Imam Khomeini; a Portrait
Imam Khomeini; a Portrait
On the 20th of Jamadi al thani of the year 1320 A.H. (1901 A.D.) which coincided with the birth anniversary of the holy prophet's only daughter, Hazrat Fatemeh Zahra, a boy was born in the household of late Ayatollah Seyed Mustafa Musavi in the small town of Khomein in the central province of Iran. The newborn was named Rouhollah (the spirit of Allah). Ayatollah Musavi was the son of Allamah Seyed Ahmad Musavi, a renowned Shiite clergy of noble descendence. The allamah who used to live in the Iraqi city of Najaf, the venue of the holy shrine of Imam Au (a.s) the first imam of the Shiite sect, was called on by a charitable man by the name of Youssef Khan Kamarehi, a pilgrim to the holy shrine, to go to Khomein in order to take care of the religious affairs of the town's people. There, the Allamah married to Youssef Khan's daughter who gave birth to a daughter, Sahebeh, and a son, Mustafa. Seyed Mustafa studied in Najaf and Samerra in Iraq when the grand Ayatollah Mirza-ye Shirazi was teaching there. He became a mujtahid before returning to Iran in order to become the leading clergy of Khomein region. In Zihajjah of 1320 A.H. he was assassinated by the rebels on the road from Khomein to Arak and was shot down. At the time of his death Seyed Mustafa was only 47 years old. He was buried in Najaf. The martyred ayatollah had three daughters and three sons namely, Seyyed Morteza (Pasandideh) now a high ranking clergy in the holy city of Qom, Seyed Nureddin who lived in Tehran as a nobleman until his death in 1396 A.H.; and Seyed Rouhollah (Imam Khomeini) who was his last child.
The Imam's mother was a cultured lady by the name of Hajar who came from a religious family. Her father was late Ayatollah Mirza Ahmad, a Shiite scholar who was the teacher of many other high ranking clerics; and her uncles were Akhund Mullah Mohammad Javad, Agha Najafi Malayeri and Agha Sheikh Fazlollah. Her brothers were Haj Mirza Mohammad Mehdi, Mirza Abduihossein, Haj Mirza Zainulabedin and Agha Habib, all of them leading Muslim clergies of their days.
With the assassination of Seyed Mustafa, his sister, Sahebeh, moved to his house in order to take care of her brother's minor children. The valuable characteristics of this lady can be the subject of anther book. The little Rouhollah was taken care of by his mother Hajar and his aunt Sahebeh since he was only five months old. Meanwhile he had a nanny by the name of Naneh Khavar who worked hard to take care of this little boy. Sahebeh died when Rouhollah was 15. Her death was a great loss for Rouhollah whose mother too fell ill shortly after that and passed away in 1336 A.H. However, these losses added to young Rouhollah's strength and integrity.
More than a hundred years ago when the monarchs of Qajar dynasty were incapable of running the affairs of the state, the central government was weakened and local governments were on the rise. A prince was ruling in every piece of the country and rebels were in fact in command. Increasing taxes were heavy burdens to be carried on the shoulders of the nation that was hungry and helpless. The little Khomein is no exception. However, in this town there was one house that was refuge for the oppressed. This was the house of Haji Mustafa Khomeini. A house like a fortress located passed the Sadat gate in the eastern part of the town with two towers on its northern and eastern wings. Above those towers were walls as high as almost two meters with fortifications and holes that were used for shooting in defense. Those towers were overlooking the whole town. A river flowing on the southern side of the fortress provided its security only from that direction. At nights, the eastern gate was closed and guards were on patrol for whole nights. Mustafa's house was linked to the mosque and the bazaar through a narrow alley that was watched from over the towers. At times when the rebels backed by the Khans and princes attacked the town, Mustafa's house was the city's only safe place where people could take refuge.
Mustafa, the town's highest ranking clergy and mujtahid took arms on such occasions and defended the helpless people. When he was assassinated, he was on a trip to Arak to file a complaint against the aggressors. According to one version of his biography, the Imam was only four months and two days old when his father was killed.
Only one of the two towers have survived the passage of time. The house has a small silent courtyard and a water pond that reflects the sunlight. The house has small wooden doors and spiraling staircases that lead to the rooftop. The floor of the courtyard is covered with pale bricks. But the clay houses around it have now been replaced by modern houses with stone or brick facades. The only clay house in the area is the Imam's house, where he lived intermittently not longer than 20 years.
Imam Khomeini's education started when he was very young. A teacher named Mirza Mahmoud taught him how to read and write. After Mirza Mahmoud who went to the Imam's house, there were Mullah Aboighassem and Sheikh Jafar who had their own little schools. Then he went to a school where Agha Hamzeh Mahallati taught Persian calligraphy. At the age of 15, Rouhollah started to learn Islamic knowledge and Arabic grammar from his brother, now Ayatollah Pasandideh. Although he was supposed to go the Isfahan seminary for further studies on Islamic culture, he ended up in Arak where the seminary was run under the supervision of great theologian Haj Sheikh Abdulkarim Haeri Yazdi. One year later in 1340 A.H., the seminary was moved to the holy city of Qom. Rouhollah too moved to Qom where he resided at Daruishafa School. In the next five years, he completed his higher education in divinity under the supervision of Haj Sheikh Abdulkarim Haeri Yazdi, at the time of whose death in 1355 A.H., the Imam was definitely a mujtahid who was renowned in the seminary as a leading clergy.
Meanwhile, he studied astronomy, philosophy, Islamic knowledge and mysticism beside his studies in the area of Islamic jurisprudence. He learned astronomy from Sheikh Au Akbar Yazdi and philosophy from Sheikh Mohammad Au Shah Abadi. Nevertheless, he knew that true knowledge was an outcome of self purification, so he tried to strengthen his spiritual virtues as a young man so that he was always known as a pious man by al those who met him. He was far from fame seeking, ambitions and hypocrisy. He even did not allow the publication of his photos and religious teachings until it was eagerly sought by the people on the days of the Islamic revolution.
Imam Khomeini was very orderly since his childhood. He prayed in the middle of the night all his lifetime and when he lived in Najaf he paid daily visits to the shrine at the same time every afternoon. He followed the same discipline in the other matters of his life, so that his family members could tell the time by what he was doing. He always walked heavily with military like steps. He walked with his head up and never bent his head even when it rained. He always attended his classes on time and did not like his students to be late.
