Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

8-2009

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis

Degree Title

Master of Arts in History

Department

History

Major Advisor

Dr. Michael Zirinsky

Abstract

The ancient Iranian belief in a mythological force that God bestows on kings in the form of a mystical light that validates their rule, the farr-ī īzadī, has persisted in Iran for millennia, and continues to influence Iranian concepts of leadership legitimization. The Islamic conquerors who overthrew Iran’s Sassanian Empire in the seventh century adapted this myth of Iranian sacral kingship to Islamic political culture, and used it to build a distinct Iranian Islamic political identity that persisted through centuries of regime changes. Iran’s Shi’i Muslims drew upon the concept of farr-i izadi in both of Iran’s twentieth century revolutions, sometimes purposely, often probably totally unconsciously, to forward their objectives. The Ayatollah Khomeini specifically relied on the Iranian penchant for a supreme monarch endowed with a divine right to rule when he converted Iran’s Islamic clerics into a new monarchical dynasty, with absolute power.

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