On “People’s Role in the Realization of the Islamic Republic”

In his televised speech on the occasion of the 32nd demise anniversary of Imam Khomeini, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution described the Islamic Republic as the most important achievement of Imam Khomeini, saying: “The magnificent and pride-generating key to the survival of this system could be summed up in two words: “Republic” and “Islamic”. The harmony between these two is the key to the survival. And the entity that has been formed out of these two elements is no doubt expected to survive and persist. To clarify this aspect of the Leader’s speech, Khamenei.ir has conducted an interview with Dr. Hamid Parsania, Associate Professor at the Department of Social Studies of Tehran University.


Interviewer: As the first question, please explain how the Islamic Revolution of Iran has become increasingly stronger at the political and international scene despite all the obstacles created and extensive plans formulated by the enemies of the Islamic Revolution? In other words, despite all obstacles on the one hand, and all predictions and various analyses by the opponents about the destruction and overthrow of the Islamic Revolution on the other, how has the Islamic Revolution survived more than 40 years, resisting big powers in the meantime?


Dr. Parsania: In the twentieth century, when the Islamic Revolution took place, numerous other revolutions came into being in the so-called third world countries as well. Not only did most of these revolutions—which were being hatched in Southeast Asia, Latin America and South Africa based on their own initial slogans and moves— not manage to survive, but also a kind of neo-colonialism emerged in some of those countries. In other words, the colonialists went out of one door and entered through another.

In the so-called third world countries too, none of the revolutions that happened cannot be called genuinely domestic. Of course, the revolutions were being hatched inside their countries, but these revolutions did not disrupt the “world order”, devised and created in the 18th and 19th centuries by the colonial powers; instead, such revolutions only changed the political environment in their own countries. Therefore, the world order would intervene in order to confront those revolutions, exerting the changes that it deemed fit. Indeed, the revolutions themselves became meaningful only within the context of the world order. When you have a phenomenon such as eastern and western blocs, revolutions can only take place with the characteristics and limits defined by eastern and western powers. Otherwise, no revolutionary operation would have been capable of coming into fruition. Most of these revolutions, which mostly had Marxist orientations, started and developed in response to the European colonialism. They either had Marxist orientations or some nationalist nature. However, once such revolutions were to enter their operational phase, they found themselves dependent on the eastern bloc.

The revolutions which were being churned out in the political literature of the world were only meaningful within the framework of relations marked by the eastern and western powers. There was no precedent for a revolution to be born outside this dualism and whose ideological bases were different from those powers and no one had the feeling that such a thing could come into being and continue to survive.

The Islamic Revolution was somehow an exception to this paradigm which was created by the West—specifically, the US—in the region. The Islamic Revolution did not define itself on the basis of the eastern bloc. As for the western bloc, it did not initially take the Revolution seriously. The powers in the western block did not have the feeling that the Revolution could continue in a sustainable way. They used to think that with the overthrow of the political regime because of the domestic circumstances, finally another government and regime would replace it. Therefore, everyone predicted that the critical and temporary state would come to an end in one or two months or at most in one year and thus the world order would continue its ordinary course.

The horizons predicted for the Revolution were not different from the ones predicted for the so-called third world countries. In other words, there were not independent political movements, capable of challenging the global poles of power and wealth. Moreover, the economic conditions of such countries would not enable them to take steps without the powerful countries. If any technology and industry found its way inside the third world countries, it had merely consumerist and passive purposes. For this reason, none of the countries which worked within and following the world order for 40 years were able to drift away from the framework of the global established order. Besides, they were not able to work independently from that framework because of their economic, scientific and technological circumstances.

However, the Islamic Revolution got another source of inspiration because none of the twentieth-century revolutions had the popular source of support that the Iranian Revolution did. That is to say, the Revolution was not a guerilla movement or one caused by urban and rural concerns. It was not a revolution pivoting around an elite group of people—for instance, leftist political ideas—either. None of the revolutions conducted in the twentieth century was a really popular revolution existing at a nation-wide level, but the Islamic Revolution managed to round up the people in the distant villages as well as the people living in the heart of cities. It was an endeavor much more extensive than the endeavor which had sprouted during the Constitutional Movement of Iran. Of course, the Constitutional Movement too had a fairly extensive popular aspect to it as during that Movement, even women showed their presence in social events for the first time in the history of Islam and Iran. However, during the Islamic Revolution, this matter occurred at a much wider scope because women and men at different ages and in various geographic areas unanimously showed their participation. The popular aspect of the Iranian Revolution is a matter that is not witnessed in other revolutions with such extensiveness.

The popular aspect of the Islamic Revolution of Iran turned into the secret to its survival. During the Nojeh Coup or during the Iraqi imposed war against Iran, Imam Khomeini (may God bestow mercy upon him) would confidently address the enemies saying that they would finally have to confront the people because the people would not tolerate them. The upper hand that we had during the war was not our military weapons, but the people’s presence was the ace that we had up our sleeves. Moreover, the Islamic Revolution was not only felt within its geographic borders, rather it attracted a large portion of the people all over the world and that was a grave danger to the enemies. The power of the Revolution lies in its popular source of support. And the thing that guaranteed this popular support was the culture dominant in the large world of Islam. The Islamic Revolution came into being with its Islamic identity, responding to a cultural, historical and civilizational need in the world of Islam. That was why that culture had deeply influenced the people’s life. That issue alerted the enemies since Iran was becoming stronger from the inside, magnetizing regional peoples and changing the direction of resistance.

The assumption was that the Camp David Accords had resolved the conflict, leading to Israel sitting at the negotiating table with all those people who had taken up arms against it—Arab nationalist groups. However, the Islamic Revolution changed the equations, spearheading a new movement and a new dynamism inside Palestine, but this time, the movement did not pivot around Arab nationalist sentiments or around Leftist-Marxist literature, rather it was molded by the Islamic thinking and it also benefitted from an enormous capacity. This issue led to a serious global confrontation and on the other hand provided a solid back-up for the Revolution—that is the support of the people. They were people who had grown in the heart of the Islamic culture, which is based on the human nature in principle. One part of this nature originated from the Revolution’s cry of justice as it challenged the unbalanced and cruel order in the world, thus bringing about magnetism for the Revolution’s movement, religiously speaking, in the non-Islamic part of the world. And this manifested itself to such an extent that it dramatically challenged the prevailing interpretations of religion at a sociological level.


Interviewer: The Leader of the Islamic Revolution pointed to the role of “republic” in the political viewpoint of Imam Khomeini (May God bestow mercy upon him) and Imam’s deep understanding about Islam and deep trust in the people as the source of support for implementing the theory of the Islamic Republic. Please explain the role of elections in realizing the republic aspect of the Revolution.


Dr. Parsania: In the Islamic Revolution, “power” is not defined in relation to the dominant powers and states in the world. While in the previous other revolutions, as discussed above, the power and identity were produced and defined in relation to the global powers. In the Islamic Revolution, power originates from the people. In principle, the relation between the people and the revolution is significant, specially culturally and intellectually. This means that if Islam, as a religion, did not have a strong presence in the lives of the people (of Iran in this case), or it never stressed on the people’s participation (in the political and social issues), or Islam itself did not have social, cultural and historical claims, (and if it had, it would not put this obligation on people to show this presence), this relationship would not have been fostered.

Therefore, this root exists in Islamic teachings as well. Islam is essentially a social religion because religion cannot help being social in principle. In other words, the center of religious teachings is not secular and it believes in a Holy Being in the world. Therefore, this world is a reflection of that holy Sign and holy Truth.

One who has religious knowledge and a religious approach to the world and humanity, cannot define a part of his life outside this knowledge. Even if he/she does not want to have an active political presence, his political absence must be justified. For this reason, as long as religious culture had a serious presence in the world, except in the modern world, they justified their political powers religiously because the religious aspect required this.

Of course, the religious aspect requires that the different aspects of life define its relationship with that holy and Divine truth and after that, Islam clarifies on this divine religion with its own slogans. Religion has clarified these matters.: Defending justice, being sensitive about other people, developing emotional, Islamic and familial bonds, etc. all have a religious identity and are interpreted on the basis of religion. Getting along with others, from a social point of view, can also have religious justification. In fact, Imam Khomeini benefitted from the religious aspect in Islam and Iran and strengthened its relationship with the people.

From the religious perspective, the entire universe is oriented towards God. In other words, the system of life is determined with God’s willpower, and it is the human reason and the divine revelation which understand and clarify this Divine Will. Therefore, the Islamic aspect determines the legitimacy of the system. But inside the same religious framework, this point is emphasized that people’s individual and social lives are realized through their own willpower and mentality. Although legitimacy originates from God Almighty, the reality of this matter takes place with the people’s presence. Therefore, if someone is after strengthening and assisting religion, they cannot ignore the role of people. They should promote their viewpoint, but they should pay attention to this element that God is present in the people’s lives. The people’s willpower is important for attaching significance to this matter. If the people do not accept this, you should know that it is not within the scope of your power to promote religion.

In fact, religion depends on the people’s presence in terms of realizing it in society, not in terms of its legitimacy. Imam Ali (pbuh) says to Malik al-Ashtar, “It is the common people of the community who are the pillars of the religion, the power of the Muslims and the defense against the enemies. Your leanings should therefore be towards them and your inclination with them.” [Nahjul Balaghah, Letter 53] The masses of the people are pillars of the religion. If daily prayers are one of religion’s pillars, so is the people’s participation. Religion’s pillars depend on the people’s presence. That is why prophets promote their teachings among people. If people do not answer their call, prophets’ goal will not be attained. Imam Ali (pbuh) says this to Malik al-Ashtar during his caliphate. When the people’s presence is manifested completely, then the duty of God’s representative and prophets is fulfilled. God has asked the learned to act on their duty, but the requirement for that is people’s cooperation. We should pay attention that the possibility for religion’s implementation depends on the people’s presence.

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution puts an emphasis on this matter, describing it as religious democracy. Why? He uses this term to distinguish it from democracy [western democracy]. The term “democracy” is a combination of two words: “demo” (the masses of the people) and “cracy” (power). In democracy, legitimacy is not dependent on an Ultimate Being and Truth, rather legitimacy is dependent on people who are currently there. In other words, the people are the executors of the system and also the truth which define it. However, in religious democracy, legitimacy has its own logic, understanding, reasons and commitments. Its implementation is possible by explaining the truth in the minds and actions of the people. The characteristic that was present in Imam Khomeini (May God bestow paradise on him) was his awareness about the developments of the time and his insight about the religious culture of the people as he managed to foster a strong relationship with the people and theorizing the Islamic Republic, achieving both together.