It’s been more than 35 years since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and much has changed since the demonstrations and campaigns of civil resistance that paralyzed Iran and resulted in the exile of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the country’s last monarch. But what prompted that revolution and how did Persia transition from a more open government (a friend with the West), to an Iran that considers secularization a Western ploy against Shi'ite identity and has a government based on the Qur'an and the dictates of Shi'ite imams?
This course examines the unique history and culture of Iran through its caliphs, kings, and jurisprudents. We will explore Iranian identity since the early days of Islam, and illustrate how Iranian society has changed from a Zoroastrian nation (Zoroastrianism was once the primary religion of Iran) to an Islamic Shi'ite community.
To trace that path, we’ll focus on the country’s two most recent revolutions: the Persian (Iranian) Constitutional Revolution of 1906−1911 and the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Recognizing the usefulness of advances in science and technology in the West, the Constitutional Revolution opened the way for cataclysmic change in the country and heralded its modern era. It was during this time of the Qajar Dynasty that a parliament was established, new opportunities developed, and the people of Persia were allowed to explore (and gravitate increasingly toward) ideas from the West.
In the 1970s, Iranians rose up against the secularizing influences of the West and outlawed all such reforms. Secularization was characterized as a ploy of the West to destroy Iran's Shi'ite identity. Within a short time and during the course of a quiet jihad, Ayatollah Khomeini destroyed all vestiges of secularism in Iran and established a government based on the Qur'an and the dictates of the Shi'ite imams.
Required: Iraj Bashiri, Modern Iran: Caliphs, Kings, and Jurisprudents (Cognella, January 2016). Available for purchase on the first day of class at a discounted cost of $35.
Recommended: Iraj Bashiri, Ancient Iran: Cosmology, Mythology, History (Cognella, 2011; second edition 2015).
A native of Iran, Iraj Bashiri, Ph.D., University of Michigan, is a professor of history at the University of Minnesota and one of the leading scholars in the fields of Central Asian and Iranian studies. In addition to receiving an honorary doctorate in history and culture from Tajikistan State University, he was named an honorary international member of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan. Bashiri also has earned the College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Teacher Award. His scholarship, written in English and Persian, is wide-ranging and internationally known. Bashiri's most recent books include Modern Iranian Philosophy: From Ibn Sīnā to Mullā Ṣadrā Shīrāzī (Cognella, 2013), Ancient Iran: Cosmology, Mythology, History (Cognella, 2016), and the forthcoming Modern Iran: Caliphs, Kings, and Jurisprudents.