Public Address on the Occasion of Imam Ali's (a.s.) Birth Anniversary

The following is the full text of the public address delivered on July 16, 2008 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I extend my congratulations to you dear brothers and sisters on the auspicious birth anniversary of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) - which is considered to be one of the most prominent days of the auspicious month of Rajab. I congratulate all Muslims living across the world who consider the Commander of the Faithful to have a high status. I also congratulate all the oppressed, broadminded people, and those who seek justice and have heard of Imam Ali (a.s.) and his justice. I pray to Allah the Exalted to make us the followers of the Commander of the Faithful in the true sense of the word.

Let me make a point about the commemoration of this great birth anniversary. There is no disagreement among Muslims, no matter which sect they follow, regarding the characteristics of Imam Ali (a.s.) - the brilliance and prominence of his pure faith, the heavy burden of jihad that he shouldered from early Islam to the end of his life, the unique justice he administered which keeps attracting Muslims and non-Muslims alike, his unique, pure worship and supplication, and the other prominent features that he enjoyed.

The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) is a personality whose greatness, characteristics, and high status in Islam are not debated among Muslims. Therefore, we can confidently claim that the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) can serve as the common point among all sects of Islam. In all eras and at all times, all the sects of Islam - except for a small group of Navasib who are not considered among Muslim sects - consider the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) as having a high and prominent status, as is described in the religious texts of the Shia and the Sunni. Therefore, the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) is the commonality among all sects of Islam, and he can serve as the point of departure for unity among Muslims.

That is exactly what the world of Islam requires today. The enemies of Islam who are in fact the proponents of no Islamic sect support one particular sect in favor of another sect one day and decide to support yet another sect the next day. They are seeking to create splits among Muslims. And in such an era which is characterized by lack of unity among Muslims, the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) can serve as the symbol of this unity. He can serve as a common point which all Muslims recognize. No particular group of Muslims can claim that the commander of the Faithful (a.s.) belongs to them. In ziarat-e jame, we Shia Muslims say: "We are famous for our trust in you." We are famous for our reverence and love for the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) and the descendants of the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.), so we cannot claim that the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) only belongs to us. All the Muslims living across the world following various sects of Islam admit the fact that this great personality and this unique man who was the embodiment of Islam did not defy the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) even for a moment. He never defied the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.), and he never showed any laxity from his childhood, to his adolescence, to his youth, and to the end of his life, and he did not for a moment skimp on efforts for the sake of God, Islam, and the Quran.

Therefore, one of the points that I want to talk about is that we - regardless of whether we are Shia or Sunni or follow another sect - must set the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) as the yardstick and pivot of unity. The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) belongs to all of us. And that magnanimous also adopted slogans and a lifestyle that are not peculiar to a particular group of people. I will elaborate more on this point.

The next point is that the affection for the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) is very valuable. We have a tradition that says those who love a person will have that person beside them on Judgment Day. Affection is of paramount importance. However, affection is not enough by itself. We need to follow Imam Ali (a.s.) as well. We, who are known as Shias in the world, have interpreted Shia as 'those who follow Ali'. We must follow him and purse the same goals as he did. However, it goes without saying that we will not achieve the status of the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.), no matter how hard we try. But we must aspire to reach the peak.

Now we must pay attention to what the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) put high on his agenda in his life which is full of lessons and meanings for us. One is justice which could probably be claimed to be one of the most prominent points in his lifestyle. Being severe with oppressors, being sympathetic towards the oppressed, and helping the oppressed to claim their rights are characteristics that are clearly observed in many parts in the biography and words of the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) as well as in his sermons in Nahj al-Balagha. Just pay attention to these meaningful remarks by the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.): "I swear by God that if I spent a whole night on the thorn bushes of Sa'dan or if I was dragged with chains on the ground with my hands and legs bound, it would be easier for me to bear than the time I meet my Creator while I have oppressed some people or have appropriated some worldly possessions for myself." [Speaking in Arabic]. That is the prominent point in the government of the Commander of the Faithful. Even if I were in the hardest situation in life, I would never encroach on the rights of a single person in order to accumulate worldly possessions for myself, he said. In Imam Ali's (a.s.) opinion, the world - in the sense of worldly possessions - is to be totally rejected and abandoned. Addressing the world, he said, "Go and deceive someone else!" He meant desires and material beauties of life could not deceive him, and therefore he told them to go away and find someone else to deceive. That was the slogan shouted by the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.).

