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Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini

In office
3 December 1979 – 3 June 1989
President Abolhassan Banisadr
Mohammad Ali Rajai
Ali Khamenei
Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan
Mohammad Ali Rajai
Mohammad-Javad Bahonar
Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani (acting)
Mir-Hossein Mousavi
Deputy Hussein-Ali Montazeri
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Ali Khamenei

In office
5 June 1963 – 3 December 1979
Preceded by New Movement
Succeeded by Movement Abolished

Born 24 September 1902(1902-09-24)
Khomein, Markazi Province, Iran
Died 3 June 1989 (aged 86)
Tehran, Iran
Spouse(s) Khadijeh Saqafi Khomeini
Children Ahmad, Mostafa & others; grandchildren: Hassan, Hussein, Ali Khomeini, Zahra, Atefeh
Religion Usuli Twelver Shi'a Islam

Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini (Persian: روح الله موسوی خمینی, pronounced [ruːhollɑːhe muːsæviːje xomeiniː]  ( listen); 24 September 1902[1][2] – 3 June 1989) was an Iranian religious leader and politician, and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Following the revolution and a national referendum, Khomeini became the country's Supreme Leader—a position created in the constitution as the highest ranking political and religious authority of the nation—until his death.

Khomeini was a marja or marja al-taqlid ("source of emulation", also known as a Grand Ayatollah) in Twelver Shi'a Islam, but is most famous for his political role. In his writings and preachings he expanded the Shi'a Usuli theory of velayat-e faqih, the "guardianship of the jurisconsult (clerical authority)" to include theocratic political rule by Islamic jurists.

Beloved by millions of Iranians [3] he was "the Imam, an ascetic spiritual leader whose teachings are unquestioned."[4] Both his return from exile and his funeral were occasions of great emotional outpouring for millions.

In the non-Muslim world abroad he was described as the "virtual face of Islam in Western popular culture," [5] known for his support of the hostage takers during the Iranian hostage crisis [6] and his fatwa calling for the death of British citizen Salman Rushdie.[7] TIME magazine described him as "a fanatic whose judgments are harsh, reasoning bizarre and conclusions surreal,"[4] and Iranian American scholar Vali Nasr as one who inculcated "fear and distrust towards Islam.[5]

Named Man of the Year in 1979 by American newsmagazine TIME[4], Khomeini has been referred to as a "charismatic leader of immense popularity," [8] considered a "champion of Islamic revival" by both Shia and Sunni scholars.[5]

Khomeini is usually known as Imam Khomeini inside Iran[9] and amongst his followers internationally, and Ayatollah Khomeini outside of the country.[10]


Early life

Ayatollah Khomeini's paternal grandfather, Seyyed Ahmad Musavi Hindi, was born in Kintur, a village in the Barabanki District of Uttar Pradesh,India. He went to Iran in 1834 and settled down in Khomein, Iran in 1839 during the times of British Raj in India to escape colonial rule. [11] Ruhollah began to study the Qur'an, Islam's holiest book, and elementary Persian at age six [12]. The following year, he began to attend a local school, where he learned mathematics, science, geography, and other traditional subjects.[11] Throughout his childhood, he would continue his religious and secular education with the assistance of his relatives, including his mother's cousin, Ja'far,[11] and his elder brother, Morteza Pasandideh.[13]

After World War I arrangements were made for him to study at the Islamic seminary in Esfahan, but he was attracted instead to the seminary in Arak, under the leadership of Ayatollah Abdul Karim Haeri Yazdi.[14] In 1920, Khomeini moved to Arak and commenced his studies.[15] The following year, Ayatollah Haeri Yazdi transferred to the Islamic seminary at the holy city of Qom, southwest of Tehran, and invited his students to follow. Khomeini accepted the invitation, moved,[13] and took up residence at the Dar al-Shafa school in Qom.[16] Khomeini's studies included Islamic law (sharia) and jurisprudence (fiqh)[12], but by that time, Khomeini had also acquired an interest in poetry and philosophy (irfan). So, upon arriving in Qom, Khomeini sought the guidance of Mirza Ali Akbar Yazdi, a scholar of philosophy and mysticism. Yazdi died in 1924, but Khomeini would continue to pursue his interest in philosophy with two other teachers, Javad Aqa Maleki Tabrizi and Rafi'i Qazvini.[17][18] However, perhaps Khomeini's biggest influences were yet another teacher, Mirza Muhammad 'Ali Shahabadi,[19] and a variety of historic Sufi mystics, including Mulla Sadra and Ibn Arabi.[18]

Muslim scholar
Name: Ruhollah Mousawi Khomeini
Title: Imam Khomeini
Birth: 24 September 1902[1][2]
Death: 3 June 1989 (aged 86)
Region: Iran
Maddhab: Shia Islam
Main interests: Fiqh, Irfan, Islamic philosophy, Islamic ethics, Hadith, politics
Notable ideas: Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists, Islamic Democrasy, Dynamic Fiqh
Works: Islamic Government, Tahrir-ol-vasyleh, Forty Hadith, Adab as Salat
Influences: Mulla Sadra, Abdol-Karim Haeri-Yazdi, Hassan Modarres
Influenced: Mohammad Beheshti, Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Morteza Motahhari, Akbar Hashemi, Fazel Lankarani, Mehdi Karroubi, Ali Khamenei

Ruhollah Khomeini was a lecturer at Najaf and Qum seminaries for decades before he was known in the political scene. He soon became a leading scholar of Shia Islam.[20] He taught political philosophy[21], Islamic history and ethics. Several of his students (e.g. Morteza Motahhari) later became leading Islamic philosophers and also marja. As a scholar and teacher, Khomeini produced numerous writings on Islamic philosophy, law, and ethics.[22] He showed an exceptional interest in subjects like philosophy and gnosticism that not only were usually absent from the curriculum of seminaries but were often an object of hostility and suspicion.[23]

Political aspects

His seminary teaching often focused on the importance of religion to practical social and political issues of the day, and he worked against the outspoken advocacy of secularism in the 1940s. His first book, Kashf al-Asrar (Uncovering of Secrets)[24][25] published in 1942, was a point-by-point refutation of Asrar-e hazar salih (Secrets of a Thousand Years), a tract written by a disciple of Iran's leading anti-clerical historian, Ahmad Kasravi.[26] In addition, he went from Qom to Tehran to listen to Ayatullah Hasan Mudarris- the leader of the opposition majority in Iran's parliament during 1920s. Khomeini became a marja in 1963, following the death of Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Husayn Borujerdi.

