Religionization of politics in Iran: Shi’i seminaries as the bastion of resistance
journal contributionposted on 2020-01-01, 00:00 authored by N Ghobadzadeh, Shahram AkbarzadehShahram Akbarzadeh
Four decades after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a wealth of scholarship exists detailing the failures and achievements of the ruling clergy. Such lines of inquiry explore not only the economic, political and foreign policies of the clerical establishment, but also the performance of the ruling clergy in the religious sphere. However, an important matter that has attracted scant interest is the ruling clergy’s policies regarding the Shi’i traditional orthodoxy, that is, their fons et origo. Reminding readers that governmental-Shi’ism emerged as a marginal discourse within the Shi’i seminary in the 1970s, this paper explains how the ruling clergy waged a calculated campaign aimed at transforming the flexible, pluralistic and independent nature of the traditional orthodoxy into a system dependent upon the state and submissive to its government-centric reading of Shi’ism. We argue that the ruling clergy have succeeded in establishing and making state-sponsored institutions important players in the seminary and Shi’i establishment. However, they have failed to abolish the traditional orthodoxy in which distance and independence from the state have remained foundational features.