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A Conversation With
Prof.M Mohammadi

Dr. Manouchehr Mohammadi is currently professor in the Faculty of Law and Political Science of Tehran University. His PhD is in International Studies, having graduated in the United States. He is an analyst of the Islamic Revolution and has authored several books
on the subject. Recently he has joined the newly formed
Islamic Revolution Research-Cultural Institute
which among its duties compiles and publishes
the works of Imam Khamenei.

Date: 13th September 2003


Recently we were granted an opportunity to meet with Prof. Mohammadi. It was to be an informal chat over a pizza shared between Muslim brothers. His answers to their questions revealed a clear insight in to the nature of the Islamic Revolution and its relationship with the Islamic State. Here we share the highlights of the stimulating conversation. The audio is split in to different topics or responses to different questions.


1: On the nature of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and its position in relation to the other revolutions of history.



Download Part 1 (shift-click) (717Kb)
He starts by differentiating between the revolution and the political institutions in has created.

Three elements go to forms the revolution - leadership, peoples participation and political ideology (Islam). Like body has spirit, body and mind.

Political institution (government) is like building, and it has 4 pillars - military, economic, legal and cultural.

Briefly compares it to other revolutions in history. The Cuban and French revolutions were easily converted to an institution whilst to an extent the Russian revolution went beyond its territories.

The day the chains of oppression were broken


2: Insights into why did the Islamic Revolution first emerged from a Shia society - what conditions made it more favourable than in other Muslim societies?



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There are three important elements in the Shia school of thought which has contributed to the revolution:

1. With regards to the interpretation of rulership, according to Shia the ruler must be "Adl" - "Just", otherwise he is a tyrant and we must revolt against him. As far as the Sunni school of thought is concerned it is sufficient that the ruler has 1. The power/ability to rule and 2.He is a Muslim.

2. The issue of ijtahad and taqlid. In the Sunni school the doors of ijtahad have been closed a thousand years ago after the death of the four Imams (Hanafi, Shafi, Malaki and Hanbali) this has left the people without leaders. In the Shia school of thought the door of ijtahad is open, when your leader - your marja taqlid - dies you are forced to find another leader. So the Shia has always had leaders to follow.

3. Economic independence of the ulema. According to the Sunni school of thought all of them are the employees of the government - Imam-a-jamaat, Imam-a-jumma, all the mosques, are appointed by the government. In the Shia school of thought they are paid for by the people, not by the government, through Khums and other sources and therefore they have been fully independent from the government.

He also remembered the speech made by the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui some 14 years ago in which he also raised some of these issues. [ See Dr Kalim Siddiqui's lecture on "Convergence in Muslim Political Thought: the contribution of Imam Khomeini" ]


3: Islamic Revolution is not the same as the Islamic Republic.



Download Part 3 (shift-click) (1.26Mb)
He starts with a recap of the nature of the Islamic revolution, then goes on to explains the relationship between the revolution the republic it has created:

Islamic Republic was established within the territories of Iran to manage and run the country. Whatever debates that go on with regards to different interpretations of what an Islamic Republic should be are all challenges within Iran. But they have nothing at all to do with the Islamic Revolution which goes beyond the territory of Iran.

In other revolutions like Cuba, France and Nicaragua the revolution was converted to an institution. But in Iran the revolution created the Islamic Republic as a model of a Islamic political institution running during the end of the 20th century. Tomorrow we might have in Iraq another model of Islamic Republic, or in Turkey or other places. But the Islamic Revolution is universal.

The Islamic Revolution goes beyond the territory of Iran

He then explains the global impact of the Revolution as a turning point in human history. Talks about the European historian Arnold Toynbee's book "Civilisation on Trail". Toynbee says that the development of mankind is based on the challenge of two civilisations - western civilisations and eastern civilisation. Sometimes one triumphs over the other and at other times the other triumphs. He says for example during the Greek civilisation the western civilisation was at the top of its progress under Plato, Aristotle, and others. The Eastern civilisation was down with nothing to offer. But with the rise of Islam the situation was changed and during the middle ages, as they call it the "dark ages", the western civilisation went down and eastern civilisation rose up. The Renaissance, by Luther, was also a turning point with western civilisation coming up.

The Islamic Revolution is also a turning point in history, the situation is changing and we are sure that in future western civilisation is collapsing and Islamic civilisation is rising. In order to understand, its important to look at the political processes not only in Iran but around the Islamic world with this reference point.


4: On the confrontation with the West



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The challenge with the West can be analysed in at least three levels -global level, regional level and national level. On the global level the representative of istikbar (arrogance of power) is the United States, at the regional level the representative of istikbar is Zionism, and at national level it is Liberalism.

And we have four kinds of war with istikbar - political war, military war, economic war, and cultural war...

In his belief that eventually with the present processes Islam will triumph he sites the article by Yale scholar Immanuel Wallerstein "The Eagle Has Crash Landed" in which after making a historic analysis of the situation comes to the conclusion that the collapse of the US is imminent and unstoppable.

As Islam rises, the US eagle comes crashing down


5: On the US cultural invasion of Iran



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The cultural attack has two aspects - attack on the Islamic ideology
by the emphasis on pluralism, etc; and secondly the attack on moral values by the promotion of pornography, etc.via satellite, internet, etc.



Question on American foreign policy



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Look at US foreign policy from the date of the creation of the United States, even from the creation of american society - since Christopher Columbus. The basis of creation and birth of American society is oppression, suppression and domination, and even genocide...

* For more on this subject please see Genocide - An Old American Habit.


6: Why are some Muslims pessimistic on the future of the Islamic Revolution?



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He is fully optimistic, and believes that those who are pessimistic do not look from a macro level, but rather look from a micro level. Like an ant when a drop of water covers him he thinks that the whole world as been flooded when in reality there is only one drop, some ordinary people will not be able to look at the whole process from a global and macro level.


7: Why is the Islamic Revolution so badly publicised and promoted overseas?



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The victory of the revolution took everyone by surprise, even the participants weren't prepared for it. So when it happened they came to the conclusion that they had to put all their efforts to first protect the revolution, establish a political system and run the country.

He remembers meeting Imam Khomeini four months before the victory of the revolution and he asked Imam about the revolution, Imam replied that we are just at the beginning of our work. Even Imam Khomeini didn't believe four months later the shah would go.

The feeling was that perhaps there was still had 10 more years to go, but all of a sudden the shahs regime collapsed. When it collapsed nobody knew what to do - where are the people to run the country? So they had to spend all their cultural and religious scholars in the political system as executives to run the country.

The intellectuals were western oriented so it wouldn't be helpful to give the country to them, twice before they gave the country to them (the constitutional movement and the oil nationalisation) which resulted in defeat. The ulema thought it would be better to go to the mosques and let the intellectuals run the country but they betrayed the country and gave to the westerners. This time they didn't want to repeat the same mistakes. He explained that because of this they were forced to give priority to the executive power which resulted in almost all the resources being spend on the executive, causing damage later on. He recalls himself being placed as Governor of Khoramshar and until twelve years ago he didn't get any chance to work on educational and cultural affairs. Still today they have this problem.

In the meantime the global demand is huge, beyond their capability, therefore there are short coming and they are unable to meet the global requirements, this is a real problem.


8: Youth in Iran



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From the psychological point of view if the demand of youth outside Iran is different from the youth in Iran it is something natural.

The youth in Iran has not felt American domination, western domination first hand so they don't really know what the situation was like under the shah's regime. But when you go to Turkey or other countries they still feel US domination in their day to day lives, when for example a drunk US soldier in Turkey kills or rapes somebody they feel it. But as far as Iranian youth are concerned they don't see it first hand- they were born in an Islamic Republic free from American domination.

He still recalls when he was young, living under the shahs regime, when an American lady driver killed several people at a bus queue but there was nothing they could do to her - she being American they couldn't even put her on trial.

He jokes that his friend says that in Arab countries the governments are pro-American the people are anti-american, but in Iran the government is anti-American and the people are with americans.


9: Individual Responsibility



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In a letter to Mr Khatami recently, Dr Mohammadi ended it with the following: The train of the revolution is going in a right path on its own rails. Sometimes when it goes up hill it goes slow, when down hill it goes fast, sometime it turns right and sometimes it turns left, but still it is on a right path. The driver is somebody else, we are not the driver of the train. I believe the driver is Imam Mahdi, Allah is in control. We are the passengers of that train, we have to make sure that we are still in the train - that we are not thrown away from the train. If we know we are still on the train then we must be very happy about it. In order to be on the train we have to know what is our duty - everybody everywhere, to see what we can do...

The story of Abdul Muttalib (ancestor of our Prophet) when he heard people are coming to destroy the Kabba he ordered look after our camels, people said but they are coming to destroy the Kabba! He replied the Kabba has an owner, He will take care of it... similarly Islamic Revolution also has an owner - Imam Mahdi. Therefore I am not worried about the revolution, I am worried about myself - am I doing my duty or not.

" I am not worried about the revolution,
I am worried about myself -
am I doing my duty or not"


10. Humour!



Download Part 10 (shift-click) (194Kb)


© Innovative Minds 2003


Related Resources

Imam Khomeini's Islamic Revolution

Index page for resources related to Imam Khomeini and his Islamic Revolution

Dr. Mohammadi has an informative web-site which includes his letters and articles, and information on the books he has written. Most of the site is in farsi, but it does include an interesting piece in english : A Study of the Transformation of the Revolution to Institution.