Who was he: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was an Iranian spiritual leader and politician. In 1979, Khomeini was the leader of the Iranian Revolution, which overthrew Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Khomeini was then appointed the nation's Supreme Leader, a position created in the constitution as the highest ranking political and religious authority in the nation. He was Leader until death.
Khomeini was a marja, a Grand Ayatollah, in Twelver Shi'a Islam. He is most famous for his role in politics. In his texts, Khomeini extended the Shi'a Usuli theory of the guardianship of the jurisconsult/clerical authority to include theocratic political rule by Islamic jurists.
Khomeini was described abroad as the 'virtual face in Western popular culture of Islam.' He supported the hostage takers during the Iranian hostage crisis and called for the death of British national Sayyid Salman Rushdie. Khomeini was referred to as an appealing leader of vast admiration and considered a champion of Islamic renewal by Shia scholars.
There are suspicions about Ayatollah Khomeini as well. Like Lenin, he was sheltered in France before he flew back into Iran to take over the revolution. Khomeini's father may have been British intelligence and the Ayatollah supposedly made derogatory comments about the Iranians to journalists on the flight back to Iran.
One theory is that Khomeini was cultivated as a kind of controlled opposition. His return to Iran created the beginnings of a cold war between Islam and the West. When it comes to war, Western elites like to control both sides of the fight. Thus it would be no surprise that at the very topmost levels of the Iranian government there is less hostility to the West than now appears. Such is speculation, of course – or is it?
Background: Ayatollah As-Sayyid Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini was born on September 24th, 1902 in Khomein, Persia. Ruhollah Khomeini started study of the Qur'an, Islam's holiest book, and basic Persian at the age of six. The next year, Khomeini began to attend a local school, where he was instructed in religion, noheh khani, and other traditional subjects. During his adolescence, Khomeini continued his religious education with the assistance of his relatives, which included his mother's cousin, Ja'far, and his elder brother, Morteza Pasandideh.
Following World War I, preparations were made for him to study at the Islamic seminary in Esfahan, but the seminary in Arak appealed to Khomeini more. He was put under the leadership of Ayatollah Abdul Karim Haeri Yazdi and in 1920, Khomeini relocated to Arak and began his studies. The following year, Ayatollah Haeri Yazdi transferred to the Islamic seminary located in the holy city of Qom, southwest of Tehran. He invited his pupils to accompany him. Ruhollah Khomeini accepted the offer. Khomeini then moved and took up housing at the Dar al-Shafa school in Qom.
Khomeini's studies encompassed Islamic law, known as Sharia, and jurisprudence. However, by the time of the move, Khomeini had also developed an interest in poetry and philosophy. So upon arrival in Qom, Khomeini sought the direction of Mirza Ali Akbar Yazdi, an academic specializing in philosophy and mysticism. Yazdi died in 1924, but Khomeini continued to pursue his interest in philosophy with two other instructors, named Javad Aqa Maleki Tabrizi and Rafi'i Qazvini. But Khomeini's principal influences were another teacher, Mirza Muhammad 'Ali Shahabadi, as well as a diverse group of historic Sufi mystics that included Mulla Sadra and Ibn Arabi.
Ruhollah Khomeini was a public speaker at Najaf and Qum seminaries for decades before he became a part of the political scene. Khomeini very quickly became a leading scholar of Shia Islam. He taught political philosophy, Islamic history and ethics. A number of his pupils later became leading Islamic philosophers and also marja, in their own right.
As an academic and as an instructor, Khomeini produced copious amounts of texts on Islamic philosophy, law and ethics. He revealed an extraordinary interest in topics such as philosophy and Gnosticism that were not only typically lacking from the curriculum of seminaries, but that were frequently an object of hostility and suspicion. Ayatollah Khomeini died on June 3rd, 1989 in Tehran, Iran.