The Flock of a Shepherd or the Sovereign Citizen: Ayatollah Montazeri on the Role of the People

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2016


For more than half of his life the Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a onetime heir apparent to Ayatollah Khomeini the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, promoted the idea of the people as the obedient followers of a wise and pious shepherd, the Guardian Jurist. He thought that such a submission to the judgment of the leader will not only protect people in this world but would prepare them for the next. His experience with the actual behavior of the leaders of the Islamic Republic forced him to rethink his position. By the end of his life in 2009 Montazeri's idea of the role of the people was drastically different from his earlier years. He now considered people citizens with agency and labelled them as the ultimate sovereign of the temporal state. How and why this change happened is the focus of this paper.


Villanova University

Publication Information

Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

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