Imam Khomeini and the Unity of the Ummah-I

Imam Khomeini and the Unity of the Ummah-I

The alchemy of unity, and it can be said perhaps that the rudimentary and fundamental principle in the teachings of Islam is the call for unity and fostering of unanimity and sympathy among human beings. The principle of monotheism and worshipping One God among the principles of our religion, which is acknowledged by all Muslim sects, and one of the two basic pillars of every person’s profession of Islam is his bearing of witness to the Oneness of God and to the Apostleship of Muhammad (s).

A glance at the teachings of Islam and jurisprudential precepts shows that all religious ordinances have been issued with the aim of forming a unified, harmonious and concordant society. One ka’bah (House of God), one book, one Islamic language, one slogan, etc. are all symbols of unanimity and harmony. The prayer timings, fasting, Hajj (annual pilgrimage), religious festivals, Friday congregational prayer, congregational prayers, supplications, pilgrimage to holy shrines and mourning ceremonies held in the remembrance of doyen of martyrs, etc. have all been ordained to foster unity among the Muslims. Although all these affairs at the present have been sources of discord instead of sources of unity, this fact will not arbitrarily affect the principle of religion. The teachings of Islam have a wide gap with our acts; for, “Islam is something while the Muslims are something else” [Al-Islam shay ‘un wa‘1-Muslimin shay ‘un akhar].
Imam Khomeini, as the reviver of the pristine Islam in the contemporary period and an individual who is regarded as among the exceptional figures after Islam, has always emphasized this fundamental principle of unity in society, not regarding it as a strategy and tactic in order to overcome the enemy and establishing government but as the essence of his understanding of the honor and power of the Muslims, socio-political nature of the school of Islam, and the devotion of his epistemology to the dictums and principles of the Islamic and Qur’anic precepts. And this method and disposition had no contradiction with his Shi’i belief and doctrine. While being a
devoted and fundamentalist Shi’ah Muslim and never willing to commit an iota of deviation from the well-established principles of the Shi’ah Ithna’ Ashari school of thought. He was a broadminded person, and devotion and commitment to the Islamic principles and values were not an obstacle to benefit from and use the common positions of the Islamic ummah with the other nations of the world, let alone the positions of the Shi’ah and Sunnis. So, it is appropriate during these days, which correspond with the (International Islamic) Unity Week. A glance, though a cursory one, at the stances and viewpoints of the Imam that we have is already enough that the instructions of such enlightened sage would serve as torch along our way and that we could overcome the critical circumstances that shower fire of discord and rancor from every direction as well as deliver Islam and the Revolution from the evil of discord and dissension.
In this paper, I shall try to state the fundamental pivots of preserving unity in the society, which can be noticed in the attitude and speech of the late Imam, and the manifestations of his statements and recollections of his supporters in relation to each of the pivots.
The fundamental pivots of preserving unity can be divided into five

1. Targeting the root of corruption;
2. Forming a united front;
3. Holding fast to the commonalities;
4. Keeping aloof from divisive issues; and
5. Laying the foundation of the symbols of unity.
I. Targeting the root of corruption
From the initial days when he took a step in the scene of social life, by benefiting from the experiences of his predecessors and his understanding of the factors and reasons behind the failure and deviation of the Islamic movements especially in the past one hundred years, the Imam had arrived at the conclusion that dealing with the secondary indications and elements of corruption is not only not inconsistent with the interests of the oppressors and tyrant governments but also, in some or even most cases, they themselves kindle the fire of these oppositions and will be glad that the public opinion would be diverted from them and focused on marginal and secondary issues. Thus, from the very beginning, the Imam had been calling for the toppling down of the monarchial regime and expressing regret for the refusal of ‘ulama’ and clerics to concentrate their efforts on fundamental reform of the society. In the most historic document of his struggle which he had written after the fall of Rida Khan’s government, the Imam says:
“O Islamic clergymen ! O divine ‘ulama’! O pious scholars! O speakers of the religion of the Friend (God)! You God-seeking pious ones! You Truth- loving God-seekers! You honorable Truth-lovers! You patriotic honorable ones! You zealous patriots! Read the admonition of the Lord of the worlds, and accept the only way He proposes for reformation, and abandon personal interests so that you will attain salvation in both worlds and embrace an honorable life in both: “Lo! There are zephyrs from God during your lifetime. Behold! Turn your faces toward them.” Today is the day when the spiritual divine zephyr is blowing and it is the best time to rise for the reformation; if you miss the chance and don’t rise for God’s sake and restore the religious rites, a bunch of lustful vagabonds will prevail over you tomorrow and exploit all your faith and honor to their own vain ends.”
And similarly, after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the Imam expressed regret from the society’s improper utilization of the atmosphere of power vacuum that had emerged after the escape of Rida Shah, thus saying:
“Regrettably, at that time there was nobody among the nation to bring the people together and lead them. So, they installed the son of Rida Khan here. If that time, two or three cities had demonstrated against him, they would have not placed Muhammad Rida in power. But nobody uttered a word as that fear had gripped the people… Perhaps, had the late Modarres3 been present at that time, he would have done something.”
Given this explanation, it becomes clear that during that time also the Imam has targeted the source of corruption, and if we can observe that when confronting the trend and thought that aims at casting doubt upon the root and foundation of religious thought and beliefs of the society, the Eminent Imam would rise up to counter it, put aside the lessons and discussions in the seminary, and write the most substantial and comprehensive book in refuting doubts and skeptic isms of the time, it is based on this same idea and thought. In this book also, the Imam regards Rida Khan himself as the origin and person behind the article (which questions the religious foundation of the society) and exposes the Shah’s detestable nature. The Imam thus says: “He had no understanding of what is advisable and what is corruption. The pressures he exerted on the clerics were not meant for goodness but to uproot it.”
Keeping in view of these explanations, the reason behind the Imam’s lack of active involvement on the issue of nationalization of the oil industry and the campaigns of Ayatullah Kashani becomes clear. It was because in those campaigns the principle of the existence of the monarchy had been taken for granted and they were just an attempt to bring about reforms in the system. Similarly, if we observe that the Imam did not get involve in the organization called Hujjatiyyah which was active in the campaign against Baha’ism, it has been based on the same mindset, for the Imam was considering that type of campaign as a campaign against an effect that led to negligence of the main source of corruption.
As soon as the justification to openly confront the monarchial regime was made, the late Imam immediately made an action and directly targeted the Shah and his puppet regime.
In his famous message after the Faydiyyah Madrasah tragedy, the Imam says:
“Monarchism means plunder, profanity of Islam, violating the rights of Muslims, encroaching the centers for science and knowledge; it means striking the body of the Qur’an and Islam; burning the symbols of Islam and doing away with Islamism and it means also suppressing the clergy and eliminating the signs of prophethood.”
Throughout the period of struggle, the lmam used to confront any movement that would divert the attention of the nation from the principal culprit, and to try as much as he could in elucidating and presenting the correct path of the struggle. For example; when the issue about the book, Shahid-eJawid, was highlighted in the academic circles while some were in favor of its content and some others against the same, or when some were favoring the ideas of the late Dr. Shari’ati while some others were disfavoring the same, the Imam says:
“You considered the matter of the late Shamsabadi to be an ordinary one. This was also one of those plots that they would hatch in various ways. At times they would bring up the matter of Shahid-e Jawid, from this side and that! Throughout the months of Muharram and Safar, and beyond, all the sermons from the pulpit dealt with what Shahid Jawid was! Some people would confirm, and others deny. Once this talk would die down a bit, they would start something else. The late Shamsabadi case was also one of those cases. Perhaps they had done it themselves—but I am not aware of it—that is, kill somebody to raise a hue and cry, and have groups, for and against, disputing with one another. And then bring somebody else into the picture as soon as this controversy has subsided a bit, questioning and debating over his books. One would say that he was an unbeliever; another would say that he was a Muslim. Somebody would say that he was a thorough Muslim like the prophets, for instance, while somebody else would say that he was an unbeliever, worse than Abu Jahl But there is a plot afoot! Those who are doing all these things have no belief in Islam and neither in spirituality. They do not believe in anything.”
This method and approach of the Imam continued after the victory of the Islamic Revolution and prevented the diversion of the nation as well as that of others from the aggressive and corrupt nature of America. By calling America as the “Great Satan”, supporting the occupation of the Den of Espionage (American Embassy), and exposing the detestable visage of America disguising under the garb of human rights, the Imam refocuses the attention of everybody on America. In this regard, he thus says:
“All freedom fighters, with insight and eloquence, must demonstrate to the oppressed people of the Third World the procedure of hitting the big powers and the superpowers in the face, especially the United States of America. I declare with confidence that Islam will humble the superpowers and strip them away of their honor and dignity. Islam will remove all the big obstacles in its way, within and without its frontiers, and one by one it will capture all the key positions throughout the world.”
This is the gist of the manifestations that can be cited with regard to the strategy of His Eminence Imam Khomeini in the struggle against the corrupt powers by targeting the root of corruption. Now, by contenting ourselves with those manifestations, we shall proceed to the next axis.
2. Forming a united front
Another axis on the basis of which the Imam used to make steps in the struggle was the formation of a united front against the enemy. The eminent Imam used to shun schism and factionalism, and exert all his efforts in uniting the ‘ulama’ and leading figures of the society. in his most historic document of the struggle, the Imam says:
“O honorable gentleman who collected these pages and presented them to the ‘ulama’ and preachers of the cities! Why don’t you provide them with a booklet, for bringing them together and uniting them for Islamic purposes, collecting their signatures, all swearing that if in a corner of the country a profanity is directed against religion, they would all rise in unison from every corner?”
In the same manner, the Imam made great effort in the transfer of the late Ayatullah Burüjerdi to Qum and in supporting his marja ‘iyyah (religious authority). The Imam’s role in setting up a single leadership in the seminary of Qum after the heavenly departure of the late Ayatullah Ha’iri has been acknowledged by those who had been in the said seminary at that time.

