Imam Khomeini’s Standpoint of Ayatollah-ul-Uzma Saanei and His Administrative Responsibilities
Ayatollah Saanei’s successive and successful attendance at the late Imam’s classes, his zeal for learning and understanding the Principles of the Imam’s doctrine and his research works, accompanied by years of correspondence with his teacher, enabled him to earn Ayatollah Khomeini’s highest regard and special consideration. This fatherly attention was behind the Imam’s decision to bestow on an outstanding student like Ayatollah Saanei an uncommon treasure of knowledge and a wealth of moral rectitude as well as an exceptional clairvoyance on social issues and trends.
It was such intimate acquaintance and deep bonds of respect that led to the announcement of the Imam's decision on the first of Esfand 1358 Hegira (February, 19th, 1980). Just over a year after the victory of the glorious Islamic revolution, the Imam, noting the manifest qualities of his former student and paying intelligent attention to the needs of the post of the membership of the Guardian Council, named his outstanding pupil and long-time friend and disciple, a member of this important state body. In the Imam’s letter of appointment addressed to Ayatollah Sheikh Yusef Saanei, we read,
“As stipulated in Article Ninety One of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic intended to safeguard the rules of Islam and the decrees of the Constitution in regard to the legislation (to be passed at any future time) by the Islamic Consultative Assembly, the formation of the Council of the Guardians and the selection of the six members of the Council, experts in Islamic jurisprudence and recognized as just and well-versed in issues of the day, is made incumbent upon me. Therefore, I hereby appoint Your Excellency as one of the six jurisprudent members of the Council of the Guardians. I pray to Almighty God to grant you even more success.”
The decree to elevate Ayatollah Saanei to a position of state responsibility to function as a member of the Council of Guardians was the first major step taken by His Late Eminence the Imam to engage the Ayatollah in the affairs of the Islamic sovereign state. As the wording of this letter of appointment indicates, even from the first months of the victory of the revolution, the captain of the great vessel of the revolution viewed Ayatollah Saanei as a competent, and just jurisprudent acquainted with the demands of the time and every aspect of the revolution, a person qualified to judge the issues of the day and take care of the needs of the revolutionary society and the Muslim people of Iran.
Ayatollah-ul-Uzma Saanei applied his unfailing endeavor to this momentous task for three years before resigning the post on the nineteenth of Dei, 1361 Hegira (December, 10th, 1982). However, the Imam’s special regard for, and undiminished confidence in him was clearly expressed in a speech made at a meeting with the Chief of the High Court, the judges of the Supreme Judiciary Council and branches of the High Court on the same day. Referring to the services rendered by the judiciary officials, he said,
“I would like to thank the current Supreme Judiciary Council. These gentlemen worked hard, bore a heavy burden and diligently served for three years. They had never coveted any office. They are the notables of the clergy. They abandoned their serene mode of life. They came to an environment where hard work was demanded undergoing suffering and shouldering immense responsibility before God. Now, it does not really matter to clerics with an Islamic outlook whether to occupy the position of a chief justice of the High Court or the Prosecutor General or to take on any other work... Now, I would like to put this heavy responsibility on the shoulders of Ayatollah Yusef Saanei and introduce him as the country's Prosecutor General. I have brought up Sheikh Saanei like a son, Sheikh Saanei used to actively attend my seminary sessions for long years .He specifically used to personally exchange views with me for which I derived much pleasure from his vast knowledge. He is a prominent personality among the clerics and a man of learning.”
Later, when His Eminence resigned the post of the Prosecutor General after a period of sincere and unfailing efforts, Imam Khomeini remarked in a speech on the sixteenth of Mordad, 1364 Hegira (July, 4th, 1985),
“I feel sad and regret the departure of Sheikh Saanei. I hope he will prove effective wherever he may be in the future. I appreciate and thank him for his efforts and hard work. I have known him for many years. He is a learned man, devoted and diligent.”
And again, speaking at a gathering of the members of the High Court and the officials of the Judiciary Branch on the eighteenth of Mordad, 1364 Hegira (July, 6th, 1985), the Imam commended Ayatollah Saanei in the following words.
“... The post of the Prosecutor General, as you all know, is among the difficult and sensitive areas [of responsibility] and Ayatollah Saanei, who is an erudite man of learning, whom I have closely known for years and whom I have known to be a good and active person, has held the post until now and I thank him for his efforts.”
Apart from the membership of the Guardian Council and the position of the Prosecutor General, Ayatollah-ul-Uzma Saanei has held a number of other responsible posts including His Eminence Imam Khomeini’s representative at the High Council of the Reconstruction of the War Zones and a member of the First Session of the Assembly of the Leadership Experts elected with over two million votes for the Tehran constituency in the elections held on the nineteenth of Azar, 1361 Hegira (November, 29th, 1982).