Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Comparative Religion

First Advisor

Dr. Rudolf Siebert

Second Advisor

Dr. David Ede

Third Advisor

Dr. Nancy Falk

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This thesis examines the events leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the role of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in bringing about that revolution. It attempts to demonstrate the social, psychological, political, and religious factors that led to the rise of Khomeini as the leader of the revolution. It furthermore focuses on Khomeini's strategy to oppose, destabilize, and eventually overthrow the Shah of Iran through various means. This thesis is limited to the study of Khomeini as a revolutionary figure, not as a head of state, and therefore I do not examine Khomeini after the overthrow of the Shah.

This thesis revisits the later half of 20th century Iran, beginning with Khomeini's political awakening in 1941, and ending with his triumph as the supreme authority in Iran. The social and political context of Iran is essential in understanding the success of Khomeini. A key component to Khomeini's rise to power is his "Prophetic Charisma." Based on the works of Max Weber and Erich Fromm as well as the Islamic tradition, I develop this category and demonstrate how it applies to Khomeini. "Charismic Authority," from which Khomeini drew legitimacy, is also thoroughly examined because of the major role it played in deposing the Shah. The research sheds new light into a period of Middle Eastern history that still has an impact ruler.