While in exile in Iraq in the holy city of Najaf, Imam Khomeini gave a series of 19 lectures to a group of his students from January 21 to February 8, 1970 on Islamic Government. Notes of the lectures were soon made into a book that appeared under three different titles:
1. The Islamic Government,
2. Authority of the Jurist, and
3. A Letter from Imam Musavi Kashef al-Qita
The small book (fewer than 150 pages) was smuggled into Iran and "widely distributed" to Imam Khomeini supporters before the revolution. Controversy surrounds how much of the book's success came from its persuasive power, and how much from the political skill and power of its author, who is generally considered to have been the "undisputed" leader of the Iranian Revolution.
The book has been translated into several languages including French, Arabic, Turkish and Urdu. The one reliable translation in English is generally agreed to be that of Hamid Algar, an English-born convert to Islam, scholar of Iran and the Middle East, and supporter of Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution. It can be found in his book Islam and Revolution.
The one other English language edition of the book, also titled Islamic Government, is a stand-alone edition, translated by the U.S. government's Joint Publications Research Service. It is considered an inferior work, being based on Arabic translation rather than the original Persian as well as being "crude" and "unreliable", and its publication by Manor books "vulgar" and "sensational" in its attacks on the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Imam Khomeini believed that the need for governance of the faqih was obvious to good Muslims. That "anyone who has come general awareness of the beliefs and ordinances of Islam" would " unhesitatingly give his assent to the principle of the governance of the faqih as soon as he encounters it," because the principle has "little need of demonstration, for anyone who has come general awareness of the beliefs and ordinances of Islam ...." (p.27)
Nonetheless Imam lists several reasons why Islamic government is necessary:
• To prevent "encroachment by oppressive ruling classes on the rights of the weak," and plundering and corrupting the people for the sake of "pleasure and material interest," (p.54)
• To prevent "innovation" in Islamic law "and the approval of the anti-Islamic laws by sham parliaments," (p.54)
• To preserve "the Islamic order" and keep all individuals on "the just path of Islam without any deviation," (p.54) "it is because the just fuqaha have not had executive power in the land inhabited by Muslims ... that Islam has declined." (p.80)
• And to destroy "the influence of foreign powers in the Islamic lands" (p.54).
In its operation, Islamic government is superior to non-Islamic government in many ways.
• is mired in red tape thanks to "superfluous bureaucracies," (p.58).
• suffers from "reckless spending", and "constant embezzlement," in the case of Iran, forcing it to "request aid or a loan from" abroad and hence "to bow in submission before America and Britain," (p.58).
• has excessively harsh punishments, (p.33).
• creates an "unjust economic order" which divides the people "into two groups: oppressors and oppressed," (p.49).
• though it may be made up of elected representatives does not "truly belong to the people" in the case of Muslim countries. (p.56)
While some might think the complexity of the modern world would move Muslims to learn from countries that have modernized ahead of them, and even borrow laws from them, this is not only un-Islamic but also entirely unnecessary. The laws of God (Shariah), cover "all human affairs ... There is not a single topic in human life for which Islam has not provided instruction and established a norm." (p.29-30, also p.44) As a result Islamic government will be much easier than some might think.
"The entire system of government and administration, together with necessary laws, lies ready for you. If the administration of the country calls for taxes, Islam has made the necessary provision; and if laws are needed, Islam has established them all. ... Everything is ready and waiting." [p.137-8]
In addition to the functional reasons above offered for guardianship of the jurist, Imam Khomeini also gives much space to doctrinal ones that he argues establish proof that the rule of jurists is required by Islam.Traditionally Shia Islam follows a crucial hadith where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) passes on his power to command Muslims to his nephew Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (A.S), the first of a handful of "Imams" descended in a line that stopped with the "occultation" of the last Imam, Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi(A.,S), in 939 AD and who is not expected back until end times. Shia jurists have tended to stick to one of three approaches to the state: cooperated with it, try to influence policies by becoming active in politics, or most commonly, remaining aloof from it.
Imam Khomeini, however, endeavours to prove a leading jurist or jurists also have inherited the Prophet's political authority by explicating several ahadith of the Shi'a Imams. An example is his analysis of a saying attributed to the first Imam, ‘Ali who in addressing a judge said:
The seat you are occupying is filled by someone who is a prophet, the legatee of a prophet, or else a sinful wretch. (p.81)
Imam Khomeini reasons that the term judges must refer to trained jurists (fuqaha) as they are "by definition learned in matters pertaining to the function of judge" (p.84), and since trained jurists are neither sinful wretches nor prophets, by process of elimination "we deduce from the tradition quoted above that the fuqaha are the legatees." (p.84) He explains legatees of the prophet have the same power to command Muslims as the Prophet Muhammad and (in Shia Muslim belief) the Imams. Thus, the saying demonstrates that Islamic jurists have the power to rule Muslims.
The level of importance accorded rule of jurists and obedience to them by Imam Khomeini in Waliyat al-faqih is as high as any religious duty a Muslim has. "Our obeying holders of authority" like jurists "is actually an expression of obedience to God." (p.91) Preserving Islam "is more necessary even than prayer and fasting" (p.75) and without Islamic government Islam cannot be preserved.
The basis of Islamic government is exclusive adherence to Sharia, or Islamic law. Those holding government posts should have knowledge of Sharia (Islamic jurists are such people), and the country's ruler should be a faqih who "surpasses all others in knowledge" of Islamic law and justice (p.59) -- known as a marja` -- as well as having intelligence and administrative ability.
And while this faqih rules, it might be said that the ruler is actually sharia law itself because, "the law of Islam, divine command, has absolute authority over all individuals and the Islamic government. Everyone, including the Most Noble Messenger [Prophet Muhammad] (peace be upon him) and his successors, is subject to law and will remain so for all eternity ... " (p.56)
"The governance of the faqih" is equivalent to "the appointment of a guardian for a minor." Just as God established the Prophet Mohammad as the "leader and ruler" of early Muslims, "making obedience to him obligatory, so, too, the fuqaha (plural of faqih) must be leaders and rulers" over Muslims today. (p.63) While the "spiritual virtues" and "status" of the Prophet and the Imams are greater than those of contemporary faqih, their power is not, because this virtue "does not confer increased governmental powers". (p.62)
Islamic government is constitutional, but "not constitutional in the current sense of word, i.e., based on the approval of laws in accordance with the opinion of the majority." Instead of the customary executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, "in an Islamic government, a simple planning body takes the place of the legislative assembly that is one of the three branches of government" -- a legislature being unnecessary because "no one has the right to legislate ... except ... the Divine Legislator" (p.56).
Islamic government raises revenue "on the basis of the taxes that Islam has established - khums, zakat ... jizya, and kharaj." (p.45) This will be plenty because "khums is a huge source of income" (p.44-5)
Islamic Government will be just but it will also be unsparing with "troublesome" groups that cause "corruption in Muslim society," and damage "Islam and the Islamic state." In this regard it will follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad who eliminated the Jews of Bani Qurayza, (p.89) selling women and children into slavery and slaughtering several hundred men for their treachery.
Islamic government will follow the self-denial, and unflinching courage and rectitude of Imam ‘Ali. His seat of command was simply the corner of a mosque (p.86); he threatened to have the hand of his daughter cut off if she did not pay back a loan from the treasury (p.130); and he "lived more frugally than the most impoverished of our students." (p.57) Islamic government will follow the "victorious and triumphant" armies of early Muslims who set "out from the mosque to go into battle" and "fear only God," (p.131) and follow the Quranic command "Prepare against them whatever force you can muster and horses tethered" (8:60). In fact, "if the form of government willed by Islam were to come into being, none of the governments now existing in the world would be able to resist it; they would all capitulate" (p.122)
Khomeini spends a large part of his book explaining why Islamic government had not yet been established, despite the fact that the need for governance of the faqih is obvious to "anyone who has come general awareness of the beliefs and ordinances of Islam." (p.27)
The "historical roots" of the opposition are Western unbelievers who want to keep us backward, to keep us in our present miserable state so they can exploit our riches, our underground wealth, our lands and our human resources. They want us to remain afflicted and wretched, and our poor to be trapped in their misery ... they and their agents wish to go on living in huge palaces and enjoying lives of abominable luxury. (p.34)
"Foreign experts have studied our country and have discovered all our mineral reserves -- gold, copper, petroleum, and so on. They have also made an assessment of our people’s intelligence and come to the conclusion that the only barrier blocking their way are Islam and the religious leadership." (p.139-40)
These Westerners "have known the power of Islam themselves for it once ruled part of Europe, and ... know that true Islam is opposed to their activities."(p.140) Knowing that "Islam has laid down no laws for the practice of usury, for banking on the basis of usury, for the consumption of alcohol, or for the cultivation of sexual vice" and wishing "to promote these vices in the Islamic world", (p.31-2) Westerns have set about deceiving Muslims, using their "agents" to telling them that "that Islam consists of a few ordinances concerning menstruation and parturition." (p.29-30)
The enemies of Islam target the vulnerable young: "The agents of imperialism are busy in every corner of the Islamic world drawing our youth away from us with their evil propaganda." (p.127)
This imperialist attack on Islam is not some ad hoc tactic to assist the imperial pursuit of power or profit, but an elaborate, 300-year-long plan.
The British imperialists penetrated the countries of the East more than 300 years ago. Being knowledgeable about all aspects of these countries, they drew up elaborate plans for assuming control of them. (p.139, also p.27-28, p.34, p.38).
In addition to the British there are the Jews:
From the very beginning, the historical movement of Islam has had to contend with the Jews, for it was they who first established anti-Islamic propaganda and engaged in various stratagems, and as you can see, this activity continues down to the present. (p.27-8)
We must protest and make the people aware that the Jews and their foreign backers are opposed to the very foundations of Islam and wish to establish Jewish domination throughout the world. (p.127)
While the main danger of unbelievers comes from foreign (European and American) imperialists, non-Muslims in Iran and other Muslim countries pose a danger too, centers of evil propaganda run by the churches, the Zionists, and the Baha’is in order to lead our people astray and make them abandon the ordinances and teaching of Islam .... (p.128)
Perhaps most alarmingly, the imperialist war against Islam has even penetrated the seminaries where Khomeini notes sadly, "If someone wishes to speak about Islamic government and the establishment of the Islamic government, he must observe the principles of taqiyya, [i.e. dissimulation of the truth in defence of Islam], and count upon the opposition of those who have sold themselves to imperialism" (p.34)