IRAN CONSTITUTIONS: From Islamic Monarchy to Islamic Republic! ( III )

Continued from (Part I & II)

Part III: Reviewing the 1979 Islamic Republic Constitution
Note: Scripts from constitution are in [italics]

The essence of the constitution of the Islamic Republic is defined in its PREAMBLE where it clearly states that although the clergy were intended to play a basic and prominent role in the Monarchy Constitution but their role was trailed off in to stagnation. In the introduction of the Islamic Republic Constitution, the clergy basically claims the 1906 revolution to be of its own that had been deviated and then defines the  1979 “Islamic revolution” as a revolt to regain control. Here is a script of its text:

[The unique characteristic of this Revolution, as compared with other Iranian movements of the last century, is that it is religious and Islamic. The Muslim people of Iran, after living through an anti-despotic movement for constitutional government, and anti-colonialist movement for the nationalization of petroleum, gained precious experience in that they realized that the basic and specific reason for the failure of those movements was that that they were not religious ones. Although in those movements Islamic thinking and the guidance of a militant clergy played a basic and prominent part, yet they swiftly trailed off into stagnation, because the struggle deviated from the true Islam.]

An important point to note is that in the introduction, Islamic Constitution  sets a historical perspective at Khomeini’s revolt to Shah’s ”White Revolution” reforms as “American Plot” of the “world imperialism” and defines it as its own “motive”. Naming another country ( USA) within the text of a nation’s constitution is somewhat unique in its nature which can explain the inherent hostilities of the Islamic Republic against USA:

[Imam Khomeini’s crushing protest against that American plot, The White Revolution, which was a step taken with a view to strengthening the foundations of the despotic regime and consolidating Iran’s political, cultural and economic links with World Imperialism, was the motive force behind the united uprising of the nation.]

Another unique aspect of the Islamic Republic Constitution is that it often refers to Iranians as “Muslim Nation” and it other words it rubs them off their national identity and gives them a religious and universal one. Here are some examples:

[The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran sets forth the cultural, social, political and economic institutions of the people of Iran, based on Islamic principles and rules, and reflecting the fundamental desires of the Islamic people

….The essence of the great Islamic Revolution of Iran, and the course of the struggle of the Muslim people from its beginning to its victory

…. While this was going on firing squads, medieval torture, and long imprisonment were the price our Muslim nation paid to demonstrate its firm resolve to continue the struggle

….. and (asserting) the awareness and determination of the Islamic nation ever more widely and deeply]

In introduction Islamic Republic considers itself as “a new chapter for popular revolution” in the world against “Imperialism” and assumes the responsibility” of  “continuation of that revolution both inside and outside the country developing relations with other Islamic movements.. towards a united single world community… to the continuation of the progressive struggle for the rescue of deprived and oppressed nations throughout the world.” At this point it assumes this task by stating that” devout men have the responsibility for government and administration of the country”….. with  “exact and serious supervision” by “Islamic scholars” and then sets foundation for “THE GUARDIANSHIP of the Iranians by one man:

[…. It was successful in crushing all the calculations and maneuverings of Imperialism. A new chapter opened up in its own way for popular revolutions in the world….. This great victory brought the glad tidings of final triumph and was the prelude to Islamic Government which was the long-felt desire of the Muslim people…… The Constitution, having regard to the Islamic contents of the Iranian Revolution, which was a movement for the victory of all the oppressed over the arrogant, provides a basis for the continuation of that revolution both inside and outside the country. It particularly tries to do this in developing international relations with other Islamic movements and peoples, so as to prepare the way towards a united single world community (“Your community is one community, and I am your Lord who you are to worship”) Quotation from the Arabic and to the continuation of the progressive struggle for the rescue of deprived and oppressed nations throughout the world…..In creating the political structures and foundations for organizing society on the basis of acceptance of religion, devout men have the responsibility for government and administration of the country….. Therefore there is great necessity for exact and serious supervision by just and virtuous and dedicated Islamic scholars… THE GUARDIANSHIP OF THE JUST MAN OF RELIGIOUS LAW]

Islamic Republic Constitution also changed the role of Iranian army and its newly  formed partner Pasdaran to a” religious army”  with the  “responsibility not only for the safeguarding of the frontiers, but also for a religious mission, which is Holy War (JIHAD) along the way of God, and the struggle to extend the supremacy of God’s Law in the world”. With “utmost” of “power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of God and your enemies, and others beside”:

[THE RELIGIOUS ARMY …..have responsibility not only for the safeguarding of the frontiers, but also for a religious mission, which is Holy War (JIHAD) along the way of God, and the struggle to extend the supremacy of God’s Law in the world. ….”Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of God and your enemies, and others beside“(Quotation from the Arabic)]

As for judiciary its “vital” goal was expanded to “preventing” “deviation within the Islamic community” “with the exact rules of the Islamic code”:

[The question of the judiciary in relation to the safeguarding of the people’s rights along the line (adopted by) the Islamic movement with the object of preventing localized deviation within the Islamic community, is a vital one. Thus provision must be made for the establishment of a judicial system on the basis of Islamic justice, manned by just judges, well acquainted with the exact rules of the Islamic code. ]

The role of public media was also changed to “development of Islamic revolution” and to “refrain” from any other views that could be construed as “destructive and anti-Islamic”:

[The public media (radio-television) must take their place in the process of development of the Islamic revolution, and must serve in the propagation of Islamic culture. In this sphere they must look for opportunities for a healthy exchange of differing ideas, and must rigorously refrain from the propagation and encouragement of destructive and anti-Islamic qualities (ideas).]

The introduction to the Islamic Republic constitution ends with the goal of a “century of the rule of the world by the oppressed, and the complete overthrow of the arrogant ones.”

[….the establishment of the redeeming faith of Islam with the aims and motives described above, and in the hope that this century will be the century of the rule of the world by the oppressed, and the complete overthrow of the arrogant ones.]

In article 2.5, the constitution sets the role of “continuous” and “uninterrupted” leadership of the clergy

[Continuous leadership (imamah) and perpetual guidance, and its fundamental role in ensuring the uninterrupted process of the revolution of Islam]

In article 3.1 the role of government in Islamic Republic expands to creating a “favorable environment “ for “moral virtues” “against all forms of vice and corruption” as defined by the clergy

[the creation of a favorable environment for the growth of moral virtues based on faith and piety and the struggle against all forms of vice and corruption;]

Article 3.12 and 4 expand the role of armed forced to “the Islamic order of the country”

[3.12 …all round strengthening of the foundations of national defense to the utmost degree by means of universal military training for the sake of safeguarding the independence, territorial integrity, and the Islamic order of the country;

Article 4… .All civil, penal financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. This principle applies absolutely and generally to all articles of the Constitution as well as to all other laws and regulations, and the fuqaha’ of the Guardian Council are judges in this matter.]

Article 5 is of utmost importance as it sets the Vali Faghih as the ruler of the nation in the absence of the 12th Imam of Shia which is supposed to eventually appear . But what is important to note is that in the initially formed constitution of 1979, article 5 stated that Vali Faghih must be accepted by the majority of people and in the absence of such majority a council of clergy would assume this role, however 10 years later the role of the people in this important decision was completely wiped off by the clergy and the article was changed ] (see Persian text for both versions of the article):

[Article 5. During the Occultation of the Wali al-Asr (may God hasten his reappearance), the wilayah and leadership of the Ummah devolve upon the just (‘adil] and pious [muttaqi] faqih, who is fully aware of the circumstances of his age; courageous, resourceful, and possessed of administrative ability, will assume the responsibilities of this office in accordance with Article 107.]

In article 12, just as the Monarchist Constitution the Islamic Republic Constitution sets the official religion of country as “Islam and the Twelver Ja’fari school “  and article 13 then recognizes only “Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians “  and thereafter article 14 requires the government to respect the human rights of ALL non-Muslims as long as they refrain from conspiracy and activity against the Islamic Republic:

[Article 12. The official religion of Iran is Islam and the Twelver Ja’fari school [in usual al-Din and fiqh], and this principle will remain eternally immutable. Other Islamic schools, including the Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanbali, and Zaydi, are to be accorded full respect, and their followers are free to act in accordance with their own jurisprudence in performing their religious rites. ….

Article 13….Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities

Article 14. …. the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights. This principle applies to all who refrain from engaging in conspiracy or activity against Islam and the Islamic Republic of Iran.]

Article 16 makes teaching Arabic mandatory although the official language of Iran is announced as Persian in prior article

[Article 16 .. Since the language of the Qur’an and Islamic texts and teachings is Arabic, and since Persian literature is thoroughly permeated by this language, it must be taught after elementary level, in all classes of secondary school and in all areas of study.]

Article 17 recognizes the Islamic and Arabic Lunar calendar equally with the Persian Solar Calendar

[Article 17.…. the solar and lunar Islamic calendars are recognized, but government offices will function according to the solar calendar…]

Article 18, places the Arabic “emblem” of Allah and the Arabic words of “Allaho Akbar” within the Iranian Flag

[Article 18. The official flag of Iran is composed of green, white and red colors with the special emblem of the Islamic Republic, together with the motto (Allah-o Akbar)]

Article 20 limits the protection of law to limits of the Islamic criteria. The same applies to rights of women in article 21

[Article 20 …All citizens of the country, both men and women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria.

Article 21…The government must ensure the rights of women in all respects, in conformity with Islamic criteria……]

Article 24 provides for the freedom of press except in cases of “infringement of the basic tenets of Islam”

[Article 24 …Publications and the press have freedom of expression except when it is where there is infringement of the basic tenets of Islam or public rights. In this respect detailed provisions will be laid down by law.]

Article 26 prohibits political parties if they “violate” “Islamic standards” or “foundations of the Islamic Republic “. Article 27 allows assemblies and marches as long as “no violation of the foundations of Islam is involved. In the case of religious minorities such gatherings are only allowed by the ones who are officially “recognized”:

[Article 26…Political parties, societies, political and craft associations, and Islamic or recognized minority religious associations may be freely brought into being, provided that no violation is involved of the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, Islamic standards, and the foundations of the Islamic Republic.

Article 27…Unarmed assemblies and marches may be freely organized, provided that no violation of the foundations of Islam is involved.]

Article 28 limits people’s employment within Islamic guidelines:

[Article 28…Every person is entitled to choose the employment he wishes, so long as it is not contrary to Islam or the public interest or the rights of others.]

Article 57 is another important article of Islamic Republic that was changed in later years by adding the word “absolute” to the power of Vali Faghih.!! ] (see Persian text for both versions of the article):

[Article 57…The powers of government in the Islamic Republic are vested in the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive powers, functioning under the supervision of the absolute wilayat al-‘amr and the leadership of the Ummah, in accordance with the forthcoming articles of this Constitution. These powers are independent of each other. ]

In article 60 executory powers of the president is given excluding those of Vali Faghih (which were previously defined as “absolute” in article 57!):

[Article 60…The functions of the executive, except in the matters that are directly placed under the jurisdiction of the Leadership by the Constitution, are to be exercised by the president and the ministers.]

Article 61 sets the judiciary laws in accordance to ‘criteria of Islam” and “Divine limits”

[Article 61…The function of the judiciary are to be performed by courts of justice, which are to be formed in accordance with the criteria of Islam, and are vested with the authority to examine and settle lawsuits, protect the rights of the public, dispense and enact justice, and implement the Divine limits (al-hudud al-Ilahiyyah) ]

Article 64 only allows Jews and Zoroastrians and Christians to have a representitive in the parliament which means all other members of the parliament must be Muslim.

[Article 64…… The Zoroastrians and Jews will each elect one representative; Assyrian and Chaldean Christians will jointly elect one representative; and Armenian Christians in the north and those in the south of the country will each elect one representative.]

The representative of the allowed religious minorities although can swear on their own holy book but they are obligated to promise under oath to “protect the sanctity of Islam and guard the accomplishments of the Islamic Revolution of the Iranian people and the foundations of the Islamic Republic”:

[Article 67…Members of the Assembly must take the following oath at the first session of the Assembly and affix their signatures to its text: In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. In the presence of the Glorious Qur’an, I swear by God, the Exalted and Almighty, and undertake, swearing by my own honor as a human being, to protect the sanctity of Islam and guard the accomplishments of the Islamic Revolution of the Iranian people and the foundations of the Islamic Republic; …..Members belonging to the religious minorities will swear by their own sacred books while taking this oath. ]

Articles 72 through 99 specifically limit the parliament representatives of enactment of any laws and government approvals to only those laws that are approved by the religious Guardian Council as Islamic,  and it gives full authority to the members of Guardian Council over the legislative process. The members of Guardian council are all hand selected clergy; half by Vali Faghih and other half by the parliament. Interpretation of the constitution is also left to the Guardian Council. Elections are also monitored and controlled by them.

[Article 72…The Islamic Consultative Assembly cannot enact laws contrary to the usual and ahkam of the official religion of the country or to the Constitution. It is the duty of the Guardian Council to determine whether a violation has occurred, in accordance with Article 96.

Article 85…the government approvals must not be inconsistent with the principles and commandments of the official religion in the country and or the Constitution which question shall be determined by the Guardian Council in accordance with what is stated in Article 96.

Article 91…With a view to safeguard the Islamic ordinances and the Constitution, in order to examine the compatibility of the legislation passed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly with Islam, a council to be known as the Guardian Council is to be constituted with the following composition:

  1. six ‘adil fuqaha’ conscious of the present needs and the issues of the day, to be selected by the Leader.
  2. six jurists, specializing in different areas of law, to be elected by the Islamic Consultative Assembly from among the Muslim jurists nominated-by the Head of the Judicial Power.

Article 93…The Islamic Consultative Assembly does not hold any legal status if there is no Guardian Council in existence, except for the purpose of approving the credentials of its members and the election of the six jurists on the Guardian Council.

Article 94…All legislation passed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly must be sent to the Guardian Council. The Guardian Council must review it within a maximum of ten days from its receipt with a view to ensuring its compatibility with the criteria of Islam …..

Article 96…The determination of compatibility of the legislation passed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly with the laws of Islam rests with the majority vote of the fuqaha’ on the Guardian Council…..

Article 98…The authority of the interpretation of the Constitution is vested with the Guardian Council, which is to be done with the consent of three-fourths of its members.

Article 99…The Guardian Council has the responsibility of supervising the elections of the Assembly of Experts for Leadership, the President of the Republic, the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and the direct recourse to popular opinion and referenda.]

Article 107 is another article that was completely changed from the original constitution which stated that if an eligible Vali Faghih was not found, the role would be assigned to a leadership council.  The new version which was implemented in future years stated that only one of the qualified Ayatollahs will assume that role. ] (see Persian text for both versions of the article)

Additionally although article 107 specifically states that “The Leader is equal with the rest of the people of the country in the eyes of law“ but to date and in reality questioning the supreme leader can have serious consequences including political imprisonment in Iran:

Article 107….…the task of appointing the Leader shall be vested with the experts elected by the people. The experts will review and consult among themselves concerning all the fuqaha’ possessing the qualifications specified in Articles 5 and 109. In the event they find one of them better versed in Islamic regulations, the subjects of the fiqh, or in political and social Issues, or possessing general popularity or special prominence for any of the qualifications mentioned in Article 109, they shall elect him as the Leader. Otherwise, in the absence of such superiority, they shall elect and declare one of them as the Leader. The Leader thus elected by the Assembly of Experts shall assume all the powers of the wilayat al-amr and all the responsibilities arising there from. The Leader is equal with the rest of the people of the country in the eyes of law.]

