Khomeini revered as Iran's revolution hits 30
Iran marks the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic revolution on Tuesday.
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"With Khomeini, you could swallow things and it would go down," says Salahuddin in an interview, though he adds: "I never called myself one of Imam Khomeini's followers."Skip to next paragraph
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During their meeting, "he made reference to the gentleman in Bethesda [but] he wanted to talk of other things like my welfare. He asked: 'Anything I can do for you?' "
What struck him most was Khomeini's evident spirituality.
"He was not interested in this world – he had no worldly ambition," says Salahuddin, who wears a beard without a mustache. "For me, talk that he was a powermonger – it's nonsense. He lived in another dimension [and] when you deal with a person like that, normal criticism does not matter."
Still, preserving the Islamic system was the top priority. "I don't think 'ruthless' is the wrong word," says Salahuddin. "During the American Revolution, guess what the British must have called George Washington?"
Admirers claim to follow 'true path'
Such notoriety has only helped solidify Khomeini's legacy, 20 years after his death.
His words and ideas are still drawn upon daily by politicians of all stripes, who fight to prove they follow Khomeini's "true path."
When former President Khatami declared his candidacy Sunday night for June presidential elections, for example, he said he had to take part because his "heart is with the revolution, with Imam, with Iran...."
Such devotion is common at Jamaran, where an assistant of eight years – who used to see Khomeini two to three times a day – reminisces. "It was because of his simplicity that he could tell what he did to the world," says Sayed Rahim Miriam.
"He would do nothing but for the happiness of God. He would not wait for results, but do things out of duty," says Mr. Miriam, wearing white sandals, his rough hands familiar with work. "He was always kind and happy with his friends and revolutionaries. The only time you saw him serious was when he was talking to world powers."
The man rubs his hands and smiles, remembering how Khomeini told him to "pray when he was young, because when you are old you want to pray, but you can't."
The prayers the servant shared with Khomeini, he says, helped "save him" during clashes that year at Mecca.
Back at the Jamaran prayer hall
Inside this modest prayer hall, no one would doubt that. And so another class. Another teacher. Another set of questions.
"People would come from all over the world for the honor of seeing the imam for a few minutes," says teacher Amir-Hossein Khosarmadar, who tells his group of 70 small boys how many hours he waited to catch a first glimpse of Khomeini.
"He was not afraid of any power but the power of God," says Mr. Khosarmadar. "The imam was once your age, and not an imam from the beginning…. I ask you to pay close attention, to all the things you see, and hear, so [like him] we can all become the soldiers of Islam...."
A boy raises his hand and asks, "Is that the real chair of the imam?"
No, the teacher explains. "When people first heard the imam had passed away, the first group to arrive took pieces of it as sacred objects to remember him. So this is not the original chair."