To become a Grand Ayatollah, one must be steeped in the Qur’an, in Islamic history and law, in the Shi’ite Hadith traditions about Muhammad, Ali and the eleven Imams descended from him. One must be recognized by other ayatollahs, mullahs and aspiring “seminarians” as having reached the summit of Islamic learning. Such was the case with Ruhollah Khomeini, who indeed was not satisfied merely with such recognition, but strove to be “first among equals,” which happened when by popular demand he became the “father of the Islamic revolution of Iran.”
To accuse Khomeini of misunderstanding Islam would be laughable. So when he speaks to fellow Muslims, especially to other clerics, about the message of Islam, one may be sure he is authoritatively reflecting orthodoxy (to which Sunni leaders would also agree). For those laboring under the misapprehension that “Islam is a peaceful religion,” please read the following message which Khomeini delivered on Feb 4, 1985 to Muslim leaders from some thirty countries:
Brothers, do not sit at home so that they [the enemy] attack. Move onto the offensive and be sure that they shall retreat….This was what happened in Iran and Iran’s power [under the Shah] was far greater than most of the other countries….Do not content yourself with teaching the people the rules of prayer and fasting. The rules of Islam are not limited to these….Why don’t you recite the sura of qital [armed fighting]? Why should you always recite the suras of mercy? Don’t forget that killing is also a form of mercy….There are ills that cannot be cured except through burning. The corrupt in every society should be liquidated….The Qur’an teaches us to treat as brothers only those who are Muslims and believe in Allah. [It] teaches us to treat those who are not thus differently; teaches us to hit them, throw them in jail and kill them.
— (As quoted in Amir Taheri’s The Spirit of Allah, p. 298.)
Khomeini and other Muslim leaders (whether Shi’ite or Sunni) did not always speak so openly about Islam’s call to subjugate or kill those unwilling to become Muslims. Instead, they made liberal use of various types of deception, as permitted under Muhammad’s teaching and example, in order to advance the reach of Islam in the world. Muslim leaders today in similar settings do exactly the same. In my next post, I will explain five terms used by Muslim jurists to justify various forms of deception permitted to Muslims in particular circumstances. I hope you’ll stay tuned.