Although what the Imam was aiming was not materialized, the grandeur and eminence of Shi’ah marja ‘iyvah at that time was a great obstacle vis-à-vis the implementation of the Shah’s filthy objectives, and we can observe that while the late Ayatullah was alive, the Shah never allowed himself to openly oppose him, and in a bid to make up for this intricacy, he sent a telegram to Najaf immediately after the passing away of Ayatullah Burujerdi, claiming that there is no qualified maria’ and leading religious figure in Iran, and in doing so, he wanted to relieve himself of it. It was after this event that he implemented the fuss, “Provincial and City Councils”. Before the Imam
issued a statement, the Imam who knew of his design invited all the ‘ulama’ (Prominent Religious Scholars) of the time and held a meeting at the house of the late Haj Shaykh Murtada Ha’iri on how to deal with the issue.This is in spite of the fact that this assembly did not last long and the influence of some ambitious elements hindered the formation of a united front against the Shah.

The Imam, however, continued in his efforts and sent many letters to the different places and cities, urging the ‘ulama’ and clerics in every city to conduct a weekly meeting at night to make a unified stance on the events to take place.
After his release from prison in 1363 AHS, when the Imam was informed that talks about disparaging and abusing some of the maraji’ who have not sympathized with him have been current among the young seminary students, he says:
“I feel I must offer a word of advice to the young theological students who have recently joined the clergy and who are full of vigor and vitality. They need to be aware that the least insult aimed by them at any of the maraji of Islam would mean the termination of the wilayah between themselves and God. I assure you that to slight a distinguished marja is no trivial matter, so much so that if this great movement was to be impaired in any way as a result of such ignorance, then you would be chastised by God Almighty and the acceptance of your repentance would be problematic, for it is the honor and dignity of Islam that would have been damaged. I swear that if my children or myself were slapped in the face by someone, an act of retaliation would not please me and I would not agree to it.”
In this way, he prevented the creation of discord in the ranks of the combatants and dissension among the maraji’, and thwarted the plot of the elements who were hoping to undermine the unity between the seminary students and the clerics.
After the Imam’s exile to Najaf al-Ashraf (in Iraq), notwithstanding the unkindness expressed by the Najaf Seminary to him, the Imam tried his utmost to maintain the position and rank of Ua4rat Ayatullah al-Hakim and he avoided any action that might have even the least effect of weakening the general marja ‘iyyah of Ayatullah al-Hakim. For example, when the book, Tahrir al-Wasilah, was published for the first time by his followers, the Imam noticed the title, “the leading figure of seminary schools” inscribed in the cover of the book. Thus, he immediately ordered for the said title to be crushed out, or else, “I will throw these books to the Tigris River.” The insistence of his followers was to no avail and finally with much difficulty they crushed out the said title.’
After the victory of the Islamic Revolution, by founding the Hizb-e Jumhuri-ye Khalq-e Musalman [Muslim People’s Republic Party], some people staged rallies and demonstrations in supporting one of the maraji of the Lime, and although later the identity of that person who was apparently occupying the station of maria iyyah was exposed, the Imam did not allow the people to express their support for him though he had information about the background and attitude of the person in question. The Imam said:
“If, for example, they insult me or burn my photograph or attack me at this sensitive moment, no one has the right to show a reaction. The enemy is waiting in ambush and hatching plots. They want to divert your minds from the mindset that you have and the path of liberation of Islam that you are traversing. They want to divert the movement from its own path.”

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