By Marzieh Hashemi
I consider myself very fortunate to have converted or reverted to Islam more than four decades ago.
What first attracted me to Islam was an epoch-making event that took place in 1979 on the other side of the world — the Islamic Revolution in Iran led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
At the time, I was a 19-year-old university student in my birth county, the United States, majoring in journalism.
That revolution sent tectonic waves throughout the world. My curiosity was piqued and I wanted to take a closer look at this movement and what ignited millions of Iranians, especially young people to follow the lead of a 79 years old man.
What was the goal of this revolution? What drew people in such large numbers to it? I was curious to know.
Around that time, the world was divided into two major blocs, led by two superpowers of the time — the Soviet Union and the United States.
Other countries were either in the Soviet sphere, which was the Communist-Atheist Eastern bloc, or in the American sphere, which was the Capitalist-Materialistic Western bloc.
There were no in-betweens. Following the Islamic Revolution and the overthrow of the West-backed dictatorship in Iran, the charismatic revolutionary leader offered a third option to the world.
Not communism and not capitalism, but Islam and independence.
Among the popular slogans of the revolution that reverberated far and wide included “Not East, Nor West, Islam is the Best” and “Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic.”
Imam Khomeini was changing the global political parameters that had been set into place by world powers since World War II when the two superpowers basically divided the globe between themselves.
And he was doing it at a time when these two superpowers were at the peak of their power.
Against the backdrop of these developments, as a young American university student, I had already become aware of the exploitative nature of capitalism.
I had participated in events sponsored by socialists and communists that interested me because of how these activists said they were representing the oppressed and wanted to change their condition.
However, as a devout Christian, when they would talk about God not existing, I could not accept that argument because I knew it wasn’t true.
With the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, or as he is better known as Imam, reintroduced a different paradigm to a world that had been rapidly losing its spirituality and morality.
The religion and the movement he was representing were revolutionary, riveting and spiritual. It was alive. It was gripping. It was magnetic. It was up-to-date and addressed the needs of the masses.
This was not a religion, as the communists would say was an opiate of the people. This was not a religion that encouraged one to be passive and just accept one’s fate lying down.
Nor was it a religion that would acquiesce to oppression or an oppressive ruler. This religion was rooted in a belief in the existence of Allah and His power and also the responsibility of mankind to try to help improve the world they inhabit.
It was a belief that Allah wouldn’t change the fate of a people until they strove to change their position. This religion was not passive.
It was the perfect balance between individual responsibility and social responsibility and between praying and striving.
It was a belief system that encouraged us to fight for what is right and to stand up against what is wrong.
People worldwide were affected by this Islamic movement and revolution in different ways. It prompted many of them to start studying Islam and eventually many converted as they found their refuge.
I was one of those lucky ones, who studied and reverted to Islam, two and a half years after the Islamic Revolution that Imam Khomeini spearheaded.
The personality and ideals of the Imam played a big role in initiating that start for me to study Islam, question the status quo, and look for a fresh start.
Imam Khomeini was the idol breaker, who broke the idols of capitalism and communism for many when these ideologies were at their peak of power.
He revived the religion of God. He revived the Islam of Prophet Muhammad. He woke up the sleeping masses from their blissful slumber who thought they had to acquiesce to worldly philosophies or political systems and be void of religious belief.
He reinvigorated the Muslim ummah. He instilled confidence in believing Muslims and all those campaigning for truth and justice. He taught them to rely only on God, and God alone, not lesser mortals.
Imam was fearless, as a Muslim leader should be, and yet so humble and filled with compassion and piety.
I was privileged to have seen him very closely at the Hosseynieh in Jamaran in northern Tehran during a public gathering. The experience was quite interesting and exciting for me.
In the United States, I had seen films showing some of his Jamaran gatherings. By this time, I was Muslim and still obviously influenced by my American background.
For example, most Americans don’t cry easily, nor do they like to cry in public. When the films would show the people visiting Imam, the cameras would zoom in on people and show their emotional side.
While still in the States, I loved Imam, but to be honest, I could not completely comprehend why people were driven to tears, why they cried so copiously.
And then I went to Jamaran myself to visit Imam, along with many others. First, we all sat and awaited his entry. The hall was jam-packed as Imam entered.
I looked at him and immediately realized tears were streaming down my face. I was practically sobbing. His presence was so amazing and I believe that it was his pure nature that caused people to weep.
It is difficult to put the experience in words and perhaps even more difficult for others to understand if they haven’t experienced it. But it was as if you were in the presence of “greatness” and you were humbled in his presence. He was Imam Khomeini.
And if we fast forward to today, 34 years since the passing of this pure soul, we can see that the Islamic revolution has transcended boundaries and daily we can see the results of the victory of the revolution that the Imam laid the foundation of.
Today, we are witnessing the US-led unipolar world unraveling in real-time and the multipolar world replacing it. And we see increased alliances between revolutionary countries and the Global South.
We are witnessing the birth of the multipolar world that Imam Khomeini told us was possible. He talked about like-minded countries working together and not giving in to Washington's diktats.
The roots of this phenomenon, which is taking place now, were laid in Iran over 44 years ago when Imam Khomeini showed us that there are alternatives.
Other countries and world leaders took inspiration from Iran’s stupendous success and realized that there were alternative routes that could be explored in this world.
The Islamic Revolution inspired individuals all over the world and Imam inspired me and many others like me to study Islam and to ultimately choose the right path, the path of those who have been guided, not the path of those who have gone astray.
He is the man who changed my life and I believe he changed the world.
Imam taught us that “we can” accomplish any task — small or big — if we abide by the tenets of Islam and adhere to the principles that Islam emphasizes.
Now in 2023, we see so many extraordinary events unfolding on the political front, alliances that we would have never imagined and the fall of entities who thought they were invincible.
This will be a new global dynamic and one in which the Islamic Republic of Iran will play an important role.
This is the legacy of Imam Khomeini and the insight and foresight of his worthy successor, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
Marzieh Hashemi is a Press TV host, producer and anchor.