Islam and Revolution, Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini
translated and edited by Hamid Algar
Berkeley: Mizan Pregs, 1981
Reviewed in Orita, 14:2, 163-164
The Islamic movement in Iran today defies any sociological analysis which does not take into account the power of religious conviction. To understand the Iranian Islamic revolution, how it came about and which way it is going, this book is an indispensible source.
The introduction gives important background information, and the full scope of Khomeini's thought is presented in a text translated into clear English.
In these writings Khomeini appears not as a revolutionary thinker, but as a conservative representative of classical Islam in the Shî`ite tradition. This is shown when he talks about Islamic government, which is one totally regulated by the Sharî`a, that is the Qur'an and Sunna. An Islamic order must be achieved, if need be, by armed struggle or jihad. A leader, or imam, is necessary to conduct jihad and implement Sharî`a, but Khomeini is careful to distinguish two meanings of imam. The first is a leader in the general sense; the second is the divinely appointed successor of `Alî and Husayn who has been hidden for many centuries, according to both Imamite and Ismailite Shî`ism. Khomeini himself has been acclaimed imam in the general sense, and the translator prefers this title to "Ayatollah".
Khomeini again shows his roots in classical Islam when talking about theology and Sufism, especially in his lectures on Surat al-Fâtiha. In his lecture on the Supreme Jihad he emphasises the greater importance of this jihad of self-discipline over the jihad of armed struggle.
Behind all his expositions of classical Islamic theory, the man Khomeini also appears: the man whose father was killed by bandits and who lost his mother and aunt at the age of 16. Anger comes through on every page: against foreign imperialists, against the Pahlavi dynasty, against pseudo-pious Muslims who avoid armed struggle, and finally against Jews, Christian missionaries and the Baha'i movement.
Khomeini goes beyond denunciations to the practicalities of how to organize people for a jihad, through Friday sermons and pilgrimage contacts. Yet in all the pages there is scarcely a word about social construction, about how to win the peace after the war has been won. Neither the text nor the sympathetic translator's introduction, moreover, admit anything positive whatsoever about the Pahlavi regime. The whole book. however, makes sense if one takes Islamic revelation as the sole perspective for judging all values.