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Ayatollah Khomeini became the supreme religious leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, following many years of resistance to Shah Pahlavi.
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Ayatollah Khomeini became the supreme religious leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, following many years of resistance to Shah Pahlavi. Following his appointment as Ayatollah, Khomeini worked to remove the Shah from power for his associations with the West. Upon the success of the revolution Ayatollah Khomeini was named religious and political leader of Iran for life.
Born on September 24, 1902, Ruhollah Mousavi whose given name means "inspired of God" was born into a family of Shi'ite religious scholars in the small Iranian village of Khomein. He would later take his hometown as his surname and become known by his more famous moniker, Ruhollah Khomeini. In 1903, just five months after Khomeini's birth, his father, Seyed Moustafa Hindi, was murdered.
Khomeini was raised by his mother and an aunt, Sahebeh, both of whom died of cholera in 1918. The responsibility for the family then fell to Khomeini's older brother, Seyed Mourteza. The family claimed to be descendents of the Prophet Muhammad. Both brothers were avid religious scholars like their forefathers, and both attained the status of Ayatollah, which is given only to Shi'ite scholars of the highest knowledge.
As a young boy, Khomeini was lively, strong, and good at sports. He was even considered the leapfrog champion of his village and the surrounding area. Far from being dedicated only to games, though, Khomeini was also an intellectual. He was known for his great ability at memorizing both religious and classical poetry, and also excelled at his studies at the local maktab, a school dedicated to teaching the Qu'ran.
Because of his scholarly success, Khomeini's older brother decided to send him to the city of Arak (or Sultanabad) in 1920. There, Khomeini studied with the renowned Islamic scholar Yazdi Ha'iri. Ha'iri left Arak for the city of Qom in 1923, and Khomeini followed. There, he committed all of his efforts to furthering his own religious studies while also becoming a teacher for younger students at Ha'iri's school.
When Ha'iri died in the 1930s, the Ayatollah Boroujerdi succeeded him as the most important Islamic figure in Qom. As a result, Boroujerdi gained Khomeini as a follower. It is interesting to note that both Ha'iri and Boroujerdi believed that religion should not involve itself with government affairs. So, while the leader of Iran, Reza Shah, weakened the powers of religious leaders and promoted a more secularized country, the most powerful religious figures in Iran remained silent and encouraged their followers to do the same.
Moreover, the same deference was encouraged when Reza Shah's son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, turned to the U.S. for help quelling protests for democratic reforms in Iran's capital, Tehran, in the 1950s. One of those who were muted by the beliefs of the senior religious leaders was Khomeini.
Unable to speak out against what he saw as a country leaving its Islamic roots and values behind, Khomeini turned his efforts toward teaching.
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