Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini

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Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini
Imam Khomeini
Imam Khomeini
Personal Information
Full NameSayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini
Well-Known RelativesSayyid Ahmad Khomeini , Sayyid Mustafa Khomeini
BirthMehr 1, 1281 Sh/Jumada II 20, 1320/September 24, 1902
ResidenceKhomein, Iran
Studied inArak, Qom
DeathKhordad 13, 1368/Shawwal 28, 1409/June 3, 1989
Burial PlaceBihisht Zahra, Tehran
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsShaykh 'Abd al-Karim Ha'iri Yazdi, Muhammad Rida Shahi Isfahani, Mirza Muhammad 'Ali Shah Abadi, Mirza Javad Maliki Tabrizi

Sayyid Rūhollāh Mūsawī Khomeinī (Persian: سید روح الله موسوی خمینی), (b. 1320/1902 - d. 1409/1989), best known as Imām Khomeinī (Persian: امام خمینی), was one the most important Shi'a marja's of the 14th//20th century. He was the leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which was victorious in 1979 and overthrew the monarchy, and established an Islamic republic in Iran.

He was arrested twice by the monarchical Pahlavi government and was exiled for life. For a while, he lived in Turkey; then, he moved to Najaf. He stayed in Najaf for 13 years, teaching, writing, and leading the revolutionists in Iran. In 1979 he was forced to leave Iraq, so he went to Paris. After a while, he returned to Iran and led the Islamic Revolution to victory. He was the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran until his passing in 1989.

Imam Khomeini's movement and the victory of the Islamic Revolution's impact were felt worldwide and led to the establishment of political movements based on Islamic thoughts. The doctrine of al-wilayat al-mutlaqa li l-faqih (absolute guardianship of the jurist), a political doctrine based on Shi'a beliefs, is his most important doctrine. He tried to establish the Islamic Republic of Iran and its constitution based on this doctrine.

He believed that the common way of ijtihad in Hawza was insufficient. From his point of view, governing was the practical realization of all jurisprudence. Having this viewpoint about jurisprudence, he believed in innovation in ijtihad alongside emphasizing on keeping the frames of traditional jurisprudence. His doctrine about the impact of time and place on ijtihad and some of his influential fatwas result from this point of view.

Muslims, especially Shi'as, held him in high regard. His funeral, with the participation of almost 10 million people, was the most crowded in the world up to now.

In addition to jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence -the common subjects in Islamic seminaries- he had works and thought in Islamic philosophy and mysticism.

Imam Khomeini also taught Islamic ethics during his residence in Qom in the school of Faydiyya.

During his life, he lived a simple and ascetic life. In the last ten years of his life, when he was the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he lived in a humble house in Jamaran (a district of Tehran.)


He was born on Jumada II 20, 1320 (September 24, 1902) in Khomein,[1] a city in central Iran.

His father, Sayyid Mustafa Musawi, who had studied Islamic subjects in Najaf, was contemporaneous with Ayatollah Mirza Shirazi. His father, whom the people of Khomein referred to for their religious issues, was murdered five months after Sayyid Ruhollah's birth in a fight against the brutal local governor.

Sayyid Ruhollah grew up under the supervision of his mother, Hajara Agha, and his paternal aunt Sahiba Khanum until he was 15.[2]

Wife and Children

He married Khadija (famously known as Quds Iran) Thaqafi in 1348/1929.[3] He had two sons -Mustafa and Ahmad- and three daughters, Zahra, Farida, and Siddiqa.

Demise and Funeral

Imam Khomeini's funeral ceremony, Dhu l-Qa'da 1, 1409 (June 5, 1989), Tehran

On the eve of Shawwal 28, 1409/June 3, 1989[4] (Khordad 13, 1368 sh), he passed away in Shahid Raja'i Heart Hospital in Tehran. His funeral was held on Dhu l-Qa'da 1, 1409/June 5, 1989, in the Grand Musalla of Tehran. Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Rida Gulpaygani performed the funeral prayer on his body. He was buried in Bihisht Zahra[5] (a cemetery on the outskirts of Tehran) on Dhu l-Qa'da 2/June 6 in the presence of ten million people from various cities of Iran for mourning. His funeral is counted as the most attended funeral in history.[6]


He studied the introductory level of Islamic studies -including Arabic morphology and syntax, mantiq (logic), basic level of jurisprudence, and principles of jurisprudence- under the teachers and scholars of his hometown, Khomein, such as Aqa Mirza Mahmud Iftikhar al-'Ulama, Mirza Rida Najafi Khomeini, Shaykh 'Ali Muhammad Burujirdi, Shaykh Muhammad Ghulpayghani, Aqa 'Abbas Araki, and more than everyone, his older brother, Ayatollah Murtada Pasandidi.[7]

Study in Arak and Qom

In 1338/1919-20, he went to the Islamic Seminary of Arak. Shortly after his teacher, Shaykh Abd al-Karim Ha'iri Yazdi migrated to Qom, he also moved to Qom along with a number of his classmates.[8]

In the Islamic Seminary of Qom, in addition to completing the preliminary and advanced levels in jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence (Kharij fiqh and usul), he worked on other fields of Islamic study, including prosody, mathematics, astronomy, and Islamic philosophy. He studied advanced levels of theoretical and practical mysticism (al-Irfan al-nazari wa l-amali) under Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Shahabadi for six years.[9] He also had a relationship with Ayatollah Mirza Javad Maliki Tabrizi and spoke well of him.

The founder of the seminary of Qom, Ayatollah Shaykh Abd al-Karim Ha'iri Yazdi, was his most important teacher in the advanced levels of jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence.[10] After the demise of Ayatollah Ha'iri Yazdi, by the effort of Imam Khomeini and other mujtahids from Qom, Ayatollah Burujirdi, who later moved to Qom, was chosen as the head of the Seminary of Qom. In this period, Imam Khomeini was known as one of the greatest mujtahids and teachers in jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, philosophy, mysticism, and ethics.[11]



Imam Khomeini spent a lot of years teaching jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, Islamic philosophy, mysticism and Islamic ethics in the Islamic Seminary of Qom. His classes were held in various places around Qom including: Faydiyya, Masjid A'zam, Masjid Muhammadiyya, Haj Mulla Sadiq School and Masjid Salmasi.

In Najaf, he taught Islamic subjects including advanced levels of jurisprudence for almost 13 years in Masjid al-Shaykh al-A'zam al-Ansari. It was during these years that he taught the theoretical basis of his doctrine, wilayat al-faqih, in several sessions for the first time.

According to his students, his class was one of the most important classes in the Seminary of Najaf. In some periods, the number of participants in his class reached 1200, among whom were tens of well-known contemporaneous mujtahids.[13]



Tahrir al-wasila



Leading the Opposition against Monarchy

The governing system of Iran was a constitutional monarchy, which was changed to absolute monarchy by constant contravention of constitution by the two Pahlavi Shahs (kings). Moreover, actions and decisions of the ruling monarch often contradicted Islamic laws and beliefs, which caused religious people, especially the clergy, to protest to governing regime.

First Move

In 1962, by releasing a statement, Imam Khomeini formally and openly expressed his protest against the monarchy. In Jumada I 9, 1382 (October 8, 1962), after that the National Consultative Council (Majlis Shura Milli) passed the bill of Regional and Provincial Councils, Imam Khomeini and other mujtahids in Qom held a session, after which they released statements against the bill. Finally, after his constant protest, the law was repealed in Rajab 5, 1382 (December 2, 1962).[15]

Continuation of Protest

  • Dhu l-Qa'da 27, 1383 (April 10, 1964); he delivered a historical speech in Masjid A'zam, Qom, after he was released from prison and the restriction imposed on him was lifted.
  • Jumada II 19, 1384 (October 26, 1964); he delivered a speech against the humiliating bill of Capitulation.[18]

Exile to Najaf

  • Jumada I 13, 1397 (May 2, 1977); he released a statement about the martyrs in Qom for the fortieth day of their martyrdom.

Leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Eventually, the revolutionary movement of people succeeded in 1399/1979. Imam Khomeini returned to Iran on Rabi' I 3 (February 1) of the same year and on 13th/11th the monarchy was overthrown. After some months, in Jumada II, 1399 (April 1979) the Islamic Republic system won the referendum as the governing system of the country. After a while, the draft of the constitution was written and put to referendum. According to the constitution, Imam Khomeini was the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He held this position to the end of his life (Shawwal, 1409/June, 1989).

Consolidation of the Islamic Republic, giving guidance on writing the constitution, dealing with interior conflicts, commanding the war against Iraq's invasion, accepting the peace treaty with Iraq and revision of the constitution are some of his most important actions during these 10 years.

International Quds Day

Some months after the victory of the revolution, in the month of Ramadan, 1399 (August 1979), Imam Khomeini declared the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan as the Quds Day and asked the Muslim world to show their solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine and to defend their rights.

Since then, mass marches and rallies are held in Iran and other countries on this day to show support and solidarity with Palestinians.[19]

This day is titled as the International Quds Day.

Letter to Gorbachev

On the first day of the year 1989 (Jumada I 23, 1409), Imam sent a letter to the leader of former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. A delegation from Iran, led by Ayatollah Jawadi Amuli, including Dr. Muhammad Jawad Larijani and Mrs. Mardiyya Hadidichi (Dabbagh) delivered the letter to Gorbachev.

The letter was written in a time when political analysts had predicted reformist movements and changes in the communist world. Imam Khomeini has foretold the dissolution of the Soviet Union and had predicted that communism would soon be seen in museums of political history. Moreover, in the letter, after criticizing the Materialist ideology, Imam had called the leaders of the Soviet Union to spirituality and invited them to conduct serious research about the dynamic teachings of Islam and suggested them to send some scholars to Qom for deeper research about Islam.

Repudiation of Polytheists

In the first Hajj season after the victory of the Revolution (Dhu l-Hijja, 1399/ November, 1979), Imam Khomeini gave a message to all of Hajj pilgrims. In this historical message, Imam focused on the social and political aspect of Hajj, which has been neglected for a long time and by mentioning the first verse of Sura al-Tawba, concluded that repudiation of enemies of Islam especially U.S. and Israel is one of the most significant part of a true Hajj, as God and His Apostle (s) have repudiated polytheist, who were enemies of Islam at that time.

According to this message, every year Iranian pilgrims hold a session as "Repudiation of Polytheists" ("bara'at min al-mushrikin" the titled is derived from the first verse of Surat al-Tawba) on the 9th of Dhu l-Hijja in the land of 'Arafat.

Fatwa for Killing Salman Rushdie

After publication of the book The Satanic Verses in 1408/1988, which included insults to the Holy Prophet (s), Imam Khomeini issued a fatwa that the author of the book (Salman Rushdie) is an apostate due to his insults to the Prophet (s) and must be executed.[20] After a while a rumor spread that if he repents, the fatwa of his execution will be withdrawn (repealed), but Imam Khomeini emphasized, answering a question on the subject, that even if the author repents and becomes the most pious person of the time, the fatwa will not change.[21]

Establishment of Expediency Discernment Council

According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, bills passed by the Parliament (Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran) must not be against the Islamic laws and the Constitution. The assessment of whether or not the passed bills are against the Islamic laws or the Constitution is one of the duties of the Guardian Council. However, numerous conflicts between these two institutions made Imam Khomeini to think of a solution. First, he said the agreement of two third of the members of parliament prevails the opinion of the Guardian Council;[22] but after a while in February 6, 1988 he established the Expediency Discernment Council of the System which is responsible for resolving disputes between the Guardian Council and Majlis.[23]

Opinons and Doctrines

Al-Wilayat al-Mutlaqa li l-Faqih

Imam Khomeini presented his theory of al-wilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurist) through his classes -which was later distributed under the title "Islamic Governing" in Najaf for the first time.[24] The key element of this theory is that according to Shi'a thoughts, the country must be governed under the supervision of a Mujtahid who is qualified as a marja'. After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, this theory was put in the Constitution as one of its principles, and actually, the Islamic Republic has been established based on it.

