Imam Khamenei

Those who help Saudi Arabia get on the UN Human Rights Commission should be satirized

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on June 10, 2017 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with poets. The meeting was held on the occasion of the birthday anniversary of Imam Hassan Mujtaba (a.s).

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Tonight's meeting was a very good, sweet and – by Allah's favor – beneficial meeting. First of all, we listened to good poems and we became hopeful about the forward movement of Persian poetry in our country. Secondly, poets from different areas of the country were present tonight. Poets with diverse tastes and outlooks read out their poems. Almost all the poems that were recited were good. All these things are a source of joy and hope.

Poetry is a source of national wealth. All forms of poetry – ghazal, qasida, rubayi, qit'a, mathnavi and all kinds of old and Nimayi poetry [poetry introduced by Nima Yushij] – are sources of wealth. They are sources of national wealth. It is important to know on which path this wealth is used. There was an effort – in the present time, this effort exists as well – in the country to use this source of wealth at the service of concepts and causes which are different from what the Revolution gave us and what the Revolution established. This effort continues to exist. It has existed from the beginning of the Revolution.

The reason is that although there were good poets before the Revolution – we had great poets in different styles of poetry, each of whom composed poems on various levels of quality – there were not many poems which were beneficial to the people. There was a small number of such poems whether in the area of old – or as the gentlemen in the meeting put it, "classic" – or new poetry.

Well, we saw the literary environment of those days. There were certain individuals who used to compose new poetry and they claimed to be innovators and new thinkers, but they did not render any real service to the progress of the country and to the real and correct process of innovation in the country. Many of those individuals who used to proudly compose New Poetry and who showed it off everywhere were servants in the court. They used to serve courtiers. Of course, it cannot be said that they were cooperating with them, but they used to "serve" in the true sense of the word.

Well, I knew some of them closely and some from afar. And I was familiar with their poems. Poetry was not at the service of the Revolution. Poetry was not at the service of the awakening of the country. Of course, this does not mean that poetry did not serve these concepts in any way, but it served them little. This service was very little. It was much less than it should have been. This was not sufficient for the masses of the people and for the class of people who needed guidance and instruction.

Notice that among the pioneers of New Poetry in those days – the outstanding and well-known ones – it was Akhavan, more than everyone else, whose poems were at the service of such concepts. However, Akhavan's poetry could not be understood by many people in any way. His poetry was so coded and symbolic that many people could not understand it. Of course, experts and those who were familiar with such language understood it well enough. However, other poets were not involved in such concepts and they did not understand it at all. They were at the service of other concepts. The same is true of classic poets. Of course, there were some poets in some corners of the country who used to compose religious and revolutionary poems, but they were very few in number. Poetry was not at the service of concepts which would drive the country forward and which would increase insight.

After the Revolution, this process changed. Certain youth and determined individuals emerged who changed this process. These youths who later achieved a higher status in terms of poetry – personalities like the late Husseini, the late Qeisar-e Aminpour, Mr. Ali Moalem, who is not present in our meeting [one of the participants in the meeting explains that he could not attend the meeting because he was sick] and other youths who emerged in the beginning of the Revolution – really served revolutionary concepts. They helped the Revolution enter into a new phenomenon. They really served.

Of course, they were few in number, but this circle grew wider and wider on a daily basis. Of course, I sometimes look at other poems which are at the service of other concepts. In some of these poems, there is hostility against Islamic and revolutionary concepts and in some of them, this hostility does not exist. They sometimes bring us these poems and I look at them. However, on a general and public level, it is revolutionary poetry which is dominant. Now, this poetry is either related to religious and revolutionary concepts or concepts related to the Sacred Defense Era and the like. It encompasses a wide scope of topics. Today, this source of wealth is fortunately being used in this direction.

Until a few years ago, poetic content was good, but the form was not ideal. It was at a low level. Fortunately, poetic form and quality has improved as well. One can witness this in the poems that are recited. In the beginning, in the meetings that were held in mid-Ramadan – well, it is several years now that we have been holding this meeting: perhaps, it is 30 years now – I used to listen to the poems that were recited, but I used to get really upset. That was because I saw that those poems were not at a good and desirable level. However, this is not the case in the present time.

Whenever each of these friends recites their poems, one becomes really proud and one feels that the task is thankfully moving forward. Poetry – which is a growing and blossoming substance – continues to grow and to move forward. Poetry is like this. Art is like this. Many phenomena are like this. If they are worked on inside the country, they will grow gradually, like a tree which grows on a daily basis if they nurse it. If it is kept in the right place and if it is nursed, watered and pruned, the tree will grow on a daily basis and its yields and fruits will increase with the passage of time. This condition fortunately exists in the country in the case of poetry.

