Small Wars Journal

Shia Iran and Effects of Globalization on State and Religion: The Beginning of Post-Islamism Era

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Shia Iran and Effects of Globalization on State and Religion: The Beginning of Post-Islamism Era

Njdeh Asisian

To my beloved wife and my son whose support and love was invaluable asset in my entire life.

Introduction

Political systems may not be designed to survive due to their inherent contradictions.  In a spectrum of systems ranging from complete freedom (Anarchy) and complete control by the governing body allowing little interaction with the government (Autocracy), the more likely survivable political system exists in the center.  The center of the spectrum is occupied in the modern era by political systems characterized by consent of the governed in an arrangement often called the social contract.  The latter systems are more likely to survive as the governed and governing bodies cooperate in the government process.  Iran should be located along the spectrum toward Autocracy.  The governing mullahs allow for little cooperation and negotiation with the governed.  Political dissent smacks of religious transgression.  For these and other reasons discussed below, Iran should not be expected to survive in the long term in its current theocratic–run political system.

The effects of globalization on different societies have been the topic of long discussions in the recent decades.  Jurgensmeyer and Huntington have been deeply involved in the debate of globalization, civilizational problems and rise of religious politics all over the world.  From their viewpoint, the development of non-western, traditional societies continue to fall way short of the mark in providing their citizens with basic services such as employment, food, health care and an honorable life.

In Muslim-majority countries of the Middle East appear to validate the claims according to observations made by Jurgensmeyer and Huntington.  The current state of hopelessness in the region has not been adequately satisfied by secular politics and the rapid expansion of Western ideas and lifestyle.  In fact, deviations from the traditional cultural influences have created negative influences on the social and political affairs of some Middle Eastern countries.   In response to the apparent crises facing the region, political activists and intellectuals turned to Islam to create a traditional solution.  Their goal includes developing the resources of their countries and preserving their social, political, and cultural identities in the face of a tidal wave of corrosive Western influences.  Jurgensmeyer has branded it as “Religious Nationalism” while Huntington has simply predicted the massive civilizational conflicts based on the religion. 

In this paper, I will not discuss the nature of international relations theories of globalization or why Middle Eastern intellectuals and political pundits have become so fascinated with religion.   Instead, I will focus on what is expected to become a post-Islamic era in which religion loses its social appeal and people will search for a new identity that is not necessarily anti-religious but would be more secular and pluralist.  I believe Iran would be the best example of such a society.  

Iran in the last four decades has witnessed many socio-political and economic upheavals.  Iran experienced the first anti-globalization movement in the Middle East which highly emphasized the Muslim identity of Iranian people.  In contrast, after 35 years, we are witnessing the fact that the Hegelian dialectic of Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis is working in Iran.  Slowly, Iranian-Shia clerics are losing their grip on power.  In the 1980s the thesis was one of Islamic ideology which was influenced heavily by Marxism and anti-American sentiments.  And, the Islamic government that has been founded by overthrowing the Iranian monarch and establishing an Islamic authority, was a new force in the Iranian polity. Currently, the Iranian state is at the stage of antithesis. In this stage, The Islamic Republic is being challenged by different social forces. These forces are involved in an intense form of philosophical and political debate, attempting to establish a new order.  

The major forces that were able to push back against Iranian clerics, were the post-modernist forces.  These forces were in the developmental stage during the Pahlavi dynasty.  They have matured in the last three decades and are now capable of enduring any type of assault. The clerical regime tried very hard to push the Iranian modernists out of the picture.  But, unfortunately for the regime, these forces did not intend to die very soon.[1]  On top of the domestic forces that actively push back against the clerics, globalization is playing an important role to force changes in the Iranian polity.

The irony of the story is the fact that globalization caused the 1979 Iranian revolution in which common people and Islamic and Marxist intellectuals became alarmed about the strong socio-cultural elements of globalization and the inevitable Westernization of Iranian society.  And now, after approximately three decades, globalization again influences the Iranian polity, with reverse consequences.  This time, the Iranian people are trying to transform their identity and eventually their political system to a more egalitarian and secular system.  This system will be deeply rooted in the Iranian quest for modernization and enlightenment and will not be an artificial phenomenon that was implanted by benevolent dictators.

It is important to mention that the clerical regime is not just religious.  At the same time, it is not completely secular. The current struggle is not about the creation of a model religious state.  The struggle is about how much of this religious identity will survive in the secularization process.  The radical fundamentalist forces are not capable of dictating their will, and the secularists are not powerful enough to force the clerics out of the political picture, for good.  For instance, during previous presidential elections, the regime did everything possible to keep Ahmadinejad in power.  But, the entrenched power brokers were not able to carry out its plans.  Groups supporting the Ahmadinejad regime were unable to complete their task.  As a result of the new influences in Iranian society, the regime was forced to accept a compromise candidate, Mr. Rouhani, as President of Iran.  In other words, the Iranian society is in limbo and is caught between two worlds.  In the first world, the clerics lost their attraction during the last 35 years of governing.  The second world is composed of the Iranian youth and women who are influenced by secular and post-modernist forces.  They are promising a better life, political freedom, better economic conditions and modernization of the state that clerics cannot or will not provide to them. 

This struggle will determine the future of the Iranian state in the foreseeable future.  Iran as an Islamic country is on the verge of a great civilizational transformation.  The transformation from a religious Shia state to a more liberal and egalitarian state would eventually secularize all aspects of the state.  The forces of modernism and globalization will eventually force this transformation.  Further, the secularization of the Iranian state is parallel to the globalization and collapse of Shiism as a state ideology.  I refer to this as Post-Islamism.  In this state of affairs, religious forces are losing their ideological strength and the people will gradually undermine the religious structure of the state to such a point that prepares the country for peaceful transformation from an Islamic state to a more democratic and secular government. 

In this paper, I have tried to analyze the transformation of the Iranian civilization through the use of references from Iranian literature and books that had been published about the effects of globalization on Iranian society and the current theocratic regime.  The referenced Iranian literature displays a reality that the state is fearful of radical social changes in Iran.  The writers understand that these changes are reaching a point of no return.  They are trying to analyze the situation and provide some solutions to the authorities to consider before things get too far out of hand. 

In the first instance, I will analyze the Iranian political scene, on the verge of revolution, to assist the reader in gaining a better understanding of how the Islamic government was established in Iran.  Secondly, I will discuss the issue of identity as a major socio-political problem in the post-revolutionary era where the Islamic government was doing almost everything in its power to create a new Islamic identity in Iran.    Thirdly, I will discuss Iranian literature from the perspective of the depth and meaning that it has and how it will impact the changing Iranian state.  Also, how the changing state will relate to the rest of the world. It is important to mention that these analyses unanimously indicate that the active agents of social changes in the Iranian political life are youth and women.  They have successfully redefined their roles in the society and have become significant competitors to the conservative Islamic forces. 

Hegelian Dialectic: The Formation of a New Thesis in Iran

The Islamic Revolution was a direct consequence of popular reaction to globalization, on one hand and on the other, an intense socio-political struggle of Iranian social forces during the 1960s and 70s.  These struggles faced the governments’ heavy handed policies against political dissent and meaningful reform of the political system.   The dismemberment of the political forces in the post 1953 coup have allowed religious forces to become major players on the Iranian landscape.

The development of Hegelian antithesis in those decades brought the country to the boiling point and caused the 1979 Iranian revolution.  At the time, the Islamic government became the new thesis that was able to establish a political order and was capable of doing virtually everything it desired.

The popular discontent toward the monarch and the government was a direct consequence of "the speedy process of developments in the 1960s and 1970s when the Iranian society made significant social and economic achievements.  However, because the concentration of political power curtailed political freedom, the government’s legitimacy, its goals, and policies were questioned.  Consequently, modernization, which enjoyed a particular priority in the government's goals and policies, became interchangeable with Westernization in the public eye.”[2]

The Iranian revolution was the first and the last successful anti-globalization social movement that was able to establish a political system and governing institutions that were based on traditional identity.[3]

In order to understand the nature of the revolution and its early behavior, one should remember that three distinguished groups were on the political scene before the 1979 revolution.  “The first group of individuals were pro-western.  They suggested unconditional and irreversible transformation of the Iranian polity to a western model.  The second group was composed of individuals who followed tradition and were motivated by religion.  The third group comprised the individuals who believed in the modernization process, but who wanted to achieve the modernization of their country through the transformation of the traditional culture.  This is the step by step approach.”[4]

By 1979, the modernist pro-western forces had lost their influence. And, the “development of the Iranian Revolution was a direct consequence of the formation of a coalition between the second and third groups.  The major reason that brought religious modernist and traditionalist groups together was their shared concern about the unprecedented infiltration of Western values and lifestyles over the Iranian polity.  Further, it was a Shia-Iranian response against the expansion of Western values.”[5]

The post-revolutionary Iranian government was dominated by religious traditionalists and the modernist-traditionalist individuals.  However, this coalition did not last long as the religious-traditionalists had the upper hand due to Khomeini’s charisma among the masses. Khomeini considered the modernist-traditionalists as useful tools for his ultimate agenda to take over the government and establish a theocratic order.  Because all the political forces which participated in the 1979 revolution had been totally dismantled, Khomeini was able to take over the Iranian political structure all together. 

