Does Islam accept democracy? Ayatollah Khamenei answers

On the International Day of Democracy, excerpts from statements made by Ayatollah Khamenei-- the Leader of the Islamic Revolution-- regarding the relation between democracy and religious government in the view of Islam have been collected and organized as questions and answers.


  • Does Islam accept democracy? Is religious democracy a version of democracy?


Our democracy grew out of the heart of Islam as well. It has been said many times that when we speak about religious democracy, this does not mean an unusual combination between democracy and religion, on the contrary, our democracy has originated from religion and Islam has shown us this path. We managed to form the Islamic Republic with the guidance of Islam. By Allah's favor, it will be the same in the future. As a result of this belief in Islam, the enemies have focused their attention on Islam. If they can take Islam away from the Islamic Republic, the products of Islam will naturally be destroyed and undermined. Issues should be analyzed by adopting this outlook.
Sep 5, 2013

Some people should not think that our magnanimous Imam (r.a.) derived elections from the western culture and then mixed it with Islamic thoughts and Islamic sharia. This was not the case. If elections, democracy and reliance on the votes of people had not been part of religion and Islamic sharia, then Imam (r.a.) would have told us. If this had been the case, he would have announced it in an outspoken and decisive way. Democracy is part of religion. Therefore, Islamic sharia is the framework.

When passing and implementing laws, when assigning individuals different tasks and discharging them from their service and during all tasks that follow this political-civil system, Islamic sharia should be observed. All tasks in this system revolve around democracy. All the people elect the members of the Majlis and the president, they elect ministers indirectly, they elect the members of the Assembly of Experts and they elect the Leader indirectly. All tasks are in the hands of the people. This was the main base of our magnanimous Imam's (r.a.) movement. The great structure that this great personality built was founded on these two bases.

Commitment to Islamic sharia is the soul and truth of the Islamic government. Everyone should pay attention to this issue. If Islamic sharia is completely observed in society, this will ensure both civil and individual freedom - the freedom of individuals - and collective freedom which is called independence. Independence means freedom of a people. It means that a people are not dependent on anyone and any place.

Jun 4, 2014

The experience of the past 33 years has shown that Islam can bring about dignity for a country. It can make a nation feel proud. It can delineate good goals. It can smooth certain paths towards these goals. It can give rise to a scientific movement. It can give rise to a technological and industrial movement. It can give rise to a movement towards piety and ethics. It can make a nation feel proud in front of other nations. These things have already happened in our country. These are great achievements that have already been accomplished in the country thanks to Islam. Islam is still the essence and content of the movement of our system and democracy is the form and the framework. Islam and democracy are not separate from one another. That is to say, democracy itself originates from Islam.

Mar 8, 2012


Our nation had not tasted democracy before the victory of the Islamic Revolution. From the Constitutional Movement to the victory of the Islamic Revolution, 75 years passed. Out of these 75 years, 55 years belonged to the dictatorship of the Pahlavi dynasty. It was a violent dictatorship which was dependent on global powers - that is to say it was first dependent on England and then on America - which did not consider what the people wanted. In these 55 years, the country was in the hands of the people who neither paid attention to the fate and interests of our nation nor to the magnificence, greatness and dignity of this country. They only cared about their own interests and the interests of the powers which supported them.

And during the 20 years before that, the country was in turmoil. That is to say, since the beginning of the Constitutional Movement until the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the country was under the domination of dictatorship and autocracy, except for a two-year period of time during which a weak national government was formed - and that was destroyed by the mutual plots of England and America.

The people tasted democracy in the Islamic Republic. Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution until today, it was the people who played a role in all important events and in all major responsibilities of the country. Eleven presidential elections, nine parliamentary elections and several Assembly of Experts elections and city and village council elections were held. That is to say, during the past 34 years, almost one election was held per year. The people feel that it is they who make decisions about their own fate and about the management and the macro policies of the country. They feel that it is they who supervise and do these things. This is the religious democracy.

Aug 3, 2013


  • What is the basis of religious democracy and how is it formed? Is it a combination of western democracy and religion?


Let us raise one infrastructural point which is the fact that the issue of being people's representatives has deep roots in Islamic thoughts. The issue of being people's representatives is not about following the common norms in the world. The issue is not that we do not want to fall behind the world because there are elections and democracies in it. As you can see, some countries fabricate a democratic government and a parliament which is not real at all. The same situation exists in the countries in which some elections are held.

Our ideological basis is not this. We have a clear basis. According to the Islamic outlook, Wilayat belongs to God. No other person has Wilayat on others. It is not the case that I order you to act according to my wishes. We do not have such a thing in Islam.

