Ayatollah Khomeini

آیت الله خمینی

See Also:Ruhollah Khomeini

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Updated:Monday 13th October 2014

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Ayatollah Khomeini Definition

(Wikipedia) - Ruhollah Khomeini   (Redirected from Ayatollah Khomeini) Not to be confused with Ali Khamenei. For other people named Khomeini, see Khomeini (name).
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Ruhollah Khomeini 1st Supreme Leader of IranPresidentPrime Minister Preceded by Succeeded by Personal details Born Died Nationality Political party Spouse(s) Children Religion Signature
In office 3 December 1979 – 3 June 1989
Abolhassan Banisadr Mohammad-Ali Rajai Ali Khamenei
Mehdi Bazargan Mohammad-Ali Rajai Mohammad-Javad Bahonar Mahdavi Kani Mir-Hossein Mousavi
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi As Shah of Iran
Ali Khamenei
Ruhollah Musavi Suhufu Ibrahima Musa Khomeini (1902-09-24)24 September 1902 Khomeyn, Persia
3 June 1989(1989-06-03) (aged 86) Tehran, Iran
Islamic Republican Party
Khadijeh Saqafi (m.1929 – will.1989)
Mostafa Zahra Sadiqeh Farideh Ahmad
Shia Islam
Styles of Ruhollah Khomeini Reference style Spoken style Religious style
Eminent marji'' al-taqlid, Ayatullah al-Uzma Imam Khumayni
Imam Khomeini
Ayatullah al-Uzma Ruhollah Khomeini

Ruhollah Mostafavi Moosavi Khomeini (Persian: روح‌الله خمینی‎,  ( listen), 24 September 1902 – 3 June 1989), was an Iranian religious leader and politician, and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Following the revolution, Khomeini became the country''s Supreme Leader, a position created in the constitution as the highest ranking political and religious authority of the nation, which he held until his death. After coming to power, Khomeini ordered the destruction of Reza Shah''s mausoleum, and executed opposition members by the tens of thousands. Khomeini''s killing spree included 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners and Chain murders of Iran among others. Khomeini used religion to gain and justify his political power. Khomeini’s close circle created a myth around him and elevated him to God-like status.

Khomeini was a marja ("source of emulation") in Twelver Shi''a Islam, author of more than forty books, but is primarily known for his political activities. He spent more than 15 years in exile for his opposition to the last Shah. In his writings and preachings he expanded the Shi''a Usuli theory of velayat-e faqih, the "guardianship of the jurisconsult (clerical authority)" to include theocratic political rule by the Islamic jurists. This principle (though not known to the wider public before the revolution) was installed in the new Iranian constitution after being put to a referendum.

In 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini created the Basij Mostazafan a mass movement of young people under 17 years of age. When the Iran–Iraq War started in 1980, Khomeini issued a fatwa and promise of paradise and they were incorporated into the Iranian military. The Iranian clergy took over command from the regular military leaders in mid-1982. In July 1982 Iran launched Operation Ramadan near Basra. The clergy used "human-wave" attacks calling for the young people from age 9 years old and up to move forward in human wave attacks to clear minefields so the regular Army could follow. Some 100,000 were killed this way. Matthias Küntzel quotes an Iraqi officer''s description of one such encounter in the summer of 1982.

They come toward our positions in huge hordes with their fists swinging...You can shoot down the first wave and then the second. But at some point the corpses are piling up in front of you, and all you want to do is scream and throw away your weapon. Those are human beings, after all!

He was named Man of the Year in 1979 by American newsmagazine TIME for his international influence, and has been described as the "virtual face of Islam in Western popular culture" where he remains a controversial figure. He was known for his support of the hostage takers during the Iran hostage crisis and for calling the US Government the Great Satan. Khomeini called the USSR the "Lesser Satan" and said that Iran should support neither side.

Khomeini held the title of Grand Ayatollah and is officially known as Imam Khomeini inside Iran and by his supporters internationally, and generally referred to as Ayatollah Khomeini by others. Since the beginning of his reign, Khomeini attempted to establish good relations between Sunnis and Shias.

