The cry of the newborn filled the house.

The midwife came out of the room and joyfully in her voice said, “It’s a boy, sir. A boy!”

His father, Seyyed Mostafa, whispered the azan [the call to prayer] in the infant’s ear.

They asked, “What will you name him?”

“Ruhollah [The Spirit of God]. Seyyed Ruhollah,” he said.


Aqa Mostafa had studied in Isfahan.

The people would seek refuge in his house from the tyranny of the local Khan.

And the Seyyed would do whatever was in his power to help.

The Khan has gathered a bunch of hoodlums and gunslingers about him.

He did whatever he wanted to do, and the people were helpless to do anything about it.

Seyyed Mostafa would go to Arak and tell of the tales of oppression,

So that maybe the elders in Arak would do something to help the people of Khomein.

On the way, he came across a little orphan girl.

Perhaps he knew what fate awaited him when he told her,

“Soon my children will become orphans too.”

Ruhollah was five months old then.

The Khan’s emissaries didn’t let Seyyed Mostafa reach Arak.

They shot him in the heart.


On winter nights, everyone gathered around the korsi.

Ruhollah , whose face would sometimes redden from the cold,

would tuck his legs under the korsi too.

And Mother would tell them tales…

Tales of Prophet Moses!

Tales of Prophet Abraham!


He loved writing with a quill.

He had learned how from Morteza, his older brother:

How to hone the quill, how to prepare the inkwell…

He practiced so much that his handwriting was indistinguishable from that of his master.

Later he would say, “Praise of good calligraphy is praise of the Lord.”


Ruhollah was now 27.

One day, Mr. Lavasani asked him,

“Why don’t you get married?”

With downcast eyes he said,

“I want a wife who acts within the confines of the [Sacred] Law,

Who is passionate about the [religious] sciences,

And will make do with the life of the wife of a man of the cloth.”

Mr. Lavasani glanced at Mr. Thaqafi, then turned to Ruhollah and said,

“Mr. Thaqafi has two daughters.”

This Ruhollah did not know.

He had known Mr. Thaqafi for some years now.

It was decided that Mr. Lavasani would approach Mr. Thaqafi on Ruhollah’s behalf

To ask for the hand of one of his daughters in marriage.

In her birth certificate her name was given as Khadijeh, but she was called Qodsi.

Qodsi lived in Tehran, with her grandmother.

A few years ago, her father had gone to Qom to continue his studies.

He was devoted to the [religious] sciences, and had written a few books as well.

Qodsi had studied up to the eighth grade.

She would like to have continued on to high school,

But because [in those days] all the teachers, orderlies and school administrators were male,

Her father was averse to the idea, and she did not wish to go [against his will].

The next time her father came to Tehran, he spoke to Qodsi,

Although he knew her answer was a foregone conclusion.

Life in Qom would have been difficult for her.

Each time she would come to visit him in Qom, he would try to keep her there for a few extra days.

The desert climate didn’t suit her.

And her grandmother couldn’t bear to be without her for too long.

But still, he would say,

“But my daughter, this Seyyed [a man descended from the Prophet] is a good man.

He will not let life be too difficult for you.”

He said this and sipped his tea [waiting for her to change her mind].

Her father’s persistence didn’t yield any result,

But neither was Mr. Lavasani satisfied that her answer was final.

The fifth time Mr. Lavasani asked the father of the bride-to-be, Mr. Thaqafi said,

“I don’t know anymore, the decision is hers to make.”

The next morning, when Qodsi awoke, her sleep was still in her eyes,

As if she did not want to awake and wanted her dream to continue.

By breakfast she could no longer hold out, and confided in her grandmother:

“I dreamed three people were sitting right there. One had on a black turban [a privilege exclusive to Seyyeds].  The other’s turban was green [the other color of turban which is also exclusive to the family of the Prophet, upon all of whom be the peace and blessings of God]. And there was a third man, who was younger, whose turban was also black.

I turned around and saw that there was a lady with a chador speckled with flowers sitting next to me.

I asked her, ‘Who are these gentlemen?’

She said, “The Prophet, Imam ‘Ali, and Imam Hasan.”

I was thrilled, and said, “I love them very much!”

She said, “No, you do not love them.”

I said, “Yes, I surely do! I love them very much indeed!”

But she gave me the same answer.

Grandmother said, “It must be because you have turned down this Seyyed that the Prophet is cross with you. Accept that!”

The day after we made our vows, he said to me,

“The only thing I ask of you is that you perform your religious duties and avoid sin. Nothing more.”


One day, I was sitting next to Aqa [Ruhollah].

A maid had brought in some tea.

I told Aqa, “This Fatemeh is a good maid; she works very diligently.”

He said, “Pray do not talk behind others’ backs.”

“But that wasn’t backbiting,” I said, “I said she was good and diligent in her work.”

He said, “Yes, but when you say that so-and-so is good, it implies that another is not as good, and that is backbiting.”


“Be quiet!” Aqa said.

But the others insisted on hearing Seyyed Mostafa tell of the dream that he’d had the previous night.

Mostafa’s gaze was to the ground and he was recounting the dream with trepidation and awe.

“… Farabi, Avicenna, Abu Rayhan-e Biruni, Fakr-e Razi, KhajehNasired-Din-e Tusi, ‘AllamehHelli, Molla Sadra, and many others were there… When you entered, everyone rose out of respect and ushered you to the front of the assembly. “

When Mostafa finished speaking, everyone was dumbfounded. No one spoke a word. Their eyes were on the Imam, who was still looking at Mostafa.

