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In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful

A Brief biography of

Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution and The Islamic Republic of Iran

(Source: Islamic Centre England London)

"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 prepared . At the time I did not know the nature of the task. However, I had no doubt that I would be ready to shoulder a great weight in His way for the sake of the revolution and in the service of you, Oh people.

1. Birth and Lineage

2. His Education and Studies

2.1 His Teachers
2.2 His Works

3. Social and Political Activities

3.1 His Struggle from 1962 Onwards
3.2 Forming Secret Cells
3.3 Relief Committee
3.4 Re-arrest
3.5 Banishment to Iranshahr

4. During and After the Revolution

4.1 Revolutionary Command Council
4.2 Imam's Reception Committee
4.3 Communist Conspiracy
4.4 First article on the waves of the Islamic Broadcasting Station
4.5 Assassination Attempt
4.6 Historic Juma Prayer
4.7 His Responsibilities after the Triumph of the Revolution
4.8 Deputy Defence Minister
4.9 Commander of Revolutionary Guards
4.10 Imam of Tehran Friday (Juma) Prayer
4.11 Member of the Islamic Consultative Council
4.12 President of the Republic

5. His Leadership

5.1 His Qualities
5.2 His Asceticism
5.3 His Modesty
5.4 Concern for the Nation's Coffers
5.5 His Intimacy with The Qur'an
5.6 His Interest in Arabic
5.7 His Contribution in the Fronts of the Imposed War

1. Birth and Lineage

His Eminence Ayatullah al-Udhma al-Haj as-Sayyid Ali al-Hussaini al-Khamenei (May Allah prolong his life) was born in 1939 in the Holy City of Mashad, Iran, in a respected scholarly family.

His father, Ayatollah al-Haj as-Sayyid Jawad, was amongst Mashad's erudite ulema (clerics). For years on end, he used to lead Fajr (morning) prayers at Gouhershad mosque and Dhuhr (midday) and Isha (evening) prayers at Bazaar Mashad mosque. He was a well-known preacher. He died in Thil Qi'da, 1406/1986 at the age of ninety-three.

His grandfather, Ayatollah as-Sayyid Hussain, was one of Azerbaijan's ulema. He lived in Khyaban, Tabriz and later emigrated to the holy city of Najaf in Iraq where he settled and devoted himself to teaching and research. He was renowned for his scholarship and piety. He shunned this life and was contented.

His aunt's husband was the scholar martyr Sheikh Mohammad Khyabani, born in Kamana, Tabriz. He was given the surname of Khyabani for he used to hold congregational prayers at Karim Khan mosque in Khyaban , Tabriz. He was one of the famous ulema in the era of constitutionalism. The late al-Haj Mohammad Baqir Badamchi, the well- known mujahid at the time of constitutionalism and a contemporary of Sheikh Khyabani, was quoted as saying, "He was the most pious, and the most knowledgeable amongst his peers". Sheikh Khyabani became a deputy in the National Assembly for the constituency of Tabriz; he led an uprising against the regime of the time and was martyred in Tabriz.

His mother was the daughter of Sayyid Hashim Najafabadi, one of the well-known ulema of Mashad. She was a chaste and honourable woman, who had knowledge of religious injunctions. She had very high moral principels. She died of a heart attack in Muharram, 1409/1989 at the age of seventy-six. As to his marital status, Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Khamenei is married and has six children.

1.1 His Childhood

Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei lived his childhood under the care of his father, who was a loving parent and committed to bringing up his children in the best way. He spared no efforts in teaching them. Those years were very hard on Sayyid Khamenei because of poverty. He said, "The days of my childhood were very difficult because of the Second World War. Although Mashad was outside the battle zone and most goods were by comparison cheaper than other towns , yet because of our family's material want, we could not afford to eat wheat bread. We usually ate barley bread, and at times a mixture of both. I can recall that sometimes we had nothing to eat. At dinner time, my mother used to take the money which my grandmother gave me and my brothers and sisters, to buy milk and raisins for us to eat with bread.

The house where I was born, and in which I spent some five years of my childhood, was built on a plot of land of not more than seventy square metres. It comprised one room and a dingy narrow cellar. It was in a poor neighbourhood of Mashad. As my father was a leading cleric, he was frequented by guests and when they came around, we used to stay in the cellar until the guests left. Later, some of my father's friends bought us a plot of land that was later annexed to our house and where an extra two rooms were built.

Our clothing was in no better state than our food or accommodation. My mother used to sew us garments from the somewhat worn-out clothes of our father. The finished products looked funny as they were patched up from different colours and fabrics. The length of these garments was just under the knee. It is worth noting that my father did not usually acquire new clothes very often. For example, he kept one garment for some forty years".

 

2. His Education and Studies

At the age of five, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei and his elder brother Sayyid Mohammad were sent to Makatib (Qur'anic classes). Then they were enrolled into a religious primary school.

These schools were established by the faithful during the corrupt rule of Reza Khan. The aim of such schools was to provide children with a basic religious education. It had no remit to grant its graduates official certificates. In addition to the primary school curriculum, the schools taught Qur'anic recitation and classes in books such as Hiliatul Mutaqeen, Hisabus Siyaaq and Nisaabus Sibyan.

After he finished the primary school course, he attended evening classes in a state school, without the knowledge of his father, and obtained a certificate. He then enrolled in a secondary school for two years where he obtained a diploma.

As for religious studies, he studied Arabic grammar at the religious school. He read the books Sharhul Amthila, Sarf Mir and Tasrif, which are Arabic syntax books under the supervision of his father. He also read the books al-Awamil and al-Inmuthaj, to gain further insight into the realms of Arabic, under the supervision of two teachers. At the age of fourteen he joined Sulaiman Khan school to study religious sciences where he studied the books al-Samadiyya and al- Suyuti and a little of al-Mughni, which are religious law Books .

He attended his father's class of al-Shara'i (religious injunctions). When he arrived at the book of Haj (pilgrimage), his father asked him to join his other class in Sharhil Luma' al- Dimashqiya, the book of Haj, which deals with jurisprudence in general. He further requested his son to discuss matters with his elder brother Sayyid Mohammad. Sayyid Ali Khamenei then joined Nawwab school of religious sciences where he completed Sutuh, (secondary level of religious training, dealing with principles of jurisprudence). This led to his attending Bahthil Kharij (graduation classes) under the supervision of Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Milani.

It is seldom that a youth of sixteen can reach this advanced level in religious studies.Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei attributes this achievement to his father's keenness to ensure that his son should embark on the road of perfection. He says, "To my father goes the credit of choosing for me the perfect path of knowledge and the ulema. He instilled in me the eagerness to embark on such a journey. When I started my first classes in religious education the difference in age between my father and I was forty five years. Furthermore, my father was a distinguished cleric with permission (ijaza) to deduce legal judgements. Under his supervision many religious students reached lofty levels. It was therefore not befitting for him, whose status was that of an eminent scholar, to teach me in my first steps in religious studies. He spared no efforts in ensuring that we got our share of his care. He coached my elder brother and I, and afterwards, our younger brother. We are indebted to him for our upbringing and study, especially myself, for had it not been for him I would not have reached thus far in the fields of acquiring knowledge in fiqh (jurisprudence) and usul (principles of jurisprudence).

Before I headed for Qom to continue my higher religious studies, I attended general classes in Mashad alongside the classes of my father. During summer recess, my father worked out a programme for study under his own supervision. For this reason, there was no break in my study, not even during school holidays, which was not the case for the students of religious learning centres, which used to close during Muharram, Safar, and Ramadhan of the Hijri calendar, and during summer holidays. I thus completed the requirements of the Sutuh level leading to graduation classes (bahthul kharij) at the age of sixteen".

His Eminence Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei adds, "I started teaching right after I graduated from the primary school, during the time of my religious studies at the Islamic seminary. I supervised the learning of two elderly students, who were reading the book "Sarf Mir". Up to 1958, at which time I started living in Mashad, I used to teach Arabic syntax and grammar, figures of speech, principles of jurisprudence and jurisprudence. In Qum I also combined study with teaching.

After my return from Qum to Mashad in 1964, teaching was one of my main occupations. During these years, and until 1977, I supervised students at the level of advanced sutuh, teaching Makasib of Sheikh Ansari in jurisprudence and Kifayah in usool (exegesis), and Aqa'id (beliefs).

In 1957, I had the honour of visiting the holy places in Iraq. The atmosphere of the Islamic seminary (hawza) of Najaf gave me an overriding urge to stay there. I managed to stay for a short while but my father did not agree to my settling there. I therefore returned to Mashad after a year.

In 1958 I moved to Qum with the permission of my father. I stayed there until 1964 when I returned to Mashad because my father had lost his eyesight. Some of my teachers opposed my leaving Qum vehemently".

2.1 His Teachers

Amongst my first teachers at Sulaiman Khan school, were Alawi, who taught me the books Inmuthaj and as-Samadiyyah. He was studying medicine at the same time. A person by the name of Mas'ud was my teacher of as-Suyuti and part of al-Mughni. Since my brother Mohammad had his own room at Nawwab school, I used to go there to read in the book of al-Ma'aalim, of Sheikh Hassan, dealing with principles of jurisprudence. In those days, my father suggested that I start concentrating on the book Shari'ul Islam, or "the Laws of Islam", by Muhqqiq al-Hilli - a jurisprudence book. Although this book was too high for my age, yet my father felt it was necessary for my scholastic development. He was proved right as it had an immense impact on my achievement later. I read as far as the book of Haj in that book. My father instructed me to join my brother in reading the book of Haj in Allum'a al-Dimashqiya, or "the Gleam of Damascus" - a jurisprudence book by Shaheed al-Awwal. When I hesitated for fear of not being able to comprehend it, he said he was sure that I could. I managed to complete it successfully. As for the book Sharhul Lum'a or commentary on the book of Allum'a, by Shaheed al-Thani, I completed three quarters of it under the supervision of my father and the remainder under the late Mirza Ahmad, teacher of Yazdi, a famous teacher of Sharhul Lum'a and Qawaneen, or "the laws of principles of jurisprudence", by Mirza Qummi at Nawwab school. Regarding the subjects of Makasib, or profits, and Rasa'il, or treatises- on principles of jurisprudence, my teacher was Ayatollah Sheikh Hashim Qazwini, one of the students of the late Mira Asfahani. Qazwini was renowned for his spirituality; he was a first- class teacher in Mashad and was held in high regard by the elite of the teaching profession. He was unrivalled in his mastery of rhetorical art of Arabic. Under his supervision, I studied large parts of the books Rasa'il, Makasib, and Kifaya, I said, large parts because I studied the remaining ones under my father. I should, therefore, say that the credit goes to my father for my achievement in the field of religious studies. As a result of his support and guidance, I completed the level of sutuh in five and a half years.

I embarked on the study of bahth al-Kharij, under the supervision of Ayatollah al-Udhma Milani. He was a distinguished cleric, renowned for his editorial research and a Marja', (religious authority) in Mashad. I attended his classes in Usul, (principles of jurisprudence) for one year, Fiqh (jurisprudence) for two years and a half until 1958 when I went to Qum.

Of course, I should mention that I attended Bahthul Kharij for a as a student of Ayatollah Sheikh Hashim Qazwini, that is to say he taught us this subject as part of usool according to our request. His research was vast, for he used to discuss all the opinions.

In Mashad I attended the philosophy classes of Ayatollah Sheikh Mirza Jawad Tehrani, whose method of teaching was as follows. He taught the book Mandhoomah, then he discussed Matalib of Mulla Hadi Sabzewari, and finally he refuted them. In essence his classes were a rebuttal of al-Mandhoomah. It so happened that a friend of mine who studied philosophy at Qum said that his approach was unorthodox because you would not have the opportunity to learn the concepts of theosophy. So it was more appropriate for you to attend the classes of someone who believed in theosophy. I heeded his advice and attended classes in al-Mandhoomah as a student of Sheikh Reza Isi , who was a godly cleric, espousing theosophy.

During my stay in Najaf, Iraq, I attended the classes of Ayatollahs Hakim, Khoie, Shahroodi, Mirza Baqir Zanjani, Mirza Hassan Yazdi, and Sayyid Yahya al-Yazdi amongst others. Out of all these classes, I must admit that the closest to my heart were the classes of Ayatollah Hakim for the fluency of his approach and his sound and substantial jurist opinions; the others were those of Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Yazdi, who taught at al-Tusi mosque.

At Qum, I decided to familiarise myself with all the classes available before I committed myself to any of them. I therefore attended the classes of Imam Khomeini, Ayatollah Ha'iri, and Ayatollah al-Udhma Burujerdi. However, I never missed the usul classes of the Imam. I benefited a little from the treatises of Asfar and Shifa in the field of philosophy by the scholar Allamah Tabatabaie.

Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei obtained a licence for ijtihad (deduction of legal judgements) from his teacher, Ayatollah al-Udhma Ha'iri in 1974, after attending bahth ul-kharij for more than fifteen years.

2.2 His Works

As an author since 1963, Sayyid Khamenei has written many books, treatises and articles, some of which are still unpublished. Below are some of their titles:

bulletJihad (his thesis for Bahthil Kharij)
bulletFatawa (edicts) (2 volumes)
bulletFaith
bulletProphethood
bulletImamate
bulletThe agony of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) and Ours
bulletThe Qur'an and the Progeny of the Prophet
bulletLessons in Knowing Islam
bulletLessons in Beliefs
bulletLessons in Hadith (Prophetic tradition)
bulletMigration
bulletPolitical Life of Imam Sadiq (peace upon him)
bulletMonotheism
bulletVicegerency
bulletThe Element of Jihad in the Lives of the Imams
bulletQur'anic Commentary
bulletKnowing Imam Ali (peace be upon him)
bulletTreatise on Patience
bulletLessons in Qur'an
bulletThe Traits of Muslims
bulletQuestions and Answers (5 volumes)
bulletBiographies of Transmitters of Hadith (four)
bulletLessons in Ethics
bulletOutlines of Islamic Thought in the Qur'an
bulletThe Role of Muslims in India
bulletCorrect Understanding of Islam
bulletGovernment in Islam
bulletGlimpse at Nahjul Balagha
bulletPolitical Dimension of Imam Ridha's (peace be upon him) Personality
bulletArt as Perceived by the Leader of the Revolution
bulletThe Struggle of Imam Sajjad (peace be upon him)
bulletTranslation of Sayyid Qutub's Commentary on the Qur'an
bulletTranslation of the Treaty of Imam Hassan (peace be upon him)
bulletTranslation of the "Future is for This Religion"
bulletTranslation of "Verdict on Western Civilisation"

Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei is well-versed in Arabic, English, and Turkish, besides Farsi. He has some knowledge of poetry and literature.

3. Social and Political Activities

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 him, 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 prayers. He 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 regime. 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 committed, but just for uttering what is right".

Nawwab was the first person to sow the seeds of an Islamic movement in those days. 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 Mashad, 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 action; a small number of concerned people got together, wrote a statement on enjoining good and forbidding evil, and sent it to numerous addresses.

3.1 His Struggle from 1962 Onwards

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 demands, and frankly revealing the facts to the people in order to expose the true face of the Shah, 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 minister.

On the third of Muharram, Sayyid Khamenei ascended the pulpit and gave a sermon, 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 congregation. When I started, there was a shiver down my spine due to excitement rather than fear. The 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 me".

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 Tuhami. He 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 tragedy."

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 experience. 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 he says:

"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 practices".

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 confinement, 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 says, "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".

3.2 Forming Secret Cells

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.

3.3 Relief Committee

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 mission".

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.

3.4 Re-arrest

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 activities."

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 custody.

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 torture.

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 thought.

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.

3.5 Banishment to Iranshahr

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.

 

4. During and After the Revolution

4.1 Revolutionary Command Council

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 us later."

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.

4.2 Imam's Reception Committee

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.

4.3 Communist Conspiracy

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 disturbances.

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.

4.4 First article on the waves of the Islamic Broadcasting Station

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.

4.5 Assassination Attempt

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 their ideology.

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 world over.

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 criminals!

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 saying,

"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 spring.

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 every moment.

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"

4.6 Historic Juma Prayer

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!'".

4.7 His Responsibilities after the Triumph of the Revolution

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.

4.8 Deputy Defence Minister

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.

4.9 Commander of Revolutionary Guards

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.

4.10 Imam of Tehran Friday (Juma) Prayer

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.

4.11 Member of the Islamic Consultative Council

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.

4.12 President of the Republic

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

 

5. His Leadership

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--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 revolution".

5.1 His Qualities

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.

5.2 His Asceticism

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 Republic says,

"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 ]

5.3 His Modesty

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.

 

5.4 Concern for the Nation's Coffers

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".[5]

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 came".6

Such has been his strong sense of responsibility for sensible expenditure from the treasury.

5.5 His Intimacy with The Qur'an

"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:

bullet1. Expanding annual open Qura'nic competitions, some sessions of which he attends, especially the concluding one where he presents the winners with prizes.
bullet2. Establishment of Uswah publishing house in Qum, which is dedicated to printing the Qur'an, translating its meanings, and distributing three million copies of it world-wide with the aim of stemming the distribution of incorrect translations of it.
bullet3. Opening special colleges in different parts of Iran, catering for the preparation of teachers whose sole task is to teach the Holy Qur'an.
bullet4. Establishing the Holy Qur'an broadcasting station in 1983. He personally oversees that it functions well.
bullet5. Setting up special recitation assemblies during the month of Ramadhan every year for the recitation of the Holy Qur'an. Famous teachers and reciters of the Qur'an from all over Iran are invited. He always urges people attending these gatherings to recite the Qur'an and comprehend its meanings.

