Leader's Address to Superior Students

The following is an excerpt from a speech made by the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei in a meeting with over a hundred superior students on September 26, 2004. The participants in the meeting expressed their views on various scientific, academic and domestic issues.
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

I think our session has so far been very useful and I have really enjoyed it, mostly because I can see our intellectual youngsters have the courage to rely on their own views. This is very important to me. The fact that our Muslim youngsters have enough self-confidence to firmly express their views on issues related to our higher education and universities and also our government is of great significance. This spirit, like scientific intellectualism, should be further boosted and promoted.

My dear youngsters! What I would like to point out here is that the main goal of those who slowed down the process of science and research in our country and later brought it to a complete halt was to destroy the spirit of self-confidence in the Iranian people, so that they may feel that they have nothing of their own in science and technology, and that they even lack the necessary words to convey their meanings. This lack of self-confidence would deal the hardest blow to a nation.

I am happy that this year I can see you are displaying a great sense of self-confidence. I have also seen in other meetings with youngsters that this sense of self-confidence is growing deeper and stronger. However, a fine and subtle point should be explained and mad clear here.

The point is that self-confidence in expressing one's views is different from obstinacy and willfulness. Willfulness is part of the nature of youngsters, but that is not what I mean. I have noticed that the youngsters whom I have met on various occasions over the recent years express their views based on logic and reasoning and make rational and scientific objections. This is of great value to me.

The remarks that you made at this meeting included very useful and noteworthy points. I have taken down those points, and they will be given due attention.

Some of the issues that you, the dear youngsters, brought up are of an administrative nature and relate to the directors who are present at this meeting, and they are expected to take immediate measures with regard to these issues.

Some other issues are of wider dimensions, issues such as granting scholarships to superior students by the government. I personally believe this is an appropriate measure to take. The issue of military service, which was raised by some friends, has already been resolved.

However, an important issue which was not brought up at this meeting, but which had been discussed at previous meetings and which I had followed up with some concrete measures was the admission of superior students and the winners of scientific Olympiads, namely those ranking first, second and third, to universities more easily.

A number of other issues that were discussed at this meeting require careful study and follow-up measures by relevant government organs. I will advise the relevant officials to examine and deal with each issue carefully and refer them either to the High Council for Cultural Revolution or to other responsible organs.

The point that is worthy of mention here is that some of the problems that you mentioned can be completely resolved in the short range and some in the long term. Therefore, you should not be discouraged and dispirited by the existence of these problems.

My dear youngsters! Hope is the motive force of everything. Our students, university officials and other government executives that are expected to take the necessary measures concerning their related tasks, including the issues that were raised at this meeting, should hold the belief and conviction that they are able to carry out these tasks successfully and accomplish their desired objectives. Try not to speak in such a way as to convey a feeling of despair. There is no reason for hopelessness and disappointment.

A few points that I intended to talk about you have already mentioned, but what I deem appropriate to emphasize at this meeting is that your main task is to advance in the field of science and promote scientific rationality. This is something favored and encouraged by Islam. We, as Muslims faithful to our religion, are duty-bound to make every effort to reach the peak of science both individually and also within the framework of group projects devised and implemented by relevant government organs. You should consider this to be your main duty.

However, it should be noted that the situation was different in the West and Europe in the former times. In the Christian Europe, the initiation of scientific movement was accompanied by the weakening and termination of religious tendencies. Perhaps this was quite fair, since their religious faith was mixed with superstition and prejudice, and it was utterly opposed to scientific knowledge.

For several centuries in Europe, scholars were persecuted for their scientific views or discoveries. They were imprisoned, whipped or even burned in fire alive accused of being wizards. When religious authorities and patrons of religion treat scientists in such a manner in a religious atmosphere, it is quite clear that if science gains power, it will annihilate religious faith and do away with religious tendencies. This is something clear.

The situation is quite different with regard to Islam. There is no opposition either to science or to wisdom and intellect on the part of the Islamic faith. In fact, wisdom is considered in Islam to be one of the sources of reasoning in deriving tenets and precepts of religion.

If you take a look at our religious books, for instance at the book entitled "Kafi", which was written one thousand years ago and which deals with Hadith, you will notice that the first chapter of the book appears under the heading "Wisdom and Ignorance". This chapter talks about wisdom, its worth and significance and the importance of sagacity and rationality.

With regard to Islam's attitude toward science, it should be noted that Islam has been the main patron and promoter of science. The Islamic civilization was established thanks to a scientific movement that was launched right after the advent of Islam. This scientific movement gained great momentum in less than two centuries after it had been launched.

In order to get a better idea and understanding of this Islamic scientific movement and its great achievements, just imagine that there is a country in a remote part of today's world that has no signs of modern civilization. However, the people of that country start to follow the path of civilization and after some 100 or 150 years, they surpass all other countries in the world in the field of science. You may only describe this happening as a miracle. It is really difficult to imagine the greatness of this accomplishment.

The main reason for this great achievement is the emphasis that is placed by Islam on knowledge and its acquiring and imparting to others. Even there is one tradition which states that there are three types of people: knowledgeable individuals and scholars who convey their knowledge to others, those seeking knowledge - they are considered to be treading on the right path, and others who follow no objective and lead a useless life.

It is clear from this tradition that Islam attaches great significance to knowledge and, thus, to the individuals who are knowledgeable or are trying to obtain knowledge. An Islamic society is characterized by such qualities.

What you, the dear youngsters, are expected to bear in mind is that whatever area of study that you enter, whether you study the humanities or natural sciences or Qur'anic sciences or any other branch of knowledge in which you are engaged in conducting research and investigations, you should not be prevented from delving into your religion and acquiring religious knowledge and from self-amelioration and refinement of your moral virtues. You should have them both together.

The verse from the Holy Qur'an that was recited by our dear brother at the beginning of the meeting - "...so that he may recite to them His communications and purify them and teach them the Book and the Wisdom..." (3: 164) - indicates that Almighty Allah sent the prophet so that he may transmit knowledge to the people and purify their souls. Therefore, the acquiring of knowledge should be accompanied by moral refinement. They should not be separated from each other.

The belief and assumption that whoever enters the arena of knowledge and becomes a learned and scholarly individual would naturally abandon virtues, spirituality and moral values is a totally wrong belief which does not belong to our culture and which has originated from the religious circumstances that existed in Europe during the Middle Ages. This assumption is by no means compatible with the prevalent attitude in an Islamic society and with the Islamic teachings and principles.

If a scientist who is active in any branch of knowledge is endowed with virtues and moral values, he can be expected to contribute to the advancement of his country and nation and the well-being and prosperity of mankind. The reason for this expectation is that he will work to achieve some noble objectives which will benefit humanity, promote justice and morality and rectify the great confusion and disorder besetting today's world.

You should try to become this type of scientists in the future and seek to accomplish this kind of objectives. You should prove to be individuals who can turn the wheels of the world in the right direction. Set this as your main goal. Accomplishing this goal is possible but requires many preliminary measures.

The remarks that you made about scientific elites are almost close to my own beliefs and viewpoints. Preparing the ground for training scientific elites, detecting their talents and helping them advance toward the peak of scientific achievements are all very important measures which are already being taken in our country.

The situation was quite different in the years before the victory of the Islamic Revolution. In those years no measures were taken to discover and foster the talents of our brilliant youngsters. Instead, they tried to destroy the spirit of hopefulness and creativity in our youth. The policy was to encourage those who totally acted upon Western prescriptions without using their own initiative, innovation and capabilities.

As a result of this situation, our country remained dependent on other nations and never took any steps toward development and self-sufficiency.

This was our state of affairs before the victory of the Islamic Revolution. However, the revolution changed this situation and infused our nation with new life and spirit.

The government has been paying special attention to scientific elites for the past several years, but the measures that have so far been taken are not enough. Still, most of the issues that were raised by our friends at this meeting were among those issues that have received attention. Necessary measures have been taken with regard to these issues and considerable progress has also been achieved. But of course more efforts should be made in his respect.

I think what we need is a foundation charged with taking care of the different affairs related to our scientific elites. The duty of this foundation can be summarized as making efforts to foster and train elites in society, direct them toward necessary and appropriate activities and also solve their problems. This foundation should also take into consideration the views expressed by our elites on development and progress.

This foundation should function directly under the President's Office, which is the best organ to supervise the activities of the foundation. A ministry is not up to this task, since the task is beyond the powers of a ministry.

It often happens that some of our talented youngsters do something that is not quite necessary for our country; for instance, some of our elites migrate to other countries. Of course, as I have said on various occasions, I do not consider this emigration to be something absolutely negative, since some of our elites may wish to travel abroad to acquire greater knowledge and then return home to serve their country and nation. There is nothing wrong with this.

