Collective hawza leadership in a time of crisis: the period of marajeʿ thalath (1937–1953)

Mohammad Mesbahi

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The intention behind this article is twofold. Firstly, it aims at reviewing the political settings that lead to the second phase (1937–1953) in the formation of the hawza leadership, often ignored by scholars. This period follows the death of the founder of the hawza ʿilmiyya of Qum, Ayatollah ʿAbd al-Karim Haʾeri in 1937, and precedes the 1953 CIA sponsored coup d’état, and includes the appointment of Ayatollah Husayn Borujerdi as the leader of the modern hawza. Secondly, the article assesses the leadership style of the triumvirate of Shiʿa jurists known as marajeʿ thalath, who managed to firmly consolidate the modern hawza of Qum despite the secularizing policies of the Pahlavis which aimed at eliminating the religious sector from the Iranian political scene. In order to understand the course of subsequent developments of the religious establishments and Shiʿi scholars in their attainment of power and influence in Iran in the course of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, it is crucial to investigate the developments during this period. This paper is the first study that draws on a range of primary sources not consulted before to research the political and social contributions of the triumvirate during the period of 1937–1953.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Early online date23 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Feb 2021


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