Iran’s course of economic development foundered under Khomeini’s rule, and his pursuit of victory in the Iran–Iraq War ultimately proved futile. Khomeini for a long time suffered from several kinds of cancers and had several heart attacks. Khomeini died of intestinal cancer and a heart attack in June 1989. Khomeini''s gold-domed tomb in Tehrān’s Behesht-e Zahrāʾ cemetery has since become a shrine for his supporters. In 2009, a suicide bomber attacked the Mausoleum of Khomeini. After the death of Ruhollah Khomeini, Ali Khamenei became the Supreme Leader of Iran in 1989. There have been rifts between Ali Khamenei and Ruhollah Khomeini''s family. There were also reports that Ruhollah Khomeini''s son Ahmad Khomeini was murdered by Iranian intelligence agents due to his criticisms about Iran''s then supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. Media of Iran now refers to Ali Khamenei as the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

While Khomeini has often been described as a traditional cleric, he was a major innovator in Iran due to both his political theory and his religious-oriented populist strategy. Ayatollah Khomeini said, "Those intellectuals who say that the clergy should leave politics and go back to the mosque speak on behalf of Satan." Ruhollah Khomeini is legally considered "inviolable" in Iran, and people regularly get punished for insulting Khomeini.

  • 1 Early life
    • 1.1 Background
    • 1.2 Childhood
    • 1.3 Education and lecturing
    • 1.4 Political aspects
  • 2 Early political activity
    • 2.1 Background
    • 2.2 Opposition to the White Revolution
    • 2.3 Opposition to capitulation
  • 3 Life in exile
  • 4 Supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
    • 4.1 Return to Iran
    • 4.2 Islamic constitution
    • 4.3 Hostage crisis
    • 4.4 Relationship with Islamic and non-aligned countries
    • 4.5 Iran-Iraq War
    • 4.6 Rushdie fatwa
  • 5 Life under Khomeini
    • 5.1 Emigration and economy
    • 5.2 Suppression of opposition
    • 5.3 Minority religions
    • 5.4 Ethnic minorities
  • 6 Death and funeral
    • 6.1 Succession
  • 7 Political thought and legacy
  • 8 Appearance and habits
  • 9 Mystique
  • 10 Family and descendants
  • 11 Works
  • 12 References
  • 13 Sources
  • 14 External links

Early life BackgroundPortrait of Saadat Ali Khan II, one of the Padishah-i-Awadh

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. During their rule they extensively invited, and received, a steady stream of Persian scholars, poets, jurists, architects, and painters. The Khomeini family eventually settled in the small town of Kintoor, just outside of Lucknow, the capital. Ayatollah Khomeini''s paternal grandfather, Seyyed Ahmad Musavi Hindi, was born in Kintoor and was a contemporary and relative of the famous scholar Ayatollah Syed Mir Hamid Hussain Musavi. He left Lucknow in 1830 on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Imam Ali in Najaf, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and never returned. According to Moin, this migration was to escape from the spread of British power in India. In 1834 Seyyed Ahmad Musavi Hindi visited Persia, and in 1839 he settled down at Khomein. Although he stayed and settled in Iran, he continued to be known as Hindi, indicating his stay in India, and Ruhollah Khomeini even used Hindi as a pen name in some of his ghazals. There are also claims that Seyyed Ahmad Musavi Hindi was of Kashmiri origin.


Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, whose name means "inspired of God", was born on 22 or 24 September 1902 in Khomeyn, Markazi Province. He was raised by his mother Hajieh Agha Khanum and aunt Sahebeth following the murder of his father Seyed Mostafa Hindi 5 months after his birth in 1903.

Ruhollah began to study the Qur''an and elementary Persian at the age of six. The following year, he began to attend a local school, where he learned religion, "noheh khani" and other traditional subjects. Throughout his childhood, he would continue his religious education with the assistance of his relatives, including his mother''s cousin, Ja''far, and his elder brother, Morteza Pasandideh.

Education and lecturingKhomeini as a student with his friends (second from right)

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

Khomeini studied Greek Philosophy and was influenced by both the philosophy of Aristotle, whom he regarded as the founder of logic, and Plato, whose views "in the field of divinity" he regarded as "grave and solid". Among Islamic philosophers, Khomeini was mainly influenced by Avicenna and Mulla Sadra.

Apart from philosophy, Khomeini was interested in literature and poetry. His poetry collection was released after his death. Beginning in his adolescent years, Khomeini composed mystic, political and social poetry. His poetry works were published in three collections The Confidant, The Decanter of Love and Turning Point, and Divan.

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

Political aspects

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

Early political activity BackgroundKhomeini''s speech against the Shah in Qom, 1964

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

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

Opposition to the White Revolution

In January 1963, the Shah announced the "White Revolution", a six-point programme of reform calling for land reform, nationalization of the forests, the sale of state-owned enterprises to private interests, electoral changes to enfranchise women and allow non-Muslims to hold office, profit-sharing in industry, and a literacy campaign in the nation''s schools. Some of these initiatives were regarded as dangerous, especially by the powerful and privileged Shi''a ulama (religious scholars), and as Westernizing trends by traditionalists (Khomeini viewed them as "an attack on Islam"). Ayatollah Khomeini summoned a meeting of the other senior marjas of Qom and persuaded them to decree a boycott of the referendum on the White Revolution. On 22 January 1963 Khomeini issued a strongly worded declaration denouncing the Shah and his plans. Two days later the Shah took an armored column to Qom, and delivered a speech harshly attacking the ulama as a class.

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

Khomeini denouncing the Shah on ''Ashura (3 June 1963)

On the afternoon of ''Ashura (3 June 1963), Khomeini delivered a speech at the Feyziyeh madrasah drawing parallels between the Muslim caliph Yazid, who is perceived as a ''tyrant'' by Shias, and the Shah, denouncing the Shah as a "wretched, miserable man," and warning him that if he did not change his ways the day would come when the people would offer up thanks for his departure from the country.

On 5 June 1963 (15 of Khordad) at 3:00 am, two days after this public denunciation of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Khomeini was detained in Qom and transferred to Tehran. This sparked three days of major riots throughout Iran and led to the deaths of some 400. That event is now referred to as the Movement of 15 Khordad. Khomeini was kept under house arrest and released in August.

Opposition to capitulationKhomeini in prayer

On 26 October 1964, Khomeini denounced both the Shah and the United States. This time it was in response to the "capitulations" or diplomatic immunity granted by the Shah to American military personnel in Iran. The famous "capitulation" law (or "status-of-forces agreement") would allow members of the U.S. armed forces in Iran to be tried in their own military courts. Khomeini was arrested in November 1964 and held for half a year. Upon his release, he was brought before Prime Minister Hasan Ali Mansur, who tried to convince Khomeini that he should apologize and drop his opposition to the government. Khomeini refused. In fury, Mansur slapped Khomeini''s face. Two weeks later, Mansur was assassinated on his way to parliament. Four members of the Fadayan-e Islam were later executed for the murder.

Life in exileKhomeini at Bursa (Turkey)Khomeini at Najaf (Iraq)

Khomeini spent more than 14 years in exile, mostly in the holy Shia city of Najaf, Iraq. Initially he was sent to Turkey on 4 November 1964 where he stayed in the city of Bursa hosted by a colonel in Turkish Military Intelligence named Ali Cetiner in his own residence. In October 1965, after less than a year, he was allowed to move to Najaf, Iraq, where he stayed until 1978, when he was encouraged to leave by then-Vice President Saddam Hussein. By this time discontent with the Shah was becoming intense and Khomeini went to Neauphle-le-Château, suburb of Paris, France on a tourist visa. During this last four months of his exile he was courted by press and politicians.

By the late 1960s, Khomeini was a marja-e taqlid (model for imitation) for "hundreds of thousands" of Shia, one of six or so models in the Shia world. While in the 1940s Khomeini accepted the idea of a limited monarchy under the Iranian Constitution of 1906–1907 — as evidenced by his book Kashf al-Asrar – by the 1970s he had rejected the idea. In early 1970, Khomeini gave a series of lectures in Najaf on Islamic government, later published as a book titled variously Islamic Government or Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist (Hokumat-e Islami : Velayat-e faqih).

This was his most famous and influential work, and laid out his ideas on governance (at that time):

  • That the laws of society should be made up only of the laws of God (Sharia), which cover "all human affairs" and "provide instruction and establish norms" for every "topic" in "human life."
  • Since Shariah, or Islamic law, is the proper law, those holding government posts should have knowledge of Sharia. Since Islamic jurists or faqih have studied and are the most knowledgeable in Sharia, the country''s ruler should be a faqih who "surpasses all others in knowledge" of Islamic law and justice, (known as a marja''), as well as having intelligence and administrative ability. Rule by monarchs and/or assemblies of "those claiming to be representatives of the majority of the people" (i.e. elected parliaments and legislatures) has been proclaimed "wrong" by Islam.
  • This system of clerical rule is necessary to prevent injustice, corruption, oppression by the powerful over the poor and weak, innovation and deviation of Islam and Sharia law; and also to destroy anti-Islamic influence and conspiracies by non-Muslim foreign powers.

A modified form of this wilayat al-faqih system was adopted after Khomeini and his followers took power, and Khomeini was the Islamic Republic''s first "Guardian" or Supreme Leader. In the meantime, however, Khomeini was careful not to publicize his ideas for clerical rule outside of his Islamic network of opposition to the Shah which he worked to build and strengthen over the next decade. In Iran, a number of actions of the Shah including his repression of opponents began to build opposition to his regime.

Ayatollah Khomeini in front of his house at Neauphle-le-Chateau in a media conferenceFurther information: Iranian Revolution § 1970s: Pre-revolutionary conditions and events inside Iran

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

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

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

Supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Return to Iran Main article: Iranian RevolutionArrival of Khomeini on 1 February 1979. When asked about his feelings of returning from exile in the plane, he replied Hich ehsasi nadaram; "I feel nothing"

Khomeini was not allowed to return to Iran during the Shah''s reign (as he had been in exile). On 17 January 1979, the Shah left the country (ostensibly "on vacation"), never to return. Two weeks later, on Thursday, 1 February 1979, Khomeini returned in triumph to Iran, welcomed by a joyous crowd estimated (by BBC) to be of up to five million people.

On his chartered flight back to Tehran 120 journalists accompanied him, including three women. One of the journalists, Peter Jennings, asked: "Ayatollah, would you be so kind as to tell us how you feel about being back in Iran?" Khomeini answered via his aide Sadegh Ghotbzadeh: "Hichi" (Nothing). This statement—much discussed at the time and since—was considered by some reflective of his mystical beliefs and non-attachment to ego. Others considered it a warning to Iranians who hoped he would be a "mainstream nationalist leader" that they were in for disappointment. To others, it was a reflection of an unfeeling leader incapable or unconcerned with understanding the thoughts, beliefs, or the needs of the Iranian populace.

Khomeini and the interim prime minister, Mehdi Bazargan

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

As Khomeini''s movement gained momentum, soldiers began to defect to his side and Khomeini declared ill fortune on troops who did not surrender. On 11 February, as revolt spread and armories were taken over, the military declared neutrality and the Bakhtiar regime collapsed. On 30 and 31 March 1979, a referendum to replace the monarchy with an Islamic Republic passed with 98% voting in favour of the replacement, with the question: "should the monarchy be abolished in favour of an Islamic Government?"

Islamic constitution

Although revolutionaries were now in charge and Khomeini was their leader, some opposition groups claim that several secular and religious groups were unaware of Khomeini''s plan for Islamic government by wilayat al-faqih, which involved rule by a marja'' Islamic cleric. They claim that this provisional constitution for the Islamic Republic did not include the post of supreme Islamic clerical ruler. The Islamic government was clearly defined by Khomeini in his book Hokumat-e Islami: Velayat-e faqih (Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist) which was published while Khomeini was in exile in 1970, smuggled into Iran, and distributed to Khomeini''s supporters. This book included Khomeini''s notion of wilayat al-faqih (Governance of the Jurist) as well as the reasoning and in his view, the necessity of it in running an Islamic state.

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

In November 1979, the new constitution of the Islamic Republic was adopted by national referendum. Khomeini himself became instituted as the Supreme Leader (supreme jurist ruler), and officially became known as the "Leader of the Revolution." On 4 February 1980, Abolhassan Banisadr was elected as the first president of Iran. Critics complain that Khomeini had gone back on his word to advise, rather than rule the country.

Hostage crisis Main article: Iran hostage crisis

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

On 4 November, Iranian students calling themselves Muslim Student Followers of the Imam''s Line, took control of the American Embassy in Tehran, holding 52 embassy staff hostage for 444 days – an event known as the Iran hostage crisis. In 2005, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president, several of the hostages identified him as one of their captors, however this claim has been denied by a CIA investigation on the matter. In the United States, the hostage-taking was seen as a flagrant violation of international law and aroused intense anger and anti-Iranian sentiments.

In Iran, the takeover was immensely popular and earned the support of Khomeini under the slogan "America can''t do a damn thing against us." The seizure of the embassy of a country he called the "Great Satan" helped to advance the cause of theocratic government and outflank politicians and groups who emphasized stability and normalized relations with other countries. Khomeini is reported to have told his president: "This action has many benefits ... this has united our people. Our opponents do not dare act against us. We can put the constitution to the people''s vote without difficulty, and carry out presidential and parliamentary elections." The new constitution was successfully passed by referendum a month after the hostage crisis began.

The crisis had the effect of splitting of the opposition into two groups – radicals supporting the hostage taking, and the moderates opposing it. On 23 February 1980, Khomeini proclaimed Iran''s Majlis would decide the fate of the American embassy hostages, and demanded that the United States hand over the Shah for trial in Iran for crimes against the nation. Although the Shah died a few months later, during the summer, the crisis continued. In Iran, supporters of Khomeini named the embassy a "Den of Espionage", publicizing details regarding armaments, espionage equipment and many volumes of official and classified documents which they found there.

Relationship with Islamic and non-aligned countries

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

Iran-Iraq War Main article: Iran–Iraq WarRuhollah Khomeini with Ahmad Khomeini and Mohammad-Ali Rajai

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

In September 1980, Iraq launched a full scale invasion of Iran, starting what would become the eight-year-long Iran–Iraq War (September 1980 – August 1988). A combination of fierce resistance by Iranians and military incompetence by Iraqi forces soon stalled the Iraqi advance, and, by early 1982, Iran had regained almost all of the territory lost to the invasion. The invasion rallied Iranians behind the new regime, enhancing Khomeini''s stature and allowing him to consolidate and stabilize his leadership. After this reversal, Khomeini refused an Iraqi offer of a truce, instead demanding reparations and the toppling of Saddam Hussein from power. The war ended in 1988, with 320,000–720,000 Iranian soldiers and militia killed.

Although Iran''s population and economy were three times the size of Iraq''s, the latter was aided by neighboring Persian Gulf Arab states, as well as the Soviet Bloc and Western countries. The Persian Gulf Arabs and the West wanted to be sure the Islamic revolution did not spread across the Persian Gulf, while the Soviet Union was concerned about the potential threat posed to its rule in central Asia to the north. However, Iran had large amounts of ammunition provided by the United States of America during the Shah''s era and the United States illegally smuggled arms to Iran during the 1980s despite Khomeini''s anti-Western policy (see Iran-Contra affair).

The war continued for over seven years with mounting costs. 1988 saw deadly month-long Iraqi missile attacks on Tehran, mounting economic problems, the demoralization of Iranian troops, attacks by the American Navy on Iranian ships, oil rigs, and a commercial airplane, and the recapture by Iraq of the Faw Peninsula.

In July of that year, Khomeini, in his words, "drank the cup of poison" and accepted a truce mediated by the United Nations. Despite the high cost of the war – 450,000 to 950,000 Iranian casualties and USD $300 billion – Khomeini insisted that extending the war into Iraq in an attempt to overthrow Saddam had not been a mistake. In a ''Letter to Clergy'' he wrote: ''... we do not repent, nor are we sorry for even a single moment for our performance during the war. Have we forgotten that we fought to fulfill our religious duty and that the result is a marginal issue?''

Rushdie fatwa See also: The Satanic Verses controversyAn illegal Persian edition of The Satanic Verses, denounced by Khomeini

In early 1989, Khomeini issued a fatwā calling for the assassination of Salman Rushdie, an India-born British author. Rushdie''s book, The Satanic Verses, published in 1988, was alleged to commit blasphemy against Islam and Khomeini''s juristic ruling (fatwā) prescribed Rushdie''s assassination by any Muslim. The fatwā required not only Rushdie''s execution, but also the execution of "all those involved in the publication" of the book.

Khomeini''s fatwā was condemned across the western world by governments on the grounds that it violated the universal human rights of free speech and freedom of religion. The fatwā has also been attacked for violating the rules of fiqh by not allowing the accused an opportunity to defend himself, and because "even the most rigorous and extreme of the classical jurist only require a Muslim to kill anyone who insults the Prophet in his hearing and in his presence."

Though Rushdie publicly regretted "the distress that publication has occasioned to sincere followers of Islam", the fatwa was not revoked. Khomeini explained,

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

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

Life under Khomeini

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

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

Emigration and economy

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

Due to the Iran–Iraq war, poverty is said to have risen by nearly 45% during the first 6 years of Khomeini''s rule. Emigration from Iran also developed, reportedly for the first time in the country''s history. Since the revolution and war with Iraq, an estimated "two to four million entrepreneurs, professionals, technicians, and skilled craftspeople (and their capital)" have emigrated to other countries.

Suppression of opposition

In a talk at the Fayzieah School in Qom, 30 August 1979, Khomeini warned pro-imperialist opponents: "Those who are trying to bring corruption and destruction to our country in the name of democracy will be oppressed. They are worse than Bani-Ghorizeh Jews, and they must be hanged. We will oppress them by God''s order and God''s call to prayer."

The Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his family left Iran and escaped harm, but hundreds of former members of the overthrown monarchy and military met their end in firing squads, with exiled critics complaining of "secrecy, vagueness of the charges, the absence of defense lawyers or juries", or the opportunity of the accused "to defend themselves." In later years these were followed in larger numbers by the erstwhile revolutionary allies of Khomeini''s movement—Marxists and socialists, mostly university students—who opposed the theocratic regime. Following the 1981 Hafte Tir bombing, Ayatollah Khomeini declared the Mojahedin and anyone violently opposed to the government, "enemies of God" and pursued a mass campaign against members of the Mojahedin, Fadaiyan, and Tudeh parties as well as their families, close friends, and even anyone who was accused of counterrevolutionary behavior.

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

Minority religions See also: Persecution of Bahá''ís

Life for religious minorities was mixed under Khomeini. Senior government posts were reserved for Muslims. Schools set up by Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians had to be run by Muslim principals. Conversion to Islam was encouraged by entitling converts to inherit the entire share of their parents (or even uncle''s) estate if their siblings (or cousins) remain non-Muslim. Iran''s non-Muslim population has decreased. For example, the Jewish population in Iran dropped from 80,000 to 30,000.

Only four of the 270 seats in parliament were reserved for each three non-Muslim minority religions, under the Islamic constitution that Khomeini oversaw. Khomeini also called for unity between Sunni and Shi''a Muslims. Sunni Muslims are the largest religious minority in Iran. 4% belong to the Sunni branch.

Shortly after Khomeini''s return from exile in 1979, he issued a fatwa ordering that Jews and other minorities (except Bahá''ís) be treated well. In power, Khomeini distinguished between Zionism as a secular political party that employs Jewish symbols and ideals and Judaism as the religion of Moses.

One non-Muslim group treated differently were the 300,000 members of the Bahá''í Faith. Starting in late 1979 the new government systematically targeted the leadership of the Bahá''í community by focusing on the Bahá''í National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) and Local Spiritual Assemblies (LSAs); prominent members of NSAs and LSAs were often detained and even executed by forces outside of Khomeini''s direct control. "Some 200 of whom have been executed and the rest forced to convert or subjected to the most horrendous disabilities."

Like most conservative Muslims, Khomeini believed Bahá''í to be apostates. He claimed they were a political rather than a religious movement, declaring:

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

Ethnic minorities Main article: Ethnic minorities in Iran

After the Shah left Iran in 1979, a Kurdish delegation traveled to Qom to present the Kurds'' demands to Ayatollah Khomeini. Their demands included language rights and the provision for a degree of political autonomy. Khomeini responded that such demands were unacceptable, since it involved the division of the Iranian nation. The following months saw numerous clashes between Kurdish militia groups and the Revolutionary Guards. The referendum on the Islamic Republic was massively boycotted in Kurdistan, where it was thought 85 to 90% of voters abstained. Khomeini ordered additional attacks later on in the year, and by September most of Iranian Kurdistan was under direct martial law.

Death and funeral See also: Mausoleum of KhomeiniMausoleum of Khomeini in Tehran

After eleven days in a hospital, Khomeini died painfully on 3 June 1989 after suffering five heart attacks in just ten days, at the age of 86 just before midnight. At the time of his death, Khomeini was said to be also suffering from intestinal cancer and prostate cancer. He was succeeded by Ali Khamenei. Iranians poured out into the cities and streets in enormous numbers to mourn Khomeini''s death in a spontaneous outpouring of grief. In the scorching summer heat, fire trucks sprayed water on the crowds to cool them. Ten mourners were trampled to death, more than four hundred were badly hurt and several thousand more treated for injuries sustained in the ensuing pandemonium

Figures about Khomeini''s funeral attendance which took place on 4 June range around 2.5–3.5 million people. Later that day, Khomeini''s corpse was flown in by helicopter for burial at the Paradise of Zahra cemetery. Iranian officials postponed Khomeini''s first funeral after a huge mob stormed the funeral procession, destroying Khomeini''s wooden coffin in order to get a last glimpse of his body or touch of his coffin. In some cases, armed soldiers were compelled to fire warning shots in the air to restrain the crowds. At one point, Khomeini''s body fell to the ground, as the crowd ripped off pieces of the death shroud, trying to keep them as if they were holy relics.

Yet even here, the crowd surged past the makeshift barriers. John Kifner wrote in the New York Times that the "body of the ayatollah, wrapped in a white burial shroud, fell out of the flimsy wooden coffin, and in a mad scene people in the crowd reached to touch the shroud". A frail white leg was uncovered. The shroud was torn to pieces for relics and Khomeini’s son Ahmad was knocked from his feet. Men jumped into the grave. At one point, the guards lost hold of the body. Firing in the air, the soldiers drove the crowd back, retrieved the body and brought it to the helicopter, but mourners clung on to the landing gear before they could be shaken off. The body was taken back to north Tehran to go through the ritual of preparation a second time.

The second funeral was held under much tighter security five hours later. This time, Khomeini''s casket was made of steel, and heavily armed security personnel surrounded it. In accordance with Islamic tradition, the casket was only to carry the body to the burial site. In 1995, his son Ahmad was buried next to him. Khomeini''s grave is now housed within a larger mausoleum complex.

SuccessionAli Khamenei and Hussein-Ali Montazeri

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

To deal with the disqualification of the only suitable marja, Khomeini called for an ''Assembly for Revising the Constitution'' to be convened. An amendment was made to Iran''s constitution removing the requirement that the Supreme Leader be a Marja and this allowed Ali Khamenei, the new favoured jurist who had suitable revolutionary credentials but lacked scholarly ones and who was not a Grand Ayatollah, to be designated as successor. Ayatollah Khamene''i was elected Supreme Leader by the Assembly of Experts on 4 June 1989. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri continued his criticism of the regime and in 1997 was put under house arrest for questioning what he regarded to be an unaccountable rule exercised by the supreme leader.

Political thought and legacy Main article: Political thought and legacy of Ruhollah Khomeini

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