In our Islamic system of government as it is today - which has been founded on Islam - what is the most important issue? What requires more attention? The answer is justice. That is to say, if the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) were now living among our people - who express their love for him the way they do - what would be his first priority? It would undoubtedly be justice. Justice is not something that only a particular group of people or a particular nation would demand. The demand for justice has been shared throughout history by all human beings as a natural need. Justice is exactly what man has always been thirsty for. And true justice was administered nowhere except under the rule of the divine prophets - those who achieved leadership - or in the government of prominent Imams such as the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.). Those who are obsessed with the desire for worldly and material possessions cannot administer justice. Administration of justice requires a pure soul, a strong will, and steadfastness. We must try our utmost to follow in Imam Ali's (a.s.) footsteps in this regard. We acknowledge that we will not be able to administer justice the way Ali Ibn Abi Talib did. We admit this reality. We are too weak to withstand the strong tides as steadily as the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) did. However, we must do our best in this regard.

The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) used to demand justice even of his own men although their authority was not comparable to that of Imam Ali (a.s.). So the responsibility to administer justice lies on our shoulders as well. We must seek justice. That is a demand that the people must make. It must become an established cultural norm among our people. Both in internal and global affairs, our people must seek justice more than anything else. Today, injustice is rife in the world and the stifling oppression on the part of global bullies is being forced on humanity and on the nations. Fighting this great evil must be considered an obligation now for all Muslims who live under the Islamic Republic and for all those who aspire to live under the rule of Islam. This must be turned into a motto in our life, both in internal and global affairs.

As the first step towards administering justice, we must trust in divine assistance and strengthen the emotional bond between our hearts and God. This is where praying, worshiping, supplication, and turning back to Allah step in. The month of Rajab is the spring of worship, supplication, and turning back to Allah. One must not underestimate the value of these days - namely, the months of Rajab, Sha'ban, and most importantly Ramadan. In different stages of life, if we are determined to steadily tread the straight path that Islam has shown us, we need to strengthen our relationship with Allah the Exalted. This relationship depends on praying and avoidance of sins. Therefore, you know that when the Commander of the Faithful - a strong, valorous, and steadfast man whose valor on battlefields is unquestionably among the most well-known things in the world - stood at the mihrab to worship God. He used to cry and put his forehead on the soil. Just take a look at Komeil and Sha'baniyya prayers that are attributed to the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) and see how this great virtuous man used to engage in supplication before Allah the Exalted. That is a lesson for us.

I notice that the hearts of our people, especially our youth, are inclined towards spirituality, God, praying, and supplication, and I am grateful to God for this. Today is the 13th of Rajab, a day for etekaaf [that is, worship in seclusion]. As you know, today thousands of our youth have gone to different mosques across the country and have engaged in etekaaf. They are now talking to God and have engaged in supplication in this hot weather while they are fasting and while their lips are parched and they are hungry. This is very valuable. Our nation must appreciate this etekaaf. Now I would like to give a piece of advice to the officials in charge of etekaaf affairs. The gathering of thousands of people in different places provides a good opportunity for group activities, and I have heard that some officials in charge of mosques have made use of this opportunity and arranged some group activities so that people can benefit more from etekaaf. However, I would say that these activities organized by the centers of etekaaf must not interfere with the solitude of any of the participants. In etekaaf, the youth have in fact decided to talk to God in private. For the most part, etekaaf is a solitary activity in which one forms a relationship with God. The group activities of these centers must not undermine the participants' state of solitude and emotional relationship with God. They must give the youth the opportunity to read the Quran, Nahj al-Balagha, and Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya.

