Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-m9kch Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-28T14:38:26.928Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

The Role of the Clergy in the Establishment and Consolidation of Pahlavi I (1925–1941)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 January 2024

Yunos Kojuri Gashniani
Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Yasouj University, Iran
Ali Bagheri Dolatabadi*
Associate Professor of International Relations, Department of Political Sciences, Yasouj University, Yasouj, Iran
Abouzar Fattahizadeh
Assistant professor of International Relations, Department of Political Sciences, Yasouj University, Iran
Corresponding author: Ali Bagheri Dolatabadi, E-mail:


In Iran, the writing of history has consistently been intertwined with political decisions, and official historiography written after the Islamic Revolution is no exception. The majority of books and articles on Pahlavi I have inherited this historiographic tradition, and are thus highly politicized, particularly around the topic of the role of the clergy during this era. Official narratives of this period are based on two representations: portraying intellectuals and Britain as the sole forces involved in bringing Reza Shah to power and consolidating his rule, while concealing the role of the clergy, or depicting this social group as the sole opposition to his government. This article aims to assess this binary narrative and answer the following question: What role did the clergy play in establishing and consolidating Reza Shah's reign? Research findings indicate that neither of these claims are accurate, as the clergy played a key role in the transfer of power from the Qajar to Pahlavi dynasties by supporting Reza Khan during his ministry, participating in the coup on February 22, 1921 (3 Esfand 1299), and supporting him in the Constituent Assembly. Further, the majority of clergy not only did not play the role of opposition, but indeed actively participated in the governmental institutions of the era. This research utilizes a historical-documentary approach to examine the subject.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Association for Iranian Studies

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


A Group of Authors. Islamic Revolution of Iran. 4th ed. Qom: Ma'arif, 2005.Google Scholar
Abrahamian, Yervand. Iran between two Revolutions. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.10.1515/9781400844098CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Agheli, Bagher. Biographies of Contemporary Political and Military Men of Iran. Vol. 2. Tehran: Goftar, 2001.Google Scholar
Amini, Alireza. The History of Developments and Foreign Relations of Iran from Qajar to the fall of Reza Shah. Tehran: Ayandeh, 2009.Google Scholar
Amirtahmasb, Abdullah. Imperial History of His Majesty Reza Shah Pahlavi. Tehran: Majlis, 1926.Google Scholar
Anvari, Hassan. Farhang-e Rouz-e Sokhan. Tehran: Sokhan, 2013.Google Scholar
Asefi, Hamdallah, and Watandust, Gholamreza. Sardar Sepah and the Collapse of the Qajar Dynasty. Shiraz: Navid, 2013.Google Scholar
Baghi, Abdulali. Modrres, an Invincible Hero. Qom: Tafakor, 1991.Google Scholar
Blake, Kristen. The U.S. Soviet Confrontation in Iran, 1945–1962: A Case in the Annals of the Cold War. U.S.: University Press of America, 2009.Google Scholar
Bohloul, Mohammad Taghi. Political Memories with a look at Goharshad Mosque Uprising. Isfahan: Arma, 2010.Google Scholar
Cronin, Stephanie. The Making of Modern Iran: State and Society under Riza Shah, 1921–1941. Routledge, 2003.10.4324/9780203423141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dashti, Ali. Twenty-Three Years. Edited by Bahram Chubineh. Beirut, N.d.Google Scholar
Davani, Ali. Iran's Clergy Movement. Vol. 2. Tehran: Islamic Revolution Records Center, 2015.Google Scholar
Detailed Negotiation Documents D8, Vol. 117: 1 November 1932. Tehran: Majlis Library Publications, 2015.Google Scholar
Elahi, Sadruddin. Seyed Zia, The First Man or the Second Man of the Coup. Los Angeles: Ketab, 2011.Google Scholar
Eivazi, Mohammad Rahim. Islamic Revolution and its Historical Roots. 5th ed. Tehran: Payam Noor University, 2019.Google Scholar
Faghfoory, Mohammad H.The impact of modernization on the Ulama in Iran, 1925–1941.” Iranian Studies 26, no. 3–4 (1993): 277312.10.1080/00210869308701803CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Faghfoory, Mohammad H. “The Ulama-State Relations in Iran: 1921–1941.” Journal of Middle East Studies 19 (1987): 413432.10.1017/S002074380005649XCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Farrokh, Mehdi. Political Memoirs of Farrokh (Moa'tasim al-Saltaneh): Fifty Years of Contemporary History. Tehran: Javidan, 1969.Google Scholar
Foran, John. Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution. New York: Routledge, 1992.Google Scholar
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon Books, 1977.Google Scholar
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1. London: Allen Lane, 1979.Google Scholar
Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selective Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977. New York: Pantheon, 1980.Google Scholar
Ghani, Cyrus. Iran and the Rise of the Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power. I.B.Tauris, 2001.Google Scholar
Hedayat, Mehdi Gholi Kah. Memories and Dangers. Tehran: Zavar, 1965.Google Scholar
Hosseini, Seyed Nematollah. Scholars in Action. Qom: Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom, 2006.Google Scholar
Imamjomezadeh, Seyed Javad, Nia, Amirmasoud Shahram, and Nejatpour, Majid. “The Shiite Clergy: a Comparative Study of their Role three Decades after the Constitutional Movement and after the Islamic Revolution.” Scientific Quarterly of Shia Studies 10 (2011): 153190.Google Scholar
Islamic Parliament Library, Museum and Documents Center. Annotated Compact Disc of the National Assembly Negotiation: 24 Courses of Annotated Texts of the Negotiations. 3rd ed. Tehran: Library, Museum and Document Center of the Islamic Council and Pars Azarakhsh Company, 2013.Google Scholar
Jami, . The Past is the Beacon of the Future. Tehran: Ghoghnoos, 2007.Google Scholar
Katouzian, Homayun. “He was not a Politician but an Employee.” Andisheh Poya Magazine 31 (2014): 45.Google Scholar
Keddie, Nikki R. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
Kermani, Mirza Mohammad Nazem al-Islam. The history of the Awakening of Iranians. Gathered by Saeed Sirjani. Tehran: Agah, 1978.Google Scholar
Khamenei, Seyed Ali. Statements of the Supreme Leader in Tehran University. Leader's Information webpage, 1998.Google Scholar
Madani, Seyed Jalaluddin. Political History of Contemporary Iran. Qom: Islamic Development Organization, 1990.Google Scholar
Mahmoud, Toloui. The Pahlavi Era Scholars. 2nd ed. Tehran: Alborz, 1994.Google Scholar
Makki, Hossein. Iran's twenty-year history; The third volume (the overthrow of the Qajar dynasty and the formation of the Pahlavi dictatorship). Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1979.Google Scholar
Malekzadeh, Mehdi. History of Iran's Constitutional Revolution. Tehran: Sokhan, 2004.Google Scholar
Mesgar, Ali Akbar. “Institutions that Create Identity in the First Pahlavi Period: The Example of the Organization of Fostering Thoughts.” Payam Baharestan 3 (2009): 535540.Google Scholar
Milani, Abbas. A Look at the Shah. Toronto: Persian Circle, 2013.Google Scholar
Saleh, Mirza, Hossein, Gholam. Political Memoirs. Edited by Seyed Mohammad Ali Shushtari. 2nd ed. Tehran: Kavir, 2001.Google Scholar
Moazami, Behrooz. “Rethinking the Role of Religion in Iran's History and Politics, 1796–1979.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (CSSAAME) 31, no. 1 (2011): 6975.10.1215/1089201X-2010-053CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moazami, Behrooz. State, Religion, and Revolution, 1796 to the Present. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan, 2013.Google Scholar
Moradi, Farid. The Past is the Beacon of the Future: History of Iran between two Coups. Tehran: Ghognus, 2008.Google Scholar
Mortajaei, Mohammad Ali. How to Form the New Education System in Iran, Opportunities and Challenges. Tehran: Nashr-e-novin Poya, 2014.Google Scholar
Mostofi, Abdullah. My Life Narrative. Vol. 2. Tehran: Hermes, 2007.Google Scholar
Mousavi Khomeini, Ruhollah. Sahifeh Imam. Vol. 2, 5, 11. Tehran: Institute for Organizing and Publishing Imam's Works, 1999.Google Scholar
Mousavi, Seyed Ali. Coup and Counter-coup. Tehran: Farhang, 1981.Google Scholar
Najafi, Mousa, and Haqqani, Mousa Faghih. The history of Political Developments in Iran. 4th ed. Tehran: Institute of Contemporary History of Iran, 2005.Google Scholar
Najmi, Naser. Political Actors of Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah Era. Tehran: Einstein Publication, 1994.Google Scholar
Rahbari, Mehdi. Government and Society in Pahlavi Era. Babolsar: Mazandaran University Publication, 2009.Google Scholar
Ramazani, Rouhollah K. The Foreign Policy of Iran: A Developing Nation in World Affairs, 1500–1941. Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1966.Google Scholar
Research Group of Islamic Revolution History Foundation and Encyclopedia. “Unpublished Documents of Ayatollah Boroujerdi's Association with Haj Agha Nurollah Esfahani's Uprising during Reza Khan's Period.” 15th Khordad Quarterly 18 (2020): 71151.Google Scholar
Rezvani, Mohammad Reza. Rural Development Planning in Iran. 4th ed. Tehran: Ghoumes, 2011.Google Scholar
Rouhani, Hamid. Imam Khomeini Movement. Tehran: Islamic Revolution Documents Center, 1996.Google Scholar
Soltani, Sajedi, Mohammad, Fayaz Zahed, and Saghafinejad, Seyed Mohammad. “Rereading Clergy's Stances on the Power Transition from the Qajars to the Pahlavi Dynasty.” Journal of Iran History 15 (2022): 124.10.52547/irhj.15.1.1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Akhavi, Shahrough. Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran: Clergy-State Relations in the Pahlavi Period. New York: State University of New York Press, 1980.Google Scholar
Shamim, Ali Asghar. Iran during the Qajar Dynasty. Tehran: Modaber Publication, 1996.Google Scholar
Taheri, Seyed Sadruddin, Kalhari, Mehdi Shahid, and Shakuri, Abulfazl. Modarres. Tehran: Iranian Islamic Revolution History Foundation, 1987.Google Scholar
Turkman Dehnavi, Mohammad. Messages, Declarations, letters and Newspapers of Sheikh Shaheed Fazlullah Nouri. Tehran: Rasa, 1993.Google Scholar
Weber, Max. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Translated by A. M. Henderson and T. Parsons. New York: Oxford University Press, 1947.Google Scholar
Zandieh, Hassan, and Pahlavani, Tal'at Deh. “The Role of Shiite Clerics in the Codification of Iran's Civil Law during the First Pahlavi Era: With an Emphasis on the Role of Seyyed Muhammad Fatemi Qomi.” Contemporary Political Studies 4, no. 8 (2013): 81101.Google Scholar