No one has Wilayat over others. Wilayat belongs to God. If Allah the Exalted specifies some guidelines for this Wilayat, then these guidelines become divine and acceptable and we can follow them. And Allah the Exalted has specified these guidelines. They have been specified in Islam.

Passing and implementing laws should be based on divine standards and rules. That is to say, it should be compatible with - not contradictory to - Islamic obligations, with specific and general rules and with what know about Islam. As for those who implement laws, they have certain characteristics. They should be just and they should not be immoral. These are the characteristics that have been reflected in our Constitution. And the Constitution is the manifestation of and the passage to what divine Wilayat has illustrated for us.

Well, the issue of majority and minority is a necessity although in Islam, we do not have a specific rule saying that we should prefer majority to a minority on those issues which are a point of contention. However, this is an axiom that occurs on different issues. When five people want to make a decision about an issue, if three of them reach an agreement about this issue which is related to the fate of five people, then the other two should naturally give in. This is a clear and reasonable thing that Islam has specified and sealed.

Therefore, the Wilayat that you have today - passing laws is Wilayat - is a divine Wilayat. It is rooted in divine Wilayat. It has originated from divine Wilayat. This is the meaning of the religious democracy that we speak about. That is to say, according to the laws of the Constitution about acting on this divine Wilayat, the members of the Majlis have a certain Wilayat which is a responsibility. Therefore, what is passed in the Majlis should be followed by people. We should act according to these laws. This basis is the Islamic basis.

From the viewpoint of those people who do not believe in this Islamic outlook, when you look at this issue, you will see that there are many contradictions in it. From their viewpoint, if one day the votes of the people are to the advantage of a certain group, the people's votes and the issue of a republican system become important: "But if the right is on their side, they come to him with all submission" [The Holy Quran, 24: 49]. If the right is on their side, they accept it.

If one day, the votes of those people who are the owners of this right - that is to say, the people who want to submit this Wilayat to a person, according to the Constitution and what has been derived from the Book and the Sunnah - are against their wishes, then these public votes and this Republic will be called populism. And they begin to offer a detailed analysis about why the opinions of the masses of the people are wrong.

As you can see, in their writings, they use the opinions of other writers, ranging from such and such an author in the third, fourth centuries of the Hijri calendar, such and such a Muslim writer in our own times to Bertrand Russell and Gustave Le Bon. They use the opinions of such and such a writer to say that the opinions of the masses of the people are completely wrong. That is to say, they completely change their position: "When they are summoned to Allah and His messenger, in order that He may judge between them, behold some of them decline to come. But if the right is on their side, they come to him with all submission" [The Holy Quran, 24: 48-49].

If they are told to act according to the standard of the Book[Holy Quran] and the Sunnah - the same basis that I spoke about - they turn back, but if it is to their advantage, then they accept it. After this, the Holy Quran says, "Is it that there is a disease in their hearts? Or do they doubt, or are they in fear, that Allah and His Messenger will deal unjustly with them?" [The Holy Quran, 24: 50] They are sick. According to this Quranic word, disease - "There is a disease in their hearts" - means the same temptations that dominate one's willpower.

This is different from hypocrisy. "There is a disease in their hearts" is different from the issue of hypocrisy. Of course, it sometimes leads to hypocrisy. "Is it that there is a disease in their hearts or do they doubt?" They doubted Islamic principles. "Or are they in fear, that Allah and His Messenger will deal unjustly with them?" They fear that God and His messenger may oppress them. Now, why do you not accept the truth and truthful statements?

There is not such a thing in the Islamic philosophy. Islamic philosophy is founded on a firm basis, one that originates from Allah's Wilayat. It enjoys certain methods that have been specified in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic according to which, Allah the Exalted has given people the right to entrust a right to someone. According to this philosophy, it has been determined that people can ask someone to do something for them. Through their votes, the people give this right to individuals in the Majlis, in the executive branch and in those organizations which are dependent on people's votes. Therefore, this is the basis of religious democracy. It is an original and deep basis which the people really believe in.

Jun 10, 2008


  • Is the Islamic Republic of Iran a democracy? Are there elections in Iran?


The issue of elections is a very important issue for the country. Elections are the complete manifestation of the people's presence and choice. With their presence in the arena of elections - including presidential, parliamentary and Assembly of Expert elections - the people shape true democracy in the country. This is very important. We have not allowed this process to be stopped or delayed during the 36, 37 years that have passed from the Revolution.

Elections in different countries are delayed when a war breaks out or another incident occurs, but in Iran, elections have not been delayed even for one single day. This has not happened in any era. Tehran, Khuzestan, Ilam, Kermanshah and other cities used to be bombarded, but elections were held on their scheduled date. The same thing happened everywhere in the country even in villages and those places where it is difficult to come and go. Elections have not been cancelled in this country. Some people wanted to cancel elections. At certain points in time, some demagogues and westernized individuals tried to cancel or delay elections, but by Allah's favor, they were prevented from doing so and the elections were held in their scheduled date. This is the significance of elections. This is why our elections are thankfully the manifestation of democracy.

