Ruhollah Khomeini

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The Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

In office
3 December 1979 – 3 June 1989
Deputy Hussein-Ali Montazeri (1985–1989)
Preceded by Position established (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as Shah of Iran)
Succeeded by Ali Khamenei

Born 17 May 1900(1900-05-17) or 24 September 1902(1902-09-24)
Khomeyn, Sublime State of Persia
Died 3 June 1989(1989-06-03) (aged 86 or 89)
Tehran, Iran
Resting place Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini
Spouse(s) ∞ 1929 Khadijeh Saqafi
Children 7, including Mostafa, Zahr, Farideh, and Ahmad

Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (17 May 1900 or 24 September 1902[a] – 3 June 1989) was an Iranian Islamic revolutionary, politician, and religious leader who served as the first supreme leader of Iran from 1979 until his death in 1989. He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leader of the Iranian Revolution, which overthrew Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and ended the Iranian monarchy.

Early days

He was the child of a family with a long tradition of religious scholarship. His ancestors, descendants of Imam Musa al-Kazim, the seventh Imam of the Ahl al-Bayt, had migrated towards the end of the eighteenth century from their original home in Nishapur to the Lucknow region of northern India. There they settled in the small town of Kintur and began devoting themselves to the religious instruction and guidance of the region’s predominantly Shia population. Imam Khomeini’s grandfather, Sayyid Ahmad, left Lucknow sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century on pilgrimage to the tomb of first Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, in Najaf - Iraq. While in Najaf, Sayyid Ahmad made the acquaintance of a certain Yusuf Khan, a prominent citizen of Khumayn. Accepting his invitation, he decided to settle in Khumayn to assume responsibility for the religious needs of its citizens and also took Yusuf Khan’s daughter in marriage. [1]

When he was about five months old, his father was killed on the orders of a local landlord. The young Khomeini was raised by his mother and aunt and then, after their deaths, by his older brother, Mortaza (later known as Ayatollah Pasandideh). He was educated in various Islamic schools, and he settled in the city of Qom. About 1930 he adopted the name of his home town, Khomayn (also spelled Khomeyn or Khomen), as his surname. As a Shi’ite scholar and teacher, Khomeini produced numerous writings on Islamic philosophy, law, and ethics, but it was his outspoken opposition to Iran’s ruler, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, his denunciations of Western influences, and his uncompromising advocacy of Islamic purity that won him his initial following in Iran. In the 1950s he was acclaimed as an Ayatollah, or major religious leader, and by the early 1960s he had received the title of grand Ayatollah, thereby making him one of the supreme religious leaders of the Shi’ite community in Iran [2]


Khomeini did not engage in any political activities until 1930 with a view that the leadership of political activities should be in the hands of the foremost religious scholars, and he was therefore obliged to accept the decision of Ayatollah Haeri. First remarkable political activity by Ayatollah Khomeini can be observed in 1955 during a campaign against Baha’i Sect for which the Khomeini sough to obtain support and workmen force for Ayatollah Boroujerdi who was the most prominent religious leader in Qom after the death of Ayatollah Haeri. During the years of Ayatollah Boroujerdi's leadership, Ayatollah Khomeini focused his concentration on giving instruction (lectures) in Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence). The turning phase of Ayatollah Khomeini starts after the death of Ayatollah Boroujerdi on March 31, 1961, whereas he came up as one of the successors to Ayatollah Boroujerdi.

Ayatollah Khomeini was soon accepted as Marja-e-Taqlid by a large number of Iranian Shias. In writing and compilation work of Ayatollah Khomeini is the famous book “Tauzeeh-ul-Masael”. The Tauzeeh-ul-Masael is a book in which almost all the Islamic rules are listed for guidance of his followers to improve the life style in routine and special circumstance.

The period from 1962 to 1979, as a Grand Ayatollah is covered by his political activism which was greatly influenced by his strict, religious interpretation of Shia Islam. He practically launched his fight against the shah's regime (monarchy), which led to the eruption of a religious and political rebellion (revolution) in 1963. This event is regarded by the revolutionists as the turning point in the history of the Islamic movement in Iran. The King Raza Shah Pahlevi bloody humiliating of the uprising was followed by the exile of Ayatollah Khomeini to Iraq in 1964 (1965). Settling in Iraq, Khomeini continued his outspoken denunciations, developing a strong religious and political following abroad, until forced by the then President Saddam Hussein in 1978 to leave Iraq; he then moved to France. Following the revolution that deposed Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi, Khomeini returned triumphantly to Iran in 1979, declared the state as an Islamic republic [3]. Ayatollah Khomeini was the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The only leader in the Muslim world who combined political and religious authority as a head of state.

Political criticism

Ayatollah Khomeini in his 10 years of leadership established a theocratic rule over Iran. He did not fulfill his pre-revolution promises to the people of Iran but instead he started to marginalize and crash the opposition groups and those who opposed the clerical rules. He ordered establishment of many institutions to consolidate power and safeguard the cleric leadership. During his early years in power he launched the Cultural Revolution in order to Islamize the whole country. Many people were laid off, and lots of books were revised or burnt according to the new Islamic values. Newly established Islamic Judiciary system sentenced many Iranians to death and long-term imprisonment as they were in opposition to those radical changes [4].

However, his critics ignore the fact that his 10 years as Supreme Religious and State leader, 08 years were wasted in Iran-Iraq war, cost of which led to government debt and inflation, eroding personal incomes, and unprecedented unemployment. This situation is self sufficient to evaluate the available time for fulfillment of Promises or Planned destination for Rehabilitation and replacement of systems towards modern Cultural Revolution in order to Islamize the whole country in accordance with the requirement of the technological and global village era.

Brief history prior to triumph

  1. Leader of Islamic Republic of Iran - Ayatollah Khomeini became the supreme religious leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran from 3 December-1979 to 3 June-1989, (till his death), Following his exalt appointment as Ayatollah, Khomeini struggled with his associates to remove the Shah from power for his associations with the West. Upon the success of the revolution Ayatollah Khomeini was named religious and political leader of Iran for life.
  2. His ancestors belong to descendants of Imam Mousa al-Kazim, the seventh Imam of the Shia Imamia (Asna Ashri – twelver). The ancestors of Ruhollah Khomeini migrated from their original home in Nishapur, North-Eastern Iran, to the kingdom of Awadh, whose rulers were Twelver Shia Muslims of Persian origin.
  3. Religion & Nationality: Usuli Twelver Shia Islam and Iranian Nationality (Birthplace: Khomein, Iran)
  4. Family: Name of his wife is Khadijeh Saqafi and name of sons and daughters are: Mostafa, Zahra, Sadiqeh, Farideh, Ahmad [5].
  5. As a result of his struggle and sowing a seed of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khomeini had to face exile from time to time:
(i)On 5 June 1963 Ayatollah Khomeini arrested and thrown in prison by the Shah of Iran. On 4 November, 1964 Ayatollah Khomeini again arrested and deported to Turkey [6]
(ii)Exiled to Iraq from 1965 to 1978
(iii)Exiled from Iraq to France from 1978 to 1979. From then the image and the words of the Ayatollah Khomeini soon became a daily feature in the world's media
(iv)Return to Iran: Grand Ayatollah Khomeini embarked on a chartered airliner of Air France on the evening of January 31 and arrived in Tehran the following morning. He was received with a historical warm welcome from Iranian general people and revolutionists.

Post revolution events

  1. Rehabilitation and replacement of systems prevailed for the last 100 years. During his early years in power he launched the Cultural Revolution in order to Islamize the whole country. Non cooperation from Western and European countries due to a fear that the Iranian Revolution of 1979 would inspire insurgency in the neighboring countries and an example for so-called revolutions is irrefutable time constraint for the rapid development. Many of the Muslim countries termed the Iranian Revolution as the Shi’ite Revolution and not an Islamic Revolution.
  2. Iran Iraq War: started on 22 September 1980 and ended in 1988 Iran accepted a cease-fire with Iraq after being pressured by the United Nations.
  3. Sentenced writer Salman Rushdi: On 14 February 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini issues a Fatwa (edict) against Salman Rushdi over his book Satanic Verses declaring it to be blasphemous, or insulting to God, because of its unflattering portrait of Islam.
  4. Quds Day: declared the last Friday of every Ramadhan as the Quds day
  5. Shia & Sunni relation: Khomeini also called for unity between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sunni Muslims are the largest religious minority in Iran and termed that Shia & Sunni are two arms of a body.
  6. Muslim Harmony: Unity between Shi’is and Sunnis was one of his lasting concerns; he was, indeed, the first Shi'ite authority to declare unconditionally valid prayers performed by Shias behind a Sunnni Imam (Istifta’at, I, p. 279) [7].

