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Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah [Hardcover]

Baqer Moin
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 15 2000
The Ayatollah Khomeini was the most radical Muslim leader of this age. In transforming himself from a traditional Muslim theologian into the charismatic Iranian ruler who took on the world, Khomeini launched an Islamic revival movement that, with the collapse of communism, quickly evolved for some as the centre-piece in the pantheon of western demonology, and for others as the inspiration for spiritual and political rebirth. Whether viewed as a hero by his supporters or as a villain by his enemies, Khomeini was undoubtedly one of the seminal figures of the twentieth century, whose influence will extend some way into the new millennium.

Baqer Moin here explores how and why this frail octogenarian, dressed in the traditional robes of a Muslim cleric, overthrew the secular Shah of Iran and became the spiritual leader of a new and militant Islamic regime. Still an enigma in the West, Khomeini transformed the Middle East and the world. But where did the man come from? What was his childhood and family background? What lay behind his implacable opposition to the Shah? What role did the turbulent events in Iran during his youth play in shaping Khomeini's political perceptions? What changed him from an obscure traditional theologian with mystical and poetic inclinations into a combative and highly vengeful radical? How will his vision of an international community of Muslims, a kind of Islamic Internationale, affect the Middle East?

Drawing on many exclusive personal interviews with Khomeini's associates, on unpublished new materials and on the author's firsthand experience in Islamic seminaries, this biography provides a fascinating, well-documented and highly accessible analysis of the life and thought of one of the most controversial leaders of the late twentieth century.

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Review

"This is an important account of how Khomeini the man and the seminal, historical phenomenon may well linger on as a notional inspiration for modern Iran." (37,1,2000) --Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Journal of Peace Research

"In spite of the modesty of its author, the book is highly detailed and full of the insights only a well-informed author can bring." --John King, BBC Arabic Service

"Khomeini is an important book, not only as a biography of Ayatollah Khomeini, but as an honest analysis of the intellectual and political forces that were responsible for the 1979 revolution…” --Mehrdad Kia, 4/00

