The Office of the Supreme Leader

Biography

Biography

Childhood

Ayatullah Haajj Sayyid Ali Khamenei is the son of the late Ayatullah Sayyid Jawad Husaini Khamenei. He was born in Mashhad on the 17th of July 1939, which coincides with the 28th of Safar 1358 Hijri Qamari (lunar year). He was the second son of his parents, born into the house of Sayyid Jawad who lived a very simple life, like many of the scholars of his time, and it was from him that the family learned to live in a humble manner.
Remembering his life in his father’s home Ayatullah Khamenei says:
"My father was a well known religious scholar who was very pious and a bit of a recluse. We had a difficult life. I remember that sometimes at night we didn’t have anything in the house for dinner. Nevertheless my mother would try to scrape something up and that dinner would be bread- and-raisins."
"My father’s house - the one that I was born in and lived until about the age of four or five - was about a sixty to seventy square meter home located in the poor area of Mashhad. The house only had one room and a gloomy basement. Whenever a guest came to see my father - his idea was that a religious scholar’s home is a place where people come to seek help - we had to go to the basement until they left. Some years later a group of people who were very inclined to and friendly with my father bought a small empty lot beside our house so that he could build onto the house, and so we ended up with a three room house."
The Leader of the Islamic Revolution grew up poor but religious, and as his father was a pious and sincere religious scholar he was trained accordingly. At the age of four, along with his older brother Sayyid Muhammad, he was sent to an old fashioned school (Maktab) to learn the alphabets and Qur’an. Hence the two brothers were enrolled into a newly established Islamic school named Dar al- Ta`leem Diyanat, where the completed their primary studies.
During his time in high school he studied the book Jam e` al- Muqaddamaat, whereupon he began his studies in Arabic grammar. Later, after high school, he transferred to seminary studies and was taught Arabic grammar and other primary seminary studies by his father and other religious scholars of the time. Reflecting upon his reason for taking this path - the path of a religious scholar, Ayatullah Khamenei said:
"The factor which inspired me to choose the enlightened path of a religious scholar was my father; my mother also encouraged me (to choose this path), as she was very fond of the idea."
Ayatullah Khamenei studied books such as Jame` al-Muqaddamaat, Suyuti, and Mughni in the Sulayman Khan Madrasah [religious school] and the Nawwab Madrasah in addition to his father’s supervision. He also studied the book Mu`alim while attending those schools. Later he studied Sharai` al-Islam and Sharh Lum`ah with his father, and a part of the second book with the late Aqah Mirza Mudarris Yazdi. He studied Rasa’el and Makasib with the late hajj Sheikh Hashim Qazwini and the remaining intermediate level studies jurisprudence and its principles (fiqh and usul) with his father. In this manner he finished the intermediate level of studies in an unprecedented of and zealous fashion within five and a half years. Moreover, his father the late Sayyid Jawad played an important role in the progress of his son.
In the fields of Logic and philosophy, The Grand Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatullah Khamenei, begin his studies of the Manzumah of Sabziwari under the late Ayatullah Mirza Jawad Aqah Tehrani and later he completed that book under the late Sheikh Ridha Aysi.

At the age of eighteen, Ayatullah Khamenei began studying the highest level - Darsi Kharij - of jurisprudence and its principles under the late grand Marja` Ayatullah al-Uzma Milani in Mashhad. In 1957 with the intention of visiting the majestic holy places he left for Najaf. Upon observing the situation in Najaf and attending the lessons Darsi kharij of the late Sayyid Muhsin Hakim, Sayyid Mahmud Shahrudi, Mirza Baqir Zanjani, Sayyid Yahya Yazdi, and Mirza Hasan Bujnurdi he decided to remain in the Islamic seminary of Najaf; however, his father did not accept this decision and thus after a short period he returned to Iran.

