Civil society in Iran is not directly conditioned by the existence of 'sovereign' and 'free' individuals, but by groups or communities and their institutions enjoying a significant degree of autonomy from the state. Civil society in which the ulama and the bazaris were two powerful groups could influence the state and its decision-making. The legitimization of civil autonomy and authority was, in part, religious and, therefore, external to society. Civil society of Iran is thus not constituted of individual citizens contra state and church—as was the case in the West—but as a civic sphere of local communities, the bazaris, Muslim individuals, and the ulama, where the ulama have had a leading position. In the traditional society of Iran, the ulama, using their influential position in civil society, established a system of guardianship of the divine order of society.