Khomeini, Ayatollah Ruhollah (khōmāˈnē) [key], 1900–1989, Iranian Shiite religious leader. Educated in Islam at home and in theological schools, in the 1950s he was designated ayatollah, a supreme religious leader, in the Iranian Shiite community. Khomeini's criticisms of Reza Shah Pahlevi led to his exile in 1964. Settling in Iraq, Khomeini continued his outspoken denunciations, developing a strong religious and political following abroad, until forced to leave (1978) by Saddam Hussein; he then moved to France. Following the revolution that deposed Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi, Khomeini returned triumphantly to Iran in 1979, declared an Islamic republic, and began to exercise ultimate authority in the nation. His conservative ideology opposed pro-Western tendencies. Khomeini's rule was marked by the Iran hostage crisis and the Iran-Iraq War.
See biography by B. Moin (2000).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.