Leader’s Speech to the Clergy and Religious Scholars of North Khorasan

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on October 10, 2012 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in a meeting with religious scholars and clerics of North Khorasan province.

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 al-Mustafa Muhammad, and upon his immaculate, pure and chosen household, especially the one remaining with Allah on earth.

One of the most enjoyable meetings that I arrange during my trips is the meetings with our clergy, religious scholars and young seminarians. I have quite a few clear reasons why I feel this way. A person who is familiar with the philosophy behind clerical work, a person who associates with young seminarians in our Islamic seminaries, such a person can easily understand why a person like me - who is in his seventies - is motivated by young seminarians who have just started following this path. Fortunately, after the Islamic Revolution, ladies also found the opportunity to study in our Islamic seminaries. Male and female university students and seminarians are preparing themselves for presence in sensitive areas and battlefields of religion.

Tonight we will continue our discussion as long as we can, hoping that by Allah's favor and thanks to your determined efforts and the efforts of our honorable seminary officials, this discussion affects your pure and enlightened hearts and results in the kind of change and improvement that is needed.

First of all, I would say that the Bojnourd region - namely, the region that is currently known as North Khorasan, from Farouj to the borders of Golestan and Golestan National Park, from east to west and from south to north - has built outstanding personalities. I do not want to magnify the number of religious scholars this region has built, neither do I want to compare it with cities that have built a large number of religious scholars. All I am trying to say is that many of the religious scholars from this region - the ones I knew - enjoyed outstanding talent.

One of these scholars was the late Amirza Hassan Bojnourdi. I met him in person and I also attended his classes. In the year 1340 or 1341, when he had left Najaf and was on a pilgrimage to Mashhad and Qom, our magnanimous Imam (r.a.) insisted that he should stay in Qom. That is to say, he was such a great scholarly personality that our magnanimous Imam (r.a.) insisted that he should stay in Qom despite the fact that Imam Khomeini (r.a.) had very strict standards in scholarly matters and believed that scholarly activities should be accompanied by spirituality and morality. His Eminence accepted Imam Khomeini's (r.a.) offer and he made arrangements to teach in Qom, but unfortunately he had a heart attack on the same day that he was supposed to start teaching in Feyziyyah School. For this reason, he had to return to Najaf. Later on, I attended a few classes that he taught in Najaf. He used to hold his classes in Tousi Mosque and a number of great religious scholars would attend his classes. His Eminence enjoyed a lot of capacities and artistic talent, and he also had a very good memory. I witnessed his outstanding capacities with my own eyes. He was one of the people who was from this region.

One of his friends and classmates was the late Hajj Mirza Ahmad Bojnourdi Mortazavi. During their early seminary years, both of them left Bojnourd and travelled to Mashhad. They attended the classes of the late Aghazadeh and the late Hajj Agha Hossein Qomi. At that time, my father was among the religious scholars of Mashhad. He knew them and he would tell us a lot about them. Later on, they went to Najaf. My father also went to Najaf afterwards and their relationship continued there. The late Hajj Mirza Ahmad returned to Bojnourd after a few years. He was an influential and popular cleric in the entire Bojnourd region. At that time, the government was hostile towards the clergy and whenever they identified an influential cleric, they would try their best to undermine his position. They would try to bring him over to their side or they would do everything in their power to destroy his influence among the people. They did not manage to do this to the late Hajj Mirza Ahmad. In this region, he enjoyed a lot of respect and when he would travel to Mashhad - at a time when I was a seminarian in Mashhad - scholars of Mashhad would show respect for him. They would go and visit him.

Before them, the famous Sheikh Mohammad-Taqi Bojnourdi was the greatest scholar of this region. He was a respected Friday prayer leader in Mashhad and he would lead Friday prayers in Goharshad Mosque. He was famous for both piety and knowledge. Of course, he belonged to the previous century: he passed away around a hundred years ago. However, up until a few years ago, his house in Mashhad was a popular meeting place. His house is in an alley which has been named after him. The people of Mashhad know where the house is. The most important mourning ceremonies would be held in his house and the people would make a lot of offerings there. His son - the late Sheikh Morteza - who was one of the religious scholars of Mashhad, continued his path. Later on, their path was continued by Sheikh Morteza's son, the late Asheikh Reza. I met Asheikh Reza in person. The late Hajj Mirza Hassan-Ali Morvarid was Asheikh Reza's son-in-law. These people are among the outstanding personalities of this region. Yes, they are not very large in number, but they are outstanding among our religious scholars. I witnessed these outstanding capacities during my seminary years. As I said to some of the friends, I used to attend the "Kifaya" and "Makasib" classes taught by Asheikh Hashem Qazvini. In those classes, there was a seminarian who was more talented than all the other seminarians. There were nearly two hundred seminarians in that class, which was a large number at the time. Such numbers are considered ordinary these days because Islamic seminaries are vast, but at that time, two hundred seminarians in one class was extraordinary. In the "Kifaya" class, he would ask questions and start debates with Hajj Sheikh Hashem Qazvini. He was from this region. I think he was from the Ashkhaneh region. And his name was Sheikh Hossein Kord. He was a Kurd. Unfortunately, at that time such talented people would never be identified and recognized. Even when they were identified and recognized, no effort was made to make use of their talent. Nobody would ask what happened to such people and how much contribution they made to advancement of knowledge. At that time, the conditions were like this, but today the conditions are and should be different.

I was closely familiar with two clerics who were martyred. Of course, there were many young seminarians who went to the battlefield during the war and they were martyred. I saw the names of these martyrs, but I did not have the opportunity to meet them in person. I was closely familiar with only two of them: Asheikh Qassem Sadeqi Garmei - who was from Garmeh - and the late Tayyebi. Hajj Sheikh Qassem Sadeqi would have scholarly debates with me. We would discuss "Sharh-e Lam'e" and "Makasib". He was very talented. If he had continued his studies, he would have definitely become an outstanding religious scholar. But at that time, seminarians would not receive guidance, help or financial assistance to continue their studies. Such things did not exist at that time. He dropped out and started a different career. Of course, after the Revolution, both Asheikh Qassem Sadeqi Garmei and the late Tayyebi became MPs and they were among the seventy two members of the Islamic Republican Party who were martyred.

Notice that this region is a source of talents, from the city of Bojnourd to the surrounding cities such as Esfarayen, Shirvan and Farouj to the other cities that lie elsewhere - both the areas that are populated by Shia Muslims and the areas that are populated by Sunni brothers.

Our Sunni brothers also played a significant role. As I said this morning, Turkmen Sunni clerics played a role in putting an end to the fitna that communists wanted to start in this region in the name of Turkmens. I was closely familiar with certain religious scholars who were motivated intellectuals and they were also men of action: they played a role in this regard.

It is possible to prepare the ground for establishing a comprehensive Islamic seminary in this region, an Islamic seminary that offers advanced classes. It is necessary to invite seminary teachers to this province. There is no logical reason why seminarians should leave their hometown in order to start their studies in great seminaries. And most of these seminarians do not return to their hometown. This is not good. We had great religious scholars who were from small cities of the Khorasan region. I travelled to many of those cities: top Islamic jurisprudents were living in those cities. There were two Islamic jurisprudents in Birjand - namely, the late Tahami and the late Asheikh Mohammad-Hossein Ayati - who would have become marja taqlids if they had been in Najaf. These two Islamic jurisprudents were living in Birjand and they had assimilated into the people of Birjand. A person like the late Agha Najafi Quchani was living in Quchan. He was an outstanding student of the late Akhund Khorasani. As I said, the late Hajj Mirza Ahmad Mortazavi used to live in Bojnourd. The same is true of other cities of this province: there were great and outstanding religious scholars in those cities.

Some people might argue that at that time, there were not good communications between big and small cities and that religious scholars had no choice but to stay in the cities they were living in. This reasoning can be used to arrive at a very different conclusion. Today communication has become easy. You can sit at a computer and benefit from the best classes that are offered at great Islamic seminaries. Therefore, what I said applies to current conditions, not the conditions that existed at that time. When scholarly doubts develop in your mind, you can get into a car and go to Mashhad in a few hours. You can go to a religious scholar and eliminate the doubts that have developed in your mind. Then you can easily return to your city. Today considering the availability of numerous resources and facilities, Islamic seminaries of small cities should develop quantitatively and qualitatively.

