Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei is well-versed in Arabic, English, and
besides Farsi. He has some knowledge of poetry and literature.
A great part of his life has been dedicated to struggle, either through his
writings, speeches, or taking up arms, especially when the late Imam inaugurated his Islamic
Revolution in 1963. He spent three years in the Shah's prisons during the period 1963 to
1978 and approximately one year in exile. Appended below are excerpts written by
describing aspects of his struggle:
"As for my entry into the arena of jihad and political struggle, I
have this to say: during the period 1952 to 1953, I learnt that Nawwab Safawi
was coming to Mashad. I felt close to the man and as I admired him, I was
interested in meeting him. I was very happy to know that he was coming to
visit our school, Sulaiman Khan. His visit was a memorable one in my life."
Nawwab Safawi came to the school with some members of Fidaiyan-e-Islam who were
distinguishable by their head caps. He gave a speech while he was standing. The gist of it
was the necessity to revive Islam and establish Islamic government. He bitterly attacked
the Shah and the British, describing the authorities as liars, and adding that they were
not true Muslims. His words were music to my ears, and I wished I was one of his
disciples. His next stop was Nawwab school so, accompanied by a group of people, he
proceeded there. En route, he carried on chanting slogans such as "My committed
brethren, Islam must rule". He delivered a rousing address and led the
then left Mashad. There was no news of him thereafter, only when we received the news of
his martyrdom. We were very saddened by his death and shouted anti-Shah slogans. It is
rather strange that, because of his innate purity and conviction, Ayatollah Sheikh Hashim
Qazwini was the only a'lim (cleric) in Mashad who showed swift reaction to the martyrdom
of Nawwab and his supporters. No wonder he was a thorn in the side of the Shah's
In the aftermath of their martyrdom he said, "Our country has reached an abyss so
much so that a descendant of the Prophet is killed not for any crime he
just for uttering what is right".
Nawwab was the first person to sow the seeds of an Islamic movement in those
Emulating the late Nawwab had become the cause of the first Islamic movement in 1955 or
1956. The reason for our stand then was when Farah, the newly-appointed mayor of
flouted all Islamic norms and codes of conduct. For instance, it was common practice that
cinemas close during the months of Muharram and Safar out of respect to the memory of Imam
Hussain (peace be upon him). So, amongst his misdeeds was the curtailment of the period of
the closure of cinemas to fourteen days, extending it to the twentieth day of Muharram
after mounting public pressure. This stand of the new mayor propelled us into
small number of concerned people got together, wrote a statement on enjoining good and
forbidding evil, and sent it to numerous addresses.
Responding to the call of Imam Khomeini (May his soul rest in peace) in 1962, the
centre of religious learning, seat of knowledge and heart of jihad of Qum assumed an
invigorated role. With courage and zeal, ulema and students alike took it upon themselves
to disseminate the messages of the Imam and other religious authorities to every corner of
Iran. Their instructions and calls were printed and circulated widely through the support
and help of all popular forces. This new found vigour and zeal spread to the other centres
of theology in the country, especially the Islamic seminary of Mashhad.
Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei (May Allah prolong his life) played a decisive
role in this awakening. Alongside his activities in Qum, he strengthened his bond with the
ulema and students of Mashhad. Counting on the activities and support of the ulema of
Khurasan, he succeeded in mobilising theology students in a better way. This outstanding
achievement and his organisational skills were quickly recognised, precipitating Imam
Khomeini to choose him as his special envoy to Mashad, carrying three messages regarding
Muharram, which led to a milestone on the road of revolution when the uprising of 15th
Khurdad, 1342/1963 took place. The first of these calls was addressed to the
ulema, preachers, and heads of religious bodies concerning the attacks on Israel and the question
of Faidhiya. The second and third messages were addressed to Ayatollah al-Udhma Milani
regarding the inauguration of open struggle effective from the 7th of Muharram. The
messenger was so competent in accomplishing his mission that the result was an increase in
the level of struggle in Khurasan province.
En route to deliver these messages, Ayatollah Khamenei used to convey parts therefrom
to the people, using the pulpit as a means of encouraging the faithful to resist the
tyrannical regime, helping thereby to sow the seeds of revolution. As originally scheduled
by the Imam, on the seventh of Muharram, he embarked on a tour accompanied by a group of
his companions. It took them to the towns of the province. The idea was to explain the
prevailing political and social climate, the secret plans of the regime and the
repercussions of the tragic episode of Faidhiya. The timing was right for this move for
there was a groundswell of discontent. It was important to translate this dissent into
popular revolt. There were many issues at stake, amongst them the problem of town
councils, the rigged referendum, the flagrant disregard by the regime of Islam's teachings
and of the ulema, and the public mourning of Nawruz, 1342/1963.
The late Imam and the ulema exploited the occasion of Muharram that year to the
maximum. The plan was to explain, in general terms, all matters from the first day of the
month to the sixth. The seventh day witnessed the outlining of their main
frankly revealing the facts to the people in order to expose the true face of the
who was hiding behind the so-called reforms.
Ayatollah al-Udhma Khamenei was assigned to the town of Birjand, which was one of the
regime's bastions; they used to call it the constituency of Asadullah Alam, the then prime
On the third of Muharram, Sayyid Khamenei ascended the pulpit and gave a
sparking the revolution. On the seventh of Muharram, when a great number of people
congregated to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), he gave a
fiery sermon, explaining the circumstances of the tragedy of Faidhiya. Those present could
not hold back their tears.
Remembering those days, he says, "On that day the first preacher took longer in
delivering his address, leaving me with only half an hour to talk to the
When I started, there was a shiver down my spine due to excitement rather than
atmosphere was electrifying for people were weeping vehemently. Descending from the
pulpit, the faithful surrounded me to prevent the regime's security forces from arresting
The impact of that gathering and the sermons and addresses given there reverberated
throughout the town. The following morning another group of people coming from another
commemoration service joined the fray; prevailing problems were discussed.
His Eminence adds, "In Birjand, there was a well-known cleric named
told me: "Although I should be more aware of matters in this town, I must admit I did
not know the extent of the situation. Had it not been for you, I would have never believed
what I heard; also, I have never wept in this way on hearing any news of any
The events of those two days in Birjand contributed to turning the situation upside
down, for people were more than ready to act. On the ninth day of Muharram, Ayatollah
Khamenei ascended the pulpit and delivered yet another blow to the regime, which by this
time had started to worry about the consequences of his rhetoric and as a result he was
arrested. This move was uncharacteristic of the authorities for they, as a matter of
course, did not arrest ulema on the ninth and tenth of Muharram. He was detained in
Birjand for two days and handed over to the Savak (internal security service) in Mashhad
afterwards. His arrest was a precursor to the awakening of the people.
These activities which defied the ruling establishment left their impact on the
conscience of the people of Mashad, so much so that the city came second to Tehran in
political agitation, which shook the very foundations of the regime.
He was forced to do menial work. He was provided with a wheelbarrow, a spade and an axe
to turn over the soil, level it and pull out weeds with his hands, in an attempt to dampen
his spirit. The kind of treatment meted out to this brave alim is an indication of the
authorities' fury with his stand.
He was detained for ten days. He says, "Jail was not bad. It was a new
It was a different world, that of the Savak and their interrogation procedures and
wounding insults, in a nutshell, the pain of struggle".
After his release he met with his companions for the evaluation of their tactics and
strategies and to plan their next move. It was decided that they make a tour of different
parts of the country with the aim of widening the area of the revolution. In this respect
"In the session we held, we decided that each one of us would head for a
part of the country, adopting a well thought out programme. The objective was to reveal
yet more of revelations on the regime's practices. Surveillance was strong, the security
apparatus was ready to quell any move by the people. Although the crimes of the regime
against the people led some to abandon the struggle, yet others were more determined to
carry on against all odds".
