Leader’s Speech to Shia and Sunni Clergy in Kermanshah

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on October 12, 2011 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in a meeting with Shia and Sunni clergy in the city of Kermanshah.

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 and Prophet, Ab-al-Qassem Muhammad, and upon his immaculate household and chosen companions, especially the one remaining with Allah on earth.


All-Wise Allah says in His Book:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful


"Those who deliver the messages of Allah and fear Him, and do not fear anyone but Allah, and Allah is sufficient to take account." [The Holy Quran, 33: 39]

For me, one of the enjoyable and pleasant meetings during my trips is the meetings that I arrange with our honorable scholars and luminaries - who are rendering services in different provinces across the country - and young seminarians who are like saplings and buds in the area of religious education. Thankfully, tonight you dear seminarians and religious scholars - both Shia and Sunni - are present in this meeting, which is an enjoyable and valuable opportunity for me, an opportunity that is accompanied by spiritual satisfaction.

I would like to make a few points in this meeting. But before that, I deem it necessary to commemorate the great and pious scholar who spent his life in this province on the order of the late Ayatollah Borujerdi and his services were rewarded with martyrdom: Shahid Ayatollah Ashrafi, a great religious scholar who was martyred while praying, and I heard that his martyrdom anniversary is one of these days. I had the opportunity to meet him many times in his home in Kermanshah and exchange views with him. I had met him previously in a meeting that had been arranged for Friday prayer leaders of Kermanshah province in Islamabad, which was attended by the late Shahid Saduqi from Yazd as well as other people. Friday prayer leaders of Kermanshah province held the meeting while the enemy was dropping bombs on the city. I was in the meeting too. I had met that great man in person many times before that meeting. He was a truly active religious scholar. He did not promote Islam with his tongue alone. He used to do so with his actions as well. His humility, his piety, his inattention to many of the superficial things in life - these were among his characteristics. He was a great man and Allah the Exalted rewarded him. At the end of his relatively long life, Allah the Exalted bestowed martyrdom on him instead of a natural death. I have repeatedly said that martyrdom is the death of merchants, the kind of death that is highly profitable. After all, we will all die one day. "Every soul shall have a taste of death." [The Holy Quran, 3: 185] If you are lucky enough, you may trade God your inescapable death for martyrdom. Dear God, we are eagerly waiting for this opportunity. "Surely Allah has bought of the believers their lives." [The Holy Quran, 9: 111] God buys the lives of believers. This is a great opportunity which was provided for that great man.

My dear old friend, the late Hajj Agha Baha ed-Din Mohammadi Eraqi, was among the fortunate people in this province who found this opportunity. He was one of Imam Khomeini's good students and he was a friend of mine in Qom. May God bestow His mercy and blessings on these two martyrs.

I would also like to commemorate our kind, humble, lovely and friendly scholar, the late Hajj Agha Mojtaba Hajj Akhund, who was one of my old friends in Hojjatiyyeh School in Qom. He was pious, sincere, virtuous and honest. May God bestow His mercy and blessings on him.

Let us also commemorate the late Mr. Nojumi, the learned religious scholar who was a good artist as well. After the Revolution and before my presidential terms, I met him in his home during one of my trips to Kermanshah and I had the opportunity to see his artistic works up close. Later on, after Imam Khomeini (r.a.) had passed away, he sent me one of his works. I asked him to write a hadith on a piece of paper so that I could put it up on the wall: "He who considers himself the leader of people should educate himself before educating others." We must not forget the responsibility to educate ourselves. He wrote the hadith in his exquisite handwriting and I had it framed and put it up in my room: "He who considers himself the leader of people should educate himself before educating others." If we take care of this self-education, it will become easier to teach others. This is the flaw of our work.

Dear people, dear brothers, my dear children, dear youth, dear male and female seminarians, if you want to imbue the atmosphere with our scent like a flower, if you want spirituality to freely flow out of you like a river to quench the thirst of those who are after spirituality, this is how you should do it: educate yourselves before educating others.

