Leader’s Speech to Panegyrists

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on May 24, 2011 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in a meeting with a group of panegyrists in Tehran.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and greetings upon our Master, Muhammad, and upon his immaculate household. O God, convey our greetings to Fatima, her father, her husband and her children.

I would like to congratulate you dear brothers and sisters and the panegyrists of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) immaculate household on this holy and spiritual day. Indeed, as the ones who sing at religious meetings and soften the hearts of your audience to accept divine teachings, you deserve to be congratulated on this day. I am thankful to Allah the Exalted that since about thirty years ago this auspicious meeting has been held each year on a day like today. Maybe this meeting has been held since before some esteemed members of the audience were born. Of course we seek intercession from Hazrat Fatima (s.a.) and we constantly remember her throughout the year. Today is her birthday anniversary. Commemoration of her birthday would naturally increase this remembrance and our respect for her.

The coincidence of our magnanimous Imam's (r.a.) birthday anniversary with the birthday anniversary of Hazrat Fatima (s.a.) is very pleasant to us. That honorable man who lived among us for many years was indeed a manifestation of the same impressive and brilliant essence that our infallible Imams (a.s.) and Hazrat Fatima (s.a.) enjoyed. Of course we should not compare them and they are not comparable. But our magnanimous Imam (r.a.) followed the same path and enjoyed the same characteristics: the same faith, purity, piety, honor and resistance on the path of God. These characteristics earned respect for Imam Khomeini (r.a.) in heaven and earth and among God's righteous servants. So we should celebrate two occasions today. Moreover, this year the birthday anniversary of Hazrat Fatima (s.a.) has coincided with the 3rd of Khordad as well. The dear brother who appeared to be a disabled war veteran and recited those beautiful poems in this meeting, reminded me of the Sacred Defense Era. Therefore, today is a great day.

One of the outstanding characteristics of our Revolution is that the holy names of Hazrat Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) are repeatedly mentioned. After the Revolution and on various occasions, these two holy names have been mentioned more than different divine, Islamic and Shia teachings. This is a new phenomenon. Before the Revolution, the holy of name of Hazrat Fatima Zahra (s.a.) was not mentioned as often - neither in religious meetings, nor in public environments, nor by our poets, speakers, prominent figures and others. There were pious people at that time as well and there were also religious meetings in which her holy name used to be mentioned, but not on such a large scale and not with such deep insight. And nobody taught this to our people. That is to say, we did not promote this in our statements and slogans. It is a divine phenomenon. It is rooted in the hearts, emotions and faith of our people. Nobody - neither the Imam (r.a.) nor our prominent revolutionary figures - taught our soldiers during the Sacred Defense Era to choose "Ya Zahra" as the code name for their operations or to put on headbands with "Ya Zahra" written on them. But if you look carefully, you will see that the holy name of Hazrat Zahra is repeated more than other holy names. The same is true of the holy name of the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake). These two names were highlighted automatically after the Revolution. They emerged out of the hearts, emotions and faith of our people. This is an auspicious sign which shows that we have the attention of the Lady of the Two Worlds - the divine lady who was unique in terms of spirituality after her honorable father, the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.). Certain intellectuals have made a similar point. I have heard certain people saying that the Lady of the Two Worlds is paying special attention to us. This is very valuable and promising. It makes our hearts and souls confident about achieving the ultimate goals. It makes our steps firmer. When a person has his eyes on the goal and knows what his goal is, achieving the goal is not just a dream for him. Such a person is hopeful and steadfast and he does not lose his way.

One of the most important characteristics of the Islamic Revolution is that there has been no diversion in this straight revolutionary path in spite of the hardships and enmities and in spite of the different policies that have been devised to derail the Revolution. The slogans have remained the same. The goals are the same. The path is the same. Thanks to Imam Khomeini's clear language, which has been recorded and preserved, nothing has been left to interpretation. The path is a straight path. This is the path that the Revolution is following. I would say that no power in the world can thwart our movement as long as we are steadfast and as long as we keep our eyes on the goal and move ahead with hope. And this has been most effective in inspiring hope in the hearts of Muslims and Muslim nations.

When a revolution happens, it makes many people happy in the world. This is how ordinary people normally react to revolutions. I remember that the dictator of Spain died when the oppressive Pahlavi regime was in power. Although his death would not affect us in any way, people were happy about it in Tehran and Mashhad as if the death of the dictator who had ruled Spain for many years was a celebration for us. Similarly when another dictator died in Portugal, we were happy in Iran. Therefore, when revolutions take place, everybody becomes happy - everybody who has hope and wishes in his heart, everybody who cherishes a lofty ideal and is not satisfied with his situation and his government. However, this happiness does not last long in many cases: certain events happen and put an end to this happiness. It is just a matter of time in many cases. Sometimes it takes ten years. Other times it takes twenty years. Yet other times it takes even less and revolutions are derailed.