5.6 His Interest in Arabic

"Since the language of the Qur'an and Islamic knowledge and disciplines is Arabic, and Farsi literature is intertwined with it, this language must be taught in all the stages of secondary school".

This excerpt is taken from the constitution of the Islamic Republic. It is printed in both Arabic and Farsi on the covers of Arabic teaching books in Iranian schools.

As for his interest in and concern for Arabic and Arabic literature, Dr. Mohammad Ali Azershib Cultural adviser of His Eminence Sayyid Khamenei in the symposium on the characteristics of literature at the time of Islamic awakening, organised by the Arabic service of Tehran Broadcasting Station, has this to say, "Ayatollah Khamenei has great affection for literature and Arabic. Till this day, notwithstanding his duties and responsibilities, he holds weekly sessions in which literature and Arabic poetry, both old and modern, are discussed. Many a time during these sessions I heard him say: "I wish I was born in an Arab country so that I can speak Arabic." He has read a complete encyclopaedia of Arabic literature and annotated them. Amongst these is Kitabul Aghani where assorted remarks were noted. He compiled a complete index of the book, long before Darul Kutub publishing house printed it. From an early age, he attempted to read Jibran Khalil Jibran and translate his books and also read al-Jawahir's poetry book and annotated it. He did not let his detention in prison slip by without exploiting the time in making contact with those who have interest in literature.

This is the end of the quotation from the talk of Dr. Azer Shab in which he alluded to some aspects of Sayyid Khamenei's love with the Arabic language and its literature. [ 7 ] Of course, this is a true translation of his saying, "Arabic is the key to the treasures of Islamic knowledge".

5.7 His Contribution in the Fronts of the Imposed War

This combatant of Islam, who is bent on repelling the dangers poised by despotic powers to the very existence of the fledgling Islamic state, has thrown all his weight behind the struggle to safeguard the core of Islam against the naked and unprovoked aggression of the Ba'thist regime in Baghdad, Iraq. In spite of the heavy weight of his responsibilities, he still found the time to participate in the war effort by being present in the battlefield. He was a forerunner in this path; he was the first cleric to wear military gear at the front. In this respect he says, "They gave me the military uniform. It was the first time I put on such uniform. Perhaps no other cleric before me has done so at the front. Theology students used to frequent the town of Khoramshahr and go to the front, still wearing their traditional attire, months after I initiated the practice". [ 8 ]

He played a great role in preventing the fall of Ahwaz at the hands of the Ba'thists in the early stage of the war. Sheikh Rafsanjani notes:

"Had it not been for the presence of Sayyid Khamenei and martyr Jamaran in Ahwaz, who ordered the digging of a trench around the town, and the stubborn resistance of small bands of revolutionary guards, the town would have fallen".9

He was present at the front in the early months of the war and actively took part in some operations, particularly a big one in Ahwaz where the forces of Islam dealt deadly blows to the enemy.

After he ascended to the presidency of the Islamic republic, he no longer had the time to participate at the war fronts on a regular basis. He notes, "After I assumed the post of President, unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to be present at the war front, apart from one or two occasions when the visits were short".

However, Ayatollah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Khamenei was, from time to time, on the move between war fronts to bolster the morale of the combatants, and solve their material and military problems. During his membership of the Supreme Defence Council, he spared no efforts to co-ordinate the work of the armed forces.

Imam Khomeini (May his soul rest in peace) congratulated him on his commendable work in the war fronts in the message he sent him on the failed attempt on his life,

"The reason why they were full of rancour against you is because you have been a gallant soldier at the war front and dedicated teacher from the pulpit... I congratulate you, O beloved Khamenei!, for the services you are rendering to this oppressed people, whether in the fronts putting on military uniform or behind the front line wearing your clerical attire...".

5 Pasdar Islam Magazine, issue No. 154.
6 Pasdar Islam Magazine, issue No. 154
7 Kayhan al-Arabi Newspaper, 25th December 1994
8 Kitabul Muqabalat, or Book of Interviews, Page 114
9 Pasdar Islam Magazine, issue No. 6

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