Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah

Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah
by Baqer Moin
Thomas Dunne Books, c2000

Khomeini's Name

After starting at the seminary Khomeini was known as "Seyyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, although in his identity card and his passport he was Ruhollah Mostafavi." (p.25)

Ulema opposition to Republic. Why Reza Khan became a Shah.

"Most progressive politicians" in 1920s Iran believed "that that the country could only rid itself of the poverty, disorder and the foreign interference that had gone on for so many decades by adopting Western institutions and creating a modern economy. Reza Khan played to this constituency with great skill, and very soon gained the support of a large section of it, not only for his military ventures but also for his appointment as prime minister in October 1923. Once he had secured a dominant position in government, he began to make plans to rid himself of the last obstacle to supreme power, the Qajar dynasty. In the summer of 1924 a bill to abolish the country's ancient monarchy and declare a republic was put before parliament. The Qajars were not particularly popular. Ahmad Shah... was regarded as a weak and vacillating figure ... But the idea of a republic did not command much support either, and among the 'ulema it was vehemently opposed. In neighbouring Turkey, the abolition of the sultanate after the First World War had been rapidly followed by the abolition of the caliphate. Not surprisingly, Iran's religious establishment feared that the destruction of the monarchy would undermine its own position - and pose a danger to Islam itself. In Tehran influential clergymen quickly set about mobilising their traditional allies, the bazaar merchants, who obliged by staging a violent demonstration outside the parliament on the day the bill was to be debated." (p.26) Reza Khan "executed a swift u-turn and extracted a promise from the anti-republican members of parliament that if he dropped the bill they would not support Ahmad Shah... (p.27)

How a marja'-e taqlid becomes a marja'-e taqlid. The importance of maintaining a student following by clerics.

"Shi'ism invests the principle of guidance in an individual or several individuals known as the marja'-e taqlid or `source of emulation,` who stand at the peak of the religious hierarchy and whose authority is accepted by lesser clergy as well as ordinary believers. A marja` must be someone who had devoted himself to the study of Islamic law until he is qualified as a mojtahed or faqih (jurist), which means that he can derive his own legal rulings and issue edicts on religious law. But, unlike the Catholic pope or Christian bishops, he is not chosen by an electoral college, or by any other formal procedure. It is incumbent on every believer or `imitator` to make his or her own choice of marja'-e taqlid on the ground that he is the most learned mojtahed of his time and a man of great moral probity.
"Of course, most ordinary people are not in a position to judge who is the most learned, so believers are instructed either to inquire of two upright and knowledgeable persons who are not contradicted by two other similar persons, or to satisfy themselves on the evidence of a group of learned and upright persons. In practice this means that most people rely on the assurances of their local mollahs, who in their turn will be influenced by people they respect or are further up the religious hierarchy. Hence the importance to any leading divine of a following among students and the lesser clergy, who will promote his position in this informal process of consultation." (p.33)

Lengthy and difficult study to become a mojtahed aka a faqih.

Not every talabeh has [ambitions to become a mojtahed or faqih, "an interpreter of religious law, the highest point to which a religious education can in itself lead"] Not every talabeh has such aspirations and among those who do only a minority succeed, for the course of study required to reach this rank is arduous and takes many years. Traditionally, studies in the Shi'i theological centers are divided into three main levels. To complete each level can take more than four years and a total of fifteen to twenty years will be needed to complete the whole cycle." (p.34)

First Level: "At this stage the student learns to understand the basic texts in Arabic grammar, logic and rudimentary theology. Once they have completed the course, about 30% of talabehs leave the seminary to join the ranks of junior mollahs. Men who have studied to this level can become a mas'aleh-gu, an `explainer of problems.` The mas'aleh-gu who stands at the bottom of the religious hierarchy, hold informal meetings on a daily, weekly or monthly basis for an audience of either sex (but generally female) to answer their questions on the precepts of religion, usually those affecting day to day complexities of observing Islamic rules of cleanliness, or personal, domestic and social problems. (p.34)

va'ez "A few men who have completed the first cycle manage to move a step further up the hierarchy to become va'ez, preachers whose task it is to educate people in the principles of religion and entertain them with tales of heaven and hell and the tragedies of martyrs, particularly Imam Hossein. A good va'ez can attract immense local popularity and enjoy the influence and perhaps wealth which accompanies popular adulation." (p.34)

Second Level: "In the second cycle the talabeh begins to teach students at the first level, and at the same time to study more advance texts. The main subject is now the shari'a or Islamic law, and the student is schooled not only in the substance of the law and the sources from which it is derived, but also in the general principles on which legal rulings are based. So along with the shari'a he has to study linguistics, logic and legal philosophy. At the second level are studied in classes at which the teacher will read a section and then expound on the meaning of the passage, with students raising points and questions and engaging in argument to further clarify the matter under discussion...
Students who complete this level generally have a good all round grasp of the bases of feqh and the principles of religion, but they are not qualified to make their own rulings on legal matters or offer their own interpretations of theological issues. The majority leave the madraseh at this stage to become the mollah in charge of a local mosque in one of the quarters of a major town or in remote townships or villages. They live on alms donated by the local population or by their marja', who they represent in the locality for the purpose of collecting religious donations or providing guidance on religious problems." (p.35)

Third Level: dars-e kharej or `studies beyond the text.` "At this final level of the cycle there are no set books and students work towards forming their own opinions on given legal issues. The teacher starts his lecture on a topic by first referring to a Qor'anic verse and then quoting what the Prophet and the Imams are reported to have said about it... Finally he will outline his own judgment and the students will then argue with him over the issue, expressing themselves in a free and friendly atmosphere. In theory the student will, by the end of his training, learn to derive a ruling for every eventuality, a ruling which carries with it the degree of certainty which can assure those who must comply with it that they are pleasing God by their actions....
Those student who feel they have reached such a level of learning and do not need to emulate other clerics on the topic under discussion will set forth their own thoughts on it and submit them to their teacher. If he finds their reasoning and knowledge of the sources is of a sufficient standard, the teacher will issue them with permission to derive their own rulings. Such students will then have the right to practice ejtehad (interpretation) in that are of law. If the student show himself capable of deriving rulings across the whole spectrum of the law, his teacher (or teachers) will issue him with permission to practise unlimited ejtehad and derive rulings in every area of the law and indeed, because of the all-encompassing aims of Islamic law, for every human activity. He will then have come a fully-qualified mojtahed.... The handful of students who reach this level automatically enter the higher ranks of the clergy. Some become the sole prayer-leader of a medium-sized town or the Friday prayer-leader of a major town, a very important position in society, in religious, social and - since the 1979 Revolution - political terms. Others, like Khomeini, remain as teachers in the religious centres of Qom, Mashhad, Isafahn and Tehran, or in centres outside Iran, such as Najaf." (p.36)

The Shi'i Heirachy - Terms - marja`-e taqlid ayatollah al-ozma.

"Mojtahed are given the honorific title `hojjat al-Islam` (proof of islam), and in recent times those who go on to achieve a reputation for outstanding learning and piety become known as an `ayatollah` (meaning sign of God`). The title `ayatollah` was introduced at the time of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905 to honour those clerical leaders who signed the constitution. After that it became acceptable to call the marja`-e taqlid ayatollah. But in the 1920s the use of the title as a sign of respect for great religious leaders proliferated and eventually the term `ayatollah al-ozma` (literally grand sign of God) was coined to distinguish the marja's. (p.36)

The Shi'i Heirachy - How many marja`-e taqlid?

"The ideal to which the Shi'i community has aspired over the past 150 years is that there should be one marja` who is universally recognized to be above everyone else in knowledge. This has obvious social and political advantages, for such a marja` can effectively moblise the whole community should the need arise, as for example, overthe controversy surrounding the tobacco consession in the late 19th century. However, the element of personal choice and the process of consultation that goes into the recognition of a learned divine as marja` has meant that such consensus has been hard to achieve and for much of the period people have been able to choose between several marja` at any given time." (p.34)

Khomeini's Start in Politics: Attacking the Shah's 1962 Plan for Local Councils

[Under pressure from Pres. Kennedy and the IMF, the Shah's] cabinet introduced a new and provocative local council election bill which allowed women to vote for the first time and did not require the candidates to be Muslims (they could take their oaths of office on any `Holy Book,` such as the Torah or Bible, as well as the Qor'an).
[The bill was] announced in the Tehran press on the afternoon of 8 October 1962."

`The son of Reza Khan has embarked on the destruction of Islam in Iran. I will oppose this as long as the blood circulates in my veins.` [quoted in Nehzat by Ruhani vol.1 p.195.] (p.75)

"Votes for women were the last straw ... No other issue could possibly have had such resonance among the mass of the people." (p.75)

Khomeini V. the White Revolution

1963 January - six point reform bill introduced:

Once again Khomeini was swift to warn other clerics that the long-term consequences of the Shah's plan would be to further "weaken their role and that of Islam in society." (p.83)

Religion and Politics - a Warning "Your excellency will be free now. But I must tell Your Excellency that politics means lies, deceit, hypocrisy and cheating. That is our job. The Source of Emulation should not taint himself by getting involved in politics." General Pakravan ("a rather gentle man with a cultured background who generally avoided the corruption and rivalry of the Shah's court") to Khomeini July 1963. "From the very beginning we have never been involved in the kind of politics you have defined." Khomeini's reply. (p.117)

Anti Zionism of Khomeini

"If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit Israel to take over the Iranian economy: they will not permit Israeli goods to be sold in Iran." (from Anti Capitulation speech) (p.123)

"All of our troubles today are caused by America and Israel. Israel itself derives from America: these deputies and ministers that have been imposed upon us derive from America - they are all agents of America..." (p.126)

Logic and Khomeini

"Are we to be trampled underfoot by the boots of American simply because we are a weak nation and have no dollars? American is worse than Britain, Britain is worse than America. The Soviet Union is worse than both of them. They are all worse and more unclean than each other." (from Anti Capitulation speech)(p.125)

Books of Khomeini

Kashf al-Asrar

[Was] a short book which Khomeini appears to have complete in 1942 and published anonymously. ... an attack on secularism... describes Reza Shah as `that illiterate soldier who knew that if he did not suffocate [the clergy] and silence them with the force of bayonets, they would oppose what he was doing to the country and religion." (p.60)

... the real target of Kasf al-Asrar was not Reza Shah but the renegade clergymen who in Khomeini's eyes had actively collaborated with [Reza Shah]. (p.61)

One reformist trend that had been gaining ground, and which Khomeini particularly reviled, argued that Shi'i rituals and rituals of some Sufi sects had little to do with the original religion founded by Mohammad." This view, which was advocated by Ahmad Saravi and a number of former mollahs, was in a sense not unlike that espoused by the puritanical Wahhabi sect in Saudi Arabia. So Khomeini accused its propagators of being "the followers of the camel grazers of Riyadh and the barbarians of Najd." (p.62)

[An example of Khomeini's emotional hatred of opponents expressed in his book, he urged "protectors of religion" to] "smash in the teeth this brainless mob with their iron fist" and "trample upon their heads with courageous strides."
[And an example of his opinion of free speech was expressed in saying how an Islamic government should] "Follow religious rules and regulations and ban publications which are against the law and religion and hang those who write such nonsense in the presence of religious believers... Mischief-makers who are corrupters of the earth, (mofsed fi'l-arz) should ... be uprooted so that others would avoid betraying religious sanctity.` (p.63)

Tahrir al-Wasilah

In Bursa in 1965 Khomeini wrote Tahrir al-Wasilah "a commentary on a traditional theological text which also covered socio-political issues abandoned by his contemporaries, such as holy war and `ordering the good and forbidding the evil.` A substantial book, it raised his status as a jurist. Khomeini returned to the question of Islamic government with vigour, taking it up from where he had left off in Kashf al-Asrar. Here Khomeini states that the Imam, or the leader of the Muslim community, true to the Islamic spirit of intervention in the ordering of people's lives, has the right to fix prices and generally interfere in the regulation of commerce if he feels it is in the interests of Islamic society." (p.137-8)

velayat-e faqih

Khomeini's ideas on Islamic government had emerged slowly over the years in a number of books. He had dealt with the issue of the faqih's rule in the context of more a general discussion of the jurist's authority in his five-volume Ketab al-Bai' (Book of Sale), a treatise on commercial contracts and law which had had written over 15 years but finished and published in Najaf. ... aware of the explosive nature of the discussion [he waited] until the time was ripe.

His immediate audience for his 1970 lecture was made up of young students, many of whom had left he seminaries at Qom, Mashhad and Isfahan to work with him. But his words were meant for ... all Muslims. To reach this mass audience Khomeini simplified and popularised the doctrine on which he based his blueprint of the Islamic state: the velayat-e faqih ...(p.153) [Limits of velayat-e faqih] Khomeini, beginning from the premise that the Qor'an and the sunna contain all the law and ordinances man needs `to attain happiness and the perfection of his state,` and that law is `actually the ruler,` argues that God would not have created the law - the shari'a - had he not wanted to enforce it. (p.153) Islamic government is "constitutional ... in the sense that the rulers are subject to a certain set of conditions in governing and administering the country, conditions that are set forth in the Qor'an and sunna.(p.155)

Jehad-e Akbar

...Towards the end of 1972, he followed up the political programme he had outlined with a call to his students to purify themselves in preparation for the struggle that lay ahead of them and responsibilities that would fall on their shoulders... These lectures, published as Jehad-e Akbar, `The Struggle against the Appetitive Soul or the Supreme Jehad,` were delivered as believers prepared themselves spiritually for the Ramadan fast. ...[The Jehad-e Akbar] offered a mystical interpretation of the Shah'ban litany which called believers to holiness through action." (p.156-7)

Both Jehad-e Akbar and Velayat-e Faqih were widely, but clandestinely distributed in Iran during the first half of the 1970s, often together. They were laboriously typed under the supervision of Khomeini's students and sent to Mecca from whence pilgrims took them to Iran on their return journey. (p.157)

Clerical Opposition to velayat-e faqih

Khomeini's theory of the Islamic state attracted much praise from supporters and vigorous criticism from his opponents. His major and most dangerous critic in Najaf - and by far his most authoritative and influential critic in the Shi'i world was the Grand Ayatollah Kho'i. Commentators have pointed to a great many flaws in Khomeini's reasoning, but the two reasons that Kho'i cited for his opposition to the theory of velayat-e faqih are shared by most other orthodox critics.

  • 1), Kho'i believed that the authority of faqih - which in mainstream Shi'i theory was limited to the guardianship of widows and orphans - could not be extended by human beings to the political sphere.
  • 2) Kho'i argued that in the absence of the Hidden Imam, the authority of juristprudents was not the preserve of one or a few faqihs.
  • Ayatollah Kh'i... had a massive following, not only in Iraq and Lebanon, but also in Iran itself, maintained his opposition to Khomeini until the end. (p.158)

    Iranian Student Movement Abroad

    1960s "Most of the student bodies were, in varying degrees, leftist. Most, however, had little idea of the detailed, for them obscure, interpretation of the role of the clergy in society that formed the basis of the Khomeini's political stance. His overall political position was the main attraction." (p.149)

    Khomeini's pre-revolutionary Attitude Toward Ali Shariati and the Left

    "Khomeini had, as early as 1968 when `left` Islamic ideas were first beginning to take hold in Iran, declared them `corrupting`. For the the most part, however, in the years before the revolution he upheld a discrete silence on the issue, making his views clear to limited individuals and circles, and yet managing to maintain the general impression that the could be a figurehead for all forms of Islamic radicalism ... (p.175-6)

    Shari'ati's biographer cites evidence that around 1970, and again in 1972, Khomeini was approached by clerics who wanted to elicit a condemnation of Shari'ati's writings. But on both occasions [Khomeini] refused to be drawn into the fray and responded that they were not unIslamic. ... In early 1977 his attitude was still distant but ostensibly tolerant: `I have read Shariati's books,` he said to an aide. `He should not have said what he did. It is too early. I have sent him a message telling him that it is not now the right time for these things.` A little later, after Shai'ati's sudden death, Khomeini was vistied by Ebrahim Yazdi of the North American Islamic Students Association. Yazdi wanted Khomeini, to respond to a letter of condolence from the Association and to endorse the students' feelings by describing their hero as a martyr. Khomeini, however, refused and wrote a brief letter that merely acknowledged the `loss` of Dr. Sharia'ti...." (p.177) [Letter to Khomeini from Morteza Motahhari, supporter of Khomeini and later chairman of the Revolutionary Council] `.... The pro-Shari'ati groups are trying to turn him into an idol. Shariati's least sin was his attempt to undermine and defame the clergy among the people.`" (p.177-8)

    Contributing factors to the Revolution


    "Members of the secular opposition were systematically monitored and intimidated, and in the bazaars and theological colleges there was hardly a Khomeini supporter who was not warned, summoned and very often beaten. Savak became a ruthless and brutal machine, a cause celebre which ultimately served Khomeini's purposes well by creating political martyrs and functioning as a focal point for opposition to the regime." (p.162)

    Hands off Attitude Towards Clerics by SAVAK

    Coalition of Islamic Societies founded schools "The government saw them, as well as the charitable associations and religious discussion groups that flourished along side them, as a harmless way to channel religious activity and as a way of countering the influence of the seemingly far more dangerous Marxist and leftist influence of the secular-oriented intelligentsia on the young. They were therefore very largely left alone.
    Yet they were a subversive influence and in the 1970s they became part of the cultural struggle against the Shah and gradually and methodically challenged the authority of his regime." They replace celebrations held at the state schools on the Shah's birthday with the birthday of the Twelfth Imam, referring to him as `His Majesty the Guardian of the Age`. (p.178)

    The Islamic Revolution

    The Monarchy crumbles

    the Black Friday killings spread the opposition throughout the country. It was no longer merely the big cities which were in open revolt. Khomeini's cassettes and statements were circulated deep into the countryside. ... All this turmoil meant that the security forces were stretched to the limit. From mid-October, for example, the authorities in Neishabur, and ancient but small town in the north-east, were short of security personnel. .... [p.194-5, Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah, by Baqer Moin
    Thomas Dunne Books, c2000]

    Khomeini's Goal v. Masses Goal

    "His worldview was set to the reincarnation of a society that has not been in existence since the death of the Prophet in the seventh century. A skilled practitioner of clerical politics, a master tactician who succeeded in bringing disparate opposition groups together, a supreme strategist of revolution, Khomeini's goal was the recreation of an idealised past." (p.200)

    "Khomeini in Najaf and Paris offered a vague utopia designed to maintain the unity of a wide spectrum of leftist, liberal democrats and Islamist opposition groups. In Tehran he was gradually to reveal a more divisive agenda which he executed systematically." (p.203)

    In appointing "moderate, democrat" Mehdi Bazargan as provisional prime minister Khomeini proclaimed "`I hereby pronounce Bazargan as the Ruler, and since I have appointed him, he must be obeyed. This is not an ordinary government. It is a government based on the shari'a. Opposing this government means opposing the shari'a of Islam ... revolt against the government of the shari'a has its punishment in our law ... it is a heavy punishment in Islamic jurisprudence. Revolt against God's government is a revolt against God. Revolt against God is blasphemy.` ...From Khomeini's edict would flow the arbitrary arrest, the executions, the floggings, the confiscations of property and the abrogation of women's rights ..." (p.204(?))

    "After the rejection by leading Shi'i clerics of his theory, elaborated in the 1969 lectures he delivered in Najaf, he had remained silent on the issue. Now, for the first time in nearly ten years, he claimed his legitimacy from it and gave an indication of the nature of the theocratic government he aimed at ... " (p.204)

    His arrival in Tehran

    `Khomeini, O Imam, we salute you, peace be upon you.` was the greeting as he got off the plane. "Almost overnight Khomeini had been transformed into a semi-divine figure. He was no longer... deputy of the Imam... but simply `The Imam.`" (p.200)

    Use of the term the Imam for Khomeini

    ...[I]n Shi'i Iran, where the title was reserved for the twelve infallible leaders of the early Shi'a, among ordinary people it carried awe-inspiring connotations. In encouraging its use, some of Khomeini's supporters clearly wanted to exploit popular religious feelings and to imply that he was the long-awaited Hidden Imam. The senior traditional clergy never accepted this title. As for the revolutionary clergy, the more scrupulous among them believe that they were merely adopting a practice which had developed among Arab Shi'a who in recent decades had begun to refer to religious leaders who had gained some political prominence, such as Musa Sadr in Lebanon, as imams. As time went by the title was institutionalised - and yet it had never in Iran been applied to anyone but Khomeini." (p.201)

    Islamic Revolutionary Organizations

  • Islamic Revolutionary Party - Started by Beheshti and the Coalition of Islamic Societies "within days of the Khomeini's arrival." Gathering of Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution (OMIR), bazaaris, and "a large segment of the politically active clergy." Served as the "vehicle through which opponents, or even undesirable allies, were outmaneuvered and the supremacy of the clergy in government was ensured ... operated on every level of society, from government offices to almost all city quarters..." Dissolved in 1987. (p.210-1)
  • Hezbollah - "strong armed thugs... who were, it later emerged, supervised by a young protégée of Khomeini, Hojjat al-Islam Hadi Ghaffari." Attacked opposition demonstrators, newspapers, organizations. "In the early months of the revolution a pretence was maintained that the Hezbollah represented the spontaneous will of the people and that Khomeini and the Revolutionary Council had nothing to do with them." (p.211)
  • Revolutionary Council - At first secret. Then open.
  • Komitehs - "allied with the IRP... sprang up throughout the country during the revolution... organized from the mosques by the Coalition and Society of Militant Clergy.... After the revolution they were armed and saw it as their main task to keep order and security and to act as the new regime's eyes and ears. ... responsible for many arbitrary arrest, executions and confiscations of property.... purged in the summer of 1979 both to eradicate the influence of the leftist guerilla movements that had infiltrated them and were eventually absorbed into the police force." (p.211)
  • Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps - [Sepah Rasdaran (sp?)]paramilitary... purpose would be to `protect the revolution from destructive forces and counter revolutionaries.` Responsible to the Revolutionary Council. Initially put under the general supervision of Ayatollah Hassah Lahuti. Hashemi Rafsanjani drafted in to supervise training... Originally 4000. 25,000 by the end of 1979. Carefully screened to prevent infiltration by Mojehin-e Khalq. (p.211-2)

    Khomeini and the doomed Provisional Draft Constitution

    "While Khomeini was in Paris a draft constitution had been drawn up by a group of liberal Islamists. The draft was kept under wraps while it was refined, ... The final document made no mention of velayat-e faqih and it confined the role of religious jurists to a Guardian Council which ould only intervene to declare legislation incompatible with the shari'a at the request of specified officials. It had, nevertheless, according to a Freedom Movement's account, been carefully read and approved by Khomeini. And indeed, three days after it was published on 14 June, the Ayatollah publicly declared that the draft was, for the government, `correct.`

    Yet by then Khomeini had already started to denounce the supporters of a `Democratic Islamic Republic,` whose ideas were enshrined in the draft, and who included Bazargan, as `enemies of Islam.` He had also taken the first steps in a campaign launched by his lieutenants in the IRP to ensure that the new constitution would incorporate the notion of the velayat-e faqih. Just after the referendum, Bazargan's Minister of the Interior had announced that arrangements were in progress for elections to the promised Constituent Assembly which was to have nearly 300 members. But much to the dismay of Bazargan and his colleagues, by the middle of May Khomeini and the clerical members of the Revolutionary Council had already decided, without consulting them, that a much smaller boady - an `Assembly of Experts` with 70 members - should consider the constitution. The change was contested over the next weeks but finallly ratified at the beginning of July by a decree of the Revolutionary Council announcing that elections to the Assembly of Experts would take place on 3 August. The difference was significant. With fewer candidates standing for membership in the assembly from much larger constituencies it would be easier to rig the elections - and the likelihood of dissenting voices in the Assembly could be reduced to almost nothing.

    Khomeini and his followers had begun their campaign for a thorough-going Islamic state in almost the same breath as they declared their support for the draft constitution. ... Speaking candidly for the first time he said that he was against the idea of a Constituent Assembly because `our desire is to create an Islamic constitution` for which no `Westerised jurists` are needed, only `noble members of the clergy` and laymen who are `knowers of Islam.`" (p.216-7, Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah by Baqer Moin)

    Khomeini on human rights

    "Criminals should not be tried. The trial of a criminal is against human rights. Human rights demand that we should have killed them in the first place when it became known that they were criminals... As soon as former Savak chief Nasiri's identity was established he had to be killed. Despite the fact that he deserved summary execution, he was kept for a few days and was tried.... Our belief is that criminals should not be tried and must be killed." [source Bani Sadr, Khiyanat beh Omid, p.169]

    Khomeini on Dealing with Opponents

    When Islamic students complained about Leftists gaining the upper hand at Tehran University to the Imam he first angry told them to be more assertive,
    `How is it that you have sat idle and allowed a handful of communists to take control of the university?...` then told them a story by way of what do with the leftists. When he was young, an official in his hometown that had insulted the clergy. Khomeini's elder brother went to Tehran and sought the advice of a leading clerical politician, a guy named Modarres, on what to do. Modarres told him:
    `Kill him. ... I give you written permission to kill him... You hit first and let others complain. Don't be the victim and don't complain.` circa late 1979 (p.214)

    Khomeini and Islamists of Feda'iyan of Islam

    Strange as it may seem, there were Islamists to the right of Khomeini, the Feda'iyan of Islam, followers of Navvab Safavi. They turned to Khomeini after their leader was executed by the Shah's government for organizing assassinations. They had served as "foot soldiers" and now "pressured" Khomeini to implement rule of Islam "immediately." "They wanted the wholesale introduction of Islamic legal and social codes including a ban on music, alcohol, the cinema, usury, women working outside the home and compulsory veiling."
    But Khomeini "wanted to make use of secularists - whether left, right or nationalist - and then part ways with them at a time of his own choosing." (p.224)

    Velayat-e Faqih and Democratic Provisions of the Constitution - Why Did the Islamic Republic's Constitution Include Elections for President and Majlis When the Khomeini's concept of Velayat-e Faqih Ignores them?

    "The Guardianship of the Jurisprudent was divine rule, and `the people's participation was their vote of allegiance` (the old Islamic concept of bay'a) rather than their choice. Yet in his view, reports Yusef Sane'i, one of his students, `the Assembly of Experts was afraid of the intellectuals otherwise they would have given more power to the faqih such as the right to `appoint` rather than to `confirm` the president.`" p.226 [source: Yusef Sane'i, Velayat-e Faqih, Tehran, 1364/1986]

    Khomeini and the Hostage Crisis - The political advantages of the Crisis

    `This action has many benefits. The Americans do not want to see the Islamic Republic taking root. We keep the hostages, finish our internal work, then release them. 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. When we have finished all these jobs we can let the hostages go.` Khomeini according to Bani Sadr (who opposed the hostage taking). (p.228)

    Khomeini and the Hostage Crisis - His "Post-Islamist" Change during the crisis.

    "The hostage crisis was a watershed in Khomeini's life... The cautious, pragmatic politicians who had masterminded a coalition with left-wingers, intellectuals, nationalists and liberals to overthrow the Shah now began to talk and behave like a modern revolutionary single-mindedly pursing a dogma. For Khomeini, the Qor'anic vocabulary was no longer sufficient to express the tumult generated by events. He began to use the vocabulary he had learnt from the West against. it. Imperialism, liberalism, democracy were negative words. Yet at the same time `revolution`, a concept which originated in the West... was transformed into an anti-Western word... It became a sacred word, sometimes more important then Islam."

    Khomeini and Blasphemy of Opponents of the Government - Vehemence on the Issue of ridicule of Mullahs and their power.

    "He was aware of the groundswell of derision and opposition towards maktabis (doctrinaire clerics) he said: `As soon as they hear the word maktabi, the gentlemen poke fun at it. Maktabi means Islamic. To poke fun at it is to poke fun at Islam. If [a man] does so with conviction, he is an apostate which means his wife no longer is his and his property should be given to his heirs and he should be killed.` (speech on the first anniversary of the opening of the Majlis 27 May 1981.)

    Khomeini and Blasphemy of Opponents of the Government - Mohahedin-e Khalq and other left groups

    "Left wing groups, the National Front.... had ... been accused by Khomeini of apostasy for its opposition to the introduction of shari'a laws. Executions of opposition figures in prison, which had begun after the 20 June demonstration ... were stepped up. ... In the aftermath of the explosions, thousand were imprisoned, and at least 100 were executed within two weeks. By late August there had been when 900 executions and according to Amnesty International, the total by the end of 1981 reached 2500." (p.242) "Assassinations avenged executions, triggering in their turn waves of dark vengeance in the prisons. Numerous members of the regime lost their lives, while over the months executions of Mojahedin supporters and leftists rose to several thousands - no one know the exact figure." (p.243)

    Eliminating the opposition.

    COMMENT: Something like the big bad wolf blowing down houses of the little pigs one after another as the pigs then scurried to the next house desperate for protection, Khomeini and his supporters eliminated their opponents organizations one by one, with the surviving rank and file of those organizations often turning up at rallies and demonstrations of another not-yet-destroyed political opposition group months, weeks or days later - though these demonstrators might have had serious ideological differences with the group a shortly before. So former secular apolitical people who may have "collaborated" with the Shah's government supported the leftwing, anti-Shah NDF. After the NDF was eliminated they gathered behind Islamic, but anti-Velayat-e Faqih, Bani Sadr and the Mojahedin-e Khalq. Unfortunately for all these little pigs there was no brick house.

  • First the Shah (left in Jan. 1979), then the danger of a coup de etat by the military was eliminated by attacks on bases and looting of arsenals Feb. 1979.
  • Then the Shah-appointed but longtime opposition figure (and former ally of Khomeini who had spent almost six years in prison (source: google)), prime minister Ghotbzadeh.
  • Then his own prime minister, Bazargan, who was not only a long-time Muslim opposition leader, but a good Muslim. Unfortunately he was moderate who opposed the hostage taking of American diplomats.
  • Then the secular and liberal National Democratic Front went down. (Rallies attacked by Hezbollah thugs and its leader arrested August 1979).
  • Next it was the turn of the non-secular, Clerical-led but democratic Muslim People's Republican Party of Grand Ayatollah Shari'atmadari (Nov. 1979-January 1980) who opposed the theocratic constitution with velayat-e faqih as head of state.
  • It was to help pass the velayat-e faqih constitution more than any other reason that the American diplomats were kept hostage. Hostage taking divided the opposition. The anti-imperialist leftist guerilla groups reflexively fell in with Khomeini's taking American "spies" captive, which left Grand Ayatollah Shari'atmadari and his supporters alone to fight the Islamists.
  • With Shari'atmadari out it was President Bani Sadr and the armed left's turn. Bani-Sadr was squeezed out of power, denied media acess, cabinet appointments, etc. The newspapers, local headquarters, rallies, etc. of the left groups were systematically attacked. When the National Front tried to united the opposition in a big rally against Khomeini, Khomeini was waiting for them, making a radio speech just before the rally demanding the NF allies "go on the radio today and condemn the National Front announcement" or else, and trucking into the square club wielding mobs to meet the demonstrators. The smaller leftists groups were gotten rid of fairly quickly but when the biggest and best organized, the Mojahedin-e Khalq, went down it went down hard, taking with them more than a couple high-ranking mullahs in assassinations. From June 1981 to January 1982, Amnesty International estimates 2500 Mojahedin were executed by Islamic Republican government. (p.242) Many more were killed after the war.
  • Last and least the Tudeh Party was disposed of. It had been loyal to Khomeini, helping the Islamic Republican Party, undermining of its socialist rival, the Feda'iyan-e Khalq. But when Khomeini decided to carry the war into Iraq, Tudeh (in line with their Soviet "masters"), began to criticise Khomeini's war policy. (Feb. 1983) In short order Tudeh leaders were branded as agents of a foreign power and all arrested. The leadership confessed to spying for the Soviet Union on TV. Many of its active members were imprisoned or put to death.
  • Khomeini on Clergy in Government and Sticking to His Word

    "He had frequently promised, he said, that religious personalities were to be only a temporary presence in government and that after the revolution they would confine themselves to their religious duties. But now he realised that there were very few people who had the technical (?) competence he sought. `[The fact that] I have said something does not mean that I should be bound by my word. I am saying that for as long as we have not implemented all Islamic rules and have not competent people to do the job, the clergy should stay in their positions. It is below the dignity of a clergyman to be a president or to occupy other posts. He does it because it is a duty. We have to implement Islam and should not fear anyone.` (p.247-8)

    Khomeini on War with Iraq

    Announcing agreement to truce:
    Had it not been in the interests of Islam and Muslims, I would never have accepted this, and would have preferred death and martyrdom instead. But we have no choice and we should give in to what God wants us to do ... I reiterate that the accpetance of this issue is more bitter than poison for me, but I drink this chalice of poison for the Almighty and for His satisfaction. [Tehran Radio, 20 July 1988 from Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah by Baqer Moin, p.267]

    The War was "`God's hidden gift.`" Why? `The war gave us an opportunity to tell the world about the power of the revolution, the power of the Imam and our cultural and ideological values in relation to Western values. For eight years our news was headline news throughout the world. Every missile we sent to Iraq carried with it the Imam's thoughts to the world. It was the Imam's line of communication to every single Muslim. It led to the creation of resistance cells among the Muslims.` (p.251)

    Cost of the War with Iraq

    180,000 to 300,000 dead. "Iranian officials put the damages of the war, including loss of oil revenue and agricultural output, damage to villages, towns, the cost of compensation or pensions for the dependents of nearly a million killed or maimed and of dealing with a million and a half refugees at US $300 billion." (p.252)(source: Iran - a Country Study, 1989)

    Khomeini and Music

    "The radicals, who had the control of the state radio and television, were broadcasting music against the traditionalists' wishes. In this case Khomeini stepped in to redefine the views of both sides by saying that if music edifies believers and enhances their revolutionary and Islamic feelings, then it is not forbidden." (p.259)

    Khomeini and Jews

    Reversal of position. "Islam will treat Jews as it treats other groups of the nation. They should not be put under pressure. It is the Zionists who act contrary to Moses' teaching.` (p.265)

    Khomeini and Hajj

    Circa 1987. "Fired by their leader's rhetoric, the Iranian pilgrims, who included Khomeini's wife Qodsi, rushed into the streets of Mecca and towards the Great Mosque, which they wanted to take over, chanting slogans. The Saudi authorities, determined to contain them, panicked and began to fire on the crowd. A tragedy followed and around 400 people were killed." (p.266-7)

    Khomeini and Orthodox 'Ulema

    "Khomeini's hatred of the orthodox clergy was second only to, and perhaps even surpassed, his hatred of the United States. It made a deep impression of his son Ahmad...

    ...What made [Khomeini] the Imam and led to the historic and victorious Islamic movement was the fact that he fought the backward, stupid, pretentious, reactionary clergy ... He fought them with theology, mysticism and jurisprudence, philosophy, art and poetry ... All this he did to liberate the oppressed from the yoke of the backward clergy. [p.276, source: Ahmad Khomeini, Yadegar-e Imam, vol.I, pp.l497-8]

    Fatwa Against Salman Rushdie

    `In the name of God the Almighty. We belong to God and to Him we shall return. I would like to inform all intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book Satanic Verses, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qor'an, and those publishers who were aware of its contents, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, where they find them, so that no one will dare to insult the Islamic sanctities. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing. In addition, if anyone has access to the author of the book but does not possess the power to execute him, he should point him out to the people so that he may be punished for his actions. May God's blessing be on you all. Rullah Musavi al-Khomeini.`
    Broadcast on Tehran Radio 14 February 1989

    Salman Rushdie's Apology

    Feb. 16. President Khamene'i suggests `if [Rushdie] apologizes and disowns the book, people may forgive him.` (Moin p.284)

    February 18 - Rushdie issues a carefully worded statement regretting

    profoundly the distress the publication has occasioned to the sincere followers of Islam. Living as we do in a world of many faiths, this experience has served to remind us that we must all be conscious of the sensibilities of others.` (issued 18 February, Obtained by Moin from the Archbishop of Canterbury's aides.)]
    This "was relayed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran via official channels before being release to the press. But it was not accepted."(Moin p.284)

    Apology Refused

    Khomeini's office issued a statement stating even an apology could not overrule the death sentence.

    The imperialist foreign media falsely allege that the officials of the Islamic Republic have said the sentence of death on the author of The Satanic Verses will be retracted if he repents. His Excellency, Imam Khomeini, long may he live, has said: `This is denied 100%. Even if Salman Rushdie repents and become 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.` His excellency the Imam added: `If a non-Muslim becomes aware of Rushdie's whereabouts and has the ability to execute him quicker than Muslims, it is incumbent on Muslims to pay a reward or a fee in return for this action.`[circa Feb. 19 p.284]

    Khomeini on the offensive following war

    1989 February 22 - Khomeini goes on counterattack at home. Issues `Letter to Clergy` defending his war waging in Iraq: `... 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?`(p.285) COMMENT: 300,000 dead and failure of the counter-offensive's goal (taking over of Iraq) is a marginal issue.

    Removing Ayatollah Montazeri as Khomeini's Successor

    Khomeini changes constitution removing need for vali-ye faqih to be a marja'

    1989 April 24 - Constitutional change. Khomeini health failing. No recognized marja have "political credentials" he wants. Khomeini calls special assembly for revising the Constitution to change vali-ye faqih job description to allow for a cleric he approves of (the more junior Khamene'i) to succeed him. Vali-ye faqih no longer has to be a marja`.

    Article 109 of constitution requiring that the leader should be a marja'-e taqlid is removed. Instead he is to be (according to constitutional articles 5, 107, 109, 111) `a pious and just faqih, aware of the exigencies of the time, courageous, and with good managerial skills and foresight.` If there are a number of candidates, the person with the best `political and jurisprudential` vision should have the priority.` (p.293-4)

    "The change was immense." Khomeini's "theory of Islamic government was based on the principle that the right to rule is the exclusive right of the faqih, the expert on Islamic law. "(p.293)

    Khomeini's Reversal on the need vali-ye faqih to be a marja'

    denying he was for it. Letter Khomeini had written to Meshkini, the president of the Assembly for Revising the Constitution, in which he had set out his instructions for the future of the leadership" (p.308):
    We cannot let our Islamic regime go on without a supervisor. You must elect an individual who can defend our Islamic honour in the world of politics and deceit. Since from the very beginning I was of the opinion and I insisted that the condition of marja'iyat was not necessary, a righteous or just mojtahed who is confirmed by the honourable experts of the whole country will be sufficient. If the people vote for the experts to appoint a just mojtahed as the leader of their government and they appoint an individual to take over the leadership, he is of necessity acceptable to the people. In such a case he becomes the elected vali of the people and his edict is enforceable. [p.308, source: Tehran Radio, 4 June 1989, SWB, 6 June 1989]
    So why had the constitution called for the vf to be a marji'?
    In the early days of the constitution I used to say so. But friends insisted on laying down the condition of the marja'iyat. Then I too agreed. But at the time I knew that in the not too distant future, it could not be implemented.[p.308, source: Tehran Radio, 4 June 1989, SWB, 6 June 1989]

    Other constitutional changes. President weakened. vali-ye faqih strengthened

    In addition "the assembly also took the opportunity to streamline the relationships between different branches of the executive that had caused so much trouble over the years." Post of prime minister eliminated. Responsibilities attached to the presidency. Co-ordination of the three constitutional powers moved to the supreme leader. High judicial council eliminated and replaced with a single head of the judiciary appointed by the leader. (Moin p.293)

    Supernatural mystique of Khomeini

    "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. They were always careful that their words should not exceed proper theological bounds, but they were also careful not to state explicitly the nature of his power and knowledge. In this they followed Khomeini himself." (p.297)

    Death of Khomeini

    Possibly even the most hardened supporters of Khomeini had begun to doubt his popularity, given the extent of public complaints by ordinary men and women about shortages in their daily life. Even among the clergy there were murmurs suggesting that he should be buried at night so that the small number of mourners would not adversely effect his successors. These were real worries. But they were unfounded. The sheer number of mourners, not to mention the unfinished task of choosing a successor and the desire to facilitate the attendance of as many foreign guests as possible at the funeral, forced the government to postpone the event for several days, until 11 June 1989. (p.304)

    Funeral witnesses several million "in a completely spontaneous and unorchestrated outpouring of grief." Body is taken by helicopter to the graveyard. There the crowd takes control of it as soon as the helicopter landed. Its white shroud is torn to pieces and taken by the mourners as holy relics.
    Eventually the body's recovered and placed in an ambulance to be taken back to the helicopter, but even as the helicopter tried to leave the mourners clung on, preventing it from taking off. Finally the body's taken to north Tehran to go through the shrouding ritual once again." This time Khomeini's body is sealed in a metal container. Crowds once again break through the Revolutionary Guard security cordons but body is buried in grave facing Mecca. 10,000 injured, dozens killed in the chaos.
    Ironically, Khomeini himself had disapproved of excessive displays of emotion for departed loved ones. He forbade so much as raising of "the voice too loudly while crying for the dead." (p.312-13)

    Religious and Political Will of Khomeini

    29-page will of Khomeini read by a sobbing President Khamene'i to a sobbing Assembly of Experts the morning after Khomeini's death. Document "did not contain new or specific issues but was a general reminder and a plea for continuity. The Ayatollah warned his successor not to be mesmerised by their office - their duty was to serve the nation. But the main target for stinging attack were the usual culprits in Khomeini's long demonology. His strongest assault was on the Saudi king who he described as a `traitor to God`. Muslims, he said, `should curse tyrants, including the Saudi royal family, these traitors to God's great shrine, may God's curse and that of this prophets and angels be upon them ... King Fahd spends a large part of the people's wealth every year on the anti-Qor'anic, totally baseless and superstitious faith of Wahhabism. He abuse Islam and the dear Qor'an.`

    Khomeini also denounced the leadership of the United States as terrorists who `terrorise the powerless nations of the world.` .....

    As a postscript, he added a few points which were an eye opener to the turmoil of the post-revolutionary years:

    `Even now, when I am alive, some false claims are being made concerning me. It is possible that they may grow in extent after me. Therefore, I must proclaim that the allegations which have been made or will be made regarding me are not acceptable, unless they are proven with my own voice, or my own writing and my own signature confirmed by experts, or what I have said on the Islamic Republic's television.

    During my lifetime certain individuals claimed that they used to write my announcements. I strongly deny this allegation. None of my announcements have been prepared by anyone except myself personally. According to rumours, certain people have claimed that they were responsible for my going to Paris. This is a lie. After I was turned back from Kuwait, I chose Paris after consulting Ahmad because there was the possibility of not being admitted to Islamic countries. They were under the influence of the Shah, but this possibility did not exist in Paris. [reference to his Paris aides: Bani Sadr, Sadeq Qotbzadeh, Ebrahim Yazdi]

    In the course of the movement and the revolution, some individuals' hypocrisy and their Islamic pretension, led me to mention them and to praise them. Later, I discovered that I had been the target of their deceit. My praise was given at a time when they pretended to be committed and faithful to the Islamic Republic. The yardstick for everyone is his present condition.` (p.306-7)

    COMMENT: so the spite and fury continues from beyond the grave: "traitor to God ... may God's curse and that of this prophets and angels be upon them ... false claims ... This is a lie ... hypocrisy ... Islamic pretension ... deceit."


    "Although the rules for choosing a new successor, devised under Khomeini's direct instructions by the Assembly for Revising the Constitution, had not yet been announced or ratified" when Khomeini died Sadeq Khalkhali and Rafsanjani indicate that Khomeini wanted Khamene'i to be VF ruler. (p.307-9)

    STUFF TO CHECK: Hadi Enayat in Islam in the Political Process pp.160-80 edited by j. Piscatori, Cambridge, 1983. (about vf theory) the Constitution of Iran by Schirazi, (change in vf job description)