The program "Hejrat" will promote clerical activities across the country. I suggested the idea of launching this program several years ago. Seminary instructors should leave great seminaries and migrate to small cities, whether they are from those small cities or not. It might be that some instructors are not from small cities. The late Mohaqeq Sabzevari - who wrote "Dhakhira" and "Kifaya", and was a famous cleric in Isfahan during the Safavid era - left Isfahan and migrated to Mashhad. At that time, Isfahan was the biggest city in Iran and Mashhad was a small town. Mashhad was more like a big village. He was the one who renovated Baqiriyyah School in Mashhad. The school is in ruins now and only old seminarians remember it. He traveled to Mashhad and stayed there although he was not from Mashhad. The late Mirza Mahdi, who was originally from Isfahan, was one of the four outstanding students of the late Vahid Behbahani, who had four outstanding students whose names were Mahdi and are known as "The Four Mahdis". He stayed in Mashhad and he was martyred there. What is wrong with staying in a small city that is not your hometown? And if it is your hometown, it is necessary for you to stay.

The religious scholars of Mashhad and Qom who are originally from Bojnourd should select ten people from among themselves and send them to Bojnourd. Islamic seminaries should also be required to provide the necessary facilities and resources for them to teach in Bojnourd. I have heard that up to Level 10 classes are offered in this city. Scholars from Mashhad and Qom seminaries can offer more advanced classes in this city. A seminarian who has completed his studies in this city might go to another seminary - such as Qom Seminary or Mashhad Seminary. This is good and nothing is wrong with it, but he should return. Do you know what happens if a knowledgeable cleric returns to a city like Bojnourd? Imagine the repercussions that it would cause in this era, which is an era for spreading novel ideas to different parts of the world of Islam.

Today there are nearly forty thousand university students in this city and province. How many of those forty thousand students are in contact with you seminarians? How many of you sit down with them and speak to them? Some of you might be invited to their meetings. 50, 100 seminarians might go and deliver speeches in those meetings, but this is not the issue. You need to have debates with them. You need to help each other grow. This requires time and effort. This requires knowledge. This requires that you take each other's intellectual and cultural needs into consideration. This requires commitment and dedication. It is necessary for students and seminarians to be in contact with each other.

Fortunately, we have a large number of male and female seminarians. You need to study. You need to study hard. You need to become knowledgeable. You need to become clerics. You need to develop the ability to analyze novel ideas. You need to go beyond your assigned sources. Some of the classes that are normally offered in Islamic seminaries of Qom or Tehran can make use of supplementary readings on Persian literature, ethics and other such subjects. Of course, Arabic literature is also necessary. It is among the basic tools of our work. There is no need to include these subjects in seminary syllabi. Of course, I do not want to interfere: I am just discussing my personal opinion. Those who are in charge of curriculum development should sit down together and think about this issue.

A seminarian should not stop reading books. A seminarian should read books, different kinds of books. He should read books during his youth. Try your best to fill your minds during youth, and your minds have infinite capacities. I can still remember whatever I committed to memory during my youth. On the contrary, when you are old, whatever you learn does not firmly stick in your mind. You are young, so try your best to fill the valuable capacity of your minds with beneficial information, information that you need for promoting Islam: this information will prove useful.

One of the things that is necessary to discuss and is more important than everything else we discussed, is the relationship between Islamic seminaries and the Revolution, between Islamic seminaries and the Islamic Republic. Among clerics, nobody whose standard is justice and wisdom can separate himself from the Islamic Republic. The Islamic Republic provided a great opportunity for those who call people to God and for those who promote Islam. Did you have such an opportunity in the past? Today a knowledgeable seminarian can speak on TV for half an hour and ten, twenty million people listen to him eagerly. When did we have such opportunities in the history of Islam? When did such massive gatherings exist? When did such Friday prayer ceremonies exist? When did we have so many youth who were thirsty for Islamic teachings?

Today you see that almost all of our youth - in universities and elsewhere - are eager to learn and understand Islamic teachings. We should prepare the ground so that we can provide them with answers. Did our clergy have another such opportunity in the past? Moreover, you have access to facilitating tools such as computers, the internet and cyberspace. If you manage to learn how to utilize these tools, you can convey your message to thousands of people whom you do not even know. This is an extraordinary opportunity and it must not be wasted. If it is wasted, on the Day of Judgment Allah the Exalted will ask us, "Why did you fail to make use of the existence of all those youth and all those people who were eager to learn in order to promote Islamic teachings?" The Islamic Republic has provided this an opportunity for clerics like us. How can we separate ourselves from the Islamic Republic?

