Majid Mohammadi

Majid Mohammadi
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Redefinitions of Marja`iyyat and Velayat relationships under the Islamic Republic of Iran
The political theory of the guardian jurist and the political regime that was built on it are the productions of a Shi`i clerical institution called marja`iyyat (religious authority and Sources of Emulation). The 1989 revisions eliminated the need for the Leader to be a marja`. After consolidation of his power, Supreme Religious Leader Ayatollah Khamenei tried to subdue other Sources of Emulation (SEs) and take all religious matters in his own hands, whether socio-economic issues or private ordinances. In five stages, the Leader has subjugated the SEs through: 1) pouring hundreds of million of dollars into the seminaries and making all of the clerics economically dependent to the Leader’s office; 2) paying the highest stipends to the seminary students; 3) stopping independent SEs from teaching; 4) putting pressure on semi-independent SEs and 5) establishing a system of censorship for publishing the catechisms of SEs. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has played a critical role in the third and fourth stages. It is important to know if there is anything about this dynamic relationship in the Islamic Republic’s Constitution. Is there any tradition in Shi`i seminaries that could put some limitations on the Leader’s encroaching on SEs’ rights? What did Khamenei and the IRGC gain in their cooperation against independent Shi`i institutions? This paper will conclude with the next move of the Leader to totally subordinate all SEs to him.


Majid Mohammadi is an analyst and researcher of Iranian politics and society. He currently works for REF/RL. He was a visiting scholar at Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies in 2009-2010 academic year. Before joining SBIGS in 2009, Mohammadi was an associate professor at Glenville State College, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and an International Policy Fellow at the Open Society Institute. His projects in Princeton and Open society were Shi`i Islamism in post-Revolutionary Iran and Judicial reform in Egypt and Turkey respectively. He was also a fellow in CDDRL in Stanford University in 2005. He is the author of several books in Persian and English, including Heaven’s Ladder: Analytic Philosophy of Religion; Judicial Reform and Reorganization in 20th Century Iran; Political Reforms Quandary in Iran Today; Civil Society: Iranian Style; Religion vs. Faith; and Sacred vs. Secular: Islamicization Process in Iran.

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