In such circumstances, the speaking out of the ulema was what kept anti-government
sentiments, resistance and struggle alive. Ayatollah al-Udhma Khamenei says, "The
students of Imam Khomeini were in every town and far-flung village, which were suffering
under the yoke of the Shah's repressive regime and the hegemony of the wealthy and the
influential. Fearlessly, they unveiled the true face of the regime and its evil
The tours and mass movement, especially in the wake of the 15th Khurdad uprising and
the arrest of the late Imam, were valuable contributions to the ultimate popular movement
against the Shah's regime. No wonder that the regime's reaction was violent.
The first anniversary of the rigged referendum occured in 1963. The late Imam Khomeini
was under house arrest so he could not devise a programme for the month of
Ramadhan. Nevertheless, high-ranking ulema, close aides of the Imam, and the
faithful, succeeded in
keeping the revolution moving and the beacon of jihad alight. Everybody was determined to
keep the pressure up on the regime and uncover its falsehoods.
In recalling the events of those days, Ayatollah Khamenei says, "When we set
out in a coach from Qum, we were thirty theology students. The levels of those aboard the
coach varied. They disembarked one after the other; I was the last one to get off the
coach at Kirman".
In Kirman, he spared no time in giving speeches and meeting with the ulema, students
and mujahideen, over three days, to discuss with them matters of mutual interest and plan
the next move. He then continued his journey to Zahidan. There he gave a sermon from the
pulpit of the main mosque. The response from the congregation was overwhelming.
On the sixth of Bahman, his speeches took a more direct and open tone. On the fifteenth
day of Ramadhan, the birth anniversary of Imam Hassan (peace be upon him), he reached the
peak of anti-government rhetoric, leaving the Savak with no choice but to arrest him and
put him on a plane to Tehran. He was detained for one day in Sultanate Abad military camp,
then moved the next day to the notorious Qizil Qala'a prison, where the most cruel types
of torture were used against the inmates. He spent two months in solitary
subjected to verbal insults, threatened with death and tortured. Undeterred, the first
thing he did after he was released was to go and visit the late Imam Khomeini at his house
in Qaytariya. He had an audience with the Imam in the presence of his son Mostafa Khomeini
who was later martyred, for quarter of an hour. He remembers vividly that visit and
"Seeing the Imam, I felt all tiredness and pain vanish from my body. I cried out from
the joy of seeing him. He joked with me. I said to him: Because of your absence, we did
not do well this Ramadhan, so we must plan ahead for next Muharram".
In order to organise the impending revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei met with a group of
ulema, who were following the line of the Imam. They were Ayatollah Mishkini, martyr
Ayatollah Quddusi, the late Ayatollah Amlashi, the late Ayatollah Rabbani Shirazi,
Ayatollah Hashimi Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi, Ayatollah Azeri Qumi, and Ayatollah
Amini Najaf Abadi. We met in Qum to discuss the formation of secret cells with the aim of
planning the activities of Qum Islamic Learning Centre (Hawza) in the light of the late
Imam's strategy. After a constitution was approved, membership of these cells was open to
those who believed in its aims and objectives. We elected Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi as
secretary of the meetings. He used to write the proceedings of these meetings in
handwriting reminiscent of the way parchments were written in the old days, so much so
that no-one else could read what he wrote! If these were to fall in the hands of members
of the Savak, they would consider them as such, some sort of talisman.
In 1966 the cells were accidently discovered. Ayatollah Azeri Qumi was arrested for an
unrelated matter and when elements of the security apparatus searched his home, they came
across the constitution of the cells. He was tortured and as a result, some cell members
were arrested. Others went into hiding, amongst them were Ayatollah Khamenei and Sheikh
Rafsanjani, and Ayatollah Misbah, who fled to Tehran. Ayatollah al- Udhma Khamenei and
Ayatollah Rafsanjani stayed in one house together for almost a year.
Before that Ayatollah Khamenei had to flee Mashad for he was hunted down by the Savak
for translating the book The Future is for this Religion as it contained, according to the
Savak, inflammatory material. The book was confiscated and two of the owners of the
printing house arrested. Nevertheless, the book was reprinted elsewhere and distributed
clandestinely, a matter that vexed the Savak further.
During that time, Ayatollah Quddusi was arrested, interrogated and released. From the
interrogation proceedings, he came to know that the Savak had uncovered the secret cells,
so he broke the news to Sheikh Rafsanjani. To limit the damage done, a four-man meeting
took place, attended by Ayatollah Khamenei, Rafsanjani, Quddusi, and Amini Najaf Abadi, at
the house of martyr Mohammad Jawad Bahonar. The ramifications of the exposure of the cells
were discussed. It was decided that no one should appear in public, they should be extra
vigilant and that Sayyid Khamenei must not travel to Mashhad under those circumstances.
In the dying days of 1966, the situation took a turn for the better when a number of
our detained colleagues were released. Ayatollah al-Udhma Khamenei seized this opportunity
and travelled to Mashad to pay his respects to the shrine of Imam Ridha (peace be upon
him). It was not a mere pilgrimage, as he was going about his activities as usual. When
his renewed activities became evident, the Savak re-arrested him in 1967 under the pretext
of his translation of the book . By the Grace of the Almighty, he managed to extricate
himself from the situation due to his steadfastness and patience not to give in to torture
and intimidation while in custody. He did not divulge any information to the Savak.
After his release from detention, Ayatollah al-Udhma Khamenei decided to settle in
Mashad instead of going back to Tehran or Qum. He took up teaching as his prime concern.
He gave classes in Qura'nic commentary, specially tailored for theology students, and
other classes for university students and youth. He used these classes as a platform to
disseminate revolutionary ideas, a rallying point for revolutionaries, and a centre for
awakening. These classes turned into an axis of popular sentiments and Islamic dissent.
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit the regions of Firdous, Kakhk,
and Ganabad, leaving a trail of destruction and death, he organised a group of
revolutionary students in Mashhad as relief workers. Both moral and material support was
at hand from the ulema and the business community of the bazaar. In this regard, he says,
"I was of the opinion that I must educate a group of students, who earnestly believe
in jihad, and groom them to shoulder the responsibilities of struggle in every sphere. So
when the earthquake took place, we approached some of our brethren with a view to offering
our services for the noble cause of volunteering to provide humanitarian relief for the
victims of the earthquake. The idea was received very well. Some eighty men came forward,
comprising mainly theology students. Among the clerics were Sheikh Tabasi and martyr
Hashemi Nejad and a number of bazaar merchants. We travelled to the stricken region in
around twenty cars. And when we arrived, Ayatollah Sheikh Ali Marwarid was at the scene
with a group of volunteers. He admired the way we organised things and sobbed with joy.
During the first fortnight of our stay in the area, the people mistook my name for that
of Imam Khomeini. The news spread that the Imam was present, precipitating people to
converge on the area from the surrounding villages to see the Imam. This proved to us that
Imam Khomeini was loved by all the people, not only us. However, in the end, people knew
who I was.
It was a nice thing to witness the alarm and embarrassment our presence there caused
the regime. The police were stationed there; they threatened to drive us away by force. We
defied them and did not budge. I said: "O colleagues! Do not be intimidated; we must
not give in to their threats as we came here to offer help to the victims of the
earthquake; all means are at our disposal and the Shah owns nothing, and even if he owned
it he would have given nothing to the people." Indeed, all the efforts of the police
were doomed to failure as they could not dislodge us. Thus we continued our humanitarian
These activities in the fields of knowledge, teaching, jihad and service of the people
contributed to Ayatollah Khamenei's becoming, with time, a focus of jihad in Mashad.
People come to see him from far flung places in Iran. He in turn had contacts with the
people in all areas. This had caused the Savak to become very suspicious and wary of his
activities. In an attempt to curtail his influence and activities, the Savak interrupted
his Qura'nic commentary classes many times. He outmanoeuvred their tactics by starting
somewhere else in a different manner, causing the Savak to take extra measures against
him. These activities had the required effect on the hearts of the people for they
contributed to the mass awakening movement, especially in exposing the despotic rule of
the Shah. His house was under constant surveillance, just to deter people from frequenting
it, and from time to time it was cordoned off.
Ayatollah Khamenei thus, commanded the respect of the Iranian people for his integrity,
morality and courage. Invitations from many bodies and institutions in Iranian towns and
cities such as Isfahan, Kirman, Yazd and Tehran were raining down on him to come and give
lectures and talks. He spared no efforts to make use of all occasions to disseminate
Islamic revolutionary ideas, tell the truth about the regime's practices, and encourage
people to adhere to the path of jihad and revolution.
Some of his lectures to Islamic societies such as the Society of the Supporters of Imam
Hussain (peace be upon him) in Tehran are still vivid in the minds of many people,
especially university students. Amongst those lectures was one entitled "Provisions
and Pillars of Revolution", delivered in Ramadhan, 1969 at Sheikh Abdul Hussain
School in Tehran's Bazaar.
At that juncture, it was believed that armed struggle had to be stepped up in order to
have greater impact. Until then, the jihad of the ulema was dubbed as the
"awakening" of the ulema; the term "revolution" was not used to
describe their movement. In his lectures, over a period of just over twenty days,
Ayatollah al-Udhma Khamenei talked openly about revolution.
Besides his lectures, the books he either wrote or translated gave life to
revolutionary ideas and fervour. Books like the Treaty of Imam Hassan (peace be upon him)
The Future is This Religion's, and The Role of Muslims in India's Awakening played a great
role in educating the youth and grooming them for revolution. As has been mentioned
earlier, he was arrested in 1967 because of these books but was released on the same day
due to lack of evidence.
After the departure of Ayatollah al-Udhma Imam Khomeini in 1970, Ayatollah Sayyid
Khamenei embarked on the task of promoting Imam Khomeini as a Marj'a, (religious
authority); he thought the time was right for such a move. Because of this he was arrested
again; the action backfired on the authorities as it helped consolidate revolutionary
ideas and strengthen the resolve to continue the fight against the regime, especially
amongst theology students of the Hawza (Islamic learning centres); the years 1968 to 1971
witnessed the building of peaceful revolutionary culture. The youth were still taking
their first steps in the realm of revolutionary Islam.The ulema became their most deadly
weapon. The latter did not miss the opportunity of spreading pristine Islamic knowledge
and sciences amongst the youth, using every available medium, be it the pulpit of the
mosque, private classes, free and open discussion sessions, or publishing books and
leaflets. Sayyid Khamenei calls this period the " years of clandestine
As he was keen on educating revolutionary cadres, enlisting the support of trusted
elements, and establishing contacts with activists, he accepted an offer to combine
teaching with the task of leading prayers, i.e. being the imam of the congregation.
He taught Qur'anic exegesis at Siddiqiha Mosque, known as the mosque of the Turks, in
Mashad Bazaar. He later moved the class to Mirza Ja'far school due to lack of ample space
in the first venue. The audience for these lectures was a mixture of theology students,
lay people and those conversant with religious issues in Mashhad. In 1970, the lectures
were disrupted for a period of just over four months during which he was in police
After his release, he resumed his activities by giving lectures during the ninth and
tenth nights of Muharram at the Islamic Society of Engineers in Tehran. He became the
focus of interest of secret armed groups waging war against the regime, such as the
vanguards of Mujahideen Khalq (the people's fighters).
These contacts were the pretext for the authorities to arrest him once again. In 1971,
an explosive device was detonated under some power pylons during the celebrations of the
2500th year of monarchy in Iran. He was tortured and detained in a damp dingy cell.
Despite all this cruelty he was steadfast hn his ordeal and did not give away anything
that might be of value to the authorities. He was released after spending some two months
in the Shah's dungeons.
Out of detention, he went straight back to his noble work, this time with even more
vigour; he extended the platform of his activities to include Imam Hussain mosque, a small
yet important seed of revolutionary fervour. He started teaching Qur'anic commentary and
leading congregational prayer. In so doing he managed to combine limited clandestine
activity with direct and open contact with the masses.
After a while, he was asked to lead the prayer at Karamat mosque, close to Nadiri
gardens in Mashad, which occupied a prime location in the centre of the city. Due to the
large numbers of worshippers who converged on the mosque to listen to Sayyid Khamenei's
sermons, the Savak feared the worst and closed down the mosque for some time.
These activities were a source of admiration to many individuals, especially martyrs
Mutahhari and Bahonar. On a visit to Mashad they expressed their joy and appreciation for
these programmes. The late Ayatollah Talaqani used to say, "Sayyid Khamenei is the
hope of the future; when you happen to be in Mashad, go and meet with him".
His activism caused the Savak to deal with him in a special way; he was harassed and
put under surveillance, his classes and lectures disrupted; occasionally the security
forces took him away for interrogation. This period culminated in yet another arrest and
detention in 1973. The so-called anti-sabotage squad of the Savak detained him and moved
him to Tehran. He was put in solitary confinement for some time, then put with some three
or four other inmates in the notorious dungeons where he was subjected to horrendous
On this subject, martyr Raja'ie said, "In the year I spent in the detention centre
of the anti-sabotage squad, 1975, which was real hell, you used to hear the moaning and
cries of the inmates almost around the clock. The experience was a living example of the
Qur'anic verse "They are neither dead nor alive". The wretched inmates were
beaten unconscious, then revived and hospitalised just to restore a semblance of their
health so that they could be returned to the same routine of torture, using all kinds of
tools and ways.
I was in cell number 18, Sayyid Khamenei in cell 20. We used to exchange information in
a cipher-like manner. I passed such information to the inmates of cell 19 who in turn
passed it to him. I remember very well when his beard was forcibly shaved and he was
slapped on the cheek to humiliate him. Nevertheless, he was ever resistant against
intimidation. He used to use his shirt as a turban. I met him once on the way to the water
closet; he looked joyful".
In the face of all kinds of torture, both physical and psychological, he proved to be
steadfast and resilient. The attempts of the notorious Savak security apparatus did not
succeed in indicting him prior to trying him before the courts. In 1975, there was a
change in the American administration that brought Jimmy Carter to the White House. There
was a shift of policy; the Savak were forced to release him. He returned to Mashad to
continue the struggle against the Shah and his corrupted institutions.
The responsibility was greater this time. The armed struggled as espoused by Mujahideen
Khalq proved to be a failure, precisely as predicted by the late Imam Khomeini when he
warned the envoy of the organisation in 1970 against discord and division, which resulted
in a misguided ideology.
The regime's agents had become conceited due to their success in dealing blows to armed
groups such as Fida'iyeen and the communists. This had resulted in denting the resolve of
many jihad forces so much so that they lost the initiative. They were demoralised and
started casting doubt on their ability to continue the fight against the regime. It was in
those days that a great rift took place, leading to splintering, particularly in the ranks
of the Mujahideen Khalq organisation. Sincere members of the organisation who were in
prison decided to sever their links with the rest. The position of the leaders of the
jihad movement was precarious and very difficult in circumstances of mistrust, fear,
treachery and hopelessness.
It was a gigantic task: keeping the masses informed, guiding them aright and
encouraging them to participate in the process of dismantling the ruling establishment.
Above all, it was very important not to let the regime benefit from any slip which might
have taken place. It required a high level of astuteness and skill. This was achieved by
the guidance of the late Imam Khomeini and his close associates, among whom is Sayyid
Khamenei. This critical period in the struggle against the regime was worked through in
the best way possible. By choosing Islamic activists and organising them into active
forces, working against the regime was achieved successfully, having done away with idle
On a different level, the aim of the struggle was made abundantly clear to the
mujahideen in that their main enemy was the Shah's regime. Accordingly, they did not waste
their efforts fighting on the sidelines, i.e. with the Mujahideen Khalq, whose wayward
ideology was uncovered and decimated. Most importantly, this was done in such a unique way
that the regime's lackeys could not benefit from utilising the division to their own ends.
When the regime woke up, it was too late for its agents to do any harm to the development
of the struggle, which reached its peak during the period 1977-8. Capitalising on the
strength the Islamic movement had achieved and marginalising the Mujahideen Khalq
organisation, it was thought fit and timely to create organised Islamic cells, headed by
the ulema and those well-versed in jurisprudence and politics instead of ordinary people
or politicians. The first of these cells was set up, headed by the late Imam Khomeini and
supervised by revolutionary ulema in Mashad. On this state of affairs, Ayatollah Khamenei
says, "In 1977 Ayatollah Rabbani Amlashi, Mowahhidi Kirmani, and I met to discuss the
formation of cells of mujahideen, especially among the ranks of the ulema who constituted
the highest ratio. However, there was serious talk about setting up such cells and we
wished that Sayyid Beheshti was among us so we would have been more successful".
By coincidence Martyrs Beheshti and Bahonar were in Mashad then. They were invited to
take part in the meeting. The Mujahideen Ulema League was born; its emergence was a
prelude to the founding of the Islamic Republican Party after the revolution.
The news of the founding of the League was sent to the ulema who were in prison at the
time, amongst them Sheikh Hashemi Rafsanjani. They welcomed the idea. Martyr Mutahhari
came back from a visit to Najaf, Iraq, carrying a letter from the late Imam Khomeini,
inviting former mujahideen to attend the meeting of members of the League. The activities
of the League were responsible for mobilising and organising millions of people in marches
and demonstrations during the period 1977 to 1978. Sayyid Khamenei's role in establishing
the League was pivotal. It is worth noting that the Savak prevented him from leaving the
country for ten years from 1965.
At the peak of the Islamic revolution in 1977, Ayatullah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei
was arrested, and detained for a few days and was sentenced to three years, exile in
Iranshahr. Notwithstanding the pain of being away from family and friends and above all
the hot weather of the town, he did not buckle under the pressure. On the contrary, he
seized the opportunity of closing the ranks of the mujahideen in that area, notably by
bridging the gap between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims He played a leading role in rallying the
people under the leadership of the late Imam Khomeini, the ulema and the revolution.
During the first year of his banishment to Iranshahr torrential rains wreaked havoc on
property and people. Utilising his experience in the field of providing humanitarian aid
to victims of natural disaster, especially in Firdous and Ganabad, he spared no time in
mobilising a group of theology students into a relief committee.
The committee was very successful in delivering aid to the victims and at the same time
was doing its job of promoting revolutionary ideas among the people. This had alarmed the
security services. He was summoned to the Savak headquarters in the town to be
disciplined. The Savak chief told him, "Yesterday there was a security meeting in
which I warned those present against the extent of your activities and gave them a
dressing-down for their incompetence in not stopping you in your tracks!"
His exile lasted till 1978, the year when the masses took the upper hand so much so
that matters went out of the hands of the regime. Availing himself of the turmoil into
which the ruling establishment was thrown, Sayyid Khamenei returned to Mashad to continue
his jihad with a vengeance.
It goes without saying that, besides the leader, the Revolution Command Council played
a major role in administering the revolution and eventually rendering it triumphant. In
this regard, Martyr Beheshti noted, "The council, which was approved by the late Imam
Khomeini, comprised five members - Sheikh Hashemi Rafsanjani, Sheikh Mutahhari, Sayyid
Moosawi Ardabili, Dr. Sheikh Bahonar and I".
Sheikh Rafsanjani also notes, "From his residence in Paris, the Imam appointed six
persons to oversee the running of the forthcoming government. I was one of them, Martyr
Mutahhari, who was carrying the letter of appointment from the Imam, Martyr Beheshti,
Sayyid Moosawi Ardabili and Bahonar. Sayyid Ali Khamenei, who was at Mashad then, joined
His Eminence Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei (May Allah prolong his life) says:
"With a group of colleagues, we were very busy overseeing the running of the affairs
of the city of Mashad. Martyr Mutahhari contacted me by telephone many times, either
directly or indirectly, asking me to travel to Tehran. I was under the impression that it
was for routine matters of mutual interest, be it political, ideological or to do with
religious knowledge, which we usually discussed. So I put off my plans to go to Tehran
under the pressure of my duties and responsibilities. It did not occur to me that the
invitation this time was for an issue of greater magnitude, that is to say, the Revolution
Command Council. Then, one day, I was contacted from Paris and told that the Imam wanted
me to go to Tehran. Only then did it dawn on me that there was an important issue at hand
that required my presence in Tehran, especially since Mutahhari, conveying the message to
me, sounded very irate and worried over the telephone. On arrival in Tehran, I was told
that I had to attend a meeting at Mutahhari's house. All members were present. There and
then I found out that I was a member of the Revolution Command Council".
In the public interest, other members, some of whom represented different political
lines of thinking, joined the Council. Their identity was revealed gradually. However, the
founding members were the pillars of the revolution and the guardians of its aims and
objectives. In the process they had to put up with difficulties of working alongside
liberal politicians such as Bani Sadr. Thanks to their steadfastness and relentless
efforts the true values of the revolution are still alive.
Groups working under the supervision of Martyrs Beheshti, Mutahhari, Bahonar and others
like them were the nucleus and focal point of all the marches and demonstrations that took
place among 1977 and 1978 in Tehran. As for other towns, ulema such as Martyrs Saduqi and
Dastgheyb were the forerunners of galvanising public opinion and staging demonstrations.
They were still however in close contact with the central nucleus in the capital.
In Khurasan, Sayyid Khamenei occupied centre stage in these demonstrations. The
combined impact of these marches and demonstrations forced the Shah to flee the country.
Consequently, Imam Khomeini (May his soul rest in peace) returned triumphantly to his
homeland to establish the first Islamic government after that of the Prophet of Islam
(peace be upon him and his family).
With the return of the late Imam, different committees charged with various
responsibilities were set up in Rafah and Alawi schools. Previous committees were
re-arranged. Amongst the newly-formed committees, there was one whose sole responsibility
was to prepare for the reception of the Imam; its office was at Rafah school.
Sayyid Khamenei was appointed head of the information bureau at the Office of the Imam.
Despite all odds and difficulties, he demonstrated forbearance and skill in discharging
his duties and responsibilities in the best manner. His responsibilities were immense.
They ranged from sending preachers to different regions of the country, providing
information support, organising audiences with the Imam, and writing press releases .
Above all he stood firmly against attempts to derail the revolution or hijack it, be it by
internal forces or external powers. Opportunistic forces, masquerading as the true owners
of the revolution were at hand to serve. In so doing they sought to impose their hegemony
over the people and usurp the fruits of the revolution.
Perhaps amongst his best deeds was Sayyid Khamenei's vigilance in thwarting the
communist conspiracy. The details of this episode are as follows:
In the dying days of the despotic Shah's regime the communists started mobilising their
supporters in a bid to turn the Islamic revolution into a people's democratic revolution.
They chose the General Motors plants on the road to Karaj as the best venue to carry out
their plan. Their reasons for choosing the place were its relative remoteness from Tehran,
which was a bastion for the Islamists, and they could also gather their supporters and
anti-revolutionary elements away from the eyes of revolutionary forces. According to
their-ill conceived plan, they were hoping to storm Tehran, occupy sensitive centres, and
form a government.
Although the failure of this scheming was a foregone conclusion, yet, because it took
place in a very critical and delicate period of the revolution, i.e. the 19th to 22nd
Bahman, it could have provided the best chance of prolonging the life of the decadent
regime and forestalling the revolution and victory of the people. It could also have
presented international imperialistic powers with another opportunity to hatch more plots
to nip the revolution in the bud.
However, the communists only managed to gather about five hundred people, including
university students and civil servants. In their leaflets and fiery speeches, they were
calling on what they termed as "democratic and popular forces" to join them.
Yet when the news of the rally was broken to the Information Bureau in the Imam's
office, Ayatollah Khamenei sent a delegation of ulema, among them Martyr Diyalmeh (one of
the martyrs of Tier) to the venue of the rally to try to sort matters out. They did not
succeed in persuading the demonstrators to disperse. So, without eating his lunch,
Ayatollah Khamenei drove his car to the place, preferring to eat bread and cheese en
route. He gave a short speech, then went back to Tehran.
On the twentieth of Bahman the crisis reached breaking point. The communist
demonstrators, augmented by some eight hundred workers, were at the brink of taking up
arms. It was feared that civil war might ensue in the final stages of the struggle against
the Shah's regime as such treachery was characteristic of the communists. Martyr Diyalmeh
came to the Information Bureau to express his utter concern at the sequences of events and
suggested that an influential personality should proceed immediately to the scene of
Sayyid Khamenei shouldered the responsibility. He headed to the plant, accompanied by a
group of young activists, members of Hezbollah, (Party of God) from Rafah school. It was
afternoon time when he arrived. He went to the rostrum, gave a speech and opened the way
for the audience to ask questions, succeeding in refuting the communists, misguided
reasoning. Fearing that he would thwart their aims, they started heckling him and causing
disruptions. These acts did not deter him from leaving the rostrum to talk to the people.
To counter his fortitude, they resorted to cutting the power supply in a desperate attempt
to prevent his voice from reaching the people gathered there. Despite all this, he raised
his voice, addressing the workers, "Do not be afraid, listen to me, there is nothing
else that matters". He then moved from one table to the other shouting slogans and
talking to the workers, urging them to heed his words and inciting them to stand up to the
communists. With a view to breaking up the meeting, he called for the holding of
congregational prayers. Some communist activists started arguing with him about something.
A university student, wearing an overall and posing as a worker, tried to ask him. Sayyid
Khamenei turned to him and requested to see his identity card if he really was one of the
work-force of the plant. He did not have one, so his ploy and that of a few others, did
not work. When he finally managed to persuade the devout Muslims amongst the work-force to
hold prayers, congregational prayers were held in the yard of the plant two hours later
than the scheduled time for Maghreb, (sunset prayers), leaving a smaller number of people,
mainly communists, in the hall. His strong and beautiful voice left its imprint on the
hearts of the workers. After performing prayers, he invited the congregation to the
mosque. Together with the youth of the Hezbollah who came from Rafah school, they staged a
counter rally. The following day the communists were evicted from the plant. The credit
for handling the event and peacefully quelling, the disturbance goes to Sayyid Khamenei's
wisdom and influence. It is worth noting that he spent some seven hours that night on his
feet, using his persuasive logic to dispel the danger posed to the revolution.
Amongst the commendable works of the Information Bureau in the Office of the Imam was
the publication of a newsletter entitled "The Imam"; many copies were in
circulation on the occasion of the late Imam Khomeini settling in Tehran. Sayyid Khamenei
wrote a number of articles in this newsletter. It so happened that, after the fall of the
broadcasting station into the hands of the revolutionaries, the first thing which was
broadcasted was an article of Sayyid Ali Khamenei.
On 27th June, 1981, the Munafiqeen, ("hypocrites") attempted to assassinate
Sayyid Khamenei while he was delivering an address in Abu Dhar mosque south of Tehran. He
was wounded and taken to hospital. Allah destined that he survived this cowardly attack so
that he could continue rendering his services to Islam and Muslims. After receiving
treatment, he resumed his normal duties.
In this regard he notes, "Right from the assassination attempt on my life, I had a
feeling that Allah had chosen me for a great task for which I had been prepared. At the
time I did not know the nature of the task. However, I had no doubt that I should be ready
to shoulder a great weight in His way for the sake of the revolution and in the service of
you, Oh people."
In the wake of the assassination attempt, the leader of the revolution, the late Imam
Khomeini, sent him a cable: "Anti-revolutionary forces have attacked you, not for any
crime you have committed but because you are a loyal soldier at the front, a teacher in
the prayer niche, an eloquent orator in Juma (Friday) and congregational prayers, and a
faithful guide in the arena of the revolution. In so doing, they revealed their true
colours; they have scant regard for your descent from the Prophet (peace be upon him and
his family) and the house of Hussain bin Ali (peace be upon him). They also revealed their
debased level of political thinking, and disregard for the people who do not conform to
In attacking you, the culprits have wounded the sentiments of millions of Muslims all
over the globe. They are bereft of correct political vision to the extent that they
carried out the attempt on your life immediately after you had addressed the Majlis
(parliament), gave a sermon to the worshippers in Juma prayers. They transgressed against
a person whose call for upholding reform and doing good echoes in the ears of Muslims the
The inhumane act of this group instead of sowing panic among Muslims and terrorising
them, contributed to strengthening their resolve and closing their ranks more than before.
Is ht not time for these bestial acts and heinous crimes to serve as a reminder to our
beloved youth, and their parents, to rid themselves of the guile of treachery of these
criminals and to stop being sacrificial lambs at the altar of their whims. Don't the
parents know that carrying out such cowardly acts will lead their children to loss and
degeneration, and will eventually lose them in the maze of following a band of depraved
We are proud before Allah, the Exalted, and His vicegerent (the Imam Mahdi may our
souls be his ransom), that we have soldiers in the battlefield and behind the front lines
who pass their nights in worship and days in combat in His cause. I congratulate you, dear
Khamenei, for your service to these oppressed people by way of your presence in the battle
field with combat attire and behind the front lines in your clerical garb. I pray to the
Almighty to grant you safety so that you may continue serving Islam and Muslims".
Only hours before his martyrdom, the chief of the Supreme Judicial Council, Ayatollah
Mohammad Hussaini Beheshti, sent a message to Sayyid Khamenei saying:
"The failed attempt on your life by the enemies of Islam, the revolution and
Islamic homeland is yet another proof that they spare no efforts in committing any crime
to further their evil aims. Their brutal acts will bring the wrath of the people onto
their heads and will gradually bring them pariah status. I pray to Allah, the Most High,
to bestow on you a speedy recovery so that you may resume your jihad in the cause of
Islam. May the peace and mercy of Allah be with you".
Ayatollah al-Udhma Khamenei sent a reply to the late Imam Khomeini's get-well message
"My master and guide, your eminence Ayatollah al-Udhma Imam Khomeini, may my
soul be a sacrifice for you! May Allah's peace and that of His good bondsmen be with you.
Again the grace of Allah envelops me; I find myself blessed with heavenly care, be it
hidden or open. I pray to Him to grant me success in giving thanks for His grace and
bounties as long as I live. I also believe that your prayer and supplications have had a
great contribution to my escape from the plots of the hypocrites and oppressors. May Allah
preserve you as a refuge for Islam and Muslims, Amen.
The faithful have prepared themselves for martyrdom in the way of Allah, sacrificing
their souls and belongings. They are from Him and unto Him they return. This is a way of
life, the believers have learned in your school, which is a drink from your bountiful
O Imam! You have taught us how to be proud of Islam, and to serve it with our
well-trodden path so that it bears fruit. The tree of the Prophet and his pure Progeny
(peace be upon them all) blossoms. We are ready for any sacrifice, even if the pure waters
turns red with the blood of martyrs and the good. We therefore do not worry about
difficulties that come across our way. What we fear most is that we may not be fortunate
enough to occupy a place in the eternal heavenly abode.
All praise be to Allah's for covering the houses of Yazid and Ubaidillah with His curse
and that of the angels in the Hereafter, and shame on them in this world. Conversely, Imam
Hussain (peace be upon him), the members of his family and seventy-two companions who were
martyred with him still occupy a lofty place in the history of humanity.
I am confidently optimistic today's renegades, the perfidious and the corrupted, in our
beloved Iran are going to benefit from the lessons of history, return to Islam and enjoy
its all-embracing thought, and cultivate its good fruits.
I, who consider myself an ordinary soldier amongst Allah's troops and a drop in the
never ending sea of Hezbullah, am ready to fight the enemy and hypocrites to the last drop
of my blood. I will make, "My prayer, my sacrifice, my life and death are all for
Allah, the Lord of the worlds", a slogan, rather a song to be chanted every day and
In the end I pray to Allah Almighty to bestow upon you the best of health and safety;
may He grant you long life, make you a bountiful resource for the Islamic revolution of
Iran, and a refuge for all Muslims and those who are oppressed in the world, Amen. Your
son, Sayyid Ali Khamenei"
The sermons delivered by Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei at Juma congregational
prayers in Tehran are considered a political and Islamic encyclopaedia for what they
contain of Islamic knowledge, political analysis, and ethical and social decorum. However,
one of these sermons remains outstanding. An explosion shook the centre of prayer causing
scores of dead and wounded among the worshippers. At the same time Iraqi military aircraft
were hovering overhead and threatening to bomb the site, having bombed certain areas of
the capital the morning of that day. They were engaged by ground fire; the sound of
gunfire and explosions terrorised the people. Notwithstanding, the Juma orator Sayyid
Khamenei remained calm and collected and continued with his oration, demonstrating
resilience and fortitude. The way in which he handled the situation permeated the ranks of
worshippers, causing them to show the same measure of calmness. Eventually, Juma prayer
was held in utter tranquillity and submissiveness as if nothing had happened. This episode
warranted the admiration of the enemy, let alone friends.
The late Imam Khomeini referred to this incident in his statement marking the
anniversary of the new Hijri Solar year. He said, "I never forget the episode of
Friday, how it passed in greatness, peacefulness, and steadfastness. In spite of the
clamour and the sound of anti aircraft machine guns, the scene was calm. I was watching to
see what would happen to those who converged on that blessed spot; I never saw a single
person panic. This was at a time, when the leader of the Juma (Friday) prayers carried on
with his sermon, captivating the hearts of the worshippers with his strong voice. Those
present then were shouting, 'We are prepared for martyrdom!'".
A Mission to Sistan and Baluchistan Provinces
In March 1979 Imam Khomeini (May his soul rest in peace) sent Sayyid to the provinces
of Sistan and Baluchistan as his special envoy. The task was to see the situation there
for himself and solve outstanding matters pertaining to the provision of some public
services to the population.
In 1979, he was appointed a member of the defence council, representing the Revolution
Command Council. In the same year he was appointed the post of deputy defence minister. He
discharged his responsibilities very efficiently. In this respect he says,
"The interim government reached a conclusion that it was futile to fight the
United States, with all its capabilities and wealth, as long as they do not meddle with
our internal affairs. As a result of this attitude a group of American engineers and
technicians were, for some length of time, on the payroll of the air force without our
knowledge. We came to know about this issue when it was an item on the agenda of a meeting
of the supreme defence council, where I was a member and Mahdi Bazergan president. The
Americans, stationed at the air force, proposed that the name of the office of military
adviser be changed and that those attached to the office should nolonger be called
military advisers. They suggested one of four names they put forward..."
Ayatollah al-Udhma Khamenei was furious and objected to the proposal of the change, let
alone keeping such advisers in service; he finally won the day.
On 1st February, 1979, he was appointed commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
This appointment was called for to sort out differences in the ranks of guards. He
succeeded in reconciling the differing views.
In 1980 he became a member in the supreme defence council, as a personal representative
of the late Imam Khomeini.
After the sad demise of Ayatollah Taleqani in 1980, the late Imam Khomeini issued a
decree in which he appointed Sayyid Khamenei Imam of Tehran Juma Prayers. In some parts of
the decree the late Imam said, "In view of your honourable past and your
capabilities, both your skills and scientific religious knowledge, it has been decided to
appoint your Eminence Imam of Tehran Juma Prayers". He rtill occupies this post.
In the elections to the first Islamic Consultative Council, or parliament, Sayyid
Khamenei was nominated to stand for election for the Tehran constituency. He was
representing the large alliance of the League of Combatant, or Mujahideen, Ulema, the
Islamic Republican Party, the Organisation for the Mujahideen of the Islamic Revolution,
and some other Islamic societies, organisations, and groups. He won a landslide victory,
polling 1,400,000 votes.
After the martyrdom of Raja'ie and Bahonar, Ayatollah al-Udhma Khamenei was nominated
by the ulema and revolutionary institutions to stand for election for President of the
Islamic Republic. He was elected as the third President on 5th October, 1981. He won a
landslide victory. He assumed the responsibilities of President at a very critical
juncture in the history of the country.
These extraordinary circumstances resulted from the martyrdom of seventy-two of the
elite faithful, including Raja'ie and Bahonar in the explosion at the headquarters of
cabinet in and other explosions and assassination that targeted top ranking officials.
This situation was exasperated by the adverse effects left by the presidency of Abul
Hassan Bani Sadr. To crown all these adversities, big swathes of Islamic Iranian territory
were occupied by the Iraqi Ba'athist regime, and an economic blockade imposed on our
fledgling Islamic Republic.
However, by the Grace of the Almighty, the wise leadership of the late Imam Khomeini,
the relentless efforts of those at the helm, headed by the President, Sayyid Khamenei, and
above all the sacrifices of the people, it was feasible to overcome all difficulties and
tackle problems head on. After eight years in office, the Islamic Republic of Iran emerged
triumphant, stable, and dignified.
It is worth mentioning that Sayyid Khamenei held the following posts:
President of the council for recognising government interest
President of the cultural revolution council
President of the conference of Imams of Juma prayers and congregational prayers
Secretary General of the Islamic Republican Party (before it was disbanded)
First deputy to the president of the council of experts
First deputy to the president of the council for revising the constitution
The late Imam Khomeini reiterated many times that Sayyid Khamenei was qualified to be
the leader. In this regard, Sheikh Hashemi Rafsanjani says, "During our audience with
the late Imam in the presence of the prime minister, Sayyid Ahmad Khomeini, and the
commanders of the three armed forces, we discussed this particular issue. We said if the
leader (Imam Khomeini) passes away, we must face a constitutional problem as there should
not be a vacuum in the leadership. The Imam said: "There will not be any vacuum. The
leader is amongst you." "Who is it?" one said. In the presence of Sayyid
Khamenei, the Imam answered, "It is Sayyid Ali Khamenei".
One day I plucked up some courage and went to visit the Imam and discussed with him
certain matters. I spoke with him on the issue of succession and the problems that may
arise. Unequivocally, the Imam replied: "You will not face a blind alley as long as
Ayatollah Khamenei is amongst you. Why are you not aware of this?".
Sayyid Ahmad Khomeini said, "When Ayatollah Khamenei was on a visit to Korea, the
Imam was following the visit on television. He was very impressed by the big reception
accorded to him by the Korean people, the speeches he gave, and the talks he conducted
there. He remarked: "Indeed, he is worthy of leadership".