Henry Kissinger masterfully described the post-revolutionary chaos in Iran.  He said, “When government is conceived of a divine, dissent will be treated as blasphemy, not political opposition.  Under Khomeini, the Islamic Republic carried out these principles, beginning with a wave of trials and executions and systematic repression of minority faiths far exceeding what had occurred under the Shah’s authoritarian regime.”[6]  The astonishing success of the religious-traditionalists in manipulating the Iranian political system gave them the false impression that they had a divine mission to change the world and by glorifying Islam and preparing for the return of 12th Imam.  Consequently, Iran’s theocratic regime adopted strong anti-modern sentiments in domestic level (closure of universities for three and a half years in order to Islamize them, forceful adoption of women’s dress code, dismemberment of all political forces…..) and in the regional and global levels they enforced the radical anti-western slogans.  At the same time, the leaders of the Islamic Republic called the other Muslim countries’ political leaders heretics because their governments were not following the Iranian revolutionary goals. They were pro-Western and Sunnis.  They called for the Muslim masses to overthrow their respective political leadership and, at the same time, they began a show of power by holding American diplomats hostage for 444 days while making political demands that were never met by the American government. 

The regime behavior caused a tremendous backlash and a bloody war that lasted for eight years.   The war with Iraq and its consequences was a wake-up call for the regime leaders.  It made them understand that they could not govern one of the most sophisticated countries in the Middle East based on rules of governance that were 1400 years old. 

The quest for technological advancements and the post-war economic needs of the country have changed the very nature of the Islamic Republic, as a theological state.  Consequently, the pressure of both the domestic and the globalization forces have become highly active engines of sociopolitical transformation of the traditional culture and religion in Iran and it further influenced an identity that the regime wanted to be cheerfully received and adopted by Iranian people.  

The Question of Identity

Post war changes have threatened the major theme of the Iranian Islamic government. Their obsession with the issues of honoring and maintaining their Islamic identity in order to support and solidify their hold on political power has been challenged.  One can rightfully ask, what role identity plays in this discussion. The Iranian theocratic political system heavily depends on identity as a driving force behind its existence. James Fearson said, “Identity is presently used in two linked senses, which may be termed social and personal.  In the former sense, an identity refers simply to a social category, a set of persons marked by a label and distinguished by rules deciding membership and (alleged) characteristic features or attributes.  In the second sense of personal identity, an identity is some distinguishing characteristic (or characteristics) that a person takes a special pride in or views as socially consequential but more-or-less unchangeable.”[7]

In the Islamic Republic, the personal and social identity has been defined based on the traditional-religious norms and formation of other types of social or individual identities have been considered as a threat against the very existence of the Islamic Republic and Shia religious beliefs, as well. 

In other words, the forces of traditional governing pressures to turn the wheels of history back to a time when the established social norms seemed unchangeable and religiosity was part of the day to day business.  In contrast, the domestic democratic-liberal forces and the globalization relentlessly challenge the very basis of the Islamic Republic of Iran and they create serious identity crisis where the traditional identity is losing ground on a daily basis, and it has become an existentialist threat against the very existence of the Iranian theocratic regime.

The Iranian theocratic regime is relentlessly searching for an answer for how to face this challenge.  Iranian intellectuals have suggested to the regime that opposing globalization or ignoring the agents of modernization within the Iranian society is fruitless and harmful to the State, regardless of who governs the country. 

Iranian pundits believe that Iran cannot avoid the consequences of globalization which challenge all aspects of both the Islamic identity of Iran and the Shia religion as the state ideology.  Besides the globalization that threatens the very existence of the Islamic Republic, the internal processes such as “... the demystification of Shia religion for many of its followers, gradual degradation of Shia clerics helps to accelerate the process of secularization of the Iranian state [as well].[8]”  In other words, “secularization affects this construct in two ways: First, through the intensifying of distinction until reaching the limit of comparing and contrasting between roles; second, by prescribing contradicting imperatives in order to shape their norms and semantics. The secularization of Iran at this level, and under the influence of these factors, has less to do with cognitive substance and ideological direction. Rather, it is more applied, and arises from the expediencies of action; therefore, it must be called practical secularization, which incidentally, has a broader scope and permeates daily life more readily. Today the situation that has emerged in Iran and many other societies, under the influence of imitative development role models, practically compels the individual to completely reconsider his own values and norms, despite his beliefs and convictions, while transforming him into an effective element in intensifying this process in the future...”[9]

These intellectuals naturally have different opinions about how Iran should respond to the impact from the globalization process and the crisis of identity.  The same intellectuals appear to be united around one universal theme.  They do not want to see the premature disintegration of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  These Iranian analysts are divided into two distinguished groups.

The first group of analysts analyzed globalization and its aftermath through religious norms.  In this group, we see two distinguished schools of thought about religion and globalization.  The first school of thought belongs to Religious-Realist intellectuals who have specific ideas about the interconnection of religion and globalization.  This group considers the globalization as a jumping off point to establish the Islamic laws and regulations in the wider areas of the world.  The second school of thought is more illusionary than anything else.  This group analyzed the globalization through Shia Eschatology.

The second group is a mixture of realists, nationalists, Marxists, and Islamist intellectuals who see globalization as a process that they cannot stop, but what they are thinking is how they can influence the process in order to pass through this turbulent era with less socio-political damages to the state or to the people.  It is important to mention that this group, while promoting the national interest, has less religious motivation. 

Globalization and Eschatological-Apocalyptical Approach

Eschatological-Apocalyptical analysts, without paying attention to what is going on within their own backyard, believe that the globalization provides tremendous opportunities for the expansion of the global reach of Shia Islam.  The other side of this statement is also true when you read carefully between lines.  The same Eschatological-Apocalyptical analysts believe that globalization negatively impacts the Islamic Republic because of its influence on Iranian civic society and the continuous weakening of the religious component of the Republic (Shia Islam).   In other words, the Islamic Republic’s dilemma cannot be solved unless there is a global Islamic state where secularization and liberal-democratic forces have been defeated by the universal Islamization of the international political system.   Consequently, the Islamization of global political system will also put an end to the liberal tendencies of Iranian people.  The best possible model for such a scenario is the Soviet Union.  With collapse of the Soviet Union, the Marxist-Leninist parties and even countries have collapsed, one after another, due to the failure of ideological legitimacy.  

I will examine two types of “eschatological- apocalyptical” approaches to globalization.  The first type is the realist approach in which adherents sought to prepare the ground for the political manipulation of the world order.   The second type is to consider the globalization process through the Shia Eschatology.

The realist approach searches to find ways and means to establish a structure and thought process which will eventually bring into power an Islamic political and legal system as a dominant power on the world stage.  In the realist opinion, the Iranian revolution of 1979 should serve as a serious basis of a new beginning for globalization of Islam as a major power broker in the international political system.  They mentioned that, “From the beginning, the nature of revolution and the Islamic movement was based on the culture and return back to our original identity which was based on the religious doctrine.  Therefore, we witnessed a fact that the Iranian Islamic Republic’s constitution highly praised the goal of having a global government which governs by Monotheism and hoists the banner of 'There is no God but Allah' in all over the world.”[10]

At the same time, the realists promote the nature of global mission of the Iranian Revolution through the Iranian Constitution of 1979. In the constitution, religious identity and values are held in the highest possible place with the promise, made in the constitution, to assist all oppressed people around the world.  They have envisioned the Iranian political system as the model for the future global Islamic order.  At the same time, these Muslim intellectuals believe that they can offer something more important for human society, without rejecting the very essence of the globalization and technological advancements of our era.  

The first step of the realists is to establish the legal framework for the future world order.  They consider Islam as the engine of change on the global level and they mentioned that “now days the world turns to religion to fill the spiritual and emotional gaps; further, the world came to acknowledge that liberal-democracy is not useful and it tries to improve the situation through spirituality.  This new trend produces a significant opportunity for different religions, and especially for Islam, in order to provide the masses with true teachings.”[11]  Further, Shia Jurisprudence is one that can bring serious and positive changes in human life because it has a global nature and it can implement it all over the word; therefore, “One of the distinguished features of Islam that makes it more applicable to the phenomenon of globalization is the existence of political Shia Jurisprudence.  The special trait of political Shia Jurisprudence is that it turned Islam [automatically global]; Islam is a pro-active religion that is capable of answering all challenges that human beings can face.”[12]

Besides the applicability of Islamic Jurisprudence at the global level which is theorized by religious scholars, Islamic Jurisprudence must be supported by sets of values that could be easily understandable and approachable by the masses.  Therefore, the “Global Quranic Order is a desired system that had been promised to human beings.  This system has structure and traits that is far different from the others.  Creation of this Islamic Utopia is not possible unless [you] understand and recognize its peculiarities.”[13] The most important pillars of this Islamic Utopia are “Global Quranic Order,” such as “Sovereignty belongs to God, Jurisprudence and Leadership, Unified Muslim Nation [Ummah], Unified Law [Fiqh], Justice, Rationality, Spirituality, Peace and Security, Good Life, Unified Language (Arabic as a Quranic language).”[14]

The theory of Islamic globalization, as described above, is a world that its advocates want to create.  They compare and contrast the current globalization with their own Quranic Order.  “They do not reject the current technological advancement nor do they reject urbanization, industrialization, development, capitalism, science, and technology, and all that these imply for the organization of society.  In this sense they are not anti-modern.  They accept modernization, and the inevitability of science and technology and the changes in life-style they bring.  However, and most importantly, they are unreceptive to the ideas that they say are Westernized.”[15]  They argued that the current Western-style globalization is based on false teachings.  Therefore, globalization is taking the wrong route.  “In the Alavi culture, technology is used for better living and the perfection of human beings and whatever improves the technological advancement is acceptable.  In contrast, in the Western culture the technological advancements are used for profit and the capitalist culture is based on liberalism, individualism and hedonism which concluded in plunder of 99 percent of the population in favor of the 1 percent.”[16]

The above mentioned Muslim scholars are providing theoretical grounds for an Islamic global government or empire.  Naturally, these Muslim scholars resent the ideological part of  globalization, where the liberal-democratic values have a dominant position in the global system.  In other words, they want the technological advancements of the West without the ideology that is attached to it.  A question arises here concerning what type of socio-economic system or platform they propose in order to keep up with the technological and economic creativity at the global level.  It is obvious that no one can govern the world with just good wishes and ideology.

