Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Majid Naficy: Khomeini’s Visit

My father never told us
That Khomeini had visited him
For medical treatment many years ago
When Khomeini was only a “Khomeini”
And not yet the Deputy of God. (1)

The patient, perhaps, complained of heart palpations
The father looked at his tongue and eyes
Took his pulse and listened to his heart.
The patient removed his black turban and amber sandals
And took out his light cloak and long tunic.
He laid down on the bed unmasked
And surrendered himself to a competent physician.

Did the father ask about Journeys written by Sadra of Shiraz (2)
And the patient about Commentary by Nafis, son of Evaz? (3)
Did the patient recite some of his own mystical ghazals,
And the father from free verses of his own son?
Did the patient speak of raising the banner of religion
And the father of kindling the lamp of reason?
No! No! The doctor’s office is not a place for chitchat
With so many patients waiting behind the door.
The patient put on his clothing
The father handed him a prescription
And walked him to the door.

Ten years later, in the seventies
When my younger brother Sa’id
Was in the Shah’s prison for two years,
Because he had read a pamphlet,
And Khomeini was in exile, in Iraq
I listened to “Voice of the Revolution” in the basement.
One evening, the father came down the stairs
To listen to his old patient
Who spoke of the Shah’s torture chambers
And foretold the day of justice.

.

At that time, no one knew that he
In less than five years,
After the uprising of home-builders in “off-limit” zones
And gathering of intellectuals at Goethe’s nights of poetry
After marches of the clergy in Qum, and bazaaris in Tabriz
Strikes of petroleum workers and newspapers
And rallying allahu-akbars from rooftops at night,
With rising fists and slogans
And falling fears and statues
And the hand-over of prisons and garrisons
Would sit on the throne of the “divine” state;
And after driving out the nationalists from the stage
He would wrestle with the “Great Satan”
Amidst the hoorays of a dependent left
And the boos of an independent left
Behind the walls of the American embassy,
And with the “export of revolution” to Iraqi Shiites
Saddam’s invasion of Iranian land
And the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war
He would energize with “war blessings”
And gather the “flock” behind the “shepherd”;
And in the bloody decade of eighties (4)
He would have men cut women into halves
Women veil womanhood
Muslims kill Bahais
Shiites battle Sunnis
Believers, murder non-believers
Pedophiles suppress homosexuals
Little girls marry old men
Concubines work for marriage officiants
“Living martyrs” suppress disabled people
Veterans commit hateful polygamy
Persians dominate over Kurds, Turks, and Baluches
Iran become infamous in the world,
Iranians forget pre-Islamic New Year
Man part from his best animal friend
Musicians conceal tambourines and lutes
Poets silenced on the gallows
Writers shut down their association
Versifiers glorify the “leader”
Elegizers spread the cult of martyrdom
Wine-lovers make bootleg in home cellars
Chess-lovers hide their forbidden game on the rooftops
Addict die in alleys and on streets,
The hungry eat pottage at “passion play” nights
Donkeys take over economy (5)
Bankers change only the name of “usury”
Borrowers dream of “loan without interest”
The poor hope for alms-giving
Bridal couples love “marriage loan”
Blue workers look for Ramadan charity
White workers wait for “tea money”
Revolutionary generals monopolize imports
Oil cartels marry the “leader”,
“Councils” produce terror in factories
“Associations” Islamicize universities
“Special courts” purge seminaries
“Bureaus” brainwash the army
Mosques spy in neighborhoods
Neighbors eavesdrop through walls,
Mothers snitch on their sons
Pupils interrogate their teachers
Torturers perform ablution before flogging
Interrogators recite “allahu akbar”  after each whipping
Loudspeakers air Koranic verses during tortures
Victims of torture incriminate themselves
Shariatmadari ask forgiveness on national TV (6)
The “penitents” execute their cellmates
Revolutionary guards rape virgin prisoners before execution (7)
Judges massacre political prisoners in Summer 1988
Cemeteries discriminate between Muslims and infidels,
Newborn babies suffer with their mothers in prison
Children watch public flogging and stoning
Teenagers walk in mine fields
The youth marry death for a bride
The elderly wail over the graves of their children
The faithful detest the prophet’s religion
The dreamers fear “Ali’s justice”
The young of mullahs fill their pockets
And the turbaned tapdance on gravestones;
And alongside thousands of women and men
He would torture and execute Sa’id,
Because he had read a pamphlet,
And he would bury his body in a hidden tomb,
And in a cold Winter evening
In the waiting hall of Evin prison
He would tell the father
Through the tongue of the executioner:
“Your son was sent to hell”.

.

If my father had known all this
Could he have refused to treat his patient,
Or, ignoring Hippocratic Oath,
Written him a poisonous drug?
And if the ruler, while signing Sa’id’s sentence,
Had remembered the day that he’d visited my father
Could he have torn up the death sentence
And, ignoring the bloody “divine punishments”,
Said “no” to tempting violence?
“The line dividing good and evil
Cuts through every human heart.” (8)

September 23, 2010

Footnotes

1. Ruhollah Khomeini (1900-89) was born in the town of Khomein, as seen in his last name.  He, in a letter dated October 8, 1970 and sent from Najaf, Iraq, to another clergyman, Jalal al-din Taheri in Isfahan, Iran, writes about his visit to my father Abutorab Naficy (1914-2007) as follows: “… I am very worried that you don’t feel well. Hopefully and god-willing, you will recover completely. But visiting a neurologist is good, and in Isfahan Dr. Naficy. Once in Isfahan, I was sick, made a visit to him, and he diagnosed well. At any rate, do not procrastinate and make a visit.”From: Sahifeh-ye Immam vol. 2nd, p. 301, Institute for Compilation and Publication of Immam Khomeini’s Works, Tehran, 1999.
2. Mulla Sadra Shirazi (1571-1641) The most famous Shiite philosopher and theologian of the modern era. His most important book is Transcendent Wisdom of the Four Journeys of the Intellect, popularly known as Journeys. Before going to exile in 1963, Khomeini taught parts of this book to seminary students in Qum. Many of his fellow-teachers were very conservative and considered philosophy as “makruh”, that is,  religiously discouraged. He also wrote mediocre mystical ghazals under the pen name “Hindi”.
3. Burhan al-Din Nafis, son of Evaz (Iwad), son of Hakim Kermani (death A. D. 1449 or 853 H.) is the progenitor of our Naficy (Nafisi) family  founded in Kerman, Iran. He was probably named after Ibn al-Nafis (1213-88), the famous Syrian Arab physician on whose book, A Summary of Medicine, our forefather wrote a Commentary. Nafis, son of Evaz was the court physician of Ulugh Beg, the grandson of Tamerlane, an accomplished astronomer  and the ruler of Samarkand (from 1409 to 1449) in modern Uzbekistan. Nafis’ Commentary on Avicenna’s The Canon of Medicine as well as his Commentary on Najib al-Din Samarqandi’s Causes and Signs were reference books of physicians in the Islamic world until the 19th century.
4. From this line the “indictment” section begins in which I have used the technique of “enumeratio” or “cataloguing” employed by Walt Whitman in “Song of Myself” or Homer in  The Iliad, Book II.
5. Emphasizing the priority of religion over economy, Khomeini said: “Economics belongs to donkeys”. His plan for “Islamic economy” was based on the elimination of usury and the promotion of charity. For further reading on this subject, readers may study Timur Kuran’s Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicament of Islamism, Princeton University Press, 2004.
6. Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari (1905-1986) A Grand Ayatollah who allegedly saved Khomeini’s life after the June 5th uprising in  1963. Due to Shariatmadari’s mediation, the Shah only exiled Khomeini to Turkey and then Iraq. In 1982 the aging, tortured Shariatmadari who was accused of giving his blessings to an aborted  coup d’ etat, went on national television and asked Khomeini for forgiveness.
7. In the 1980s, revolutionary guards were ordered to “marry”, that is, rape virgin political prisoners the night before their executions. The clergy believed that if the girls remained virgins they would go to paradise after death.  In this respect, readers may read a letter written by Hussein Ali Montazeri (1922-2009) to Khomeini dated October 7, 1986 included in Montazeri’s Political Memoir available in Persian on the Internet. One of the reasons that in 1989, a few months before his death, Khomeini forced Montezari to resign as his deputy was Montazeri’s courage in protesting against the torture and murder of thousands of political prisoners in the summer 1988.
8. Paraphrasing Alexander Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago.


Copyright 2010 Majid Naficy.

Majid Naficy is the author of many books in Persian and in English, including Father & Son published by Red Hen and My American Love: Thirty-Two Poems for Wendy published by Aftab Publication, Norway. 

Majid Naficy

13 comments on “Majid Naficy: Khomeini’s Visit

  1. pranabaxom
    July 6, 2021

    A disturbing read that stirrs the soul, unanswerable what-ifs abound, oppressed becomes the oppressor and timids commit the crimes they abhor. World moves on replacing one tyrant with another. End is not near as innocents suffer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      July 6, 2021

      Yes, very disturbing how it is always the innocents who suffer in war.

      Like

  2. Rose Mary Boehm
    July 6, 2021

    Yes, tragic. I was always interested in Persia, its culture, learning, writings… and my political interest began with learning that the so-called ‘Shah’ was only the son of a soldier in Iran’s army. That they already usurped the true Shah’s place. And then, between the US and Britain, they sabotaged the efforts – as always – of one of the original royal family’s members, Dr Mossadegh, to get for Iran a more realistic price for its oil instead of just 17% (if I remember right). The rest went into British pockets. After the US helped, the US got its first foothold in the Middle-East as well and profited from its riches.

    Replacing the devil with beelzebub. It has never worked. We seem to be a masochistic planet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      July 6, 2021

      Yes, the pillaging of Iran’s mineral wealth has been an ongoing crime.

      Like

  3. Barbara Huntington
    July 6, 2021

    I was fortunate to visit Baha’i holy places just before the revolution. To be cared for by a Baha’i physician in Tehran when I became sick. To gather roses in Shiraz. To see a vision in Isfahan. And to return home and wonder how many of those who cared for me were lost. Powerful poem. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Louise Hawes
    July 6, 2021

    This must have been terribly hard to write. It was excruciating to read. Deep thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. melpacker
    July 6, 2021

    All questions that start as “what if” are, of course, unanswerable and shall remain just that…”what if”. The lessons we learn from liberators who become oppressors is one that has replayed itself probably for millenniums. What we learn is that we should always assume that there are no pure individuals, no persons whose morals and ethics will remain constant and guide them in every decision they make, especially once they have achieved power and the adulation pours from masses around them carefully arranged to make them believe that those are the only masses. We, you, me, all of us, come from corrupt cultures and societies and that corruption, even when so minor as to make us think “well, that’s ok, it’s only a little thing” infects us often without any outward appearances. No festering boils, no fevers, no explosive vomitus to give warnings, but it’s there, buried deep inside us and has been burrowing away for our entire lives. Does that make us, each of us, individually, into corrupt human beings incapable of standing for justice? Of course not, for if that were true we might as well give up now and admit that a better world is impossible. But we carry on, all too often believing that the ascendency of an individual liberator whom we adorn with our wreaths of glory will change it all for us and who will remain our moral guidepost for eternity. Instead, we raise up everyday people like ourselves, for we are all everyday people, who have been subjected to the same lifelong assaults on their innate morality as the rest of us and who deserve our support as leaders but whom also deserve our guarded distrust as we recognize that they are no better, no more moral, no more infused with “the light” than any one of us but who, usually by accident, somehow has managed to occupy the spotlight at center stage at least for now. Moral leadership can only be enforced by masses of people, including those who worship that leader, understanding the temptations of leadership and constantly reminding those in power that they are straying from the path of justice and replacing them as leaders when they fail.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      July 6, 2021

      Thank you, Mel, for this sophisticated analysis. It will take me a while to parse it.

      Like

      • melpacker
        July 6, 2021

        When I was there as part of a US delegation during the hostage crisis (as regular readers of VP know from articles I’ve written and the BBC video VP posted), I remember having many “what ifs” including how many more would die if the Shah stayed in power with the full backing of our government. Would it be more than died under some of the authoritarian religious leaders? Who knows? And does the total dead really make any difference in judging one autocrat against another? Is mass murder judged on a relative scale or should we condemn it no matter who does it? I go with the latter.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Daniel Burston
    July 6, 2021

    A very distressing read. Perhaps if Dr. Naficy had poisoned Khomeini he would have prevented the death and torture of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And yet, how could he have possibly known what the future held in store? And would this knowledge, had it been available to him, have shaped his decisions and behavior.

    These questions are unanswerable, of course. But when contemplating the scale and ferocity of the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses against their own people, one can’t help but wonder why there is no movement to boycott, divest and sanction Iran in American civil society. Yes, the American government already imposes sanctions, but these to degrade the lives of ordinary Iranians, rather than the ruling elites, which includes the Revolutionary Guard. But where is the public outrage, especially on the Left? One fears that the fact that the US government imposes sanctions on Iran is sufficient reason for many on the Left to support, or at least tolerate, the Iranian regime. And where is the Left’s condemnation of Hezbollah, which is armed and financed by Iran, and was actively engaged in defending Assad’s tyrannical the slaughter of over 600,000 Syrians?

    These questions do have answers, and they are not pleasant to contemplate.

    Liked by 1 person

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