From Political Islam to Civil Religion: The Possibilities of a Pluralistic Constitution and its Impact on Human Rights in Post-Revolutionary Iran

Main Article Content

Leila Chamankhah


The two categories of political religion and civil (also civic) religion, and the ways a nation can nurture the latter, have been the concern of a number of philosophers since long time ago. Relevant to this is the ideals of democracy, the separation of religion and politics and the necessity of having a secular legal covenant, which represents the political philosophy of a modern republic. Theorists of civil religion, particularly Jean-Jacques Rousseau, were concerned with the role of established religions, in modern political systems and that is why they put forward different, and at times even contrasting, theories about the compatibility of Christianity as well as the objectives of modern politics, at the center of which is the ideal of citizenship. The present paper will focus on the post-revolutionary constitution as well as the legal status of republicanism to investigate the possibilities, if any, of finding a solution to the long-lasting problematic of Islam and democracy in Iran. My hypothesis is that the current constitution is incapable of allowing for democracy, and due to its monistic nature, hinders reconciliation between Islam and democracy. Iran needs a better legal covenant, one in which the legacy of republicanism, as well as religious pluralism, is respected and endorsed.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Chamankhah, Leila. “From Political Islam to Civil Religion: The Possibilities of a Pluralistic Constitution and Its Impact on Human Rights in Post-Revolutionary Iran”. Teosofi: Jurnal Tasawuf dan Pemikiran Islam 12, no. 1 (June 6, 2022): 125–144. Accessed February 24, 2024.


Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran between Two Revolutions. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Aktürk, Şener. “Nationalism and Religion in Comparative Perspective: A New Typology of National-Religious Configurations”, Nationalities Papers 50, no. 2, 2021. DOI: 10.1017/nps.2021.17.

Amuzegar, Jahangir. “Khatami and the Iranian Economy at Mid-Term,” Middle East Journal 53, no. 4, 1999.

Arjomand, Saïd Amir. “Authority in Shiism and Constitutional Developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, in Rainer Brunner and Werner Ende (eds.), The Twelver Shia in Modern Times: Religious Culture and Political History. Leiden: Brill, 2001.

-----. “Political Ethic and Public Law in the Early Qajar Period”, in Robert Gleave (ed.) Religion and Society in Qajar Iran. London and New York: Routlege Curzon, 2005.

-----. “Shī‘īsm in History: The Pahlavi Era”, in Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Hamid Dabashi, and Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr (eds), Expectation of the Millennium. New York: State University of New York Press, 1989.

-----. Authority and Political Culture in Shiism. New York: State University of New York, 1988.

-----. Sociology of Shi‘ite Islam (Collected Essays). Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016.

-----. The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Political Order, and Societal Change in Shiite Iran from the Beginning to 1890. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1984.

-----. The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Bellah, Robert N. and Hammond, Philip E. Varieties of Civil Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Pancasila”, Encyclopedia Britannica, 18 Oct. 2013, Accessed 27 January 2021.

Chamankhah, Leila. “Human Rights and Muslims”, in Ronald Lukens-Bull and Mark Woodward (eds.), The Handbook of Contemporary Islam and Muslim Lives. Springer: 2019.

-----. The Conceptualization of Guardianship in Iranian Intellectual History (1800-1989): Reading Ibn ‘Arabī’s Theory of Wilāya in the Shī‘a World. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

Chehabi, H. E. and Schirazi, Asghar. “The Islamic Republic of Iran”, Journal of Persianate Studies 5, no. 2, 2012. DOI:

Editors, The. “The Ruling BJP Is Undermining India’s Commitment to Religious Pluralism”, in accessed 1/29/2021.

Ganguly, Sumit. “India’s Religious Minorities Are Under Attack”, in accessed 1/29/2021.

Gardella, Peter. American Civil Religion: What Americans Hold Sacred. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Hassan, Riaz. “Iran’s Islamic Revolutionaries: Before and after the Revolution,” Third World Quarterly 6, no. 3, 1984.

Kadivar, Muhsin. “Wilāyat al-Faqīh and Democracy”, in Asma Afsaruddin (ed.), Authority: Medieval Issues and Modern Concerns. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Lambton, Ann K.S. Qājār Persia (eleven studies). Austin: University of Texas Press Lambton, 1987.

Lynerd, Benjamin T. Republican Theology: The Civil Religion of American Evangelicals. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Masroori, Cyrus. “The Conceptual Obstacles to Political Reform in Iran,” The Review of Politics 69, no. 2, 2007. DOI: 10.1017/S0034670507000502.

Meier, Heinrich. Was ist Politische Theologie?. München, Deutschland: Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation, 2006.

Mofidi, Sabah. “The Political Function of Religion in Kurdish and Perso-Iranian Nationalist Confrontations after the 1979 Revolution”, International Journal on Minority and Group Rights (2022). DOI:

Mondal, Puja. “Philosophy of the Indian Constitution” in Accessed 29 January 2021.

Moussavi, Ahmad Kazemi. “A New Interpretation of the Theory of Vilayat-i Faqih, Middle Eastern Studies 28, no.1, 1992.

-----. “The Establishment of the Position of Marja‘iyyt-i Taqlid in the Twelver-Shi‘i Community”, Iranian Studies XVIII, no. 1, 1985.

-----. “The Institutionalization of Marja’-i Taqlid in the Nineteenth Century Shiite Community”, The Muslim World LXXXIII, no. 3-4, 1994.

-----. Religious Authority in Shiite Islam: From the Office of Mufti to the Institution of Marja. International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization: Kuala Lumpur, 1996.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein and Others (eds.), The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2015.

Rakel, Eva Patricia. “Iranian Foreign Policy since the Iranian Islamic Revolution: 1979-2006”, Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 6, no. 1-3, 2007. DOI:

Schmitt, Carl. Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, translated into English by George D. Schwab, Vol. 1. Chicago: MIT Press and University of Chicago Press, 1985.

Stauffer, Robert E. “Bellah’s Civil Religion”, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 14, no. 4, 1975.

Swaine, Lucas. “Civil Religion”, Encyclopedia Britannica, 11 May. 2016, Accessed 15 June 2021.

The Charter of the Rights of Citizenship, 1395 Shamsī/2016, 4.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, n.d.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Vaishnav, Milan. “Religious Nationalism and India’s Future”, in accessed 1/29/2021.