I move now from the realist theorists, who sought to establish an earthly Islamic Utopia, to the theocratic approach of Islamic globalization, where Shia Eschatology[17] will change the world order beyond repair and establish a heavenly government on earth through the reappearance of the “12th Imam, Mehdi.”

In some Iranian writings regarding globalization and Islam, we see analysis that is a mixture of globalization theories, futurism, and the Shia Eschatology about the Mehdi[18].  Muslims, regardless of whether they are Shia or Sunni, believe that one day the savior of the world or Lord of Ages, Mehdi, will appear in order to reestablish the justice, global governance and expanse of Islam all over the world. 

In the Iranian case, we see the Shia version of Mehdi is somehow different from what Sunnis believe.  The authors of these articles that call themselves “Mahdavist”[19] have no faith in the current globalization processes.  These authors are futuristic; they are analyzing international relations, geopolitics, socio-political relations, and economics of a society that does not exist, at least not yet.  (Note: the other importance of this literature lies in the fact that the Iranian regime, due to its religious nature,  cannot discount the religious belief system from interfering with what Kissinger called a Westphalian state that has specific commitments against the international community.  However, many scholars and pundits do not look at the events in the Middle East through the lens of the religious belief system.  Perhaps, this literature can assist them in understanding that the other side is preparing for an Eschatological end and even some activities may directly be connected to preparation for 12th Imams reappearance.  The best example of this is Yemen. “Yemen plays a pivotal role in the Shia Eschatology”[20]. Mahdavists have brought into Iranian globalization literature a phenomenon that is strictly religious.  However, it is interesting to read and understand the religious scholars who are faithfully trying to analyze the religion through contemporary socio-political events.  The other issue with these types of futuristic analysis is that there is no scientific literature or method that one can use to examine the validity of this claim.  In other words, it is a religious belief system that one should accept by heart, rather than by scientific reason or methodology.  The Mahdavists see the current globalization as a man-made phenomenon that has nothing to do with divine design for human beings. 

They consider globalization as being empty of spirituality and human value and it is materialistic.  In contrast they consider that real globalization will be achieved through the Mehdi’s revolt against the tyrannical order of the world.  In the Mahdavist world, “The true definition of globalization is putting effort into building the world based on the Islamic teachings and governing the world through Islamic values.  This goal is the undeniable promise of God.  It is a message of the Quran, and the prophecy of prophets.  On balance, wisdom of [the Islamic globalization] is doable.  All man-made cultures and ideologies are condemned to total defeat and annihilation.”[21]

Mahdavists believe that there is a close correlation between the reappearance of Mehdi and globalization. “The globalization that is based on liberalism, Omanism and secularism that propagated separation of church and state and rejected the system based on justice, is not acceptable for the global government of Mehdi.  In contrast, the globalization that is acceptable is the one that does not pursue the domination of a specific culture, because all human beings are members of the global society.  This type of globalization accepts multiculturalism, it accepts dialogue between civilizations, cultural understanding and access to shared values, mutual respect, international cooperation, and finally, the belief that global culture cannot swallow the other cultures, national or local”.[22]  Further, the global government of Mehdi cannot be considered as deterministic and cruel because it fulfills the prophet’s promises of global universal justice.  Based on the Shia teachings, Mehdi will create a central government, a unified leadership and therefore, he will be able to end the main causes of conflict, wars and oppression. [23]

In the final analysis, the universal Islamic government will establish the Islamic Jurisprudence that will put an end to religious and linguistic plurality where everyone is Muslim and speaks Arabic as the Quranic language.  At the same time, the religious Eschatological-Apocalyptical approach does not produce a realistic analytical solution for the problems that Iran faces in the globalized world. This is because they are analyzing and looking for an unknown future and there is no set time for the reappearance of Mehdi.

Religious Realist- Liberal Approach

The Religious Realist-Liberal intellectuals, unlike their religious-conservative counterparts, see the world from a totally different perspective.  They are trying to find solutions to the social problems that may undermine the state and similarly, the Iranian people.  It is important to mention that these authors are not necessarily pro-regime, but they have to write in a manner that suits the regime’s propaganda limitations. Yet, they are able to send their real message to their readers. 

As discussed earlier perhaps one of the most important issues in contemporary Iran is the question of identity.  In the last few years, “We witnessed a very strong vacillation between different parts of the Iranian national identity.  Globalization has deepened the controversies; it increased the level of threat; and it nearly destroyed the relative consistency.”[24]  The vacillation of Iranian identity is directly connected to the crisis in the political system and its inability to introduce innovative solutions to current problems.  The other reason is the fact that the source of Iranian identity is not just outlined in Islam.

Iranian identity includes a triangle consisting of “the Persian identity with its territorial and historical understandings;  Islam with its spiritual identity, belief system and wide world view;  and, Western Liberalism with the philosophical sources of economic, social, political and even its cultural systems.  If any of these factors becomes dominant the nature of the Iranian identity will change as well.  For example, will personal interests supersede the supremacy of the interest of Islamic Ummah.  Will the Iranian people feel responsibility for themselves or feel responsibility to assist the oppressed people around the world.”[25]

The Iranian identity with its multi-civilizational directions is paradoxical in nature and it could be analyzed through sociology, as well.  What is important is the fact that these findings are more or less applicable to the political arena since it displays the reality that the young society of Iran is changing very rapidly.  At the same time, the traditional socio-political structure of the country is slowly losing its credibility.  The following factors greatly influence and deepen the generational gap within the Iranian society:

  1. The Ineffective educational system, heavy school workload, and tense competition to enroll in university.
  2. The young generation is not able to find time for relaxation and pay more attention to the subjects such as self-identity.
  3. The inability of families to accept the fact that their children have different capabilities.
  4. The complicated issue of unemployment and its influence on young people’s self-esteem and self-worth.
  5. The Longevity of compulsory military service means cuts and gaps in the intellectual life of the young man and jamming of his identity and its lack of understanding of the meaning of the philosophy of life.
  6. The Secularism, in certain aspects, such as the dissociation of religious experience and secular experience, the religious monopoly of the hereafter and moralistic issues weakening the link between youth and religion.[26]

The mentioned factors are displaying a reality that Iranian society is suffering from serious problems and will create grave socio-political and identity dilemmas, sooner or later. In addition, some of the vulnerabilities of Iranian identity such as “cultural gap, generational gap, dramatic and dynamic social changes, the lack of integrity, satellite technology, massive immigration, and big cities”[27] will influence the future development of the Iranian identity and this situation will get worse before getting better.   The best example is the situation regarding the post-2009 presidential elections and the government’s harsh reaction to the street protests.

It is vital to understand that the state structure is suffering from the same identity crisis that Iranian people are suffering.  The state problem is much more fundamental than that felt by the people.  The Shia theocracy is in Identity crisis due to the dual nature of the state as a sovereign and at the same time subject to Islam, as an ideology.  The reason behind this paradoxical situation goes back to the foundations of the Iranian Revolution where a theocratic regime was brought into power.  The regime was intended to change the whole Iranian social structure in a manner to suit the Islamic traditions and a theocratic mindset.   After more than three decades, the Iranian authorities are still unsuccessful in redefining or reconstructing the Iranian identity as a theologically founded national character.  Rather, as mentioned above, the Iranian identity is fluid and is being pulled in three different civilizational directions.  Therefore, imposing a dominant and lasting identity would not bring any positive impact for either the Iranian people or for their political elite.

It is obvious that the theocratic government is incapable of social engineering in the nation because of their “ineffective model of development.”[28]   Some people argue that the reason behind the Iranian government’s lack of success lies in the fact that the “national identity and nationalism is a double-edged sword.  One side of it is always touching the government’s neck, leaving the excitement caused by nationalism as the biggest threat to a government that has no national identity.”[29]  Further, the “subject that distinguishes a religious government from a secular government is its commitment to defend religious values by preparing the ground for an expansion of divine institutions and its belief system.  In other words, encouraging the religious belief system may assist in creating a pious society.  However based on the factors in the last few decades, it appears that the government of the Islamic Republic had very little success because it failed to convince young people and the intellectual elite to become more religious than they were.”[30]

 “Rapid communal changes brought to the surface the social forces that were demanding reform in the state structure.  As a consequence, the traditionalist-conservative forces lost their social mobility and became a minority within the Iranian political system.  However, they were able to stay in the state structure because of their manipulation of the key government positions.  It is important to mention that the marginalization of traditionalist-conservatives and the triumph of the modernists, was a direct consequence of the last 100 years of struggle between modernity and traditionalism in the Iranian polity.”[31]

It is important to understand the section that describes the clash between modernity and traditionalism. It came near to declaring the end of one hundred years of struggle between traditions and modernism.  Post-Modernist forces were winning the fight.  The irony of the story is that the final triumph of secular-modernism over the religious-traditionalists happened right under the watchful eyes of the Iranian clerics. 

