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Biography of supreme leader of Iran Ayatullah al-Udhma Khamenei
By: Mohammad Yazdi
1. Birth and Lineage
His Eminence Ayatullah al-'Udhma al-Haj as-Sayyid 'Ali al-Husaini al-Khamenei (May Allah prolong his life) was born in 1939 in the Holy City of Mashhad, Iran, in a respected scholarly family.
His father, Ayatullah al-Haj as-Sayyid Jawad, was amongst Mashhad's erudite 'ulama (clerics).
For years on end, he used to lead Fajr (morning) prayers at the Guharshad mosque and dhuhr (midday) and 'Isha (evening) prayers at the Bazaar-e-Mashhad mosque. He was a well-known preacher.
His mother was the daughter of Sayyid Hashim Najafabadi (MirDamadi), one of the well known 'ulama of Mashhad.
2. His Childhood
Ayatullah al-'Udhma Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei lived his childhood under the care of his father. Those years were very hard on Sayyid Khamenei because of poverty. He said, " I can recall that sometimes we had nothing to eat. At dinner time, my mother used to take the money which my grandmother gave me and my brothers and sisters, to buy milk and raisins for us to eat with bread."
3. His Education and Studies
At the age of five, Ayatullah al-Udhma Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei and his elder brother Sayyid Muhammad were sent to Maktabkhaneh (Qur'anic classes). Then they were enrolled into a religious primary school by the name of 'Dar ut Ta'lim e Diyanati'.
After he finished the primary school course, he attended evening classes in a state school, without the knowledge of his father, and obtained a certificate. He then enrolled in a secondary school for two years where he obtained a certificate.
As for religious studies, he studied Arabic grammar at the religious school. He read some of the books from "Jami' al-Muqaddamat", which are Arabic syntax books, under the supervision of his father. At the age of fourteen he joined the Sulaiman Khan School to study religious sciences. After completion of the study of Arabic grammar and the preliminary religious sciences he studied some of the Intermediate religious stuides (Sutuh) till the end of Lum'ah (concise but comprehensive text of Fiqh). Subsequently he joined the Nuwwab Religious Seminary to complete his Sutuh level of studies at the young age of sixteen.
This led to his attending Bahthil Kharij (graduation classes) under the supervision of Ayatullah al-'Udhma Sayyid Milani.
He studied under eminent scholars and jurisprudents like Ayatullah Mirza Javad Agha Tehrani, Ayatullah Hakim, Imam Khomeini, Ayatullah al-'Udhma Burujardi and 'Allamah Tabatabai.
Ayatullah al-'Udhma Khamenei spent most of his student days in Mashhad. In 1947 he also visited the Holy City of Najaf where he studied for two years. In 1958 he migrated to Qom where he studied for six years.
4. Teaching Career
His Eminence Ayatullah al-'Udhma Sayyid Khamenei started teaching early in his student days. Whatever he learnt with his God-given ingenuity and great devotion, he taught with complete mastery.
He expalins, "I started teaching right after I graduated from the primary school, during the time of my religious studies at the Islamic seminary. I supervised the learning of two elderly students, who were reading the book "Sarf -e-Mir".
In Qom I also combined study with teaching. After my return from Qom to Mashad in 1964, teaching was one of my main occupations. During these years, and until 1977, I supervised students at the level of advanced sutuh, teaching Makasib (an advanced profound text of Fiqh) of Sheikh Ansari in jurisprudence and Kifayah in usul (an advanced profound text on principles of Jurisprudence) and 'Aqaid (beliefs)."
Ayatullah al-'Udhma Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei obtained a licence for ijtihad (deduction of legal judgements) from his teacher, Ayatullah al-'Udhma Hairi in 1974, after attending bahth ul-kharij for more than fifteen years.
5. His Struggle from 1962 Onwards
A great part of his life has been dedicated to struggle, either through his writings, speeches, or taking up arms, especially when the late Imam inaugurated his Islamic Revolution in 1963. A detailed description of his struggles would require several volumes. However, a brief outline follows.
Responding to the call of Imam Khomeini (May his soul rest in peace) in 1962, the centre of religious learning, seat of knowledge and heart of jihad in Qom assumed an invigorated role. With courage and zeal, 'ulama and students alike took it upon themselves to disseminate the messages of the Imam and other religious authorities to every corner of Iran. Their instructions and calls were printed and circulated widely through the support and help of all popular forces. This new found vigour and zeal spread to the other centres of theology in the country, especially the Islamic seminary of Mashhad.
Ayatullah al-'Udhma Sayyid Khamenei (May Allah prolong his life) played a decisive role in this awakening. Alongside his activities in Qom, he strengthened his bond with the 'ulama and students of Mashhad. Counting on the activities and support of the 'ulama of Khurasan, he succeeded in mobilising theology students in a better way.
His fiery sermons exposing the treachery of the regime and widespsread activism against the oppressive Pahlavi rule led to his arrest and imposition of harsh treatment.
He was forced to do menial work, kept in solitary confinement, insulted and severely humiliated, threatened with death and subjected to other tortures in jail.
After his release from detention, Ayatullah al-'Udhma Khamenei decided to settle in Mashhad instead of going back to Tehran or Qom. He took up teaching as his prime concern. He gave classes in Qura'nic commentary. He used these classes as a platform to disseminate revolutionary ideas, a rallying point for revolutionaries, and a centre for awakening.
Ayatullah al-'Udhma Khamenei thus, commanded the respect of the Iranian people for his integrity, morality and courage. Invitations from many bodies and institutions in Iranian towns and cities such as Isfahan, Kirman, Yazd and Tehran were raining down on him to come and give lectures and talks. He spared no efforts to make use of all occasions to disseminate Islamic revolutionary ideas, tell the truth about the regime's practices, and encourage people to adhto the path of jihad and revolution.
After the departure of Ayatullah al-'Udhma Burujardi in 1970, Ayatullah al-'Udhma Sayyid Khamenei embarked on the task of promoting Imam Khomeini as a Marj'a, (religious authority); he thought the time was right for such a move; the years 1968 to 1971 witnessed the building of peaceful revolutionary culture. The youth were still taking their first steps in the realm of revolutionary Islam. Sayyid Khamenei calls this period the " years of clandestine activities."
Capitalising on the strength the Islamic movement had achieved , it was thought fit and timely to create organised Islamic cells, headed by the 'ulama and those well-versed in jurisprudence and politics instead of ordinary people or politicians. The first of these cells was set up, headed by the late Imam Khomeini and supervised by revolutionary ulema in Mashad.
The Mujahidin 'Ulama League was born; its emergence was a prelude to the founding of the Islamic Republican Party after the revolution.
Sayyid Khamenei's role in establishing the League was pivotal. It is worth noting that the Savak prevented him from leaving the country for ten years from 1965.
His exile lasted till 1978. Availing himself of the turmoil into which the ruling establishment was thrown, Sayyid Khamenei returned to Mashhad to continue his jihad with a vengeance.
6. During and After the Revolution
1. Membership of the Revolution Command Council
Besides the leader, the Revolution Command Council played a major role in administering the revolution and eventually rendering it triumphant.
2. Member of Imam Khomeini's Reception Committee
3. Representative of Imam Khomeini in the Revolutionary Council in the Defence Ministry
4. Commander of Revolutionary Guards
5. Imam of Tehran Friday (Juma'h) Prayer
6. Member of the Islamic Consultative Council in the first term.
7. Imam Khomeini's counsel in Supreme Defence Council
8. President of the Republic for two consecutive terms
7. His Leadership
After the sad demise of the founder of the Islamic Revolution, the Council of Experts on 4th June 1989 unanimously elected him to the Leadership post of the Islamic Revolution and the Muslim Ummah.