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Questions about the Islamic Revolution of 1979

Q:

There were many acts of violence committed during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. I have heard first hand from someone that escaped with their family (they are of the Baha'i faith) that individuals and families that did not convert were killed.

1. Is this true? How do we respond to allegations that the Shia are violent and are taught to kill all non-believers?

2. What is the Shia perspective on the violence during the Islamic Revolution. Was it all justified?

3. What is the best book/source to read more about the Shia perspective on the events that took place during the Islamic Revolution?

A:

Bismillah al-Rahmaan al-Raheem.

Thank you for your question. Since this is one that many people ask and have in mind, I will try to address the issue as a whole and in detail. Let me give a bullet-point answer beforee xplaining it in a more elaborate way afterwards.

 Firstly, with regards to the second part of your question:  
   - Islam is completely against injustice and violence against the innocent people. In Islam, we are also required to respect other faiths and treat them as equals in humanity. Non-Muslims living in a Muslim country are also under the protection of the Islamic government and it is not permitted to harm them, their families or properties. There are currently many non-Shias and non-Muslims living peacefully in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
   - Islam does promote bringing to justice those who committed crimes, and after being tried and proven guilty of crimes with the specific conditions, these people must be punished. However, without the order of the Islamic court and the jurist, people do not have the right to punish any person on the street, raid people's houses, or harm their families and properties, unless it is out of self-defense or protection of the general public.
   - From the Shia perspective, which is not different form the Islamic perspective, no injustice is justifiable, and all culprits must face trial, whether they are
against  the Islamic government or claim to be in favour of it.  

 

As for the first part of your question:     

 - Many things happen during a revolution, and many of these occurrences are neither recorded, nor do they have proper evidence to prove or to deny them. A lot of things may also have happened due to the lack of control in the early days of the establishment of the system, however, the Islamic government tries its best to keep security and peace in the society, and criminals from all sides are judged fairly, under the supervision of God-fearing and moral individuals. Also, crimes committed by some people  must not be attributed to the whole movement,similar to what is happening today, where the extremism of a few "Muslims" is being attributed to the whole of Islam.

 - The alleged crimes that may have been proven to have happened must not be taken at face value, and one must not be quick to make a judgement, because there are reasons as to why they may have happened.

 - As for those innocent people who say they were persecuted (such as the Bahaai family mentioned in the question), I sincerely feel sympathy for them and pray for them. However, as will be explained below, one should not straight away point fingers at the revolution and say the fault lies with the Islamic movement. This will be explained in detail in the next section below, when looking at the whole situation.
 - The revolution had both friends and foes, and both sides spread their own stories, and both sides have extremists who may exaggerate things, or even fabricate stories and spread lies. Therefore, we must be very cautious when it comes to believing in certain things, and we should always look at the source, as well as other factors, as will be explained below.
 - As a general note for those who were victims of crimes during the revolution, as well as those who merely heard about them: The Western media has spread a lot of lies and false-propaganda, and this will be explained further down. We should be careful not to fall into shaytan's trap, who encourages us to believe and quickly accept what the enemies propagate, but when our pious and sincere Muslim brothers/sisters say something, we don’t trust them and look at them with skepticism. Islam has given us a way to measure the trustworthiness of a person, which is to look at whether the person has eimaan and taqwa (God-weariness). The quality of being "aadil" is also crucial, which is explained as "not committing major sins, and not repeating minor sins". This is also an essential criteria for someone to be the imam that leads prayers (even if he's leading one person in prayers!). 
 

As for your third question:   

   - There is a 10 part documentary in Arabic with English subtitles, entitled "Ruhollah - Spirit of God", which also talks about the Islamic revolution, and is widely available (e.g. on shiatv.net). There are other books, but mostly not translated in English. Most sources are found in Farsi or Arabic.

 

Now let's go in more details and try to understand the issue properly. Please bear in mind that I am addressing the issue as a whole, not specific to one case. As we all know, a revolution is not a simple process, rather, it is a very complex situation with many things happening at the same time, at a very large scale,and affecting many groups of people. It is important to understand this,because looking at the whole situation is a very simplistic way doesn't do justice to the big picture, and results in people pointing fingers at one groupor another very quickly, without bothering to analyse or ask what happened. During the Islamic revolution, before and after its victory, there were different-minded groups of people: Some were in favour of the revolution, and this was the majority of the people; some were indifferent to what is happening, neither supporting it nor opposing it, and finally, a minority was against the movement, actively fighting against it.Furthermore, whilst this minority
was working against the movement from within the country, other countries outside of Iran, who benefitted from theoppressive Pahlavi regime and made big losses due to the revolution, were also actively working to make the movement fail and break apart. Putting this on oneside, we also have the mass, who despite being in favour of the revolution, are also fallible and prone to making mistakes, misjudgments, whether purposely or unintentionally.

Now, when looking at this reality as a whole, if any alleged crimes were committed, can anyone say who the perpetrators were? Should we accuse the heads of the revolutionary movement, or the supporters of the movement, or the ignorance and mistakes of the general public, or the internal enemies or the plot of the enemies outside? We must also remember that the in the earlystages of
the revolution's victory, it would have been hard to have total control of the whole country in terms of keeping security and prevent crimes. Now, I cannot say nothing wrong happened, but neither can I say who the culprits were.It is clear that there are too many different groups of people that could be responsible, and from our perspective as the lay people, it is not very clear when looking it merely in this way. But let's analyse and go through an elimination process: 

The personality of Ayatullah Khomeini is clear for most scholars and Shias: he was a strong scholar, from way before the revolution, one of the top jurists, accepted marja', 'aadil (as explained earlier), known for his great morals andethics, expert in philosophy and mysticism, famous for his spirituality andattachment to Allah and to the Ahlul Bayt. When such a person, who not only had a deep understanding of the teachings of Islam, but was also God-fearing, atthe heights of spirituality and known amongst the scholars to be 'aadil, startsa movement and makes a revolution, we know for sure
that his intention and goal was one that is in line with Islam, the intellect, and basic human values andmorals. Therefore, no one who knows the personality of Ayatullah Khomeini and the motive for the revolution can even have the slightest doubt that any alleged crimes were ordered by him or those heading the movement. Regarding the general public, it is an obvious fact that the lay-men tend
to over-react,make incorrect judgement, make mistakes, or even lose control of their anger or desires and abuse a situation. Therefore, it is possible that these"alleged" crimes may have been committed by members of the general public for many different reasons, some of which were mentioned. Even if we assume some members of the public committed crimes claiming it to be in supportof the Revolution, although these are not acceptable, we cannot blame the whole system for the extremism of a few.

This is what is happening today, where the extremism of a few "Muslims" is being attributed to the whole ofIslam. Now, one thing is also very clear: there were many smart enemies and ignorant friends,and unfortunately, the smart enemies were working their best to make therevolution fail. Therefore, one must also keep this in mind and accept that there is a very strong probability that the disruptions and crimes committedmay have been the work of these enemies, and this is not far-fetched. Manypeople in high positions turned against the system after the revolution happened,
many of whom were paid by foreign countries. One example is the first president, Bani Sadr, whose treason cost the Iranian nation a lot. He later onfled to a European
country. The same was for many other officials, who were incited by Western powers and betrayed their own people. Groups inside Iranwere working to bring chaos, kill supporters of the revolution, and commit crimes against the public under the name of the revolution to give it a bad name, whilst countries outside of Iran would support these, as well as spread anti-Revolution propaganda. 

In conclusion, I do not point a direct finger at anyone, since we do not have muchi nformation about these alleged crimes, but I invite everyone who has been told that the Islamic system promoted and sponsored crimes, whether they faced these crimes or only heard about them, to analyse the situation in a God-fearing manner. We should not be manipulated by the media, or the stories of politicians and other people who have no piety, many who are known to be liars. It is an unfortunate fact, which has been witness now and again, that weMuslims tend to listen to and believe others much more than our own pious brothers. What comes in the news from American or European channels tends to bemore readily accepted, despite knowing that they have a very long history oflies, deceit and false propaganda. Islam has told us to not accept news that comes from a hypocrite, and to always verify such news. On the other hand,Islam has given us the criteria of piety, adaalat and Imaan as a way to measure aperson's sincerity, since a believing and God-fearing person doesn’t lie or cheat. I invite the believers to look at both sides of the story, and see whatkind of people are on either side. I do not suggest that non-Muslims don't saythe truth, rather, I'm suggesting that in such sensitive matters, we shouldn't take any one's words at face value, because it is easy for anyone to believe in false-propaganda. Let's not fall into the trap of our enemies, who have made us skeptical from accepting the words of the sincere believers. I emphasize that I am not accusing any specific person of lies or false-propaganda, and the above is a general statement. Those who were victims of crimes during the revolution should not fall in the enemies' trap by quickly attributing the tribulations they faced on the Islamic revolution, but should consider the different factors in that period. 

May Allah help us differentiate between the Truth and falsehood, and May He grant us tawfiq to support and submit to the Truth, and fight against falsehood

 

Yassir .R.