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Baqer Moin is a specialist on Iran and Islam and is Head of the BBC's Persian Service. He was born into a religious family and studied theology at traditional schools in Iran's most important shrine city, Mashhad. He has written extensively on Islam, Iran and Afghanistan.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Khomein lies deep in the vast semi-arid areas of central Iran some 200 kilometres to the north-west of Isfahan, the magnificent capital of the Safavid Shahs, and 40 kilometres south of the city of Sultanabad-Arak. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars ENDLESS CONTROVERSY Dec 5 2003
Format:Hardcover
The late Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who founded the Islamic Republic in Iran, has been the subject of bitter debate for over a quarter of a century.
He is likely to remain so for many more years.
Those who see him as an incarnation of evil- after all, he caused the deaths of more than a million Iranians and a quarter of a million Iraqis- could not be bothered about his real or imagined religious credentials.
Those, on the other hand, who regard him as a revolutionary leader in the same class as Robespierre, Lenin, Mao Zedong and , more recently, Fidel Castro, will regard his many victims as so many necessary sacrifices at the altar of the Revolution.
The problem with Mr. Moin's bigoraphy of Khomeini is that the author can never quite make up his mind about the ayatollah's precise role in the events that helped make his name.
Moin, a mullah who has cast aside his clercial cloak to work for the BBC in London, tries to explain away Khomeini's excesses in a spirit of clerical solidarity.
Nevertheless, reading between the lines, one could see that even a mullah such as Mr. Moin cannot be quite comfortable with Khomeini's career of crime.
Mr. Moin is, of course, right in suggesting, ever so gingerly that not all mullahs are murderers.
Jamila Sherian
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1.0 out of 5 stars It Takes All Sorts Oct. 15 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Ayatollah Khomeini made himself a name in the late 1970s and 1980s by leading a revolution that led to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the subesquent Iran-Iraq war in which a million Muslims died.
He consolidated his reputation by organising the seizure of Western hostages in Tehran and Beirut and by creating an international network of kidnapping, racketeering and terror known under the name of Hezbulah ( Party of Allah).
But when one reads Baqer Moin's biography of Khomeini one has the impression that the late ayatollah grew up as a choir boy and spent his life as a " general" in the Salvation Army!
This, of course, would not have pleased Khomeini who was frank enough to state publicly that the lives of non-Muslims was of no value and that " bad Muslims" could also be slaughtered without great fuss. Khomeini ordered more than 25000 executions and was rsponsible for the masacre of many more Kurds, Tukmens, Baluchi and other ethnic minorities in Iran.
It takes all sorts to make a world, the saying goes. And history is full of both good and evil characters.
What is important is that historians should not project their own images of historic men.
Along with Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein, Khomeini was one of the most evil men produced by the 20th century.
Had Mr. Moin seen the ayatollah as he really was there would have been a good story.
In this book, however, there is no story because Mr Moin offers us nothing but badly written fiction.
Amelia, A Reader in Paris
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1.0 out of 5 stars MULLAH PRAISING ANOTHER MULLAH April 16 2002
Format:Hardcover
...The book contains some interesting titbits about the life of Khomeini, the mullah who presided over a reign of terror in Iran in the 1980s. ( According to Amnesty Internatoional at least 100,000 people were executed during Khomeini's decade-long rule. This book, however, does not cite a single one of those political murders.)
Because he is a trained cleric, the writer also offers some insight into the psychology of mullahs, especially their consummate skill in deception.
The problem, however, is that the author has studiously avoided any discussion of Khomeini's policies. It is as if Khomeini were a movie star or another celebrity with absolutely no connection with politics.
The author also largely ignores Khomeini's position as an ayatollah, thus saying very little about his theological writings and opinions on matters of faith.
Moin wants to avoid running into trouble with the Khomeinist regime in Tehran and thus flatters the late ayatollah whenever he can get away with it.
At the same time , however, because the book is designed to sell in Western markets, he tries to hint at some, very mild, criticism without ever getting into any depth.
Anxious not to appear to be taking sides, while taking sides,the author causes much confusion and, eventually, annoyance.
One wonders why this book was written. Pierre Benedile, London
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1.0 out of 5 stars a hymn in praise of the ayatollah June 25 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is a hymn in praise of the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini, the man who led the 1979 revolution in Iran and subsequently turned the country into a base for international terrorism. Moin describes Khomeini as " a great Islamic philosopher and scholar." The truth is that Khomeini was a second rate mullah with boundless political ambitions. This can be ascertained by a reference to his books- or rather silm pamphlets. These are written in a gramatically-challenged Persian with copious injections of Arabic malapropisms. There is nothing remotely philosophical about the diatribte that Khomeini distills. Attempts at turning Khomeini something of a saint did not start with Mr. Moin's efforts. Nor will Moin's panegryic be the last. The Islamic Republic in Tehran has been spending vast sums of money trying to manufacture such an image. The interested reader, however, will need go no further than examining Khomeini's own writings, including scores of speeches he made before and after he seized power. Some of these have been translated into English by Hamid Algar, a leading admirer of Khomeini. A few others are included in " The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution" by Amir Taheri, an exiled opponent of the late ayatollah. Those who can read Persian can refer to the 40-volume oeuvre of Khomeini that the present Iranian government has published to find a man with very scant knowledge of Islam and an almost genetically anti-philosophical mind. Mr. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars FAILS TO SELL KHOMEINI
Khomeini, the mullah who seized power in Iran and unleashed a reign of terror, has been the subject of many critical articles and at least one biography. Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2003 by rivniz bibarg
5.0 out of 5 stars very good book
what i truly enjoyed about this biography of khoemeini was that is was pretty much non biased,not like the western world's view of the man who portrayed the ayatollah as a fanatic... Read more
Published on Aug. 24 2003 by gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Biography
This is a great biography of a man who could be considered the most influential Islamic figure of the twentieth century. Read more
Published on Aug. 6 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars IN THIS DAY AND AGE
It requires a great deal of courage to justify and praise the ideas and policies of a religious black reactinary in this day and age. Read more
Published on Sept. 28 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Very thorough and even-handed
Moin takes the chronological approach to explaining Khomeini's rise to power. It is probably the easiest way of tracing the man's astounding rise out of seemingly nowhere. Read more
Published on June 20 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars The Usual Stuff
Sadly, there are very few books in English which discuss the Islamic Revolution in Iran from the Iranian point of view. Read more
Published on Dec 18 2001 by "keshvardoost"
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad Ugly BooK
Khomeini was nothing but a Psycho Maniac who was born in India and had no roots what so ever to Iran. He was a Murderer just like Hitler. Read more
Published on July 27 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative in some areas, dissapointing in others
The strength of the book is describing Khomeini's views towards Islam. It is very informative about mysticism and Khomeini's attachment to it. Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2001 by S. Bowman
5.0 out of 5 stars A history of 20th century Iran!
This biography of Ruhollah Khomeini (1902 - 1989) is not just a biography. It also is an excellent introduction to the theological and intellectual, as well as political, currents... Read more
Published on Oct. 12 2000 by Thomas J. Brucia
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