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Monday Mar 4, 2024, Shaban 23, 1445 Hijri

Islamic Revolution in Iran; emerging piety power paradigm

27 January, 2012

By Dr. Ghayur Ayub

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The Islamic Revolution in Iran marks it's 33rd anniversary this year. Despite facing strong opposing forces that any such revolution faces in its evolutionary phases it not only survived but thrived. The question emerges as to what constituted the mosaic of the revolution which gave it the resilience, strength and power to progress? Five reasons become apparent:

    First, Imam Khomeini made piety, simplicity and righteousness the driving force of the revolution, making political, social, commercial and financial matters subservient to it. In this way, he narrowed down the scope for anti-revolutionary forces and potentially blunted them.

    Second, he did not highlight poverty the major cause of restlessness amongst the people; the revolution garnered support from all walks of life, especially university youth from prosperous families.

    Third, he targeted the widespread injustice and suffocation nurtured by the centuries-old monarchy, which beset the common man with slave mentality and deprived him from moral, intellectual, social and ideological freedom.

    Fourth, he encouraged non-sectarian Islam to check un-Islamic traditions prevalent in society and put humanity as an important theme of the Revolution. He knew that Divine laws of Islam are closely linked to human values.

    Finally, he incorporated the philosophy of Karbala into the theme of the revolution, whereby he likened each passing day of struggle to the day of Ashura, until revolutionary aims were finally achieved. He also believed that the idealogical struggle should continue even after the completion of the revolution in order to achieve true salvation of soul. The philosophy of Karbala hinges on seven principles;

  • struggle against tyranny;

  • alleviation of fear of the non-divine entities;

  • love and obedience to Divine power;

  • glorification of death for a cause (martyrdom);

  • no-compromise on principles;

  • limitless sacrifices;

  • installing fright in the mind of the enemy by shedding blood through self-flagellation.
This linkage had two paradoxical effects;
  • first, the opposing forces propagated the revolution as sectarian;

  • second, the philosophy of Karbala became a strong motto for the followers of revolution.
Philosophically speaking, piety is an essential tool to effectively spread morality. Imam Khomeini made this a firm objective of the Revolution in order to liberate the oppressed people (Mostazifin) from the arrogant oppressive forces (Mostakbirin) which he called Taghut (anti-God, anti-Christ; the perverse patriarch). The adversaries of the revolution portrayed it as derogatory towards religion, economically damaging and politically disastrous.

They compared it with other failed revolutions of the 20th century, such as Communism, but ignoring two facts;
  • first, Karl Marks planned his revolution for Germany, not for Russia;

  • second, the flag bearers of Communism digressed from the original Marxist principles and ideology.
Usually, revolutions fail when the opposing forces manage to deviate revolutionaries from their original ideological, political and economic policies. The nurturers of the Islamic revolution of Iran, despite facing hostile opposition, did not deviate from their original principles. Imam Khomeini, taking advantage of the technological advancements of the day, used audio cassette to spread his message wisely while still based in France, long before his return to his homeland. Later, after the ouster of the Shah, when the revolution had come to fruition, he filled the resultant vacuum gradually, and simultaneously addressed the psychological needs of the public.

For example, he deliberately bypassed the right-wing clergy and gave the interim leadership role to Bazargan - a nationalist Muslim, respected by all and an active participant in the revolution, followed by Bani Sadr - a Marxist Muslim, as President. Some considered the second appointment a mistake, as Bani Sadr teamed up with Rajavi, who led the Mujahidin-e-Khalq and was allegedly responsible for mass killings of innocent people. Both men also had links with Saddam Hussain and were presumably planted by the US as a contra-revolutionary measure. It was during Bani Sadr's regime that Saddam Hussain, with the backing of the US, attacked Iran starting a war which lasted eight long years. Eventually, Bani Sadr along with Rajavi, fled the country on a motor bike when they failed in their anti-revolutionary endeavours. Yet the revolution stayed it's course to the credit of pro-revolutionary personalities like Bahishti, Montazari, Mutahari, Rafsanjani and Khamenie who carried the torch as founding fathers and sons of the struggle. They played pivotal parts in nurturing the revolution on the piety-based principles laid down by Imam Khomeini. Through their efforts, they made Mujahidin-e -Khalq ineffective.

The obstructive role of the Americans in the progress of the revolution became apparent from the secret documents seized by the students who invaded the US Embassy. The documents revealed an interesting discussion between President Carter and Kissinger, well before Imam Khomeini put his feet on Iranian soil. According to the documents, president Carter asked Kissinger whether the imminent revolution could be potentially dangerous for Israel. Kissinger answered in affirmative and charted out seven hurdles to block its progress. One of the hurdles was to get Saddam to attack Iran. According to Kissinger, such a war would buy the Israeli and other pro-Zionist regimes 30 years, by curtailing the targets of the revolution and keeping Israel safe.

Within nine months of the revolution, the Americans persuaded Saddam Hussain to invade Iran. Israel provided technical support for his venture. It was a major setback for Iran in economic terms as it was already isolated, both politically and diplomatically in the world community. But were they really successful in their plans? The events that followed proved otherwise, as not only did the revolution survive the Iran-Iraq war, Iran also liberated Khuzistan and it's major city Khurramshahr which they had lost in 1980.

The biggest failure of the plan was the emergence of Saddam as the embodiment of Frankenstein, who not only attacked Kuwait in the coming years but also became a serious threat to America, Israel and the West. The Americans did to Saddam in operation RED Dawn in 2003, what Imam Khomeini wanted to do in 1982. They were late by twenty years and achieved it at the cost of millions of innocent lives and material damage. Some would argue that Americans have made Israel another dangerous giant which is capable of annihilating 5 million Muslims, Christians, Jews or other humans across Middle East, Europe, US and Asia. Yet it is vulnerable as it is incapable of surviving a single strike. They also argue that it will soon collapse under its own weight and implode as the Soviets did in the past.

The US strategically trapped the Soviets by convincing them that the Islamic revolution in Iran would adversely affect the regimes in the Central Asian States with devastating results for the USSR. Thus the 'enemies of the cold war' became friends against the Islamic revolution. The US encouraged the Soviets to attack Afghanistan so that Iran could be isolated in the region. In this way, the US tried to reduce Iranian influence and weaken ( and even break) the USSR. Breznev realized this ploy, as within two months of invasion of Afghanistan he accepted his fault in the Congress held in February 1980. He desired to withdraw his army but it was too late; the arrow had already been shot out of the bow. His feelings were shared by Andropov and Gorbachev, who were against the invasion of Afghanistan.

The invasion of Afghanistan by Soviets and that of Iran by Saddam Hussain were two sides of the same coin. However, Saddam emerged as a darling of the west while the Soviets became the losers and found themselves as isolated in the world community as the Iranians were. The two wars continued and the US was successful in killing two birds with one stone. The Soviets lost the war in Afghanistan and Iran agreed to a ceasefire with Iraq. Imam Khomeini called the ceasefire a 'poisonous pill'. After using Gorbachev to prepare the grave for Communism, the Americans worked on Yelstin to give a final push to Gorbachev and with him, to Communism.

The Arab Sheikhs and Royals also saw their thrones slipping away from under their feet because of the Islamic revolution. They opened their coffers and spent over 80 Billion US Dollars, 70 billions of which were given to Saddam to use against Iran and 10 billions to Jihadis fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, thereby exposing the real intentions of the US-Arab alliance. To achieve their goals, the alliance helped build a force of religious fanatics to fight the Soviets and bring down the USSR on the one hand and to fight Shias on the other, in order to isolate Iran and foil the Islamic revolution. The tactics worked on five counts;
  • First, the Arab thrones were saved;

  • Second the soviets were thrown out of Afghanistan;

  • Third, the USSR as a world power was weakened and later demolished;

  • Fourth Islamic revolution in Iran was demonized as a Shia revolution;

  • Fifth, Iran was isolated.
Thus the Arab royals, with active support of the Zionists, won political mileage and safeguarded themselves from the Islamic revolution of Iran. In the process, they sowed the seeds for the birth of Al Qaeda and Taliban in coming years.

The role of Yassar Arafat in this game was also intriguing. He projected himself as a liberal Muslim. In initial days of the revolution, Iran gave him a rousing welcome when he visited Tehran. But soon they found him to be not only insincere in his support of the revolution but also to the Palestinian cause. In the following years, he got himself caught in his own underhanded game when he was thrown out of Lebanon. He could have easily been killed if the Americans or the Israelis wanted. But his life was spared for the covert services he rendered his 'enemies'.

The part played by China and the European Union is also worth mentioning. China was apparently neutral and concentrated on it's economic development, but leaned infinitesimally in favour of the Islamic revolution. The majority of the EU countries towed the American line with the exception of Helmut Schmidt of Germany. He supported the revolution and as a result, lost the next election, paving the way for Kohl who supported American policies.

Turkey, sandwiched between pro-Christian Europe and pro-Islamic Asia, tilted towards Europe in the hope of becoming a member of the EU. Its anti-revolution stance was convenient at the time. But the pro-Islamic powers within the country recognized the unnaturalness of this stance, and there was a volte face as soon as they came into power and introduced visibly anti-Israeli and pro-Iranian policies.

The Indians held their cards close to their chest. They were friendly with the Soviets but kept a low profile during the fall of USSR and followed the Israeli and Saudi stance towards Iran. Their actual policies towards the Islamic revolution still remain unclear for the fear of a backlash from the Muslims living in India.

The role of Pakistan was also interesting. General Zia had taken over as the Chief Martial Law Administrator on the 'Islamic ticket' during the crucial years of the Islamic revolution. He kept his views towards Islamic revolution of Iran unknown, giving an impression that he was towing the Saudi line in the Iran-Iraq war. In Afghanistan, he openly supported the Saudis and Americans against the Soviets by providing intelligence, logistic and technical support to the Jihadis. In the second half of his tenure, he covertly supported the Iranians. Then, in 1995 when Benazir Bhutto wanted to tow the pro-American line and isolate Iran, she approached the Sunni religious leaders for their support but was unanimously opposed.

With this background, can it be said that the Islamic revolution in Iran failed? The answer lies in the political, diplomatic and economic position of Iran and its two major opponents-the US and Israel, both at the time of the revolution in 1979 and today, the year 2012.

Iran spiralled downwards on all three counts in the initial years of the revolution, while the US and Israel went up reciprocally. It is pertinent to mention at this point that Americans and Israelis shared policies based on common interests including illegal occupation of foreign lands. In that respect India becomes their natural strategic partner. For example; America has been occupying Iraq and Afghanistan as it occupied Japan and Germany in past; Israel occupies Palestine; and India occupies Kashmir. The three can be termed Pax Zionica for having identical interests and policies. Through their policies they have been eroding the charters of United Nation, the integrity of Arab League and the OIC. Thus, members of Pax Zionica, with help of Arab rulers, isolated Iran in the world community.

Today, the situation is different.

If it wasn't for the recent row on the nuclear issue, most of the European countries had opened their doors for trade and technology transfer with Iran. The nuclear issue is likely to settle down through negotiation. Meanwhile, the US and Israel are facing difficulties in political, diplomatic and economic fields, visible both in the corridors of the world governments and in the courts of the public on the streets.

Russia, which was against Iran in the past, has become its strategic ally today. In Latin America, previously only two countries-Cuba and Nicaragua, were friendly with Iran. Today, the support has gone up to over five countries. China, which was neutral in yesteryears, is now another strategic partner of Iran. The previously unfriendly India has been emitting positive vibes and breaking trade barriers with Iran. Pakistan, which was apparently neutral then, is overtly and covertly getting closer to its neighbour in more than one way.

Such a change of mind is creating challenges for pro-Zionists who still oppose the Islamic revolution. The guilt complex they have created over the years is gradually evaporating and replaced by antipathy for Zionism. The leaked out private conversations between the top European and the American leaders in recent months reflects this picture. They fear the attack on Iran would result in an economic implosion within the Euro-Dollar zone and is the greatest barrier, restricting US-Israel overtures against Iran. It is gradually emerging that most of the important world personalities consider Zionism a major risk for the EU and the US. Many observers fear that the thermo-nuclear attack against the EU and the US by Israel surpasses any possible mischief by Iran.

According to some reports, in the last 10 years, the highest echelons in the US are realising that the leadership of Iran played politics on moral grounds and that the country was not as hostile as it was portrayed to be. They have also come to terms with the fact that they have to live with the pristine values of Islam in global politics and they can coexist peacefully with Islamic powers. Furthermore, Iran can play a crucial role in this coexistence.

The Islamic revolution of Iran, which was delineated as a dagger in the back of the Muslim Ummah by the Arab rulers, is becoming an icon of freedom for Arab Muslim youth. It became a symbolic shield against the sword of tyranny. We saw it in the waving sea of banners carried by the enraged protesters in the streets of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere. One may ask what happened to those Muslim leaders who opposed the Islamic revolution of Iran? Where is Saddam Hussain of Iraq, Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Col Gadafi of Libya, Ali Saleh of Yemen? Could anyone of them stop the 'Arab Spring', which is primarily influenced by the spirit of the Islamic revolution of Iran? As the 'Arab Spring' sows it's seeds in other parts of the Arab world and beyond, the hollow slogans of Arab elites are getting exposed and their plans fall through, giving way to a new Islamic ethos based on the philosophy of Islamic revolution of Iran. And what about the friendship the Americans had with the predecessors of the Al Qaeda and Taliban? Aren't they at loggerheads with each other today?

Israel, which was pictured as an innocent nation by the West and an invincible power by the Muslims proved to be mendacious. It's purported innocence and invincibility were exposed by Sunni Hamas in Palestine and Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both groups are following the revolutionary principles of Iran. In 2006, when Israel attacked Lebanon under the pretext of freeing two soldiers, they expected a quick operation not requiring more than ten days. They also aimed to destroy Hezbollah, killing its 'terrorist leader' Hassan Nasrullah. The Kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan praised the invasion, waiting for the news of Hezbollah's defeat and sending a strong message to Iran.

It turned out to be a case of sour grapes as the Israeli and American plans failed militarily. The non-defeat of Hezbollah was, in reality, the defeat of Israel. The myth of Israeli might was shattered by the sheer will of Hezbollah led by Hassan Nasrullah. It was the fallout of the Islamic revolution which made the tiny group of Hezb revolutionaries invincible. War experts could not fathom the mechanics of this lopsided war in which a handful of Islamic revolutionaries stopped the naked aggression of powerful Israel, backed by the mighty US. Unbiased people all around the world blamed the US and Israel for the attack and praised the courage of Hezbollah and it's supporter, Iran.

Economically, Iran took a nosedive during the war with Iraq, when it was completely isolated from rest of the world. It's reserves fell to unprecedented lows, with no hope of recovery. Everything seemed bleak. At one stage, the Saudi King offered Imam Khomeini financial compensation in 1986 to agree to a ceasefire with Saddam. He saw it as a deviation from the ongoing process of revolution and refused to compromise. A leader with weak nerves would have crumbled under the pressure and let the revolution go astray, thereby destroying its essence. But not Imam Khumeni - he remained steadfast and maintained the spirit of the revolution. It paid off in the end and soon the economy started to climb inch by inch. Iran had survived despite the challenges it faced from both within the country and abroad, due to it's adherence to high moral values.

At the start of revolution, Iran depended on 80% imported technology in various fields. Now, 33 years after the revolution, it domestically produces 80% of the technology in all those fields. The Islamic revolution in Iran is a unique example in contemporary history, which despite political, economic and ideological opposition, survived. Not only that, it's custodians sought to fulfil the divergent needs of society without eroding it's spirit. They did not bow down to the erratic demands of its global enemies. During this period, Iranians went through the process of free and fair elections to the utter disappointment of it's international adversaries. In other words, the Islamic revolution liberated society from the evils of slave mentality and the inferiority complex Iranians suffered at the hands of it's monarchy and the West.

The steely resolve of the custodians that formed the foundation of the revolution had no aspiration of financial gain, individual greed, or self-aggrandizement. This fact has been realised by even the harshest critics of the revolution in the West. They have also realised that the Iranian revolution was wrongly publicised as fundamentalist and fanatical by it's Muslim neighbours. They have started to comprehend it better now. They understand that the sectarian emphasis given to the revolution by neighbouring countries had behind it, personal motives and the fear of losing their power bases at home.

In the propaganda war, past speeches and writings of Imam Khomeini were quoted and referenced to portray him as sectarian and fanatical. In reality, his thinking had changed and evolved over the years, especially after he accepted the challenges of revolution. He had started propagating a pan-Islamic ideology, based on non-sectarian teachings for the greater good of humanity and for Islamic unity. Through his speeches and actions, he had tapped into the spiritual aspect of Islam which stresses on tolerance, fraternity, and understanding. Keeping that aspect in mind, he encouraged others to make good relations with the Jews and Christians.

It was this gentle, all-encompassing facet of Islam which became the mainstay of his teachings. Towards the end, he spoke of nothing but lessons learnt from the Quran and the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Following his teachings, a concept has been developed amongst like-minded Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars to create an institution by the name, 'Bait-e-Ibrahim', for the purpose of spreading intra-faith and inter-faith fraternity, not just between the Abrahamic religions but also in other communities. The aim is to uplift societies through respect, tolerance and understanding and to look at life through a human prism.

Bait-e-Ibrami will challenge the aggressive policies of Pax-Zionica and could rise as Pax-Islamica/Abrahamica in future global politics. It would provide succour to humanity which has suffered 100 million dead and injured at a material cost of over a 100 trillion dollars primarily at the hands of Pax-Zionica after after WWII.

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