The Concerns of a Religious State

Religious states have some specific concerns alongside the general concerns of every state. These concerns can be divided into two categories the first of which is whether such policies and states would succeed in implementing the minimum duties of a conventional state and policy or not. Would they sacrifice administration for guidance? Would the citizens’ freedoms and rights be observed alongside the implementation of religious tasks and duties? Would the religious sanctity of the political power structure obstruct the means of supervision and criticism and ultimately lead to religious despotism and corruption of political power?

More important than the first concerns is whether religion would gradually become the price of worldly affairs or not. Would the sanctity of religion be the price for securing human authority and daily decision-making? Would compassion which is the essence of religion gradually fade away amidst political power? Is religious state nothing but the fatalist consequence of such states? If the first category of concerns dealt with securing the minimal implementation of the duties of the state, the second category of concerns would promote the preservation and lack of deviance of religion.

The common concerns of a religious state can be arranged in two themes from another perspective: one would be the relation of truth and duty, the rights of people and divine duties. The other would be the relation of compassion and power, compassion as the essence of religion and power as the foundation of politics.

The observation of religious teachings by the political administration would be the prerequisite of a religious society. In such a case, religion would have to go beyond personal ethics; it would have to incorporate social regulations too. The Concerns of a Religious State is a work that originates from sensing real problems in an attempt to respond benevolently to those problems. It raises questions not abstract and mental but based on concretely studying a historical experience, the invaluable experience of the Islamic Republic in the first two decades of the 15th century Hejira (the last two decades of the 20th century). One can erase such fundamental questions instead of providing rational responses to them by simply suppressing and incarcerating those who raise such questions but neither questions nor thoughts shall die. They will remain together with the sense of making criticisms.

The Concerns of a Religious State is a slightly revised and edited collection of 80 papers, articles, speeches, interviews, and roundtables on politics published between 1992 and 1998 in different Iranian periodicals. The focal theme of the different writings in this book is the relationship between religion and political power. The Concerns of a Religious State comprises the concerns of a traveler who records what s/he sees from one place to another. It is not a preplanned book, rather, the elegy of a generation who speak of what happened to their dream. The Concerns of a Religious State is in nine topical sections and the topics of each section are chronologically sorted to the extent possible.

What adds to the significance of this book is that the writer seeks to present and explicate his own specific views rather than analyzing and reviewing those of others. His specific views on religious state, Islamic Republic, freedom, civil society, tolerance, Islamic Revolution, reform movement, clergy, absolute velayateh faqih, the function of the leader and Assembly of Experts (Majlesseh Khobregan), and state terrorism and violence have been incorporated in this book clearly and transparently.

The writer opens his book with writings from the early days of his twenty-year social Quest for Light which includes three papers Kaveh in Sorrow for His 18th Son (Kaveh dar sogeh hajdahom), I Am Proud Therefore I Am! (Man eftekhar mikonam pas hastam!), and Let’s Glorify the Significant Moments of the Revolution (Lahazateh ghadareh enghelab ro ghadar beshnassim). These works go back to 1977-79 and are reminiscent of the ideals of the Islamic Revolution.

Religious State, the second section of the book, discusses the issue from different aspects. The paper The Realm of Religious State from the Viewpoint of Imam Khomeini (Ghalamroyeh hokoomateh deenee az didgaheh Imam Khomeini ghodasseh sero) expounds upon absolute velayateh faqih especially in connection with lack of adherence to sharia regulations (authorities beyond first and secondary regulations) and lack of adherence to human-made legislation (authorities above the law). Reflections on the Issue of Velayateh Faqih (Tamoli dar massaleyeh velayateh faqih) is an abstract of Kadivar’s views on the important issue of velayateh faqih in the form of a paper. The four issues of the evolution of velayateh faqih in Shiite fiqh, Imam Khomeini and velayateh faqih, velayateh faqih and the Islamic Revolution, and velayateh faqih and the Islamic Republic lead to further transparency of the different dimensions of the official theory. The other topics within this section include Kadivar’s reasons on two major issues of religious state: the conditions of criticizing the state and the transience of the leader’s term of office.

The third section is the relationship between Religion and Politics. Kadivar mentions the differences in the political methods of Fatemeh Zahra and Imam Ali in Siyassateh Fatemi, siyassateh Alavi). Fatemeh considered it her duty to disclose the deviancy of the state from truth and prove that the framework of a religious state’s authority and expediency is below the level of the Koran.

Comparing the Political Thoughts of Motahari and Shariati (Moghayesseyeh andisheyeh siyassiyeh Ostad Motahari va Doctor Shariati) identifies the impact of each of these two thinkers on the political structure of the Islamic Republic.

The concise paper Religious State and Expediency (Hokoomateh deenee va masslehat) stipulates that determining the national interests and expediency of the regime is to be done through the collective wisdom of the society and the people’s expert representatives not the authority of one person or his appointees. Expediency must be independent of the state. If this were not the case, religion would be the price of political power. In a religious state, each expediency is confined to certain invariable religious and legal restrictions which are not subject to interpretation, variation, and transgression through any kind of expediency.

Kadivar adopts the concept of civil society as a method and not a culture or ideology and deals with two questions: Can a civil society be formulated in a religious state? Can a religious state be established in a civil society? He indicates two different readings of religious state and concludes that “religious autocracy” can only come about amidst populism and that civil society cannot withhold this reading of religious state. The formulation of civil society in a religious democracy, however, is feasible. Hence, a civil society consisting of a religious majority does not rule out the possibility of such a religious state. Kadivar holds that sanctifying despotism, absolute authority, and lifelong power that is not subject to supervision and accountability towards the nation is more of a local and conventional nature rather than an Islamic one.

In his controversial paper The Relationship between Religious Duty and Development Based on Political Participation (Nessbateh taklif va tosseh bar assasseh shakhesseh mosharekateh siyassi), Kadivar proves that within the official reading of religion and religious state, religious duty and development are conflicting and public participation and even the participation of the elite within politics is out of the question. Kadivar presents a reading of religion in Truth and Religious Duty in Religion (Hagh va taklif dar deen) in which divine duties are incompatible and incongruous with human rights. He argues that self-determination and political decisions are rights granted by God. The public domain is people’s property and the criterion for using it is the consent of the majority of the proprietors. Moslems are obliged to observe this right. The criterion within public domain is the vote of the people and the administrators of this domain are elected by the people to conduct these services. Intervening in this domain without the prior consent of the people is forbidden.

The Relationship between Religion and Freedom is the subject of analysis in the fourth section. In the long paper The Principles of Political Freedoms in Islam (Mabaniyeh azadihayeh siyassi dar esslam) analyzes and compares political freedom with the freedom of the opposition in legally criticizing and objecting to the state. Kadivar explicates six Koranic reasons and three reasons from the Islamic tradition concerning political freedoms in Islam. In his paper Ashoora and Freedom in the Etiology of Imam Hossein’s Movement (Ashoora va azadi dar risheyabiyeh nehzateh Hosseini), a few fundamental questions have been raised: Is the right of political opposition recognized in a religious state or not? Do political objectors enjoy the right to life, the right to freedom of expression, the right not to pledge allegiance with the state, and the right to express opposition or not? Kadivar has grouped political objections into four categories: First, objecting to accepting the state, that is not pledging allegiance with it. Second, objecting to the decrees of the state, eg not participating in wars, jihads, etc. Third, theoretical and cultural objection, ie expressing opposition and campaigning against the state. Fourth, opposition intended to topple the state or armed conflict. Kadivar demonstrates that according to the approach of Imam Ali and Imam Hossein, the first three kinds of objectors are free, whereas, the Bani Omayeh tradition rules out all kinds of political opposition.

In another long paper, Freedom in a Religious State (Azadi dar hokoomateh deenee), he raises the question whether freedom is plausible in religious states or not and concludes that religion both promotes and confines freedom. On the one hand, religion promotes the kind of freedom among humans which is exclusive through the implementation of religion, ie spiritual freedom. At the same time, it confines freedom in the sense that certain personal and social structures are restricted so that the spiritual freedom of humankind would not be lost. Freedom without religion is vulnerable and so is religion without freedom. Reactionary views and narrow-mindedness coupled with religious despotism would be the outcome of religion without freedom. In a closed religious society, it is religion which is subject to detriment more than any other element.

In his comprehensive interview The Borders of Freedom from the Perspective of Religion (Marzhayeh azadi az manzareh deen), Kadivar presents his views regarding the various dimensions of political and cultural freedoms, apostasy, deviant and perverse publications, etc.

The fifth section focuses on the clerics and power. Kadivar holds that the responsibility of clerics in a religious state would be to explicate the general religious regulations, objectives, and values and conduct a supreme and critical supervision. The supervisory role of the ulama in a religious state is the highest guarantee for the invulnerability of the state. The ulama are sanctuaries in which people would find shelter from the oppressions of a state. Religious conscience is the greatest protector of maintaining human dignity and freedom. The most major duty of the ulama is promoting and consolidating religious awareness and conscience. Shifting the ulama from this very important task to dealing with the daily variable issues of life has a harmful impact. Maintaining the independence of the institution of religious explication from state administration would preserve the sanctity, invulnerability, inclusiveness, and the spiritual authority of religion. In the absence of insightful ulama, the invariable regulations, objectives, and values of religion become subject to unauthentic variation.

The sixth section reviews the achievements of the Islamic Revolution in different dimensions. The well-known interview On the Twenty-Year Achievements of the Islamic Republic (Negahi beh karnameyeh bist saleyeh jomhooriyeh esslami) which took Kadivar to prison is included in this section.

The seventh section focuses on the reform movement. Kadivar believes that the theme of this movement has both affirmative and negative aspects. The negative theme was the negative response and the “great no” to governmental religion, narrow-mindedness, violence, irrationality, despotism, populism, humiliation, patrimonialism, and monopoly. The affirmative theme was the positive response to spirituality, rationality, rule of law, freedom, civil society, and non-violent reform of the state.

The eighth section entitled Supervising the Leadership (Nezarat bar rahbari) includes, “The Assembly of Leadership Experts has either neglected its very important responsibility of screening what the leader does or done very little in this regard. Has the Assembly ever asked any questions from the Leader? Has the Leader ever received a note from the Assembly? Has the Assembly ever criticized the Leader for his policies? The performance of the institutions associated with the Leader including the Council of Friday Prayer Leaders’ Policymaking, the Council of Guardians, the Council of Expediency, the Judiciary, the Law Enforcement, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Qods Razavi Institution, Mostazafan Foundation, Imam Khomeini Aid Committee, etc has been the subject of serious questioning in the last decade. Has the Assembly conducted any supervision on these institutions? Has it ever told the Leader to reform these institutions? There are very serious questions within public opinion regarding the stance of the Leader’s Office during the fifth parliamentary elections and the seventh presidential elections. Has the Assembly done any act of supervision, guidance, consultation, or reform in this regard? The Leader’s authority is guaranteed through disciplined and meticulous supervision of the Assembly. Thus, any form of negligence or lack of transparency on the side of the Assembly in conducting its legal duty of supervision on the Leader would bring about irreparable damages of a national scale.

The last section of the book is Religious State and Violence (Hokoomateh deenee va khoshoonat). Kadivar believes that the prime causes of resorting to violence are lack of public support, weakness in theorization, the specific mission that statespersons running an ideological state adopt for themselves regarding guiding people, and having no faith in the culture of participation within the public domain. Violence is the instrument employed by the much boisterous ignorant who wish to have hegemony within the public domain. Those who do not understand social relations and become confronted with undesirable outcomes resort to violence as the simplest means of achieving their objectives in a Quixotic way without making any appropriate estimation. Employing violence by those who are in line with the state in Third World countries depicts that there are certain issues within the society that the state has yet to overcome and that legislation does not allow the state to spread its hegemony within those areas. Hence, there is no other way but to resort to illegal violent means. Within dual states, employing violence by sectors of the state illustrates the lack of strong public support and the totalitarian attitude of the originators of violence. If those who resort to violence enjoy freedom of action as far as the statespersons are concerned and would not be prosecuted by them, it would indicate that they have consent with them. A state whose raison d’etre is dependent upon violent means is bound to become extinct.

This section also discusses the unfortunate phenomenon of state terrorism and the serial killings of alternative thinkers alongside analyzing the religious principles condemning and prohibiting violence especially assassination. Kadivar’s speech entitled Assassination Is Forbidden in the Sharia (Hormateh shariyeh terror), which awarded him a one-year prison sentence, is included in this section. Kadivar has written in the introduction of this part that, “Despite all the injustice and perversions, I see a bright future for Iran and I hope that religious politics would be able to pass through this entanglement with flying colors.”


Mohsen Kadivar
The Concerns of a Religious State

Tehran, Nashr-e Nay
June 2000, 2nd Printing: September 2000

883 Pages

(Daghdaghehayeh hokoomateh deenee)
ISBN 964-312-508-4


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