The first few decades of Islamic history witnessed the convergence of religious and political authority in one person. This convergence only lasted for a short period for the majority of Muslims, the Sunnīs, but was conceptualised as an integral component of the Twelver Shīʿī belief system. In other words, theocracy became one of the foundational elements of Twelver Shīʿism. However, due to the experiences of the infallible Imāms, maintaining distance from the institution of the state became the defining feature of Shīʿī political modus operandi.
The notion of theocratic secularism is coined here to explain this theological formulation which accommodates both theocracy and political secularism. I argue that theocratic secularism informed the political modus operandi of Shīʿas up until the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini in the closing decades of the 20th century.
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Naser Ghobadzadeh is a senior lecturer at the National School of Arts, ACU. Researching at the intersection of religion and politics, Naser’s interests lie in the study of Islamic political theology, secularism, and Middle East politics. Naser has authored three books including Religious secularity: a theological challenge to the Islamic state (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), Caspian Sea: legal regime, neighbouring countries and US policies (Tehran: Farhang-e Gofteman, 2005 – in Farsi) and A study of people’s divergence from ruling system (Tehran: Farhang-e Gofteman, 2002-in Farsi). He is also co-editor of a collection of essays, i.e., The Politics of Islamism: Diverging Visions and Trajectories (New York: Palgrave 2018).
12 May 2021
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