Bernard Lewis offered, in the late 1980s, a survey of what he calls the primordial Political Language of Islam that determined both the leadership of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the nature of the post-revolutionary state. 1 Lewis sees essential differences between this political language and the languages of the French and Russian Revolutions.2 He selects a series of concepts used during the Iranian Revolution, identifies their origins in the Islamic sources, and calls them the political language of Islam. What Lewis totally ignores is that the meanings that these concepts communicated and the references they provided were radically different from the original ones, but in line with the languages of these modern revolutions. 3 In fact, the language of the Iranian Revolution emerged from the Iranian political language, of which Lewis seems quite unaware. Lewis seems unfamiliar with or reluctant to deal with the real contents and meaning of the revolutionary language. In fact, Lewis reflects the general academic reluctance to take the Iranian political language seriously. Since the late nineteenth century, this language has enabled the elites and ordinary people to make their thoughts and actions meaningful to one another. The history of the formation and transformation of this language is a history of the Iranian people who have shaped and reshaped the Iranian public sphere as the space of their intellectual and political experience. Similar to any other language, this language has an arbitrary nature. It does not entirely determine or limit the ways the intellectual and political subjects think and act, but presents a possibility that can be used by anyone and everyone. It constitutes a linguistic space that enables the Iranian people to reinvent themselves, intellectually and politically, at different historical junctions.


Public Sphere Political Culture Ordinary People Social History Body Politic 
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© Yadullah Shahibzadeh 2015

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