Leader’s Speech to Panegyrists

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on May 12, 2012 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in a meeting with panegyrists from across the country.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I would like to congratulate all you dear brothers and sisters, panegyrists of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household, eulogists of the outstanding virtues of God's best creations on this great, historic and memorable day - the birthday anniversary of Fatima Zahra (s.a.), which has thankfully coincided with the birthday anniversary of our widely admired leader, Imam Khomeini (r.a.).

It is a great blessing to be familiar with the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household and to respect them. Even if we spent our entire life thanking Allah the Exalted for this great blessing - for enabling us to appreciate, love and respect the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household - it would not be enough. God bless those fathers, mothers, ancestors, pioneers and leaders who opened this brilliant door for us, the door to the light of spirituality. They filled our hearts with love for the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household from the beginning of our life. Dear God, make this love and this familiarity deeper and firmer in our hearts and souls on a daily basis. Dear God, do not deprive us of this blessing even for one single moment.

It is another blessing to eulogize the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household as one's profession. Sometimes one sees a certain truth and becomes familiar with it, but other times one expresses and promotes this familiarity and love in poetic language, which is another blessing that Allah the Exalted has bestowed on panegyrists of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household and those who follow this path. It is necessary to appreciate this blessing as well. In fact this kind of praise is praise for oneself. When a person praises beauty, he is in fact praising himself because he proves that he appreciates beauty, he proves that his eyes are open and that he appreciates and understands beauty. Besides, promoting these virtues and spiritual values among the people contributes to providing human beings with spiritual education. By becoming familiar with role models and following them, human beings can achieve high positions. Moving ahead on this path is a great achievement.

Make your intentions divine: this is the essence of the matter. If we make our intentions divine when praising the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household, if our purpose is to enlighten hearts and minds, then we become a soldier of God: "And Allah's are the soldiers of the heavens and the earth." [The Holy Quran, 48: 4] A person who promotes these truths with his tongue, his eloquence and his creativity is a soldier of God. And if his intentions are different, this is no longer the case. What is superior to jihad? There is a narration which says if somebody steps into the arena of jihad for a materialistic cause, he is neither a mujahid, nor is he a martyr in case he gets killed. If we enter these arenas for a materialistic cause - let alone for more inferior causes - we will not only fail to achieve transcendence and improvement, but we will also face deterioration and decline. And this is not particular to panegyrists. The same is true of lecturing and becoming a religious scholar and mujtahid. Our intentions are the souls of our actions. "Surely actions depend on intentions." It is intentions that give value to actions.

If you are determined to make your intentions divine, then you must see which kind of language and which virtue would guide your audience. This is the point that I have repeated for many years. It is more than twenty years now that we have been arranging meetings with our panegyrists and I have constantly repeated this point in the meetings. Whether you sing or you speak in an ordinary way, your audience benefits from the light of Fatima Zahra (s.a.). Saying certain things does not open the minds of your audience in any way. It does not create any enthusiasm in the hearts of your audience. So do not say those things. Just say the kind of things that would soften hearts and make them humble, the kind of things that would encourage hearts to follow Fatima Zahra (s.a.). Just say the kind of things that can encourage your audience to follow the path of Fatima Zahra (s.a.). In order to do these things, one needs to think, one needs to be trained. The work is not easy.

Fortunately we have many panegyrists throughout the country. Panegyrists use art to express truth. Singing a poem in a good voice in front of your audience consists of several kinds of art - poetry, melody and voice. When a person expresses a truth in this way, he can influence the minds of his audience on several levels. This is a very great blessing, a great opportunity. Thankfully the number of our panegyrists is increasing on a daily basis and the people love their work. Therefore, all the requirements have been provided. If you spend time on something else in the meetings that you arrange, if poetry, melody and voice are wasted on something that would not benefit your audience in any way, this would be great loss. Therefore, being a panegyrist is difficult. We cannot memorize a few poems and become a panegyrist simply because we have a good voice. And today memorization is not necessary because our panegyrists read from a piece of paper. In the past reading from a piece of paper was considered a flaw for a panegyrist. They used to memorize long poems with 50, 60 lines. Of course, today this is not necessary and reading from a piece of paper is no longer considered a flaw. However, it is not the case that simply because we have a good voice, we can borrow poems from other people and do the work of a panegyrist. You need to assess and analyze the conditions carefully. This is one point, which is related to our dear panegyrists.

You know that we respect you dear panegyrists, that we love you, that we consider your work as valuable. But there is an important condition, which I have always discussed with our panegyrists. Most of you are young, young enough to be my children. What I am going to say is fatherly advice and I hope you will follow the advice. It is good if the poetry is beautiful and significant in terms of content. The art of poetry will have its own effects and the effects will be stronger when the poetry is good, when the structure and the phrasing of the poetry are good - namely, when the form and the content are good. Besides, such poetry will raise the intellectual level in society.

Take a look at your society and see what your society needs. These needs are not hidden from youth like you - who are thankfully educated, perceptive and insightful. Today the intellectual level of our people is thankfully high. Our nation is intellectually mature and the same is true of our panegyrists. You know what the people need. Today the people need religion, ethics, strong faith, insight and knowledge of this world and the next. All of us need these things. You say that Fatima Zahra (s.a.) will be present on the Day of Judgment. You say that the daughter of the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) will affect the atmosphere of Judgment Day. Therefore, it is necessary for us to learn about the Day of Judgment. It is necessary for us to be aware of the power of God on the Day of Judgment. All these things require knowledge and awareness. The Holy Quran is full of statements that point to the same concept. The same is true of Islamic narrations. Use poetic language and your artistic talent to express these things.

As you know, it is always difficult when you start doing something. But once things get off the ground, they become easier. In a prejudiced and depraved jahaliyya society which was suffering from different kinds of corruption, the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) managed to build people like Ammar and Abu Dhar. Was it easy? What did the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) do? What was the driving force behind that? Consider the ayahs which were revealed in Mecca. Primarily, they are about Judgment Day and divine punishment for unbelievers and for those who close their eyes to the truth - these were the factors that provoked people into action. We must not ignore this point. Apart from intercession and divine love and Vilayat, there is both divine mercy and divine wrath. We should remind both ourselves and other people about God's wrath. This is what keeps our hearts alert and drags us out of ignorance, materialism and problems. These things are among our needs. We should develop an appropriate understanding of this world and the next. We should develop an appropriate understanding of our responsibilities. We should develop an appropriate understanding of jihad.

Today our nation has been reborn in a world that is filled with problems. Its essence, its structure and its existential dimensions are all new. In a world where all the factors have come together in order to turn hearts and people away from spirituality, a nation has been built on the foundation of religious faith. Is this insignificant? This shines like diamond. There is no need for us to make it shine. It is shining like the sun. This is how our nation is. Spirituality, awareness of the conditions of the world, knowledge, political efforts, appropriate public relations, self-education, reconstruction of society, building an economic and ethical foundation: these are among our responsibilities. Take a look and see what you can do in different areas. Think about the ways in which you can raise public awareness. Imagine what you would happen if our poets were aware of these things, if our speakers and panegyrists were aware of these things.

If we develop a good understanding of the assets that we have and try to make use of them, our people and other Muslim nations will be the most privileged people in the world. For example, daily prayers are one of the assets that we have. When we pray, we are not attentive enough. This is analogous to the situation of a person suffering from malnutrition who finds a box that is full of the kind of foodstuffs he needs, yet he just smells the box and puts it aside instead of opening it and using the contents. The situation of those who completely disregard daily prayers is different, but most of us fail to utilize the potential of prayers. Every word of daily prayers is a lesson for us only if we manage to appreciate them. The same is true of fasting. The same is true of zakat. The same is true of jihad. The same is true of religious teachings. The same is true of your work. Every sentence and every word of your eulogy has the potential to help your audience improve. This is one issue, which is related to eulogy.

There is another issue which is related to Fatima Zahra (s.a.). My tongue, my heart and my mind are incapable of praising the high position of Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and this is not a compliment. That young lady enjoyed so many virtues and so much brilliance and greatness that whenever she entered a place, a person like the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) would stand up and go to her. Sometimes when a person enters the room, you stand up as a sign of respect. Some other times when a person enters the room, you get up and go to him enthusiastically. It was not just father-daughter love. The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) would say, "What satisfies Fatima satisfies me, and what satisfies me satisfies God. And what makes her angry makes me angry, and what makes me angry makes God angry." This shows the position of Fatima Zahra (s.a.). Her life with the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.), the way she raised her children: are people like us qualified to speak about Her Holiness?

However, the important point is that Her Holiness is a role model. Our infallible Imams (a.s.) - whose positions are undoubtedly higher than the positions of God's angels - did not live, speak and behave in a way to be inaccessible for us. As the late Allamah Tabatabai says, an infallible Imam (a.s.) is like a person who is standing at the peak of a mountain and is calling on others to follow his path and reach the peak. They are not like the so-called "outstanding" and "spiritual" personalities of the material world who are inaccessible in their ivory towers. No, they call on people to follow them to the peak. And this is the path. We must follow the infallible Imams (a.s.). Their lifestyle is our role model. "For everyone who follows a religion there is a leader and a guide from whom the follower learns the canons of that religion and the ways of leading a pious life." [Nahjul Balaghah, Letter 45] We cannot move ahead like them. We do not have the capacity. But we can follow their path. We can move in the same direction that they did.