Later, in the last years of his life, Imam Khomeini presented the theory again and said that a Faqih (jurist) has the same authority of the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) in governing. According to this theory a faqih can suspend a primary Islamic law for other more important issues in Islam.[25]

The Role of Time and Place in Ijtihad

On Rajab 16, 1409 (February 22, 1989), Imam issued a message to Islamic Seminaries and the clergy which became known as "Manshur Ruhaniyyat" (charter of the clergy) in which he stated that the common ijtihad (deduction of the Islamic laws from its sources) in seminaries are not sufficient enough for management of the society.[26] He emphasized that time and place play an important role in ijtihad, as they change the Mujthid's view of a subject and consequently the ruling regarding that subject.[27] He had mentioned this point in his formerly issued message which is known as "Manshur Baradari" (charter of brotherhood.)[28]

Permission to Play Chess

Playing chess was considered a Haram (forbidden) act in the opinion of most of Shi'a jurist. Answering a question about chess on Muharram 28, 1409 (September 10, 1988), Imam Khomeini permitted playing chess, if it is no longer described as a tool for gambling and if the players do not gamble.[29] This fatwa which was considered somehow new, brought some reactions. One of his students wrote a letter of criticism to him. In response, Imam Khomeini emphasized on his fatwa and also criticized the common approach of mujtahids to jurisprudential sources.[30]

English translation of Imam Khomeini's Diwan.

Collection of Poems

A week after Imam's demise, one of his poems was spread for the first time. The poem, which has mystical connotation, became very well-known among the people. After a while, the full collection of his poems were published.

The collection consists of six chapters (according to the types of poems) and was published for the first time by the "Institute of Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini's Works" under the title "Diwan-i Imam" in 438 pages.

The book has been translated into various languages including: English, Hindi, and Arabic. It has been translated to English by Ghulam-Rida A'wani and Muhammad Legenhausen entitled The Wine of Love[31]. Qadir Fadili, has written a Persian commentary and provided a subject index for the book.

See Also

Further Readings

External Links


  1. Zindigīnāma-yi Imām Khomeinī, (Persian)
  2. Anṣārī, Ḥadīth-i bīdārī, p. 14-15.
  3. Thaqafī, Bānu-yi Inqilāb, p. 35.
  4. The portal of Imam Khomeini affiliated to Muʾassisa-yi Tanẓīm wa Nashr-i Āthār-i Imām Khomeinī. (persian)
  5. Tabnak website (Persian)
  6. Largest percentage of population to attend a funeral, Guinness World Records.
  7. Anṣārī, Ḥadīth-i bīdārī, p. 16.
  8. Anṣārī, Ḥadīth-i bīdārī, p. 16.
  9. Imām Khomeinī, Mawsūʿat al-Imām al-Khomeinī 45; Taʿliqāt ʿalā sharḥ fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam wa taʿliqāt ʿalā miṣbāḥ al-uns, p. 5.
  10. Anṣārī, Ḥadīth-i bīdārī, p. 17-18.
  11. Anṣārī, Ḥadīth-i bīdārī, p. 18.
  12. Dawrān-i taḥṣīl-i Imām, (Persian).
  13. Anṣārī, Ḥadīth-i bīdārī, p. 19-20.
  14. Fihrist-i taʾlīfāt-i Imām Khomeinī, List of works by Imam Khomeini. (Persian).
  15. Rajabī, Zindigīnāma-yi sīyāsī-yi Imām Khomeinī, p. 229.
  16. Bargī az Ṣaḥīfa; taḥrīm-i referendum durūghīn-i shāh tawassuṭ-i Imām Khomeinī, (Persian).
  17. Rajabī, Zindigīnāma-yi sīyāsī-yi Imām Khomeinī, p. 250; Murūrī bar rukhdādhā-yi bahār 1342, (Persian).
  18. The voice of Imam Khomeini's speech about Capitulation, (Persian).
  19. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 9, p. 267.
  20. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 21, p. 263.
  21. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 21, p. 268.
  22. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 17, p. 321.
  23. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 20, p. 464.
  24. Imām Khomeinī, Wilāyat faqīh, p. 1.
  25. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 20, p. 452.
  26. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 21, p. 291.
  27. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 21, p. 289.
  28. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 21, p. 177.
  29. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 21, p. 129.
  30. Imām Khomeinī, Ṣaḥīfa-yi Imām, vol. 21, p. 151.
  31. Its English translation is available here


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