MANIPAL, India, March 23 (UPI) -- Unlike its Sunni counterpart, the theology of which has often been used by autocrats to profess a divine sanction for their license, Shiite Islam had at its theological core the concept of the separation of mosque from state.
The philosophy was clear that until the 12th imam of legend returned from his occultation to take over governance, the clergy were to leave temporal matters alone. It took nearly a thousand years for this tradition to get diluted when, in 1501, the Safavids installed Shiite Islam as the religion of the state.
Almost a half a century later, the Shiite tradition of separation of temporal from spiritual got wholly subverted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who implemented his innovation of a "Velayet-i-Faqih." He -- in the same way as Sunni rulers -- had "divine" sanction to run the administration the way he saw it. This perversion of genuine Shiite tradition has resulted in a crisis of identity in Iran, where those who can be accurately described as "Khomeinist" rather than Shiite or even Muslim rule in the name of the creed they have rendered unrecognizable from its roots.
Given the tension that has existed between Shiite and Sunni Islam from the death of the Prophet Mohammad in AD 632, it is remarkable how closely "Khomeinism" follows in its chemistry and practices a like perversion of Sunni Islam that was invented by Abdul Wahhab, who died in the 18th century, and has now supplanted Islam as the state religion of Saudi Arabia.