Some people do not accept the fact that the state’s failure to redefine the Iranian identity is due to domestic social forces that are undermining the whole process with globalization as a major factor.  They seek to tie this major failure to the inability of the officials to modernize the understanding of Islam for a society which would be very much ready to accept such an idea.  These critics complain, “We created a government with a layer of religion to surround it, yet religion is not one of the pillars of the state; consequently, we created a dual political system, with the government dichotomy toward the inside and the outside environment itself.  This system has created a serious gap between governing and religion; with government officials deepening this alienation process every day.”[32]

Some pundits are alarmed about the future of Shia Islam within the Iranian state structure.  They believe Shiism, as a religion and as a state ideology, is under threat because of the unending struggle between post-modernism and traditionalism.  Perhaps one of the most telling part of this struggle is the fact that the clerical elite are slowly, but surely, are losing their grip on Iranian youth.  This condition will create a generational gap in which religious values that had been the core of the Islamic Republic’s identity, would steadily and eventually lose their legitimacy. “In the years between 1988-1998, we witnessed a significant decrease of religious values.  In contrast, we also witnessed the rise of modern or western values.  In other words, the most important change of values was moving away from spiritual ethics and embracing materialism and secularism.”[33]  

In the early years of the Islamic Republic, “Islamic ideology manipulated and the society and even the Iranian-Persian national identity were barely mentioned by the religious ruling elite who encouraged Islamic Internationalism.  Eventually, an opposite trend took place wherein the Iranian national identity was able to isolate Islam as a religion and a state ideology.  Currently, secular nationalism has penetrated into the Islamic leaning Iranian intellectuals.  Nationalists argued that historically when Islam was introduced in Iran, the Persian identity was totally dismantled and religion became the dominant national identity.  However, that trend is changing.  In the contemporary world, one should remember that among Arabs, the Islamic identity is important.  However among Iranians, Islam does not play the same crucial role that it plays in the outside Arab world.  Nationalists argue that it is a time to reevaluate the Iranian State’s image as an inflexible Islamic state governed by Muslim radicals.  They believe that Iran as a state and the Iranian people have increasingly distanced themselves from political Islam and have become a more nationalist secular state.  In their opinion this trend began in 1993 during the second term of Rafsanjani’s presidency.”[34]

The religious intellectuals have become anguished about the massive regression of Shism as a religion and as a state ideology.  Based on a sociological research that has been done among the religious intellectuals, it indicated that these intellectuals were deeply concerned about the rapid change of values of Iranian society.  In their opinion, the Iranians are heavily influenced by post-modern cultural trends and, consequently globalization.  They consider several trends which eventually will undermine Shiism both as a religion and a state ideology.  Their main concerns are:

  1. Modernism-Liberalism
  2. Omanism
  3. Secularism
  4. The postmodern negation of meta-narrative and holistic approach
  5. Remove divinity from morality and cognition
  6. Postmodern doctrine
  7. Denial of the universality of religious cognition
  8. Encouraging plurality of and Freedom of Speech
  9. Rejecting external reality [supernatural]
  10. Negated pattern in moralistic education
  11. Promotion of pluralism in areas such as wisdom, religion and morale will promote a special kind of anarchy [that directly targeting the traditional interpretation of culture and religion].[35]

They transferred their concern, stating “If we pay closer attention to this statistical data and at the same time take a glance of our society, we will see that post modernism has deeply penetrated within our society and we will see more of it in the future.”[36]

Through these concerns one can see the fact that Religious Realist-Liberal approach’s intellectuals are navigating between postmodernism and globalization.  They have difficulty believing that Shiism as a state’s ideology and as a dominant religion have been challenged by postmodern ideas.  They still believe that post-modernism development is separate from the globalization process while in contrast according to Kellner, “Marxists, advocates of world-systems theory, functionalists, Weberians, and many other contemporary theorists are converging on the position that globalization is a distinguishing trend of the present moment.  Moreover, advocates of a post-modern break in history argue that developments in trans-national capitalism are producing a new global historical configuration of post-Fordism, or post-modernism as a new cultural logic of capitalism.  In significant modern and postmodern social theories, globalization is thus taken as salient feature of our times.”[37]  In other words, “Post-modernism has thus been tamed and safely integrated into the current social order.  If we follow this lead, we would be justified in concluding that the postmodern no longer signals a threat but has become the mainstream. Under this interpretation, market-driven globalization represents the institutional and material embodiment of what was initially perceived to simply be an intellectual and cultural current.”[38] A statistical analysis of the situation will show the nature of the problem facing the regime.  

Globalization & Tradition vs. Identity[39]        

The numbers cannot lie and the following statistics displays the true nature of the Iranian social progress.  In reality, these shocking numbers represents a reality that major changes are expected to happen in the Iranian socio-political structure sooner or later.  This statistical data will open a window to the modern Iran and it helps us to understand how the forces of globalization are forcefully changing the very basis of a traditional country and its very conservative political structure.  In one statistical analysis about the “relocation of dominant values,” it is mentioned that “based on the polls,  68.9% of the population believe that religious commitment and orientation has been reduced, and only 29.8% believe that there is an increase in people’s religious orientation.  72.1`% of population believe that of the people who consider themselves religious, only 50% of them have real commitment to the religious values.  60% of the population believes that many people are feigning their faith.  At the same time, 42.8% of the people think that religion provides a means to deceive the others. 59.8% of people believe that pretending to be religious is more than true faith in religion.  Further, 71.3% say their priorities are leisure and travel. 61.8% of those polled cited sports and 62.4% cited artistic interests. Only 13.8% cited religious activities as their priority. In addition, 47.5% population believed that youth behavior has very little relevance and is poorly conformed to religious teachings.  And, finally 8.1% believe that youth behavior is totally conformed to religious teachings.”[40]

These statistics explain the reasons why the Iranian youth population is undergoing a very high percentage of secularization.  It is important to pay attention to another part of this very interesting study in which the expansion of religious doubt and the emerging trends of new religiosity are examined.  It mentioned that in the post revolution era, “the ineffective performance of organizations that produce religious culture and values fail to answer innovative and valuable questions by not answering properly about religion and not preparing the ground for different readings of religion.  These new readings of religion have successfully desecrated the religious values making it secular in the process”[41] and further, quoted, “let’s face a reality, that Iranian youth have distanced themselves from religious values.  Their behavior is open and logical toward religion; they are critical of the religious environment of the country; they pay more attention to fashion, makeup and etc.; atheistic gestures are a reaction against authorities; confronting the laws that limiting their actions, inconspicuous of religious edicts; changing of reasons why they are going to religious events.  One author tries to convey the fact that youth are using religious events as a safe place to find new friends or even dating.   Religious individualism, emphasis on freedom, emphasis on secular political system; reduction of gravitation toward clerics; rationalism, rejecting divine religiosity and accepting secular religiosity instead”[42] were cited by the author.

Some clerics expected that in the future, conversions may further complicate the Iranian identity.   They complained that “In this difficult and complicated situation, we witness the conversion to different Sufi sects, Yoga, Krishna, Tantra, Jehovah Witnesses where they considered themselves as Christians, Mormons, the sect of Ramollah, Buddhism, Indian-American Mysticism, Akanka Principles, followers of Ashu Teachings, followers of Say Babba, and finally Devil Worshipers.”[43]

The Facts that Influence the Secularization Process Among Young Iranians (Coffee Shop Kids)[44]

This description of the transformation of Iranian religious identity is due to the ineffective domestic leaders and organizations.  But, the reality is a little bit different.  The reason goes back to the same religious organizations and mindsets that have existed for a long period of time, in which they successfully produced religious values.  The question is why are the producers of the same culture and religious values now unable to be effective in their duty to keep up with popular demand and feed people with their religious and cultural products.  The answer lies in the fact that the times have changed.  Iran is no longer an isolated and backward country because ‘Globalization’ affects every corner of the world and naturally impacts the Iranian society in the process. The present day Iran is far different from what it was twenty years ago.  The changes are everlasting.  Many principles, methods and even bases are being transformed.  Values that were self-evident nowadays are totally discredited and considered illogical.  At the same time, there are values that in the past were unacceptable in any form that have become influential factors today.[45]

In other words, the technological advances forced the Iranian theocratic government into a corner where the forces of globalization have effectively undermined state ideology.

How Globalization Influenced the Iranian Society [46]

If we look at the questions and answers, we can quickly come to a conclusion that the Iranian government should be feelings the tremors of panic.  The globalization process and the ability of the people to use the internet, virtual universities, the irreversible direction of the economy based on the free market and capitalist principles, and more importantly, the silent revolt of the youth against the state-imposed values and identity, displays a reality that the Iranian society will sooner or later see some dramatic socio-political and economic changes. The lack of success of the Iranian clerics to create a purely religious state will have a far reaching impact on the Iranian social structure and the future development of the Iranian state, for long period of time.