I particularly recommend Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya for these days. This Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya is indeed marvelous. Fortunately, it has been translated into Farsi now, and there are some translated versions available. Last year, I received a good translation of Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya. I perused it: it was excellent. The youth are well-advised to read and benefit from the teachings included in the prayers by Imam Ali Ibn Hussain (a.s.) that are preserved in Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya. They must reflect upon the text. These are not just prayers. They are lessons that we can learn from. These words by Imam Sajjad (a.s.) - and all the prayers that have been handed down from the Imams (a.s.) - are full of Islamic teachings.

So it is Rajab now, the month of praying, turning back to God, and supplication. It is the month of becoming similar to the Commander of the Faithful. Let us strengthen our relationship with God so that we can go through the various stages of life with strong determination, steadfastness, and awareness. In order for a nation to gain honor and glory, it must have a strong will, know what it wants, and be confident due to remembrance of God.

Today, our nation is confronted with some global challenges for the sake of Islam. Islam has taught us that if we are to tread the straight path and achieve bliss in this world and the hereafter, we have to be independent and not give in to the coercion of oppressive and arrogant powers. This is the point that has created a conflict between the Iranian nation and its enemies. That is the origin of the conflict. The Iranian nation does not want to be under the yoke of arrogant powers. It does not want its own interests to be sacrificed for the sake of the interests of arrogant powers. What the global arrogance - led by the US today - is after is exactly the opposite of our aspirations. They seek to expropriate the resources of nations as well as their properties. This ulterior motive is disguised by their lies about their superficially humanistic slogans and alleged goals. Therefore, if a nation is determined to be truly independent, it can never see eye to eye with these superpowers. Some countries are superficially independent, but in fact their independence is just an illusion, and they are controlled by superpowers.

The Iranian nation is faced with a challenge now. If the Iranian nation is determined to emerge victorious out of this challenge and gain glory and independence, it needs to have an iron will and be steadfast. Thankfully, over the past three decades of the life of the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic, the Iranian nation has put up a spirited resistance against the belligerent, bullying, and greedy powers. This resistance - which is the source of glory for the Iranian nation and Islam - can be continued by relying on Allah the Exalted and asking Him for assistance.

It is characteristic of superpowers to frighten nations out of their way and threaten their way through. They are well aware that it is impossible to take on nations. Arrogant powers can easily topple governments that do not rely on their nations. This is evidenced by the fact that they widely use this technique, and their threats have proven to be effective in many cases. But the arrogant powers cannot confront a government that relies on its people, their will, emotions, and faith. That is because this is a matter of confronting nations and people.

Since the beginning of the Revolution up to the present, the US - which was denied access to Iran after the victory of the Revolution - has constantly tried and failed to threaten the Islamic Republic and its officials out of their way. They are not going to be successful in the future either, because the Islamic Republic relies on the votes and emotions of the people. The occasional acts of folly on the part of the superpowers and the greedy prominent politicians are astonishing. They are saying now that they have to drum up public support against the Islamic Republic. They allocate millions of dollars and spend enormous sums of money in order to pit the people against the Islamic Republic. That is sheer folly. Their efforts mean that they are trying to incite the people against themselves. How is it possible to do so? The Islamic Republic is comprised of the people of Iran. Is it possible to mobilize the Iranian nation against itself? The day a government is isolated from the people, it will be subject to threats. But the Islamic Republic relies on the votes, emotions, faith, and unswerving support of the Iranian people. It is not possible to confront such a government in this way. They keep threatening though. They come up with new pretexts. Sometimes they pick on the nuclear issue, and sometimes they find faults with other things.

