Imam Khomeini, 34th anniversary of his disappearance.
Today in Iran and in the Islamic world we remember the 34th anniversary of the death of Imam Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Imam Khomeini (1902-1989), one of the major Islamic authorities of his time and one of the most influential personalities in recent world history, as well as being the leader of the Islamic Revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was also a Gnostic , lawyer, philosopher, Koranic commentator and poet.
The Imam was known to live a very simple life in a modest house. He never let power and wealth take over his heart, earning affection, esteem and love from all of humanity.
Next, we present a short biography of Imam Khomeini written by Hamid Algar.
Brief biography of Imam Khomeini
Original title: Imam Khomeini: A Short Biography
By Hamid Algar
Published by The Institute for Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini's Works (International Affairs Department)
Hamid Algar was born in England and received his doctorate in Oriental Studies at Cambridge. Since 1965 he has worked in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where he teaches Persian, Islamic history and philosophy. Professor Algar has written extensively on Iran and Islam, including Religion and State in Iran: 1785-1906 and Mirza Malkum Khan: A Biographical Study in Iranian Modernism.
He has followed the Islamic movement in Iran with interest for many years. In an article published in 1972 he analyzed the situation and predicted the Revolution "with greater accuracy than all the political officials of the US government and all the analysts of international affairs", in the words of Nicholas Wade published by Science Magazine. Algar translated many volumes from Arabic, Turkish and Persian; among them Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini.
It is in many ways strange that ten years after his death and twenty years after the triumph of the Revolution he led, a serious and exhaustive biography of Imam Ruhullah al-Musavi al-Khomeini had not yet been written, either in Persian or in any other language. . After all, he is the most prominent figure in recent Islamic history for his impact which, already considerable in Iran itself, has extended over a large part of the Islamic world and has contributed to changing the world view and self-awareness of many Muslims.
It may have been precisely the relevance of the goals achieved by the Imam, combined with the complexity of his spiritual, intellectual and political personality, which had hitherto dissuaded any potential biographer.
Yet the material available for such a task is as abundant and varied as the spheres of its action were differentiated; the present author hopes to be able to face this challenge in the near future (given its nature as a preliminary essay, this paper does not abound in marginal annotations. A complete list of the Imam's writings, a basis from which to start a biography of him, can be found here together with a review of secondary sources).
What follows is nothing more than a preliminary draft, which intends to provide the reader with a general overview of the life of the Imam and the salient features of his person as an Islamic guide of exceptional greatness.
Childhood and early studies
Ruhullah Musavi Khomeini was born on 20 Jamadi al-Akhir 1320 (September 24, 1902), the anniversary of the birth of Hazrat Fatima1 in the village of Khomeyn, about one hundred miles southwest of Qom. His family had a long tradition in the field of religious studies. His ancestors, descendants of Imam Musa al-Kazim, the seventh Imam of the Ahl al-Bayt2 had migrated at the end of the eighteenth century from their homeland, Nishapur, to the Lucknow region in northern India.
Here they had settled in the small village of Kintur and had begun to devote themselves to the education and religious guidance of the population, which was predominantly Shiite in the region. The most prominent representative of the family was Mir Hamid Husayn (died 1880), author of Aqabat al-Anwar fi Imamat al-A'immat al-Athar, a voluminous work on topics traditionally debated between Sunni and Shia Muslims3.
Imam Khomeini's grandfather, Sayyid Ahmad, a contemporary of Mir Hamid Husayn, left Lucknow in the mid-4th century to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of Hazrat Ali in NajafXNUMX.
In Najaf Sayyid Ahmad met a certain Yusuf Khan, one of Khomeyn's most prominent citizens. It was at his invitation that Sayyid Ahmad decided to settle in Khomeyn to take care of the religious needs of the inhabitants; he married a daughter of Yusuf Khan. This decision cut off his ties with India, but Sayyid Ahmad continued to be called "Hindi" by his contemporaries, a title that was inherited by his descendants; even Imam Khomeini used "Hindi" as a pseudonym in some of his ghazals5.
Shortly before the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution, in February 1978, the Shah's regime attempted to use Indian elements traceable in the Imam's family history to pass him off as a foreign element and traitor within Iranian society, an attempt that backfired. against the same people who had done it. At the time of his death, the exact date of which we do not know, Sayyid Ahmad was the father of two children: a daughter named Sahiba, and Sayyid Mustafa Hindi, born in 1885, the father of Imam Khomeini.
Sayyid Mustafa began his religious education in Esfahan, with Mir Muhammad Taqi Modarresi, before continuing his studies in Najaf and Samarra under the guidance of Mirza Hassan Shirazi (died 1894), at that time the leading authority in Shiite jurisprudence. It was a learning path – preliminary studies in Iran followed by advanced studies in the 'atabat (holy cities in Iraq) – which for a long time remained normative: Imam Khomeini was in fact the first prominent religious leader whose training took place entirely in Iran.
In Dhu 'l-Hijja 1320 (March 1903), about five months after the birth of the Imam, Sayyid Mustafa was attacked and killed while traveling the road between Khomeyn and the nearby city of Arak. The identity of the assassin was immediately known: it was Jafar-quli Khan, cousin of a certain Bahram Khan, one of the richest landowners in the area. The motive for the assassination, however, remained difficult to establish with certainty.
According to one version, which became official after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Sayyid Mustafa had caused the wrath of local landowners for defending poor labourers. Sayyid Mustafa himself, however, in addition to fulfilling his religious functions, was also a relatively wealthy farmer, and it is possible that he fell victim to one of the disputes over irrigation rights very frequent at the time. A third explanation is that Sayyid Mustafa, as Khomeyn's Sharia law judge, punished someone for violating the Ramadan fast in public and the defendant's family then retaliated by killing him6.
The attempts of Sahiba, the sister of Sayyid Mustafa, to obtain the punishment of Khomeyn's murderer failed, and this prompted the widow, Hajar, to travel to Tehran to appeal, bringing - according to what has been narrated - little Ruhullah between his arms. His two older brothers, Morteza and Nur al-Din, accompanied him, and finally, in Rabi' al-Awwal 1323 (May 1905) Ja'far-quli Khan was publicly executed in Tehran by order of Ayn al-Dawla, the prime minister at the time.
In 1918 the Imam lost both his aunt Sahiba, who had played a great role in his early education, and his mother Hajar. The responsibility for the family then fell to his older brother, Sayyid Morteza (later known as Ayatullah Pasandide). The estate inherited from their father seems to have relieved the brothers of material needs, but the harassment and abuse that had cost them their lives continued. In addition to the constant feuds between landowners, Khomeyn's country, whenever they had the opportunity, was marred by the raids of the men of the Bakhtiyari and Lor tribesmen. Once a Bakhtiyari tribal chief named Rajab 'Ali raided the town, the young Imam was forced to take up his rifle along with his brothers and defend the family home.
Recalling these events many years later, the Imam stated "I have been in war since my childhood"7. Among the scenes he witnessed in his youth and which remained in his memory, helping to define his later political activity, may perhaps be mentioned the arbitrary and oppressive acts of landowners and provincial governors. He would later recall how a newly arrived governor had the head of the Golpayagan merchants' guild arrested and flogged with the sole aim of intimidating his citizens8.
Imam Khomeini began his education by memorizing the Qur'an in a maktab9 near his home, maintained by one Mullah Abu 'l-Qasim; at seven he became hafiz10. He therefore began studying Arabic with Shaykh Ja'far, one of his mother's cousins, and received lessons in other subjects first from Mirza Mahmud Iftikhar al-'Ulama' and then from his maternal uncle, Hajji Mirza Muhammad Mahdi. His brother-in-law, Mirza Riza Najafi, was his first logic teacher. Finally, among his teachers in Khomayn, the elder brother of the Imam, Morteza, should be mentioned, who taught him al-Mutawwal of Najm al-Din Katib Qazvini on badi11' and ma'ani12 and one of al-Suyuti's treatises on grammar and syntax.
Although Sayyid Morteza - who took the surname Pasandide after the assumption of a surname became mandatory by law in 1928 - studied for a time in Esfahan, he never completed the higher levels required for religious training; after working for some time in Khomeyn's registry office, he moved to Qom and remained there for the rest of his life.
In 1339/1920-21, Sayyid Morteza sent the Imam to the city of Arak (or Sultanabad, as it was known at the time) so that he could benefit from the better educational possibilities offered there. Arak had become an important center of religious learning thanks to the presence of Ayatullah 'Abd al-Karim Ha'iri (d. 1936), one of the leading scholars of the time. He had arrived in Arak in 1332/1914, at the invitation of the citizens, and about three hundred students - a relatively large number - followed his lessons in the Mirza Yusuf Khan madrasa.
It is probable that Imam Khomeini's training was not yet such as to allow him to study directly under Ha'iri; he then perfected himself in logic with Shaykh Muhammad Golpayagani, read Sharh al-Lum'a by Shaykh Zayn al-Din al-'Amili (d. 996/1558), one of the main texts of Ja'farite jurisprudence, with Aqa-ye 'Abbas Araki, and continued his studies of al-Mutawwal with Shaykh Muhammad 'Ali Burujerdi. A year after the Imam's arrival in Arak, Ha'iri accepted the invitation of the ulama of Qom to join them and preside over their activities.
One of the first strongholds of Shi'ism in Iran, Qom has traditionally been a major center of religious instruction as well as a place of pilgrimage to the mausoleum of Hazrat-l Ma'suma, a daughter of Imam Musa al-Kazim, but its fame but it had been overshadowed for many decades by the holy cities of Iraq, with their superior resources of knowledge. Ha'iri's arrival in Qom not only revived the madrassas but started the process that led the city to become the spiritual capital of Iran, a process completed by the political struggle launched there by Imam Khomeini for forty years After.
The Imam followed Ha'iri to Qom after about four months. This move was the first major turning point in his life. Indeed, it was in Qom that he received his entire high intellectual and spiritual formation, and throughout the rest of his life he retained a strong sense of identification with the city. It is therefore possible, though not in a reductive sense, to define Imam Khomeini as a product of Qom. In 1980, addressing a group of visitors from Qom, he said: “Wherever I happen to be, I remain a citizen of Qom, and I am proud of it. My heart is always with Qom and its people.”13
Qom: the years of intellectual and spiritual formation (1923-1962)
After his arrival in Qom in 1922 or 1923, the Imam devoted himself primarily to completing the madrasa level of education known as sutuh; he did this by studying with teachers such as Shaykh Muhammad Reza Najafi Masjed-e Shahi, Mirza Muhammad Taqi Khwansari and Sayyid 'Ali Yasribi Kashani. From the earliest days of his stay in Qom, however, the Imam gave the impression that he would become more than just an important authority on Ja'farite jurisprudence.
He showed an exceptional interest in subjects which were not only usually absent from the madrasa curriculum, but which were often the object of hostility and suspicion: philosophy, in its various traditional schools, and gnosis ('irfan). He began to cultivate this interest by studying the Tafsir-e Safi, a commentary on the Koran by Molla Mohsen Feyz-e Kashani (died 1091/1680), a Sufi-oriented author, together with Ayatullah Ali Araki (died 1994), at the he was a young student like him. His formal training in gnosis and related disciplines of ethics began with courses taught by Hajji Mirza Javad Maliki-Tabrizi, but this scholar died in 1304/1925.
In philosophy too, the Imam was soon deprived of his first teacher, Mirza 'Ali Akbar Hakim Yazdi, who had been a student of the great master Molla Hadi Sabzavari (d. 1295/1878), who died 1305/1926. Another early philosophy teacher the Imam had was Sayyid Abu 'l-Hasan Qazvini (d. 1355/1976), a scholar who taught Peripatetic and Illuminationist philosophy; the Imam was part of his circle until 1310/1931, when Qazvini left Qom.
The teacher who had the greatest influence in Imam Khomeini's spiritual development was, however, Mirza Muhammad 'Ali Shahabadi (died 1328/1950); Imam Khomeini referred to him in many of his works as “shaykhuna14” and “arif-l kamil15” and with him he had a relationship comparable to that which binds a murid16 to his murshid17. The first time Shahabadi came to Qom, in 1307/1928, the young Imam asked him a question about the nature of Revelation, and he was fascinated by the response he received.
At his insistent request, Shahabadi agreed to teach him and a select group of students in Ibn Arabi's Fusus al-Hikam ("The Book of Bezels of Wisdom"). Although the teaching was mainly about Da'ud Qaysari al Fusus' commentary, the Imam reported that Shahabadi also presented his own original insights into the work. Among other works Imam Khomeini studied with Shahabadi were the Manazil al-Sa'irin of the Hanbali Sufi Khwaja Abdullah Ansari (d. 482-1089) and the Misbah al-Uns of Muhammad bin Hamza Fanari (d. 834/ 1431), a commentary on the Mafatih al-Ghayb ("Keys of the Invisible") by Sadr al Din Qunavi (d. 673/1274).
It is plausible that the Imam drew from Shahabadi, at least in part, consciously or not, the fusion of the Gnostic and political aspects that came to characterize his life. The Imam's spiritual master was in fact one of the relatively few ulama of Reza Shah's time to publicly take a stand against the wrongdoings of the regime, and in his Shadharat al-Ma'arif, a work of an essentially Gnostic nature, he described the Islam as “an undoubtedly political religion”18.
Gnosis and ethics were also the subjects covered in the first courses held by the Imam; Shahabadi had resumed the ethics courses taught by Hajji Javad Aqa Maliki-Tabrizi three years after the latter's death, and when Shahabadi left for Tehran in 1936 he left the 'chair' to Imam Khomeini. The course first consisted of a close reading of Ansari's Manazil al-Sa'irin, but then moved beyond the text, addressing a wide variety of contemporary issues. The popularity of the course became such that simply to listen to the Imam's lectures, along with students of religious disciplines and ordinary citizens of Qom, people came as far as Tehran and Esfahan.
Such popularity of the Imam's lectures did not fit with the official policies of the Pahlavi regime, which wanted to limit the influence of the ulama outside religious instruction seminaries. For this reason, the government imposed that the lessons were no longer held in the prestigious Feyziye madrasa, but in the Molla Sadiq madrasa, in which the participation of a large audience was not possible. However, after the deposition of Reza Shah in 1941, the lectures returned to the Feyziye madrasa and instantly regained their former popularity. The ability to address large audiences, and not just his colleagues within the religious seminary, which Imam Khomeini demonstrated for the first time in these ethics lectures, was to play an important role in the political struggle he led over the years subsequent.
While lecturing ethics to a large and diverse audience, Imam Khomeini began teaching important texts of gnosis, such as the chapter on the soul from Mulla Sadra's al-Asfar al-Arba'a ("The Four Journeys") (d. 1050/1640) and Sharh al-Manzuma of Sabzavari, to a small group of young scholars, among whom were Morteza Mutahhari and Husayn 'Ali Montazeri, who were to become two of his main collaborators in the revolutionary movement that l 'Imam would launch thirty years later.
As for the early writings of the Imam, they also show that his main interest in his early years in Qom was gnosis. In 1928, for example, he completed Sharh Du'a' al-Sahar, a detailed commentary on the invocations recited during Ramadan by Imam Muhammad al-Baqir; like all of Imam Khomeini's works on gnosis, recourse to Ibn 'Arabi's terminology is frequent in this text too. Two years later he completed Misbah al-Hidaya ila 'l-Khilafa wa' l-Wilaya, a systematic and dense treatise on the main subjects of gnosis. Another product of those years of concentration on gnosis was a series of glosses on Qaysari al Fusus's commentary.
In a short autobiography written for a volume published in 1934, the Imam stated that he had spent most of his life studying and teaching the works of Mulla Sadra, that he had studied gnosis with Shahabadi for many years, and that he was at that time following courses in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) held by Ayatullah Ha'iri19.
The sequence of these statements suggests that the study of fiqh was still among his secondary interests at the time. The situation would soon change, but for the Imam gnosis was never a mere subject of study, teaching and literary production. It always remained an integral part of his intellectual and spiritual personality, and as such infused many of his specifically political activities of the following years with an unmistakable Gnostic imprint.
During the XNUMXs the Imam did not participate in any overt political activity. He always believed that the leadership of political activities should be in the hands of eminent religious scholars, but he still found himself obliged to accept the decision of Hairi to maintain an attitude of relative passivity towards the measures taken by Reza Shah against the traditions and Islamic culture in Iran.
However, as he was still a minor figure within the religious seminary of Qom, he certainly would not have found himself in a position to mobilize public opinion on a national scale. However, he maintained contact with those few ulama who dared openly challenge the Shah: not only Shahabadi, but also men such as Hajji Nurullah Isfahani, Mirza Sadiq Aqa Tabrizi, Aqazada Kifai and Sayyd Hasan Modarres. Even if only in an allusive form, Imam Khomeini expressed his position on the Pahlavi regime, whose essential characteristics were according to him oppression and hostility towards religion, in poems that he circulated privately20.
The Imam assumed a public political position for the first time in a proclamation dated 15 Ordibehesht 1323 (May 4, 1944), in which he urged action to free the Muslims of Iran and throughout the Islamic world from the tyranny of foreign powers and their internal accomplices. The Imam began by quoting the Koran,
"Say: 'Only one thing I exhort you: stand up for Allah, in pairs and alone, and then reflect'". (34:46)
The same verse opens the chapter on awakening (bab al-yaqza) at the very beginning of Ansari's Manazil al-Sa'irin, the manual for the spiritual path first taught to the Imam by Shahabadi. However, the interpretation of "rise up" given by the Imam has both spiritual and political connotations, both personal and collective, a revolt against the laxity that dwells within and the corruption in society.
The same spirit of integral revolt permeates the first work of the Imam intended for publication, the Kashf al-Asrar ("The secrets revealed", Tehran, 1324/1945). He claims to have completed the book in forty-eight days, driven by a sort of urgency, and the fact that the volume satisfied a certain need is evidenced by the fact that it was printed twice in the first year. The main objective of the book, which can also be deduced from the title, was to refute what 'Ali Akbar Hakamizadeh affirmed in his Asrar-e Hezarsaleh ("The thousand-year-old secrets"), a book which called for a "reform" of Shiite Islam. Similar attacks on the Shia tradition were carried out during the same period by Shari'at Sanglaji (d. 1944), an admirer of Wahhabism despite the open hostility towards Shia Islam that characterizes that sect, and by Ahmad Kasravi (d. 1946 ), as competent as a historian as mediocre as a thinker.
The Imam's claim to aspects of Shiite practice such as the mourning ceremonies of the month of Muharram, the pilgrimage (ziyara) to the tombs of the Imams and the recitation of the invocations composed by the Imams, was therefore a response to the criticisms leveled by the three aforementioned characters. Imam Khomeini linked these attacks against tradition to the anti-religious policies promoted by Reza Shah, and he harshly criticized the Pahlevi regime for destroying public morals.
However, he stopped calling for the abolition of the monarchy, proposing rather that an assembly of qualified mujtahids21 could designate "a just monarch who does not violate the laws of God, who fights wrongdoing and oppression, and who does not act against property , the life and honor of the people”22.
Even this conditional legitimization of the monarchy would last "until a better system of government could be established"23. There can be no doubt that the "best system" already envisioned by Imam Khomeini as early as 1944 was that of wilayat al-faqih, which became the constitutional cornerstone of the Islamic Republic of Iran established in 1979.
When Shaykh 'Abd al-Karim Ha'iri died in 1936, supervision over the religious institutions of Qom was jointly assumed by Ayatullah Khwansari, Sadr and Hujjat. However, a sense of lack was perceived. When Ayatullah Abu 'l-Hasan Isfahani, the leading marja-i taqlid24 of his time, who resided in Najaf, passed away in 1946, the need for a single leader for all Shia Muslims began to be felt more and more , and the search began for a single person who was capable of fulfilling the duties and functions that had been of Hairi and Isfahani.
Ayatullah Burujerdi, then residing in Hamadan, was considered the most suitable for the role; Imam Khomeini appears to have played an important role in persuading him to travel to Qom. The Imam was undoubtedly partly moved by the hope that Burujerdi would adopt a firm position vis-à-vis Shah Mohammed Reza, the second ruler of the Pahlavi dynasty. This hope must have remained largely unfulfilled. In April 1949, Imam Khomeini learned that Burujerdi was involved in negotiations with the government regarding possible constitutional amendments then on the agenda, and wrote him a letter expressing his concern about the possible consequences.
In 1955, a nationwide campaign against the Baha'i sect was launched, for which the Imam tried to enlist Burujerdi's support, but with little success. As for the religious personalities militant on the political scene at the time, especially the Ayatullah Abu 'l-Qasim Kashani and Navvab Safavi, the leader of the Feda'iyan-e Islam, the Imam had only sporadic and inconclusive relations with them .
The reluctance that Imam Khomeini showed towards direct political involvement in this period was probably due to the belief that any movement that fought for radical change must be led by the highest hierarchies of the religious establishment. Moreover, the most influential figure on the crowded and confused political scene of the time was a secular nationalist, Dr. Muhammad Mosadeq.
Imam Khomeini therefore concentrated, during the years in which Qom was under the leadership of Burujerdi, on teaching fiqh and gathering around him some students who would later be his companions in the movement that would bring about the end of the Pahlavi regime : not only Mutahhari and Montazeri, but also younger men like Muhammad Javad Bahonar and 'Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In 1946 he began teaching usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) at the level of kharij, using the chapter on rational proofs in the second volume of Kifayat al-Usul as the basis text. Akhund Muhammad Kazim Khurasani (died 1329/1911).
Initially attended by no more than thirty students, his course became so popular in Qom that when it was held for the third time there were five hundred in attendance. According to the testimony of those who attended it, it differed from the other analogous courses held in Qom on the same subject by the critical spirit that the Imam was capable of instilling in his students, and by the competence with which Imam Khomeini knew how to connect the fiqh to all other dimensions of Islam – ethical, gnostic, philosophical, political and social.
The years of political struggle and exile (1962-1978)
The emphasis on the Imam's activity began to change with Burujerdi's death on March 31, 1961, as the Imam emerged as one of the successors to the deceased's leadership position. This affirmation of him is testified by the publication of some of his writings on fiqh, and in particular by the basic manual of religious practice entitled, like other works of the same vein, Tauzih al-Masa'il. He was soon accepted as a marja'-i taqlid by a large number of Iranian Shiites. His leadership role, however, was destined to go far beyond the traditional one of marja'-i taqlid and to achieve an all-encompassing unique in the history of the Shia ulama.
This became evident soon after Burujerdi's death, when Shah Muhammad Reza, secure in his power after the CIA-organized coup in August 1953, set in motion a wide range of measures designed to crush any source of opposition. , actual or potential, and to insert Iran on a permanent basis within the plans of US strategic and economic domination. In the autumn of 1962, the government promulgated a new electoral law for local and provincial councils, which abolished the obligation to take an oath on the Koran for the newly elected.
Seeing this as a plan to allow the Baha'is to infiltrate public life, Imam Khomeini sent a telegram to the Shah and the incumbent prime minister, warning them to cease violating both the law of Islam and the 1907 Iranian constitution. and warning them that otherwise the ulama would lead a tough protest campaign. Refusing to compromise, the Imam managed to force the withdrawal of the electoral law seven weeks after it was promulgated. This result made him emerge on the political scene as the main voice of opposition to the Shah.
The opportunity for a more serious confrontation was not long in coming. In January 1963, the Shah announced a six-point program of reforms he dubbed the "White Revolution," a US-inspired package of measures intended to give the regime a progressive and liberal facade. Imam Khomeini convened a meeting of his colleagues in Qom to point out to them how urgent the need was to oppose the Shah's plans, but they were initially hesitant. They sent to the Shah as their representative, to understand the intentions of him, Ayatullah Kamalvand.
Although the Shah showed no intention of abandoning the bill or making compromises, this led Imam Khomeini to exert further pressure on the other elder ulama of Qom to persuade them to boycott the referendum that the Shah had called in intent on gaining some semblance of popular approval for his White Revolution. For his part, Imam Khomeini issued a strong-sounding statement on 22 January 1963 denouncing the Shah and his plans. Thinking perhaps of imitating his father, who in 1928 had marched on Qom at the head of an armed column to intimidate some outspoken ulama, the Shah arrived in Qom two days later. He was boycotted by all the elders of the city, and he gave a speech in which he sharply attacked the entire ulama class.
The referendum was held on January 26 and the low turnout was proof of the growing trust that the Iranian people placed in the directives of Imam Khomeini. The Imam continued his work of denouncing the Shah's programs by drafting a manifesto, which was also signed by eight other wise elders.
It enumerated the various cases in which the Shah had violated the Constitution, condemned the moral corruption of the country and accused the Shah of total submission to America and Israel. “I see the solution in the removal of this tyrannical government which has violated the dictates of Islam and trampled underfoot the constitution. It must be replaced by a government that is faithful to Islam and cares about the Iranian nation”25. He also decreed the cancellation of the celebrations for Nowruz (Persian New Year) of the Iranian year 1342, corresponding to March 21, 1963, in protest against government policy.
The next day paratroopers arrived at the Feyziye Madrasah in Qom, the place where the Imam gave his public speeches. They killed several students, beat and arrested many others, and ransacked the building. Indomitable, the Imam continued with his attacks on the regime.
On April 26 he denounced the persistent silence of certain apolitical ulama as "equivalent to collaboration with the tyrannical regime", and the next day he proclaimed political neutrality under the guise of taqiya as haram (forbidden)XNUMX. When the Shah sent his emissaries to the home of the ulama of Qom to threaten them with destroying their homes, the Imam reacted vehemently by referring to the Shah as "that little man (mardak)".
On April 3, 1963, four days after the Feyziye Madrasa attack, he described the Iranian government as determined to eradicate Islam on behalf of the United States and Israel, and himself as determined to fight it.
About two months later, the confrontation led to an insurrection. The beginning of the month of Muharram, which has always been a period of heightened religious awareness and sensitivity, was opened in Tehran by a procession carrying portraits of the Imam and denouncing the Shah in front of his own palace. In the afternoon of the day of Ashura (June 3, 1963), in the Feyziye madrasa Imam Khomeini gave a speech in which he drew a parallel between the Umayyad caliph Yazid and the Shah, and warned the Shah that, if he did not change his political line, he would the day arrived when the people would thank him for his departure from the country27.
This warning was extraordinarily prescient, for on January 16, 1979 the Shah was indeed forced out of Iran amidst scenes of popular rejoicing. The immediate effect of the Imam's speech was, however, his arrest two days later, at three in the morning, by a group of commandos who quickly transferred him to Qasr prison in Tehran.
At dawn on June 5, the news of his arrest spread first in Qom and then in the other cities. In Qom, Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad and Varamin masses of angry demonstrators were met with tanks and mercilessly slaughtered. The complete restoration of public order required no less than six days. The uprising of 15 Khordad 1342 (the day of its beginning in the Iranian calendar) represents a turning point in Iranian history. From that moment on, the repressive and dictatorial nature of the Shah's regime, strengthened by the resolute support of the United States, intensified continuously, and at the same time the prestige of Imam Khomeini grew, considered the only important personality - both on the secular level than on the religious one- able to challenge it.
The arrogance embodied in the Shah's policy led many ulama to abandon their quietism and align themselves with the radical goals set forth by the Imam. The 15 Khordad movement can therefore be considered as the prelude to the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79; the goals of this revolution and its leadership had already been defined.
After nineteen days in Qasr prison, Imam Khomeini was first transferred to the military base in Ishratabad and then to a house in the Davudiya neighborhood of Tehran, where he was kept under close surveillance. Despite the massacres that occurred during the uprising, mass demonstrations demanding his release were held in Tehran and other cities, and some of his colleagues traveled from Qom to the capital to support the demand. However, he was not released until April 7, 1964, believing that the imprisonment had dampened his ideas and that the movement he led would quietly calm down.
Three days after his release and back in Qom, Imam Khomeini cleared away any illusions in this regard by denying the rumors spread by the authorities that he had reached an agreement with the Shah's regime; on the contrary he declared that the movement begun on 15 Khordad would continue. Aware of persisting differences of approach between the Imam and some of the elder religious scholars, the regime had tried to further discredit him by fomenting dissent in Qom. Even such attempts were not crowned with success, since in early June 1964 all the leading ulama signed declarations commemorating the first anniversary of the 15 Khordad uprising.
Despite its failure to marginalize or silence Imam Khomeini, the Shah's regime persisted in its pro-American policy. In the fall of 1964, it entered into an agreement with the United States under which legal immunity was granted to all American personnel in Iran and their dependents.
On this occasion the Imam delivered what was probably his most vehement speech in the entire struggle against the Shah; one of his closest companions, Ayatullah Muhammed Mofatteh, reported that he had never seen him so agitated28. The Imam denounced the agreement as a surrender of the sovereignty and independence of Iran, made in exchange for a loan of two hundred million dollars which would benefit only the Shah and his associates, and he painted as traitors all those who , in the Majlis (Iranian parliamentary assembly), had voted in favor of it. He concluded by stating that the government had lost all legitimacy29.
Just before dawn on November 4, 1964, a commando unit again surrounded the Imam's home in Qom, arrested him, and this time took him directly to Tehran's Mehrabad airport for immediate exile to Turkey. The decision to expel him rather than arrest and jail him was undoubtedly made in the hope that, once exiled, the Imam would fade from popular memory. Physically eliminating it would have carried the risk of an uncontrollable insurrection. The choice of Turkey indicated cooperation between this country and the regime of the Shah in the field of security.
The Imam was initially accommodated in room 514 of the Bulvar Palas Oteli in Ankara, a mid-level hotel in the Turkish capital, under the joint surveillance of Iranian and Turkish security agents. On 12 November he was transferred from Ankara to Bursa, where he remained for another eleven months.
The stay in Türkiye was not congenial; local law forbade Imam Khomeini from wearing the turban and tunic of an Islamic scholar, an identity that was integral to his being; the few existing photographs that show him bareheaded all date back to the period of Turkish exile30.
However, on 3 December 1964 he was joined in Bursa by his eldest son, Hajj Mustafa Khomeini; he was also allowed to receive occasional visitors from Iran, and was also provided with various books on fiqh. He used his forced stay in Bursa to write Tahrir al-wasila, a two-volume compendium on jurisprudence. Important and distinctive are the fatwas31 contained in these volumes, collected under the title al-amr bi 'l-ma'ruf wa 'l-nahy 'an al-munkar32 and difa33'.
The Imam decrees, for example, that "if it is feared that political and economic domination (by foreigners) over an Islamic land could lead to the enslavement and weakening of Muslims, such domination must be repelled with the appropriate means , such as passive resistance, the boycott of foreign goods, the abandonment of all agreements and all ties with the foreigners in question”. Similarly, “if there is news of an imminent foreign attack against one of the Islamic countries, it is the responsibility of each Islamic country to repel it by any means possible; a similar duty, in fact, incumbent on all Muslims in their entirety”34.
On September 5, 1965, Imam Khomeini left Turkey to go to Najaf, Iraq, where he would spend thirteen years. As a traditional center of study and pilgrimage for Shiites, Najaf was surely a preferable and more congenial place of exile. It had also already served as a bastion of ulama opposition to the Iranian monarchy during the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1909. But it was not to facilitate the Imam that the Shah arranged for him to be transferred to Najaf.
First of all, there was constant concern among the Imam's followers about his forced stay in Bursa, far from the traditional environment of the Shiite madrasa; such objections would have been satisfied by moving him to Najaf. It was also hoped that, once in Najaf, the figure of the Imam would be overshadowed by the prestigious ulama residing there, such as Ayatullah Abu 'l-Qasim Khu'i (d. 1995), or that the Imam would attempt to challenge their aversion to political activity and confronting them would eventually exhaust one's energies.
Imam Khomeini avoided this double risk by showing his respect for them, while continuing to pursue the goals he had set himself before leaving Iran. Another trap he avoided was to associate with the Iraqi government, which periodically had some friction with the Shah's regime and would like to use the Imam's presence in Najaf for its own purposes. The Imam declined the opportunity to be interviewed on Iraqi television soon after his arrival, and resolutely kept his distance from successive Iraqi administrations.
After settling in Najaf, Imam Khomeini began teaching fiqh at the Shaykh Murtaza Ansari madrasa. His lectures were closely followed by students who came not only from Iran, but also from Iraq, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf states. In reality, a mass migration from Qom and other religious teaching centers of Iran to Najaf was proposed to the Imam, but he criticized this measure which would have depopulated Qom and weakened its religious leadership center.
It was also in the Shaykh Murtaza Ansari madrasa that between 21 January and 8 February 1970 he held the famous lectures on wilayat al-faqih, the government doctrine that would be put into practice after the triumph of the Islamic Revolution (the text of these lectures was published in Najaf, not long after they had been held, under the title of Wilayat al-Faqih ya Hukumat-i Islami; it was followed shortly after by a slightly abbreviated Arabic translation).
This theory, which can be summarized as the assumption, by suitably qualified ulama, of the political and judicial functions of the Twelfth Imam during the time of his occultation, was already present in a nutshell in his first work, the Kashf al-Asrar. Now the Imam presents it as the postulated and indisputable consequence of the Shiite doctrine of the Imamate, citing and analyzing in support of this all the relevant texts taken from the Koran and from the Traditions of the Prophet and the Twelve Imams.
He also highlights very emphatically the evil that had befallen Iran (as well as other Muslim countries), in abandoning Islamic law and government and in leaving the political arena to the enemies of Islam. Finally, he outlined the program for the establishment of an Islamic government, underlining in particular the responsibility of the ulama to overcome their negligible concerns and to address the people without fear: "It is the precise duty of all of us to overthrow the taghut, the illegitimate political powers which today govern the entire Islamic world”35.
The text of the lectures on Wilayat al-Faqih was introduced to Iran by visitors who had met the Imam in Najaf, and by ordinary citizens who had made pilgrimages to the tomb of Hazrat 'Ali (as). The same channels were used to transmit to Iran the numerous letters and proclamations in which the Imam commented on what was happening in his country during the long years of his exile.
The first of these documents, a letter to the Iranian ulama in which he assured them that the fall of the Shah's regime was imminent, is dated April 16, 1967. On the same day he also wrote to Prime Minister Amir 'Abbas Huvayda accusing him of running "a regime of terror and theft"36. When the Six-Day War broke out in June 1967, the Imam issued a statement prohibiting all dealings with Israel and the buying and selling of Israeli goods.
This statement was widely and openly publicized in Iran, which resulted in a new search of Imam Khomeini's house in Qom and the arrest of his second son, Hajj Sayyid Ahmad Khomeini, who was living there at the time. On this occasion some of the Imam's unpublished works were lost or destroyed. It was at this time that the regime also considered deporting the Imam from Iraq to India, a place from which communicating with Iran would have been much more difficult, but the plan was thwarted.
Other events that Imam Khomeini commented on from Najaf were the extravagant celebrations of the 1971th anniversary of the Iranian monarchy in October 1975 ("It is the duty of the Iranian people to refuse to participate in these illegitimate celebrations"); the formal establishment of a single-party political system in Iran in February 37 (the Imam forbade joining the party, called Hezb-e Rastakhez, in a fatwa issued the following month); and the replacement, during the same month, of the imperial calendar (shahanshahi) in place of the solar calendar based on the HegiraXNUMX officially used in Iran up to that moment.
On the occasion of certain events, the Imam issued actual fatwas rather than proclamations: for example, the Imam rejected the "law for the protection of the family" passed in 1967 as incompatible with the dictates of Islam, and defined adulteresses as women who they had remarried after obtaining a divorce on the basis of it38.
Imam Khomeini then also had to deal with changing circumstances in Iraq. The Ba'th party, fundamentally hostile to religion, had come to power in July 1967 and soon began to put pressure on the Iraqi and Iranian religious scholars of Najaf. In 1971 Iraq and Iran entered into a state of sporadic and undeclared war with each other, and the Iraqi regime began expelling from its territory Iranians whose ancestors had lived in Iraq in some cases for generations. The Imam, who until then had always kept his distance from the Iraqi authorities, began to address the highest echelons of the Iraqi government directly, condemning their actions.
Imam Khomeini was, in fact, constantly and acutely aware of the connections between Iranian affairs and those of the Islamic world in general and the Arab lands in particular. This awareness led him to issue a proclamation from Najaf addressed to all Muslims of the world on the occasion of the 1971 hajj (Pilgrimage), and to comment, with particular frequency and emphasis, on the problems posed by Israel to the Islamic world.
The Imam's particular concern for the Palestinian question led him to issue a fatwa on August 27, 1968, in which he authorized the use of the money raised for religious purposes (vujuh-i shar'i) to support the nascent activity of al- Asifa, the armed wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization; it was confirmed by a similar and more detailed legal response issued after a meeting with PLO representatives in Baghdad39.
The fact that Imam Khomeini's proclamations and fatwas were circulated in Iran, even if only on a limited scale, was enough to ensure that his name was not forgotten during the years of exile. Equally important, the Islamic opposition movement to the Shah born out of the 15 Khordad uprising had continued to grow despite the brutal repression that the Shah had unhesitatingly given the go-ahead. Numerous groups and people explicitly lent their allegiance to the Imam. Shortly after his exile, a network called Hey'athe-ye Mo'talife-ye Eslami (Alliance of Islamic Associations) had been set up, headquartered in Tehran but with branches throughout the country. 'Iran.
Its active members were many of those who had studied in Qom under the guidance of the Imam, and who after the Revolution would hold important offices; men like Hashemi Rafsanjani and Javad Bahonar. In January 1965, four members of the Alliance killed Hasan 'Ali Mansur, the prime minister who had ordered the Imam's exile.
As long as Imam Khomeini was in exile, no one was officially or clandestinely authorized to represent him in Iran.
Nonetheless, influential ulama such as Ayatullah Morteza Mutahhari, Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Beheshti (martyred in 1981) and Ayatullah Husayn Ali Montazeri remained in direct and indirect contact with him, and were known to speak on his behalf on important issues. Like their younger counterparts in the Alliance, all three would play an important role during the Revolution and in the years following it.
The continued growth of the Islamic movement during Imam Khomeini's exile should not be attributed solely to his enduring influence or to the activity of the ulama acting in accord with him. Also important were the lectures and books of Ali Shari'ati (d. 1977), a university-educated intellectual whose understanding and presentation of Islam had been influenced by Western ideologies, including Marxism, to a degree that many ulama believed as dangerously syncretistic.
When the Imam was asked to pronounce on the theories of Shari'ati, both by those who defended it and by those who opposed it, he discreetly avoided making any decisive pronouncements, so as not to create in the Islamic movement a rift from which the Shah's regime could have benefited.
The clearest sign of Imam Khomeini's enduring popularity in the years leading up to the Revolution, especially in the heart of religious establishment in Qom, occurred in June 1975, on the anniversary of the 15 Khordad uprising. Students of Feyziye Madrasah staged a demonstration inside the madrasah and a crowd of sympathizers gathered outside.
Both demonstrations continued for three days, until they were attacked from the ground by commandos, and from the air by military helicopters, with many people killed. The Imam reacted with a message in which he declared that the events in Qom and other similar turmoil elsewhere should be seen as a hopeful sign that "freedom and liberation from the shackles of imperialism" were now at hand40. In fact, the Revolution began two and a half years later.
The Islamic Revolution (1978-1979)
The chain of events that ended in February 1979 with the overthrow of the Pahlavi regime and with the foundation of the Islamic Republic began with the death of Hajj Sayyid Mustafa Khomeini, which occurred in Najaf on October 23, 1977 in an unexpected and mysterious way. Responsibility for the incident was blamed by many on SAVAK, the Iranian secret services, and protest demonstrations were held in Qom, Teheran, Yazd, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz. Imam Khomeini himself, with his usual detachment in the face of personal losses, described the death of his son as one of God's "hidden favors" (altaf-i khafiya), and urged the Muslims of Iran to show resolute and confident41.
The esteem that Imam Khomeini enjoyed and the inflexible determination that the regime showed in trying to undermine it by any means emerged again on January 7, 1978, when an article appeared in the semi-official newspaper Ittila'at attacking him in extremely crude terms, portraying him as a traitor working jointly with the country's external enemies.
The following day a furious mass protest took place in Qom which was suppressed by the security forces with extensive bloodshed. It was the first in a series of popular confrontations which, growing in intensity throughout 1978, soon turned into a vast revolutionary movement bent on overthrowing the Pahlavi regime and establishing an Islamic government.
The martyrs of Qom were commemorated forty days later, with demonstrations and shop closures in all major cities of Iran. The unrest in Tabriz was particularly serious and ended only after more than a hundred people were killed by the Shah's army. March 29, the fortieth day after the Tabriz massacre, was marked by another round of demonstrations involving some fifty-five cities; the most serious incidents occurred this time in Yazd, where the security forces opened fire on a crowd of people in the main mosque. At the beginning of May the worst episodes of violence occurred in Tehran; for the first time since 1963 the streets were occupied by columns of armored vehicles trying to contain the revolution.
In June, purely out of political calculation, the Shah made a series of superficial concessions to the political forces opposing him - such as the abolition of the "imperial calendar" - but he also continued the repression. When the government lost control of Esfahan on August 17, the army attacked the city and killed hundreds of unarmed demonstrators. Two days later, XNUMX people were burned alive behind locked doors in an Abadan cinema, for which the government was held responsible.
On the day of 'Id al-fitr (the festival which concludes the month of Ramadan), which fell on September 4 that year, there were processions in all the larger cities; a total of four million demonstrators are estimated to have participated. The abolition of the monarchy and the installation of an Islamic government headed by Imam Khomeini were clamored for. Faced with the reality of impending revolution, the Shah decreed martial law and forbade further demonstrations.
On September 9, a crowd that had gathered in Tehran's Meydan-e Zhala (subsequently renamed Meydun-e Shohada', Martyrs' Square), was attacked by the army who had blocked all exit routes from the square, and only here about two thousand people were killed. Two thousand more were killed in other parts of Tehran by US-supplied military helicopters hovering at low altitude. This day of massacres, known as "Black Friday", marked the point of no return. Too much blood had been shed for the Shah to have any hope of survival, and the military itself grew weary of obeying orders to commit massacres.
While these events were taking place in Iran, Imam Khomeini made a whole series of messages and speeches which reached his motherland not only in the form of printed matter, but also on recorded tapes. His voice could be heard congratulating the people for the sacrifices they had endured, bluntly portraying the Shah as a hardened criminal and underlining US responsibility for the massacres and repression (ironically US President Carter had visited Tehran for New Year's Eve 1978 and had praised the Shah for having created "an island of stability in one of the most turbulent areas of the world")42.
While any semblance of stability faded, the United States continued to support the Shah militarily and politically, changing nothing in its behavior save for some superficial hesitation. More importantly, the Imam understood that a unique juncture was occurring in the history of Iran: a genuinely revolutionary moment which if it vanished would be impossible to rebuild. He then issued warnings against any tendency to compromise and against being deceived by the occasional gestures of reconciliation emanating from the Shah.
Thus, on the occasion of 'Id al-Fitr, after massive processions had passed through an apparently peaceful Tehran, he made the following declaration: “Noble people of Iran! Continue your movement and do not waver even for a moment; I know you won't! Let no one think that after the holy month of Ramadan the duties entrusted to him by God have changed. These demonstrations that sweep away tyranny and advance the cause of Islam represent a form of devotion that is not limited to certain months or certain days only, for their intent is to save the country, establish Islamic justice, and establish a form of divine government based on justice”43.
In one of the many miscalculations that marked his attempts to destroy the revolution, the Shah decided to deport Imam Khomeini from Iraq, no doubt in the belief that once forced out of the prestigious location of Najaf and its proximity to 'Iran, would have been somewhat silenced. The agreement of the Iraqi government was obtained in New York in a meeting between the Iranian and Iraqi foreign ministers, and on 24 September 1978 the army surrounded the Imam's house in Najaf.
He was informed that his stay in Iraq was tied to his retirement from political activity, a condition they knew he would safely refuse. On October 3, the Imam left Iraq for Kuwait, but was rejected at the border. After some hesitation, and after considering Syria, Lebanon and Algeria as possible destinations, Imam Khomeini left for Paris on the advice of his second son, Hajj Sayyid Ahmad Khomeini, who had meanwhile joined him. Once in Paris, the Imam found accommodation in the suburb of Neauphle-le-Chateau, in a house rented for him by Iranian exiles in France.
Having to live in a non-Muslim country was undoubtedly found unbearable by Imam Khomeini, and in a statement issued by Neauphle-le-Chateau on October 11, 1978, forty-eight days after the Black Friday massacres, he announced his intention to move to any Islamic country that guaranteed him freedom of speech.44
That guarantee did not materialize. His forced departure from Najaf, on the other hand, increased popular resentment in Iran more than ever. It was the Shah's regime, however, that was defeated in this move. Telephone communications with Tehran were easier from Paris than from Najaf, thanks to the determination with which the Shah had wanted Iran to be connected in every possible way to the Western world, and so the messages and instructions that the Imam communicated could uninterrupted succession from the modest headquarters he had set up in a small house across the street from the one in which he resided. In addition, journalists from all over the world began to travel to France, and soon the Imam's image and words became a daily presence in the mass media around the world.
Meanwhile, in Iran, the Shah was continuously reshuffling his government. He first appointed as prime minister Sharif Imami, an individual who had a reputation for being close to the more conservative elements among the ulama. Then, on November 6, he formed a military government under General Gholam Reza Azhari, a move he was explicitly urged by the United States. Such political maneuvers had no effect on the progress of the revolution.
On November 23, a week before the month of Muharram began, the Imam issued a statement in which he likened the month to "a divine sword in the hands of the fighters of Islam, our great religious leaders, our respected devotees, and of all the followers of Imam Hussein, Sayyid al-shuhada (the Prince of Martyrs)”. They were to, he continued, “make the fullest use of it; trusting in the power of God, they must cut down the remaining roots of this tree of oppression and betrayal”. As for the military government, it was contrary to the Shari'ah (the divine law) and opposing it was a religious duty45.
With the onset of the month of Muharram massive street demonstrations took place all over Iran. Thousands of people wore the white shroud, showing with this sign that they were ready for martyrdom, and were killed for not respecting the night curfew. On the 9th of Muharram, one million people marched in Tehran demanding the end of the monarchy, and the following day, the day of Ashura, more than two million demonstrators approved by acclamation a declaration in seventeen points, the most important of which formation of an Islamic government led by Imam Khomeini.
The army continued to kill, but military discipline began to waver and the revolution also acquired an economic dimension thanks to the proclamation of a national strike called on December 18th. With his regime shaky, the Shah attempted to involve secular and liberal-nationalist politicians to prevent the formation of an Islamic government.
On January 3, 1979, Shahpur Bakhtiyar of the National Front (Jebhe-ye Melli) replaced General Azhari as prime minister; plans were hatched to allow the Shah to flee the country on what was thought to be a temporary absence. On 12 January the formation of a "regency council" made up of nine members was announced, headed by a Jalal ad-Din Tehrani, whose religious credentials were proclaimed, destined to take the place of the Shah during his absence. None of these maneuvers distracted the Imam from his goal, which was now getting closer every day.
The day following the formation of the "regency council", he announced from Neauphle-le-Chateau the formation of the Council of the Islamic Revolution (Shura-ye Enqelab-e Eslami), a body charged with forming a transitional government to replace the Bakhtiyar administration. On January 16, amidst scenes of popular jubilation, the Shah fled the country for exile and death.
Now there was only to remove Bakhtiyar and to prevent a possible military coup that would allow the return of the Shah. The first objective was close to being achieved the day Sayyid Jalal al-Din Tehrani went to Paris to try to reach a compromise with Imam Khomeini. Imam Khomeini refused to receive it until he resigned from the "regency council" and declared it illegal.
In the army, the gap between the generals, unquestioningly loyal to the Shah, and the junior officers and soldiers, a growing number of whom were sympathetic to the revolution, widened. When the United States tasked General Huyser, commander of NATO's ground forces in Europe, with investigating whether there was the possibility of a military coup, Huyser had to report that there was no point in even considering such a possibility.
By now all the conditions existed for Imam Khomeini to return to Iran and lead the last stages of the revolution. After a series of delays, including the military occupation of Mehrabad airport from 24 to 30 January, the Imam was able to board an Air France charter flight on the evening of 31 January, arriving in Tehran the next morning.
Amid unprecedented scenes of popular rejoicing – more than ten million people are estimated to have flocked to the city of Tehran to welcome him back to his homeland – Imam Khomeini walked to the southern Behesht-e Zahra cemetery of Tehran, where the martyrs of the revolution were buried. Here he openly condemned the Bakhtiyar government as “the last faint gasp of the Shah's regime” and declared his intention to designate a government that would represent “a punch in the face of the Bakhtiyar government” 46.
On February 5, the interim Islamic government that the Imam had promised was ready. The leadership was entrusted to Mahdi Bazargan, an individual active for many years in various Islamic organizations, and especially in the Movement for Freedom (Nehzat-e Azadi).
The decisive confrontation occurred less than a week later. Faced with the progressive disintegration of the armed forces, with many cases of officers and soldiers who deserted taking their weapons with them and with the Revolutionary Committees that were springing up everywhere, Bakhtiyar instituted a curfew in Tehran starting from 10 on February XNUMXth.
Imam Khomeini ordered that the curfew be ignored, and also warned that if elements of the army who remained loyal to the Shah continued to kill people, he would formally proclaim a fatwa in favor of jihad.47 The next day, the Supreme Military Council Bakhtiyar his support and finally on February 12, 1979 all the political, administrative and military organs of the regime finally collapsed. The revolution had triumphed.
No revolution can obviously be considered the fruit of the work of a single man, nor can it be interpreted in merely ideological terms; economic and social changes had prepared the ground for the revolutionary movement of 1978-79. There was also a marginal involvement in the revolution, especially during its final stages, when victory seemed assured, of secular, liberal-nationalist and left-wing elements.
However, there can be no doubt about the centrality of the role played by Imam Khomeini and the wholly Islamic nature of the revolution he led. Physically estranged from his compatriots for fourteen years, he was able to grasp and unfailingly bring to light their revolutionary potential and was able to mobilize the masses of the Iranian people to achieve what many observers in Iran (including the prime minister he had chosen, Bazargan), it seemed a distant and overly ambitious goal.
His role was not simply that of moral inspirer and symbolic guide: he was the operative guide of the revolution. He occasionally took advice on the details of strategies from people in Iran, but made all the key decisions himself, silencing from the outset any supporter of a policy of compromise with the Shah. The mosques were the operational bases of the revolution and mass prayers, demonstrations and martyrdom - up to the very last stages - its main weapons.
1979-1989: The first ten years of the Islamic Republic, the last ten years in the life of the Imam
Imam Khomeini also played a central role in shaping the new political order that arose from the revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran. At first it seemed that he could exercise his managerial role from Qom, because on February 28 he went there from Tehran effectively transforming the city into the second capital of the country.
A nationwide referendum held between March 30 and 31 resulted in a massive vote in favor of establishing an Islamic republic. The following day, April 1, 1979, was defined by the Imam as “The first day of God's rule”48. The institutionalization of the new order continued with the election, on August 3, of an Assembly of Experts (Majles-e Khobregan), which had the task of perfecting the draft of a constitution ready as early as June 18; fifty-five of the seventy-three elected were religious scholars.
However, it should not have been expected that a smooth transition from the old regime would be possible. The powers and duties of the Council of the Islamic Revolution, which was supposed to serve as an interim legislator, had not been clearly outlined by the members of the interim government headed by Bazargan.
More importantly, significant differences in perspective and approach separated the two bodies from each other. The Council, made up mostly of ulama, was in favor of immediate and radical change and would have liked to strengthen the revolutionary bodies that had been created: the Revolutionary Committees, the Revolutionary Tribunals charged with punishing members of the past regime guilty of serious crimes, and the Guards Corps of the Islamic Revolution (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Eslami), created on May 5, 1979. The government, led by Bazargan and including many Islamic-oriented liberal technocrats, considered a quick normalization of the situation possible and the gradual abandonment of revolutionary institutions.
While Imam Khomeini urged the members of the two bodies to work in concert and avoided, on several occasions, arbitering their differences, his sympathies clearly lay with the Council of the Islamic Revolution.
On July XNUMX, Bazargan presented his resignation to Imam Khomeini, which was refused; four members of the Council, Rafsanjani, Bahonar, Mahdavi-Kani and Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamene'i joined the Bazargan government in an attempt to improve the coordination of the two bodies. In addition to the conflicts within the government, another factor of instability was represented by the terrorist activities of groups operating in the shadows, determined to deprive the nascent Islamic Republic of some of its most competent personalities.
On May 1979, XNUMX, Ayatullah Murtaza Mutahhari, an important member of the Council of the Islamic Revolution and a particularly dear student of Imam Khomeini, was assassinated in Tehran. For once, the Imam wept in an open show of grief.
The definitive break between Bazargan and the revolution was determined as a consequence of the occupation of the US embassy in Tehran, carried out on November 4, 1979 by a group of university students from the capital. Although he had declared that he wanted to "respect the will of the Iranian people" and that he wanted to recognize the Islamic Republic, on October 22, 1979, the US government had admitted the Shah onto its territory.
The pretext was that of the need for medical care, but in Iran almost everyone feared that his arrival in the United States, where many senior officials of the previous regime had taken refuge, could be the prelude to an attempt supported by the USA to bring him back to power, along the lines of the successful CIA-led coup in August 1953. The students occupying the embassy therefore demanded the Shah's extradition as a condition for the release of the hostages inside.
It is probable that the students had previously explained their action to someone very close to Imam Khomeini, because he quickly offered them his protection, defining their action "a revolution greater than the first49". Two days later he predicted that in the face of this "second revolution" the United States "couldn't do a damn (Amrika hich ghalati namitavanad bokonad)" 50.
A prediction that to many, even in Iran, seemed rather extravagant, but on April 22, 1980 a military operation orchestrated by the USA to free the American hostages and, perhaps, hit some strategic sites in Tehran failed suddenly and humiliatingly when means of the US air forces collided with each other during a sandstorm near Tabas in southeastern Iran.
On April 7, the US formally broke diplomatic relations with Iran, a move that Imam Khomeini welcomed as an occasion for joy for the whole country51. The American hostages were finally released only on January 21, 1981.
Two days after the occupation of the US embassy, Bazargan again offered his resignation, this time it was accepted. In addition, the provisional government was dissolved and the Council of the Islamic Revolution assumed pro tempore government of the country.
This led to the definitive disappearance from the scene of Bazargan and all other personalities similar to him; since then, the term "liberal" has come into use as a pejorative, to indicate those who had a tendency to question the fundamental lines of the Revolution. The students who occupied the embassy also managed to get their hands on the voluminous documents that the Americans had assembled on behalf of all the Iranian personalities who had frequented the embassy over the years; these papers were published and discredited everyone involved.
Above all, the occupation of the embassy constituted a "second revolution" in an Iran that now presented itself as the almost unique example in which the American superpower had been defeated, and which was considered by US politicians as the main adversary in the Middle East.
The enthusiasm with which the occupation of the embassy had been welcomed also contributed to ensuring a very broad vote for the referendum which was held on 2 and 3 December 1979 to ratify the Constitution already approved by the Council of Experts on 15 November. The Constitution was approved by a very large majority but differed enormously from the original draft, above all for the inclusion of the principle of Wilayat al-Faqih as basic and determining. Briefly mentioned in the preamble, it is fully developed in Article 5:
“Throughout the time of the Occultation of the Lord of the Age (Sahib al-Zaman, the Twelfth Imam)…government and leadership of the nation is the responsibility of a just and pious faqih, who is familiar with the circumstances of his age, that he is courageous, resourceful and competent in matters of administration, that he is recognized and accepted as a Guide (rahbar) by the majority of the population. In the event that no faqih is considered as such by the majority, the same responsibilities will fall to a Council composed of fuqaha possessing the same qualities".
The Art. 109 specified the skills and attributes of the Guide, defined as "suitability with respect to knowledge and piety, as required of anyone intending to hold the offices of mufti' and marja'". The Art. 110 instead listed the powers he is vested with, which include the supreme command of the armed forces, the appointment of the head of the judiciary, the approval of the decree which formalizes the election of the President of the Republic and, under certain conditions, also the power to dismiss him52.
These articles formed the constitutional basis of Imam Khomeini's leadership. From July 1979 onwards the Imam had also appointed an Imam Jum'a53 for all major cities, who would have the task not only of delivering the Friday sermon but also of acting as his representative. A representative of the Imam was also found in most governmental institutions, even if in the final analysis the most important source of influence was constituted precisely by his immense moral and spiritual prestige, which led him to be designated as "Imam" par excellence, that is, as the one who plays the role of complete guide of the community54.
On January 23, 1980, Imam Khomeini, suffering from a heart condition, was taken from Qom to Tehran to receive the necessary treatment. After thirty-nine days in hospital, he settled in the northern suburb of Darband, and on 22 April moved into a modest home in Jamaran, another suburb north of the capital. A tightly guarded compound grew up around the house, and it was here that he would spend the rest of his life.
On January 25, while the Imam was in hospital, Abu'I-Hasan Bani Sadr, an economist who had studied in France, was elected the first President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His success was partly due to the fact that the Imam thought it inappropriate for a religious scholar to run for president. This event, followed on March 14 by the first elections for the Majlis, could be considered as an essential step towards the institutionalization and stabilization of the new political system.
However, Bani Sadr's attitude, together with the tensions that soon arose in relations between him and the majority of deputies in the Majlis, caused a serious political crisis which ended in Bani Sadr's resignation. The president, whose megalomania had been reinforced by his electoral victory, was reluctant to the supremacy of Imam Khomeini and had therefore sought to assemble his own following, largely made up of figures from the left who owed their fortunes exclusively to him .
During the attempt, it was inevitable for him to clash with the newly formed Islamic Republic Party (Hezb-e Jomhuri-ye Eslami), led by Ayatullah Beheshti, which dominated the Majlis and was faithful to what he called the "Imam's line". (khatt-e Imam). As he had done on the occasion of the disputes between the provisional government and the Council of the Islamic Revolution, the Imam attempted to mediate between the parties and on 11 September 1980 he appealed to all components of the government and their members to put aside their their differences.
While this new government crisis was unfolding, Iraq sent its troops across the Iranian border on September 22, 1980 and launched a war of aggression that would last for almost eight years. The Arab states of the Persian Gulf, primarily Saudi Arabia, financed the Iraqi war effort.
Imam Khomeini, however, correctly identified the United States as the primary external instigator of the conflict, and US involvement became more apparent as the war progressed. Even if Iraq had territorial claims against Iran, the real and ill-concealed objective of the aggression was to take advantage of the difficulties caused by the revolution in Iran, and especially of the weakening of the army due to the purges of officers disloyal to the new government, to destroy the Islamic Republic.
As he had during the revolution, Imam Khomeini insisted on no compromises and inspired a dogged resistance that prevented an easy Iraqi victory, which many foreign observers had assumed, albeit confidentially. Initially, however, Iraq enjoyed some success, capturing the port city of Khorramshahr and encircling Abadan.
How to deal with the war became one more cause for dispute between Bani Sadr and his opponents. In continued efforts to reconcile the two factions, Imam Khomeini set up a three-member commission to investigate the merits of one side's grievances against the other. On June 1, 1981, a commission reported that Bani Sadr had violated the constitution and contravened the instructions of the Imam. The Majlis declared him devoid of the necessary skills to hold the office of president, and the following day, according to the provisions of Art. 110 section (e) of the Constitution, Imam Khomeini removed him from office. Bani Sadr went underground and on June 28th boarded a plane for Paris, dressed as a woman.
Towards the end of his presidency, Bani Sadr allied himself with the Sazeman-e Mojahedin-e Khalq (Organization of People's Fighters; however, this group is commonly known in Iran as monafeqin, "hypocrites", and not mujahedin, due to of its members' hostility towards the Islamic Republic), an organization with a tortuous ideological and political history, which hoped, like Bani Sadr, to unseat Imam Khomeini and take over power in his place.
After Bani Sadr had to go into exile, some members of the organization started a campaign of assassinations of important government officials, in the hope that the Islamic Republic would collapse. Before Bani Sadr even fled, a huge explosion devastated the Islamic Republic Party headquarters, killing more than seventy people, including Ayatullah Beheshti.
On August 30, 1981 Muhammad Ali Raja'i, who had succeeded Bani Sadr as president, was killed by another bomb55. Over the next two years, several more assassinations were carried out, including five Imam Jum'a and many other people who held lesser positions. In the midst of these disasters, Imam Khomeini always maintained his characteristic composure, stating, for example, on the occasion of Raja'i's assassination, that these killings would change nothing and rather demonstrate that Iran was "the country most stable in the world”, given the government's ability to function normally even in such a situation56.
The fact that Iran was able to deal with the consequences of similar internal blows while continuing the war of defense against Iraq testified that the roots of the new order had taken root, and that Imam Khomeini's prestige as Leader of the nation it hadn't diminished at all.
Ayatullah Khamene'i, a close and loyal friend of the Imam for many years, was elected president on 2 October 1981 and remained in office until he succeeded Imam Khomeini as Leader of the Islamic Republic upon his death in 1989. During his presidency there were no government crises comparable to those of the first years of the Islamic Republic's existence. On the contrary, various structural problems persisted.
The Constitution provided that the laws passed for examination by the Majlis were then reviewed by a body composed of fuqaha called the Council of Guardians (Shura-ye Negahban) which verified the conformity of the law with what was prescribed by the fiqhja'farita57. This led to frequent stalemates, which also concerned legislative issues of primary importance.
On at least two occasions, in October 1981 and in January 1983, Hashemi Rafsanjani, president of the Majlis at the time, asked the Imam to intervene in a decisive manner, defining the competences of the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih, to resolve the impasse. The Imam was reluctant to do so, always preferring that an agreement be reached.
On January 6, 1988, however, in a letter addressed to Khamene'i, the Imam set forth a broad definition of Wilayat al-Faqih, now declared "absolute" (mutlaqa), which made it theoretically possible for the Guide to overcome all objections possible to the policies it advocates. That of government, Imam Khomeini asserted, is the most important of the divine precepts (ahkam-e ilahi) and must take precedence over all secondary divine orders (ahkam-e far'ya-ye ilahiya).
Not only is the Islamic State therefore allowed to promulgate a large number of laws not specifically mentioned in the sources of the Shari'ah (Sacred Law), such as the one on the prohibition of drugs and the collection of customs duties, but it can also decree the suspension of a fundamental religious duty such as pilgrimage (hajj) in case this is necessary for the supreme good of Muslims58.
At first glance, the theory of wilayat mutlaqa-ye faqih might appear to be a justification for the unlimited individual power of the Guide (rahbar). A month after these events, however, Imam Khomeini invested with these prerogatives, finally defined in full, a commission called the Assembly for Defining the Interest of the Islamic Order (Majma'-e Tashkhis-e Maslahat-e Nezam-e exclaim). The Assembly has the power to definitively settle all disagreements that may arise in legislative matters between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians.
The war against Iraq continued to plague Iran until July 1988. Iran had come to define that the aim of the war was not only the liberation of all parts of its territory occupied by Iraq, but also the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. A certain number of military victories had made the objective seem realistic.
On November 29, 1981, Imam Khomeini congratulated his military commanders for the successes achieved in Khuzestan, emphasizing the fact that the Iraqis had been forced to retreat in the face of the faith and thirst for martyrdom of the Iranian troops59.
The following year, on May 24, the city of Khorramshahr, which the Iraqis had occupied shortly after the start of the war, was liberated; in Iraqi hands only small strips of Iranian territory remained. The Imam took advantage of the circumstance to condemn again the countries of the Persian Gulf which had supported Saddam Husayn and described the victory as a divine gift60.
However, Iran failed to capitalize on the surprise victory, and the momentum that could have led to the destruction of Saddam Husayn's regime vanished as the war continued with ups and downs. In any case, the United States was working hard to prevent Iran from achieving a decisive victory and intruded into the conflict in various ways.
Finally, on July 2, 1988, the US Navy stationed in the Persian Gulf shot down an Iranian civilian plane, killing two hundred and ninety passengers. With extreme reluctance, Imam Khomeini decided to end the war on the terms specified in resolution No. 598 of the United Nations Security Council, but in a long statement published on 20 July he compared his decision to ingesting a poison61.
Any doubts that the acceptance of the ceasefire with Iraq was a sign of a lesser readiness of the Imam to fight the enemies of Islam was dispelled on February 14, 1989, with the issuance of the fatwa condemning Salman Rushdie to death , author of the obscene and blasphemous novel "The Satanic verses", and all those who had published and disseminated the book.
The fatwa received widespread support throughout the Islamic world, which saw in it the most authoritative articulation of popular indignation at Rushdie's enormous insult to Islam. Although the order was not carried out, it clearly showed what consequences any Rushdie imitator was to expect, and thus had an important deterrent effect.
At the time there was little consideration for the solid background that both Shi'ite and Sunni jurisprudence presented to the Imam's fatwa; in essence, there was nothing innovative about it. What gave the fatwa particular significance was the fact that it came from a figure of great moral authority such as the Imam.
The Imam had attracted the attention of the outside world, albeit in a less spectacular way, on January 4, 1989, when he sent Mikhail Gorbachev, then general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, a letter in which he predicted the collapse of the 'USSR and the disappearance of communism: "From now on it will be necessary to look for communism in the museum of political history of the world".
He also warned Gorbachev and the Russian people not to replace communism with Western-style materialism: “Your country's main difficulty is not the problem of property, economy and freedom. Your problem is the absence of a true belief in God, the same problem that has dragged or will drag the West into a blind alley, into nothingness.”62.
As regards domestic politics, the most important event of the last year of Imam Khomeini's life was, without a doubt, the ousting of Ayatullah Montazeri from his post as successor to the leadership of the Islamic Republic.
Once a student and close comrade of the Imam, who had gone so far as to call him "the fruit of my life", Montazeri over the years had among his collaborators people executed for counter-revolutionary activities, including a son-in-law, Mahdi Hashemi , and had then made extensive criticisms of the Islamic Republic, and in particular of judicial issues.
On July 31, 1988, he wrote a letter to the Imam regarding the executions - in his opinion arbitrary - of members of the Sazman-e Mojahedin-e Khalq which took place in Iranian prisons after the organization, from its base in Iraq, had carried out raids wide range in Iranian territory during the last stages of the war with Iraq. The affair ended the following year, and on 28 March 1989 the Imam wrote to Montazeri accepting his renunciation of the succession, a renunciation which, given the circumstances, he had been obliged to present63.
On June 3, 1989, after eleven days in hospital for an operation to stop internal bleeding, Imam Khomeini entered a critical situation and died. His expressions of condolence were massive and spontaneous, in total contrast with those of joy that had welcomed his return to his homeland just over ten years earlier.
Such was the size of the mourning crowd, estimated at some nine million people, that his body had to be carried to his burial site - south of Tehran, on the road to Qom - by helicopter. A still expanding complex of buildings has arisen around the Imam's mausoleum, which in the future it seems could become the center of a totally new city devoted to ziyara (pilgrimage) and religious studies.
Imam Khomeini's will was made public soon after his death. It is a long document that is mainly addressed to the different classes of Iranian society, urging them to work for the preservation and strengthening of the Islamic Republic. It is significant, however, that it opens with a long meditation on the hadith Thaqalayn: “I leave you two great and precious things: the Book of God and my descendants; they will not be separated from each other, until they meet me at the source”.
Imam Khomeini interprets the adversities that Muslims have had to face throughout history, and particularly those of the present era, as the result of deliberate efforts to separate the Qur'an from the progeny of the Prophet (s).
Imam Khomeini's legacy is considerable. Not only has he left his country with a political order which manages to combine the principle of religious leadership with that of an elected legislative body and head of the executive, but also a completely new ethos and national image, an attitude of dignified independence in confrontation with the West in the Islamic world.
He was deeply imbued with the tradition and worldview of Shia Islam, but he viewed the revolution he led and the republic he founded as the basis for a worldwide awakening of all Muslims. He did this by, among other things, issuing proclamations to the hujjaj64 on numerous occasions, warning them of the dangers posed by US dominance in the Middle East, Israel's tireless efforts to subvert the Islamic world, and subservient attitude towards Israel and the United States held by many Middle Eastern governments.
Shia-Sunni unity was one of his enduring concerns; he was, in fact, the first Shiite authority to declare unconditionally valid the prayers of the Shiite faithful officiated by a Sunni imam65.
Finally, it should be emphasized that, despite the breadth of the political goals he achieved, Imam Khomeini's personality was essentially that of a Gnostic, for whom political activity represented nothing more than the natural outlet for an intense inner life devoted to devotion. The all-encompassing vision of Islam that he was able to articulate and that he exemplified is his most important legacy.
You notice them
1. The beloved daughter of the Prophet and wife of Imam Ali, ndt
2.“People of the House”, the family of the Prophet, ndt
3.Cf. Muhammad Riza Hakimi, Mir Hamid Husayn, Qom, 1362-1983.
4.However, according to the Imam's elder brother, Sayyid Murtaza Pasandide, he departed from Kashmir and not Lucknow; see Ali Davani, Nahzat-I Ruhaniyun-I Iran, Tehran, n.d. VI, p. 760.
5.Poetic compositions, ndt Cf. Divan-I Imam, Tehran, 1372 Sh./1993, p. 50.
6. Interview by the writer with Hajj Sayyid Ahmad Khomeini, son of the Imam, Tehran, September 12, 1982.
7.Imam Khomeini, Sahifa-ye Nur, Tehran, 1361/1982, X, p. 63.
8.Sahifa-ye Nur, XVI, p. 121.
9. Traditional Islamic primary school, ndt
10.Completed the memorization of the entire Quran, ndt
11. figures of speech, ndt
12. meaning of words, ndt
13.Sahifa-ye Nur, XII, p. 51.
14.my master, Ndt
15. complete gnostic, Ndt
16. disciple, initiate, ndt
17. spiritual teacher, Ndt
18.Shadharat al-Ma'arif, Tehran, 1360/1982, pp. 6-7.
19.Sayyid 'Ali Riza Yazdi Husayni, Aina-yi Danishvaran, Tehran, 1353/1934, pp. 65-67.
20.Sayyd Hamid Ruhani, Barrasi va Tahili az Nahzat-I Imam Khumayni, I, Najaf, nd, pp. 55-59.
21. Shia law experts authorized to issue legal responses, ndt
22.Kashf a-Asrar, p. 185.
23.Kashf a-Asrar, p. 186.
24. "source of imitation", highest authority in Shiite jurisprudence, ndt
25.Sahifa-ye Nur, I, p. 27.
26.Kauthar, I, p. 67; Sahifa-yi Nur, I, p. 39.
27.Sahifa-ye Nur, I, p. 46.
28. Personal communication to Hamid Algar, Tehran, December 1979.
29.Kauthar, I, pp. 169-178.
30.Cf. Ansari, Hadis-I Binari, p. 67 (translated into Italian by the Irfan editions with the title “Il Racconto del Risveglio, ndt).
31. legal responses ndt
32. ordain good and forbid evil ndt
33. military defense, ndt
34. Tahrir al-Wasila, I, p. 486.
35.Wilayat al-Faqih, Najaf, nd, p. 204 (translated into Italian by Il Cerchio editions with the title “Il Goveno Islamico”, ndt).
36.Sahifa-ye Nur, I, pp. 129-132.
37. the emigration of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina, ndt
38.Risala-ye Ahkam, p. 328.
39.Sahifa-ye Nur, I, pp. 144-145.
40.Sahifa-ye Nur, I, p. 215.
41.Shahidi digar az ruhaniyat, Najaf, sd, p. 27.
42. New York Times, January 2, 1978.
43.Sahifa-ye Nur, I, p. 97.
44.Sahifa-ye Nur, II, p. 143.
45.Sahifa-ye Nur, III, p. 225.
46.Sahifa-ye Nur, IV, p. 281.
47.Sahifa-ye Nur, V, p. 75.
48.Sahifa-ye Nur, V, p. 233.
49.Sahifa-ye Nur, X, p. 141.
50.Sahifa-ye Nur, X, p. 149.
51.Sahifa-ye Nur, XII, p. 40.
52.Qanun-e Asasi-ye Jumhuri-ye Islami-ye Iran, Tehran, 1370 Sh. / 1991, p. 23-24. 53-58.
53. Friday Prayer Guide, ndt
54. The interpretations according to which the title was recognized to him to assimilate him to the Twelve Imams of the Shiite tradition, and therefore to attribute to him the chrism of infallibility, are groundless.
55. together with, among others, then prime minister, Hujjatulislam Mohammad Javad Bahonar, ndt
56.Sahifa-ye Nur, XV, p. 130.
57. Shiite jurisprudence, ndt
58.Sahifa-ye Nur, XX, pp. 170-171.
59.Sahifa-ye Nur, XV, pp. 234.
60.Sahifa-ye Nur, XVI, pp. 154-5.
61.Sahifa-ye Nur, XXI, pp. 227-44.
62.Ava-ye Tauhid, Tehran, 1367 sh / 1989, pp. 3-5 (translated into Italian by Edizioni all'Insegna del Veltro with the title “Letter to Gorbachev”).
63.Sahifa-yi Nur, XXI, pp. 112.
64.participants in the pilgrimage to the Ka'aba in the holy city of Mecca, ndt
65.Istifta'at, I, p. 279.
The virtual exhibition