From 1958 until 1964 Ayatullah Khamenei continued his higher level studies in jurisprudence, and philosophy in the Islamic seminary of Qom. There he sat at the feet of grand teachers such as the late Ayatullah al-Uzma Burujerdi, Imam Khomeini, Sheikh Murtadha Hae’ri Yazdi, and `Allama Tabataba’i. In 1343, through a series of letters from his father, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution became aware that his father had become blind in one eye because of a cataract; this gave him a dilemma as to whether to stay on in Qom and continue his studies or to return to Mashhad and take care of his father. He, later came to the decision for Allah’s sake, to leave Qom and return to Mashhad to care for his father, in remembrance of this event he says:
"When I returned to Mashhad Allah blessed me as I took care of my affairs. If I have been successful in life, I believe that it all stems from this good deed that I did for my father; indeed, for both my father and mother."
Ayatullah Khamenei selected the better of the two choices, although some of his teachers and friends expressed remorse as to his leaving the Islamic seminary of Qom; they predicted that he would have had a bright future had he stayed. Nevertheless, the future clearly showed that he made the right choice, as his destiny had something better in store for him - more than what his teachers did and friends could imagine. Could anyone have imagined that a young capable scholar at the age of 25 years old would leave Qom for the pleasure of Allah to care for his father and mother, and 25 years later would hold the grand office of Wali Amru’l- Muslimin [The Guardian of Muslim Affairs].
While in Mashhad he did not leave his studies all together. Rather, he continued his lessons in jurisprudence and its principles under grand teachers such as Ayatullah Milani until 1968 - only interrupting his lessons on holidays, to do political activity, while in jail or to travel. From the time he had returned to Mashhad in 1964, while caring for his parents he would also teach jurisprudence and its principles and other religious subjects to young seminary and university students.

Political campaign

Ayatullah Khamenei in his own words is one of the students of Imam Khomeini in the areas of jurisprudence and its principles, and in revolutionary and political ideas. However, the first spark of his political activism and hatred for oppression was inspired by the great revolutionist and Martyr Sayyid Mujtaba Nawwab Safawi. It was in the year 1952 that Nawwab Safawi and some of his supporters went to Mashhad to the Sulayman Khan Madrasah. There he delivered a dynamic lecture on reviving Islam and its Divine Rule and he warned the Iranian people of the deceitful lies of the Shah and the English government. At the time, Ayatullah Khamenei was one of the young students of the Sulayman Khan Madrasah who attended the fiery speech of Nawwab Safawi and he was very much influenced by the great revolutionist. Ayatullah Khamenei remembers that moment, saying:

"It was at that very moment, because of Nawwab Safawi that the consciousness of Islamic Revolutionary activism sparked inside me. I have no doubt that it Nawwab Safawi who first kindled the fire (of revolutionary Islam) in my heart."

In 1962 while Ayatullah Khamenei was still in Qom he joined the revolutionary Movement of Imam Khomeini, which opposed the pro-American, anti-Islamic politics of Muhammad Reza Shah. Despite all the ups and downs, persecutions, exiles, and imprisonment Ayatullah Khamenei fearlessly continued on this path for sixteen years.

In Moharram 1383 Hijri Qamari [May 1963], for the first time, Ayatullah Khamenei was sent on a mission by Imam Khomeini. This mission was to communicate the Imam’s message to Ayatullah Milani and other clergymen in Khorasan. This message was to set the tone for the propagation and exposure of the pro-American policies of Muhammad Reza Shah in the month of Moharram.

Khamenei fulfilled this mission and also acted upon its demands, as he was sent to Birjand for propagation in Muharram. As a result of his propagation on the ninth of Moharram (June, 2, 1963) he was arrested. He spent one night in jail and freed only under the condition that he would never return to the pulpit (minbar) to speak again. From that moment on he knew that he would be under police surveillance. Upon the development of the bloody incident of ‘The Fifteenth of Khordad’, Ayatullah Khamenei was taken into custody in Birjand , and then transferred to a prison in Mashhad where he spent ten days under severe torture before being released.

