A bridge to modernity?

Today's Iranians enduring hardships so the future generations can be better off


A bridge to modernity?
by Abarmard

Many Iranians today are divided regarding the possible solutions that could be applied to the current regime to resolve the Iranian paradox. The origin of the Iranian dilemma could be traced to the ideas of current traditional social structure verses modernity. The Iranian society is a traditional society that is deeply rooted in Shia Islamic ideologies and traditions and the Iranian intellectuals have been trying to find a path that modifies our traditional beliefs and culture to the next level and ultimately modernization.

By the year 1906 the Iranian intellectuals who compared the backwardness of the Iranian society to the forward and developed western nations decided that major changes need to happen in order for Iranian society to reform and leap into the 20th century. The intellectuals thought that the best way to reach a modern and developed nation was through democratic laws.

Those who were educated in the west decided to take the Belgian constitution and with a slight modification, apply it to the Iranian Constitution. Probably most of the Iranians at the time would have agreed that the best way to apply the newly born constitution required a powerful leader who would enforce the national unity and laws to create a smooth transformation from a traditional Islamic social structure to a modern technologically driven nation. Reza Shah was a good candidate at the time, regardless of how he was put into power.

The role of the religion in the Iranian society was undermined by the Pahlavi dynasty. The Pahlavi dynasty tried to copy the western methods to bring modernization to the Iranian society without having any Iranian traditional base. Naturally those made people feel uncomfortable. Many reasons could be the root of the social uneasiness towards copying a Western model; one that seems the most prominent is that Iranians value their culture greatly. Iranian culture is based on the Shia Islam. For those who like to discredit Islam and portrait Shia Islam as an imposed Arabic cultural invasion should know that Shia Islam is based on the pre Islamic ideology and culture. This is why the Arabs generally don’t like Iranians and don’t accept Shia Islam as true Islam.

It may be useful to mention that from Imam Hossain to the last Imam, they all had Iranian blood and were more Iranian than Arab. The princess Shahrbanoo from the Sassanid dynasty was married to Imam Hossain. They had two children name Hassan and Ali aka Zain ol Abedin. One should understand that Imam Ali and Hossain are figures deeply rooted in the Iranian ideology against oppression. Clearly Shia Islam is part of the Iranian culture and society and is held dear to the Iranians. We need to accept these principals before forming a solution to the question of how to reach modernity in the Iranian society.

The 1906 revolution could not have succeeded regardless of who was in power because the necessary tools in order to leap forward towards modernity and modernization were void. The tools needed were education, industrialization, modern infrastructure, a defined role of the religion in the society, and so on. Although the Dar-ol Fonun schools were established and many were sent to the West to become educated, this did not seem enough.

The religious clergy never lost their importance. They were the real organized social groups that were able to effectively communicate all over Iran and were speaking the language that the masses could understand or simply relate to. The Iranian traditional society at the time could not even imagine sending their daughters to school, defined to them as a place of prostitution and disgrace. The traditional Iranian society had not been altered while the country was beginning to dramatically change and modernize its economy along with adapted western culture.

Generally western culture to the Iranian society meant all the wrong things; translating to alcohol, prostitution, and social corruption. Maybe these thoughts were the reason for the genesis of the new Iranian thinking that became the theoretical salvation to modernize Iranian society. The Iranian intellectuals began to realize that the root of the Iranian social beliefs and traditions, hence culture, needs to be revived within.

Although copying the West could possibly work for some nations, it was clear that the Iranian nation was not ready to adopt western methods to modernization. The Iranian civilization was not to transform its traditional culture for anything else unless it was from the knowledge of the Iranian culture, thus had to be based on Shia Islam. This “within” movement gave birth to the Islamist intellectualism that began to define modernism and modernity. Modernism was defined as modern structures of a society ranging from economical advances to progressive industrialization.

Modernity on the other hand was defined as the reforms in the socio-cultural basis that would advance traditional thinking and culture. The advantage of the Islamic intellectual verses the secular ones was the language that they used, which was based on already existing traditions that people felt comfortable and could easily relate to. Marxist Islamists also were born and adopted the Islamic intellectuality based on the same logic. For these new thinkers the issue that the change needed to begin “within” rather than imported was resolved.

The main commonality between the Marxist Islamists and Islamist intellectuals was that they both defined themselves as anti Westernization. The Islamists were truly an Iranian answer to the western dominance for modernism. Shariatmadari and Soroush were two prominent Islamist philosophers who advocated modernity of the Iranian society based on the already existing traditions and culture.

For example Dr. Soroush’s arguments attempt to advance the old principles of tradition and religion by emphasizing the importance of understanding the religion rather than just the thought of it. The general concept for Islamist philosophy is to modernize the social and cultural structure within the framework of existing religion. Islamist philosophy also tries to answer whether a society can reach modernity while being religious and traditional. Their strength again is the power of communication since people from all walks of life could relate to its philosophical concepts.

One could argue that the lack of Pahlavi’s leadership to direct the society to the next level of modernization was the source of Islamist popularity as an alternative path to social advancement. One could understand how the Islamist philosophy was a true alternative. The role of religion in the lives of the people is not exclusive to the Iranian society. A major difference between the Western social structure and the Iranian was that the West had historically dealt with religion while Iran had never been able to truly deal with this issue. Another fact is that Shia Islam is a political religion and deals with this world and the next, so naturally Iranians needed to experience the true effects of Shia Islamic government system in their society.

The relevance of this quick historical background is to clarify the role of Shia Islam in the Iranian culture and society. This might also explain the reason for the formation of the Islamic revolution and the Islamic Republic government. After the establishment of the IRI, the majority of Iranians felt comfortable that the regime will take care of their religious concerns regarding many modern dilemmas that they had. The Islamic Republic was able to ease many citizens in the towns and villages to send their daughters to school; something that would be impossible during the previous regime.

Having half of your citizens capable of gaining the same Rights as the other half was a huge advancement for the feminist movement in the country. The knowledge was being transferred to the next generation regardless of the governments’ ideological views. In reality one could find that the IRI never had an issue with knowledge and progress from the scientific lens. IRI is an Islamic Shia government from a reactionary angle rather than a philosophical point of modernity. The IRI would capture and imprison the religious intellectuals. Apart from the regime being traditional, the Iranian government is gradually reaching maturity. This may have been what the Iranians needed during the 1906 revolution but never received. The IRI would have been a great regime during that time period and by now we may have had our answer to modernity and modernization.

The Shah of Iran was good for Iran during his time and if he stayed in power, the possibility of a better Iran today may have been realized. The reality of the Iranian society was not in line with his forward planning for the country. Iranians needed to step back in to the traditional society in order to step forward to modernity. This forward step to modernity is happening in today’s Iran. The best possible scenario for the Iranian society is to have the population realizing the realities of Iran and instead of smashing the religion and being Islamophobic, accepting Iran’s history to speed up the modernization of the country. One can argue that Islam is against progress but one cannot argue that our problems in the modern world are narrowed to Islam.

Nowadays the Iranian nation is not a fanatical Islamic society; in contrast Iran is a forward and semi modern nation. The culture of the Iranians is changing to modernity and that is a reality that cannot be taken away despite what government is ruling the country. Similar to the west, the Iranian society needs to find the answer between religion and politics, and I believe we are on the way to resolve 1400 years of intertwined religious/cultural issues. From the point of cultural standing, Iran today is far ahead of any of her neighbors and can be a leader in the region for future generations. Maybe today’s society is working and enduring hardships so the future generations can be better off; or maybe it’s too late and we will fail like our fathers’ generation.

In spite of the possibility of failure, we need to try to resolve the Iranian modernity issue and I am quite hopeful looking at the present Iranian society. A very educated, direct, self secured, passionate, and informed generation will likely reshape the Islamic Republic of Iran to the their own wants and needs, time permitting. We are not too late to catch up to the world, as the old saying goes: “Whenever you catch a fish from the water, it’s fresh”.


Recently by AbarmardCommentsDate
Oct 23, 2012
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by Justice (not verified) on

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by XerXes (not verified) on

I have read your articles and you are stupid. By the way for those who think the west is their GOD here is another comedy.


Did you even read this?

by XerXes (not verified) on

And remember one simple advise: what you see is not always what you get. Europeans are not what you claim them to be. go read history to get to my point. One bad cultural attitude of the Iranians are that they don't want to admit they have done something wrong. So if you don't like Islam that means it must have been the Arabs fault. But you will NEVER, EVER say that about the Europeans, because instead of reading the history books you have decided that you have all the knowledge and know everything that needs to be known, so you are here to educate the Iranians about Islam and Arabs. Well go a head, but I tell you unless you don't learn and know more about Iran you just talk unrealistic. Did you even read this article?


Re: Ahvazi Agho

by Kamangir on

I don't know where you get the 5% or 10% figures from. No matter how bad the 'gharbzadegi' might be, is still one thousand times better than your 'arabzadegi'. Because of your arabzadeh condition, you and your kind do stonne women, do kill and torture with impunity and above all do like your country to remain in dark ages of your hassan and hussain. You 'arabzadegan' va bazmandegane arabha are less than 10% of Iran's population. The 10% that is terrorizing and ruling the other 90% civilized one.


Ahvazi agho

by XerXes (not verified) on

Let me just say that the Iranians you are talking about who pride themselves to their "Persian" history (Pre Islamic ONLY) are less than 5% in the northern Tehran and overall less than 10% of the entire country. Not to say that this is right or wrong but the problems with "Shiftegaaneh gharb" is that they take any shit from the west and continue hating their neighbors!!


To Midwesty

by Kamangir on

You're saying that: your beloved Europeans where eating each other alive. Well, I don't think they were doing that. The beloved European are not stonning women to death in the year 2007, they have abolished the death penalty, they do not systematically and legaly discriminate women, they do not hang people from cranes in public, they do not destroty their own identity and history because of alleged 'incompatibilities with their religion'. The backward Iran I'm referring to, started the day the Arabs inavaded it, never again Persian women had the same rights as men do, except for the Pahlevi years. Iranians have this bizarre but yet unbelievable capacity of justifying the islamo-fascist regime of Iran.  Iran is a very complex country and there're two type of Iranians, the ones with a Persian soul and mindset and the ones deeply involved in their version of Islam. These two are two separate souls, nations, identities and what we see in Iran is the strugle between them.


Put the Mullahs out of the Majlis and back in the Masjed

by ahvazi on

"In spite of the possibility of failure, we need to try to resolve the Iranian modernity issue and I am quite hopeful looking at the present Iranian society. A very educated, direct, self secured, passionate, and informed generation will likely reshape the Islamic Republic of Iran to the their own wants and needs, time permitting."

Well in order to do that this "very educated, direct, self secured, passionate, and informed generation" needs freedom to be allowed to reshape it. But that can't happen unless the Mullahs go back into the Masjid and let the leaders chosen by the people (without disqualifying their candidates) sit in the Majlis and do what they got to do.


The littel Persian who cold not

by Hop-builds (not verified) on

Islam is at the core of our culture. At a time when we are under threat of attack any one who advocates that we abandon the one thing that glues us together and with our bigger ME community has not the best interest of Iran in mind.

Iran is in the hand of Iranians that has and will there life to defend it.

The Persia that is being advocated is a none existing exclusive club for those who have lived a sheltered life with money stolen from the people of Iran.

Will you little Persian stand up to defined Iran when the time comes.

We have to build on what we have and start by destroying it. Womens right, freedom of ...
will be built one step at a time with hard work
and struggle against the establishment.


RE: Kamangir

by Midwesty on

What you said is baseless. First define me what you meant by backwards in "Iran has always been a backward society thanks to islam". Furthermore, based on what standards and in what aspects of Iranian society you've seen backwardness? Not that I am denying it but I want to know what you think.You claimed Iran's backwardness is as a result of Islam. Consequently, we should not find any Islamic country that is not backwards. But your big daddy, the WEST tells a different story, that Turkey and Indonesia are the ones that are Islamic and prosperous.At the same time if Islam is inherently backwards then we should ignore the whole millennia of advancement in the basic science while at the same tiome your beloved Europeans where eating each other alive.



The Big Myth Again!

by Kamangir on

The daughters of yazdgerd never married hussain. Hassan or ali himself had nothing Iranian. These made up stories were  created in order to 'solder' islam and Iran. Yazdgerd family and the royal families fled to China and joined the Persian community already stablished there. Pirouz, Yazdger's son always wanted to gather troops and attack the arabs in Iran...

It's true that nowadays Iran is a mix of Iranian and arabs as Iran was heavily colonized by many arabic tribes. This shiism is not Iranian in origin and we're seeing this today more than ever! Sufism, is the Persian way of interpreting the harsh and dry islam.

Iran has always been a backward society thanks to islam. That's it. anyone other than the Pahlevi's would have failed as well. The arabo-muslim crap never goes with democracy and real modernity. Iranians are learning the lessons the hard way, our only solution is 'regime change' and in the long run, cornering islam as much as possible (this won't be hard, after the las 30 years of islamism or chiism)  Please stop telling historical nonesenses to justify the presence of this imposed way of life called 'islam' in Iran. Iran is in the hands of the descendants of arabs, not in Persian hands.


Generational Struggle (correction)

by Erani (not verified) on

Yes, I TOTALLY agree with every point.
We have to think in generational terms and not in simplistic terms.

And let us not forget, we are faced with a very determined harlequin and French Poodles who are welling to jump out of any hoops to get what they want.

In the broader political spectrum there is a place for bonafide opposition, however, given the current venue it is only disservice to Iranian nation.

Having said that, We need to be more tolerant and less reactionaries.

THANKS for a very informative article.

JJ should have posted this all they way on top of the page but ...

I am looking forward to read more of your writing.


Generational Struggle

by Erani (not verified) on

Yes, I TOTALLY agree with every point.
We have to think in generational terms and not in simplistic terms.

And let us not forget, we have a very determined harlequins and the French Poodles who are welling to jump out of any hopes to get what they want.

In the broader political spectrum there is a place for such bonafide opposition, however, given the current venue it is only disservice to Iranian nation.

Having said that, We need to be more tolerant and less reactionaries.

Well done.


The Best Article Ever!

by Mehdi on

I thought I was the only one seeing this. It feels so good to see that I am not alone. I was getting quite sick of these so-called oppositions who cannot see what's in front of their eyes. They talk about a super-democratic government for Iran ignoring completely that most people in Iran can't even read or write and by far most of them would do anything for what they consider is Islam than for "democracy."


Well done! I believe if we could see these points clearly, we could then help the speed of modernization dramatically. Otherwise we are wasting time, and we will only fight each other, as we have been doing now for some time.



To Avareh: No bloodshed, YES regim change,

by Alan (not verified) on

As long as this regime with existing constitution exist, we will never see freedom, equality, prosperity, transparency.
As long as we do not have separation of Mosque and State, we will never have a prosperous country, regardless if this happen in our life time or not.
Remember, Freedom is not Free.


Lets have future for Iran

by avareh (not verified) on

Abarmard, thank you againe! In Iranian culture love and Life is very important. We Iranian love to live and we value our Life. We dont like war and we value peace and prosperty. Sometimes western cultures mistake us as suiecide bombers. We dont want regim chang. We dont want blood we want to improve what we have.

Darius Kadivar

The Problem with the Republic is ... ;0)

by Darius Kadivar on

Its Not Rock n' Roll Enough to my taste ;0))


Darius Kadivar

Jahanshah Rashidian ;0)

by Darius Kadivar on

JR Thank you for responding, I could not agree more but I still do not think that a secular albeit Democratic Republic would guarantee national unity in our multi ethnic country.

Also you did not read my article correctly for it was not claiming to any monarchichal restoration. But thanks for suggesting it. I may NOW indeed consider it since you brought it up.

I find it incredible that the simple mentioning of an event of an era long gone still triggers passion from so many compatriots. You even went as far as calling my article "Dangerous".

If Iranians are adults and responsible as you claim then why should the simple evocation of a historical event some 40 years ago be deemed as dangerous ?

That is the Problem with Mossadeghi's or so-called National Front who are as stubborn as the Shahollahi's when it comes to looking at the History of our country in the past century. To claim that you are paranoiac and stuck in Cold War Logic would be far from the truth.

If you see in every support or simple evocation of the historical legacy of the Iranian Monarchy ( which surpasses the Pahlavi dynasty) as a support for Bombing Iran's Nuclear facitilities or restoring Reza Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne through a CIA sponsored Coup like in 1953 then you are indeed solidified in Cold War Fossil like logic.

You nationalists are no more and no less patriotic than Constitutional Monarchists. It is just that you don't want to admit it because you are too proud.

