The Spirit of Allah, written in 1985 by Amir Taheri, is a fascinating biography of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from his 1902 birth to five years after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. The title of the book comes from the literal translation of “Ruhollah” into English. To me one of the most striking points of the biography is how easy it was for Khomeini to accept, encourage or even command evil against others as he plotted his rise to power. From lies and slander, demonizing innocents, turning a blind eye to rank injustices, ruining the religious and/or political aspirations of rivals, cajoling children to die in battle against Iraqi armed forces, even approving kidnappings and assassinations, Khomeini was obsessed with reaching the pinnacle of Shi’ite Islam, being recognized as A’alam, the one authority universally acclaimed as knowing more than any other ayatollah/religious leader and hence worthy of complete obeisance. Yet his striving was not driven purely by ego. Apparently he believed that he was called for the sake of the ascendancy of Islam to stand at this pinnacle, even if it demanded climbing over the corpses and reputations of hundreds of thousands of others.
Time and again, Khomeini and others employed “loopholes” in Islamic ethics which allowed them to lie, mislead or dissemble in order to advance their own agendas (which of course they legitimized as Allah’s agenda). One gets the impression that good and evil are not measured by objective standards but only by whether actions will help or hinder the cause of Islam. When Taheri, who is Iranian himself, discusses Khomeini’s campaign of terror against the disparate groups within Iran opposed to the burgeoning Islamic revolution, he notes that the Grand Ayatollah saw this repression as “a necessary surgery.” Indeed, according to the author, “The argument [of Khomeini] was that no act was evil so long as it was performed in the service of Allah, whereas acts normally considered noble would be nothing but crimes if directed against the Almighty’s will” (p. 278). Such a view ultimately disintegrates into an “end justifies the means” mentality, which certainly proved itself to be the case repeatedly for Shi’ism’s “divine agent.”
Most amazing of all to me was the fact that no one castigated or condemned Khomeini’s actions on religious grounds – that is, while many opposed him when his plans or decisions stymied their own agendas, no one called him out for doing what was forbidden in Allah’s eyes, apparently because there was no absolute standard by which to judge his actions, only the very elastic guideline of advancing the rule of Islam.
I tried to imagine what would happen if a Christian leader attempted to use these same unethical tools in seeking ascendancy within the Christian world. Certainly there have been many cases of unethical Christian leaders lining their own pockets, bilking innocent and naïve victims, engaging in wide-ranging sexual improprieties, lying to save their own skins. But creating elaborate falsehoods to destroy other ministries? Ordering assassinations? Deliberately misleading others while plotting their deaths? Breathing hatred publicly toward enemies, vowing to “kick their teeth in”? Perhaps some of the Borgia Popes may have fallen into this category, I don’t know. But I do know that nothing in the New Testament would allow such behavior among God’s leaders, while the Qur’an leaves a lot of wiggle room, as long as Islam expands its reign as a result. If Khomeini truly represents the apex of Shi’ite spirituality, our Western societies may be in a world of hurt, especially after U.S. capitulation to Iranian demands in the recent “nuclear accords.”
More to come on Khomeini, according to The Spirit of Allah. Stay tuned.