Nevertheless, we should try to provide our talented youngsters with necessary facilities so that they may have whatever they need for the flourishing of their talents, facilities such as laboratories and workshops and other necessary facilities for research and investigations. This is the best for us to do.

However, if it is not possible to take these measures, our elites may travel abroad to seek better conditions for the continuation of their studies, but they should do so based on careful planning. In other words, our talented young people should know what they are going to do in the future with what they plan to do study abroad.

They should know whether they are going to use their advanced knowledge for the progress and development of their country and for the benefit of their fellow citizens, or whether they are going to serve the interests of factories, manufacturing plants and corporations belonging to Canadian, American or European capitalists.

The worst humiliation for a scientific elite is to work hard to obtain advanced knowledge and use the various resources of his country for this purpose, but then put all his knowledge at the service of an ignorant capitalist owning a factory or corporation in some part of the world and turn into a mere tool in the hands of that capitalist.

Scientific elites are honored and dignified when they can play an effective role in improving the conditions of their country and nation and in raising the living standards of their countrymen. You will shine in society by playing your part in serving your country and benefiting your nation.

You can clearly see that the Iranian scholars and luminaries who have excelled in different branches of knowledge such as physics, medicine and the humanities like history, literature and philosophy and who have brought honor to our nation are held in great esteem and commemorated as shining personalities of this nation.

But our nation would never feel proud of those engineers, medical doctors, intellectuals and elites who have left their country and who are currently serving some capitalists and their establishments in other countries. This is because they are working just to increase the wealth of those capitalists and to make them and their families more affluent.

This is no source of pride for the Iranian nation. Our intellectuals and elites are held in honor and high regard when they work for the improvement of their country, make every effort to remedy the existing scientific retardations and try to bring about progress and development for their nation.

Therefore, if our talented and superior youngsters have this purpose in mind, whether they study in this country or abroad and whatever branch of knowledge they study, they will be held in high regard and their endeavors will be of great value to our country and nation.

I am happy that some of our dear youngsters referred to the present week, which has been termed the Week of the Sacred Defense. My dear youngsters! Always try to keep in mind and never forget the great and valorous defense that once took place in this country. It was a great and wonderful achievement. The youngsters who rushed to the battlefield and played an effective role in the defense of our country were just like you; most of them were students and many of them were among intellectuals and elites.

They were elites because with only 22 or 23 years of age, they commanded army divisions. Besides, they performed the commanding tasks so efficiently and designed the military operations so carefully that not only the aggressor Iraqi troops who were fighting us were surprised, but some outside powers like the United States that were monitoring the battlefield by means of their satellites and transmitting the military intelligence to the Iraqi regime were also amazed.

Great tasks were performed in the course of the Sacred Defense by our superior and faithful youngsters and students who had joined the Basij volunteer force or the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps following the Iraqi military aggression against our country. If they had not rushed to the battlefield, the enemy would have occupied some parts of our country and a puppet regime subservient not only to the arrogant powers but to other regional countries as well would have been installed in this country.

Today, you have a powerful government in your country, and the Iranian nation is honored and held in high regard in the world. Today, the world's powers admit that the views and stances of the Islamic Republic on important and sensitive regional and international issues should be taken into consideration. All these achievements are owed to the devotion and self-sacrifice of those brave and dedicated youngsters. You should always commemorate them and honor their memory.

There were a few more points which I intended to mention, but unfortunately it seems that we have run out of time. I am sure that you had more things to talk about too.

Still, I would like to mention just one more point. My dear youngsters! You are intellectuals and highly endeared to us. But remember that the more you become learned and knowledgeable, the more you should try to be modest and humble and avoid becoming boastful and conceited. There is no harmony between egotism and being an intellectual.

Of course I can see no signs of conceit and self-adulation in your bright faces. But be careful anyway. The atmosphere of intellectualism in our country should be completely cleared of an air of conceitedness. The more you accomplish scientific achievements and breakthroughs in the field of research and scientific investigation, the more you should try to be modest and humble. This will guarantee the continuity of your progress and increase your efficiency.

I pray to Almighty Allah to protect you and save you for your parents and families and for your country. I hope you will all bring great honor and glory to our nation and country in the future.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings