Rouhullah Khomeini was born on the 24th of September 1902. His father was Agha Mustafa Mujtahid Kamareh’i. Rouhullah was the grandson of Sayyid Ahmad, and the great grandson of Deen Ali Shah.
Deen Ali Shah lived in the Khorassan area but due to the civil conflicts among the three tribes: Afshar, Zand and Qajar, he had to leave Khorassan for India. India at that time was a peaceful country, which attracted many immigrants. The main reason behind Ali Shah’s departure to India was the advantages Muslims enjoyed in India during that time. India was famous for being peaceful, and we can see this in Saeeb’s following saying, who was a famous Persian poet at that time, “All hearts like to go to India.”
Sayyid Ahmad, who was Ali Shah’s son, was born in India. After a short time, India underwent political turmoil. The Shia, who were in power at the time, lost their authority and the British forces ceased this opportunity and took over. Sayyid Ahmad left India for Iraq in order to free himself of the British rule.
In Iraq, where Shia Imams are buried and their holy shrines are located, Sayyid Ahmad met Yusuf Khan Kamareh’i, who was a pilgrim there. Yusuf Khan invited Sayyid Ahmad to join him in Khomein, and so Sayyid Ahmad entered Khomein before 1825 when Mozzafar al-Deen Shah was in power.
Sayyid Ahmad married Sakina in Khomein. She was the daughter of Mohammad Hassan Baik, also known as Yusuf Khan’s sister. They had four children, three daughters and one son. Their daughters were called Sultan, Agha Banoo, and Sahib .Their son’s name was Mustafa. Sayyid Ahmad was known to be strict in religious affairs and to defend the weak. His daughter Sahib Khanom, in the words of Ayatollah Passandideh, “inherited the braveness of her father”. She took care of her brothers and sisters after losing their father.
Sayyid Ahmad passed away in 1869 in Khomein. His life was full of struggles and hardships. He was buried in Karbala.Agha Mustafa Mujtahid Kamareh’i –Imam Khomeini’s father…
The last child of Sayyid Ahmad and Sakina was born on Thursday evening in Rajab, in 1862 and in the Razi district of Khomein. Agha Mustafa lost his father when he was less than eight years old. He went to a school called maktabkhaneh, which taught Islamic studies. After finishing his education in this school he went to Isfahan to pursue further education. In Isfahan he attended the lectures of great scholars such as Agha Najafi and Agha Fesharaki. After staying in Isfahan for some time, he left for Najaf in 1888. The following scholars are among the many who lectured him in Najaf: Akhond Khorassani, Mirzaye Shirazi, Shaikh Abdullah Mazandarani and Mirzaye Naeen. Agha Mustafa studied there for eight years and gained a degree in ‘discretion in passing judgments’. He used his time in Najaf productively and left for Khomein in 1894.
When he returned to Khomein, he was 33 years old. He was young and energetic. Living in Najaf created a suitable opportunity for Mustafa to become familiar with political affairs and different social problems. Thus he used his political experiences when he returned to his hometown. Like other leading figures, he gathered a group to defend and protect his family and people who were with him. After the year 1896, namely after the assassination of Nasser- e-dean Shah, Iran underwent chaos and insecurity, thus Agha Mustafa’s role became more distinguished. Due to his good reputation among the people, they gathered round him and saw his territory as a secure and safe shelter, “It was the place to take sanctuary”.Marriage and the childrenof Agha Mustafa
Agha Mustafa married Hajar, the daughter of his teacher, Haj Mirza Ahmad. This couple had six children and among them was Rouhullah (aka Imam Khomeini), who was born in 1902. All their children, except for their first daughter, were born in Khomein.Assassination of Agha Mustafa
Agha Mustafa had a shorter life compared to his contemporaries. His enmity against Braham Khan, one of Khomein’s powerful figures had grave consequences. Mustafa opposed the Khan’s oppressive character and so conflicts arose and this resulted in the loss of Mustafa’s life. Charged with many crimes, the authorities arrested Braham Khan and kept him in prison, where he died. The Khan’s brothers, who were unable to protest against the local authority, pretended to be obedient. They devised a plan to kill Mustafa on a cold winter day. Their plans were successful as they finally killed Mustafa on the 13th of February 1903.On that day Agha Mustafa was on his way to Sultan Abad, when the brothers of Braham Khan, who went by the name of Reza Qoli and Ja’far Khan, hid in a bush and shot him. The news of Mustafa’s assassination soon reached Iraq. People attacked the killers’ residence and burnt it down. In addition a large number of people gathered to grieve the loss of this great man and give their condolences to Mustafa’s family.
The daily newspaper ‘IRAN’, reported this tragic event in detail. Azadol Sultan, who was in charge of this case, did his utmost to catch the men in charge of this murder. Sultan Reza Qoli, who was one of the murderers died before he was arrested. Nevertheless the family of Mustafa did not give up and insisted on getting justice. In the meantime Ja’far Qoli Khan, who also took part in the murder, was arrested. Due to Mustafa’s family’s insistence Mozzafar Al-Deen Shah ordered the execution of Ja’far Qoli, and so he was executed on the 10th of May 1904 in Tehran.
A writer described this event in detail. He wrote: “While the King was on his way to Europe such an incident took place.” ‘Adab’ another newspaper also mentioned this and wrote that “the people of the capital city of Tehran were glad of the outcome of the case”.
Imam Khomeini’s mother was called Hajar and she was the daughter of Mirza Ahmad Mujtahid. Mirza Ahmad went by the title Akhond and was the son of Mullah Hussein Khansari, who was one of the offspring of Mullah Hayder Khansari. Mullah Haydar was a great scholar and lived at the time of Shah Abbas the 1st. He wrote two books entitled; Mazyaaayan and Zandol Tassanif.
Mirza Ahmad was born around the middle of the nineteenth century in Khomein. His father led the congregational prayers and gave lectures in the Mosque in Khomein. One of Mirza Ahmad’s pupils was Agha Mustafa, who later became his son-in-law. Mirza Ahmad was famous for his honesty and had a good reputation among the people. Akhond died 7 years before the birth of his grandson, Rouhullah.
Hajar (Imam Khomeini’s mother)
Hajar was the eldest daughter of Mirza Ahmad and was born between the years 1868 and 1872 in Khomein. Her father was a famous scholar and the leader of the congregational prayers of the central Mosque in that city.
Agha Mustafa was the student of Mirza Ahmad. He married Hajar in 1882. After two years they left Khomein for Najaf. Mustafa continued his studies in Najaf and returned home after 8 years, where he had six children. The last one was Rouhullah (aka Khomeini). Rouhullah was about four months old when he lost his father. Hajar did not let Agha Mustafa’s murderers get away easily and fought for justice to be carried out. Although Hajar was young and could marry again, she preferred to spend her life bringing up her children. Her sister-in- law Sahib Khanoom helped her bring up the children. Two of Agha Mustafa’s sons chose to be clergymen, so their mother sent them to Isfahan. Morteza and Noor-e-Deen went to howza (university of Jurisprudence and Islamic studies), but Rouhullah was kept in Khomein. Hajar sent Rouhullah to school too so that he would not miss out. Hajjar was quite popular among the people. She died at the age of fifty and was buried in Qom.
Rouhullah lost his father when he was four months old. His aunt Sahib Khanoom moved to her brother’s house to help look after the children. Hajar, Rouhullah’s mother, left Khomein for Tehran to make sure justice was carried out for her husband and Sahib Khanoom accompanied her. Rouhullah was left at home with Agha Mustafa’s older sister and a nanny, who was called Nanah Khavar and who, breastfed Rouhullah.
Agha Morteza, Rouhullah’s elder brother, says the following regarding their childhood: “My late aunt Sahib Khanoom took good care of us. Hajar Khanoom also looked after us. Mashadi Qanbar was responsible for our lands. As we did not use the inner part of the house, we lived in the front section of the house. Thus, my mother rented out the inner part to the government.”
