Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is often described in secondary literature as a political actor who advocated religious absolutism. This paper argues that Khomeini’s theory can best be characterized not simply as a theory of guardianship by the Islamic jurisprudent but instead as a theory of limited guardianship. In the public speeches and statements that he delivered during the drafting of the Islamic Republic’s first constitution in 1979, Khomeini is clear that the necessary conditions of political legitimacy are, firstly, popular consent to government, secondly, public approval of the guardian, and finally, popular representation in a legislative assembly. These public statements are consonant with Khomeini’s description of Islamic government in Najaf in 1970, where he recognizes that the guardian is fallible, that the fallibility of human reason may lead people to establish inadequate political conventions, and that there is a certain injustice in imposing government upon a public that does not consent to it. His 1970 lectures do not contradict his post-revolutionary thought also because Khomeini in 1970 gives no indication that he disapproves of – though he makes no explicit statement that he approves of – representative, parliamentary government.