The late leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran Imam Khomeini’s socio-political ideology was deeply rooted in Islam.
While condemning the hard-nosed policies of the Shah regime, he always stood by the oppressed people of Iran.
As world observes the 25rd demise anniversary of the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran Rouhullah Mousavi Khomeini, the charismatic leader and champion of Islamic revival’s life remains a beacon of inspiration.
As a western journalist, Philip Shenon once observed, “Even from the grave, Ayatollah Khomeini so reviled and feared in the west, still so beloved by millions of the faithful here is continuing to command influence in the nation that he led as its supreme spiritual leader for nearly 10 years.” (‘Khomeini’s Tomb Attracts Pilgrims’, The New York Times, July8, 1990).
On September 24, 1902, Imam, as he was called by his admirers, was born into a family in Khomein province of Iran with a long tradition of religious scholarship.
Noted biographer and writer, Hamid Algar in a biography of the Imam traces his roots to India.
He notes, “His ancestors, the descendants of Imam Musa Kazim had migrated towards the end of 18th century from their original home in Nishapur to Lucknow. There they settled in the small town of Kintur and devoted themselves to the religious instruction and guidance of the region’s predominant Jafariya population.”
Olivier Roy and Antoine Sfeir also note in The Columbia World Dictionary of Islamism; so does Baqir Moin in his book, Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah.
Algar says his grandfather Seyyed Ahmad had left Lucknow sometime in the middle of the19th century on a pilgrimage to the mausoleum of Hazrat Ali in Najaf, where he made acquaintance with Yusuf Khan, a prominent citizen of Khomein.
On his invitation, he decided to settle there to assume responsibility for the religious needs of people there.
However, Imam’s Kashmir connection also cannot be ruled out. Imam once penned down a letter to the highly revered Shia cleric of that time, Aga Seyyed Yusuf Almosvi, expressing his strong desire to visit his “ancestral land” (with reference to Kashmir).The letter is still preserved with the late Aga’s son and noted cleric Aga Seyyed Fazlullah.
Imam had a turbulent childhood; he faced some adversities early in life, having lost his father in infancy, and bereaved of his mother and aunt, who raised him, at the tender age of 15.
Being an exceptionally gifted child, he received his elementary education in Arabic grammar, logic and rudiments of other subjects from his elder brother, Ayatullah Pasandedah.
Later, he joined the Centre for Theological Studies in Araaqand to study literature. Gradually, Imam acquired great depth of knowledge in key disciplines like philosophy, mysticism, and astronomy, becoming an authority on theological and canon law, besides being well versed in intellectual and traditional sciences.
He began teaching philosophy at the young age of 27and wrote books on various religious subjects. He married the daughter of a prominent clergyman at 30 and had two sons and three daughters.
Imam’s socio-political ideology was deeply rooted in Islam. In Kashaf-ul-Asrar, he writes, “Religion is the only thing that dissuades mankind from treachery and crime. Unfortunately, those who take the helm of state in Iran have either a false faith or no faith at all (referring to Shah’s regime of that time). These demagogues who speak fervently of safeguarding the interests of the country really look after their own interests.” While condemning the hard-nosed policies of the Shah regime, he always stood by the oppressed people of Iran.
In 1960s, the despotic ruler of Iran, Raza Shah Pahlevi embarked on a mission to “westernize” the country. He was hell-bent on wiping off the distinct identity of Iranian Muslims and implementing designs of western forces. His increasing dependence on SAVAK (secret police) was to control and suppress the resistance movement that criticized his activities.
In 1962, a controversial bill was approved by Shah’s council of ministers, calling for “omitting” the “stipulation of Islam” clause in country’s constitution, even though it ordained all to believe in it.
People who opposed the move were tortured, imprisoned and executed in order to safeguard the interests of enemy powers.
Imam fought against it and managed to mobilize people for an intense opposition to Shah’s west-sponsored move, a plot designed by the Kennedy regime to make Iran subservient to the US.
Imam in his historic address at Qom, in 1963, exhorted people to “stand firm against the illegal measures of the regime, never fear any showdown, if government resorts to force, don’t yield to it…we in the garb of Muslim clergy will fight for the cause of Islam. No force, however great, can silence us.”
Imam’s massive popularity among masses was an eyesore to the Shah’s regime. The SAVAK threatened him to stop delivering speeches at Fareiyyah School, but he kept defying the warnings.
The angry ruler soon ordered his troops to arrest Imam. Next day, streams of people marched to streets and demanded, “Either death or Khomeini”. In these protest marches, some 2,000 people were killed on the streets of Tehran and Qom alone.
After Imam was released, he again delivered a historic speech at Azam Mosque. “They call us reactionary people. The mullahs oppose the adversity of people suffering here. We wish they were not humble servants of others. We do not, nor does Islam oppose civilization. You (government) have violated all laws, whether divine or human. You have here military experts from Israel. You send Iranian students to Israel. This we oppose. Your educational system is at the service of aliens.”
On the night of November 4, 1964 Imam was detained and sent into exile to Turkey. Imam’s son Mustafa Khomeini was imprisoned, and later exiled to Turkey.
The Turkish government acted tough on Imam, extraditing him to Iraq. In Iraq, he resumed his activities. From Iraq, he continuously sent messages to people of Iran and the Muslim world, enjoining them to practice Islam in letter and spirit, and stand firm against the machinations of imperialist forces.
During Imam’s exile, his son Mustafa Khomeini, 48, was poisoned to death. While these repressive measures adopted by the despotic regime reached its peak in Iran, mass demonstrations persisted across the country.
Imam left Iraq for Kuwait, but the government in Kuwait refused to accept him. He then left for France. Protest movements back home intensified.
On September 8, 1978, indiscriminate firing by Shah’s troops led to a massacre at Jaleh Square, leaving around 5,000 dead. The said square was later named as the “Square of Martyrs.”’
This was followed an unprecedented reaction from people. A resolution was passed, demanding the return of Imam Khomeini, and the dethronement of Shah, forcing him to flee the country.
Imam returned to Iran on February 1, 1979, amidst grand reception. Imam hence paved the way through a movement that picked up in 1963 and culminated in a great revolution in September 1979.
The great Iranian scholar and Khomeini’s contemporary, Ustad Murtaza Mutahhiri, in his book Islamic Movements in the Last 100 Years, writes, “His name, memory, words, ardor of spirit, adamant will, firmness, clear-sightedness, and deep faith is spoken highly of by all people of all classes. He is the greatest and dearest of all heroes and pride of the Iranian nation.”
Imam was modest to the core. Notwithstanding the fact that he was the chief architect of the Islamic republic in Iran, he considered himself merely “a simple theologian” all his life. To be simple is to be great. Perhaps that is the best tribute of the man who fought and won.
“In the reign of ignorance, awareness itself becomes a crime…” Late Iranian scholar Ali Shariati