I simply believe that Iran can benefit from the Monarchy as an Institution in the lines of all modern European Constitutional Monarchies today.

Do you think that the British still accuse Queen Elisabeth for the death of the wives of Henry VIII ? Or The Belgians accuse Albert II and his late brother Bedoin for the treason of their father who collaborated with the Germans ?

The British Monarchy was restored despite the beheading of Charles Ist while Cromwell installed a decade long Theocratic Republic like Iran and massacred the Irish in the process. In Belgium Bedoin a particularly uncharismatic heir to the throne swore in front of a parliament amidst insults and cries of VIVE LA REPUBLIQUE. Spain is still another example which I am sure you are also well aware of.

I don't see why we cannot imagine the restoration of the Monarchy with Reza Pahlavi as Constitutional King and have a Statue of Mossadeg Raised in front of the Iranian Parliament very much like the British have with Cromwell. I would also add one of Shapour Bakhtiar who unlike Sanjabi and the manipulated National Front of 1979 joined forces with Khomeiny.

After All the Restoration of the Monarchy may not be such a bad idea. Thank you for suggesting it to me ;0)

Not Kidding either, But do not lose your sense of humor, and try to be a fair sport Ol' Chum !

Cordialement Egalement Cher Ami,



Thoughtful article on growing pains of our society

by Amir Khosrow Sheibany (not verified) on

However, from the number of comments to this article, compared with the number of comments to the idea of Monarchy in Iran and other topic, you would be correct in assuming there is very little interest in this subject nowadays, as the debate is closed in favour of those who oppose the IRI.

Just a few comments for you to think about.

The modernity proposed and implemented by HIM Mohammad Reza Shah amounted to "Rational & Scientific Modernity", not Westernisation. Though I admit I can see why most people perceived it as Westernisation. They have made an honest mistake.

The following statement of yours is Bizarre: “The role of the religion in the Iranian society was undermined by the Pahlavi dynasty”. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi did nothing but raise the over-all standing of Shia religion and the respect for the clergy to it’s zenith in the whole history of Shiism in Iran!

His support of Shiism, renovation of Mosques, secret funding of the clergy, is one of the major criticisms against him (by his base and the left wing opponents). It is believed this support of Shiism and the Iranian-ness aspect of Shiism played a part in the disaster brought upon the Iranian people by the Khomeinist counter-revolution.

Jahanshah Rashidian

R: Darius Kadivar

by Jahanshah Rashidian on

Avalan, Rather than being docile or politely sheep-like reluctant, I am critical of unfairness, though, I am not nitpicking and mean in my daily life.

Dovoman, let me add my suggestion to your article: a democratic and secular movement can be better formed when we focus on the future, not only the "glittering" past .

Sevoman, there are enough patriotic and intellectual Iranians for the task that we do not need people with ties or sympathy for the past two dictatorial regimes.



This is also true for the lunatic author of this article.

I am Not kidding!




What is modernity . . . ?

by Parviz (not verified) on

It was necessary to have the Islamic revolution to open up the eyes and ears of our people. We all remember the Islam of before and after revolution. Nevertheless, Islamic khorafat is in our blood.


You fail to describe modernity and one assumes that you mean Western cultures are modern. Western cultures are more automated, but people are slave to their masters. If you travel to some less developed countries, you will notice that with less automation people are very happy.

To me, modernity means to live happy and die happy while being able to make a difference in your community.


Thanks Abarmard!

by Midwesty on

An analytical politcal article in a long time.

Darius Kadivar


by Darius Kadivar on

And Glitters in your Eyes ;0))


Hey Rashidian I wonder why you hated my article ?

Work on your French by the way. ;0)

Just kidding.




Jahanshah Rashidian

How Reactionary You Are!

by Jahanshah Rashidian on

This "moderate" Islamist, with his umbo-jumbos,  preaches his belief that since Iranian society is in majority Shia Muslim it is inevitably doomed to accept the same or "reshaped"IRI.

This new stooge of  IRI / 's factions, and apparently a retarded school choir of Al-Ahmad's madresseh  is so blind that does not see the increasing adborence towards political Islam, that  nothing is more hateful for Iranians, Muslim or not, than the criminal IRI and its imposed Islamic laws.