Ayatollah Khomeini: Islamic Government

In 1970, Ayatollah Khomeini delivered a series of lectures titled “Islamic Government” to religious students studying in Najaf, Iraq. In the lectures, he outlines the role he believes Islam should play in governance.

Islam is the religion of the strugglers who want right and justice, the religion of those demanding freedom and independence and those who do not want to allow the infidels to dominate the believers.

But the enemies have portrayed Islam in a different light. They have drawn from the minds of the ordinary people a distorted picture of Islam and implanted this picture even in the religious academies. The enemies' aim behind this was to extinguish the flame of Islam and to cause its vital revolutionary character to be lost so that the Moslems may not think of seeking to liberate themselves and to implement all the rules of their religion through the creation of a government that guarantees their happiness under the canopy of an honorable human life.

They have said that Islam has no relationship whatsoever with organizing life and society or with creating a government of any kind and that it only concerns itself with the rules of menstruation and childbirth. It may contain some ethics. But beyond this, it has no bearing on issues of life and of organizing society. It is regrettable that all this has had its bad effect not only on the ordinary people but also among college people and the students of theology. They misunderstand Islam and are ignorant of it. Islam has become as strange to them as alien people. It has become difficult for the Moslem missionary to familiarize people with Islam. On the other hand, there stands a line of the agents of colonialism to drown Islam with glamor and noise.... What we are suffering from currently is the consequence of that misleading propaganda whose perpetrators got what they wanted and which has required us to exert big efforts to prove that Islam contains principles and rules for the formation of government.

This is our situation. The enemies have implanted these falsehoods in the minds of people in cooperation with their agents, have ousted Islam's judiciary and political laws from the sphere of application and have replaced them by European laws in contempt of Islam for the purpose of driving it away from society. They have exploited every available opportunity for this end....

We believe in government and we believe in the need for the prophet to appoint a caliph [successor] after him, and he did. What does the appointment of a successor mean? Does it mean a mere explanation of the laws?The mere explaining of laws does not require a successor. It would have been enough for the prophet, God's prayers be upon him, to disseminate the laws among the people and then lodge them in a book and leave it with the people to consult after him. The need for a successor is for the implementation of the laws because no law without an executor is respected. In the entire world, legislation alone is not enough and cannot secure the happiness of people. There must be an executive authority and the absence of such an authority in any nation is a factor of deficiency and weakness. This is why Islam decided to establish an executive power to implement God's laws. The prophet, may God's prayers be upon him, did. Had he not done so, he would not have conveyed his message. The appointment of a successor after him to implement and uphold the laws and to spread justice among the people was an element complementing and completing the prophet's message. In his days, the prophet, may God's prayers be upon him, was not content with explaining and conveying the laws. He also implemented them. God's prophet, may God's prayers be upon him, was the executor of the law. He punished, cut off the thief's hand, lashed and stoned and ruled justly. A successor is needed for such acts. A successor is not the conveyor of laws and not a legislator. A successor is needed for implementation. Here is where the importance of forming government and of creating and organizing executive agencies emerges. The belief is the need for forming government and for creating such agencies is an indivisible part of the belief in governance. Exerting efforts for and seeking this goal are an aspect of the belief in governance....

In view of the fact that the Islamic government is a government of law, it is a must that the ruler of the Moslems be knowledgeable in the law, as the Hadith says.

The ruler must have the highest degree of faith in the creed, good ethics, the sense of justice and freedom from sins because whoever undertakes to set the strictures, to achieve the rights and to organize the revenues and expenditures of the treasury houses must not be unjust. God says in his precious book: “The unjust shall not have my support. “Thus, if the ruler is not just, he cannot be trusted not to betray the trust and not to favor himself, his family and his relatives over the people.

Ayatollah Khomeini, “Islamic Government,” trans. Joint Publications Research Service (Arlington, Va: 19 January 1979).

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