The above cited table also displayed another reality.  That is, the Iranian government was not successfully regulating the lifestyle of Iranians which was a major part of the creation of a pious society.  As mentioned earlier, Iran stands between three different civilizational directions.  These civilizational differences also influence the life style of the Iranian people. “We witness two different Iranian worlds modern and Islamic.  They are sometimes contradictory in nature.  This situation is the direct consequence of the amalgamation and connection of the different cultures that Iranians experienced throughout their history.  However, despite their differences, modern vs. Islamic lifestyles, they are Iranian in nature and at the same time, they are eclectic, and mulatto.  Both the Islamic and modern lifestyles have their eclectic roots in Persian ancient history, in Islam, and in Western modern values.”[47]

In addition, “The first group are the Islamists who are influenced by Islamic and revolutionary values with more or less emphasis on Islamic lifestyle.  One can call the people who adhere to such a lifestyle as fundamentalist revolutionaries who are totally matched with the government’s policies, such as the rejection of consumerism and its Western and modern  lifestyle with heavy emphasis on Islamic Jurisprudence and values, and avoiding contact with the opposite sex.  In contrast, especially among well to do families, the Coffee Shop Kids, have a different lifestyle.  They are in favor of fashion, have contact with the opposite sex, and are accepting the moral and rules of global consumerism.  This type of lifestyle is directly and indirectly rejected by the Islamic government.”[48]

The comparable analysis of these two different social groupings displays an interesting reality about their mindset and behavior.  “In comparison to the Coffee Shop Kids, the percentage of married fundamentalist-revolutionaries are higher.  The average education is higher among Coffee Shop Kids (Post-Modern) rather than fundamentalist-revolutionaries.  The same disparity can also be seen in their fathers’ level of education, and more importantly, the wider educational gap between their mothers.  The Coffee Shop Kids (Post-Modern) have better jobs and a better level of income than the fundamentalist-revolutionaries”[49] and “through the globalization process the social life of youths are under continuous reevaluation.  Youth are more likely to fall under the influence of the cultural globalization due to their specific traits such as privacy, requesting diversity, and modernity.  The youth have a strong trait of rethinking and they are ready to ease the infiltration of globalization into the society.  Youths through their leisure time, orientation, life style, and patterns of sexual interactions reevaluate their lives style every day.”[50] In other words, the Coffee Shop Kids are a major problem for the authorities because of their attitudes, education, their level of income, and more importantly due to their worldview, and their silent opposition to the Islamic establishment.  For instance, “one of the fields that encourages the younger members of society to challenge the theocratic regime is the lack of effectiveness of the elite clerics to solve their problems.  Their opinion toward the elite religious education the clerics received as philosophers, jurisconsults, or mystics is not itself important, but [rather because the clerics assumed a larger responsibility for the governing of the state].  [Consequently] they expect the clerics to be good and capable managers able to solve their problems; this is especially important because their social and economic well-being is directly connected to the level of clerical elite’s effectiveness as the country’s rulers.”[51]

One can conclude that the government “officials’ efforts to educate the sons and daughters of revolution based on the Islamic values were unsuccessful.  The majority of Iranian youth have a different interpretation of the good life and happiness.  They are identifying themselves with the global cosmopolitan ideology and consumerism,”[52]and more importantly, the lack of efficient management of economy, employment and the state structure would further reduce the Iranian youths’ trust of Iranian political and clerical elite. 

A series of challenges face the government elite who are intent on maintaining the continuity of the current state.  What really worries the authorities is the shrinking recruiting pool for manning the future apparatus of state power. Another problem for the future of the state is that they are losing ground to the more secular social forces.  On top of the social secularization of the Iranian youth, the radicalization and their active disobedience against the government have made issues more complicated.  The best example of the youth disobedience goes back to the 2009 presidential election and their active participation and resistance against the Iranian authorities.  However, the struggle of this generation of the Iranian youths is more silent rather than a clashing with the security forces on a daily basis.  The struggle they are going through is undermining Islamic values and what makes the Iranian Islamic Republic an Islamic state.

The slowly increasing influence of women in society is another major challenge.  It is important to pay closer attention to the fact of how women are changing Iranian society, and how globalization has influenced Iranian women, as well.  In the pre-revolutionary Iranian society, despite the previous government’s encouragement of women to get higher education and have wider participation in the socio-economic and political life of the country, because of the traditional structure of Iranian society, women have had fewer chances to have a larger role in the society.  This was true unless they were from the families of the elite members of society.  However, these barriers have been broken after revolution because of the new government’s economic and industrial modernization programs in the county.  The government intended to create a model Islamic state that would positively influence the other Islamic states, and have them accept the Iranian developmental path and eventually Iranian interpretation of Islam. However, these purely economic and ideological calculations were not limited to the economy and industry.  They also had unintended socio-political consequences when they opened up opportunities for the wider social classes to enter the Iranian political scene.

Iranian women were one of those forces that have become instrumental in the peaceful transformation of the Iranian society, despite the strong resistance from the clerical elite.  In reality, “The new female generation is producing new values that have roots in the previous generation’s belief system.  This mixture of old and new ideas have assisted to prevent both generational strife and further complications between men and women.  Further, the peaceful coexistence of traditional and modern ideas have influenced the current peaceful social transformation of Iranian society.[53]  Perhaps the most important factor that assists women in having active roles in the socio-political life of Iranian polity was first emphasized for both women and men to have higher education, without sexual discrimination.  The root of this mutual agreement goes back to family tolerance.  Secondly, the majority of people have changed their opinion on the values and ideals to which they want to adhere.”[54]  In other words, the Iranians became more tolerant and liberal both in behavior and their world view.  

The increasing political influence of women has serious impact in the Iranian social transformation where “unlike in the modern era, the social changes were violent and bloody in nature, in contrast with the current situation of the postmodern-globalized world.  We witness very peaceful social changes due to the active participation of women as a newly empowered socio-scientific force.  Women were not out to eliminate any group in favor of another group; in fact, they were not involved in so called "class warfare". Rather in contrast, they are trying through involvement in the higher education and scientific activities to propagate their ideas.”[55]  Women's active role in the Iranian political scene also made it possible to break a taboo of female and male relations in an Islamic society.  The modern understanding of relations between the sexes has created anger and disparity among traditional Muslim circles who wanted to define the male and female relation in the framework of religious values and ethics.  For instance, they are strongly against the coeducation universities, they encourage the morality police to attack and even apprehend women who are not following strict rules of Hijab, attempt to artificial reduction of female students’ attendance to universities, limiting women rights through empowering their male members of family to make decision for them, and etc.

Perhaps one of the most important social values that The Islamic Republic keeps in high regard is the question of Mahram va Namhram, which can literally translate to "confidence and no confidence".  The point here is the relation between men and women in the framework that religion has been defined. Mahram is the one that has the lawful marriage contract and Namahram is the one that had relations outside of the marriage, either as friend or, in a more intimate version of it, as a boyfriend and girlfriend.  In other words, the male and female relations and, specifically sex, is influencing the ideological basis of the state and even the Shia religion.

There are numerous articles and books that have been published in regard to how to protect the traditional Islamic family structure which strictly prohibits male and female relations out of the traditional norm. Therefore, the Iranian sociologists and religious pundits have paid extra attention to sex and its social implications due to the religious nature of the state structure.  They consider this phenomenon as an integral part of the rapid secularization of the state where the very essence of religious purity will be undermined by this behavior.  Some Iranians believe that contemporary Iran faces a series of insoluble challenges and “the issue of relations between the sexes has become an important issue because of the conflict between the traditional and religious attitudes versus the new changing modern attitudes.  The religious - traditional approach requires clear sexual boundaries for observing religious rules especially in regard to sexual behavior.  The second approach which is directly influenced by foreign contacts through Western secular cultures does not have the same attitude.  The wide broadcasting of such social behaviors will eventually transform and undermine the accepted social and sexual norms in our society which will undermine the marriage institution all together, in the long run.”[56]

“Globalization, and especially the media, has influenced the overall reevaluation of how to satisfy sexual needs in our society.”[57]  It is stated that besides the foreign media influence on sexual behavior, “The teenage boys and girls are ignoring the religious dimension of sexual relations and slowly they forced this behavior to become an acceptable norm within our society.”[58]  In other words, the mixture of globalization forces and declining Islamic legitimacy are changing the very essence of both the Islamic government and the Shia religion as well. 

For instance, the rate of sexual relations among youth is staggering and sometimes unbelievable in a traditional society like Iran, especially with an Islamic government in control.  Young people manage to cultivate a culture that has nothing to do with the official ideology and social norms and “the new sexual relations, such as boyfriend or girlfriend, simultaneous relations with several people, relations with someone even after marriage, unnatural sexual relations as, internet based sexual relations and homosexuality are expanding very rapidly that the young people are promptly in the process of rethinking their sexual behavior.”[59]  Questions such as love, sexual relations, and the body, allowed them to demystify the traditional belief about the female body.  They have new definitions for the body and sexual behavior and “they do not consider that sexual relations undermined their honor or purity while they consider it as experience, transformation, and self-understanding.  Based on statistics, 64% of women believe that having sex before marriage helps to have better information and experience.”[60]

Therefore, the Iranian pundits concluded that “we witness a serious reconsideration of relations between men and women in Iran that it creates a new type of sexual culture.  In this new culture the youth redefine their sexual desire based on their newly-adopted identity and, through breaking of traditional social norms, they introduce a new type of secularism in parallel with the globalization process.”[61]

Conclusion

In 1979 the people had rushed to overthrow the Pahlavi Dynasty, without having an understanding of the nature of what Ayatollah Khomeini was offering.  And now, after 35 years, the Iranian people are facing another radical social change in their lives.  I would ask, what are the main components of the secular Iranian state that would allow us to think that this time, the Iranian people got a better deal? A deal that allows them more socio-economic progress, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The answer is very simple “it remains to be seen”.  We should remember the very famous words of Ayatollah Khomeini who said that “our religion is our politics and our politics is our religion.” 

My research leads me to believe that Iranian society is undergoing massive changes in attitudes from the encroaching effects of modern, Western-style ideals that are being promoted by globalization.  The endangered targets of potential change include the Iranian culture and religion.  The serious nature of the problem is grounded in the religious nature of the Iranian political elite.  The governing elite are deeply religious but at the same time fear losing control of the country.  The rising tide of change threatens their official ideology and their world view.  The source of change can be found in the changing attitudes among the young and educated Iranians and women who are playing very crucial roles to limit the government’s activities through offering a new culture and understanding which is far from the Iranian clerical elite’s comprehension. It is important to emphasize that these social forces are mainly peaceful.  They do not want to overthrow the government by force.  The Iranian clerics’ strength remains in their ideology which must be defeated in both theory and practice in order to allow the country to move forward.  The new emerging Iranian socio-political infrastructure or identity will be created as the old order deteriorates and the younger generation reduces the influences of religion in Iranian political life.  The possibility of an emerging secular Iran will threaten the governing elite.  Their raison d’etre will be threatened as the young reject the totality of religious piety in political and social life. 