The Islamic Republic is a democratic system in the true sense of the word. Of course, the enemy constantly speaks against our elections. The Americans and their propaganda agents constantly speak against our elections in different ways. For 25 years during the time of the taghuti regime, the Americans were present in Iran, but they did not at all criticize the nominal and ridiculous parliaments of those days. If you take a look at history and read the events about the elections during the time of Mohammad Reza Shah - and worse than that, during the time of Reza Shah - you will see that first the English and later on the Americans dominated our country, but they did not oppose those nominal, theatrical and ridiculous elections even once!

In the present time too, they do not say even one single word against the dictatorial, tyrannical and hereditary regimes that exist in the region, but they constantly blame and make false criticisms against Iran that is holding different elections one after another. This is while in Iran, all the bases of the system - ranging from the Leadership and the president to the members of the Majlis, the Assembly of Experts and city and village councils - are elected by the people.

Thankfully, our elections have been healthy ones until today. The point that I want to raise is that according to international criteria, our elections are among the best and healthiest elections with a high turnout. Unfortunately, a bad habit that some people in the country have is that they constantly question the health of elections in each term. They constantly speak about rigging in elections, their so-called concerns and such and such things. This is a wrong course of action. During the past 37 years, the people participated in elections in an enthusiastic way because of their trust in the Islamic Republic in different eras. Why do some people want to undermine this trust? The people trust the Islamic Republic. When there is an election, they enter the arena and vote. So why should we undermine this trust with false and fake concerns?

Well, it is clear that such a thing [rigging] will not be allowed because there is strict supervision. One of the greatest blessings of the existence of the Guardian Council is that its members are vigilant about mistakes and they do not allow any wrongdoing to be committed in this regard. The same is true of other organizations. In the recent years, we sometimes received certain reports saying that there have been certain problems in elections, but whenever we issued an order asking for an investigation, it became clear that this was not the case. Of course, sometimes it is possible that a wrongdoing is committed in a corner of the country, but it does not affect the results of elections in any way. Such small wrongdoings are not important and elections have been healthy in all terms.

Sep 9, 2015



  • Which of the following fulfil people's opinion: Religious democracy or western democracy? In which one, the common people can be elected


Is there anybody who believes that the American regime is promoting human rights and democracy? American type of human rights! Ever since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the U.S. government has interrogated 32 million people inside America. They themselves have declared these figures.

They tapped phone calls and tortured people in their prisons. The Congress passed an anti-torture bill, but the current president of the country vetoed it, declaring that torturing is not prohibited. Do these people really understand the meaning of human rights? The U.S. has around 200 secret prisons throughout the world, some of which are in Europe. That is while Europeans never stop talking about human rights. They keep bringing up the subject everywhere, claiming that they adhere to its principles. But is this really in conformity with the principles of human rights?

All their courts, governments and newspapers form a unified front against anybody who calls the Holocaust into question. However, not only do they fail to condemn those who affront the Holy Prophet (SWA), but they also cooperate with them. Is this the kind of respect they pay to human rights, humanity and human beings? They constantly claim that they support democracy, but whenever they realize that people's votes are against their interests, they treat democracy and the democratic government with an iron fist. The Palestinian Hamas is a case in point. Was Hamas not elected by the people? Another example is the nonsensical threats that they level against the Islamic Republic, a government that is based on such widespread democracy that is unparalleled in the region and in some other parts of the world. The Islamic Republic has held about 30 elections in less than 30 years.

Mar 20, 2008

The Iranian people are vested with authority in the real sense of the word, contrary to the defeated and disgraced Western liberal democracy. Western democracy, as a matter of fact, does not vest freedom of choice in people, but it vests the right to choose in those possessing great wealth and fortune. Even the body of the Western political parties plays no decisive role, but it is the heads of those parties that bring governments to power or remove them from office; they are the ones that make macro decisions.
The general public in the Western countries are not involved in the macro decision-making process. They are given no important role to play; instead, they have been made busy with so many preoccupations that they get no opportunity to say what they want and what they aspire to.
Today, a despotic and dictatorial government in a very modern and sophisticated form is in power in many Western countries headed by the United States. Under the dictatorial Western systems, people play no role in bringing governments to power, and the real powerbrokers are those who own great wealth, those who determine and direct everything on the political scene as they wish.
The Islamic Republic system rejects the kind of democracy that is based on the wrong principles and erroneous foundations of the West. Religious democracy aims to preserve the genuine dignity of mankind and adopt a course of action within the framework of divine religion, not within the framework of unenlightened traditions and the desires and goals of economic conglomerates and the self-made principles of militarists and warmongers. 
The course of action adopted by the Islamic Republic system is opposite in direction to the path followed by the Western systems, since the handling of affairs under the Islamic Republic system is within the framework of divine religion, and the people's will and resolve is the absolute determiner under this system.
Today, the Western systems headed by the United States are trying to impose their failed and defeated democracy on some countries by force. They are expressing opposition to the Palestinian government which has emanated from the Palestinian people's votes. They are creating all kinds of problems for the Iraqi government which has originated from the Iraqi people's votes in a real sense. They extend full support to military coups and those behind those military coups if they are under their command. Still, they keep talking about democracy!

Jun 4, 2007

We have also made progress in political arenas. In the arena of domestic politics, the new model of religious democracy which we have introduced to the world, our elections and the transition of executive and legislative power in the country are among the greatest achievements. Religious democracy is a healthy democracy, without the deceptive measures which are common in the world. I am sorry that many of our youth do not know about the common methods in the world - In America, in the West and in Europe - which are used in the arena of elections. These methods are seemingly democratic, but they are non-democratic in nature. Good books have been written in this regard. They have been written by westerners themselves. Our youth should take a look at these books and read them to see how a mayor and a governor in such and such a state is elected, how they become a senator and a president after that and how they are pushed into these arenas. They can see with what tricks these things are done. Then our youth can compare this with our country in which somebody - sometimes without any executive background - attracts people when he meets them and speaks to them. When he does this, a wave of excitement is created. The people go to ballot boxes, vote and elect somebody with such a massive turnout. This is a new model of democracy. This is our political progress.

The same is true of our foreign politics. Today, the Islamic Republic has an undeniable role in different issues of the region. No one can deny this. It should be noted that the issues of our region are the issues of the world. We have made progress in the area of domestic politics. We have introduced a new model of democracy. We have the power - on a national level - to choose. In the area of foreign politics, we have exerted so much influence. These are the facts.

Jul 21, 2013

There are basic differences between religious democracy and Western democracy. Religious democracy, which stems from the people's divine right and duty to seal their own fate, is not a mere social contract. All human beings have the right to choose and the right to decide their own fate. This is what makes elections in our country and under the Islamic system meaningful. It is more advanced, more meaningful and more deep-rooted than what exists under Western liberal democracy today. It is one of our points of pride, and it should be preserved.

Jun 4, 2005


  • Why would the Arrogant Front prevent Iran’s Theory of Religious Democracy from being broached?


The enemy has focused his efforts on depriving the Islamic Republic of religious democracy – this unique, innovative and attractive phenomenon for Muslim nations. They are trying to do this. If they had been able, they would have cancelled elections, but they failed and they will continue to fail. If they had been able to destroy the Guardian Council or to render its supervision ineffective, they would have done so, but they could not. Now that they could not do this, they have resorted to these methods. They are entering the scene through these methods. We should pay careful attention.

Feb 17, 2016

Some people directly or indirectly complain that we should not provoke the hostility of the world, but I believe this is a thoughtless comment. You naturally start a fight when you promote spiritual and religious rule when you promote religious or Islamic democracy. The problem of the world is that it is faced with a call to religion. When I say "the world", I mean the organizations that are in charge of managing the world. Their survival and identity depend on plundering, harming humanity and working against human values to achieve material gains. You have heard about pharaohs and you have seen some of them. Pharaohs are against human values and the world has fallen into their hands. You will naturally face certain challenges when you establish a government that supports a tendency towards spirituality, a government that defends human values, a government that defends divine values - and divine values are the soul and essence of human values. In order to face these challenges, it is necessary to rely on a source of power. This source of power is not weapons, atomic bombs or other such things. Rather, it is a spiritual source of power. It is reliance on God. This is the essence of the issue. You and I need to make our intentions, hearts and goals more divine. If we succeed, our problems will be resolved. If we succeed, we will move forward. If we succeed, the enemy will despair of defeating us. The enemy is faced with many limitations. Analyzing these things requires long and detailed discussions which are not appropriate for such meetings. Thankfully you are knowledgeable and your intellectual level is high, and you can analyze different issues well. This is the truth of the matter. The more one manages to strengthen one's relationship with God, the more successful one will be in confronting the enemy and the obstacles will be removed. We must keep this in mind. Of course, every responsibility, every task, every mission has certain requirements. And naturally, there are certain requirements that have to be met by the Majlis. There are certain other requirements that have to be met by the executive branch. The same is true of different public and private organizations as well. This should be our goal: we should work for the sake of God. 

Jun 13, 2012


  • democracy
  • Islam
  • Liberal democracy
  • Religious democracy