Reconciling Islam and Modernity : The Role of Ayatollah Khomeini in Shaping Iranian Discourses on Islam and Democracy

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Reconciling Islam and Modernity : The Role of Ayatollah Khomeini in Shaping Iranian Discourses on Islam and Democracy

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Title: Reconciling Islam and Modernity : The Role of Ayatollah Khomeini in Shaping Iranian Discourses on Islam and Democracy
Author: Lewis, Adam
Advisor: Gandhi, Supriya
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Religion
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2010
Honors: Department of Religion Prize Winning Thesis
Abstract: This thesis attempts, through an analysis of Ayatollah Khomeini’s political thought, to show the way in which the widely accepted western caricature of the late Iranian leader as “backward” and “fundamentalist” masks the complexities of his political philosophy and of his legacy as a political and religious leader. Rather than representing an attempt to reclaim a fundamentalist ideal of Islamic community in opposition to the modern world, this thesis argues that Khomeini’s political project (as embodied by the state founded on his philosophy) is better understood as a progressive attempt to reconcile the perceived conflict between traditional Islamic values and forces of modernity. In this vein, it argues that the spirit of progressive inquiry that spawned Khomeini’s political philosophy, and in turn the Iranian state, is in fact the most important legacy of the Iranian revolution. This legacy of progressive inquiry has fuelled ongoing debates in Iran on Islam and democracy, which in turn have come to represent the cutting edge of democratic discourse in the Muslim World. In making this argument this thesis is divided into three chapters. The first chapter offers an examination of Khomeini’s political thought and identifies Khomeini’s chief political legacy as his introduction of Islam into the public sphere (and its resulting secularization). The second chapter addresses Khomeini’s mystical beliefs and identifies his primary legacy in this regard as his willingness to challenge traditional Shi’ia authority in the cause of reconciling Islam and modernity. The final chapter offers an examination of the reformist visions of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Ayatollah Mohsen Kadivar, and Abdulkarim Soroush, underscoring the way in which all three share a recognition of Khomeini’s political project as inherently modernist and progressive. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the future of Iranian political discourse and addresses the implications that developments in Iran may have not only for discussions of Islam and democracy in the Muslim World but also more broadly on global discussions on the nature of public religion.
Subject: Islam and state -- Iran
Subject: Khomeini, Ruhollah -- Views on Islam and state
Subject: Civilization, Modern -- Religious aspects -- Islam
Terms of Use: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
Permanent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10066/5701

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Lewis, Adam. "Reconciling Islam and Modernity : The Role of Ayatollah Khomeini in Shaping Iranian Discourses on Islam and Democracy". 2010. Available electronically from http://hdl.handle.net/10066/5701.

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