The political significance of Iran’s Islamic revolution led by Imam Khomeini

2023-02-09 16:29:42
The political significance of Iran’s Islamic revolution led by Imam Khomeini

By: Xavier Villar

The triumphant return of Imam Khomeini to Iran on February 1, 1979, after 15 years in exile, marked the glorious victory of the Islamic Revolution. It’s been 44 years this week since that epoch-making event.

It is important to look beyond the fall of the West-backed Pahlavi dynasty in order to understand the complete political significance of the great revolution led by Imam Khomeini.

The Islamic Revolution was, above all, a movement against the Eurocentric paradigm, a political movement that displaced the orientalist framework and its vision of Muslims as beings without agency.

The anti-Eurocentrism of the 1979 revolution can be seen in attempts by the new government in Tehran to dismantle the influence of the West within Iranian society.

We can say, in other words, that the Western ideology, politically embodied by the Shah, was seen by the large majority of Iranians, as a political zombie. A discourse that had and has no takers.

We can describe the Islamic Revolution as the first revolution that didn't follow Western grammar, and because of this, Western scholars and pundits didn’t see it coming.

The best example of this is the book written by Fred Halliday on the eve of the revolution. The author predicted a number of outcomes for Iran, including military rule, continued monarchy, and even a socialist republic, but failed to mention the possibility of an Islamic government.

That the possibility of an Islamic revolution wasn't even mentioned can help us understand why the West can't see Islam through a political prism. In other words, the possibility of using Islamic grammar as an emancipatory tool was, and still is, unthinkable for the West.

The Islamic Revolution was a process, a political process, which created the Islamic identity, an identity rooted in a long tradition of anti-colonial resistance. This identity has nothing to do with the Western grammar of Marxism or national liberation.

Thanks to this alternative grammar, the revolution was able to give an answer to the Muslim question: How Muslims can live politically in the present world?

The main success of the revolution was the decentring of the West in epistemic terms. This decentring allowed the formation of different ways of being in the world. These alternative political ways were repressed by the hegemonic powers in the West, and by the figure of the human-as-Westerner.

Imam Khomeini-led revolution opened up the political field and with it also the future for Muslims. Muslims could see themselves in the future, in a political sense, because they are active subjects vested with the agency.

The revolution came to represent a critique of the West as universal grammar. It was not, however, a point-by-point rebuttal of the Western ideology, but imagined a post-Western horizon, a horizon where Muslims could live as Muslims.

This post-Western horizon means that Muslims have the capacity to decolonize themselves and realign their societies within Islamic history. We cannot understand this decolonization in national terms.

In fact, the revolution, following the precepts set by Imam Khomeini, articulated a Muslim political identity that went beyond national and sectarian identifications.

Decolonization was not simply the act of freeing Iran from indirect colonial rule, but also of dismantling the global colonial order.

The revolution was able to dislocate the identification between the West and the universal. The West was revealed as nothing but a contingent moment, no longer a necessary one.

Read full article at Press TV


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