In the path of the Imam (74)
We discussed honesty as a prominent characteristic of Imam Khomeini (God’s mercy upon him) before. This time, we are going to further dwell upon honesty and truthfulness in Imam Khomeini.
One of the obvious manifestations of honesty in Imam Khomeini was his honesty in politics. As you may know, politics is a domain which does not seem to be compatible with honesty and truthfulness. It is famous in politics that the end justifies the means. Politicians and diplomats strongly believe in this. They are known as hypocrites and turncoats as most of them are imposters. This is true to the extent that even those, who are honest in their personal life, change 100 percent when it comes to the world of politics and power. But, Imam Khomeini was one of the exceptions in this field. He never reneged on his promises and pledge with people. Under no circumstances did the Imam sidestep from the right path and the commands of God. This was originated in his deep trust in God and God’s promises. That’s why he never was deceived by enemies. Imam Khomeini strongly believed that politics is intermingled with morality. He believed that the only way to reform the society is to reform and expurgate oneself. He used to warn politicians that everyone has a Pharaoh and a dictator inside which should never given the chance to become powerful. He would stress for politicians to always be honest. In his opinion, an honest politician is the one who never tells lie to people and is trustworthy. He is fully committed to covenants and promises. In view of Imam Khomeini, an honest politician never tries to show off and beguile the people.
Imam Khomeini (God’s mercy upon him) used to emphasize for the politicians that they should be able to defend their decisions and explain their decisions and failures to people. One of the high-ranking officials in 1980s mentions a memory, saying, “Once, we needed some secret diplomatic work in the field of foreign policy. We consulted with Imam Khomeini. He said, ‘Don’t do something that you won’t be able to explain to people.’ From the first day of the Imam’s political life till the end there was no contradiction in the issues that he would say regarding the past, the future and his overt and covert decisions.”
One of the outstanding aspects of Imam Khomeini’s political honesty was the lack of fear to admit one’s mistakes. In his view, an honest politician is the one who never abuses people’s trust and is brave enough to admit his mistakes before people. He maintained that a politician should consider this not a weak point but a sign of self-confidence. Such a politician really considers himself as the servant of people and bravely accepts his mistakes and seeks people’s apology for them. In practice, Imam Khomeini staunchly observed this principle and asked for people’s apology. In one of his statements and even in his last will, which is famous as his “Moral and Political Testament”, the Imam says, “Today, 10 years after the victory of the Revolution, I admit that some of the decisions on the advent of the revolution in giving the posts and the country’s important affairs to a group, which had not a pure belief in the pure Mohammedan Islam, was a mistake whose bitter consequences will not perish that easily, although at that time, I was not personally willing to instate them, yet I accepted what the friends deemed as correct.”
You see that Imam Khomeini would even ask for people’s apology for the mistakes of others!!! This on one hand shows his absolute honesty on one hand; and on the other hand it reveals his humbleness. Moreover, it is very noteworthy that he never wanted to show that he had the power to make decisions or accept and reject different persons for different posts; although he could do it legally and religiously. And here it should be noted that Ayatollah Khamenei, too, stresses that one of the clear examples of bravery is to admit one’s mistakes, especially among the officials and politicians.
Imam Khomeini would recommend others not to be scared of confession of mistakes, saying that this not only won’t reduce their respect and face among people; it will also increase their respect and reputation among them. He told the jurisprudents of the Guardian Council and the members of the Supreme Judicial Council, “The jurisprudents of Guardian Council and members of the Supreme Judicial Council should be like this that if they make a mistake in an issue, they say clearly that they have made a mistake and renege on their word. We are not infallible after all. Before the Revolution, I thought that after the victory of the Revolution there are righteous people to practice according to Islam. But, later on I saw that most of them were indecent people and what I had said was not right. I clearly announced that I was wrong.”
In the view of Imam Khomeini, dictatorship begins when the person makes a mistake, but then instead of confession and correcting it, insists on the mistake and continues his wrong course. He said to the officials, “When you say something if you understand it was wrong, are you ready to say: I was wrong, or will you continue it till the end? One of the corruptions afflicting a dictator is that he tells something; then he is not able to turn back from his word. This is the biggest dictatorship that human being is gripped with.”
Imam Khomeini would not receive warmly those who tried to behave pretentiously. He even preferred honest people to dishonest ones even if the former didn’t have the same ideas as the Imam. Late Ayatollah Tavassoli said, “Basically, Imam Khomeini disliked pretention. On the contrary, he liked those who were not pretentious. For instance, he liked General Zahirnejad because he shaved every day and would come to the Imam just like that. Many people wanted to replace him, but the Imam didn’t want. Once, a number of the army commanders had come to the Imam and among them was a person who was an ill-wisher but put on beard. He wanted to give a report of the air force but he stared his report with prayer. Mr. Zahirnejad told him, ‘The Imam is not a layman. Read your report.’ Imam Khomeini liked this word and laughed.”
Dear listeners, Imam Khomeini disgusted to be praised with exaggeration and would react against it very strongly. Once, a writer had written things on the merits of the Imam. The Imam protested and asked him not to attribute such virtues to him. In the first days of his struggle in 1963, Imam Khomeini started his public speech with this prayer, “My God! Protect us against telling nonsense, hyperbole and lie.”