He lived alone until the year 1348 A.H. when he married the daughter of Ayatollah Haj Mirza Mohammad Saghafi. The bride's father knew the Imam as a pious man in the seminary and immediately accepted the Imam's proposal to marry his daughter. Two sons and three daughters were the outcome of this marriage. His first son, Hujjatoleslam llaj Seyed Mustafa Khomeini who was born in 1930 studied theology and became a mujtahid when he was 27 years old. He was a student of the Imam and late Ayatollah Borougerdi and Haj Seyed Mohammad Damad. Mustafa married the daughter of Ayatollah Haeri. He was assasinated when living in Najaf with the Imam.
The Imam's second son, Haj Seyed Ahmad studied theology at the Qom city seminary. He devoted all of his life to taking care of the Imam. In the final years of the Imam's life in Iran after the Islamic revolution he ran the Imam's office while taking very good care of the aging leader of Islamic revolution particularly following a heart problem that developed in 1980.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi rose to throne when the allies had already won the World War II. Heads of the three victorious ally President Roosevelt of the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom and Soviet leader Josef G. Stalin held their summit meeting in Tehran. In this conference they reviewed the situation of the world, named Iran as the bridge of their victory and expressed support for the continuation of the young Shah's rule. 1
In the political situation of Iran on those days, political parties and activists found themselves relieved from the strangulation imposed by Reza Khan and saw a new opportunity for renewing their activities. New newspapers and magazines started publication while those banned under Reza Khan found an opportunity for renewed activities. The Shah was powerless on one hand and tried to introduce himself as a democrat on the other hand. Veteran political parties including the communist Tudeh party tried hard to take over the power so that within a short span of time the position of prime minister changed hands several times.
Foreign supporr was just one factor leading to the strengthening of the Shah's regime. Another factor certainly was the lack of a popular opposition leadership. In fact many political activists and leaders had been arrested and imprisoned and some killed or sent to exile under Reza Khan. Many of the leading clergies were isolated because of the political pressures of the regime and the propaganda that was launched against them in the pro-regime press. Of course there was Ayatollah Seyed Aboighassem Kashani, a veteran political activist, but he was jailed during the war because of his alleged cooperation with the Germans. In the meantime the clergies' request for reforms were neglected by the regime. Prime Minister Foroughi's government at first promised to meet those demands but he did not stand by his words.
Social dissatisfactions made thee situation ripe for the leftist political parties. When Reza Khan left the country the Tudeh party took advantage of the people's dissatisfaction and attracted many students, workers and even military men. Other parties too had their own supporters but the clergies and religious elements still did not have any sort of political organization.
Imam Khomeini has been an eyewitness to many of the crimes committed by Reza Khan's regime. He also knew very well the nature of the regime that was led by the Khan's son, Mohammad Reza Shah. Most of what as done by the young Shah was committed under the name of liberty and liberalism.
Only two years after Reza Khan fled the country, the Imam wrote his book, Kashf ul Asrar taking the first steps towards voicing his protest against the sociopolitical situation of his country. In this book he also criticized the clergies for the neglecting of current affairs. In this book the Imam wrote:
"Reza Khan went. The dark days of dictatorship are gone. We assumed that the nation has found out abut their problems and twenty years of aggression against their life, property and family values have taught them a lesson and that they will punish the bankrupt politicians of the so called golden ages. But they are still a sleep and have forgotten their dark days. As the nation failed to realize their right the adventurists found an opportunity to attack the people's religious values and turn the country into an arena to materialize their corrupt intentions and return those black days."
Writing this book was not the only thing he did. He tried to disclose the regime's corruption in every opportunity he found. When he was asked to write an article, unlike the clergies of the day who used sophisticated language in their speeches and writings, the Imam used words that could be easily understood by the man in the street:
"... We are doomed to see these dark days because of our selfishness and because we ceased to stand up for God. We have been conquered by the whole world and the Islamic states have come under the influence of foreigners. Individual interests have strangulated the spirit of unity and brotherhood among Muslims. Selfishness has made millions of Muslim people slave to only a few million others. Personal interests have turned newspapers into machines that disseminate corruptive words and implement Reza Khan's plans and have made some members of the illegitimate parliament so outrageous that they dare utter words against religion and the clergies ..."
In spite of all its merits the book was neglected in its times and the events that took place later strengthened the foundations of the Shah's regime. But the death of Ayatollah Seyed Aboihassan Esfahani the leading Shiite clergy of that time in 1946 and the issue of his succession prompted the imam to boost his political activities. He knew Ayatollah Haj Seyed Hossein Boroujerdi and his scholarly status so started a campaign in his support and encouraged him to travel to Qom and accept the rank of religious leadership. He also went to various cities and met with high ranking clergies of the country in order to secure their support for ayatollah Boroujerdi. Although the ayatollah did not show much interest in political activities, yet the Imam tried to keep him informed of the social and political developments of the country. Nevertheless he never tried to impose his way of thinking to the aging ayatollah. Once, he closed down his philosophy lessons when he found out that the ayatollah was not happy with them.
Following the assassination attempt on the Shah's life in the February of 1949 at the Tehran University, the Shah found a pretext to suppress his opponents ~nd strengthen his regime. A state of siege was declared in Tehran, ayatollah Kashani was arrested and the Tudeh party was banned and its leaders were prosecuted. The Shah viewed ayatollah Kashani as a threat and did not like the Tudeh party because of its dependency on the Soviet Union and its popularity among he country's youths. When he removed these two obstacles, he planned to establish a constitutional assembly in order to modify the constitutional law and secure more power for himself. These powers included the disbanding of the country's bicameral parliament. Now ayatollah Kashani was sent to exile in Lebanon and the parliament was nothing that could threaten the Shah. His major concern was ayatollah Boroujerdi. According to the constitutional law five high ranking clergies of the official religion, the Shiite, were to probe into the compliance of all laws that were passed by the parliament with the religious law, shar~ah. There was a rumor that this was one of the constitutional principles that were to be changed. In order to calm down the ayatollah, the Shah sent two of his ministers to Qom in order to hold talks with him. In this meeting the Imam who represented ayatollah Boroujerdi lashed out at the Shah's emissary saying that the clerics would never allow changing that principle or any other that would violate the rights of nation. However, ayatollah Boroujerdi allowed amendments to the constitutional law in the cases that interfere with the affairs of the religion. From his exile in Lebanon ayatollah Kashani condemned any change in the constitutional law and announced in a declaration that opposition to such changes were the duty of the nation. He said, "they cannot kill everybody."