Mostafa finally gathered the courage to raise his head, and when his eyes met those of the Imam’s, Aqa asked him:

“You really had this dream?”

“Indeed I did.”

“Silly boy!”

Everyone’s laughter filled the room, and Aqa smiled along with everyone else.


It was my turn to do the dishes, but I was very tired and just wasn’t up to the task.

I was resting against my cushion and pleading with my sister to no avail to take on my burden.

Then, out of a sudden, it occurred to me that Aqa Jun’s Vuzu (ritual ablution) never took so long.

When I reached the door of the kitchen, Aqa was drying his hands.

The dishes were clean and neatly placed in the dish rack to dry.

When he saw my surprise he said,

“Today it was my turn.”


He was never short with the children,

Except when they didn’t listen to their mother.

He would say, “‘Heaven is at the foot of mothers.’ “

Then he would explain, “You must listen to what your mother has to say, constantly

Effacing your will at her feet up to the time that God deems you worthy of entering Heaven.”


Once he said, “Those who have ventured on the journey of self-examination and purification

Will at times be graced with a certain luminosity about them.

This they must strive to protect with the maintenance of a good relationship with God

And of His perpetual ritual invocation [zekr].


The sky was overcast.

No one had noticed the setting of the sun.

That day, class took longer than usual.

When the azan [call to prayer] was heard, Aqa immediately brought his lesson to a close.

The students, upset from having been deprived of the rest of the lesson,

Took their complaint to the moazzen [the prayer caller]:

“What kind of thing was that for you to do [in the middle of the lesson]?!”

The old moazzen didn’t say anything and just lowered his head.

When Aqa heard of this incident, he suspended his lessons in the great mosque,

Until the day that his students went to the old moazzen and begged him to forgive them their trespass.


They were taking him to Tehran.

On either side of him, a SAVAK agent [the Shah’s notorious secret service] was seated.

Their legs were trembling from fear.

They didn’t want the Seyyed to know… but they were afraid.

He said, “Why are you trembling? What are you afraid of?”

“If… if the people see that we have taken you [prisoner]…”

Gently, he placed his hands on their knees and said,

“While I am with you, there is no need for you to be afraid.”


NeauphleleChâteau is a small village about 40 kilometers from Paris.

They had rented a two-bedroom house there.

His neighbors liked him.

They had heard that he was the leader of the Iranian Revolution.

They would see him in his garden, seated under an apple tree

With reporters gathered around him, asking him questions.

On Christmas Eve, he sent presents to his neighbors:

A box of sweets,

And a long-stemmed rose.


“Why so many oranges?” he asked.

The price was reduced, so I bought a couple of kilos to last a few days.

He said, “You have committed two sins. The first is that there was no need for so many; and some might be wasted. The other is that there might be some people in NeauphleleChâteau who cannot afford to buy oranges at the regular price and, now that the price has been reduced and with your having bought so many, you might have deprived them of their chance to buy some [at this reduced price]. Go and return them!”

“But they won’t take them back,” I objected.

“So then, peel them and offer them around. Maybe in this way God will see His way to forgive you your sin.”


[When the plane landed at Mehrabad airport, ending 14 years of exile]

He descended the stairs slowly.

Millions had come to greet him.

People carried the car he was in on their raised hands.

The first place he went to was Behesht-e Zahra,

To be next to the martyrs.


He had asked, “Why are you fighting with Iraq?” and Our ambassador had responded,

“It is not we who are fighting. They started the war and we are only defending our- …

Cutting him off, he slapped our ambassador on the face.

The man was one of the head honchos of the Soviet Union. There was nothing to be done.

It was midnight when the Imam heard of the incident.

He said, “… right NOW!”

They entreated him: “The Soviet Union is a superpower! We cannot …”

But it was all to no avail. Finally he said, “If none of you will go, let me know and I will go myself.”

A little later, they rang the doorbell of the Soviet ambassador’s residence, saying they needed to speak to him.

They were told that he was asleep, and that they should return in the morning.

In turn, they said that they had come on an urgent mission from the Leader of Iran.

The ambassador came with sleep in his eyes. Without a word, they landed a heavy slap on his face.

The ambassador was now fully awake. “Tit for tat,” they said, and left.


Iraq was bombing Iranian cities.

They had built a bomb shelter next to the Imam’s residence for him, but he refused to use it.

When they insisted, he said, “What is the difference between me and the soldier who keeps watch at the front of the street?”

He never did use the bomb shelter, no matter what we did.


In the winter of [13] ’62 I telephoned the Imam’s office and asked why the Imam no longer holds audiences? They told me that the Imam had heard that in the West of the country [at the war front] there is a shortage of gasoil, and he ordered the heaters of Jamaran [his residence] be turned off.

He is suffering from a severe cold, they said.


The Supreme Security Council had a meeting in which the Imam was present.

It was a very important meeting. Mr. Khamenei, Mr. Hashemi [Rafsanjani], the Minister of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff… everyone was there. In the middle of the meeting, suddenly the Imam got up and left the room.  Everyone was surprised and we were concerned that something untoward had occurred.

Someone asked, “Is everything alright, Sir?”

“Fine! Its prayer time is all.”


On the noon of the 13th of Khordad [1368] he awoke from his sleep again and ordered the members of his household to gather round.

His wife and his children and his grandchildren gathered around the [hospital] bed. He looked at them all, and with a weak voice said,

“The path ahead is perilous to the extreme. Try [at all costs] to avoid sin.”

Then he said, “That is all. Turn off the light. Those who want to stay, stay, and those who want to leave, leave.”

The light was turned off.

He closed his eyes.