In This Review

Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah
Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah
By Baqer Moin
St. Martin's, 2000, 352 pp.

This excellent biography illuminates what Khomeini was really like and helps answer how he was able to play such a commanding role in Iran. Moin situates Khomeini within the distinctive world of Islam's clerical class. Here is Khomeini as the diligent seminarian attracted to mysticism, working his way up the religious hierarchy -- a family man who married just once and was surrounded by his devoted wife and children. He was so traditional that, during his exile in Turkey, he berated his host's wife for not wearing Islamic dress in her own house. Alongside these many human touches, Moin underscores Khomeini's Manichean mindset and his fanatic zeal for realizing his ideal of Islamic government. All this was matched by a keen political sense for timing and tactics. The secular nationalists, the Islamist moderates, and other eminent ayatollahs lost out to a man who combined the fervor of a Savonarola with the skills of a Lenin.