Twenty-Three Years after Imam Khomeini

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Twenty-Three Years after Imam Khomeini

I heard a visitor whom for sure had read the Imam’s humble remark, and in an answer whispered in tears: “O Imam! What shortcomings are you talking about? As far as we are concerned, you have been all goodness, purity and light”

Ibrahim Usman writes from Kaduna, Nigeria


“With a heart that is calm and confident; with a joyous soul and a conscience hopeful of God’s Graces, I take my leave from brothers and sisters, and journey to the eternal abode, and I very much need your good prayers. I ask the Benevolent God to accept my excuses for inadequate services, and I ask the nation to accept my excuses for my shortages and inadequacies and to move forward with force, determination and will”.


The above quotation is Imam Khomeini’s Last Message when the glorious Moment of Union with the Creator was nearing. He died June 3, 1989.


As I stood by Imam Khomeini’s holy shrine in Tehran four years ago, I heard a visitor whom for sure had read the Imam’s humble remark, and in an answer whispered in tears: “O Imam! What shortcomings are you talking about? As far as we are concerned, you have been all goodness, purity and light”. I detached myself from the multitude of Imam’s lovers who came from all over the world paying respect to this great man, to reflect on the last day of Imam Khomeini as narrated to me by a guide when I visited the Imam’s house and the hospital at Jamaran, where he breathed his last.


According to our tour guide, by means of a hidden camera installed in the hospital, daily account of the Imam’s hospitalization and his operation, and the Moment of Union, were recorded. Hour 22: 20 Saturday night of the 13th of Khordad 1368, equivalent to June 3, 1989, was the Moment of Union. Imam Khomeini’s lips moved constantly reciting God’s name. During the last night, while he had tolerated several major surgical operations and when several intravenous feeding needles had been attached to his body, the Imam was reciting superogatory prayers and the Holy Qur’an. His last hours were spent in heavenly calmness and repose, and constantly uttering testimony to the oneness of God, and the Prophetic mission of God’s Messenger Muhammad (P.B.U.H). It was in such state that his soul flew away to high heavens.  A heart that had enlightened millions of hearts with the light of God and morality, ceased to beat. 


The heavenly migration of Imam Khomeini twenty-one years now, left incurable burns on all hearts. Looking at the life of Imam Khomeini, it is true to say that he became a model for all peace lovers and freedom seekers all over the world.


Unlike those scholars of his time who used religion as opium for continued dominance, the Imam used religion as an energizer, a catalyst and a rallying point for revolution. This was completely strange and unthinkable in the twentieth century when the world was polarized between two superpowers and each country and individual was made to belong to a particular bloc. Imam Khomeini emphasized this in his book, Kashful Asrar (1941): “Religion is the only thing that dissuades mankind from treachery and crime”.


To achieve this seemingly impossible task, Imam Khomeini did not commit the mistakes that many Muslim activists and Mullahs committed and are still committing. He neither looked back for models, nor played into the hands of his enemies by adopting methods invented by them. The late Imam rejected as impossible and inappropriate the belief in a chain of revolutions through equipping and reinforcing guerrilla and underground groups, and through exhortation to setting bombs, staging assassinations. And even after success of the Islamic revolution, he declared that Iran did not intend to take over other countries. He however stressed a painful fact to the opponents that, “Our revolution is the explosion of light”. That was when the Imam talked about exporting the revolution worldwide.


He established a firm Islamic system in Iran without establishing a political party or a bureaucratically arranged organization with structures, hierarchy, membership registration or even secret guerilla army. Contrary to the hit and run form of jihad, the kind of jihad advocated by Imam Khomeini was in the form of open confrontation, protest and revolt with the chant of Allahu Akbar as the greatest weapon. He explained that, the success of the struggle lies in total sacrifice of all that Muslims possess, and that the sublime stage of the struggle was the attainment of martyrdom.  He saw martyrdom in God’s path as eternal honor, the pride of the saints, the key to happiness and the secret of victory as exemplified by Imam Hussain, grandson of the Prophet of Islam. Imam Khomeini turned clients of bars into attendants of Mosques and volunteers to war fronts to achieve martyrdom. He was a man who did not hide his mission to the world, “Our entire aim is Islam”, openly declared Imam Khomeini. He taught followers not to compromise their divine right, and that nothing short of an Islamic state is good and accepted by them.  The current Islamic Awakening in the Middle East and North Africa is the direct influence of the Khomeini-led revolution; the world became more awake and conscious that Islam is a political force to be reckoned with. The model of Iran’s Islamic Revolution is undoubtedly the catalyst of the current innovative and creative atmosphere of political discourse in confrontation with the hegemonic systems. The Imam regarded Islam as the complementary seal of all divine religions and the most excellent and comprehensive divine school of guidance. He emphasized: “Islam is the highest degree of civilization….Islamic laws are progressive, comprehensive and complementary….Islam itself has been one of the founders of world’s great civilization”.


To Imam Khomeini, Islam not a mere collection of rituals or individual’s personal relationship with his Lord, but a global revolutionary force for the eradication of injustice through total submission to the laws of Allah, the Creator and the Sustainer. This view was clearly spelt out in his historic letter to the then president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Imam Khomeini wrote: “Your Excellency, Gorbachev. One should turn to the truth. The basic problem of your country is not the issue of ownership, economics or liberty. Your problem is the absence of true faith in God-the source of all existence and creation; the same problem that has driven, or will drive, the West to worthlessness and dead end”. In the letter, Imam Khomeini also prophesized the downfall of communism where he says: “It is clear to all that from now on, communism must be looked up in the political history museum of the world, for Marxism has no answer to any of the real requirements of human beings. All because it is a materialist doctrine and with materialism mankind cannot be salvaged from the crisis of absence of faith in spiritualism- which is the most basic pain of human society in the West and in the East”.


Obviously, in the letter, a forecast is documented with clear warning that reveals Imam Khomeini’s keen and unprecedented evaluation of the political conditions of the day. He has been explicit in warning that the Russians were rolling over to the pseudo-green gardens of Western capitalism, and being deceived by the U.S. through the letter, he presented the most profound analysis of the current Soviet changes and interpreted them as “the sound of bones of Communism breaking up”.   


In his book Kashful Asrar, the Imam dismissed the idea that Islam is devoid of a political system.  He explained that, the Holy Prophet (SAW) who was a ruler not only explained and conveyed the rules but also strictly applied them.  His Caliphs were not only lawgivers but also law – enforcers. He further explains: “The Qur’anic verses concerned with the issues of society are many times more than the verses about Ibadat”. He also said there are more chapters in books of Hadith dealing with social and economic issues, human rights and society’s administration than those dealing with Ibadat. Through this and other methods, Imam Khomeini presented Islam as a New World view to the disgruntled and disenchanted university youths that were fed up with the impractical ideological jargons of the West and East.  He translated the Islamic worldview and attitude into a practical programme, which led to the success of the revolution in Iran.  To achieve this, he had to switch from the more common religious topics that other Islamic Scholars of his time were discussing to more serious ones that bordered on their rights and freedom.


The late Ayatollah strictly followed the traditional method in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) to instill in the Muslim Ummah, as a reminder, that as Muslims they have a duty and obligation to their Creator (Allah), and to humanity. Another important method used by Imam Khomeini was the exposition of the machination of the U.S. and its allies in Iran through the Shah regime. At one time, Imam Khomeini was reported to have warned the Super Powers: “If the global powers stand against our deen (religion), we will stand against their dunya (world)”. Imam Khomeini was not in the category of those ascetic scholars who hide in water tight seminaries but to those revolutionary clerics who pray at night and hunt imperialism during the day. This is the pledge of a lone brave warrior who took the world by surprise and set standard for global Islamic revival: “Never will Khomeini sit still and be silent in the face of the violation of the sanctities of the Holy Qur’an, the Prophet’s Blessed Household and the Umma of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.A.) and the followers of the Upright Ibrahim by the evil-natured people, the polytheists and the unbelievers, nor will Khomeini bear to witness the scenes of humiliation and misery of the Muslims. I am prepared to sacrifice my unworthy life for fulfilling the necessary duty as well as the right and the obligation to defend the Muslims, and await the great triumph of martyrdom. The powers and superpowers as well as their lackeys must be rest assured that even if Khomeini remains lonely and by himself, he will continue his path, which is fighting disbelief, oppression, and idolatry and polytheism.”


He also charged the Muslims not to hesitate in undertaking these divine duties for fear of whatever form of domination from the so called Super Powers over their lives: “I tell you, faithful brothers, if we get wiped off the face of the earth by the treasonous hands of the USA and the Soviet Union, and with our red blood, meet our God in honor, it is far better than living lavishly under the red flag of the Red Army of the East or the Black Army of the West”.


He encouraged the Muslims to liberate themselves from the pain and shackles of slavery and imperialism, and also champion the cause of the oppressed throughout the world: “Our antipathy is the call of the poverty-stricken and the destitute, the starving and the deprived masses, and of the barefoot, the product of whose hard work and daily drudgery are being plundered by international bandits, who are busy sucking the blood of poor nations, the workers and the toilers, in the name of capitalism, socialism and communism, and have transferred the life blood of the world economy to themselves, and have prevented the people from attaining their deserved rights. I kiss the hands and arms of all the dear people who, all over the world, are shouldering the weight of the challenge and are determined to crusade in the path of God and enhance the honor of Islam", said Imam Khomeini. All his life he became very closer to this category of people, and held them so dear. He spent his blessed life among the poor fasting and praying in total submission to Allah, the Almighty. 


Imam Khomeini was a Gnostic of the highest order. I was totally immersed in great though at the austere nature of Imam Khomeini when I visited his house in Jamaran, Tehran. The 3 x 4 meter room where he spent his last days served as a bedroom and living room- all in one. A wooden couch that served as his chair and bed, copy of Qur’an, a prayer rug and an ordinary radio.  He met with world leaders, the country's clergy, ministers and other important visitors in this tiny room. The presentation of Gorbachev’s response to Imam Khomeini’s historic letter by the then Soviet foreign minister Shevardnadze, took place in the room.


During his entire life, whether alone, in estrangement or in exile or, during his religious and political leadership, until the moment of his heavenly departure, the Imam did not abandon his simple and pure living, and never thought of changing his way of life in respect to this world’s high positions, no matter how great these might have been. 


During his childhood days, Imam Khomeini was identified as a self-made person and one refined in manner. Well known for his virtues in all aspects, he insisted on the performance of religious rites and strict adherence to Islamic tenets. As part of effort to achieve this, he laid emphasis on mortification of the flesh, self-denial and maintenance of strict discipline in everything. Unlike many scholars of the time, Imam Khomeini was a committed and responsible leader abreast of his time and well aware of the difficulties of the society. In the field of knowledge, Imam Khomeini was well versed in all branches of the intellectual and traditional sciences. He was an authority in the fields of astronomy, philosophy and mysticism. He started teaching philosophy at the age of 27, while he has written many books in almost all-religious subjects. He wrote books on ethics, mysticism, jurisprudence, principles, politics and social issues.


Imam Khomeini is the leader of all times, he lives. During the Imam Khomeini conference 2009 by the Ahlul Bayt Islamic Mission in London, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sayyed Ibraheem Yaqub Zakzaky said this of Imam Khomeini: “The entire world needs only one Khomeini and it has one! The world only needs to follow the teachings of Imam Khomeini. You cannot talk of Imam Khomeini as being a former leader, he is still the leader.” The vision of Imam Khomein will be cherished and preserved by generations to come.  His call for freedom and justice for mankind will echo throughout the world, now and forever.