It is not an honor for a cleric to distance himself from our national affairs and from the Islamic Republic. It is a disgrace. A cleric should wholeheartedly welcome the existence of a system that carries the flag of Islam and follows Islamic rules. Many of our marja taqlids have repeatedly told me that they consider any effort to weaken the Islamic Republic as haraam. Out of kindness, many of them write to me or tell me in person that they constantly pray for me. This shows that they appreciate the Islamic Republic. But certain clerics in different corners of the country might distance themselves from the Islamic Republic under the pretext that the Islamic Republic has certain flaws. They may find many flaws with the Islamic Republic, but we clerics suffer from many more flaws and shortcomings. Is this not the case? Just because there are flaws and shortcomings in an organization does not mean we can ignore all the strengths of that organization. The same is true of clerics: they have many flaws and shortcomings. I am a cleric and a seminarian. I have been a seminarian since before adolescence. Without thinking, I can give you a long list of flaws and shortcomings that we clerics are suffering from. We are suffering from a hundred flaws and shortcomings, but does this mean we should distance ourselves from clerics? Not at all. There might be a hundred flaws and shortcomings, but there are also a thousand virtues and strengths.

Islamic seminaries should consider themselves as soldiers of the Islamic Republic. They should make efforts for the Islamic Republic. They should care about the Islamic Republic. They should try to strengthen the Islamic Republic. And this is exactly the opposite of what the intelligence services of England, America, Israel and other countries are pursuing through their policies. They try to find weak points. A cleric says something in one corner of the country which seems to be against the general goals and principles of the Islamic Republic, and they make him famous. Even if he is an insignificant person, they pretend that he is a great personality in order to promote the idea that there is a rift between the Islamic Republic and clerics. Saying such things as "we do not want to be involved in the affairs of the Islamic Republic" is an instance of secularism and Islamic seminaries cannot be secular.

This does not mean that every seminarian should work for the government from the first day. No, they should study. I myself was involved in revolutionary activities since the beginning, yet I used to teach "Makasib" and "Kifaya" in Mashhad. Many of my students were involved in revolutionary activities and some of them were so deeply involved in revolutionary activities that they started to wonder what good "Makasib" and "Kifaya" were. I used to tell them repeatedly that they had to build an intellectual foundation and that if they took care of this, they could continue the movement like our magnanimous Imam (r.a.).

The Islamic Republic is tied to clerics. If it had not been for our clerics, the Islamic Republic would not have been established and the Islamic Revolution would not have achieved victory. I was in contact with intellectual associations since before the Revolution. I was in contact with political groups and I was familiar with all of them. I even had debates with members of many of those political groups. I have strong reasons to believe that if it had not been for our clerics, the Islamic Revolution would not have achieved victory, not even one hundred years later. Our political intellectuals - many of whom were good people and cared about the country - did not have the necessary capability, credibility and influence. They were not capable of commanding the hearts of the people. But our clerics had a vast network in the country and they also had the power to command the hearts of the people.

During the early years of the Revolution, I once recited these holy ayahs from Sura an-Nahl: "And your Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in (men's) habitations, then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men." [The Holy Quran, 16: 68-69] I said that young seminarians were like honey bees that fed on the nectar of flowers of knowledge which grew from Imam Khomeini's (r.a.) statements, and then they spread to different parts of the country, producing honey for the people and stinging the enemies. No other group of people and no political party were capable of doing what our clerics did. And if they had failed, this social revolution would not have happened, a revolution in which the people of Tehran shout the same slogans on the Day of Ashura that the people of small villages in distant provinces shout during their demonstrations. They say the same things and make the same demands. This is an example of a social revolution, one that resulted in the collapse of a government like the Pahlavi regime and in the establishment of a government like the Islamic Republic. By Allah's favor, our government is firm and deep-rooted enough to stay solid for centuries.

It was our clerics who built the intellectual foundations. People like Shahid Motahhari, Allamah Tabatabai and other such luminaries built solid intellectual foundations. They built the intellectual infrastructure which can be used to produce and spread ideas, to respond to current intellectual needs of our youth. In our country, the ideas of Shahid Motahhari and other students of Allamah Tabatabai decisively shattered Marxist ideas. This was the context in which the Islamic Republic was established.