It seems that a sort of Divine inspiration may be detected in words of the late Imam
Khomeini to Sayyid Khamenei, "When you travel, I become very anxious until you have
returned. So, do not travel frequently."
Imam Khomeini passed away at 10.20 p.m. on Saturday, 3rd June, 1989. The following day,
members of the Council of Experts held an extraordinary meeting. Twenty hours later,
Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei was elected spiritual leader of Muslims and Leader of the
Islamic Revolution. He polled sixty votes from a total of seventy-four members who were
present. At the end of its meeting, the Council issued the following statement, "We
would like to express our sorrow at the sad demise of the Leader of the Umma, (nation),
and the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Stemming from a sense of historical
responsibility, a recognition of the importance of the position of the leader in the
government system of the Islamic Republic, an understanding of the importance the late
Imam attached to the position of leader - through his calls and statements , the
requirements of the provisions of the constitution, an awareness of the conspiracies of
the enemies of Islam, both internal and external, vis-à-vis the future of the Islamic
system, an appreciation of vigilance to abort any adverse attempt, in view of prevailing
internal and external circumstances, and finally assimilating the sublime and divine
contents of the Will of the late Imam Khomeini, the Council of Experts, in its meeting of
4th June, 1989, has elected His Eminence Ayatollah Sayyid Khamenei Leader of the System of
the Islamic Republic of Iran with a majority of four fifths of members attending the
meeting, sixty votes for, out of seventy-four present".
Ayatollah Bani Fadhl, member of the Council of Experts and leading cleric in Qum, said
that the fourteen members who did not give their votes to Sayyid Khamenei did not have any
reservations as to whether or not he was suitable for the position, rather they were
advocating a collective style of leadership with as-Sayyid al-Khamanie at the helm.
During his wise leadership he has succeeded in discharging his responsibilities in the
best manner and steers the revolution on the same pristine path trodden by the late Imam
Khomeini It is no wonder for he is one of the disciples of the Imam. In this respect he
says, "The guidelines of the revolution are those outlined by the Imam. The greedy,
cold-hearted and naive enemy mistakenly believed that, in the absence of the Imam, a new
era in new outposts different to that of the Imam would emerge. How wrong they proved to
be. Imam Khomeini is an ever-living reminder, his name is the standard of the revolution,
his path is the path of revolution, and his aims and objectives are those of the
Man needs to ponder the conduct and the words of distinguished personalities such
prophets and the good and contemplate aspects of their life, especially how they go about
the day-to-day business with their immediate family, their aides, close associates, and
students. In so doing the experience and lessons drawn from this study will be the beacon
that will lead them through the maze of this life.
The lifes of great people are distinguished with morality, probity, spiritual
loftiness, and other conspicious traits. Such human noble qualities are not easy to gauge
by ordinary people, save those who have a very closely knit relationship with them.
Among such persons is the spiritual leader of Muslims, Ayatollah al-Udhma Khamenei.
This man is flawless almost in every aspect. It is no surprise, as he was groomed at the
hands of the great man of wisdom, the late Imam Khomeini, who was a living embodiment of
pristine Islam. If you ponder Sayyid Khamenei's conduct and words, you soon realise they
demonstrate purpose and sublime intent. They further illustrate loftiness of spirit and
stature. All this has contributed to moulding his personality into a near perfect one,
that would put him in the same league of the late Imam. Such are the qualities and
prerequisites that should be present in the leader of the umma.
Renunciation of worldly things is one of his outstanding qualities. Although he can
afford the means to enjoy worldly gains and appearance of affluence, yet he does not
exhibit any attachment to worldly comforts. He has irrevocably divorced materialism.
On the subject of his asceticism, Hojatol Islam Sayyid Ali Akbar Hussaini, Tehran's
representative in the Majlis (parliament) has this to say, "According to my
first-hand knowledge of the great personality of Sayyid Khamenei, I have found him
shunning this life for the Hereafter. Indifference to worldly acquisitions and simplicity
of life style are the two main pillars governing his life, so much so that many people
find it hard to believe.
During the run up to the presidential election, I approached him with the request of
the producers of "Morals of the Family", a weekly programme broadcast from the
Islamic Republic Television, for an interview alongside members of his family. He paused
for a short while and answered: "But there is a problem." I said: "What is
it?" He replied: "Maybe, when the viewers watch the film, they would not believe
that my family and I live so simple and ordinary a life". [ 1 ]
Mohsin Rafiq Dost, president of the organisation for the disabled of the Islamic
"Even when he was President of the Republic, they did not have a fridge in the
house. I brought them one. After a while, it broke down. Nevertheless, he did not ask for
it to be repaired. The news regarding the idle fridge did not come to the fore only after
his term came to an end".[ 2 ]
Rafiq Dost adds,
"When he was President, I paid him a visit at his home. I saw his children
eating cheese but with great apetite. He said: "There has not been cheese at the
house for some time because ration tickets for cheese were delayed a bit. Now that we have
it, you can see how the children devour it"
.[ 3 ]
He also says,
"His house was laid with cheap quality rugs. During his absence, we collected
these rugs and sold them. I topped up the revenue of the sale and bought new carpets and
laid them down in the house. When he returned, he said to me: "Mohsin! What is
this?" I replied: "We exchanged the old rugs." He said: You did wrong. Go
away and bring back the old ones. After some effort and headache, we managed to retrieve
the old rugs and return them to the house!".[ 4 ]
Despite his greatness, respectability and the high rank of his position, he is very
modest. Notwithstanding his great responsibilities and enormous number of engagements, he
always treats everyone with due politeness and forbearance.
Shoushtary, a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, has this to say, "On
his tours to the front, he used to treat the soldiers responsible for guarding the
entrances to military units with brotherly love and kindness. He did not consider that
being the holder of the most prestigious post, the President of the Republic, should put
him above other people. Being military commanders, we used to feel ashamed of his
treatment of the soldiers. He accorded the same treatment to us, the commanders, at
meetings. Although he was firm when it came to decision-making, yet his treatment was a
source of inspiration to discharge our duties in a better way". [Pasdar Islam
Magazine, issue No. 154]
Even more modest was his refusal to accept the position of marj'iyah, (religious
authority responsible for issuing religious fatawa, or edicts), due to the availability of
other qualified clerics in the arena. Marking the birthday of Imam Mohammad al-Jawad
(peace be upon him) on 10th Rajab 1415 A.H. (14 December 1994) after his name was put
forward as a candidate for marji'ya, he said, "I feel rather overwhelmed with the
heavy burden of the marji'iya since the distinguished ulema, thanks to Allah, are
available and can shoulder the responsibility".
Modesty is and has been `n asset nf his freat character. This has been evident vhen he
was dlected, by the Council of Dxperts, Leader of the Islamic Revolution `fter the
departure nf Imam Khomeini and when he won two consecutive elections and served two full
terms as the President of the Islamic Republic.
Discussing the greatness of the position of marji'ya, in his Friday prayer sermon of
26th Rajab, 1415, Sheikh Hashemi Rafsanjani has this to respond to reports circulating in
the Zionist mass media, "The position of marji'ya is different from all other posts,
the Leader has shunned trappings of worldly positions. You must give this evidence its due
weight because I have known the Leader since the days of his youth; it is a period that
spans forty years. I have never known him seeking leadership or any other job. He always
waits for the person who is more qualified to fill the post. In the early days of the
revolution, all were of the opinion that all vanguards of the revolution should join the
membership of the Revolution Council. After the late Imam Khomeini had decreed that His
Eminence Sayyid Khamenei join the membership of the Revolution Council, we pressed hard to
call upon him to move from Mashad and join us.
When talks abound on the Presidency of the Republic, you may not know the extent of the
difficulties I encountered in the process of persuading him to stand for election. He
turned away from my pleading with him to stand for a second term. He was not impressed by
our reasoning that the country was still in need of his services. We were left with no
alternative but to enlist the help of the late Imam Khomeini in making him reconsider the
situation. The Imam advised him to agree. This was a one-off stand of the Imam, as he was
not in the habit of imposing on people to take up any post. Then we were posed with the
thorny question of succession to the Imam. We had to face the vexing problem that if there
is the Imam's departure how were we going to tackle the issue of "the vicegerency of
the jurist" - (wilayat al-faqih) and/ or the leadership vacuum. When we approached
His Eminence Sayyid Khamenei to discuss the matter, he was adamant not to be elected
member of the Revolution Council, let alone be its Leader. However, after some pleading,
we managed to persuade him to accept the membership at least.
In this regard, I have a lot to say. It is not time to divulge it yet. Right from the
first day, Ayatollah al-Udhma Araki was taken ill and up to the day he died, I talked to
Sayyid Khamenei at length. I did not detect any hint from the Leader of the Revolution
that he was interested in taking up the position of marji'ya (religious authority).
Nothing in his whole being is greater than his submission to Allah, His worship and the
service in His way". [Kayhan al-Arabi Newspaper, 22 December 1994. Indeed, had it not
been for a great sense of Islamic responsibility and non-availability of men capable of
shouldering the burden, he would not accept to be charged with all these responsibilities,
all because of his down-to-earth modesty.
1 Risalat Newspaper, 4th Rajab, 1415 H.
2 Risalat Newspaper, 4th Rajab, 1415 H.
3 Pasdar Islam Magazine, issue No. 154
4 Pasdar Islam Magazine, issue No 154.
In spite of his lofty position and responsibility for the state's well being, and the
freedom this entails in decision making, Ayatollah al-Uhma Sayyid Khamenei did not try to
exploit this for personal gains, let alone self-aggrandisement.
It suffices to quote two examples that demonstrate this aspect of his personality. The
incidents took place during his tenure of office as President of the Islamic Republic.
1- Shoushtary says, "Sayyid Khamenei came to visit the headquarters of
"Wal Fajr 10 Operations," in the front. Of course the arrival of the President
to any military unit is source of great joy and bliss. The brothers in the headquarters
wanted to show their pleasure by providing food more than necessary for six persons.
Seeing the extraordinary feast, Sayyid Khamenei said to one of those present, "Well,
since you are in the battle field, your bodies need all the energy you can muster. So I am
not going to say to you not to eat such food. However, do the ordinary soldiers who are
under your command eat the same type of food and in such quantities?" All were mute.
He added, "I am going to eat with you now, just to let you know that I am keen on
your well being. Nevertheless, you should know for everything there is a circumstance. I
am not going to blame any one who may say that because of the presence of the President,
this type of food was provided. Go away and bring me the lunch that the soldiers usually
eat so that they should know the President eats the same meal they eat. Otherwise, my
presence will be an honorary one. He warned us to be thrifty with public money".
2- This story has been related by brother Shoushtary too. We were in his company on
a visit to the twenty-first Division. From the outset, he ordered us to use two cars only
in the journey. However, when we set off from Ahwaz, we noticed ten other cars trailing
our convoy without our knowledge. We continued our journey. It was a complete surprise to
us when the President ordered the driver to stop. He turned to me and said: "Go and
order the second car and all the other cars trailing us to return to base. Of course, if
they chose to travel to the same destination, they could go separately. There is no need
for them to shadow us." He then turned to one of his bodyguards and said: "Be
careful when this convoy moves on and while I am in it, we should set a good example for
others to follow in that they will do away with all these grand trappings and entourage.
An ordinary person like me is not in need this number of guards. It is sufficient to do
the job with two guards in one or two cars. We shall meet with them there if they chose to
follow us. Otherwise, there is no need for their presence!" In short, I alighted from
the car and said to them that Sayyid Khamenei ordered that you return whence you
Such has been his strong sense of responsibility for sensible expenditure from the
"Despite the fact that the basis of acquiring knowledge in the Islamic learning
centres, (hawzas), is jurisprudence, it is imperative that we should not lose sight of
other fields of knowledge. For instance, there must be no complacency in keeping in close
contact with the Qur'an, its sciences, comprehending its meanings and drawing pleasure
from its company. The Qur'an should, therefore, be part of the curriculum of the hawzas.
Our theology students must toil hard to memorise the Qur'an or at least parts of it.
Feel that whoever memorises the Qur'an and has affinity with it is more akin to
understanding the different disciplines of Islamic knowledge from one who does not have he
same level of intimacy".
The above are two excerpts from the letters of Sayyid Khamenei written to the hawzas.
They vividly illustrate the importance he attaches to the Holy Qur'an.
The Qur'an occupies a special place in the heart of Sayyid Khamenei. This intimacy with
the Holy Book dates back to the days of his childhood. He joined the classes of old
schools (Katatib) at a very tender age. At the age of twelve he used to hold special
classes for his friends and teach them the principles of correct recitation. Despite his
jihad, and the enormity of his tasks and responsibilities, be they his political activism,
fight against the Shah's regime, and the consequences he put up with, it did not minimise
his keenness on the Qur'an and his affinity with it. No sooner the authorities banned him
from giving Qur'anic commentary classes to theology and university students, he re-emerged
somewhere else to continue his activity in this field. All this stems from a wholehearted
belief that the path of righteousness and safety is the holding fast to the Holy Qur'an
and practising its injunctions.
After he assumed the role of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, he succeeded in
materialising the aspiration of the late Imam that he could not fulfill due to the adverse
circustances the revolution was experiencing, especially the imposed war. With Divine
Grace Islamic Iran has, under his guidance, witnessed a revival of an all out awakening in
the sphere of Qur'anic knowledge. This has never been witnessed since the time of the
Prophet (s.a.w.) and Imam Ali (a.s.). The moment you enter a mosque or join an assembly
and even private houses, you hear people reciting the Qur'an. All sections of the people
have shown unprecedented keenness to memorise the Holy Book and recite it, even children
and youth. The magnitude of this new found interest is the number of participants in the
world competition for the recitation and memorisation of the Qur'an in 1994. There were
seven million, it is expected that this figure will rise to thirteen million by 1996.
Many of the participants were distinguishable as accomplished reciters. Respected
teachers of the Qur'an were full of praise and admiration, especially non-Iranians, from
what they saw. Professor Sheikh Mohammad al-Arabi al-Qabbani, of Syria said, "I have
seen children memorising the Qur'an in its entirety or great parts thereof; they recite it
without any flaws. All praise be to the Divine Grace, and the credit goes to Ayatollah
Sayyid Khamenei, Leader of the Revolution, who has initiated this trend and diligently
encouraged it. It is no wonder for he loves the Qur'an and attaches great importance to
Qura'nic activities, be they memorisation or recitation".
It goes without saying that Sayyid Khamenei sincerely espouses the service of the Holy
Qur'an. The Qura'nic atmosphere gripping the nation is a result of his genuine belief that
according the Qur'an its due respect is a sign of Muslims' pride and esteem, not in Iran
only but all over the Islamic world. Through the Qur'an the umma, or pan-Islamic nation,
can achieve its unity and be a sore in the eye of the enemy, precisely as the late Imam
Khomeini had wished. This was evident from the first decree he gave and the first step he
adopted. His prime concern was the service of the Holy Qur'an for it is the only way to
unify Muslims all over the world.
Amongst the phenomena Iran is radiant with under the guidance of the Leader, Sayyid
Khamenei (May Allah grant him long life) are the following: