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Islamism and Modernism

The Changing Discourse in Iran

By Farhang Rajaee

Publication Year: 2007

While many previous books have probed the causes of Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, few have focused on the power of religion in shaping a national identity over the decades leading up to it. Islamism and Modernism captures the metamorphosis of the Islamic movement in Iran, from encounters with Great Britain and the United States in the 1920s through twenty-first-century struggles between those seeking to reform Islam’s role and those who take a hardline defensive stance. Capturing the views of four generations of Muslim activists, Farhang Rajaee describes how the extremism of the 1960s brought more confidence to concerned Islam-minded Iranians and radicalized the Muslim world while Islamic alternatives to modernity were presented. Subsequent ideologies gave rise to the revolution, which in turn has fed a restructuring of Islam as a faith rather than as an ideology. Presenting thought-provoking discussions of religious thinkers such as Ha’eri, Burujerdi, Bazargan, and Shari‘ati, along with contemporaries such as Kadivar, Soroush, and Shabestari, the author sheds rare light on the voices fueling contemporary Islamic thinking in Iran. A comprehensive study of these interwoven aspects of politics, religion, society, and identity, Islamism and Modernism offers crucial new insight into the aftermath of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution fought one hundred years ago—and its ramifications for the newest generation to face the crossroads of modernity and Islamic discourse in modern Iran today.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: CMES Modern Middle East Series


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xx

This book narrates the story of the Islamic movement in Iran, a framework of thought and action that began as an alternative to a century of modernization. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Iranians had succeeded in ushering in a genuine “Iranian modernity,” in the form of a constitutional polity. Then Iran became hostage to the “Age of Imperialism” (Hobsbawm 1987) as the Middle East became the most “penetrated region” (Brown 1984) in the world. ...

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pp. 1-26

On February 1, 1979, an Air France Boeing 747 carrying Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini landed at Tehran’s international airport. After fifteen years of exile in Turkey, Iraq, and France, he was arriving as the leader of an ongoing revolution. From the airport he went directly to the cemetery where the martyrs of the revolution were buried, and declared: “I will appoint a government, I will crush the present government.” ...

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One. The First Generation: The Politics of Revival, 1920s–1960s

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pp. 27-89

The year 1921 was a decisive one for the Iranian polity. In February, an officer of a Cossack brigade, Reza Khan Mir-Panj, spearheaded a military coup and changed the face of politics in Iran. In March, a clergyman, Sheikh Abdolkarim Ha᾽eri Yazdi (d. 1937), moved to Qom and changed the religious life of Shi῾ism. The first event became instrumental in turning the traditional state into a socially “baseless” state; that is, an attempt was made to Westernize Iran by introducing many modernist ...

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Two. The Second Generation: The Politics of Revolution, 1963–1991

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pp. 90-150

In 1971 the shah celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of the monarchi-cal system in Iran. In the same year, Khomeini announced that there was a contradiction between Islam and kingship: “It is reported that the prophet considered the title ‘king of kings’ (malak al-muluk) the most hated phrase” (Khomeini 1361/1982, 2:359). Note that the title “king of kings” was one of the titles of the last Pahlavi king. Moreover, Khomeini claimed that it was the religious duty of the clergy to rise ...

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Three. The Third Generation: The Politics of Islamism, 1989–1997

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pp. 151-192

“The Spirit of God joined the celestial domain”: that was how Iranian radio broke the news of Khomeini’s death on Sunday, June 3, 1989. Th e announcer eloquently played with words: Khomeini’s first name, “Ruhollah,” means “the Spirit of God.” Dealing with Khomeini’s death proved much more challenging than had been originally assumed. ...

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Four. The Fourth Generation: The Politics of Restoration, 1997–2005

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pp. 193-236

In late 1987, an official at the Institute for Political and International Studies, a think tank, asked me to help organize a conference on the ongoing Iran-Iraq War. When I agreed, I was invited to a meeting with a group of Iranian officials who were different from any I had encountered in various revolutionary institutions or in the public sphere. They were sophisticated and well versed in the intricacies of the international system. ...

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Conclusion. The Politics of Oscillation

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pp. 237-246

On September 14, 2005, the newly elected president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to the General Assembly of the United Nations. When he returned to Iran, he reported to his religious mentor, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli, that when he “began with the words ‘in the name of God,’” he saw that he became “surrounded by a light until the end [of the speech].” ...


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pp. 247-252


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pp. 253-268


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pp. 269-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780292794498
E-ISBN-10: 0292794495
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292716780
Print-ISBN-10: 0292716788

Page Count: 292
Illustrations: 1 figure, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: CMES Modern Middle East Series
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OCLC Number: 646761227
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Islamism and Modernism

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Subject Headings

  • Iran -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Iran -- Politics and government -- 21st century.
  • Islam and state -- Iran.
  • Islam -- Iran -- History.
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