Iran and the Notions of Modernity in the Mid-Twentieth Century
Brief Introduction of Iran Under the Pahlavi DynastyIn December of 1925, the parliament of Iran inducted Reza Shah Pahlavi as the ruler and monarch of Iran. Under his rule, Iran developed into a prominent and wealthy nation. Reza Shah established sweeping educational reforms that significantly increased the number of secular schools. A prime example of the emphasis on education was the establishment of the University of Tehran. Further, during Reza Shah’s regime, he de-emphasized the power and influence of the Shi’ite religious class by transforming religious courts into secular judicial systems. As a byproduct of this, the emancipation of women strengthened. During Reza Shah’s regime, womenexhibited a newfound freedom that brought about social and maternal independence: “The custom of women wearing veils was banned, the minimum age for marriage was raised, and strict religious divorce laws (which invariably favored the husband) were made more equitable” (Rise of Reza Khan.). Expanding further, Reza Shah’s modernization of Iran did not sit well withreligious preachers and clergymen. The rapid secularization and corruption of the Shah’s regime left the people of Iran resentful. An extensive amount of Iranians citizens were murdered for rioting and expressing their overall displeasure with the government. Prior to the end of World War II, Great Britain and the USSR played an instrumental role in the abdication of Reza Shah. Together on August 25, 1941, Great Britain and the USSR invaded Iran. Consequently, this led tothe succession of the throne to Reza Shah’s son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. (Shah Flees Iran)Following the abdication of his father Reza Shah in September 16, 1941, Mohammad Reza Shah assumes power as monarch. In the initial years of Mohammad Reza Shah’s enthroning, Great Britain and the USSR politically and economically occupied Iran. Moreover, similar to his predecessor Reza Shah, Mohammad Reza Shah took steps to modernize Iran.
Mohammad Reza Shah created a security force called SAVAK (loosely translated in English as the Organization of National Security and Information). In addition, Mohammad Reza Shah emphasized modernization through industrial and agricultural reforms. As a result of this in 1963, the Shah introduced a program titled “White Revolution”. A common theme between Mohammad Reza Shah and his father was the condemning of modernization by religious figures.Both Shah’s notions of modernity conflicted with Islamic principles. Further, resentment of the government was commonplace due to the gap between the elite and the middle-low class. This paper argues that Iran adopted its own alternative form of modernity, in which political sovereignty transitioned from an absolute monarchy into an Islamic Republic. An alternative form of modernity specifically meaning that Islamic republicanism in Iran replaced absolutism. As a result, secularization of the new Iran ceased and a highly religious state emerged. Islamic religious leaders, specifically mullahs, are acknowledged with a newfound