Early life and education
Khatami was born on 14 October 1943, in the small town of Ardakan, in Yazd Province. Khatami holds the title of Sayyid, which means that he is a direct patrilineal descent from Muhammad. He married Zohreh Sadeghi, daughter of a famous professor of religious law, and niece of Musa al-Sadr, in 1974 (at the age of 31). They have two daughters and one son: Laila (born 1975), Narges (born 1980), and Emad (born 1988).
Khatami's father, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khatami, was a high-ranking cleric and the Khatib (the one who delivers the sermon for Friday prayers) in the city of Yazd in the early years of the Iranian Revolution. Like his father, Khatami rose to local prominence when he became an Ayatollah.
Khatami's brother, Mohammad-Reza Khatami, was elected as Tehran's first member of parliament in the 6th term of parliament, during which he served as deputy speaker of the parliament. He also served as the secretary-general of Islamic Iran Participation Front (Iran's largest reformist party) for several years. Mohammad Reza is married to Zahra Eshraghi, granddaughter of Ruhollah Khomeini (founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran) who is a feminist human rights activist.
Khatami's other brother, Ali Khatami, a businessman with a master's degree in Industrial Engineering from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, served as the President's Chief of Staff during President Khatami's second term in office, where he kept an unusually low profile.
Khatami's eldest sister, Fatemeh Khatami, was elected as the first representative of the people of Ardakan (Khatami's hometown) in 1999 city council elections.
Mohammad Khatami is not related to Ahmad Khatami, a hardline cleric and Provisional Friday Prayer Leader of Tehran.
Mohammad Khatami received a B.A. in Western philosophy at Isfahan University, but left academia while studying for a master's degree in educational sciences at Tehran University and went to Qom to complete his previous studies in Islamic sciences. He studied there for seven years and completed the courses to the highest level, Ijtihad. After that, he went to Germany to chair the Islamic Centre in Hamburg from 1978 to 1980.
Before serving as president, Khatami had been a representative in the parliament from 1980 to 1982, supervisor of the Kayhan Institute, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance (1982–1986), and then for a second term from 1989 to 24 May 1992 (when he resigned), the head of the National Library of Iran from 1992 to 1997, and a member of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution. He is also a member and chairman of the Central Council of the Association of Combatant Clerics. Besides his native language Persian, Khatami speaks Arabic, English, and German.