Reform through Revolution

Mohamedtufayl Mohamedali

‘Neither East nor West[1]


Adopted at a time when tensions between the two world superpower poles was at its peak, the Islamic Revolution of Iran bore an Islamic government in the country, with this basic motto. Neither Western nor the Eastern ideologies were sufficient to provide justice – only Islam could, can and will continue do so.

Though a controversial figure, even in the Islamic world, the leader of the Islamic Revolution and founder of Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini (ra), has much to offer. Aside from his political involvement and his management of the government, he was a symbol of spiritual and moral purity, and an example in every area of life. In other words, a modern-day example of what is expected of the companions of Ahlul-Bayt (as). Modern, because most readers of this article will admit that they can all relate to the life and experiences of this companion, because at one point in time, he was their contemporary.

Indeed, the ways and examples established by the Ahlul-Bayt (as) are something that we are all familiar with, and which we all try in some way or the other to adopt. However, it makes this task much easier, when we can, instead of looking only at history books, turn to the scholars, who are the closest practitioners of the ways and examples established by the Ahlul-Bayt (as). It is easier because they are more knowledgeable in this field and secondly because we have the advantage of being able to relate to them in the 21st century. Through them, we can see how we should live and conduct ourselves – even though national differences and ways of life may differ, the world in the 21st century is more or less flat. The East today is just as Western as the West itself, and this is because of a myriad of factors, which have enabled the Western ideology to seep into the lives and cultures of people all over the world. With the collapse of the Communist ideology which was another extreme, Western ideology won a temporary monopoly. It was amidst this environment that the stand of Islam was made – right there in a secure zone of the West – which directly challenged the Western Imperialism imposed upon it[2]. This stand by Imam Khomeini was a classic reflection of the rise of Islam, when the Arabs and their pagan ways had been established not only on the lands, but also in the psychology of the people, before Islam rose to challenge and shatter these idols, under the leadership of the great Prophet Muhammad (saw).

This refusal to accept foreign influence is similar to the domination which was rejected internally in Arabia 1400 years ago, which prepared the fertile ground for the introduction of Islam. They are similar because both stood for one message, one cause: submission to One God and freedom from injustice. The latter was the source while the former is only a model that reflects what the source aimed to produce and establish. It was this very platform upon which Imam Khomeini (ra) directed the revolution and when in an interview he was asked – ‘do you intend to take Iran 300 years back?’ he replied “I wish to take it back even further, to 1400 years”, implying clearly, that it was indeed the government of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) on which he wished to design the government of his nation. It is because of his dedication, diligence and vision, aided by Allah, that today we see a nation that stands for Islam and is a base for spreading the teachings of Ahlul-Bayt (as).

Needless to say, the relationship of politics and Islam is inseparable, a statement mentioned by Imam Khomeini (ra) himself many times when explaining the effects and intentions of the West in imposing imperialism over the free peoples of Islam. The Imam said that it is in the division of religion and politics that the West has failed, and it is this very ideology that has sadly been imprinted on the hearts and minds of many, due to the ongoing influence of Western ideology. Islam is a complete worldview that encompasses all the requirements and laws of running a family, a community, a nation and indeed, capable of governing the entire globe. To separate the different components, is in itself an injustice and a misunderstanding of what Islam represents: it is a social, political, economic, cultural, and scientific way of life, and in the words of Imam Khomeini (ra), it is ‘the highest degree of civilization[3].

The lessons, available are many but suffice to say that a successful overturn of a corrupt regime is impossible without a revolution. Applied in an individual context, each individual must initiate a revolution against his self in order to be able to establish the requisite purity and moral qualities which will enable the growth of a peaceful, just and harmonious society. A revolution inevitably involves sacrifice and loss, but the loss of corruption in the process is a greater benefit, and the sacrifice of the good in the process goes not unnoticed for Allah says ‘and most surely We are a vigilant multitude[4].

On a closing note, the leadership of Imam Khomeini (ra) saw not only an establishment of an Islamic government, but also in the process reflected on a minor scale the great revolution of Karbala, by Imam Husain (as), the father of free men! The lessons from the revolution of Karbala are unending, but it suffices to say that Islam survives on revolutions, and revolutions survive on sacrifice for only one truth: service to and submission to Allah (SWT). It is through the blood and efforts of revolutions and revolutionaries that evil is overcome, reformation is achieved and peace is restored. In whatever context you look at it, internal or external, individual or social, national or global, freedom from injustice and corruption can only be achieved by striving on the path of Allah (SWT). Each of us has within us a revolutionary, and each of us has within us our first revolution to lead. The examples are many, the guidance and support is there for those who seek it, and the results are evident. The question is: are we brave enough to reform through revolution?

[1] H. Ansari, ‘The Narrative of Awakening: A Look At Imam Khomeini’s Ideal, Scientific and Political Biography (From Birth to Ascension)’, (The Institute for compilation and publication of the works of Imam Khomeini (international Affairs Department – I.R. Iran)

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid.

[4] Al Qur’an 26:56





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