Outside of the Law: Khomeini’s Legacy of Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in the Islamic Republic

In: Sociology of Islam
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  • 1 Oriental Studies, University of Oxford

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This article explores the legacy of Khomeini’s declarations on amr bi ma‘rūf va nahī az munkar (commanding right and forbidding wrong). Focusing particularly on Khomeini’s Taḥrīr al-wasīla, in which his most detailed exploration of the duty to command and forbid is found, I argue that a number of the Islamic Republic’s institutions and political factions have been unable to legislate on this duty because its most effective role is in the social sphere. By attempting to codify commanding and forbidding in law, these institutions and factions eschew the duty’s esoteric and ambiguous qualities that make it both applicable and complete. The duty is instead most effective as a tool for self-governance and communal reform. Khomeini’s innovative vision of commanding and forbidding provides a certain degree of autonomy in social space for those who perform or sanction the duty.

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