Ayatollah Khomeini was the Supreme Leader of Iran after the overthrowing of the Persian reign of 2500 years old. He was the founder of Iran as the Islamic Republic after the 1979 Iranian Revolution which he led successfully.
Ayatollah was born as Ruhollah Khomeini on 24 September 1902 in Khomeyn, Markazi Province. His paternal grandparent was said to be either from Lucknow, British India or Kashmir and had gone on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Imam Ali in Najaf, Ottoman Iraq (now Iraq) and never returned to India. This was in 1830 and in 1834, he went to Persia and in 1839 settled in Khomein.
His father Seyed Mostafa Hindi was murdered when he was just 5 months old and hence he was raised by his mother Hajieh Agha Khanum, and his aunt, Sahebeth. He took to learning Quran and Persian language when he was 6. He then attended a local school and learned religion. He had an elder brother called Morteza Pasandideh from whom he learned religion. In 1920, he moved to Arak to commence his studies and followed his teacher to Qom. He studied Islamic law (Sharia) and jurisprudence (Fiqh). He also developed an interest in poetry and philosophy, especially Greek philosophy. He himself started writing mystic, political and social poetry.
His career as a lecturer
Khomeini became a lecturer at Najaf and Qom seminaries and soon became a leading scholar of the Shia Islam. His teachings dealt with political philosophy, Islamic history, and ethics. He also wrote extensively on it. His teachings were about the importance of religion on the social and political scenario of the country.
His writings and political career
His first political book was published in 1942 and was named Kashf al-Asrar (Uncovering of Secrets). This was the period when most Iranians were not in favor of Westernization that has been pursued by their Shah (King). The Tobacco Protest was also held at the same time. After other Shia leaders expired, Khomeini found the path clear to head them in 1962.
The Shah had started the White Revolution and there was widespread opposition to it. The Revolution was a 6-point program which involved land reform, nationalization of forests, the sale of state-owned enterprises to private firms, electoral changes to enfranchize women, profit-sharing in industry, and a literacy campaign in the schools. These were viewed as an attack on Islam and a boycott was ordered. The Shah was accused of having submitted to the US and Israel. In 1963, he was arrested and this triggered a lot of unrest and riots.
He denounced both the Shah and the US. Murders occurred and Khomeini went into exile to Najaf, Iraq for 14 years. He was expelled in 1978 from there by Saddam Hussein and moved to Paris for few months on a tourist visa. During his stay in Najaf, he had given a number of lectures which were later published into a book. He took the help of others who were against the Shah. Cassettes of his speeches were circulated.
The return to Iran
In 1979 when the Shah left Iran never to return, Khomeini returned to Iran to a joyous welcome. He was against the provisional government set u at that time and said of them:
“I shall kick their teeth in. I appoint the government.”
He made his own new appointments to the government. An Islamic Government was formed and an Islamic constitution was framed. A cancer-ridden Shah went to the US for treatment but was asked to return and face trial. His supporters also held US Embassy 52 staff hostage for 444 days demanding the return of Shah. Shah died a few months later but the fight continued. He believed in Muslim unity and solidarity. In 1980, Iran-Iraq war started and lasted for 8 years.
He was against chemical weapons and also had issued a fatwa against writer Salman Rushdie. It was a conservative Iran under his regime and had banned all Western articles and music. Under his rule, Iran’s economy suffered and there was an efflux of people. The opposition was harshly dealt and all anti-voices silenced by mean of power. Minority religions suffered.
His personal life and health
Khomeini was ill for several years before his death. He died on 3 June 1989 due to 5 heart attacks in 10 days. His wife was Khadijeh Saqafi whom he married in 1929. He had 5 children out of this wedlock.