So, these two qualities exist: poetry – this great source of human wealth – is at the service of good concepts like other areas in the country and it is at a high and satisfactory level in terms of form. It is growing and moving forward in this area as well. So, these two qualities exist in the case of poetry.

Nonetheless, I would like to add that stagnation and complacency in these areas are a deadly poison. If each of you gentlemen – whose poems are good and delightful -  feel that they have reached the last station and that they cannot go further, you will definitely stop and you will decline. Besides, having this feeling is a mistake. Imagine that after going through a sifting process, an individual among today's gathering is chosen as the best poet. However, the poet-elect among the current gathering would not be the best poet in the world of poetry. The distance between him, and Saadi, Hafiz, Ferdowsi, Jami and other such poets is a noticeable distance. He should catch up with them.

Of course, it is possible to outdo those poets. It is not the case that Hafiz is the summit of poetry. This is not the case. One can outdo him in the scope of poetic expressions and words and in finding good content. In the case of finding good content, this should be done after the fashion of poets like Saeb, Kalim, Hazin and – most importantly – Bidel.  A great deal of work should and can be done in these areas. The capability, talent and capacity of this tree are much more than this.

So, what I want to say is that the friends who have thankfully achieved a praiseworthy level in poetry should not think that they have reached the destination and that they have nothing more to do. This is not the case. They should continue to endeavor, work and move forward. In the world of poetry, we still know certain poets who were at a tangibly higher level than today's poets in terms of poetic strength. These poets lived in the previous era. They were individuals who were really at a higher level in ghazal for example. I have nothing to do with content. I may not agree with the content that those poets used, but they were at a higher level in terms of ghazal.

For example, Amiri Firoozkuhi, Rahi Moayeri, the late Qahreman and Qudsi – these two lived until recently – and some other poets were at a higher level. They were high-quality poets and we cannot rule them out. The same is true of New Poetry. In the area of New Poetry too, there were certain individuals who were really outstanding and prominent. At least, this holds true for the poets that I knew – poets like the late Akhavan and others. In any case, one should move forward and stagnation is not good. This is one point. 

In poetry, you should be as careful as you can, be that finding good content, trimming the words or drawing poetry towards the concepts which are required in the present time. You should find these concepts. We Iranians are really lazy people when it comes to reporting the truth and describing our personalities. This is really the case. Of course, this requires research by sociologists. They should do research and see whether this laziness is a national characteristic or it has been imposed on us in the course of time. We do not work on our personalities.

For example, our magnanimous Imam (r) is a first-tier personality. No one – whether friends or enemies – has any doubts about the personality of Imam. No one doubts the greatness of his personality. Some people may not believe in him, but even those individuals believe in his greatness. Now, how many books have we written about this great personality who lived in our time and who only passed away about 30 years ago? You should really do some thinking and see how many books we have written about Imam. You should compare this with the number of books that have, for example, been written about Abraham Lincoln. I read in a report that if they piled up the number of books on Abraham Lincoln, a ten-meter pillar would be made, or something like this.

Now, Abraham Lincoln has some fame although I believe that that fame is a lie. They say that he was the liberator of the slaves and the like. This is nonsense. This is not a correct claim. In any case, he has been described like this. However, even in the case of some ordinary US presidents – for example, Eisenhower – they have sometimes written a thousand books. Is this a minor incident? Now, notice how many books have been written about our Imam Khomeini! This is the issue. We are behind in these areas. We Iranians are behind. Even in Arab countries, I have seen that they immediately write books about the events that take place. They write analyses and political books without losing any time. They analyze the events from different perspectives and dimensions and they reflect favorable and unfavorable opinions. We are really behind in these areas. The same is true of poetry.

For example, it is necessary to compose hundreds of poems about the Shaam [Syria] events and events related to the defenders of the holy shrines. The same is true of the issues of Iraq. The issues of Iraq are very important issues. Of course, one might somehow agree that the people should not be blamed on this matter. Most of our people are naturally not aware of the truth behind the issues of Iraq and what really happened there. They are not aware of what the Americans wanted to do in Iraq, of how they hit their head against the rocks and of what factors created this condition.

However, the issue of Iraq is really an astonishing issue. It is really astonishing to see that the Iraq of Saddam Hussein has turned into the Iraq of Shahid Hakim. Notice how wide the gap is. This gap is not imaginable at all, but this has happened. Well, one should compose hundreds or thousands of poems about this event. We should compose a manzuma [a versified story usually in mathnavi form] on such events.