Khomeini in 1950s

Literature, poetry and philosophy

Khomeini held a moderate standpoint vis-à-vis Greek Philosophy and regarded Aristotle as the founder of logic.[27] He was also influenced by Plato's philosophy. About Plato he said: "In the field of divinity, he has grave and solid views ...".[28] Among Islamic philosophers, Khomeini was mainly influenced by Avicenna and Mulla Sadra.[27]

Apart from philosophy, Khomeini was also interested in literature and poetry. His poetry collection was released after his death. Beginning in his adolescent years, Khomeini composed mystic, political and social poetry. His poetry works were published in three collections The Confidant, The Decanter of Love and Turning Point and Divan.[29] Some of his poems are even seen as criticizing spirituality and religion, like the one who was firstly dedicated to a commander in Iran-Iraq war but which was published by his son as a memorial to him. He even claims the controversial "I am the Truth" of the Persian mystic Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj and uses the Ṣūfī terminology of wine for instance.[30]

Early political activity


Khomeini in middle age

Most Iranians had a deep respect for the Shi'a clergy or Ulema,[31] and tended to be religious, traditional, and alienated from the process of Westernization pursued by the Shah. In the late 19th century the clergy had shown themselves to be a powerful political force in Iran initiating the Tobacco Protests against a concession to a foreign (British) interest.

At the age of 61, Khomeini found the arena of leadership open following the deaths of Ayatollah Sayyed Husayn Borujerdi (1961), the leading, although quiescent, Shi'ah religious leader; and Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani (1962), an activist cleric. The clerical class had been on the defensive ever since the 1920s when the secular, anti-clerical modernizer Reza Shah Pahlavi rose to power. Reza's son Muhammad Reza Shah, instituted a "White Revolution," which was a further challenge to the ulama.[32]

Opposition to the White Revolution

In January 1963, the Shah announced the "White Revolution," a six-point programme of reform calling for land reform, nationalization of the forests, the sale of state-owned enterprises to private interests, electoral changes to enfranchise women and allow non-Muslims to hold office, profit-sharing in industry, and a literacy campaign in the nation's schools. Some of these initiatives were regarded as dangerous, Westernizing trends by traditionalists, especially by the powerful and privileged Shi'a ulama (religious scholars).[33]

Khomeini and his son Mustafa

Ayatollah Khomeini summoned a meeting of the other senior marjas of Qom and persuaded them to decree a boycott of the referendum on the White Revolution. On 22 January 1963 Khomeini issued a strongly worded declaration denouncing the Shah and his plans. Two days later the Shah took an armored column to Qom, and delivered a speech harshly attacking the ulama as a class.

Khomeini continued his denunciation of the Shah's programmes, issuing a manifesto that bore the signatures of eight other senior Iranian Shia religious scholars. In it he listed the various ways in which the Shah had allegedly violated the constitution, condemned the spread of moral corruption in the country, and accused the Shah of submission to America and Israel. He also decreed that the Nowruz celebrations for the Iranian year 1342 (which fell on 21 March 1963) be canceled as a sign of protest against government policies.

On the afternoon of 'Ashura (3 June 1963), Khomeini delivered a speech at the Feyziyeh madrasah drawing parallels between the infamous tyrant Yazid and the Shah, denouncing the Shah as a "wretched, miserable man," and warning him 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.[34]

On 5 June 1963, (15 of Khordad), two days after this public denunciation of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Khomeini was arrested. This sparked three days of major riots throughout Iran and led to the deaths of some 400. That event is now referred to as the Movement of 15 Khordad.[35] Khomeini was kept under house arrest and released in August ("A History of Iran" by Michael Axworthy).

Opposition to capitulation

During November 1964, Khomeini denounced both the Shah and the United States, this time in response to the "capitulations" or diplomatic immunity granted by the Shah to American military personnel in Iran [36][37]. The famous "capitulation" law (or "status-of-forces agreement") would allow members of the U.S. armed forces in Iran to be tried in their own military courts. Khomeini was arrested in November 1964 and held for half a year. Upon his release, he was brought before Prime Minister Hasan Ali Mansur, who tried to convince Khomeini that he should apologize and drop his opposition to the government. Khomeini refused. In fury, Mansur slapped Khomeini's face.[38] Two weeks later, Mansur was assassinated on his way to parliament. Four members of the Fadayan-e Islam were later executed for the murder.

Life in exile

Khomeini in exile in Paris, France
Khomeini at Neauphle-le-Chateau
Ayatollah Khomeini walking at Neauphle-le-Chateau
Ayatollah Khomeini in front of press at Neuphle-le-Chateau

Khomeini spent more than 14 years in exile, mostly in the holy Shia city of Najaf, Iraq. Initially he was sent to Turkey on 4 November 1964 where he stayed in the city of Bursa for less than a year. He was hosted by a colonel in Turkish Military Intelligence named Ali Cetiner in his own residence, who could not find another accommodation alternative for his stay at the time.[39] Later in October 1965 he was allowed to move to Najaf, Iraq, where he stayed until being forced to leave in 1978, after then-Vice President Saddam Hussein told him that it's better to leave (the two countries would fight a bitter eight year war 1980-1988 only a year after the two reached power in 1979) after which he went to Neauphle-le-Château in France on a tourist visa, apparently not seeking political asylum, where he stayed for four months. According to Alexandre de Marenches, chief of External Documentation and Counter-Espionage Service (now known as the DGSE), France suggested to the shah to "organize a fatal accident for Khomeini"[citation needed]; the shah declined the assassination offer, as that would have made Khomeini a martyr.

By the late 1960s, Khomeini was a marja-e taqlid (model for imitation) for "hundreds of thousands" of Shia, one of six or so models in the Shia world.[40]

While in the 1940s Khomeini accepted the idea of a limited monarchy under the Iranian Constitution of 1906-1907 — as evidenced by his book Kashf al-Asrar — by the 1970s he rejected the idea.

In early 1970, Khomeini gave a series of lectures in Najaf on Islamic government, later published as a book titled variously Islamic Government or Islamic Government: Authority of the Jurist (Hokumat-e Islami: 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." [41]
  • Since Shariah, or Islamic law, is the proper law, those holding government posts should have knowledge of Sharia. Since Islamic jurists or faqih have studied and are the most knowledgeable in Sharia, the country's ruler should be a faqih who "surpasses all others in knowledge" of Islamic law and justice,[42] (known as a marja'), 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) has been proclaimed "wrong" by Islam.[43]
  • 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.[44]

A modified form of this wilayat al-faqih system was adopted after Khomeini and his followers took power, and Khomeini was the Islamic Republic's first "Guardian" or Supreme Leader.

Khomeini and his son Mustafa behind him in Turkey where it is prohibited to wear a religious turban in government institutions

In the meantime, however, 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.

In Iran, a number of actions of the shah including his repression of opponents began to build opposition to his regime.

Cassette copies of his lectures fiercely denouncing the Shah as (for example) "... the Jewish agent, the American serpant whose head must be smashed with a stone",[45] became common items in the markets of Iran,[46] helped to demythologize the power and dignity of the Shah and his reign. Aware of the importance of broadening his base, Khomeini reached out to Islamic reformist and secular enemies of the Shah, despite his long-term ideological incompatibility with them.

