Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

Iran: The World's First Islamic Republic

Becoming Ayatollah

Raised in a family that believed they were descendants of the prophet Muhammed, Ruhollah Khomeini was known in his village for being a great memorizer of religious and classic poetry. In 1920, his older brother sent him to study with Ayatollah Yadzi Ha'iri. After Ha'iri died, Ayatollah Boroujerdi became Ruhollah's mentor. Neither Boroujerdi or Ha'iri believed religion should play a part in the government. While the current shah decreased the amount of power held by religious leaders, Ruhollah's mentors and other religious leaders urged their students to remain silent. He turned to teaching and his students later became his supporters. After Ayatollah Boroujerdi died on March 31, 1961, Ruhollah became an ayatollah. He was seen by Shi'ites as Marja-e Taqlid, a person to be imitated.

Rise to Power

In 1962, Ayatollah Ruhollah began his political career and opposed the shah's Western ways. He was afraid Iran was straying from its Islamic roots. In 1963, after speaking poorly of the shah, Ayatollah was arrested. His devoted supporters cried in the streets for his release and were put down through military force. Ayatollah was only released in April of 1964. Another speech in 1964 led to his deportation to Turkey. He moved to Iraq in 1965 and stayed there for 13 years.

In Iraq, he developed the Velayat-e faqeeh theory. He taught his theory, which involved the clergy leading a state founded on Islamic principles, to other Iranians and also made videos that were smuggled into Iran. Ayatollah became the leader of opposition of the shah.

Protests in Khomeini's defense happened in 1978 and were put down violently. The Iranian government gave Khomeini a choice: stay in Iraq and give up all political activity or leave that country. Khomeini moved to Paris.

Two months later, in 1979, in the midst of more protests in Khomeini's defense, the shah was forced to leave Iran. Khomeini was recognized as Iran's new leader and was called Supreme Leader.

Ayatollah's Regime

Fall of Ayatollah

Shortly after releasing the fatwa, in June of 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini died. Before his death, he started an eight year war in Iraq in an attempt to spread his theory of a clergy-led government. His Islamic state of Iran continues today.


"Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.