Position of women

In his position as an enlightened Marja-e-Taqleed Ayatollah, Khomeini demonstrated the true teachings of the pure Islam of Holy Prophet and the precious heritage of the tradition of the Prophet and the teaching & guidance of the infallible Imams reflecting role of women their responsibilities and identity in Muslim society. A message delivered by Ayatollah Khomeini is reproduced below:

I convey my best wishes and felicitations to the noble nation of Iran, in particular the respected women, on the immensely happy occasion of the birthday of Fatima Zahra, the most felicitous day to commemorate Women’s Day. This joyous birthday occurred in a place and time when women were not considered to be human beings and their very existence was seen as a source of shame for families among the different tribes of the pre-Islamic times. In such a corrupt and barbaric environment, the great Prophet of Islam took woman’s hand and delivered her from the slough of pagan customs. The history of Islam testifies to the limitless respect the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him and his descendants, showed this noble infant, so as to demonstrate that woman has a special greatness in society, and if she is not superior to man, she is certainly no less than him. So this day is the day of woman’s revivification and the day to establish her honor and the great role she plays in society. (Message/speech 14th April, 1982) [8]

Reality in the 21st century

For a long time after the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79, Iranian women were either suppressed by their families or forced to conceal social and working activities to avoid facing problems with the authorities. According to Iranian civil law, married women can only work with their husbands' consent. For many, life became easier during the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005. Khatami tried to open Iran to the world, supporting greater social and religious tolerance and contacts overseas, including internet access. Things worsened again, however, under Khatimi's successor, the conservative nationalist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Personal freedom and free access to information were encouraged during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani (2013-21), raising hopes for changes in the status of women and on issues such as free speech.

As of February 2021, only 5.6% of seats in parliament were held by women. In 2018, 17.6% of women aged 15-49 years reported that they had been subject to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months. Also, women and girls aged 15+ spend 21% of their time on unpaid care and domestic work, compared to 5.2% spent by men. Iran’s laws grant husbands significant control over their wives’ lives. Under the Civil Code, the husband has the right to choose where they live and he can prevent his wife from having certain jobs if he deems them against “family values.” Under the Passports Law, a woman needs her husband’s permission to obtain a passport and travel outside the country. Iran does not have policies in place to prevent abuse, protect women, and prosecute domestic violence, despite increasing reports of horrific femicides and women risking their lives to escape abuse. In many femicide cases, prosecutors, and judges often do not press for adequate penalties.

Over 50 percent of Iran’s university graduates are women. A population law passed in November 2021 outlawed sterilization and free distribution of contraceptives in the public health care system unless a pregnancy threatens a woman’s health. The same law provided incentives for early marriage such as interest free loans to those who marry at 25 and younger. With many families being driven into poverty, they may force girls and women into marriage earlier to have one less person to feed. The government’s own reports show child marriage is on the rise. Iran’s civil code provides that girls can marry at 13 and boys at age 15, as well as at younger ages if authorized by a judge.


  • I condemn the Western World’s Zionist-controlled media and the Marxist press for their attacks on the Iranian National Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Not for the first time, we find the reactionary ideologies of Capitalism and Communism standing shoulder to shoulder. What is it that has caused these ‘class enemies’ to unite? The answer is found permeating the Ayatollah’s speeches: “We will not allow the Superpowers to intervene in the destinies of our country, to intervene in our army, in our culture, or in our economy.” The Iranian administration’s philosophy is embodied in their slogan: ‘Neither East nor West’ – it is an affirmation that Iranian cultural identity and national independence will not be submissive to alien power blocs. It is a view of the world which rejects the crass materialism and despiritualization of Yankee imperialism on the one hand and the exploitative brutality and tyranny of Soviet Communism on the other. It is the Iranian National Revolution.Derek Holland, Nationalism Today, May 1984

See also

Further reading

  • Hiro, Dilip. Iran Under the Ayatollahs. London: Routledg & K. Paul, 1985.
  • Bakhash, Shaul. The Region of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution. New York: Basic Books, 1984.
  • Moin, Baqer. Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000.
  • Rajaee, Farhang. Islamic Values and World View: Khomeyni on Man, the State and International Politics. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983.

External links