Article 110 which defines the responsibility of the supreme leader was another one of the articles that was changed in later years by taking away any choice of national referendum from the people and assigning it to the supreme leader! Another item added was “Supervision over the proper execution of the general

policies of the system”. ] (see Persian text for both versions of the article):

Article 110 also gives the Supreme leader the role of supreme commander of armed forces and the one who can declare war and peace (These two were responsibilities of the Shah in the Monarchy constitution). The control of Radio and Television is also given to Vali Faghih in this article:

[Article 110…Following are the duties and powers of the Leadership:

  1. Delineation of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran after consultation with the Nation’s Exigency Council.
  2. Supervision over the proper execution of the general policies of the system.
  3. Issuing decrees for national referenda.
  4. Assuming supreme command of the armed forces.
  5. Declaration of war and peace, and the mobilization of the armed forces.
  6. Appointment, dismissal, and acceptance of resignation of:
    1. The fuqaha’ on the Guardian Council.
      b. The supreme judicial authority of the country.
      c. The head of the radio and television network of the Islamic
      Republic of Iran.
      d. The chief of the joint staff.
      e. The chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
      f. The supreme commanders of the armed forces

. 7…………….]

Article 142 was another part of the constitutional coup-de-tat that took place in later years. Previously supervision of the assets of the supreme leader and other executory divisions of the government was assigned to a Supreme council of judiciary , however this was changed and the duty was assigned to the head of judiciary who is hand selected by the supreme leader! (see Persian text for both versions of the article):

[Article 142 ….The assets of the Leader, the President, the deputies to the President, and ministers, as well as those of their spouses and offspring, are to be examined before and after their term of office by the head of the judicial power, in order to ensure they have not increased in a fashion contrary to law.]

Article 142 defines the army as an Islamic Army:

[Article 144…The Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran must be an Islamic Army, i.e., committed to Islamic ideology and the people, and must recruit into its service individuals who have faith in the objectives of the Islamic Revolution and are devoted to the cause of realizing its goals.]

Article 157 was also victim of the constitutional coup-de-tat which was later enforced. Initially the supervision of judiciary was by a supreme council elected by the members of judiciary however this article was later changed and assigned the role to only one person as the head of judiciary which was hand selected by the Vali Faghih. Additionally the revised article required that the head of judiciary be a member of the clergy ] (see Persian text for both versions of the article):

[ Article 157…In order to fulfill the responsibilities of the judiciary power in all the matters concerning judiciary, administrative and executive areas, the Leader shall appoint a just Mujtahid well versed in judiciary affairs and possessing prudence. and administrative abilities as the head of the judiciary power for a period of five years who shall be the highest judicial authority.]

Article 170 requires the judges to refrain from any rulings that are in conflict with Islam

[Article 170…Judges of courts are obliged to refrain from executing statutes and regulations of the government that are in conflict with the laws or the norms of Islam, or lie outside the competence of, the executive power. ….]

Article 175 gives the control of Radio and Television to the Vali Faghih and requires them to adhere to Islamic criteria. This was also another changed item , while before the responsibility was given to the three executive, legislative and judiciary powers ] (see Persian text for both versions of the article)::

[Article 175…The freedom of expression and dissemination of thoughts in the Radio and Television of the Islamic Republic of Iran must be guaranteed in keeping with the Islamic’ criteria and the best interests of the country. The appointment and dismissal of the head of the Radio and Television of the Islamic Republic of Iran rests with the Leader. A council consisting of two representatives each of the President, the head of the judiciary branch and the Islamic Consultative Assembly shall supervise the functioning of this organization]

References: Islamic Republic Constitution:
Persian including changes
1989 Changes in the Constitution 

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Part IV: Conclusion

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