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Iran and a Secularist Vision of Islam



 
The intent of this article is to show that the concept of “separation of state and church”, the corner-stone of classical and modern secularism, is practically a very old one, out-sprung from another form of separation that took place early in human civilization between state bureaucracy and that of the religious one. 
By unrivaled ownership of the armed forces, the state bureaucracy was able to bring the religious establishment under its own check, denying it any independence and mostly integrating it into its variegated institutions, creating what can be named as pseudo-secularism, which should mean the subordination of church by state rather than there complete separation. 
There are only rare instances in the history of human civilization when the ownership of the armed forces gets transferred to the religious apparatus and, thus, a complete “theocracy” is formed. In other words, although, pre-modern states had to obtain their legitimacy from religious sources, this need should not be interpreted as the domination of Church over State.
The same applied to the history of both Iran and Islam. Although Islam’s prophet was successful in establishing the first Islamic state, his successors had to create a buffer zone between their own authority and that of the influential position of Imams (both in Sunni and Shi’i terms); a process that culminated in the integration of the religious establishment into the bureaucracies of the Turkish sultans, from Saljughs to Ottomans.
The permanent presence this “pseudo-secularism” in Islamic state (both Caliphate and Sultanate) has always barred us from noticing such a long history; and it is only due to the advent of the Islamic state in Iran, ruled by the highest religious authorities, that Secularism is being introduced to the Iranian political milieu as a new and unprecedented notion that can act as a viable rival to the present governing state.  
 

 
Author: 
اسماعیل نوری علا
Volume: 
۲۵
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