Culture & Communications:

The Political Plan of a Fanatic:
The Ayatollah Khomeini

By Dr. Andreas Eppink

This paper is the sixth of an on-going series of selected chapters excerpted from Dr. Eppink's upcoming book, "Hidden Goals in Modern Globalizing Culture", and is herein offered in conjunction to an earlier paper by Dr. Eppink, Cross-Cultural Communication in the Age of Globalization, which appeared in the January-February 2002 issue of this Journal. (For Parts I-V of Dr. Eppink's Introduction, please refer to Modern Globalizing Culture - July-August 2002 Issue, Modern Globalizing Culture Part II - September-October 2002 Issue, Modern Globalizing Culture Part III - November-December 2002 Issue, Modern Globalizing Culture Part IV - January-February 2003 Issue, and Modern Globalizing Culture Part V - March-April 2003 Issue). Of note: Dr. Eppink presented his insights on Modern Globalizing Culture during his presentation as Closing Speaker at the 2002 International Congress of the BWW Society in Saint Germain-en-Laye, August 2002.

Order à Control


Order à Approbation + Inviolability


      à Control + Approbation + Inviolability



The importance of taking note of the scriptures of those who want to be leaders of cultures is proved by the Khomeini case of Iran. An analysis of Khomeini's concepts of Islam and Muslim culture shows they are exponents of an evil and dangerous version of Islam, that of which bin Laden is very close to.


Evil and dangerous, because it causes much suffering and bloodshed. During the ten-year period of his rule, from 1979-1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini sent some 1,000,000 Iranians to their deaths. For Khomeini, the Koran was the only basis for the world order, and consequently for the order of the state.  Although the Shiite clerical hierarchy consists of three ayatollahs, in his ambition for power Khomeini became Iran's sole dictator.


In contrast to the Sunnites - who don’t accept a clergy or church - the Shiites have a large clergy network: ayatollahs, mullahs, and many clerical ranks in between; all the result of the ancient Persian cultural influence on Islam, which today is called “Byzantine”[1].  According to the Shiites, the heads (Imams) of the “church” were the prophet Mohammed himself, and his successors. But only those of the prophet’s descent were recognized as legitimate successors. Thus for the Shiites the unique caliph was Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law, and the recognized legal Imams, i.e. the religious-political heads of Islam, are merely descendants of Ali. They must be educated theologians.


Since Ali’s direct lineage came to an end, the idea of the invisible Imam was introduced as one who will return on earth as the Messiah. In the meantime his representatives have to govern, both politically and religiously. For this reason Khomeini put all power in the hands of the Shiite clergy. In the introduction of his book “The Muslim State” (1970) - a collection of sermons - he enunciated the following political program. Its content is an exemplar of the way a large Muslim majority is thinking.


1. Islam covers all worldly and spiritual matters by its laws and prescriptions.


2. God is the only legislature.


3. As only theologians are sufficiently educated in Islam, they are the only ones that can form the judiciary. Of course, the idea of a separation of church and state is not accepted, as is the concept of a political triad (legislature, judiciary, and executive branches). “What", reasons Khomeini, "is the impact of a law against theft, if the theologians don’t have the right to cut of the hands of thieves?” Thus the theologians have to possess executive powers in a state, and be head of it.


4. Monarchic rulers are per definition anti-Islamic, as is the concept of monarchy.


5. The same with democracy. Only God can call the (religious) leaders to account, not the people. The people are ignorant or insufficiently educated in the matters of Islam; they must be guided by the clergy (mullahs). Later on we will see the consequences of this statement.


Khomeini reproached democracy as too vulnerable to capitalist manipulation, as only he who has money can finance an election campaign.


Government: God is all, the human being is nothing.


Monarchy is, according to Khomeini, a western concept, and the problem with monarchs (such as in Iran at the time of the Persian Shah, and presently with the king in Saudi Arabia) is that they are influenced by western ideas.[2] The very existence of these monarchic governments on Muslim territory is a western invention: after the fall of the Turkish Ottoman empire the major western colonial powers Great Britain, France and Russia bargained away the Ottoman heritage, creating separate states and destroying Muslim unity. We have already seen that the concept of communal unity (Umma: comm-unity) is one of Islam’s nuclear precepts.


The political, non-religious, governments ruling Muslim populations introduced new laws which are the very cause of the political troubles in Muslim countries, said the Ayatollah. He considered the laws of the countries as the means on behalf of the politicians to complicate life for the citizens, to suppress them, and to slow down matters. Justice was only for those who knew how to corrupt administrators and judges.

