The divine, the people, and the Faqih: On Khomeini’s theory of sovereignty

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Ayatollah Khomeini's political philosophy is inevitably entwined with the history of the Iranian revolution. One can easily point to the troubled record of the Islamic Republic as the unmistakable realization of his theory of state and sovereignty, and thereby dismiss it as a failed theocratic intervention in the otherwise progressive secularization of politics in contemporary politics. Although widely discussed for centuries in Shi'i seminaries, velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurisprudent) remained an obscure scholastic notion outside the purview of Iranian political culture until the revolution of 1978-79. After its inclusion in the constitution of the Islamic Republic, velayat-e faqih became a key concept in the lexicon of Iranian politics. Despite the official designation of velayat-e faqih as the highest constitutional political office, its meaning and the scope of its authority continues to be debated in religious and other intellectual circles. After Khomeini's death in 1989 and in the absence of a charismatic leadership, questions about the accountability of the Supreme Leader, scope of his authority and sources of its legitimacy, relationship between and independence of the three branches of the government, relation between representative government and the wisdom of guardianship, religious obligations and sovereignty of the people, Divine will and the right of self-determination and other similar questions increasingly dominated the political discourse in Iran.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Critical Introduction to Khomeini
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780511998485
ISBN (Print)9781107012677
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'The divine, the people, and the Faqih: On Khomeini’s theory of sovereignty'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this