The third issue that I want to speak about is related to today's occasion, Women's Day. Addressing women, Imam Khomeini (r.a.) would say, "You accepted that Women's Day should be the birthday anniversary of Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and this creates a responsibility for you." It was decided that Women's Day should fall on Fatima Zahra's (a.s.) birthday anniversary. What was the significance? It was a symbolic act. The meaning of the symbolic act is that women should move ahead on this straight path. And this path brings about greatness and the highest positions for women. It is the path of piety, modesty and knowledge. It is the path of resistance in different arenas. It is the path of raising children, the path of family life. It is the path of all spiritual virtues and values. Women should move ahead in this direction.

Fortunately pious women have been pioneers in different arenas and in different events in our society, not just after the Revolution, but since a long time before the Revolution. Women were present in the arena before the intense political activities of the Constitutional movement had started. At a certain stage, these political activities were not very intense, but later on the activities intensified and everybody entered the arena. Iranian women rose up at a time when only a few religious scholars and outstanding personalities were involved in the issue. They arranged a gathering and blocked the path of the ruler of the time. The ruler ran away from them and went into hiding in his palace. Later on the agents of the government beat them up. They had entered the arena wearing a chador. They had entered the arena wearing Islamic-Iranian hijab. There were some people who thought that as long as women wore hijab and observed morality, they would not be able to enter different social and political arenas. In the case of the resistance that led to the Islamic Revolution, I know for a fact that in certain parts of the country our women entered the arena earlier than our men. They arranged street protests earlier than men. The same is true of different other events which took place after the victory of the Islamic Revolution and during the Sacred Defense Era.

I have pointed out on many occasions that in my meetings with the families of our martyrs I have often found mothers more courageous and more resistant than fathers. Motherly love cannot be compared with fatherly love. A mother with her delicate soul raises a child in the best way she can and then she decides to send him to the battlefield. And when her son is martyred and the body is returned to her, she does not even cry in order avoid making the enemies of the Islamic Republic happy. I have repeatedly asked the families of our martyrs to cry. I have told them that nothing is wrong with crying. But they would not cry, saying that they were afraid the enemies of the Islamic Republic might become happy. This is how our women are. They passed the test.

Of course, human beings are always exposed to harm. Men are exposed to harm. Women are exposed to harm. Youth are exposed to harm. Old people are exposed to harm. Both ignorant and knowledgeable people are exposed to harm. "And sincere people are in great danger." How many truly sincerely people do you know? All of us are below this standard. Even if we achieve the standard level of sincerity, we will still be "in great danger". It is necessary to remain vigilant. The enemies of our worldly life, the enemies of our afterlife, the enemies of our dignity and the enemies of the Islamic Republic will take advantage of our weak points. They will take advantage of our carnal desires, our anger, our greed for power and our tendency to put ourselves on display. We need to be vigilant. Our honorable women and our young girls should stay vigilant.

Our life will be over one day. All the pleasures and hardships are fleeting. You cannot understand this well as long as you are young. During one's youth, one feels that everything in the world will stay the same and that nothing will change. But when one reaches our age, one realizes how quickly the world changes. Everything changes in the blink of an eye. Our real life will start on the other side: "And this life of the world is nothing but a sport and a play, and as for the next abode, that most surely is the life." [The Holy Quran, 29: 64] Our real life will start in the hereafter. "That is of which Allah gives the good news to His servants." [The Holy Quran, 42: 23] This ayah was among the holy ayahs which were recited in today's meeting. What Allah has promised is in the hereafter. Our women should observe hijab, modesty and our principles both for the sake of the hereafter and for the sake of maintaining our national dignity and progress. This is a duty. Putting oneself on display is a fleeting act, but it has permanent and destructive consequences for the country, for society, for ethics and even for policy-making. There might be certain hardships involved in observing modesty and religious restrictions, but the hardships are fleeting while the positive effects are profound and permanent. Ladies should take extra care to observe hijab and modesty. It is their duty. It is a source of honor for them. It gives them an identity.

Hijab gives women freedom and an identity. In spite of the dim-witted and superficial propaganda campaigns of materialistic people, hijab does not shackle women. By ignoring hijab and failing to cover what Allah the Exalted has asked them to cover, women undermine their own dignity and value. Hijab brings about dignity. It makes women more valuable. It increases women's dignity and respect. Therefore, it is necessary to appreciate hijab and to be thankful to Islam for emphasizing hijab. Hijab is among the blessings of God.

In any case, there are many things in this regard that should be discussed. I hope Allah the Exalted makes all of us successful in fulfilling our responsibility. By Allah's favor, if I live long enough to arrange another meeting with you next year, I hope all our panegyrists will feel that long strides have been taken in the direction that I described.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings