Imam Khomeini's Letter to Mikhail Gorbachev
Your Excellency Mr. Gorbachev (1)
Chairman of the Presidium of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
With due wishes for the happiness and prosperity of Your Excellency and the people of the Soviet Union.
Since your assumption of office there has been the impression that Your Excellency, in analyzing world political events, particularly those pertaining to the Soviet Union, have found yourself in a new era of reassessment, change and confrontation; and your boldness and initiative in dealing with the realities of the world is quite likely to bring about changes that would result in upsetting the equations of power dominating the world. I have therefore found it necessary to bring certain matters to your attention.
Even if your new approach and decisions are merely used as a means to overcome the party crisis, and, to solve some of the problems confronting your people, your courage in reappraising a school of thought that has for decades enchained the revolutionary youth of the world behind its iron curtain is indeed worthy of praise. If, however, you are considering taking a further step forward, the first thing that will ensure your success is that you re-evaluate your predecessors’ policy of obliterating God and religion from society (2).
, a policy that has no doubt given the heaviest blow to the Soviet people. Rest assured that this is the only way whereby world problems can be dealt with realistically.
Of course it is possible that as a result of wrong economic policies of former Communist authorities, the Western world, an illusory heaven, will appear to be fascinating; but the truth lies elsewhere. If you hope, at this Juncture, to cut the economic Gordian knots of socialism and communism by appealing to the center of the Western capitalism, you will, far from remedying any ill of your society, commit a mistake which those to come will have to erase. For, if Marxism has come to a deadlock in its social and economic policies, capitalism has also bogged down, in this as well as in other respects though in a different form.
Reality must be faced. The main problem confronting your country is not one of private ownership, freedom and economy; your problem is the absence of true faith in God, the very problem that has dragged, or will drag, the West to vulgarism and an impasse. Your main problem is the prolonged and futile war you have waged against God, the source of existence and creation.
It is clear to everybody that from now on communism will only have to be~ found in the museums of world political history, for Marxism cannot meet any of the real needs of mankind. Marxism is a materialistic ideology an materialism cannot bring humanity out of the crisis caused by a lack of belie in spirituality the prime affliction of the human society in the East and the west a like
You may have not in theory turned your back on certain aspects o, Marxism - and may continue to profess your heartfelt loyalty to it in interviews - but you know that, in practice, the reality is not so. The leader of suckthe first blow to communism and you have struck the secon and, apparently, final blow. Today we have nosuch thing as communism i the world. I earnestly call on you, however, not to get trapped, while tearin down the walls of Marxist illusions, in the prison of the West and th Arch-Satan(4)ope you will attain the honour of wiping the filth of 70 yea of communist aberration from the face of history and of your country. Toda those allies of yours that are genuinely concerned about their homelands an~ people are no longer willing to sacrifice their subterranean and surfac resources to keep alive the myth of the success of communism, an ideolo whose din of collapse has already reached the ears of their children.
When after 70 years the call, “Allah is Great” and the testimony to th pro phethood of the seal of the prophets, Mohammad (peace be upon him an his posterity), were heard from the minarets of the mosques in some of you Republics, all the followers of the pure Mohammadan Islam were moved t tears out of ecstacy. Therefore, I have found it necessary to remind you to reflect once again on the materialistic and theistic world views. Materialists consider sense to be the sole criterion of knowledge and are of the opinion
that whatever cannot be known through the senses falls outside the realm of knowledge. They identify existence with matter and consider as nonexistent anything that has no material body. Inevitably, they regard the world of the unseen-God Almighty, Divine Revelation, Prophethood and the Resurrection-as mere fiction. On the other hand, theists consider both sense and reason to be the criteria of knowledge, and maintain that whatever can be known through reason lies within the realm of knowledge, although it is not perceptible. To theists therefore, existence is inclusive of both the unseen and the manifest. For a thing to exist it is not necessary to have a material body. In the same way that a material thing depends on an incorporeal thing (5)., sensory perception is dependent of rational perception(6).
The Holy Qur’an reprobates the fundamentals of materialistic thought and, addressing those who say: “We shall never believe in thee until we see God manifestly” (7)., proclaims: “Vision comprehends Him not, and He comprehends all vision; and He is the knower of subtilities, the Aware(8).. I should not like to present here Qur’anic arguments concerning Divine Revelation, Prophethood and the Resurrection which from your point of view are debatable. In fact I do not wish to entangle you in the twists and turns of philosophical arguments, particulary those of Islamic philosophy. I will content myself by presenting one or two simple, intuitive examples ofwhich even politicians can avail themselves.
It is self-evident that matter, whatever its nature, has no awareness of self. Consider a stone statue: each side is ignorant of the other side, whereas human beings and animals, we clearly observe, are aware of their Surroundings. They know where they are, and have some idea of what goes on around them. There must be, then, an element in men and animals that transcends matter and is separate from it, living beyond the life of matter. Intrinsically, man seeks to attain absolute perfection. He strives, as you well know, for absolute power over the world; he is not attached to any power that is defective. If he has the entire world at his command, he naturally feels inclined to have command of another world once he is informed of its existence. No matter how learned a person may be, if he learns of some other branch of knowledge, he naturally feels inclined to attain mastery of that branch of knowledge also. Therefore, there must be some Absolute Power and Absolute Knowledge to which man is attached. It is God we all seek, although we may not be aware of it. Man strives to attain Absolute Truth, so that he may be annihilated in God. Basically, the desire for eternal life that is inherent in every individual is proof of the existence of an Eternal World to
which destruction cannot find its way.
Should Your Excellency desire further information on these matters, you,:
may command those scholars of yours who are well-versed in this field to study, in addition to the works of Western philosophers, the writings of Peripatetic(9). philosophers al-Farabi (10). and Aviceena”(11). -Peace be upon them. It will then become clear that the law of causation on which all knowledge depends is a rational, not sensible law. Likewise, perception of general laws and concepts on which all reasoning rests is reached not by means of sensory experience but through rational argument (12). Your scholars may further refer to the Ishraqi(13). theosophy of Suhrawardi (14), and explain to you that the flesh as well as any other material thing, is in need of Pure Light which has n material entity, that man’s witnessing of his own truth does not take place b means of any sense organ(15). You may also have the scholars familiariz themselves with Transcendental philosophy (16) of Mulla Sadra (17) (may Allah b~ pleased with him and resurrect him with the prophets and the pious), so tha it may become clear that the nature of knowledge is different from the natur of matter and that intellect, far removed from matter, cannot be restricted b the laws governing matter.
Iwon’t tire you further by mentioning the works of mystics, in particul Muhyid-Din ibn-e-Arabi (18). If you wish to make yourself acquainted with th doctrines of this celebrated mystic, send a number ofyour brilliant scholar who are well-versed in this field, to Qum (19) so that, by reliance on God, th may, after a couple of years, glimpse the depth of the delicate stages o gnosis (20) which, will be impossible for them to acquire without making such journey.
After mentioning these problems and preliminary points, let me call 0 you to study Islam earnestly, nrt because Islam and Muslims may need yo. but because Islam has exalted universal values which can bring comfort an salvation to all nations and remove the basic problems of mankind. A true understanding of Islam may forever release you from the problem Afghanistan(21). and other similar involvements. We treat Muslims of the word as Muslims of our own country and will ever share in their destiny.
By granting certain liberties to some of your Republics in matter pertaining to religious practices, you have shown that you no longer conside religion as the “opium of the people” (22).. Indeed, how can Islam be the opiu of the people, the religion that has made Iranians as firm as a mountains
against superpowers? Is the religion that seeks the administration of justice in the world and man’s freedom from material and spiritual shackles, the opium of the people? Only that religion is the opium of the people that causes the material and spiritual resources of Islamic and non-Islamic countries to pass into the clutches of super-and lesser powers and that preaches that religion is separate from politics. This, however, can not be called a true religion; it is what our people call “an American religion”.
In conclusion, I declare outright that the Islamic Republic of Iran as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily fill the vacuum of religious faith in your society. In any case, our country, as in the past, honours good neighbourhood and bilateral relations.
Peace be upon those who follow the .guidance(23).
Ruhullah al-Musavi al-khomeini