"Imam RuhullAh Al-Musavi Al-Khomeini(RA) was born on September 24, 1902 into a family of strong religious traditions in Khomayn, a small town some hundred kilometers to the southwest of Tehran. His father, AyatullAh MustafA was murdered by bandits only five month after the birth of Ruhullah, so that his mother and an aunt were responsible for his early upbringing. At the age of nineteen, the young Imam Khomeini was sent to study the religious sciences in the nearby town of Arak under the guidance of Shaykh 'Abd al-Karim Ha'iri, who had been a pupil of great scholars at the Shi'i teaching centers in Iraq, most notably A. Mirza Hasan Shirazi. His studies under A. Ha'iri made Khomeini an heir to the traditions established by the great figures of the nineteenth century, traditions that included political activism as well as learning. The final and decisive development would be the movement of nationwide opposition to the pahlavi monarchy that Imam Khomeini was to initiate in Qum in 1962 Indications of Imam Khomeini's future role were already present in those early years. He attained prominence among the numerous students of Ha'iri, excelling in a wide variety of subjects, but especially ethics and the variety of spiritual philosophy known in Iran as 'irfan. At the early age of twenty-seven, he wrote a treatise in Arabic on these subjects, MisbAh al-Hidaya, which was well received by his teachers. Many of Imam Khomeini's important associates who came to be well known during the revolution years recall that they were first attracted to him by his proficiency in ethics and philosophy and that the classes he taught on them twice a week in Qum were frequently attended by hundreds of people. Given the current fame of Imam Khomeini as a revolutionary leader who had achieved a rare degree of success in the purely political sphere, it may appear surprising that he first gained fame as a writer and teacher concerned with devotional and even mystical matters. For Imam Khomeini, however, spirituality and mysticism had never implied social withdrawal or political quietism, but rather the building up of a fund of energy that finds its natural expression on the socio-political plane. The life of Imam Khomeini is a clear indication that the Revolution wrought by Islam, necessarily begins in the moral and spiritual realm. The classes he taught at Qum in the 1930's bore witness to this; topics of an ethical and spiritual nature were constantly interwoven to his listeners to devote themselves to solving them as part of their religious duty. The early years of Imam Khomeini's activity in Qum coincided with the establishment of the ahlavi state by Riza Khan. Riza Khan transformed the Iranian monarchy into a dictatorship of the modern, totalitarian kind and made its chief internal aim the elimination of Islam as a political, social, and cultural force. For Imam a natural and direct continuation of what he had experienced in the period of Riza shah; father and son were of a piece. Imam Khomeini's first public statement of a political nature came in a book published in 1941, "KASHF al-ASRAR". The book is essentially a detail, systematic critique of an anti religious tract, but is also contains numerous passages that are overtly political and critical of the Pahlavi rule. In 1937, A. Ha'iri died, and the religious institution was temporarily headed by a triumvirate of his closest senior associated; Ayatollahs Sadr, Hujjat, and Khwansari. Soon, however, a single leader succeeded to the role of A. Ha'iri, Ayatullah Burujirdi. Imam Khomeini was active in Promoting the candidacy of A. Burujirdi, whom he expected to utilize the potentialities of the position of supreme religious authority in order to combat Pahlavi rule. He remained close to A. Burujirdi until hid death in 1962, but other influences prevailed on A. Burujirdi; history regards him as a religious leader of great piety and administrative ability, but almost totally inactive in political matters.
After the death of A. Burujirdi, no single successor to his position emerged. Imam Khomeini was reluctant to allow his own name to be canvassed, but he ultimately yielded to the urgings of close associated that a collection of his rulings on matters of religious practice be published, thus implicitly declaring his availability as leader and authority. It was not, however, primarily through technical procedures such as this that the prominence of Imam Khomeini spread first within Qum, and then throughout the country. Of greater importance was his willingness to confront the shah's regime at a time when few dared to do so. For example, he was alone among the major religious scholars of Qum in extending support publicly to the students at the religious institution who were campaigning against the opening of liquor stores in the city. Soon his attention was devoted to matters of greater significance. The first step came in October 1962, when the shah promulgated a law abolishing the requirement that candidates for election to local assemblies be Muslim and male. Imam Khomeini, joined by religious leaders elsewhere in the country, protested vigorously against the measure; it was ultimately repealed. The measure itself was not intrinsically important, because elections to local assemblies were invariably corrupt and their functions were purely formal. But the campaign against it provided a point of departure for more comprehensive agitation against the regime as well as opportunity to build a coalition of religious scholars that might be mobilized for more fundamental aims in the future The next step was taken in 1963, when the shah began to promulgate a series of measures for reshaping the political, social, and economic life of Iran that were collectively designated the "WHITE REVOLUTION". The appearance of popular approval was obtained by a fraudulent referendum held on January 26, 1963. However, the measures in question were correctly perceived by a large segment of Iranian society as being imposed on the country by the UNITED STATES and designed to bring about augmentation of the shah's power and wealth, as well as intensification of UNITES STATES dominance, which had been instituted with the C I A Coup d'eta against prime minister Mohammed Musaddiq in August 1953. Imam Khomeini moved immediately to denounce the fraudulent "REVOLUTION" and to expose the motives that underlay it, Preaching a series of sermons from Fayziya Madrasa in Qum that had a nationwide impact. The shah's regime responded by sending paratroopers to attack Fayziya on March 22, 1963(1342). A number of students were killed and the Madrasa was ransacked Far from intimidating Imam Khomeini, this event marked the beginning of a new period of determined struggle that was directed not only against the errors and excesses of the regime, but against its very existence. The attack on the Madrasa had an almost symbolic value, exemplifying as it did both the hostility of the regime to Islam and Islamic institutions and the ruthless, barbaric manner in which it expressed that hostility. Throughout the spring of the 1963(1342), Imam Khomeini continued to denounce the shah's regime. He concentrated his attacks on its tyrannical nature, its subordination to the UNITED STATES, and its expanding collaboration with ISRAEL. The confrontation reached a new peak in June with the onset of Muhararm, the month in the Muslim calendar when the Martyrdom of IMAM HUSSAIN, the Grandson of the Prophet, is commemorated and aspirations to emulate his example, by struggling against contemporary manifestations of tyranny, are awakened On the tenth day of the month(The Day of ASHOORA), Imam Khomeini delivered a historic speech in Qum, repeating his denunciations of the shah's regime and warning the shah not to behave in such a way that the people would rejoice when he should ultimately be forced to leave the country. Two days later, he was arrested at his residence and taken to confinement in Tehran
The arrest of Imam Khomeini
brought popular disgust with the shah's regime to a climax, and a major
uprising shook the throne. In Qum, Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad,
Isfahan, Kashan, and other cities, unarmed demonstrators confronted
the shah's U.S. trained and equipped army, which, upon the command
to shoot to kill, slaughtered not less than 15,000 people in the space
of a few days. The date on which this uprising began, KHORDAD
15, according to the solar calendar used in Iran, marked a turning
point in the modern history of Iran. It established Imam Khomeini
as national leader and spokesman for popular aspirations, provided
the struggle against the shah and his foreign patrons with a coherent ideological
basis in Islam, and introduced a period of mass political activity under
the guidance of the religious leadership instead of the secular parties
that had been discredited with the overthrow of Musaddiq.
In all of these ways, the
uprising of KHORDAD 15 foreshadowed the Islamic Revolution of 1978-1979.
The uprising was suppressed, but the general public and the religious scholars
refused to tolerate the imprisonment of Imam Khomeini. Agitation persisted
throughout the country, and numerous religious leaders converged
on Tehran to press for Imam Khomeini's release. It finally came on
April 6, 1964, accompanied by a statement in the government-controlled
press that Imam Khomeini had agreed to refrain from political activity
as a condition for his release. This was immediately refuted
by the Imam, who resumed his denunciations of the regime with undiminished
vigor. It further proof were needed of the shah's tutelage
to the UNITED STATES, it came in October 1964, when legal immunity
was granted to AMERICAN personnel for all offenses committed in IRANIAN
territory. After learning that the Iranian rubber-stamp Majlis had
agreed to this measure, Imam Khomeini spent a sleepless night, and the
next day, October 27, he furiously denounced this open violation
of Iranian sovereignty and independence. It had by now
become apparent to the shah and his foreign overlords that Imam Khomeini
could not be intimidated into silence, and it was decided to EXILE him,
in the vain hoped of destroying his influence.
Accordingly, on November 4, 1964, Imam Khomeini was arrested again and sent into exile in TURKEY, accompanied by agents of the shah's secret police. After a brief stay in Ankara, Imam Khomeini was obliged to take up residence in Bursa, a city in the west of turkey. Continual pressure was brought on the shah's regime to permit Imam Khomeini to leave Turkey for a more favorable place of exile, NAJAF, One of the Shi'i shrine ities of Iraq. In October 1965, consent was given, Imam Khomeini Proceeded to Najaf, which was to be his home for thirteen years. In agreeing to this move, the shah's regime had been motivated not only by the desire to free itself from popular pressure, but also by the assumption that Imam Khomeini would
be overshadowed in Najaf by the religious authorities resident there. This assumption proved false. Imam Khomeini established himself as a major presence in Najaf. More importantly, he maintained his influence and popularity in Iran. He issued periodic proclamations concerning developments in Iran that were smuggled into the country and clandestinely circulated at great risk. In addition, his messages addressed to the Muslim world at large were distributed several times in MECCA during the Pilgrimage season of the year. In Najaf itself, he received visits during the long years of his exile from a number of important Iranian and other Muslim personalities. The name and person of Imam Khomeini and the cause that he embodies were never forgotten in IRAN. His example inspired a number of religious scholars and groups, which continued to build on the foundations laid in 1963 and 1964, and unnoticed by most foreign observers, an ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF UNPARALLELED BREADTH PROFUNDITY CAME INTO BEING. It was, then, entirely natural that Imam Khomeini should swiftly emerge as the leader and guide of the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79. Notwithstanding his physical absence from the country, he was present in the hearts of his countrymen and infinitely more in tune with their aspirations than politicians who had suffered neither exile nor imprisonment.
On November 23, 1977, the
elder son of Imam Khomeini, Hajj MustafA(RA), died suddenly in Najaf,
assassinated by the shah's U.S. Instituted security police, SAVAK.
Imam Khomeini bore this blow stoically, but the tragedy inflamed the public
in Iran. Massive social corruption and economic dislocation
as well as continuing political repression had already aroused universal
discontent in Iran, and when the regime aimed its next blow against
Imam Khomeini, discontent overflowed into rebellion, and rebellion,
in turn, matured into revolution. On January 8, 1978, one week
after PRESIDENT CARTER had been in Tehran lauding the shah as a wise
statesman beloved of his people, the government-controlled press
printed an article supplied by Ministry of the Court attacking Imam Khomeini
as an agent of foreign powers. The public reaction was
immediate outrage. The following day in Qum, demonstrations broke
out that were suppressed with heavy loss of life.
This was the first of a series of demonstrations that progressively unfurled across the country, until in the end, barely a single region remained untouched by revolutionary fervor. Throughout the spring and summer of 1978, Imam Khomeini issued a series of Proclamations and directives congratulating the people on their steadfastness and encouraging them to persist until the final objective-overthrow of the monarchy and institution of an ISLAMIC Republic. The centrality of the Imam in the revolutionary movement was obvious from the beginning. His name was constantly repeated in the slogans that were devised and chanted in the demonstrations; his portrait served as a revolutionary banner; and his return from exile to supervise the installation of an Islamic government was insistently demanded. Acting under another of its erroneous assumptions, the shah's regime requested the BAATHIST GOVERNMENT OF IRAQ, in September 1978, to expel Imam Khomeini from its territory, in the hope of depriving him of his base of operations and robbing the revolution of its leadership. Imam had never enjoyed cordial relations with the various governments that had ruled Iraq since his arrival there in 1965, and he now informed the Bathists that he would be happy to leave Iraq for a country that was not subject to the shah's dictates. Syria and Algeria were considered as possible destinations, but in the end, as Imam Khomeini testified himself, no Muslim country offered him refuge with the assurance of his being able to continue his activity freely. So he went to France, taking up residence at the hamlet of NEAUPHLE-LE-CHATEAU near Paris in early October 1978.
The move to France proved beneficial. Paradoxically, communication with Iran was easier from France than it had been from Iraq. The declarations and directives that were now being issued with increasing frequency were telephoned directly to Tehran, for further dissemination to a number of centers in the provinces. A never-ending stream of Iranians, from Europe and the United States as well as Iran itself, came to visit and pay homage to the Imam and to consult with him. The world's media also descended on the modest residence of the Imam at Neauphle-le-chateau, and his words began to reach a global audience. The month of MUHARRAM that coincided with December 1978, witnessed vast and repeated demonstrations in Tehran and other Iranian cities demanding the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of an Islamic Republic under the leadership of Imam Khomeini.
Despite all the savagery the
shah had employed, including the slaughter of thousands of unarmed
demonstrators, the torture and abuse of detainees, and massacres of the
wounded in their hospital beds, and despite the unstinting support he had
received from the UNITED STATES and other foreign powers, the corrupt
and murderous rule of the shah was approaching its end.
His Masters decided it was politic for him to leave, and when preparations
had been made for the installation of a surrogate administration
under SHAHPUR BAKHTIAR, the shah left Iran for the LAST TIME on January
16, 1979. The outburst of joy that followed his departure was
a fulfillment of the prophecy Imam Khomeini had made sixteen years
earlier. Once the shah left Iran, Imam Khomeini prepared to return
to his homeland. When he did, on February 1 1979, he was met with
a tumultuous welcome. With his renewed presence in Iran, the
fate of the Bakhtiar government was sealed. After a final outburst
of savagery on February 10 and 11, the old regime collapsed in disgrace,
and the ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF I R A N was born. Throughout this
long and remarkable career, Imam Khomeini had manifested a unique
set of characteristics:
Spirituality and erudition, asceticism and self-discipline, sobriety and determination, political genius and leadership, compassion for the poor and deprived, and a relentless hatred of oppression and imperialism. Summarizing his assessment of Imam Khomeini, the Shaheed Ayatullah Mutahhari compared him with IMAM ALI ibn abi TAleb(a), that high exemplar of Islamic courage, wisdom, and spirituality. All who have had the privilege to come into the presence of the Imam would concur in his judgment."