Article by Dr Kalim Siddiqui published in ‘The Muslim Statesman’, Durban, January 1980, reprinted in Issues in the Islamic movement, vol. 3, 1982-83 (1402-03), pp. 387-389.
Revolution of revolutions!
By Kalim Siddiqui
In the land of the king of kings, the shahinshah, has occurred the Revolution of revolutions! Modern thought about revolutions is almost entirely shaped by the experience of the two most famous revolutions of this century. The Marxist revolutions in Russia in 1917 and in China in 1949. (In Europe, revolutionary thought is also influenced by the French Revolution and the working class revolts of 1832 and 1848 in a number of European cities).
What is different about the Islamic Revolution is therefore a matter of great importance.
It must be recalled that both the Russian and the Chinese revolutions occurred in the wake of major world wars in which the home of the revolution had been greatly weakened. The political, economic and social systems of both China and Russia had been eroded by forces other than those that brought about the revolution. These revolutions, therefore, occurred in situations of internal collapse of authority.
The Islamic Revolution, on the other hand, challenged one of the most highly organized machines of repression ever built. This political machine had not been weakened by external war. It was in fact at the zenith of its power and international prestige. It had at its disposal a large middle class, a vast bureaucracy, and the best-equipped armed forces outside the industrialized world.
‘Imperial Iran’ was at its most majestic, armed to the teeth by the self-proclaimed ‘greatest power’ ever to emerge on this earth.
It was this arrogant power that was successfully defied. Its might was actually defeated in the battlefield – the highways and byways of Tehran, Tabriz, Shiraz, Isfahan, Mashhad and other major cities of Iran.
One major difference has to be noted immediately. While all other revolutions had extra-territorial links and support, the Islamic movement in Iran was little known outside Iran and had virtually no support even in the world of Islam. The traditional self-righteous ignorance and prejudice ofthe Sunni about the Shi’i saw to it that despite the writing on the wall, the Sunnis, by and large, remained committed to the status quo, fearing ‘instability after the Shah’. Even to this day, almost a year since the Revolution, the support of the Muslims outside Iran is at best lukewarm while the regimes in Muslim countries are actively playing the game of the counter-revolutionaries.
The earlier revolutions of modern history had been ‘class struggles’ among factions. As such, the revolutionary party was always a minority party trying to establish the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. After capturing power, the revolutionaries had to murder millions of their people to secure compliance and to make the revolutionary group supreme.
In Iran the whole people rose together in the name of a common goal: the supremacy of Allah over the affairs of man. This revolution is Islamic not because it is led by a ‘bearded divine’ but because it does not represent any group or class interest within or without lran. This was one of the great hallmarks of the popular movement that brought down the regime of the taghoot. Even the western television coverage could not hide the fact that those who went into the streets to brave the bullets included the blue-jeaned and mini-skirted ‘emancipated’ women of middle-class Iran. Most of them now wear the chador.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran is a revolution of the entire people of all classes. The leadership has no selfish axe of its own to grind. This comes over clearly when one watches Ayatullah Khomeini sitting crosslegged on the floor, with no worldly trappings, giving interviews in a modest manner, always looking down.
It is easy to imagine the contrasting arrogance of a secular revolutionary leader if he had attained even a fraction of the success that the Islamic leadership has achieved in Iran.
The west’s model of development for Asia and Africa was followed to the letter in Iran. But it has become clear that the west does not really want any meaningful development in these areas of the world. The west is interested only in selling its goods and services, whether these are of any utility to the buyer or not. The west will support, indeed foist and maintain, regimes that will buy western technology and pay high prices. A net transfer of resources from the underdeveloped countries to maintain and improve western standards of living, indeed western capitalism, is the only vital interest with which the west is concerned.
The west’s commitment to democracy and human rights is a fraud. ln Iran, the west did everything possible to impoverish the people of Iran and to keep them under the heel of dictatorship. Even the Soviet Union, the so-called people’s republic, supported the shah because the fellow sold them cheap natural gas and kept a tight lid on Islam.
Thus the Islamic Revolution was opposed by everyone outside Iran, including the great powers and the Muslim world. It is a tradition of Islam that it is always opposed by the status quo. Islam comes to overthrow the existing systems. This is precisely what the original Islamic movement, led by the Prophet himself (peace be upon him) had achieved. Soon after the Prophet, Islam emerged from Arabia and overthrew the East Roman and Persian empires, the great powers of that time.
The Islamic Revolution will also ultimately lead to a new order in all parts of the Muslim world. Unlike other revolutions, the Islamic Revolution will not have to export itself; it will be imported by others around Iran.
This indeed is a Revolution of revolutions!
‘The Muslim Statesman’, Durban, January 1980.