Nir Boms and Shayan Arya
The Australian, January 14, 2010
AYATOLLAH Ruhollah Khomeini established his Islamic regime on the premise of velayet-e faqih, the undisputed moral and religious authority of the supreme leader as a successor to the prophet Mohammed and the infallible Shia imams.
This premise was set to justify and guarantee the survival of the system he created. Undisputed authority, he thought, with a back-up from Allah, cannot be challenged. But as events in Iran unfold, it becomes clear this is no longer the case. Not only is the leader challenged but also his self-ascribed monopoly on God.
Khomeini’s successor Ali Khamenei never enjoyed the religious and moral authority of his predecessor. Khamenei, a mid-level cleric (hojatoleslam) who had never completed a resaleye amalie (equivalent to a PhD dissertation for Shia religious students), ascended to the rank of grand ayatollah within three months. He began his career by putting his rival, grand ayatollah Hosein Ali Montazeri, under house arrest.