During the 1940's the struggle for the nationalization of Iranian oil was one of the most important problems of the country's religious and national movements and finally moved their leaders towards a coalition. In the parliamentary elections of 1950 both Dr. Mossadegh and Ayatollah Kashani, who had returned from exile, were elected as members of parliament. Kashani had declared Iran's oil as national property as soon as he returned to the country in June 1950 saying that the Gass- Golshayan agreement of 1933 was now abolished. The Shah appointed a military man, General Razmara his prime minister in order to push the agreement forward. Mossadegh introduced the idea of nationalization to the parliament and Kashani supported it. A few months later, in March 1951 Razmara was assassinated and the nationalization law was passed.
After a few months with Hossein Ala in the office as premiere, Mossadegh became the prime minister. In July 1952 he resigned from his post when disputes broke out between him and Shah. Consequently Ahmad Ghavam became the new prime minister. Ayatollah Kashani voiced his opposition to the appointment and thousands of people took to the streets many of whom got killed or wounded in clashes with the Shah's forces. The Shah immediately removed Ala and reinstated Mossadegh. Although this episode marked an alliance between the two leaders, but their separation that emerged later on paved the way for the late August 1953 coup d' etate. Although the Imam was not directly involved in the political developments of those years, his son, Mostafa, carried the messages he exchanged with ayatollah Kashani. The Imam also met with him in the summer in Tehran.
The coup further strengthened the Shah's regime and with the fall of Mossadegh's government and taking over of General Zahedi, and 340 million tons of Iranian oil was plundered by the United States between the years 1953 and 1963. The resulting revenue was spent on military purchases from America rather than the development of the country, so that the country's military expenses became fourfold before 1960's.
The Iranian government became increasingly dependent on the United States. American military advisors came to Iran in great numbers and established several military and espionage bases across the country. In 1956 the Shah's notorious secret police (SAVAK) was established with American assistance. The force began to suppress any opposition to the Shah and his government. But the eruption of liberation movements all over the third world prompted the United States to induce reforms in its dependent states in order to prevent the downfall of their governments. With the taking office of a democratic government in the U.S. in 1969, the Americans supported a land reform in Iran. In the meantime the country's political atmosphere was opened between the years 1960 and 1963.
With all its perils the 1953 coup revealed the true face of many individuals, organizations and political groups. Some of the well_known opponents of the Shah later repented and became his allies. Some who remained loyal to their political ideology were tried and imprisoned and some others who established a national resistance movements became divided a few years later and some left political activities for economic ones. The left and right factions of national front and their leaders supported the U.S. during the 50's. Hundreds of the members of the political wing of the Tudeh Party were arrested and imprisoned and some were released after repenting. Some others even became the members of the Shah's secret ~police and helped him in the suppression and arresting of political activists.
In 1960 the second round of the activities of national front started and its leader, Dr. Allahyar Saleh was elected member of the parliament from Kashan. The parliament was later disbanded. The years 1960 to 1963 were the peak of activities of national front. Yet those activities included a few meetings and a publication of a few letters, and finally the front collapsed and was disorganized. In 1961 the religious faction of national front separated from it and established the Freedom Movement of Iran. Their Manifest indicated, "we are Muslim. We see religion and politics not as two separate entities. We are Iranian and believe in the constitution. We are the followers of Mossadegh."
With the political openness, the Shah had to face two problems: On the one hand the U.S. exerted pressure on the regime to induce the reforms and on the other hand ayatollah Boroujerdi opposed these reforms. In order to meet the demands of the U.S. the Shah appointed Dr. Amini his prime minister and told him that he did not want to further the reforms without the ayatollah's consent. He emissary to Qom but the ayatollah did not approve of the reforms saying that there were other things that needed more reforms. With the death of Ayaotllah Boroujerdi the Shah thought that the obstacle on the way of his reforms was removed but Amini knew that he still had to talk to the clergies in Qom. From among the high ranking clergies, Imam Khomeini refused to see his representative in private so a young cleric by the name of Aghighi Bakhshayeshi was present in the meeting. The content of the talks appeared in a newspaper on the same day. By this, the Imam wanted to make sure that Amini could not pretend that he has talked with top clergies and sought their consent to the reforms.
The land reform law was approved by the cabinet ministers in January 1962. Although the Imam believed that this reform was not to the benefit of farmers, yet he did not vice his opposition because the regime could take advantage of what he said. Dr. Amini's superficial reforms, particularly his administrative reforms made him popular. This and the fact that the prime minister got his orders from the United States outraged the Shah. He went to the U.S. and told the American officials that he was willing to do the reforms himself. When he returned ,he engineered Dr. Amini's resignation and his friend Assadollah Alam became the prime minister in the summer of 1 962.
When he took office as premiere Alam tried to weaken the clergies. It was said in Qom that he was about to establish movie theaters, bars and red light districts in the holy city. The young clergies in a letter to warned him against taking such measures. From among the high ranking clergies it was only the Imam who summoned the city's police chief and showing the letter to him warned him of the consequences of the regime's actions. Later, when a clergy from Qom went to the royal court to congratulate the Shah on the birth of his son, he too was summoned and questioned by the Imam when he returned to the holy city.
With the death of Ayatollah Kashani another obstacle on the way of the Shah's reforms was removed. The Imam held a magnificent commemoration ceremony for the late ayatollah and himself took part in it. Backed by 20 years of struggle against he regime, the Imam was now more determined in his opposition to the Shah and his regime. With the setting forth of the idea of provincial societies and the launching of other plots by the regime that were aimed at weakening Islam and Muslim clergies the Imam stood face to face with he Shah and his regime.
Although the Shah managed to send the Imam to exile but the Imam continued his leadership of the people's struggle that led to a great victory fifteen years later and toppled the two thousand and five hundred years old monarchy.
The days between June 1963 and June 1989 comprise one of the most important junctures of the Islamic movement of Iranian people. On the 13th of Khordad of the Iranian solar year of 1342 coinciding with the 3"' of June 1963 the Imam gave a speech at the Fayziah seminary in Qom starting the his long struggle against the U.S. and the Shah's regime. On the l5~ of June millions of Iranians launched a demonstration that led to bloodshed. In this demonstration millions of people from various walks of life vowed their allegiance with their spiritual leader. The movement that started on that day was suppressed by the military regime of those days but it remained as a turning point in the Iranian history as well as a starting point for other political and social developments and upheavals. In fact, the victory of Islamic revolution on the 11th of February 1979 was in continuation of the June movement that had lived during all those years like a fire under the ashes of time.
With this movement the Iranian people found out that they needed to sacrifice themselves and shed their blood. The June movement eliminated the people's fear of bullets and death. The other things they fund out they needed for their victory was courage and free will. The victory of Islamic revolution was to a great extent the outcome of the experiences they had gained in the course of the June movement and the ensuing events.
The Islamic revolution of 1979 that was based on the June 1963 movement has its roots in the Iranian people's interest in the revival of Islamic values. A revolution that may take place in every society where oppression obstacles the nation's spiritual growth and where people's values are undermined by colonial exploitation. It is because of his characteristic that the Islamic revolution cannot be understood within the frameworks known for discussing social changes. In fact it must be discussed as a movement within the Muslim world rather than a regional development.
The revolution that started on the 15th of Khordad was the natural outcome of a prolonged struggle by the Muslim people of Iran against the regime's de-isimization attempts that had started during the reign of Reza Shah Pahiavi in early twentieth century. This trend started with the regime's official opposition to the idea of Hijab and the ban it imposed on religious schools. The systematic opposition with Islamic values continued throughout the Pahiavi days and obviously gained momentum following the 1953 coup d' tat when foreign secret services came to the Shah's aid in the suppressing of fundamental ideas.
However, thanks to the strong opposition by the clergies, the de-islamization trend was not successful until early 60's. The leading clergy, Ayatollah Boorujerdi's influence was so strong that he Shah did not dare attempting any radical movement. After the ayatollah's death, the regime resolved to go ahead with the westernization trend more seriously. The first attempt of this kind was the establishment f provincial associations. The regime was surprised when it had to face the strong opposition from Qom and finally gave up the idea at once. Imam Khomeini had a very influential role in this opposition against the provincial associations. The Imam ruled out the idea of inducing reforms in the regime and expressed support for the overthrow of the regime and the establishment of an Islamic government. He began to issue strongly worded declarations against what he called the conspiracies of the Shah, Israel and the United States. This made the Imam well-known in the Muslim world and an example to be followed in the years 1961 and 1962. Following the very important speech he made on 13 Khordad in which he had threatened the Shah that he would be expelled from the country, two days later he was arrested. In that speech, the Imam had called on the Muslims of the world to launch an uprising against the US. and Israel.
Following the Imam's arrest, he was taken to a prison in Tehran. But protest rallies started in major Iranian cities including Tehran, Qom, Mashad, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tabriz in which the people expressed their support for their religious leader. The government declared the state of siege following the cross country unrest and suppressed the movement. But it continued to live like a fire under ashes.
The importance of the June movement was in the fact that major political events before that, including the 1953 coup de' tat had disheartened the people who were divided following the movement for the nationalization of Iranian oil. The movement that took place two years of political work on the part of the Imam and the clergies had a great enlightening role among the people who were about to surrender to westernization. It is definitely a mistake if anyone considers the l5th of Khordad movement an isolated attempt. In fact it was the manifestation of Iranian people's idealism and a bridge between the people who had fought for an Islamic government for centuries and the new generation that had been awakened and enlightened by Ayatollah Khomeini.
Following the June movement, the government sent Imam Khomeini to exile in Turkey in October 1964. The Imam had protested against American military advisors immunity before Iranian laws. In a speech a week before his being sent to exile, Ayatollah Khomeini had lashed out on western powers and declared that Islam was endangered by them. He said that the US.wanted to cut off the influence of the clergies in the Iranian politics. With the Imam in exile and political activists in prison the Shah managed to suppress all political movements for about 15 years between the years 1964 and 1979. In the meantime, the revival of Islam had become the foundation of the movement that led to the victory of Islamic revolution.
However, in the meantime, the despair that had emerged among political activists following the 1953 coup and the oil nationalization movement before that, and the regime encouragement to forward the de-islamization and westernization attempt brought about a virtual silence in the years between 1953 and 1961. The Imam managed to gain the people's confidence after all those years of silence because he was the symbol of orthodox Islam. His movement was viewed by the people as a divine movement that was aimed at putting an end to the indifference that was induced by those who had suppressed political movements in the country. The main motivation of the movement, however, was the revival of Islam although there were other motives like putting an end to the country's economic, political and cultural dependency, suppression of civil liberties and the imposition of dictatorship.
In the years between 1963 and 1979 the regime's policies carried the country towards a western dominated economy that left its impacts on a series of phenomena like the political system and military machine not to mention the western culture that overwhelmed the country in a situation in which any religious movement was violently suppressed. The Pahiavi regime in those years tried its best and most to establish a western style social order under a dictatorship. The educational system was depending on the west as did the military, economy and other aspects of social life in Iran in those fifteen years. Tens of thousands of people were sent to jail for their opposition to the regime's violence, dependency and corruption and most of them were tortured in the prisons while serving long terms.
This opposition gained momentum in the years 1977 to 1979 when the Islamic revolution was taking its final and true shape. The unrest started with the mysterious death of Imam's elder son, Mustafa. The commemorations sessions that were held for him across Iran were turned to political meetings during which the regime's violence and corruption was revealed. Three major confrontation between the regime and the people in Qom, Tabriz and Tehran brought the regime to its knees. A military government was established, people were killed in the violences while others started to destroy and burn places that were symbols of he regime's corruption.
As opposition within the army started to emerge, the Shah set up a civilian government and left the country in mid January 1979 after appointing a civilian prime minister from the national front and promising major reforms. But it was too late for any reforms as the only change the people were demanding was the establishment of an Islamic government. His last prime minister, Shapur Bakhtiar, even tried to pretend support for Ayatollah Khomeini but nobody believed him, particularly after he voiced his opposition to the Imam's return from his last exile in Paris and ordered the military to open fire at the people in the streets.
After the imam's glorious arrival in Tehran, Bakhtiar managed to resist only for ten days. On the 10th of February, his government extended the state of siege and banned the people's presence in the street round the clock! But Ayatollah Khomeini called on the people to defy the illegitimate government's orders and take to the streets. Following a whole day of combat in the streets of Tehran the military surrendered to the revolution. This was the end of the monarchy and dictatorship. The movement that led to this victory was one of the few major revolutions of the past two centuries. Nevertheless it was a unique movement that could not be compared to any liberation movement in Asia and Africa during the same period.
The people's role in the Islamic revolution, its leadership, as well as its global political, cultural, and social influence are among the characteristics that have made it unique among the revolutions and liberation movements of contemporary history.2
When the Imam was exiled, to Turkey, the bazaar closed down. People wrote letters to the embassy of Turkey oicing their protest against the action. Others gathered at the houses of high ranking clergies to pronounce their protest. At the same time, there were rumors going around that the Imam was in danger or that Turkey was about to extradite him to Iran. Meanwhile, prayer sessions were held across the country and at the same time Iranian students abroad staged massive protest demonstrations and sent protest letters to international organizations.
In Tehran, in response to a letter sent by the UN secretary general about the ayatollah, several meetings were held at top level but all ended up in confusion. However, at the end, they decided to send the Imam to another exile in Iraq. Contrary to the regime's expectations Imam had widespread contacts with Muslim clergies of Iran and other countries from his exile in the city of Najaf making all the efforts of the regime against him futile.
At the end of his exile in Iraq when the Shah's regime exerted pressure on Iraq to send the Imam to another country, a top Iraqi security official came to visit the Imam and asked him where he wished to go. The official obviously thought that the Imam would name Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan or some other Muslim country. The Imam said he wanted to go to a country that was not dependent on the Shah. When the official asked where, the Imam said: France. The Iraqi official immediately left with a face reddened by shame.
The Imam's years in exile have been extensively discussed in the previous chapters; nevertheless, in the upcoming chapters too, when it comes to the discussion of late Imam's family life we shall again go back to the subject observing it from different angles and particularly from the point of view of the late leader's close relatives. The life of a man going from one exile to another in the course of a turbulent juncture of history can cover several books by itself. The sheer experience of living in exile is dreadful enough. Having to go from one to another is certainly exciting to read but more certainly there is nothing to enjoy for the ones who experience the tormenting emotional experience of such a traumatic change.
1-Mohammad Dehghani Arani ,Hozur, June1991,Issue Number 1.
2-Special issue of the jomhouri Eslami, 13 july 1989
The Imam as a man who created a new order had a character with several aspects. Two of those aspects were the scholarly and political dimensions of his personality. In an interview with Hozour magazine in June 1991, the imam's son, late Hojjatoleslam Seyed Ahmad Khomeini spoke on these dimensions of the Imarn's personality:
The Imam attended the Arak seminary when he was about 21 years old. The founder of the renowned Qom seminary, late Sheikh Abdolkarim Haeri Yazdi lectured at the Arak seminary. Once he went to Qom for pilgrimage. There the ulema asked him to stay in Qom. He accepted the offer and later his pupils including the Imam left Arak for Qom. In that city the Imam completed most of his primary courses including jurisprudence, principles of the religion, and ethics in the classes of Ayatollah Haeri Yazdi. At the same time he taught other lessons as a tutor. 3
The Imam studied philosophy with Ayatollah Raflee for four years. After completing the Manzumah, he began to learn Asfar at the classes of Seyed Aboihassan Ghazvini. After two or three sessions, the Imam found out that he already knew the subject matter. Having proved that, he started to teach the Manzumah. Several clergies including Ayatollah Morteza Motahari were his pupils in the Manzumah course.
Scores of clerics and ordinary people attended the Imam's ethics classes at the Fayzieh School in Qom. The Imam's teaching method was very impressive particularly when he taught topics on resurrection and the afterlife. One day the Imam met with late Mr. Elahi, a mystic from Ghazvin and the great mystic late Mr. Shah Abadi. During their talks the Imam found out that Mr. Shah Abadi was a great master of philosophy. The Imam invited him to teach at Fayzieh, and himself studied the Fossus of Ibn Arabi with him for six years. According to Ayatollah Haeri Yazdi's son, the Imam was one of the last scholars who had studied on the topic and were able to lecture on mysticism.
The Imam has been quoted as saying that once when he was going to the school where he lectured he saw a number of people holding a discussion on the book The Thousand Years Old Secrets. He decided not to go to the school for a month or so and write the book Kashf ul Asrar.
All those who knew the Imam as a young man agree that he was a pious man who prayed for long hours and never attended a circle where there was any backbiting. Nor did he allow such behavior in his presence. At the same time, while striving for self purification, he attached importance to political activities and was politically active at the times of both Ayatollah Haeri Yazdi and Ayatollah Boroujerdi. For instance he opposed Reza Khan Pahiavi's policies towards the seminary and clerical order. He recalled that in part of Reza Khan's reign the clergy had to go out of town early in the morning and return after dark to avoid being harassed by the police.
Following the death of Ayatollah Haeri Yazdi the Imam supported Ayatollah Boroujerdi as his successor. On that time Ayatollah Boroujerdi was receiving medical treatment near Tebran. According to his wife, the Imam as a young scholar of the seminary wrote 50 to 60 letters a day to high ranking clergies across the country demanding their support for Ayatollah Boroujerdi. Finally the Ayatollah went to Qom and the seminary was thus strengthened from a scholarly point of view.
After Ayatollah Boroujerdi's death many clergies published their assertions on religious matters pretending they were doing that because seminary could not left without a superintendent.. They also collected the sums that were normally donated to the late Ayatollah. The Imam, who was 62 years old on that time, went on with his teachings and did not take part in these activities. He never tried to declare himself a marja', a clergy to whom people should refer for their religious problems. Although his pupils like Mirza Jafar Sobhani were active in his support, the Imam himself did not take even a single step in this direction. What really mattered to him was educating young clergies and thinking about the future of Islam.
Later, when Ayatollah Seyed Hadi Shirazi, a successor to Ayatollah Boroujerdi died, again the Imam refused to work towards becoming the marja'. High ranking clergies of Qom sent a message to the Imam who was in Tehran on that time calling on him to declare his willingness for religious leadership but the Imam still refused to do so. However, under the tremendous pressures coming from the high ranking clergies and ordinary people the Imam accepted to publish his Ressalah.
