A Critical Introduction to Khomeini By Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 306 pages.)

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Mojtaba Ebrahimian

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Abstract

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-89) is undoubtedly one of the twentieth
century’s key international revolutionary figures whose role is definitive to
modern Iranian history. A massive amount of scholarship has been produced
in Iran about him; this is not the case, however, in the English-speaking world.
This publication by a collection of eminent scholars of Iranian studies, therefore,
examines the critical impact of his political thought and religious philosophy
within and beyond Iran.
In “Introduction,” editor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam provides a brief summary
of Khomeini’s political life before, during, and after the revolution. In
his view, the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary discourse not only triggered
unprecedented sociopolitical changes, but also influenced the subjectivity of
Iranian citizens. Moreover, he maintains that the two pillars of the ayatollah’s
political thought were a “strong state” and “independence from foreign influences,”
which are still adamantly pursued today (p. 15).
Fakhreddin Azimi, in “Khomeini and the ‘White Revolution,’” looks at
the social context of his rise to prominence in the pre-revolutionary decades.
With the dissolution of Reza Shah’s autocratic rule in 1941, secular and leftist
discourses gained enough momentum to threaten the religious establishment.
Despite these changes, the leading Shi‘i ulema maintained a quietist stance
until the middle of twentieth century (p. 19). During the 1960s, Khomeini initiated
his rigorous anti-Shah political activity by combining “a stern moralism
on gender issues and sociopersonal freedoms” with “forceful professions of ...

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