The day of departure from the world, of the Father of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini (May his soul rest in peace) was the most bitter day in the political life of the Iranian nation.
For many, it was not imaginable that the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic would continue without the presence of that Sage of the Age, in view of the deep dedication of the Iranian people to that dynamic personality. God, however, does not leave mankind in darkness. Soon after the passing away of Imam Khomeini, the Assembly of Experts met, debated, and elected President Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei as the new Leader of the Islamic Revolution.
It was indeed a wise choice in view of his qualities that were displayed for the 8 long years during the Imam's life as the able president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in addition to serving as Tehran's Friday Prayer Leader with mass appeal among the devoted revolutionary masses. Twenty-two years have passed since that day, and today the unique leadership qualities of Ayatollah Khamenei as the able successor the Late Imam, have become evident for not just Iranian Muslims but also for all freedom-aspiring people of the region and the world. He has overcome many dangerous obstacles and come out victorious, with might and strength, after foiling many a conspiracy. We present you a special 3-part feature on Ayatollah Khamenei, as follows:
Seyyed Ali Khamenei was born in the holy city of Mashhad in July 16, 1939. His father Haj Seyyed Jawad was a scholar and teacher of religious sciences while his mother was a pious and virtious woman. Although he lived a simple life, the atmosphere of his house was full of purity and sincerity. To quote the Leader himself: My father was an outstanding religious figure, although he shunned publicity and limelight. We had a hard life. I remember that some nights we had nothing for dinner and my mother used to prepare for us a simple meal of bread and raisins. At the tender age of 4 he started learning the holy Qur'an and at the age of 7 was enrolled in school.
Concurrent with his school studies, he studied religious science under his father and the other prominent theologians. His sharp intellect amazed his teachers as he speedily completed the preliminary course. In 1958, he went to the holy city of Qom for higher religious studies, and soon took up the study of jurisprudence and philosophy, benefiting from the knowledge of such prominent personalities as Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Hussein Boroujerdi, Imam Khomeini and Allamah Seyyed Mohammad Hussein Tabatabaie. When Imam Khomeini openly launched the campaign against the British-installed and US-backed Pahlavi regime, the young Seyyed Ali Khamenei joined the Islamic movement, as a dedicated follower of the great Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini.
In 1964, his father's illness forced him to return to Mashhad where he continued to expose to the people the evil Godless nature of the Pahlavi regime. As a result, he was arrested several times, imprisoned, tortured and exiled to remote areas for years. In 1978, with the start of the full-fledged Islamic movement of the Iranian people, under the leadership of Imam Khomeini, who was in exile in Iraq, the then Hojjatoleslam Khamenei enthusiastically joined the nation organizing rallies and speeches against domestic despotism and foreign hegemony. In 1979, with the return of Imam Khomeini from exile and the resounding victory of the Islamic Revolution, he came to Tehran and worked tirelessly to strengthen the Islamic foundations of the society.
A year later, following the death of Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Taleqani, he was appointed as the Friday Prayer Leader of Tehran by Imam Khomeini – a position which he still officially holds. The Friday Prayer platform at Tehran University which was the focus of the whole nation, showed to the world his religious knowledge, sagacity, and political acumen that were evident in his sermons. When the US imposed the 8-year war on Iran through Saddam in September 1980, he was appointed Imam Khomeini's representative to the Supreme Defence Council. In 1981, a terrorist bomb blast injured his right hand. Later in 1981, he won the presidential elections and became the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic. He retained the presidency in the 1985 elections, and in 1989, following the passing away of the Imam, Ayatollah Khamenei was selected as the new Leader of the Islamic Revolution.
Ayatollah Khamenei's personal piety and astute leadership of the country has endeared him not just to the Iranian nation, but to Muslims and other freedom-seeking peoples worldwide. It is worth noting that Article 5 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s constitution mentions the conditions for leadership as piety, religious authority, honesty, bravery, managerial qualities, and awareness of the issues of the day. Ayatollah Khamenei has practically displayed these characteristics for the past 22 years. His managerial qualities and foresight have helped resolve various political crises and tensions.
His deep awareness of world issues and political acumen have been instrumental in defending the rights and interests of the ummah worldwide, much to the chagrin of enemies of Islam and humanity, who have seen their plots and conspiracies foiled. World figures have acknowledged his insight and exceptional qualities. For instance, in 2000, Kofi Annan, the then UN Secretary-General, after a meeting with the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, said: “I felt, I never seen anyone like Ayatollah Khamenei. I was so impressed by his spiritual personality that I asked myself: why a person like me should be the UN Chief when I do not possess any such spiritual qualities? On meeting Mr. Khamenei I forgot all the personalities that I have ever met, including many spiritual figures of the world, who, in contrast to his political acumen, had no inkling of political issues.
Earlier in the late 1980s when Ecuador's Javier Perez de Cuelar, who as the UN Secretary-General paid a visit to Iran for discussions on ceasefire concerning Saddam's war, and met President Khamenei, he was full of admiration. After that meeting, De Cuelar said: I have a PhD in political science and as a career diplomat and UN Chief I have met many presidents and political personalities but so far I have never seen a figure as sharp and intelligent as President Khamenei.
Among the other qualities of Ayatollah Khamenei is his detachment from worldly wealth and power. He has remained untainted from the glamour of the world, while making dignity and humbleness as the hallmarks of his character. His house and home appliances are simple. His food is so simple with only one item seen on the tablecloth. While President of the Islamic Republic, whatever presents he used to receive from world leaders, he has donated to Astan-e Qods Razavi museum in holy Mashhad.
Ayatollah Khamenei has prohibited his children from political and economic activities. Hojatoleslam Ahmad Marvi who is the deputy head of the leader’s office, says: The leader has 4 children all of whom are theological students. Often I meet them and talk to them. They behave as all ordinary Iranian citizens and even give the impression that their father is an ordinary man.
For those politicians and leaders, immersed in the trappings of political power, wealth and the resulting financial and moral corruption, the simple and virtuous life of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and his family might appear as strange. But there is nothing to be surprised about, especially when sees that Imam Khomeini also led a very simple life. The fact is that these two great personalities modeled their life upon that of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) and Imam Ali (PBUH) in order to better serve God and humanity.