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Is Every Revolution Legitimate?

What does

It is true that the absolute meanings of “liberty” and “freedom” have positive connotations which every human being would like to exercise as his right. However, we must keep in mind that as Muslims, our way of life is essentially Islam with all the teachings, principles, and laws that came with the final message to mankind. In simple words, Islam means to submit and surrender to the absolute sovereignty of Allah, which contradicts with the idea of human liberty to do as one pleases. Although God has given us the free will to act in this life as we want and choose our own paths, we must remember that it is a test for us, and the next life is the time of accounting for our deeds. In essence, we are not “free” to act as we so desire; rather, our lives revolve around His commands.

What does

After the successful revolutions to overthrow the Tunisian and Egyptian rulers, a ripple effect has been observed across the region, as people in multiple countries have been inspired to raise their voice against their oppressive governments. Even with their sectarian or social differences, people have united together to get rid of the corrupt regimes such as that of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya. Each group of people has determined a ‘day of anger’ to finally raise their voices and call for reform after observing silence due to fear from the authorities and other factors.

In the midst of this wave of revolutions, it is quite surprising and ironic to find that even a group of people in Iran have decided to protest against their government and call for reform. Actually, it was not more than two years ago when this same group, known as the “Green Movement”, strongly protested against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and claimed unfair elections. This same group, which failed, decided in the midst of this streak of revolutions to ride the wave and call out for what they believe to be “reform” in a country that is designed to be an Islamic Republic.

This situation prompts us to pose the following question: Is every revolution legitimate, and is every protest really a call for positive reform? It seems that the trend nowadays is that everyone wants change, and whether it is from bad to good or vice versa may not always be realized. How do we know which group of people are justified in their revolts? In order for us to answer this question, we must be able to first identify the truth (Haqq), and thereby determine where falsehood lies. We are to be reminded of the words of wisdom of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) where he advises us, “Determine where the truth is, and then you will know who belongs to it.” But how do we successfully pinpoint Haqq when both truth and falsehood has become vague and mixed with each other in so many ways?

Everyone claims to want reform, but what exactly is reform, and is it relative from one person to the other? Ultimately, one must analyze the items in which change is being sought and the direction in which this change is headed. If the protest for reform is for the sake of promoting Islamic ideals and principles, such as establishing justice and equity, protecting the rights of fellow citizens, and implementing the laws of the Islamic Shari’ah, then surely it is a righteous cause that deserves self-sacrifice and relentless struggle. Ultimately, our position will be determined by whether or not the arguments presented are in line with prescriptions of the Holy Qur’an and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them), as these two are undoubtedly our tools of measurement.

However, if the protest is for the sake of promoting social liberalism and acting upon our personal desires under the pretext of “liberty” and “freedom”, then that type of reform is questionable! For example, it is not positive reform to minimize segregation among men and women, or to loosen up the Islamic dress-code, or to promote irreligious views. These are all invalid reasons to rise against a government that was founded on the basis of implementing Islamic law and spirit. There is no government which is perfect and flawless, and there is always room for more improvement. However, the existence of a well-defined system with the role of Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) implemented by the late Imam Khomeini which provides security that the political leaders and regime do not deviate from core Islamic teachings gives us a sense of trust in this government which is unique in its safety-blanket approach.

It is true that the absolute meanings of “liberty” and “freedom” have positive connotations which every human being would like to exercise as his right. However, we must keep in mind that as Muslims, our way of life is essentially Islam with all the teachings, principles, and laws that came with the final message to mankind. In simple words, Islam means to submit and surrender to the absolute sovereignty of Allah, which contradicts with the idea of human liberty to do as one pleases. Although God has given us the free will to act in this life as we want and choose our own paths, we must remember that it is a test for us, and the next life is the time of accounting for our deeds. In essence, we are not “free” to act as we so desire; rather, our lives revolve around His commands.

Hence for a Muslim, the true meaning of “freedom” is not to act upon any desire that comes to mind. Rather, in the perspective of a submissive servant to Allah, true freedom is to open one’s heart in an intimate relationship with one’s Creator, where one may freely exercise one’s love to Him through worship and obedience. One of the best forms of freedom that a servant can enjoy is to reflect upon His glory, pronounce His praise, and think of ways to please Him and sacrifice for the sake of the One Beloved. Once the servant tastes this spiritual type of freedom and happiness with his Lord, he has achieved the highest level of bliss that is more enjoyable than the physical Paradise! This type of freedom has been enjoyed and appreciated by our Infallible Imams (peace be upon them all), who represent the model of perfection to mankind.

As Imam Sajjad (peace be upon him) describes a moment of intimacy between a servant and his Creator: “There are no drops which are dearer to Allah than two kinds – drops of blood shed in Allah’s cause and the tears dropped in the darkness of night for which a servant does not want anything except the pleasure of Allah.”

About Jerrmein Abu Shahba

Jerrmein, originally from Egypt and guided by the grace of Allah (SWT) to the truth path of AhlulBayt (AS), obtained her bachelors degree in Biology and masters in Chemistry. She contributed as a writer in the past for the Islamic Insights, AIM, Muslims4peace, and Voice of Unity magazines. Jerrmein volunteers as an editor for the al-Islam.org website, and translates Islamic literature.

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  • M&R

    Mashallah! You made a very vivid and very timely distinction between the revolution that rides the tides of truth and the revolution that is marched by the supporters of the evil. No doubt the green revolution is the GUILE.MAKR of evil!

  • Mustafa

    True, the revolution in Iran is CIA inspired. But what about the revolutions in Egypt , Tunisia and Libya, are they also genuine? How do we know that they are not sponsored by foreign intellegence agencies? Not everything is as it seems! I cant type too much but authentic research on the web and you will come accross amazing revelations to the realities of the so called revolutions rocking the middle east.

  • YourShiaSister

    I’m a little bit tired of the shia community making excuses for the Iranian regime. The response the government has had to the protestors is just not acceptable.

    Iranians who are very religious people, but they oppose their regime because they want to have freedom of expression in their lives.. they want to have some basic freedoms that are not being guaranteed to them. This is not a group of people who are against their own religion; rather they are striving for rights and freedoms that are a part of their religion.

    Although I am a great supporter of Iman Khomeini, I doubt that he would approve of the current actions of the Iranian government to oppress protestors, rather than listen to them and try to work with them. The Iranian people are a revolutionary people, but I’m not sure how the actions of the current president are any different from the reaction of the Shah during the initial uprisings of the Islamic revolution.

    Grand Ayatollah Sistani has stated in the past that if he were to set up an Islamic nation, he does not believe that the Iranian system or the regime would be his model.

    We all know that there are things happening there that are not acceptable. As your fellow Shia sister, I urge you to question even the smallest things, rather than excuse them saying the people are not acting correctly. These are a deeply religious people and they simply want to live in a country with guaranteed political rights.

    • RE:ShiaSister

      You missed the point of the article. It is not saying that problems don’t exist in Iran. Rather, the author clearly acknowledges this that yes, there is much room for improvement in the system. The point is that the overall “Green Movement” cannot be considered legitimate, because it is based on secular irreligious ideologies.

      Exactly which freedoms are you referring to that religious Iranians are denied?

      If you think the response of the current government was in any way similar to the Shah’s actions, you need to stop reading Western/Zionist/AlJazeera news sources.

      Also, can you provide some proof about your claim regarding Ayatullah Seestani’s statement?

      • YourShiaSister

        See Hadit’s comment below. It’s great.

        Also, Please do a google search for the original articles and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You can also use your local library for the older articles.

        In 1979, the Washington Post interviewed Ayatollah Khomeini TWICE. In both of these interviews, Ayatollah Khomeini rejected authoritarian styles of an Islamic nation, and he said, and I know this clearly because my father has said it to me, “In the history of Islam, those who denied God were free to express themselves.” He was considered to have believed that all political parties would be legitimate, not just Islamic ones, under the auspices of an Islamic nation.

        You don’t have to agree, but I would urge you to talk to some Iranians on the ground about how they feel and whether they feel that they have all the rights that should be guaranteed to them under Islam. The regime says they do, the people say they don’t, so it’s up to you to formulate an opinion.

      • YourShiaSister

        This idea is also found in many of Khomeini’s books. I’ve mentioned the Washington Post article because I believe that this is something you should easily be able to find. If you live in the West, it is probably difficult to access Khomeini’s books, but I’ve had access to them (in arabic) as a child growing up in the Middle East. My father owns all of Khomeini’s books, alhamdullilah, and I urge you to find your own copies and read what this great man has written for yourself. Much of what he believed is currently left out of the public discourse in Iran and the Middle East. I also cannot honestly give a source for Sistani’s statement.. this is a concept that I’ve just known for a long time, and to confirm, I just asked a few Shia friends of mine.. who are more learned than me, and they said that concept is correct. One of the brothers explained that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a political and religious leader, but after his death, things changed. When Imam Hasan was alive, in order to maintain the unity of Islamic empire, he changed the role of the Imams to no longer be political and to only be religious. Khomeini was able to establish an Islamic state and attempted to follow the suit of the Prophet Muhammad. Sistani has followed the suit of Imam Hasan, stating that religious leaders cannot be final deciders in politics, although they should play a central and important role in society and may influence politics.

        If you can read arabic, this statement can probably be found on Sistani’s website http://www.al-sistani.org, although it is an old one, and I’m not too used to using the website, I only use it to find fatwas on different topics, but it might be there.

        • dot

          Sister, while I agree with you that there are many problems in Iran and a need for reform within the Islamic principles, I have to disagree with your statements.

          For one, you said that the imams “changed” the role of politics in Islam. They did no such thing. The problem was that the social circumstances did not allow them to have political power.

          Also, it is not correct to point at Ayatollah Khomeini said something in France about all parties being legitimate, because his later behavior clearly went completely against this idea.
          Communists were completely wiped out, for example. Secular parties were also not allowed to run. This is on video, just look it up on youtube.

    • Peace


      Re: YourShiaSister

      What response of Iranian government you are talking about? The so called protesters included the members of terrorist organization MKO. The head of MKO Maryam said the true winner of Iranian election is MKO. The intelligence agencies of enemy countries organized and supported these anti-islam elements.

      Generally the supporters of Green movement are anti-islam elements. It includes seculars, socialists etc

      Can you please elaborate in detail which rights you are talking about what are not allowed by constitution or are prohibited by govt? You seem to be taking your information from CNN or FOX news or the like sources.

      • YourShiaSister

        I’m not sure where you get your information? from the Iranian governmental news agency only and nothing else?

        My information is not based on CNN, or Fox. I don’t even own a tv, first of all and my primary sources of information about the Middle East is from the media there because I’m fluent in Arabic and prefer to follow a variety of news networks there.. including Iranian networks, in English.

        However, my primary source of information has been from family and friends living in Iran over the phone. And some friends who have been going back and forth between Iran and the US over the last few years. I consider their stories to be more legitimate than any filtered news story, regardless of how honest I think that news agency is.

  • HCma

    Why is it the responsibility of the state to define a dress code?

  • Jafar

    S/A, in an ideal Islamic government, it is the responsibility of that Islamic state such as Iran which claims to be an Islamic republic, to implement the laws of the Islamic Shariah. And the dress code of Islam is not an exception, just like cutting the hand of a stealer, etc

  • Hadit

    Arrogance of those in government – ideological reaction of those in the upper echelons of power to protests and demands for reform – loss of respect of the people for their government – ignoring or dismissing the needs of the people – paranoia in higher levels of government – blaming real and legitimate concerns and protests of the people on CIA/FBI etc. instead of looking at the grievances and responding to relieve them and to redress and correct mistakes. In the end it comes down to arrogance and paranoia – it eventually brings down monarchs like the shah, autocrats like Mubarak, and it could, in the long run, bring down the Iranian government if they don’t listen and genuinely attempt to address legitimate grievances and concerns. The Iranian revolution was one of the most amazing events of the 20th century but today’s Iran needs serious reform.

    “Surely the subjects’ love will not appear without the well-being of their hearts, and their sincerity (toward rulers) will not become free from blemishes unless they watch over their rulers, find their governments of little burden and cease to hope that their period (of rule) will soon come to an end….So if your subjects complain of burden lighten (their burden)….Truly the destitution of a nation comes about only from the mistreatment of the people and when the rulers have fears about the endurance (of their own rule) and when they profit little from warning examples….” (Imam Ali)

  • Shariati living in iran

    I surprised that how people can talk & drive their mind over others’, while they don’t know what’s going on! I don’t know if you have ever lived for a while in Iran!?
    The inside of Iran government is not what it shows outside! Unfortunately some deeds happened by protecting of government which even haven’t been done by non-Islamic governments, comparing to Shah time, shah was more chivalrously! This Islamic government, which actually is not a Real Islamic government, just Abusing of Islam so that Muawiyyah didn’t do in his time of his usurped Governmet! Have you ever heard about raping girls in Iranian jails, or even raping guys? Yeah, they’ve happened in Iran, just imagine if you were one of the relatives of those raped people, what would you think about this government? I didn’t say imagine you yourselves were those people, because you NEVER can IMAGINE!
    Remember the speech of Imam Ali AS about the possibility of dying a man for hearing of evicting of an anklet from the leg of a Jewish woman by Muawiyyah’s soldiers! What you can do of hearing of this incident!!?? Can you dye? If you even can, it is not ENOUGH!!!!
    Does it just need some Improvement??????
    NEVER forget this speech of our beloved Prophet SA: Al-molko Yabga ma’a alk-kofr wa la yabga ma’a al-dholm!
    How do you know about viewpoints of Shi’a Maraji’e??? Ayatullah Sistani, Ayatullah Wahid Khorasani (even whose son-in-law is the chief of Justice Department of Iranian government, Sadiq Larijani), Ayatullah Sanaei, Ayatullah Dastgeyb, Ayatullah Musawi Ardebili, etc. call their offices & ask!

  • Shariati living in iran

    Part 2:
    Iranian Protestors are a combination of Muslims, Christs, zoroasters, etc, but they all hate deceiving, lying, murdering, raping etc.! They are PEACEFUL protestors! They are treating peacefully to show the protectors of Government” Aren’t you wrong?” we all are brothers & sisters!
    Mir Hussain Musawi, Sayyid Muhammad Khatami, Mahdi Karrubi, family of Ima Kumaini & the most of the revolutionary people are of the Green Movement! This is the continue of the last Revolution!
    CIA???? MKO??? Please think before telling ridiculous excuses!!! Pharaoh told his people that Peophet Musa AS has come to evict you from your land! All Oppressors are abusing the pure patriotism interests of his people of their evil intentions!
    So as an advice Never support someone/something which you don’t know them, because YOU would be attaining the fire of HEREAFTER for this WORLD of OTHER people if you were wrong! As Imam Ali As said, these kind of people are the most wretched people!
    P.S. before supporting people by your tells, thoughts, Do not forget this speech of Imam Ali AS: Nahjolbalagah, Hikmah154: whoever gets pleased of deed of a group, is like who is with them, & whoever inclines to void, there are TWO guilt for him/his, the guilt of the doer, & the guilt of pleasantness/(supporting) of the doer!

  • muntazereen

    Bismillaher rahmaner raheem

    I would just like to make simple distinction between Islam in the Quran and the Islam in islamic republic. I believe the heated debate as to whether iranian protesting in the green movement is legitamite or not is a sensitive topic as many people believe protesters as protesting against islam.

    A main topic that is left out of this is that is the real islam being portrayed in the “islamic” republic of islam. As a muslim I pride myself in the fact that Imam Ali (a.s) gave his people the right to pledge allegiance with him through performance of bay’at, this included the women – who placed their hands in the water that Imam Ali had placed his hands inside.

    Although I do not believe many of the protesters to be of the Best intention, their pleas are not baseless, democracy is a right in Islam and rising against oppression is also another. The killing of women, chlidren and men who are unarmed and civilian is also not islamic at all.

    By mixing of religion with politics there has been alot of tainting of religion, leaders like imam khomeini are seldom found, the islamic republic he strove for is not the islamic republic that we have today

    Wasalaam Aleikum
    S. Zahedi

  • Sister

    I just want to add that the protesters were not at all peaceful, and iran had every right to treat them harshly. The protesters caused chaos, vandalizing property and burning cars/houses etc. I honestly believe that both sides of the conflict–the Iranian government and the Green Party–are at fault here, and neither side is perfect. The Iranian government tries its best but it has its shortcomings.