Sayyid Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini was born around 1900. His first name, Ruhollah, means "The Spirit of God," and is a common name in the Shiite branch of Islam. Islam is the religion of the Muslims, and Shiites are members of the branch of Islam that regard Ali, one of the Prophet Muhammad's sons, as the Prophet's legitimate successor. Most Shiites live in Iran.
Khomeini was born in a poor and rural area of Persia (which changed its name to Iran in 1935), about 180 miles southwest of Tehran, the country's capital. He was the youngest of six children. His father, Mustapha Musavi, was the mullah (religious leader) of several towns, including that of Khomein - the birthplace from which the child took his name. Khomeini descended from a long line of religious leaders: his grandfather and brother were both ayatollahs, high-ranking Shiite religious and political leaders who are regarded as authorities on religious law. Most of his childhood was spent discussing religion or reading the Koran, the holy book of Islam. His mother, Hajar, also came from an important religious family. She was the daughter of Ayatollah Mirza Ahmad, a famous religious scholar from Najaf, Iraq, one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam.
When Khomeini was just a few months old, his father was brutally murdered and his mother, a deeply religious woman, was left to care for all six children. Tragically, she died when Khomeini was just fifteen years old, after which his brothers and sisters were left to care for him.