Westernization had been the impulse by which people had accepted the national states, its law and the monarchy. The western powers had introduced public schools (“making Iranian children unbelievers”), and had tolerated Christian missionaries, which had turned over Iranian children, and made them  “Nazarenes”, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Western education and westernization in general had a primary purpose: to enhance dependency. By westernization, Muslim citizens were unable to solve their own problems, in their own way; they became entirely dependent of western powers.

The colonials and their accomplices (i.e. Israel and the US) wanted to prohibit the clergy from guiding and ruling a religious society and civilization.


In particular, the separation of state and religion had “forced (the clergy) back into a little corner of the mosque”, to the mere purpose their becoming separated from society and from their political responsibilities.


For Khomeini, however, political responsibilities were the core business and main duty of the clergy, because if one wants people to live up to laws and principles one must force them to do so. Here the danger of his viewpoints becomes evident at full extent.


According to Khomeini and his followers God is all, the human being nothing.

One of the dangerous consequences of this thinking is that these political views cannot be realized without an elaborate controlling system, which as a matter of course comes under the supervision of the clergy. Especially dangerous is the ayatollah’s opinion of human rights, which opens the door to total arbitrariness: a person breaking one of God’s laws immediately loses his human rights by consequence.


No Truth Other Than Ours


I will cite two points of interest concerning Khomeini's political concept. First: not the historical truth of the facts but rather the psychological impact of such ideas on people creates reality, and so it was in this case. The Iranian masses believed - and believe still - that Khomeini's picture of Islam is the truth. Not only the uneducated masses but many educated people as well, will see this truth as the only reality, a reality that is constantly distorted by western powers. In this sense bin Laden was a very close follower of Khomeini, as were the Taliban. Many, many new leaders and followers in the future will utilize this Khomeinian version of "truth".


They will say, like Khomeini, that even Islam actually is “distorted” by western influences: what’s bad on earth is caused by Satan; the West and Satan are one and the same, thus what’s bad on earth is caused by the West.


Second. This extremist-fundamentalist political concept - -or however else one wishes to call it -- is dangerous because it is based not only on Control but above all on a parochial view fed by the obstructing HGs Inviolability and Approbation.


The parochial view says: there is no other truth than ours, we don’t fail, and if we appear to fail it is only because ‘others’ -- here the Western powers -- have corrupted the world by their actions.


I hope the West will not -- in its tendency toward self-blaming -- agree with this concept of Western responsibility for Islamic failures. If -- as every Muslim states -- all is, has been, and shall be God’s will, then colonialism and Westernization have been God’s will. Let the fundamentalist consider that maybe it is God’s justice for their own wrongdoing.


Even if we assume that the fundamentalist political views are shared by the sincere true believers, it must be pointed out that the outcome of such ideas will be disastrous if put into practice.


The easy link between parochialism -- or in modern sociological terms: the attitude that it is our in-group against the others as an out-group -- and both Approbation and Inviolability is revealed in many ways. An example: in letters and other scriptures, pious Muslims use to add ‘peace be upon Him’ to the name of the prophet and sometimes to the name of other holy persons. The scriptures of the parochials can be detected  by epithets such as “May God bless him/her” and especially by that of “May God damn him/her”. By alike adjectives the parochials try to prove their own Honor and righteousness, that God is on their side, that they are Inviolable in their dictates, and invincible in war. Words such as “for the Honor of Islam” reflect a parochial view of Islam, which neglects historical facts, and often facts in general.  (So suppressing the HG Information-Knowledge.)


As to the parochial in-group view that God is as at the service of the in-group: in their arrogance (Inviolability) the true believers express that God must -- on their command -- damn “the (Western) unbelievers”. Not only the Westerners, but also all Muslims they consider dissidents, as well. Here, Islam is -- and has often been in the past -- used for the point of view of the in-group, which for the most part is an ancient tribal heritage.


The Tribal Heritage


In Khomeini's book we can read that the first caliphs Abu Bakr and Osman, and their tribe the Umayyads, has “to be damned” by God. It may be that their succession of the prophet was not quite regular, or that their reign was not all justice, but nevertheless: what to think of the words of the prophet himself that no Muslim had to blame his very companions? Abu Bakr and Osman were not only the prophet companions, by Mohammed's marriages to their daughters the two had become Mohammed’s fathers-in-law as well.


Blaming others and at the same time exulting one's own Honor -- especially if based on one's genealogical descent -- has everything to do with tribal bonds. In the Muslim world tribal affinity used to be painstakingly tracked and rather trustfully transmitted by oral tradition. In particular, the tribes of the prophet and of his entourage built a kind of nobility, which remains apparent even today.


Khomeini was very proud to descend from the prophet’s tribe, which enabled him to wear symbols of Honor such as the title Sayyed (equivalent to the Sunni Sheriff), and he was privileged to wear a black turban, while the other clergymen wore white turbans.


The very Muslim idea of the Umma or communal unity was introduced by the prophet to conciliate the tribes and to make Islam a super-tribal religion.[3]


The Contradictory HGs: Order and Control


Mohammed was, above all, a social reformer. Unfortunately, the underlying HG Order contradicted the implementation of the reforms that required Control. To make his new order attractive to the tribes, and to abate the tribes' wishes for Independence, the prophet had to comply with their wish for Control, and make allowances for their greed. As we have seen, at that time[4] Expansive Control by the sword was rather the rule in all cultures that wanted to survive. Survival meant that Control had to be turned in a new direction, and was directed against the unbelievers. Several complications immediately arose. The lust for treasure and other exponents of Instant-Satisfaction weakened the new belief, which was based on Order, and many new believers were attracted by the sheer promise of material goods. For the future, the promise of paradise life with pleasures free for the asking, accommodated many a true believer.


A more serious problem was that the Holy War of Muslim Expansionism against the unbelievers could better be won by units consisting of members of the same tribe than with mixed-tribe units. Thus Chalid, the best general of Mohammed’s successor, decided to form his troops on a tribal basis. Without Chalid Islam would have been lost, as most tribes were threatening to abandon Islam, and Muslim unity would have been sapped from the beginning.


What was worse was that after Mohammed’s death the distinction between believers and non-believers increasingly faded as Islam expanded. The tribal distinctions grew stronger, and the “communist” idea -- upon which later theologians based their state concept, that all Muslims should have their fair shares, and should pay only  a small % taxes -- became untenable, simply because no non-believers were left to supply the believers. The concept of the Muslim state only based on the Koran -- but never elaborated by the prophet -- was an idea invented by later generations.


The sudden passing of the prophet had hindered both an elaborate state concept as well as a rule for succession; immediately after Mohammed's death the old tribal feuds and enmities revived. Four clans disputed each other’s place as caliph, “he who replaces the prophet”. That their leaders were all closely related to Mohammed is not strange, as through his marriages the prophet had looked for alliances with several clans. Thus we find among the later rivals:


1. Abu Bakr, companion, great admirer, and father-in-law of Mohammed, but in the eyes of many not entirely just, and on his side his daughter Aisha, Mohammed’s favorite wife, who later would command an army in support of her father, and who became a strong adversary of another pretender, Ali.


2. Ali, who had expected to become the first caliph, was son-in-law of the prophet, and husband of the prophet’s daughter Fatima.


3. Another father-in-law of Mohammed, Omar, who became the second caliph, appointed by Abu Bakr, who became Omar's successor.


4. The clan of the Umayyads, related to Mohammed’s forefathers.


Ali, the most pious and faithful, had collected every word of the prophet throughout his life. Ali had hoped and expected to be the first caliph. Many doubted, however, his ability to rule. He was passed over by Omar who died two years later. Ali and his wife Fatima hoped again it would be his turn. Now it was Abu Bakr who became caliph, and was murdered ten years later. Ali was then passed over yet again, and Osman of the Umayyads became the third caliph, and the first of a strong dynasty. But before the Umayyads came to rule over a large Muslim empire, the capital was moved from Mecca to Damask, and Osman, too, was murdered. At last Ali became caliph; however, because of his appointment the Muslim world became forever divided. The enmities between the tribes grew ever fiercer, to such an extent that Ali’s wife Fatima -- daughter of the very prophet himself -- was beaten and died soon thereafter. Fatima became a Muslim martyr, symbol of the suppressed and persecuted. Ali continued the Muslim brother feud. His sons Hassan and Hussein were murdered, then he himself. Less than thirty years had passed since Mohammed’s death.


Two Muslim powers emerged, one in Damask (“Arabia”), the other in Baghdad (“Persia”). The Sunnite-Shiite division was already prepared for by historical differences. The Independent Arabian Bedouin tribes stood against the Arabian and Turkish tribes that for centuries had been ruled, and suppressed, by Persian emperors.


The contradiction of Order and Control -- that tried to link, on one side, social reform and a new religious Order -- expressed in the concepts of Umma (comm-unity), Law (Shari’ah), and the righteous ruler, and on the other side, Control, expressed in the Holy War and by consequence Expansion. Religious Order had to take priority but there was no administrative body that tested or regulated how this was to function in practice. (As long as the prophet lived, such problems had been resolved by divine inspiration.)


The Expansionists, like the Umayyads and other tribes, were more concerned about the extension of the faith than about the intentions of the believers. Probably Ali had the most sincere intentions, but he too was a representative of his clan.


Men like Khomeini pretend to possess both -- sincere intention, as well as the wish to extend Islam -- that being their parochial version of Islam.


It is curious that Ali became the father of the Shiites. The tribes of today, Iran, Iraq and Egypt, originally took the side of Ali, against the Umayyads in Syrian Damask. Later the Shiites lost terrain, and they are now mostly concentrated in Iran.


The Shiites created their own Muslim culture, different from that of the Sunnites. The two main differences are more of Persian cultural than of religious origin: first, martyrdom and self-sacrifice (to gain Inviolability), second a Byzantine clerical hierarchy. About this martyrdom we will have to speak later.


Unjust Rulers or Lack of Unity?


One thing is clear, from the beginning Islam was no base for political continuity. As a well-known historian formulates it “.. the unity imposed by Mohammed died with him (632)..”[5]


The worst complication concerning Islamic politics was inherited with the misinterpreted admonition that ‘unjust rulers’ should be removed[6]. The words (hadith-verse) of the prophet had been transmitted without further recommendations or conditions. Alas, this admonition enhanced -- on all levels of society! -- uncontrollable attacks on officials. Each would-be Khomeini or bin Laden, or any other who thinks himself able to judge a leader or administrator, can use this verse when and where he likes. [7]


The big problem of temporary Islam is not Western colonialism, or Westernization, just as it was not the Medieval crusaders or the Reconquista of al-Andalous by the Christian kings that spoiled or distorted Islam. (Western colonialism was preceded by that of the Muslim Turks, probably the biggest colonial power in history). The problem was always the tribal enmity that Islam could not solve. It’s true that the colonial powers, after World War I, did not contribute to the collaboration between the tribes, and rather complicated the political situation by their drawing-table state borders (the Kurds question is just one of many controversies currently existing in Iraq and the surrounding region) but the tribal feuds have existed since long, long before.


The Muslim countries never have enjoyed Unity, either religious or political.




About the Author: BWW Society Member Dr. Andreas Eppink received his Doctorate degree in Social Sciences in 1977 from the University of Amsterdam, went on to study Clinical Psychology, and was officially registered as a Psychotherapist. He has worked as a Management Consultant, especially in the television, advertising, daily press, family business, transport, and public administration sectors, including work with the town of Maastricht. Prior to this, as an Anthropologist specializing in the study of culture, Dr. Eppink was a pioneer in the field of migration study, in particular mental health and occupation. In 1971 he founded the Averroes Foundation for the study of these areas. He headed this institute from 1978 to 1983, as it then became state run. He was an intergovernmental expert of the European Committee for Migration in Geneva, a member of the Board of Advisors to the Dutch Minister of the Interior, and an expert with different European committees in Strasbourg and Brussels. Dr. Eppink speaks five languages and reads several more.

[1] Alexander the Great derived from the ancient Persian emperors an elaborated court hierarchy that became the big example for the future: the Byzantine empire, the (Byzantine) orthodox church, the Russian empire and church, even the Roman Catholic church, all  imitated the complex, ‘Byzantine’, hierarchy of ancient Persia. Although hierarchy has to be considered an exponent of the HG Order, it is easily connected with Control, Stability, and Approbation. Together with Stability the outcome is “rank and station”, and social classes; together with Control we get the Byzantine version. As a matter of course ranks, grades, and status appeal very much to those who want Approbation.

[2] As far as the facts concerning Khomeini the next passages are mainly based on Gerhard Konzelmann: Der Aufbruch der Shiieten. Munich 1989; the responsibility for the conclusions is entirely mine.

[3] Mohammed prohibited the usual blood-revenge, which had always been a matter of Honor for each tribe, as it is still in many Muslim regions, even in Turkey where the first Republican president, Attaturk, began introducing reforms in the 1920s.

Mohammed also prohibited the killing of girl-babies (a tribal technique of birth control), restricted the number of legitimate marriages to four (and expressed preference for monogamy), and tolerated women in the active battle service to slay the unbelievers. All of these changes were made in the attempt to upgrade the role of women as individuals and to reduce the power of the tribe in favor of its individual members.

[4] 7th century.

[5] Colin McEvedy.

[6] “The prophet has said: ‘He who sees the ruler is acting unjustly (al-munkar), let him try to change this.’” (Bukhari XIII, two versions).

[7] E.g. according to Hamid Ansari the murderers of president Saddat referred to these words of the prophet. (See: The Islamic Militants in Egyptian politics. In: Journal of Middle East Studies, 1984 nr. 116).

[ back to "Publications & Special Reports" ]
[ BWW Society Home Page ]