Since the reign of the Qājārs in Iran (1779–1925) and aslate as the early sixties of the present century, Iranian ‘ulamā’ proved, repeatedly, their ability and appeal to spearhead political opposition against the national government. Seeking the sources ofthe ‘ulamā’'s effective political power, several students ofmodern Iranian history and politics have attempted to determine the doctrinal status accorded to the ‘ulamā’ in Twelver Shi‘i Islam, the religion of Iran since the sixteenth century.Even though substantial research has been devoted in the West to Sunni juridical thought, the field of Twelver Shi'i jurisprudence has remained all but unknown. In the absence of systematic studies of Twelver Shi'i juridical sources, Twelver Shi'i theology and political theory, Western scholars have thus drawn on opinions expressed, sometimes orally, by contemporary Iranian learned men, mostly ‘ulamā’, to define the status of the ‘ulamā’. Lacking the advantage of scholarly collation provided by a firsthand acquaintance with the primary sources, they have accepted notions as Twelver Shi'i tenets that bestow on the ‘ulamā’ certain statutory privileges. Under scrutiny, though, these prove to be in contradiction with the spirit as well as the letter of Twelver Shi'i legal and theological doctrines.