Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (UK: /xɒˈmeɪni/ khom-AY-nee, US: /xoʊˈ-/ khohm-; Persian: سید روحالله موسوی خمینی ); 17 May 1900 or 24 September 1902 – 3 June 1989), also known in the Western world as Ayatollah Khomeini, was an Iranian politician, revolutionary, and cleric. He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which saw the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the end of the 2,500-year-old Persian monarchy. Following the revolution, Khomeini became the country's Supreme Leader, a position created in the constitution of the Islamic Republic as the highest-ranking political and religious authority of the nation, which he held until his death. Most of his reign was taken up by the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–1988. He was succeeded by Ali Khamenei on 4 June 1989.
Khomeini was born in Khomeyn, in what is now Iran's Markazi Province. His father was murdered in 1903 when Khomeini was two years old. He began studying the Quran and the Persian language from a young age and was assisted in his religious studies by his relatives, including his mother's cousin and older brother.
Khomeini was a marja ("source of emulation") in Twelver Shia Islam, a Mujtahid or faqih (an expert in Sharia) and author of more than 40 books, but he is primarily known for his political activities. He spent more than 15 years in exile for his opposition to the last shah. In his writings and preachings he expanded the theory of welayat-el faqih, the "Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist (clerical authority)", to include theocratic political rule by Islamic jurists. This principle (though not known to the wider public before the revolution), was appended to the new Iranian constitution after being put to a referendum. According to The New York Times, Khomeini called democracy the equivalent of prostitution. Whether Khomeini's ideas are compatible with democracy and whether he intended the Islamic Republic to be democratic is disputed. He was Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1979 for his international influence, and Khomeini has been described as the "virtual face of Shia Islam in Western popular culture". In 1982, he survived one military coup attempt. Khomeini was known for his support of the hostage takers during the Iran hostage crisis, his fatwa calling for the murder of British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, and for referring to the United States as the "Great Satan" and Soviet Union as the "Lesser Satan." Khomeini has been criticized for these acts and for human rights violations of Iranians (including his ordering of execution of thousands of political prisoners, war criminals and prisoners of the Iran–Iraq War).
He has also been lauded as a "charismatic leader of immense popularity", a "champion of Islamic revival" by Shia scholars, who attempted to establish good relations between Sunnis and Shias, and a major innovator in political theory and religious-oriented populist political strategy. Khomeini held the title of Grand Ayatollah and is officially known as Imam Khomeini inside Iran and by his supporters internationally. He is generally referred to as Ayatollah Khomeini by others. In Iran, his gold-domed tomb in Tehran's Behesht-e Zahrāʾ cemetery has become a shrine for his adherents, and he is legally considered "inviolable", with Iranians regularly punished for insulting him. A cult of personality developed around Khomeini after the Iranian Revolution.
Ruhollah Khomeini came from a lineage of small land owners, clerics, and merchants. His ancestors migrated towards the end of the 18th century from their original home in Nishapur, Khorasan Province, in northeastern part of Iran, for a short stay, to the Kingdom of Awadh, a region in the modern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, whose rulers were Twelver Shia Muslims of Persian origin. During their rule they extensively invited, and received, a steady stream of Persian scholars, poets, jurists, architects, and painters.] The family eventually settled in the small town of Kintoor, near Lucknow, the capital of Awadh. Ayatollah Khomeini's paternal grandfather, Seyyed Ahmad Musavi Hindi, was born in Kintoor. He left Lucknow in 1830, on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Ali in Najaf, Ottoman Iraq (now Iraq) and never returned. According to Moin, this migration was to escape from the spread of British power in India. In 1834 Seyyed Ahmad Musavi Hindi visited Persia, and in 1839 he settled in Khomein. Although he stayed and settled in Iran, he continued to be known as Hindi, indicating his stay in India, and Ruhollah Khomeini even used Hindi as a pen name in some of his ghazals. Khomeini's grandfather, Mirza Ahmad Mojtahed-e Khonsari was the cleric issuing a fatwa to forbid usage of Tobacco during the Tobacco Protest.Childhood
According to his birth certificate, Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, whose first name means "spirit of Allah", was born on 7 May 1900 in Khomeyn, Markazi Province although his brother Mortaza (later known as Ayatollah Pasandideh) gives his birth date of 24 September 1902, the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah. He was raised by his mother, Hajieh Agha Khanum, and his aunt, Sahebeth, following the murder of his father, Mustapha Musavi, five months after his birth in 1903.
Ruhollah began to study the Qur'an and elementary Persian at the age of six. The following year, he began to attend a local school, where he learned religion, noheh khani (lamentation recital), and other traditional subjects. Throughout his childhood, he continued his religious education with the assistance of his relatives, including his mother's cousin, Ja'far, and his elder brother, Morteza Pasandideh.Education and lecturing
After World War I arrangements were made for him to study at the Islamic seminary in Isfahan, but he was attracted instead to the seminary in Arak. He was placed under the leadership of Ayatollah Abdul Karim Haeri Yazdi.
In 1920, Khomeini moved to Arak and commenced his studies. The following year, Ayatollah Haeri Yazdi transferred to the Islamic seminary in the holy city of Qom, southwest of Tehran, and invited his students to follow. Khomeini accepted the invitation, moved, and took up residence at the Dar al-Shafa school in Qom. Khomeini's studies included Islamic law (sharia) and jurisprudence (fiqh), but by that time, Khomeini had also acquired an interest in poetry and philosophy (irfan). So, upon arriving in Qom, Khomeini sought the guidance of Mirza Ali Akbar Yazdi, a scholar of philosophy and mysticism. Yazdi died in 1924, but Khomeini continued to pursue his interest in philosophy with two other teachers, Javad Aqa Maleki Tabrizi and Rafi'i Qazvini. However, perhaps Khomeini's biggest influences were another teacher, Mirza Muhammad 'Ali Shahabadi, and a variety of historic Sufi mystics, including Mulla Sadra and Ibn Arabi.
Khomeini studied Greek philosophy and was influenced by both the philosophy of Aristotle, whom he regarded as the founder of logic, and Plato, whose views "in the field of divinity" he regarded as "grave and solid". Among Islamic philosophers, Khomeini was mainly influenced by Avicenna and Mulla Sadra.
Apart from philosophy, Khomeini was interested in literature and poetry. His poetry collection was released after his death. Beginning in his adolescent years, Khomeini composed mystic, political and social poetry. His poetry works were published in three collections: The Confidant, The Decanter of Love and Turning Point, and Divan. His knowledge of poetry is further attested by the modern poet Nader Naderpour (1929–2000), who "had spent many hours exchanging poems with Khomeini in the early 1960s". Naderpour remembered: "For four hours we recited poetry. Every single line I recited from any poet, he recited the next."
Ruhollah Khomeini was a lecturer at Najaf and Qom seminaries for decades before he was known on the political scene. He soon became a leading scholar of Shia Islam. He taught political philosophy, Islamic history and ethics. Several of his students – for example, Morteza Motahhari – later became leading Islamic philosophers and also marja'. As a scholar and teacher, Khomeini produced numerous writings on Islamic philosophy, law, and ethics. He showed an exceptional interest in subjects like philosophy and mysticism that not only were usually absent from the curriculum of seminaries but were often an object of hostility and suspicion.
