Neither a speech nor, strictly speaking, a declaration, this is an extract from Kashf al-Asrar, a book published by Imam Khomeini in 1941, soon after the forced abdication of Riza Shah. The book was written at the behest of Ayatullah Burujirdi in systematic refutation of an anti-religious tract that had appeared a few years earlier. Given its wide-ranging contents and those of the book it was designed to refute, as well as the currency of anti-religious literature in the period of Riza Shah, Kashf al-Asrar is largely political in nature and, in fact, constitutes his first public political statement. The extract given here is a fitting introduction to this section of our anthology because of the warning note on which it ends.
Source: Kashf al-A srar (n.p., 1941), pp. 221-224.
WHEN A GOVERNMENT DOES NOT perform its duty, it becomes oppressive. If it does perform its duty, not only is it not oppressive, it is cherished and honored by God. The duty of government, therefore, must be clarified in order for us to establish whether the present government is oppressive or not.
Reason and experience alike tell us that the governments now existing in the world were established at bayonet-point, by force. None of the monarchies or governments that we see in the world are based on justice or a correct foundation that is acceptable to reason. Their foundations are all rotten, being nothing but coercion and force. Reason can never accept that a man who is no different from others in outward or inward accomplishments, unless maybe he is inferior to them, should have his dictates considered proper and just and his government legitimate, merely because he has succeeded in gathering around himself a gang to plunder the country and murder its people.
Do you know what justice is? If you do not know, ask your reason, for reason acts like an eye for man. You have justice when everyone is permitted freely to dispose of the property he has acquired by legitimate means, and injustice when someone is permitted to transgress against the property and rights of others. This is unjust and evil, whoever the transgressor may be and however powerful, no matter how obscure and powerless the person is who is condemned to suffer his oppression. This Hitlerite mentality you idiotically praise from afar, which says, “I will occupy Poland by tank and bayonet, even though a hundred thousand families may perish,” is one of the most poisonous and heinous products of the human mind.1 Every lover of justice must oppose it, and those wise men who are concerned for the future of the world must root out such thoughts as these in order for the world to attain tranquility.
The only government that reason accepts as legitimate and welcomes freely and happily is the government of God, Whose every act is just and Whose right it is to rule over the whole world and all the particles of existence. Whatever He makes use of is His own property, and whatever He takes, from whomever He takes, is again His own property. No men can deny this except the mentally disturbed.
It is in contrast with the government of God that the nature of all existing governments becomes clear, as well as the sole legitimacy of Islamic government. The duty of our government, which is among the smaller states in the world, is to conform to this legitimate government by making the laws passed by the Majlis a kind of commentary on the divine law. It will thus become apparent that the law of Islam is the most advanced law in the world, and that its implementation will lead to the establishment of the Virtuous City.2
We do not say that government must be in the hands of the faqih; rather we say that government must be run in accordance with God’s law, for the welfare of the country and the people demands this, and it is not feasible except with the supervision of the religious leaders. In fact, this principle has been approved and ratified in the Constitution3 and in no way conflicts with public order, the stability of the government, or the interests of the country. If it were implemented, everyone in the country, with no exception, from the religious leaders to the tradesmen, soldiers, and hawkers in the street, would cooperate with the government and strive earnestly to attain the independence and greatness of the nation.
Look at the present state of the various components of the government. Notice first the deplorable state of the court, and then consider the various ministries, examining one by one the officials who are content to sit behind their desks in utter idleness. Then proceed to inspect the army, and see what mentality motivates the troops and their commanders. Descending the scale, take a look at the civil and military administration in all the provinces. Finally, step over to the Consultative Assembly and watch the legislature at work! Wherever you go and whomever you encounter, from the street sweeper to the highest official, you will see nothing but disordered thoughts, confused ideas, contradictory opinions, sell-interest, lechery, immodesty, criminality, treachery, and thousands of associated vices. Then you will understand how our country’s income is obtained, and on what it is spent.
Given such circumstances, the details of which I must not disclose, it should not be expected that the government would be regarded as just and legitimate in religious circles. Nor should the wretched masses of the people, before whose eyes all these criminal and treacherous acts are committed and who are each subjected to some injustice by an official every hour, be expected to cooperate with the government, or to regard treachery against this treacherous government as forbidden. If just one article of the Constitution were to be implement, that specifying that all laws contrary to the shari’a are invalid,4 everyone in the country would join together in harmony, and the country would move forward with the speed of lightning. All the deplorable institutions mentioned above would be transformed into new and rational institutions, and through the joint efforts of all the people, the educated and the masses alike, the country would attain a state unparalleled in the world.
We know that all this is unpalatable to those who have grown up with lechery, treachery, music and dancing, and a thousand other varieties of corruption. Of course, they regard the civilization and advancement of the country as dependent upon women’s going naked in the streets, or to quote their own idiotic words, turning half the population into workers by unveiling them (we know only too well what kind of work is involved here). They will not agree to the country’s being administered rationally and in accordance with God’s law. We have nothing to say to those whose powers of perception are so limited that they regard the wearing of European hats, the cast-off s of the wild beasts of Europe, as a sign of national progress. We do not expect them to accept a few words of sense from us; the foreigners have stolen their reason, intelligence, and all other senses. They have forfeited their faculties so completely to the foreigners that they even imitate them in matters of time; what is left for us to say to them? As you all know, noon is now officially reckoned in Tehran twenty minutes before the sun has reached the meridian, in imitation of Europe. So far, no one has stood up to ask, “What nightmare is this into which we are being plunged?’
The day everyone was forced to wear the Pahlavi cap,5 it was said, “We need to have a national symbol. Independence in matters of dress is proof and guarantee of the independence of a nation.” Then a few years later, everyone was forced to put on European hats, and suddenly the justification changed: “We have dealings with foreigners and must dress the same way they do in order to enjoy greatness in the world.” If a country’s greatness depended on its hat, it would be a thing very easily lost!6
While all this was going on, the foreigners, who wished to implement their plans and rob you of one hat while putting another on your head, watched you in amusement from afar and laughed at your infantile games. With a European hat on your head, you would parade around the streets enjoying the naked girls, taking pride in this “achievement,” totally heedless of the fact that meanwhile, the historic patrimony of the country was being plundered from one end to the other, all its sources of wealth were being carried off, and you yourselves were being reduced to a pitiful state by the Trans Iranian Railroad.7
You all cursed and condemned the agreement concluded by Vusuq ad-Daula with the British,8 and you were right to do so. But then they fastened the same plans around your neck, in a worse form than before,9 and you declared them to be a sign of the progress achieved by the country during the Pahlavi period (although there were people among you who were secretly grieving and who would not so much as breathe for fear of the bayonet). There is much to be said, much that is weighing on my mind, but where are the ears to listen to me, where is the perception to understand me? In short, these idiotic and treacherous rulers, these officials— high and low—these reprobates and smugglers must change in order for the country to change. Otherwise, you will experience worse times than these, times so bad that the present will seem like paradise by comparison.