The Power of Public Opinion

This is an excerpt from Ayatollah Khomeini’s book Velayat-e Faqeeh (Governance of the Jurist).

Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil has been made a duty primarily for the sake of accomplishing these high aims. We have restricted it, however, to a narrow category of affairs where harm is suffered chiefly by the individual who is guilty of a sin by deed or by omission. We have the idea firmly in our heads that the instances of evil we are called upon to combat (munkarāt) are only the things we encounter or hear about in everyday life. For example, if someone plays music while we are riding on the bus, or the owner of a coffee house does something wrong, or someone eats in the middle of the bazaar during Ramadān, we regard all these things as instances of evil we must denounce. Meanwhile, we remain totally oblivious to far greater evils. Those who are destroying the welfare of Islam and trampling on the rights of the weak – it is they whom we must force to desist from evil.

If a collective protest were made against the oppressors who commit an improper act or crime, if several thousand telegrams were sent to them from all the Islamic countries telling them to desist, to relinquish their errors, they certainly would desist. If every time a step were taken or a speech given against the interests of Islam and the welfare of the people, those responsible were condemned throughout the country, in every single village and hamlet, they would be obliged to retreat. Could they possibly do otherwise? Never! I know them; I know what kind of people they are. They are very cowardly and would retreat very quickly. But if they see that we are more gutless than they are, they will give themselves airs and do whatever they want.

When the ‘ulamā of Qum met and banded together on one occasion, and the provinces supported them by sending delegations and delivering speeches to show their solidarity, the regime retreated and cancelled the measures we were objecting to.[1] Afterwards, they were able to cool our enthusiasm and weaken us; they divided us up and invented a separate “religious duty” for each of us.[2] As a result of the differing opinions that appeared among us, they grew bold again, and now they do whatever they want with the Muslims and this Islamic country of ours.[3]


[1] A reference to the agitation against the new laws on the election of local councils promulgated by the Shāh’s regime on October 6, 1962. These laws no longer specified that candidates were to be Muslim, and they were seen as a prelude to increased participation in public life by the Bahā’is and eventual abolition of the Constitution of 1906. After a prolonged campaign against the laws, in which Imām Khomeini took a prominent part, they were annulled by the government on November 28, 1962.

[2] This law was reinstated the following year in what became known as the White Revolution.

[3] Imam Khomeini, ‘Governance of the Jurist,’ translation of Velayat-e-Faqeeh, Iran Chamber Society,  p.72

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