Shi’ite Clerics and Political Modernization in Iran

In this book presentation hosted by Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), Prof. Mateo Farzaneh (Assistant Professor of History of the Islamic World and Modern Middle East, Northeastern Illinois University-Chicago) will discuss the role of Islamic jurisprudence in political reform in Iran. Throughout the 1800s, Iran was challenged to politically modernize to undue the failed policies of its corrupt absolutist monarchical system. Introduction of Western-style constitutionalism by secular Iranians brought about the establishment of the Islamic world’s first parliament in Iran in 1906. However, that was the beginning of a long battle between the proponents and the opponents of rule of law as a new’ political reality. Mulla Muhammad Kazim Khurasani led a group of high ranking Iranian Shi’ite clerics living in Iraq and began a transnational clerical movement in support of constitutionalism with the objective to sever the political influence of Muslim clerics and leaving “modern” politics to the secular parliamentarians. This talk is based on Farzaneh’s new book, The Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the Clerical Leadership of Khurasani (Syracuse University Press, 2015).

An Iranian native, Mateo Mohammad Farzaneh attended high school and college in southern California. After spending seven years in nursing and health care industries, his curiosity led him to pursue a higher education in history. He is quadrilingual, speaking Persian, English, Spanish, and Arabic. Recipient of a number of prestigious awards and fellowships, he taught world and Middle Eastern history at Santa Barbara City College and California State Fullerton before joining Northeastern Illinois University faculty of history in Chicago in 2010.