Both at the time of Ayatollah Haeri Yazdi and during the days of Ayatollah Boroujerdi the Imam was the standard bearer of political activities in the seminary or Hozah. At the time of Ayatollah Borojerdi he was assigned by the Ayatollah and other high ranking clergies to meet with the Shah twice because he was the only one who could speak with the shah and warn him against his policies without any inhibition. Nevertheless, when martyr Navab Safavi and his friends were sentenced to death, the Imam criticized ayatollah Boroujerdi and other clergies for failing to take a critical stance against the Shah. While other clergies urged the Shah not to put clergies to execution with their clerical dresses on, the Imam insisted that they should not be executed at all and if they were, they should have their clerical dresses on so that the people would know them.
There were regressive clergies at the seminary who even believed the philosophy and mysticism classes sponsored by the Imam were too radical for the seminary and its pupils. They even declared the Manzumah untouchable and said those who studied philosophy were blasphemous. Imam launched a major struggle against the old way of thinking at the seminary and furthered it until victory. In fact many believe that one of the greatest achievements of the Imam was the enlightenment he introduced at the seminary and traditional divinity schools. He strongly believed that enlightenment should begin at the schools and find its way to the streets. He furthered this struggle single-handedly.
In this way, on the one hand he worked hard for the enlightenment of the students and on the other hand he had to fight against the Shah's regime and its oppression. Finally, by educating revolutionary pupils the Imam witnessed their victory over the regressive factions in the seminary and managed to guide his pupils throughout the struggle against the regime until its final victory in February 1979.
Former interior minister and now the speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) Hojjatoleslam Au AkbarNateq Nouri, was a close eye witness to the late Imam's arrival in Iran in February 1979 and to his final departing in a magnificent funeral, both attended by millions. Speaking in an interview in the special issue of Jomhuri Eslami newspaper, he explained that he was not supposed to attend any one of the two events. However, his presence in both of those events turned out to be constructive and helpful.
"On the first of February 1979 like thousands of others I had a pass that allowed me to welcome the Imam upon his arrival in Mehrabad airport. But it so happened that I got in car that was moving behind the vehicle that carried the Imam. There was only one other vehicle between us that carried the TV crew that filmed the event. I saw the Imam's car all the time, but when we reached Behesht Zahra Cemetery I found out that his car was no longer there. I asked the film crew why they did not come along and they answered because the Imam was not coming. I jumped out of the rear door of our moving car to see what had happened. With great effort I reached the Imam's car. The car was out of order. And there were hundreds of people practically on the car. The engine was on fire but the Imam was still in the car. Mr. Rafighdoust who was driving the car was worried about the Imam's safety but the Imam kept saying, "don't worry, nothing is going to happen!" Rafighdoust said that the Imam wanted to get off the car and go and talk to the people but I locked the doors an~ kept him inside as I feared for his safety. The car was moving with the pressures coming from the hands of people who surrounded it.
At the same time,an army helicopter landed nearby and the Imam got off the car and reached the helicopter and went aboard. I too found myself in the helicopter and finally we landed in lot 17 of the cemetery.
In a strange way a similar event took place during the Imam's funeral many years later. On the welcoming day, after his speech the Imam went towards the helicopter but fearing for the safety of the crowd the pilot took off while security arrangements on the grounds were gone too. You have probably seen a photo of the Imam in Behesht Zahra in which he is not wearing his turban. That photo was taken in this very moment. Worried for his safety, I kept shouting but no one could hear me. Even for one moment I thought I lost the Imam. People pulled him from one place to another. But he was so clam. It was a strange power that pulled the Imam out of that turbulent crowd.
This scene was similar to another scene on the funeral day. On that day the pressure from the crowd has made me helpless but a hand from the occult saved the Imam's bdy from among the crowd and reached it to where it should have been several long minutes ago. In that scene too, the people were pulling the body towards themselves but a strange trend carried him towards the burial site. The clean body was moving by a hand from the occult.
On the funeral day I went to Mossalla, where the body was. I did not go to Behesht Zahra in the morning. With millions of others we prayed for the Imam and I moved towards the cemetery as soon as the prayer came to its end. Had someone asked me why I was in such a hurry to go to Behesht Zahra, I had no answer for him.
The long way between Mossalla and Behesht Zahra was filled with those who have come to say farewell to their Imam. Yet, when I reached the cemetery, the population was unbelievably large. When I got there I planned to stay out of the area where the containers were. But with the pressure coming from the crowd, all of a sudden I found myself in. So we climbed the containers and came down from the other side ike others without noticing what we have done. There, I tried to go to the area that was dedicated to state officials. When I got there everybody was mourning. After a while, I found out that there was order. Both the people and the police had lost their control because of sorrow and grief. I remembered the experience of the day of Imam's arrival and began to become anxious. I thought it was absolutely impossible to bury the Imam's body in the presence of the crowd. I discussed my worries with the police and asked them to think of order. A few minutes later the helicopter that carried the Imam's body arrived. The wooden coffin was longer than the helicopter's width and it was visible in both ends.
As soon as the helicopter landed and the people saw it, they rushed towards it. So, I went to the microphone that was in the area and called on the crowd to be calm. But nobody could listen to me. The people pulled the coffin out and it was now moving on their hands around the area. The crowd was not willing to give the coffin for burial. 'After a few minutes, the coffin was no longer visible. We only could guess where it was by seeing a turbulence in the. moving crowd. Nothing was under control. When I decided to go among the crowd, my friends told me that I could be killed under their feet. But I went there and started shouting at the people and the disciplinary forces. Finally an ambulance went ahead from among the crowd and the forces put the coffin inside the ambulance.
However, when the vehicle reached the grave the body was once again outside by carried away by the crowd. When they got closer to where I was and when I saw that the shroud was moved away revealing the Imam's legs, I could no longer hesitate. I got hold of the coffin, put a turban on it and kept it in the officials' section. Then I got the radio and called for the helicopter. When it landed, I climbed the ambulance and moved the coffin into the helicopter. When it took off parts of the coffin were still out of he helicopter. First we landed at the military academy downtown Tehran and then flew to a helicopter pad near the Imam's house. From the pad we took the coffin to the house by another ambulance. This time, Ayatollah Khamenei sent a shroud he had kept for himself. At four o'clock in the afternoon the Imam's body was taken to Behesht Zahra once again. Some of the crowd had left because it was announced that the funeral as postponed to the day after. Nevertheless, when the helicopter reached the burial area once again they rushed to the scene. With much difficulty the coffin was laid by the grave. I went into the grave and buried the body of our beloved Imam with the help of two other men.
