Opposition to White Revolution
Imam Khomeini first became politically active in 1962. When the White Revolution proclaimed by the Shah's government in Iran called for land reform, nationalization of the forests, the sale of state-owned enterprises to private interests, electoral changes to enfranchise women, profit sharing in industry, and an anti-illiteracy campaign in the nation's schools. Most of these initiatives were regarded as dangerous, Westernizing trends by traditionalists, especially the powerful and privileged religious scholars (Ulama) who felt keenly threatened. The Ulama instigated anti-government riots throughout the country. They found the White Revolution a sustainable ideological framework to support a particular relation of domination, in this case the monarchy of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. This was above all a hegemonic project intended to portray the Shah as a revolutionary leader through the utilization of social and historical myths reinterpreted through the prism of contemporary, often conflicting ideological constructs, such as nationalism and modernism.
In January 1963, the Shah announced a six-point program of reform called the White Revolution, an American-inspired package of measures designed to give his regime a liberal and progressive facade. Imam Khomeini summoned a meeting of his colleagues (other Ayatollahs) in Qom to press upon them the necessity of opposing the Shah's plans. Imam Khomeini persuaded the other senior Marjas of Qom to decree a boycott of the referendum that the Shah had planned to obtain the appearance of popular approval for his White Revolution. Imam Khomeini issued on January 22, 1963 a strongly worded declaration denouncing the Shah and his plans. Two days later Shah took armored column to Qom, and he delivered a speech harshly attacking the ''ulama'' as a class. Imam Khomeini continued his denunciation of the Shah's programs, issuing a manifesto that also bore the signatures of eight other senior scholars. In it, he listed the various ways in which the Shah allegedly had violated the Constitution, condemned the spread of moral corruption in the country, and accused the Shah of comprehensive submission to America and Israel. He also decreed that the Nowruz celebrations for the Iranian year 1342 (March 21, 1963) be cancelled as a sign of protest against government policies. In the afternoon of Ashura (June 3, 1963), Imam Khomeini delivered a speech at the Feiziyeh Madreseh seminary in which he drew parallels between Yazid and the Shah and warned the Shah that if he did not change his ways, the day would come when the people would offer up thanks for his departure from the country.
Following Imam Khomeini's public denunciation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as a "wretched miserable man" and his arrest, on June 5, 1963 (Khordad 15, on the Iranian calendar), three days of major riots erupted throughout Iran with nearly 400 killed. Imam Khomeini was kept under house arrest for 8 months and was released in 1964.
Also this was a turning point in political viewpoint of Islam. The clergies had supported Shia monarchy since establishment of Safavids and this was the main source of legitimacy of monarchs. Shia clergies had advised them to be just and obey Ja'fari jurisprudence. Also monarchs didn't enforce religious rules which restricted or threatened religious life and institutions and defended the Shia territory of Iran. But Reza Shah transformed the Iranian monarchy into a modern dictatorship. The modernizing programs of Pahlavi dynasty restricted and threatened religious life and made clergies be against monarchy and finally Imam Khomeini decide to fight with them and build another state comparable to religious rules.
Opposition to capitulation
During November of 1964, Imam Khomeini made a denunciation of both the Shah and the United States, this time in response to the "capitulations" or diplomatic immunity granted to American military personnel in Iran by the Shah. In Nov. 1964 Imam Khomeini was re-arrested and sent into exile.
Life in exile
Imam Khomeini spent over 14 years in exile, mostly in the holy city of Najaf in Iraq. Initially, he was sent to Turkey on 4 November 1964, where he stayed in the city of Bursa for less than a year. He was hosted by a Turkish Colonel named Ali Cetiner in his own residence, who couldn't find another accommodation alternative for his stay at the time. Later in October 1965 he was allowed to move to Najaf, Iraq, where he stayed until being forced to leave in 1978, after then-Vice President Saddam Hossein forced him out (the two countries would fight a bitter eight year war 1980-1988 only a year after the beginning of Imam Khomeini’s leadership in Iran and the start of Saddam Hussein’s term in Iraq) after which he went to Neauphle le Château in France.
Logically, in the 1970s, as contrasted with the 1940s, he no longer accepted the idea of a limited monarchy under the Iranian Constitution of 1906-1907, an idea that was clearly evidenced by his book Kashf-e Asrar. In his Islamic Government (Hokumat-e Islami) — which is a collection of his lectures in Najaf published in 1970 — he rejected both the Iranian Constitution as an alien import from Belgium and monarchy in general. He believed that the government was an un-Islamic and illegitimate institution usurping the legitimate authority of the supreme religious leader (Faqih), who should rule as both the spiritual and temporal guardian of the Muslim community (Umma).
In early 1970 Imam Khomeini gave a lecture series in Najaf on Islamic Government which later was published as a book titled variously Islamic Government or Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (velayat-e faqih). This was his most famous and influential work and laid out his ideas on governance (at that time):
That the laws of society should be made up only of the laws of God (Sharia), which cover "all human affairs" and "provide instruction and establish norms" for every "topic" in "human life."
Since Sharia, or Islamic law, is the proper law, those holding government posts should have knowledge of Sharia (Islamic jurists are such people), and that the country's ruler should be a faqih who "surpasses all others in knowledge" of Islamic law and justice, as well as having intelligence and administrative ability. Rule by monarchs and/or assemblies of "those claiming to be representatives of the majority of the people" (i.e. elected parliaments and legislatures) have been proclaimed "wrong" by Islam unless approved by the faqih.
This system of clerical rule is necessary to prevent injustice: corruption, oppression by the powerful over the poor and weak, innovation and deviation of Islam and Sharia law; and also to destroy anti-Islamic influence and conspiracies by non-Muslim foreign powers.
A modified form of this Velayat-e Faqih system was adopted after Imam Khomeini and his followers took power, and he became the Islamic Republic's first "Guardian" or Grand Leader.
In the meantime, however, Imam Khomeini was careful not to publicize his ideas for clerical rule outside of his Islamic network of opposition to the Shah which he worked to build and strengthen over the next decade. Cassette copies of his lectures fiercely denouncing the Shah as, for example, "the Jewish agent, the American snake whose head must be smashed with a stone," became common items on the markets of Iran, helped to demythologize the power and dignity of the Shah and his reign.
As protest grew, so did Imam Khomeini’s profile and importance. During the last few months of his exile, Imam Khomeini received a constant stream of reporters, supporters, and notables, eager to hear the spiritual leader of the revolution.