Complete transformation of the Iranian society cannot be achieved by force exerted by the new generation.  Change will take a much longer time to transform a country from one political system to another.  Iranians are living the Hegelian era of “antithesis”, in which official ideology is weakened and the new social forces are in the process of finding their place in the society and in the political system.  Consequently, the transformation of the Iranian society is slow but it is an ongoing daily process that is unstoppable.  The globalization and domestic democratic forces are going full speed to expand a peaceful struggle against the clerical regime.   Young Iranians are warming to the value of separating church and state as a good and positive idea for the future of country.

Some people are extremely skeptical of the process and they consider this as destructive and a major threat to the traditional structure of the society. It is important to mention that these skeptics are not necessarily anti-western in nature.  They believe Iran cannot produce the kind of civilizational values that the Western secularism has been produced in the last few centuries.  Dr. Hussein Kechoian believes if they cannot properly face modernization and its consequences then what they will expect the future to be one of irreligiosity, i.e  atheism, conversion and  a lack of a social and religious backbone.  The West had a strong basis to transform the middle ages religiously based political system to a secular system.  But, Iran does not have the same basis.  Iran cannot achieve what the West has achieved.  In other words, secularism alone will not change the Iranians life in order to help it develop a new philosophy.  What is lacking in Iran is the fact that Islam is not capable of tolerating a secular system. It is true that some Iranian people are trying to do this.  But, their efforts are condemned to fail miserably.  In reality secularism is the formation of a new life style with a different religious logic.  However, this cannot take place in Iran because Islam cannot be secularized. And, the people who are trying to secularize the country would be better off if they threw religion out of the society all together, otherwise it will not work.[62]

Perhaps the skeptics’ ideas about the incomparability of Islam with a secular state are correct. Yet, there is a question that remains unanswered. We should inquire how a secular government will undermine Shia Islam and the people who are adhere to it?  In reality, it is likely that a secular government will not undermine a religion or religions while it introduces a free space for all types of religions to compete in the market place of ideas. 

Despite skeptics that Iranians, because of their religion, cannot achieve what the West has achieved, the Iranian social changes are a hopeful sign that there is a light in the end of the tunnel.  And, that finally, the democratic forces will win this overwhelmingly difficult struggle against a political establishment that hides behind Shia religion. 

Consequently, the Iranian government is in the verge of revolutionary changes and it is facing a question of “Be or not to be.”  The current Iranian state structure cannot and will not be able to stop the process of secularization of a society which will eventually influence the state structure as well as the political system.  The domestic social forces and globalization have put their marks on the Iranian society.  The generational and social gap, and more importantly ideological gap between state and its constituencies are widening every day. 

It is very important to understand the ideological gap.  The Iranian state has politicized Shia Islam to such an extent that it has become an inseparable part of the state structure.  The mixture of politics and religion created a new dilemma where the loss of political power by the Iranian religious elite means the rejection of Shia Islam partially, or altogether.  One can conclude that the Iranian clerical elite have a double problem on their hand.  Losing political power and simultaneously losing religious authority means that Shiism will lose its mobilization power for long period of time.  The other effect of the secularization of Iranian society is the fact that the people are searching for religious freedom and many Iranians have already converted to other religions.  These conversions have specific political and sociological messages and the messages are very simple.  Shiism is losing its long time monopoly on the Iranian society as a dominant religion. One can conclude that the secularization of the state is in the heart of this struggle to transform the Iranian polity.

The conclusion we must consider is that Shia Islam will remain a hostage to the performance of the Iranian government or we can use Khalaji’s comments about the progress of Iranian society and the clerics’ inability to influence the secularization process where “the clerics have tried very hard to stop the process of secularization of Iranian society.  Yet in contrast, the clerics have become more secular than ever while the Iranian society has increasingly distanced itself from the ancient world and its warp and woof that was made by religion.  Above all else, the clerics do not want to believe that secularism is an inevitable reality of life; in fact they are adamantly working to return back to the pre-secular modern era.  Their religious schools in ‘Qom’[63] are living in the past; they have taught the same curriculums without any changes for centuries.  Their Islamic Philosophy derives purely from the stock of both the era of ‘Sadradin Shirazi’[64] and ‘Khajeh Nassir Tousi’[65].”[66]  In the very end of this analysis, I would like to remember, Crown Prince of Persia, Prince Abbas Miza who was the first reformer in the modern Iranian history and he was deeply concerned about the Iranian future development. In the height of the First Russo-Persian War (1804-1813), he bitterly complained to French envoy in the Persian Court Pierre-Amédée Jaubert about the Persia’s chronic backwardness and the significant Western achievements.  

Jaubert in his memoirs mentioned, during the few days that I spent in the Abbas Mirza Camp, I had several opportunities to speak with the prince and appreciate the pertinence of his mind.  Far from gravitating towards frivolous ideas, his questions all had important goals. “what is,” he asked me one day, “the power that gives you such great superiority over us?  What is the reason behind your progress and our continual weakness? You know the art of governing, the art of conquering, and the art of utilizing all human faculties, while we seem condemned to vegetate in our shameful ignorance and barely think about the future.  Would the Orient therefore for be less habitable, less fertile, and less rich than your Europe? Would the rays of light that shine upon us before reaching you be less nurturing here than on your heads, and would be Creator, who in his goodness diversified all his gifts, have wanted to favor you more than us?  I do not think so. Speak stranger, tell me what one must do to revive the Persians.  Must, I like the Muscovite Czar who once descended from his throne to visit your towns [Peter the Great], must I abandon Persia and this vain of wealth, or rather is it required that I, attaching myself to the path of a sage, go learn all that a prince must know?[67]

End Notes

[1] Currently the mentioned Iranian democratic forces (post-modernists) are not organized through a political movement or a party. They are day to day average people who are able to influence the system through their actions.

[2] Jamshid Behnam, “Iranian Society, Modernity, and Globalization”, trans. Alireza Rahbar Shamskar, in Ramin Jahanbegloo (ed.), Iran Between Tradition and Modernity (London: Lexington Books, 2004), P. 6.

[3] The resistance against globalization was not limited only to the Iranian religious elite who were the leading figures during the revolution; in fact, during the few decades before the revolution a very large portion of the Iranian intellectuals focused their talents and capabilities fighting against the engines of the globalization phenomenon, such as the free market, international business, and direct foreign investments.  In the Pre-Revolutionary Era (that is, the twenty years before the revolution) accepting the concept of globalization was equal to be Westernized (Gharbzadeh).  This type of labeling belonged to Jalal Al Ahmad and his sympathizers [Jalal Al Ahmad was one of the Iranian intellectuals who was strongly against globalization and many future members of the Iranian political elite have been influenced by his ideas] leading many others also participated in the same thought process.  In other words, the 1979 Iranian revolution satisfied a very large portion of the intellectuals’ demands who opposed the Iranian merger into the globalization process.  In the post-revolutionary Iranian Constitution, the 44th and 81st principles of the Constitution practically adhered to the “No-Capitalist Economic Development” idea which was enforced by leftist ideologues.  The 44th Principle of the Constitution accepts the “State Economy” principle.  The 81st Principle of the Constitution closed direct Foreign Investment in the Iranian economy.  In contrast, during the same period of time, many of the developing countries released their economies from government oversight and opened their doors for foreign investments. Source: Freydoun Khavand, Iran va Farayand Jahani Shodan, trans. By. Njdeh Asisian [Iran and the Process of Globalization] http://www.radiofarda.com/articleprintview/27148926.html (accessed Jul 28, 2015).

[4] Afshin Peykari Meh, Ravandhaye Konouni Jaameh, Payan Taghabol Sonat va Modenism “The Current Trend in Society, the End of Contrast Between Tradition and Modernism,” trans. Njdeh Asisian, Journal of Bardasht Aval 3, issues 22, (2004): 26-28.

[5] Afshin Peykari Meh, Ravandhaye Konouni Jaameh, Payan Taghabol Sonat va Modenism [The Current Trend in Society, the End of Contrast Between Tradition and Modernism], 28.

[6] Henry Kissinger, World Order, (New York: Penguin Press, 2014), 153.

[7] James Fearon, “What is identity (As We Now Use the Word),” Stanford. Edu.  https://web.stanford.edu/group/fearon-research/cgi-bin/wordpress/53-2/ (accessed April 14, 2015). 

[8] Darioush Ashouri, Secularism Khazandeh, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Crawling Secularism] Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/blogs/2013/11/131113_l44_nazeran_ashouri_anniversarysecularism (accessed April 14, 2015). 

[9] SayadAli HashemianFar & Movlood Hashemi, Barrasi Nemoudhjaye Orfi Shodan Dar Sabk Zendegi jkavanan Shar Esfehan, trans by. Mehran Ghasempor, [Survey of Symbols of Secularization of Religion and the Life Style of Isfahani Youth with Emphasis on Theories of Secularization], Jameh Shenasi Karbordio [Journal of Applied Sociology] No.1, Vol. 49 (Spring 2014): 161-62. 

[10] Dr. Mohsen YazdaniZadeh and Nasser Habbibi, Paradigm Jahani Shodan va Sahm va Naghsh Jomhouri Islami Dar On [The Globaliation and Iran Islamic Republic’s Share and Role], trans by. Njdeh Asisian, Faslnameh Mottaleat Rahbordi Jahani Shodan [The Journal Strategic Studies of Globalization], No. 1, Vol. 1, (Winter 2011): 20.

[11] Sadigheh Hamidi, Zarfiyathay Rahbordi Jahani Fegheh Motaraaghi Islam [The Global Strategic Capacities of Progressive Islamic Jurisprudence], trans by. Njdeh Asisian, Faslnameh Mottaleat Rahbordi Jahani Shodan [The Journal Strategic Studies of Globalization], No. 4, Vol. 3 (Summer 2012): 28.

[12] Sadigheh Hamidi, Zarfiyathay Rahbordi Jahani Fegheh Motaraaghi Islam [The Global Strategic Capacities of Progressive Islamic Jurisprudence], trans by. Njdeh Asisian, Faslnameh Mottaleat Rahbordi Jahani Shodan [The Journal Strategic Studies of Globalization], No. 4, Vol. 3 (Summer 2012): 28-29.

[13] Muhammad Reza Aram, Ghoraan, Jahani Sazi va Jahani Shodan, [Quran, Forced Globalization and Globalization], trans by. Njdeh Asisian, Faslnameh Mottaleat Rahbordi Jahani Shodan [The Journal Strategic Studies of Globalization], No. 1, Vol. 2 (Fall 2012): 8.

[14] Ibid, 90-23.

[15] Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 100.

[16] Muhammad Baghir Babai Talatapeh, Jahani Shodan Dar Farhang Alavi, [Globalization in Alavi (Descendant of Imam Ali) Culture], trans by. Njdeh Asisian, Faslnameh Mottaleat Rahbordi Jahani Shodan [The Journal Strategic Studies of Globalization], No. 3, Vol. 3 (Spring 2013): 38-39.

[17] Eschatology is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the "end of the world" or "end time". The word arises from the Greek ἔσχατος eschatos meaning "last" and -logy meaning "the study of", first used in English around 1550. The Oxford English Dictionary defines eschatology as "The department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell’.

[18] Al-Mahdi (the Mahdi) is an Arabic word which means" The Guided. " Both Sunni Muslims and Shia are awaiting a person whose is referred to as Al-Mahdi (Shia call him Imam Mahdi because they are expecting him to be their 12th Imam).  However, both the identity and characteristics of the Mahdi of the Sunnis are significantly different from the identity and characteristics of Shia's Imam Mahdi. For Sunni Muslims, the Mahdi is just a Muslim leader who will act as a Caliph, ruling the Muslim World. He is not a prophet. For Sunnis, the Mahdi must be a descendant of Prophet Mohammad. Sunni Muslims' Al-Mahdi has to be a good man. Shia's Imam Mahdi is their 12th Imam.  

- The Mahdi (Mehdi) is not the "Messiah" of Muslims. 

- Muslims recognize Jesus Christ as a Messiah and this is very clearly mentioned in the Quran.

- Sunni Muslims are expecting at least 3 main individuals to appear in the End Times: (1) One caliph (ruler) whose is referred to as Mahdi (good man), (2) Anti-Christ (evil man), and (3) Jesus Christ (good man).

- Sunni Muslims are expecting Jesus to return to Earth, by descending from Heaven.

- For Sunni Muslims, the Mahdi (Mehdi) is a unique Muslim leader who will appear in the End Times and act as a Caliph, ruling the Muslim World.  According to our numerical analysis of the Quran, it seems that the Mahdi will be fulfilling a divine mission and will act as a Witness, a Warner and a Carrier of Good News, so he could be considered a Messenger.

- For Sunni Muslims, Jesus will play a very important role. Jesus will kill the Anti-Christ.

. See: http://www.discoveringislam.org/sunni_mahdi.htm

Shia Muslims: The Shi’a believe that Imam al-Mahdi is the only son of Imam Hasan al-Askari (the 11th Imam) who was born on the 15th of Sha’ban 255/869 in Samarra, Iraq. He became the divinely appointed Imam when his father was martyred in 260/874. Imam al-Mahdi went into occultation (disappearance; leaving among people while he is not identified) at the same time. He will re-appear when Allah wills. More specifically:

-His title is "al-Mahdi”which means "The Guided One."

-His name is Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan (as).

-His lineage, traced back to Imam ‘Ali (as), is: Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Musa Ibn Ja’far Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali Ibn al-Husayn Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as). Source: http://www.al-islam.org/shiite-encyclopedia-ahlul-bayt-dilp-team/special-specifications-imam-al-mahdi

[19] Mahadavism or Mahdavist used to portray Islamic scholars who are analyzing and writing about the Mehdi and the end time. 

[20] Based on the Shia Eschatology, the first group of people who will come to 12th Imam’s assistance are Yemenis.  Currently the “Shia Houtis” of Yermen are trying to take over the government and establish a Shia state by Iranian assistance. As far as the Iranian theocratic elite concern, the sole purpose of the current Houtis’ agenda is to prepare for 12th Imam’s occultation which will take place in one of the Mosques in Makah Saudi Arabia.  12th Imam will be under siege in Makah until Yemenis come to his assistance.  The Yemeni reinforcement will be the beginning of the 12th Imam’s journey. 

[21] Dr. Muhammad Reza Javaheri, Jahani Shodan va Hokumat Jahani Mehdi [Globalization and Global Government of Mehdi], trans by. Njdeh Asisian, Pajouhesh [Research], No.13 (Summer: 2006), 20.

[22] Fariba Moayednia, Jahani Shodan va Hokumat Jahani Mehdi [Globalization and Mehdi’s Global Government], trans by. Njdeh Asisian, Maktab Eslam [Islamic School], No.5, vol.  37:443. 

[23] Ibid, 447.

[24] Jahani Shodan va Taasirat on Bar Farhang Jameh Iran,[The Effects of Globalization on Culture of Iranian Society] trans by. Njdeh Asisian, Journal of Bardash Aval, Vol. 1, No. 0: 18.

[25] Hessam Aldin Ashena and Muhammad Reza Rouhani, Hovioyat Farhangi Iranian az Rouiykardhaye Nazari ta Moualefehaye Bonyadi [The Iranian Cultural Identity from Theoretical Approach to Fundamental Components], trans by. Njdeh Asisian, Faslnameh Tahghighat Farhangi , Vol. 3, No.4 (Winter 2011): 163

[26]Muhammad Reza Sharafi, Bohran Hoviyat Farhangi va Payamadhay On trans by Njdeh Asisian, [The Cultural Crisis in Iran and Its Consequences], Majaleh Ravan Shenasi va Oloum Tarbiyati: Vijeh Falsafeh Talim va Tarbiyat  [Journal of Psychology & Education: The Philosophy of Education], Vol. 36, No. 3-4 (2006-07): 52.

[27] Ibid, 53-59.

[28] SayadAli HashemianFar & Movlood Hashemi, Barrasi Nemoudhjaye Orfi Shodan Dar Sabk Zendegi javanan Shahr Esfehan, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Survey of Symbols of Secularization of Religion and the Life Style of Isfahani Youth], Jameh Shenasi Karbordio [Journal of Applied Social Science] No.1, Vol. 49 (Spring 2014): 155. 

[29] Ali Safarian Brami, Jahani Shodan va Lozoum Taasirgozari bar Ravand on az Tarigh Towlid Kalahaye Madi va Naghsh Tarahan Sanatii Iran dar on, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [The globalization of culture and the necessary of influencing the process through production and Industrial Design in Iran], Source: http://www.newdesign.ir/search.asp?id=399&rnd=2601

[30] Muhamamd Muhamadi Alamouti, Dindari va Dovalt Madari, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Religiosity and Civic Society] Journal of Bardasht Aval No.1, Vol. 1, 41.

[31] Afshin Peykari Meh, “The Current Trend in Society, the End of Contrast Between Tradition and Modernism,” trans. Njdeh Asisian, Journal of Bardasht Aval 3, issues 22-23, (2004): 29.

[32] Mizgerd Asib Shenasi Andisheh Hokumat Dini, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Roundtable: Pathology of Religious Government] Journal of Bardasht Aval No.1, Vol. 1: 9-10

[33] Muhammad Reza Tajik, Shekaf va Gosast Nasli Dar Iran Emrouz: Tahlilha, Takhminha va Tadbirha, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Gap & Discontinuity in Today's Generation: Analysis, Assessments and Management]. (Tehran: The Center of Strategic Studies-Division of Social and Cultural Research, 2008), 76. 

[34] Ibid, 86-87.

[35] Muhammad Reza Tajik, Shekaf va Gosast Nasli Dar Iran Emrouz: Tahlilha, Takhminha va Tadbirha, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Gap & Discontinuity in Today's Generation: Analysis, Assessments and Management], 93-94.

[36] Ibid, 94.

[37] Dauglas Kellner, “Globalization and the Postmodern Turn,” in Globalization and Europe: theoretical and Empirical Investigations, ed. Roland Axtmann (London: Cassel Print, 1998), 23.

[38] Omar Lizardo and Michael Strand,“Postmodernism and globalization.” Protosociology: An International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research Volume 26 (2009): 39.

[39] Mehdi Adibi, Behjat Yazkhasti, Mahnaz Farahmand, Jahani Shodan Farhang ba Taakid Bar Hoiyat Ejtemaii Javanan Shahr Esfehan trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [The Globalization of Culture with Emphasis on Social Identity of City of Isfahan Youth], Faslnameh Motaleaat Meli [Journal of National Studies] Vol. 9, No. 3, (2009): 108.   

[40] Muhammad Reza Tajik, Shekaf va Gosast Nasli Dar Iran Emrouz: Tahlilha, Takhminha va Tadbirha, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Gap & Discontinuity in Today's Generation: Analysis, Assessments and Management], 83. 

[41] Muhammad Reza Tajik, Shekaf va Gosast Nasli Dar Iran Emrouz: Tahlilha, Takhminha va Tadbirha, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Gap & Discontinuity in Today's Generation: Analysis, Assessments and Management], 106. 

[42] Ibid, 107. 

[43] Ibid

[44] Jawad Afshar Cohan, Esmail Balali and Muhamad Ali Soleymanipour, Barasi Vaziyat Orfi Shodan Daneshjouyan va barkh Avamel Moassser bar On: Dar Miyan Daneshjouyan Dokhtar va Pesar Daneshgah Bou Ali Sina, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Research on Process of Secularization of University Students and Other Important Influential Factors Among Male and Female Students of Abu Ali Sina University [in Hamadan Province]   Jamehshenasi Karbordi [Journal of Applied Social Science] Vol. 41, No.1, (Spring 2011): 143. 

[45] Muhamamd Muhamamdi Alamouti, Din Dari va Dovalt Madari, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Religiosity and State] Journal of Bardasht Aval No.1, Vol. 1: 43.

[46] Muhammad Reza Tajik, Shekaf va Gosast Nasli Dar Iran Emrouz: Tahlilha, Takhminha va Tadbirha, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Gap & Discontinuity in Today's Generation: Analysis, Assessments and Management]: 282-283.

[47] Taghi Azad Armaki and Vahid Shalchi, Do Jahan Irani: Masjked va Coffee shop, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Two Iranian Worlds: Mosque and Coffee shop], Faslnameh Anjoman Irani Motaleat Farhangi va Ertebatat, [Journal of Iranian Association of Cultural and Communications Studies], Vol. 1, No. 4, (2006): 164.

[48] Ibid, 165.

[49] Taghi Azad Armaki and Vahid Shalchi, Do Jahan Irani: Masjked va Coffee shop, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Two Iranian Worlds: Mosque and Coffee shop], Faslnameh Anjoman Irani Motaleat Farhangi va Ertebatat, [Journal of Iranian Association of Cultural and Communications Studies], Vol. 1, No. 4, (2006): 169.

[50] Dr. Ali Rajablou & Sara Asghari, Jahani Shodan va Bazandishi Olgouhaye Dousti Dopkhtaran va Persaran: Motaleh Movredy Daneshjouyan Daneshgah Tehran, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Globalization & Rethinking of Patterns of Relations between Boys & Girls: Study of Students of Tehran University Students], Motaleaat Ejtemaii Ravanshenakhti Zanan [Journal of Social Studies of Women’s Psychology] Vol. 8, No. 2 (2011): 88.

[51] Keyoumarss Oshtorian, Karamadi va Manzelat Nokhbegan: Barrassi Manzelat Rouhaniyat Dar Mian Javanan, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Elite Dignity and their Efficiency: Checking Status of Clerics Among the Youth],  Faslnameh Siyasat Majaleh Danshkadeh Hoghough va Oloum Siyasi [Politics Quarterly, The Journal School of Law and Political Science] Vol. 39, No. 3, (Fall 2010):39.

[52] SayadAli HashemianFar & Movlood Hashemi, Barrasi Nemoudhjaye Orfi Shodan Dar Sabk Zendegi jkavanan Shar Esfehan, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Survey of Symbols of Secularization of Religion and the Life Style of Isfahani Youth with Emphasis on Theories of Secularization], Jameh Shenasi Karbordio [Journal of Applied Social Science] Vol. 49, No.1, (Spring 2014): 156. 

[53] Dr. Hamid Abdulahian, Motaleh Tatbighi Amalkerd Elmi Daneshgjouyan Dokhtar va Pesar dar 35 Daneshgah Iran trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Comparable Study of Scientific Activities of Male and Female in 35 Universities] Pajouhesh Zanan [Journal of Female Studies] vol. 4., No. 3 (Fall 1385): 9

[54] Ibid, 9-11.

[55] Dr. Hamid Abdulahian, Motaleh Tatbighi Amalkerd Elmi Daneshgjouyan Dokhtar va Pesar dar 35 Daneshgah Iran trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Comparable Study of Scientific Activities of Male and Female in 35 Universities]: 27-28.

[56] Bijan Khajehnouri, Maryamalsadat Delavar, Avamel Moasser bar Dousti Dokhtar Va Pesar dar Beyn Javanan Shahr Shiraz ba Taakid bar Farayand Jahani Shodan trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [The Important Factors that influence the City of Shiraz’s Male and Female Relations with Emphasis on Globalization Process], Jameh Shenasi Karbordio [Journal of Applied Social Science] Vol. 46, No.2, (2012): 43. 

[57] Dr. Ali Rajablou & Sara Asghari, Jahani Shodan va Bazandishi Olgouhaye Dousti Dopkhtaran va Persaran: Motaleh Movredy Daneshjouyan Daneshgah Tehran, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Globalization & Rethinking of Patterns of Relations between Boys & Girls: Study of Students of Tehran University Students], Motaleaat Ejtemaii Ravanshenakhti Zanan [Journal of Social Studies of Women’s Psychology] Vol. 8, No. 2 (2011): 76.

[58] Vahid Ghassemi, Senkh Shenasi Daneshjouyan bar Mabnaye Padideh rabteh Doustaneh Dokhtar va Pesar: Movred Motaleh Daneshgah Sanaati Isfahan [Typology of Industrial University of Isfahan Students based on the male-female relations] Motalat Javanan [Youth Studies], Vol. 7 (2005): 83.

[59] Dr. Ali Rajablou & Sara Asghari, Jahani Shodan va Bazandishi Alghehaye Dousti Dokhtaran va Pesaran: Motaleh Movredy Daneshjouyan Daneshgah Tehran, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Globalization & Rethinking of Patterns of Relations between Boys & Girls: Study of Students of Tehran University Students], Motaleaat Ejtemaii Ravanshenakhti Zanan [Journal of Social Studies of Women’s Psychology] Vol. 8, No. 2 (2011): 76.

[60] Ibid, 87.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Dr. Hussein Kechoian, Barrasi Farayand Orfi Shodan Din Dar Iran, trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Analysis of Secularization of Religion in Iran] Source: Iranian Sociological Association, http://www.isa.org.ir/print/1037 (accessed March 30, 2015).

[63] Qum is well known for its many religious seminaries and institutes that offer advanced religious studies. These collectively make up the Hawzah (a short form of al-Hawzah al-`Ilmīyah), which presently consists of over 200 education and research centres and organisations, catering for over 40,000 scholars and students from over 80 countries of the world. Source: The Holy City of Qum, Al-Islam.org, http://www.al-islam.org/lady-fatima-masuma-of-qum-masuma-jaffer/holy-city-qum (accessed April 29, 2015).

[64] Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) is perhaps the single most important and influential philosopher in the Muslim world in the last four hundred years. The author of over forty works, he was the culminating figure of the major revival of philosophy in Iran in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Devoting himself almost exclusively to metaphysics, he constructed a critical philosophy which brought together Peripatetic, Illuminationist and gnostic philosophy along with Shi'ite theology within the compass of what he termed a 'metaphilosophy', the source of which lay in the Islamic revelation and the mystical experience of reality as existence.

Mulla Sadra's metaphilosophy was based on existence as the sole constituent of reality, and rejected any role for quiddities or essences in the external world. Existence was for him at once a single unity and an internally articulated dynamic process, the unique source of both unity and diversity. From this fundamental starting point, Mulla Sadra was able to find original solutions too many of the logical, metaphysical and theological difficulties which he had inherited from his predecessors. His major philosophical work is the Asfar (The Four Journeys), which runs to nine volumes in the present printed edition and is a complete presentation of his philosophical ideas. Source: John Cooper, Mulla Sadra (Sadr al-Din Muhammad al-Shirazi) (1571/2-1640), muslimphilosophy.com, http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ip/rep/H027.htm (accessed April 29, 2015)

[65] Abu Jafar Mohammad Ibn Mohammad Ibn Hassan Nasir-o-Din Tousi (or known as Khajeh Nasir-o-Din Tousi) was born in Tous, Khorasan province of Iran in 1201 A.D. and died in 1274 A.D in Kazemain (in today Iraq). He learnt sciences and philosophy from Kamal-o-Din Ibn Yunus and others. He was one of those who were kidnapped by Hassan-e Sabah's agents and sent to Almout, Hassan's stronghold. In 1256 when Almout was conquered by the Mongols, Nasir-o-Din joined Halagu's service. Halagu Khan was deeply impressed by his knowledge, including his astrological competency; appointed him as one of his ministers, and, later on, as administrator of Auqaf. He was instrumental in the establishment and progress of the observatory at Maragha. In his last year of life he went to Baghdad and died there. Source: Khajeh Nasir-o-Din Tousi: Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, Theologian and Physician, Iran Chamber Society, http://www.iranchamber.com/personalities/ntousi/nasir_tousi.php#sthash.PUf7NEsa.dpuf (accessed April 29, 2015).

[66] Mehdi Khalaji, Khab Jazmi Rouhaniyat va Shock Secularism trans by. Njdeh Asisian, [Dogmatic Dreaming of Clerics & the Shock of Secularism], Mardomack, http://www.mardomak.org/story/58088 (accessed April 29, 2015).

[67] Pierre-Amédée Jaubert, Voyage en Arménie et en Perse Fait Dans Les Années 1805 et 1806, Par Chevalier Pierre-Amédée Jaubert, trans by. Kristi Roney (Candidate of Ph.D in French Literature-University of Kansas) [Journey to Armenia and Persia Made in the Years 1805 and 1806], Chez Pelicier, Libraire, Place Du Palais-Royal. Et Nepveu, Passage Des Panoramas, No. 26, 1820, 175-76.

 

About the Author(s)

Njdeh (Nick) Asisian is an Armenian Iranian who came to the US during the Iranian revolution.  He has worked as a researcher and analyst for the Department of Defense over the past decade.  He is currently a researcher and scenario development advisor for the Army's Mission Command Training Program.  He has a very strong educational background in Eurasian and Middle East history, politics, and defense/security issues, as well as International Law.