Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini (Persian: سید روحالله موسوی خمینی ( listen); 24 September 1902 – 3 June 1989), known in the Western world as Ayatollah Khomeini, was an Iranian Shia Islam religious leader and politician. He was the founder of Iran as an Islamic republic and the leader of its 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw the overthrow of 2,500 years of Persian monarchy and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. Following the revolution, Khomeini became the country's Supreme Leader, a position created in the constitution of the Islamic Republic as the highest-ranking political and religious authority of the nation, which he held until his death. He was succeeded by Ali Khamenei on 4 June 1989.
Khomeini was born in 1902 in Khomeyn, in what is now Iran's Markazi Province. His father was murdered in 1903 when Khomeini was six months old. He began studying the Quran and the Persian language from a young age and was assisted in his religious studies by his relatives, including his mother's cousin and older brother.
Khomeini was a marja ("source of emulation") in Twelver Shia Islam, a Mujtahid or faqih (an expert in Islamic law) and author of more than 40 books, but he is primarily known for his political activities. He spent more than 15 years in exile for his opposition to the last Shah. In his writings and preachings he expanded the theory of welayat-el faqih, the "Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist (clerical authority)", to include theocratic political rule by Islamic jurists. This principle (though not known to the wider public before the revolution), was appended to the new Iranian constitution after being put to a referendum. According to New York Times, Khomeini called democracy the equivalent of prostitution. Whether Khomeini's ideas are compatible with democracy and whether he intended the Islamic Republic to be democratic is disputed.
He was named Man of the Year in 1979 by American news magazine Time for his international influence, and has been described as the "virtual face of Shia Islam in Western popular culture". In 1982, Khomeini survived one military coup attempt. Khomeini was known for his support of the hostage takers during the Iran hostage crisis, his fatwa calling for the murder of British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, and for referring to the United States as the "Great Satan" and Soviet Union as the "Lesser Satan." Khomeini has been criticized for these acts and for human rights violations of Iranians (including his ordering of execution of thousands of political prisoners, war criminals and prisoners of the Iran–Iraq War).
He has also been lauded as a "charismatic leader of immense popularity", a "champion of Islamic revival" by Shia scholars, who attempted to establish good relations between Sunnis and Shias, and a major innovator in political theory and religious-oriented populist political strategy.
Khomeini held the title of Grand Ayatollah and is officially known as Imam Khomeini inside Iran and by his supporters internationally. He is generally referred to as Ayatollah Khomeini by others. In Iran, his gold-domed tomb in Tehrān's Behesht-e Zahrāʾ cemetery has become a shrine for his supporters, and he is legally considered "inviolable", with Iranians regularly punished for insulting him.
Ruhollah Khomeini's ancestors migrated towards the end of the 18th century from their original home in Nishapur, Khorasan Province, in northeastern Iran, for a short stay, to the kingdom of Awadh – a region in the modern state of Uttar Pradesh, India – whose rulers were Twelver Shia Muslims of Persian origin. During their rule they extensively invited, and received, a steady stream of Persian scholars, poets, jurists, architects, and painters. The family eventually settled in the small town of Kintoor, just outside Lucknow, the capital of Awadh. Ayatollah Khomeini's paternal grandfather, Seyyed Ahmad Musavi Hindi, was born in Kintoor. He left Lucknow in 1830, on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Imam Ali in Najaf, Ottoman Iraq (now Iraq) and never returned. According to Moin, this migration was to escape from the spread of British power in India. In 1834 Seyyed Ahmad Musavi Hindi visited Persia, and in 1839 he settled in Khomein. Although he stayed and settled in Iran, he continued to be known as Hindi, indicating his stay in India, and Ruhollah Khomeini even used Hindi as a pen name in some of his ghazals. There are also claims that Seyyed Ahmad Musavi Hindi departed from Kashmir, instead of Lucknow.