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Interview with Mrs. Khamenei (September 1992)

Mahjubah, The Magazine for Muslim Women,
Sep. & Oct. 1992,
No. 100 - 101, PP. 25-267
Word Count : 1,497

Text: Mrs. Khamenei, the wife of Ayatollah Khamenei, Leader of the Islamic Revolution, was born in 1947 in Mashhad.Iran.

Q: Would you tell us a little about your schooling?

"I learned the necessary things so that I could read books, learn religious matters and arts and crafts, and I helped in the housework of our large family.
"I have vivid memories of my schooling, including my learned Quran teacher, Ms. Kaukale Pour Ranjbar, who may have recently passed away. The dress of this respected and dignified lady was unique. Though she did not wear a chador (Islamic head-to-toe covering), she had perfect Islamic hijab (modest dress). Her large scarf, which fully
covered her head and neck, reached to her waist. This lady had a particularly innovative style in teaching the Quran. Her face, which was full of dignity and poise, is still before my eyes and I can never forget her.
"Another memory I have is also from the same age. Most of the religious ceremonies, like reciting the Quran in class or praying at the prayer session of the school, which was a religious school, were entrusted to me. Of courses, in the girl's primary and high school of those days, the reciting of the Quran or singing of religious songs was not practiced, but because our school was a religious school and it was run by a religious lady, such religious ceremonies were held."

Q: How did you meet your husband?

"I married him in 1964. Of course this marriage took place before we became acquainted with each other, since as was the practice of religious families of those days, his mother came to our house to propose and after the usual discussions the marriage ceremonies were performed.

Q: How many children do you have?

"We have four sons and two daughters. All our sons were born before the Revolution, and our daughters were born after the Revolution (Islamic Revolution in Iran)."

Q: Please tell us a little about your life during the Islamic uprising against the Shah of Iran. "That period was a time of hardships and was God's test, and I had prepared myself for all possible difficulties and never complained about anything.
"I remember that during the first months after our marriage, my husband one day asked me, "If I am arrested, how will you feel?" It was an unexpected question and at first I became very distressed and annoyed, but he talked so much about the struggle, its dangers and difficulties, and everyone's duty in this connection, that I became quite calm. He said this on the same day that Imam Khomeini was re-arrested and taken to Tehran from Qom and was exiled to Turkey. On this day Mr. Khamenei and some others were preparing in Mashhad to show their opposition to this, and at this juncture he asked me the question. From that same day I made myself mentally prepared to face the dangers of my husband's struggles. Therefore, whenever he was imprisoned or exiled or when he had to hide his activities, I bore all the difficulties with ease.
"Later we had more children and, of course, life was hard at times, but God always helped us and I was never disappointed. The struggle, other than prison and exile, had other difficulties which were more or less constant. Anxiety, material poverty, the rapprochement of mistaken people, and some deprivations were all the result of struggle and we had become used to them. Of course, the spiritual support and sympathy of my own family and his family was a great consolation and I always relied on God."

Q: How did you assist your husband in his struggles?

"I think my greatest role was to keep the atmosphere of the house calm so that he could continue his work. I tried to keep him from becoming anxious about me and the children. Sometimes when I went to see him in prison, I didn't tell him about any difficulties we had and in reply to his questions about the condition of myself and the children I only gave good news.
For instance, during the meetings in prison or in letters during his exile, I never wrote or said anything about the children's illnesses. "Of course, I was also active in various areas, like distributing flyers, carrying messages, hiding documents and so on, which I think are not really worth mentioning. In the last months of struggle, I was busy in connection with the transfer of messages from Imam Khomeini in Paris, which were given by telephone, and I delivered them to centers for copying and distribution in Mashhad and other cities, and I gathered the news of Mashhad and other cities of Khorasan and relayed them to Paris. But I think the most important work of the wives of freedom fighters of that time was spiritual support, sympathy, keeping secrets, and forbearance of difficulties."

Q: Does your husband help you in the home?

"At present he has neither such an opportunity nor do we expect him to. But a very good quality he has and which can be a model and example for others is that when he is home, though he is usually tired from his daily work, he tries to keep the atmosphere of the house away from the problems of his office."

Q: Do you obey your husband unquestioningly? "In some of my personal affairs I consult him and in some cases, according to my religious duty, I seek his permission. I hide nothing from him of my own affairs and agree with his opinions in all necessary matters."

Q: What kind of father is Ayatollah Khamenei?

"He is sensitive about religion, morality and the education of the children and encourages our children to pray, read the Quran, and participate in sports. He always says regarding the education of our girls that he wants them to become physicians."

Q: Do you work for the government?

"As a Muslim woman of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I have some duties like all other Muslim sisters and perform them to the best of my abilities, but I don't have any particular official responsibility."

Q: What does your husband expect from you?

"He expects tranquility and a happy and healthy family environment more that anything else."

Q: Please tell our readers your views regarding Islamic modest dress.

"In my opinion the best clothing for women outside the house is a chador. Of course, there is no harm according to religion in wearing other types of clothing if they cover the body completely and are not tight and close-fitting dresses. But as a whole, I prefer the chador. For inside the house it is quite different. Of course the clothing, in any case, should be according to Islamic modesty."

Q: What sort of lifestyle do you have?

"For many years we have completely eliminated luxury goods from our house. Beauty is good, but we should not indulge in luxurious living for its own sake. In our house we don't have decorations in its common sense, valuable carpets, curtains, furniture, etc. We have relieved ourselves of these things long ago. In our life we have tried to provide everything according to a real need. The parents of Mr. Khamenei were examples in this connection and his mother criticizes such manifestations and I am also of the same opinion. I always advise my children that they should act in this way in their personal behavior. We believe that expenditures for luxurious items are unnecessary."

Q: Do you, or have you ever, worked outside the home?

"Work in its general sense, no. If some services are considered work according to your interpretation, then I should say I have worked outside the home at times."

Q: What about social work?

"In my opinion one should directly approach the poor to help them and if all do this according to their means there will be no need for official organizations to help poor people.
Inspection of deprived areas, visiting homes, workshops, and schools in such areas provides everyone with an opportunity to help the poor and deprived people.

Q: Have you any message for our readers?

"My message for all ladies of all nations and religions is that they should safeguard the honor and greatness of women by their conduct and behavior, and by the observance of feminine chastity and purity. "Muslim women should understand the value of Islamic modest dress, and they should not surrender to the enticements of the enemy regarding hijab. My further advice for Muslim women is that they should not withdraw from social and political activities. In Iran the presence of women on the scene resulted in the success of the Revolution, and presently women are participating in all the activities of the country, whether social, political or scientific.


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