We Should Learn Not to Abandon Our Outstanding Personalities

The following is the full text of a speech delivered on November 13, 2017 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with the officials of the Allamah Ja'fari Commemoration Congress:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I became very happy when I was informed that the late Allamah Ja'fari is going to be commemorated; the reason being that after the demise of this great personality – who was a very active individual in scholarly, promotional, religious and artistic areas – no proper task has been carried out which befits his status. It is common to commemorate the name and memory of great personalities in society – it is better to do so during their lifetime, if not, at the least this should be done after their demise – so that others benefit from the scholarly and existential identity of those personalities. A great personality does not die, even after their death. This tradition is, thankfully, common among us as well.


I do not know why we have not upheld this permanent and common tradition of ours, in the case of the late Allamah Ja'fari (May Allah the Exalted bestow paradise on him). Consequently, when I heard that a commemoration congress is going to be held for him, and that Tabrizi personalities and scholars from Qom and other places are in charge of this task, I became happy. He really deserves this; and this is an exceptional task.


One of the most evident characteristics of the late Allamah Ja'fari was comprehensiveness. He was not confined to a particular field or study: he had worked on both fiqh and philosophy among our seminarian fields; among fiqh, he was the student of the late Amirza Razi Tabrizi. Amirza Razi was the student of Akhund. I had seen the late Amirza Razi. He was the most prominent scholar from Tabriz. He was the leading Tabrizi clergy at a specific period of time. Mr. Ja'fari had a close relationship with him while in his youth. He used to attend his classes, and he would speak to us about his relationship with the late Amirza Razi.


After that, he went to Najaf. In Najaf, he attended, for several years, the classes of Ayatullah Khoei and other great personalities, and apparently the late Asheikh Kazem Shirazi. Well, these things make one a faqih (Islamic jurist). Those involved with scholarly and religious matters feel that by attending such classes one can become a faqih.


He had worked on philosophical studies as well. One of his qualities, in the area of philosophy, was his attention towards the viewpoints of western philosophers. Since he was young – the time when we became familiar with him in Mashhad – he was familiar with the perspectives of Hegel and the like: these were viewpoints which were not common at that time; and no one, among the Islamic seminaries, was familiar with them or in touch with such matters; furthermore, he used to discuss them [western viewpoints] with us.


It was in the year 1955, or 1956, when I met him in Mashhad. At that time, we were teenagers and he had just come from Najaf. He had a relative in Mashhad, his uncle, who lived there. For a certain reason – the details are not necessary – he and his brothers were considered as seniors; and, because of living in Mashhad for so long, they received a special kind of respect; for that reason, he went and stayed there for some time – I do not remember how long.


The Navvab School was a place where he would constantly come and go. We too were there. He used to sit and speak with his warm, sweet words in his beautiful accent. His work attracted everyone. He had a book named, "The Relationship of Man-Universe," and he insisted that we should not say, "Man and Universe." He wanted us to say, "Man-Universe." He used to place great emphasis on this. I myself heard him say, "It is not Man and Universe." The first volume had just been published: he would bring it to Navvab School; and the clergy would gather while he would explain the goals and aspects of the book.


His verbal explanations were not easy [to comprehend], as was the case with his written explanations. Of course, I could not have a say or make claims on his philosophical viewpoints. Only friends who were closest to him could speak in this manner. In any case, he was a well-informed and diligent individual.


The personality of Mr. Ja'fari (God's mercy be upon him) was really outstanding, in a sense that no field of science or philosophy would lead him to ignore other fields. You can see that he made commentaries on both Mathnavi and Nahjul Balaghah. Well, Mathnavi and Nahjul Balaghah have profound and essential differences, but he had written detailed commentaries on both of them, and he presented them to the public.


He held the same attitude towards literary and artistic areas. He was an artist by nature; and he had deep knowledge of the arts. I remember, at the beginning of the Revolution, a small meeting was held every week, every week or every other week, and despite the fact that I was very busy, I tried to attend them. He was a fixed member of those meetings in Tehran. Certain poems were recited, some of which were difficult, but his mastery of poetic understanding and knowledge used to surprise me very much.


It is well-known that those who have good memory are not deep in terms of thinking, and those who enjoy intellectual depth do not have a good memory: they say that these two things disagree with each other [they are incompatible]. However, Mr. Ja'fari proved this notion wrong. He was an intellectual, a deep thinker with an extraordinary memory. His memory was truly among the wonders of the world!


Once, we went on a summer trip with the late Mr. Ja'fari and three other friends. We were a group of five; and only one among those friends is still alive: the other three – including Mr. Ja'fari himself -- have passed away. We were staying at one of Mashhad's yilaqs [a place where one stays for summer]. One day, while we were talking to each other [hiking] in the mountains, Mr. Ja'fari wouldn’t allow us to take notice of the distance on our journey, because he was such a sweet and warm speaker who had mastery over all discussions. One of the things which stood out was his memory. If you read one part of a poem, he would pick up on it and continue it till the end.


I remember that we began to speak about Manuchehri, and I read one couplet from one of his poems: "Now, where is my swift camel?"-- I read a couplet of one of his qasidas, and he began to read it from the beginning to end. This was his way. His memory was extraordinary and he remembered everything.


Another one of his qualities was his sense of responsibility towards promoting Islamic ideologies: he would deliver speeches [Islamic centered] in his pleasant accent and an eloquent tongue. I remember, before the Revolution, he used to be invited to different meetings. At that time, we were in Mashhad. Sometimes he was invited to special meetings, and he would travel all the way [to Mashhad] from Tehran. He participated in Tehran meetings and meetings in other cities, as well. After the Revolution, too, he used to hold many meetings for youth, for students, for university professors, for scholars, and for the masses of people, he promoted religious ideologies in those meetings. In other words, his scholarly and intellectual level and status would not prevent him from discussing his ideas and viewpoints with his audience.


An additional quality – he really enjoyed many positive characteristics – was his religious commitment. He was extremely committed to and zealous in religious matters. He was sensitive to the deviations that would emerge from the words and thoughts of certain individuals, and he would confront them. Well, he was the target of many enmities, and they even insulted him. Nonetheless, he stood firm in this arena. Mr. Ja'fari (may God bestow paradise on him) was really and truly an outstanding individual and personality.


He was a patient person, as well, despite all his behavioral characteristics and delicacies. Certain disasters befell him. For example, he lost his daughter and his wife. He endured such difficulties in his life, but he stood firm and strong. He was a strong, patient and resilient man.


I hope that Allah the Exalted will grace you with blessings to expand on his thoughts. We should learn from westerners who do not abandon their outstanding personalities. They do not only write biographies, but they explain their ideas and the different aspects on their way of thinking. They write numerous books about them. They analyze them. Some reject, some approve, and some argue their points. Such duties should be carried out on our great intellectuals as well, including the late Mr. Ja'fari. I hope, by Allah's favor, that the commemoration congress you held will be able to carry out this task and launch this movement, so that Mr. Ja'fari and his perspectives will be liberated from anonymity.


In any case, I thank all honorable gentlemen who are in charge of such tasks. I am grateful to Tabrizi personalities, to the scholars from Qom and Tehran, and to all those who are in charge of this task.


Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.