After the 1977 death of Dr. Ali Shariati (an Islamic reformist and political revolutionary author/academic/philosopher who greatly popularized the Islamic revival among young educated Iranians), Khomeini became the most influential leader of the opposition to the Shah. He was perceived by many Iranians as the spiritual, if not political, leader of revolt. Adding to his mystique was the circulation among Iranians in the 1970s of an old Shia saying attributed to the Imam Musa al-Kadhem. Prior to his death in 799, al-Kadhem was said to have prophesied that "A man will come out from Qom and he will summon people to the right path".[47] In late 1978, a rumour swept the country that Khomeini's face could be seen in the full moon. Millions of people were said to have seen it and the event was celebrated in thousands of mosques.[48]

As protest grew so did his profile and importance. Although thousands of kilometers away from Iran in Paris, Khomeini set the course of the revolution, urging Iranians not to compromise and ordering work stoppages against the regime.[49] During the last few months of his exile, Khomeini received a constant stream of reporters, supporters, and notables, eager to hear the spiritual leader of the revolution.[50]

Supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Return to Iran

Arrival of Khomeini on 1 February 1979 When asked about his feelings of returning from exile in the plane, he replied that he had none.

Khomeini had refused to return to Iran until the Shah left. On 16 January 1979, the Shah did leave the country (ostensibly "on vacation"), never to return. Two weeks later, on Thursday, 1 February 1979, Khomeini returned in triumph to Iran, welcomed by a joyous crowd estimated at least six million by ABC News reporter Peter Jennings, who was reporting the event from Tehran.

On the Air France flight on his way to Iran, Khomeini was asked by Jennings: "What do you feel in returning to Iran?" Khomeini answered "Hichi" (nothing) [51]. This statement was considered reflective of his mystical or puritanical belief that Dar al-Islam, rather than the motherland, was what mattered, and also a warning to Iranians who hoped he would be a "mainstream nationalist leader" that they were in for disappointment.[52]

Khomeini and people

Khomeini adamantly opposed the provisional government of Shapour Bakhtiar, promising "I shall kick their teeth in. I appoint the government. I appoint the government by support of this nation."[53][54] On 11 February [(Bahman 22)], Khomeini appointed his own competing interim prime minister, Mehdi Bazargan, demanding, "since I have appointed him, he must be obeyed." It was "God's government," he warned, disobedience against which was a "revolt against God."[55]

Establishment of new government

As Khomeini's movement gained momentum soldiers began to defect to his side, and Khomeini declared jihad on soldiers who did not surrender.[56] On 11 February [(Bahman 22)], as revolt spread and armories were taken over, the military declared neutrality and the Bakhtiar regime collapsed.[57] On 30 March 1979, and 31 March 1979, a referendum to replace the monarchy with an Islamic Republic passed with 98% voting in favour of the replacement [58]

Islamic constitution

Khomeini pose prayer

Although revolutionaries were now in charge and Khomeini was their leader, several secular and religious groups were unaware of Khomeini's plan for Islamic government by wilayat al-faqih, which involved rule by a marja' Islamic cleric.[59] This provisional constitution for the Islamic Republic did not include the post of supreme Islamic clerical ruler.[60][61]

Khomeini and his supporters worked to suppress some former allies and rewrote the proposed constitution. Some newspapers were closed, and those protesting the closings were attacked.[62] Opposition groups such as the National Democratic Front and Muslim People's Republican Party were attacked and finally banned.[63] Through popular support and with charges of questionable balloting, Khomeini supporters gained an overwhelming majority of the seats of the Assembly of Experts[64] which revised the proposed constitution. The newly proposed constitution included an Islamic jurist Supreme Leader of the country, and a Council of Guardians to veto un-Islamic legislation and screen candidates for office, disqualifying those found un-Islamic.

In November 1979, the new constitution of the Islamic Republic was adopted by national referendum.[65] Khomeini himself became instituted as the Supreme Leader (supreme jurist ruler), and officially became known as the "Leader of the Revolution." On 4 February 1980, Abolhassan Banisadr was elected as the first president of Iran.

Hostage crisis

On 22 October 1979 the United States admitted the exiled and ailing Shah into the country for cancer treatment. In Iran there was an immediate outcry with both Khomeini and leftist groups demanding the Shah's return to Iran for trial and execution. Revolutionaries were reminded of Operation Ajax, 26 years earlier when the Shah fled abroad while American CIA and British intelligence organized a coup d'état to overthrow his nationalist opponent.

On 4 November, Islamist students calling themselves Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line took control of the American Embassy in Tehran, holding 52 embassy staff hostage for 444 days - an event known as the Iran hostage crisis. In 2005, when Mahmoud Ahmedinejad became president, several of the hostages identified him as one of their captors, although he denied it. In America, the hostage-taking was seen as a flagrant violation of international law and aroused intense anger and anti-Iranian sentiments.[66][67] In Iran the takeover was immensely popular and earned the support of Khomeini under the slogan "America can't do a damn thing against us."[68] The seizure helped to advance the cause of theocratic government and outflank politicians and groups who emphasized stability and normalized relations with other countries. Khomeini is reported to have told his president: "This action has many benefits ... this has united our people. Our opponents do not dare act against us. We can put the constitution to the people's vote without difficulty, and carry out presidential and parliamentary elections."[69] The new theocratic constitution was successfully passed by referendum a month after the hostage crisis began. The effect was the splitting of the opposition into two groups - radicals supporting the hostage taking, and the moderates who opposed it.[69][70] On 23 February 1980, Khomeini proclaimed Iran's Majlis would decide the fate of the American embassy hostages, and demanded that the United States hand over the Shah for trial in Iran for crimes against the nation. Although the Shah died a few months later, during the summer, the crisis continued. In Iran, supporters of Khomeini named the embassy a "Den of Espionage", publicizing details regarding armaments, espionage equipment and many volumes of official and classified documents which they found there.

Relationship with Islamic and non-aligned countries

Khomeini believed in Muslim unity and solidarity and the export of Islamic revolution throughout the world. "Establishing the Islamic state world-wide belong to the great goals of the revolution."[71] He declared the birth week of Muhammad (the week between 12th to 17th of Rabi' al-awwal) as the Unity week. Then he declared the last Friday of Ramadan as International Day of Quds in 1981.[72]

Despite his devotion to Islam, Khomeini also emphasized international revolutionary solidarity, expressing support for the PLO, the IRA, Cuba, and the South African anti-apartheid struggle.[citation needed]

Iran-Iraq War

Shortly after assuming power, Khomeini began calling for Islamic revolutions across the Muslim world, including Iran's Arab neighbor Iraq,[73] the one large state besides Iran with a Shia majority population. At the same time Saddam Hussein, Iraq's secular Arab nationalist Ba'athist leader, was eager to take advantage of Iran's weakened military and (what he assumed was) revolutionary chaos, and in particular to occupy Iran's adjacent oil-rich province of Khuzestan, and, of course, to undermine Iranian Islamic revolutionary attempts to incite the Shi'a majority of his country.

With what many Iranians believe was the encouragement of the United States, Saudi Arabia and other countries, in September 1980 Iraq 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 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 Khomeini's stature and allowed him to consolidate and stabilize his leadership. After this reversal, Khomeini refused an Iraqi offer of a truce, instead demanding reparation and toppling of Saddam Hussein from power.[74][75][76]

Although Iran's population and economy were three times the size of Iraq's, the latter was aided by neighbouring Gulf Arab states, as well as the Soviet Bloc and Western countries. The Gulf Arabs and the West wanted to be sure the Islamic revolution did not spread across the Persian Gulf while the Soviet Union was concerned about the potential threat posed to its rule in central Asia to the north.

The war continued for another six years, its costs mounting. 1988 saw deadly month-long Iraqi missile attacks on Tehran, mounting economic problems, the demoralization of Iranian troops, attacks by the American Navy on Iranian ships and oil rigs in the Persian Gulf, and the recapture by Iraq of the Faw peninsula. In July of that year, Khomeini, in his words, "drank the cup of poison" and accepted a truce mediated by the United Nations. Despite the high cost of the war - 450,000 to 950,000 Iranian casualties and USD $300 billion[77] - Khomeini insisted that extending the war into Iraq in an attempt to overthrow Saddam had not been a mistake. In a 'Letter to Clergy' he wrote: '... we do not repent, nor are we sorry for even a single moment for our performance during the war. Have we forgotten that we fought to fulfill our religious duty and that the result is a marginal issue?'[78]

Rushdie fatwa

In early 1989, Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the assassination of Salman Rushdie, an India-born British author. Khomeini claimed that Rushdie's assassination was a religious duty for Muslims because of his alleged blasphemy against Muhammad in his novel, The Satanic Verses, published in 1988. Rushdie's book contains passages that many Muslims – including Ayatollah Khomeini – considered offensive to Islam and the prophet, but the fatwa has also been attacked for violating the rules of fiqh by not allowing the accused an opportunity to defend himself, and because "even the most rigorous and extreme of the classical jurist only require a Muslim to kill anyone who insults the Prophet in his hearing and in his presence."[79]

Though Rushdie publicly apologized, the fatwa was not revoked. Khomeini explained,

Even if Salman Rushdie repents and becomes the most pious man of all time, it is incumbent on every Muslim to employ everything he has got, his life and wealth, to send him to Hell.[80]

Rushdie himself was not killed but Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the book The Satanic Verses, was murdered and two other translators of the book survived murder attempts.[81]

Life under Khomeini

In a speech given to a huge crowd after returning to Iran from exile 1 February 1979, Khomeini made a variety of promises to Iranians for his coming Islamic regime: A popularly elected government that would represent the people of Iran and with which the clergy would not interfere. He promised that "no one should remain homeless in this country," and that Iranians would have free telephone, heating, electricity, bus services and free oil at their doorstep. While many changes came to Iran under Khomeini, these promises have yet to be fulfilled in the Islamic Republic.[citation needed][82]

Under Khomeini's rule, Sharia (Islamic law) was introduced, with the Islamic dress code enforced for both men and women by Islamic Revolutionary Guards and other Islamic groups[83] Women were required to cover their hair, and men were not allowed to wear shorts. Alcoholic drinks, most Western movies, the practice of men and women swimming or sunbathing together were banned.[84] The Iranian educational curriculum was Islamized at all levels with the Islamic Cultural Revolution; the "Committee for Islamization of Universities"[85] carried this out thoroughly. The broadcasting of any music other than martial or religious on Iranian radio and television was banned by Khomeini on July 1979.[84] The ban lasted 10 years (approximately the rest of his life).[86]

Emigration and economy

Khomeini is said to have stressed "the spiritual over the material".[87][88] Six months after his first speech he expressed exasperation with complaints about the sharp drop in Iran's standard of living: 'I cannot believe that the purpose of all these sacrifices was to have less expensive melons' [89] On another occasion emphasizing the importance of martyrdom over material prosperity: "Could anyone wish his child to be martyred to obtain a good house? This is not the issue. The issue is another world." [90] He is also reportedly famous for answering a question about his economic policies by declaring that 'economics is for donkeys'.[91] This low opinion of economics is said to be "one factor explaining the inchoate performance of the Iranian economy since the revolution."[87] Another factor was the long war with Iraq, whose cost led to government debt and inflation, eroding personal incomes, and unprecedented unemployment.[92]

While Iran became more strict Islamically under Khomeini, absolute poverty rose by nearly 45% during the first 6 years of his rule.[93] Emigration from Iran also developed, reportedly for the first time in the country's history.[94] Since the revolution, an estimated "two to four million entrepreneurs, professionals, technicians, and skilled craftspeople (and their capital)" have emigrated to other countries.[95][96]

Suppression of enemies and opposition

Opposition to the religious rule of the clergy or Islamic government in general was often met with harsh punishments. In a talk at the Fayzieah School in Qom, 30 August 1979, Khomeini warned opponents: "Those who are trying to bring corruption and destruction to our country in the name of democracy will be oppressed. They are worse than Bani-Ghorizeh Jews, and they must be hanged. We will oppress them by God's order and God's call to prayer."[97]

The Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his family left Iran and escaped harm, but hundreds of former members of the overthrown monarchy and military met their end in firing squads, with critics complaining of "secrecy, vagueness of the charges, the absence of defense lawyers or juries", or the opportunity of the accused "to defend themselves." [98] In later years these were followed in larger numbers by the erstwhile revolutionary allies of Khomeini's movement—Marxists and socialists, mostly university students—who opposed the theocratic regime.[99]

In the 1988 massacre of Iranian prisoners, following the People's Mujahedin of Iran operation Forough-e Javidan against the Islamic Republic, Khomeini issued an order to judicial officials to judge every Iranian political prisoner and kill those who would not repent anti-regime activities. Estimates of the number executed vary from 1,400 [100] to 30,000.[101][102][103]

Although many hoped the revolution would bring freedom of speech and press, this was not to be. In defending forced closing of opposition newspapers and attacks on opposition protesters by club-wielding vigilantes, Khomeini explained, 'The club of the pen and the club of the tongue is the worst of clubs, whose corruption is a 100 times greater than other clubs.'[104]

Minority religions

Life for religious minorities was mixed under Khomeini. Non-Muslim religious minorities no longer had equal rights. Senior government posts are reserved for Muslims. Schools set up by Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians must be run by Muslim principals.[105] Compensation for death paid to the family of a non-Muslim was (by law) less than if the victim was a Muslim. Conversion to Islam is encouraged by entitling converts to inherit the entire share of their parents (or even uncle's) estate if their siblings (or cousins) remain non-Muslim.[106] Iran's non-Muslim population has fallen dramatically. For example, the Jewish population in Iran dropped from 80,000 to 30,000 in the first two decades of the revolution.[107]

However, four of the 270 seats in parliament are reserved for three non-Islamic minority religions, under the Islamic constitution that Khomeini oversaw. Khomeini also has called for unity between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims (Sunni Muslims are the largest religious minority in Iran).[108]

Prerevolutionary statements by Khomeini had been antagonistic towards Jews, but shortly after his return from exile in 1979, he issued a fatwa ordering that Jews and other minorities (except Bahá'ís) be treated well.[109][110] In power, Khomeini distinguished between Zionism as a secular political party that employs Jewish symbols and ideals and Judaism as the religion of Moses.[111]

Unlike the other non-Muslims in Iran, the 300,000 members of the Bahá'í Faith, were actively harassed. "Some 200 of whom have been executed and the rest forced to convert or subjected to the most horrendous disabilities." [112] Starting in late 1979 the new government systematically targeted the leadership of the Bahá'í community by focusing on the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) and Local Spiritual Assemblies (LSAs); prominent members of NSAs and LSAs were either killed or disappeared.[113] Like most conservative Muslims, Khomeini believed Bahá'í to be apostates.[114] He claimed they were a political rather than a religious movement,[115][116] declaring:

the Baha'is are not a sect but a party, which was previously supported by Britain and now the United States. The Baha'is are also spies just like the Tudeh [Communist Party].[117]

Death and funeral

the grave of Khomeini

After eleven days in a hospital for an operation to stop internal bleeding, Khomeini finally died of a heart attack Saturday, 3 June 1989, 22:22 hrs. (local time), at the age of 86.[118] Iranians poured out into the cities and streets to mourn Khomeini's death in a "completely spontaneous and unorchestrated outpouring of grief." [119]

Despite the hundred-degree heat, crushing mobs created an impassable sea of black for miles as they wailed, chanted and rhythmically beat themselves in anguish ... As the hours passed, fire trucks had to be brought in to spray water on the crowd to provide relief from the heat, while helicopters were flown in to ferry the eight killed and more than four hundred injured .[120]

Two million people attended his funeral.[121] Iranian officials aborted Khomeini’s first funeral, after a large crowd stormed the funeral procession, nearly destroying Khomeini's wooden coffin in order to get a last glimpse of his body. At one point, Khomeini's body actually almost fell to the ground, as the crowd attempted to grab pieces of the death shroud. The second funeral was held under much tighter security. Khomeini's casket was made of steel, and heavily armed security personnel surrounded it. In accordance with Islamic tradition, the casket was only to carry the body to the burial site. In 1995, his son Ahmad Khomeini was buried next to him. Khomeini's grave is now housed within a larger mausoleum complex.


Grand Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri, a former student of Khomeini and a major figure of the Revolution, was chosen by Khomeini to be his successor as Supreme Leader and approved as such by the Assembly of Experts in 1985.[122] The principle of velayat-e faqih and the Islamic constitution called for the Supreme Leader to be a marja (a grand ayatollah), and of the dozen or so grand ayatollahs living in 1981 only Montazeri qualified as a potential Leader (this was either because only he accepted totally Khomeini's concept of rule by Islamic jurists,[123][124] or, as at least one other source stated, because only Montazeri had the "political credentials" Khomeini found suitable for his successor.[125]). In 1989 Montazeri began to call for liberalization, freedom for political parties. Following the execution of thousands of political prisoners by the Islamic government, Montazeri told Khomeini 'your prisons are far worse than those of the Shah and his SAVAK.'[126] After a letter of his complaints was leaked to Europe and broadcast on the BBC, a furious Khomeini ousted him from his position as official successor.

To deal with the disqualification of the only suitable marja, Khomeini called for an `Assembly for Revising the Constitution` to be convened. An amendment was made to Iran's constitution removing the requirement that the Supreme Leader to be a Marja[127] and this allowed Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, the new favoured jurist who had suitable revolutionary credentials but lacked scholarly ones, to be designated as successor.[128][129] Ayatollah Khamene'i was elected Supreme Leader by the Assembly of Experts on 4 June 1989. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri continued his criticism of the regime and in 1997 was put under house arrest for questioning what in his opinion is a unaccountable rule exercised by the supreme leader.[130][131][132]

Political thought and legacy

See also: History of political Islam in Iran

According to at least one scholar, politics in the Islamic Republic of Iran "are largely defined by attempts to claim Khomeini's legacy" and that "staying faithful to his ideology has been the litmus test for all political activity" there.[133] Throughout his many writings and speeches, Khomeini's views on governance evolved. Originally declaring rule by monarchs or others permissible so long as sharia law was followed [134] Khomeini later adamantly opposed monarchy, arguing that only rule by a leading Islamic jurist (a marja'), would insure Sharia was properly followed (wilayat al-faqih),[135] before finally insisting the ruling jurist need not be a leading one and Sharia rule could be overruled by that jurist if necessary to serve the interests of Islam and the "divine government" of the Islamic state.[136]

Khomeini's concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (ولایت فقیه, velayat-e faqih) did not win the support of the leading Iranian Shi'i clergy of the time.[137] Towards the 1979 Revolution, many clerics gradually became disillusioned with the rule of the Shah, although none came around to supporting Khomeini's vision of a theocratic Islamic Republic.[137]

There is much debate to as whether Khomeini's ideas are or are not compatible with democracy and whether he intended the Islamic Republic to be a democratic republic. According to the state-run Aftab News,[138] both ultraconservative (Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi) and reformist opponents of the regime (Akbar Ganji and Abdolkarim Soroush) believe he did not, while regime officials and supporters like Ali Khamenei[139], Mohammad Khatami and Mortaza Motahhari[140] believe Khomeini intended the Islamic republic to be democratic and that it is so.[141] Khomeini himself also made statements at different times indicating both support and opposition to democracy.[142]

One scholar, Shaul Bakhash, explains this disagreement as coming from Khomeini's belief that the huge turnout of Iranians in anti-Shah demonstrations during the revolution constituted a 'referendum' in favor of an Islamic republic.[143] Khomeini also wrote that since Muslims must support a government based on Islamic law, Sharia-based government will always have more popular support in Muslim countries than any government based on elected representatives.[144]

Khomeini offered himself as a "champion of Islamic revival" and unity, emphasizing issues Muslims agreed upon - the fight against Zionism and imperialism - and downplaying Shia issues that would divide Shia from Sunni.[145] Khomeini strongly opposed close relations with neither Eastern or Western Bloc nations, believing the Islamic world should be its own bloc, or rather converge into a single unified power.[146] He viewed Western culture as being inherently decadent and a corrupting influence upon the youth. The Islamic Republic banned or discouraged popular Western fashions, music, cinema, and literature.[147] In the Western world it is said "his glowering visage became the virtual face of Islam in Western popular culture" and "inculcated fear and distrust towards Islam,"[148] making the word `Ayatollah` "a synonym for a dangerous madman ... in popular parlance."[149] This has particularly been the case in the United States where some Iranians complained that even at universities they felt the need to hide their Iranian identity for fear of physical attack.[66] There Khomeini and the Islamic Republic are remembered for the American embassy hostage taking and accused of sponsoring hostage-taking and terrorist attacks,[150][151] and which continues to apply economic sanctions against Iran.

Before taking power Khomeini expressed support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "We would like to act according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We would like to be free. We would like independence."[152] However once in power Khomeini took a firm line against dissent, warning opponents of theocracy for example: "I repeat for the last time: abstain from holding meetings, from blathering, from publishing protests. Otherwise I will break your teeth."[153]

Many of Khomeini's political and religious ideas were considered to be progressive and reformist by leftist intellectuals and activists prior to the Revolution. However, once in power his ideas often clashed with those of modernist or secular Iranian intellectuals. This conflict came to a head during the writing of the Islamic constitution when many newspapers were closed by the government. Khomeini angrily told the intellectuals:

Yes, we are reactionaries, and you are enlightened intellectuals: You intellectuals do not want us to go back 1400 years. You, who want freedom, freedom for everything, the freedom of parties, you who want all the freedoms, you intellectuals: freedom that will corrupt our youth, freedom that will pave the way for the oppressor, freedom that will drag our nation to the bottom.[154]

In contrast to his alienation from Iranian intellectuals, and "in an utter departure from all other Islamist movements," Khomeini embraced international revolution and Third World solidarity, giving it "precedence over Muslim fraternity. From the time Khomeini's supporters gained control of the media until his death, the Iranian media "devoted extensive coverage to non-Muslim revolutionary movements (from the Sandinistas to the African National Congress and the Irish Republican Army) and downplayed the role of the Islamic movements considered conservative, such as the Afghan mujahidin."[155]

Khomeini's legacy to the economy of the Islamic Republic has been concern for the mustazafin, but not always results. During the 1990s the mustazafin and disabled war veterans rioted on several occasions, protesting the demolition of their shantytowns and rising food prices, etc.[156] Khomeini's disdain for the science of economics ("economics is for donkeys") is said to have been "mirrored" by the populist redistribution policies of Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who allegedly wears "his contempt for economic orthodoxy as a badge of honour", and has overseen sluggish growth and rising inflation and unemployment.[157]

In 1963, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wrote a book in which he stated that there is no religious restriction on corrective surgery for transgendered individuals. At the time Khomeini was a radical, anti-Shah revolutionary and his fatwas did not carry any weight with the Imperial government, which did not have any specific policies regarding transsexual individuals.[158]

Appearance and habits

Khomeini was described as "slim," but athletic and "heavily boned." He was known for his punctuality:

He's so punctual that if he doesn't turn up for lunch at exactly ten past everyone will get worried, because his work is regulated in such a way that he turned up for lunch at exactly that time every day. He goes to bed exactly on time. He eats exactly on time. And he wakes up exactly on time. He changes his frock every time he comes back from the mosque.[159]

Khomeini was also known for his aloofness and stern demeanor. He is said to have had "variously inspired admiration, awe, and fear from those around him."[160] His practice of moving "through the halls of the madresehs never smiling at anybody or anything; his practice of ignoring his audience while he taught, contributed to his charisma." [161]

Khomeini adhered to traditional beliefs of Islamic cleanliness holding that non-Muslims - like urine, excrement, blood, wine etc. - were one of eleven impure things contact with which required major ritual washing or Ghusl before prayer or salah.[162][163] He is reported to have refused to eat or drink in a restaurant unless he knew for sure the waiter was a Muslim.[164]


Khomeini in his old age

Even more famous was his mystique. He benefited from the widespread circulation of "an old Shia saying" attributed to the Imam Musa al-Kazim who is said to have prophesied shortly before his death in 799 that

'A man will come out from Qom and he will summon people to the right path. There will rally to him people resembling pieces of iron, not to be shaken by violent winds, unsparing and relying on God.' [165]

Khomeini was the first and only Iranian cleric to be addressed as "Imam", a title hitherto reserved in Iran for the twelve infallible leaders of the early Shi'a.[166] He was also associated with the Mahdi or 12th Imam of Shia belief in a number of ways. One of his titles was Na'eb-e Imam (Deputy to the Twelfth Imam). His enemies were often attacked as taghut and mofsidin fi'l-arz (corrupters of the earth), religious terms used for enemies of the Twelfth Imam. Many of the officials of the overthrown Shah's government executed by Revolutionary Courts were convicted of "fighting against the Twelfth Imam". When a deputy in the majlis asked Khomeini if he was the 'promised Mahdi', Khomeini did not answer, "astutely" neither confirming nor denying the title.[167]

Khomeini's video

Before the revolution, in late 1978, a rumour swept the country that Khomeini's face could be seen in the full moon.

Tears of joy were shed and huge quantities of sweets and fruits were consumed as millions of people jumped for joy, shouting 'I've seen the Imam in the moon.' The event was celebrated in thousands of mosques with mullahs reminding the faithful that a sure sign of the coming of the Mahdi was that the sun would rise in the West. Khomeini, representing the sun, was now in France and his face was shining in the moon like a sun. People were ready to swear on the Qur'an that they had seen Khomeini's face in the moon. Even the Tudeh Party [the party of "Scientific Socialism"] shared in the [enthusiasm]. Its paper Navid wrote: 'Our toiling masses, fighting against world-devouring imperialism headed by the blood-sucking United States, have seen the face of their beloved Imam and leader, Khomeini the Breaker of Idols, in the moon. A few pipsqueaks cannot deny what a whole nation has seen with its own eyes.' [168]

As the revolution gained momentum, even some non-supporters exhibited awe, called him "magnificently clear-minded, single-minded and unswerving."[169] His image was as "absolute, wise, and indispensable leader of the nation"[170]

The Imam, it was generally believed, had shown by his uncanny sweep to power, that he knew how to act in ways which others could not begin to understand. His timing was extraordinary, and his insight into the motivation of others, those around him as well as his enemies, could not be explained as ordinary knowledge. This emergent belief in Khomeini as a divinely guided figure was carefully fostered by the clerics who supported him and spoke up for him in front of the people.[171]

Even many secularists who firmly disapproved of his policies were said to feel the power of his "messianic" appeal.[172] Comparing him to a father figure who retains the enduring loyalty even of children he disapproves of, journalist Afshin Molavi writes of the defenses of Khomeini he's "heard in the most unlikely settings":

A whiskey-drinking professor told an American journalist that Khomeini brought pride back to Iranians. A women's rights activist told me that Khomeini was not the problem; it was his conservative allies who had directed him wrongly. A nationalist war veteran, who held Iran's ruling clerics in contempt, carried with him a picture of 'the Imam'.[173]

Another journalist tells the story of an Iranian, who following bitter criticism of the regime in which he tells her he wants his son to leave the country and "repeatedly made the point that life had been better" under the Shah, turns "ashen faced" and speechless upon hearing the 85+-year-old Imam might be dying, pronouncing 'this is terrible for my country.'[174]

Family and descendants

Khomeini with grandson Husain Khomeini and granddaughter Zahra Eshraghi.

In 1929, (some say 1931[175]) Khomeini married Khadijeh Saqafi Khomeini [175], the 13 year old daughter of a cleric in Tehran. By all accounts their marriage was harmonious and happy.[175] She died in 2009.[176] They had seven children, though only five survived infancy. His daughters all married into either merchant or clerical families, and both his sons entered into religious life. Mustafa, the elder son, died in 1977 while in exile in Najaf, Iraq with his father and was rumored by supporters of his father to have been murdered by SAVAK.[177] Ahmad Khomeini, who died in 1995 at the age of 49, was also rumoured to be a victim of foul play, but at the hands of Islamic regime.[178] Perhaps his "most prominent daughter",[179] Zahra Mostafavi, is a professor at the University of Tehran, and still alive.