After learning Qur’an at home Rouhullah went to school at the age of seven. He started to take lessons from Mullah Abul Qasim. He then went to Sheikh Ja’far’s Maktabkhaneh. Sheikh Ja’far was his mother’s nephew. He was also taught by Mirza Mahmood (aka Eftekharol Ulama) and Seitoti. Eftekharol Ulama and his mother, who was a very learned woman and taught astrology, were Rouhullah’s private teachers. They taught him at his house.
As we said before the two elder brothers left Khomein for Isfahan but Rouhullah remained at home. He started his studies in Khomein. He was also taught by Haj Mirza Reza Najafi (aka Agha Najafi), who was his cousin, brother-in law and a Mujtahid. In addition Agha Morteza, Rouhullah’s elder brother, was both his teacher and his guardian. Imam Khomeini looked up to Agha Morteza like a son does to a father. He frequently told his son Ahmad “If I had not had a brother like Morteza, I could not have studied”. Rouhullah stayed in Khomein until he was seventeen. As there was nothing more for him to learn in Khomein he left.
Imam Khomeini witnessed great injustice and oppressive rulers. Rulers would rob their own people. “I myself one day saw the government’s men tease and bother a merchant, who was famous for being a good person. I was a small child at the time and was standing in a corner. I saw them hit and then drag the man. They hit him with a hammer. I do not know what happened next. Men such as Einol Dowleh, who burnt people in the market place, were plenty. At that time, the governor of the so-called state paid an amount of money to supposedly help the people then forcefully got back ten times that amount from the people. The people couldn’t complain because no one listened to them. There was great corruption, for instance if anyone bribed the governor of Isfahan then he could do whatever he liked and no one could protest. Protesting did not mean anything.”
Imam Khomeini both saw and heard about such corruption, as his father’s home was a shelter for the oppressed people. Khomeini says “From childhood I was involved in fighting. I have never mentioned this before but we were attacked by the Zallagis and the Rajabalis. We had guns. Even though I was going through the early stages of puberty and I was just a child, I would go to check the trenches because thieves surrounded the area .They sat in the bushes and waited for a suitable time to start their plundering.”
Imam Khomeini also recalls some other occasions. He says “When we were in Khomein we built a fort. I had a gun and I was about sixteen years old. Agha Morteza, who was an old man and was good at shooting and taught me how to use a gun. We stood behind the fort and fought against the rabbles who tried to plunder us. It was chaos. The central government was weak and was unable to cope with these thieves. Nayib Hussein, who was a theif controlled the roads of Qom and Kashan. Nayib Hussein and his sons attacked us. Once the Zallagis attacked and captured one of the areas in Khomein and we fought back and tried to defend Khomein.”
Imam Khomeini remembers the First World War and the famine, he says the following regarding this matter: “We could find nothing. There was disease, famine, misery and many deaths.” The Russian troops entered Khomein and so food supplies vanished. When the war’s flames reached Tehran, the politicians decided to change the capital from Tehran to Isfahan. This did not happen due to many reasons. Thus, some of the state men rushed towards the Western part of Iran to form a national government. These groups passed through Khomein on their way to Kermanshah. This created the opportunity for the young Khomeini to observe them up close. Thus, he was acquainted with the current events.
The Imam says I was a pupil when the Russian troops entered Khomein. “It was the 22nd of February 1916 and the First World War had started. An attack was launched against us. The outcome of this blitz was famine, disease and death. There were so many dead bodies piled upon each other that no one could bury them. People had no choice but to bury the dead bodies with the same clothes they had died in, all together. They were buried in the cemetery next to Imam Zadeh Abu Talib.”
Cholera spread everywhere and killed many people. It finally reached Khomeini’s family as well, and took the lives of their dearest ones. Rouhullah was sick and his aunt took him away to a peaceful place. Luckily he narrowly escaped death. Although Rouhullah’s aunt was able to save her nephew she was unable to save herself and she passed away soon after in 1918. Khomeini lost his mother 5 months after this incident.
At this time Imam Khomeini was sixteen years old. He had lost his parents and his beloved aunt as well. From then on he was alone and had to stand on his own feet. When the circumstances improved, he wanted to immigrate to Isfahan and join his brothers there. However he did not go Isfahan as Arak’s famous Theology School attracted many students from other areas and so he decided to go there instead.Emigration to Arak
When Hajj Abdul Karim Ha’eri Yazdi entered Arak he established a School of Theology, which quickly caught up with Isfahan’s Theology School and which at the time was the best in the country. Therefore, Rouhullah decided to join this newly established Theology School and so went to Arak, which is 60 kilometers away from Khomein. There, Imam Khomeini studied for one year under the great scholars Sheikh Mohammad Ali Borojerdi and Agha Sheikh Golpayegani. During this time he also studied the book Sharhe Lame’ by Agha Abbas Araki.Emigration to Qom
Imam Khomeini did not stay long in Arak because Haj Sheikh Abdul Karim Ha’erri Yazdi left Arak for good and went to stay in Qom. Four months after the departure of Abdul Karim, Imam Khomeini also went to Qom and settled down there. He had a small room in Darol Shafa School and continued his studies there. He could not attend Abdul Karim’s lessons at the beginning. He had to finish his general studies and education first. Therefore he attended the classes run by Saied Ali Yathrebi, Adib Khorrasani and Hajj Mohammed Taqi Khansari.
Imam Khomeini was finally able to attend Sheikh Ha’erri’s classes. Under Sheikh Ha’erri’s supervision he specialized in particular areas of Islamic studies. His main courses were taught by Shaikh Ha’erri. Imam Khomeini never missed any lessons given by any scholars. He attended the classes that were run by: Hajj Mirza Javad Maliki, who was the author of Assrarol Salavat, Mirza Abol Hassan Rafiee Qazwini, who was the writer of Do’aya Sahar (He was in Qom from the year 1962 to 1968), and Agha Sheikh Reza Mohammad Reza Masjid Shahi, who was the writer of Wagayi’ol Athaan and who lived in Qom from 1965 to 1967.
Imam Khomeini focused on the lessons of two outstanding lecturers: Ayatollah Hajj Abdol Karim Ha’erri and Ayatollah Mirza Mohammad Ali Shah Aabadi. The former was a great scholar, and had a high status among the scholars of theology. He had studied under great men such as Mirza Mohammad Hassan Shirazi, Akhond Khorassani, Kadhim Yazdi. The latter also met great intellectuals such as Mirza Hassan Ashtiyani, Hassan Khallili and Mirza Hashim Rashti
Imam Khomeini was so fond of the lectures taught by Ayatollah Ha’erri that he composed some verses of poetry describing them:
Spring has arrived and become the envy of paradise/ The flowers have blossomed like the appearance of a loved one.
Due to his coming, the world will be full of science and empty from ignorance/ like Qom which became the best city of the country due to the arrival of Sheikh Ajal
Perfect grand, complete bounty, generous ocean, endless treasure/ Abdul Karim the mine of generosity, the shelter for the Muslims
The bearer of the treasure of knowledge of the salaf, the fountain of the descendant’s knowledge/ God generously bestowed him with the leading role of religion
In his shadow has gathered the proclamation of religion of every land/ Students of Islam come to him from all lands
Oh God! Make him live long and increase his dignity / As he revives the religion of the best of the messengers.
He has also recited the following verses in this regard:
Establish Qom’s theology school for the world/ In order to lead the Muslims to the right path
Oh God! Give a long life to the generous man named Karim / And bestow Your favour on him like pouring rain.
Bless his followers with everlasting goodness/ Befall his enemies with misfortune and melancholy
He has also written the following verses:
His name keeps the name of Islam alive;
I look around and see every heartbroken man thinking/ Arise O king (i.e. God) and help the faithful especially this gift who is the supporter of Islam
In fact if this sign (i.e. Ha’erri) had not been in this land/ If Islam’s boat had not had a captain
If his sword had not been to fight against the enemies
There would not have been any sign of Islam left…..*
He met and was with some scholars who were the real leaders of the country. They were indeed the heads of Shi’a faith. Their ways were the same as the Prophet’s (saw) ways. Master Hajj Sheikh Abdul Karim Ha’erri was at his time the leading figure of Shia Muslims around the world. He was a very humble man. He was so modest that he had his meals with his servants. He sat on the floor and was very friendly with his students. During the final years of his life, he became ill and so would put a material round his head and walk in the evenings with his slippers on. Nothing could scar or decrease his dignity and greatness.
Other high-ranked scholars were the same and had a very simple life. They stayed away from Satan, which never leaves some. They acted like ordinary people. They would buy their needs from the market themselves. Furthermore they had a separate job in order to earn money to live. They were not at all arrogant and did not walk or talk with an air of pride. Although they were great men they were so modest that it shocked many. They were popular and people really respected them.
Ayatollah Shah Abadi, had the most effect on Imam Khomeini’s personality. Imam Khomeini respected him highly throughout his life. He always mentioned and remembered him. Ayatollah Shah Abadi was not one of those men who sat in a corner in solitude. He was not a person who only thought of rescuing himself. He was a political and social scholar as well and tried to defend Islam. It was these characteristics that made Imam Khomeini fond of him. Imam Khomeini insisted on taking part in his lectures and adopted his manner.
The story of Imam Khomeini’s acquaintance with Ayatollah Shah Abadi is interesting. The Imam himself told this story to his son Ahmad, and said: “I was introduced to him by one of my relatives. I met him in FeiziyehSchool. I asked him a question about one of the affairs of the mystics and he gave a good answer. Therefore I thought him to be the great scholar I was looking for. I found him well informed and followed him and kept insisting that he accept me as one his students. However he refused, and so I asked if I could take only one lesson. By this time, we had reached the Abedin Cross road. He thought I wanted to take philosophy, so he accepted. I explained that I had finished philosophy and so he repeated the same negative words, ‘No’. I carried on insisting. He finally gave up and accepted me as one of his students. I studied Fosoos and Miftahol Gheib next to him for around seven years.”
Sayyid Ahmad says: “I asked the Imam how many students were there and he said: ‘the maximum was three, but most of the time I was alone. He taught me divine mysticism.'” Sayyid Ahmad adds that “I asked did you study any other lessons under the supervision of Ayatollah Shah Abadi? The Imam answered, ‘I studied Meftahol Gheib on Thursdays and Fridays and holidays. I also wrote footnotes to Meftahol Gheib while I was studying Meftahol Gheib and Fosoos.’ I asked what else did you study and the Imam answered: ‘the book named Manazenol Saereen. Sometimes one or two other pupils joined us, but they wouldn’t stay for very long. I told Shah Abadi that the matters you are saying are not in any book, where do you learn them from? He replied “it has been said”. This meant that these are my own words. I owe him so much. He was well informed and was very knowledgeable in both philosophy and. Mysticism.'” Sayyid Ahmad also asked: “How long did you study Mysticism next to Ayatollah Shah Abadi?” The Imam answered: “I cannot really remember I think I studied five or six years. When Ayatollah Shah Abadi came to Qom, I was a bachelor. I continued studying even after I got married.”
During these years Imam Khomeini benefited a great deal from Shah Abadi’s lectures. His personality had such an effect on Imam Khomeini that any time the Imam spoke of him he added” May I be sacrificed for him”. The Imam kept in touch with him even when Agha Shah Abadi moved to Tehran and attended his congregational prayers eagerly. This relationship was so strong Imam Khomeini’s father-in- law once said “Rouhullah comes to Tehran to meet Agha Shah Abadi and then he asks for his wife.” It was perhaps due to these words that the Imam said, “No one knows Ayatollah Shah Abadi as I know him.”
He wrote his first book entitled Sharhe Doaye Sahar, which is about mystical and philosophical questions. He wrote this book in Arabic at the age of 27. He was one of the outstanding figures in the Theology School of Qom. Imam Khomeini gained his degree in analytical thought when he was thirty-five years old. The book Aeeneye Daneshvaran introduces him as follows:
“Imam Khomeini is one of the studious scholars. He has gained a great deal of knowledge from the philosophical and Mystical lectures, which were taught by the scholar Ayatollah Shah Abadi the majority of the time. He spends most of his time studying and teaching the books of Sadrol Motaal’een, which are philosophical mystical and ethical books. He was one of the experts in these areas while these books were published. His lessons were so interesting that I always remember the verses of poetry he recited:
For my friend’s desire, I sacrificed my life I left my home and my family for the sake of my friend”
Imam spent most of his time studying the mystical, philosophical, and ethical books and teaching and writing books. In the first and second decades of his stay in Qom, he was busy writing. His main activities were surveying different sources within his field of study. He started teaching philosophical books from 1928 in the Feizieh School. One of the Imam’s students says the following: “The Imam was chosen as one of the outstanding scholars in the year 1937. At that time, he was only thirty-six years old. He would come to school in the afternoons and sit in front of one of the student’s rooms, which was located in the Western corner of the school. There he would have discussions with great scholars such as Sayyid Mohammad Yazdi (aka Damad), Sheikh Hassan Novee ,and Sheikh Fadhil Lankarani……I have heard from some of the students that from the start of the year (1939) Agha Rouhullah Khomeini will start teaching Molla Hadi Sabzevari’s book regarding astronomy…..He had his own method of teaching. It was different from the other scholars. He himself was very educated in these fields.”Marital life
Imam Khomeini got married at the age of 27, this was relatively late at his time and was due to his devotion to his studies. He married the daughter of Mirza Mohammad Thaqafi in 1929. Thaqafi was one of the scholars of Tehran. Imam Khomeini had seven children. Two sons and five daughters, his son’s names were Mustafa and Ahmad. His daughter’s names were Seddiqa-Khanoom, Farideh, Fahimeh, Sa’eedeh and Latifeh. His last two daughters died during their childhood.
Early Political Activity
In January 1963, the Shah announced a six-point program of reform called the White Revolution, an American-inspired package of measures designed to give his regime a liberal and progressive facade. Imam Khomeini summoned a meeting of his colleagues (other Ayatollahs) in Qom to press upon them the necessity of opposing the Shah’s plans. Imam Khomeini persuaded the other senior marjas of Qom to decree a boycott of the referendum that the Shah had planned to obtain the appearance of popular approval for his White Revolution. Imam Khomeini issued on January 22, 1963 a strongly worded declaration denouncing the Shah and his plans. Two days later Shah took armored column to Qom, and he delivered a speech harshly attacking the ”ulama” as a class. Imam Khomeini continued his denunciation of the Shah’s programs, issuing a manifesto that also bore the signatures of eight other senior scholars. In it he listed the various ways in which the Shah allegedly had violated the constitution, condemned the spread of moral corruption in the country, and accused the Shah of comprehensive submission to America and Israel. He also decreed that the Norooz celebrations for the Iranian year 1342 (which fell on March 21, 1963) be cancelled as a sign of protest against government policies. On the afternoon of Ashoura (June 3, 1963), Imam Khomeini delivered a speech at the Feiziyeh Madreseh in which he drew parallels between Yazid and the Shah and warned the Shah that if he did not change his ways the day would come when the people would offer up thanks for his departure from the country.
Following Imam Khomeini’s public denunciation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as a “wretched miserable man” and arrest, on June 5, 1963 (Khordad 15, on the Iranian calendar), three days of major riots erupted throughout Iran with nearly 400 killed. Imam Khomeini was kept under house arrest for 8 months and was released in 1964.
Also this was a turning point in political viewpoint of Shi’a. The clergies had supported Shiite monarchy since establishment of Safavids and this was the main source of legitimacy of monarchs. Shiite clergies had advised them to be just and obey Ja’fari jurisprudence. Also monarchs didn’t enforce religious rules which restricted or threatened religious life and institutions and defended the Shiite territory of Iran. But Reza Shah transformed the Iranian monarchy into a modern dictatorship. The modernizing programs of Pahlavi dynasty restricted and threatened religious life and made clergies be against monarchy and finally Imam Khomeini decide to fight with them and build another state comparable to religious rules.
Logically, in the 1970s, as contrasted with the 1940s, he no longer accepted the idea of a limited monarchy under the Iranian Constitution of 1906-1907, an idea that was clearly evidenced by his book Kashf-e Asrar. In his Islamic Government (Hokumat-e Islami)— which is a collection of his lectures in Najaf published in 1970 —he rejected both the Iranian Constitution as an alien import from Belgium and monarchy in general. He believed that the government was an un-Islamic and illegitimate institution usurping the legitimate authority of the supreme religious leader (Faqih), who should rule as both the spiritual and temporal guardian of the Muslim community (Umma).
In early 1970 Imam Khomeini gave a lecture series in Najaf on Islamic Government which later was published as a book titled variously Islamic Government or Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (velayat-e faqih). This was his most famous and influential work and laid out his ideas on governance (at that time):
-That the laws of society should be made up only of the laws of God (Sharia), which cover “all human affairs” and “provide instruction and establish norms” for every “topic” in “human life.”
-Since Sharia, or Islamic law, is the proper law, those holding government posts should have knowledge of Sharia (Islamic jurists are such people), and that the country’s ruler should be a faqih who “surpasses all others in knowledge” of Islamic law and justice, as well as having intelligence and administrative ability. Rule by monarchs and/or assemblies of “those claiming to be representatives of the majority of the people” (i.e. elected parliaments and legislatures) have been proclaimed “wrong” by Islam.
-This system of clerical rule is necessary to prevent injustice: corruption, oppression by the powerful over the poor and weak, innovation and deviation of Islam and Sharia law; and also to destroy anti-Islamic influence and conspiracies by non-Muslim foreign powers.
A modified form of this velayat-e faqih system was adopted after Imam Khomeini and his followers took power, and he became the Islamic Republic’s first “Guardian” or Supreme Leader.
In the mean time, however, Imam Khomeini was careful not to publicize his ideas for clerical rule outside of his Islamic network of opposition to the Shah which he worked to build and strengthen over the next decade. Cassette copies of his lectures fiercely denouncing the Shah as, for example, “the Jewish agent, the American snake whose head must be smashed with a stone,” became common items on the markets of Iran, helped to demythologize the power and dignity of the Shah and his reign.
After the death in 1975 of Dr. Ali Shariati, an Islamic reformist revolutionary author/academic/philosopher who greatly popularized the Islamic revival among young educated Iranians, Imam Khomeini became perhaps the most influential leader of the opposition to the Shah perceived by many Iranians as the spiritual, if not political, leader of revolt. As protest grew, so did his profile and importance. During the last few months of his exile, Imam Khomeini received a constant stream of reporters, supporters, and notables, eager to hear the spiritual leader of the revolution.
Conservative estimates put the welcoming crowd of Iranians at least three million. When Imam Khomeini was on plane on his way to Iran after many years in exile, a reporter, Peter Jennings asked him: “What do you feel?” and surprisingly Imam Khomeini answered “Nothing!”.
In a speech given to a huge crowd after returning to Iran from exile Feb.1, 1979, Imam Khomeini attacked the government of Shapoor Bakhtiar promising “I shall punch their teeth in.” He also made a variety of promises to Iranians for his coming Islamic regime: A popularly elected government that would represent the people of Iran.
Relationship with other Islamic nations
But because of Islamic ideology of Islamic Republic of Iran, most rulers of other Muslim nations turned against him and supported Iraq in the imposed war against Iran, even though most of Islamic parties and organizations supported his idea, especially the Shiite ones.
With what many believe was the encouragement of the United States, Saudi Arabia and other countries, Iraq soon launched a full scale invasion of Iran, starting what would become the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War (September 1980 – August 1988). A combination of fierce patriot resistance by Iranians and military incompetence by Iraqi forces soon stalled the Iraqi advance and by early 1982 Iran regained almost all the territory lost to the invasion. The invasion rallied Iranians behind the new regime, enhancing Imam Khomeini’s stature and allowed him to consolidate and stabilize his leadership.
Although outside powers supplied arms to both sides during the war, the West (America in particular) became alarmed by the possibility of the Islamic revolution spreading throughout the oil-exporting Persian Gulf oil and began to supply Iraq with whatever help it needed. The war continued for another six years, with 450,000 to 950,000 casualties on the Iranian side and the use of chemical weaponry by the Iraqi military.
As the costs of the eight-year war mounted, Imam Khomeini, in his words, “drank the cup of poison” and accepted a truce mediated by the United Nations. As the war ended, the struggles among the clergy resumed and Imam Khomeini’s health began to decline.
Life for religious minorities has been mixed under Imam Khomeini and his successors. Shortly after his return from exile in 1979, Imam Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering that Jews and other minorities (except Bahai) be treated well. By law, several seats in the parliament are reserved for minority religions. Imam Khomeini also called for unity between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims (Sunni Muslims are the largest religious minority in Iran).
Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei came to be selected by the Assembly of Experts to be Imam Khomeini’s successor, in accordance with the constitution.
Political thought and legacy
Imam Khomeini adamantly opposed monarchy, arguing that only rule by a leading Islamic jurist would insure Sharia was properly followed (velayat-e faqih).
Imam Khomeini believed that Iran should strive towards self-reliance. He viewed certain elements of Western culture as being inherently decadent and a corrupting influence upon the youth. As such, he often advocated the banning of popular Western fashions, music, cinema, and literature. His ultimate vision was for Islamic nations to converge together into a single unified power, in order to avoid alignment with either side (the West or the East), and he believed that this would happen at some point in the near future.
Imam Khomeini expressed support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; in Sahifeh Nour (Vol. 2, page 242), he states: “We would like to act according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We would like to be free. We would like independence.”
Imam Khomeini led an ascetic lifestyle, being deeply interested in mysticism, and was against the accumulation of land and wealth by the clergy.
Many of Imam Khomeini’s political and religious ideas were considered to be progressive and reformist by leftist intellectuals and activists prior to the Revolution.
Imam Khomeini’s definition of democracy existed within an Islamic framework. His last will and testament largely focuses on this line of thought, encouraging both the general Iranian populace, the lower economic classes in particular, and the clergy to maintain their commitment to fulfilling Islamic revolutionary ideals.
Tuesday the 22nd of May 1989 was a sorrowful day for all those who were supporters and followers of the Imam. On this day the 2pm news reported that the Imam’s bleeding digestive system needed an emergency surgery. People were so concerned that they went to the mosques and prayed for Imam Khomeini to get well. The updates that Imam Khomeini’s doctors gave indicated promising news. However on the 2nd of June worrying news spread throughout the country. People started to pray again for Imam Khomeini and kept reading the following holy verse: “He who answers the desperate one when he calls to Him and Who removes [his] distress”.
The 3rd of June was a tragic day, the 7 am news on the radio stated the following: “In the name of God, to God we belong and to Him we return. The holy spirit of the leader of Muslims and free men, Imam Khomeini, has gone to meet his creator.”
Upon hearing the news, people went into the streets and cries could be heard from every corner. Tehran and all the cities of Iran mourned this great loss. Hosseiniyaya Jamaran, where the Imam sometimes gave his speeches, was covered with black cloth and people came to mourn the loss of their leader.
On the morning of the 5th of June millions of people came to bid farewell to a leader who they loved. Millions of people all around the world saw incredible scenes, which showed how the people said goodbye to their leader. It has been recorded that over 10 million people attended his funeral. This day reminded the Iranian nation of the 31st of January. Imam Khomeini captured the hearts of millions of people. Imam Khomeini’s body was buried next to the graves of thousands of martyrs who had lost their lives for their country. The blessings his life bestowed upon people did not finish with his passing and still continues to illuminate people’s lives today.