Citation for Khatami, Mohamed

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Sachedina, Abdulaziz . "Khatami, Mohamed." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 17, 2022. <>.


Sachedina, Abdulaziz . "Khatami, Mohamed." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 17, 2022).

Khatami, Mohamed

Mohamed Khatami (b. 1943), Iranianscholar and politician, was a leading Shīʿī religious figure whose lineage goes back to the Prophet Muḥammad 's family. Khatami was born into a religious family in Ardakān, Yazd Province, Iran. His father was a well-known member of the religious establishment with special privileges. He is married to Zohreh Sadeghi and has two daughters and a son.

His early education followed the traditional pattern common among clerical families in Iran, and he graduated with a high-school diploma in 1961. He spent the next four years in Qom studying religious sciences. The 1960s in Iran were politically tumultuous when the shah consolidated his program of modernization through westernization and marginalization of the religious establishment and their seminaries. Under these circumstances Khatami pursued a university degree in Isfahan in 1965. He graduated with a BA in 1969, having studied philosophy, among other subjects. In 1970 he entered the University of Tehran for a graduate degree, and after obtaining his MA he returned to Qom to follow up his interest in philosophical studies.

His public career can be traced back to the 1970s, another watershed in modern Iranian history when leading figures like Murtaẓā Muṭahharī, Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Bihishtī, and ʿAlī Sharīʿatī challenged the domestic religious status quo. In 1964 Ayatollah Khomeini had openly defied the autocratic rule of the shah, which in turn emboldened the younger clerics, including Khatami, to call for internal reform of the religious institutions to make them compatible with modernity. In 1978 Khatami headed the Islamic Center in Hamburg, Germany, which provided him with a rare opportunity to learn about the West directly and apply his Islamic learning to guide the Iranian Shīʿah living abroad during the critical unfolding of the Islamic Revolution. After the shah 's fall in 1979, he returned to Iran and was elected to the national assembly, becoming minister of culture and Islamic guidance (1982–1992). His stay abroad and his earlier inclination to philosophical studies made Khatami one of the few moderate religious leaders among the revolutionary supporters of Khomeini. Under his tenure, the Ministry of Islamic Guidance adopted a moderate stance on major controversies connected with publications, films, art, and music, but he was ultimately forced to resign after being charged with liberalism. Khatami subsequently served as director of the National Library and a presidential adviser.

In 1997 outgoing President Hashemi Rafsanjānī supported Khatami in his bid for the presidency. With strong support from political moderates, intellectuals, students, and women he won 70 percent of the vote. As president, he appointed a relatively liberal cabinet and called for democratization and the advancement of women. He also advocated rapprochement between Iran and Arab states as well as improved relations with the West, including the United States. However, hard-line conservatives in the clergy, judiciary, and military opposed many of his reforms, and his first administration was unable to produce significant economic improvements. He reluctantly ran for a second term and was reelected with more than three-quarters of the vote in 2001. But this term was little different from the first, as he was unable to take a firm stance against the hard-liners. This was a weakness of his position as a “robed” politician in a culture in which direct confrontation with the religious establishment after the revolution was avoided at any cost. After eight years in office, he left the presidency in August 2005. Although highly respected abroad for his moderate stance on many issues connected with democratic governance and protection of basic freedoms in Iran, Khatami 's domestic support has dwindled under the impact of the upsurge in the conservative politics of his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His project on the Dialogue of Civilization (in response to Samuel Huntington 's study of the clash of civilizations), which was supported by the U.N. in 2001, remains dormant, with little or no support within Iran and almost no constructive engagement internationally. Khatami is the author of Fear of the Wave (1993), an essay collection, and From the World of the City to the City of the World (1994), a study of Western philosophical and political thought.

See also IRAN.


  • Ansari, Ali M.Iran, Islam, and Democracy: The Politics of Managing Change. 2d ed.London, 2006. Lucid account of Khatami 's election and presidency.
  • Khatami, Mohamed. Hope and Challenge: The Iranian President Speaks. New York, 1997.
  • Khatami, Mohamed. Islam, Dialogue, and Civil Society. Canberra, 2000.

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