During the 1960s, revolutions happened in almost all North African countries: in Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and Algeria. But these revolutions did not last long. Either the leaders of the revolutions were forced to leave in one way or another, or they turned into puppets or were replaced by puppets. Material temptations do not leave human beings alone. These temptations are constantly at work in the hearts of human beings. In the absence of piety, these temptations affect human beings in a short time. The paths start to change. As a result, hopes born of revolutions start to fade because of reactionary attitudes. Such revolutions are a short-lived spring and they finally come to an end.

The characteristic of the impressive Revolution that you Iranian people carried out is that it has not declined until today. This resistance, this steadfastness, this permanence, this commitment to the values that the Revolution brought about for the people: these are the things that keep alive the hope of those who watch our nation throughout the world. This happened in our Revolution.

My purpose is not to make us feel arrogant, attribute hollow achievements to ourselves and claim that such and such a country has learnt a lesson from us. This is not the case: no other country learnt a lesson from us. But there is no doubt that it was the Iranian nation that planted and cherished the seeds of hope in the hearts of other nations and these seeds of hope grew and blossomed. If the Iranian nation had retreated, if we had abandoned our slogans and if our determination had been shaken by the bluster of global arrogance and its threats and pressures, the hope that had blossomed in the hearts of other nations would have been shattered. It was your resistance that prepared the ground for these saplings of hope to grow and bear fruit. And this happened. These are divine blessings that were bestowed on us through the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household and the holy names of Hazrat Zahra (s.a.) and the Imam of the Age (a.s.). We must preserve these blessings. We must try our best to preserve these blessings. We must continue seeking intercession from the members of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household and remembering them. We must continue to believe that these blessings have been bestowed on us by God. We must not become arrogant.

There is another issue that is related to the subtle and effective profession of panegyrists. Many, if not all, of those who have attended this meeting are panegyrists. Over the past years I have spoken a lot about this issue on different occasions, including on the birthday anniversaries of Hazrat Zahra (s.a.). But I would like to stress a few points again. The poems that you sing beautifully with a pleasant voice should be selected carefully. You should take the form and content of your poems into account. Form is the beauty of the poems. It is necessary to select the poems in a careful and appropriate way. Poetry is an outstanding manifestation of art. Not anything that rhymes is poetry. Poetry has its own characteristics. It is necessary to select appropriate poems. Fortunately we have good poets, poets who compose poetry about the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household in different languages and their poems are eloquent and beautiful. And if you create a demand for their poetry, this demand will cause them to supply such poetry. Therefore, good poetry, good music and a good voice are important. Of course good music does not mean we should imitate unlawful kinds of music that are associated with debauchery. Pay attention to this point. Certain kinds of music are bad. They are wrong. They are associated with debauchery. These kinds of music must not be allowed into the realm of panegyrics. Nothing is wrong with introducing new ways of singing and new kinds of music, but try to avoid stepping into the wrong realm. Of course I am referring to the kinds of music that are associated with debauchery and lead people away from the path of God. I do not want to advise you against any music that has been used in the past with a different kind of content. No, just try to avoid bringing in the kinds of music which are associated with debauchery and which lead people away from the path of God.

The next issue is related to content. A poetry collection is the best for singing from a minbar is one that praises the virtues of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household. Mentioning their virtues enlightens and cheers up hearts. It produces enthusiasm and brings tear to the eyes of people. Of course I am referring to the virtues that have been established. It is not right to rely on undocumented claims. Many virtues of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household have been mentioned in reliable books. You should use those books. You can also use the statements of reliable religious authorities. The poem by the late Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Isfahani which was sung by one of the gentlemen in this meeting is an example in this regard. After all, that honorable man was the teacher of religious authorities. Great religious authorities and marja taqlids used to be his students in fiqh, usul and philosophy. He was also a poet. His poems can be used as reliable religious documents. Other reliable sources include the different narrations that have been mentioned in reliable biographies of the infallible Imams (a.s.) and in reliable books about their virtues. Therefore, one part is the virtues of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household.

Recommendations are another part and these recommendations can be extracted from the lifestyle of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household. Today we are in need of advice. We need advice in order to promote ethics in society, in order to promote good behaviors and in order to promote the spirit of solidarity, brotherhood and purity that is desired in a religious community. Who should we learn these things from? The foundations of ethics are in the words and actions of the infallible Imams (a.s.). We should promote ethics in society. We should call people to benevolence, hope, cooperation, brotherhood, patience, gratitude, beneficence, self-sacrifice and mercy. We should advise people against bad actions, narrow-mindedness, despair, suspicion, malevolence, envy, avarice and other vices. These things can be done better through the language of poetry, rather than prose and lecturing.

When a speaker like me sits down and offers advice to people, it is not really clear if the effect will be profound or not. But when the same pieces of advice are put into a beautiful and good poem, they become like refreshing water that benefits all cells of the body and affects the depths of one's being. Of course moral virtues should be repeatedly promoted. Saying and hearing something has an effect, but this effect is not permanent. There are other factors in society that have the opposite effect. Therefore, it is necessary to repeat on a regular basis.

Another part is related to promoting insight and raising awareness about daily life issues. Of course I do not agree with attacking and insulting different people from minbars of panegyrics. I do not like such things. But promoting insight and raising public awareness are good. Today our nation is standing firm because of its insight. Our nation knows what machinations have been devised against it, who is devising these machinations, what the goal is and why they are angry with the Iranian nation. Our people know these things. The Iranian nation knows that the spirit of Islamic faith, seeking freedom and independence, and resistance on the right path have made the enemy angry. Our people know the enemy as well. We have gradually learnt what methods the enemy uses. This insight is very valuable. In the absence of this insight, our people would not have been able to resist. The purpose of all the propaganda that the enemies broadcast against us - both the propaganda that they broadcast themselves and the propaganda that they broadcast through their mouthpieces - is to take this insight away from our people. They want to create doubts among our people. They want to take away our people's faith, their resistance on this path and their appropriate knowledge about daily life issues. Well, part of the activities by our panegyrists can be organized around this issue: find the poems and choose the sentences. Sometimes one single word may affect hearts as much as a book only if it is said at the right time. Try to influence hearts. Judging by the programs that I attend myself or I watch on TV, I see that today our panegyrists have fortunately made a lot of progress in this regard.

The last point is that a professional panegyrist who is rendering services on this path needs to work and study hard if he is determined to have all these characteristics. He cannot do this without hard work. Of course previously our panegyrists felt that they had to eulogize from memory. They thought it was below their dignity to read from a piece of paper. Fortunately this is not the case today. There is no need to spend hours to memorize a eulogy. Panegyrists can also read from a piece of paper. The same is true of those who preach from minbars. When I was young, I never saw anybody reading from a piece of paper at a minbar. They used to consider this below their dignity. The late Mr. Falsafi was the first to break this tradition. He took a piece of paper out of his pocket and read out a tradition. Well, he was a top preacher in the country. Today other preachers have learnt to do the same thing. In order to be accurate, they take out a piece of paper from their pocket and read out traditions to their audience. They simply read out what they have already written down. This has made it a lot easier. The same is true of panegyrics. Therefore, the first condition is to study, carry notes and speak carefully.

The second condition is that you should get familiar with the Holy Quran and hadith in your studies. Developing close familiarity with the Holy Quran is necessary for everybody. I advise all our youth throughout the country to develop this familiarity. Fortunately this has already happened. You can see certain people among students, seminarians and other youth who are closely familiar with the Holy Quran. Some of them have even memorized the Holy Quran. And those who have not memorized the Holy Quran can understand every verse: they may not know every detail, but they can understand the meaning. This is very valuable.

When I compare today with 20 or 25 years ago, I see that there is a lot of difference. Many people are not aware of this fact. I know these things because I have been paying serious attention. I know what has been happening regarding close familiarity with the Holy Quran. Previously those who used to recite the Holy Quran did not often understand the meaning of the verses. They used to pause where they should not have paused or the other way around. Today this is not at all the case. All qura know the rules. Therefore, I advise everybody - in particular our preachers and panegyrists - to get familiar with the Holy Quran and hadith. They should develop close familiarity with the Holy Quran. Everybody should recite the Holy Quran and pay attention to the translation of the verses and keep the meaning in mind. Write down the meaning of the verses that contain advice and knowledge for you and try to benefit from them. Recite these verses and practice them in action. The same is true about hadith.

Fortunately all our prestigious books on hadith have been translated today. "Kafi" has been translated. "Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih" has been translated. "Nahjul Balaghah" has been translated. The words of Hazrat Zahra (s.a.) have been translated. That is to say, you do not need to know Arabic to benefit from these texts. No, those who know Arabic and those who do not can benefit from these sources. These are opportunities for us and it is necessary to make use of them. Therefore, this is my advice: recite the Holy Quran, develop close familiarity with it, become familiar with hadith and the teachings of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household, pay attention to Allah the Exalted and preserve your spiritual relationship with Him through dua, tawwasul, dhikr and recommended prayers .

If this spiritual relationship is preserved and strengthened, all difficulties will be gradually resolved. This is the most important thing to do. This spiritual relationship with Allah the Exalted - which consists of dhikr and tawwasul - is inseparable from our relationship with the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household. However, there are different duas and prayers in Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, Munajat Khamsa Ashar and elsewhere which make hearts and minds pure. One can acquire a lot of knowledge in this way.

I hope Allah the Exalted will bestow success on you. I have a lot of things to say, but there is not enough time. It has been very nice meeting you and listening to your comments.

Dear God, by the blessedness of Muhammad and his household, help us be among the followers of his household. Dear God, help us be among genuine followers of Hazrat Zahra (s.a.). Dear God, make the Iranian nation successful in all arenas. Dear God, bestow Your grace on all Muslims, on the Shia people of Bahrain and on all oppressed people throughout the world. Dear God, make the holy heart of the Imam of the Age (a.s.) satisfied with us and help us benefit from his prayers.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings