Ayatollah Rafsanjani

Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani: A Farewell to a Comrade in Arms


By Yuram Abdullah Weiler*


The loss of a comrade in arms and associate with whom I had a 59-year experience of cooperation, harmony and collaboration is difficult and excruciating.”

—Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Sayyid Ali Khamenei[1]


Perhaps the most difficult task for a writer is to write a column or an essay in tribute to a great person who has passed way and is now in the presence of the Divine Judgement.  Overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, I thought to myself, “How can I write about this great man, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, known to millions of Iranians as the ‘Pillar of the Revolution’?”


Perhaps it would be fitting to start with a brief outline of some of the positions of responsibility in the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran that were held by Ayatollah Hashemi:

  • Minister of the Interior from  November 6, 1979 – August 12, 1980;
  • Member of the Majles of Iran from  May 28,1980 – August 3, 1989;
  • Chairman of the Majles from  July 28,1980 – August 3, 1989;
  • Tehran’s Friday Prayer Leader from  July 3, 1981 – July 17, 2009;
  • Member of the Assembly of Experts from  August 15, 1983 – January 8, 2017;
  • Chairman of Expediency Discernment Council from  February 6, 1989 – January 8, 2017;
  • 4th President of the Islamic Republic of Iran from  August 3, 1989 – August 3, 1997;
  • Chairman of the Assembly of Experts from July 25, 2007 – March 8, 2011.[2]


Yet the above list is pitifully insufficient since it leaves out so many of his selfless contributions and sacrifices, and does not even begin to scratch the surface of his sublime character.  Ayatollah Hashemi was one of the primary aids and advisors to the late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, and served as de-facto commander of armed forces during the 8-year-long war imposed by the U.S.-backed, dictatorial regime of Saddam in Iraq.  He has also led more Friday prayers in Tehran­ than any other prayer leader—over 400.[3]


Born on August 25, 1934 in the village of Bahraman, located in southeastern Iran near the town of Rafsanjan, he began attending the village religious school at age five.  In 1948, he moved to Qom to continue his religious studies, and it was there that he became politically active against the U.S.-supported shah, Mohammad Reza. He studied under the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini, and became a disciple of the Imam in 1958.[4]


In 1974 Ayatollah Rafsanjani made a tour of the United States and, while recognizing the scientific, economic and military strength of the country, nevertheless came away appalled at the loose morality prevalent in American society.[5]  It was because of this revulsion of American morality that caused him to be branded “anti-American,”[6] yet he was a “conservative pragmatist” who recognized that Iran could benefit from cordial relations with the superpower.  As recently as November of 2015, he referred to research on irrigating crops with seawater done at the University of Arizona.[7]


After Imam Khomeini was exiled by the shah, Ayatollah Rafsanjani became the Imam’s chief supporter and fundraiser within Iran. He was a leader in the anti-shah struggles and was imprisoned and tortured by the SAVAK from 1975 to 1978.  After his release, he was one of the core founders of what later became known as the Society of the Combatant Clergy (Rohaniat-e Mobares).  Ayatollah Khamenei wrote, “Years of prison, endurance of SAVAK tortures and resistance in the face of all these and then crucial responsibilities during the Sacred Defense Era, the chairmanship of the Islamic Consultative Majlis and the Assembly of Experts and other such responsibilities are some of the bright pages in the eventful life of that old fighter.”


When the U.S. backed Saddam during the imposed war of 1980 to 1988, it was Ayatollah Rafsanjani who, recognizing the futility of continuing a war supported by the U.S. and its western collaborators, convinced Imam Khomeini that it was in the best interests of the Islamic Republic to accept United Nations Security Council Resolution 598 calling for an immediate ceasefire with Iraq.[8]  Despite the impudence of U.S. leaders, Ayatollah Hashemi, upon assuming the presidency in 1989, expressed his willingness to work with western powers “but only if they approach us in the right way.  That means on equal terms and without colonial attitudes.”[9]


Despite the best efforts of the arrogant American leaders to break the back of the Islamic Republic, Iran rebounded strongly during the presidency of Ayatollah Hashemi following the conclusion of the U.S.-backed imposed war.  Gross domestic product (GDP) increased from $81.2 billion in 1989 to over $110 billion in 1996 under his economic stewardship.  He was also able to secure a contract between the Iranian National Oil Company and Total Petroleum, which invested some $600 million in developing oil projects in Iran.[10] 


As a result of his efforts, oil production steadily rose during his administration, with many other oil companies ignoring the U.S.-mandated sanctions and investing in Iran.  It is worth noting that U.S. oil giant Conoco could have had the contract, but the short-sighted Washington bureaucrats scuttled the deal and imposed economic sanctions on Iran instead.


Ayatollah Rafsanjani also condemned in the strongest terms armed conflict in which Muslims were spilling the blood of fellow Muslims.  When fierce clashes between Lebanese Hezbollah and Amal broke out violently in 1988, he castigated both sides, accusing them of “committing crimes against Islam,” and declared his disgust with “all those who direct their guns at fellow Shii’s instead of the enemy, Israel.”[11]


With the passing of Ayatollah Rafsanjani, a powerful voice for the export of the Islamic Revolution has been silenced.  Correcting widespread misconceptions that the export required armed force, he clarified, “If...we manage to create an acceptable type of society and set up a suitable model of development, progress, evolution, and correct Islamic morals for the world, then we will achieve what the world has feared; that is, the export of the Islamic Revolution.”[12]


In concluding, I must humbly admit the inadequacy of my efforts at tribute and defer to the words of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Hassan Rouhani.  “[Ayatollah] Hashemi is among the distinguished architects of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said, adding, “Today, Islam lost a valuable asset; Iran a great figure; the Islamic Revolution a brave guide; the state a wise, unparalleled figure.”[13]


 “Surely we belong to Allah and indeed we shall return to Him.” [Qur’an 2:156][14]




[1] Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Sayyid Ali Khamenei, “Imam Khamenei's message on the passing away of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani,” Khamenei.ir website, January 8, 2017, accessed January 10, 2017, http://english.khamenei.ir/news/4536/Imam-Khamenei-s-message-on-the-passing-away-of-Ayatollah-Hashemi.

[2] “Hashemi Rafsanjani has passed away at the age of 82 due to heart condition,” Ijtihad Network, January 9, 2017, accessed January 10, 2017, http://ijtihadnet.com/ayatollah-rafsanjani-passes-away/.

[3] “The first Friday Prayer after Islamic Revolution,” Islamic Revolution Document Center, accessed January 10, 2017, http://www.irdc.ir/en/calendar/363/default.aspx.

[4] “Hashemi Rafsanjani,” Encyclopædia Britannica, updated January 8, 2017, accessed January 10, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

[5] Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2013), 108.

[6] Colin Dwyer, “Rafsanjani, A Leading Voice For Reform, Dies At 82,” National Public Radio, January 8, 2017, accessed January 10, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/08/508818719/former-iranian-president-rafsanjani-a-leading-moderate-dies-at-82.

[7] “Rafsanjani’s narration of American Agriculture Plan,” Ayatollah Rafsanjani website, November 4, 2015, accessed January 10, 2017, http://www.hashemirafsanjani.ir/en/content/rafsanjani%E2%80%99s-narration-american-agriculture-plan.

[8] John Esposito and James Piscatori, “The Global Impact of the Iranian Revolution: A Policy Perspective,” in The Iranian Revolution: Its Global Impact, John Esposito ed. (Miami: Florida International University Press, 1990), 320.

[9] Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, ibid., 109.

[10] “The Pillar of Revolution,” Iran Energy News Agency, January 9, 2017, accessed January 10, 2017, http://en.iranenergy.news/news/enenrgy-policy/pillar-revolution.

[11] Augustus Richard Norton, “Lebanon: The Internal Conflict and the Iranian Connection,” in The Iranian Revolution: Its Global Impact, John Esposito ed. (Miami: Florida International University Press, 1990), 132.

[12] R.K. Ramazani, “Iran’s Export of the Revolution: Politics, Ends, and Means,” in The Iranian Revolution: Its Global Impact, John Esposito ed. (Miami: Florida International University Press, 1990), 54.

[13] Hassan Rouhani, “President condoles Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani's demise; Islam lost a valuable asset; Iran a great figure; Islamic Revolution a brave guide; state a wise, unparalleled figure,” Official website of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, January 9, 2017, accessed January 10, 2017, http://president.ir/en/97213.

[14] إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ  Holy Qur’an 2:156 in part, translation by author.




*Yuram Abdullah Weiler is a former engineer educated in mathematics turned writer and political critic who has written over 130 articles on Islam, social justice, economics, and politics focusing mainly on the Middle East and U.S. policies.  His work has appeared on Tehran Times, Mehr News, Press TV, Iran Daily, IRIB, Fars News, Palestine Chronicle, Salem-News, Khabar Online, Imam Reza Network, Habilian Association, Shiite News, Countercurrents, Uruknet, Turkish Weekly, American Herald Tribune and Hezbollah. In addition, he has frequently appeared as a guest commentator on Press TV, Al Etejah, and Alalam. A dissenting voice from the “Belly of the Beast”, he currently lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico USA.





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