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Ayatullah Khomeini: The Embodiment of a Tradition

Lecture # 2
Prof.Hamid Algar, University of California, Berkeley
(Delivered in October, 1979)
To recapitulate some of the major themes that I attempted to evoke last week, the Islamic Revolution differs from other events of the present century that have been given that designation by being firmly rooted in history. Far from being a radical break with the essential and profound developments of the Iranian nation, it is, on the contrary, a continuation and fruition of long years of political, spiritual and intellectual development.
I laid particular stress last week on the development of the institution of the Shi'ia ulema, beginning with their importation into Iran in the Safavid period. Then I described their gradual emergence as a class providing not only religious leadership in the narrow and technical sense but also leadership of a national and political nature, given increasingly to contesting the legitimacy of the monarchical institution.
Inevitably, I was obliged to omit certain topics and names, and by way of introduction to today's topic -the culminating figure of the whole tradition of the ulema, Ayatullah Khomeini -I would like to make more detailed reference to some aspects of what I briefly touched upon last week.
First, it would obviously be a distortion of the institution of the ulema to regard it simply from the viewpoint that most interests us -namely, the political. We should also bear in mind that the ulema, not only within the Shi'ia and Iranian context, have been the guardians of the certain body of traditional learning and devotion which has been the whole underpinning and basis of social and political action.
If we look at the specific case of Shi'ia school of thought in Iran, we see that again since the Safavid period -the sixteenth century of the Christian period -the ulema have studied and cultivated a wide variety of different disciplines. These have included not merely the familiar theological disciplines -Qur'an, hadith, tafsir, fiqh and so on -but philosophy, a certain form of philosophy appropriate to the Islamic context, and mysticism, again a certain form of mysticism appropriate to the Islamic and specifically the Shi'ia context.
Indeed, if we look at the person of Ayatullah Khomeini and his achievement, we find that he is the culmination of the tradition of the Shi'ia ulema in Iran, not merely in exercising an unusually comprehensive, wide and profound influence in political and social affairs, but also with respect to the pure learned dimension of the tradition. Here, too, he is an unparalleled figure.
This, then, is one thing. In order to understand the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the role played in it by the ulema, particularly Ayatullah Khomeini, it is necessary to regard not merely their political theory, not merely their sensibility and strategy and their identification with popular aspirations, but also the background of cultivation of Islamic learning and piety from which they sprang.
Secondly, as a footnote to last week's presentation, I would like to go into more detail on two figures who provide the immediate background to the emergence of Ayatullah Khomeini. The first is Shaykh Abd Al-Karim Hairi and the second is Ayatullah Burujirdi. The first is of great importance as the founder of the religious learning institution in Qum, from which Ayatullah Khomeini went forth and which has become in a certain sense the main stronghold of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and also the spiritual capital of the country, given the residence there of Ayatullah Khomeini.
The dates of Shaykh Abd Al-Karim Hairi are from 1859 and 1936, Qum is one of the oldest centers of Shi'ia school of thought in Iran. Not coincidentally, it is also one of the few cities founded in Iran by the Arab Muslim conquerors of the country. It has traditionally been a stronghold of Shi'ia learning. However, until the present century the major centers of Shi'ia learning that exercised great authority within Iran also were situated outside the country, in the cities known as the 'atabat -that is, the cities of Iraq, where certain of the Imams are buried: Karbala, Najaf and Kazimayn, and to a certain extent some others. Almost all the prominent ulema received their education there. Many, even though Iranian by birth, would spend most of their lives there.
This situation has continued to a certain extent, but in Iran the city of Qum came to great prominence as a result of the activities of a succession of important ulema, the first of whom was Shaykh Abd Al-Karim Hairi. In 1922 he founded in the city what is known as the Hauze-ye Ilmiye, which roughly translated is the teaching institution. It is a conglomerate of different colleges and institutions of learning, informally organized and containing a number of teachers, offering the entire spectrum of the traditional religious sciences, joined by philosophy and mysticism.
There is a tradition, attributed to the sixth Imam of the Shi'ia, that in latter times knowledge would arise in Qum and be distributed from there to the rest of Iran and to the rest of the world. Shaykh Abd Al-Karim Hairi, in fulfillment of this tradition, consciously decided to revitalize Qum as a center of religious learning and teaching. This took place in 1922, a date almost the same as the date of the foundation of the Pahlavi dictatorship. Although Shaykh Abd Al-Karim Hairi, in fulfillment of this tradition, consciously decided to revitalize Qum as a center of religious learning and teaching. This took place in 1922, a date almost the same as the date of the foundation of the Pahlavi dictatorship.
Although Shaykh Abd Al-Karim Hairi was apolitical, it can be said that his achievement indirectly contributed ultimately to the overthrow and destruction of the Pahlavi dynasty.
Although he failed to exercise any effective opposition to Reza Khan and the institution of the Pahlavi dictatorship, Shaykh Abd Al-Karim Hairi came to repent his inactivity in this respect, and is reputed to have died in a state of great sorrow.
The second of these two figures who form the immediate background of the emergence of Ayatullah Khomeini, is, of course, Ayatollah Borujerdi (1875-1961). He is the major mujtahid and marja-i taqlid of the immediate post-war period. He continued the twin emphasis of Shaykh Abd Al-Karim Hairi -the strengthening of the teaching institution in Qum as the center of spiritual and religious direction, and a certain quietism in political affairs. He organized a network throughout Iran for the collection of zakat, khums and other religious-sanctioned taxes, which gave a greater financial independence and stability to the religious institution in Qum. This network, established for these purposes, later became of great utility in the course of the Islamic Revolution.
At the same time, Ayatullah Borujerdi on the purely religious plane instituted an important development which has not received sufficient attention -a deliberate attempt by the leading authorities of Shi'ia Muslims to effect a rapprochement with the Sunni Islamic world. Through his efforts and those of the then Shaykh al-Azhar, Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut, an institution was established for the taqrib, the rapprochement between the different schools thought in Islam.
This theme has also been taken up by Ayatullah Khomeini, who has repeatedly expressed the need for collaboration and unity between the different segments of the Islamic world.
Politically, however, Ayatullah Borujerdi has been open to considerable criticism. Throughout the tumultuous events of the first decade of the post-war period, years which saw the rise of a large and threatening communist party in Iran, the Tudeh Party, the nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry, the rise of Dr. Mussadeq, the CIA coup d'etat, we find complete silence on the part of Ayatullah Borujerdi. Even after e royalist coup d'etat of August 1953, he received emissaries of the Shah's regime at his residence in Qum.
This seemed in the eyes of many Iranians to exclude any role for the ulema, for the religious leaders, in the opposition to the Shah's regime that was not intensifying after the downfall of the Mussadeq regime. Particularly because the role of Ayatullah Kashani (d. 1962), one of the previous supporters of Dr. Mussadeq and the campaign for the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, also was ambiguous in many points.
In the first years after the downfall of Dr. Mussadeq and the institution of the royal dictatorship, under American patronage, we find a certain current of religiously-inspired opposition to the Shah's regime. But it has no leading personality; it is relatively weak; and it is overshadowed by secular and leftist forms of opposition to the Shah 's regime.
However, a decade after the overthrow of Mussadeq, in March 1963, there emerges for the first time in prominence on the Iranian scene the great figure of Ayatullah Khomeini. He overshadows not only all his predecessors in this tradition of ulema that I have attempted to sketch for you but also the figure of Mussadeq himself and certainly all other secular politicians and potential leaders of opposition to the royal regime.
The life of Ayatullah Khomeini before his emergence for the first time to the wider public eye in 1963 deserves some attention. As the final element in his name indicates, he was born in the little town of Khomein in 1902, of a family that for many generations had cultivated religious knowledge and learning. His grandfather was a certain Sayid Ahmad, who was also known as Sayid Ahmad Hindi, because he had spent a number of years in India.
As far as is known to me, the family is of Iranian origin for many generations, although ultimately, since he is a Sayid -a descendant of the Prophet -the ultimate origins of the family go beyond Iran. But throughout recent generations the family is Iranian. It is simply that the grandfather spent a certain time in India. There are, apparently, even now, a number of relatives of the family who are still resident in India, somewhere near Lucknow.
His father was a Sayid Mustafa Khomeini, who was killed by a mayor of Khomein in the last days of the Qajar dynasty, because of his protests against the exactions and the unjust taxes and other oppressive practices carried out by the mayor against the local population.
The learned and religious career of Ayatullah Khomeini began when he was 17, in the year 1919, when he went to study in the city of Arak. After a brief stay, he left this relatively small and unimportant city to go to the main center of religious learning in Iran, namely, Qum. His arrival shortly preceded the establishment there of the -Hauze-ye Ilmiye by Shaykh Abd Al-Karim Hairi. Ayatullah Khomeini swiftly emerged as one of his most prominent and important pupils. Under, his guidance, Ayatullah Khomeini studied the disciplines of Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh, and at the same time he learnt philosophy and mysticism under the guidance of another of the prominent teachers of the day, Mirza Muhammad Ali Shahabadi.
I would like to make a brief diversion to speak of the place of philosophy and mysticism in the learned and even the political career of Ayatullah Khomeini. It is one of the remarkable facts about him that his political role in leading a revolution, unparalleled in recent history, has come totally to overshadow his achievements as a scholar, philosopher and mystic. All too frequently in the modernist Muslim mentality philosophy and mysticism are held to represent a retreat from reality, a total abdication of any kind of political and social role, as if they were merely abstract matters that had no real connection with the existing problems of Muslims and the Islamic world. Ayatullah Khomeini is living proof that these two subjects, correctly conceived and pursued, are on the contrary the mainspring for a form of activity that is profoundly correct, guided by a clear insight that is not merely political and strategic but is also at the same time an insight that is metaphysically correct and well-guided.
As for mysticism, it may be said that it is precisely the moral and spiritual qualities that Ayatullah Khomeini has cultivated that have made him what he most obviously is -a complete embodiment of the human ideal of Islam. This is the revolutionary leader who lives not in comfortable apartments, who spends his nights in prayer and supplication, whose daily sustenance consists of the simplest and most elementary foods. It seems to me that his very thorough ground in philosophy and mysticism has. been even of political relevance and effectiveness.
The earliest fame of Ayatullah Khomeini in the teaching institution at Qum was precisely as an exponent of these two disciplines. He gave a number of well-attended lectures on some of the major texts of Islamic philosophy and developed great eloquence and a forceful teaching style. He has also written from this period a number of texts, particularly original and partly commentaries upon existing texts, which for the most part have remained on his orders unpublished, since he holds that their publication at the present juncture would not be helpful but would divert from more pressing tasks. He also wrote a large number of books on Fiqh, and came to be regarded as an authority in that field. Had his attainments been restricted to these relatively traditional areas -Fiqh on the one hand and philosophy and mysticism on the other he would not doubt have entered the spiritual history of Iran as a great personality. But although in many respects he is the perpetuator, the culminator, of a tradition, he also broke sharply with the existing tradition of the learned institution by cultivating, from a very early point, radical political interests.
During the period of Reza Khan, Ayatullah Khomeini authored a book in criticism of the Pahlavi dictatorship, entitled Kashfal-Asrar, "The Uncovering of Secrets". It was uncompromising and clear, written in a style that characterizes all h pronouncements. He vigorously criticized the regime of Reza Khan and laid open its dependence upon and subordination to foreign powers, at that time primarily Britain. He clearly saw that the hostility of the Pahlavi regime to Islam was not merely the idiosyncratic desire of a single dictator but rather part of a comprehensive strategy for the elimination of Islam as a social and political force throughout the Islamic world, and as such had been conceived by the major centers of imperialism and entrusted to the various local agents of imperialism.
In the course of the Kashf ai-Asrar, he wrote, for example, criticizing Reza Khan:
"All the orders issued by the dictatorial regime of the bandit Reza Khan have no value at all. The laws passed by his Parliament must be scrapped and burned. All the idiotic words that have proceeded from the brain of that illiterate soldier are rotten and it is only the law of God that will remain and resist the ravages of time."
This form of expression, totally uncompromising and marked by a radical insight into the realities of politics, gave rise to misgivings, interestingly enough not only on the part of the Pahlavi regime but within the religious institution itself. For all its strength, like any other institution, it had as its primary interest self-preservation and the promotion of its institutional interests.
In the period when Ayatullah Borujerdi was the dominant figure in Qum, Ayatullah Khomeini enjoyed a position of prominence, but the view entertained of him by certain of the other scholars surrounding Borujerdi was ambivalent. In the period between the downfall of Reza Khan in 1941 and the overthrow of Mussadeq in 1953, Ayatullah Khomeini did not attempt an open denunciation of the regime in the same fashion as he did after 1963. He has more recently expressed regret that he did not earlier begin on the course that for many years now he has seen to be his clear and manifest duty. It should be said, however, that throughout this period he sought to induce a measure of political realism and commitment in Ayatullah Borujerdi. If his efforts in this respect were largely frustrated, there is no doubt that he exercised his influence upon a large number of the younger ulema in Qum and elsewhere, who later came to form part of the directive force of the Revolution. Even before the expulsion of Ayatullah Khomeini from Iran, he had built up a certain following -among the younger ulema in Qum, many of whom are now among the important leaders of the Revolution. It is highly probable that the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iran consists largely if not entirely of the pupils of Ayatullah Khomeini. In other words, they are people whom he has been training for years, both in the traditional religious sciences and in the tasks of political struggle and guidance and leadership. A list of the major students of Ayatullah Khomeini would take many pages. We can mention briefly simply two names that come to mind Imam Musa Sadr, the leader of the Shi'ia community in Lebanon, and Ayatullah Montazeri, who was one of the major I strugglers against the Shah's regime in Iran.
Ayatullah Khomeini's emergence to prominence began in the years following the overthrow of Mussadeq and the ii emergence of an intensified form of dictatorship in Iran. In f 1963, the Shah inaugurated what became known in the western press, and of course in domestic propaganda, as the White Revolution. It has been appositely said of the White Revolution that the only white thing about it was that it was conceived in the White House. It was certainly not white in the sense that it was bloodless, and it was hardly a revolution, On the contrary, it was an attempt to forestall revolution and make it impossible.
The so-called White Revolution consisted of a package of measures allegedly designed to reform Iranian society to promote the welfare of the peasantry and the industrial workers and to "emanicipate" the women. Among the various measures included in it there were two that assumed particular prominence in the propaganda of the Shah's regime and his foreign supports -land reform and women's rights. It may be appropriate to dwell a little on the nature of these two measures before continuing with my narrative of Ayatullah Khomeini's activities.
The slogan of land reform in Iran was the disguise for the total disruption of the agrarian economy in a manner designed to assure maximum profit for the royal family, a certain oligarchy tied to the royal family and foreign agri-business interests, including companies headquartered in the United States,. Europe and, above' all, Israel. It is true that a certain amount of property was distributed among the peasantry, but the land that was distributed was a barely cultivatable nature, and moreover, it was not distributed free of charge; it was distributed against monetary payments that had to be made to banks controlled by the royal family. Moreover, a large number of lands were totally excluded from the scope of the law and were passed instead either to the direct ownership of the royal family, under the title of the Pahlavi Foundation, which was the cover for the financial operations of the royal family, or certain foreign agri-business interests that used the agrarian land of Iran for the cultivation of certain crops that are not consumed in Iran but were destined for the foreign market. For example, wide areas of Iran were given over to the cultivation of asparagus, an item totally missing from the Iranian diet. At the same time, Iranian produced butter became increasingly unavailable, so that in a Tehran supermarket you could find only Danish butter.
This destruction of the agrarian economy caused massive depopulation of the countryside and the coming to the cities of peasants forced to seek work there. The former landowning class were transformed into speculators on urban real estate and import-export merchants, and in pure financial terms they gained from the transformation rather than losing from it.
As for women’s rights, this was a measure designed more for foreign consumption than for domestic purposes, since the Shah's foreign advisers were well aware of the traditional western prejudices concerning Islamic attitudes towards women and thought that this was an infallible way of making the Shah appear an enlightened and benevolent person, acting on behalf of the poor oppressed women of Muslim Iran. In point of fact there has taken place a great transformation in the political-social role of Iranian women over the past twenty-five year$ in Iran -fifteen years at least -but the direction it has taken i$ against the regime. Iranian women found their emancipation not through any measures decreed by the regime but, on the contrary, in struggling against the regime, in suffering abuse, torture, imprisonment and martyrdom at the hands of the regime.
In the declarations of Ayatullah Khomeini made from March 1963 onwards against the Shah 's regime and his attempt to deceive Iranian opinion with the so-called White Revolution, we do not find consistent mention of land reform and women's rights. It is a remarkable thing that right down until last year it was said particularly in the American press -and probably the British press was not much better that these conservative, reactionary, fanatical Muslims in Iran were struggling against the Shah because of their opposition to land reform and their desire to get back what was quaintly termed "the church lands and because they wanted all women to be shrouded from head to foot again. This total absurdity has no basis, not only for the Revolution of the past year but for the preceding fifteen years.
In the earliest declarations of Ayatullah Khomeini, made, in 1963, declarations which have been preserved verbatim and are available to anyone who can read Persian, he concentrates by contrast on a number of other themes. The first is the continued violation by the Shah of the Iranian constitution and his violation of the oath that he took upon acceding to the throne to preserve and to protect Islam. Secondly, he attacks the Shah's subordination to foreign powers, mentioning primarily the United States and, following very closely upon that, Israel.
The question of Israel with respect to the Islamic Revolution is of great importance. It has not been realised, because of the embargo on news in the so-called free press of the west, that Israel has been second only to the United States as one of the major props of the Pahlavi dictatorship. It was well known in Iran that there were two items that were totally excluded from any form of public comment or criticism. It was a well-known rule of Savak, the security police established by the United States for, the Shah, that there were two items that had to be totally excluded from public comment and criticism. One was the royal family and the other was Israel. It is interesting that even the United States, in a certain form and under certain pretexts, might be subjected to criticism but even the name of Israel had not to be mentioned.
Ayatullah Khomeini, with his characteristic refusal to compromise, broke this rule in 1963 and pointed out the very close relationship on the military, political, intelligence and economic planes between the Pahlavi regime and Israel.
Of course, in press accounts of the western world in 1963 you would find not a word on this aspect of the matter.
As for the land reform and women's emancipation, which was supposedly a target of so much righteous anger, the only reference is the declaration of Ayatullah Khomeini in 1963 and subsequently are passing references denouncing them as totally fallacious, and not even worth commenting upon in detail.
After one of the talks that Ayatullah Khomeini was giving at his madrasa in Qum in March 1963, an attack took place upon the madrasa by paratroopers and members of the security police, resulting in the death of a number of people and the arrest of Ayatullah Khomeini. After a period of detention, he was released but, far from being intimidated by his imprisonment, he increased the intensity and frequency of his attacks on the government, so that by June of that year, which corresponded to the important month of Muharram, the nationwide campaign of enlightenment of public opinion by the ulema under the leadership of Ayatullah Khomeini had come into being. Throughout these declarations he continued to attack the subordination of the Shah to foreign powers, particularly the United States and Israel, and his violation of the Iranian constitution and of Islam.
One particular topic that appears to have been the catalyst for the uprising of June 1963 was the granting to Americans in Iran -American advisers, military personnel and their dependants -of total exemption from Iranian jurisdiction, in such a way that, as Ayatullah Khomeini put it, were the dog of an American soldier to bite the Shah himself, the Shah would have no legal recourse. This matter, together with the contracting of a $ 200 million loan from the United States for the purchase of military equipment, supplied a clear illustration of the subordination of the Shah's regime to foreign powers. Ayatullah Khomeini clearly said that the vote of the Majlis which had approved these and similar measures was illegitimate the contrary to the Qur'an. He issued an appeal to the Iranian army to rise up and overthrow the regime and to the people also that they should no longer tolerate a tyranny that was "working towards the total enslavement of Iran."
On the day in the Iranian calendar known as the 15th of Khurdad, corresponding to the 5th June 1963, a vast uprising took place in numerous Iranian cities, which was brutally repressed by the use of force. Not for the first time in the Shah's career, he gave the orders to his security police and to the troops to shoot to kill. It has been estimated that on this day and in the events of subsequent days a minimum of 15,000 people were killed.
Ayatullah Khomeini was arrested again and then after a short period sent into exile in Bursa, Turkey. Interestingly enough, in violation of Turkish law, he was kept under close surveillance in a house guarded by members of the Iranian security police. The Prime Minister of Turkey at the time was, a certain Suleyman Demirel, who is a well-known freemason.
In October 1965, Ayatullah Khomeini was enabled to leave his place of exile in Turkey to go to a more congenial environment, that is Najaf, one of the cities in Iraq that have traditionally been a center not only for the cultivation of Shi'ia learning but of refuge for Iranian religious leaders. This was the case, for example, in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century when a number of the important religious leaders supported the constitutional revolution or, before that, the tobacco boycott movement. They issued their directives from the relative security of the ‘atabat, which were outside Iran.
On this occasion, however, Ayatullah Khomeini by no means found an untroubled refuge there. It needs to be pointed out very plainly and strongly that, despite what was said in the western press for many years, the presence of Ayatullah Khomeini in Iraq in no way constituted any form of alliance, however slight, between himself and the Ba'athist regime in that country. He was, on the contrary, subjected to repeated harassment by the general repression enacted by the regime in Iraq, which is continuing.
From Najaf, Ayatullah Khomeini continued periodically to issue his declarations on Iranian affairs. The Shah's hope that by exiling him from the country he would also put an end to his influence and popularity was decisively frustrated. It has been said that Ayatullah Khomeini emerged to prominence in the course of the Revolution as the result of a vacuum, because there was no viable alternative in sight, but this judgment results from ignorance of the gradual development of the role of Ayatullah Khomeini during his more than fourteen years in exile. Throughout his years in Najaf, he by no means remained silent. We find him, on the contrary, issuing a wide variety of proclamations on Iranian affairs, all of which penetrated the country, were circulated and had a great effect on the formation of Iranian public opinion.
For example, in April 1967, Ayatullah Khomeini sent an open letter to the Prime Minister of Iran at that time, Amir Abbas Hoveyda, in which he denounced Hoveyda and the Shah for their continued violation both of Islam and of the constitution. He went through a comprehensive survey of all the Government policies, criticizing them one by one, warning Hoveyda that one day he would be held responsible. One may imagine the contemptuous disbelief with which Hoveyda received this letter from an exile whose followers had been slaughtered in the streets, a letter addressed to the Prime Minister at the head of one of the major repressive apparatuses in the modern world. Yet it is one of the remarkable things about Ayatullah Khomeini which contributes to the effectiveness of his leadership that every word he has said is seriously meant. This warning, given as far back as April 1967, bore its fruit with the execution of Hoveyda by the Islamic Revolutionary Court this year (1979), in the aftermath of the Revolution.
Another example of the declarations of Ayatullah Khomeini during his years in exile we can draw from a series of events in May 1970, when a consortium of American investors met in Tehran to discuss ways for the more effective penetration and exploitation of the Iranian economy. On this occasion, one of the followers of Ayatullah Khomeini, Ayatullah Saidi, gave a khutba in his mosque in Tehran denouncing this conference and calling upon the Iranian people to rise up and protest against it. He was arrested and tortured to death by Savak, the Shah's security police, and Ayatullah Khomeini issued a proclamation calling on the people to renew their struggle against the Pahlavi regime.
Later we find Ayatullah Khomeini denouncing the idiotic and wasteful expenditures of the regime for the so-called celebration of 2,500 years of monarchy, a celebration conceived and planned by certain Israeli advisers of the regime. He later also condemned the inauguration of a one-party system in Iran, saying that whoever joined this party voluntarily, without pressure, was in effect a traitor to both the nation and Islam. He also issued many proclamations on the general state of Islam and in particular on the role of Israel.
It is interesting to note that on two occasions, once in 1971 and once during the Revolution, Ayatullah Khomeini also issued two appeals to the Muslim world in general,: appeals that were translated into various languages and distributed during the Hajj. In both these declarations he called solidarity among the Muslims and collaboration for the resolution of their common problems. It is interesting to note, that the so-called champions of Islam, the Saudi regime, saw fit to imprison and torture for long periods a number of those responsible for the distribution of these declarations:
Therefore, it was no surprise to anyone that the Saudi regime, despite its professed loyalty to Islam, ranged itself with Israel, the United States and the Soviet Union in opposing the Islamic Revolution. It has a long history of opposition of the revolutionary Islamic movement led by Ayatollah Khomeini.
As for the role of Ayatullah Khomeini in the Revolution itself, this is direct and immediate in the sense that the opening events of the Revolution are directly concerned with his person. The government-controlled press in January 1978 published an article insulting Ayatullah Khomeini in abusive and obscene terms. That aroused an immediate response of anger in the city of Qum. After the first uprising in Qum, which was suppressed with heavy loss of life, a series of demonstrations and protests unfurled across Iran with ever-increasing tempo, until in December of last year (1978) when probably the greatest demonstrations not merely in Iranian history but in modern history in general took place, forcing the exiling of the Shah and paving the way for the ultimate triumph of the Revolution.
Ayatullah Khomeini increased the tempo of his declarations as the movement picked up speed within Iran. In October of last year he was expelled from Iraq as a result of an agreement between the Shah's Regime and the Ba'athist regime. It is interesting to note that Ayatullah Khomeini considered a number of possible alternatives. He would have preferred to take up residence in a Muslim country but, as he has said publicly, and as I myself have heard from him, not one Muslim country offered him the possibility of a residence that would be both safe and permit him to continue his activity. This simple fact is an eloquent commentary on the nature of the regimes that rule the different Muslim countries today. The Qur'an orders the Muslims to give refuge even to a mushrik in order that he might hear the Qur'an and be informed of religion. Yet these contemporary Muslim regimes that send money for the construction of mosques, preferably in prestige places like London, New York and so on, that hold conferences in Hilton and Sheraton hotels, refuse even the elementary right of security and refuge to one whom any objective Muslim observer must regard as the greatest mujtahid of the present day.
Like so many of the stratagems of the former Iranian regime, this one also turned against it in its ultimate result, because, faced with the impossibility of finding refuge in any other Muslim country after Iraq, Ayatullah Khomeini proceeded to Paris, where he became indefinitely more accessible to Iranians from America, Europe and Iran itself. He also became immediately accessible to the world press not that the world press, of course, was in any way inclined or even intellectually and mentally equipped to reflect the f true message and aspirations of Ayatullah Khomeini. Nonetheless, from Paris his communications with Iran were infinitely easier and his visibility was far greater than had been the case in Najaf.
The study of the proclamations of Ayatullah Khomeini during the year of the Revolution would in itself be an f interesting topic. One sees throughout the year, as the Revolution reaches new peaks, a certain evolutionary style of his declarations. For example, if one looks at the declaration issued on the eve of Muharram last year (1399 H), one sees at great eloquence and forcefulness of expression that one; would say from a purely literary point of view has few parallels in contemporary Iranian expression. By the time be returned to Iran from exile at the beginning of February this year (1979), Ayatullah Khomeini, with no material resources, without the construction of a political party, without the waging of a guerilla war, without the support of a single foreign power, had established himself as the undisputed leader of a major revolutionary movement.
How is that possible? I shall try to supply part of the answer in my next lecture, in which I shall examine the events and the chronology of the Revolution and certain general conclusions that can be drawn. Now, with Khomeini, if I would suggest the following concerning his importance as a revolutionary leader.
First, the 'Revolution' for him -and I use the quotation marks because the word has all kinds of connotations which are not necessarily appropriate to the Iranian context -is one in which as a revolutionary leader he is not merely intellectually and emotionally committed to a certain cause but is totally identified with it. He has been totally unwilling to compromise. Why? It is because he has not been a politician of a familiar kind, concerned with the attainment of personal political advantage. On the contrary, he has sought to heed the commands of Allah and His Messenger is a fashion that is appropriate to Him.
One of my Iranian acquaintances who traveled to Paris to visit Ayatullah Khomeini asked him: "Do you think our present course is wise? What will happen if the army keeps on slaughtering people? Will people sooner or later not get tired and discouraged?' He responded quite simply that it is our duty to struggle in this fashion and the result is with Allah. It is precisely this apparent lack of strategy, this refusal to contemplate the precise calculations of normal political strategy, that constitute the highest form of revolutionary strategy in an Islamic context.
