A Survey of Memoirs on the Iranian Religious Movement

The purpose of this article is to evaluate the relevance of the memoirs of some of the prominent individuals in the leadership ranks of the Iranian religious movement during the reign of the late shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as primary research sources for the study of the movement. These memoirs have all been published in recent years and shed light on many aspects of the movement which aimed at establishing a theocratic government in Iran. The author points out that although this movement predates the emergence of Ayatollah Khomeini on the political scene, his authority and charismatic leadership was essential to its victory. Therefore, the article starts with the recently published memoirs of his elder brother, Ayatollah Pasandideh. These memoirs provide the reader with some insights into the family history and the circumstances surrounding Khomeini's early childhood. It also presents an interesting picture of the life and the status of ulama in provincial Persia at the turn of the century.

Other memoirs which have been reviewed in this article are collectively chosen for both the wealth of information and insights that they provide as well as their scope in covering different aspects and stages in the development of the Islamic movement. In particular, the author highlights the strengths of each memoir as related to various areas of study. These include the history, goals and strategies of the religious movement, its modes of mobilization, major organizations, inter and intra organizational ties, and the evolving interactions between the movement, at different stages of its growth, with other socio-political forces including the religious modernists and various factions within the Shi'ite establishment.

The article concludes by referring to the memoirs of Jalal Farsi. This source, while failing to enhance our understanding of the movement per se, provides us with important information about the network of political activists outside Iran with ties to the religious movement in Iran. Worthy of attention are the personal and organizational connections between these activists and various Palestinian and Shi'ite groups in Lebanon and the role that this network played in the process of the Islamic revolution in Iran.

Cyrus Mir
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