Inaugurating his teaching career at the age of 27 by giving private lessons on irfan and Mulla Sadra to a private circle, around the same time, in 1928, he also released his first publication, Sharh Du'a al-Sahar (Commentary on the Du'a al-Baha), "a detailed commentary, in Arabic, on the prayer recited before dawn during Ramadan by Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq", followed, some years later, by Sirr al-Salat (Secret of the Prayer), where "the symbolic dimensions and inner meaning of every part of the prayer, from the ablution that precedes it to the salam that concludes it, are expounded in a rich, complex, and eloquent language that owes much to the concepts and terminology of Ibn 'Arabi. As Sayyid Fihri, the editor and translator of Sirr al-Salat, has remarked, the work is addressed only to the foremost among the spiritual elite (akhass-i khavass) and establishes its author as one of their number." The second book has been translated by Sayyid Amjad Hussain Shah Naqavi and released by BRILL in 2015, under the title "The Mystery of Prayer: The Ascension of the Wayfarers and the Prayer of the Gnostics".Homosexuality
Shortly after his accession as supreme leader in February 1979, Khomeini imposed capital punishment on homosexuals. Between February and March, sixteen Iranians were executed due to offenses related to sexual violations. Khomeini also created the "Revolutionary Tribunals". According to historian Ervand Abrahamian, Khomeini encouraged the clerical courts to continue implementing their version of the Shari’a. As part of the campaign to "cleanse" the society, these courts executed over 100 drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, rapists, and adulterers on the charge of "sowing corruption on earth." According to author Arno Schmitt, "Khomeini asserted that 'homosexuals' had to be exterminated because they were parasites and corruptors of the nation by spreading the 'stain of wickedness.'" Transsexuality was designated by Khomeini as a sickness that was able to be cured through surgery.] In 1979, he had declared that the execution of homosexuals (as well as prostitutes and adulterers) was reasonable in a moral civilization in the same sense as cutting off decayed skin.
Death and funeral
Khomeini's health declined several years prior to his death. After spending eleven days in Jamaran hospital, Ruhollah Khomeini died on 3 June 1989 after suffering five heart attacks in just ten days, at the age of 89 just before midnight. He was succeeded as Supreme Leader by Ali Khamenei. Large numbers of Iranians took to the streets to publicly mourn his death and in the scorching summer heat, fire trucks sprayed water on the crowds to cool them. At least 10 mourners were trampled to death, more than 400 were badly hurt and several thousand more were treated for injuries sustained in the ensuing pandemonium.
According to Iran's official estimates, 10.2 million people lined the 32-kilometre (20 mi) route to Tehran's Behesht-e Zahra cemetery on 11 June 1989, for the funeral of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Western agencies estimated that 2 million paid their respects as the body lay in state.
Figures about Khomeini's initial funeral attendance which took place on 4 June range around 2.5–3.5 million people. Early the following day, Khomeini's corpse was flown in by helicopter for burial at the Behesht-e Zahra. Iranian officials postponed Khomeini's first funeral after a huge mob stormed the funeral procession, destroying Khomeini's wooden coffin in order to get a last glimpse of his body or touch of his coffin. In some cases, armed soldiers were compelled to fire warning shots in the air to restrain the crowds. At one point, Khomeini's body fell to the ground, as the crowd ripped off pieces of the death shroud, trying to keep them as if they were holy relics. According to journalist James Buchan:
Yet even here, the crowd surged past the makeshift barriers. John Kifner wrote in The New York Times that the "body of the Ayatollah, wrapped in a white burial shroud, fell out of the flimsy wooden coffin, and in a mad scene people in the crowd reached to touch the shroud". A frail white leg was uncovered. The shroud was torn to pieces for relics and Khomeini's son Ahmad was knocked from his feet. Men jumped into the grave. At one point, the guards lost hold of the body. Firing in the air, the soldiers drove the crowd back, retrieved the body and brought it to the helicopter, but mourners clung on to the landing gear before they could be shaken off. The body was taken back to North Tehran to go through the ritual of preparation a second time.
The second funeral was held under much tighter security five hours later. This time, Khomeini's casket was made of steel, and in accordance with Islamic tradition, the casket was only to carry the body to the burial site. In 1995, his son Ahmad was buried next to him. Khomeini's grave is now housed within a larger mausoleum complex.
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