As regards the nuclear issue, I have said on many occasions and I repeat now that the nuclear technology the Iranian nation gained is a great historic achievement. Moreover, the Iranian nation does not owe a single favor to anybody for this technology. Nuclear technology has been indigenized. The Iranian nation has achieved this accomplishment due to the prudence of its officials. It belongs to the Iranian nation and no power can deprive the nation of this advantage and this great right.

Fortunately, government officials are pursuing this issue seriously. We make a distinction between individuals and governments who want to deprive the Iranian nation of this advantage due to their enmity with the Islamic Republic - like the US that openly says it is opposed to the achievement of this advantage for the Iranian nation - and those who say they are prepared to sit at a negotiation table and find a solution to remove the possible causes of concern through discussing various issues, especially the nuclear issue. We have declared that we are prepared now to negotiate with the Europeans. Negotiation with Europe was not favorable to us previously. But we agreed to negotiate with them when we observed that they respect the Iranian nation, declare that they acknowledge the rights of our nation, and do not try to overstep the red lines that the government officials and the Iranian nation have set. Our government officials agreed to negotiate with them. But the Europeans - who are to negotiate with the Iranian nation - have to keep in mind that negotiations will proceed successfully only if the negotiation atmosphere is not dominated by threats. The Iranian nation is a valorous nation. It does not like being threatened. We detest threats, and our nation will not give in to any threats.

Our government officials are making prudent decisions regarding the nuclear issue. The National Security Council is the body in charge and is presided over by the esteemed president. They are the ones who make the decisions. Regarding the nuclear issue, there is consensus among all the government officials about what the president and the officials say. The efforts on the part of the enemies to create a split by using a particular person's comment are a stupid attempt. We have the heads of the three government branches as well as the Leader's representatives who are closely pursuing this issue with prudence and commitment. The Islamic Republic has a clear stance on this issue.

We have set clear red lines. If the European side enters into negotiations while respecting the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic and observing the red lines, our government officials will negotiate with them. Of course, our officials will negotiate with them provided that they do not attempt to threaten the Iranian nation. Our nation is sensitive to threats. We have clearly said before that any act of folly against the Islamic Republic of Iran will be faced with a practical, crushing response.

Both the US and the Zionists are knee-deep in internal problems. The Bush administration has many problems, especially now that have a presidential election ahead of them. The disgraceful Zionist regime also has faced problems in the occupied Palestinian lands. As a quick fix to their internal problems, the US and the Zionist regime say some things against us sometimes. They can say whatever they like. But sometimes they want to commit an act of folly in the true sense of the word. They have to know that the Iranian nation will cut off the hand that encroaches on the Islamic Republic and dear Iran. And it makes no difference whether this hand belongs to a government or not. It is not right to think that the current US president may commit an act of folly in the last months of his term in office and leave the trouble to the next administration. That cannot happen. If somebody happens to do an act of folly, the Iranian nation will prosecute him even when he is not in office, and he can be sure that he will be punished.

Allah the Exalted has enlightened our hearts due to our reliance on Him. He has filled our hearts with hope. We have not lost our hope in divine assistance for a moment, and we hope that will never lose it. "Despair not of Allah's mercy." [The Holy Quran 12:87]. Allah the Exalted has made this nation determined, enthusiastic, and hopeful. Dear brother and sister, and dear youth, if you want to keep this strong determination and this dynamic spirit, you must strengthen your relationship with God on a daily basis. You must talk to Allah the Exalted. You must ask God for your requirements. You must seek protection in Allah. You must ask Allah the Exalted for help. He will certainly help you. God willing, the youth of this country will witness days that will be far more pleasant. There are bright and brilliant prospects for the Islamic Republic. I hope that Allah the Exalted will make us successful in making the holy heart of His Holiness the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) pleased with us. I also hope that God will make us successful in making the immaculate hearts of our martyrs and the immaculate soul of our late Imam pleased with us.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings