First Advisor

Lindsey J. Benstead

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political Science and University Honors


Political Science


Iran -- Politics and government -- 20th century, Iran -- Politics and government -- 21st century, Islamic law, Islam and politics -- Iran -- History




Throughout history, we have struggled to determine how best to govern and maintain our societies. Many times religion has found a place in government by providing an enforceable framework of expected behaviors and laws to impose over citizens to create order in society.

In a country that separates church and state, the government attempts to not enact laws that are directly derived from any one religious ideology to avoid imposing religious codes onto citizens who choose to not abide by that particular religious code. In Iran the government has taken form as a theocracy, referred to as the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the state is ruled by Islamic laws handed down by the country’s Shiite leadership.

The purpose of the essay is to examine the influence of Sharia (Shiite) Islam in Iranian politics with an emphasis on the importance of 20th Century regimes. The consideration of Shiite traditions in Iran politics resulted in the formation of either an adverisionist state or an conformist state. In an adverisionist state, political leaders consciously create policies and take actions to repress traditional Shiite practices and curb the influence of Islam in Iran. Oppositely in an conformist state, political leaders derive policies from Shiite Islamic traditions. During the 20th century, Iran experienced periods of drastic change, ultimately culminating to the 1979 Revolution which would lead to the establishment of the theocratic, conformist Islamic Republic of Iran and officially establishing Shiite Islam as a central element of the Iranian national identity.


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