The childhood period

The room where Imam Khomeini was born

Rouhullah lost his father when he was four months old. His aunt Sahib Khanoom moved to her brother's house to help look after the children. Hajar, Rouhullah's mother, left Khomein for Tehran to make sure justice was carried out for her husband and Sahib Khanoom accompanied her. Rouhullah was left at home with Agha Mustafa's older sister and a nanny, who was called Nanah Khavar and who breastfed Rouhullah.

Agha Morteza, Rouhullah's elder brother, says the following regarding their childhood: "My late aunt Sahib Khanoom took good care of us. Hajar Khanoom also looked after us. Mashadi Qanbar was responsible for our lands. As we did not use the inner part of the house, we lived in the front section of the house. Thus, my mother rented out the inner part to the government."

After learning Qur'an at home Rouhullah went to school at the age of seven. He started to take lessons from Mullah Abul Qasim. He then went to Sheikh Ja'far's Maktabkhaneh. Sheikh Ja'far was his mother's nephew. He was also taught by Mirza Mahmood (aka Eftekharol Ulama) and Seitoti. Eftekharol Ulama and his mother, who was a very learned woman and taught astrology, were Rouhullah's private teachers. They taught him at his house.

As we said before the two elder brothers left Khomein for Isfahan but Rouhullah remained at home. He started his studies in Khomein. He was also taught by Haj Mirza Reza Najafi (aka Agha Najafi), who was his cousin, brother-in law and a Mujtahid. In addition Agha Morteza, Rouhullah's elder brother, was both his teacher and his guardian. Imam Khomeini looked up to Agha Morteza like a son does to a father. He frequently told his son Ahmad "If I had not had a brother like Morteza, I could not have studied".  Rouhullah stayed in Khomein until he was seventeen. As there was nothing more for him to learn in Khomein he left.



Khomein's events and Khomeini's experiences


Khomeini's early life coincided with many events in Iran. In Khomein unjust rulers were in charge and the country was unsafe. Life was very difficult for people and with the coming of World War II matters became even worse. Diseases broke out, poverty spread and there were severe droughts. Furthermore the 1929 Coup followed suit.

Imam as a teanager (on the right)

Imam Khomeini witnessed great injustice and oppressive rulers. Rulers would rob their own people. "I myself one day saw the government's men tease and bother a merchant, who was famous for being a good person. I was a small child at the time and was standing in a corner. I saw them hit and then drag the man. They hit him with a hammer. I do not know what happened next. Men such as Einol Dowleh, who burnt people in the market place, were plenty. At that time, the governor of the so-called state paid an amount of money to supposedly help the people then forcefully got back ten times that amount from the people. The people couldn't complain because no one listened to them. There was great corruption, for instance if anyone bribed the governor of Isfahan then he could do whatever he liked and no one could protest. Protesting did not mean anything." [1]

Imam Khomeini both saw and heard about such corruption, as his father's home was a shelter for the oppressed people. Khomeini says "From childhood I was involved in fighting. I have never mentioned this before but we were attacked by the Zallagis and the Rajabalis. We had guns. Even though I was going through the early stages of puberty and I was just a child, I would go to check the trenches because thieves surrounded the area .They sat in the bushes and waited for a suitable time to start their plundering."

Imam Khomeini also recalls some other occasions. He says "When we were in Khomein we built a fort. I had a gun and I was about sixteen years old. Agha Morteza, who was an old man and was good at shooting and taught me how to use a gun. We stood behind the fort and fought against the rabbles who tried to plunder us. It was chaos. The central government was weak and was unable to cope with these thieves. Nayib Hussein, who was a theif controlled the roads of Qom and Kashan. Nayib Hussein and his sons attacked us.  Once the Zallagis attacked and captured one of the areas in Khomein and we fought back and tried to defend Khomein."

Imam Khomeini remembers the First World War and the famine, he says the following regarding this matter: "We could find nothing. There was disease, famine, misery and many deaths." The Russian troops entered Khomein and so food supplies vanished. When the war's flames reached Tehran, the politicians decided to change the capital from Tehran to Isfahan. This did not happen due to many reasons. Thus, some of the state men rushed towards the Western part of Iran to form a national government. These groups passed through Khomein on their way to Kermanshah. This created the opportunity for the young Khomeini to observe them up close. Thus, he was acquainted with the current events.

 The Imam says I was a pupil when the Russian troops entered Khomein. "It was the 22nd of February 1916 and the First World War had started. An attack was launched against us. The outcome of this blitz was famine, disease and death. There were so many dead bodies piled upon each other that no one could bury them. People had no choice but to bury the dead bodies with the same clothes they had died in, all together. They were buried in the cemetery next to Imam Zadeh Abu Talib."

Cholera spread everywhere and killed many people. It finally reached Khomeini's family as well, and took the lives of their dearest ones.  Rouhullah was sick and his aunt took him away to a peaceful place. Luckily he narrowly escaped death. Although Rouhullah's aunt was able to save her nephew she was unable to save herself and she passed away soon after in 1918. Khomeini lost his mother 5 months after this incident.

At this time Imam Khomeini was sixteen years old. He had lost his parents and his beloved aunt as well. From then on he was alone and had to stand on his own feet. When the circumstances improved, he wanted to immigrate to Isfahan and join his brothers there. However he did not go Isfahan as Arak's famous Theology School attracted many students from other areas and so he decided to go there instead.

[1] Imam Khomeini's words found in Sahifeye Imam, vol. 16, pp. 185

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