"Those of His servants only who are possessed of knowledge fear Allah." [The Holy Quran, 35: 28] According to this holy ayah, which was recited at the beginning of this meeting, fear of God is a characteristic of learned people. Well, learned people and ulama have many characteristics, but this holy ayah only refers to fear of God. After mentioning divine signs that exist everywhere, God says: "Those of His servants only who are possessed of knowledge fear Allah." The characteristic of knowledge is that it strikes fear of God - this great blessing - into the hearts of those who possess it. We need to acquire knowledge. Compared with people of my age, it is easier for you dear youth to develop fear of God in your hearts. When you reach my age, things will become difficult for you unless you take care of them during your youth. Try to create fear of God in your hearts while you are young. Learn fear of God and supplication while you are young. Start engaging in recommended and non-obligatory prayers which bring people closer to God. Start from today. You will find these things useful. Your life will be over one day. The difference is that some people reach old age and some others do not. You should know that the difference between 20, 30 or 70 years of age is not that great. Time passes like a flash. When people are twenty years old, they think that they have a long time before they reach the age of seventy. No, time passes like a flash and soon it will be time to leave this world. If you want to do something with this short life, you should prepare the way while you are young. I believe fear of God, divine remembrance, piety and closeness to God are more urgent and more advisable for seminarians than acquiring knowledge. Knowledge that is not accompanied by piety is useless and sometimes harmful. We had certain learned people - both religious and non-religious scholars - who not only failed to make use of their knowledge to benefit themselves and others, but their knowledge also became a burden and a problem. This spirituality is like a soul for knowledge and those who possess it.

The city of Kermanshah is an important city. As was pointed out by Mr. Olama, Kermanshah used to have great learned scholars in the distant past. And over the past 200, 250 years, there were great scholarly families in this city - such as the Al-e Agha family, the Jalili family and other scholarly families in which there were not just one, two or ten learned people: there were more of them.

In this regard, another point about Kermanshah that attracts my attention is that the people of Kermanshah are hospitable and generous to everybody who visits their city and it appears that they are even more hospitable and generous to religious scholars who visit their city. The late Agha Mohammad Ali - who was the son of the late Vahid Behbahani and one of his best students - decided to come to Kermanshah and stay. Although he did not have such an intention, Kermanshah convinced him to stay and he started the Al-e Agha family in Kermanshah. He and many of his children and descendents are considered among the learned religious scholars of Kermanshah. This is one example.

Another example is the late Aseyyed Hossein Haeri, who had travelled to Mashhad towards the end of his life. At that time, I was a teenager. I remember certain things about him. He was the son of Aseyyed Mohammad Esfahani's brother, and a student of Aseyyed Mohammad Esfahani and a great cleric from Iraq who stayed in Kermanshah for many years. He used to carry out religious rulings in Isfahan. He was an outstanding personality. He was both a religious scholar and a spiritual figure. The late Agha Morteza Haeri told me - quoting from the late Aseyyed Hossein - that a mystic visits Aseyyed Hossein and stays in his home for a while. He asks the mystic to arrange a meeting with Imam Mahdi (a.s.). The mystic teaches him how to arrange a meeting. Later on, the mystic tells him that Imam Mahdi (a.s.) would come to his ten-day Rowza - it might have been the month of Muharram. And Imam Mahdi (a.s.) comes to his Rowza. It is a long story. This shows the greatness of his character. This was the spiritual aspect of his character. In terms of his knowledge, he was a student of the late Fathali Soltanabadi who used to live in Samara at that time.

Another figure that I would like to mention is the late Sardar-e Kaboli, an outstanding scholar in different areas. The book that has been written about him is a very good book. I read the book several years ago. He lived in Kermanshah for around sixty years and luminaries benefited a lot from him. I read in the book that the late Hajj Agha Hossein Qomi visits Kermanshah on a pilgrimage and meets with the late Sardar-e Kaboli. They debate about Kiblah or a similar issue and the late Sardar-e Kaboli speak about certain scholarly matters. Hajj Agha Hossein asks him to teach those things to him. The writer of the book says that he saw with his own eyes - I thinks he says he saw with his own eyes, but I am not sure because I read the book several years ago - that Hajj Agha Hossein Qomi would sit down with Sardar-e Kaboli to learn those scholarly matters from him while he was a marja taqlid and an outstanding scholar. And this is a lesson for us: the late Hajj Agha Hossein Qomi decided to learn something new at the age of eighty while he was a marja taqlid. For a learned scholar, not only is this not a disgrace or a flaw, but it is a source of honor. We seminarians should learn from them. You dear youth should move forward on the basis of such principles. This man was from Kabul and he had been raised in India and lived in Najaf. He decided to come to Kermanshah and the people of Kermanshah received him with open arms. The late Sardar-e Kaboli - who was an all-around scholar - stayed in Kermanshah for sixty years. Shahid Ashrafi Esfahani was another religious scholar who had migrated to this city. This is the characteristic of this city: the people of this city love religious scholars. When the people of Kermanshah meet somebody and become familiar with him, they become so friendly that he feels he is in his own homeland. The late Ashrafi Esfahani was from Isfahan, but he felt at home in Kermanshah and he considered himself a citizen of Kermanshah.

What I said was a kind of introduction to my speech. Now I would like to discuss a few points. Dear people, honorable scholars, esteemed luminaries and young seminarians, you should know that today the responsibility of the clergy is heavier. The clergy have had to shoulder certain responsibilities so far: the responsibility for clarifying and delivering the messages of God. "Those who deliver the messages of Allah." [The Holy Quran, 33: 39] But today this responsibility has become heavier. Why? There are two reasons. One reason is that there is currently an opportunity to promote Islam in the world - both in the Muslim world and in the non-Islamic world. I will explain this briefly later on. The other reason is that because of this opportunity and this Islamophobia, the attacks on Islam have increased in number. Therefore, the responsibility has become heavier. A new opportunity brings a new responsibility with it. When you are faced with increased attacks, enmity and aggression because of a new opportunity, your responsibilities become heavier. Today you are in such a situation. But you must not be afraid. "Fear Him, and do not fear anyone but Allah." [The Holy Quran, 33: 39] Do not be afraid of anything. Do not be afraid of the hardships that you will face on your path. This is not to say that you should pretend your responsibility is easy. No, your responsibility is difficult, but you should not be afraid of it. Try to welcome difficult tasks. Try to do things that are considered impossible. After all, this was what happened in Iran. The achievement that was made in Iran - all analysts of the world would sit down together for hours and days and nights to discuss it and all of them would reach a unanimous conclusion: that it was impossible.

What was it that they thought was impossible? Our country was culturally dependent on the west. It was under political hegemony of the west. Its economy was a plaything for the west. The officials and leaders of the country believed that they had no choice but to carry out America's orders without question. Of course, the government of Mohammadreza Shah did not like the fact that it had to obey America, but government officials of the country were like unhappy slaves who still had to listen to their master. Yes, they were unhappy about this, but they had no choice. Suddenly everything made a U-turn in our country: a country whose culture, politics, economy and officials were like that, a country in which everybody was moving away from Islam and towards dependence on the west. The government that came to power did not trust the west and considered it an enemy in certain cases. It changed the orientation towards Islam and implementation of Islamic rules. Thus, the Islamic Republic was established. All analysts were saying that this was impossible, but it happened in Iran.

Even some of the revolutionaries were saying that it was impossible. The late Mr. Taleghani told me, "Imam Khomeini (r.a.) says that the Shah must go, but obviously it is impossible for the Shah to go." He could not believe that it was possible for the Shah to go. He told me that Imam Khomeini (r.a.) was saying strange things. There were certain things which were considered impossible, yet Imam Khomeini (r.a.) made them possible. One of those things was the downfall of the Shah. Imam Khomeini (r.a.) said that the Shah would have to go. Nobody could believe him, but the Shah was forced to go. Not only the Shah but also America, the west, the colonial powers and the arrogant powers had to leave. Nobody could believe this, but it happened.

Nobody could believe that among the Islamic countries, the biggest revolution would happen in Egypt: the Egypt of Camp David Accords, the Egypt of Hosni Mubarak. There might have been certain people who considered such a revolution possible, but nobody thought it would happen in Egypt. Yet it happened. This is what we must keep in mind.

Go after things that are considered impossible and try to make them happen. In order to do heavy tasks, tackle them in a determined way. "And fear Him, and do not fear anyone but Allah." [The Holy Quran, 33: 39] What are the problems? What are the difficulties? The answer is, "Allah is sufficient to take account." [The Holy Quran, 33: 39] Do not forget God: He will take account of what you do. God will never ignore your sufferings, your work, your patience and your stoicism. "Allah is sufficient to take account."

This is our path. In one part of the Holy Quran, we religious scholars are advised to fear God and in another part, we are advised to "deliver the messages of Allah". The messages of Allah are the same messages that were delivered by His prophets. Allah the Exalted says, "And thus did We make for every prophet an enemy, the devils from among men and jinn, some of them suggesting to others varnished falsehood to deceive (them), and had your Lord pleased, they would not have done it, therefore leave them and that which they forge." [The Holy Quran 6: 112] Divine prophets are surrounded by devils "from among men and jinn". They are attacked by devils from among mankind and jinn. If we are supposed to promote the messages of God, we should expect being attacked by devils from among mankind and jinn. They will attack us, so we should prepare ourselves for their attacks. We must build a spiritual wall against the enemies within ourselves - a wall of piety and reliance on God - so that we do not collapse from within. Physical retreat and defeat are the result of inner retreat and defeat. It is the inner self of human beings that imposes a physical defeat on them. If you are not defeated in your heart, nobody can defeat you. The wall that must be built in your heart is the wall of piety and reliance on God. "And in Allah should the believers put their trust." [The Holy Quran, 3: 122] "In Allah let the trusting put their trust." [The Holy Quran, 14: 12] "And whoever trusts Allah, He is sufficient for him." [The Holy Quran, 65: 3] "Is not Allah sufficient for His servant?" [The Holy Quran, 39: 36] These are lessons for us. We must recite the Holy Quran in a careful way. We should learn these lessons: they are guidelines for life. This is one aspect of preparing ourselves.

Preparation in the outer world is another aspect. The devils that are supposed to attack us will not always attack in the same way. The modern devils who attack you through the internet, satellite channels and highly advanced tools of communication - they have modern things to say. Their hardware and software have been modernized. They create fallacies. They create ideological problems. They give rise to intellectual confusion. They promote despair. They foment discord. I have received reports that currently petro-dollars are being spent on certain projects. Often these reports are not made publicly available. On the one hand, they are spending huge amounts of money in order to establish anti-Shia groups among Sunni Muslims in certain Islamic countries. On the other hand, they pay certain so-called Shia preachers to insult and level allegations against the Mother of the Faithful, Aisha, in the name of Shia Islam. These are their methods. As Shia or Sunni Muslims, what do you do when you are faced with these methods? We must not be deceived by what they do. Discord among us is the biggest blessing for them.

I would like to take this opportunity to mention a point. Your province is inhabited by both Shia and Sunni Muslims. Shia and Sunni scholars should arrange meetings with each other and discuss their points of disagreement. We have certain things in common. Shia scholars can clarify and teach their own fiqh. Similarly, Sunni scholars can clarify and teach their own fiqh. Shia may teach their Ja'fari fiqh and Sunni may teach their Shafi'i fiqh. You can have your own beliefs, but at the same time you can also cooperate with each other. I would not advise a Shafi'i faqih or his followers to become Ja'fari Shia. No, they may research the issue freely and they may or may not decide to do so: either way, it is not a problem.

Anybody who wants to safeguard his denomination is free to do so. If they want to have a religious discussion, there is no problem. I have nothing against religious discussions. If they want to have scholarly religious discussions among scholars and experts, they may sit down together and have such discussions. But these discussions should not be made public. They should arrange scholarly meetings among themselves and argue about their disagreements. They may or may not manage to convince each other. Either way, it is not a problem. Apart from these disagreements, there are certain things that we have in common. We have certain problems in common that can be addressed in the same way. Shia scholars have influence over Shia Muslims, and Sunni scholars have influence over Sunni Muslims. They should make use of their influence in order to eliminate the common problems.

Today there are certain people who are using takfir as their weapon and they are not afraid of announcing that they are takfiri. These people are like poison. It is necessary to cleanse Islamic environments of this poison. Accusing each other of kufr and attacking each other in public addresses: this is exactly what the enemy wants. Therefore, the heavy responsibility that I spoke about encompasses all these aspects and starts from self-education and developing humility in one's heart.

Another responsibility is acquiring knowledge. I have heard that certain luminaries of Kermanshah are living in Qom. Definitely, the dear gentlemen who have attended this meeting are familiar with them. These people should be encouraged to return to Kermanshah, or if they cannot come and live in Kermanshah, they should come and stay for a while every year. They should come to Kermanshah and stay for 2, 3 or 3 months a year. They should travel to the villages and cities of Kermanshah province and they should try to attract the people to the mosques. Therefore, the issue of knowledge is a very important issue.

Of course, besides acquiring knowledge, there is the issue of promoting Islam, which is very important. Promoting Islam is an issue that requires a detailed discussion. If you want to promote Islam well, you should choose your audience beforehand. And if you have already made up your mind and chosen your audience, you should know what their questions are.

There was a seminarian who used to attend my classes in Mashhad. Later on, he stopped coming to my classes and I did not see him in my classes for a while. I saw him after some time and asked where he had been. He said that he had been busy promoting Islam in a distant town in Khorasan province. I asked, "What happened at the end?" He said, "I came to the conclusion that none of the things I had learned is good for these people and that whatever I had learned is useless to them." This is a case of failure to identify the appropriate audience. It is necessary to identify the appropriate audience: are our audience living in villages or in cities? Are they educated or uneducated?

Today we have many educated youth. In Kermanshah, the population of educated youth is very large. There was a time when this was not the case. Before the Revolution, the population of university graduates in Kermanshah province was around three hundred. Today the number of university graduates is tens of times larger than that. These graduates are young and they are exposed to different waves of propaganda and different discourses, which creates questions in their minds. You should be aware of their questions and prepare answers and then you should arrange meetings with them and answer their questions. You should chose your audience, become familiar with the way they think and use the Holy Quran, Sunnah and the works of our luminaries to provide them with answers - answers that are appropriate for their ideology and their needs. As Mr. Mamduhi rightly pointed out, it is necessary to select certain parts of the books written by the late Mr. Motahhari and the holy book "Al-Mizan" and to present them to our youth based on their needs and questions. This should be done in Qom. Most of you go to Qom Seminary. I constantly stress that Qom Seminary should take care of these matters. These things are necessary.

You should be concerned about spiritual education at least as much as you are concerned about teaching. Except for one part of the Holy Quran where teaching comes before spiritual purification, in every other part of the Holy Quran spiritual purification comes before teaching. "To purify them and to teach them the Book and wisdom." [The Holy Quran, 3: 164] Maybe this shows that spiritual purification is superior to teaching. Purify your audience and educate them. As I said earlier, this education is difficult: "He who considers himself the leader of people should educate himself before educating others." And it is necessary to fulfill this difficult responsibility.

Try to influence the deepest layers of your audience's thought. Do not limit yourselves to their emotions and sentiments. Try to influence the deepest layers of their thought so that the effect of your words does not wear off over time.

The clergy have social responsibilities as well. They should get involved in social issues, but the essential point is that their involvement in social issues should be accompanied by spirituality not by a tendency to dominate others, otherwise their involvement will be useless. The characteristic of the clergy is that they raise the awareness of people and convince them to do certain things through spirituality, ethics, advising and presenting suggestions. Of course, if you become President, you will have other responsibilities. And if you become a judge, you will have certain other responsibilities. But as a cleric, your responsibility is to speak to the people the way divine prophets would. You should not have a tendency to dominate others. Your work should not be influenced by your political orientation.

Prayers are everything. A person who is completely isolated in terms of his relationships - if such a person preserves his relationship with prayers, he will achieve salvation. Payers are very important. Encourage your audience to engage in prayers and prepare the way for them to take part in congregational prayers. I do not know if the annual conference on prayers has ever been held in Kermanshah or not. Try to hold the conference in Kermanshah: it promotes praying.

Shia and Sunni preachers should not insult each other. They should cooperate with one another. They should be compassionate towards each other. Regarding the issues that are particular to Shia or Sunni Islam, Shia and Sunni should work independently. But there are certain things that they have in common and they should cooperate in those areas. By Allah's favor, the clergy will move forward if this happens.

I would tell you that when the Islamic Revolution achieved victory in Iran, Islam was revitalized in the world. Many people in the world started to think about the factors that brought about this change. They started to wonder what driving force managed to give rise to such a great event, an event that shook the west. The victory of the Islamic Revolution and the greatness of Imam Khomeini (r.a.) shook the west and the arrogant powers. Many people started searching for the causes, so they referred to the Holy Quran and found out certain truths about Islam. As a result, they were attracted towards Islam. They developed a tendency towards Islam. At that juncture, Islam was faced with a wave of attacks, which continued later on.

The second wave started when Marxism collapsed. Even in Islamic countries, there were many youth and sincere people who had pinned their hopes on Marxism. They thought establishing a socialist government would eradicate poverty, injustice and other such things in their country. Some of them truly believed in Marxism. I met some of them in person - both Muslims and non-Muslims. They were sincere people, but they did not believe in Islam. They had become supporters of Marxism because they thought Marxism held some hope for the people. But later on when Marxism collapsed, they realized that they were wrong and that Marxism was useless. Therefore, they developed a tendency towards Islam.

All the youth movements that are demanding Islam in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and other places used to shout leftist slogans during the 1960s and 1970s. They used to shout communist slogans 30, 40 years ago. And the statements of those who spoke about Islam were interspersed with Marxist ideas. Even in our country, there were certain such people, but I do not want to mention names. There were certain people who used to speak about Islam, but they were in fact promoting Marxist ideas in their Islamic statements. Such things reveal their effect somewhere. After Marxism collapsed, all these movements that had lost their faith in Marxism turned to Islam. They turned to Islam, the Holy Quran, divine commands and the Islamic Republic. They realized that a government had been established on the basis of Islam and that it was shouting all the progressive and modern slogans. They realized that the Islamic Republic was fighting all the oppressive powers that were sucking the blood of the people, and that it was standing firm like a mountain. They were astonished. They thought, "Let us see what this government is." They realized that Islam contained the same things that they were seeking in Marxism, a system that collapsed later on. It was a historical juncture at which people developed a tendency towards Islam. Currently, we are at another historical juncture: people are disappointed with western liberalism, western liberal democracy and capitalist economies. Do you see what is happening?

They want to sideline this issue in their propaganda, but this will not affect the nature of the issue. Thousands of people came together in the financial center of America - in the economic capital of America, New York - and they shouted that they did not want capitalism. They came together on Wall Street, which is the heart of capitalism in the world. They are neither immigrants, nor African-Americans, nor members of lower social classes. Among them, there are university professors, politicians and student groups. They say they do not want capitalism. Well, this is what we have been saying. We have said from the beginning that we want "neither the east, nor the west" - that is to say, we neither want the capitalist system, nor the socialist system. The socialist system went to hell and the capitalist system is heading in the same direction. After these events, there will be a stronger tendency towards Islam and this is another wave, the third wave.

You should be prepared. Muslim clergy should be prepared. Flimsy arguments should be swept aside. It is necessary to promote the logical, firm and deep-rooted teachings of Islam, which have been extracted from the Holy Quran, Sunnah and the statements of the infallible Imams (a.s.) - firm and reasonable intellectual principles which are in line with the needs of human beings and human societies. You will see that the tendency towards Islam will grow stronger.

There are many things that I want to discuss with you and as I said, this meeting has been very enjoyable for me, but there is not enough time.

Dear God, let us be among the learned religious scholars who please You. Dear God, provide our youth and these young seminarians - who are the saplings of the garden of religious knowledge - with the opportunity to become active religious scholars, no matter where they live: in Kermanshah or other places. Bestow Your grace, mercy and guidance on all of us. Make the holy heart of the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) satisfied with us.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings