Abstract

Islamic scholarship, in Iran and elsewhere, has a long tradition of debate and critique. This tradition has come to pose a challenge to the constitutional order of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a number of seminary-trained scholars have applied their critical methods to basic issues of state legitimacy, in particular the state’s right to insist on interpretive closure. The regime has responded with force, convening special clergy courts to silence and imprison scholars, in violation of seminary norms of scholarly debate. These conspicuous acts of discipline seem to have backfired, as each escalating punishment has generated new critics within.