On the 16th of July 1939, the future Leader of Islamic Iran was born in the holy city of Mashhad, in the province of Khorasan. Sayyed Ali was the second son of Sayyed Javad Khamenei, a humble and poor Islamic scholar who taught all members of his family how to lead a simple, humble way of life.
“My father, though a well-known religious figure, was a bit of an ascetic. We had a hard life. Sometimes for supper we had nothing but bread with some raisins, which our mother had somehow improvised…. our house, some sixty-five square meters, consisted of a single room and a gloomy basement. When visitors came to see my father as the local cleric to consult about their problems, the family had to move into the basement while the visit went on…. Years later some charitable persons bought the small, empty lot adjacent to our house, so we were able to build two more rooms.”
At the age of four Sayyed Ali and his older brother Mohammad, were sent to maktab, the traditional primary-schools of that time, in order to learn the alphabet and the Holy Quran. Later, he was transferred to a newly established Islamic school to continue his learning.
After this primary schooling, Sayyed Ali pursued his studies at the theological seminary in Mashhad. “The main encouraging factors for this enlightened decision were my parents, especially my father” says Ayatollah Khamenei today.
At Soleiman Khan and Nawwab religious schools and under the supervision of his father and the tutorships of some great religious scholars, he studied all the ‘intermediate level ‘ curriculum including logic, philosophy and Islamic jurisprudence in the exceptionally short time of five years. He then started his advanced level studies called darse kharij with such eminent scholars and instructors as Grand Ayatollah Milani.
THE FAMED SEMINARIES OF NAJAF AND QUM
The young Sayyed Ali was only eighteen years old when he started his studies at the highest level. He decided to make a pilgrimage to the holy shrines in Iraq, and so he left Iran for Najaf in 1957. He was fascinated by the theological and academic instructions of such eminent scholars such as Ayatollah Hakim and Ayatollah Shahrudi. He attended their lessons and was willing to stay there and continue his studies in order to profit from these excellent teachers. However his father made it known that he preferred his son continue his advanced studies in the holy city of Qum. Thus, respecting his father’s wish, he returned to Iran in 1958.
Diligently and enthusiastically he followed his advanced studies in Qum from 1958 to 1964 and benefited from the teachings of great scholars and grand ayatollahs such as Ayat. Borujerdi, Imam Khomeini, Ayat. Haeri Yazdi and Allamah Tabatabai.
He received the bad news that his father had lost his sight in one eye and was not able to read properly. This prompted him to return to Mashhad and while being at the service of his father, seek further knowledge from him, from Ayatollah Milani and other important scholars residing in Mashhad. The young Sayyed Ali, who had now become a mujtahid by having completed his advanced level studies, began to teach various religious subjects to younger seminary and university students.
Recalling this important point of departure in his life, the Leader says, “If there have been any successes in my life, they all go back to God’s blessings favored upon me because of my dutiful caring for parents.”