Nation: An Ideology of Martyrdom

"Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!" The Arabic pronouncement that "God is great" sustained the Iranian revolutionaries as they marched through the streets of Tehran in demonstrations against the Shah. The invocation was heard again as students attacked the U.S. embassy, and as mobs last week marched about the captured compound, demanding death for the hostages.

To what extent was the student action—and the Ayatullah Khomeini's endorsement of it—in accordance with Islamic law? Experts differ. Zaki Badawi, Egyptian director of the Islamic Cultural Center in London, argues that "the demand for the return of the...

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