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BOOK REVIEW: “The Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the Clerical Leadership of Khurasani"

Syracuse University Press
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BOOK REVIEW: The Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the Clerical Leadership of Khurasani by Mateo Mohammad Farzaneh (Syracuse University Press) 2015

Before reading this book written by Northeastern Illinois University Prof. Mateo Mohammad Farzaneh, my comprehension and knowledge of the Iranian history was mostly limited, especially concerning the period before the Iranian revolution of 1979.

The chronology, maps and a large Iranian historical background of the two hundred centuries before the event provided by Farzaneh made this lecture easier to understand.

The Iranian Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911) has nothing in common with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which was to replace the Shah dictatorship with a religious dictatorship instead.

At the opposite the constitutional revolution was to reduce the power of the Shah dictatorship to the profit of a parliament that will represent the people, providing more justice, equality, and adaptability of the country to reform itself to stay an independent nation.

Because Iran at this time had a technological, economic and political gap in comparison of the Europeans power its status as an independent state was greatly menaced by the Russian on the north and the British in the south.

The only way to change the Iranian destiny was by introducing more reforms that were often contested by the Shah, clerics and other local power who didn’t want to lose their influence.

It is when the role of Khurasani started to become predominant in the creation of Iranian constitution and parliament. One of the most important Shi’a clerics of his time, Khurasani, was clairvoyant and understood that the only way to reform Iran was through the introduction of democracy in Iran. Even if is meant to support the seculars who were pro-constitution but also pro-Western.

“Khurasani was obliged to support Iran’s first modern revolution because he was convinced that constitutionalism aimed to address the people’s needs, although the secular constitutionalists expressed the same objectives differently and reasoned that Iran needed constitutionalism not to please God but to please the people,” Farzaneh wrote in his book.

The wisdom of Khurasani was his ability to use Islam through reason giving him the power to be respected and listened to a majority of the peoples (believers and seculars) and the Shi’a clerics at that time.

It is shame after reading this book that the Iranian Revolution of 1979 didn’t lead to the same ideas than in 1906 instead of just trying to stop any influence coming from the West by reducing Iranians freedoms.

The Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the Clerical Leadership of Khurasani is well-written by an author who knows perfectly his subject. In a time where democracy is challenged it is good to remember that democracy didn’t come spontaneously but rather through centuries of fights around the world. In a certain way, today the US could need a new Khurasani, someone with wisdom and reason who will be listened to a large majority of people, able to forge a consensus, someone at the opposite of Trump.

Reporter Olivier Rey reported on Prof. Mateo Mateo Mohammad Farzaneh's recent visit to the University of Oklahoma here and here.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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