepted the Marxist analysis of

international relations argued that only Britain with its

capitalist economy could constitute the imperialist threat. 22

It should be recalled that the theory of imperialism as

presented after WWII in the communist mainstream was more or less

within the framework that had developed in the 1930's. The concept

was synonymous with the oppression and exploitation of the weak

impoverished countries by powerful ones. The theory (within the

orthodox Marxist camp) was founded on the basis of the work of

Lenin and it referred to the process of capitalist accumulation on

a world scale. In his pamphlet on the subject Lenin had

characterized the phenomenon through emphasizing the export of

capital (and commodities) as the prime character of imperialism.

The concept also implied the mediating role of the pre-capitalist

ruling classes and thus the state in backward countries, who in

collaboration with the ruling classes of the advanced capitalist

countries, prevented the emergence of a local (ie. national)

bourgeois revolution. 23

22 Abrahamian, Between two Revolutions, Chap. 6, passim.23 Harding, N. Lenin's Political Theory, V.II (Macmillan,

London, 1981) p.76.64

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This theoretical background to the Marxist interpretation

of imperialism must be seen within the framework of the Cold War

that began shortly after WWII. With the Soviet Union and the

United States being the only countries capable of assuming

leadership of the world economy and given their different

interpretations of national security, political ideology and

international affairs, a polarization had emerged after WWII. The

first clash of the cold war (that was to last 45 years) took place

over Iran's Azarbaijan crisis (1946) and led to the formation of

(US president) Harry "Truman Doctrine" in the following year. 24

Working initially within the framework of the anti-Nazi-

German alliance and then within the context of the cold war and

"armed" with Leninist theory of imperialism Tudeh sympathizers saw

the picture in black and white. On the one hand were the British

and American imperialists supported by their domestic agents while

on the other hand were the Socialist Soviets (which by their

nature could not form an imperialist threat) and supported by the

working classes world wide and the intellectual vanguard. Over and

above this political consideration the struggle against

imperialism meant large scale nationalization and the redirecting

of foreign trade and cooperation with the socialist camp.

Socio-political Activity

Between 1941 and 1953 Bazargan became involved, directly

or indirectly in five organizations: the Islamic Centre of Tehran,

24 Kim, Y.H. Twenty Years of Crisis: The Cold War Era(Prentice-Hall International Inc. London, 1968) See preface andpart one on Iranian Issue.


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the Islamic Students Association, an engineers union, the Iran

Party and through the Party the National Front. The first two were

predominantly religious bodies while the latter were secular.

Bazargan's degree of affiliation and organizational commitment to

these bodies must not be overestimated. In most parts they were

loose associations and even when organization did exist, as in the

case of Iran Party, it seems Bazargan fought against party

discipline. In this period he published fifteen articles,

pamphlets and books, of which more later.

Religious currents

Bazargan started his social activities when he joined the

Islamic Centre (Kanun-e Islam) a year prior to Reza Shah's

departure and began working with two individuals who shared

similar ways of thinking. One was Mahmud Taleqani, a 30-year-old

cleric who was to become the maverick of the Islamic movement. 25

Talegani's father had been the person upon whose suggestion the

philosophical meetings were held at the house of Bazargan senior.

The new association however was not a result of the old ties. The

other acquaintance, Dr. Yadollah Sahabi was a geology professor at

25 Talegani (1912-80) was born to a poor clerical familywhere his father made his living from mending watches. He studiedat traditional seminaries in Qom and Najaf (Iraq) and was firstarrested in 1939 for failing to carry a permit for his clericaldress as was required at the time. He became increasingly activeafter the fall of Reza Shah and was a founding member of theFreedom Movement of Iran. He had a leading role in the 1979revolution and was the first Friday Prayer Leader of Tehran.Afrasiyabi, B. & Dehgan, S. Talegani Va Tarikh, Taleciani andHistory (Nilofar Publications, Tehran, 1981) p.25-61.


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Tehran university. 26 Both men were to stay with Bazargan

throughout their political struggles and their friendship was to

influence the course of Iranian politics almost forty years later.

The Islamic Centre was initially founded by two men

Hosaini and Mahyari (the latter a secondary school teacher) as

night classes for the illiterate. However soon after Reza Shah's

fall it turned into a socio-political focus where Talegani would

deliver sermons. Lecturers also came from the university to

address an audience which included university students, military

personnel, and civil servants. However the centre had no

organization, programme, or membership. When Talegani moved his

lectures to the Hedayat Mosque of the more modern neighborhood of

Istanbul Avenue the Islamic Centre practically packed up (1943).

In 1942 several Muslim students from the Medical School,

including some of those attending Taleqani i s lectures, established

the Islamic Association of Students. The IAS was to develop

fundamentally as a reaction to the communist and Baha'i activities

on the campuses but it never managed to compete with the Tudeh

Party who enjoyed the support of the majority of the students.

According to Bazargan IAS had no direct affiliations to any

political organization, but some of its members were individually

active in various political associations.

26 Yadollah Sahabi (1906-1986) studied at Dar ol-Fonun,Teachers Training College (Tehran) and University of Lille(France) where he trained as a geologist. He was to become activein a number of political organizations including the NationalFront, and the Freedom Movement of Iran. After the 1979 revolutionhe became a member of the cabinet and later a member ofparliament.


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Bazargan was not involved in the establishment of the

group but soon started giving his support by attending IAS

meetings and allocating them a payer room at the university. He

grew fond of the group whom he called well intentioned and

compassionate young men familiar with contemporary ideas and

modern concepts. 27 Bazargan was to address their meetings on a

regular basis and as we shall see later the associations were to

be the main recruiting ground for Bazargan's political


IAS's constitution called for the pursuit of Islamic

reforms (although their concept of reform is not clear), published

a magazine, held regular meetings and did some charity work. 28

Most members were from the provinces and of the middle classes.

According to the IAS constitution:

The Association is being established at a time when [our]

educators, standard-bearers, and leaders have disavowed

themselves of responsibility towards social education and

implementation of Islamic laws. At the same time another

group of individuals continue to hold, unjustly and un-

deservingly, the official positions [in government]

through which they impose their oppression. As the result

of these conditions Muslims and the whole of Iranian

27 Bazargan, Defence p.80.28 The magazine was Ganj-e Shayan "The Worthy Treasure". The

charity work included, on one occasion, the construction of homesfor the victims of an earthquake.


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society have been led astray. Corruption has reached such

dimensions that the enlightened and intellectual class

[including this] group of Muslim students have become

greatly disturbed. Now they have reached the conclusion

that the only solution would be the establishment of an

association which aims at educating the people specially

students, through regular meetings, about the principles

of Islam as well as responsibilities of each individual

and [social] class. Through this effort the association

will not allow the selfish and the ignorant to portray

superstitions as the fundamentals of Islam which gives the

[opportunists] the chance to disgust the simple minded

people with religion. 29

The statement is clear enough. The traditional leaders of

the Islamic community are criticized for their failure in leading

the pious, the ruling elite are criticized for their corrupt rule,

and the secular and/or leftists for taking the opportunity to

mislead the simple folk from religion. They call for the formation

of associations which would promote social action in the light of

Islamic law, supposedly yet to be interpreted. For the next ten

years several similar Islamic Associations were to be formed by

Muslim engineers, doctors, and teachers but none became

politically significant. The idea also caught attention in the

provinces (Esfehan, Tabriz, Mashhad and Shiraz) where student

groups were formed.

29 Bazargan, Defence, p.80.69

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Putting Bazargan in the context of the larger Islamic

currents highlights his political position and peculiarities.

Within the Islamic current of the period three trends can be

identified; the first current was politically conservative and was

led by the more senior clerics, including Ayatollahs Mohammad

Hosain Borujerdi, Sayyed Mohammad Behbahani and Mirza Abdollah

Chelsutoni, residents of the religious city of Qom and Tehran.

During the 1941-53 period these men who represented the orthodox

religious authority and supposedly enjoyed the largest share of

the followers, adopted a general conservative position while

making gradual advances in extending their influence. The sphere

of their influence which had suffered badly at the time of Reza

Shah was revived and the alignment between the clergy and the

state grew and lasted up to late 50's when the initiation of the

White Revolution put an end to their cooperation. 30 In the 1940's

Bazargan was too young and unknown to be accepted by the higher

clergy. However there was a degree of contact with the clerics

through his father who was in touch with several senior clerics

including Ayatollah Borujerdi. Bazargan was on friendly terms with

several junior clerics including Haj Mirza Ali Kamarehi and

Nakhjavani. We shall discuss Bazargan's criticism of the

traditionalist position. Here it is sufficient to say that his

critique of the traditional religious community fell within a

critique of political conservatism. Bazargan's noticeably limited

attack on the traditionalist position aimed at activating the

conservative religious element.

30 Akhavi, S. Religion and Politics, Chap. 3. passim.70

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The second current was led by Ayatollah Sayyed Abolgasem

Kashani, a cleric with a long record of anti-British activities in

Iraq and political involvement in Iran. It was he who is said to

be responsible for the initial politicalization of the ranks of

the clergy. He saw his role as a guardian of national and Shiite

interests against British imperialism and his role grew

significantly as he mastered mobilization tactics. 31 He has been

termed too pragmatic a politician to be religiously fanatical or

fundamentalist despite his commitment to Shiite traditionalism.32

However Bazargan was disturbed by the purely pragmatist position

of Kashani. He saw Kashani as an overambitious man whose

intentions were more in line with archiving power for himself

rather than guarding the interests of the religious community.

Bazargan also felt distaste at the alleged Kashani's financial

corruption including bribes received through his son, Mohammad,

for issuing permits for pilgrimage and trade. 33 However since

Kashani initially supported the nationalization of the oil

industry, Bazargan and his associates saw no reason why they

should oppose him at this stage. 34 Bazargan was not personally in

contact with Kashani although his associate, Talegani was. 35

The third and smaller current that was to become

ideologically significant (for it planted the seeds of

fundamentalism in Iran's political scene) was Fadaiyan Islam, a

fundamentalist group responsible for the assassination of several

31 Akhavi, S. Religion and Politics pp.60-61.32 Katouzian, Political Economy of Modern Iran, p.148.33 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.34 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.35 Afrasiyabi, Talegani and History, p.140.


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political and intellectual figures. With roots in the working

classes and the Bazaar the group has been termed as a violent

reaction to the failure of the intellectual leaders to provide the

nation with an ideological framework. In other words the failure

of liberalism and secularism to come to grip with an increasingly

difficult and complex world led the Fadaiyan to target Shiism, as

a bulwark of Iranian nationalism, in rejecting all that is foreign

as a symbol of imperialism. 36

The group was critical of the conservative position of the

clerical class and it was on this point that Bazargan found

himself close to them. Bazargan was impressed by the charismatic

personality of their leader Navvab Safavi. He also found an

understanding with the group's basic ideas and did not wish to

isolate them politically. Yet there were two elements which

distanced Bazargan from the Fadaiyan; one was their constant

criticism of the nationalist and popular platform of Mosaddeq and

the other was the different constituencies that they were

addressing. While Bazargan faced a modern middle class

constituency, the Fadaiyan had a traditional and working class

platform. Altogether and in comparative terms Bazargan seems to be

closer to the Fadaiyan rather than the conservatives or the

pragmatists. It must be noted that despite tactical differences

the activism and radicalisms of Fadaiyan proved attractive to him.

In conclusion we can positively identify Bazargan on the fringe

rather than the centre of the Islamic Political currents. He

36 Ferdows, A.K. Religion in Iranian Nationalism: the Studyof Fadaiyan-e Islam, (Indiana University Phd. 1967) pp.90-100.


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belonged to none of the main trends and as we shall see a main

segment of his arguments were in critique of the religious


Political currents

Bazargan's religious orientation did not restrain him from

becoming involved in secular political organizations. Indeed his

involvement with the latter seems to be of greater social

significance. He became active (1942) in the creation of an

engineer's guild (Kanun Mohandesin) which was purely a

professional body. For many years to come Bazargan was to be

elected a member of the guild's central council and its head for

two terms. Within three years the guild was strong enough to call

its members on strikes with the demand for greater role for the

professional personnel in government administrations in place of

traditional bureaucrats. The strike impressed Bazargan to the

point that he later referred to it as a revolution without masses.

In 1944 the guild entered parliamentary elections by sponsoring

two candidates. Although neither won a seat the process again

encouraged Bazargan towards socio-political activity. 37 A year

later the guild split into nationalist and leftist factions with

the nationalists acting as the core of the secular Iran Party. In

fact the majority of the founders and activists of the guild

became Iran Party members. The left faction split from the guild

and joined the Tudeh party.

37 Bazargan, Defence, p.102.73

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Although Bazargan never was an Iran Party card holder he

stayed close to the organization. In the first two years of the

party he intensified his pamphleteering and delivered several

papers addressed to party members. His later high level

appointments in government were also through party connections.

The Iran Party participated in two coalition governments. The

first (1946) was with the Democrat and Tudeh parties in Qavam's

cabinet and the second (1951) was as a member of the National

Front in the cabinet of Mosaddeq. Bazargan disapproved of the

first coalition but made no moves against it. He believed the

dominant party faction led by Gholam Ali Farivar was wrong to

think that the Tudeh was in such a strong position that distancing

away from it would have negative effects. When the self-styled

Azarbaijan Autonomous Republic collapsed after the Soviet

withdrawal from Iran, Bazargan was relieved. 38

In the Iran's party's participation with the National

Front, when one of the party's senior officials Karim Sanjabi

became the minister of culture it was Bazargan who became his

deputy. 39 Again at the height of Iran's nationalist movement

against the British ownership of the oil industry it was Bazargan

who was responsible for the takeover of the nationalized oil

38 Representing the capital's Azarbaijani communityBazargan's father saw off government troops from Tehran.Bazargan's associate Talegani representing the capital's clericalcircles accompanied the soldiers. Talegani later recalled how onthe night before the final attack he addressed the troops on thevirtues of martyrdom for the liberation of motherland and how onthe next day he said the prayers for the departing soldiers.

39 The two men had many things in common. They studiedtogether in France, they both taught at the university and bothwere religious although Sanjabi kept his faith away from politics.


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industry. The position was a highly publicized one and it was

followed by his appointment as the first director of the National

Iranian Oil Company (June 1951). In southern Iran Bazargan spent

nine months supervising the departure of the British technicians

and managers while ensuring continuation of production. Bazargan

resigned his post apparently due to meddling in oil affairs by

Hosain Makki. 40 Upon returning to the capital (March 1953)

Bazargan went back to his post at the university and was later

appointed, again through Iran Party connections and by the person

of the prime minister, as the head of the Water Authority of

Tehran which was implementing the project for the first piped-

water-system. 41 He was at this position when the 1953 coup set in

a new trend in motion.

The Iran party was to become one of the few organization

to form and run the National Front. Although the most important of

the smaller political groups, it was not, however, so much a

political party but an elitist collectivity of mainly European

educated younger technocrats with European style liberal and

social democratic leanings. 42 Avery agrees on their common

educational background but calls them a group of frustrated

40 Asnad-e Laneh-e Jasusi V.18 Documents of the den ofEspionage (Daneshjuyan-e Mosalman, Tehran nd.) see item 2.

41 Claims that Mosaddeq ruled out the appointment ofBazargan as a cabinet minister in charge of educational affairs onthe grounds that he would first make all the school girls wearIslamic head scarves is apparently a case of misinformation.Bazargan states that Mosaddeq personally told him that whilecontemplating the possibility of appointing Bazargan as theminister of education someone had made the above statement to him.Personal interview, Tehran, December, 1988. For the original claimsee Adamiyyat, F. Ashoftegi Dar Tafakkor Tarikh Disorders inHistorical Thinking (n.p. Tehran, 1981).

42 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran, p. 239.75

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professional men of the middle classes significant for their

opposition to the Tudeh and support for Mosaddeq. 43 Abrahamian

covers their case in greatest detail;

Iran party was the country's main secular nationalist

organization. Its leaders came from the rank of the young

generation of the western educated intelligentsia residing

in Tehran and influential through their families. The

party supported Mosaddeq's general policies, advocated a

diluted form of French socialism. It called for a national

revolution against the feudal landlords to complete the

reforms initiated by the constitutional movement. It

argued that the main social conflict in Iran was between

the exploited people and the exploiting rulers, not

between the middle and lower classes. It encouraged the

state to implement a programme for rapid

industrialization, and claimed that agricultural

countries, being 'dumping grounds" for developed countries

could not be truly independent. It added that the state

should own all the major industries since laissez-faire

capitalism concentrated economic and political power in

the hands of a few illiterate robber-barons who not only

exploited the masses but have little respect for skilled

professionals and technicians. Moreover, it waged a

propaganda campaign against both the old and the new

wealthy families. As one party pamphlet on the Iranian

43 Avery, P. Modern Iran (Ernest Benn Ltd. London, 1965)p.432.


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aristocracy declared, "the main obstacle to national

progress is the privileged class. 44

The treatment of the National Front has been more complex.

At the height of its power the Front was constituted of several

political groups and a number of distinguished politicians. In a

classic Marxist analysis the Front has been sketched as the

representative of the national bourgeoisie holding a combination

of classes, including that of social reformists, petite

bourgeoisie, national bourgeoisie, the right wing bourgeoisie and

the anti British (religious) elements. 45 Abrahamian portrays the

Front as a coalition of the traditional and middle classes that

stayed together as long as Britain and Shah seemed dangerous. For

Avery the Front poses as an odd combination" of traditional and

modern classes which included the land-owners, merchants, tribal

leaders, Liberals and political extremists coming around a common

anti-Shah, anti-foreign, nationalist, liberal, and religious flag.

Frustrated at having failed to insure a part of the political

power and fearful of a communist takeover, they rallied around

uncontrollable nationalist passions and xenophobia. 46 Painting a

background of a re-emerging absolutist and arbitrary despotic

state, Katouzian pictures the Front as a democratic, popular and

44 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p.188-190.45 Ivanove blames the Tudeh for failing to distinguish

between national bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie comprador and thusevaluating Mosaddeq as a comprador elements and pursuing aradically leftist attitude towards him. Ivanove, M.S. Tarikh-eNovin-e Iran The Modern History of Iran Tizabi, H. & Qaempanah, H.(trans.) (Tudeh Party Publication, nd. np .) pp.92-180.

46 Avery, Modern Iran, pp.331-440.77

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revolutionary movement with its leadership aiming at uprooting

despotism and carrying out social reconstruction. 47

In comparative terms Bazargan's position within the ranks

of the Nationalist camp seems to have been of greater significance

than his position within the religious tendency. In the

Nationalist camp he had a minor leadership position but as we

shall see this position was to change radically in the following


The Pamphleteer:

As apparent from the above discussion from 1941 to 1953

Bazargan became increasingly politically active. He participated

in the activities of an Islamic association, an engineer's union,

the Iran party and the National Front. During the same period he

wrote and published thirteen articles and three books:

1942 Religion in Europe 48

Complimentary and Abusive Language in Iran 49

1943 Purities in Islam 50

1944 Pragmatism in Islam 51

1945 Coefficient of Conversion Between the Material

47 Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran p.165-187.

48 Madhab Dar Urupa (Enteshar Co. Ltd. Tehran, 1965). Firstpublished in Danish Amuz, the publication of the Islamic Centre,Issues no. 9, 10, 11, 1942.

49 Fohsh va Ta'arof Dar Iran. No publication detailsavailable.

50 Muttaharat Dar Islam. No publication detail available.51 Pragmatism dar Islam, in Religion in Europe (Enteshar

Co. Ltd. Tehran, 1964).78

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and the spiritual 52

▪ The infinitely Small 53

▪ Industrial Thermodynamics 54

1946 Labour in Islam 55

1947 The Trodden Path 56

1948 The Source of Independence 57

1950 Heart and Mind 58

▪ The Great Consequences of Association 59

▪ The Secret of the Backwardness of the Muslim

Nations 60

▪ Islam or Communism 61

1951 Youthful Games With Politics 62

52 Zarib-e Tabadol Mian-e Madiyat va Ma'naviyat (EntesharCo. Ltd. Tehran, 1945).

53 Bi nahayat Kuchek-ha, in Religion in Europe (Enteshar Co.Ltd. Tehran, 1965). First published in the daily Kayhan.

54 No publication details available.55 Kar Dar Islam (Book Distribution Centre, Houston, 1978).56 Rah-e Tey Shodeh. The book was an elaboration of a 1946

speech, and it seems that significant parts of the book were addedin the 1950s and this research thus studies the book in a laterperiod despite the publishing date. It is apparent that the nameis the Persian translation of the Arabic word "Sunna' (derivativeSunni).

57 Sarcheshmeh-e Isteglal, in The Secret of the Backwardness of the Muslim Nations. Elaborations on a 1948 speech.

58 Del va Damagh (Enteshar Co. Ltd. Tehran, 1965). Firstpublished in the magazine Forugh 'Ilm 1950.

59 Athar-e 'Azim Intema" in Heart and Mind (Enteshar Co.Ltd. Tehran, 1965). First published in the monthly magazine Forugh'Ilm, 1950.

60 Sir-e Agab Uftadegi Melal-e Mosalman. First delivered asa speech in 1949. English version The Causes of the Decline andDecadence of Islamic Nations in Islamic Review, London, June 1951.Revised in 1960s and reprinted by Book Distribution Centre,Houston, 1976.

61 Islam ya Komunism. Speech at the Islamic Association ofStudents. Also published under the name Az Khuda Parasti ta KhudParasti Worship of God to the Worship of the Self.

62 Bazi-e Javanan Ba Siyasat (Aftab, Tehran, 1952).79

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Many of these writings were revised later and it became a

standard practice for Bazargan to review and upgrade his writings

as years went by. This makes accurate research into the social or

intellectual context of his ideas somewhat difficult, for

unfortunately the revisions are not identified. Neither Bazargan

nor the publisher possess copies of the original publications and

in almost all instances the author has no recollection of the

changes that he had made.

A good example is with The Secret of Backwardness of the

Muslim Nations. The article was originally written in 1949. It was

revised and translated into English for publication in the Islamic

Review (London) in 1951. Over fifteen years later a new Persian

version appeared in the United States (1976). A comparison between

the English version and the existing Persian copy indicates the

changes that Bazargan had made to the original piece. However the

publisher has continued to use the original publishing date with

no indication of further revisions. The present research indicates

that the revision to this writing was probably carried out some

20-years later 63 and under the inspiration of the popular

polemical classic of Jalal Al-e Ahmad, the Westoxication. 64 The

difficulty of revisions poses a challenge to research on the

earlier writings of Bazargan and there are no simple or accurate

solutions to it, let alone guesswork following thorough reading of

the texts.

63 In mid 1960s we find Bazargan involved extensively inwriting as well as revision of his earlier works.

64 Al-e Ahmed, J. Gharb Zadegi Westoxication (RavaqPublications, Tehran, Second Edition, 1977)


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Among the books, pamphlets and articles which Bazargan

wrote during the 1941-53 period, a number of works and themes have

been chosen here for analysis as to represent the major ideas that

Bazargan was dealing with and his main concerns in the socio-

political arena at the time. An overview of some of his works

might help to establish his main emphasis.

1- Religion in Europe: Bazargan defends religion from attacks by

secularists and Modernists with the argument that religion

continues to play an important role in modern Europe.

2- Complimentary and Abusive Language in Iran: Calls for greater

social morality. Argues that formality and exaggeration in

Persian, as in its profanity and complements, is an indication of

cultural dishonesty.

3- Purities in Islam: A study of the Islamic rituals (in this case

the rule that a pool of water more than 3.5 span across is pure

for ablution) through "modern scientific" language.

4- Pragmatism: In this argument Bazargan draws on pragmatism with

the intention of "comparing the true Islamic teachings with those

of pragmatist principles". According to Bazargan Islam and

Pragmatism have things in common for "in Islam that which is true

and pure necessarily has a utility . so that not only the

religion of Islam but even God is in that sense utilitarian".


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5- Coefficient of Conversion Between the Material and the

spiritual: Argues that the lack of individual religious morality

is the underlying cause of social problems. Even material poverty

is said to be sustained by a lack of spiritual and moral values.

In other words to solve social problems individual morality should

be addressed and altered. Bazargan argues that the material and

the spiritual do not exist in isolation from each other.

6- The infinitely Small: An argument to defend religious social

morality, moderation in politics, and the significant role of the

individual in society.

7- Labour in Islam: Despite the revisions made to the book at

later stages this piece best illustrates the intellectual position

of Bazargan in the 1940s with regards to the traditionalist,

secular Modernist, communist and Islamic Modernist tendencies. It

discusses the concept of labour as the central theme of social

evolution (of which more below).

8- The Trodden Path: A book of some 250 pages. Originally a

lecture in 1946, revised and expanded in prison in the mid 1950s.

The book therefore belongs to a later period despite the 1946 date

used by the publisher in different prints. The main argument of

the book will be studied in later sections, here it is sufficient

to point out that Bazargan argues that there is no distinction

between religious revelation of Islam and laws of the natural -

physical- world for they are both expressions of the divine will.


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9- The Source of Independence: Addresses the issue of colonialism

and calls for a revision in Iran's traditional work ethics as the

solution to unbalanced foreign trade -as the initial cause of

colonial influence (of which more below).

10- Heart and Mind: Another effort at maintaining the significance

of Islamic and religious morality. The argument concerns

epistomological issues and Bazargan states that intuition as a

source of religious experience is compatible with the modern

rationalistic/scientific methodology (of which more below).

11- The Great Consequences of Association: Argues in favour of the

creation of professional and cultural social associations in order

to help national progress.

12- The Secret of the Backwardness of the Muslim Nations: Bazargan

argues that the decline of Islamic countries lies in the wrong

interpretation of Islam. Return to the correct interpretation

would therefore encourage social progress.

13- Youthful Games With Politics: Discusses the role of the

younger generation in national politics and emphasizes the

necessity of their proper education before they enter the hot bed

of politics in the early 1950s.

This study establishes that the core cluster of ideas that

emerged in the 1940-53 period to dominate Bazargan's intellectual

make up were that of labour ethics, moderation, morality and


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economic initiative. The concept of labour ethics appeared in

dialogue with the traditionalist position and evolved in reaction

to the emerging communism of the Tudeh party. The basic idea was

that labour constitutes the foundation of the evolution of human

civilization. Therefore the cause of a country's underdevelopment

must be sought in the deficiencies of labour. The concept of

economic initiative built on the same argument but developed in

the context of the problem of colonialism. The concept of morality

evolved in dialogue with the dominant secular Modernist current

and it emphasized the necessity of ethics and ideals in society.

Moderation emerged as a reaction to the radicalism of the Tudeh

party. These elements were developed by Bazargan into what might

be categorized as Islamic modernism or Islamic reformism.

Moralism or the critique of secularism

There has already been a short discussion about the

strength of the secular thought and subjection of religious

culture as well as the clerical establishment during the rule of

Reza Shah. With the fall of the monarch and the lifting of

restrictions on religious practices, including holding of

religious gatherings, a revival in the defence of religion

emerged. This was both on the popular level where religious

customs and practices were revived and at the level of elites

where religious personalities initiated institutional and

political programmes. Bazargan participated in this movement and a

substantial part of his argument in the 1940-53 period is in this



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z g larolo work Ethic.

Indeed all of Bazargan's books and articles in this period

are, in one way or another, in defence of Islam. What he meant by

Islam will be dealt with in the following sections but here his

mainline of defence against secularism will be highlighted.

Bazargan's early reaction to dominant Modernist ideology was an

unease at the Modernist disgust with all affairs of religion which

were interpreted as symbols of backwardness and underdevelopment.

Bazargan produced a number of arguments in dialogue with the

secularists. These were the necessity of religious morality for

social progress, 65 the European conduct towards religion, 66 and

an epistomological discussion of human faculty. 67 The first

argument is most typical of Bazargan's perspective and style in

this as well as subsequent periods.

In these arguments Bazargan's audience are clearly

identifiable: the modern middle classes who had distanced

themselves from the traditional segments of society and who had

failed to see the merits of Islam. At one place the uninformed

modernists and leaders" are addressed who "either through

ignorance or grudge are injecting the minds of the youth and the

progressive [elements] with the idea that worshiping God hinders

progress and contradicts the spirit of civilization." 68 At

another place the "progressive and modernist doctrines" are

criticized which are said to have no value for spirituality ..

65 In The Infinitely Small, The Coefficient of ConversionBetween the Material and the spiritual and Complimentary andAbusive Language in Iran.

66 Religion in Europe.67 Heart and Mind.68 Bazargan, Religion in Europe, p.16.


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and even go as far as to deny its existence altogether describing

it as an illusion or erroneous past practice ... [and] which they

wish to see only in the museums. 69

In the Infinitely Small Bazargan argues that the social

system is constructed by numerous seemingly mundane actions of

individuals and therefore the secret of social success or failure

lies in the direction and content of the daily activities of the

individual. Here lies the power of religion, Bazargan argues, for

in providing a code of morality/conduct for the individual it

shapes societies. To argue his point Bazargan states that

infinitely small quantities, although insignificant in themselves,

are of immense significant when multiplied by a large number.

Parallels are drawn with finite particles in physics, microbes in

biology, and integrals in mathematics. It is thus argued that

qualitative changes lead to quantitative changes. 70

In the Coefficient of Conversion Between the Material and

the Spiritual Bazargan again argues that morality is necessary for

social progress. Bazargan views religion leading to a morality

which gives cohesion to society and thus setting it off on the

road of progress. From within this context Bazargan searches for

causes of Iranian underdevelopment.

Lack of spiritual and moral qualities causes numerous

material losses while the existence of spirituality .

69 Bazargan, Coefficient of Conversion Between the Materialand the Spiritual, p.15.

70 Parallels exist in Marxism. The first law of dialecticconcerns transformation of quantitative to qualitative.


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drastically increases the output of all social and public

works, possibly by ten or even a hundred percent. [For

instance] all the police budget can be put down to the

lack of the spiritual element in society. To compensate a

lack of righteousness and truthfulness, several million

Tomans 71 has to be spent every year. But if people were

sincere, trustworthy, and just, this budget would be saved

. In our country nothing is lacking in the material

sense but there is a shortage of truthfulness,

righteousness, and sacrifice. 72

It is significant to notice that Bazargan's arguments in

defence of what he called moralism as opposed to secularism, had

the distinct modernist element in that its function was in support

of and aimed at social progress. In other words Bazargan tries to

prove that without religion (which he supposedly believes to have

a social moral structure), social progress and modernization would

be difficult if not impossible to achieve. This might be a cause

of confusion in the sense that it is not clear whether he is using

Islam to strengthen social progress or trying to attract modernist

sections of society to Islam. But the question is solved if it is

noticed that he equates the presence of religious social ethics to

social development. Therefore he does not seem to be

instrumentalist in either way. It should be recalled that Bazargan

had seen the secret of the European progress in their social

71q edo Iranian unit of currency.72 Bazargan, Coefficient of Conversion Between the Material

and the spiritual pp.98-100.87

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values which he equated with the Christian ethics. Commenting on

Europe of his student years he had said:

The principal motive and the secret of social success and

progress [of the Europeans] can be nothing but religion

and the worship of God. 73

It should also be noticed that at this stage of writing

Bazargan makes no distinction between Islam, morality, or even the

Shiite clergy. They are all seen as a single parcel. This might be

taken as the cohesion of the traditional Islamic community, in the

eyes of Bazargan, and the lack of intellectual and philosophical

challenges to the centuries old traditional pattern.

Bazargan's other argument in Religion in Europe is solely

based on the idea that since religion is respected and active in

Europe, Iranians who look up to Europe for inspiration and

guideline, should follow the example and give the same treatment

to their own religion. For someone who had earlier condemned

imitation of the Europeans such a position might seem

contradictory, but it should be seen as an effort by Bazargan to

deal with the Modernist's treatment of religion on their own terms

and by their own standards. The argument of Bazargan's earliest

works is simple and the source is basically his own personal

experience in Europe. He argues that since for a number of years

[he] has been living in a European country and has had direct

contact with various French classes and has witnessed the European

73 Bazargan, Defence, p.63.88

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manner of worship and the influence of religion in the society" he

was now in a position to redirect the attention of the secular

Modernists to the significance of Islam as a crucial social

element. He speaks of the respect that Europeans have for


Not only the Europeans do not regard religion as a sign of

illiteracy, many of their contemporary scientists who have

been the vanguard of European civilization are amongst the

believers and worshippers ... even in the French Academy

of Sciences which is the assembly of the intellectual

elite, a group of clergy have seats next to historians,

writers, physicians, generals and politicians. 74

Bazargan's third type of argument in Heart and Mind is an

epistemological analysis of man's rational capacity as well as his

instinctive emotional (intuitive) idealism. Here again the aim is

to highlight the necessity of religion and morality. Bazargan

states that Man's idealism is based on emotions (intuition) rather

than logical capacity. Man has a hierarchy of ideas or goals

towards which he strives. His primitive ideal is physical survival

(ie. securing food and satisfying sexual desires) followed by

"matters of existence" (ie. enjoying the fruits of sexuality in

parenthood and extending the sense of parenthood to philanthropist

sentiments that go as far as patriotism). The highest form of

ideal is the worship of God which actualizes the best human

74 Bazargan, Religion in Europe, p.16-17.89

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qualities. Bazargan believed the reason for Iranians deprivation

of progress is their lack of a common national ideal.

[Our] great social poverty is that people have no common

aim, common faith, common doctrine, common national goal.

Each individual is indulging in his meagre personal

interests. But there is room for hope ... adopting the

worship of God, would allow the blossoming of their full

human potential. 75

It is possible to speculate that Bazargan's ideas here had

their origins in the schools of spiritual mysticism, a bastion of

Islamic tradition, where emotions and intuition (Eshraq) are

acknowledged as correct channels of perceiving reality and

acquiring knowledge.

Labour or Critique of Traditionalism

Beside criticizing the secularists for the supposed lack

of morality, Bazargan addressed the Islamic community and argued

against their traditional interpretation of religion and

particularly their lack of social vigour and political commitment.

This argument is best evident in parts of the book Labour in

Islam, which we are to study here. The book is an elaboration of a

1946 lecture at a meeting of the Islamic Association of Students

in Tehran. The lecture was later elaborated and published by the

Enteshar publications in 1965. The second edition of the book was

75 Bazargan, Heart and Mind, p.16-17.90

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printed in 1978 by the Book Distribution Centre of Houston. 76

When the book was being printed in the United States the

publishers gave it an English name on the back cover: Islamic Work

Ethics. The English name is revealing for it portrays the

intention of drawing parallels to the Protestant Work Ethics

presumably on the assumption that Bazargan's work was in the

spirit of Protestantism's challenge to the religious establishment

and calls for a new social order based on new morality.

It is not known how much revision was made to the initial

lecture before the work was originally published. In the

introduction of the book it is stated that additions and revisions

had been made but no details are given. The most clear indication

of changes are footnote references to books written by Bazargan at

later periods. These include references to; The Trodden Path

(revised in 1950s), 77 Love and Worship or the Human Thermodynamic

(1957), 78 Current Needs (1957), 79 Automation (1961). 80 The

contents of the book was not revised for the second edition.

76 This particular work as almost all other of Bazargan'sworks was first published by Enteshar Publications (Sherkat-eSahami-ye Enteshar) an organization run by Ezatollah Sahabi, theson of Dr.Yadollah Sahabi, both long time collaborators ofBazargan. The publishing house was to become an institution ofsome prestige in producing books in defence of modern, liberal andconstitutional Islamic interpretations in the next five decades.In the early 1970s the Book Distribution Centre of Houston Texas,an affiliated organization to the Islamic Association of Studentsof Europe and North America, which in turn operated under thepatronaae of Ibrahim Yazdi, a long time Muslim activist and closecollaborator of Bazargan published Bazargan's work. The IslamicAssociation was to train hundreds of cadres who became animportant element in the post revolutionary regime of Ayatollah

Khomeini.77 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.49.78 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.53.

79 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.49.

80 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.93.91

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It is probable that certain revisions of the original work

were carried out in mid 1960s and it is possible to pin-point this

date with regard to Bazargan's reference to the idea of natural

law. In the introduction Bazargan speaks about the religion of

Islam and natural law as being identical and only different in

being various expressions of the divine will. Indeed the whole

book, Labour in Islam, is built on this premise. Its four chapters

are an effort towards establishing the hypothesis that the divine

religion of Islam revealed to the prophet Mohammad is the one and

the same as natural law as identified through the rational and

modern study of history of man. The short discussion of the issue

of natural law in the introduction, as far as this study has

managed to establish, is most probably an addition of mid 1960s,

for it is in this particular period, as we shall see later, that

Bazargan starts to write definitely and clearly on the idea of

natural law. Here it is sufficient to point out that Labour in

Islam contains the earlier stages of ideas which were to be

developed by Bazargan to that of natural law and it is therefore

permissible to study the book, despite its later revisions, as

representative of Bazargan's ideas in the 1941-53 period.

Indeed a functional analysis of the text Labour in Islam

is most rewarding for it reveals that in terms of meaning and

context the work fits well in the 1941-53 period rather than later

stages. Through identifying the functions of the arguments it is

possible to detect the socio-political ideas that Bazargan was

addressing. This allows not only the pin-pointing of Bazargan's


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social and political stance with regard to other social and

intellectual currents, it helps the identification of the period

in question. The final objective of this analysis is the

identification of the manner in which Bazargan tries to influence

and change political events. In other words the study tries to

establish his writing as a political act.

The study of Bazargan's works reveals that, at this

period, he was preoccupied with the problem of the general

backwardness of Iran and the fact that this problem was generally

blamed on the traditional sector of the society. Furthermore

traditional was identified as religious. This perspective seems to

have been significantly dominant at the time and an analysis of

the literature of the period reveals the dominance of the theme.

All major writers addressed the issue of Iran being at the

crossroad between "oldness" and "newness" and identified the theme

as the major undercurrent of Iranian society. Furthermore most

major writers, in keeping within the mainstream of Iranian

modernism blamed the traditional sectors of the community for the

backwardness and expressed various degrees of disgust towards

them. 81 We have already pointed out that on his return, Bazargan

joined the state-led Modernist drive with the hope of reform from

within the government bureaucracy and the aim of modernizing

Iranian society. In the 1940s the issue of backwardness

preoccupied Bazargan and he built a number of arguments in order

to address and deal with the issue.

81 Ramazani, R.R. Intellectual Trends in the Politics andHistory of MUsaddiq Era in Bill, Musaddiq, Iranian Nationalism andOil pp.307-329.


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Indeed up to 1940 Iran's underdevelopment had been

chronic. Iran was not only backward in comparison to European

countries, its social and economic development was even at a

slower pace than its main regional partners, such as Turkey, Egypt

and India with whom the Iranian economy stood at comparable levels

at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Although a significant

drive was made during the rule of Reza Shah in terms of effort and

the results achieved, Iran lagged behind. Economic problems

continued throughout the 1940s in terms of trade, production and

development. Furthermore pre-occupation with political issues

arising from WWII overshadowed economic matters and limited their

scope of expansion. 82

Bazargan looked at this problem from the point of view of

public culture. He seems to have believed that the main problem

lay in the absence of modern work ethics in the national culture

and that if this element were to be introduced into the popular

mind, it would make the necessary change towards social and

economic progress. To introduce the necessary change to the public

culture, Bazargan linked modern work ethics to Islamic beliefs and

proposed modern work ethics as a main element in the religion of

Islam. It is this argument (ie. the mobilization of the productive

forces through establishing a modern code of labour in an

underdeveloped society experiencing its first decades of

bureaucratic national state) which we try to address in this


82 Lenczowski, G. (ed.) Iran Under the Pahlavis (HooverInstitution Press, Stanford, 1978) pp. 129-135.


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Bazargan's argument in Labour in Islam is fourfold. First

he builds a chronicle of human civilization in which labour plays

the key role in determining the direction and the content of its

evolution. Secondly he introduces an argument about the

physiological role of labour in determining the physical nature of

man. Thirdly he argues that labour is a fundamental element in the

Islamic perspective of life and that it is through labour that man

creates his welfare, both in the material and spiritual worlds.

Having established the overriding significance of labour he then

looks at the popular notions of labour in Iran and expresses

concern over the lack of significance that is given to it. The

argument is thus designed to attract the popular mind towards the

significance of labour and through this help the advance and

growth of economy and society.

Bazargan's history of civilization is discussed in the

book's first chapter under the title of The Evolutionary Process

of Labour in Human History. 83 The discussion covers the history

of human civilization, categorized into 13 periods. These stages

are said to be the ages of Wilderness, Husbandry, Beasts of

Burden, Family, Tribe, Slavery, Agriculture, Village life,

Aristocracy, Professionalism, labour, Democratic Government, and

finally government of labour. It is said that the transformation

from the most primitive state of affairs to the most complex stage

has taken place through labour. Further it is through the

alteration in the nature of labour that social status based on the

83 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, pp.4-42.95

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division of labour and specialization is created and thus

exploitation given birth to. The increasingly complex relationship

between producers creates the community, weakens the family unit

and intensifies exploitation. Development leads to the emergence

of the aristocracy relying, for their rule, on the warrior class.

With the increase of trade, the village turns into the city giving

birth to industry and centralized government. The conflict between

the producer and exploiter continues into the industrial age where

despite establishment of greater rights for the workers, the

owners of capital clash with organized labour. Socialist regimes

are then born providing a degree of welfare for the working


Through this historic process labour has advanced against

those elements against which it once competed, that is

blood relations, aristocracy, social power [coercion] and

finally capital. The day too will come when labour becomes

the dominant principle. 84

Utilizing his historic framework of The Evolutionary

Process of Labour in Human Society 85 Bazargan expresses his

critique of [traditional] Iranian society which he considers to be

at the age of slavery and agriculture. 86 In the culture of this

underdeveloped society, it is said, labour ethics have no place

and work is considered suitable only for servants and clerks. Less

84 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.37.85 In the following section, on Bazargan and Marxism, we

shall study the context and the source of inspiration for thisparticular argument.

86 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.79.96

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attention is paid to the ability of the individual to produce than

to his social class and status. All behaviour relating to

productivity is frowned upon by the traditional elite (ie.

landlords, clerics, merchants) who are themselves non-productive

and at best delegate their responsibilities to involve themselves

in classical (literary) studies. All things are static and there

is reluctance to change the status quo. Fatalism which in older

days put all in the hands of God has turned into a belief that all

social events are determined by the will of outside powers. 87

Bazargan believes the problem is a historical one and to

show the depth of the difficulty in Iran's history Bazargan quotes

the nineteenth century Muslim activist Sayyed Jamal Assad-Abadi

(Afghani), a forerunner of Islamic modernism.

The Iranian elite are experts in the politics and industry

of talking, but their knowledge lacks practice. If they

were to spend one percent of the energy they use for

talking in action, Iran would be in the category of the

great governments, in terms of progress, wealth and


The problem continues to persist in the modern period for

that which exists of modern living has not been achieved through

modern social organization and productivity but a skin deep

imitation of the Europeans. In other words the other side of this

87 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, pp.80-82.88 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.81.


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unproductive traditionalism is unproductive pseudo modernity which

runs across all sections of society. The younger generation,

specially the women, waste time in "reading novels, going to the

cinema and roaming city streets". The political activists are

happy to attend fiery debates as long as it involves no duties or

work. The Muslim faithful's involvement in religion is more of an

entertainment. 89

This state of affairs is in contrast to labour ethics in

Europe, Bazargan believes, where in all social systems, be they

capitalist or socialist, democratic or fascist, labour is the

foundation of all social life. In other words Bazargan tries to

point out the importance of labour in Western culture, to which

Iranian society looks as a model, in order to encourage a change

in the Iranian's concept of labour. Bazargan's views must have

been strengthened by his experience of living in France where he

was aware of the higher sense of duty and responsibility of a more

modern work force. Furthermore Bazargan was a natural scientist

trained in engineering with strong views on the necessity of

planning and organization. The training which made him a leading

technocrat in the modern section of Iranian society led him to

demand a highly specialized work force that was basically non-

existent in Iran's traditional agricultural society.

With regards to the cause of the problem, ie.

underdevelopment due to a lack of labour ethics, work and

creativity, Bazargan points to three natural and historical

89 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.84.98

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factors which aggravate the situation. Initially it is the

geographical condition of the country (particularly the central

deserts) which are said to make agricultural activity non

rewarding. Secondly the despotism of Iranian regimes, which

support social advance through favour and not merit, has reduced

all interests in creative work. Finally foreign invasions leading

to unstable governments, little security and thus un-


Bazargan's argument seems to have several causes and

several sources of inspiration. However in the analysis of the

causes of underdevelopment, there seems to be some form of

inspiration from a book that was to affect Bazargan's perception

of Iranian national character; Siegfried's The Character of

Peoples. 91 Bazargan follows the above argument in a pamphlet

Iranian Adaptability which he wrote a few years later (1967). 92

In this work he tries to sketch the characteristics of Iranian

people, in line with Siegfried's book where an attempt is made to

understand the psychology of nations and the reasons for their

differences. Siegfried suggests that there exists a certain

permanent character in each nation's psychology depending on the

geographical and climatic conditions. This influence is said to

90 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, pp.90-93. Here there is apossibility of influence from Lambton, A.K.S. Landlord and Peasantin Persia (Oxford University Press, London 1953).

91 Siegfried, A. The Character of Peoples Fitzgerald, E.(tran.) (Jonathan Cape Publishers, London, 1952). Originallypublished in French in 1950.

92 The piece was originally intended as an introduction toSiegfried's book but was later published independently. Seepublisher's note in Iranian Adaptability Sazgari-ye Irani (BookDistribution Centre, Houston, 1977).


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determine the nature of race and culture. Upon this basis the

author distinguishes between Latin Realism, French Ingenuity,

English Tenacity, German Discipline, Russian Mysticism and

American Dynamism.

Siegfried's idea is said to go back to the 18th century

European enlightenment and especially to the ideas associated with

Montesquieu. Montesquieu tried to develop a sociological theory of

government and law by showing that these two depend for their

structure and functioning upon the circumstances in which a people

lives. The circumstances include physical conditions, such as

climate and soil, which he supposed to have a direct influence

upon national mentality, the state of the arts, trade, and the

modes of producing goods, mental and moral temperaments and

dispositions, the form of the political constitution and the

customs and habits that have become ingrained in national

character. 93

Bazargan took up Siegfried's view and attributed the cause

of the non-existence of an Iranian work ethic to the harsh

climatic conditions and terrain that made agricultural work non-

rewarding. He later distinguished the characteristic of Iranian

people as their adaptability (thus the name of the pamphlet.)

"Adaptability" referred to the Iranian people's supposed ability

to adapt themselves to unstable geographical as well as social

conditions. Bazargan believed sharp unpredictable changes in

climate and open terrains which ease if not invite foreign

93 Sabine, G.H. A History of Political Theory, p.508.100

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military campaigns went to contribute to the make up of the

Iranian spirit. 94

Going back to Bazargan's main argument with the

traditionalists and within the political context of the 1940s it

is of significance to note that although Bazargan's criticism of

traditional religious community falls generally within the

discourse on labour ethics it is within a critique of political

conservatism that Bazargan initially faced the traditionalists.

Bazargan's first and noticeably limited attack on a traditionalist

Muslim position, was articulated in his paper on Pragmatism and

Islam (1944). The work aimed at activating the Muslim elements who

are believed to be following the conservative and quietist

tradition. 95 We have already referred to Bazargan's position vis-

a-vis the main Islamic political trends of the period. The

critique of the quietist and conservative position here is aimed

at motivating the powerful traditional Islamic community into the

political mainstream. In his Pragmatism and Islam Bazargan only

targets the Sufi tradition by name, but the implication of the

argument, without doubt, was intended to include the even more

powerful theological tradition. Quietists are criticized for their

deviation from the true faith through concentrating on prayers,

recitations, and rituals in place of pursuit of social

productivity and functions. Here Bazargan's main concern with the

traditional Muslims is on account of their social passivity and

political conservatism. The criticism is concerned with their

Bazargan, Iranian Adaptability, last section.95 Bazargan, Pragmatism and Islam in Religion in Europe

(Enteshar Co. Ltd. Tehran, 1964).101

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evasion of social activity, in general, and with politics, in


Now what could be done to deal with the situation?

Bazargan points the finger at "less talk and more hard work" as

the key to social advance. The practical step must be taken to

form associations and societies which would teach their members

the merits of modern social behaviour, including hard work. 96

Bazargan's proposals for the formation of social associations

towards establishing a new set of social behaviour seems to have

its roots in his personal experience with the associations,

particularly the Catholic and Republican, while studying in

France. It should be recalled that at the time the revived

Catholicism's doctrine emphasized missionary work rather than

overt political activity. This followed an awareness that de-

Christianisation was widespread and that to many people religion

was merely social conformism. The intention was to penetrate the

social fabric through social work of non-political nature.

Although Bazargan's reasons for calling for the creation of social

associations had different reasons than those of the French

Catholics and Republicans of the 1930's, it is quite clear that

frequenting the French circles was sufficient to persuade him in

modeling their form of organization.

Moderation or critique of Marxism

It would be correct to say that one other main concern of

Bazargan during the 1941-53 period (and particularly in the first

96 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.94.102

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half) was the threat of the advance of communist ideology in

general and that of the Tudeh party in particular. It is worth

remembering that Bazargan had acquired anti-communist sentiments

in France after witnessing the anti-religious propaganda of the

extreme left. 97 With such a background he faced the emergence and

rapid growth of the Tudeh party. Indeed the expansion of the party

was unprecedented in the history of Iran's experience with

political organizations. Bazargan's first hand experience with the

Tudeh was on the university campus, where as a professor and later

the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, he saw the trailblazing

spread of communist ideas. For various reasons, but most of all

because of Tudeh's radicalism and anti-religious propaganda

Bazargan resented their presence.

Managing the university was no easy task. More difficult

than the educational and personal aspects of the work was

the battle against Tudeh. The party had turned the

university into its central base and exerted its utmost

pressure there. Tudeh students had taken over the

university club and were ordering the staff [even] to go

on strike. They wanted a role in the university council's

process of decision making. There was no discipline, only

abuse. The Ministry of Education was in despair. Those

were dark days. 98

Bazargan's response to the communist advance was unique in

that he did not directly criticizes the Marxists, nor did he

97 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.98 Bazargan, Defence p.116.


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involve himself in the daily political issues. Rather he exerted

his efforts towards the creation of an argument, even an

intellectual framework, as an alternative to the communist idea.

The aim was to put into the political arena an alternative that

would diminish the attraction of the leftist ideology, specially

for the youth. This method was the consequence of Bazargan's

analysis of the elements that had prepared the ground for the

expansion of the Tudeh party:

The ideological strength and attraction of [Marxist

ideology] was due to its progressiveness and particularly

its dynamic nature; stimulating the intellect and giving

it a philosophical and scientific foundation

[furthermore] at the advance of the communists almost no

political doctrine or hope of salvation was offered to the

youth. 99

It was on this basis that Bazargan found it necessary to

introduce a parallel argument, in this case a religious idea:

The educated youth need [intellectual] food . . [but]

beside materialism and the programme of the Tudeh Party

nothing else was on offer. As a result [communism] was

advancing like an army with no opposition or obstacle in

its path. 100

9 9 Bazargan, Defence, p.123.100 Bazargan, Defence, p.124.


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Bazargan's main address to the communist issue of the

period is in his Labour in Islam, and it is in the first chapter

The Evolutionary Process of Labour in Human History where an

effort is made to undermine Tudeh's Marxist influence. We have

already looked at the chapter in the previous section in terms of

the introduction of the idea of labour and critique of the

traditional society. Now the work will be studied in relation to

the Marxist position.

Bazargan's main argument is that although labour

determines the form and function of the social structure and that

it is in conflict with owners of capital, the historic process

does not move through revolutionary leaps and that ultimately the

means of production do not come under the absolute ownership of

the workers but rather there is a modification in the extent of

ownership. The function of the argument seems to be to maintain

certain elements of Marxist thinking, such as historicism, which

Bazargan might have thought attractive, both personally and for

his audience, but refute other elements which gave the Marxist

movement its distinction.

To argue his case Bazargan puts forward the idea that

human civilization has gone through a process in which the

primitive commune has been transformed to the modern society

through the act of labour. The process passes through a number of

stages including that of family rule, aristocracy, and democracy.

Conflict between the producer and exploiter develop and continue

into the industrial age where despite the establishment of greater


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rights for workers, the owners of capital clash with organized

labour. Socialist regimes are then born providing a degree of

welfare for the working classes. At the final stage of conflict

between the producers and the owners of capital, the producers

triumph and create governments of labour. This historical

narrative presented by Bazargan might be considered a somewhat

simple imitation of a historical study that he must have had

access to, it is nevertheless the basis on which he builds his

later discussions.

As stated above although the argument in the Evolutionary

Process of Labour in Human History is intended to undermine

Marxist influence, it is possible to detect the influence of a

number of Marxist ideas including that of labour, historical

development and class struggle in it. The Marxist influence is

also evident in the use of terminology. In fact with minor literal

adjustments to Bazargan's terminology one would be left with a

near copy of the Marxist concepts. Bazargan modified the Marxist

terminology, possibly in the course of translation from (probably)

French texts into Persian, but that provides little camouflage.

For instance in place of the Persian word Estesmar usually used

for exploitation, the modified Bahreh-e Bardari (to reap the

benefit of) was used. In place of the word Bourgeoisie, directly

and commonly used by the Persian speakers, the word Eshteghal

(occupation) was chosen. However such changes have no impact on


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the substance of the discourse and the trace of the Marxist

influence is clear. 101

At this time Bazargan's understanding of Marxism was at a

popular rather than a scholarly level. His studies were limited to

secondary sources; including books by the Iranian communist

essayist Taqi Arani 102, several French articles, and a number of

university textbooks. 103 However the insight to the sources used

by Bazargan, in this case Marxism, is not sufficient in

understanding his intellectual make up. Indeed placing emphasis on

the adoption of Marxist ideas and terminology could be misleading

since the function of these ideas was fundamentally if not

exclusively anti-Marxist. This functional and instrumentalist

approach to the Marxist perspectives gives a strong hint of

Bazargan's pragmatic use of ideology. However even this

explanation, although necessary, fails to suffice. For in the

process of adapting Marxist ideas to fight Marxism Bazargan was

influenced to a degree by their discourse, particularly the ideas

of labour and historical evolution.

101 The findings of this study in that the source of theargument was Marx was hesitantly acknowledged by Bazargan in the1989 interview. Hesitant in the sense that the Islamic Modernistshave had to shield themselves against accusation of sycreticism byfundamentalist Muslims and do not wish to acknowledge their non-Islamic sources of inspiration. This problem comes through many ofBazargan's works, where although large sections of works areborrowed no acknowledgement is made of their source. For instancesee Encielab-e Iran dar Du Harekat where the last chapter is a nearcopy digest of Brinta, C. Anatomy of Revolution (Vintage Books,New York, 1938) but with no indication of the source.

102 Dr. Taqi Arani (d.1939) Marxist theorist and founder ofthe famous 53-group which was to establish the Tudeh party. Hewas arrested for his communist views and subsequently killed inprison.

103 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.107

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As is evident Bazargan did not accept the Marxist vision

in toto. He had objections to three significant elements in

classical Marxism and had his own views on these points. These

differences put Bazargan outside the Marxist tradition and close

to the European Social Democratic tradition with its emphasis on

evolutionary socialism.

Bazargan's main departure from Marxism concerned the

ownership of the means of production. As indicated earlier he had

already implicitly accepted the idea of class struggle, calling

for the emergence of the "government of labour". However he then

expresses the view that an end to exploitation and the subsequent

distribution of wealth will not emerge in the manner that Marx had

predicted. In other words it was said that the absolute ownership

of the means of production by the working classes will not come

about, rather a "sort of modification in the forms and limits of

ownership" will take place which will be supposedly sufficient in

ending the conflict between labour and capital. 104

A second point where Bazargan differed from the mainstream

popular Marxist theories was on the concept of rapid social change

or revolution. He contributed to the idea of the inevitability of

class struggle, stating that the rule of capital and private

ownership was nearing its end, but denied the Marxist vision of

rapid social transformation from one historical stage to another.

Rather apparently a non-violent transformation was suggested (upon

104 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.38.108

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which a modification in the ownership would take place) allowing

the historical process to follow a "natural" course.

Labour has advanced against those elements which it once

competed against, that is blood relations, aristocracy,

social power [coercion], and finally capital ... The day

will come when labour becomes the dominant principle.

However this process will not be achieved in the way that

political radicals and revolutionaries suggest. Rather, it

will take place in the same manner that patriarchal

practices gave way to the rule of the bureaucracy and

military. At the [coming] age the ownership of property

will find its natural social position. At the age of

labour the position of the individual will be determined

according to his labour. 105

The third point where Bazargan differed from the leftist

mainstream of the 1940's was in his criticism of the claim by the

Soviet Union to be a proletarian state, an idea which was

aggressively propagated by the Tudeh party. Terming its government

as one based on capitalist economics and political coercion,

Bazargan expresses the opinion that the Soviet government had not

been able to solve class contradictions in favour of the element

of labour and that the element of capital continued to exploit the

former. Here Bazargan's explanations were (again) limited to a

minimum and he failed to expand on the subject but insisted that

105 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.37.109

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the emergence of communist government had not been the outcome of

conflict between the factors of labour and capital.

[In USSR] the factor of labour has not yet managed to win

over power from its old and new rivals (ie.family

relations, aristocracy, coercion and capital). In the

Proletarian Countries the government continues to be based

on capital, coercion and even aristocracy. 106

As far as it is known the principal criticism (in the

1940's) of the Soviet Union as a capitalist country -although

State Capitalism- was voiced by the Toilers Party of Iran led by

Khalil Maleki. 107 Maleki wrote several articles on the subject

and published them later in book form under the title of

"Socialism and State Capitalism". In the book Maleki referred to

"Return From the Soviet Union" by the French author Andre Gide and

elaborated his argument on highlighting contradictions between the

realities of Soviet society and the theories of Marx and Engels.

108 It is possible, though not certain, that Bazargan picked up

some ideas from Maleki and added them to the later revisions of

his book.

In conclusion it is possible to say that in dialogue with

Marxism Bazargan pragmatically used Marxist ideas towards non-

106 mazargan, Labour in Islam, p.36.107 Katouzian, H. & Pishdad, A. (ed.) Yad Nameh-ye Khalil

Maleki In Memory of Khalil Maleki (Enteshar, Tehran, 1991) &

Maleki, Kb. Khaterat-e Siasi Political Memoirs, Katouzian, H.(intro.) (Ravaq, Tehran, 1979).

108 Maleki, Kh. Susialism va Kapitalism-e Dulati, Socialism

and Stat e Capitalism (publisher, date and place of publication


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Marxist positions. He drew on Marxism to fight it. He used Marxist

terms of analysis and adopted certain Marxist terminology in

presenting his historical analysis. Obviously he was hoping to, or

believing that he could resist the polemical positions which

normally go with these sets of ideas. But he might not have been

aware that there is a certain logic contained within the

terminology adopted, and that despite himself, he was influenced

in a certain direction by them. In other words in the process of

fighting Marxism with its own terminology he accumulated certain

Marxist ideas into his intellectual framework.

As stated earlier Bazargan wrote the original version of

the book Labour in Islam in the 1940s (and in terms of context the

argument it correctly belongs there), but the problem of Marxism

continued to preoccupy Bazargan and the fact that revisions were

made to the original piece and published in the early 1960s

testifies to this fact. Indeed Bazargan was to continue to address

Iran's communist current of thought at various levels. The issue

became particularly acute in the early 1970s when an inside coup

in the Muslim Mojahedin Khalq Organization pushed aside Islamic

elements in the leadership and changed the ideology of the

organization to Marxism. In a short space Bazargan produced two

books in response to the situation: The Scientificality of

Marxism, and A Review of the Ideas of Eric Frumn. The books were

designed to refute the ideological constructs of Marxism and Neo-

Marxism and limit their influence among Iranian intellectuals. But

of these more later.


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It is with a background of criticism of the then dominant

modernism for its shallow interpretation of modern society,

criticism of Marxism on the issues of ownership and violent change

and criticism of traditionalism for its conservatism and lack of

productivity, that Bazargan puts forward his idea of Work in

Islam, or what in a political study might be termed Islamic work

ethics. The cluster of ideas around the theme of labour which had

been used till then in interpretation, analysis and critique of

the ideological trends of modernism, communism and traditionalism

was then analyzed within the language of Islam. 109

Bazargan's basic argument here is that from the point of

view of the Koran the world was created as a framework within

which man must work. The prophets are said to have been

commissioned to prepare themselves for the purpose of work. The

Koran is said to have a concept of work (that focuses on educating

and selecting the best persons) and that it is within this concept

that the idea of the final judgment (and of heaven and hell) gain

their meaning.

To support his argument Bazargan makes ample use of the

Koran. Three Koranic themes are chosen to highlight the point: the

goal of creation, divine guidance to the faithful, and promises of

heaven/ hell for the day of judgment. In all three themes Bazargan

tries to highlight the element of work.

1" Bazargan, Labour in Islam, pp.55-76.112

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On the goal of creation 110 Bazargan states that according

to the Koran the world was created for "competitive work" 111

where the role of natural events is to provoke activity, education

and selection of the best of persons. 112 The two ideas are said

to correspond to the view of evolution of civilization in the

sense that they indicate that the ultimate purpose of human effort

is to value labour and develop its scope. Furthermore life is said

to be nothing but effort and suffering in this process. 113

With regard to the theme of guidance to the faithful 114

Bazargan believes that the prophets (the most valued individuals

in the Koranic perspective) were commanded to prepare themselves

for righteous deeds, to engage themselves in righteous deeds and

to use deeds as the act of worship. 115 Similarly the eternal fate

of the individual after death is directly determined by his deeds

and the judgment day is the natural consequence of his actions

before death. 116

Bazargan obtains his concept of Islamic work from the

Koran's idea of 'Amal or deed. Bazargan believes that the idea of

110 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, pp.55-59."He created death and life, that he may try which of you

is best in deed." The Koran, LXVII, 2.112 "That which is on earth we have made but as a glittering

show for the earth, in order that we may test them - as to whichof them are best in conduct." The Koran, XVIII, 7.

113 "Verily thou man! Verily thou art ever toiling ontowards thy Lord - painfully toiling - but thou shalt meet him.The Koran, LXXXIV, 6-12.

114 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, pp.60-62.115 "Enjoy things good and pure and work righteousness."

XXIII, 51. "Oh my Lord, grant me that I may be grateful for thyfavour which thou hast bestowed upon me, .. and that I may workrighteousness." The Koran, XLVI, 15.

116 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, 62-65.113

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righteous deeds is a centre piece in the Koranic vision of things

and that is why in the 128 Koran verses which promise heaven to

believers three conditions are put forward: faith, righteous deeds

and piety. In harmony with his earlier use of terminologies

Bazargan's interpretation of Koran's idea of righteous deed seems

to be pragmatic and flexible:

The [righteous] deed is the correct and befitting action,

taken prudently according to existing conditions, and

[meant to be] effective and useful ... [Of course] it is

faith which determines the [ultimate] aim and movement

towards the desired goal. 117

Here it is necessary to point out that as Bazargan pursues

his argument there is a terminological ambiguity in that there is

a switch from the term labour (kar), to activity/work (fa'aliyat),

to deeds ('Amal). The three terms are used in arbitrary fashion

without reference to the original context from which they have

been selected.

In the interpretation of the concept of labour in Islam,

Bazargan puts forward the argument that since labour was the

fundamental factor in determining the Evolutionary Process of

Human Civilization (as already indicated in critique of Marxism)

then it would be correct to say that labour must be seen as the

centre piece of human life. But more importantly Bazargan states

117 Bazargan, Labour in Islam p.68.114

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that the idea that human life should be spent in productive labour

is similar to Islam's concept of work.

Human history has various forms but one underlying

current. While forms are secondary, the current is the

principle. There is no aim to life but labour and work ...

The world compares to a playing field where players push

back and forth a football, trying to pass it through the

goals. Here the ball, the goals and the field are the form

while the aim is the exercise ... [similarly] it seems on

the surface of things that the motive for this long

process [of Historical Evolution of Human Civilization] is

nothing but the force of nature, that is the need for

food, clothing and reproduction. However in truth it is

the instinct for improvement, advance and perfection, in

other words the spiritual need and divine guidance which

are the driving force. 118

The above argument is significant in that it constitutes

the basic juxtaposition of the Marxist influenced concept of

history with Bazargan's idea of Islamic labour. On the one hand

Bazargan accepts that labour is the source of historical social

change and on the other hand he sees the exertion of labour as an

effort towards reaching some form of perfection. The first

perspective argues in favour of the idea that labour shapes the

mode of production which in turn shapes the formation of social

118 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, pp.41-42.115

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organization, including classes as well as its value system. 119

Here no place is envisioned for faith in the divinity or piety of

the worshipper. The second perspective however argues that the

labour of the individual (itself defined by his ultimate value)

determines his everlasting destiny (ie. life after death).

Bazargan thus views labour as the factor determining both

the spiritual fate of the individual and the social destiny. While

the concept of labour, as the determinant of individual fate, had

its roots in the Koran's righteous deeds, the concept of labour as

defining the course of history had its roots in Marx. What seems

to have happened here is that Bazargan turned Marx's historicism

on its head by taking out the materialistic conception and thus

reflecting a more Hegelian vision. The two ideas, from Marxism and

Islam, had been combined and blended so the actions of the

individual had personal as well as social significance.

It is of interest to note Bazargan's effort at developing

a methodology to deal with the two sets of discourses that he is

drawing inspiration from. In the introduction to his book he

explains how he developed a method towards his efforts in finding

common grounds between Islam and modern scientific thought.

On the one hand he uses the scientific method where

"deductions are made after observation of the natural

119 It is interesting to note that Bazargan has reshapedMarx in claiming that labour shapes the mode or production whilein Marx the mode of production and hence the forms of labour, aredetermined by the forces of production, ie. raw materials, tools,level of technology etc.


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phenomena o no and on the other hand he studies the same phenomenon

through the teachings of divine revelation. The two methods, he

believes, could not be contradictory since the source of divine

revelation is itself the very law of nature, based on the order of

universe. 121 In support of the argument it is said that the logic

and the style of expression of the Koran is based on an empirical

observation of natural phenomena and historical processes.

Bazargan builds this idea on the premises that God has two

forms of expression: The first is the natural language that finds

its expression in natural phenomena and social laws (the general

and final manifestations of the divine will). The second is the

divine language specified in the books of the prophets. The former

is indirect, while the latter is the direct expression of

divine. 122 Bazargan therefore sees no reasons why his object of

enquiry, in this case labour, should not be studied from the two

points of view. Clearly Bazargan was mixing three traditions that

he was familiar with; scientific methodology obtained in his

training as an engineer, Marxist historicism and the Koran as

Islam's traditional source of interpretation. 123

120 Which is said to have been applied in the study ofEvolutionary Progress of Labour in the History of Mankind.

121 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, see introduction.122 Bazargan, Labour in Islam, p.3.123 The influence of the scientific methodology is obvious

in Bazargan i s elaborations on several themes. With regard tolabour Bazargan applied a mechanical analysis of human body basedon the idea of thermodynamics. He brought together the idea withthat of faith, worship and love. Here even a touch of Marxistconcept of man's alienation from his product of labour is evident.(See Labour in Islam, chap. two, A Physiological Analysis of HumanThermodynamics.)


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In drawing out Islam's view of labour, Bazargan had a

simple if not straightforward method. He referred to the Koran as

the absolute divine document, while giving little attention to the

other traditional sources including those of Feqh (jurisprudence)

or Hadith (traditions of the prophet and the sinless Imams). The

emphasis on the Koran, at the expence of other principal

traditional sources of interpretation, constituted a new approach

in Islamic methodology. Reference to the Koran was said to be

sufficient in that it explained the process of the human

civilization in a "couple of sentences".

With regard to the position of Bazargan within the Islamic

circles several points are in order. Bazargan was one of the

earliest Muslim authors to start an extensive and continuous

dialogue with various secular currents and traditions within the

Islamic community. Others, notably Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari,

and later Dr. All Shariati were also active in this respect.

However Ayatollah Motahhari came from the heart of the Islamic

seminaries and represented the reformist trend within the

religious establishment. Although he too initiated his social

criticism in the 1950s, the mainstream of the religious community,

as represented by the seminaries, were only to adopt a noticeably

modernist pose, appealing to the educated classes as of the mid

sixties. 124 Shariati was also to have a tremendous impact on the

state of social thinking in Iran, however he was to enter the

124 For a comparative discussion on the modernist pose ofthe religious establishment through their publications see Barzin,M. Matbu'at-e Iran Press in Iran (Tehran, 1966) p.120-135.


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arena in the late 1960s and was therefore two decades junior to


Furthermore it is of significance to note that Bazargan

lacked the training of the Islamic seminaries. He therefore seems

to have developed his ideas relying on his own resources. On the

one hand he relied on the Koran as the source of inspiration and

was to build a substantial part of his arguments with reference to

the Muslim holy book. On the other hand he relied on Western

scholarly works on Islamic history and the life of the prophet

Mohammad. These works included Emile Dermenghem's La Vie de

Mahomet, Regis Blachere's Le Probleme de Mahomet, and Montgomery

Watt's Mohammad: Prophet and Statesman. 125 In dealing with the

Koran Bazargan seems to have elaborated its themes rationally and

pragmatically as evident in the above discussion and other

argument in later periods. It is interesting that the theological

schools which had seen a revival of the exegesis of the Koran

after the 1920s did not object to Bazargan, although they had

shown great sensitivity to thinkers such as Kasravi and were to

display opposition to Shariati. There has been no comparative

study of the Modernists' critique of the traditional community but

it might be possible to speculate that the fact that Bazargan

refrained from attacking the clerics but relied on creating

parallel arguments might have been a factor in this respect.

However these issues were only to become of political significance

some forty years later when the clerics established their power

over the government.

125 Bazargan quoted by Chehabi, Iranian Politics andReligious Modernism, p.51.


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Historically several schools have existed on the correct

manner of interpretation of the Koran. Traditionally the orthodoxy

has viewed the Koran as the earthly reproduction of an un-created

external heavenly original and believed that the correct

interpretation can be achieved only through the use of Hadith, or

the examples set by the prophet. The Mu'tuzilites. who sought to

introduce philosophical principles from Greek rationalism to

Islamic thought saw the Koran as the creation of God. The majority

and popular belief however has always directed its reverence

towards the Koran as a physical book, as in oaths taken on it, or

passages from it written on paper for magical or superstitious


In the religious schools the correct interpretation of the

Koran became the object of a special branch known as Tafsir or

Koranic exegesis. To help the process a number of conditions were

set: the study of the historical circumstances surrounding the

revelation of certain passages, the study of the utterance of the

prophet, reliance on the Koran itself as the ultimates source of

authority as well as the study of language and grammar. A number

of renowned interpretations have continued to be used in

theological schools include those by Tabari (d.923), and

Zamakhshari (d.1143) but various theological traditions, as well

as the Sufis had their own commentaries.


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As of late nineteenth century Islamic Modernists 126 who

had tried to revive and reconcile Islam with western scientific

traditions called for a return to the source of authority in order

to shed the weight of what they saw as historical deviation. Upon

this basis they condemned a large part of the traditional exegesis

as false traditions, but did not go as far as questioning the

absolute authority of the holy book itself. A number of reactions

have been typical among the Islamic Modernists. For one thing they

tried to show that the results of modern sciences and ideas were

already present in the Koran. In order to prove the point they

have twisted interpretation in order to read modern ideas in the

language of the Koran. 127 Furthermore they studied the Koran in

the backdrop of the social and political environment. These

efforts were opposed by the orthodoxy and the traditional

leadership, for instance in their dislike for translation of the

Koran or the recitation of prayers in languages other than

Arabic 128

It might be possible to compare these developments in the

treatment of the Koran to the tradition of Biblical studies in the

west. Here the scholars have concerned themselves with textual,

philological, literary, and form criticism. The scientific

principle on which modern criticism is based has depended in part

126 Including Mohammad Abduh of Egypt and Mulana Abol-KalamAzad (d.1958) of India.

127 A typical case already cited was efforts to interpretthe Koran's chapter Light with theories of optics.

128 On the interpretation of the Koran see Montgomery Watt,W. Introduction to the Koran (Edinburgh University Press,Edinburgh, 1970) and Jeffery, A. The Koran as Scripture (AmosPress, New York, 1980).


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on viewing the Bible as a suitable object for literary study,

rather than an exclusive sacred text. 129

On colonialism

There has already been a brief discussion of the general

intellectual atmosphere of the period and the significance of the

issue of colonialism. It was within such an ideological climate

that Bazargan elaborated his theme on colonialism and national

independence. Bazargan's main elaboration of the theme comes in

the article The Source of Independence, a 1949 speech which was

later revised and published first inside Iran and then in the

United States. 130 Although it is probable that the piece was

revised in either the mid 1950s or mid 1960s, as with many other

works by Bazargan, there is a sufficient number of arguments

typical of Bazargan's 1950s style that it would be safe to discuss

the article within the 1950s context.

At the time the issue of colonialism must have been

prominent in Bazargan's mind for he states "these days (1949)

there is great deal of talk about independence and its antithesis,

colonialism". 131 Basically speaking Bazargan argues that

colonialism comes about as the result of unequal economic

capacities between nations and that the cause of weaker economies

lies in their underdeveloped work ethics. To remedy the problem

129 Cambridge History of the Bible V.II (CambridgeUniversity Press, London, 1970).

130 Bazargan, Sarcheshmeh-e Isteglal "The source ofIndependence" in The Secret of the Backwardness of the MuslimNations. (Book Distribution Centre, Texas, Houston, 1977).

131 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations, P.59.


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the indigenous work ethics have to be remoulded to give greater

importance to the nation's productive initiative. In other words

Bazargan states that once members of a society lose their

psychological and intellectual independence, they so lose economic

initiative. As a consequence there is a fall in production of

goods which ultimately brings about an imbalance in external

trade. The weaker country is then forced to accept unjust

conditions of trade and this gives birth to colonial relations.

It is interesting to note that Bazargan's

conceptualization of independence is not only expressed in the

language of economics but it also has an economic logic. This

interpretation further contains within it a concept of national

identity, in the sense that there are national units in trade with

each other. Although this understanding is not elaborated by

Bazargan the core of the concept is basically there.

The structure of Bazargan's argument has several main

themes: 1. loss of intellectual independence and initiative, 2.

loss of productivity, 3. imbalance in international trade. To one

degree or another the first two themes have already been discussed

in the earlier sections. The first theme came in the context of

Bazargan's position on the Modernists. He had criticized the

Modernists for their loss of intellectual independence through the

superficial interpretation and poor imitation of modern European

society. But while in the initial argument the criticism was

concerned with the Modernist's disregard for morals and religious

institutions, now the superficial imitation of the West is said to


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be the cause of national un-productivity. As with regards to the

second theme it should be also recalled that the concept of labour

was the core of Bazargan's elaborations in the earlier arguments.

Here Bazargan again brings up the issue of labour but now puts it

in a new context, ie. colonialism and independence.

The third theme, ie. colonialism, is so close to a basic

Leninist interpretation that it seems necessary to point out the

parallel. Although it might be wrong to accuse Bazargan of taking

the core of his idea (ie. foreign trade as the imperial linkage)

directly from Lenin, who had developed the idea from Marx 132 the

closeness of interpretation compels one to conclude that there is

something of Lenin here. This elaboration is significant in that

we have already identified similar patterns of influence in

Bazargan's earlier arguments. It should be recalled that there

seems to be a clear influence and re-interpretation of

Marxism/Leninism in Bazargan's historicism.

Bazargan begins his argument on independence by refuting

the possibility of an absolute state of autonomy. It is said that

such a condition would mean international isolation and would be

therefore unrealistic. The argument seems to be addressed to those

who wanted a complete break in relations with colonialists and who

believed that economic and political progress in one country was

not only possible but desirable.

132 Although non-Marxist liberals, eg. the Englishsociologist L.T. Hobhouse, argued on similar lines, ie. foreigntrade as the imperial linkage, the author has found no evidence ofthis line of influence on Iranian political thought in the 1940s.The evidence of the Marxist influence are, however, abundant. Forthe ideas of Hobhouse see The Principle of Sociology.


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Independence is not absolute for an absolute independence

is equal to isolation. This is neither possible nor

prudent ... independence in the sense of full detachment

is impossible to obtain. No being, individual or communal

(except God) is without a need for another. 133

Bazargan believes that the impracticality of absolute

independence is due to the limited means available to any given

society and therefore its inability to meet all its own demands.

The need for various commodities, limited resources and different

capabilities are the reasons that lead to the division of labour a

practice that has been in existence since the ancient times.

National independence is said to be gained when trade

between a country and its partners are just and free. It is clear

that Bazargan's understanding of these two important concepts are

the free market, the place where goods are supplied on the basis

of free competition and where a just price is reached through the

agreement of the two sides. 134 In elaborating his concept of just

133 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations, pp.61-62.

134 The idea of an "ideal mean" in economic exchange has anextensive history in Islamic thought. There the conception ofmoney is akin to the idea of a sublime equivalence, establishedbetween things until a mean is established between them in theprocess of exchange. Currency in general, then evaluatestransitions with a view to establishing their just equivalence.This as in the ideas of Muslim philosopher Ibn Khaldun, is amoralizing conception and not a part of the modern labour theoryof value. Here the theories in the realm of economic life fallwithin the boundaries of the ideal mean which determine themeaning of all virtues, including justice and beauty. Al -Azmeh, A.Arabic Thought and Islamic Societies (Croom Helm, London, 1986)pp.31-41. However there is no evidence of the influence of theIslamic tradition in Bazargan's economic ideas, rather moderneconomic theories.


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and free Bazargan adds:

Whenever the total needs of an individual equals the total

needs of others to him, then such an individual (legal or

real) is independent. 135

Thus an imbalance in economic and social international

trade and interaction brings about a condition known as

colonialism. A condition of trade superiority of one country over

another which ultimately leads to political concessions.

As soon as our need of others increases by a degree over

their need of us, we have to surrender a point. Once a

backward step has been taken we shall lose two steps in

competition. They will then bully us even more. Gradually

they will take away all our rights and the source of

meeting our requirements. Soon they will be riding over

us. 136

To maintain a continuous balance of trade it is necessary

for a society to have adequate economic and military assets.

However it is not possible to rely on "God-given natural resources

or unearned inherited wealth", as in the case of Iran's oil. They

will end one day. It is necessary to have a national labour force

capable of productivity.

135 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations,



136 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations,


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Before every thing else independence is a matter of

production . Independence does not belong to a land

rather to a people. A people who have the necessary

defensive capacity based on continuous productivity. 137

Here the question may arise on how to increase

productivity so as to have the upper hand in international trade.

Is it necessary to increase the level of training and

specialization? Or should attention be paid to the accumulation of

capital? Or is obtaining the means of productions the necessary

element? According to Bazargan however the increase in the level

of productivity depends on the initiative, creativity and

intellectual independence of the individual:

Productivity is itself a derivative of initiative ... [It]

is not only synonymous with independence it is it's very

source . A country where people are creative and

innovative enjoys self-respect. Such a country would be

independent and would have the necessary means of

maintaining its independence. 138

Bazargan expresses regret that creativity, initiative and

productivity in Iran are scant. Instead, imitation of the

Europeans is extensive. An imitation which is in fact a clumsy

137 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations,



138 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations,


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trailing of the European way of progress. Once again Bazargan is

addressing the so-called Modernists for their superficial

impression of Europe. We have already discussed Bazargan's

criticism of the Modernists. The earlier critique was for the

Modernist's apparent lack of respect for religion and ethics as

well as the religious institutions. Here the root of economic

stagnation and the subsequent colonialism is blamed on them.

Our condition is a clumsy and repulsive replica of Europe

and America ... There is no reluctance or objection to the

imitation of foreigners. Indeed there is widespread and

habitual pride [in such a practice] •139 The modernization

and the development that is an imitation will bring about

no more than skin deep satisfaction and will even

strengthen the conditions of dependence and backwardness.

The ropes of servitude will only tighten. 140

According to Bazargan the root of the Modernist's

misunderstanding lies in their inability to comprehend the

difference between Iranian society and modern European

civilization. He believes that there are "environmental and

racial" differences between the two societies which makes

unhindered borrowing of little effect.

They [Modernists] are negligent of the fact that two

environments are never similar and two situations have

139 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations,

pp.75-76.140 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations,


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never similar conditions. Each dilemma and every

difficulty has its own particular solution. 141 Taking into

account the racial structure, environmental conditions and

particular needs of every nation, there is one type of

discipline suitable and effective. [Furthermore] this

discipline is only tangible and applicable by the people

of that society. 142

In fighting the problem of imitation (which once

eradicated should lead to creativity, increase in productivity and

national independence) Bazargan asks his audience to adopt

original methods and indigenous solutions. Accordingly he asks the

Modernists to revise their plans.

They should accommodate and change their programmes in

accordance with the local circumstances and the needs of

the customers ... They should not duplicate the style used

by others, but be original . . They should not feel

responsible nor proud in imitating the foreign methods.

They should detect the tradition in Iran and enquire about

the [existing] requirements and effective methods. We

should not imagine that foreign schools and social

doctrines are absolute principles applicable at all times

and places. 143




141 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations,

142 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations,

143 Bazargan, The Secret of Backwardness of Islamic Nations,


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To conclude it is possible to say that the 1941-53 period

witnessed the entrance of Bazargan into the field of social and

political activity. In it he addressed the main currents of

thought and developed his own Islamic modernist interpretation of

social order and progress. He interacted with a number of

intellectual currents but his position, intellectually and

politically was marginal. Here the main element was his effort to

synthesize the intellectual traditions with an emphasis on the

concept of labour.


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Social Developments 1953-60

Politically the seven year period after the 1953 coup

witnessed a consolidation of power of the state ruled by the

person of the Shah and supported by the conservative social

classes. Both the radical and liberal trends bore the brunt of

this development. Prime minister Mosaddeq was to be jailed and

later to spend the rest of his life in exile, leaders of the

National Front were rounded up and imprisoned and the most brutal

treatment was given to the Tudeh and the religious fundamentalist

Fadaiyan Islam groups which lost a large number of their members

in executions.

The Shah's consolidation of power took place in the form

of the extension and centralization of the state machinery which

had suffered badly after the 1940 Allied invasion. The direct

instruments of control were expanded. The military forces grew

from 120,000 to 200,000 between 1953 and 1963 while the

bureaucratic apparatus increased to 260,000 in the same period. To

increase social surveillance the secret police, Savak, was


In this period two parliaments and three cabinets were

formed. 1 Except for the two government-controlled political

organizations (Melliyun, Nationalists, and Mardom, People's) no

political parties were allowed to take part in the parliamentary

elections which were increasingly manipulated by the government. 2

1 Fazlollah Zahedi's cabinet (August 1953- April 55) HosainAla's cabinet (April 1955- April 57) Manuchehr Iqbal (April 1957-August 60).

2 The 18th Majlis (1954/56) the 19th Majlis (1956/60). TheMajlis duration was expanded from two to four years in the 19thsession while the number of deputies increased from 136 to 200.


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Prime ministers were appointed by the personal decision of the


Relations between the state and the social classes varied.

Relations within the conservative oligarchy, including the landed

classes improved and the number of landowners in the parliament

increased from 49 to 52 percent. 3 The conservative Islamic

leaders who enjoyed the largest support among the religious

community continued to enjoy an extension of their sphere of

influence. 4 The compromise reached with the conservative elements

was based on the need of both sides for mutual cooperation. The

Shah also wanted the support of the modern middle classes but

failed to attract it. The same circumstance affected the working

classes. 5 Throughout the period the United States which had

become the leading foreign power gave its political and financial

support to the monarch. The aim was to secure the flow of oil and

ensure the anti-Communist and anti-Nationalist stance of the

Iranian government.

After the coup there was a general return to economic

normality. With the resumption of the export of oil and financial

help from the United States the stage of acute economic depression

was passed. A new contract was reached with the oil companies

which gave Iran a 50% share of revenues, after all deductions,

3 Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p.421.4 An example was the government approved ransacking of

Baha'i centre in Tehran. Akhavi. Religion and Politics inContemporary Iran, p.90.

5 The number of strikes fell from 79 to 3 in 1953-57 period.Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p.351.


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taxes, etc. From then on the increase in the oil income was

phenomenal. The oil revenues jumped from $34m in 1954-55 to $181m

in the following years. By 1960-61 the income had reached $358 and

by the following year it passed the $437 mark. In less than ten

years the state revenue from the oil industry had jumped over 12

fold. 6

The increase in the oil revenue allowed the regime to

develop an interest in the modernization of the economy. This

meant domestic industrialization and an open door policy. Under

the influence of a fashionable and socialist inspired idea, which

had been carried out in the USSR in the quest for economic

development, Iran . embarked on a road of centralized economic

planning. At the top of the agenda came the creation of an

infrastructure, improvement of agriculture and expansion of

industry. To upgrade power generation and establish irrigation

networks for the agricultural sector, huge dams were built.

However things ran into difficulty because of flawed,

wasteful and expensive planning. Over-extensive bureaucratic

networks, corruption and lack of experience further deteriorate

the situation. Lack of credit control led to inflation. The open

door policy brought about balance of payment deficit, high

inflation and subsequent unemployment. The overall economic

picture in the 1953-60 period was that of increase in the oil

6 For the arguments on the economy see Cottam, R.W.Nationalism in Iran (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh,1979) p.292, Keddie, Roots of Revolution, p.143, Katouzian, ThePolitical Economy, pp.204-207.


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revenues, decline of traditional non-oil exports, massive increase

of foreign goods, and corruption at various levels of state's

financial distribution centres. A meagre harvest in 1959 did not

help to ease the situation. The following year the bubble of

growth burst and economic depression set in.

On the ideological level the establishment wished for a

more liberal image rather than totalitarianism. It was thus that

it opted for a two party system (1957). One party was given the

name Melliyun in an obvious move to re-use the nationalist

rhetoric since the Nationalists had traditionally been referred to

by that name. A propaganda campaign was set in motion to describe

the state ideology as Positive Nationalism which meant it was

directed towards providing the welfare of the people. Even an

anti-imperialist element was brought in, by Royal approval, when

Ahmad Aramesh initiated a series of anti-American articles (1958)

speaking the language of the radical wing of Nationalists. The

Shah was concerned with the "progressive democratic" image

specially the one created abroad and showed great interest in

making the country western in character. Among the rank and file

of the opposition including the National Front there emerged a

distinct apathy, of which more below. The prevailing attitude was

one of hopelessness combined with fear of the consequences of any

expression of opinion. 7

To have an understanding of the ideological rhetoric that

the government was conveying in the 1953-60 period it is worth

7 Cott&m, Nationalism in Iran pp.290-295, Keddie, Roots ofRevolution, p.143.


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studying the Shah's own account of events in his Mission For My

Country. 8 The Monarch's political thinking at this stage had

three main elements: positive alliance with the West, cultural and

economic westernization and the limitation of political


Positive alliance with the West was spelled out in

reaction to former prime minister Mosaddeq's Passive Equilibrium

principle in foreign affairs. Rather than following a non-aligned

stand vis-a-vis the two super powers, as Mosaddeq had tried to

achieve, the Shah criticized Mosaddeq's policy of closing ranks

with the "Soviets against the West in general and the British in

particular". Instead the Shah proposed his positive and pragmatic

foreign policy which called for good working relations with the

British who on the Shah's account had ceased to harbour

imperialist designs on Iran. The policy also meant that the United

States was viewed as a non-imperialist power in view of the fact

that it had given Iran financial and military assistance and had

business interests in the country. On the other hand however, the

USSR was viewed as the new totalitarian imperialist which was bent

on following a policy of communist subversion inside Iran. However

despite Soviet opposition to the anti-Russian Baghdad pact and the

Tudeh party's use of Radio Moscow, the Shah expressed the wish of

good working relationship with the Soviets. 9

8 His imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi Shahanshahof Iran, Mission for My Country (Hutchinson, London, 1961). It isrumoured that the work was written by a number of Americanjournalists/academicians and approved by the Shah. The book wasoriginally serialized in the semi-official media in the 1960s.

9 His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi Shahanshahof Iran, Mission For My Country, Chap. 6, My Positive Nationalism.passim.


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The second principle in Shah's political thinking was

Westernization. Following the steps of his father in what the Shah

saw as nation building, the Shah called for rapid economic

reconstruction of the country. The function of a policy of

economic development, agricultural reform and educational advance

was to save the nation from its underdevelopment. In the eyes of

the Shah westernization meant rapid social change in the process

of adjusting modern technology to Iranian culture and Iranian

culture to modern technology. Many observers have criticized the

Shah for what they see as economic development being designed to

bring political power and prestige rather than economic

productivity. However the Shah refuted the allegation. The actual

articulation of the westernization process was said to be the

construction of an infrastructure (particularly in the field of

transport, communications and power supply) a welfare system (eg.

education and medicine) and productive units (eg. oil, gas and

construction industry). 1 ° The Shah's industrialization was mainly

concerned with state controlled units which were said to account

for 40% of the nation's industry at the time. Although it was said

that the private sector was free to proceed with its activities,

it is of notable significance that little attention was paid, in

terms of political rhetoric, to the role of the private sector.

The third element in the Shah's political thinking was his

interpretation of democracy or the arrangement of participation in

10 His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah PahlaviShahanshah of Iran, Mission For My Country, chap. 7,Westernization: Our Welcome Ordeal. passim.


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political affairs of the country. 11 And that amounted to very

little. To begin with the Shah believed realistic political

democracy was not possible at least until economic progress had

been made. In other words things political were said to be

subordinate to the economic sphere. The function of the argument

was to deny political rights until an unknown future when

supposedly economic progress had been sufficiently achieved.

In former times free men thought of democracy as something

primarily political. But then modern science and

technology changed the way men lived and worked. [As

social awareness spread] thoughtful people realized that

political freedom would mean little where men continued to

live in dire economic want. 12

The Shah points out that his interpretation of the issue

is the same as his father's who "tended to subordinate the role of

parliament but contributed otherwise to the cause of democracy m by

linking the social role of the clergy in favour of the state, and

creating a centralized modern bureaucracy. The reason for the

subordination of the political to the economic was said to lie

with the country's underdevelopment. On the one hand a great many

people were illiterate and the concept of democracy was a newly

arrived idea. Furthermore the traditional culture, although

valuing individualistic virtues of tolerance and respect, weighed

His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah PahlaviShahanshah of Iran, Mission For My Country, chap. 8, Democracy AsI See It. passim.

12 His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah PahlaviShahanshah of Iran, Mission For My Country, pp.162-163.


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heavily so that it would be unrealistic to suppose that parties

could appear and flourish.

Political democracy can never operate like an electric

refrigerator: you can not just turn it on and let it run.

Effective political democracy needs intelligence,

maturity, tolerance and a sense of mission. 13

Once it was accepted that political participation was to

be postponed until sufficient economic and social development had

taken place, the role of the Shah became paramount. On the surface

the Shah accepted his role as a constitutional monarch whose

position had been spelled out in the 1906 constitution which was

drawn after the revolution against the Qajar autocracy had

'modified the monarchy to keep with representative government'.

However the Shah's exercise of power was very different. In the

study of Mission For My Country alone, one is struck by the

emphasis that the Shah gave to his own position in all processes

of decision making. The parliament and the cabinet have almost no

role in determining foreign policy, economic development and

political changes. Even when it came down to democracy it was the

way that "I [Shah] saw it" which was then taken as the criterion

and reference for social movement. Democracy in the eyes of the

Shah was the superficial existence of the constitution, the

parliament, and the cabinet under the personal control and veto of

himself. It was he who decided the nature, direction and speed of

13 His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah PahlaviShahanshah of Iran, Mission For My Country, p.178.


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social change and movement.

This position is well articulated in his discussion of

political parties. Since 1957, the Shah states, he had encouraged

the growth of a two party system, which were defined by him and

whose leaders had close ties to the crown or government. However

these facts, the Shah believed, do not make them instruments of

the state or unresponsive to demands by party members to change

the leadership or the organization. Indeed the spirit of party

activism was said to have spread on all social levels. The

reality, unfortunately, turned out to be different. The two state

supported organizations the National Party and the People's Party

failed to grow and find a social base. Their close ties to the

government was one of the reasons that they failed to become

popular. As the Shah's control over the state was to grow in the

following decade the two party experiment in establishing a social

base was abandoned for a single party state. An experiment of

equally if not more disastrous consequences.

The Shah at once appealed to both constitutional rhetoric

and non-democratic arguments. However it is the arguments in

defence of his one man rule which stand out. In one case he

compares his system to the 1950s US McCarthy campaigns which he

calls the core of American democracy. 14 Efforts to challenge this

14 Joseph, R. McCarthy led the indiscriminate investigationsagainst alleged communist sympathizers in the 1950s. The trialswere a manifestation of the general pressure for conformity aswell as intense and intolerant American nationalism of the period.A similar "Red Scare" had taken place in 1919. For a study of theinterdynamics of U.S. foreign policy in the first stages of thecold-war and internal domestic security see Freeland, R.M. TheTruman Doctrine & the Origins of McCarthyism (Alfred, A. Knopf,New York, 1975) pp.358-360.


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perception were termed unconstitutional and the reason for the

existence of the political Security Agency and toughness towards

"subversive negativism".

The National Resistance Movement

Immediately after the 1953 coup there was a marked change

in Bazargan's attitude towards political activity. While in the

year prior to the fall of the Nationalist government of Mosaddeq

there seems possibly to have been a downturn in the political

activities of Bazargan 15 with the coup regime in power, Bazargan

was one of the first to react to the change. Answering a friend

who had inquired about his change of heart he said that he no


I always believed that it is the national and political

responsibility of each individual to carry out his

professional duties with utmost seriousness and interest

15 For one thing Bazargan left his NIOC position, to whichhe had been appointed by the Prime Minister, following tension inHosain Makki. According to Bazargan Makki's unprofessional andpersonal dealings with the affairs of the company was the reasonfor the resignation. Furthermore upon his return to Tehran,Bazargan turned down a proposal by several members of the IslamicAssociations and the God-Worshipping Socialists to establish anIslamic party. (Bazargan, Interview, 1989) Soon afterwards hewrote an article Youthful Games With Politics calling onuniversity students to concentrate on their studies beforebecoming politically active. (Copy of the original text is in theposition of the author). These events tend to indicate a moreconservative approach to political activity in the last year ofMosaddeq. It would be certainly wrong to place Bazargan among theconservative and traditional religious community which took aposition of compromise towards the ruling elite and theestablishment at the cost to the popular reformist movement.However it would be wrong not to detect a certain cooling off onthe part of Bazargan's activity prior to the coup. Bazarganhimself might have wished to contradict this point!


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But when officials fail to carry out their

responsibilities and some have even become thieves and

traitors, every one is forced to act. A university

lecturer is forced to become a political activist. 16

The reaction was common to a number of lower ranking

members of the National Movement. It seems with the arrest of the

senior members of the opposition the initiative had fallen to the

lower ranks and within a month a group of activists formed the

National Resistance Movement (NRM). Some research has been carried

out by other scholars sketching out the activities of the Movement

and it is not necessary to repeat them here. 17 Thus follows a

brief portrayal of NRM activities and organization but a more

detailed account of their ideas. The structure of the organization

and the nature of activities indicate a small social movement, by

any standards. However what makes NRM of significance was the

political position it had taken. While the traditional elite, ie.

the bureaucracy, the landlords and the religious figures had given

tacit support to the 1953 coup and while within the ranks of the

opposition the Tudeh Party had adapted a cautious and quietist

approach and was soon paralyzed, it was only the NRM which showed

some form of continuous resistance inside the country. NRM was

joined by independent members and affiliated bodies of the

National Front. These included the Party of the Iranian People

(led by Dr. Mohammad Nakhshab) the Third Force Party (led by Dr.

16 Bazargan, Defence. p.161.17 For the standard text see Chehabi, H. Politics and

religious Modernism in Iran (I.B.Tauris, London, 1990), in Persiansee the forthcoming book, National Resistance Movement, by GholamRiza Nejati (Enteshar Publications, Tehran).


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Mohammad All Khunji) the Iran Party (led by Allahyar Saleh) and

the Iranian National Party (led by Dariush Foruhar). The two

latter parties however left in 1955.

The activities of NRM were meagre. In the few years of its

existence it managed to call for several demonstrations, created a

semi-underground network, demanded free elections and opposed the

1954 oil agreement. The demonstrations included one against the

coup, followed by another during the trial of Mosaddeq, one on the

visit of US vice-president Richard Nixon to Iran (1953) and one in

protest against political restrictions for the 18th Majlis

elections. 18 Possibly the most regular and significant of their

activities was the production of two publications and various

declarations. The irregular and semi clandestine publications

included Rah-e Mosaddeq, Maktab-e Mosaddeq, Nehzat-e Mosaddeq and

Hashyihi bi Hashyih. One of the last acts of NRM was the

publication (1957) of a letter critical of the consequences of the

new oil agreement.

The existing NRM documents indicate the naivete of early

activists with regards to their own organizational ability. An

early organization chart shows a Leadership Committee which

appoints the Executive Committee which in turn runs 13 executive

and regional bodies. The initial organizers had a cooperatist

strategy. Fifteen figures from the Majlis, the bureaucracy, the

university, political parties, the Bazaar and the clergy were

18 The Three Year Report to the Party Plenum, NRM Documents, V.5, p.254-293.


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invited to participate in the initial meetings. But discipline was

hard to maintain and differences soon reduced the membership of

the central council to eight. Comparatively the lower ranks seem

to have shown greater resolve and organization in the pursuit of

their political goals. 19 Once the early enthusiasm and spirit of

cooperation was gone, the situation deteriorated and there were

organizational as well as manpower shortages. Such were the

shortages that on one occasion two senior members (one being

Bazargan) had themselves to take a taxi driving through the

streets of Tehran to throw copies of a leaflet in protest at the

lack of democratic freedoms at the coming (18th) Majlis

elections 20

When the 1953 coup took place Bazargan was working in

Tehran's Water Authority. He was soon to become instrumental in

both organizing the NRM and running its affairs from a leadership

position. The initial idea for the formation of the group came

from Abbas Radnia, a Bazaar merchant and an activist with the

National Front. But it was Bazargan who was elected the secretary

for the central council and the person in charge of organizational

matters. 21 As the result of his activities with the NRM Bazargan

was arrested in spring 1955 and was imprisoned for five months

before being released prior to the beginning of the academic year.

The arrest however failed to reduce his commitment to opposition

activism. The second wave of arrests came in 1957 following which

19 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.20 Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, See

Chap. 3, The National Resistance Movement.21 Bazargan, Interview, 1989 & Nazih, H. Interview, (London)

December 1991.


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Bazargan, along with a number of NRM leadership cadres were kept

in prison for eight months. The arrests and continuous pressure

from the newly founded secret service, Savak, practically spelled

out the end of the movement.

The political ideas of NRM were articulated in their

official organ Rah-e Mosaddeq, as well as their internal

documents, including the organization's declarations, manifesto,

debate papers, training pamphlets, analytical pieces,

2correspondence and congressional statements. 2 It is not clear

who wrote the main ideological and political pamphlets of the

group. According to Bazargan the great majority of important

documents were written by Rahim Ata'i, 23 Abbas Radnia and at

times by members of the Iran Party. Another NRM activist, Hasan

Nazih, points to Mir Mohammad Sadeqi. 24 M.A. Khonji played an

important role especially in Rah-e Mossadeq. 25 Even though

Bazargan might not have been directly involved in the writing of

the main political tracts, his position as the senior member of

the central council means that the NRM propaganda reflected his

main ideas.

The ideology of NRM had several major and several minor

themes: the main themes were nationalism of an anti-colonial

22 NRM Documents, five volumes, (Liberation Movement ofIran, Tehran, 1983).

23 Mohammad Rahim Ata'i (1927-77), Bazargan's nephew readlaw and politics at Tehran university, cooperated with Iran Partyuntil 1946, was a member of NRM and FMI. Payam-e Mojahed, September 1977.

24 Sadeqi was the editor of Mosaddeq's Path. Naz1h,Interview, 1991.

25 This was pointed out by H. Katouzian, in a privateconversaion, 1992.


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nature, the assertion of political freedoms, and the idea of

charismatic leadership personality. The minor emphasis was on non-

alignment and the necessity of organized resistance. Even less

prominent themes were those of appeal to religion, the resolution

of class conflicts, opposition to the landowning classes and

increasing national productivity. Within the major themes the

anti-colonial nationalism seems to have been the most dominant and

one which continued at strength.


The nationalist theme in the ideology of NRM was the

continuation of the political ideology of the National Front and

the Leadership of Mosaddeq. In a nutshell it believed that there

Was a conflict between the Iranian people, as victims of

colonialism, and the colonial powers, in particular Great Britain.

The political articulation of this historic conflict was seen in

the issue of the nationalization of the oil industry and the

subsequent 1953 coup. It was said that the oil reserves and

industry belonged to the people of Iran and their ownership by the

British, going back to a concession in the first decade of the

century, was a usurpation of the Iranian natural rights by a

foreign power whose only legitimacy was the use of force. At a

cost to colonial interests the National Movement led by Mosaddeq

had tried to establish the rights of the Iranians. However the

colonialists had staged a military coup against this effort and

had put a puppet government in power. Therefore the main political

conflict lay between the Iranian nation and the colonial powers.

The role of the Iranian government was considered almost of


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secondary significance because it was seen as a direct instrument

of the colonialists and therefore subordinated to their designs.

The great and marvelous popular National Movement ... was

created to achieve true independence by ending foreign

influence and nationalizing the oil industry throughout

the country ... Under the leadership of our popular, wise

and able leader it achieved great triumphs

[Furthermore] It lit a burning flame in the hearts of the

people of this country and other oppressed nations of the

East. However the shameful and treacherous 19 August coup

which had been arranged from the early days of Mosaddeq's

government by the design and finance of foreign

politicians was carried out by [their] Godless agents in

collaboration with the Royal Court as well as the leaders

of the army and the 9th of Esfand clerics. 26 They

succeeded in temporarily extinguishing the light of

freedom and hope in the house of national inspirations

[and forcing] the people of the country to face the

darkest hour of their history. Millions were bewildered

and took to mourning ... However the age of slavery for

foreigners and acceptance of the injustice of [these]

rascals has passed. We shall find a solution to these

misfortunes and [shall] take control of the country. 27

26 In the later part of Mosaddeq's premiership as tensionbuilt between the government and the religious establishment theclerics strongly backed the Shah against Mosaddeq in what was tobecome known as the affair of the 9th of EIsfand (27 February1953).

27 Internal Training Document, Date unknown, NRM Documents, V.5, p.81.


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The nationalism of NRM has the elements of other third

world nationalist ideologies which surfaced world wide after the

second world war. The main theme of these ideologies which

flourished with the de-colonialization period was anti-colonialism

and non-alignment. 28 In Iran the conflict over the issue of

nationalization of the oil industry had inflamed Iranian

patriotism and highlighted its ingredients of national

consciousness and identity. Viewing the world in almost black and

white, that is colonialists facing the nationalists, was the most

readily available and functionally applicable perception. Use of

force in the overthrow of the nationalist government of Mosaddeq

re-enforced this perception of affairs.

Indeed the anti-colonial nationalist perception was strong

enough that NRM identified its own position with that of other

anti-colonial movements in other parts of the world, but

particularly those in the Middle East. It placed its own struggle

in the same category as Arab nationalist leaders such as Jamal

Abdul Naser of Egypt 29 and nationalists of Syria, Morocco,

28 For a study of nationalism as a reaction to Europeandomination see Kedourie, E. (ed.) Nationalism in Asia and Africa (World Publishing Company, N.Y. 1970). For a review of the Iraniancase see Seton-Watson, H. Nations and States (Methuen, London,1977). For a radical critique of the subjection of the idea ofAsian Nationalism to European post-enlightenment rationalistdiscourse see Chatterjee, P. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World (Zed, London, 1986).

29 Support for Naser was strengthened by the fact that Naserconsidered the Shah an enemy for his recognition of Israel as wellas closeness to the West and conservative forces in the Arabworld. Stephens, R. Naser A Political Biography (Allen Lase,London, 1971) p.42. For a sketch of Jamal Abdul Naser's politicalportrait, including his concept of Nationalism and the context ofits application see Vatikiotis, P.T. Naser and His Generation (Croom Helm, London, 1978).


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Algeria and Iraq. 30 In this identification it viewed the 1958

unity between Egypt and Syria 31 as a great step towards the

ideals of the peoples of Asia and Africa. 32

While in Iran the freedom movement was temporarily forced

to retreat, it emerged horrendously [stronger] in Arab

countries ... The colonialist were [now] worried that the

flame of freedom and independence should engulf these

countries. 33

Even when Arab nationalists, particularly Naser in his

polemics with the Shah, began calling the historically known

Persian Gulf, the Arabian Gulf, the NRM went as far as denying

this fact as a rumour by colonialists and its agents to saw seeds

of conflict between the Persians and the Arabs in the old school

of divide and rule. 34

It is of significance to have in mind that in the eyes of

NRM, and within the context of the anti-colonial struggle, the

Iranian government was seen a powerless puppet in the hands of

foreigners. The position of the Iranian government was viewed as

almost insignificant since it was supposed to reflect the direct

wishes of the foreign powers. Even changes in Iranian cabinets

30 NRM Documents, V.5, p.157.31 United Arab Republic (1958-61) an experiment in political

union between the two Arab states which failed due to differencesin economies and culture, not to mention the ambitions of theirpolitical leaders. Nyrop, R.F. Egypt: A Country Study (TheAmerican University, Washington, 1983). See section of UAR.

32 NRM Documents, V.5, p.181.33 NRM Documents, V.5, p.247.34 NRM Documents, V.5, p.202, 249.


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were believed to be brought about by the colonialists as it suited

their designs. 35 Government members were seen as traitors who had

fled to the camp of the enemy and through whom the enemy

implemented its designs and wishes. This put the anti-colonial

struggle on a strategic footing while the fight against the regime

itself became almost a tactical matter within that strategy.

The extraordinarily powerful force [of government] that we

face today, has imposed itself on our political, social

and economic life through reliance on the great powers of

Britain and the United States ... In these circumstances

the power of these [two] governments is reflected in the

political influence of the domestic traitors. 36

It was within these conditions that the NRM called for the

upholding of the national honor as the first aim of its programme.

In its interpretation of national honor it referred to the need to

destroy the shame of protege status and called for the acquisition

of political independence, the right to exercise national

sovereignty and political freedoms. 37

Freedom and Constitutionalism

The second theme in the ideology of NRM was that of

political freedom and this was an element alongside, though

secondary to nationalism. The theme was closely followed by the

idea of constitutionalism, although a great distinction was not

35 NRM Documents, V.5, p.154.36 NRM Documents, V.5, p.134.37 The Charter of National Unity, NRM Documents, V. 5, p.3.


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made between the two and at times the meaning of the two ideas:

freedom and constitutionalism were indistinguishable.

The purpose of the national movement was to end the

colonial influence and to help the establishment of

national sovereignty . . When Dr. Mosaddeq reached the

seat of power his government pursued two aims Only: the

implementation of the law of nationalization of the oil

industry and the reform of electoral laws. Had he been

successful in the pursuit of his aims the colonial

influence would have been uprooted and there would have

been an initiation towards the establishment of a lasting

government of people for the people. 38

The NRM saw the articulation of this political inspiration

in the proper conduct of parliamentary elections and the right of

political organizations to unhindered activity. The argument that

the members of parliament should be freely elected appears

constantly in the NRM literature. 39 Indeed despite all odds NRM

put up 12 candidates for the post-coup 18th Majlis, although the

following Majlis was boycotted (1956).

The NRM emphasis on political freedoms had its immediate

background again in the pre-coup National Front experience and in

this respect NRM was the continuation of the National Front,

although within a new political environment. Both the NF and NRM

38 NRM Documents, V.2, p.89.39 NRM Documents, V.2, pp.255-294 and NRM Documents, V.5,

p.165, 596.150

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saw themselves as inheritors of the Constitutional Revolution of

1905 which had stood up against the tyrannical governments of the

time and had established the country's first house of

representatives. The identification with the Constitutional

Revolution and inspirations from its ideas and events comes out

repeatedly in the NRM propaganda. In this context the NRM saw

itself as the manifestation of the effort towards furthering and

completing the ideas and achievements of the Constitutional


Dr. Mosaddeq's greatest service was that 50 years after

the Constitutional [Revolution] he put the following

dilemma to the nation: Does constitutionalism mean that

the head of the executive ... should be appointed by the

desires, will and even whims of a single person or the

majority of the people? 40

It should be pointed out that the NRM activists as well as

some commentators 41 believe that the aim of acquiring political

freedoms was as significant as the anti-colonial struggle. In the

own words of NRM:

Those who believe that the National Movement under the

leadership of Dr. Mosaddeq ... is simply an anti-colonial

40 NRM Documents, V.2, p.17.41 On the role of the idea of democracy and anti-colonialism

within the ideology of the National Front see Katouzian, H.Musaddig and the Struggle for Power in Iran, (I.B.Tauris, London,1990) and Political Economy, and reactions to it includingHomayoun, D. Negahi as Birun Looking within (Iran va Jahan, U.S.1984) p.48, and F. Azimi, Fasl-e Ketab, 7 & 8, 1991.


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campaign ... are no doubt gravely mistaken. Not only Dr.

Mosaddeq's government was a great development in the

history of Iranian constitutionalism ... it was a vital

[element] for the completion of the newly founded

democracy. 42

However a review of the existing NRM publications

including their official organ and particularly their internal

documents indicate that the emphasis on anti-colonial nationalism

and political democracy were not equal at all. While in every page

of every issue, the attacks on colonialists are repeated,

references to the issue of political freedoms and the necessity of

democracy are less readily available. 43 Of course this could be

due to tactical consideration and the fact that anti-colonial

appeals might have had greater response amongst the population,

particularly after the 1953 coup. Nevertheless the difference of

emphasis is one that can not be overlooked.

Charismatic leadership

The necessity of the charismatic leadership of Mosaddeq

played a prominent role in the ideological makeup of NRM. Although

after the 1953 coup Mosaddeq lost all executive positions and was

unable to exercise even indirect leadership, his name and image

remained. Suffice it to say that all NRM publications titles use

his name in one way or another: the Path of Mosaddeq, the

Mosaddeq's Movement, the Mosaddeq's Doctrine. At a time when party

42 NRM Documents, V. 2, p.43.43 Refer to NRM Documents, V.2. & V.5.


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organization was not only weak but also under police pressure and

in decline, it was natural that the role of charismatic

personality should be further exploited. Mosaddeq was the symbol

of the earlier achievements of the National Front and NRM did well

politically by attaching itself to him, despite the lack of

functional organizational contact. Commenting on the significance

of Mosaddeq, one NRM commentator wrote:

It was not Dr. Mosaddeq who created the National Movement,

but undoubtedly and in all truth he suitably held the

responsibility of leadership, without the slightest

deviation or mistake ... No capable commander is separable

from his forces. It is the judgment of the Iranian nation

to worship the great Mosaddeq like an idol. 44

Efforts by the Iran Party wing to reduce the emphasis on

Mosaddeq was apparently one of the reasons of internal dispute

that ultimately lead to the withdrawal of the party from NRM. 45

The prominent role of Mosaddeq in the ideological makeup and

propaganda of the Nationalists was to continue, although it seems

to have declined with the passing of time. Such reliance on the

charismatic personality of a leader might seem contradictory to

the ideals of constitutionalism, democracy and rational process of

government that members of NRM (as a constitutional and democratic

party) aspired to, but the functional realities of an

underdeveloped political society forced and imposed, to say the

44 NRM Documents, V.2, p.44.45 Bazargan, Interview, 1989.


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least, such twists to the ideal. If the charismatic appeal is

distinguished, in the Weberian sense, from the traditional and

legal-rational kind of authority 46 then the efforts of NRM

towards creating social change can be better understood.

Furthermore the emphasis on Mosaddeq was reinforced by government

efforts at portraying itself as upholders of Positive Nationalism

as opposed to what it claimed to be Mosaddeq's negative

nationalism. 47


Anti-colonialism constituted the main theme in the

ideology of NRM but as with many third world ideologies of the

post World-War-Two period, non-alignment had also an important

role to play. NRM not only took Britain and the United States as

its main enemies but it placed the Soviet Union within the ranks

of foreign powers with evil designs on Iran. The main catalyst for

attacks on the "Red Colonialists" was usually the pro-Soviet Tudeh

party. 48 Refuting cooperation with the Tudeh party towards the

establishment of an anti-colonial front, even after the coup had

extensively paralyzed all political activity was coupled with the

accusation that the party was an instrument of Moscow and the

Comintern. Reasons for non-cooperation with the Soviet Union were

never systematically spelled out but included the Soviet policy on

Iran during the 1940-53 period and in particular its, and the

46 Scruton, R. A Dictionary of Political Thought (Pan Books,1982, p.58).

47 Pahlavi, M.R.S. Mission For My Country, See Chapter on MyPositive Nationalism. The term Negative Nationalism (Nasiyunalism-e Manfi) was coined from the Nationalist cliche of PassiveEquilibrium (Movazeneh-e Manfi).

48 NRM Documents, V.5, p.291.154

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Tudeh's position on Mosaddeq government. In this context even old

skeletons such as the pre-communist Russo-British agreement on

extending their spheres of influence in Iran were brought out of

the closet. 49

However it is significant to note that the attacks on the

Soviet Union were relatively limited. While throughout NRM

publications there were constant references to and analysis of the

causes for opposition to the British and the Americans, there was

much less discussion of opposition to the Soviets. In fact the

condemnation of the two sides, ie. the Eastern "Red" and Western

"Black" colonialists, was not comparable at all. Although there is

no doubt that the NRM was opposed to communism and the Soviet

Union, this theme was not overtly developed. One reason might have

been tactical considerations which saw the logic of fighting in

one front. This argument is clearly apparent in one analysis where

a NRM commentator goes as far as to say that the victory of

national liberation movements in the colonized world, including

Iran, would be to the benefit of the USSR and therefore they

should enjoy Soviet support. 50

The immediate background to this NRM policy went back,

once again, to the National Front where Mosaddeq's Passive

49 Anglo-Russian Treaty of 31 August 1907 settleddifferences between the two countries over Iran, Afghanistan andTibet. It divided Iran into three spheres, with northern andcentral Iran in Russian sphere, Southeast in British sphere and aneutral zone in between. The Iranians were not consulted orinformed about the focus of the agreement. Avery, P. (Ed.) TheCambridge History of Iran, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,1991) p.205.

50 On policy towards the USSR see for example NRM document, V.2. p.187, 209.


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Equilibrium was the guiding principle of foreign policy and which

rejected the influence of the traditional colonial powers, Britain

and Russia. This policy was popularly believed to have had its

roots in the Constitutional Revolution where the newly founded

parliament had initiated a "Third Option" in rejecting British and

Russian influence in the hope of obtaining a nationalist policy.51

Mosaddeq's Passive Equilibrium principle has been studied

elsewhere. 52 Here it is sufficient to point out that this

neutralism was similar to the reaction of a number of third world

countries to the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United

States in the 1950's. Since then the word neutralism has been

replaced by non-alignment and even that has become obsolete with

the ending of the cold war (1990). But in the 1950's and the

subsequent three decades neutralism meant the rejection of the

positions symbolized by the United States and the USSR and the

assertion that there was a better, even if not entirely

identified, third way. 53


51 For an example see Kai Ostuvan, H. Siyasat-e Muvazeneh-eManfi The Policy of Passive Equilibrium (Taban, Tehran, 1948)pp.1-20.

52 See the standard texts on the 1950-60 period.53 Nonalignment in international politics, ie. peace time

policy of avoiding political or ideological affiliations withmajor power blocs took shape in the post-WWII cold war period. Themovement took formal initiation in the Bandung Conference (1955)where the Nonaligned Movement was conceived. In the 1950s themovement was more concerned by its political independence andanti-colonialism while in the latter decades it showed moreconcern with economic issues. For an analysis of the movement seeBurton, J.W. (ed.) Nonalignment (Andre, Deutsch, London, 1966).


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The most important tactical consideration which was to

reach strategic proportions was organizing the opposition forces.

Faced with what they saw as alternatives of either attracting the

trust and support of foreign powers and the ruling establishment

or indirect infiltration of major political institutions including

the Majlis and the press, the NRM leaders opted for a third way.

54 This option called for the independent organization of

opposition elements into a formidable fighting machine. This

tactic was reinforced by NRM analysis of the causes of the 1953

coup. In what amounts to one of the most thorough political works

of NRM, three areas were identified as the causes of the

Nationalist defeat: the domestic political arena, the foreign

factor and the internal dynamics of the National Movement. Within

these three the last one (ie. the internal dynamics of the

National movement) was said to be the most readily available and

suitable for change and the most significant in guaranteeing the

strategic independence of the movement. The problems of the

internal dynamics of National Movement included weak leadership,

non-existence of organized operations, poor planning, poor

intelligence, poor propaganda and personal rivalries between

activists. 55 To deal with the problem the NRM published several

pamphlets, giving directions to its members for discussions and

operational matters. It also called on other political

54 NRM Documents, V.5. p.195.55 The Qualitative Evolution of the National Movement, NRM

Documents, V.5, p.239-274.157

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associations and independent activists to close ranks within an

organized association. 58

The National Movement invites all [political]

personalities, parties, and groups and associations ... to

accept and believe in the principle that the victory of

the National Movement lies in obtaining organizational

power and the correct continuation of the struggle. Only

in this respect is it possible to create useful conditions

without the fear of deviation into other [political]

currents. This is the only logical alternative. 57 Without

exaggeration the contemporary age is the age of

organization. In all the spheres of activity, be it

finance, bureaucracy, politics, economy or the military,

victory is for those who have the use of correct and

appropriate organizations. Without organization nothing is

possible 58

However as indicated the organizational and actual

activities of NRM were to remain meagre and insignificant in

comparison to the abilities of the regime. The issue of the

existence of a formidable opposition organization was one of the

reasons that in 1961 the Freedom Movement of Iran and in 1965 the

People's Mojahedin Organization were formed. One factor in their

56 The issue of organization was to become increasinglysignificant in the following decade and of prime reasons in theformation of guerrilla organizations; Mojahedin Khalq, andFadaiyan Khalq. On Mojahedin see Abrahamian, Radical Islam, p.85.

57 NRM Documents, V.5, p.274.58 NRM Documents, V.5, p.264.


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organization was the belief that a highly organized apparatus was

needed in the ranks of the opposition. 59


While on the subject of ideology it is necessary to look

at religion. Generally speaking religion was not an important

element in the intellectual structure of NRM. Throughout their

literature there is little attention given to religion or

religious issues and that which exists is of little significance

in comparison to the anti-colonial or constitutional arguments and

it constitutes possibly less than one percent of the total

rhetoric. It should be pointed out at the same time that the

religious community was not in a position to cooperate with NRM

and therefore there was no need to appeal to the religious

community. Almost all the senior clerics were considered

sympathetic to the establishment and even within the ranks of the

junior clerics the majority were closer to the regime than the

opposition. The state-cleric relation had actually improved

following the 1953 coup and relations between the two did not

start to sour until the issue of the White Revolution (of which

more later) was raised in the early 1960's. 60

Despite these facts the study of religion in the NRM

ideology is of significance for the simple reason that religion

was to become a crucial issue in the years to come. Indeed some

59 On Mojahedin see Abrahamian, Radical Islam, p.85.60 Akhavi, S. Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran

Chaps. 3 & 4.159

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seeds of the later religious movement were sown in the NRM and it

was here that they started to grow.

No definitive reason has been given for why the religious

elements began to stretch their muscle in the NRM. One analyst

believes that the arrest of senior nationalist politicians, who

were almost all proponents of secular politics, allowed the

emergence of the junior but the more religiously oriented

individuals to the leadership. 61 According to another observer it

was the steadfastness and simple stubbornness of the religious

elements, in comparison to the more secular minded activists,

which became attractive among the ranks of the opposition,

particularly the young, thus allowing religion to take deeper

political roots. 62 The attraction lay possibly in the non-

compromising and puritanical image of the stubborn religious

element. It could have also been the fact that the Iran party

which was led by the more secular leaders took a more conciliatory

approach to the regime and thus lost the initiative in the

opposition camp which was to become increasingly radical.

The radicalization of the religious element in the ranks

of NRM is evident from a single document left by the religious

groups of the movement. The letter signed by the 'Movement of God-

Worshipping Socialists", the "Islamic Society of Students" and the

61 Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, Chap.3, see section on National Resistance Movement. passim.

62 Jazani, B. Tarh-e Jame'eh shenasi Va Mabani-yeEsteratezhi-ye Jonbesh-e Engelabi-ye Khalgh-e Iran, Sociological Sketch and Strategic Principles of the Revolutionary Movement ofThe Iranian Masses (Maziar Publications, Tehran, 1978) p.85.


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"Cooperative Society of God-Worshippers" indicates the existing

tensions between the secular and the religious orientations being

viewed to correspond to the class strains within the ranks of the

opposition. The document, an open letter, accuses the secular

intellectuals of moral corruption, class exploitation and

political compromise with the enemy. The signatories state, in no

uncertain terms, that they are not prepared to make sacrifices for

the "idle gigolos and the slipshod ladies" who as members of the

affluent families are in fact a part of the ruling classes.

However the signatories declare their preparation as the toiling

class to struggle, fight and make sacrifices for a movement that

would be religious in nature. 63

It should be re-emphasized that religious arguments in the

ideological structure of NRM were marginal. On several occasions

appeals were made to the religious consciousness of the people. In

one case the Algerian anti-colonial campaign was compared to the

war that Hosain, the third Shiite Imam, waged against the ruling

house of Mo'avyeh, at the desert of Karbala. Taking into account

the depth of passion which Hosain's death traditionally evoked in

the hearts of the ordinary Iranian, the association of his

martyrdom with the Algerian national struggle meant an immediate

popular identification against the might and power of the French


On one other occasion the NRM warned the highest cleric of

the day, Ayatollah Borujerdi, of the consequences of state

63 NRM Documents, V.2, pp.369-374.161

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authoritarianism and played on xenophobic fears. But generally

speaking then the religious element was of little significance in

the actual ideological make up of NRM, but with the rise of

uncompromising Muslim activists it was to become an issue of

unprecedented proportions.

Internal Conflicts

One of the reasons that NRM failed to emerge as a

formidable political organization was its internal ideological

conflicts. 64 Political issues which were to become centres of

conflict were mainly over matters of organization and tactic. For

one thing conflicts from the pre-coup years were dragged into the

movement. In one case the leadership crisis in the Toilers Party

(Third Force) 65 which had not only the best organization but also

the best cadres paralyzed party functions and led to a three way

split within its ranks. Other political and personal rivalries

surfaced within as well as in between political organization.

The NRM leadership also lacked the necessary experience

and the expertise in dealing with the situation. The admission to

this shortcoming was declared openly in the movement's plenium.

We have to confirm the point that the action of NRM

could not have been without errors and criticism ... right

from the beginning [rather than initiating policy] NRM was

64 For a review of conflicts within the ranks of themovement see NRM Documents, V.5, pp.263-266, & 311-332.

65 For details of the Tailors Party crisis see Katouzian,Musaddiq & the Struggle for Power in Iran, Chaps. 15 & 16. passim.


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reacting to daily events . NRM has well learnt its

weaknesses ... and has experienced many defeats. 66

No details were given and it is not clear what other

options, rather than the policies that they had already chosen

could have been pursued. It seems NRM interest in organizational

issues stemmed from this general failure.

One other conflict which apparently led to the withdrawal

of the Iran party from the Movement and thus caused the NRM's

total dismemberment was the tactical option of approaching the

regime and its foreign supporters. 67 The Iran party believed it

could utilize the existing contradictions between the supporters

of the regime, ie. the Americans and the British to the advantage

of the opposition. While President Dwight Eisenhower was shifting

US policy from Soviet containment to reinforcement of regional

defence arrangement, there was a belief among the leadership of

the Iran party that the US was willing to pull away from Iran's

authoritarian establishment and make closer contacts with the

opposition. To this end the Iran Party wished to project a more

reasonable portrait of itself by reducing attacks on the US as

well as the Shah and putting less emphasis on the person of

Mosaddeq. On the other hand the radical faction in the NRM, to

which Bazargan belonged, wished to maintain the anti-colonial,

anti-establishment and pro-Mosaddeq posture. In this context they

accused the Iran party of inflaming hopes of reconciliation with

66 NRM Documents, V.5. p.312.67 Bazargan, interview, 1989.


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the US and thus losing valuable time and opportunity for building

a functional and active organization. While the more conciliatory

approach found a base in the older and more senior members of the

rank and file, the radicals option was more popular within the

younger students and less senior supporters. 68

Law and Social Evolution

From the 1953 coup and its subsequent political

restrictions to the opening of the climate at the end of decade

Bazargan wrote a relatively small number of books and pamphlets:

1955 The War of Yesterday and Tomorrow 69

1957 Love and Worship or the Human Thermodynamics 70

The Current Needs 71

1958 The Worship of God and Current Ideas 72

The book Love and Worship or the Human Thermodynamics was

written in prison and is a juxtaposition of scientific ideas and

concepts of social relations. The Current Needs pamphlet

emphasized and called for the need for social organization,

apparently in the face of mounting state suppression and disunity

among the ranks of the opposition. The second pamphlet was a

repeat of an earlier argument from the 1940's on the critique of

68 NRM Documents, V.5, p.263-265.69 Jang-e Diruz va Farda. (Monthly publication of Mashhad

Industrial College, 1955). No other details available.70 'Eshq va Parastesh ya Termudinamic Ensan (Enteshar

Publications, Tehran, nd.) First published in 1957, according toprivate documents in possession of the author.

71 Ihtiyaj-e Ruz (Book Distribution centre, Houston, 1976).First published in 1957.

72 Khuda Parasti va Afkar-e Ruz (Book Distribution centre,Houston, 1977). First published in 1958.


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the Modernists' supposedly unjust perception of religion. 73 The

fall in Bazargan's work was a direct result of censorship and

political restrictions. As soon as the political climate opened at

the end of the decade Bazargan produced some 13 books and

pamphlets in a space of three years.

To portray the ideas of Bazargan in the 1953-60 period two

arguments on the Evolutionary Course of Religion and Social Laws

have been chosen. The first argument comes in a book The Trodden

Path that Bazargan published originally in 1947, based on a

speech one year earlier. However the book was extensively revised

at a later stage. Bazargan indicates that he wrote one hundred

pages of the 240 page book during his first spell in prison. Other

sections were also revised but unfortunately neither Bazargan nor

the publisher have recollections of the exact date of the later

revisions. However it is clear that the main revisions belong to

the 1953-60 period when Bazargan seems to have been engaged in

elaborating themes on the nature of evolutionary and social laws.

Therefore it is reasonable to discuss the arguments presented in

the book in the post 1953 period. The second argument comes in the

book Love and Worship which was also written in prison, and later

elaborated and published. 74

The choice of the two arguments is made to reflect the

fact that the two not only complement each other in Bazargan's

73 The fact that Bazargan's continues his emphasis onreligious issues while the NRM paid little attention to thereligion, even on a rhetorical level, indicates his marginalideological position at this point even though he had a leadingorganizational position in the movement.

74 Bazargan, Defence, p.16.165

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vision of things, but they are representative of developments in

Bazargan's intellectual position. Following the 1953 coup Bazargan

draws away from addressing the currents of ideas in society and

begins to address the particular currents which reflect the ideas

of those in power. The prelude to this development is Bazargan's

efforts to prove that social developments and social relations are

governed by laws. In other words history and society are said to

be governed by processes which are rational and logical. If this

premise is accepted it then becomes necessary to discover these

Laws. Should there be a failure in acting according to these laws,

Bazargan states, social decadence will set in. Initially we follow

Bazargan's discourse on historical evolution, or as he puts it,

the Evolutionary Course of Religion. Then the argument of social

laws or in his own words the Thermodynamics of Society is studied.

Evolutionary Course of Religion

Here Bazargan's argument is that the worship of God (ie.

religion) has developed through evolution. However this process

has two sides. On the one hand is the lineage of divine truths

revealed to the prophets and on the other hand the truths

discovered by ordinary human beings through various, and evolving,

levels of rational faculty interacting with nature. While the

lineage of the prophets has reached its final climax and obtained

the highest truths, the human has yet to reach its peak.

Bazargan states that the mission of the prophets evolved

with regard to the peculiarities of time and place that they had

lived in and advanced in parallel to the growth of human


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civilization. The evolutionary process of the prophets lineage

started with Noah, 75 passed through Lot, 76 Jaycob, 77 Joseph, 78

Moses 79 and Jesus to reach its height with Mohammad. Other

prophets who are not mentioned in the Koran including Buddha and

Zoroastera and even the prophets of the ancient Egyptian religions

are also said to have a place in the process. Thus all religion is

a continuity aimed at teaching Monotheism, human responsibility

and to reveal the truth of the hereafter. 80

Human beings advance, and along their side the prophets

are given their mission: At one stage their role is that

of a nurse keeping the child from falling, at another

time, it is to harness the frenzied youth ... and finally

. to show the long, dangerous but productive road of

life to the young man. 81

75 The story of Noah and the flood is repeated a number oftimes in The Koran, see VII, 59-64, 142, and XI, 25-49.

76 Lut (Lot of the Bible) and his story are Biblical. He issent as a warner to people of Sodom and Gomorrah. See Gen. XIX,24-26 & 30-36, and The Koran VII 80-84.

77 Jaycob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. For hisstory see The Koran, II, 132 and VI, 84.

78 Joseph, the son of Jaycob. Chapter (Sura) XII of TheKoran is dedicated to his story.

79 The Koran portrays Moses as the prophet of God and theleader of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. The Koran, II, 29.

80 The three ideas are a version of the three principles ofMuslim faith: Tawhid (belief in the one God) Nabuvvat (Mohammad isthe prophet of God) and Ma'ad (there is no escape from the finalday of judgment). Goldschmidt, A. A Concise History of the Middle East (Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1979) p.39.

81 Bazargan, The Trodden Path, p.30.167

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The mission of the prophets was to reform a generation of

human beings. But not all of their audience accepted the true and

divine guidance. Thus they were seized by blasphemy and

consequently destroyed by natural disasters. He gives an example:

The nobles of the tribe thought of a great deceit [against

Noah] ... but the storm came and destroyed the generation

of infidels who were un-reformable and who would not bare

but infidels and adulterers. 82

The prophets' periodic missions were then aimed at the

guidance of the populace followed by the destruction of the

infidels. The process therefore included a selection of an elite

and the purpose of advancing the progress of mankind.

Selection (as in the term used by the masters of natural

sciences) is carried out in the garden of humanity. The

experienced gardener uproots the inferior plants and

leaves the pious to reproduce. However in accordance with

the law of heredity and under the influence of the

environment, the later generations are attracted towards

diverse ends. In the later cultivations, various types of

people including the pious but also the corrupt begin to

re-appear. It again becomes necessary to designate a new

prophet to reform the race. 83

82 Bazargan, The Trodden Path p.22.83 Bazargan, The Trodden Path, p.22.


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This evolutionary process had its own peculiar

characteristics: it began at a primitive stage of idol-worship and

advanced to conditions where man assumed responsibility for his

behaviour, followed by the organization of his social life.

Furthermore the process had geographical and social aspects:

initially the audience of the prophets were limited to the circles

of friends and the immediate tribe. But with the evolution of

religion the audience enlarged to reach the whole humanity.

There was also an apparent development in method. While at

the early stages of human growth the emphasis of the prophets was

on human conditions, at the later stages the learned and acquired

dispositions were appealed to and finally the intellectual and

logical methods were utilized. 84

Now a similar form of evolution was taking place among

mankind in general for the evolutionary path which had already

been passed by the prophets was the very way that man was passing

through. But while prophets had reached the climax of the teaching

the evolution of the path of man continued. While the prophets

were guided by divine inspiration (with its mechanism unknown to

us) in order that they could comprehend the truth of the worship,

man was to reach the same conclusion through experience and

logic. 85 Based on this assumption Bazargan points out that the

Western secular civilization is closer to the path of truths

84 Bazargan, The Trodden Path, pp.20-42.85 Bazargan, The trodden Path, p.19.


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revealed to the prophets than the traditional eastern culture of

Iran which is yet to reach that stage. 86

From the very first day man has not passed through any

path except that of the prophets. Interestingly the

extremists, groups who are the vanguard of scientific

materialism, are on the way which will inevitably lead to

God, the here after and religion. Indeed they maybe closer

to the understanding of the truth of origins and

resurrection of man than many of the superstitious

faithful. 87

What Bazargan sketches in the above argument is reducible

to two basic cluster of ideas: on the one hand the story of the

prophets and their teachings and on the other hand the fact that

their message has evolved. Bazargan brings the stories from the

Koran and then expands on what the prophets were supposed to have

done. These ideas are then put in an evolutionary framework.88

Bazargan's emphasis is on two issues: Firstly that communities are

86 The impact of this ideas on the - yet to be formed -Mojahedin Khalq Organization was immense. In the first three yearsof its activity the MKO produced a number of books including oneentitled Rah-e Anbiya Rah-e Bashar, The Way of the Prophets, TheWay of Humanity. The title of the book seems to have come from theheading of a chapter by Bazargan in the Trodden Path. Another MKObook was Evolution. Given the fact that the authors of the bookshad been members of the FMI before forming their own organizationin the early 1960s, it would be safe to assume that they picked upthe idea of evolution, of society and religion, from Bazargan'sTrodden Path. For the Mojahedin's story see Abrahamian, Radical Islam p.92 & 100.

87 Bazargan, The Trodden Path, Introduction, p.3.88 It seems that Bazargan was the first to articulate, in a

consistent form, the theme in Iran. The idea was a standard byChristian apologists once the historicity of the sacred events wastruly established.


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either believing or denying the existence of the divine and

secondly that this process is an evolutionary and historic one.

The evolution of man is the divine will. However some

traditionalists and pessimists might want to deny this

reality and this truth. 89

For Bazargan this evolutionary progress has its own

measures of progress: it starts from individualism and localism to

develop into universalism, and it tends from emotions towards the

realism of logic. These are said to be the measures of evolution.

Bazargan's sources are more or less easily identifiable.

The stories of the prophets except those of the ancient religions

(ie.Buddha, Zoroastra and Mazdak) all come from the Koran. But the

ideas of evolution, or at least part of it, have their roots in

Darwin's Origin of Species and the Theory of Natural Selection.

Bazargan himself points to the issue of selection which is said to

have come in Darwin's discussions on the history of evolution.

In this sense a selection, as used by the natural

scientists, 90 has been made in the human farm. 91

Partial and distorted use of the ideas of Charles Darwin

(1809-82) on the theories of evolution and natural selection was

89 Bazargan, The trodden Path, p.31.90 Here Bazargan goes as far as using the Romance word

Selection, in the Persian text as to emphasis the point.91 Bazargan, The Trodden Path, p.22.


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not unique to Bazargan. Similar usage of Darwin's ideas, though

with different arguments have European precedents. From the late

19th century Social Darwinists drew on the concept of the survival

of the fittest to support racist ideas, which was in turn used by

the Nazis as evidence for their arguments. Also the European

imperialist expansion was at times explained in pseudo-Darwinian

language where it was the burden of the powerful white man to rule

over the animal like communities of the world. 92 Obviously

Bazargan's usage of Darwin is to portray not the superiority of a

race but that of religious belief in an evolutionary process.

At the same time the Muslim belief that the mission of

Mohammad was the last in the course of prophets reinforced the

evolutionary concept. The Koran verse that "Mohammad is the

apostle of God, and the seal of the prophets' 93 could be

foundation of the view that since Mohammad has completed the

lineages of prophets there must have been an "evolutionary' course

which had culminated with him. It is possible that this idea too

contributed to strengthening Bazargan's view on historical


The third root of Bazargan's idea on evolution concerns

the criteria of progress and change. But this is not something

that he had adapted from the Koran or Darwin. Of course his

measurements of evolution, ie. rationalism and collectivism have

similarities in Islamic Shiite texts, however not in the direct

92 Eccleshall R. Political Ideologies (Hutchinson, London,1984) See sections on Social Darwinism.

93 The Koran, XXXIII, 40.172

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manner that Bazargan has adapted from the holy book. In the Shiite

tradition the source of Muslim laws are said to be intellect

(Ag1), consensus (ijma'), tradition and the Koran. And of course

not in that order. 94 The use of reason and consensus in Shiism is

to support other sources of jurisprudence.

Here Bazargan's emphasis on rationalism and collectivity

seem to have parallels with the ideas of French philosopher Aguste

Comte (d.1857). known as the founder of sociology and Positfvfsm,

Comte introduced the idea of historical development of human

thought which took place in three states of the theological, the

metaphysical and the positivist. 95 Comte's elaboration on the

issue of the relation between the hierarchy of exact social

sciences and the organization of social order was influenced by

Saint-Simon, social reformer and a founder of Socialism. 96 Both

ideas seem to be in harmony with Bazargan's idea on the evolution

of human mind and the corresponding social organization. However

the researcher has not identified routes of Comte's influence on

Bazargan. Comte however did influence French conservatism, and its

twentieth century manifestation, the Action Francaise, with which

Bazargan was in contact during his studies in France. 97 It is

possible to speculate that Bazargan was influenced through this


94 Enayat, H. Modern Islamic Political Thought, (MacmillanPress, London, 1982) p.48 & 167.

95 Merz, J.T. A History of European Thought, V.III (WilliamBlackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, MCMXIV) p.88.

96 Merz, A History of European Thought, V.IV, p.470.97 Soltaw, R. French Political Thought in the Nineteenth

Century (Ernest Ben Ltd. London, 1931) p.204.173

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Now it is possible to enquire about the logical coherence

and compatibility of Koran stories of the prophets, the concept of

evolution and the criteria for evolution. Bazargan is interpreting

the Koran in his own terms and obviously the configuration of the

three concepts are peculiar to his own understanding. But the

issue of the compatibility of a religious perception with that of

natural selection and evolution has a precedent in the West. Here

an active and lively debate between the Evolutionists and the

Creationists has been going on since Darwin's On the Origins of

Species (1859) came to challenge traditional understanding,

particularly traditional Christianity, on the role and nature of

man. The challenges to Biblical literalism were seen to be the

impersonal process of variation and natural selection (as opposed

to the existence of an intelligent designer over and above the

universe) and the arbitrary nature of man (as opposed to the

immortality of the human soul and the distinctiveness of his

rationality). The Christian theological reaction to the idea of

evolution has been categorized into three basic arguments; that

God controls events that appear random, that God has designed a

system of law and chance, or that God influences events without

controlling them. At the same time an effort has been made to move

from a position of conflict to that of open dialogue and

systematic synthesis (ie. developing a theology of nature as

opposed to a natural theology).98

It seems appropriate to enquire about the aim of Bazargan

in presenting the story of the prophets in an evolutionary format.

98 Barbour, I.G. Religion in an Age of Science (SCM Press,London, 1990) Chap. 6, passim.


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In other words what does he wish to do through this argument? From

a political point of view it is Bazargan's position vis-a-vis

political power, sovereign or subjected, that is of interest. The

meaning, logic, language, aims and motives of Bazargan must be

analyzed in themselves and in the context of political events and

ideas of the day to appreciate their significance. It should be

remembered that Bazargan was earlier critical of the Modernists

for their failure to acknowledge the social significance of

religion and their superficial imitation of the Europeans. Here

again Bazargan is trying to defend the same position with a

different argument and in order to attract the social and

political attention to the issue of religion. We have also

discussed Bazargan's critique of traditionalists for their lack of

social and political activity. Here again the same meaning is

repeated in a different manner by emphasizing collectivism and

rationalism. Similar efforts were detected earlier in discussing

Bazargan's views on Labour where he tried to interlock religious

ideas of good deeds with those of historic evolution.

From one point of view the undeclared assumption of

Bazargan in the composition of the two ideas (ie. evolution of

religion and rationalism/collectivism) in the argument that the

way of man is the path already passed through by the prophets is

to allow himself to make the achievements of modern civilization

available to the traditional society. In other words with the

argument that the achievements of contemporary civilization will

only take man closer to the path and the aim of the prophets (ie.

the path which the traditional society believes itself to follow)


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Bazargan allows himself and the traditional society to come closer

and use modern philosophical or scientific achievements.

However the significance of the present argument about

evolution is that it acts as a prelude to Bazargan's discussion of

the significance of social law. Following the 1953 coup Bazargan

adds this new theme to the argument on evolution. He switches the

argument which until then addressed the traditionalist and

Modernist currents to a discourse against the tyranny of the state

and in defence of political and civil liberties. Thus the study of

the argument on evolution must be seen as the efforts of a man

facing political repression and violations of social laws, which

in his mind, of course, inhibited social evolution. He therefore

intends to use the argument to motivate the various social strata

into political action. (As with Marxism, for example, which also

uses a theory of history as the basis for political action and a

means of political mobilization).

The argument is especially designed to address traditional

elements. While in the earlier stages Bazargan was criticizing the

traditionalists for their conservative approach and apathy towards

social progress, he is now emphasizing his points so as to

radicalize the society vis-a-vis the rule of tyranny. In fact

Bazargan wishes to bring the religious community into the

political sphere and to this end he tries to arm them with a

rational, social and historic ideology. The theme was significant

enough that from the over 20 articles, pamphlets and books that he

wrote in the 1953-63 period in at least six the argument on


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evolution has been repeated with different emphasis and different

arguments and different languages. In other words in almost a

third of Bazargan's work of the period there is concern for the

issue of historical evolution.

Natural Laws of Society

Based on the idea that history has an evolutionary and

detectable pattern Bazargan sets his eyes on defining the laws of

this process and thus condemning those whose practices are against

the direction of the laws of social evolution and who are

therefore, in Bazargan's mind, are condemned to destruction. These

people, Bazargan believes, are those in power, those who have

subjected him and is associates to arbitrary practice of power and


Bazargan's argument builds on the premise that in the same

manner that the elements of a physical, chemical or mechanical

phenomenon follow certain particular patterns in their relations

with each other, the social elements, ie. the individual persons,

too pursue basic laws in their relations with each other. Bazargan

thus elaborates a mechanical set of social relations.

Society is a system which could be subject to

regulations similar to laws of physics, chemistry or

thermodynamics ... of course it would be very complicated

and extraordinarily more complex than a simple system of

gas or a combination of water and steam. 99

99 Bazargan, Love and Worship or The Human Thermodynamics, p.96.


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Law in a society relatively determines the responsibility

of individuals in their profession, the social scale and

regulation of their relations with each other as well as

[social] processes. It is exactly as the map drawn for the

operations of the pieces of a machinery. 100

Should the natural laws of society be observed, society

will prosper constantly improving itself and even finally

achieving eternal life. The characteristics of the natural laws of

society, according to Bazargan, are on the one hand

specialization, correct division of labour, proper appointment of

individuals to social responsibilities and on the other hand

justice and fair treatment in social relations.

Social justice is itself evident from the natural laws

inherent in social relations. If, Bazargan states, laws are not

made according to customs and aspirations of society and if

"parameters and particularities" of society are not taken into

account they will have adverse effects. 101 Bazargan thus puts

forward the logic of the necessity of observing the rights of

individuals within a mechanized interpretation of social


Members of society have particular characteristics and

there must be a balance between these characteristics and

100 Bazargan, Love and Worship or the Human Thermodynamics,

p.94. 101 Bazargan, Love and Worship or the Human Thermodynamics,


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the responsibilities required of them. Much like when

parts of gas turbines are being designed according to the

desired strength and power. In the design the particular

characteristics of each part must be taken into account.102

Earlier we followed Bazargan's efforts at interpreting

some form of evolution in the historical process. In comparison

the argument on law is an effort to define the relations between

individual members of society. The main emphasis of Bazargan in

this argument is on law as it rules over society in much the same

way as natural laws govern the mechanical actions of a natural

body. According to Bazargan desired [legal] laws are which take

into account the social particularities and then guide social

relations towards a desired evolutionary ideal. Bad [legal] laws

are those which fail to take into account these particularities.

Here Bazargan seems to be introducing an ambiguity between

law meaning a judicial and legal rule and law as an underlying

determination of phenomena independent of human will. His

conception of law, the fact that he does not distinguish between

social/legal law and the laws of the physical world resembles the

conception of law as held during the middle ages in Europe where

law was popularly conceived as a circumambient atmosphere which

extended from the sky to earth and penetrated every aspect of

human relations. Everyone believed in the reality of natural law,

but also felt all law to be eternally valid and in some degree

102 Bazargan, Love and Worship or the Human Thermodynamics,


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sacred as the providence of God was concerned to be a universally

present force which touched man's lives in most trifling details.

The custom which was rooted in the ways of the people was in no

sense set off from natural law but rather was felt to be a twig of

the great tree of the law, which grew from earth to heaven and in

whose shade all human life was lived. 1" Bazargan looked at law

in similar fashion, for it was conceived to be an all embracing

phenomenon, root, trunk and branches, which included not only

natural law but also legal as well as scientific law.

It is quite evident that the argument on social laws has

been brought forward with inspiration from thermodynamics.

Bazargan study's of the subject in Paris and the subsequent

teaching of the subject in Tehran's technical college has been

already discussed. From there on the use of thermodynamic, both as

analogy and source of inspiration was common in his political

reflections. The most clear of examples already cited is the

physiological analysis of human thermodynamics, as discussed


It has already been discussed how Bazargan had generalized

and extended the concept of thermodynamics to that of social

labour. Now he is extending it to that of social relations. Taking

this point into the background it should be stated that the

juxtapositioning the laws of thermodynamics with those of social

relations are an example of functional use of natural sciences.

103 Sabine, A History of Political Theory, p.195.180

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Bazargan's purpose in bringing up the issue of law is to

confront the political tyranny that had been imposed after the

1953 coup. Taking into account the conditions of the time and the

imposed political restrictions, Bazargan was not able to openly

express his views. The restrictions are particularly clear with

regard to the argument on law, for it was written while he was in

prison. In his own words the work was "a souvenir from the early

months of imprisonment at the Martial Law ... where fortunately

reading and writing was not yet banned". 104

Setting forth the issue of law is in fact his protest at

what he believes to be lawlessness or at least the practice of bad

law. The fact that he feels the existing judiciary can not give

him protection in the face of the arrest and political suppression

of himself and his collaborators, and he seeks to somehow explain

the situation. It is thus that he comes to believe that the laws

governing the establishment and the country are designed to

protect and represent the interests of a few.

The most ideal [legal] laws are those which manage the

society according to the average condition of the majority

. Reformist laws are those in which the majority of

people express their views, norms and acceptable social

traditions and which harness the degenerate social

minorities. 105

104 Bazargan, Love and Worship or The Human Thermodynamics



105 Bazargan, Love and Worship or the Human Thermodynamics,


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Bazargan's change of theme is significant. While in the

1940-53 period he addressed the topics brought up by the social

currents of Modernists, traditionalists and communists, in the

post 1953 period he addresses the topic of the lawlessness of

government. His problem is more than anything else that of the

arbitrary power of the sovereign and its relationship to the

people. In the new argument the earlier language and terms have

been maintained and the same form of logic and methods of argument

repeated, however the topic and the problem have changed.

However Bazargan's belief in the existence or the

necessity of observance of social laws did not arise because he

suddenly discovered that since natural bodies have laws governing

them the social body should have particular laws which must be

observed. Of course this logic exists within Bazargan's argument

and it is not possible to deny his efforts at discovering laws

that govern social behavior. However the conclusion is arrived at

through encounter with what he believes to be social injustice and

lawlessness and the necessity of the existence of laws in society.

Arbitrary rule and lawlessness pressure him to seek regulations of

social affairs and persuade him to use the logic of


Using models from the natural sciences is on the one hand

due to the effect of the scientific logic on Bazargan's social

perception and on the other hand due to their functionality in

advancing social aims. However it is the latter which seems to


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have the edge. In the history of political ideas in the West

scientific interpretations of social developments and the

attribution of scientific laws to social relations has a chapter

of its own.

Finally there is a need to point out the contradictions

which exist in the last sections of the argument. Here Bazargan

states the view that since each part of the social system has a

peculiarity of its own, and that for a smooth running of the whole

system there is a need to observe and respect the peculiarities,

therefore those laws which take into account the characteristics

of the majority of the people are good. Taking into account the

particular political and personal conditions facing Bazargan, the

aim of this argument seems to be an effort in curtailing the

political power of state. However it seems that the logic of the

argument could be used to defend an authoritarian rule. The belief

that the value of the members of society lies not in their

inherent existence as individuals but in their use and function,

could possibly cause a deviation from Bazargan's purpose. In other

words if Bazargan intends to use the argument towards limiting the

power of the state and thus transfering greater power to the

individual his argument might prove defective in the final



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Social Developments 1960-63

By 1960 things were becoming awkward. The Americans had

started pressing the Shah for reforms as the liberal wing of

policy makers in Washington became increasingly concerned about

unconditional support for corrupt and authoritarian regimes in the

third world. This perception was particularly reinforced in the

administration of President J.F.Kennedy after the communist take

over in Cuba. Within Iran the economic difficulties of the late

50's had brought about general discontent. The political

opposition had picked up momentum and the Majlis had become vocal.

Under these pressures the Shah decided to liberalize. The 20th

Majlis elections were cancelled (Agust 1960) on the grounds that

they were rigged and PM Manuchehr Iqbal was asked to resign. The

Shah appointed Ja'far Sharif-Imami to form a cabinet. However the

new PM failed to either attract the trust of the Americans or Co

restrain the domestic economic crisis. His cabinet fell after one

person was killed in violent demonstrations protesting against

wage freezes. 1

The Shah was forced further back and subsequently Ali

Amini was appointed the Prime Minister. Earlier Amini and those

around him had begun to flex their muscles in the newly opened

political climate. However as a former Iranian ambassador to

Washington Amini was disliked by the Shah who saw him as a US

favourite. The Shah was also weary of Amini's political ambitions

but he needed Amini to bring about the necessary changes. The two

1 The analysis here has been based on data and arguments in:Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, pp.420-426, Avery,Modern Iran, Chap. 29, passim. Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran pp.213-224, Katouzian, Musaddiq & the Struggle forPower in Iran Chaps. 15 & 16. Keddie, Roots of the Revolution, pp.150-153.


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men compromised: Shah retained control of the armed forces and

Amini strengthened the executive at the cost of the legislature by

closing down the Majlis. This move alienated the landed classes

who held the majority of seats in the parliament and who were to

become even further disillusioned with Amini, himself of land-

owning aristocratic stock, when he introduced a land reform


At the same time Amini could have become acceptable to the

National Front. 2 On the one hand he had been the minister of

economy in Musaddiq's government and on the other hand he

initiated discussions with the Front and chose several reformers

for his cabinet. Furthermore he reduced political pressure

allowing political associations to operate openly after seven

years. However the National Front refused to support Amini's

reform programme on the grounds that he failed to meet their

demand for free elections. The Front agitated against his

government. Amini's main argument was that to carry out his main

programme of land reform in order to create an independent class

of farmers he needed strong government. Pressure built up against

Amini and the climate changed. The traditional conservatives

opposed his land reform. The Nationalists were unhappy with his

refusal to hold free elections. The Shah saw him as a personal

challenge. Finally Amini made a tactical mistake of resigning over

2 The National Front activists had begun meeting andorganizing at the time of Sharif-Imami. Earlier, the SecondNational Front was born. On the Second National Front seeKatouzian, H. Musaddiq & the Struggle For Power in Iran (I.B.Tauris, London, 1990) chap. 16, passim.


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a secondary issue. The Shah accepted and moved to prepare his own

men to take control of power.

At this point the Shah relied on the armed forces, the

bureaucracy and conservative forces outside the government,

including the landlords and the clergy, to advance his position. A

faithful collaborator, Asadullah 'Alam was appointed as the prime

minister, giving the Shah personal control over daily running of

government. 'Alam had in mind to carry out a three point strategy:

Majlis elections, land reform and political suppression. While the

conservatives were pacified with the danger of an all-out reform

receding, the police moved against political activists including

former PM Amini and National Front leaders. Elections for the 21th

Majlis were carried out with even greater government control.

The Shah hijacked for his own ends the land reform

programme first implemented by the Amini cabinet. The purpose of

the reform programme which soon went beyond the distribution of

land while maintaining the land issue as its central feature were

multiple. Socially it was designed to destroy the social and

economic base of the traditional patterns of rural relations. It

was also intended to reorganize social relations on a more modern

basis in rural areas. Politically it was designed to create a

progressive image for the state so as to meet American demands for

reform and, on the domestic front, to paralyze internal

opposition. It also helped the movement of land based capital into

urban industry and made the state the unrivalled centre of capital

accumulation. The economic effects of the White Revolution were

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not immediate, however their long term reverberations were


Obviously the move by the state to destroy an old rival

was to meet with resistance particularly from those of the

conservative classes. The landlord had indeed realized the

political implications of the White Revolution. However reaction

from the urban based and democratic National Front opposition was

minimal and confused. For a long time they kept silent and then

reacted only by criticizing the lack of political freedoms in the

country. Their behaviour possibly indicates the degree to which

they had lost political initiative in terms of social manipulation

and the fact that they accepted the modernizing and progressive

nature of the reforms.

The most violent reaction came from the religious

leadership. Possibly more than any thing else an instinctive fear

of the extension of the powers of the state into all levels of

life was their driving force. Provocative sermons and political

agitations directed towards the religious community and led by the

yet little known Ayatullah Khomeini soon brought large crowds to

the streets. The disturbances led to massive popular uprising on

6th June 1963. The government took a tough stand and ordered a

shoot to kill policy. After three days of rioting and scores of

deaths the regime triumphed. At one stroke the conservative as

well as the religious radical rivals of the regime were dealt

with. The ground was laid for the rise of the almost undisputed

rule of the state for the next decade and a half.

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On the economic front the improvements which had started

in 1953 came to a standstill in 1960. On its way the boom had

caused inflation and a balance of payment deficit. The inflation

was triggered largely by too much credit, little control on

foreign currency, the purchase of too many non-essential imported

goods and too little productive investment. The greater part of

the state revenue, which had increased significantly because of

growth in oil income, failed to be used for investment purposes

because it was being swallowed up in current expenditure. Finally

the economy became depressed though not stagnant. Poor economic

prospects as well as political uncertainty reduced domestic

investment, and urban land prices (the main speculative sector)

bore the brunt of the fall.

As general counter measures the state began to tighten

credit, reduce imports, lower public expenditure and borrow

abroad. Initially PM Sharif-Imami introduced a stabilization

programme intended to increase import duties, to discourage non-

essential imports, limit domestic credit, and restrict foreign

exchange buying. Later Amini instituted stringent measures

requested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In the

meantime the increasing value of the oil exports as well as US

financial aid provided helpful short term relief. 3

3 The analysis has relied on data and arguments in:Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, pp.420-426, Avery,Modern Iran, chapter 29, passim. Katouzian, The Political Economyof Modern Iran, pp.213-224, Katouzian, Musaddiq & the Struggle forPower in Iran Chaps. 15 & 16, Keddie, Roots of the Revolution, pp. 150-153


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Freedom Movement of Iran

With the 1960 liberalization allowing a degree of

political activity, a group of Nationalists, including Bazargan,

formed the Second National Front. However differences were to

develop within the Front and to have strategic impact on the

course of events. The more conservative tendency rested with the

leadership cadre while the former NRM activists formed the nucleus

of a younger and more radical wing. 4 It was from the ranks of

latter tendency and upon the experience of the NRM years that

Bazargan and a group of his associates decided to form a new

political group. Again here Bazargan took the initiative and with

the support of his close collaborators formed the Freedom Movement

of Iran. 5

The formation of FMI seems to have had two

characteristics: the desire to create a political organization

with an Islamic identity (added to the nationalist,

constitutionalist and democratic credentials) and a more radical

position in Iranian Nationalist opposition. To quote Bazargan;

For us and a large number of our associates . . there

could not have been any other motive than that of

religious principles and beliefs ... For others Islam was

4 On the politics of the Second National Front seeKatouzian, Musaddig and the Struggle for Power in Iran, chap. 16passim, and Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, pp. 143-155.

5 For a review of the circumstantial events leading to theformation of FM1 see Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, pp.156-169.


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not an active social and political ideology. There was no

party or group functioning within such a context. 6

The ideology of the FMI will be discussed in greater

detail. Here it is sufficient to point out the fundamentals of the

manifesto of the organization which was published and distributed

at the inaugural ceremony (May 17, 1961). The constitution claimed

to be based on Islam, the Iranian constitution, the U.N. Charter

and the universal declaration of human rights. In domestic affairs

it called for respect for the constitution, Islamic social ethics,

democracy, economic independence and bureaucratic, specially

judicial reforms. In the domain of foreign policy it called for

Iranian neutrality in world affairs, support for the U.N., good

neighbourly relations, cooperation with Islamic countries and

search for non-violent solutions to world affairs. It is

interesting to note here that a number of these principles

particularly those concerning bureaucratic reform, neutral foreign

policy and constitutionalism were put to test when FMI came to

power in the post 1979 revolution. But of this more later.

There was only a nineteen month period of free, albeit

limited activity, from the official declaration of the intent of

activity to the first arrest of the leadership cadre (January

1963). Within this period the party opened a club, applied for

membership in the SNF, drew closer to the religious community and

produced a number of publications and pamphlets. Showing political

6 Bazargan, Defence, p.207.191

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consistency, radicalism and religiosity the group soon found a

degree of popularity among the ranks of the opposition. 7

The role of Bazargan in the formation and activities of

the FMI was paramount. He was the main force behind the initial

proposal for the formation of the party, the first leader of the

group, and its ideologue. Most of the main theoretical tracts were

written by him. In early 1963 following the publication of a

pamphlet Iran on the Verge of a Great Revolution, FMI's leadership

cadre were arrested. In court Bazargan presented the group's main

defence. Thus the influence of Bazargan's political thought on the

group is evident at various levels and domains.

Here the study of FMI ideology in the 1960-63 period rests

upon the hundreds of pages of internal documents, letters,

declarations and pamphlets which the organization published in

this brief period of political openness. A detailed analysis of

the contents of the available material indicates that FMI

ideologues emphasized several issues:

1. Islamic identity as the ideology of appeal to the


2. Constitutional and democratic government as opposed to

the state's ideology of authoritarian modernism,

3. Tactical issues of cooperation with the National Front,

role of Mosaddeq and matters of policy.

Islamic Identity as the Ideology of Appeal to the Masses

7 Nazih, H. Interview, London, 1991.192

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Among the FMI documents which have survived from the

period three pamphlets best present the ideas of the group:

Religious and Political Struggles, 8 An Open Letter to the Shah, 9

and Iran on the Verge of a Great Revolution. 10 The first pamphlet

which has no signature but is known to have been written by

Bazargan is the best presentation of FMI's concept of religion and

religious activism. The study of the pamphlet as well as several

other smaller communiques (which address relevant topics) gives a

more or less complete picture of the religious idea in the

structure of the FMI's political ideas. Put briefly the

FMI/Bazargan argued that:

1. While the 'National Iranian" identity of the people was

a relatively modern concept the "Islamic Religious" identity was

historical and all embracing.

2. Aiming at the political mobilization of the people the

element of consciousness was of more significance than their

material conditions and therefore greater attention should be paid

to it.

3. Since the clerical community had become increasingly

political and opposed to the regime, they should be supported.

8 A 1962 pamphlet reprinted twice later; at the trial of theFMI leaders (late 1963) and by the Islamic Association of Studentsin Europe and North America (1967). In the latter edition somefootnotes were added by the publisher. In 1981 FMI reproduced thepiece in an effort to highlight its religious credentials in theface of attacks by the ruling Islamic Republic. No author's nameis given in the document but it was written by Bazargan.Mobarezeh-e Mazhabi, Mobarezeh-e Siyasi Religious and Political Struggle (n.p. n.p. 1981).

9 The pamphlet was written by a FMI founder, Hasan Nazih,while hiding in a villa on the outskirts of the capital and bypublished in August 1962. Nazih, H. Interview, London, December1991. For the text see FMI Documents, V.2. p.133.

10 February (Bahman) 1963. See FMI Documents, V.2. p.222.193

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Bazargan then concluded that to advance the political

struggle towards the establishment of political democracy it was

vital to utilize the religious element as the foundation of its

ideological structure. This section seeks to re-construct and

analyze the above arguments in order to clarify their logic,

evidence, sources, background, audience and function. The study

further shows that articulation of this position, ie. Islamic

identity as the ideology of mass appeal constitutes the most

significant characteristic of the post 1960 opposition as compared

to the previous period.

In distinguishing the psychology of the identity of the

people who live in Iran, Bazargan believed that the "religious

self" consciousness was superior to the national identity both

vertically (historically) and horizontally (socially all-

embracive) •11 According to Bazargan the national identity only

emerged around the time of the Constitutional Revolution (late

19th and early 20th century) and as the result of contacts with

European culture. Otherwise Iranians had no "deep understanding of

the meaning of nationalism and Iranianism nor any particular

attraction towards it*. This modern national identity, FMI

believed, was a superficial imitation of Western concepts of

nationalism, and it had failed to penetrate the culture of the

Iranians further than the cheap literature. FMI went as far as to

say that the historical notions of Iranian nationalism as

11 Religious and Political Struggle, pp.13-16.194

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indicated in the literature of Ferdowsi 12 was nothing more than

"old tales". Even if there had been a sense of geographical

identity it was limited to local boundaries of villages and towns.

For the FMI ideologue the cause of such conditions lay in

the manner of historical development in the East, which to his

understanding, has been the cradle of prophets, religions and

spiritual expressions. In comparison, it was said, since the time

of the Greeks the West had been the source of inspiration for

notions of nation and nationalism. Obviously Bazargan did not take

into account that the national identity in the West came only

later and that as far as research shows Medieval and even early

modern identity was local or personal - to the king, but not


It is nevertheless quite clear that in the eyes of

Bazargan there was a difference if not a degree of conflict

between the religious and the national identities. In other words

Bazargan believed that people tended to know themselves as Muslims

first and Iranians later. Referring to the inevitability of modern

development and the fact that it would be impossible to deny the

emergence of the national idea, FMI stated that the transition

12 Ferdowsi (d. 1020, or 1025) wrote the Shah-nameh (Book ofKings) of some 50,000 couplets, on the history of ancient Iran.This was in keeping with the traditions of prose (usually under asimilar title) in which a national identity of Iranian people wascreated by either revitalizing symbolic legends or transfiguring,by means of poetry, the true historical facts. The same patternwas applied in the first two decades of twentieth century whenworks on ancient Iran were published and Ferdowsi became acultural hero. Frye, R.N. (ed.) The Cambridge History of IranV.4. (Cambridge University Press, 1975) pp.625-628.


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from the religious to the national was by no means complete and

that the religious continued to be present. Even then, FMI argued,

it should be taken into account that religion in general, never

died and it would exist in one form or another.

To support the argument references were given to the

historical periods of Umayyad (661-750 AD) Abbasid (750-945 AD)

Safavid (1501-1722 AD) and Qajar (1779-1924 AD) where both the

ruling powers and opposition to them appealed to religious beliefs

and principles. The 1906 Constitutional Revolution was also given

as an example:

At the time of Constitutional Revolution, had it not been

for the initiative and leadership of the great spiritual

leaders and the sentiments of religious duty and rewards,

no [social] movement and sacrifice would have taken place.

In the camp of the tyranny as well as opposition,

propaganda and agitation was also [exercised] through

religious sentiments. 13

Therefore Bazargan concluded that since people see

themselves as more Muslim than Iranian the "grounds for political-

religious agitation was more available than the national or

humanist" approach. 14

There is no doubt that in Iranian history the religious

identity has played an important part in the structure of Iranian

13 Reli ious and Political Stru..le p.15.14 Religious and Political Struggle, p.16.


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social thought. Even Marxists, such as Tabari, characterize Iran's

historical ideologies, both before and after Islamic/Arab

invasion, as a blend of religion, mysticism, superstition, and

idealistic philosophy. 15 However this is only partly true, for

the process of secularization had already taken root by the turn

of the 20th century and a leading element in the leadership of the

1906 Revolution was secular and European influenced. 16 To

challenge Bazargan's reference on the constitutional revolution it

is sufficient to say that the 1905 revolutionary process was never

established by the clergy nor did it exclusively appeal to

religious arguments and symbols. Although the clerics did play a

part in the general uprising and the foundation of the

Constitutional Assembly, their role was not as extensive as they

would like to portray. Indeed it was under the leadership of

secular liberals holding modern secular ideas, that the clergy

participated in the revolution. 17

There has already been discussions of Bazargan's

understanding of the religious element in social and political

thought. What is striking is the change of meaning and change of

emphasis on what is said to be Islamic. Initially in the 1940-53

period Islam for Bazargan meant a critique of Modernists for their

reluctance to acknowledge the social importance of religious

15 Tabari, E. Barkhi Barresi-ha Darbarih-e Jahan bini-ha VaJonbesh-ha-ye Ijtema'ye, See chap. 4, passim.

16 For a digest of modern history of relations between stateand religion, in particular of this period see Lapidus, I. AHistory of Islamic Societies (Cambridge University Press,Cambridge, 1988) Chap. 22, passim.

17 See Adamiyyat, F. The Idea of Social Democracy in theConstitutional Movement in Iran (Payam, Tehran, 1984) chap. 1,passim.


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morals and institutions. It also meant criticism of the

traditional community for their social and political conservatism.

Instead he favoured a socio-religious work ethic in helping the

process of social and economic modernization. After the 1953 coup

the religious element was juxtaposed with ideas of historical

evolution and social law as to emphasize the necessity of

respecting the law and the position of the individual and thus

condemning arbitrary rule of government. Throughout the various

juxtapositionings of the religious elements the change of the

interpretations is of most interest.

With the formation of FMI Bazargan's interpretation of the

religious element in social consciousness is that of social

identity. While maintaining his former understandings Bazargan now

wished to use Islam as the foundation of national identity upon

which a political protest could be built. One could well ask what

is the reason for the change of interpretation? Why has Bazargan

appealed to the religious element rather than a secular one? Why

has the traditional element become so forceful at the cost to the

secular one? It seems one of the reasons for this turn of events

was the defeat of both the secular liberal and Marxist positions

in confrontation with the ruling political tyranny. The political

developments of 1940-53, 1953-60 and 1960-63 manifested the

inability of these two ideas to deal with the political problems

of the era. These two ideas which sought to achieve either/or

political liberalism, social justice and anti-colonial neutrality

had accepted defeat in the face of the dominant Modernist/royalist

ideology which sought state expansion, social modernization,


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secularization, authoritarian government and state controlled

economic growth. Bazargan and his collaborators sought to stand

against the ruling trend and to this end they thought of religion

as an indispensable foundation of social identity and as a factor

that could differentiate their social identity and interpretation

of constitutionalism from that of the Shah. It was the problem of

facing an audience, addressing an audience and attracting an

audience which concerned the FMI activists more than anything

else. Mobilization of the people against the government is a

primary objective of any political group. FMI wished to come

closer to the people and in this context believed that it had to

operate within the language, culture and logic of the people. It

is from such a platform that FMI identified with the Indian social

movement led by Mahatma Gandhi whom FMI portrays as having a

religious identity before a national or political one and whose

philosophy is based on India's indigenous culture. 18


Aiming at the political mobilization of people, Bazargan

argued that the element of consciousness was one of greater

significance than the material conditions of the people. It seems

this position was in reply to Marxist conceptions of political

activity which viewed the material/economic conditions as the

necessary prelude to class struggle and revolution. In contrast

Bazargan believed that the material difficulties were merely

circumstantial and only a backdrop for political struggle. It is

18 Later Bazargan wrote a book on the Indian nationalistmovement. Bazargan, M. Azadi-ye Hend Liberation of India (Tehran,Omid, 1977).


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not sufficient for a people to be in poor material conditions, he

argued, before they initiate political movements. Instead there

was a need for a °feeling of discontentment, rebelliousness and

protest." This realm of instincts, emotions and ideas is the

source of political movement. Furthermore this realm is synonymous

with that of religion and religious consciousness. Hence Bazargan

concludes the necessity to mobilize religion alongside, if not as

a substitute, for nationalism. 19

Under all conditions the sources of the movement of a

[social] unit are the spiritual sufferings and passions,

not material elements. The agents for political struggle

are the emotions, instincts and ideas. Altogether things

spiritual rather than material. 20

The problem that Bazargan had put in terms of

contradiction between consciousness and materialism has been an

issue of debate since the time of Greeks in various traditions of

political thinking, including epistemology as an area of

philosophy. For instance in Marxism the initial notion was that

ideology is an element in the superstructure and thus determined

by the economic base. This position was gradually criticized as

being too reductionist. Later Marxist theorists including Gramsci

and Althusser tried to give the ideological factor or the realm of

consciousness its own relative autonomy. 21 The aim of Bazargan's

19 NRM Documents, V.2, pp.236-237.20 NRM Documents, V.2, p.237.21 Curtis, M. Marxism (Atherton Press, New York, 1970) Part

One, passim. Donald, J. & Hall S. Politics and Ideology (OpenUniversity Press, Milton Keynes, 1986) p. 148.


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argument, it seems, is to reject popular leftist notions of the

day that until the material conditions have developed to such a

level as to create class antagonism then social struggle and

political movements would not emerge. The argument was thus

addressed to the left and those influenced by it. Unfortunately

Bazargan does not give historical or actual evidence for his view.

Taking into account the political climate of the period, if we

accept Bazargan's argument that consciousness is the main element

in initiating social protest and that this consciousness is a

religious one, then the socio-political consequence of this

position could only be the strengthening of the religious

discourse, identity and community .

The Religious Establishment

The third element that went into the construction of the

religious theme in the FMI ideological structure was on the social

role of the clerics. Bazargan initiated contacts with the clerics

from the early days of its formation. Two clerics were involved in

its foundation: Ayatollah Abolfaz1 Zanjani and Ayatollah Taliqani.

Though not a senior cleric at the time Taliqani was to play an

important leadership role not only in the Freedom Movement but

later in the 1979 revolution. Zanjani's role was more of a patron.

He gave his blessing to the newly founded movement and prayed that

it would succeed in its social activities including close

relations with the National Front.

The use of what might be coined Islamic symbolism is

evident from party documents. In order to draw closer to public


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opinion FMI pamphlets were peppered with popular and familiar

religious quotes and phrases. For instance almost all of their

important communiques and publications started with an Islamic

axiom. These included the opening verses of Koranic Suras: In the

name of God, the compassionate and the merciful, or Imam Hosain's

famous quote: Life is but a belief and struggle in its defence, or

another famous Koran verse: Verily never will God change the

condition of a people until they change it themselves. 22 It is

significant to note that nationalist symbols gradually changed to

religious as FMI's perception of its audience changed. For example

communiques were addressed to Muslims as well as countrymen. 23

Furthermore FMI started using holy days for political

gatherings. This practice was of course nothing new within the

traditional community, as well as the National groups. However to

put this at the centre piece of political action of a group of

modern educated intellectual, it indicated an important turn of

events. FMI put the emphasis on Ashura, the day when Imam Hosain

died in the battle of Karbala. The Hosain paradigm runs deep in

the popular Shiite psyche for he is taken as the high symbol of

martyrdom and sacrifice. 24

22 The Koran, XIII, 11.23 FMI Documents, V.1 p.196.24 Martyrdom, particularly that of Imam Hosain, but also of

other Shiite Imams plays a central role in Shiite thought. Bygiving his life for his religion, Hosain provided successivegenerations of Shiites with the major paradigm of their sufferingand persecution. His martyrdom on the day of Ashura, is marked bypassion plays and telling of stories which reenact his martyrdom.The theme adds highly emotional content to the rituals of Shiism.Kramer, M. Shiism Resistance and Revolution, (Westview Press,Boulder) p.55.


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However what might be called the strategic linkage

between FMI and the clerics did not come until the Shah's White

Revolution programme and the June uprising. With the approach of

the proposed referendum for the reform programme the clerics

instigated acts of provocation. 25 At this point FMI moved in

defence of the clerics and published several pamphlets addressed

to the educated modern middle classes explaining and justifying

the position adopted by the religious establishment. 26 Indeed the

radical and active entrance of the senior clerics into political

life was a dream that the FMI ideologue had nurtured for many

years. It was his thesis that the religious community should

become socially and politically active and with the emergence of

clerical opposition to the reform programme the dream was becoming

true. FMI congratulated the clerics and thanked them for their

bravery, enlightenment and coordination:

After 56 years since the clerics were the flag holders,

natural leaders and creators of law in the Constitutional

Movement, the Muslim people of Iran [now] look with wonder

and hope at their collective return [to the political

scene]. 27

25 Akhavi identifies four factions among the Ulama at thisstage; one sympathetic to the government, the other neutral whilethe third and fourth were in the opposition but with variousdegrees of militancy. The bulk of the clerics fell within the lasttwo groups. Akhavi, S. Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran, p.103.

26 For FMI position on the clerical establishment see FillDocuments, V.1, pp.174-178, 196-202, and 250-252.

27 FMI Documents, V.1, p.176.203

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The defence of the clerics was in reaction to state

propaganda against them on several issues: constitutionalism,

women, and social reforms. 28 FMI expressed no doubt that the

clerics supported free elections and democratic social progress.

The general principles of Islam, FMI said, were in no way in

contradiction to democratic change. Referring again to the

Constitutional Revolution, Ayatollah Naini was mentioned as a case

of clerical defence of constitutionalism. In a later section 29

there will be a detailed discussion of Naini's influence on

Bazargan, however it is significant to point out here that a

leading Ayatollah, Naini did write an important tract in defence

of the country's first constitution and against tyranny.

FMI believed in what turned out, in the following decade,

to be a great blunder in thinking that there were internal safe

guards in Islam against the tyrannical practice in government and

that the clerics would honour democratic obligations. These

guarantees (FMI as articulated by its ideologue, Bazargan,

believed) included the belief that the practice of choosing the

religious Marja'-e Taqlid or the source of imitation in religious

28 Khomeini and his followers were not agitating against theland reforms. The spearhead of their attack was against theproposal concerning election bill and women's rights. The localelection bill not only gave the vote women, it replaced the Koranin the induction ceremonies with "my holy book'. In other words itrecognized the holy book of other religions. The message thatKhomeini and his entourage emphasized was the danger of the billfor Islam. Emphasis on this point rather than land reform, mighthave been due to tactical considerations and in fact that theirappeal found greater response from the population. But it was inthe context of increasing secularism, undermining of traditionalsociety, and the loss of power by the clergy, that the clericalobjections rose.

29 See Bazargan's defence at the military court.204

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rituals, practices and duties was democratic in the sense that it

allowed the individual to change his religious master should he

think it necessary. FMI believed this model would carry over into

politics and that the practice of government according to Islamic

laws would follow the same principle and would be democratic.

Furthermore, FMI believed Ejtehad, or the principle of independent

juristic reasoning (which allows senior clerics to review all

existing jurisprudence and pass new judgment) meant that the

religious establishment would be able to up-date its position from

ritualistic practices of the bygone ages into contemporary modern

social setting. 30

The other issue on which FMI defended the clerics was the

land reform. The government claimed that the clerics were in

opposition to the land reform for they were themselves benefactors

of the feudal system. 31 FMI, however, believed the clerics had

never benefited from the wealth of the feudal classes, that

financial support for them came from the lower social strata and

that all Waqf or endowment lands were in fact controlled by the

government. Furthermore it believed that the clerics would support

government repossession of lands which had been usurped, against

Islamic land laws, by the big landlords. It was perceptive of FMI

leadership to realize that the political aim of the reforms was to

undermine the conservative political rivals of the state and make

30 For a discussion on Ejtehad and Taqlid as codes of Muslimlaw see Kaman, M.H. Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence (IslamicText Society, Cambridge, 1991) Chap. 19, passim.

31 Information about the political movement of the radicalclerics in this period is scarce but for brief summaries seeAkhavi, Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran, p.103-105, and/Caddie, Roots of Revolution, p.158.


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the state bourgeoisie not only the ruling but the only elite.

Addressing the regime one FMI communique said:

Your [state's] extended feudal government would be

relatively more dangerous than the government of the

feudals. 32

The other issue was that of women. The government reforms

had proposed the extension of electoral rights to women. The

clerics had opposed the move on the grounds that "since the

meddling of women in social affairs would require prohibited acts

as well as continuous and multiple corruption, it is forbidden and

must be prevented". 33 Needless to say the clerics demanded the

social limitation of women to the traditional sphere of life. FMI

appeared to defend the clerics by claiming that what the clerics

wanted was by no means reactionary and was not intended at

limiting the freedom and rights of the women. The clerics, FMI

ingenuously claimed, wished for the establishment for

parliamentary democracy where all including women would have the

right to vote. Indeed in Islam women were allowed to directly

appoint attorneys to deal with their property and interests. But

the intention of extending the voting right to women, FMI believed

was to "politicize women, prevent them from their natural duties

and create quarrels in families". The clerics had never been known

as champions of women's causes and FMI's stand on the issue was

supportive of clerics.

32 FMI Documents, V.1, p.201.33 Quote from a tract distributed by the clerical

establishment at the time of proposed electoral reforms. FMIDocuments, V.1, p.175.


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With the arrest of the FMI leadership there is a marked

shift towards closing of ranks with the clergy. 34 This

cooperation turned into a strategic linkage once the June uprising

had broken out and shaken the regime to its foundation. For

instance while in a year of activity up to the uprising there are

only 10 cases of reference in FMI publications to individual

clerics (8 cases to Taligani and 2 cases to Zanjani) 35

immediately after the disturbances and in a space of several

months the number goes over the 35 mark (Ayatollah Khomeini 20

times, Ayatollah Milani 8 and Ayatollah Shari'atmadari 7). All the

post-uprising publications deal with the uprising in one way or

another. The clerical leadership of the "sacred" uprising is

praised for its bravery as well as for upholding the symbols of

religion and freedom. The uprising is further said to indicate the

wide social base of the clergy and social support for the "Great

Idol Breaker - Ayatollah Khomeini".36

The historic [June] battle ... is the brilliant embodiment

of the ideals that we have longed for while struggling for

many years under the sacred flag of the National Movement

... The absolute unity of the Freedom Movement of Iran

(the vanguard of the revolutionary forces of the National

Front) with the noble clerics who lead the struggles of

34 It is not known who was running FMI after the arrest ofthe leadership cadre.

35 FMI Documents, V.1. index.36 The term refers to the story of Abraham breaking the

idols of his forefather's to reveal their weakness and undermineidol-worship. See The Koran, XXI 51-77.


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the nation, has shaken the foundation of the oppressive

ruling establishment. 37

Constitutional and democratic government

Besides Islamic identity the second element which went to

construct the political perception of the FMI was the necessity of

constitutional and democratic government. FMI opposition to the

person of the Shah and the government of All Amini fell within

this context. Each of these issues will be dealt with in sequence.

FMI's emphasis on law stemmed from the fact that the

practice of government was arbitrary. There has already been a

discussion on Bazargan's ideas on law in the 1953-60 period. Now

that political pressure had been reduced, he (as the FMI

ideologue) saw fit to use the opportunity to make his views

explicit. Furthermore not only had the regime suffered a set back

but it was also endorsing democracy so as to portray a non-

authoritarian image. The ball was in the court of the opposition

and they had the initiative, at least for the time being.

The audience which such arguments would have appealed to

would have been those who had fallen victim to the arbitrary

practices of power, both within the modern educated intellectuals

as well as the traditional community. The language, its quality,

articulation and sophistication did consciously or otherwise,

appeal to an educated class. The FMI must have believed that

37 FMI Documents, V.1, p.332.208

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expression of these ideas would attract sufficient number of

people to their cause and that this would make a difference in the

political balance. FMI's argument on law consistently referred to

the Iranian constitution. Various articles in the constitution

were used as points of reference to condemn the regime and the

person of the Shah in their arbitrary practice of government.

The lineage of such social perception went back to the

National Resistance Movement (1953-56) and the National Movement

(1949-53) which in turn have their source of inspiration in the

Constitutional Movement (1905). They all shared an effort towards

regulating government practices and ending the arbitrary rule of

government. It should be pointed out that there was no logical

contradiction in FMI's constitutional perception and that of

Islamic identity. The simple fact is that FMI's and Bazargan's

political interpretation of Islam was basically a constitutional

and democratic one and they even went as far as believing that the

clerics too were in search of constitutional and democratic


FMI's diagnosis of Iranian social problems lay in the

arbitrary lawlessness of the government. The gist of all socio-

political difficulties, it was said, lay in the fact that the

boundaries of law, particularly the constitution were not kept. To

remedy the problem the FMI placed as the first article of its

manifesto the necessity of respect for the law:

[FMI intends to] revive the constitution and to establish

the rule of law in order to determine the limits and the209

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responsibilities of the various [government] powers so as

to safeguard the true government of the people for the

people. 38

A number of constitutional articles, from the main text as

well as the supplement, were repeatedly appealed to. The articles

included those allowing the parliament and not the monarch to

interfere in socio-political affairs (articles 1, 2, 15, 27),

those limiting the power of the regent (44, 48, 64), calling for

the separation of powers (11, 27, 28, 71, 79, 81) freedom of the

press (20) and freedom of association (21). Furthermore it was

said that the legality of government practices was dependent on

public opinion, public interests, and public satisfaction. Such

proper practice of government, the FMI hoped would put a peaceful

and just end to social conflicts and safeguard the rights of the


People wish for the establishment of a legal government

according to the constitution. Today it must be confessed

that only a parliament dependent on the people and a

government dependent on the parliament are able to

liberate the country from the current dangerous crisis. It

must be accepted that the philosophy of establishing the

constitution and the National Consultative Assembly

[parliament] was to prevent the creation of such crisis.39

38 NRM Documents, V.1 p. 2539 FMI Documents, V.1, p.154.


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It was for violation of the constitution that FMI

criticized the Shah and said that he should reign rather than

govern. 40 The FMI interpreted the constitution as having excluded

the monarch from government responsibility and having demanded

accountability from the cabinet of ministers. Obviously FMI was

unhappy with the Shah's direct control over Iranian politics,

including the appointment of the prime minister and the monarch's

political manipulations. However the FMI did not go so far as to

call for the change or disbandment of the institution of monarchy.

Rather it hoped that the institution would continue indefintely

with the Shah leaving political and executive matters to the

government. Of course this was an impossible thing to ask, for the

monarch was deeply involved in politics and the slightest

withdrawal from it would have had disastrous political

consequences for him. However it seems FMI was not insincere in

its calls for a constitutional monarchy. Although as we shall see

FMI attacks on the Shah increased after the June 1963 uprising.

In this regard FMI's tactic was to attack not the person

of the king, for that could provoke harsh consequences, but to

blame all ills on those around him. It was also common to quote

others in contradiction to what the king had said. These included

the use of speeches made by prime minister Amini or journalistic

articles from the foreign press which had a free hand in reporting

Iranian affairs. In several instances the fate of the Shah's

father and his death in exile, was mentioned as a warning to the

monarch's authoritarian rule.

40 For details of FMI opinion on the Shah see FMI Documents, V.1, p.133-156, and 95-103.


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However with the bloody suppression of the June uprising

the tone of the FMI towards the Shah changed. Giving him a

collection of titles including the "bloodthirsty mad howler

criminal", it called for the overthrow of the hated regime. There

was no longer any reference to the constitution for FMI saw the

regime on the verge of definite collapse and destruction. It

should be kept in mind however that all the FMI's publications

after the uprising were written and prepared by the new

leadership. The senior members, including Bazargan, were in

prison. It is not known how much they would have approved of the

radical new shift.

In the second place, following the issue of

constitutionalism was democracy. It should be taken into account

that the "democratic" idea of FMI although significant in its own

right received less attention than that of constitutionalism. FMI

believed the right and power of the Iranian nation to determine

its own fate was a divine providence and people had a right of

social activity to articulate their natural potentials. 41 Towards

this end it was vital that the freedoms of association, political

organization (including that of labour unions) and expression

should be respected. There should be an end to the practice of

arrests, imprisonments, exiles, tortures and executions. In the

eyes of the FMI the nation had sufficient political education and

was prepared to take up the challenge of living in a democratic

41 On FMI's concept of Freedom see FMI Documents, V.1, p.24-43, 65, 280-210.


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society. Whether this assessment of Iranian society was realistic

remained to be seen but the FMI was clearly acknowledging the

concept of popular democracy.

Today in the Iranian society issues such as . the

revival of the constitution or the expansion of

democratic [practices] . have left the domain of

intellectual circles to become a powerful popular demand.

Every man on the street can today express clear opinions

on the generalities of these issues. 42

For the FMI the most significant element of democracy was

the freedom and necessity to hold free elections. This idea was

reinforced by the 1940-53 experience where the National Movement

grew out of parliamentary democracy and was later paralyzed as the

result of restrictions imposed on the democratic practices. The

function and the aim of elections was to be to force the state

back from public life and the political sphere. FMI believed that

now there was an element of political openness it was necessary to

expand the democratic practice and guarantee a healthy ongoing

process through the holding of elections and sending popular

figures into the parliament. The emphasis on free elections was a

form of insurance policy in the face of an uncertain future.

It was the issue of free elections which also, initially,

determined the FMI policy towards the Amini government. 43 As

42 FMI Documents, V.1, p.24.43 For FMI's position on Amini see FMI Documents, V.1,

pp.77-78, 141, 208.213

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pointed out earlier, Amini wished to carry out the land reform

programme single handed and towards this end, as well as with

Shah's approval, he had closed down the parliament where the

conservative landed elements were most powerful. The FMI and along

side it the various parties participating in the Second National

Front, were critical of the closure of the parliament for they saw

their only hope of maintaining some form of control over

government through presence in the parliament. Amini was prepared

to and did relax restrictions on the National Front forces

including the FMI, in the hope that they would ease their attacks

on him and even join him against the traditional establishment.

However the FMI and the National Front saw Amini in a different

light and refused to accept the offer. FMI refused to acknowledge

that there were differences between Amini's position and that of

the ruling establishment. Furthermore it disliked Amini for his

earlier post-coup cabinet posts with Prime Minister Zahedi.

Amini's government is a safety valve . . designed for

limited bestowing of freedom and fight against corruption

... However Amini has started a revolution to save his own

class [and that's why] he refuses to hold elections. 44

But a few months into the Amini administration the FMI's

criticism of his government came to end. It seems the FMI realized

that weakening of Amini could only strengthen the Shah and the

conservative establishment. All attacks in FMI publications on

Amini were dropped. Although there was no expression of support

44 FMI Documents, V.1, p.208.214

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for him in any way, neither were there any attacks. Other forces

of the Second National Front however continued their attacks on

the prime minister. From the FMI's point of view, that support

should have been extended to Amini seems wise enough, for once he

had gone the Shah returned only to establish his absolute practice

of government.

Tactical issues

There were several tactical issues which were of

importance to the FMI. These included relations with the Second

National Front, the role of Mosaddeq, pin pointing an audience and

organizing supporters. There is no doubt that relations with the

National Front were of great importance and that the FMI tried to

develop a thorough policy with regards to it. 45 Before the

establishment of the FMI, Bazargan and associates had represented

the NRM in the Second National Front 46 while after the

establishment of FMI, there were working relations between the two

organizations and the FMI members, including Bazargan participated

in the SNF as individuals rather than party representatives. The

FMI only joined the Front until the formation of the Third

National Front (1965). In over 300 pages of FMI documents left

from the early 1960's there are over 50 references and discussions

with regards to the issue of relations with the National Front.

Fill approach to the Second National Front was both supportive and

45 For relations with the NF see Fill Documents, V.1, p.16,51, 73, 78.

46 For organizational and political details of the NRM rolein the Second National Front see Chehabi, Iranian Politics andReligious Modernism, on the Second National Front, and Katouzian,Musaddig and the Struggle for Power in Iran, chap. 16, passim.


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critical. On the one hand it called for and emphasized cooperation

with and strengthening of the NF, and on the other hand it

criticized the Front for lack of a clear programme and its


Cooperation with the NF was on the cards from the very

early days. Concerned that the establishment of FMI might give an

impression that an alternative organization was being founded,

Bazargan addressed the issue in the FMI inauguration speech. He

emphasized that there was no possibility of FMI standing in

opposition to the NF and that the FMI saw itself as a

complementary element within the Front. Furthermore the FMI was

determined to follow the path and utilize the experience of the

Front. FMI went as far as to say that not only it was important

that the Front should be strengthened but that the leadership of

the opposition forces should rest with the Front. Weakening of the

Front's leadership, FMI believed, would lead to dispersion of the

activists and strengthening of the regime and the leftists. In one

communique it expressed its view as such:

The National Front is the symbol of our national unity for

its existence represents the common purpose of the

majority of patriots. 47

FMI's criticism of the Front was for its lack of a clear

programme. It believed that the member parties could not follow

their own independent policies until the Front's general strategy

47 FMI Documents, V.1, p.73.216

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was clear. The Front's demands for free elections was not seen as

a sufficient challenge to the government's position on several

issues including bureaucratic reforms, economic development and

foreign relations. Criticism of efforts to turn the Front into a

single party was directed at the dominating elements in the

Front. 48 Accusations of conservatism of the Front went back to

when Bazargan and his associates were representing the NRM in the

Front and constituted it's radical wing along side the student

body. There were also differences over mass mobilization as

opposed to elite formation and party vs. individual membership.

Attacks on the Shah rather than Amini's government as the spear

head of the Front's political offensive was the other

controversial issue between the two organizations. 49

The image and the role of Mosaddeq was of importance in

the FMI. The foundation of the movement had had the blessing of

Mosaddeq who at the time was in exile in his private estate but

was able to communicate with activists. In the 300 pages of

documents sampled, there are more than one hundred references to

him. Once in every three pages the political activities, ideas,

relations, and policies of the old prime minister are referred to.

Most significantly Mosaddeq was praised for being a democrat and a

defender of democracy, for standing against colonialism, and for

proposing an economic policy free of oil revenues. He was also,

and clearly enough, mourned as the victim and the martyr of the

1953 coup.

49 On efforts to turn the second National Front into asingle party see Katouziaa, Mosaddeq and the Struggle for Power in Iran p.228.

49 Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, p.147.217

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However FMI's attachment to Mosaddeq, as in the case of

NRM, was ideological as well as pragmatic. It is significant to

note that in comparison with the NRM period, there was now a less

analytical approach to Mosaddeq. It seems as the years passed, a

greater sense of formalism took over. The passionate personal

attachment and policy modelling gradually gave way to his

recruitment for mere propaganda purposes. However the respect that

FMI held for Mosaddeq and his ideas should not be underestimated.

In Bazargan's description of his own associates they were Muslims,

patriots, constitutionalists and Mosaddeqists:

We are Mosaddeqist [for] we know him to be one of the

great servants of Iranian honor ... He was the only head

of government in Iranian history who was truly elected by

the people and who walked in the path that the nation

desired. He united the people to the government and

managed to defeat colonialism. 50

An important idea that emerged in the structure of FMI's

political thinking was that of struggle and its organization. In

the ten years after the coup the regime had increased its

political hold over the country. There was little public

participation in political affairs. To offset this stalemate FMI

insisted on the necessity of political struggle. One of the main

party pamphlets "Religion and Political Struggle" devotes a large

section to the study of the nature of struggle. Although not

50 FMI Documents, V.1, p.18.218

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indicated on the published pamphlet the work was by Bazargan. Here

three themes can be detected in FMI's concept of struggle: Social

responsibility/consciousness, effort and sacrifice.

Social consciousness was said to be important for it

enlightened the individual to the fact that he had to take

responsibility for his social fate. Effort was the main element

for without action there would be no movement. And finally

sacrifice of wealth and life was said to be the final ingredient

which if not invested would bring no returns. To support these

arguments, and typical by Bazargan, a scientific hue was given to

the theme. Quoting Conte due Nouy's work in L'homme et sa

destinee, it was said that struggle was necessary for evolution in

all spheres of life not only political but also the scientific and

ideological. Life was said to be cycles of discontent, struggle

and progress.

Struggle is carried out by an individual, association or

nation against the existing conditions with the hope of

changing it to a desired condition ... Whatever exists in

terms of civil and moral beliefs owe their existence to

these struggles and revolutions. Struggle on the path of

history is the very same as mutation in the process of

evolution of species. If it was not for these mutations,

struggles and revolutions, humans would have not


51 Religious and Political Struggle, p.2-3.219

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Addressing the religious audience it was further added

that social and political struggle was divine providence. In

highlighting sacrifice examples were given from the Algerian war

against the French and the case of the female activist Jamyleh

Bupasha. The story of a Muslim anti-colonialist woman activist was

certain to attract attention.

There has already been a discussion of the significance of

labour in Bazargan's ideas in the 1940's and also of the NRM's

emphasis on the importance of organization in the 1950's. One of

the reasons for the establishment of the FMI was in criticism of

other organizations, including the NF, for their lack of

organizational discipline, programme and political vigour. This

perception was to stay with FMI for sometime to come. It was also

to be adopted by others and take an increasingly important role in

the formation of the FMI offshoot, the Peoples' Mojahedin


Furthermore there was an emphasis on organizing mass

struggle, for spontaneous social movements were said to be not

sufficient in achieving the desired social goals. The problem lay

in the fact that while the government was thought to be well

organized and acting according to plans, the opposition lacked

both organization and a programme. The solution lay in creating an

organization capable of, on the one hand ideological work

including intellectual training and propaganda, and on the other

hand of coordinating the activities of members.


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In the process of political education and organization the

FMI had to establish a social base. The main battleground from

which it recruited was the universities. University students had

become increasingly political in the 1940's and had maintained the

political atmosphere despite government efforts to the contrary.

With the opening up of the political climate in the early 1960's

the students had returned to activism with a vengeance. The

students constituted an important element in the Second National

Front and were the vanguard of its radical wing. A noticeable

portion of the FMI i s communiques were either addressed to

university students or were written by the student section of the

group. The issues which these communiques addressed were on the

social responsibility of students, the vanguard position of the

student element, provocations against government interference in

universities and organization of student protest against the


As long as a single student remains in the county, there

will be struggle towards thwarting the sinister designs of

the ruling elite, towards the liberation of the nation and

towards the establishment of national and constitutional

government. 52

The White Revolution

FMI viewed the proposed White Revolution as a ploy on

behalf of the Shah, the Americans and a consequence of

misunderstanding by Iranian intellectuals. FMI's views on the

52 FMI Documents, V.1 p.131. Also see pp.104, 111, 129, 259.221

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White Revolution were spelled out in the pamphlet "Iran on the

Verge of a Great Revolution. Within 24 hours of the distribution

of the pamphlet all leading members of the group were arrested.

Basically FMI believed that the land reforms were of no

significance because Iran had never been a feudal society. The

reforms were designed, it said, to increase state political

control and would only bring economic disaster. Surprisingly, the

FMI added that it would welcome application of Islamic standards

to landownership as interpreted by Sayyed Mahmud Taliqani which

called for public ownership of land. 53

Primarily the FMI said the reforms were an effort to

reinforce the rule of tyranny. In other words the socio-political

position of the landlords and the clergy were to be sacrificed (as

was already the case with the intellectuals, political elite and

the military) towards consolidating the position of the Shah. This

was carried out under a pseudo-revolutionary programme created on

the models which had emerged in radical regimes such as that of

Egypt's Naser, India's Nehru and Cuba's Castro. At the cost of

losing the support of the traditional elite the regime aimed at

attracting the support of the farmers and the workers. However

this was a temporary affair as it would fail to solve any social

problems. The Americans were said to be also interested in the

reform programme on the grounds that it would create a barrier

against communist influence and would guarantee that their

financial assistance would not be wasted in a corrupt bureaucracy.

At the same time many Iranian intellectual, specially those on the

53 FMI Documents, V.1, pp.202-221.222

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left were under the illusion that Iran had a feudal social system

and that it was the feudal class which controlled the political

power and opposed social progress. On the contrary, the FMI said,

Iran was controlled by a centralized government operating through

a modern military force. The institution which had benefited most

from the control of land was not the landowning class but the

state and the Royal Court in particular.

When faced with a dopy gendarme, a skinny state clerk or

an addicted tax collecter, a landowner despite all his

wealth . is but a helpless toy. Regardless of his

control over peasants, the landlord has no power in

comparison to the state. The very fact that re-

possessioning of land has taken place with such ease and

speed, is the best indication that feudalism has not

existed in Iran as it did in medieval Europe. 54

The FMI was also critical of the manner in which the

reforms were planned. Too little time and attention were paid to

the details and the whole programme which included at least six

major issues of controversy were put to public referendum. The

fact that there had been no public debate, that the press was

controlled by the government and that the regime could not be

trusted to carry out an unbiased voting were further evidence of

the illegality of the whole affair.

54 FMI Documents, V.1, p.206.223

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The consequence of the reforms, the FMI said, would be

economic disaster. The destruction of the traditional patterns of

ownership in agriculture, and the requirement of the worker's

partial ownership of industrial units would create in-stability

and depression in all economic and productive organs. 55

Furthermore pseudo-reforms, the FMI warned, would sacrifice human

ideals in terms of social trust. Once desired social values, such

as social reforms, were used by governments as instruments of

misguiding the population, such ideals would lose their value,

leaving the people hopeless and in despair. In other words FMI was

complaining that the regime had ideologically disarmed the

opposition on their own terms. The FMI believed that the existing

patterns of landownership despite it's short comings were more

desirable than the prospect of chaos that would take over as the

result of the land reforms. The landlord, FMI argued, was an agent

of order, management, innovation and even occasional charity for

the simple reason that increase in production meant increase in

his own income. However the distribution of land would break up

the estates into units unable to pursue modern methods of

production. The government-proposed Producers and Consumers

55 A number of researches on the consequences of the landreforms confirm the worst of FMI's fears. Hoogland believes thatthe programme was a major contributing factor to Iran'sagricultural stagnation after 1970. Amid's research points to asocial polarization between the rich and the poor farmers. He alsodiscovers patterns of food production lagging behind populationgrowth, forcing the country to import. A yet grimmer picture ispainted by Maclachlan whose research indicates that thecombination of land reforms, general government economic policyand the boom in oil revenues led to severe and possiblyirreparable damage in large agricultural areas. See Hoogland, E.J.Land and Revolution in Iran, 1960-1980 (University of Texas Press,Austin, 1982), Amid, M.J. Agriculture, Poverty and Reform in Iran (Routledge, London, 1990), Maclachlan, K. The Neglected Garden (Tauris, London, 1988).


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Cooperatives were also criticized for being far fetched and

impractical for Iranian society.

Negation of Tyranny

In comparison to the quiet post-coup years, in the 1960-63

liberalization period Bazargan returned with a vengeance to write

23 articles and pamphlets culminating, following his arrest, in a

350-page defence statement at the military tribunal. And it is

this defence statement which is of interest to us and which will

be discussed here. The list of Bazargan's writing in this period

(and the subsequent years in prison) reveals the spectrum of his


1959 The Social and Global Muslim 56

▪ God in Society 57

▪ The House of People 58

▪ Man and God 59

▪ The Teaching of Religion 60

1960 Revelation 61

▪ Ali and Islam 62

56 Mosalman-e Ijtema'ye va Jahani The Social and Global Muslim (Book Distribution Centre, Houston, 1977). The pamphlet isbased on a 1959 lecture and was first published in Iran in 1965.

57 Khuda dar Ijtema' (Book Distribution Centre, Houston,1979). First published in 1959.

58 Khaneh-e Mardom The House of People (Book DistributionCentre, Houston, 1978). First published in 1959.

59 Insan va Khuda, in Chahar Maqaleh (Enteshar Co. Ltd.Tehran, nd) First publication 1959.

60 Amuzesh-e Ta'limat-e Dini. Lectures at the ReligiousTeachers Training College.

61 Details not available.62 Ali va Islam, 2nd edition (Book Distribution Centre,

Houston, 1978). First published in the religious monthly Peykar-e Andisheh (1960).


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▪ The Inevitable Victory 63

1961 Notes from the Hajj Pilgrimage 64

Automation 65

Islam: The Doctrine of Struggle and Productivity 66

The Lesson of Religiosity 67


▪ The Advantages and Disadvantages of Religion 69

1962 The Single Global Government 70

• Freedom of Choice 71

• The Boundary Between Religion and Social Issues 72

• The Young Islam 73

▪ The Advantages and Disadvantages of Religion 74

• Liberation of India 75

• Religious and Political Struggles 76

People's Expectation from Religious Leaders 77

63 Piruzi-ye Hatmi. Details not available.64 Yaddashti az Safar-e Hajj (Maktab-e Tashaiu'. Qom, 1961).65 Khud Jushi, in Chahar Magaleh (Enteshar Co. Ltd. Tehran,

nd.) The article was first read in a 1961 meeting of the IslamicAssociation of Engineers.

66 Islam: Maktabi Mobarez va Muvaled (Entesharat Alfath,Tehran, nd) The piece was written in 1961.

67 Dars-e Din Dan i (Tehran, 1961) (Book Distribution Centre,Houston, Texas, 1977).


69 Mazaya va Mazar-e Din, in The Good Need.70 Hokumat Jahani-ye Vahed (Book Distribution Centre,

Houston, 1978). Originally published in 1962.71 Ikhtiyar, 1962. No other detail available.72 Marz-e Miyan-e Din va Omur-e Ijtema'ye (Book Distribution

Centre, Houston, 1976). The piece was originally read to thesecond congress of Islamic Associations and printed in 1962.

73 Islam-e Javan, in Chahar Macialeh (Enteshar Co. Ltd.Tehran, nd). First published in 1962.

74 Mazaya va Mazar-e Din, in Nikniazi (Book DistributionCentre, Houston, 1976). The piece was written in 1962.

75 Azadi-e Hind (Omid, Tehran, 1977). Written in 1962.76 Mobarezeh Mazhabi Mobarezeh Siyasi, 1981.77 Entezar-e Mardom az Maraje', in Bahthi Darbareh-ye

Marja'iyat va Ruhaniyat.226

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1963 Defence Statement in the Non-jurisdicto Military Court of

Appeal 78

▪ Prayer 79

▪ The Prophet's Propagation 80

▪ The Sugar Wars in Cuba 81

1964 Wind and Rain in the Koran 82

1965 Atmospheric Phenomena 83

▪ The Endless Particle 84

1966 The Process of Evolution of the Koran 85

Bazargan's Defence statement in the Non-jurisdicto

Military Court of Appeal is of interest to us. The defence is in

two parts; the first section deals with the circumstances leading

to the establishment of the Freedom Movement of Iran and his own

involvement in politics. The second section is an ideological

construct in defence of democracy and constitutional government. A

number of sympathizers attending the trial taped Bazargan's speech

and published the first section in Tehran in 1964. However the

court did not allow the reading of the second section in which

Bazargan attacked the monarchy and accused it of tyranny and

78 Modafe'at Dar Dadgah-e Ghir-e Saleh-e Tajdid NadharNezami Defence Statement in the Non-jurisdicto Military Court ofAppeal (Modarres Publications, Bellville, 1977).

79 Du'a (Enteshar Co. Ltd. Tehran, 1970). Written in prison(1963).

80 Tabligh-e Paighambar. Written in Prison (1963).81 Jang-e Shekar dar Kuba. Translated from French in prison

(1963).82 Bad va Baran dar Koran. Written in prison (1964)83 Padideh ha-ye Javi. Written in prison (1965).84 Zarreh-ye Bi Enteha, Second edition, Book Distribution

Centre.85 Sair-e Tahavul-e Koran. Written in prison (1966),

published in 1976. The second volume came out in 1981. Asupplement to the fist volume was published in 1983.


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despotism. The full and edited version of the defence was

published in the United States by Modarres Publications in 1971.

Six years later the 3rd edition was published by the Freedom

Movement of Iran's Foreign Division, but with no further editing.

The 350-page defence covers a number of points, including

the Movement's activities and ideas. But in terms of political

ideas it is the second section of the piece titled Why we oppose

tyranny but support the constitution and popular democratic

government that is of interest. 86 This argument is possibly

Bazargan's most comprehensive, articulate and typical polemic in

negating tyranny and defending democratic and constitutional

government. 87 The expression of these ideas is significant within

the then political context which witnessed transition to the

almost absolute consolidation of power by the monarch. In negation

of tyranny and approval of democracy and constitutional government

four core themes are presented by Bazargan: tyranny as the source

of social instability and historical discontinuity, tyranny as the

source of underdevelopment, tyranny as the cause of the corruption

of the individual and tyranny as the rejection of the religious

faith. The following section is an effort to analyze the various

aspects of his ideas.

Tyranny as the cause of social instability and historic


To indicate that tyranny is one, if not the only, cause of

social and historical discontinuity Bazargan puts forward ten

86 Bazargan, Defence pp.214-305.87


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different arguments. 88 In this section some of these arguments

are scrutinized. The overall argument is quite simple: tyranny is

not desirable because it creates a gulf between the rulers and the

ruled and thus brings about the weakening of the state and its

inevitable destruction. Here Bazargan is presenting a simple

cyclical concept of history with despotism being the root of the

downward trend. The social context of the discourse is easily

detectable: Bazargan was speaking at a period when the Shah had

consolidated his political position and the prime minister, 'Alam,

was a loyal Royalist. The democratic opposition had been

suppressed through arrests and the popular radical opposition had

been defeated through a massive violent crack down in which

hundreds and possibly thousands had been killed. The Shah had

gained the confidence of his American supporters and had

successfully embarked on a social programme that had undermined

his conservative rivals. The state led by the Royal Court was in

gear to consolidate its absolute authority.

With regard to the roots of the conception, Bazargan's

ideas seem to be genuinely his own in the sense that they are not

copies of ideas from an already existing body of discourse. The

condemnation of tyranny and call for democracy is the man's

genuine response to his own arrest and that of his political

collaborators as well as the massive political restrictions that

the establishment was imposing on society. Viewing a regime which

88 These arguments include the contradictory nature oftyranny to that of modern (Western) political experience,experience of the recently independent nations, functional anduncorrupt delegation of power, individual and public security,public morality and popular government.


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had taken, with a high degree of active unpopularity (as clearly

indicated by the bloody June disturbances) a turn towards greater

political suppression, Bazargan reacted by developing an argument

where on the one hand tyranny is condemned and on the other hand

tyranny is said to be unstable.

However it is of importance to have in mind that this very

idea was the argument put forward by the liberal wing of the

American establishment in the early 1960s. They argued that

regimes in the third world should liberalize politically in order

to obtain greater social base and therefore greater stability and

continuity in the face of the domestic or foreign inspired

communist threat. Indeed it was on the basis of this theory, which

developed after the popular communist revolution in Cuba, that the

Americans encouraged the Iranians into some form of reform in the

early 1960's. The argument in favour of democracy as a source of

stability was promoted mainly by American political scientists

from the 1950's onward. Is it possible that Bazargan might have

developed his argument on the instability of tyrannies under the

general influence of the ideas that were being expressed at the


With regard to the coherence of Bazargan's argument it is

useful to point out that the argument for instability can be used

to defend tyrannies rather than condemning them. It is more common

to argue that since the desires and passions of the people are

unstable they are a cause for the unstable rule of government.

Authoritarian and absolute rule is therefore required so as to


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ensure the stability and consistency of civil life. But of course,

for many, this is not the same as tyranny. 89

As far as the function of Bazargan's argument is concerned

it is again possible to detect his efforts in condemning the

rationale that the regime was using for its survival. Bazargan was

calling for support in his objections to the increasing

authoritarian exercise of power by the regime. An exercise which

was limiting the political influence of the citizens. In this way

he was challenging the authority of the state in the name of the


In his argument Bazargan first identifies the nature of

tyranny and goes on to explain its destructive consequences:

In this debate by tyranny we shall mean any form of

government irrespective of appearance or title,

irrespective of name and practice, which is based on the

judgment and decision of an individual or a group of

individuals who then rule without consulting or consent of

the subjects. It is irrelevant whether this despotism is

maintained in the name of benevolence and claims of good

service in the direction of reform and progress or it is

maintained by the interests and designs of individuals

immersed in injustice and corruption. 90

89 Monk. I.H. Conversations with, October 1990, Universityof Exeter.

90 Bazargan, Defence p.215.231

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Here the most central of Bazargan's arguments are with

references to Iran's own history, the experience of the post-

colonial independent countries, and modern (Western) civilization.

As regards Iran the argument is introduced by stating that the

whole course of Iran's history has witnessed tyrannical forms of

government of one sort or another, of one degree or another, and

that this tyranny is synonymous with the institute of monarchy.

It is correct [to say] that Iran has been managed

historically through tyranny ... [and that is why] the

secret of the country's survival is attributed to the

monarch, 91 ... Iran's tyrannical monarchy, with 2500-years

of history ... [has had] total hegemony over the commoners

and the elite, and [has ruled] over all aspects of social

life. 92

Bazargan goes on to accuse monarchies of having ruled

through arbitrary despotism.

This is a country where human beings are of no value where

no law or regulation exists, where there is no shelter for

the masses, where the interests and the will of the tyrant

are the words of law, where only through the approval of

the tyrant security is possible, and where violation of

peoples rights and destruction of their wealth and life by

the state functionaries is a common phenomenon.

91 Bazargan, Defence p. 222.92 Bazargan, Defence p. 232.


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Appointment and removals, orders and regulations, justice

and injustice are all made towards benefiting the rule of

tyranny. 93

Bazargan's claim that Iran has been ruled by tyranny in

its 2500 year history relies on references to various cases of

monarchs who are commonly known for their brutal treatment of

their subjects. However there is no philosophical articulation and

elaboration to the argument. It seems that the piece is intended

to be an extensive polemical work rather than an undertaking in

political philosophy.

The exercise of tyranny through the institution of

monarchy is then said to have destructive social and political

consequences. For one thing the exercise of power is given to

individuals who are necessarily corrupt. Subordination and blind

loyalty to the more powerful become the only methods of social

loyalty and the only practice expected of those in lower ranks. As

a result, the wishes and actions of the individual are directed

towards pulling closer towards the centre of power. The tendency

to seek favours with those in power in turn leads to mistrust and

insecurity, for it is no longer individual or social morality

which determines a person's social position and advance but the

desires of men in places of authority. In such a system people

realize that success lies in gaining access to the source of power

through whatever means. Abandoning all morals and righteousness

93 Bazargan, Defence, p.234.233

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they follow suite. Tyranny will then spread its tentacles

throughout society.

There is no need for encroachment and mistreatment to come

from the person of the tyrant or as the consequence of his

personal interests ... the rule of despotism causes the

method of tyrannical management to spread in all domains

be they that of government, security, agriculture, trade,

or even family. Every head of a section will be tyrannical

ruler unto himself. As to have an open hand with his

subordinates, it is [only] necessary to settle one's

account with the arch tyrant in one way or another. 94

A most destructive consequence of such circumstances is

the setting in of social apathy: people becoming distanced from

things politic. With the prevailing mistrust that follows there

will be no social base to support the regime.

The tyrant and his agents are left to themselves, the

establishment becomes rootless and support-less in the

face of constant and enormous fluctuations. No matter how

long the institution of the state is sustained, it will

remain rootless and highly underdeveloped [only] to be

destroyed with the change of its masters. 95

Since tyranny is dependent on an individual it can never

reach a state of stability, continuity, and constancy, either in

94 Bazargan, Defence p.235.95 Bazargan, Defence p.242


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part or in the whole. Popular discontent, natural depreciations,

domestic fluctuations and external pressures will constantly beat

it until it falls and is destroyed. 96 Bazargan refers to several

historical cases including that of the Islamic/Arab invasions of

Iran, the Mongul invasion and the fall of the Safavid, Afshar and

Zand dynasties to support his argument.

Tyranny as the Cause of the Corruption of the Individual

Bazargan however believes the greatest damage caused by

tyranny is spiritual in that despotism destroys the individual.

Here two core themes are put forward: tyrannies are inherently

corrupt and that man is inherently good and that he is aware of

this goodness. Here again Bazargan's analysis of the corruption of

tyranny is a functional one in the sense that deceit is seen as a

necessary element for the functioning of despotism.

We have already reviwed Bazargan's functionalist approach

to social studies, as indicated from his earlier views on the

natural laws of evolution. The roots of Bazargan's functional

critique of tyranny can then be detected in Bazargan's

"scientific" vision of the world. In other words Bazargan is

trying to prove that deceit is a "function" of tyranny or a

"malfunction" of the natural society. The deceit that Bazargan is

referring to could possibly be the political maneuvering of the

Royal Court in liberalizing the political and economic system or

the propaganda of the regime in portraying the rule of the Shah as

divinely inspired. The °inherent goodness of man" which is said to

96 Bazargan, Defence, p.244.235

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be destroyed by the deceit of tyranny is a natural concept in that

it views man as being good in himself. This goodness is viewed as

being moral in the sense that man has the inherent capacity to

distinguish between truth and falsehood.

The roots of the concept are naturally religious in that

we know Bazargan's personal moralism to be religious rather than

humanist. The coherence of the general argument depends on

acceptance of the two basic concepts, ie. that despotism is by

nature deceitful and that man is by nature good as well as able to

detect the difference between falsehood and truth.

Bazargan believes that tyranny is based on deceit, the

source of all immorality. This is due to the fact that the tyrant

has to project qualities that are not of his own to protect his

un-divine and un-elected rule. Qualities attributed to the

individual ruler are either exaggerated or are outright

fabrications. Here the individual person will have to either

accept the deceit or stand against it. Opposing the deceit would

certainly mean inviting the wrath of the state and losing one's

source of security and subsistence.

Once the victim of the state, the individual will suffer

humiliation and loss of self respect. To live and lead a normal

social life would demand the appeasing of the rulers and the

accepting of deceit. But this would mean participation, even

though unwilling, in the act of falsehood. Once the individual has

become a partner in the deception he begins to lose his self


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respect and self dignity. Finally he sinks to the level of the

animal. To facilitate the process of corruption, the state

actively encourages the de-politicisation of the individual

through providing trivial engagements. 97

In a despotic society for those who do not wish to

surrender completely and thus lose their individual

personality but are neither ready to sacrifice, resist and

confront the establishment, there is only one way out: to

use deceit, fraud and dishonestly through flattery towards

the benefactor and the master. Deceit, hypocrisy and

swindling become defensive measures to protect one's

property and life or to appease the powerful. Needless to

say that fraud and hypocrisy require the disappearance, or

at least fading away of the human character ... [Man will]

then be even inferior to the animal since he has been

denied his natural instincts and intelligence.

Tyranny must be seen as the source of all corruption,

because it is founded on deceit. This is because to

portray the un-natural, un-divine and un-elected rule of

an individual ruler, there has to be an exaggeration of

his qualities in the eyes of the people. In attracting

97 The Shah's regime actively encouraged non-politicalsocial entertainment, such as popular music, cinema, and fashionas an alternative to politicisation, specially that of the youth.The state sponsored cultural engagements were seen by theopposition as a de-politicising process. In latter years andwithin this context several terrorist attempts were made byunderground organizations to bomb cultural festivals. Bazargan'sreferences to the "process of corruption" seems to be a responseto this situation.


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qualities to him which are not his, honesty is lost as a

social practice and the individual becomes a participant,

even though unwillingly, in this process of fabrication.98

Tyranny as the Rejection of Religion

Bazargan also rejected the rule of tyranny by appealing to

religious and Islamic arguments. The arguments put forward by

Bazargan on the one hand appeal to traditional Islamic themes, in

this case the Koran and the Sunna (ie. the traditions of the

prophet) and on the other hand refer to the position and history

of the religious institutions in Iran.

(References to Islamic Institutions) Bazargan's argument

tries to utilize traditional Islamic themes to state that tyranny

is contrary to both the logic of the Koran and the way in which

the Prophet Mohammad conducted social affairs. This argument draws

on an existing book "Admonition to the Community and Exposition to

the Nation by Ayatollah Mirza Mohammad Hosain Naini (1860-1936).

Naini's political carrier centred around the 1906 Constitutional

Revolution when the clerics were divided in support of the

Constitutional Movement and against the absolute rule of the

monarchy. There had been several efforts in trying to legitimize

constitutionalism in a country where only Islamic and Royalist

interpretations had any precedent. Notable among these works was

98 Bazargan, Defence p.260238

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the one by Naini who is said to have presented the most coherent

and typical of views held by the senior clergy. 99

Naini's basic argument is to first state the undisputed

necessity of authority and government and then to condemn the

tyrannical form of government and to defend the constitutional

one. Naini describes tyranny as the arbitrary action of a ruler

without consideration for others. The ruler treats the country as

his private property and in spite of his defects, he ascribes to

himself the attributes of God. Furthermore people are treated like

slaves and thus fail to enjoy the benefits of full human life. On

the matter of evidence presented in support of the arguments Naini

appeals to the traditional sources of Islamic theology, Koran and

the Hadith.

The main intellectual influence on Naini 100 is said to

have come from Sayyed Abdul al-Rahman al-kawakibi's work

"Characteristics of Tyranny and Destruction of Enslavement". 101

In turn large parts of Kawakibi's work has been traced to a small

99 Naini's case is discussed in detail in Hairi, A.H. Shiismand Constitutionalism in Iran (Brill Leiden, Netherlands, 1977).Naini's book was republished by Bazargan's close associateAyatollah Taliciani.

100 Hairi, Shiism and Cosntitutionalism in Iran, p.159.101 Kawakibi (d.1903) was a strong opponent to the despotism

of the Ottoman rulers. One of his two books, The Characteristics of Tyranny, Taba'i al-Istebdad wa Musari al-Istibdad was writtenunder the influence of Vittorio Alfieri who had written on thesame subject. It is not clear when the book was written. Houranireports it to have been translated into Turkish in 1897 andpublished in Geneva. Chehabi says that the book was firstpublished in Cairo in 1905 and translated into Persian andpublished the following year. Hourani, A. Arabic Thought in theLiberal Age (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1962) p.271-273. Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, p.


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work 'Della Tirannide .. by Vittorio Alfieri, a forerunner of

Italian nationalism 102 whon is said to have delighted in the works

of Montesquieu.

Bazargan adapted the main logic of Naini's argument yet

the main examples that he draws from Koranic verses and the Hadith

are not those used by Naini. Bazargan also dropped substantial

parts of Naini's argument in condemnation of ignorance as the

underlying force of tyranny, relations between tyranny and

religion as well as detailed defence of constitutionalism. 103

Bazargan makes direct although limited reference to Naini

in condemning tyranny and uses his argument denouncing the

accreditation of the attributes of God to the ruler. The function

of the argument is obviously to challenge the personal position of

the monarch. His particular argument seems to have been designed

to refute the propaganda of the regime which gave increasingly

dazzling attributes to the Shah. Bazargan himself refers to some

of the titles: Centre of Worship, One with Divine Qualities, the

One to be Obeyed, etc. 104

102 Conte Vittorio Alfieri (d. 1803) Italian tragic poetwhose prominent theme was the overthrow of tyranny, and revival ofItalian nationalism. Nearly all of his nineteen tragedies presentthe struggle between a champion of liberty and a tyrant. Hisautobiography, The Life of Vittorio Alfieri Written by Himself, ishis chief work in prose.

103 For these arguments see Hairi, Shiism andConstitutionalism, Chap. 5, passim.

104 Bazargan, Defence p.299240

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Here Bazargan's argument is based on the assumption that

man is free by "nature" and therefore the exercise of power over

his faith is against the natural order of things. 105

The practice of rulers and monarchs (who see themselves as

the owner of the people) ... in violating the rights, the

wealth and the honour of people is in fact a claim to

absolute ownership and choice ... and we know that this is

the exclusive right of the sublime God. 106 The Maxim of

tyranny is that All things are of the Shah. 107 Not only in

titles and address but also in written and spoken words

the royal being is glorified and promoted . . Since

commands, rewards, dismissals, appointments and orders of

death and honour are issued from his person, it is then

natural that in the eyes of people he becomes the sole

source of good and bad, life and death. Here [is] the

claim to divinity ... [which] goes to take the place of

God in the minds of the people, believer or not. 108

Bazargan makes his own direct references to the Koran.

Here clearly it is the particular interpretation of the verses by

the person of Bazargan which gives them anti-authoritarian content

in defence of modern democratic practices. Here again as before

Bazargan approaches the Koran as the absolute and divine source.

105 Using the qualities of God to downgrade the claimsavailable to secular rulers has abundant parallels in reformation

and scholas tic Christian thought.106 Bazargan, Defence p.296.107 A slogan used by the regime.108 Bazargan, Defence, p.298.


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Although he is of course interpreting the text, yet he does not

consciously acknowledge this fact.

In the references to the Koran the stories of Moses

fighting the Pharaoh, Abraham against Nemrud, Jesus against Jewish

priests/Roman emperor and Mohammad against the tribes of Qurayish

are said to be struggles against "thrones of tyrannical' rule. The

stories are taken to indicate that religion is by nature opposed

to tyranny for the simple fact that God does not allow the

subordination of the people to the rule of tyrants.

Religion and tyranny are never compatible in source or

manner. Contradiction and conflict exists and will

continue to exist between them. Neither can God allow the

subordination of the people to the rule of monarchs nor

can tyrants ... accept obedience and submission of the

people to any thing except their own orders and

interests 10

Man's inclination towards individual independence and

social freedom are said to be inherently natural or in the natural

order of things as God intended them to be. Here the authority of

the Koran is called for, where in the story of creation God grants

man the freedom to disobey him. Bazargan makes no direct quotation

from the Muslim holy book but he is possibly pointing to the

following verses:

109 Bazargan, Defence, p.259.242

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Behold thy lord said to the angels: I will create a vice-

regent on earth. They said wilt thou place therein one who

will make mischief therein and shed blood, whilst we do

celebrate thy praises and glorify thy holy name? He said:

I know what you not know. 110

The idea that man is the vice-regent of God and therefore

not subordinate to any other authority is a common and popular

theme with many Muslim activists, be they fundamentalists

challenging the state or liberals seeking a change of regime.

However the traditional Koran commentators had a different view on

this point. The great commentator in the tradition 111 of

jurisprudence, Al-Tabari believed the vice regency was referring

to Adam or his sons while Ibn Taimiya thought it would be

blasphemous to even suggest that man could be the vice regent of

God (for it would indicate the absence of the creator). From the

philosophical tradition Ibn-Arabi saw the vice-regent as the

perfect man who in his microcosm represented God in his macrocosm.

However many modern commentators have interpreted the vice regency

within the context of the "right" of man exercising social

112 Bazargan of course comes within the camp of the"authority".

110 The Koran, II, 30.111 Some analysts have categorized four different traditions

of discourse in Islamic history. The philosophical (which reliedon logic) the jurisprudence (which relied on the traditions of theprophet and the early leaders) the Sufi (which trusted intuitionand inner illumination) and the pragmatists (which built theirdiscourse on the practical implications). Needless to say alltraditions make plentiful use of the holy book in support of theirdiscourse while their relationship has at times been horrendouslyviolent. For a catagorization of the tradition to realist andidealist movements see Tabatabai, S.J. A PhilosophicalIntroduction to the History of Political Thought in Iran.

112 Idris, J.S. Is man the Vice regent of God? in Journalof Islamic Studies, V.1 (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990).


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modern commentators when he views man as being free by nature and

not subject to the rule of social tyranny.

Are those who support the rule of despotism "wiser and

more compassionate than the creator of man? God granted

freedom to man and empowered him to even disobey the

divine and pursue his ego or the temptations of the

devil". 113

Bazargan's inclination towards the religious argument is

clear. The fact that the state had taken a massive step in putting

down the bloody June uprising which was led by a religious figure,

that the contents of the uprising were significantly religious,

that the secular opposition politicians were in disarray and that

the regime was definitely moving towards a greater secular

practice, all contributed to Bazargan turning towards the

religious discourse.

Bazargan's purpose is to bring to the attention of the

religious audience that the propaganda of the regime is against

their beliefs and against their faith. The function of these

arguments then is to appeal to the Muslim community against

tyranny. Bazargan tries to pursuade the Muslim faithful that their

religion is by nature against the rule of tyranny. We have already

seen Bazargan's critique of Modernists for their failure to

acknowledge the significance of religion and faith in modern

society. Now Bazargan is using religion as a means of persuasion

113 Bazargan, Defence, p.261.244

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against the rule of tyranny. However things must not be seen out

of proportion. It is clear that Bazargan's appeal to religious

texts was not the only appeal that he was making. His other

arguments were clearly secular by nature.

In his references to Islamic historical institutions

Bazargan follows two themes: one that religious institutions are

independent from the state and second that religion constitutes

the Iranian collective spirit or national identity. Obviously the

function of both themes is to counter the arguments by which the

state was expanding in social domination. In other words Bazargan

was refuting allegations by the regime against the religious

institutions that Islam was imposed on Iran through the Arab

invasion and that it was and remained alien to the country's

historical heritage and national identity.

He was also trying to weaken the arguments in favour of

the ruling authority by stating that the true national spirit was

not the one created by the ruling establishment but by the society

itself. The primary function of all these arguments, as it has

been pointed out was to oppose the tyrannical practices of the

regime, however this particular theme is significant with regard

to the June 1953 crack down against the clergy and religious


Bazargan's argument pursues the following logic: The

numerous foreign invaders who stormed Iran in the past two and a

half thousand years were almost all nomads with cultural heritages


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of a less civil nature than the defeated Iranians. Nevertheless

once in power they tended to adopt the existing Iranian culture,

in particular the art of state and population management. However

the Islamic Arab invasion was distinct for it delivered Islam, a

superior religious persuasion to Iran's own and to which Iranians

remained faithful despite the subsequent throwing of the Arab

domination. In Iran Islam became an independent social sphere

within which people took refuge from the tyranny of the state and

within which a source of spiritual inspiration was instituted for

all categories of cultural and social undertakings. Literature,

fine arts, handicrafts, architecture and social rituals reflect

this independent popular religious sentiment. Furthermore it was

this collective spirit which allowed the recreation of the civil

life after each period of chaos following the fall of a dynasty or

a foreign invasion. Today the religious sphere remains independent

of the state and in many ways opposed to it. The secret of

religious independence lies in Shiite thought.

The reason for such a state of affairs is clear: they

arise from the nature of Islam and particularly that of

Shiism ... the distinction of Shiism ... lies in the fact

that the followers of Ali did not accept the rule of those

who lacked representation from the divine or the prophet

and who obtained leadership [Imamate] through deceit

[Thus] Shiism not only maintained its vitality and

constant ability to conform to social developments and

events, it also secured its general independence and

popular democratic quality. People financially supported


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the clerics and the religious activities. Despite its

limited political and military capabilities, Shiism has

been able to extend its domain in the hearts and minds of

the believers particularly the Iranians and to maintain

its independence as a haven and a refuge. 114

Bazargan's evidence refers to the rise and fall of various

dynasties in ancient and more recent Iranian history, and mention

is made of other ancient civilizations (Roman, Egyptian, Greek,

etc.). However these references are scant. The more impressive

knowledge of the subject is shown in the field of literature, the

foremost artistic expression of Iranian culture. Here distinction

is made between schools in the service of the Royal Court and

those writing as independent thinkers.

In critique of Bazargan's argument on the independence of

the religious organizations from the state it is possible to

detect an over emphasis. Although it is true that the clergy

maintained a distance from the state and was not at the service of

the state Bazargan's view that the clergy were the only social

group that did not accept the patronage, the pay and the orders of

the ruling monarchies seems something of an exaggeration. It is

clear that this argument builds on the earlier Bazargan pamphlet

"Religious and Political Struggle" where he had defended Iran's

Islamic identity.

Tyranny as the Cause of Underdevelopment

114 Bazargan, Defence, p.255.247

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In his effort to condemn the tyrannical form of government

Bazargan points to what he believes to be the inevitable effects

of tyranny in the maintenance and perpetuation of

underdevelopment. Here four themes are elaborated upon: the

effects of tyranny:

i. on management of the factors of large scale production

ii. on social voluntary cooperation

iii. on the fall in the rate of productivity

iv. on encouragement of colonial influence

The first three are standard arguments in liberal

capitalist ideologies where it is said the state, let alone a

tyrannical one conflicts with the individual initiative.

Proponents of this idea believe the less intervention from the

state the better. The last theme, on tyranny and colonialism, is

an elaboration of Bazargan's earlier position on colonialism. 115

The first argument basically alleges that tyranny

constitutes the centralization of power and does not allow the

separation of powers and thus the existence of an independent

judiciary. As a result the judicial body becomes a tool in

implementing the interests of those in power. Bribery and

corruption develop as a common order of things bringing about a

situation where there is no guarantee that an appeal to the

judiciary will lead to fair judgment. Once social trust is lost,

no individual will be willing to cooperate with others towards the

establishment of large scale units of production. As a result no

115 See section on colonialism.248

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accumulation of capital, no long term planning, and no large scale

voluntary organizations 116 takes place. This is said to be in

stark contrast with the modern experience of developed countries

where large scale assembly of resources and large scale

productivity are the foundations of development. 117 More

specifically the security of property rights is endangered by

arbitrary rule, and it is on this basis that economic progress

depends since no one will improve what he can not be sure of


It would be correct to believe that in a tyrannical or

even authoritarian state there is a great probability of the

judiciary being under the direct control of the executive and

becoming corrupt in giving preferential treatment to those in

power. However Bazargan fails to give any concrete evidence that

the case holds true for each and every case.

The vulnerability of property rights (ie. the allocation,

use and transfer of the objects of wealth) to the arbitrary rule

of government, which Bazargan is referring to, has a varied

history in the West. Ownership was acknowledged in classical Roman

law while in the medieval legal system, a notion of property in

land emerged from customary and feudal rights and obligations,

limiting the rights of the feudal lords. In modern legal systems,

116 State-run large scale organizations are said to sufferfrom apathy of the work force.

117 Bazargan, Defence, pp.237-240.249

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property has come to represent one of the rights of the individual

against the state. 118

It should be pointed out that Bazargan and his political

collaborators in FMI did have strong connections with the Bazaar,

the traditional and independent bastion of Iranian enterprise.

Chehabi who has studied Bazargan's relations to the Bazaar

concluded Bazargan to be a leader in the emancipator movement of

the traditional middle class, with a Bazaar background, who had

lost much of their social and political influence; but never made

specific reference to the decline of the Bazaar, on the grounds

that as an engineer he was not personally affected. 119 The point

must be emphasized that although Bazargan might have had

connections to the Bazaar in terms of family background, his

defence of the private sector, was never directly concerned with

traditional Iranian entrepreneurship. As the above argument shows

he was more concerned with modern forms of large scale

productivity which surpassed Bazargan's interest in trade.

Bazargan was active as a businessman in the 1940's and 1950's and

witnessed the relative decline of the private sector in comparison

to the growth of the state owned industries. It could be argued

that given the connection that Bazargan had to the private sector

his experience inclined him to conclude or at least to reinforce

the belief that there should be greater legal guarantees for the

private sector and therefore the right of property.

118 For a review of the history of the idea of the right ofownership within the context of the obligations of the state seeSchlatter, R. Private Property (George Allen & Unwin Ltd. London,1951).

119 Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, seeChap. 4. See social Base of LMI, the Bazaar.


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Bazargan also argued that tyranny effectively encourages

the expansion of colonial interest. The argument is an

improvisation of the anti-colonial theme which he had elaborated

some two decades earlier. 120 As in the initial form, Bazargan

explains independence in terms of the ability of a country to

maintain its freedom from foreign nations through its ability to

produce sufficient amount of goods to trade in the international

market. For this level of production to be achieved however, there

is a need for individual initiative. Initiative allows the nation

to seek solutions to its problems, face challenges, pursue the

necessary initiatives and thus refrain from dependency and

imitation of others. Bazargan believes that since in pre-

industrial age nations were able to sustain a form of independence

without trade with their neighbours, the phenomenon of dependence

and independence is a product of the industrial age.

The above theme has already been discussed in detail. Here

it is sufficient to point out that there are three themes in the

argument: individual initiative, productivity and colonialism.

Individual initiative is a slightly changed version of the

"individual independence" which Bazargan was demanding in the

earlier stage. Addressing the dominant social trends of

Westernism, it shunned imitation of the western world in favour of

indigenous independence and creativity. The second theme, ie. that

of productivity has its roots in Bazargan's earlier theme on

labour, which he put down as the underlying element of progress.

120 See section on colonialism.251

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121 The third theme was detected to be close to a basic Leninist

interpretation (ie. foreign trade as the imperialist linkage). To

this argument, which is more or less a replica of Bazargan's

earlier anti-colonial position, Bazargan now adds an analysis of

tyranny. He suggests that tyranny destroys the character of the

individual through accustoming him to flattery rather than honest

effort towards social mobility. Once the individual becomes aware

that the various aspects of his life are not determined by

himself, he loses interest in any form of creative initiative. He

will always wait for others to initiate change. Furthermore even

if any form of creativity is expressed on behalf of the

individual, the tyrannical system will be the first to oppose it

for the simple fact that tyranny is by nature opposed to social

movement and change. 122

121 see section on labour.122 Bazargan, Defence p.72-74.


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Political Developments 1963-77

The fifteen year period between 1963 and 1979 witnessed

the absolute consolidation of the personal power of the monarch.

The consolidation took place at a vicious cost to all social

classes for it meant their increasing loss of political influence

and ability to regulate the social environment. However by the end

of period cracks started to appear in the Shah's power structure.1

At the centre of the Iranian state reigned supreme the

person of the Shah; a man who wished to consolidate his personal

authority and change Iranian society by the measures of his own

understanding alone. To this end he regulated the state structure.

All senior appointments, particularly those in the military, were

his personal choices. The government and the cabinet were active

only as an administrative body carrying out his policies. The Shah

was said to be not only the executive leader and the ideologue of

the people, but an entity over and above the nation. This is well

reflected in the motto of the regime: God-Shah-Motherland. The

monarch surrounded himself by a circle of closer subordinates in

the body of the Royal Court which then relied on the military

machine and the bureaucratic structure to exercise government. It

seems the increasing ability to exercise power (specially with the

massive increase in the oil rent-revenue) caused the Shah to

suffer from delusion of grandeur. Celebrating 2,500 years of

monarchy and subsequently changing the historical religious-

1 For this analysis the data and arguments from thefollowing have been used: Abrahamian, Iran Between TwoRevolutions, Chap. 9, Avery, Modern Iran, Chaps. 28-29, Farmayan,H. Politics during the sixties Ghodes, Iran in the 20th century, Chap. 10, Kamrava, Revolution in Iran Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran, Chaps. 12-16, Keddie, Roots of Revolution, Chaps. 7-8, Nyrop, Iran: A Country Study, Chap. 7, Sanjabi, Hopes and Despairs, Chaps. 7-8.


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national calendar to a monarchical one seem to have been symptoms

of such ideas. 2

For his direct rule the Shah relied on the military and

the para-military apparatus. The military were indeed close to

him. His father, an officer in the Persian Cossack Division had

come to power through a coup and sustained his rule by creating a

modern national army. The Shah himself was educated in military

schools and had made his return to the centre of Iranian politics

by relying on loyal military units to stage the 1953 coup. To

reward this loyalty and reinforce the function of obedience to the

monarchy some 20% of the national budget was spent on the

military. The ranks of the armed forces swelled with those who

swore loyalty to his rule. The military enjoyed the best

privileges and the prestige that the state could provide. In his

endless effort to maintain all sections of society distant from

the realm of politics, the monarch encouraged divisionary

rivalries among military officers.

The second pillar of the Shah's rule was the bureaucratic

machinery. The functions of the machinery were two-fold. On the

one hand to implement the Shah's policies and on the other hand to

function as the channel of purchasing political loyalty. For its

expenditure and expansion the bureaucracy depended on the oil

2 On the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of thePahlavi Dynasty, the Shah changed Iran's Islamic calendar to animperial one. One analyst called the decision "breath taking inits grandiosity" and the "outstanding manifestation of the Shah'sgradiosity". Zonis, M. Majestic Failure; The Fall of the Shah(University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1991) pp.81-82.


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rent-revenue for the production of which only a marginal labour

force was responsible. This fact meant that there was no need to

create or maintain functional and efficient government

organizations. Thus the inefficiency and irrelevancy of the state

machinery which developed massively in the 1963-79 period. Yet if

nothing else the bureaucracy brought to the regime an increasing

ability to influence and determine the nature of life in urban and

rural society.

The story of parliamentary and party politics in this

period is farcical. The regime tried several times to organize and

maintain political organizations (Mardom and Melliyun in the 50's,

Iran-Novin in the 60's and Rastakhiz in the 70's). The function of

the parties was mobilizational rather than participatory. Indeed

the Rastakhiz (Resurgence) was said to have been created in the

Leninist/Arab Nationalist tradition of party politics.

Malfunctional in the sense that the party apparatus failed to

create a social base upon people's participation in the process of

choice making, they did however assist a degree of state control

over society. The parliaments told a similarly miserable story.

The MPs were hand picked by the government for their loyalty and

their behaviour was designed to legitimize the actions of the


While decision making lay in the hands of the Shah with

the military and the bureaucracy acting as his instruments of

rule, the various social classes became increasingly powerless in

regulating the social environment and determining their own

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destiny. The landed classes were the first political targets with

the peasantry as the second victims of social malfunctions. In the

towns the middle classes were kept apolitical while the massive

community of emigre unskilled labourers became increasingly

confused in cultural terms and economically pressurized. The

politically articulate sections of the intelligentsia suffered

restrictions at the hands of the government. Thus in terms of

political measures, the whole society was reduced to a client of

the state and was only rewarded for its loyalty.

The land owning classes were one of the oldest categories

in Iran's social structure. Always dependent on a more powerful

autonomous state the land owners constituted about 45,000 families

owning 80% of the arable land. Though traditionally opposed to the

Pahlavi rule, the land owners collabourated with the institution

of monarchy during the 1940s and 1950s against the Nationalist,

democratic and radical social movements. However seen as possible

contenders for power they were destroyed by the Shah in the

following two decades. In the 60s and 70s they never managed to

stage a come back to the political arena.

As regards the peasant community it is possible to detect

an unprecedented shift in their social orientation. While with the

White Revolution the number of independent farm owners increased

there was also an increase in the number of wage earners and those

who could no longer maintain a productive agricultural unit.

Furthermore state interference on the level of the village and the

attraction of employment in the city stimulated a mass migration.

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In the 63-79 period between 20 and 25 percent of the rural

population moved to the cities.

In the urban setting the emigration of unskilled labour on

the one hand and the massive jump in the oil rent-revenue on the

other brought about a cancerous urban expansion which had the

seeds of the subsequent collapse of the state. The community of

the working classes, particularly unskilled and semi skilled

labourers engaged in services, construction, semi manufacturing

and the industrial sector constituted the largest urban bloc.

Making up some 2.5 million families this newly transit community

found itself and its high expectations facing a crisis of identity

in the new socio-cultural environment.

The urban middle classes could be divided into two

identifiable sections. First the propertied middle class which

lived and worked outside the oil rent-revenue distribution

network, but was an indirect benefactor of the system. For this

reason it could be spared the indoctrination required of other

more dependent sections of urban community. This section (some one

million families) included the Bazaar, the independent

entrepreneurs and the clergy. Secondly there was the salaried

middle classes (some 0.6 million families) who were the direct

beneficiaries of the state although constituting the lower rank

and file. They included the civil servants, teachers and white

collar workers. Their political function, as required by the state

and rewarded by permanent employment was to remain non-political.

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The articulate political opposition constituted a small

urban community. The White Revolution and the subsequent bloody

suppression had put an end to the experimentation in political

openness which the country had enjoyed in the 40s and early 50s.

The political behaviour and political institutions which were

beginning to take shape through the process of trial and error

were suppressed. The National Front, the Tudeh, the conservative

clergy and the landed classes were unable to communicate to the

society, had become isolated, had lost popular base, and were no

longer attractive. Instead grew a new generation of political

activists who in the 60s and 70s became increasingly attracted to

a lethal concoction of Leninist radical underground organization,

use of violence as political strategy and religion as popular

reference of appeal. This new generation came from the ranks of

the National Front, the Tudeh and the clergy.

As the above mentioned tendencies consolidated and left

deeper impressions, political pressures began to build up. By the

second half of the 70s the state was showing signs of incapability

to deal with its problems. The highly centralized, autonomous,

over expanded state and the chronic political under development as

well as the under-represented social classes constituted the

context within which a massive spontaneous social protest was to

take shape.

Politico-economic developments

Whatever way the economic developments between 1963 and

1979 are studied there is no escape from the fact that two issues

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determined the form and content of this process: the land reform

and the oil boom. 3 In both cases the result was the increasing

political role of the state. Of course there are different and

opposing interpretations of this economic process. One perspective

refers to the land reform, the oil boom, the increase in GDP, the

expansion of industrial plants, the investment in infrastructure

and the growth of the welfare system as magnificent economic

progress. 4 Others view this development as the growth of state

capitalism where the state functions as the autonomous body in

owning and managing the economic sector. 5 The third perspective

belongs to those who view the economic function as the outgrowth

of a rentier state. Here the economy is viewed as pseudo-modernist

because it is not functional in terms of real growth but as the

means of distribution and consumption of the oil wealth. 6 In

other words the finger is pointed at an assymetry between the

growth of the economy and the social/political mobilization of the

people (civil society) resulting in an overblown state.

The general characteristics of the period were as follows:

As the result of the increase in the budget, the development plans

3 This study in this section is a synthesis of data andarguments in: Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, Chap. 9,Avery. Modern Iran, Chap. 20, Bharier, J. Economic Development ofIran 1900-1970, Last four Chaps, Katouzian, The Political Economyof Modern Iran, Chaps. 12-16, Nyrop, Iran: A country Study, Chaps.9-11, Keddie, Roots of Revolution, Chap. 8, Maclachlan, Theneglected Garden, Chaps 5-6, Mofid, Development planning in Iran.

4 For this perspective see Nyrop, Iran: a Country Study. 5 See Keddie, The Roots of the Revolution.6 See Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran and

Mandavy, Hosain, The Patterns and Problems of Economic Developmentin Rentier States: The Case of Iran, in Cook. M.A. (ed.) Studiesin the Economic History of the Middle East: From the Rise of Islamto the Present Day (Oxford University Press, London,1970).


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whi6h acted as the main instrument of economic control, turned

towards welfare expenditure as a means of distributing the oil

wealth. Consequently services provisions such as housing and

health moved up the scale of government expenditures. Industrial

investments too moved up slightly and maintained a steady second

position. Transport/communication remained high though losing

their lead. Agriculture was discarded altogether out of the

picture and became a disaster area.

The neglect of agriculture and traditional production in

general led to major dislocations in rural areas. Agricultural

output which despite the land reform and increased oil revenues

maintained parity with the oil income till 1970, then lost its

leading position in the economy. With the impact of the land

reform and huge government expenditure in the urban areas

migration began from the country side. From 1963 to 1977 the rural

areas lost some 20% of their population to the cities. Meanwhile

the urban expansion was sustained by government oil rent-revenue

which in concrete terms constituted massive imports of goods,

foods and services and thus an increasing rate of consumption. It

was within this context of major dislocations of population and

over-heating of the rentier economy that later political

disturbances were to take shape.

It is obvious that the most significant element within

this process was oil. The oil rent-revenue increases were

phenomenal. The increase was in two stages. The first stage saw a

steady but strong upward movement from $0.4 billion (1963) to

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$2.3b. (1971). The second stage saw the massive jump to over $20b.

mark (1973) reaching $25b. (1979). Subsequently oil revenues which

till 1970 were still less than the non-oil income, overtook all

other items in GDP/GNP and the state budget, determining the

nature of government revenues and its distribution. The new

situation made the state further autonomous of social classes,

helped the de-stabilization of traditional economic sector, and

made the society increasingly dependent on the state as its source

of income. Supported by the petro-dollars the state expanded its

bureaucratic machinery both as an instrument of social

regulation/control and as the channal for the distribution of the

oil wealth in return for political alliances. The fact that the

oil revenue was independent of the organization of labour force

(since only a marginal number of workers were employed in its

production) helped the state not to be subjected to scrutiny for

efficiency or corruption.

Industrialization was a high item on the government agenda

and it remained high: it held third, first and second places on

the priority list of the 3rd (62-68), 4th (68-72) and 5th (73-77)

development plans respectively. Industrialization, in the minds of

the government, meant capital intensive, urbanized, centralized

production of intermediary and consumer goods directed at import

substitution. Industrialization was mostly of assembly nature but

it also meant the construction of water and electricity plants.

The building of an infrastructure for transport and communications

had an independent budget far higher than all other items. But the

increase in rapid communications was meant to serve military needs

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more than anything else. In fact parts of industrial investment

was camouflaged for military expenditure which on its own

accounted for some 30% of the total annual budget.

In terms of political economy then it is significant to

note that as with all rentier states the common pattern of

modernization as state building rather than state building for

modernization was predominant. In other words industrialization

seemed to act as the channel of the distribution of oil revenues

in return for political loyalty and thus the main channel of

serving the state-clientele relationship. For this very reason

there was never a need for industrialization, ie. the process of

investment, management and production, to be economically

efficient or profitable. This relationship explains the fact that

despite massive investment in new sectors the profitability of the

highly neglected traditional sectors remained higher.

Similarly the increasingly rentier nature of the economy

is evident in the massive growth of the service sector. This

sector (which included finance, health, housing) experienced the

highest rate of growth to the point that in the 5th development

plan (1973-77) it held the highest priority. Much like industry

the services provided a channel for distribution and consumption

of the oil revenue. It should be kept in mind that, rather than

being a merit of its own, it was pure reliance on the increase in

the income from oil which allowed the rapid expansion of the

service sector.

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Meanwhile the 1963-77 period saw the rapidly diminishing

importance of traditional economic sectors particularly

agriculture. Bent on modernizing through high tech, capital

intensive, and urban-based methods of production, the traditional

patterns of agricultural activity which had survived for hundreds

of years in the harsh environment of Iran were abandoned. In the

1960's traditional agriculture was destroyed through negligence

while in the 1970s the large scale cooperation and agro-businesses

emerged only to be destroyed through mis-management. The land

reform's insistence on replacing landlords with cooperatives

proved disastrous for the simple fact that dividing the

traditional socio-economic structure of the isolated Iranian

village and imposing a new set of social relationships drawn up by

ill-educated urban government officials was unrealistic. The

state, strengthened by its increasing oil revenue, and acting

through the development plans, set out on a process of modernizing

socio-economic relations on its own terms and for its own

political intentions without regard for the traditional indigenous

society including the rural sector and its agricultural

production. Miserable support for traditional agriculture caused

severe damage to production.

With increasing unemployment in the rural areas and

massive government expenditure in the cities the peasant migration

gathered momentum. This initiated an urban expansion which was to

turn large sectors of Iranian cities into ghettos in the next two

decades. Despite relative negligence, it is significant to note

that the traditional agricultural production maintained its

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leading position in the export sector, after oil, and domestic

agricultural production remained relatively constant in the

1963/77 period although it was dwarfed by the total GDP moving up

over twelve times.

Makings of an ideology

Very little is known about Bazargan's social and political

activity after his imprisonment (1963). The military tribunal

passed a ten year prison sentence but he was released within three

years. Nothing is known about his years in prison which given that

a number of activists were living in close proximity should have

meant an interesting exchange of ideas. Furthermore the

circumstances regarding the release are not clear but he was set

free following a pardon from the Shah.

Almost immediately after leaving the prison Bazargan

joined his colleagues and started writing. His book, Prophetic

Mission and Ideology, which possibly amounts to his best political

work in the 1963-77 period was prepared within a year or two of

his release. However the fact that he had served a sentence forced

him to keep out of public view and organized activity so as not to

attract the sensitivities of the regime. Indeed the absence of

Bazargan from the activities of the Ershad Association for

Religious Discourse 7 where almost all distinguished Muslim

7 A research and conference centre used by reformist andrevolutionary Islamic intellectuals including Ali Shariati,Morteza Motahhari, Ayatollah Mofatteh. The former howeverdominated the process and his lectures (1969-72) printed anddistributed at an unprecedented circulation of two million, wereto become the ideological basis of the 1979 revolution. Chehabi,Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, pp.204-210.


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reformers and ideologues gathered and which amounted to an

important reform movement within the religious community can not

be explained otherwise. However this lack of public profile was

compensated for with a large body of written works. Some fourteen

books and pamphlets were the product of Bazargan's writing in this

period. Indeed Bazargan consolidated his position within the

opposition movement and the religious tendency to the extent that

with the fall of the Shah's regime he was able to present himself

as a suitable candidate for leading the provisional government. In

this period Bazargan wrote a large number of pamphlets and books.

1966 Prophetic Mission and Ideology 8

1967 The Good Need 9

Prophetic Mission and Evolution 10

Iranian Compatibility 11

1968 Mosque in Society 12

1969 Motive and the Motivater 13

1973 Religion and Civilization 14

8 Be'that va Ideoluzhi (Book Distribution Centre, Houston,1976). Bazargan began writing the book in prison (1964) anddelivered a lecture on the topic when he was released from prison(1967). The date for the first edition is not known.

Nikniazi (Book Distribution Centre, Houston, 1977).Believed to be a 1967 lecture.

10 Be'that va Takamul (Book Distribution Centre, Houston,1977). Originally a 1967 lecture.

11 Sazgari-ye Irani (Enteshar Co. Ltd. Tehran, 1967), (2ndedition Book Distribution Centre, Houston, 1977).

12 Masjed dar Ijtema" (nd. np . rip.).13 Angizeh va Angizandeh. A lecture delivered on behalf of

Bazargan by Hashem Sabbaghian in 1969. Date and publisher of firstedition not known. (Book Distribution Centre, Houston, 1978).

14 Din va Tamadon. A 1973 introduction to FakhreddinHejazi's book Naqsh-e Payambaran dar Tamadon-e Ensan The Role ofProphets in Human Civilization. It was later publishedindependently. (Book Distribution Centre, Houston, 1977).


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1976 A Review of the Ideas of Eric Frumn 15

The Scientificity of Marxism 16

Koran's Process of Evolution, V.1 17

1977 The Pests of Monism 18

Nature, Evolution, and Monism 19

Koran's Sentenceology 20

1978 Imam and Time 21

Here we have chosen the Prophetic Mission and Ideology for

analysis because it best represents the main intellectual themes

that Bazargan was dealing with at the time. Although the book was

written and published in the early parts of the period and was to

a noticeable extent a reaction to the pre-1963 debates within the

Islamic circles, it is nevertheless typical of the polemics and

ideological dialogue of the pre-1979 Islamic revolution era.

The book took the same form as many of Bazargan's other

works as a combination of a lecture edited and substantially

solidified with additional material. The original lecture was

given in 1965 at ceremonies celebrating the missionary appointment

of the prophet Mohammad, it was then revised and published. The

15 Barresi-ye Nazariyeh-e Forum. (Enteshar Co. Ltd. Tehran,1976) & (Book Distribution Centre, Houston, 1977).

16 'Ilmi Budan-e Marksism (np. rip. nd.). Co-written withEzzatollah Sahabi.

17 Sair-e Tahavul-e Koran. First published in 1976.18 Afat-e Tawhid. A 1977 pamphlet. (Book Distribution

Centre, Houston, 1978).19 Taby'at Takamul va Tawhid. A 1977 lecture. (Book

Distribution Centre, 1977).20 Jomleh Shenasi-ye Koran (1977). No other detail

available.21 Imam va Zaman. Not details available.


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book is divided into an introduction and three chapters. Under the

title of The Historic Evolution of Ideology the first chapter is a

selective abstract of an American political text book and

discusses fifteen topics, including the political philosophies of

Greece, Rome, the middle ages, and the absolutist states as well

as those of 17th and 18th centuries, Hegel, Liberalism, Marx,

Socialism, Communism and Fascism. It is notable that the greater

part of the chapter is on the issues of socialism and Marx

indicating the significance of the two for Bazargan.

The second chapter distinguishes between The Accepted and

the Inadmissible Political Concepts. According to Bazargan the

ideas which have become ill-favoured in contemporary civilization

include the divine nature of authority, absolute freedom of the

individual, subordination of government to religious institutions

and the absoluteness of pure logic and utility. The acceptable

principles are said to be the necessity of government, leadership,

ideology, democracy, and realism. The third chapter, Islamic

Ideology, discusses the main issues of the earlier sections and

brings in traditional Islamic themes as well as Bazargan's own

innovations and syncretic ideas. The study here is based on the

last chapter.

Bazargan's effort in creating a harmonious body of

political ideas can be best understood within the intellectual

climate of the period. One of the political and intellectual

peculiarities of the 1963-77 period seems to be efforts on behalf

of the opposition to elaborate ideological constructs. By

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ideological constructs we mean a body of political ideas which

tries to address the fundamental and organic questions of social

organization and behaviour. These included the purpose of social

organization, the role of authority, the rights of the people as

opposed to the power of the state, alternative political

formations, etc. Such efforts are evident in the works of men such

as Jalal Al-e Ahmad, Ali Shariati, Ayatollah Khomeini, Bizhan

Jazani, Morteza Shi'aiyan, Ali Asghar Haj Sayyed Javadi, and the

body of works presented by the Leftist Mojahedin Khalq and

Fadaiyan Khalq Organizations.

It is possible to speculate that these ideological drives

owe their existence to political repression and the regime's

tactic of maintaining an apolitical society. The fact that various

social classes were not allowed to express their opinions nor

exercise an influence on the regime in the pursuit of what they

saw as their interests meant that their spokesmen initiated the

construction of bodies of political concepts which increasingly

fell outside the language of the ruling establishment. Lack of

dialogue between the civil society and the state as well as

inadequate communications between various classes and sub-

communities caused the development of different political

languages which had little in common and shared no common

experience of debate. As later events, particularly during the

1979 revolution were to show (and which we shall discuss in

detail) efforts by men like Bazargan who wished to integrate

themes from clerical, modernist and liberal languages failed to be

sufficient to have an impact on the main course of events.

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At the same time the influence of the West was positive in

this regard. From the Iranian perspective, the 1960s and the early

1970s were decades of social rebellion in Europe and the United

States, the defeat of American superpower in Cuba and Vietnam, the

withdrawal of France from Algeria and the violent strengthening of

the Palestinian movement. These events shared the celebration of

unorthodox language as the expression of protest and rebellion

against perceived injustice. The language was that of negation and

conflict with the status quo. Ezzatollah Sahabi, an early

participant in the religious movement has pointed to these events

specially the Cuban Revolution and Iran's June 1963 uprising as

the factors that pushed the Islamic modernists to radicalize. 22

Within this context the 1960s were a decade of fateful

change in Shiism. Organizationally Muslim activists became clearly

distinguished and contrasted to Nationalists and Communists

although ideologically there were areas of overlap. They also

assimilated ideological notions that had general political appeal

- notably revolution and social justice - in order to create a

distinctive Islamic ideology. Efforts were made in the early 1960s

to reform the leadership but these ideas were to be abandoned with

Ayatollah Khomeini demonstrating the power and effectiveness of

the clerical leadership working within the traditional


22 Har1r1, N. Mosahebeh ba Tarikhsazan-e Iran, InterviewWith History Makers of Iran (, Tehran, n.d.) pp.185.

23 Arjomand, S.A. Authority and Political Culture inShi'ism, (State University of New York Press, Albany, 1988) p.190.


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With regard to Bazargan the effort to build a body of

interrelated ideas has two sources. The first is what Akhavi has

called the first clergy reform movement (1960-63). 24 As discussed

further the reform movement came in a period of relative political

openness and was initiated by some fifteen Islamic scholars of

whom Bazargan was the only lay person. The reform comprised

efforts at establishing a collective clerical leadership as well

as revitalizing defunct sections of the constitution which called

for an active role of the clergy in the legislature. Although

Bazargan participated in these debates his main effort to build on

the ideas presented in these discussions was to come a number of

years later, after his prison term and well into the 1960s. Indeed

this and other cases indicate that a tendency seems to have

existed where the intellectual response to social events seems to

have accrued a number of years after the actual experience.

Obviously time was needed to reflect on the events.

The second and lesser influence was that of George H.

Sabine's book A history of Political Theory. 25 The book seems to

have been important in strengthening and further formulating

certain political concepts which Bazargan had previously held.

These included particularly that of natural law and political

freedom. Furthermore Bazargan seems to have adopted, from Sabine's

work, the idea of presenting a cohesive and interdependent body of

ideas where a number of fundamental political concepts exist side

24 Akhavi,25 Sabine, G.H. & Thorson, T.L. A History of Political

Theory (Dryden Press, Hinsdale, Illinois, 1973).272

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by side. This is distinguishable from the earlier and even later

works of Bazargan which are more eclectic, polemical and distant

from political philosophy in the sense of an organized and

disciplined investigation of political problems. The introduction

of a number of interrelated but divergent themes, depth of study

and consistency seems to have been a mark of modern professional

influence. 26

Bazargan himself confesses to these sources of influence

when he states that Iranian thinkers need to utilize modern

Western ideas as much as they need to rely on their own heritage.

The former are said to be the final products of man's historic

progress and modern social change while the latter are seen as

inevitable historical traditions within which lays the raw and

undeveloped seeds of modern ideas. 27

On the meaning of ideology Bazargan says that although the

word has Greek roots his understanding of it is modern and refers

to what has developed since the second world war to mean a

collection of fundamental assumptions which determine the

political aims of a party (or individual) and act as its criteria

for social action. 28 Ideology, as a study of Sabine's work might

26 Sabine's work was written in 1937 and subsequentlyrevised for a 1961 edition of which a translation was made intoPersian by Baha'uddin Pazargadi. In the West the book has become astandard text and a recognized classic in the study of politicaltheory. According to Thorson who edited the work for a fourthedition Sabine should be noted for his closeness to David Hume'sforceful argumentation, skepticism and empiricism. See preface tothe fourth edition.

27 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.2-4.28 Bazargan refers to a 1960's Larouse, the French

encyclopedia, as his source of this meaning.273

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have given the impression of, is a collection of different and

varied historical achievements, constantly changing form, colour

and shape. 29 The following section is a study of the main

elements that Bazargan discussed in elaborating his ideological


Natural Law

The first principle of Bazargan's Islamic Ideology is that

of natural law. 30 The principle assumes that nature follows

particular sets of laws which are established by God and the

acceptance of which is the very meaning of the religion of Islam

(literally "submission"). The political aim of Bazargan in

introducing such an idea is to negate the absolutist claims of the

sovereign to his authoritarian rule while at the same time

countering the Modernist and the Leftist trends in Iran's

political climate.

We have already discussed the emergence of the ideas of

"Social Evolution" and the "Rule of Law in Society" as elaborated

by Bazargan in the decade following the 1953 coup. 31 The first

idea developed the notion that religion has been transformed by

evolution and completed gradually by the prophets of God. Human

beings follow the same evolutionary path but rely on reason to

conform to the laws of religion and society. The second idea

developed the notion that society is a natural phenomenon governed

by laws which determine the nature and relation between its parts.

29 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.8.30 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp. 95-106.31 See chapter three.


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It is then necessary that these laws, embodied in things

themselves, should be translated into social laws and observed. 32

Both of Bazargan's arguments were introduced as methods of

countering the tyrannical exercise of government and defending the

existing laws in protection of the rights of the individual. It is

with such background and prelude that Bazargan counters the

concept of Natural Laws in Sabine's History of Political Theory

and thereupon introduces it as the corner stone in the shaping of

his ideological construct. The function of the argument continues

to be the effort to curtail the despotic exercise of political

power. However more minor functions including propagation of

religious thinking and refutation of Leftist ideas are also


In explaining what Bazargan himself calls Natural Laws and

at other times Reality, Bazargan states that the first principle

in his ideological construction is the very one that was

introduced in the 17th century by the Europeans and which

constitutes the basis of all ideological constructs. Indeed all

political thinkers and schools are said to be aiming at either

observance or implementation of these unchangeable laws which

determine human history. 33 It seems then Bazargan has been

overwhelmed by the potential significance of the concept of

natural laws in Sabine's book and uses it to reinforce his earlier

convictions on legal constitutionalist law. His earlier

32 There seems to be some confusion on Bazargan's part onthis point for he fails to distinguish between physical and morallaws That is indicative and prescriptive or descriptive.

33 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.96.275

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understanding of the concept emphasized that history and society

have their own particular laws. Now Sabine's elaborations on

natural laws bolsters this opinion and turns it into the first

principle and foundation of his ideological ensemble. There is

thus a movement from a procedural and positivist conception of

natural law to that of a transcendental and substantiative one.

It is upon the concept of a universe regulated by laws

that Bazargan introduces God and Islam into the argument and

stresses the point that the ultimate rule is not that of nature

but of God. Bazargan maintains that if laws govern the state of

nature then the existence of a first law maker and regulator is

necessary, and if this is accepted then it becomes essential that

the laws revealed by God to man are respected. For the observance

of the divine laws would mean harmony with the creation and

utilization of natural resources. In other words on the basis that

God has created the natural world, including that of men, Bazargan

views religious laws as the very laws of nature. It is here then

that Bazargan finds the true meaning of Islam (submission).

Submission of Islam is surrender to the laws of nature, and the

acceptance of the laws of nature is the very worship of the

divine. Acceptance of the divine laws is realism itself.

To prove the point that Islam has confirmed the absolute

rule, handiwork and command of God in natural law Bazargan turns

to the Koran and introduces several verses as evidence. We shall

deal with his method of treatment of the Koran elsewhere but here

simply reproduce some of the verses:

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So set thou they face steadily and truly to the faith,

(establish) God's handiwork according to the pattern on

which he has made mankind: no change (let there be) in the

work (wrought) by God: that is the established religion,

but most among mankind understand not. (XXX-30) The

Command is for none but God: he hath commanded that ye

worship none but him: that is the right religion, but most

men understand not. (XII-40) And call not, besides God,

another God, There is no God but he. Everything will

perish except his own face. To him belongs the command.


Up to here Bazargan's logic is clear: He stipulates that

there are laws governing life, that these laws are God made and

that human beings must observe these laws. Here however a point is

introduced to the argument that is of significance from a

political point of view and could be the basis of certain

inconsistencies. Bazargan states that since God is the first law

maker no other is allowed to establish laws and that all must

follow the divine legislator. In other words human beings are said

to be incapable of establishing social codes of conduct based on

their own rational resources.

In divine ideology the first and eternal legislator is

God. No individual, Sultan, people, or class has the right

of legislation through either the assemblies of the elite,

consultative assemblies [parliaments] or referenda

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What we mean here by law are the basic principles of

ideology and the fundamentals which determine the general

responsibilities, and not the secondary and executive

regulation that are validated in executive assemblies

[parliaments]. 34

It is interesting to note that from a political

perspective the concept of divine legislator acts as a two-edged

sword. On the one hand it is intended to limit the right of the

sovereign in following his own desires in endorsing laws. But on

the other hand it denies the right of the people in determining

their chosen destiny. However it allows them to make legal codes

within the general specification of God's law. This seems to be

close to the views of Locke's that people must be the only

interpreters of what god's law is. Legislation can't go outside

the limits of natural law, so there is no absolute popular

sovereignty. On the other hand each individual has responsibility

for interpreting God's law so no human authority can overrule what

the people decide.

In later years this tension proved to be of significance

when the clerics laid siege to the right of interpreting the laws

of the divine legislator and thus the right to govern. It is of

course true that the tradition of writing religious laws or

Shari'a was the most orthodox and widely spread of all the

34 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.98.278

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traditions within Islamic history. 35 But it seems highly

improbable that Bazargan saw Shari'a as the true expression of

religion. In fact he had been highly critical of the extent that

Shari'a and jurisprudence had developed. 36

It is significant to point out that the concept of Natural

Law is the most recurring theme in Sabine's History of Political

Theory where the views of some 25 thinkers on the topic are

discussed. This could possibly explain the emphasis of Bazargan on

his own interpretation of the concept. 37 In the history of

Western political thought natural law (and subsequently natural

rights) are those recognized by natural justice. In other words

natural laws is a system of law binding on men by virtue of their

nature alone and independent of all convention. The usual

attribute of human nature that is chosen as the basis for this law

is reason or rationality. Natural law first emerged with the need

to exert jurisdiction over and above customary Roman law so as to

make it applicable to all people under Roman dominance. There are

35 Islamic law or Shari'a developed out of scholasticjudgments on the Koran and the prophet's traditions, from thesixth to the thirteenth centuries when several schools becameinfluential in Sunni tradition while a single but more dynamicschool continued in the Shiite counterpart. Shari'a has been allencompassing, providing a comprehensive guide line for the societyof believers on all matters of life until the 19th century whenthe introduction of European codes, rapid social change,increasing secular states and clerical conservatism made itincreasingly redundant and irrelevant. Esposito, Islam, theStraight Path, p.142. However it must be kept in mind that Shari'ahad always been in a state of tension vis-a-vis the legal practiceof the rulers in Islamic lands, although this cleavage must not beexaggerated. An -Na'im, A.A. Toward an Islamic Reformation, p.31.

36 See Bazargan, The causes of underdevelopment of Muslims Nations.

37 See the index, Sabine, History of Political Thought, p.864


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a number of theories of natural law but two fundamental kinds of

theory stand out. The Medieval philosophers, Aquinas for instance,

attempted to derive natural law from a higher law, ie. divine law,

which would be the expression of the will of God. The post-

Renaissance philosophers on the other hand, beginning with Grotius

and culminating in Kant, thought the reference to divine law was

unsatisfactory since it reduces natural law to positive law. The

two schools are thus different in theological claims as well as

the basis which they offer for natural law. 38

For Bazargan the doctrine of natural law is intended to

open up two possibilities, even though on a polemical level: the

negation of tyranny and the negation of the absoluteness of

rationalism. These two positions clearly indicate Bazargan's

dialogue with the dominating social trends of thought; Modernism,

and the establishment apologism. In denying the rationalism which

Bazargan sees as the foundation of Iran's secular Modernism

Bazargan refers to Sabine's discussion of Rousseau's attacks on

rationalists and the philosophical dilemmas of later socialists.

Bazargan maintains that rationalism which had "claimed infinite

knowledge fell to suffer from the disease of simplification and

then prey to human emotions". Bazargan points out that "while

logic and science must be employed, contentment with them would

not be sufficient as it would constitute a deviation". 39 The

"deviation" is apparently from some form of natural law

38 For a discussion on the issues of natural law see Tuck,R. Natural Law Theories (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,1979) & Binnis, J.M. Natural Law and Natural Rights (ClarendonPress, oxford, 1980).

39 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.63.280

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independent of human rationality. In refuting the authoritarian

apologists Bazargan believes that once realism of natural law and

the principle of God as legislator has been accepted then

"monarchies and despotisms which [claim] partnership in the

authority of the divine" 40 are seen as being opposed to

monotheism (Tawhid) of Islam and espousing polytheism (Sherk). 41

This is a near copy of Naini's argument which has already been

discussed in earlier parts of this study.

Continuing the argument that the world is dominated by God

Bazargan states that this position should not be taken to imply

the illegitimacy of government and consequently the rule of

disorder and absolute individualism. Bazargan initiates this

argument on a traditional Islamic theme on the necessity of

government as a means of thwarting possible chaos and anarchy. He

refers to the case of conflict between the first Shiite Imam and

the Kharijites which culminated in one of the first civil wars in

Islam (658 at Nahrayan). The conflict rose when Kharijites with

puritanical, fundamentalist and radical views challenged Ali's

acceptance of arbitration at a war with Mo'avyeh. Ali as the

Caliph had been challenged by Mo'avyeh, and the Kharijites who

were initially on the side of Ali, believed he had a religious

obligation to wage war against Mo'avyeh. The acceptance of

arbitration came as unacceptable news to Kharijites who started

40 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.100.41 Tawhid, the unity or oneness of God upon which the

monotheism of Islam is based, as opposed to Sherk or theassociation of others with God which is viewed as the worst ofsins. Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, p.6 1 15.


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shouting that "only God can decide". 42 Kharijites later turned

into a community which saw itself as having the mandate of

fighting in the path of God and against evil. With such background

they believed that any good Muslim, even a slave, had the right to

become the leader of the religious community and lead it in

battle. According to Bazargan it is in reaction to this position

that Ali accused the Kharijites of being anarchistic, and against

the very existence of government. Bazargan quotes Ali as saying

that "there is a necessity for a commander of people, whether good

or bad. It is he who collects the taxes, who fights with the enemy

and who secures the road." 42


The second but the most extensively discussed element in

the Islamic Ideology of Bazargan is that of freedom. 44 The

background to the argument put forward on freedom is in Bazargan's

defence at the military tribunal where he defended the individual

and social right to freedom against the tyrannical exercise of

government. The defence emphasized four major themes:

1. Tyranny causes social disability,

2. Tyranny cause the corruption of the individual,

3. Tyranny contradicts religion (in both theological and

historical terms)

4. Tyranny reinforces underdevelopment and colonialism.

42 Esposito, The Straight Path, p.47.43 Al's argument sounds purely Hobbsian. Bazargan,

Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.108.Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.107-132,

132-142, 144-163.


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In the post-prison period Bazargan reintroduces his

argument in defence of freedom but there are changes in both form

and content of the thesis. In terms of the form of the language

here he has a tendency towards the greater use of religious

symbols and terminology. Of course in the earlier argument (at the

military tribunal) Bazargan had used religious reasoning in

defence of freedom. Now however, his entire emphasis is on the

religious aspect and he has substituted the religious themes for

secular ones. Prior to this period it was possible to place

Bazargan within the religious wing of the mainly secular

Nationalist current which displayed explicit anti-tyrannical and

anti-colonial dispositions. Now the religious element has over-

shadowed all other aspects and has become the main component of

the ideology. Beside the language and tone of the argument, the

content has also altered, not in the sense that Bazargan is

speaking contrary to his earlier pronouncements, but in the sense

that he has turned even more towards the religious sources to

argue in defence of the freedom of the human being.

The most significant shift however is that the audience is

now the traditional religious community and the arguments are

directed to their ideas. Indeed Bazargan's reasoning with regards

to the issue of freedom in the book, Prophetic Mission and

Ideology, seems to be a polemic with Sayyed Mohammad Hosain

Tabatabai. Tabatabai (1903-1982) represented the enlightened

constituency within the religious orthodoxy. The author of 20

volumes of Al-Mizan (The Balance) commentary on the Koran, five

volumes of The Principles of Philosophy and the Method of Realism,

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seven volumes of philosophical essays, Glosses upon the Afsar

(Hashiyh bar afsar) and tens of commentaries on various points of

Islamic thought, Tabatabai enjoyed the title of "Allameh, the

Learned One'. Tabatabai showed great mastery over his field of

study and no-one came close to criticizing his philosophical

positions. In the words of Nasr, Tabatabai represented the central

and dominating class of clerics who had combined interest in

jurisprudence and Koran commentary with philosophy, theosophy and

Sufism. He possessed the distinction of being a master of both the

Shari'a and esoteric sciences and at the same time an outstanding

traditional philosopher. He managed to exercise a profound

influence in both the traditional and modern intellectual

circles. 45 Most significantly Tabatabai was the master to

Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari, professor at the faculty of theology

at Tehran University whose ideas were to gain respect with Islamic

orthodox, fundamentalist and even modernist elements and who was

to become the official, though not the actual, ideologue of the

Islamic revolution in the late 1970s.

Tabatabai and Motahhari participated, along with fifteen

other religious scholars of whom Bazargan was the only lay person

in a series of seminars which were to be known as the Monthly

Religious Society. The society produced a series of magazines and

a book; An Inquiry into the Principle of Marja'iyat and the

45 See introduction to Tabatabai, Shiite Islam. 284

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Religious Institution. 46 Akhavi has described this 1961-63 series

of talks 'the first clergy reform movement which left a profound

impact on the religious community and opened the ground for

vigorous debate among the clerics'. 47 Basically the series called

for the reformation of the clerical establishment, including the

position of religious leadership, which it was suggested, be

organized in a committee, in contrast to the traditional pattern

of the defacto emergence of a leader. Such proposals made both the

traditional and conservative clerical establishment as well as the

regime uneasy, for it challenged the status quo in favour of a

situation where both would have lost influence and prestige.

Although the proposals made no direct attack on the authority of

the government, the powerful infusion of socio-political ideas

into religious thinking gave it a definite polemical quality. The

intellectual adventure which was organized by Ayatollah Motahhari

is said to have been the most important work to have been

published in Iran in the previous fifty years, namely since Naini

wrote his constitutional treatise. 48

It was here that Bazargan and Tabatabai clashed as they

had done so previously. Although details of the arguments are not

known it is possible to suggest that the central issue was on the

46 Marja'-e Taqlid (Source of Imitation); The idea thatbelievers should "imitate" a leading figure in affairs ofreligion. These could include rituals of worship or socio-political judgments. Motahhari distinguishes the Source ofImitation on his specialization and application of logic. SeeBahthi Darbareh-ye Marja'iyat va Ruhaniyat A Discussion onMarja f iyat and the Clergy (Enteshar Publications Co. Tehran,1962).

47 Akhavi, Religion and Politics, chap. 5, passim.48 Akhavi,


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nature of government. In the series Tabatabai expressly rejected

the idea of convergence between Islam and democracy and instead

emphasized their fundamental differences. 49 Of course it should

be pointed out that Bazargan, as presented in this study, is not

championing democratic sovereignty but limited constitutional

participatory government based on natural law. However the

difference between the two men in their approach to the issue of

democracy is clear. Later Tabatabai was to express his views in

his other works including Shiite Islam a book written shortly

after (in the second half of the 1960s) at the request of

Professor Kenneth Morgan of Colgate University with the express

aim of presenting the view of an authentic representative of

Shiism to the Western reader. 50 Similarly Bazargan expressed his

views in the Prophetic Mission and Ideology. The dialogue between

the two men is clear.

In Shiite Islam Tabatabai points out that from the

traditional Shiite point of view the political method of selecting

the ruler (Caliph) by vote is not acceptable. Such a procedure

could mean that "people could become rulers' contrary to the

nature of religious government as desired by Islam (the government

being in charge of executing divine order in society, allowing

personal and social freedom to the extent possible and

implementing social justice). Divine government could only be

carried out by a person who was inerrant and protected by God from

fault. Furthermore the only duty of an Islamic government would be

49 Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, p.173.50 Tabatabai, Shiite Islam, p.17.


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to make decisions by consultation within the limits set by the

Shari'a (and then in accordance with the demands of the moment.)

51 Tabatabai's emphasis on the infallibility of the ruler

protected by God is one of the characteristics of Shiite political

thinking, particularly in contrast to the mainstream Sunni

tradition. It is by its claim to a supernatural moral excellence

based on an esoteric knowledge, that the succession of Ali and his

family is justified in the Shiite view of things. This view of

esoteric knowledge subsequently articulated itself, in Shiite

thinking, in a form of idealism in which the feebleness of the

ordinary man kept the tradition aloof from politics. Subsequently

the right of the infallible Imam to rule was transformed, by a

number of scholars, including the Ayatollah Khomeini to mean as

the right of the religious juriconsult to govern. 52

It is in reply to the position of the conservative and

traditional clerics including Ayatollah Tabatabai that Bazargan

introduces his argument in Prophetic Mission and Ideology. 53 In

it he defends his concept of government in Islam as compatible

with democracy. The book was published after Bazargan's arrest and

it is reasonable to suggest that it is in direct response to the

traditionalist polemics as expressed by 'Allameh Tabatabai during

the Monthly Religious Talks (1960-63). Here Bazargan's main effort

is to persuade the conservatives that the two ideas of Islam and

democracy are compatible. In other words he tries to bring

51 Tabatabai, Shiite Islam, pp.43-44.52 Enayat, Modern Islamic Political Thought, chap. 1.

passim.53 Bazargan Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.132-142, and


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together the two traditions of discourse and make them compatible,

or at least to show by implication that they are not

contradictory. In the process, and in order not to contradict some

traditional Islamic ideas, he makes some concessions to the

traditionalist camp.

It is important to bear in mind that in the 1940s and

1950s Bazargan was critical of the clerics for their conservative

and quietist approach to social issues and politics. Now in the

1960s he has become critical of their traditional concept of the

nature of government which reserves authority for the spiritual

elite, that is the sinless Imam. It is this concept of government

which Bazargan seeks to refute. Addressing the traditional

community Bazargan states that although he can respect the motives

of the scholar-clerics, their "extremist' position is unacceptable

to him for such severity places them within the camp opposed to

political freedoms. Bazargan believes that the opposition of these

certain religious leaders and writers and their sensitivity to the

'word democracy' has several causes. Most significantly they think

it contrary to the Islamic practice of things. For instance

concerning the position of the leader of the religious community,

Bazargan says, the clerics call for the right of a religious elite

to choose the community leader whose acceptance by the community

is then obligatory on religious grounds.

Here both the position of Bazargan and the leading

clerical elements are non traditional although they both appeal to

traditional practice. The practice has its roots in the

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traditional Islamic and particularly the Shiite position, based on

the method of choosing the leader of the Islamic community after

the death of the Prophet Mohammad (632), but limited to the first

four Caliphs (632-661) before the leadership turned into

hereditary monarchy (661). The first Caliph was selected through

the vote of the majority of the companions of the prophet, the

second by the will and testament of the first, the third by a six-

man council whose members and rules of procedure were organized by

and determined by the second. 54 The succession of the fourth

Caliph Ali who is the first Shiite Imam was approved of by the

majority of the members of the Muslim community.

Bazargan states that the cleric's opposition to democracy

is either because they are badly informed or have misinterpreted

the issue altogether. They have taken democracy to represent the

corruption of Western societies and the injustices of their

governments. Furthermore they have imagined democracy to be

absolute licence of the individual and adherence to the wish of

the majority in all and every case. Bazargan also criticizes the

clerics' sense of righteousness and their view of themselves as

the learned religious elite and throws doubt on their integrity.

On what grounds do they see themselves to be on the straight path

and others to be deviating from it? What guarantees do they have

that once in power they will not choose the course of betrayal and

impose a rule of tyranny, Bazargan with some foresight asks the


54 Tabatabai, Shiite Islam, p.48.289

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To support his thesis in defence of the practice of

democracy and to define constitutional freedom Bazargan refers to

four Koran themes. The first is on the creation of man:

Behold thy lord said to the angels: I will create a vice

regent on earth: they said: wilt thou place therein one

who will make mischief therein and shed blood? Whilst we

do celebrate thy praises and glorify thy holy (name)? He

said I know what you know not. And he taught Adam the

nature of all things, then he placed them before the

angels and said tell me the nature of these if you are

right. They said "Glory to thee, of knowledge we have

none, save what thou hast taught us, in truth it is thou

who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom". He said "0, Adam

tell them of their nature". When he had told them God said

"Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and

earth, and I know what ye reveal and what ye conceal?" And

behold we said to the angels "Bow to Adam" and they bowed

down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of

those who rejected Faith. We said "0 Adam, dwell thou and

they wife in the garden and eat of the bountiful things

therein as (where and when) ye will, but approach not this

tree or ye turn into harm and transgression". Then did

Satan make them slip from the (Garden) and get them out of

the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said

"Get ye down, all (ye people) with enmity between

yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling place and your

means of livelihood for a time." (11:30-36)

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In interpreting these verses Bazargan states that despite

the knowledge that man would cause corruption and shed blood on

earth but because he would also learn the names (qualities) of God

and learn of his secrets, God created man and allowed Satan to

tempt him. Bazargan interprets this to mean that God has given man

the freedom of choice (Ekhtiyar). This indicates that man is

naturally free and that his freedom is a divine blessing and a

gift. Freedom constitutes the key to man's progress and the ground

for his evolution. It is this freedom which has made him to be the

conscious, intelligent and creative creature that he is. 55

Bazargan also refers to another Koran verse; Command the

good and forbid the evil. 56 Akhavi cites this verse to be the

centre-piece of the Shiite political theory, for once applied to

social settings it grants the possibility of protest against the

ruling authority (a position which reinforces Shiite's

historically minority position and continuous vicious circle of

persecution.) 57 It is important to note that the verse was taken

up by the clerical reformist movement (cited above) as the

instrument of taking a political position against the authorities.

On the face of it the principle presents itself as a moral axiom

calling for good deeds and avoidance of wrong. However once it is

interpreted that the principle applies to public/political

behaviour of the masses it immediately takes a political hue and

55 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.130-132.56 Al-Amr bi-alm'ruf wa al-nahi an al-munkar, The Koran III,

110.57 Akhavi, Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran, p.12.


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could be then interpreted as being the foundation for social


Up to this point Bazargan seems to be in agreement with

the reformist clerics aiming at changes within the ruling

establishment and making a political statement vis-a-vis the

authorities. But he departs from the cleric's position where he

pushes the point further and interprets the principle to mean the

necessity of the right of the people to exercise criticism of the

institution of government. By this move Bazargan is further

transferring the right of political decision making from the state

as well as the clergy and into society. To safeguard his defensive

position Bazargan shields himself under classic Islamic rhetoric.

He quotes Ali, the first Shiite Imam as having said that once the

Islamic practice of commanding the good and forbidding the evil is

not practiced there will be corruption in religion. Equating

religion with society at large, but particularly the government,

and extending the need to command good, from moral preaching of

the clerics to the individual's social responsibility, Bazargan

thus interprets the principle as the practice of social criticism

putting it in a modern frame of reference altogether. 58

To further strengthen his argument in defence of the

practice of democracy Bazargan also refers to the manner in which

the prophet and All exercised power. A manner which Bazargan

58 This position parallels the essentially Protestant movein the West making the individual responsible for what is donesocially and so requiring him to be able to exercise politicalrights.


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interprets as having been "democratic". They are both said to have

allowed members of the community to express their views, to

criticize and to live in security and peace despite their

opposition to the government. Neither of them, are said to have

created any obstacles for their political opponents. Bazargan's

comments on the early history of Islam which is looked upon by all

Muslims as the exemplary golden age is of course open to

interpretation. But Bazargan believes that the practice of

government by Ali indicates that his administration, chosen by the

people, was the best form of "government of the people or

democracy". 59 The examples of "democratic practice" by Ali is

said to be that his "election" to the seat of Caliphate and his

acceptance of arbitration in second Muslim civil war at the battle

of Saf fain (657) with the force of Mo'avyeh, the governor of Syria

challenging the leadership of the Muslim world and finally taking

it after the death of Ali. In Saffain as Mo'avyeh's men faced

defeat they raised the Koran on the tip of their spears and called

for arbitration. 60 Ali agreed but the arbitration fatally

weakened his position. However the fact that he accepted the

demand for arbitration rather than to push at the military

advantage that he had in the battle-field is indicated here by

Bazargan to show Al's regard and respect for the wishes of the

59 Of course allowing opposition is not the same asdemocracy but it does indicate a limited or moderate rule,tolerance.

60 There are various interpretations on why Ali accepted thearbitration. One states the unwillingness of the commanders underAli to pursue the war in order to take tactical advantage of thesituation towards reinforcing their own position vis-a-vis bothAli and Mo'avyeh. See Kennedy, H. The Prophet and the Age of theCaliphates (Longman, London, 1986) p.78, and Esposito, Islam theStraight Path, p.43.


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majority. 61

Bazargan applies similar types of argument to prove the

"democratic practices" in the government of the prophet Mohammad.

Of course the choice of prophethood is said to have been that of

God rather than people, in the sense that it was God who decided

to choose Mohammad to carry the message of Islam and lead the

community, but the manner of his rule indicates that it belonged

to the people and was exercised through popular consultation and

vote. As further examples of "democratic practice" Bazargan cites

the prophet's departure from Mecca on his Hejra, the battle of

Uhud and negotiations in the battle of Trench (or Ahzab).

The case of Hejra (the Prophet's emigration from the city

of Mecca to Medina in 633 which became the foundation of the

Muslim calendar) refers to the fact that the Prophet's emigration

took place at the invitation of the Medinans. Being under pressure

in Mecca the Prophet agreed to the invitation to leave for Medina

but only after making sure that the great majority of Medinans who

had been at the civil war accepted his position of leadership and

61 Similar parallel to Bazargan's efforts can be found inthe West. For instance the Protestants in their implementation ofone of their chief items of belief, ie. the universal priesthoodof all believers, pushed forth the idea of self-independence andindividual autonomy. While Calvin's sustained attempts weredirected towards the development of new political institutions,Martin Luther referred large areas of social and political life tothe jurisdiction of the individual conscience. This in turn madethe individual responsible for what is done socially and sorequires him to be able to exercise political rights. For a studyof the connection between individualism and the universalism ofenlightenment see Tawney, R.H. Religion and The Rise ofCapitalism.


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arbitration. 62 Bazargan interprets Mohammad's approach to the

issue as one of "democratic" practice for it supposedly relies on

the wishes and consensus of the population, the majority.

The case of Uhud refers to the battle between Mohammad and

the Meccan forces (624) where Mohammad suffered losses but not

strategic defeat. The Battle of the Trench took place three years

later when the Meccan confederate armies laid siege on Medina

lasting a fortnight. In the latter differences appeared within the

Meccan confederacy and with a turn in the weather the troops

dispersed leaving Mohammad able to attack the remaining groups. 63

Bazargan's reference to these two events, is apparently with

regard to Mohammad's willingness to take military council. In the

former battle some parties of the Muslim force were allowed to act

on their own judgment and in the latter a trench was dug up, on

the suggestions of a Persian convert, as the defence strategy.

The other Islamic paradigm used by Bazargan is that of

consultation (Shura). The concept is again borrowed from two

verses of the Koran:

(That which is better and lasting is for] those who

hearken to their lord and establish regular prayer, (and)

who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation (XLII,

38) It is part of the mercy of God that thou deal gently

with them ... ask for (God's) forgiveness for them and

consult them in affairs (of moment). (III, 159)

62 Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates, p.33.63 Cambridge History of Islam, V.I, p.48.


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According to Bazargan the two verses indicate the

affiliation of the Islamic community in the sense that the

management of affairs has to be carried out through consultation

of its members. Furthermore it signifies that members of the

community should co-operate in their administration of social

affairs. Referring to the fact that the above verses were direct

divine commands to the person of the Prophet, whom Bazargan

believes to have been a genius, it then becomes imperative for

ordinary members of the community to utilize and implement the

divine rule of consultation. Although the actual appointment of

Mohammad to prophethood was a divine measure independent of the

wishes of the people, Bazargan states, the study of his life and

his government indicates that his rule was carried out through

consultation (Shura) with the people and approved through their

appointment. It was therefore a government of the people and in a

modern sense a democracy, Bazargan concludes.

The expression of compromise towards the position of the

traditional conservatives including that of Tabatabai comes within

the discussion on the limitations of government. To appease the

traditional stand Bazargan makes several references to the limits

set upon his conception of democratic government. The aim of the

exercise is to ease concerns amongst conservatives that the

practice of democratic government will bring havoc to their

traditions and will undermine the religious community. The purpose

of freedom, Bazargan points out, is not to create moral

carelessness or chaos on the social or political levels. On the

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contrary its purpose is to liberate the human being from the

chains of injustice and violators of human rights. Indeed the rule

of law is established to counter coercion of wealth and power. The

very meaning of freedom is to establish law, social principles and

responsibilities, Bazargan emphasizes, not to become liberated

from them.

Furthermore the principles of the constitution will be

specifically determined by divine law. No-one has the right to

regulate such fundamental laws. Here Bazargan's reference is to

the 1906 constitution which gives concessions to Islam on several

grounds. The 1906 constitution was drawn up by European minded

reformers from the Belgian model and called for the establishment

of an elected legislature and constitutional government. This was

initially approved by the clerics who enthusiastically

participated in the first parliament. However once they had

realized the practical consequences of a secular and elected body,

including the ascendancy of secular courts at a cost to the

religious ones, a section of the clerical community initiated an

offensive. The supplementary law which was passed the following

year gave the clerics an extralegal position. The second clause of

the law states that the parliament may at no time legislate laws

that are contradictory to the sacred laws of Islam". Furthermore

it calls for the creation of a board of no less that five

juriconsults and devout specialists in Islamic law, nominated by

clerics and accepted by the parliament as full members, who would

then have the power to supervise the process of legislation and

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veto bills should they be contrary to the Islamic Shari'a. 64

However within the next five decades the clerical establishment

increasingly lost its social and political influence and the

clause became redundant.

It is in this spirit that Bazargan points out that the act

of government, from his Islamic perspective, is the act of

guardianship or custodianship (as in the case of trusteeship of

religious foundations traditionally exercised by the clerics).

Furthermore this custodianship regarding people's wealth and

affairs is extended by the people as in an act of trust. 65 But

governments have no right to determine the destiny of the

individual, the nature of human responsibility, individual rights,

or fundamental social laws, for all these are within the dominance

of the divine. The only responsibility of government is to work

according to the design of God and in accordance to the divine

conscious of man.

It is interesting to note that it was on the very basis of

the concept of guardianship that Ayatollah Khomeini later built

his idea of Islamic government and the absolute rule of the

Juriconsult. In his book Islamic government (1971) Khomeini argues

that Islamic government differs from representative and/or

constitutional monarchies on the ground that there is no need for

new legislation because all necessary laws have already been

promulgated and revealed by the prophet and the infallible Imams.

64 Mottahedeh, R. The Mantle of the Prophet (Chatto &Windus, London, 1986) pp.219-222.

65 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.116.298

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Thus the function of any assembly (presumably consultative or

representative) would be to engage not in the enactment of laws

but in agenda setting, that is the clarification of the means of

administration. 66

Within the greater context of the debate however it

appears that Bazargan's concept and understanding of freedom is a

positive one -rather than negative- in the sense that freedom is

not seen as the freedom of unrestrained movement of the individual

(Thomas Hobbes) and the absence of opposition restraints against

it. But the positive creation of a social environment where, under

the protection of law the individual is capable of fulfilling his

true and good nature. 67

But Bazargan is also aware that both the individual and

the society possess limited forms of freedom to choose between

alternatives and create their own life/social programme. Were it

not for freedom and the possibility to choose, there would be no

responsibility demanded of human beings and the concepts of

education, and ideology would have no meaning. 68

Bazargan distinguishes between freedom enjoyed by man in

relationship to God and freedom as between members of the society.

The former has no restraints, for God has set no limits on the

66 Akhavi, Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iranp.165.

67 For a comparison on the different approaches, ie.positive versus negative liberty, see Berlin, I. The Two Conceptsof Liberty, in Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford University Press)pp.118-172.

68 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.95.299

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freedom of man. God only seeks to guide the individual thought and

action. However relationships between human beings are limited to

general responsibilities and laws based on the principle that

there should not be infringement on the rights and freedoms of

others. 69 This position reflects Bazargan's break from the

traditional position where God, via Shari'a, is claimed to have

legislated for many aspects of life, leaving little freedom for

the individual.

Comparing Bazargan's understanding of the issue of freedom

and democracy to the earlier stages (that is the post 1963 to the

pre-1963 period) there is no marked change in the content of the

concept. However the audience of the discourse has changed. With

regard to the issue of freedom the book Prophetic Mission and

Ideology is almost exclusively written in response to the

traditional Islamic position and its concept of elite government

while in the pre-1963 period Bazargan had addressed the regime and

criticized it for unrestrained practice of government. While the

objective of both exercises was to further the cause of democracy,

the method of the approaches differ. Initially Bazargan criticized

the state as the cause of tyranny, in the Prophetic Mission and

Ideology, he criticizes those who are basically his allies in the

fight against the Pahlavi state. Bazargan is now thinking on long

term issues and the effort is meant to change his allies from what

he sees as a non-democratic position to a democratic one. In the

process he utilizes the traditional Islamic sources of

inspiration: the Koran, Hadith and early Muslim history. He

69 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.133-140.300

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interprets the verses, the practices of the prophet and historical

events in favour of the democratic practice of government.

We had pointed out earlier that during the 1941-53 period

(and particularly in the first half) Bazargan was concerned with

the advance of the communist ideology in general and that of the

Tudeh party in particular. As he became more concerned with the

authoritarian nature of government during the 1950s and 1960s,

Bazargan was to reduce his concentration on the issue of Marxist-

Leninist ideology, although it is possible to detect the existence

of the issue in the fringes of his works. Many of the revised

versions of the writings which were published in the early 1960s

testify to this fact. But the issue became particularly acute in

the early 1970s when an inside coup in the Mojahedin Khalq

Organization, which had till then claimed Revolutionary Islamic

ideology, "shed its petite bourgeoisie skin° and turned Marxist

Leninist. 70 In response to the situation and within a year

Bazargan produced two books: The Scientificity of Marxism and A

Review of the Ideas of Eric Fromm. (The first book was written in

partnership with Ezatollah Sahabi and both writers, for reasons

unknown to this author used pseudonyms). The two books were

clearly intended to refute the ideological constructs of Marxism

and Neo-Marxism and to limit their influence among Iranian

intellectuals particularly the younger generation. In both books,

after extensive critical review of Marxism, Bazargan reaches the

conclusion that inherent contradictions of the ideology will bring

70 For an account of the great schism see Abrahamian,Radical Islam, chap. 6, passim.


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about a self-refutation and the acknowledgement of the religious

truth of the freedom of man.

Social obedience and rebellion

The third element within the Divine Ideology of Bazargan

is the issue of social obedience and rebellion. 71 The concept

developed within the context of the religious reform movement in

the 1960-63 period which called for the establishment of a supreme

religious council. As already discussed, the movement concerned

the issue of leadership of the religious community. Several

factors had helped the situation: on the one hand Ayatollah

Borujerdi who ranked highest among the Shia clerics in Iran had

died, precipitating the acceleration of a reform movement. Facing

a vacuum at the leadership level of the religious community the

more reformed minded elements (within the leading ranks of the

religious community) moved to propose the concept of collective

leadership. On the other hand the political liberalization of the

period allowed the clerics to take a more active role and a

somewhat reformist position. Had it not been for the open

political climate of the period it is possible that the leadership

would have gone to the more radical elements much sooner. This

indeed happened after the 1963 crackdown and the emergence of the

less compromising stewardship of Ayatollah Khomeini. Had the open

climate continued it is again possible to think that the supreme

leadership council concept might have been successful with the

more moderate traditional and conservative elements maintaining a

firmer grip on the leadership positions.

71 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.163-178.302

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It is within such a context that Bazargan supported the

idea of the supreme council. The idea has in a way its precedent

in the 1906 constitution where it was stipulated that a five

member committee of clerics would have veto power over parliament

any legislation. The proposal of the clerical reform movement, and

particularly that of Bazargan, much resembles what was originally

stipulated in the 1906 constitution but never implemented. It

seems logical for the clerical community to have re-emphasized

those elements of the constitution which it thought to be of

significance for its own social position.

Bazargan's argument for the establishment of the supreme

council comes within the issue of social obedience and rebellion.

Bazargan himself calls it the principle of obedience and safe

guard of the community. It argues that conflict of ideas and

interests is a natural, though not desirable state of affairs and

that conflicting ideas should be reconciled through the

application of Islamic principles which in the last stage finds

its manifestation in an elected body of learned and pious men of

religion who act as arbitrators in issues of social concern,

particularly those concerning relations between the state and the

people. The idea constitutes an innovation on the five-man

constitutional committee.

Bazargan begins his argument 72 by accepting that the

emergence of differences and conflicts of interests is the

72 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.163-178.303

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ordinary state of affairs in society, Islamic or otherwise. How

then is one to go about settling the differences and ending the

conflicts? Does any side to the conflict, specially those in

minority, have the right to rebel against the opposing view and

try to put an end to the existing order? Furthermore what is the

procedure for reconciliation?

To start with Bazargan states the inherent unity of the

Islamic community (Umma) based on the idea of one God (Tawhid). In

the same manner that God and his religion are one, it is in the

interest of the people to create one single community. Indeed with

the truth of revelation there should not be any differences

between the believers. However the natural state of affairs is

that of conflict between human beings, but the ideal towards which

they should strive is that of unity and reconciliation. Bazargan

refers to two Koranic verses:

The religion before God is Islam (submission to God), nor

did the people of the book dissent there from except

through the envy of each other after knowledge has come to

them. (III, 19) Nor would thy lord be the one to destroy

communities for a single wrong-doing if its members were

likely to mend. If thy lord had so willed, he could have

made mankind one people. (XI, 117 & 118)

It is upon this basis that Muslims should discipline

themselves in social harmony and realize that separation,

isolation and conflict is contrary to the desired goals of Islam.

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Bazargan clearly states that the rule applies both to Islamic

countries and societies as well as smaller social units and

communities. The reference is obviously to the issues within the

Muslim community of Iran (where the question of leadership had

become of paramount importance) and within the Iranian society at

large where segments of the Muslim community were laying political

challenge to the ruling establishment. To support his views

Bazargan refers to several Koranic verses:

Dispute ye not with the people of the book, except with

means better (than mere disputation) (XXIX, 46) As far as

those who divide their religion and break up into sects,

thou hast not part in them in the least. (VI, 159) And

hold fast all together, by the rope which God (stretches

out for you) and be not divided among yourselves, and

remember with gratitude God's favour on you, for you were

enemies and he joined your hearts in love. (III, 103) Obey

God and his apostle and fall into no dispute lest ye lose

heart and your power. (XIII, 46)

Now that the necessity for the establishment of unity has

been argued for it is necessary for the community to accept a

single recognized leader who will then guard the unity and order

of community and who will come to symbolize the community. Indeed

obedience to the leader (Imam) is a religious obligation and

rebellion against him forbidden. It is clear that Bazargan is

trying to establish the necessity of a strong, undisputed

leadership for the Islamic community. It is towards this end that

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he is arguing. Here Bazargan's main reference is Koran's (IV, 59)

verse; "0 ye who believe! Obey God and obey the apostle and those

charged with authority among you."

To emphasise that his interpretation of the verse (IV, 59)

and particularly that of "those charged with authority among you"

is different from the traditionalist and fundamentalist

interpretation Bazargan immediately points out the fact that the

authority in question is chosen by the people.

Going back to the main argument, Bazargan brings up

several historical events to support his concept that even the

Shiite Imams supported the idea of obedience to the will of the

community, in that while they were opposed to the ruling powers

they did not challenge authority as such. Indeed they submitted to

the ruling authority in the hope that the strength of the

community will be maintained. Bazargan gives four historical

examples; of Imams Ali, Hosain, Hasan and Sajad. Ali, the first of

the Shiite Imams, according to Bazargan, accepted the rule of the

three earlier Caliphs and even cooperated with them and only

agreed to become the fourth Caliph on the people's request. This

Bazargan apparently believes indicates that Ali was prepared to

put up with rulers who, according to Shiite belief, had usurped

the seat that rightly belonged to him, only in order to strengthen

the Muslim community rather than ravage it by dogs of conflict and

civil war.

The second case refers to the second Shiite Imam, Hasan

Mojtaba, the elder son of Ali, who made peace with Mo'avyeh and


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accepted his Caliphate. The Shiite interpretation of this peace

which was one of the first formal Shiite submissions to a usurping

ruler (in the Shiite eye) is a pragmatic one. It is said that the

peace rather than war was chosen not because Hasan was unable to

stand up to the challenges of Mo'avyeh but because this was the

best, shrewdest, way of protecting his partisans. 73 This Bazargan

insists indicates Imam Hasan's respect for the welfare of the

larger Muslim community. Imam Hasan could have put a claim for

leadership and could have gone about establishing his own

authority. But he did not do so in order to guarantee the unity

and order of the larger Muslim community.

The two other examples follow similar arguments. Bazargan

also says that from the fourth Imam onwards, during the rule of

the Umayyid and Abbasid rules, none of the Shiite leaders

separated their ways from the existing Islamic community in order

to establish their own rule and independent government. This was

done in order to guarantee the unity of the community and the

fundamentals of religions.

However as stated earlier Bazargan views social conflict

as the natural state, in contrast to complete harmony as the ideal

state. He refers to two Koranic verses which ask the believers to

call upon the Prophet, as the interpreter of the divine text to

deal with differences among the community.

73 Tabatabai, Shiite Islam, pp.194-195.307

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If ye differ in anything among yourself, refer it to God

and his apostle (IV, 59) When there comes to them some

matter touching (public) safety or fear, they divulge it.

If they had only referred it to the apostle, or to those

charged with authority among them, the proper

investigation would have tested it (IV, 83).

These verses, according to Bazargan signify the state of

conflict in nature as well as the rule of the Prophet of God as

the final arbiter. However since the prophet is no longer

accessible, his traditions as well as the Koran should be

utilized. It is now up to those who are learned in the Koran and

familiar with the Hadith of the Prophet to interpret the

situation. But the issue becomes more complicated if the matters

of conflict have no precedent in the Koran and the Hadith.

This point is of significance since the modernization of

social relations in twentieth century Iranian society has brought

about unprecedented situations to which there are no references in

traditional Shiite body of literature. To deal with this situation

Bazargan again returns to Islam, in this case methodology, where

traditionally, besides the two sources of the Koran and Hadith,

reason and consensus have been applied. In traditional

jurisprudence the use of reason has taken a number of forms

including that of personal opinion (ra'y) jurist preference

(istihsan) or analogical reasoning (qiyas). 74 The last source,

74 Karnali, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, Chaps. 9,12, passim, & Esposito, The Straight Path, p.83.


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that of consensus (ijma) calls on the majority opinion of the

community as a check on individual opinion. However in time the

idea of community, cited above, became restricted to that of the

community of jurists acting on behalf of the larger Muslim

community. 75 To make his point Bazargan relies on a Hadith.

"We said 0 Prophet of God what if an issue rises to which

a [Koranic] verse has not been revealed and to which you

have not established a tradition? He said: gather the

learned amongst the believers and consult among yourselves

without judging on a single opinion." 76

Bazargan's approach to the issue is to try to retain one

element and change the other. In other words he accepts that the

interpreters and final arbitrators have to be learned men of

religion but he insists that in the last analysis these men must

be chosen by the people. It is upon this basis that Bazargan

declares his final intention and asks why should there not be, in

the effort to deal with highly sensitive social issues, a "supreme

clerical body"? 77

The body would have just men learned in the affairs of the

world and the hereafter. Most significantly it would be chosen,

directly or indirectly by the people. It would operate on a

permanent basis, to solve issues within the religious community

proper. And it would deal with matters of difference rising



Islam the Straight Path, p.84.p.172.Prophetic Mission and Ideology,

77 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.172.309

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between the people and the government, as well as differences

between various governmental branches, for instance the executive

and the judiciary. The clerical body would be of such supreme

nature that it would have veto power over the parliament.

Bazargan's proposal, to say the least, is extraordinary. It not

only suggests the involvement of the religious community and

establishment in politics, it calls for their active participation

in the legislature. It places the clerics at the highest level of

decision making and gives them extra ordinary powers with little

process of check over their actions. Of course Bazargan has

emphasized the elected nature of the body. But given the fact that

this very point has been a matter of dispute with the traditional

segments of the clerical community the idea could have posed, and

indeed it did in the following decade, serious political

consequences once articulated into realpolitik.

It was on the basis of the idea of the duty of the learned

men of Islamic law that the radical wing of the clerical body

built their argument, and later led the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In due course the revolution brought about albeit a limited

period, the domination of the concept of the absolute rule of the

jurisconsult as articulated by Ayatollah Khomeini. 78

78 Khomeini proposed the concept of the "absolute rule ofthe juriconsult" in reaction to factional fighting within theIranian regime and in order to support the government in carryingout its programme against the existing opposition (winter 1987).Khomeini argued that the government of the Prophet Mohammad wasabsolute and its requirements took procedure over all other issuesincluding the very act of worship of God. Velayat-e Motlaqeh-eFaqih The Absolute Rule of the Jurisprudent" (FMI, Tehran, 1988).Also see Enayat, H. Iran: Khumayni's Concept of the Guardianshipof the Juriconsult in Piscatori, J. (ed.) Islam in the Political Process (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1983).


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Having established the argument in favour of creating a

Supreme Clerical Body, which most significantly challenged the

then current consensus of the nature of leadership, Bazargan turns

his attention towards the state. The question which he poses is

this: What is the responsibility of the individual if an elected

government transgresses the bounds of justice, or fails to accept

the rule of God and his Prophet or worse still is un-elected or

non-representative? For his answer Bazargan falls back on the rich

Shiite tradition of polemics which rationalize and legitimize the

minority position Shiism had suffered for all of its history vis-

a-vis the Sunni majority and which constitutes the very

theoretical foundation of the existence of the Shiite school.

With regard to the duties of the individual to obey or to

rebel against the state, Bazargan argues that the first response

of the Muslim should be that of "Enjoining the good and forbidding

the evil." 79 It has been said that this concept is the most

important collective duty of believers, the accomplishment of

which is the simple reason for Muslim concern with politics in the

first place. 80 Or that this verse is the centre-piece of Shiite

political thought for it grants, when directed to a social

setting, the possibility of resistance against authority as a

means of forbidding the evil and enjoining the good. 81 There has

already been a discussion on how Bazargan intended the concept to

79 Al-amr bil-ma'ruf wa'n-nahy an al-munkar, The Koran III,110.

80 Enayat, Modern Islamic Political Thought, p.2.8]. Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran, p.12.


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mean the right of the individual to criticize the government and

therefore a pillar of the democratic exercise of power. Now

Bazargan interprets the principle to justify advice, consultation,

reasoning and criticism. In other words rational and non-violent

approaches to settling social and political matters. However

should those in authority contradict the divine laws and

transgress the obligation of obtaining allegiance (Bayat) 82 then

the individual can, and indeed must, disobey and ultimately rebel.

On the duty and obligation to resist unjust rule Bazargan

states that individuals, particularly those in the service of

government have no right or responsibility to implement rulings

which are ill intended. But in contrast to mere violence, Bazargan

states, resistance and if necessary rebellion and revolution can

be authorized only after certain conditions are met. These

conditions include the failure of consultation, reason, and

criticism on the one hand and use of provocation and violence by

authorities on the other hand, as well as an increasing general

social degeneration, and demand and support by the people for

action. Quoting Koranic verses in support of his argument, ie. the

right of rebellion, Bazargan refers to the following:

And follow not the bidding of those who are extravagant

and who make mischief in the land and mend not (their

ways) (XXVI, 151 & 152). And pursue not that of which thou

82 Bayat is the allegiance that the four rightly guidedCaliphs demanded from the Islamic community upon taking office.With the fourth Caliph Ali, according to Bazargan, Bayat was ofgreater significance.


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hast no knowledge for every act of hearing or of seeing or

of (feeling in) the heart will be inquired into (on the

day of judgment) (XVII, 6) Their real wish is to resort

together for judgment (in their disputes) to the evil one,

though they were ordered to reject it. (IV-60)

Bazargan thus moves in his argument (by relying on the

concepts of obedience and rebellion) from calling for strong

collective leadership in the religious community, to the need to

check the exercise of state power by a religious body and finally

to the right of the individual to rebel against authority should

that authority fail to act within divine justice.

War and Peace

War was an important issue in the early days of Islam.

Mohammad led the Muslim army in three main battles and many mor

smaller campaigns, skirmishes and raids in his 23 year mission. 83

After him the first four Caliphs commanded many more battles

within their 29 years of rule. The earliest wars of Islamic

history had seriously threatened the existence of the young

community and had demanded full dedication by the believers.

Through later military campaigns territories controlled by Muslim

armies expanded from a small area in the west Arabian peninsula as

far as India in the East and North Africa in the West. As holy

war, Jihad, later came to be interpreted as the defence of the

realm of peace/Islam (dar-al-Islam) from the dar-al-harb, the

83 The three main battles were Badr (624) Uhud (625) andKhandaq (627). Others included Khaybar and Hunayan.


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realm of war. There are 35 direct references (out of the 6,000

verses) in the Koran to holy war. 84

Fight in the cause of God those who fight you but do not

transgress limits for God loveth not transgressors, and

slay them whenever ye catch them and turn them out from

where they have turned you out, for tumult and oppression

are worse than slaughter. But fight them not at the sacred

Mosque unless they (first) fight you there. But if they

fight you slay them, such is the reward of those who

suppress faith. But if they cease, God is oft-forgiving,

most merciful. And fight them on until there is no more

tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith

in God, but if they cease let there be no hostility except

to those who practice oppression. (Koran, II, 193-194)

Those who behave and suffer exile and strive with might,

[fight] and main in the God's cause, with their goods and

persons, have the highest rank in the sight of God (IX,

20) Fighting is prescribed for you, and you dislike it.

But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good

for you and that ye love a thing which is bad for you.

(II, 216)

However according to orthodox interpretations the concept

of holy war or Jihad in the Koran means exertion in the path of

God rather than purely military conflict, as the concept has come

84 Kassis, H.S. A Concordance of the Koran (University ofCalifornia Press, Berkeley, 1983).


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to be understood in recent years with the rise of militant Islamic

tendencies. In the orthodox mind the exertion becomes external

war, only as when the borders of Islam are threatened. In fact

during most of Islamic history and specially that of Shiism (which

distanced itself from political engagement during most of its

history) Jihad has been understood as exertion in inner moral

struggle and in the field of religious sciences. 85 The concept is

found both in Sunni and Shiite traditions. Jihad also includes the

socio-economic domain where it has meant the reassertion of

justice in the external environment of human existence starting

with man himself. To defend one's rights and reputation, to defend

the honour of oneself and one's family is said to be a Jihad and a

religious duty. With regard to the spiritual, Jihad refers to the

struggle for perfection in the inner life. Indeed this inner Jihad

is known as the major in contrast to the minor station of warfare.

In the Muslim eye major/inner Jihad is required to make one

detached from the impurities of the world. 86

Bazargan's study of the concept of war comes in reference

to what he sees as an inevitable clash with the ruling

establishment as well as what he believes to be over-enthusiasm on

behalf of the segments of the Muslim community who celebrate war

as a means of divine expression. 87 With regard to the

establishment Bazargan seeks to argue that war is a natural and

85 Naar, S.H. (ed.) Shiism Doctrines, Thought andSpirituality (State University of New York Press, Albany, 1988)p.5.

86 Naar, Shiism, Doctrines, Thought and Spirituality, pp.275-278.

87 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.178-198.315

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inevitable event for which Muslims should be always prepared.

Addressing the zealots in the Muslim community he argues that war

can only be employed as a last resort and only in a defensive

posture. To establish his arguments Bazargan first identifies the

place of war in human society and goes on to emphasize Islam's

insistence on peace as an ideal but also Islam's realism in its

permanent preparation for defensive combat. He then identifies the

characteristic of the enemies of Islam and the conditions for

fighting them.

War and peace are both part of real life and impossible to

negate, their denial being a fancy, Bazargan argues. The Koran

views war as the very law of nature and tradition of the upholders

of the banner of truth in history. It calls for the responsibility

of defence as a divine test and tribulation to purify the believer

in his path of evolution. The fact that human beings have not yet

reached a state of perfection makes struggle and war for survival

in their society inevitable: indeed the world is the house of

confrontation. Bazargan points to a number of Koranic verses which

clarify the Islamic position on the issue:

[Had] not God checked one set of people by measures of

another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief (II,

251) Do you think that they will be left alone on saying

"we believe" and that they will not be tested? (XXIX, 1)

Or do you think that ye shall enter the garden (of bliss)

without such (trials) as come to those who passed away

before you? They encountered suffering and adversity. (II,

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214) Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and

hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your

toil). (11,154)

To support his argument Bazargan refers to the more

immediate historical cases which he terms struggles for truth,

freedom and independence. The destiny of all righteous struggles,

he says, are determined in the field of battle. Until the day that

people are willing to fight, kill and be killed there will be no

possibility of victory. Bazargan refers to several modern

historical cases: the American War of Independence, (1770s) the

French Revolution (1789) the Irish Independence (1921) and

decolonization of India (1947) Cuba (1959) Congo (1964) Algeria

(1962) as well as the "miraculous" war of Vietnam (1960s).

Bazargan believes it naive to think that the enemy could

be defeated through mere perseverance and reasoning. Rights are

acquired not given. In the last analysis war is indeed a conflict

between the divine will and the entity of evil manifesting itself

in nature.

But who are the Muslims to fight? Who are their enemies?

Bazargan makes it clear that war will be fought against those in

power. The enemy is the one who insists in retaining the present

corrupt order because it suits its interests. The enemy is the one

who shows prejudice in the maintenance of the practice of

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traditions despite their harmful effect. 88 The enemy is the one

who enslaves the people and exploits them. It is the one who

monopolizes the seat of authority. Clearly the references are to

those in power in the country. Bazargan believes that war with the

ruling power is inevitable and he is preparing his camp for

battle. Bazargan's purpose is preparation for war with the


It would be wrong however to think of Bazargan as a zealot

rubbing hands at the prospect of the coming conflict. Indeed once

having argued that war is natural and having identified the enemy,

he immediately falls back and opens a front against those within

his own ranks in order to check what he sees as their

overzealousness in preparation for war. He is aware of the

inevitability of conflict but he hopes to check its excesses.

Bazargan says that expansionism, vengeance, exploitation,

seeking of hegemony and creation of colonies can not be in

accordance with the Koran's teaching. The case of undue violence,

aggression and massacres are forbidden. Raping of women, killing

of children and the elderly, destruction of the fruits of labour,

destruction of homes and places of worship contradict the

teachings of the Koran. It is forbidden to initiate war against

people of different religions, even the infidels, if there has not

been a provoking attack, a breach of covenant or a conspiracy.

88 In over one hundred cases the Koran refers to "the way offathers" (ie. tradition) in either condoning or condemning anissue, in particular serving the God of the fathers. For examplesee The Koran XXXI, 21.


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Bazargan criticizes those clerics who 'imagine that for

the purpose of the propagation of religion holy war is permissible

or necessary". 89 Such persons have failed to understand Islam's

refusal to use coercion for the purpose of gaining political power

or acquiring wealth and riches. More significantly Bazargan

believes the imposition of religious beliefs through compulsion

finds no support in the Koran. Faith is a matter of rational and

emotional nature. The holy book has never demanded of Muslims to

fight in order to establish justice, destroy an unjust ruler, or

free human beings from social bondage. Faith can not be imposed

through violence. Even the prophet was not responsible for

people's beliefs. His duty was to simply convey the message of God

through words of wisdom, advice and argumentation. Bazargan refers

to several Koranic verses:

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands clear

from error (II, 256) If it had been thy Lords will they

would all have believed, all who are on earth. Wilt thou

then compel mankind against their will to believe (X, 99)

If it has been God's plan, they would not have taken false

gods, but we made thee not one to watch over their doings.

(VI, 107)

89 In a book written latter by two of the clerics who hadparticipated in the 1960-63 debate it is clearly stated that Jihadis "endeavour and sacrifice for the cause of God, that is,deliverance of the people from injustice, restoration of belief inGod, and establishment of just social system. The aims of Jihadare: expansion of belief in God and ending persecution". SeeBeheahti, M.H. & Bahonar, J. Philosophy of Islam (IslamicPublications, Salt Lake City, UT, n.d.) p.567.


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Bazargan's criticism of the position of the orthodox

clergy is clear when he states that the concept of holy war

(Jihad) in the existing jurisprudence is neither necessary nor

practical. 90 For one thing the shortcomings of the concept is in

the fact that the Islamic countries are incapable of offensive

action even if they wanted. Here Bazargan makes assertions that

are remarkable and unprecedented. He challenges the actions of the

first four righteous Caliphs in their initiation of war and says

their attacks on the Byzantine and Persian empires which led to

the creation of the Muslim empire can not be taken as rules of

action. 91 Bazargan accuses the Caliphs of having failed to

understand the deep meaning of the concept of peace in Islam.

Playing on the Shiite belief that their own Imams, in contrast to

the Sunni Caliphs, were infallible Bazargan says the Caliphs could

have made mistakes in their conduct of affairs.

Bazargan also brings up the idea expressed by some Shiite

thinkers that holy war can not be pursued except in the 'presence

of the Imam". Although purposefully unclear the Imam is a

90 The concept apparently refers to the idea of war withunbelievers and non-Muslims. For a study of the laws of war inIslam see Peters, R. Jihad in Medieval And Modern Islam(E.J.Brill, Leiden, 1977) where ideas of twelfth century lawyerAbu al-Walid Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Rushd are studied. In booksof Hadith long chapters can be found on the subject of Jihad, seeHughes, T.P. A Dictionary of Islam (W.H.Allen, London, 1855).

91 The first military defeat of the Sassanian (Persian)empire came in 606 with the final and decisive battle at Qadesiyehin 637. However it took till 654 for the total invasion,absorption and occupation of the more distant areas. Thesubjection of Byzantium mainly took place between 634 and 643 whenthe city of Tripoli fell. See Lapidus, I.M. A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988) pp.37-41.


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reference to the Imam of the Time who in the Shiite tradition is

said to return from occultation to lead the believers into battle

against infidels to establish justice and the government of God on

earth. In Bazargan's treatment of the subject it is also

noticeable that he refrains from the use of the word Jihad and

instead opts for the standard Persian word for war (Jang).

Now that Bazargan has established the inevitability of

war, has identified the enemy and has checked the excesses of the

zealots in the friendly camp he goes on to establish the order

through which conflict and war emerge and through which

conciliation and peace are established.

Most primary of all, Bazargan states, is the fact that

Islam is a religion of peace. It seeks to establish friendship and

peace in all human communities, be it the family, the more

immediate environment around the individual, the society or the

community of the human race. Compassion, as evident in all the

opening verses of the chapters of the Koran "In the name of God

most gracious, merciful" are qualities of the divine which have to

be acquired by man. Affection to humans and humanism in general

constitute one of the foundations of religion. Bazargan quotes the

necessary Koranic verses in his own defence:

If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel,

make ye peace between them, but if one of them

transgresses beyond bounds against the other then fight ye

(all) against the one that transgresses until he complies

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with the command of God, but if he complies, then make

peace between them with justice and be fair. The believers

are but a single brotherhood, so make peace and

reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers.

(XLIX, 9-10) But if one exhorts to a deed of charity or

justice or conciliation between men, to him who does this

seeking the good pleasure of God, we shall soon give a

reward of the highest (value) (IV, 114) So fear God and

keep straight the relations between yourselves. (VIII, 1)

The qualities of compassion and forgiveness in Islam are

so great that even at a time of confrontation, Islam tends towards

peace. It suggests goodness in face of evil, friendship in place

of spite and compassion for the enemy. All these qualities are

envisioned to extinguish flames of conflict and war. Islam advises

restraint and suggests forgiveness to be of greater value than

revenge. It tells its followers that in case of conflict should

the enemy suggest peace, it should be welcomed with optimism.

Bazargan again refers to the Koran.

Those who spend (freely) whether in prosperity or in

adversity, who restrain anger and pardon (all) men, for

God loves those who do good. (III, 134) Let them forgive

and overlook, do you not wish that God should forgive you?

(XXIV, 22) Nor wilt thou cease to find them, barring a

few, ever bent on (new) deceits, but forgive them and

overlook (their misdeeds). (V, 14) These are a people who

will not believe. But turn away from them and say "Peace".

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But soon shall they know. (XLIII, 89) The recompense for

an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree) but if a

person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is

due from God; for God loveth not those who do wrong (XLII,

40) But if the enemy inclines towards peace do thou (also)

incline towards peace, and trust in God, for he is the one

that hearth and knoweth (all things). (VIII, 61) Therefore

if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead)

send you (guarantees of) peace, then God hath opened no

way for you (to war against them) (IV, 90)

Bazargan refers to the demand of the Koran that Muslims

should refrain from war in certain periods of the year and certain


They ask thee concerning fighting in the prohibited month

Say: fighting therein is a grave (offenCe) but graver is

it in the sight of God to prevent access to ... the sacred

Mosque. (II, 217)

The practice of restraint refers to an Arab custom which

prohibited warfare in the month of pilgrimage. The month

proceeding and the month following it were also included in the

prohibition. In fact the following month was called by the name

Prohibited. Similarly the territory of Mecca was sacred ground in

which war was prohibited. But according to the Koran (II, 194)

Muslims were free to wage war in these periods and areas should

their enemy break the custom. Bazargan says the tradition of

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restraint is a tradition from the time of Abraham, the ancient

messenger of God. The practice of maintaining a security zone and

a period of peace is designed to establish general coexistence

among the believers and help them to move towards a global

government of justice.

The Koran's call for friendship and peace is so great that

it even calls for coexistence with those who it considers to be

unbelievers. It suggests friendship with them;

God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you

not for (your) faith nor drive you out for your homes,

from dealing kindly and justly with them. (LXE, 8) And let

not the hatred of some people in (once) shutting you out

of the sacred Mosque lead you to transgression (and

hostility on your part). (V, 2) 0 ye who believe, stand

firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing and let not

the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and

depart from justice. (V, 9)

However conditions of peace could change into

prerequisites for conflict and ultimately war should certain

dangers impose themselves upon the Muslim community. On the one

hand if the enemy decides to destroy their wealth, kill them or

uproot their faith and customs, then they are obliged to fight.

Conspiracy and/or breaking the covenant could also be foundations

for conflict. War must be pursued and the enemy killed until the

"webs of conspiracy are cleared and the law of God is



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If they withdraw not from you nor give you (guarantees) of

peace besides restraining their hands, seize them and slay

them wherever you get them. (IV, 91) Fight them on until

there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail

justice and faith in God, but if they cease let there be

no hostility except to those who practice oppression. (II,


War is thus inevitable and one has to be prepared for it.

But the acceptance of dangers and casualties must be seen as a

means of acquiring divine forgiveness and blessing.

Think not of those who are slain in God's way as dead.Nay,

they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of

their Lord. (III, 169) Against them make ready your

strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of

war, to strike terror into the enemies. (VIII, 60)

Islamic Economics

It must be recalled that with the emergence of the

communist Tudeh party in the 1940's Marxism entered Iran's

intellectual life with force. Consequently throughout the 1950's

and the 1960's a great section of Iranian youth were attracted to

it. The Marxist presence was strong enough that the establishment

as well as the secular Nationalist and religious opposition

movements saw it as an important, if not the main, rival and a

threat. During this period Islamic activists oriented themselves

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so as to counter this challenge. The main thrust of the religious

movement against the communists was educational, ideological and

was pursued by men such as Tabatabai, Morteza Motahhari, Mahmud

Taliqani and Ali Shariati. There has already been a discussion of

Bazargan's critique of the Marxist position in the 1940's.

Although not organized in the sense that these men planned all

their ideological offensive collectively, there was an

intellectual harmony of a sort in the way they approached the

subject. 92

One of the works written with the express intention to

check the communist threat was Islam and Ownership by Bazargan's

close collaborator Taliqani. 93 The infusion of economic

interpretations of social history, historical materialism,

concepts of class conflict and dialectics was seen as the door

through which the youth were attracted to materialism. Taliqani,

among others, wanted to address these issues and put forward his

Islamic point of view. It is ironic that through his efforts to

counter Marxism, he came to understand its ideas and background to

the extent that he developed a degree of sympathy for Marxists and

was to become known as the Red Ayatollah himself. Furthermore his

own son Mojtaba who was involved with the Islamic guerrilla

underground later turned communist and in a sensational 'Letter of

a Son to his Father" spelled out why he had "evolved* from his

petty bourgeois Islamic ideology to embrace proletarian Marxist-

92 Rafsanjani, H. Etela'at (Tehran, 6 May 1991) p. 3.93 Taleqani, M. Islam va Malekiyat Islam and Ownership,

Jabbari, A. & Rajaee, F. (trans.) (Mazda Publishers, Lexington,Kentucky, 1983).


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Leninism. Ayatollah Taliqani became a leading charismatic figure

in the early post-revolutionary period possibly second, if not

equal, to Ayatollah Khomeini. But his post revolutionary

activities were not to last long. He died in September 1979.

Taliqani's Islam and Ownership is an effort to refute

communist as well as capitalist economics and to present a theory

of Islamic economics. The book, first written in 1951 was revised

and expanded in 1954 and 1965, the latter being the copy in use.

The book discusses a concept of evolution of ownership, and the

emergence of the power of labour and goes on to discuss Marx's

general ideas. It furthermore attacks capitalism for its creation

of economic problems and class differences. In contrast Taliqani

offers his audience the characteristics and foundations of Islamic

economics, and studies economics in the light of faith.

With regard to economic ideas 94 Bazargan draws heavily on

Taligani's book, a fact which he points out in the early parts of

his argument. Other sources including are also mentioned. 95 But

the use of these latter books are secondary and all of Bazargan's

major themes seem to have been extracted from Taligani's work.

Bazargan identifies his audience and the function of his

writing when he points out that the "effect of economics is so

great that some thinkers have viewed economics as the expression

of all life and have known man to be an economic being". 96 The

94 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.198-228.95 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.200.96 For all the material regarding economy see Bazargan,

Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.198-228.327

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references are supposedly to the Leftists and Communists who are

said to view all things from the point of view of economics. The

structure of Bazargan's argument is to first identify the

subordination of economics to morality in Islamic view of things.

He then discusses the significance of economic activity where he

sets the limits within which Muslims should approach economic

activity. He then elaborates on four other principles of his

economic system, which draws heavily from Taligani's book and

relies on traditional sources of Islamic scholarship. These are

the criteria for ownership of land, the principle of non-

damage/compulsion, issue of earning and usury, and the role of

government in economic affairs. 97

Bazargan believes economics should be subordinated to

faith and morals. 99 In other words the economic practice,

production, accumulation, distribution and consumption, should be

seen as a form and a means of worship where moral criteria and

constraints determine the form and content of activity. Through

this reiteration of morals into economic life it is hoped to

create a new social order. This system will be then able to on the

one hand surpass the justice that socialism and communism wish to

establish and on the other hand refrain from the restraints of

state-controlled organization. The Islamic system is supposedly

the best of both worlds. It seeks egalitarian measures of

97 Bazargan elaborates on a number of other principles andissues. This study has digested them to the Six Principles citedabove.

98 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, Morality, pp.200-203.


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socialism while acknowledging the practical and pragmatic aspects

of capitalism.

The issue of ownership is the foundation of the argument

since in Islam, it is said, there is no idea of absolute

ownership. Man is considered to be the temporary owner of things,

a trustee in a manner of speaking. Wealth should be therefore

utilized to the satisfaction of God. However God is needless of

all things including man's charity. It is important then to

attract God's satisfaction through adherence to his providence.

Two basic qualities of God are his creativity and his grace. In

the human realm God's creation can be expressed in terms of

productivity, the fruit of which is for the consumption of the

individual, his immediate family. God's quality of grace is best

identified in man's expenditure of wealth in service to the

people, ie. charity. Such a moral approach to economic activity

would guarantee that all men, as servants of God and members of

the human brotherhood, would enjoy equally the good things of life

and would guarantee that there would be no class differences. Here

Bazargan's concern is identifiable. Faced with the issue of social

justice and unfair distribution of wealth, he introduces a moral

element as the guarantor of fair distribution. The moral element

is based on God's qualities of grace and compassion. 99

It is then in address to the traditional community that

Bazargan calls for greater productivity. 100 There has already

99 The reference here is to opening verses of the Koranchapters; In the Name of God Most Graceful and Compassionate.

100 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, Necessity ofWealth, pp. 203-207.


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been a discussion on Bazargan's call, in the 1940's, on the

traditional segments of society to become involved in greater

productivity. Here the argument is put forward under the title of

the Necessity of Wealth. In it Bazargan tries to introduce the

modern themes of labour, production, and economic independence

through the language of Islam. Bazargan uses several Koranic

verses and a number of Hadith to fight off mystical and Yogic

interpretations of religion which call for a turning away from

active and productive life. The sayings of the prophet and the

verses ' of the Koran which Bazargan refers to are:

1- Close is the turn from poverty to blasphemy,

2- A man without subsistence is a man without a

[rewarding] hereafter,

3- 0 God through this bread give us your blessing. Let it

not be separated from us, for if there is no bread, there

is no fasting, nor prayer, nor any of the divine

obligations. (The Bread Prayer)

It is he who has spread out the earth for (his) creatures,

therein is fruit and date palms, producing spathes

(enclosing dates), also corn with its leaves and stalk for

fodder and sweet smelling plants. Then which of the

favours of your lord will ye deny. (LV. 10-13) [God] will

send rain to you in abundance, give you increase in wealth

and sons, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you

rivers. (LXXI, 11) Eat and drink of the substance provided

by God, and do no evil nor mischief on the earth. (II, 60)

Eat and drink but waste not by excess, . Who bath

forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of God, which he bath

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produced for his servants, and the things clean and pure

for sustenance? (VII, 31-32)

Bazargan's interpretation of the above is that Islam gives

great importance to its address of economic problems including the

fight against poverty. This effort is closely identified with that

of worship and prayer. The Koran identifies the fruits of the

earth, and the goods disposable to man as God's blessing to his

servants. It is therefore significant, and obligatory, for the

Muslim to produce and provide for himself, his family and his

community .

Having argued for the necessity of work, productivity and

creation of wealth in the Muslim community Bazargan then addresses

the issue of the accumulation of wealth, the manner of its

expenditure and the problems that these two are said to incur for

the individual Muslim. 101 Contrary to the earlier argument,

Bazargan now warns of the dangers of wealth diverting the

individual from the path of truth and engaging him in a world of

fancy. His topic has direct sources in the Koran and it is a

traditional religious theme. Bazargan borrows it completely from

Taliciani's Islam and Ownership. 102

101 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, Dangers ofWealth, pp.207-209.

102 For Taliqani's treatment see Taligani, Islam andOwnership, Chap. 6, The Economic Problems Caused by Moneyspecially p.108.


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Bazargan argues that according to the Koran unrestrained

wealth is detrimental to man's religious practice and education

and must therefore be bound by morals and social constraints.

See thou one who denies the judgment (to come)? Then such

is the (man) who repulses the orphan (with harshness), and

encourages not the feeding of the indigent. (CVII, 1-3)

Woe to every kind of scandal-monger and backbiter, who

pileth up wealth and layeth it by, thinking that his

wealth would make him last for ever (CIV, 1-3) The mutual

rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world)

diverts you (from the more serious things) (CII, 1) He who

is a greedy miser and thinks himself self-sufficient ...

we will indeed make smooth for him the path to misery.

(XCII, 8-10) He may say (boastfully) wealth have I

squandered in abundance! Thinketh he that none beholdeth

him? (XC, 6-7) Ye honor not the orphans, nor do you

encourage one another to feed the poor, and ye devour

inheritance, all with greed and ye love wealth with

inordinate love (LXXXIX, 17-20) Collect (wealth) and hide

it (from use), truly man was created very impatient,

fearful when evil touches him and niggardly when good

reaches him (LXX, 18-21) Hindering (all) good,

transgressing beyond bounds, deep in sin, violent (and

cruel) with all that, base-borne, because he possesses

wealth and (numerous) sons. When to him are rehearsed our

signs "Tales of ancients" he cries! Soon shall we brand

(the beast) on the snout!

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The ability to dispense with large amounts of wealth leads

to man's unjust treatment of other members of the community.

Bazargan refers to Koranic stories where the wealthy are said to

have always fought against prophets.

Never did we send a warner to a population, but the

wealthy ones among them said "We believe not in the

(message) with which ye have been sent". (XXXIV, 34)

In Bazargan's view wealth must not become an ultimate aim

for the Muslim, but a means through which the individual can come

closer to God. Wealth then presents a divine test. Those who

accumulate gold and silver but fail to consume it in the service

of the good of the community will enter hell fire. The example of

Koranic stories are repeated where tribes and nations which

respected the people of wealth degenerated and were destroyed.

Your riches and your children may be but a trial. (LXIV,

15) It is not your wealth nor your sons that will bring

you nearer to us in degree (XXXIV, 37)

The issue of wealth in the life of Mohammad is an

interesting one. Mohammad's father was a trader, as were a large

number of Mecca's population, and involved in the city's thriving

caravan trade between the Indian ocean and the Mediterranean.

Mohammad, an orphan from birth, became a steward for a wealthy

widow whom he subsequently married. Mecca at the time was a

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society in transition from a semi Bedouin to a commercial urban

society and this process was accompanied by serious economic and

social cleavages. Mohammad became a successful member of Meccan

society and after starting his missionary office he challenged the

powerful and prosperous Meccan oligarchy, condemning the socio-

economic inequalities of Meccan life. He defended the rights of

the orphans, the poor and asserted the obligation of the rich in

supporting the dispossessed. 1" The Koran's comments on the topic

of wealth is evident in Mohammad's life. While acknowledging the

goodness of wealth, it condemns it in another form, ie. when not

disposed of for the welfare of the community.

Some Western scholars have understood Islam to be

compatible with modern capitalism. On the one hand the Koran

expresses no opposition to private property, since it lays down

rules for inheritance, for example. Wage labour is also viewed as

a natural institution to which there can be no objection. Contrary

to some religions whose sacred text discourages economic activity

in general, the Koran looks with favour upon commercial activity.

Similarly in the Traditions of the Prophet there are no challenges

to the concept of private property. There are of course the

conditions that usury is forbidden and there is an obligation to

give alms. However economic activity, the search for profit, trade

and consequent production for the market are looked upon with

favour. The Koran does not merely say that one must not forget

one's portion of this world, it also says that it is proper to

combine the practice of religion and material life carrying on

103 Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, pp. 8-11.334

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trade even during pilgrimage, and goes as far as to mention

commercial profit under the name of God's bounty. 104

The political implications of Bazargan's argument (in that

it encourages the creation of wealth through productivity and

greater economic activity, and also criticizes the practice of the

accumulation of wealth) is dualistic. This position corresponds

well with that of the smaller and the more traditional private

sector of the economy which had less contact with and support from

the government. The fact that the regime favoured large scale,

high tech and urban industries under its own supervision at a cost

to the smaller, more traditional, labour intensive sector,

including the Bazaar, meant that there was less lending to the

latter and more despise opposition by them towards the state. The

tension is further strengthened by the fact that there have been

close ties between the Bazaar and the clerical community as two of

the non-state institutions in contemporary Iranian history. The

clerics, at least until the 1979 revolution, had always given

voice to the grievances of the Bazaar classes. In turn the Bazaar

gave financial and political support to the clerics. Furthermore

these ties were maintained and encouraged through family and

business affiliations. 105

On the issue of the ownership of land which constituted

the main form of ownership throughout the ages in the Muslim

104 Rodinson, M. Islam & Capitalism, (Allen Lane, London,1974) p.13.

105 For a study on the growing Ulama-Bazaar alliance seeReddie, Religion and Politics in Iran, pp.7-8.


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empires, Bazargan builds his argument 106 on the assumption,

discussed earlier that God is the absolute owner and that man can

only act as his vicegerent. 107 Therefore land (and natural

resources, for which no labour has been exerted) are public

properties and not of private nature. Bazargan states land is a

deposit on behalf of God to man and its ownership is conditional

on the factor of trustworthiness and its restoration to life (ie.

cultivation or other productive use). The ownership is thus

temporary, and ceases should the conditions fail to apply. The

arbiter and custodian of all land is the Just Ruler who represents

God. Land therefore is neither private property nor public

property (belonging to the community) but that of God who disposes

of it through the management of his steward, the Imam. The type of

ownership of Muslim land falls into three categories. First the

land which becomes that of the cultivator on the condition of

cultivation. Second the land under the direct use of the just

ruler and used for the welfare of the community. Third the land

which on the discretion of the just ruler is divided among the

members of the community.

The exact replica of this argument can be found in

Taligani's work under the title of the Roots and Foundation of

Islamic Economics which in turn relies on traditional Islamic

106 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, Land, pp. 209-

212.107 The idea that "to God belongs the kingdom of heaven and

earth' is cited eleven times in the Koran (for example see II, 107and III, 189). The vicegerency of man of earth is repeated anumber of times, for example "I am setting in the earth a viceroy"(II, 30).


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80jurisprudence. 1 It is clear that Bazargan has taken the ideas

from Taliqani. However there has been no study of the economic

ideas of Taliqani with regard to their sources and his innovation.

But the general impression given is that Taliqani had emphasized

the collective nature of property rights in Islamic jurisprudence

(as well as the role of labour in determining profit) in a

pragmatic move to challenge the leftist collectivism's claim to


Taliqani's work has been said to be less comprehensive

although, on the issue of property rights to be in keeping with

works of other Muslim ideologues written after the Second World

War. 1" These include the works of Sayyed Mohammad Bacier Sadr 110

111and Hasan Bani Sadr. Similar views on property rights are

12expressed by Ayatollah Beheshti 1 and Ayatollah Bahonar. 113 They

108 Taliqani, Islam and Ownership, Chap. 5, specially pp.88-89.

1" H. Katouzian, Shiism and Islamic Economics, in Keddie'sReligion and Politics in Iran (Yale University Press, London,1983) p.148.

110 An Iraqi Shiite cleric, Sadr (1930-80) exercisedimportant influence as writer on social, economic and politicalaffairs. He was executed by Iraqi Ba'ath government. Eqtesad-e Ma(Our Economics) is his main contribution to the economic debatewithin the Shiite activists.

111 Bani Sadr (1933- ) studied sociology and economics inTehran and Paris universities and subsequently became an Islamicideologue on economic affairs. He was elected Iran's firstRepublican president but fled the country after falling out withAyatollah Khomeini. His main book on economics is Eqtesad-eTawhidi (Monotheistic Economics.)

112 Mohammad Hosaini Beheshti (1928-81) studied at Islamictheological schools of Isfehan and Qom, later received his Phd.from the University of Tehran. Worked as a secondary schoolheadmaster for a time before being going to Germany as the managerof an Islamic centre. His political views pushed him towardsAyatollah Khomeini. Following the 1979 revolution he became thechief justice of the supreme court and the chairman of the IslamicRepublican Party. He died in a terrorist bomb blast. See Beheshti,Islamic Philosophy, see introduction.

113 Javad Bahonar (1933-81) Studied at Kerman and Qomtheological schools and the University of Tehran. Became


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all agree that there are three types of ownership in Islam: namely

that which is of God's and trusted to his representatives on

earth, that which is public and the private. 114

In actuality the first and second types of property go to

give the state significant powers in determining the form and

content of the type of ownership. This is evident in the history

of Muslim societies, particularly with regard to land which until

the modern age constituted the main object of ownership. The fact

of the state's significant share of the ownership of the soil,

without the individual having the right to more than a precarious

appropriation (and even then a mere possession of a part of the

community's land where the possession might or might not be

hereditary) has led some scholars to see Marx's Asiatic mode of

production in traditional Muslim society. 115

The fourth of the Six Principles is that of La Zarar Va

La Zerar, that there should be "neither damage or compulsion" in

economic activity. 116 The principle which is accepted in both

Sunni and Shiite traditions seeks to prevent possible damage that

might arise from certain types of ownership or economic

politically active in the 50s and 60s as a pamphleteer and drewclose to Ayatollah Khomeini. After the revolution he was a memberof the ruling Revolutionary Council, minister of education andlater the prime minsiter. He died in a terrorist bomb attack.

114 For a treatment of Bager Sadr's and Ban! Sadr's viewssee H. Katouzian, Shiism and Islamic Economics. For views of thelatter two see Beheshti, H.H. & Bahonar, J. Philosophy of Islam(Islamic Publications, Salt Lake City, UT, n.d.) specially pp.417-420.

115 Rodinson, Islam and Capitalism, pp.61-66.116 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, No damage,

compulsion, p.221.338

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transaction. Here Bazargan has clearly drawn on the traditional

theme as expressed by Taliqani.

The principle is based on a Hadith reported through a

known lineage. It is reported in Usul-e Kafi, 117 as well as

Tahzid, who report from Ibn Bakir, who reports from Zorara who

reports from Imam Mohammad Bager [the fifth Shiite Imam] that:

"Samara Ibn Jandab had a date palm in the courtyard of an Ansar's

home. Without prior permission, he occasionally would enter the

courtyard to check his tree. The Ansar asked Samara to seek

permission before entering the yard, but he ignored the request.

The Ansar appealed to the Prophet. He summoned Samara and told him

about the appeal. Samara said "Why should I ask permission to

check on my own tree?" Samara did not consent. The Prophet then

said "You are a harmful person". Then he turned to the Ansar and

said "Cut his tree and give it to him". Then added "Islam does not

permit harming one-self nor does it permit inflicting harm on

others". 118

Bazargan's interpretation of this study is that should the

ownership of a particular trade or industry prove detrimental to

the welfare of the community of Muslims, materially or

spiritually, then the Just Ruler of the Islamic government would

have the right to reclaim the property for the good of the

117 The earliest Shiite collection of traditions (Hadith) byMohammad Ibn Yaqub al-Kulayni (d.939). The author collectedwhatever came to him on the authority of those who were known asthe adherents of Shiite Imams. Jafri, S.H.M. Origins and Early Development of Shiite Islam (Longman, London, 1979) p.303.

118 See Taliqani, Islam and Ownership, p.129.339

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community. In modern terms Bazargan sees the repossessing of the

property as an act of nationalization. Such an endeavor could be

applied if those entitled to judgment, apparently the Just Ruler,

deems it necessary. It is of significance to note that it was upon

the basis of these conceptions that Bazargan, once in the position

of power in 1979, decided on sweeping nationalization of banks and

heavy industry. The nationalization process will be discussed in

detail later but it is necessary to determine what is meant by

"damaging" economic activity which is seen as detrimental to the

welfare of the Muslim community. This is most evident in the

discussions on his fifth of the Six Principles of economics.

The fifth of the Six principles of Bazargan's Islamic

economics comes under the heading of the Principle of Productivity

and Earning. 119 The argument basically states that earning and

the acquisition of wealth should be subject to one's capacity and

willingness to produce. The backdrop to the argument is Bazargan's

effort to condemn the dominant concept of economic modernization

as propagated by the state while, and possibly more importantly,

to refute Marxist notions regarding surplus value upon which

accumulation of capital is condemned as an act of exploitation.

The whole argument should be seen within the larger framework of a

fast changing Iranian political economy.

Bazargan builds his argument 120 upon the basis from which

to refute Marxist ideas that capital accumulation can take place

119 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, Earning,pp.212-221.

120 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.212-221.340

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only through exploitation based on usurping the surplus or added

value created by labour. Bazargan tries to prove that the added

value is rightly owned by the owner of capital and thus capitalism

is not necessarily an act of exploitation of the labour force. He

then sets conditions for accumulation which shall be discussed in

his Islamic version of capitalism.

Bazargan believes there is an inherent contradiction in

Marxist ideas about surplus value. To prove his point he argues

through an example: A labourer receives 100 money units for his

daily work, a skilled labourer receives 500 units for the same

period. This is based on the fact that the skilled labourer has

accumulated either physical strength or technical experience

through years of practice. This constitutes an added value to

which, Bazargan points out, the Marxist does not object. Capital

should be seen in the same light, for if it is right for the

skilled labourer to accumulate an added value within himself (in

the form of muscle strength or intellectual ability) it must be

correct for this added value to be kept in the form of currency.

Why is it that the Marxist is willing to reward the skilled

labourer (as the practice shows in the 1960s East European

countries) but not willing to accept that which they have been

rewarded, ie. the accumulated added value within the individual

once it is translated into currency and capital? This earned

capital, Bazargan believes, is the most natural and general right

which man is able to use.

At the same time Bazargan launches an attack on the

banking system as the den of refuge for capitalists from which


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they exploit the labour of the nation. It is through the operation

of banks that capitalists have managed to control the economic and

political spheres. In condemnation of the banking system Bazargan

goes on as far as expressing criticism of Marxists who have

supposedly forgotten the role of the bank in guaranteeing the

survival and perpetuation of capitalism. Bazargan's objection to

the banking system is on the use of usury, which the Koran has


On usury the Koran says • 0 ye who believe, devour not

usury, doubled and multiplied (the sum lent). 121 Those who

swallow usury will not stand except ... driven by madness. This is

because they say trade is like usury, whereas God hath permitted

trade and forbidden usury. 122 The prophet Mohammad had started

condemning usury, besides false contracts, and upholding the right

of the poor in the first ten years of his mission in the city of

Mecca. This was the means through which he had challenged the

Meccan oligarchy and the existing socio-economic inequalities. 123

However the ban on usury in concrete practice did not mean

that in the 13 centuries of Muslim culture the practice had not

existed. What in fact emerged was a collection of tricks invented

to dodge the issue. To quote a standard practice: Trader A sells a

book to trader B for 120 Dinars to be paid in a year's time, but

then he buys the book back immediately for one hundred Dinars

payable on the spot. In this way the book is retained by trader A,

121 The Koran, III, 130-131.122 The Koran, II, 275-276.123 Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, p.10.


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100 Dinars are given to trader B, and 120 Dinars are to be paid

back in a years time. There has been no lending of money, no

interest claimed but simply a matter of exchange taken place. In

this way many Muslims practised money lending under disguise. At

the same time the cultural pressure in the Muslim community

encouraged the religious minorities to openly and publicly

function as money lenders. 124 With the lessening of religious

influence, particularly in contemporary periods, Islam's usury

principle became increasingly defunct and not taken any notice of

in banking practices.

With regard to the modern banking system Bazargan suggests

a boycott and instead lending of money between people based on

religious morality where pure trust would be sufficient in giving

financial support to those in need. Banking then would be a form

of collective investment, without usury and charging only the cost

of running the operations.

Bazargan's attack on banking, while he had earlier

supported capitalism, albeit Islamic capitalism, indicates a

contradiction. A contradiction which rises from Bazargan's socio-

economic position. It seems that here Bazargan's connections to

the traditional segments of Iranian private enterprise, ie. the

Bazaar, is most relevant. The Bazaar as the traditional segment of

Iran's economic system came under increasing pressure during the

1960s. The government's concept of modernization favoured large

scale, capital intensive, import substituting, urban industrial

124 Rodinson, Islam and Capitalism, p.36-37.343

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units to the labour intensive, agricultural based traditional

economy in which the Bazaar was more deeply integrated. In

concrete terms this meant a heavy credit squeeze on the Bazaar

which had to rely on private sources of lending with a higher

interest rate in comparison to the modern industrial sector which

enjoyed government support. The situation left the traditional

segments of Iran's trading community in deep resentment of the

practices of the regime. Although this was not the only

controversial issue between the two social institutions, it is

this point which Bazargan seems to be exploiting.

It is in contrast to such a background which Bazargan

introduces his Islamic version of capitalism. Bazargan first

argues for the necessity of capitalism. If it were not for the

existence of capital there would be no progress in trade,

agricultural productivity, industrial output. Science and

civilization would not progress and a large number of workers

would be left in poverty and hunger. Furthermore it is wrong to

think of capitalism, as it is with all other things, as being

inherently good or evil. Many things can be sources of evil but

this does not mean there are innately bad. Air and water are the

very sources of life, but in the shape of hurricane and floods

they destroy human life. The distinguishing factor is how elements

and things are used for the benefit of human beings. They must be

looked upon as means rather than ends in themselves. Such is the

case with capitalism.

While Islam condemns un-earned capital based on usury, it

does not condemn all forms of the use of capital. Islam proposes a


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capitalist system based on justice, such that wealth is earned

through labour. The system would not allow monopoly in any domain,

and it would prohibit forms of productivity which would be

considered harmful to social welfare. Bazargan appeals to several

Koranic verses to prove that Islam's perception of economics

confirms the right of earning on the condition that labour is

exerted. To man is allocated what they earn, and to women what

they earn. 125 To all are (assigned) degrees according to what

they (have done) 126 Man can have nothing but what he strives for.

127 Bazargan interprets these verses to mean that each man's

right, in terms of economic earning and acquisition, results from

the labour he exerts in a productive process.

The authority of Islamic government is the next principle

to which Bazargan turns his attention. 128 Although there is

little elaboration on what the Islamic nature of authority

entails, the issue is of significance because it constitutes a

direct challenge to the authority of the state. Bazargan is

speaking of Islamic government run by a just Imam at a time when

the regime of the Shah was accelerating its secularization at an

unprecedented rate, and when the regime has crushed an uprising

led by religious elements and exiled a leading religious figure

abroad. So although what Bazargan is saying might not amount to an

elaborate theory of the state it is certainly significant in the

125 The Koran, IV, 32.126 The Koran, XLVI, 19.127 The Koran, LIII, 39.128 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, Authority of

Islamic Government, pp.225-228•345

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sense that with great force a new element, ie. that of Islamic

government, has been introduced into the political language.

Furthermore what is striking about Bazargan's concept of

the authority of Islamic government is the sweeping power which he

allows it. Although Bazargan insists that the just and learned

Islamic ruler (Imam) is one chosen by the people, the power that

he allows the Islamic government is significant. The ruler is in

charge of organizing the three branches of government and the

legislative has been reduced to a "Fatwa" body.

Fatwa, a written legal opinion traditionally on issues of

jurisprudence, is a matter completely in the domain of the

clerics. A Fatwa is based on the cleric's personal interpretation

of law. Many of the more important opinions become part of

collections of Fatwas, which become authoritative in their own

time. 129 In modern times, and particularly with the proliferation

of Islamic social movements there has been a greater number of

Fatwas regarding socio-political matters rather than purely legal

ones. But the fact that Bazargan views the legislature in the

Islamic government as a domain of the clerics signifies a

contradiction in his concept of government. This contradiction has

been already studied elsewhere and it is significant to point out

here that the dichotomy lies between a tendency for giving

authority to the people as a source of legitimacy and giving the

right of legislation to the clerics as the competent body

responsible for interpreting laws.

129 Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, p.86.346

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Finally Bazargan states that although there are no

particular formulae for Islamic government or economics given that

history is ever changing, the Koran and Hadiths are clear enough

sources of inspiration. In other words Bazargan acknowledges the

fact that the Islamic political trend is a new and unprecedented

phenomenon. Despite claims by many of the then theorists including

Bazargan which invoke history and particularly the early Islamic

period, as if Islam had an already elaborate system of ideas

regarding government and matters related to it, Bazargan's

statement shows, that the ideals of a radical Islamic state is a

total novelty and it requires great effort to be able to represent

something suitable on the issue.

However Bazargan does not hesitate to point out that the

just Islamic ruler has extensive powers. The ruler is allowed to

confiscate property, set taxes and determine the rights and social

limitations on the individual member of society. The powerful

authority which Bazargan is allowing the Islamic ruler, purely on

the basis that he is just, is only a taste of things to come.

Indeed when the Islamic government was established after the 1979

revolution, the authority rationalized and given to it was bound

by almost no-one, not even God himself.

Means and Ends

The last principle in the Divine Ideology is the concept

of piety, through which Bazargan tries to deal with the problem of

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political means and instruments. 130 Bazargan states that in a

divine interpretation of things the means can not justify the ends

even though political achievements might be delayed. Islam's

ultimate objective is not purely political but the well being of

the human race and therefore it can not give priority to political

ends at a cost to the human factor.

Here two distinct ideas have been used; that of piety and

that of means. Piety has its immediate root in the Koran and there

has already been a discussion on how Bazargan interpreted it, in

the 1940's, as to mean prudence in social thinking. The idea of

instrumentality is seems to have been introduced to the Iranian

society by Marxists, or at least they are the ones from whom

Bazargan obtains the concept, but it is in reaction to them that

he discusses the issue.

In ideological regimes ... there is a famous practice that

ends justify the means. Lenin and many other socialist or

communist leaders had no hesitation to speak bluntly in

terms of closing down parliaments and imposing the will of

the minority on the majority. 131

As in many other instances Bazargan's political aim in

introducing his argument is to face the ruling establishment on

the one hand (which he interprets to be pseudo-modernist,

tyrannical and corrupt) and to fight with the Leftists (whom he

130 gazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, pp.123-132.131 Bazargan, Prophetic mission and Ideology, p.124.


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sees as his main rivals in claim to power. This is the typical

stance that Bazargan adopted in the 1940-53 period and continued

to take despite changes in the 1953-63 stretch and now pursues

with vigour once again.

If Bazargan's point of view is looked at through critical

eyes it is possible to detect its contradictions and weaknesses.

Bazargan believes that it is not possible for the end to justify

the means if there is a belief in an absolute truth. This is not

necessarily the case. A belief in an absolute being which would

not be accompanied with an acceptance of the rights of the

individual could indeed be the grounds for the suppression of the

individual and society. Therefore what is needed is not

necessarily a belief in a divine power or an absolute truth but

the idea that respects the rights of the individual and demands

respect for them. Of course it is possible for the foundation of

such an understanding to be that of divine ideology in the sense

that since God created humans in reverence they must be the object

of respect.

It is not clear why Bazargan has chosen to discuss the

particular problem of means in his ideology. Although it is

reasonable to accept that the idea is introduced in opposition to

the Leftists as well the dominant socio-intellectual trends, the

specific reasons for the introduction of the idea is not clear. It

is possible that the idea is a refutation of the government

authoritarianism as a means for reform and social welfare. In

other words Bazargan's argument is to undermine the idea of

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benevolent tyranny. In one part of the debate Bazargan questions

the soundness of the idea that in order to achieve social reform

tyranny is not only desirable but necessary.

In bringing down the existing obstacles, including the

evil minded enemies, and in trying to create a just social

order, are we allowed, temporarily and out of necessity,

to adopt ways that are contrary to our own claims and

beliefs? 132

Bazargan cites Lenin as an example of a political leader

who has unduly rationalized this political method. Lenin, among

other communist figures, claimed that the closing down of

parliaments, imposing the will of a minority on the majority and

erecting the dictatorship of the proletariat was only in order to

establish true democracy and the ideal society. This

rationalization, Bazargan continues, is the source of inspiration

for many liberation movements in the underdeveloped countries,

from which a similar logic for establishing dictatorial rule is

drawn. Bazargan says this approach to power is Machiavellian in

the sense that it allows any illegal and immoral action as long as

it helps the maintenance of power.

It is usually argued that in order to curtail the horders

of illegitimate interests, it is necessary to use their own

weapons, lies and coercion. [It is argued] that since the majority

of the people are not aware of their own wretchedness ... or lack

132 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.123.350

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power, the informed and the well intentioned minority has the

right, and indeed the duty to use any means even unjust and

deceitful acts both against the enemy and the friend to achieve

and maintain power. And all in order to liberate the subordinated

classes. [It is argued] that justice and fairness are relative

matters and not valid when applied to the opposition. 133

It is in contrast to this justification of this

methodological relativism that Bazargan introduces his conception

of Islamic piety and claims that if there was a belief in an

absolute truth and if the aim of the social struggle was to allow

the people to determine their own destiny then the act of

achieving power and establishing a government becomes secondary

issues relative to the fundamentality of truth. It is clear here

that Bazargan is elaborating on several assumptions including that

belief in an absolute truth would somehow help people in taking

their destiny into their own hands and that these two would spell

the secondary nature of political method. However it seems that

such assumptions are not necessarily true. There is no reason to

believe that a person who believes in an absolute entity should

necessarily refrain from an undesirable method in order to realize

that absolute desired result. Indeed the possibility exists that

since an absolute truth becomes an issue of contest, the political

method will become irrelevant and the motto - the ends justifying

the means - will take greater hold. History seems to confirm this

observation as in the case of ideological states on both the right

and the left of the political spectrum. Ideological governments

133 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.124.351

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which base their rule on an absolute truth utilize all methods in

order to maintain that absolute truth.

It is ironic that Bazargan claims that a belief in an

absolute will not be practical in the sense that it will limit

realpolitik. 134 Islam could be then accused of being unrealistic

and impractical. But Bazargan puts forward the idea that Islam

does not aim at the urgent and immediate establishment of a

political government. Instead Islam seeks to liberate humanity and

establish justice in the first place. Whatever action is taken

towards this end, however small, is necessarily correct .

134 Bazargan, Prophetic Mission and Ideology, p.127.352

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Iranian Society 1977/79

At the turn of events that were to lead to the 1979

revolution in Iran the country's population stood at around 34

million with an annual population growth rate of 2.9 per cent. The

population was young: the median age was only 16/17 and those over

the age of 65 were only 3% of the total. 1 The population was

equally divided between rural and urban areas with the nomads and

semi-nomads being less than 5%. The rural population was dispersed

in over 71,000 villages and 22,000 hamlets. Literacy was estimated

to be about 40%. 2

The Gross National Product in 1976 was $57 billion with a

GNP per capita of about $2,200. Iran was the fourth biggest oil

producer and second largest oil exporter in the world. Oil

revenues stood at $20 b. constituting 96% of foreign earnings. The

share of industry and agriculture in GNP were meagre: 10% and 9%

respectively. The fact that the standard of living was

significantly higher in the cities had encouraged extensive

emigration from the rural areas. However agriculture continued to

employ the largest segment of the work force.

A study of the class structure of society based on the

same year's census indicates that the lower rural class, with 45%

of the population constituted the largest social segment. 3 These

included the landed and near landless peasants as well as landless

labourers. The second largest class was that of the lower urban

class, with 32% of the total population and composed of wage

1 The figures are based on the country's third census in1976. Nyrop, Iran: A Country Study, see profile.

2 Bazargan and the society for defence.3 See Abrahamian, Radical Islam, p.16.


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earning workers in small workshops and the Bazaar, the industrial

labourers, construction workers and the unemployed. The modern

middle and the traditional (propertied) middle classes were more

or less of the same size, constituting 10% and 13% of the total

population. The former included the modern educated professionals,

civil servants, office employees, clerics, and commercial farmers.

The upper classes which included members of the Pahlavi family,

court connected entrepreneurs, senior civil servants and military

officers were no more than 0.01% of the total population. As

discussed in earlier chapters the socio-economic structure was

under a number of major tensions including rapid population

growth, explosive urbanization, high expectations due to expansion

of education, rapid industrialization, significant increases in

national wealth due to sale of oil, rapid secularization and

adaptation of western culture and last but not least chronic

underdevelopment of political process and institutions. 4

In the last two years of the Shah's rule the economic

conditions of the country generally worsened mainly due to

political factors aggravated by unfavourable economic conditions.

Initially the Amuzegar cabinet (of which more below) had intended

to bring down rampant inflation which had reached the 35% mark

following the uncontrolled boom of 1974/76. Amuzegar was

successful but only at the cost of slowing down economic growth.

The fall in international demand for oil, price rises for western-

produced goods and a turn for worse in the climate resulting in

4 Menashri, D. Iran: A Decade of War and Revolution (Holmesand Meier, New York, 1990) See overview.


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decreases in agricultural yield aggravated the general economic

conditions. 5 Furthermore the socio-political unrests were soon to

play havoc, with the economy. As the result of many months of

anti-government strikes which were to come the urban economy was

to go into severe difficulties.

As the result of unrest industrial output was to decline

by some 24% with a large number of industrial units working at 58%

of capacity. The Gross National Product dropped by 6%. 6 Due to

stoppages and breakdowns in the system a shortage of raw material

and intermediate industrial goods developed. Furthermore political

instability, disturbances and low morale caused massive withdrawal

of capital 7 with a large number of owners and top managers of

enterprises leaving the country. Many of those enterprises had

heavy debts to banks and the flight of the managerial echelons

transformed the financial burden to the banks. The situation was

aggravated by demands by industrial as well as white collar

workers for higher wages and greater managerial control at the

place of work. As economic activity slowed down, leaving huge

industrial projects standing idle, a black market began to grow

for all commodities. Unemployment rose to an unprecedented figure

of 3 million, constituting some 30% of the work force. 8

5 Menashri, Iran: A Decade of War Chap. 1. passim.6 GNP dropped 3.5 the following year (1979/80) and 10% on

the one after. Razavi, H. & Vakil, F. Political Environment ofEconomic Planning in Iran 1971-83 (Westview Press, Boulder, 1984),p.108.

7 Some $6.7 b. in 1977/78.8 Rahnema, A. & Nomani, F. Secular Miracle (Zed, London,

1990) Chap. 6. passim.355

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The Revolutionary Offensive and the Royal Defence

The Period between January 1977 (inauguration of US human

rights foreign policy) and February 1979 (end of Iranian monarchy)

witnessed the emergence of a mass social urban revolutionary

movement which challenged the state and successfully brought it

down to its knees. The events of the period have been the subject

of numerous studies and it is not intended to recount them here. 9

However it is instructive to study briefly the revolutionary

movement's political offensive in terms of leadership,

organization, and tactic. In contrast the defence put up by the

state and its gradual but definitive collapse shall be also

studied in similar terms. 10 It is in understanding the political

positioning of the institutions of the state in relation to civil

society and the emerging revolutionary institutions that it is

possible to sketch and understand the position of Bazargan and his

liberal associates.

The events of this revolutionary period were initiated by

the Shah himself. On the one hand US President Jimmy Carter's

foreign policy of human rights and on the other hand the Shah's

9 For instance see: Bakhash, The Reign of the Ayatollahs, Iran and the Islamic Revolution Bernard, The Government of GodBill, The Eagle and the Lion Green, Revolution in Iran Biro, Iran Under the Ayatollahs Kazemi, Iranian Revolution in Perspective Ramezani, Revolutionary Iran Rosen, Iran Since the Revolution orRubin, Paved With Good Intentions. For a fuller list refer to thebibliography.

10 The study in this section has relied on information andarguments from the following: Rahnema, A. & Nomani, F. The Secular Miracle, see people's revolution. Parsa, M. The Social Origins of the Iranian Revolution (Rutgers University Press) part II,Menashri, Iran: A Decade of War, see overview & Chaps. 1 & 2,Abrahamian, Radical Islam, Chap. 1, Keddie, Roots of Revolution,pp.258-276, Biro, D. Iran Under the Ayatollahs, Chap. 4.


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own stable domestic position encouraged him to liberalize. The

initial liberalizations were in terms of freedom for a number of

political prisoners, greater openness in the press, judicial

reforms and tolerance of mild open criticism. Intellectuals and

political activists immediately recognized the opportunity for

political action, and particularly after the appointment of

Jamshid Amuzegar as the prime minister, initiated a series of

movements that was to be the beginning of the end for the


The revolutionary offensive started in early 1977 and

continued throughout the year with soft but unprecedented and

spontaneous acts of protest where professionals and intellectuals,

including lawyers, judges and writers sent open letters to senior

government officials criticizing the regime's policies and

demanding adherence to the constitution. At the same time clerics

initiated and maintained a wave of critical sermons in mosques

across the country. The clerical protests came after the secular

professionals had made their move and Khomeini was positively

encouraging them to initiate it. 12 How ever there was no central

command to the movement and it was more based on the initiative of

individuals or small groups. The second stage of the offensive

(January 1978) came when protests became popular and people took

11 Amuzegar took over from Amir Abbas Hovieda who had beenin the office for 13 years. The 1977-79 revolutionary period sawthe emergence and collapse of four governments. Amuzegar(appointed 7 July 1977), Ja'far Sharif-Imami (27 August 1978),General Azhari (6 November 1978), and Shapur Bakhtiyar (6 January1979).

12 See Khomeini's letter to the clerics, Bazargan, M.Engelab-e Islami dar do harekat The Iranian Revolution in TwoMovements (FMI, Tehran, 1983) p.26.


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to the streets. The publication of an article in a semi-official

newspaper attacking Khomeini in derogatory terms provoked an

element of violence. 13 From then on and throughout 1978 the

protests were self perpetuating since they were held as mourning

for "martyrs" killed in the previous demonstrations. Furthermore

they were increasingly massive in the scale that they managed to

attract people on to the streets. The self-disciplined and

organized marches were then coupled with continuous violent

skirmishes with the military. The third stage (1979) and the final

victory to the revolutionary movement came in a bloody three day

battle with the army, the last bastion of the Pahlavi regime. 14

It is useful to have an understanding of the class

configuration of the revolutionary movement. At the time Iran had

a population of around 35 million, half of whom lived in the rural

areas and who were totally out of the political picture. The

smaller towns held around 15 per cent of the population while the

big towns and cities had some 35 percent of the population, with

Tehran alone accommodating some 4.5 million people. It was within

this 8 million people living in the larger towns that the

revolution took shape and therefore understanding the urban class

composition is crucial. According to Abrahamian the lower classes

constituted 58%, the traditional middle class 20% and the salaried

modern middle class 18% of the urban population. 15 If we exclude

those segments which were close to the state, including the

13 Ettele'at evening paper, 7 January 1978. The violencestarted in a Qom seminary.

14 Rahnema, A. & Romani, F. Secular Miracle, See section onprovisional government.

15 Abrahamian, Radical Islam, p.16.358

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military (400,00 personnel and their families), parts of the

bureaucratic middle classes and those who were not mobilized in

the massive street demonstrations, as well as the very young and

the old, it is possible to estimate roughly that some 30% of the

population of the larger urban centres or around 2.4 million could

have participated in the movement. This constitutes 7.4% of the

total population. As has already been pointed out in the earlier

chapters massive migrations had taken place from rural to urban

areas and it was this social segment which constituted the most

solid section of the revolutionary movement. Their ranks however

were consolidated by sections of the traditional as well as modern

urban middle classes seeking a political role in the Iranian

society. On the level of elite, the leadership cadre were almost

totally from classes who had little or no representation in the

state. In other words they were from the Bazaar, clerical, small

landowning, or small entrepreneurial rather than bureaucratic,

military or industrialist classes. 16 In terms of their political

orientation they were liberal or radical of secular and religious

persuasions in contrast to the authoritarian, modernist and

secular orientation of the ruling elite.

The defence put up by the regime in this period had three

characteristics. Initially the political leadership of the regime

became confused with regards to the nature of events, its own

capabilities, the capacity of the opposition and was thus unable

to pursue a definitive course of action. Secondly the bureaucracy

16 See for example Abrahamian, Radical Islam, p.43, Chehabi,Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism, p.87, or Arjomand,Turban for the Crown, p.219-220.


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which acted as the political institution of the regime, as well as

its executive arm, collapsed -in political terms- when the main

body of the white collar workers joined the opposition movement.

Thirdly and most fatal of all was the psychological and

organizational withering away of the military apparatus which with

400,000 members and staunch loyalty to the person of the Shah

represented the system's last trench.

Systematic comparison between the revolutionary offensive

and the state's defence are instructive. In terms of leadership

Khomeini increasingly consolidated his position as the undisputed

leader of the revolution with all the tendencies including the

orthodox clergy, the secular liberals, and the moderate as well as

the radical left giving him almost total support in the belief

that only a united front could bring down the Shah and that

differences would be settled later. At the same time people at

large immediately identified and actively accepted the position of

Khomeini who projected an image of a saintly figure uncompromising

in his struggle for social justice.

In contrast the leadership of the state apparatus became

increasingly confused and divided, not only losing contact and

communication with the people but also becoming divided among its

own ranks. Here two initial factors were the Shah's discomfort

with the presence of a Democratic, rather than a Republican,

administration in Washington and the possibility that he was

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suffering from terminal cancer. 17 As the protest movement of 1977

turned radical and violent in the following year, the Shah proved

incapable of making firm decisions in terms of either early

capitulation to the demands of the opposition or their total

suppression. Instead he initiated a process of appeasement by

making sacrifices from his own senior ranks. The arrests of Amir

Abbas Hovieda, his prime minister of 13 years and Ne'matollah

Nasiri, the former head of the secret police are but cases in

point. Confusion among senior officials can be detected as early

as January 1978 when the Rastakhiz Party held an extraordinary

session to reorganize and when dissent became vocal in the Majlis

and members began questioning policies of the previous 25 years.

In terms of organization the regime increasingly lost

control of the institutions on which its power rested while the

self-motivated and spontaneous revolutionary offensive initiated a

two pronged strategy where on the one hand it created its own

organizations and on the other hand crept to take over leadership

positions within the state apparatus. The Shah's regime had

traditionally relied on three pillars of power: the Royal Court,

as its elite power centre, the bureaucracy as its political as

well as executive arm and the military as its ultimate instrument

of coercion. Within the early stages of the crisis chaos set in

the political centres of the regime including the Royal Court, the

Majlis and the Rastakhiz Party. The Shah's own policy of purges

17 For a psychoanalytical study of the Shah's withdrawing ofsupport for the system see Zonis, M. Majestic Failure: The Fall of the Shah (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1991).


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within these ranks 18 seems to have deteriorated morale and

weakened trust. Members of the Majlis and Rastakhiz were the first

segments of the establishment to break away and start severe

critical campaigns against the regime. With dissent being voiced

at the higher ranks of government officials, the lower ranking

members of bureaucracy began to show an increasing tendency

towards political defection. Indeed within a year and by the end

of 1978 the main body of the Iranian bureaucracy, which for many

years the Shah had relied on as a pillar of strength, had

practically joined the revolution and brought life to a standstill

through their strikes. It was only the military which showed a

degree of resistance against the tide that was to spell its doom.

Deterioration in the army which led to its total surrender to the

new regime with only token resistance started with desertion of

conscripts, leading to mutiny among some lower ranking officers

and collapse of morale among senior officers as the Shah abandoned

the political fight and finally capitulated to the maximum demands

of the revolutionaries. The functional collapse of the Royal

Court, the bureaucracy and the military highlights the structural

weakness of the regime which by its own insistence on the non-

political orientation of its instruments of power had made them

inflexible and vulnerable to change.

In contrast the revolutionary movement began to

institutionalize itself on two levels: on the mass as well as the

elite. The former started in 1977 with the organization of mass

18 Including demands on the Royal family to abstain fromfinancial and political activity, arrests of former seniorofficials, anti-corruption campaign, etc.


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demonstrations. The latter started to take shape in late 1978 when

the revolutionaries initiated a policy of cooperation with higher

officials of the regime as well as creating a shadow government.19

The mass demonstrations and daily violent clashes with the troops

brought together activist elements organized around neighbourhood

Committees which soon mushroomed around the country. The

Committees functioned and further developed in three ways: First

as cooperatives which were intended to ease distribution of goods

where the crippling effects of strikes had taken consumer goods

out of the reach of some segments of society. Second; as military-

political courts arresting and judging senior government

officials, members of the secret police and "corrupt" social

elements such as prostitutes and pimps. Third; as organized bands

of armed fighters who began to function as the military wing of

the revolution. The different types of Committees were centred

around neighbourhood mosques which constituted a rare non-state

social network with a history of political independence and a

degree of centralized organization. In turn the activists in the

mosques were controlled by the clerics who soon began to

monopolize managerial posts in the neighbourhood organizations.

Later Khomeini and other political figures who were to

capture leadership positions initiated a process of creating high

level leadership bodies. These bodies, including the Revolutionary

Council and the Provisional Government, functioned as the shadow

legislative-executive and gradually monopolized the process of

19 In a letter to Khomeini Bazargan asked him to encouragethis trend. Bazargan, The Revolutionary Council, p. 19.


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decision making. Furthermore, through the skillful manipulation of

social symbols, Khomeini began to portray an image of an active

and powerful leader. In effect while the traditional organizations

of the regime were suffering from loss of morale, defections,

malfunctions and confusion, the revolutionary offensive was

beginning to create its own institutions and setting up of

parallel bodies to that of the state.

On the tactical level both the leaders of the regime and

the opposition movement pursued a policy of appeasement and

threat; that is on the one hand they offered social and material

benefits and on the other hand threatened violence and coercion

against their opponents. The "stick" of the regime took different

forms and ranged between pure polemics, physical attacks, bombing

houses, imposition of martial law and a shoot to kill policy. The

"carrot° came in terms of reform policies, promised or set in

motion, against government corruption, economic hardship and

political repression. Respect for the constitution, people's

religion and expansion of social welfare were said to be the prime

criteria for government policy making. The twin policy of

repression and accommodation was designed to bring segments of the

opposition under control and to sew divisions amongst the other

sectors. But the failure of the policy of divide and rule was best

evident in the inability of Bakhtiyar, as a long time National

Front activist, to form a "constitutional coalition" government

under the Shah's rule. Thus the process of appeasement and

concessions that the Shah set in motion ended with his own exile.

A close study of the policies pursued by the regime in this period

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indicates that despite a switch from technocratic to political

orientation of the cabinets, their tactics suffered from a lack of

initiative -as opposed to reactive measures- thus an acceptance

and resignation to failure.

The tactics of the revolutionary opposition was pursued in

order to create an image of an increasingly powerful movement with

a benevolent and accommodating nature while maintaining threats of

violence and reprisals. In concrete terms the opposition tactics

meant mass mobilization of the public, violent sporadic skirmishes

with the army and strikes in offices and factories. These steps

were meant and were effectively able to bring ordinary daily life

to a standstill and undermine the authority, legitimacy and

capabilities of the establishment. The steps were accompanied by

psychological warfare where members of the regime were made to

believe that the revolutionary leadership was non-violent in terms

of social control and that a compromise between various social

segments would be reached.

A study of the qualities and characteristics of tactics

used by the revolutionaries indicates their increasing

manipulation of religious symbols, a tendency to move from soft

civil methods of protest 20 to an increasing use of violence and

coercion. Furthermore the revolutionary leadership established and

maintained unity among its ranks 21 while rejecting all forms of

20 Including letter writing, publication of pamphlets, andsmall public meetings.

21 Despite possibly an occasional attack by the clerics onthe communists which was designed to ease western apprehensionwith regards to pro-Soviet leanings within the revolutionarymovement.


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compromise towards the policies of the regime. 22 In contrast the

policy of appeasement or threat by the regime failed to undermine

the opposition's determination in pursuit of its strategic goal of

destroying the centre of power.

The Appointment of The Provisional Government

Until the revolutionary period relations between Khomeini

and Bazargan were cordial. Bazargan was known to Khomeini not only

from his writings but also through involvement with senior

clerical figures and reformist as well as revolutionary religious

movements. Khomeini had come to express indirect support for

Bazargan in 1963 after the latter's arrest for opposition to the

White Revolution. 23 In turn Bazargan and the Freedom Movement had

spoken extensively in defence of Khomeini over a number of

years. 24 Furthermore Bazargan was close to Khomeini's confidant,

Ayatollah Motahhari who was to become the head of the

Revolutionary Council. The two men were well aware of each other's

positions. Bazargan understood Khomeini's attachment to his

concept of the Guardianship of the Jurisconsult. Khomeini knew of

Bazargan's liberal, constitutional and nationalist orientations.

But as the revolutionary movement picked up momentum they needed

each other to further their own causes and differences between

them were overshadowed by their opposition to the Shah. However as

it shall be argued it was Khomeini who was to win from the

22 This was of course not a conscious progression, rather apart of the developmental properties of the revolution.

23 Bazargan, M. Shura-ye engelab va Dulat-e movaqqat TheRevolutionary Council and the Provisional Government (FMI, Tehran,1982) p.19.

24 FMI Documents, V.I. For example p.282 and 359.366

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partnership. While Bazargan failed to pursue his strategic goals,

Khomeini used Bazargan for a transitory period that allowed his

more radical followers to organize and mount an offensive against

the liberal tendency, inflaming radicalism in domestic and foreign

policy and finally defeating them. A defeat which Khomeini in his

euphoria called the Second Revolution.

Bazargan had first met Khomeini for an exchange of views

in the winter of 1962, prior to the implementation of the Shah's

White Revolution and the subsequent disturbances. Following the

Shah's offensive against Khomeini and the religious community,

Bazargan wrote a tract, from prison, in defence of Khomeini which

was read and enthusiastically approved of by the latter. From then

till 1978 Bazargan had no direct contact with the exiled Ayatollah

but received his occasional communiques. However both men had high

profiles within the Islamic movement, one operating within the

country, the other from Exile. When the revolutionary movement

picked up momentum, Bazargan sent a message to Khomeini (August

1978) calling on him to accept the existing constitution, to

attack the idea of tyranny rather than colonialism, to set his

strategy in the context of free elections, and to accept defectors

from the regime. He further asked him to follow a strategy of

gradual transition and to keep aloof from trying to monopolize

power for the clerics. As revolutionary crisis engulfed the

country Bazargan went to Paris, as did other political figures, to

meet Khomeini (October 1978) where he again called on him to use a

gradualist strategy through free elections. Khomeini was not

forthcoming. However he did ask Bazargan to suggest a list for an


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advisory council. Bazargan drew up a list and it was on the basis

of this suggestion that the Revolutionary Council was formed in

the following month in order to deal with the management of the

revolution. 25 What is surprising in this episode of events is the

gulf between the two men who had nevertheless decided to cooperate

with each other. Bazargan was to tell his associates back in

Tehran that Khomeini was a "Shah in the clothes of a Molla" and

was to later write that Khomeini seemed indifferent and unaware of

the complexities of political affairs.

I found it extraordinary that he [Khomeini] took

everything so simply ... his indifference and heedlessness

towards elementary issues of politics and [social]

management astounded me. 26

When Bazargan returned to Iran, Khomeini sent him an open

letter asking for his supervision of the strike-stricken oil

industry in order to provide enough fuel for domestic needs. The

appointment was publicly taken as the likelihood of Bazargan being

appointed as the prime minister in the near future. 27 However the

actual suggestion for Bazargan's appointment to lead the

provisional government came from Ayatollah Motahhari in a

Revolutionary Council meeting with Khomeini after the latter's

return to Iran. Also present in the meeting was Ayatollah Taleciani

who advised Bazargan against the suggestion but Bazargan accepted

25 Bazargan, The Revolutionary Council, pp.18-21.26 Bazargan, The Revolutionary Council, p.21.27 On Bazargan's Mission to activate the oil industry see

FMI Documents: V.4/3, Revitalizing the Oil Industry and Organizingthe Demonstrations (FMI. Tehran, 1983).


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pointing out his "national and religious duties." 28 However prior

to the formal appointment, Bazargan made his positi on and the

existing differences between himself and the clerics clear.

Detecting the threat he would face from the radical clerics he

warned Khomeini and the Revolutionary Council that he intended to

follow a gradualist and moderate policy. Nobody objected. 29

The programme which Khomeini had asked Bazargan to

implement, although significant in that it constituted the

necessary legal transition from Monarchy to the Islamic Republic

based on popular consent, fails to fully reflect the political

realities and events of the period. Despite the fact that Bazargan

did indeed carry out the instructions that Khomeini had given him,

he was not allowed to stay in office and was forced to abandon his

position. Khomeini's instructions to Bazargan in February 1979

were to bring order to social life, carry out a referendum on the

establishment of an Islamic Republic and hold elections for

constitutional and national assemblies. 30

The fact that Khomeini appointed Mehdi Bazargan as his

prime minister is significant. Why did he choose Bazargan and why

did Bazargan accept the appointment? From Khomeini's point of view

there were several reasons. For one thing Bazargan had the

necessary political credentials. He was respected for his

opposition to the regime and for his activities with the National

Front as well as the government of Mosaddeq. He had spent several

28 Bazargan, The Revolutionary Council, p.25.29 Bazargan, The Revolutionary Council, p.27.30 Bazargan, The Revolutionary Council, p.53.


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years in prison for his political ideas. He had written

extensively for four decades on political issues. He had a large

network of contacts within the active political circles. He also

was known for his managerial capacities in the private sector.

Bazargan also had colourful religious credentials. He had

participated in or had been in contact with almost all major

religious-political movements that had taken place in the previous

three decades. The bulk of his writings were on religious topics.

He had been a pioneer in politicizing Islam and calling for

clerical involvement in politics.

It might be suggested that Khomeini was genuinely willing

to share power with the Muslim liberals and even the secular

Nationalists such as the National Front. This indeed seems to have

been the impression formed by a number of liberals at the time (of

which more below). The fact that he had refered to the National

(Melli) cause on several occasions in his public declarations

might be put forward as evidence in this respect. But Khomeini had

developed his concept of "The Guardianship of Jurisconsult" much

earlier on and it is unlikely that he had not contemplated and

rejected the possibility of sharing power with other political

tendencies, including the liberals. 31

What is more likely is that he saw the liberals, under the

leadership of its religious faction and headed by Bazargan as a

useful tactical ally against his foes, particularly the

establishment and the army. Khomeini's tactical alliances, even

31 Benard & Khalilzad, The Government of God, p.110.370

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though undeclared and tacit, with most unlikely partners including

the pro-Soviet Tudeh party, were to become famous in years to

come. Therefore it should come as no surprise that he intended to

use the liberals for the time being and abandon them once they

were of no use. Khomeini needed the liberals, at that stage, for

several reasons. On the one hand he was not sure of a political

association, closer to his own vision of politics that was capable

or prepared to take over power. His clerical allies had little

managerial experience. Ayatollah Beheshti was to point out later

that Khomeini had asked him on several occasion whether he was

prepared to form a government and he had to reply that he was not.

So Khomeini had to put up with Bazargan for the time being as the

only realistic alternative.

Furthermore Bazargan and the liberal tendency were the

most acceptable leadership alternative to the nation-wide movement

which Khomeini was now leading. The appointment of clerics into

positions of government (something which Khomeini had fought for

and is well indicated in his earlier writings) would have been

unacceptable to the politically articulated sections of society

particularly the middle classes. In contrast Bazargan had the

necessary credentials which were acceptable to the modern urban

classes in Iran.

At the same time Bazargan could not have mounted a serious

challenge against Khomeini, and would in any case not do so. As

will be discussed later, even during his hardest days in office

Bazargan emphasized his allegiance to Khomeini's political


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leadership. Furthermore Bazargan lacked the forceful personality

and ambition or the intellectual inclination to become a violent

challenger to power. His liberal political orientation expressed

itself in the tactical flexibility that he was willing to use in

order to obtain his political objectives. Bazargan also lacked a

mass and popular base. He was not as well known to the public as

Khomeini and even when given the chance he failed to display a

forceful and attractive charisma that could have become

politically instrumental at a later stage.

From Bazargan's point of view the position of prime

minister of the Islamic Revolution was of course attractive. Most

significantly Bazargan saw the victorious revolution as something

for which he had struggled and suffered over many years. He had

fought for an anti-dictatorial movement with Islamic and National

credentials and in 1979 it must have seemed to him that he had

achieved his finest hour. For years he had spoken of a national

movement led by religious elements and now that the movement was

giving him the opportunity to lead it he could not have refused.

In his first speech after his appointment he expressed his


I have now realized my old dream - towards which I had

worked for forty years - in bringing together these two

old and basic positions, that of religion and [modern]

learning. In this I see tidings for, and liberation of

Iran. 32

32 The University of Tehran, the first message to thenation. Bazargan, A. Problems and Issues, p. 70.


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However Bazargan was well aware that the undisputed

leadership of the revolution lay with Khomeini. He was also aware

of Khomeini's concept of government and political leadership. He

knew that Khomeini wanted to bring the clerics into the political

domain. This was acceptable, on certain conditions, to Bazargan.

Indeed he had emphasized the necessity of clerical involvement in

politics for a number of years. But what Bazargan had apparently

misread was the clerical ambition to monopolize government, and

the extent to which Khomeini was intending to rule by

authoritarian measures. Bazargan believed that Khomeini would be

more accommodating to people like himself who would then have the

opportunity to implement their strategic goals of liberalizing

social relations (of which more below). Bazargan apparently

believed that Khomeini, as he had promised on the last leg of his

exile in Paris, would return to his Islamic seminary and from

there he, along with other religious figures, would act as a

supervisory body checking against the accesses of government.

The Events

February 1979 witnessed the final and official surrender

of the monarchical regime and the establishment of the first post-

revolutionary cabinet headed by Bazargan. 33 The Shah's military

machine declared itself neutral and his last appointed prime

minister, Bakhtiyar, went into hiding. It was during the same

month that revolutionary executions began and soon hundreds were

33 Bazargan was appointed on February 4th and resigned onNovember 5th, 1979.


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to face the firing squads across the country. The collapse of the

old order encouraged new political trends, specially in the

periphery and the Kurds were the first to rise. Their spiritual

leader, Ezzeddin-Hosaini sent a set of demands to the central

government calling for Kurdish autonomy. 34

The following month Khomeini moved to Qom, as he had

promised, apparently to return to his life of teaching but as

events were to show he and his clerical establishment did not keep

aloof from politics. In the meantime the pre-revolutionary unity

that brought down the Shah was giving way to divisions. By the end

of the month fighting had begun in the Kurdistan Province as well

as in north western areas settled by Torkmans. However the show of

strength for the emerging system was evident in the referendum

that called for an end to the monarchy and the establishment of an

Islamic Republic. It was at this time that Iraq tested Iranian

defences by bombing several border villages but the foreign

ministry was able to patch up differences and secure compensation.

By April things were becoming more violent. Following the

official establishment of the Islamic Republic at the beginning of

the month, the execution of former government officials continued.

34 In writing this section the following material has beenused: Abrahamian, Radical Islam, Chap. 8, Afkhami, Thanatos, Chap.6, Amjad, From Royal Dictatorship to Theocracy, Chap. 8. Benard,The Government of God, Chap. 5, Chehabi, Iranian Politics andReligious Modernism, Chap. 7, Hiro, Iran under the Ayatollahs,Chaps. 3 & 4, Menashri, Iran: A Decade of War, pp.77-111, Sanjabi,Hopes & Despairs, Chap. 11, Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, Chaps. 14& 15.


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Differences also began to emerge at the top of the leadership

hierarchy, best evident in the arrest of Ayatollah Taleqani's

son. 35 Meanwhile the radical clerics and other fundamentalist

tendencies announced the establishment of the Islamic Republican

Party. It was later in April and early May that a number of

prominent political figures including Major General Qarani 36 and

Ayatollah Motahhari were assassinated by a small fringe group.

Ethnic unrest reached a new peak when Arabs of Khuzistan led by

their religious leader and possibly under Iraqi agitation began

violent anti-government protests.

The following two months witnessed increasing tensions

between the Provisional Government headed by Bazargan and the

Revolutionary Council. While the Council called for increasingly

radical measures the cabinet insisted on moderate policy making.

The transfer of four clerical members of the Council to the

cabinet best illustrates efforts at harmonizing activities of the

two bodies. However Khomeini sided with the radical elements and

criticized the cabinet for being weak. 37

In August fighting in Kurdistan began to take on greater

dimensions and was to last for an initial period of three months.

35 Two of Taleqani's sons were arrested and jailed for anumber of days by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. The two weremembers of left wing organizations. In protest Talegani closed hisoffice and left Tehran for a number of days.

36 Mohammad Vali Qarani was the head of the former regime'smilitary intelligence but was dismissed for an alleged anti-Shahplot in 1958 and sentenced to three years imprisonment. Halliday,F. Dictatorship and Development, (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth)p.68.

37 For an example see the evening paper Kayhan (Tehran,March 8, 1979).


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The towns in the area changed hands several times and the central

government sent in the army to put down the rebellion. However the

control of the countryside and the mountainous region proved

impossible. Meanwhile in the big cities the radical left began a

campaign of disobedience through demonstrations that usually led

to clashes with pro-Khomeini activists. In reaction to the unrest

the Provisional Government introduced press restrictions while the

revolutionary prosecutor closed down a number of publications.

Despite the tensions the government managed to hold elections for

the Assembly of Experts (a constitutional assembly) which met

later with an overwhelming clerical faction, to discuss the draft


Polarization between the more moderate position of the

Provisional Government and the more radical orientation of the

Revolutionary Council became even more apparent in September. The

former's position was weakened by the death of Ayatollah Taleciani

who had refused to give total support to the radical tendency.

Meanwhile the subjection of the media to the control of the

radical Islamic tendency continued with the confiscation of a

number of newspapers.

In October fighting in Kurdistan intensified and towns

again changed hands several times. Meanwhile US-Iranian relations

deteriorated with the admission of the Shah into USA for medical

treatment. In early November radical students proclaiming

adherence to the person of Khomeini seized the US embassy compound

in Tehran. Within 48 hours and after Khomeini's support for the


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take-over Mehdi Bazargan resigned as prime minister. A number of

cabinet members however stayed on as a care-taker government until

a new cabinet was installed.

The Liberal Strategy

While in office Bazargan's strategy was a portrait of

classic liberal thinking. 38 On the one hand he tried to limit the

interference of government in civil society, on the other hand he

hoped to regulate government activity through administrative

reforms. To achieve these goals he had to confront the legacy of

the former regime left in the shape of its extensive bureaucratic-

military machine. But he was also forced to face the extremist

elements, of both right and left. The two sides of the political

spectrum claimed the right to monopolize power and showed the

political will in pursuit of their aims. However the most

significant challenge that Bazargan confronted in his effort to

reconstruct the Iranian state was revolutionary acts committed by

sections of society who believed that revolutionary destruction

would still have to continue.

Bazargan's tenure in office can be termed the strategic

defeat of the liberal alternative in the face of social and

political challenges. The liberals may have well understood the

structural problems of Iranian society but they went wrong in

articulating a realistic strategy and in hoping to maintain it in

the face of political challenges and social demands. Limiting the

38 For a comparative discussion on the liberal notions ofthe role of the state and individual in society see Manning, D.J.Liberalism (London, Dent & Son, 1976) pp.73-81.


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powers of the state, reforming the bureaucracy and regulating

social relations might have been remedies to Iran's chronic

history of tyranny and authoritarian rule but they failed to meet

the immediate expectations of a population intoxicated with the

taste of triumph, bent on uprooting their immediate past for an

unknown future, naive in the art of political action, expecting

that goodness will come only if evil would be purged and

annihilated by revolutionary violence.

Bazargan and his co-liberals failed to harness popular

expectations, failed to gain a hold on popular imagination, and

failed to make a significant section of the urban population

actiVated through the revolutionary process to identify with their

cause. Subsequently other social forces pushed Bazargan and his

associates to the fringe of the political spectrum and it was up

to Khomeini and his radical clerics to capture the mood and the

imagination of the masses. They in turn rode on the tide of

popular expectations, took up the banner of populism and fuelled

mass hysteria. Consequently they held the reigns of power with

little concern about the effects of their rule, in social or

economic terms. They desperately wanted to exercise power as the

agents of the Divine and to hold on to power at all costs, as the

events of the 1980s were to prove. The story of Bazargan's

government then is the defeat of the liberal alternative at the

hands of the newly politicalised and revolutionary urban classes.

The liberals fell victim to those whom they sought to liberate.

Limiting the Structure and Power of the State


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The Liberal Defeat

The fundamental elements in the strategy of Bazargan while

he led the Provisional Government was to limit the structure of

government and to regulate it so as to make its actions in

accordance with the existing or the emerging constitutional laws.

This goal was based on the perception that tyranny was

fundamentally the mal-function of natural society. In the eyes of

Bazargan society in its natural form, left on its own with the

state acting only as a regulator and arbitrator between different

components, presented the best form of human life. But in

contemporary Iran, Bazargan believed, the state had come to

dominate social life and to impose itself on all social domains.

During the rule of the late Shah, the Iranian state and

bureaucratic machinery had expanded extensively. The reasons for

the overexpansion of the contemporary Middle Eastern state to the

point where it dominates all others institutions in absolute terms

has been the subject of a number of studies and it is not intended

to open the debate here. 39 When Bazargan came to power the

Iranian state was a massive complex. It directly employed 1.6

million people and further provided indirect employment for a

similar number of people through contractual works. Thus about 30%

of the labour force was in direct or indirect employment of the

state. The income of the state from oil alone was $20 b. some 35%

of the GNP. 40 Furthermore the state had the monopoly of political

39 To name but a few factors the following are mostdiscussed: A history of state absolutism, weakness of privateproperty, extended historic periods of social chaos, imperialistencouragement of bureaucratic centralization and military rule,popular idea of state as vanguard of social progress, availabilityof vast revenues from the sale of oil, etc.

40 Nyrop, Iran: A Country Study, p.XIV.379

Page 381: Islam in Defence of Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Political Biography of Iranian Ideologue Mehdi Bazargan

Th. Liboral Defoat

activity. No other institution was allowed to engage in any form

of activity which could be interpreted as political. Throughout

his speeches in his nine months in office 41 Bazargan repeatedly

tried to convey this fact and emphasise the necessity of limiting

the size and the power of the state.

Since the time of Ahmad Shah 42 and the constitutional

period, all the governments which had come to power

competed with each other to enlarge this balloon of state

[apparatus]. The minimum responsibility and intention of

the existing government is not to move in a similar

direction. In terms of expenses and number of civil

servants, the state apparatus is three or four times

larger than what is needed. We should not expand and

enlarge it. To employ new people for the government

apparatus is a sin against the revolution, Islam, the

nation and the people. 43

We must avoid statism. I have said it several times and

must constantly emphasize it again. With the kind of state

that we have and the large number of civil servants that

we employ, we should not enlarge this balloon. It will

simply burst. 44

41 Bazargan spoke on the television and radio once everyweek or two.

42 The last monarch of the Qajar dynasty who was forced toabdicate (1925) by Reza Khan the founder of the modern Iranianstate.

43 Indirect quotation from a televised speech. Bazargan, A.Problems and Issues, p.124.

44 Bazargan, A. Problems and Issues, p.200.380

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The Liberal Defeat

One of the programmes in transforming the former order

into the future Islamic Republic would be to try to leave

people's work to themselves, so they would be able to

carry out [their own work] with greater efficiency and so

the governments burden would be lighter. The government

would then have only the responsibility of guidance,

initiatives, rescue and emergency help. 45

The root of the problem? The root of the problem is that

the state apparatus in Iran which is a product of the

ancient order, has been the instrument of injustice,

corruption and theft of the Pahlavis. People are disgusted

with and hate the state apparatus. 46

In the language of classical liberalism, where the

activities of the free market and private sector are seen as

necessary conditions for guaranteeing the rights of the

individual, 47 Bazargan defended the private sector and condemned

state intervention in economic affairs as a "conspiracy" by the

state to impose itself on civil society.

The Pahlavi regime tried to paralyze the private sector

. it tried to take away all economic activity from the

45 Bazargan, A. Problems and Issues, p.24.46 Bazargan, A. Problem and Issues, p.186.47 For a review of the arguments presented by Western

liberals on matters of state and emergence of capitalism seeHolden, B. Understanding Liberal Democracy (Philip Allan, HelmelHempstead, 1988) p.161.


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The Liberal Defeat

people and to monopolize it. People would have then become

weak, dependent and unable to protest. The policies and

responsibilities of the Islamic revolution and government

should be contrary to this trend ... The government should

act [only] as a coordinator, supervisor and guide as to

allow the people to take up the responsibilities

themselves. 48

Bazargan saw minimum government and minimum state

interference as good government and the natural conditions for

human life and interaction. The role of good government was to

interfere as little as possible in the social domain so as to

allow events to take their "natural" course.

Government should be like a midwife who tries to leave the

mother to give birth naturally. [She] interferes as little

as possible so nature will do its work. Government should

be like the doctor who fights against the disease by

trying to impose the natural state of balance to the

organs of the body. The nature of government should be the

same. It should make the environment safe. It should try

to barricade the entry of microbes so that the people and

the nation will be able to rule themselves, so that things

will take shape naturally. In other words economic growth,

military power, intellectual advance, practical initiative

and financial capital should all come automatically from

the people . It is sufficient that the environment

48 Bazargan, A. Problems and Issues, p.306.382

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The Liberal Defeat

should be made agreeable as to allow the establishment of

justice. Then everything will be in its [natural]

position. Justice will be done. Progress, blessings,

greatness and power will automatically come from the

people. 49

Bazargan's intentions in limiting the structure and power

of the state apparatus are clear but as shall be shown he was to

fail in realizing this aim. Indeed the outcome of his government

was to the contrary. By the time he left office the state

apparatus had expanded significantly. The expansion of the state

came primarily in the form of large scale nationalization. All

private banks and major insurance companies and hundreds of

industrial units, were nationalized. The reasons that Bazargan

agreed to the nationalizations, an act which stands contrary to

his initial emphasis on limiting state apparatus were fivefold.

1. A large number of owners of large scale industries had fled the

country during the revolutionary upheavals. With their departure

their organizations were left without supervision and in many

instances the production lines shut down. These units included

those owned by the royal family which employed tens of thousands

of workers. All the units turned to government for help. 50

Bazargan had no choice but to extend a helping hand. The cabinet

soon became involved in appointing hundreds of new managers to the

49 Indirect quotation, Bazargan, A. Problems and Issues,p.247.

50 Bazargan A. Problems and Issues, p.102.383

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The Liberal Defeat

abandoned organizations, thus effectively bringing all of them

under government responsibility.

2. There were several large scale economic projects, government

owned and managed, but not yet at production stage. In some

instances it was thought that these projects were uneconomical and

a result of showmanship rather than sound financial thinking.

Billions of dollars had been spent towards their completion and

they would have employed hundreds of thousands of people. The best

known among these were the atomic reactor and a large scale petro-

chemical plant on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Bazargan felt he

had no choice but to maintain the state management of these

projects, rather than abandoning them at the particular stage of

completion. 51

3. The nationalization of all banks (as well as insurance

companies) was the biggest ec