Research on the Pahlavi Dynasty illustrates that it was the ruling house of Iran from 1925 to 1979. This important time in Iranian history denotes the Iranian Revolution and many other noteworthy events.
While teaching at Qum in the 1930s Khomeini stressed ethical codes as part of one’s religious duty. During this time Qum Riza Khan established the Pahlavi state. Under Khan, the Iranian monarchy transformed into a totalitarian dictatorship. A chief goal of Riza Khan was to erase Islam as a social, political, and cultural influence. In the late 1930s Khomenei’s mentor, Shaykh 'Abd al-Karim Ha'iri died and Ayatullah Burujirdi took over as the school’s spiritual leader. Khomenei was quick to lend Burujirdi his support. Khomenei believed and expected that Ayatullah Burujirdi would use his influence and position to oppose Pahlavi rule. While Burujirdi was a great administrator he was relatively inactive in politics.
In 1941 Khomenei authored a book, Kashf al-Asrar, which contained his first public political statement. The book explored the dangers of following a path that was anti-religious in nature and expressed views that were critical of Pahlavi rule. Following the death of Burujirdi, Khomenei was encouraged to take the leadership role in the school. However, Khomenei originally resisted although the publication of his book established him as an authority in matters of politics and religion. During the 1950s Khomenei officially obtained the rank of Ayatollah.
Ayatollah Khomeini gained influence and prominence at the school of Qum, and later, throughout Iran. One reason for this is because he was one of the few willing to challenge the political regime. He was the only religious leader who openly backed the students at Qum who opposed the opening of liquor stores. His activism increased in 1962 when the Shah backed a law that struck down the requirement that local assembly candidates be male and Muslim. During this year Khomenei initiated a nationwide opposition to the Pahlavi monarchy by joining with other religious leaders who opposed the law. The religious leaders were successful in getting the law repealed. Khomenei also opposed the policies of Saudi rulers and the United States.
The fact that Islamic interests ultimately came to dominate the revolutionary movement was also due to the way in which the Pahlavi regime had treated various opposition forces. During the 1978-1979 revolution, the shah regime faced three major groups of critics and opponents:
- Various leftist groups, including some armed factions, who, in spite of much infighting, were generally united behind dreams of a “proletarian” revolution;
- Westernized middle classes who hoped to translate their growing economic power into political power;
- Fairly diverse contenders who relied primarily upon Islamic terminology to advance their cause.
However, over decades of repressive measures, the shah regime had annihilated the left-leaning and, indeed, all secular political organizations that might have presented significant resistance to its dominance. Thus, although they provided important intellectual fuel for the revolutionary movement, the leftists—who had lost much of their human resources in urban guerrilla warfare—simply could never hope to rally enough power to stand up to the shah’s formidable police and armed forces. For their part, the middle classes, in addition to lacking a strong support base, were in fact afraid of the working- and lower-class masses.
In contrast to the leftists and the even less significant middle class interests, Islamic political interests had been allowed to flourish over the. As has been the case with many repressive regimes in Muslim-majority populations, the Shah did not apply to the Shiite clergy the repressive tactics that it gleefully employed with against its other opponents, in part because the mullahs were initially viewed as a useful force for keeping the population under control. In fact, the United States had encouraged the Shah to support the Islamists as a major counterweight to the spread of socialist ideas and potential Soviet incursions (an extremely misguided policy that in Iran would ultimately work to seriously endanger American interests, just as it would in Afghanistan, where U.S. support for Islamists against Soviet invaders abetted the rise of the dreadful Taliban).
However, by allowing the Islamic leaders freedoms denied to other political interests, the Shah regime inevitably set itself up as a target of criticisms when it implemented secularizing measures such as the modification of family law to grant women more power within the household, and when it otherwise worked to curtail the influence of religious interests over major social and political institutions. As the Pahlavi regime grew even more inefficient, corrupt, unjust, and repressive—and seemingly more closely allied with the American enemy—the critical mullahs developed into a formidable political opponent that the regime could not suppress without undermining its legitimacy even further and greatly increasing the strength of its opposition