Imam Khamenei

Persian poetry has always been virtuous

The following is the full text of a speech delivered on May 30, 2018 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with poets. The meeting was held on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Imam Hassan Mujtaba (a.s.).

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and greetings be upon our Master Muhammad and upon his immaculate household, and may God curse all their enemies.

‌It was a very sweet meeting. The only weak point in the meeting was that a number of friends – brothers and sisters – were willing to read out their poems, but we did not manage to benefit from their poems. Of course, there is no more time. It is past twelve now, and the meeting has lasted longer than usual. Sometimes, this happens:


"People do not achieve all their dreams as winds do not always blow in the direction that ships like" [from a poem by the Arab poet, al-Mutanabbi].


Sometimes, what we like does not happen.


First of all, tonight's poems were really good. A gentleman in the meeting spoke about poems of youth. A number of those who recited their poems tonight were young, and their poems were wonderful and eloquent, not only in terms of linguistic innovations – which is thankfully witnessed in today's poetry – but also in terms of attending to important, noteworthy, and new subject matters and also in terms of form, linguistic discipline, and good use of terminology. We witnessed that the poems were really good in these areas. Sometimes, one sees linguistic shortcomings in today's poetry – post-revolutionary poetry which contains good and new subject matters. However, I see that these linguistic shortcomings are gradually being eliminated. Thankfully, this was witnessed tonight.


I would like to raise a few points about poetry. A point which has crossed my mind and should receive attention today is that from the beginning – when Farsi poetry acquired an identity – until today, Farsi poetry has often been decent and virtuous. I am saying this based on research and study. This does not mean that there has been no obscenity and indecency in poetry. There have been such cases in the past, but they were few in number. There have been such poems in recent eras as well. For example, some of the poems of Iraj, Khakshir and other such poets were explicit, obscene, and indecent. However, such poems are few in number. From the beginning, Farsi poetry has been modest and pure.


Even in the era of Khorasani poetry which contained romantic words and "tashbib" – romantic and amorous poems – in the beginning of qasidas, that state of decency and purity was preserved. To clarify my points, I would like to compare Farsi poetry with Arabic poetry of that era. Of course, in the present time, Arabic poetry is not like this. Fortunately, Arabic poetry is very committed and good poetry in the present time. There are four Lebanese poets in the meeting who read out their poems – a few couplets of their poems – and they were really good and outstanding.


However, this was not the case in the past. For example, a poet dared express his love in his poems for a well-known woman in society, and he mentioned the name of that woman! This was a common practice at that time. You do not see this in Farsi poetry. Such a thing does not exist. In Farsi poetry, the poet expresses his love and affection for his love interests, but the subject is anonymous. The subject or love interest is usually imaginary or generally ambiguous. No specific person is mentioned. In Arabic qasidas[1] of the early eras, however, this was not the case and poets mention a specific person. This is an example: "If Leily al-Akhiliyah said hello to me, [I would greet her with open arms] even if even my path was blocked with stones and various obstacles" [from a poem by ibn al-Humayr].

Leili al-Akhiliyah" was a specific person. She was a well-known honorable woman in society, but that famous poet expresses his love for her and this was permissible. There was another well-known poet – who was a contemporary of al-Farazdaq, Jarir, and other such poets. His name was Kuthayr. Kuthayr was in love with a poetess, named "Izzah". In his poems, Kuthayr expressed his love for her so strongly that he would obtain the nickname "Kuthayr Izzah". If you want to find Kuthayr's biography, you should search for "Kuthayr Izzah". This was a common practice at that time, but you do not see this in Farsi poetry in any way or form. Of course, there is tashbib[2] -- as they say, tashbib and nasib -- in the qasidas of those days, and, later on, ghazals and poets expressed romantic and affectionate words, but they did not target a specific person by mentioning their names.


Of course, lately, Shamlou mentions Aida, but Aida is his wife and spouse. She is a not a stranger and Shamlou expresses his love for her in his poems. So, Farsi poetry is virtuous poetry. As I said, there have been some cases which the use of obscenity is apparent – indecent words that one feels ashamed to mention or to even remember – but they are very few in number. Throughout history, we know Farsi poetry to be pure and virtuous: you should preserve this. Poetic purity should be preserved in our poetic environments. --This is an important point.

The second point is that, my dear ones, poetry is an influential art. Poetry has some qualities which do not exist in other forms of art. Well, some art forms are very influential in another sense and in another way – for example, cinema, theater and other such arts – but poetry is influential in a different way. Poetry should create orientations; in other words, the poets of the country should develop, produce, create and duplicate poetry in the artistic and poetic environment of the country in a way that it can create discourse and orientations about the important matters of the country. Take the case of justice, resistance, and morality, for example: we very much need social morality, which I stressed the day before yesterday in a meeting with youth. We should both improve and develop our personal behavior and our social behavior – our behavior towards the people as manifested in concepts such as forgiveness, self-sacrifice, sincerity, brotherhood and other such concepts.

Fortunately, this has been amply highlighted in the history of our poetry. There are many excellent poems in this regards, and this discourse creation should continue. Other areas that I've mentioned – for example, resistance and the important matters which existed in a number of poems tonight – should continue to develop as well.

There is another point about poetry. Throughout history, Farsi poetry has played a major role in producing and developing thoughts. If you take a look, you will see that the Farsi poetry is imbued with wisdom. We refer to Ferdowsi as "Hakim Ferdowsi" [Hakim in Farsi means sage]. We refer to Nezami as "Hakim Nezami". We refer to Sanai as "Hakim Sanai". Saadi is a real hakim. Hafiz is a real hakim and mystic. They used their poetry as a medium for wisdom – Islamic, Quranic, spiritual and prophetic wisdom. Farsi poetry is full of wisdom.


This spirit and this state of wisdom and morality should be highlighted in modern poetry. There were several couplets in the poems which were recited today that contained wisdom. They are couplets that can remain in our memories and in books and different writings. They can be transferred and published. The opposite of this wisdom, morality, and the expansion and generation of thoughts and hope in poetry, is that we draw our audience towards decadence in action, superficiality in thinking, submissiveness in politics and indifference in confronting the enemy. If our poetry contains these characteristics, this is definitely against the poetic wisdom that has prevailed in Farsi poetry over the course of time. This should receive special attention because it is an important issue.


Poetry should be active in the area of seriousness, diligence and discipline in action, depth and broad-mindedness in thinking, solidity in identity and jihad in the face of the enemy. You dear brothers and sisters of ours – you are outstanding personalities in society, and the art of poetry usually originates from outstanding minds and spirits -- should pay attention to this point. Of course, you are aware that some are making efforts to make the art of this country deviate from its path: they are investing in and spending money on this. "Intellectual" groups devise schemes to make our existing poetry deviate from its course, as they are doing so in the case of our cinema, theatrics, paintworks, and all other forms and branches of art. Some deviant measures are being adopted: the same is true of poetry.


They are eagerly making efforts to that deviant end. They highlight some obscene individuals. I've see this in our own society. There are some hands which highlight and give prominence to some decadent and obscene individuals despite the fact that their poems are at an inferior level in terms of poetic technique, let alone in terms of content. Even in terms of poetic technique, we cannot say that their poems are good, the content is poor as well. Their poems are even bad in terms of poetic technique. However, they highlight such individuals.


Another point which is very important is the issue of song writing. I have brought up this issue before in this meeting. I said that songs are a necessary part and branch of poetic art which is very influential. Songs are really influential. We have seen in many cases that such and such a poem has become very common among the youth and different individuals – university and school students, and other such individuals. Such poems are a source of movement, enthusiasm, and guidance. In the present time, we have really shirked our responsibilities in this regards. Good songs are few in number.


The Iranian society has a strong bond with poetry, and this is a very significant point. The same is true of the Arab society. They have a strong bond with poetry as well. Notice that during revolutionary activities, in all those years of revolutionary fighting, some slogans – which were rhythmic and poetic – originated from the heart of the crowd. No one even knew who composed those poems. Someone among the crowd composed them and others grew interested in them. The people followed those slogans because they were in the form of poems and because they were rhythmic and rhymed.


In our living environments, poetry is very common, and this is a great opportunity. I have written down something which I would like to mention: once, I saw a poem in the obituary section of a newspaper. Some people compose poems in newspapers, and one is naturally drawn to them. I witnessed that our people are poetic by nature. The tone of this couplet is similar to the tone of Bidel's poems, but I do not know who composed it: "I got stuck in a hundred of traps and I escaped from many cages, but I did not take the flight of freedom except with the wings of non-existence [death]."


This opportunity, this need and demand in society should be utilized within poetry. The concepts that the people need to know about, and the practical methods that the people need to become familiar with, should be conveyed to them through the language of poetry.


I hope that all of you will be successful, and I hope that you will have the opportunity to continue taking this path for many years to come.


Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings


[1] A form of similar to an ode

[2] tashbib and nasib is expressing love and admiration for a loved one through poems.


  • Imam Hassan
  • Poem
  • Poets
  • Ramadan


  • 2018-06-02 02:45
    Nice article. I agree, Farsi poetry is good.