Islamism and Republicanism from Imam Khomeini's Point of View

Monday, June 2, 2008

The two terms "Islamism" and "Republicanism" are among political terminologies which became popular after the victory of the (1979) Islamic Revolution and were constantly debated by political groups and ordinary people.

Some advocating the Islamic nature of the Islamic system tried to shrink the republican part of it and some others, with a Westernized look at republicanism, considered this word as the Western world’s look toward democracy.

Imam Khomeini was among exceptional personalities who coined a new denotation in the political arena of Iran by merging these two words and by raising the idea of "Islamic Republic" while rejecting the mere republican (democracy) point of view introduced a new definition of the state by adjusting the viewpoint of advocates of Islamic rule; a state which had the framework of republicanism in terms of policy and embraced Islamic teachings in terms of nature.

Islamic Republic

The thing that enjoyed special prominence and clarity in the slogans and demands of the Muslim nation of Iran in the year 1357 (March 21, 1978- March 20, 1979) and can be considered the third constituent of this slogan was the “Islamic Republic”.

“Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic” means that the people looked for their country’s independence and freedom under the banner of Islamic Republic government and thus negated establishment of a government with any prefix and suffix and (showed) that they only want a government which both safeguards their independence and freedom and values and empowers their Islamic and religious identity.

Therefore they chose the Islamic Republic government as the third component of their main and fundamental slogan.

With respect to the government desired by him and the Iranian nation, the Imam had put in plain words the kind of future government of Iran within the framework of messages, interviews and answers to questions. The republican issue is related to the form of government which requires a kind of democracy and that is people have the right to take their fate into their own hands and this does not require people to be exempted from having tendency to a doctrine and an ideology and commitment and obligation to a doctrine. The Islamic character of this republic does not have any contradictions with national sovereignty or in general with democracy and that the principles of democracy never require an ideology and a doctrine not to prevail over a society. We see that parties usually consider themselves attached to a specific ideology and not only do not consider this against the principles of democracy but also are proud of it. Their mistake to consider the Islamic characteristic of the republic contradictory to the spirit of democracy originates from the fact that the democracy accepted by them is the same democracy of the 18th century in which the rights of people were limited to issues related to living, eating, housing, clothing and freedom in choosing the material life. Therefore, it can be believed that Islamic thought does not contradict with democracy as the most successful way of administering the affairs of a society and that the future form and content of the government should be nothing but Islamic republic.

Republicanism and Islamism in Imam Khomeini’s Practical Procedures

Although more than two decades have passed since the Islamic Revolution and drawing up of the Islamic Republic system by the Revolution’s architect and ideologue and also its confirmation by the people on Farvardin 12, 1358 (April 1, 1979) and its approval within the framework of the Constitution, still some try to sacrifice one of these two for the sake of the other; so that creating artificial conflict between these two main concepts has become one of the political challenges of our society.

The plan to omit republicanism from the basis of the political system and changing it to Islamic government is being followed up as a specific program by certain political circles in the society. The best example of this effort was raising the slogan of “government of Islamic justice” in the year 1376 (1997-98) which was carried out extensively in the form of theoretical works as well as in writing and in speech to defend the Islamic nature of the system and weaken its Republican character.

They considered the government of Islamic justice contrary to the Islamic republic and referred to the system, which was legally formulated under the title of Islamic Republic in the Constitution, as the transition era; a system which should be evolved into the government of Islamic justice after passing through the transition era.

Of course, in return some are trying to undermine the Islamic context of the system and magnify the republican context of the system and both efforts have turned into a challenge and a ground for conflict in the society. Therefore, a review of the events of the revolution time and the viewpoints of the Imam on Republicanism and Islamism can be helpful.

But when Imam Khomeini, with whose name the idea of republicanism has been righteously intertwined in our history and who should be considered the main engineer of republicanism in Iran, announced in response to a question posed by a reporter in October 1978 that the system viewed by the Islamic Revolution is the Islamic Republic, opened a new horizon in the prospect of the political life of Iran.

From the very outset, Imam Khomeini mentioned that the objective of the revolution and fall of the imperial regime of the shah was establishment of Islamic republic and the nation, too, made the slogan of “independence, freedom and Islamic republic” the main slogan of their revolution.

The Imam said in this respect, “The shah will go thanks to the revolutionary upheaval of the nation and a democratic Islamic republic system will be established. In this republic, a national Majlis comprising those really elected by the people will administer the state affairs."

Two weeks after the culmination of the revolution, referring to the referendum of the Islamic republic system, he said, “Those who are opposed are free and can express their opposition.”

In a radio-television message on Farvardin 12, 1358 (April 1, 1979) on the occasion of holding of referendum, the Imam said addressing the nation, “I announce the Islamic Republic and consider this day as an eid (feast day). I hope that every year, Farvardin 12 will be a feast for our nation who achieved national power and will take its destiny in their hands.”

He stressed, “There is no suppression in Islam. There is freedom in Islam for all classes… There is no more intelligence organization… The government cannot bully the nation any more. The government is at the service of the nation in the Islamic government. It should serve the nation.”

With such logic, the claimed contradiction between Islamism and republicanism is removed and Article 177 of the Constitution which has introduced the Islamic and republican characteristics as unalterable elements of the existing political system, become rationally meaningful.

Thanks to the resolution of the nation, the age-old order fell and a new order replaced it; a resolution which formed the order of the political life on the basis of a new order and the Constitution and directed its republican character to Islamic character. As long as such a resolution and such a republic persist, the survival of the Constitution and its Islamic principles and context are guaranteed. Also as per the Constitutional articles, the foundation of the new political system, its affairs and mechanisms stem from the spirit and reasoning of republicanism. Articles 56, 57, 6, 7, 177, paragraph 8 to Article 3…all indicate the logic of republicanism and democracy.

In fact a cursory look at the performance of the 10-year rule of Imam Khomeini shows that despite all conspiracies and the imposed war, the republican and democratic characters have been constantly promoted. The role of establishment of the Islamic Republic and acceptance of republicanism and that people from various walks of life have the right to determine their destiny and take part in elections and that every person has one vote is very important; that is accepting equal suffrage right among the people.

The other point was the strong tendency of the Imam towards the people and his particular belief in popular participation. In all the statements of the Imam including his last will, maybe the term "people" is the most highly used term after "Islam"; that all we have we owe to the people; people are our benefactors; the yardstick is the vote of the people; the essence of nation’s virtues should be materialized in the assemblies (parliaments).

In fact, it can be claimed that the Imam was the only person who really believed in republicanism and spread it in the country. Advocating republicanism was the unique characteristic of Imam Khomeini and it is great injustice to him for some to say the Imam had accepted republicanism under emergency conditions.

Anyway, despite rumors on existence of theoretical contradiction on Islamism and republicanism in the society, if the practical procedures of the Imam and the articles of the Constitution are acted upon, not only there would be no contradiction between the two concepts but they act as supplements to each other and as interpreted by Martyr Morteza Motahari republicanism determines the form of our government and Islamism its content.

Actually, acceptance of this theory not only disarms those opposing republicanism and (at the same time) claiming support for theocracy but also weakens the so-called supporters of democracy who do not believe in divine legitimacy and velayat faqih. In practice, it causes all forces to strive to make the bases of the system more effective away from differences in principles and foundations.


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