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Khumayni, Ruḥ Allah

Khumayni, Ruḥ Allah (1902–89). Religious leader among Ithna ʿAshariyya (Twelver) Shiʿite Muslims, and figurehead of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. He was born in Khumayn and followed a path of Islamic education in various centres including Qom. He became both mujtāhid and ayatollah. He was briefly arrested for opposing the Shah, and on his release continued to oppose the government, especially for its links with the USA and (he claimed) with Israel. In 1964 he was exiled, settling until 1978 in Najaf, in Iraq, when he was again expelled, settling this time in France. He returned to Iran in triumph on 1 Feb. 1979, after the flight of the Shah. He assumed the position of leader of the revolution. His strong understanding of authority had deep roots in the Shiʿa understanding of the Imām, and Khumayni pressed into new territory in his exercise of his powers (see AYATOLLAH). Despite the failures of the war with Iraq and his own disappointment at the ceasefire, his popularity remained to the end; and his fatwā against Salman Rushdie and his book, The Satanic Verses, was accepted widely in the Muslim world.

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