Of Khomeini's fifteen grandchildren the most notable include:

Iranians need freedom now, and if they can only achieve it with American interference I think they would welcome it. As an Iranian, I would welcome it.[181]

In that same year Husain Khomeini visited the United States, where he met figures such as Reza Pahlavi II, the son of the last Shah. Later that year, Husain returned to Iran after receiving an urgent message from his grandmother. According to Michael Ledeen, quoting "family sources", he was blackmailed into returning.[182] In 2006, he called for an American invasion and overthrow of the Islamic Republic, telling Al-Arabiyah television station viewers, "If you were a prisoner, what would you do? I want someone to break the prison [doors open]."[183].
  • Another of Khomeini's grandchildren, Ali Eshraghi, was disqualified from the 2008 parliamentary elections on grounds of being insufficiently loyal to the principles of the Islamic revolution, but later reinstated.[184]


Khomeini was a prolific writer (200 of his books are online[185]) who authored commentaries on the Qur'an, on Islamic jurisprudence, the roots of Islamic law, and Islamic traditions. He also released books about philosophy, gnosticism, poetry, literature, government and politics.[186] Some of his books:

"We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

- Speech in Qom 1980, as quoted in Nest of Spies : America's Journey to Disaster in Iran (1989) by Amir Taheri, p. 269

See also


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    It is not acceptable that a tributary [non-Muslim who pays tribute] changes his religion to another religion not recognized by the followers of the previous religion. For example, from the Jews who become Bahai's nothing is accepted except Islam or execution. from Poll Tax, 8. Tributary conditions, (13), Tahrir al-Vasileh, volume 2, pp. 497-507, Quoted in A Clarification of Questions : An Unabridged Translation of Resaleh Towzih al-Masael by Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, Westview Press/ Boulder and London, c1984, p.432

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  144. ^ Khomeini, Islam and Revolution, (1982), p.56
  145. ^ Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival Norton, (2006), p.137
  146. ^ Bayan, No.4 (1990), p.8)
  147. ^ Iran president bans Western music
  148. ^ Nasr, Vali The Shia Revival, Norton, 2006, p.138
  149. ^ A Revolution Misunderstood. Charlotte Wiedemann
  150. ^ Wright, Sacred Rage, (2001), p.28, 33,
  151. ^ for example the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing see:Hizb'allah in Lebanon : The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis Magnus Ranstorp, Department of International Relations University of St. Andrews St. Martins Press, New York, 1997, p.54, 117
  152. ^ Sahifeh Nour (Vol.2 Page 242)
  153. ^ in Qom, Iran, 22 October 1979, quoted in, The Shah and the Ayatollah : Iranian Mythology and Islamic Revolution by Fereydoun Hoveyda, Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2003, p.88
  154. ^ p.47, Wright. source: Speech at Feyziyeh Theological School, 24 August 1979; reproduced in Rubin, Barry and Judith Colp Rubin, Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East: A Documentary Reader, Oxford University Press, 2002, p.34
  155. ^ Roy, The Failure of Political Islam. 1994, p.175
  156. ^ In March 1992, disabled war veterans protested against the mismanagement of the Foundation of the Disinherited. January and May 1992. In January 1992 a Tehran mob attacked grocery stores in protest against rise in subsidized milk prices. In May 1992 there were protest by squatters against demolition of shantytowns in Mashhad. Government buildings were set alight. (Mackey, Sandra, The Iranians : Persia, Islam and the soul of a nation, Dutton, c1996. p.361, 362, 366). Quoted in Class Division and Poverty Will Not Be Tolerated
  157. ^ "Economics is for donkeys" Robert Tait. 11 September 2008
  158. ^ Robert Tait, A fatwa for transsexuals, and a similar article on The Guardian. Gives details on Molkara's plea.
  159. ^ According to a daughter quoted in In the Name of God by Robin Wright c1989, p.45
  160. ^ Brumberg, Reinventing Khomeini, (2001), p.53
  161. ^ Mackay, Iranians (198?) p.224
  162. ^ fatwa #83 from A Clarification of Questions : An Unabridged Translation of Resaleh Towzih al-Masael, by Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, Translated by J. Borujerdi, with a Foreword by Michael M. J. Fischer and Mehdi Abedi, Westview Press/ Boulder and London c1984, p.48.
  163. ^ Mottahedeh, Roy, The Mantle of the Prophet : Religion and Politics in Iran, One World, Oxford, 1985, 2000, p.383
  164. ^ Personal communications from Dr. Mansur Farhang, a biographer and supporter of Khomeini who was the former Iranian representative at the United Nations, with Ervand Abrahamian. Quoted in Abrahamian, Ervand, Khomeinism : Essays on the Islamic Republic University of California Press, (1993)
  165. ^ (Mackay Iranians, p.277. Source: Quoted in Fouad Ajami, The Vanished Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), p.25
  166. ^ Moin, Khomeini (2000), p.201
  167. ^ Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, Norton, (2006), p.131
  168. ^ source: Navid n.28] [Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, p.238
  169. ^ Harney, The Priest and the King (1998) p.173-4
  170. ^ Benard/Khalilzad "The Government of God", 1984, p.121
  171. ^ Moin Khomeini, (2000), p.297
  172. ^ Wright, In the Name of God, (1989) (p.21-22)
  173. ^ Molavi, The Soul of Iran, (2005), p.256
  174. ^ In the Name of God : The Khomeini Decade by Robin Wright c1989, p.21-22
  175. ^ a b c Taheri, The Spirit of Allah (1985), p. 90-1
  176. ^ Wife of founder of Iran's Islamic republic dies. 23 March 2009
  177. ^ Moin, Khomeini, (2001), 184-5
  178. ^ Love the revolution, shame about reality
  179. ^ a b "Khamenei vs. Khomeini" by Ali Reza Eshraghi, 20 August 2009. accessed 23 August 2009
  180. ^ Grandchildren of the revolution. By von Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Roula Khalaf 04.03.2009. Accessed 23-August-2009
  181. ^ "Make Iran Next, Says Ayatollah's Grandson", Jamie Wilson, 10 August 2003, The Observer
  182. ^ Veiled Threats Lure Ayatollah's Grandson Home By Michael A. Ledeen, 6 January 2004
  183. ^ Ayatollah's grandson calls for US overthrow of Iran, By PHILIP SHERWELL 19/06/2006
  184. ^ Khomeini grandson returns to poll, 13 February 2008,
  185. ^ World: Middle East Ayatollah Khomeini on the Web
  186. ^ The Works and Declarations of Imam Khomeini


External links

Selected bibliography
Political offices
Preceded by
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
as Shah of Iran
Supreme Leader of Iran
Succeeded by
Ali Khamenei


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Anyone who will say that religion is separate from politics is a fool; he does not know Islam or politics.

Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (21 September19023 June 1989) Iranian Islamic cleric, the political and religious leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. He is often referred to as the Imam Khomeini.



The people will not rest until the Pahlavi rule has been swept away and all traces of tyranny have disappeared.
There is no room for play in Islam ... It is deadly serious about everything.
In Iran's future Islamic system everyone can express their opinion, and the Islamic government will respond to logic with logic.
  • Islam's jihad is a struggle against idolatry, sexual deviations, plunder, repression, and cruelty. The war waged by [non-Muslim] conquerors, however, aims at promoting lust and animal pleasures. They care not if whole countries are wiped out and many families left homeless. But those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. All the countries conquered by Islam or to be conquered in the future will be marked for everlasting salvation. For they shall live under [God's law].
    • "Islam Is Not a Religion of Pacifists" (1942), English translation in Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East (2002) by Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin, pp. 29, 32-36
  • If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit girls and boys to wrestle together, as recently happened in Shiraz.
    • Denouncing the situation that sex segregation was not being imposed by the government. Speech number sixteen. Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, World Service (October 26, 1964).
  • The people will not rest until the Pahlavi rule has been swept away and all traces of tyranny have disappeared. As long as the Shah's satanic power prevails, not a single true representative of the people can possibly be elected.
    • Response to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's announcement of elections (August 1978); quoted in "The Shah's Divided Land" (18 September 1978) Time
  • Women are free in the Islamic Republic in the selection of their activities and their future and their clothing.
    • Interview for The Guardian in Paris (6 November 1978)
  • Personal desire, age, and my health do not allow me to personally have a role in running the country after the fall of the current system.
    • Associated Press interview in Paris (7 November 1978); repeated on several occasions before Khomeini returned to Iran
  • In Iran's future Islamic system everyone can express their opinion, and the Islamic government will respond to logic with logic.
    • Speech (9 November 1978), as quoted in The Most Truthful Individual in Recent History" in Iranshenasi, Vol. XIV, No. 4 (Winter 2003), as translated by Farhad Mafie
  • In the Islamic government all people have complete freedom to have any kind of opinion.
    • Interview with Human Rights Watch, Paris (10 November 1978)
  • After the Shah's departure from Iran, I will not become a president nor accept any other leadership role. Just like before, I limit my activities only to guiding and directing the people.
    • Le Monde interview in Paris (9 January 1979)
  • Ayatollah, would you be so kind as to tell us how you feel about being back in Iran?
    Nothing. I don't feel anything. (Hichi. Hich ehsasi nadaram)
    • Exchange between American reporter Peter Jennings and Khomeini (1 February 1979), during Khomeini's return flight to Iran; quoted in Elaine Sciolino (2001) Persian Mirrors. Khomeini's translator did not translate his response, but said only that he had no comment.
  • These people are trying to bring back the regime of the late Shah or another regime. I will strike with my fists at the mouths of this government. From now on it is I who will name the government.
  • (alternately) I shall kick their teeth in. I am appointing the government. I am appointing the government by the support of this nation!
    • Speech at Behesht Zahra cemetery (1 February 1979), condemning the government of Shapour Bakhtiar
  • Don't listen to those who speak of democracy. They all are against Islam. They want to take the nation away from its mission. We will break all the poison pens of those who speak of nationalism, democracy, and such things.
    • Remarks to students and educators in Qom (13 March 1979)
  • We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.
    • Speech in Qom 1980, as quoted in Nest of Spies : America's Journey to Disaster in Iran (1989) by Amir Taheri, p. 269
  • If one permits an infidel to continue in his role as a corrupter of the earth, the infidel's moral suffering will be all the worse. If one kills the infidel, and this stops him from perpetrating his misdeeds, his death will be a blessing to him.
    • Speech on the day of Mohammed's birth (1984)
  • …the author of The Satanic Verses book which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Qu'ran, and all involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them wherever they find them, so that no one will dare to insult the Islamic sanctions. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing.
  • All those against the revolution must disappear and quickly be executed.
    • As quoted by dissident cleric Hossein-Ali Montazeri, once in line to be Iran's supreme leader. (17 December 2000). This statement is said to have been made after the Mojahedin-e Khalgh militant organization launched an offensive against Iranian troops from bases in Iraq. There have been heavy disputes on the real position of Khomeini about this, and some people think that some of his orders were not done the way he wanted, or were misunderstood. Others claim that by keeping the people who did so in power, he was approving their actions.[citation needed]
    • Variant: All those against the revolution, that insist on their position, must disappear and quickly be executed.
  • In the world there is no democracy better than our democracy. Such a thing has never before been seen.
    • Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption, London: Quercus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1905204965, p. 195
  • When anyone studies a little or pays a little attention to the rules of Islamic government, Islamic politics, Islamic society and Islamic economy he will realize that Islam is a very political religion. Anyone who will say that religion is separate from politics is a fool; he does not know Islam or politics.
    • Tahrīr al-Wasīla vol. 1

Quotes about Khomeini

Alphabetically by author

  • It's almost impossible to deal with a crazy man, except that he does have religious beliefs, and the world of Islam will be damaged if a fanatic like him should commit murder in the name of religion against 60 innocent people.
    • Jimmy Carter in his Diary (6 November 1979), as quoted in Keeping Faith : Memoirs of A President (1982) p. 458
  • One should express his viewpoint regarding what he performed in his country and in a vast part of the world with great respect and deep thought.
  • Imam Khomeini and the Iranian nation performed a great historical act. In my opinion, as a western and non-Muslim person, I believe, it is a miracle that a divine revolution in today's world takes place in such a manner.
  • Khomeini has offered us the opportunity to regain our frail religion ... faith in the power of words.
  • I thought using the Ayatollah's money to support the Nicaraguan resistance was a neat idea.
  • Since Khomeini's death, the popular appeal of an Islamic state — and of fundamentalism — has surely dimmed. Thinkers still debate and warriors kill, but no country seems prepared to emulate Iran. Perhaps revolutions happen only under majestic leaders, and no one like Khomeini has since appeared.
  • The Islamic Revolution of Iran is honourable for it is the cry which has its origin in Ayatollah Khomeini's conscience.

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Simple English

Ruhollah Khomeini, an Iranian Muslim leader, with child

Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Mustafavi Khomeini (born September 24, 1902 [need more referance] in Khomein, Central Iran (then Persia), [1] died June 3, 1989) (Persian: روح الله موسوی خمینی) also known as Imam Khomeini and Ayatollah Khomeini, was an Iranian Muslim leader. (An Imam is a spiritual leader who is respected, and an Ayatollah Sayyed is someone who holds both a political and religious position of power). Khomeini was the political leader of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.[1] On June 5, 1964, Khomeini was arrested and sent into exile.[1] He was exiled to Iraq, Turkey and then to France.[1] Khomeini gave many speeches in France against Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. On January 16, 1979, Pahlavi left Iran. Two weeks later, on February 1, Khomeini returned to Iran.

He received a traditional religious education in Qom (city in Iran). When he lived in Najaf (a holy city in Iraq) for some years, he spoke about Islam ideas about Government. During that time, he refined his theory of velayat-e faqih ("government of the jurist").[2]

On February 11, 1979, Khomeini appointed his first own prime minister, Medhi Bazargan. On March 30, 1979 a referendum took place in Iran and as a result, the monarchy was replaced with an Islamic Republic.[1] After the Islamic Revolution, Khomeini became Supreme Leader of Iran.

Khomeini was also a poet. His poems are collected together in an Imam Divan. Khomeini died of cancer[3] on June 3, 1989, at the age of 87.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "BBC - History - Ayatollah Khomeini (1900-1989)". Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  3. "Death of Ayatollah Khomeini — Appointment of President Khamenei as Khomeini's successor — Visit to Soviet Union by Rafsanjani". Keesing's Record of World Events, Volume 35, June, 1989 Iran, Page 36724. Keesing's World News Archive. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 

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