Islam, Law, and Political Control in Contemporary Iran



Muslims agree that the establishment of an Islamic state requires the implementation of Islamic principles and laws. In Iran, Khomeini and his supporters developed doctrinal justifications for uncontested clerical rule to ensure political order and social conformity. By emphasizing “communal interest” in legislation and establishing an extensive institutional mechanism of legal control, the clerics gradually marginalized the Shari'ah and sacrificed the Islamic notion of universality of law for legal territoriality. This legal trend is separating the clerics from their traditional role and is undermining their legitimacy. Ironically, the current attempts at legal and political reform by the reformers, as harshly opposed by the hard-line clerics, would benefit the clerical class by pursuing a more liberal legal and political agenda consistent with the Shari'ah.