Before coming to power, Khomeini argued that the most important duty, indeed the raison d'etre of an Islamic government, was to implement fully the tenets of sharia. But once in power and faced with the complexities of modern Iranian society, he subtly changed the very foundation of his theory. He introduced the concept of maslaha--interests of the regime--and declared, much to the consternation of nearly every other ayatollah, that these interests, as determined by him or his successor, would supersede even the fundamentals of Islam. In other words, the state was everything--and sharia was nothing but its legitimizing narrative, a narrative that could be suspended at the will of the leader.

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