It is widely believed Imam Khomeini, the characteristic spiritual leader, sparked the revolutionary feeling among the Iranian nations, and ignited the uprising.
In an interview with Shabbir Hassanally, a UK-based Islamic Scholar and activist, Fars News discusses unique characteristics of a leader who woke up people to reality after tens of decades. Hassanally tells Fars News Agency how he views Imam Khomeini the most qualified to take leadership of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. He also sheds light on how Imam Khomeini influenced other nations internationally. Throughout the interview, how Velayat Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist)1 was taken from the theoretical into practical level was discussed.
Below is the text of the interview with Mr. Shabbir Hassanally2:
Q: Even though Velayat Faqih (the notion of an Islamic jurist custodianship overall issues for which Prophet of Islam and Shia Imam have responsibility) traces its roots back to centuries ago, throughout the history Iran was the first and only state to adopt Velayat Faqih in the highest position of the government on the practical level. Do you see Imam Khomeini the most qualified to be the first ever Vali-e-Faqih (top jurisprudent) in the history?
A: I do believe he was without a doubt the most qualified. The idea of being qualified is composed of multiple factors aligning. To implement a divine system of government, such as the system of Velayat Faqih, the requirement is for both the leader having the foresight, knowledge, wisdom and ability – but also that said the leader has the support of the people. Both these key components were enjoyed by Imam Khomeini, and that resulted in the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, after decades of hard work and sacrifice by both the Imam as well as the people who were loyal and supportive of him.
Q: Imam Khomeini pronounced the Islamic Unity Week, and proposed the International Quds Day. He put emphasis on the fact that the unity of Muslims amongst themselves was meant to be “a united Hand against all arrogance” in that era. Why did Imam Khomeini urge Muslims to be united?
A: The idea of unity is one that has been taught by Islam from the start – and indeed by all the divine systems through history.
The first and most important step in any nefarious scheme by an oppressor to further their dominance over people is to pit the people against each other, and distract them from the reality and pre-occupy them with trivialities and non-issues. This is something that historically has harmed the Muslim world. Indeed, if one studies both the Roman and British Empires, it is evident to see that this approach was extensively utilised.
These days, there is little difference. The empire of the day – the American Empire – and its lackeys and associates work tirelessly to sow the seeds of sectarian strife between the Muslims. They pit the poor against the rich, the black against the white, the Arab against the non-Arab and so on. Why? So, they can control them further.
When Imam Khomeini said Muslims should unite with each other, he taught the Muslims that not only would they then be following Quranic dictates, but they would also be acting as a united hand against arrogance.
It was when the people of Iran, united and came together, under Islam and the leadership of Imam Khomeini, that they could remove the yoke of Shah and his masters in Washington, London and Tel Aviv from themselves; truly achieving independence from any oppressive system, and reliance only on God.
Q: Being named the man of the year in 1979 by the Times magazine, his international influence was noticed in every corner around the globe. How do you regard Imam Khomeini’s unique characteristics behind the fact that Iran’s Islamic Revolution was well received by other nations? Do think if, throughout the world, there is a corner in which Shia Islam is recognised without identifying Imam Khomeini?
A: For decades, even centuries, the Muslims had become secularised. Islam was relegated to the mosques; it was all but prohibited from play a part in the day to day affairs of people’s lives – let alone governing the people. I am of the firm belief that Imam Khomeini was one of the greatest Mujadideen (reformers) of Islam in this age. He took Islam, which had become secularised, and made it central to the entire system governing Iran. Imam Khomeini woke up the Muslims.
Imam Khomeini came and re-introduced the pure, original Islam to humanity. He showed that Islam could play a role in the affairs of people, in society, in politics, in the economy and so on; and was not just a cultural or spiritual phenomenon to be relegated to specific scenarios and places.
Due to its resistance mentality as well the reality of its position as a regional superpower – everyone looks towards Iran. Iran is a country governed by Islam, by the system of Velayat Faqih, a system that is an extension of the idea of Imamah or Velayat in Shia Theological Doctrine that is also understood and respected by all Muslims.
Without a doubt when people see or hear of Imam Khomeini, or Iran, or Imam Khamenei, they see Shia Islam. This is a universal concept, and there is – in my opinion – nowhere (especially since the advent of the Internet) that is unaware of this connection.
Q: Following the US embassy takeover in Tehran in 1979, Imam Khomeini proclaimed only the Iranian parliament could decide the fate of the American Embassy staff. How do you view Imam Khomeini’s loyalty to the Islamic thoughts and democratic values?
A: Following the April 1979 referendum, when more than 98% of the people of Iran had declared that they wanted to be governed by the system of Velayat Faqih, it was by very nature the most democratic and honourable of positions.
Iran had removed the shackles and arrested those who were working for the Empire and spreading mischief and sedition in Iran. Had Imam Khomeini issued a direct edict, had he said that he alone was to decide the fate of those American spies, it would have been perceived by the West and the media as being “totalitarian” and “dictator-like” – this was not the way of Imam Khomeini.
The people had chosen their system of government; they had their representatives in the Majles (Parliament). Therefore, the most prudent course of action was to allow the people to decide what to do with those who had harmed them. This could only be achieved by a decree from the Majles – the people’s representatives. Imam Khomeini insisted on this. A truly democratic and indeed Islamic position.
Q: To take the mustazafin (the deprived) into consideration, and to issue a fatwa to treat well the minorities (the way that Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians have seats in Iran’s Majles) were of Imam Khomeini’s legacy. How do you contrast his legacy with the goings-on in the US, today? Would you please clarify Imam Khomeini’s idea of calling the US the “great Satan”?
A: The ruling of Imam Khomeini, where he insisted – through Islamic edicts – that the minorities in Iran (and indeed across the world) should be treated with respect and honour – including ensuring that said minorities have their representatives in the Majles (parliament), to ensure their voices are heard is imperative. It indicates and proves that Islam is a system of peace, coexistence and sanity. It is a system that is rational.
These days in the US, you can see that much of what is transpiring – even before the ascension of Trump – is quite the opposite.
The US silences the voices of any who oppose the ruling oligarchy. It uses the mainstream media, the lobbies and draconian legislation to achieve its goals.
Should the Empire disagree with a position or opinion; its lackeys in Europe, Occupied Arabia, Occupied Palestine and elsewhere step in “sanctioning” and “disabling” such voices.
Social media has become ablaze with stories rendering the real news as “Fake News”, and touting fake news as truth. The truth is rendered false, and the falsehood is represented as truth.
When Imam Khomeini presented the idea of saying “Death to America” – this wasn’t an idea of opposing a country and its entire population; rather, it is the attributes that said entity represents. Hegemony, despotism, plutocracy, instigation of social and sectarian strife, the encouraging of immorality, interference in the affairs of others, not honouring pledges and agreements, misdirecting, deceiving, and so on.
Therefore, one might argue that the idea of “Death to America” is indeed a message to America and the world that we will not tolerate and accept these negative ideas, we instead reject such ideas so much so that we resist such tyranny.
The idea of “Death to America” is to tell the world that we reject the occupation, colonization and cultural and physical genocide of the American natives, and indeed by extension we reject all occupation, colonization, all genocide – cultural or physical – of all people – which is why the idea of “Death to America” complements the position of “Death to Israel” so perfectly. Both entities have qualities that are abhorrent to humanity. Qualities that harm humanity, harm nature and are of no value. Qualities that are satanic in character. Which leads to understanding why Imam Khomeini also referred to the American Empire as the Great Satan.
“Death to America” needs to be understood in two fundamental ways – firstly as a lesson, secondly as a prayer. When the supplicant says “Death to America” – they distance themselves from the qualities that America has that make it so despicable.