Today, one of the gentlemen brought a manzuma and I looked at it. I do not remember what poetic form he had used. I think it was chehar-pareh [two rhyming couplets]. It was a manzuma. One of the tasks that we have not carried out is composing manzumahs. You should choose a topic and then you should compose a manzuma on it. This was done by our poets in the past. One of the interesting things that the late Amiri Firoozkuhi did was to compose a manzuma. He composed three forms and styles of poetry: he had ghazals, this was one form which was based on an exquisite and eloquent Indian Style with very good content. Another form was qasida. He wrote qasidas in the Khaqani style. If someone looks at Firoozkuhi's qasidas, they might confuse them with Khaqani's qasidas. His qasidas were really in the Khaqani style. And he also wrote a manzuma in styles and forms which were different from these two.

These poems were written in new styles. For example, he had composed a manzuma about a tree in Simindasht – where he had a house in north of the country. There was a tree there and he described it in that manzuma. These tasks have been carried out in the past. Another example is the case of the late Elahi Qomsheyi. "The Husseini Song" is a manzuma. He had composed the Husseini Song for his son – Hussein – who has become well-known today.

The late Elahi narrated this for me personally: he said that his son was sick and that he had lost hope of keeping his infant child alive. He vowed that he would compose a manzuma about Imam Hussein (a.s.) if that child would stay alive. He said, "I was busy thinking when I saw that the child was dying. He was spending his last hours and he was dying. In order to prevent his mother from seeing him dying, I told her to go to the rooftop. I told her to go there, bare her head, pray and do such and such things. With this excuse, I wanted to get her away from the baby so that she would not see him dying. But I myself thought of this vow: if the baby stays alive, I will compose a manzuma about Imam Hussein (a.s.). Later, I thought of how to start and the like. I was composing it bit by bit when I reached to the part about Ali Asqar's [Imam Hussein's infant son] thirst. Suddenly, it crossed my mind that the baby had not drunk any water on the instructions of the doctor. He had drunk neither water nor milk. The doctor had said that milk and water are harmful for the baby. If he takes them, he will die. I said to myself, 'This baby is thirsty. He is dying. So, let him have some water if he is supposed to die. Let him not be thirsty if he is going to die.' I fetched some water and slowly poured it into the baby's mouth with a teaspoon. I did this two, three times and then I saw his eyes opened. So, I gave him more water and he began to cry. I went to the stairs and called his mother saying, 'Come down, your baby wants milk.' His mother thought that the baby was dead and that this was how I was giving her the news. She came downstairs and saw that the baby was really alive. He was crying and he wanted milk. She gave her milk and said, 'He has gotten well.'"

He has narrated this story in the introduction to "The Husseini Song" as well. Of course, what he narrated for me is a little different from what has been narrated in the introduction:

"In the book of fame and recognition

Hussein's name descended from the heaven."

The Elahi Qomsheyi who performs programs is the same child. He is the child that has been narrated in the story. The point is that he composed "The Husseini Song" which is one of the best poems composed by Mr. Elahi Qomsheyi. One of the best poems of Mr. Elahi is the manzuma "The Husseini Song".

One of the friends in the meeting pointed out that one of the things that we do not have is – as he put it – the genre of satire. Nowadays, these western words have become so common that the people do not understand these concepts without them. There is a literary field, namely satire. The Holy Prophet said to Hissan ibn Thabit to satirize certain individuals and he did so. You too can work on satire. Well, they engage in a sword dance! This modern jahiliyya has stood alongside tribal jahiliyya! Is there a better and more beautiful sight for satire? You can satirize these individuals in poetry. A thousand poems can be composed in this regard.

Satire is one issue and parody is another. Of course, parody fortunately exists in the country. Among the individuals present in tonight's meeting, the gentleman who recited his poems, Mr. Naser Feiz – who did not recite his poems – and others have used parody. Thankfully, things are not bad in the area of parody. We have made progress gradually. However, there is room for satire.

The individuals who do certain things should be satirized. Those who help the likes of Saudi Arabia enter the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should be satirized. There is nothing funnier than this. There is really room for satirizing these individuals. It will be a pity if they are not satirized [Supreme Leader and audience laugh]. If such a thing is not satirized, it will really be a pity. It will be a miss. This is another issue. I hope that God will help all of you succeed.

It is 12:00 now. Goodbye.