Secondly, we can say that Ayatullah Khomeini has been enabled to fulfill the great and unparalleled role that he has by his spiritual and moral qualities, qualities that cannot be called into doubt by even those who have ideologically no commitment to Islam. One of the remarkable things is that in the course of the Revolution, people who had no particular commitment to Islam in an ideological fashion came to rediscover Islam and at the same time made a commitment to Islam as a revolutionary force through the self-evident moral and spiritual virtues of Ayatullah Khomeini himself. It was obvious that here was a man in no way concerned with the obtaining of a personal or sectarian benefit, but one who represented the deepest aspirations of the Iranian nation.

Dr. Salman: You mentioned the important role of philosophy and mysticism. Could you elaborate on this slightly, specifically in relation to Sufism? I do not know whether in the Shia 'ia school of thought, Sufism is organized as it is in the Sunni world. If so, the question of Ayatullah Khomeini's affiliation would be important.
Professor Algar: The word 'mysticism' is a little problematical. I used it for convenience as an English approximation. Sufism as an organized body has only a peripheral existence in Shi'ia school. We do find Sufi orders, but they are generally rejected by the Shi'ia ulema. What I mean by mysticism with respect to Ayatullah Khomeini is what is known as irfan, which is a different form of mysticism appropriate to the Shi'ia context. This is something that draws upon certain dimensions of the Qur'an, the teaching of Ibn Arabi and also the 12 Imams of Shi'ia school. This is what I mean by mysticism in this context, -a certain form of mystical devotion which gives a certain contour to the spiritual life. It has clearly given Ayatullah Khomeini --I do not like to use the expression, but for want of a better one -a certain otherworldliness. It is a paradox that here one has a man so devoid of worldly ambition who is yet on a worldly plane so eminently successful. Viewing matters at a deeper level, from the viewpoint of Islam, we see that it is not a paradox at all. The rejecting by the self of all forms of attachment to this world makes it possible to be extremely effective and active in this world.
In that sense of the hadith, he who humbles himself before God will be raised by God. This is what I intended by the reference to mysticism in Ayatullah Khomeini.
Question: Will you please explain the concept of the Imam and the concept of the caliph, and the relationship between the two, with particular emphasis on two points -the unity of the ulema and, secondly, in relation to the contemporary situation in Iran?
Professor Algar: This is a very wide question, not directly related to today's talk. I am sure that most of the audience knows what is implied in the terms "Imam" and "caliph". The Imam in Shi'ia school is the divinely appointed leader of the community, the first of whom is Ali and the last of whom is the Twelfth Imam, who is held to be in a state of ghaiba, of occultation, of absence from the physical plane, but nonetheless continues to exercise his authority.
This form of succession is in a sense hereditary. Moreover the prerogatives of the successors of the Prophet go beyond the purely political, administrative, military tasks of the caliph in Sunni thought.
I am not sure beyond that what it is possible to say without embarking on an unnecessarily detailed lecture, what is perhaps of more interest is the second part of your question -the relevance of these differences to the present day state of the Islamic world. I would say that it is minimal, if not non-existent, since we in the Sunni Muslim countries do not have a caliph, not do we have machinery or any conceivable process at present for the selection of a caliph. As far as our Shi'ia brothers are concerned, the Imam is also in a state of ghaiba so it does not pose itself as a problem.
What both Sunni and Shi'ia Muslims should direct their attention towards is collaboration on the far more numerous and important matters on which they are agreed. There is no doubt that the Islamic Revolution can be, and already to some extent has been, an important occasion for the gradual elimination of centuries of prejudice and hostility between Sunni and Shi'ia.
Imam Khomeini himself, when I had the honour of meeting him in Paris, expressed a great sorrow that when the Shi'ia Muslims of Iran were obtaining martyrdom in the streets of Tehran during the last Muharram, for the sake of establishment of an Islamic republic, Shi'ia and Sunni i Muslims in India in the same month of Muharram were engaged in slaughtering each other, because of the details of taziya.
Fortunately, as a result of the Revolution, one sees a large number of encouraging developments. For example, in c Afghanistan, a country where there have been deep and prolonged hostilities between the Sunnis and Shi'ia -probably about seventy per cent of the population are Sunni and thirty" per cent Shi'ia -one sees in the wake of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, and in the course of resistance to the Soviet established Marxist regime, that historic hatreds have been overcome to a remarkable degree. They are fighting together against Soviet imperialism.
In Turkey, again a country where because of centuries of warfare between the Ottomans and the Safavids there are deep-rooted prejudices towards Shi'ia school, a positive interest has been aroused as a result of the Revolution. In many Islamic periodicals in that country now one can see articles about Sunni-Shi'ia relations, a desire to obtain objective, correct information about Shi'ia school of thought and above all to establish an effective collaboration between the Islamic movement in that country and the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Therefore, rather than hashing over again the question of Imam and caliph, or whatever differences may have existed, it is far more fruitful for Muslims to spend their energies in establishing closer links of cooperation. After all, we should not forget that the Islamic Revolution has been the only' major setback to the cause of Zionism in the Middle East far more than any military undertaking attempted by any of the Arab states, far more even than the activities of the Palestinians themselves, however heroic these may have been. There can be no doubt that the only major setback suffered by Zionism and American imperialism in the entirety of the Middle East region -or, if you like, the Muslim region -has been the Islamic Revolution of Iran.
It is a Revolution which has potential in the service of all Moslems. It is up to the Muslims of the Sunni countries Arab countries, Turkey, Afghanistan and so on -to align themselves with this Revolution and give it every possible form of support and co-operation.
Question: You mentioned Israel. What was the role of the Jewish minority in Iran in collaboration with Israel, in the light of the execution of one of their leaders?
Professor Algar: We should not make the automatic assumption that the entire Jewish minority in Iran was Zionist in its aspirations or aligned with the previous regime, the Pahlavi regime. Some certainly were. The millionaires like Elghanian, who was put to death, had very close ties with Israel and also with the regime.
But apart from the existence of the Jewish community in Iran, the State of Israel had very close ties with the Pahlavi regime, not necessarily through the Iranian Jewish community. Those ties were established, I think, in 1947, shortly after the establishment of the Zionist State in Palestine, when de facto recognition was accorded to Israel by the Iranian government of the day. That was revoked by Mussadeq.
Then a more thorough-going relationship between Israel and the Iranian Government came into being after the coup d'etat in 1953. Co-operation took place on many levels, but notably in so-called intelligence and security work. After a certain point it appears that the task of staffing and training the Savak was taken over by Mossad, the Israeli security, from the CIA, although the CIA always retained the right of supervising over the operations of Savak. I know of many people who reported having been interrogated and tortured, by Israelis while in the custody of Savak. It was a deep involvement.
In return, the Israelis got a large proportion of their oil -between seventy and ninety per cent from Iran. There was also military co-operation. Iranian officers went for training in Israel. There was a certain amount of penetration of the Iranian economy, partly through Iranian Jews, but not in all cases.
There was the overwhelming similarity between the two of utter dependence on the United States or alignment with the United States. Israel is hardly independent of the United States -or rather matters are the reverse. Israel certainly commands more votes in the Senate than does the White House. There was a very close relationship between Israel and the United States and between the Shah and the United States.
This collaboration did not always go through the Jewish, community. It also went through the Bahai community. If; one is speaking of religious minorities, the most important lone with respect to staffing the Shah's regime, staffing the bureaucracy and the security police, is the Bahais, many oft whom in any case are of Jewish origin. A number of cases could be mentioned, including the former vice-chief of Savak, Sabeti. He was of Jewish origin and received his training in torture techniques in Israel. He and a number of other officers are living in Israel after the Revolution. It is the Bahais rather than the Jews as a community who should be indicated in this respect.
Israel, with its eternal search for immigrants, thought that an ideal situation was developing in Iran with the Revolution. But apart from a certain minority that profited handsomely under the Pahlavi regime, the bulk of Iranian Jewry is not showing an interest in leaving the country to go to Israel. That minority is interesting. There was a piece in the Economist, which one can hardly accuse of being anti-Semitic, describing the arrival in Israel of certain Iranian Jewish immigrants. As they unrolled their carpets at Tel Aviv airport, the gold tumbled out onto the tarmac. This was an interesting demonstration of the way in which this Jewish oligarchy was able to profit under the Pahlavi regime. However, the bulk of Iranian Jews decided to remain behind, much to the displeasures of the Jewish Agency, which, therefore, began to have recourse to the same kind of tactics as it had earlier employed in certain Arab countries, notably Iraq. It went around writing anti-Semitic slogans, throwing bombs into synagogues and so on. These tactics were uncovered and publicized by an organization in Tehran called the Society of Jewish Intellectuals, which warned members of the community against these Zionist tactics.
When I was in Paris in December and early January, visiting Ayatullah Khomeini, a delegation of Iranian Jews came to visit him, and on that occasion he assured them not merely that Iranian Jews should remain in the country but that those w had been deceived by Zionism and had migrated to Palestine -where they were receiving treatment as second-class citizens because of their Asiatic and non-East European origins -should return to Iran, where as citizens of the Islamic Republic they would enjoy rights superior to those they had in the Jewish state of Israel.
Question: What position was held by Ayatullah Khomeini after he graduated from the institute of Qum? Did he introduce changes in the curriculum and methodology? I should also like to know whether his open criticism of the Shah's regime was on behalf of the ulema or of a particular group which he founded.
Professor Algar: As regards the methodology of teaching, I think it is true to say that in effect Ayatullah Khomeini brought about a reform in that he established a close link between the subjects he was teaching and the practical concerns of the day. For this reason, he attracted a far larger audience than many of the other teachers in Qum.
One thing of interest in the aftermath of the Revolution is that after his return to Qum for the first time the systematic teaching of the four madhhabs of Sunni school in Islam has been introduced into the curriculum, both in order to further awareness among Shi'ia Muslims of the potentialities of the Sunni traditions and to draw, if it appears appropriate and necessary, on those potentialities for the solution of particular problems in Iran.
There are a number of individuals who have attained importance in Qum in reforming, in strengthening, the teaching institution. Both Khomeini and Ayatullah Shariatmadari performed great services in this respect in making the teaching syllabus of greater applicability to present-day problems.
As for your second question, I do not think that Ayatullah Khomeini in 1963 or subsequently was speaking either on behalf of the ulema or on behalf of a more narrow group. On the contrary, he saw it to be his duty, as a scholar of Islam and a citizen of Iran, to speak out on these problems. One of the constant themes of all his proclamations is that the ulema have a great importance and dignity in Islam that they cannot fulfill simply by the reading and teaching of texts, that they have a far more comprehensive duty, indicated in the tradition, and that they are the heirs of the Prophet and cannot effectively transmit the legacy of the Prophets simply by retreating into a corner of a madrasa and reading and commenting on texts. They have a far more comprehensive duty of guidance. He was speaking as an alim, conscious of the comprehensive nature of h responsibility, but this is different from speaking on behalf of the ulema as a class. On the contrary, he addressed himself to the entirety of the Iranian nation and beyond that to Muslims at large.
Question: You referred to doubts about the role of Ayatullah Borujerdi, and you mentioned Ayatullah Kashani. It seems to me that you are taking a unidirectional view of the Iranian ulema. You must have pointed this out in your last lecture -that the difficulty stems from the fact that there are various possible interpretations of the role of ulema during the ghaiba. As is evident from Ayatullah Naini's (1860-1936) work, one is faced with the question of either leaving the political field altogether and waiting for the reappearance of the Imam on the physical plane or with devising a system which is the least imperfect.
If you take the two extremes, you can see that the various ulema have taken their stance somewhere between these, and, therefore, fashioned their own activities on the political plane in accordance with their interpretation of the ghaiba. It seems to me that Ayatullah Borujerdi was very much in favour of a quiet attitude towards not taking action, although in present-day circumstances apparently that attitude may seem indefensible. But if it is viewed in the context of the responsibility of the ulema during the ghaiba of Imam it may become more explicable. I should like your comments.
Professor Algar: It is not my intention to criticize Ayatullah Borujerdi or Kashani for the roles they played. I merely wished to point out in the historical context the effect of their attitudes, or at least the perception of their attitudes. It is true that there have been differences of opinion among Shi'ia ulema as to the political implications of the ghaiba. But the general belief that has acquired increasing force since the days of Ayatullah Borujerdi is what Ayatullah Khomeini describes in his book as the vilayat of the scholar, as devolving upon him the duty of leading and guiding the community.
I feel unhappy that in the course of these lectures I am obliged to generalize and over-simplify. This is in the nature of the subject, but it should be pointed out at least that Ayatullah Khomeini's position has evolved over the years. Although he has certain very distinct characteristics from the very beginning, I would say that his political -I would not like to use the word 'philosophy' -attitude has changed and evolved.
After all in 1963 he was calling not for the institution of an Islamic Republic in Iran, but for the implementation of the existing constitution, which provided for a monarchy, however limited in its exercise of power. He was calling upon the Shah in effect to observe and fulfill the oath that he had taken to observe the constitution and to be loyal to Islam. I would say that a progressive radicalization took place of Ayatullah Khomeini's position in his years of exile, and more particularly in the course of the Revolution.
There are many things to be said here, and I would like to have had more time. But as you have raised this question of political theory, which is of importance, I think it is permissible to say that in the usage of Ayatullah Khomeini there is a difference, at least implied, between an Islamic Republic and an Islamic state. On the one hand, an Islamic Republic is intended to be a transitional form of government in which the policies of the state will be geared in a general fashion towards the objectives of Islam and the administration of the affairs of the state will be entrusted to committed Moslems. But there will not be a total implementation of Islamic law in every area of life.
At the same time as this provisional form of government, which will bear the name of republic, is in existence, a process of education and enlightenment will take place, with respect both to those who have been alienated from Islam and those whose Islam is of a narrowly traditional type -that is, based on prayer, fasting and so on, without much awareness of political and social issues.
When that process has been completed, the Islamic Republic will be succeeded by the Islamic state, there is no explicit statement to this effect by Ayatullah Khomeini, but it is an impression that can be gained from careful reading of his proclamations during the year of the Revolution and after his return. That impression is strengthened by reading of the draft of the constitution. One of the interesting things about it is that it does not have any explicit statement that the laws of the state are to be the laws of Islam. Of course, it is a draft constitution, and it may be revised before it is finally ratified, but as it stand there is no explicit stipulation that the laws of the state should be the laws of Islam. Instead, there is a provision that we find in the constitution of a number of other Muslim countries that no legislation shall be enacted that is contrary to Islam, which is quite different.
It seems to me that in the context of Iran this is intended as a transitional stage, a stage at which what is repugnant to Islam will be gradually uprooted and an effort will be made to move in the direction of a truly integral Islamic state. Where, things to that effect are to be found in other constitutions notably, that of Pakistan. It is a piece of demagoguery. But in the case of Iran -I hope I am right, only events will tell -the inclusion of this clause should be seen as a provisional measure. It would be easy to make an overnight declaration that now everything will be according to the sharia and go around spectacularly chopping off hands and so on. But I think that this is one measure of the seriousness of the Revolution and the authenticity of the liberal process of gradualness that is being embarked upon. We can sum up this gradualness as being within the concept of an Islamic Republic which will be the prelude to an Islamic state.
Question: May I ask a supplementary question? In this evolution of Ayatullah Khomeini's thought, from pure implementation of the constitution to an Islamic state, do you think he has moved to a position which was taken up by Ayatullah Nuri way back during the constitutional revolution at the turn of the century, and broken line with the constitutionalists altogether?
Professor Algar: I do not think one can equate the position of Ayatullah Khomeini with that of Shaykh Fazlullah Nuri, who was the chief among the ulema during the constitutional revolution in Iran in the first decade of the present century. Unlike his colleagues, he opposed the constitution, probably on religious grounds. He put forward certain telling arguments in a number of theoretical writings against the constitution. His slogan was 'We want Mashro'a (Sharia government), not mashru'ta (constitutional government)' Although for many years it was customary in Iran in Islamic circles to deride Nuri and to regard him as a traitor, a reactionary and so on, it is true that a certain reappraisal of him has taken place, giving him a more creditable position.
However, it is not helpful to suggest a parallel between him and Ayatullah Khomeini, for many reasons. The most obvious and most important is that he was content to see the monarchy continue and even tried to find a place for it, which is obviously not the case with Ayatullah Khomeini.
Mr. Jamil Sharif: Nothing has been mentioned about the role of women in the Revolution. What was his view of the role of women in the Islamic struggle?
Professor Algar: There are two reasons why the role of women has not been mentioned. The first is that I have been talking about the ulema and Ayatullah Khomeini. Secondly, 'the role of women' is a phrase that I think Muslims should not use. It is a phrase that has been coined by the enemies of Islam to distract us and waste our mental energies.
Once you speak about the role of women you have the role of men, as if there were a great divide in Islam with women and men existing on the two sides of the divide, doing totally different things. All that you can say with respect to the Islamic Revolution is that Islamic women together with Iranian men played a very important role in furthering the aims of the Revolution. They participated massively in all the important demonstrations. They suffered torture, imprisonment and abuse. Since the triumph of the Revolution they have continued to play an important role.
It is interesting that a Revolution which, according to the popular image in the western press, is designed to reduce women to a status of total inferiority should see this unique picture of Muslim women in their Muslim dress on the streets participating and guarding demonstrations, holding machine guns.
It is enough to say that on Black Friday, 8 September 1978, when more than 4,000 people were slaughtered in Tehran to the applause of President Carter, among those slaughtered were a minimum of 600 women.
The Chairman: Those who write books on women in Islam should be asked: 'Where were women outside Islam?'
Question: In your course outline, you put a heading 'The Ayatullah as Ruler'. Would you like to expand on that?
Professor Algar: On reflection, I am not sure that the word 'ruler' is appropriate in the context. What he has done in the aftermath of the Revolution is to continue in the same role as he predicted before the triumph of the Revolution -that of the guide who speaks out whenever he feels it necessary on matters of policy. Since his guidance is of the nature that it will be immediately followed, he comes in effect to be the final arbiter in almost all matters that he ch0oses to speak on.
The nature of the guidance given by Ayatullah Khomeini since the triumph of the Revolution in February (1979) has been of a nature to ensure that its fundamental aims are kept intact and no major deviation takes place. Of course, the frequent complaint of the Iranian leftists and their allies, the rightist press of Britain and the United States, is that the old dictatorship has been replaced by a new one. There are a large number of fallacies in this comparison. We should point out that the authority of Ayatullah Khomeini derives entirely from the popular will and the popular choice. If he 'interferes' with the government's workings or issues directives, this should not be construed as illegitimate interference. On the contrary, the government of Bazargan derives its authority because it was nominated by Ayatullah Khomeini. The Muslim masses of Iran demanded the institution of an Islamic Republic under the leadership of Ayatullah Khomeini. Therefore, his authority is precisely the authority brought into being by the will of the people. This is an exceptional and transitional situation. It is not something that one can say will be institutionalized in the future.
Therefore, I do not think that the word 'ruler' in the synopsis that I prepared in haste is appropriate. He continues to be the leader. I know that this is a word that has unfortunate connotations from different contexts, but one has little choice. He continues to be the leader of the Revolution in all senses.
Question: It is in that context that you use the word 'Imam' when you talk about him?
Professor Algar: Yes. In designating him as 'Imam' we should not imagine that the word is applied to him in the same sense as the Twelve Imams of Shi'ia tradition. I am not aware of the precise time when the term came to be applied to him by the Iranian people. Maybe some of our Iranian brothers here could enlighten us on that. I think that the title was given to him in the course of the Revolution. It has come to be applied to him increasingly after the Revolution and to supplant the title which has by now become familiar to the western press -namely, "Ayatullah".
This usage of the word 'Imam' is, after all, justified on the condition that we do not confuse it with the Shi'ia concept of Imam, and because his authority, his leadership, has gone far beyond that which has been traditionally exercised by an ayatollah. One of the things that I did not give myself a chance to mention is that, of course, Ayatullah Khomeini is from one point of view a mujtahid. People have been following him because he is a mujtahid. But his authority has gone far beyond the traditional bounds of marja-i taqlid or mujtahid. He has been followed not merely in the traditional sense or taqlid, but in a far more comprehensive sense. This comprehensiveness of his leadership, which is indeed based on the whole concept of taqlid but has gone beyond it, is reflected in the use of the word "Imam".
I should be interested to know precisely what our Iranian brothers understand by the word when they apply it to him.
The Chairman: Will Brother Dabbagh enlighten us?
Husein Dabbagh: It was newly introduced into our language. We never used such a word for a mujtahid. This is a reflection of the Islamic teaching. This means a leader, political as well as spiritual. But this is very recent. It is because usually you find that mujtahid is not sufficient.
Professor Algar: In some publications from Iran, I have seen him described as Naib a/-imam, the vice-regent of the hidden Imam. Is this very widespread?
Hussein Dabbagh: Yes. It is being used by some people to indicate to others not to confuse the real meaning of 'Imam '.
Dr. Ezzati: Ayatullah Khomeini is a mujtahid and not an Imam. The use of this term in Persian really began when he was in Paris. Since then people have started calling him Imam. But this is not new. It happened before, when he was in Iraq, because he was in an Arab environment, and 'Imam, in Arabic literature means simply 'the leader', not a traditional Shi'ia leader. They use the term for Musa Sadr, calling him Imam Musa Sadr, because he lives in Lebanon, in an Arab environment. The Shi'ia term would be mujtahid.
Professor Algar: I think this is true. In some of the literature in Arabic one finds the use of the word in early days with respect to Ayatullah Khomeini. But its introduction to Persian usage in Iran seems more recent.
The Chairman: About eighteen months ago we had a course on the political thought of Islam, and, as in all our courses, we had both Sunni and Shi'ia participants. As individuals, we are Sunnis and Shi'ites, but as an institution we are just Moslem. During the discussion on the political thought of Islam, it emerged that if and when Muslims came to the point of establishing a modern Islamic state, the Shi'ia and Sunni positions would be identical, that in its operational, practical form there would be no difference. Would you agree with this assessment?
Professor Algar: I think that in general terms this is without doubt true. If one were to list the major differences of belief or outlook between Sunnis and Shi'ites, one would see that the most important relate to matters that have no immediate practical application. The whole question of the imamate, even though it is of-great importance for our Shi'ia brothers, as long as the ghaiba continues would not arouse any problems of political collaboration with Sunnis.
If one looks at the other differences of a minor variety relating to the details of fiqh, one will see that some of the differences between the four madhhabs are greater than the differences that separate them from Ja'fari fiqh.
Therefore, as you phrase it, in the operational details of a functioning Islamic state there need be no fundamental difference between Sunni and Shi'ia. If there be any, they will arise from the differing provisions not merely between Sunni and Shi'ite but the four schools of the Sunni Moslems, in so far as we choose to bind ourselves by the four schools.
Dr. Ezzati: Though there. is certainly a historical and ideological difference between the imamate and caliphate, between Shi 'ia and Sunni schools, as far as the modern situation is concerned I do not think there are any ideological differences between the two. The question of leadership is the most important issue regarding the political affairs of a Muslim state. The basis of leadership in Shi'ia jurisprudence is the religious social responsibility (wajib al-kafai), which is shared currently by the Sunnis. They both base their authority on the doctrine of the 'Amr bi al-Ma'uroof wa al-Nahy an al-Munkar'.
The Chairman: This is a point that is not generally understood, and it needs to be brought home clearly.
Dr. Ezzati: I agree, it should be explained. But the difficulty is this. How can we introduce a Khomeini-type leadership into Sunni communities?
The Chairman: Since the Revolution in Iran I have been moving around some of the Sunni countries -some of the most reactionary Sunni countries, if I may put in that way. I can assure you that the people of those countries have been absolutely galvanised and their imaginations have been captured by the Revolution in Iran. Some of them take the precaution of locking their doors before they talk about it. If national boundaries were taken away, probably Ayatullah Khomeini would be elected by acclamation by the Ummah as a whole as the leader of the Muslim world today. I think that the differences between Sunni and Shi'ia would disappear in one instant. They are artificially maintained by the world in which we live. Do you agree?
Professor Algar: Very definitely.
Jamil Sharif: Would you say that Ayatullah Khomeini's stay in Paris will have a discernible impact on Muslims in Francophone Africa?
Professor Algar: I am not really in a position to say anything on that subject. All I know is that for the period of about ten days that I was in Paris I saw a large number of Muslims from different countries coming to visit Imam Khomeini. I do not recall seeing among them any Muslims from Francophone Africa. There were a large number from North Africa , Egypt, coming not necessarily to talk but to pray behind him. I hear that there has been some influence of the Revolution in Nigeria, that there has been an important echo of the Revolution among the Muslims of Nigeria. Presumably the same will be the case in the Francophone countries, but whether as a result of his being in Paris, I do not know.
Jamil Sharif: Have other Muslim scholars, particularly Maulana Maudoodi, had any impact on the Ayatullah Khomeini or vice versa? Has he had an influence on the well-known Muslim scholars and leaders of today?
Professor Algar: I do not know whether he has read any of the works of Maudoodi. This much is certain, that the message of support from Maudoodi to Ayatullah Khomeini went, in a very belated fashion, in early January of this year, and Ayatullah Khomeini expressed regret to me not merely that all the Muslim countries had refused him admission in a suitable fashion in October 1978, but that he had had not a single expression of effective support from the Islamic movement.
It is not likely, in the nature of things that he should have concerned himself greatly with the works of Maudoodi. In a more general fashion, one could say that the Persian translation of some of the works of Maudoodi could have had an effect on people in Iran when circulated. Some may have had some effect? Whether Ayatullah Khomeini has had an influence in the other direction upon Maudoodi or other Muslim leaders, I do not know. Unfortunately, there is no sign of it. Otherwise, Maudoodi would hardly accept the so-called King Faisal award of Islamic Studies.
Question: I know that you have done work on freemasonry in Iran and Turkey. Is there any evidence to suggest a link between the Shah and the Zionism was forged through the medium of freemasonry?
Professor Algar: I think there were many channels of communication, linkages, overlapping interest and so on. Probably freemasonry was one among them. In the aftermath of the Revolution all the Masonic lodges have been closed in Iran and their entire achieves have been captured intact. A preliminary selection of documents has already been published. They confirm what was suspected some time earlier. Many of the lodges in Tehran and elsewhere in Iran were controlled by Jews or by Bahais of Jewish origin, which furnishes another avenue of communication with Israel and Zionism generally. But one should not overestimate the importance of this one medium of communication, when there were so many others available. Freemasonry played an important role on the domestic plane, but it is not necessarily connected with the question of Zionism.
Mr. Abdullah Ahmed: I want to return to the question of women. Being a Moslem, one believes in community and that one is responsible for the community first. Have you ever come into contact with Kate Millett, who was sent out of Iran and who says she went there on a women's mission? What was her mission?
Professor Algar: I have had no communication with Kate Millett. I do not know what she thought her mission in Iran was. But, irrespective of her, let me say a few words about the so-called women's demonstrations in Iran which took place for four or five days in succession. The alleged cause of the demonstrations was the curtailment of women's rights by the Revolutionary regime. They coined a nice slogan for the occasion: "In the spring of freedom there is no freedom". Ayatullah Khomeini, I think in the last public address that he gave before leaving Tehran to return to Qum, in a speech that touched on many subjects, said "Now that we have in Iran an Islamic government, women should observe Islamic criteria of dress, particularly those that work in the ministries.!"
There are two things to be noticed. First, this was a recommendation. Secondly, it was directed particularly at women in government service. It was interpreted willfully as a command to be enforced by coercive means if necessary and as meaning that all Iranian women must immediately cover themselves with the chador. The Islamic criteria of dress do not necessarily imply the chador, which is merely the traditional way of fulfilling those criteria in Iran, Seizing upon this distorted series of sentences in the speech of Ayatullah Khomeini, a weird alliance of people organised a series of demonstrations in Tehran. On the one hand there were the leftists, who, like most people who talk about equality, have a very elitist mentality. They, seeing their lack of support among the working class in Iran, have tried to seize upon a number of marginal issues and build them up as vehicles for their own attempts to gain power. One such vehicle was the women's demonstrations.
Those taking part in the demonstrations were the upper echelons of Tehran society. It was interesting to see television footage of those demonstrations. These were women dressed in the latest fashions from Paris. Many had dyed their hair, which in the context is of significance. It shows a certain kind of self-hatred. It is the same kind of thing as one ha& seen in the United States, where Afro-Americans have tried to straighten out their hair. These were the people who were parading through the streets, led by Kate Millett and calling for women's emancipation. Far larger demonstrations in support of Ayatullah Khomeini and denunciation of these intrigues of the leftists on the one hand and the upper classes on the other went largely unreported in the western press. This was a bubble that burst very quickly.

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