As soon as the burial was over the crowd rushed once again and I was sure that I was going to die under their steps. But in a strange way, an outlet opend and I could come out of the grave with my bare feet. Then a container was put over the grave and the funeral came to its end.
The commander of army helicopter unit who accompanied the pilot of the helicopter, now general Mohammad Ansari recalls that he was on a military mission the day before the Imam's demise. When he was listening to the morning news the day after he could not believe his own ears. "I simply did not think I could bear such a great sorrow," he says. However, when he was told to take part in the missions relating to funeral he accepted it without hesitation.
"The army's helicopter units had started their activities at 3 o'clock in the morning. Most of them carried the reporters coming~ from various countries. From the sky for the first time saw how huge the crowd was. There were millions of them over the hills. When they were saying the prayer for the Imam, it looked as if the greatest computers of the world have made their movements harmonious. After the prayers the people started to go to Behesht Zahra cemetery. I was the pilot of rescue helicopter. The pad at Mossalla was already unusable as it was occupied by the people. We landed near the cemetery and the land crew managed to take the Imam's body into the helicopter. A large number of people and official were now in aboard, so some of them had to get off before the final landing in the crowd. I did a landing in a desert area and some of them got off.
Everybody thought that the people at Mossalla had not reached the cemetery yet. That was true. But there was an equally large population in the cemetery from last night. I tried to land among the crowd two or three times but my attempts failed because of the crowd that was on the ground. As son as we landed the guards and the police who loved their Imam forgot their responsibility and rushed to the helicopter like other people. A moment after the coffin was outside the helicopter and was being carried on the shoulders of the people. We were ordered to take off again but this was not possible. About fifty people were inside the helicopters and even more were on top of it. The reason why they were in the helicopter, was that when the coffin was taken out from one side, the mourning people on the other side still thought that it was somewhere inside.
We decided to take off and when we did it as something like a miracle. Anywhere in the world taking off among such a big crowd would have killed several individual by the rotation of the rotor blades. There were so many people hanging from the helicopter that it was practically impossible to take off but we managed to do it with the coffin miraculously inside the helicopter.
This mission was an honor for me and the entire helicopter unit. We had done this once again upon the Imam's arrival in Tehran after 15 years in February 1979." In both of these situation the nation proved their love for and their devotion to their Imam by their cordial and highly emotional behavior.
When Ayatollah Boroujerdi was the highest ranking clergy in Qom, the Imam was the second top lecturer on divinity in the holy city. His students were welLknown for their mastery of the knowledge and almost all of them reached high clerical ranks later. After Ayatollah Boroujerdi's demise the Imam was one of only a dozen clergies that were nominated for the high clerical order. But he was unwilling to be known as such as that time, recalls Hojatoleslam Emam Jamarani one of the Imam's pupils. On that time Imam as the only top cleric who did not conceal his opposition against the Shah's regime. Emam Jamarani went to see the Imam with his father, when the Imam was released from a prison term he had to serve following his protest against the idea of provincial societies. He speaks on How Imam decided to stay in Jamaran neighborhood.
Following his heart problem a few months after the victory of Islamic revolution the Imam was hospitalized in Tehran for a couple of months. After he was discharged from the hospital he stayed at a house in Darband area in northern Tehran for four months. But he did not like that house because its appearance was too luxurious. Then he threatened that he would go to Qom if a suitable place was not found for him. The doctors had aid that the Imam should not live in Qom in order to avoid being exposed to the city's bad weather. Then his son Ahmad and I began to look for a house in Jamaran area. Then I suggested that if the Imam liked our house we could make it a little bigger by attaching those of my brother and sister. They said they would accept the idea if Mrs. Khomeini liked the house. She did not like the house very much but knew that the Imam will like it. So she gave her approval and we began to do minor repairs and finally the Imam moved to that house .on the 19th of May 1980 The Imam liked the place very much and expressed his satisfaction in various occasions adding that the previous place was not suitable. Although the house did not match the Imam's status, yet he was happy with that. In a speech to his neighbors the Imam said: "We have become your neighbor and that will cause trouble for you." Although the house was chosen in a matter of one day with no prior planning, a couple of days later the Voice of America said that the Imam has moved to a place where air raids were absolutely impossible. But no one had ever thought of this as a factor in choosing the house for the great leader.
After sometime, thee army began to build a helicopter pad for the emergency landing of helicopters and taking the Imam to a safe place if something serious happened. As soon as the Imam found out about this he expressed his dissatisfaction and the work was immediately stopped.
When the war broke out the army engineering unit built a bomb shelter so that the Imam could go there at the time of air raids. Again the Imam said: "Do not build it because I shall not go in this place!" This time they built it but the Imam never went there even for once. A year later when the Nojeh Coup was launched the officials urged the Imam to leave the house for one night as his life was in danger. places near the Imam's house. but he never showed any sign of fear or worry. When he was asked to go to the bomb shelter, he said that he wanted to stay in the open like the soldier who was on guard outside the house. He insisted that there was no difference between his life and that of the soldier.
The Imam even faced death with the same certainty. In one of his last days, a close relative of his told him: "It's nothing. You will get better." And the Imam said that birth and death were not so important.
The Imam stayed in that house for several years and never went out of it. He was very modest. Most of the time he remained silent. He spoke only when it was really necessary. And when he spoke, it was brief and calculated. Most of the time he was thinking. He observed a certain order and discipline in his daily life. He was always on time for everything particularly for his classes. He always listened attentively to what others said and this gave a certain sense of confidence to anyone who spoke. He was a very intelligent man and knew what others thought.
And when it came to the issue of burial, based on his father's views, his son determined that the burial place should be close to the graves of the martyrs, and at the same time, it must be a place that could accommodate all those who came for the funeral. And so was the site of his tomb chosen.
In an interview with a special issue of The Jomhouri Eslami that was published in June 1992, late Imani's daughter, Mrs. Farideh Mostafavi explained Imam's family life and his treatment of the members of his family, particularly his wife. She said when Imam decided to marry, he was 28 years old. First he talked with Mr. Lavassani, a friend of his; and the latter suggested that Mr. Saghafi's daughter would make a suitable wife for the ayatollah as a young man. Mr. Lavassani sought Mr. Saghafi's consent. At the time of the marriage, the ayatollah was 28 and Mrs. Khomeini was 15 years old. According to Mrs. Farideh Mostafavi the Imam who lived rather comfortably thanks to the inheritance left by his father, managed to rent a house and begin an independent life with his wife. Most of the household appliances came from the young bride's house. The Imam had a few things that he brought from the seminary after two or three months. All they had was a Gelim, a traditional tapestry woven by rural Iranians or tribes-women, a small kerosene cooker and a few kitchenware. After a couple of years, Imam's brother sent him some old carpets and some more kitchenware that he had inherited from his father.
As to the Imam's behavior within the family, Mrs. Mostafavi says that Imam's behavior towards his wife was very intimate, respectful and kind. It was her views that were carried out regarding every matter of family life. He never started to eat before she did. Everybody, even the children had to wait for the lady of the house before beginning to eat. She recollects that once as a child she had shattered a window glass while playing with a ball with her siblings. The Imam arrived to punish the children. But as soon as he found out that the children had their mother's permission to play, he just left the room without saying a word.
He never asked his wife to do or bring anything for him. He would rather tell the children. He always did respect his wife and always showed his love and respect for his wife particularly when their children were present. However, the respect was mutual. Mrs. Khomeini was very patient. She was the daughter of an affluent family and had lived in Tehran. Now she was living in Qom that in comparison to Tehran was an underprivileged city particularly in some 60 to 70 years ago. She tolerated the hard life in the small town because of her love and respect for the Imam. She never said a word that was indicative of despair or dissatisfaction.
She was always encouraging. Throughout all those hardships, struggles and exiles she supported her husband. When the Imam was exiled to Turkey, he gave his seal to his wife and she kept it safe for more than a year before joining him in another exile in Najaf, Iraq. She never questioned what her husband did. And she never tried to dissuade him. Not only she never showed any sign of weakness or fear, but she was always encouraging and supportive.
As to his behavior with his children, the Imam was kind but firm. The children had practically understood that they must not do anything that their father did not like or approve of. However, the children had their own freedom in other matters. He loved his children equally. However, he showed greater love for his daughters. His behavior was so that every child thought she or he was his favorite.
"When I lived in Qom and the Imam lived in Tehran. I used to go to see him. And when I left he insisted that I should call him from Qom and let him know that I was safely in my destination," -Mrs. Mostafavi recalls.
His way of rearing the children was to be firm. However, he neglected our wrongdoings. But we could not face him for a while when we did something that he did not like. From an educational point of view he was an example to be followed by his children. When they saw that he never did something, they learned not to do that too. However, he was never too strict on things that did not really matter. He never woke his children up for the early morning prayers. But they knew that they had to make up for the missed prayers before noontime.
He advised his children to look for their spouse in a family with a matching socio-cultural status. But the financial status did not really matter to him. His sonsin. .law did not have to be wealthy. It was enough if they could make ends meet for their family and his daughters in_law brought :with them only the minimum requirements for a modest family. However, all of them came from the families of clergymen. His behavior towards his in ..laws was very respectful and at the same time very friendly. He was even more friendly ai5d intimate towards his grand children. While he never asked his children to do anything for him, he usually did ask his grand children because he was more comfortable with them.
With all the works he had to do as the leader of a great revolution and a great country, the spiritual teacher of an entire generation and a politician who had to face with the challenges of a turbulent world he was still dedicated to his family and fulfilled his responsibilities as a father and a man of family.
The Imam's wife, Mrs. Ghods Iran Saghafi (Mostafavi) with Neda magazine 4 in Tebran talked about the late Imam's characteristics. Many years after his demise, she still had wet eyes when speaking about her husband. Her father was Haj Mirza Mohammad Saghafi a well known cleric in Tehran who was the son of Mirza Abolfazi Tebrani who wrote poems in Arabic and had a major library that he donated to the Sepahsalar Theological School. The father of Mirza Abolfazi, was Mirza Aboighassem Kalantar who was the police chief of Tehran at the time of Nassereddin Shah Qajar the 19th century monarch of Persia. Her mother was the daughter of Haj Mirza Gholamhossein the treasurer and the court minister. When she was about seven years old and her father was about thirty years old, he decided to go to the holy city of Qom to study divinity. However, she stayed in Tehran with her grandmother and did not go to Qom with her parents. In fact she had lived with her grandmother since she was only six months old.
During those five years they went to see her parents once in every two years. They traveled by carriage and the journey between Tehran and Qom (less than 150 kilometers) took about three days. She went to school with her other two sisters. Few could manage to send their children, particularly their daughters to school. She studied until the 8th grade before her marriage to the Imam. Her father was against her going to school after the 6 th grade.
The Imam was a friend of her father's. He was 12 years older than Ghods Iran. 'Once Mr. Lavassani, a friend of the Imam's asked him why he had not married. He answered that he still has not met the suitable bride. And he did not want to marry with any girl from his own hometown, Khomein. He was 26 or 27 years old on that time. Mr. Lavassani told him that Mr. Saghafi had two daughters. Later the Imam told me that when he heard this his heart stopped on that very spot. He liked my father very much although he regretted that he was not so deeply involved in divinity," -she says.
When the Imam finally proposed, it was still ten months before the bride gave her positive response. She did not want to go to Qom. "Every time I went there, I wanted to return after a couple of weeks. Almost the whole town was graveyards. The alleys of the city were narrow and I did ~not like it at all even before that. But my father used to say that the groom would provide my comfort in Qom. Finally I gave my consent when I dreamed a couple of times that the Imams and the holy prophet were in the very house that later we rented for living there."
It was exactly the same house and the same rooms they rented after their marriage. Even the curtains they bought were the same that had appeared in her dreams. When she told her grandmother about the dreams, she encouraged her to marry the Imam because she believed he was a true descendant of the holy prophet. In the meantime, the Imam kept sending an emissary almost everyday. I was fifteen years old when I finally consented to the marriage. One week after declaring my consent I saw the groom through the window glass along with my sisters and mother.
Asked if she liked the groom,
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