Birthday of the Sage of the Age

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20th of the month of Jamadi al-Akher, the auspicious birth anniversary of the Most Noble Lady of all times, Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA), the Immaculate Daughter of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) happens to be birthday last century of the man who changed the destiny of Iran and the contemporary world. He was a descendent of this Greatest-ever Lady, and he strove so diligently in her path to revive Islamic values and restore to women their rightful position that today 24 years after his departure from the mortal world, the name Seyyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, inspires the seekers of truth and freedom all over the globe.

Imam Khomeini was born in the year 1902, in the small town of Khomein, some 160 kilometers to the southwest of the holy city of Qom. His family, descended from the Prophet’s 7th Infallible Heir, Imam Musa Kazem (AS), had a long tradition of religious scholarship. He was firm and steadfast against oppression and oppressor from his early childhood. Once when a local clan leader by the name of Rajab Ali tried to raid the town of Khomein, the young Ruhollah was obliged to take up a rifle together with his brothers to defend the family home. When recounting these events many years later, the Imam remarked, “I have been at war (against oppression) since my childhood.” Among the scenes, he witnessed during his youth and that remained in his memory to help shape his later political activity mention may also be made of the arbitrary and oppressive deeds of landowners and provincial governors. Thus, he recalled in later years how a newly arrived governor had arrested and bastinadoed the chief of the merchants’ guild of Gulpaygan for no other purpose than the intimidation of its citizens.

Imam Khomeini began his education by memorizing the holy Qur’an while still a boy of four years, and by the age of seven, he became a hafez or memorizer. He next embarked on the study of Arabic and soon mastered grammar and syntax. In 1920 he travelled to the city of Arak (or Sultanabad, as it was then known) in order to pursue his higher education, since the city had become a centre of learning because of the presence of Ayatullah Abdul-Karim Ha’eri. A year later he travelled to Qom, where Ayatollah Ha’eri had moved his school. This move was the first important turning point in his life. It was in Qom that he received all his advanced spiritual and intellectual training, and he was to retain a deep sense of identification with the city throughout the rest of his life. It is possible, indeed, although not in a reductive sense, to describe him as a product of Qom. In 1980, when addressing a group of visitors from Qom, he declared, “Wherever I may be, I am a citizen of Qom, and take pride in the fact. My heart is always with Qom and its people.”

Imam Khomeini represents a great current in history. His name is synonymous with Islamic movement and is something fresh and everlasting. It is impossible to separate the ideas of the Late Imam and the movement he generated in view of what is taking place all over the Islamic world and beyond. The Imam’s idea and path are alive and invigorating. He embodied such noble characteristics, on the basis of which he generated the tidal wave of the Islamic revolution and revived in people the spirit of truth, justice, liberty, brotherhood, self sacrifice and defense of righteousness. Even non-Muslims were greatly impressed by the dynamic personality of Imam Khomeini. Here we present an anecdote from the life of the man who led the Islamic Revolution to victor and threw into the dustbin of history not just the tyrannical Pahlavi regime but also delivered Iran from the hegemony of the US. French physician, Dr. Louie, who was in his teens in the closing months of 1978, when the Imam made the Paris suburb of Nuephle Le Chateauas his temporary residence prior to his historic return from exile to Tehran, says, “That day when my father returned home from work he angrily took off his coat, sat on the sofa and said, “This year I have been stalked by misfortune. On one hand the company is facing bankruptcy and on the other, our suburb has lost its peace.” My mother consoled him saying, “Don’t worry, it is said that Imam Khomeini will leave within some days to Iran, so this place will become tranquil soon.” Louie adds, “I was curious to see this great religious leader of Iran who was in our neighbourhood. I joined reporters who were daily converging on the area and went to the edge of the orchard where Imam Khomeini was staying. I saw an old but enlightened man in robes sitting cross-legged under a shady tree and talking in cool and calm voice. An aura of spirituality oozed from him. I did not realise how quickly that hour passed. I returned home in state of ecstasy and enthusiasm on having seen this divine person.”

Dr Louie continues, “I told my father that if he wanted to see a personality who inspired the same feelings as Jesus (PBUH), than he should come and hear Imam Khomeini.” My father was at first indifferent and said there was no difference since all priests have the same resemblance. I finally managed to convince my father and the next day we went together to see this great spiritual leader from Iran. Imam Khomeini’s punctuality very much impressed me. He came on time and sat at the usual place where he used to meet the press. All stood up as a sign of respect to this great Ayatollah. He soon started speaking. Translators were on hand to render his speech into French. Minutes later, I looked at my father’s face. He was listening carefully. There was a glint in his eyes and it was apparent that he was very much impressed by Imam Khomeini. A few days later it was Christmas. We sat for the celebrations, when the doorbell suddenly rang. My father went towards the door and I followed him. A man with a bouquet of flowers and package of confectionery was standing at the door. He greeted us cheerfully and handed to my father the bouquet and the confectionery, saying, “This is a present from Imam Khomeini.” He congratulated us on the birthday of Jesus and apologized in a courteous manner if he had disturbed our Christmas celebration. My father thanked the man and stood amazed at all this love and affection from a Muslim divine.”

This was a practical lesson from the Marja’ or the Source of Emulation of the time for all devout Muslims as to how we should conduct ourselves during this festive season when the followers of other religions are celebrating their festive day, especially when the object of their adoration is the Prophet of God, Jesus (PBUH). Should we just say, ‘this festival is not for me, or it does not relate to me or I am not interested in it, etc. or should we use this occasion for Tabligh or missionary work and portray to the world how beautifully Allah has described the blessed virgin of Prophet Jesus and the spiritual status of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary in the holy Qur’an?’ It is said that this one incident inspired not only Dr Louie but also many others in France to investigate and conduct research on Islam and especially the school of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt. Perhaps this was the reason that God decreed the birth of Ruhollah Khomeni on the birth anniversary of Hazrat Fatema Zahra (SA). On establishing the dynamic system of the Islamic Republic in Iran, among his unique measures to restore the dignity of the human being in the face of the oppressive powers and their oppressive laws, was putting women back on the pedestal of respect and honour in society by restoring the freedom of Hijab that enables them to be active in all spheres of society without being bothered by distraction from others.

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