Scholars of the Iranian revolution have often explained the 1979 overthrow of the Pahlavi regime in terms of the rise of an Islamic movement that inspired Iranians to challenge the shah, confront the powerful army, and engage in martyrdom to bring down the monarchy. Leaders of the Islamic regime also consistently endorsed these views and claimed that the revolution was for Islam. This article analyzes the nature of the collective actions of major actors immediately before and during the revolution. Specifically, it examines the timing, demands, and claims of major collectivities and challengers that participated in the revolutionary process. It concludes that although segments of Iranian intellectuals and students fought for an Islamic government, the vast majority of the Iranian people never fought for a theocracy, established by Khomeini and his allies. The causes, processes, and outcome of the Iranian revolution were too complex to be explained by single, overarching, ideological explanations.

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