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He was forced into exile on August 25, 1941. His son, Mohammad Reza, only 21 at the time, was named shah in his father’s place. Though not expected to ever be anything other than a puppet of Russia and Britain, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, as he was now known, would surprise everyone, Iranians included, by seeking to transform himself into a modern-day Persian king of kings, even more ruthlessly determined than his father to create a secular, modern, independent, and autonomous Iran. He would make many of the same enemies as his father, for many of the same reasons—antidemocratic repression, cruelty, corruption, obsessive commitment to modernization 59 60 ali khamenei despite widespread reluctance, and antireligious secularization of society.

He was born in the holy city of Mashhad in Khorasan province, in northeastern Iran. Its name means “place of martyrdom,” and it is sometimes described as Iran’s holiest city. It was the site of the martyrdom of Imam Reza, the eighth imam of Shiite Islam. He was believed to have been poisoned by a Sunni caliph named Al Ma’mun. The village was small at the time of Imam Reza’s death, but a shrine built in his honor soon attracted so many visitors and pilgrims that a city grew up around it. Today, Mashhad is the second largest city in Iran after the capital, Tehran, and is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Shiite Muslims, 20 million of whom visit it every year.

Just as the shahs of old relied on Zoroastrian priests to support their rule and convince the people of their divine right to govern, Abbas harnessed the influence of Shiite clerics to bolster his stature. He founded many madrassas and gathered Shiite clerics from across the Islamic world to his kingdom. ” He went on long pilgrimages. All of this cast Abbas as the just ruler in the eyes of his subjects. Abbas had restored the close cooperation of church and state. He reestablished the Sassanian model of a ruler who derives his power from the ranks of the clerics, and clerics who enjoy the patronage and prestige that can be granted only by a king.

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