In January 1964 - i.e. Ramadhan 1383 according to a well-organized plan, Ayatullah Khamenei and some of his friends left for Kerman. After two or three days of preaching and visiting religious scholars and students in Kerman they departed for Zahedan. Their preaching and their emphatic way of exposing the Shah’s hypocritical referendum was well accepted among the masses, especially on the 6th of January when it was election time. On the fifteenth of Ramadhan, the birthday of Imam al-Hasan (peace be upon him), his diligent preaching and public disclosure of the satanic, American politics of the Pahlavi Dynasty reached its peak. As a result of this, Savak [The Shah’s intelligence Agency] came and arrested him in the night - that night they took him by airplane to Tehran. The grand leader spent about two months in solitary confinement bearing various types of tortures.

The lessons he held on exegesis of the Qur’an, prophetic, and Islamic ideology in Mashhad and Tehran were warmly welcomed by revolutionary - minded youth. Because of this Savak began to keep a close surveillance on Ayatullah Khamenei. In the year 1967 Ayatullah Khamenei was forced to live underground, but exactly one-year later he was captured by Savak and imprisoned. In the year 1371 he was again arrested by Savak for the very same activities for - holding classes and conducting enlightening, intellectual discussions.

Ayatullah Khamenei writes about his fifth apprehension by Savak, saying:

"From the year 1348 [1970] the situation was ripening for an armed revolution in Iran. The sensitivity and severity of the former regime against me had increased. Because of the circumstances they were no longer able to ignore people such as myself. In 1350 [1972] I was again taken to prison, for the fifth time. The harsh attitude of Savak indicated that the System (regime) was very afraid of an armed revolution being accompanied with a sound Islamic ideology. They could no longer believe that my intellectual activism and propagation in Mashhad and Tehran had nothing to do with the developing situation. After being released, the attendance at my open classes on the exegesis of the Qur’an and private classes on ideology and other subjects increased."

years 1972 and 1975 Ayatullah Khamenei’s lessons on the exegesis of the Qur'an and Islamic ideology were now being held in three Masajids - karaamat, Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Mirza Ja`far - in the holy city of Mashhad. Thousands of people attended these lessons, especially conscious - minded youth and politically - active students.

His lectures on the Nahjul Balaqa offered another type of experience in a different way. These lectures were transcribed and published in a circular named ‘Poly copy’ under the title ‘The Glorious Nahjul al-Balaqah’. The young revolutionary minded students who were taught the reality and true meaning of struggle by Ayatullah Khamenei were very diligent in spreading this ideology to the masses in nearby cities. This action cause Savak to break into his home in Mashhad in the winter of 1975 arresting him and confiscating many of his notes and other writings. This was the sixth and most difficult imprisonment in Ayatullah Khamenei’s life. He was detained in the central prison of Iran until the fall of 1976 under the most stringent conditions. Ayatullah Khamenei describes the severity of the condition of that prison saying, "such conditions only made sense to those people."

After being released from prison Ayatullah Khamenei returned to Mashhad where he continued his political / revolutionary activities although he was not able to reestablish his classes as they were before.

The illegitimate Pahlavi regime in the latter part of the year 1976 apprehended Ayatullah Khamenei and sentenced him to exile in Iranshahr for a period of three years. By mid 1979, during the climax of civil unrest in Iran, he returned to Mashhad where he confronted the bloodthirsty Pahlavi regime. Fifteen years later after bearing all the harsh and bitter moments of the Islamic revolution, Ayatullah Khamenei witnessed the fall of tyrannical Pahlavi regime and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

On the brink of victory for the Islamic revolution - before the advent of Imam Khomeini’s return to Iran from Paris - an Islamic Revolutionary Council was formed by the Imam. This counsel consisted of important personalities such as Shaheed Muttahari, Shaheed Beheshti, and Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ayatullah Khamenei’s upon Imam Khomeini’ decree became a member of this counsel. Thereupon, after receiving this message through Shaheed Muttahari, Ayatullah Khamenei left Mashhad and went to Tehran

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution Ayatullah Khamenei continued to be very active in working for Islam and fulfilling the goals of the Islamic revolution. The tasks that he performed in those times and until now are unparalleled and without an equal, however though in this brief biography we can only mention the most important of these tasks. A chronological list of Ayatullah Khamenei’s services to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the victory of the Islamic revolution is as follows:
February 1979 - One of the founders of the Islamic Republic party along with like-minded scholar such as Shaheed Beheshti, Shaheed Bahunar, Musawi Ardebili, and Hashemi Rafsanjani.
1980 - Secretary of Defense.
1980 - Supervisor of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
1980 - Leader of the Friday Congregational Prayer.
1980 - The Tehran Representative in the Consultative Assembly.
1981 - Imam Khomeini’s Representative in the High Security Council.
1981 - Actively presents at the war front during the imposed war between Iran and Iraq.
1982 - Assassination attempt by the hypocrites on his life in the Abuthar masjid in Tehran.
1982 - Elected President of the Islamic Republic of Iran after martyrdom of Shaheed Muahmmad Ali Raja’i. This was his first term in office; all together he served two terms in office, which lasted until 1990.
1982 - chairman of the High Council of Revolution Culture Affairs.
1988 - President of the Expedience Council.
1990 - Chairman of the Constitution Revisal Comity.
1990 - Ayatullah Khamenei became the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran by choice of the Council of Experts, after the demise of Imam Khomeini.

Written work

Here, we will mention briefly some of the written works composed by Ayatullah Khamenei.
His Writings and Research Work:
1- A Complete Overview of Islamic Thought in the Qur’an.
2- The Profundity of Prayer.
3- A Discourse on Patience.
4- The Four Major Book Concerning the Biographic of Traditionalist.
5- Wilaayat - Guardianship
6- A Glimpse at the History and Previous State of the Islamic Seminary of Mashhad.
7- A Biography of the Shi’ite Imams (Peace be upon them).
8- Imam Saadiq (Peace be upon him).
7- Unity and Political Parties.
8- Art in the Viewpoint of Ayatullah Khamenei.
9- Understanding Islam Correctly.
10- The Discourse of Wilaayat.
Translations (from Arabic to Persian):
1- The Peace treaty of Imam Hasan (Peace be upon him).
2- The Future from an Islamic perspective.
3- Muslims in the Liberation of India.
4- Petition Against the Western Civilization.

Leadership

Having suffered from an almost long illness, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who revived Islam in the materialist and dark world of twentieth century, the late Imam Khomeini (q.) traveled to Allah the Almighty with a confident heart and a peaceful mind. The people felt so deep sorrow and grief as if they could not believe what had happened. After expecting such an event for years, the arrogant malicious enemy thought naively that it approached its goal. However, two important factors contributed to bring about defeat, despair, and humiliation for the enemy; yet happiness and promise for the believers and the oppressed:

Participation of ten million mourners in the most splendid funeral procession changed the will of millions of the people for maintaining the achievements of the Islamic Revolution and expression of their loyalty and love for, and their obedience to, the leader of revolution into a powerful storm which swept away the enemy’s hope, similar to Tabas storm which smashed aircrafts of the raiders.

Beside this amazing participation of sorrowful mourners, an extraordinary session of the Assembly of Experts and its rapid decisive decision-making as well as its correct and suitable vote provided the Islamic Revolution with a trustworthy, pious, brave and intelligent leader highly skilful in management. In fact, the revolution and the nation were not left without leader - as a source of hope - even for a day and the prevailing bless of Allah made that surprising unprecedented participation fruitful.

The late Imam Khomeini (q.) had stipulated in his divine political will that either his son, Hajj Ahmad or the president should recite it. Upon Hajj Ahmad’s rejection, His Eminence Ayatollah Khamenei recited it in the Assembly of Experts for millions of agonized astonished Iranians as well as millions of foreigners receiving the program through satellite. During the recitation, he was choked with tears several times. Yet having controlled his feeling, he let the public know the last everlasting recommendations of Imam Khomeini (q.). The loyal, devoted, conscious, and revolutionary people of Iran offered an unprecedented and the most excellent funeral to Imam Khomeini (q.) who saved them from the dark age of devils. Besides mourning day and night, crying and hitting their heads and chests around the newly built shrine of their great master, guide, and leader; they spared no effort to swear loyalty and allegiance to their new leader and to support deserving decision taken by the Assembly of Experts. By meeting their new leader, they prevented foreign enemy and its domestic mercenaries from any conspiracy and evil thought. The participation of people in their great leader’s farewell crystallized the most beautiful insights and mottoes. It also manifested, through poems and images of cameras, the homage of a nation to its great marji‘, who lived a pious life and obeyed Allah in freeing this nation and the oppressed of the world as a whole from obedience and servitude for arrogant tyrants. His Eminence Ayatollah Khamenei literarily describes heart-rending event of that day and the people’s participation as follows:

"That day became a big day of mourning for the world of Islam. The heart-rending effect of this grief did not remain exclusive to the Iranian nation. All over the world, wherever there was an enlightened heart or a conscious soul, it was overtaken by this tragic event. Every Muslim aware of revolution and its issues was mourner. There were no place on the Earth but in which some people were overwhelmed by sorrow for this important happening and lamented this irreparable loss. The whole Iran became a house of mourning. In every city and village in it, sorrowful crying echoed in each and every house and was heard in all streets, squares, and quarters. No one could bear it in silence. Individuals ranging from the braves at battlefields, the parents who had no sign of sorrow or helplessness on their face after martyrdom of their youth, great men in fields of science, mysticism and politics to all citizens of this great nation, all cried, moaned and groaned, or impatiently hit their heads and chests.

The catastrophe of missing Imam was so much great as he was. Other than Allah and His lovers, who can perceive this glory? In a place where great hearts cannot stand, in a scene that millions of people lose their patience and great personalities wander, which tongue or pen can depict the situation?

As an impatient drop in that turbulent ocean, how can I describe it? The universe missed its unique item and the Earth contained an exclusive jewel. A great pioneer of Islam who spent his honorable life in exalting Islam bade farewell to the world."

A few months to the end of his second term of presidency, His Eminence was preparing himself to abandon this responsibility:

"Before the demise of Hazrat Imam, the term of presidency was getting over. I was getting prepared to leave. Frequently, some people referred to me suggesting some jobs. Irresponsible men thought those jobs would fit me! However, I answered, ‘if Imam makes it wajib for me to do a certain job, I will do it as Imam’s order is an obligation. Otherwise, I will ask Imam not to oblige me so that I can engage myself in cultural works. I will pursue this kind of jobs.’ "

However, Allah, the Wise, had destined for this nation and His Eminence Ayatollah Khamenei something else. With the demise of Hazrat Imam (q.), this destiny was materialized. The leader had not accepted a post unless it was a divine duty. He did the same in regard with the office of leadership (i.e. he did not think about it, let alone take a single step for it).

He says,"I did not expect, even for a second in my life, what happened in the process of being elected as new leader in which this responsibility was put on my shoulder as a humble and weak servant of Allah. If someone thinks that it occurred to me even for a second at the time of struggle, later during the revolution, or during my term of presidency that this responsibility would be delegated to me, he is wrong. I always considered my level too low to accept not only this highly significant and crucial post but also much lower posts like presidency and other posts, which I held during the revolution.

Once I told Imam (q.) that sometimes my name is cited among some gentlemen while I am like common people. I did not say it as a matter of courtesy. Now, I maintain the same thing. Therefore, this even was not imaginable at all.

Of course, we had very sensitive hours, the most serious hours of our lives. Allah knows what we experienced that night and the Saturday morning. To fulfill their duty, brothers were strenuously thinking and working to tidy the affairs up. Frequently, they talked about me as a member of leadership council although I rejected it in my mind. However, it was possible that they would delegate it to me.

Then I sought refuge to Allah. The next day, before the Assembly of Experts started its work, I cried and supplicated to Allah earnestly, ‘My Lord, you plan and predestinate the affairs. As a member of leadership council, I may become responsible. I implore you, in case this post is going to be a little bit harmful for my religion and for me in the Day of Judgment, to prevent its realization.’ Really, from the bottom of my heart, I wanted not to take this responsibility.

Finally, after some debates and talks in the Assembly of Experts, they voted for me. There I tried, debated, and reasoned to prevent the vote but they voted.

Even now, I consider myself as a common religious student without any outstanding feature or special advantage, not only for this great office of significant responsibility – as I said sincerely – but also for much less important ones like presidency, etc delegated to me during that ten years. However, now that they voted for me to bear its burden and responsibility, I accept it vigorously similar to what Allah advised His prophets, “Take it rigorously”. To discharge it vigorously to the extent I can – as divine duty corresponds to one’s ability – I entreat Allah’s help so that I would maintain the great status of this office. This is my duty and I hope – if Allah wants – to be exposed to His blessing and mercy and to be one of those for whom Wali – ‘asr (May Allah make his reappearance sooner) and pious believers pray."

The late Imam Khomeini(q.), enjoying divine insight, considered Hazrat Ayatollah Khamenei thoroughly competent for leadership as far as capabilities and piety are concerned. Several times, the late Imam Khomeini (q.) mentioned this fact explicitly or implicitly.
His son, the late Hujjat al-Islam, Hajj Sayyid Ahmad said:

"When Ayatollah Khamenei was visiting North Korea, the late Imam watched the T.V. reports including a large number of people who gathered to welcome him, as well as his marvelous speeches and debates. Then he said that Ayatollah Khamenei really deserves to be a leader."

Addressing Ayatollah Khamenei, after he was elected as leader, Hajj Sayyid Ahmad said, “The late Imam Khomeini, several times, referred to you as a proved mujtahid and the best one for leadership.”

Hujjat al-Islam Hashemi Rafsanjani quotes another event: "In a meeting in which the late Imam, the heads of executive, judiciary and legislative branches, the prime minister (Mr. Mousavi), and Hajj Sayyid Ahmad were present; we told Imam that if it happens, we will face problem of lacking leader in case of observing the constitution. His Eminence answered, “You will face no problem as you have someone to become leader.” I asked, “Whom do you mean?” In presence of Ayatollah Khamenei, he answered, “Ayatollah Khamenei”".

Mrs. Zahra Mustafavi, the beloved daughter of Imam Khomeini (q.) says: "Long time before dismissal of the successor of leadership, I, personally asked about leadership and the late Imam answered Ayatollah Khamenei. I asked whether being a marji‘ and the most knowledgeable are the requirements. The late Imam answered, no. I asked about his level of knowledge. The Imam explicitly said, “He enjoys that level of ijtihad required to be a wali al-faqih.”"

In the extraordinary session of the Assembly of Experts held after the demise of Imam Khomeini (R.), they discussed board of leadership upon which both His Eminence Ayatollah Khamenei and Hujjat al-Islam wal Muslimin Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani had agreed. However, Allah destined something else and the Assembly did not accept the reasoning of Ayatollah Khamenei and declared him as the leader of Muslims despite of his insistence on not accepting it. He says: “After the demise of Imam Khomeini (R.), I participated in the first day of the Assembly of Experts as the other members did. Finally, they talked about me, debating whom to be elected as leader. They agreed on electing me to this significant post. I did my best to prevent it, I strongly objected to it, not that I wanted to do so as courtesy. Allah knows what I crossed my mind at that time.
Istood up and said, “Gentlemen, wait a minute.” All – in both audio and video forms – were recorded and are available now. I started reasoning not to be elected as leader. Despite all my insistence, they did not accept. The mujtahids and great scholars who were there answered our reasoning. I was decided not to accept it. However, I found out later that there is no other choice. Because according to reliable individuals it was only me to accept this responsibility. Otherwise, it would have been left unaccomplished. If there had been or I had known another person upon whom others w