Iran Theocracy: Who is The Most Powerful; About Iran’s Ulama (1979-2016)




     From first Shi’a Islamic State (1501) ruled in current Iran geography, to Iran Islam Republic(2016), 515 years of government tradition-especially ulama-, religional, cultural and social patterns are laid down beneath us as unique resource for current Iran, its future and relationship with neighbor states. In this project, we will examine in some detail is that of Iran which is contemporary Islamic State. In first section we will briefly review Iran’s modern political view. Next we examine the ideological basis for Islamic revolution. Thirdly, we will talk about institutions, focusing on the rule of the ulama in institutions. We look at political paradoxes in Iran. In the conclusion part we will reach Iran state’s nationalist, expansionist, and always self-confident religious position. We would argue that this project is an interdisciplinary study.

     Keywords: Persian, Iran, Ulama, Islamic Revolution, Theocracy



     “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.”[1]

     “Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.”[2]

     The above quotations from the Qur’an, are included in the Iran constitution. In daily life – especially as Turkey which is for the most part Sunni- We try to answer specific questions. What does this country represent? To what extent this regime is acting “on behalf” of God? Since the year of the Revolution, these questions are in our diary. So firstly we need to understand Iran.

     Iran also known as Persia officially the Islamic Republic of Iran is a sovereign state in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia, the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Azerbaijan; to the north by Kazakhstan and Russia across the Caspian Sea; to the northeast by Turkmenistan; to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2, it is the second-largest country in the Middle East and the 18th-largest in the world. With 78.4 million inhabitants, Iran is the world’s 17th-most-populous country. It is the only country with both a Caspian Sea and an Indian Ocean coastline. The country’s central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, make it of great geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country’s capital and largest city, as well as its leading cultural and economic center. Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, NAM, OIC, and OPEC. Its political system is based on the 1979 Constitution which combines elements of a parliamentary democracy with a theocracy governed by Islamic jurists under the concept of a Supreme Leadership. A multicultural country comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, most inhabitants are Shia Muslims and Persian is the official language. (Wikipedia, 2016) (Republuc of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2016)

     After this point, I want to give you some information about background of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. I will briefly.  A few months after a popular revolution uniting poor and middle-class, religious and secular people overthrew Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi – the last ruler of the country’s ancient monarchy. Ruhollah Khomeini – charismatic clerical leader who had authored a blueprint for theoretic government in the 1970s, according to his plan
– Opposed democracy on religious grounds
-Sovereignty belongs to god alone
-Divine law, know as the sharia’s, as interpreted and applied by the ulama (religious scholars in the Muslim world) takes precedence over laws made by human legislators.
After this, 1979 revolution took place. Khomeini was the president. Developed a very lively political system after Khomeini’s death in 1989. For example; Presidential, parliamentary, and local elections… Actually ulama integrate the system.

     Last but not least, we will look at Current Policy Challenges. Today in Iran Poverty, inequality, and underemployment continue to be major public grievances. However, In Iran Job creation has been very inadequate. Need to increase economic output. Population grows by one million a year. Discontent spurred out migration from the country One in four Iranians with higher education live abroad Subsequently, Iranians often have family abroad in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

     Now it is time to go to the point. From now on I want to give you some information about Iran theocracy, theocracy’s largest actors: ulama and ulama’s largest power: intuitions…


     After Islamic Revolution Khomeini has said in his public meeting “when we say we want to export our revolution, we mean we want to export the spirituality that dominates Iran… we have no intention to attack anyone with swords or other arms…we shall have exported Islam only when we have helped Islam and Islamic ethics grow in those countries.”[3] Here, the export of Islam, it strengthened the ulama. They took active roles in political positions. They penetrated the most important institutions. Now I will tell you institutions which is monopolize by ulama.



     2.1. Head of Velayet-i Faqih –The biggest of ulama-  (Veli-yi Faqih)

     This authority is all-encompassing and is over whole community based on their ability to understand shari’a and their commitment to champion the rights of the people “The Leader thus elected by the Assembly of Experts. Following are the essential qualifications and conditions for the Leader:

     a. scholarship, as required for performing the functions of mufti in different fields of fiqh.
     b. Justice and piety, as required for the leadership of the Islamic Ummah.
     c. right political and social perspicacity, prudence, courage, administrative facilities and adequate capability for leadership.

Following are the duties and powers of the Leadership:

  1. Delineation of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran after consultation with the Nation’s Exigency Council
  2. Supervision over the proper execution of the general policies of the system.
  3. Issuing decrees for national referenda.
  4. Assuming supreme command of the armed forces.
  5. Declaration of war and peace, and the mobilization of the armed forces.
  6. Appointment, dismissal, and acceptance of resignation of:
                   a. The fuqaha’ on the Guardian Council.
                   b. The supreme judicial authority of the country.
                   c. The head of the radio and television network of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
                   d. The chief of the joint staff.
                   e. The chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
                   f. The supreme commanders of the armed forces. ”[4]

     2.2. Meclis-i Şura-yi Islami

     General features;

     *Unicameral legislature
     *Assembly of Religious Experts has served similar to an upper house since 1989 (Both groups are elected representatives)
     *There are 290 seats
     *All directly elected through single member districts by citizens over 15 years old

     2.3. Şura-i Negahban-i Kanuni Esasi (Guardian Council)

     General Features:

     *12 members
     *All Male
     *6 members appointed by Supreme Leader
     *6 members nominated by chief judge, approved by Majlis


     -They represent theocratic principles within the government

     -Review bills passed by Majlis to ensure they conform with shari’a

     2.4. Meclis-i Hubregan-ı Rehberi (Assembly of Religious Experts)

     General features:
     *Directly elected by the people
     *4 year terms


     -Broad constitutional interpretation
     -Choose supreme leader


     2.5 Sura-yi Teşhis-i Maslahat-i Nizam (Expediency Council)
     Main purpose to “referee” disputes between the Guardian Council and the Majlis.

     General Features:

     -Currently consists of 32 members
     -It may originate its own legislation
     -All members are clerics
     -Still appointed by Supreme Leader.

     2.6. Defter-i Tebligat-i Islami and Havzai Ilmiye-i Kum

     The conduct of Islamic preaching. Ulamas are trained here. Iran’s rulers have graduated from madrasas in this city.(KUM)

  • Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei
  • Hashemi Rafsanjani
  • Ayatollah Ahmad Heaven
  • Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Sahrudi
  • Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mehdevikeni
  • Mir Hossein Mousavi
  • Ali Erdesir Larijani


     In conclusion Iran seems the only country that under certain circumstances and conditions could become theocratic in the Islamic World area. In my opinion Iran needs the ulama and the ulama needs Iran at the moment. Because as we mentioned above there are a lot of ulamas in Iran institutions. Ulama is very important for Iran regime, the functioning of the regime depends on the decision of the ulama.

     Just one final detail: Iran- Islam- Republic or Shia-Islam (sharia)-Democracy…There is a big paradox.

[1] Bismillahirrahmanirrahim ‘ Rahman, Rahim Allah’ın adıyla.’

[2] Qur’an,  Surat Al-Mumtaĥanah,  60:8


[4] The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran





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Wikipedia. (2016, May 09). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Yegin, A. (2013). İran Siyasetini Anlama Klavuzu. İstanbul: SETA.

Yegin, A. (2014). The US- Iran Rapprochement. İstanbul: SETA.


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