The 1906-07 Iranian Constitution and the Constitutional Debate on Islam

In: Journal of Persianate Studies

Abstract

After a brief sketch of the historical background, the mutual impact of Islam and constitutionalism is examined by looking closely at the process of constitution-making in the broad context of the constitutional politics of Iran between 1905 and 1911. The modification of modern constitutional concepts under the impact of Shiʿi Islam and through its custodians in the course of the reception of Western constitutionalism in this period is followed by an analysis of the impact of modern political ideas on Islam. The analysis is based on the texts of the Fundamental Law of 1906 and its 1907 Supplement, and on the contemporary tracts for and against constitutionalism from opposite Islamic viewpoints. Our detailed examination of these sources indicates no presumption that a constitution had to be based on Islam. Nor was there any notion of ‘the Islamic state,’ the slogan of the Islamic revolution of 1979. For the constitutionalists and anti-constitutionalist pamphleteers of the first decade of the twentieth century alike, the counterpart to the constitutional government was not the Islamic state but the autocratic monarchy of ‘the king of Islam.’

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  • 2

    In 1855the Prime Minister Mirzā Āqā Khān Nuri had proposed an identical royal decree to guarantee the security of life, property and honor of the subjects, but none was in fact issued (Bakhash, 84).

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