Therefore, the responsibility is heavy. There is a lot of work to be done. Your responsibility is very heavy. You should prepare yourselves spiritually: in terms of morality, in terms of spiritual purification, in terms of religious commitment, in terms of commitment to your religious obligations, mid-night prayers and reciting the Holy Quran. The honorable seminarian recited very good ayahs in a very good voice: "Certainly you have in the Apostle of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much." [The Holy Quran, 33: 21] If we really hope in Allah and the latter day and remember Allah much, the role model is the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.). This does not mean that we should act exactly like him because this is impossible. It just means that we should continue his path. The next ayah clarifies the relationship between believers and the Holy Prophet. "And when the believers saw the allies, they said: This is what Allah and His Apostle promised us, and Allah and His Apostle spoke the truth." [The Holy Quran, 33: 21] In the Battle of Ahzab, the Muslims were attacked from every side. In the Battle of Badr, in the Battle of Uhud and in other battles, the Muslims were faced with only one group of people or with small tribes, but in the Battle of Ahzab, all polytheist tribes of Mecca, Thaqif and other places united with each other against the Muslims. They gathered ten thousand soldiers. Also, the Jews who were living next to the Muslims and had been offered refuge by the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.), betrayed the Muslims and cooperated with their enemies.

By analogy with the modern world, America opposed them, England opposed them, the Zionist regime opposed them, reactionary oil-producing regimes opposed them. They spent money and pooled their resources to wage the Battle of Ahzab, a battle that struck fear into hearts. At the beginning of this sura, Allah the Exalted says, "And when a party of them said: O people of Yasrib, there is no place to stand for you (here), therefore go back." [The Holy Quran, 33: 13] They used to make the people feel afraid. The same is true of current conditions: there are some people who try to make the people feel afraid. They warn, "Confronting America is no joke: it will crush us." They refer to America's military attacks, sanctions, propaganda campaigns and political measures. At the end of this sura, Allah the Exalted says, "If the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a disease and the agitators in the city do not desist, We shall most certainly set you over them." [The Holy Quran, 33: 60] These people are like "those in whose hearts is a disease". In such conditions, this is the way believers should feel: "And when the believers saw the allies, they said: This is what Allah and His Apostle promised us, and Allah and His Apostle spoke the truth." [The Holy Quran, 33: 21] We are not surprised. Allah the Exalted and His Messenger had informed us that if we remained committed to monotheism, that if we preserved our faith in Islam, in God and in His Messenger, we would make enemies who would be after us. Yes, we had been warned and we saw that the enemies came after us. "Allah and His Apostle spoke the truth. And it only increased them in faith and submission." Their religious faith was strengthened. Hypocrites, the people whose religious faith is not solid, different groups of people "in whose hearts is a disease" - when these people see the enemy, they start trembling with fear and they start warning and pressuring faithful people and those who struggle in the way of God. They constantly ask, "Why do you act like this? Why do you not back down? Why do you not adopt these policies?" They do exactly what the enemy wants. On the other hand, sincere believers say, "We are not surprised that they are hostile towards us." They say, "This is what Allah and His Apostle promised us."

Elsewhere in the Holy Quran, Allah the Exalted says, "And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor the Christians until you follow their religion." [The Holy Quran, 2: 120] As long as you refuse to surrender to them, as long as you do not follow them, their behavior will not change. Strengthen yourself so that they cannot bring you under their yoke, so that you can free yourself from their yoke. Strengthen yourself. Why do you weaken yourself, so that you have to surrender to the enemies in a humiliating way? "And it only increased them in faith and submission." My dear ones, my dear children, dear seminarians, this is the way you should act. Study with sincere intentions, so that you can make it into the vanguard in this great battle.

My advice is that you should not neglect the centers for cultural and artistic activities in our mosques. Of course, you should cooperate with members of Basij in this regard. It is not good if a rift develops between the clerics of a mosque and its basijis. Make these cultural and artistic centers effective through your cooperation with members of Basij. Sit down together and think. Do research and try to start discussions that are appropriate to the needs of your young audience. Do research in this regard. There are certain books that you can consult. There are certain books that can help you. Consult with knowledgeable people. Equip yourselves with the weapon of knowledge and reasoning and then go to these centers for cultural and artistic activities and help the youth who come to you. Welcome the youth who come to you in a warm way. Treat them in a friendly way. Their appearances might look inappropriate, but this is not a problem. Some of the ladies who had attended the welcome ceremony, were not wearing "appropriate" hijab, yet there were tears in their eyes. What should we do with them? It is advisable to reject them? Is it right to reject them? No, their hearts are attached to this camp and their souls are attached to our goals and values. They just have a flaw. Do I not have my own flaws? Their flaws are related to appearances and my flaws are related to inner aspects, which are not visible. We have our own flaws and they have their own flaws. This is the attitude that you should adopt. Of course, one should warn people against evil, but this should be done in a friendly way, not in a way that hatred is created. Therefore, you should establish a relationship with university students.

Regarding clerical clothing, Mr. Farjam offered a good recommendation. Those who are taking advanced classes in Islamic seminaries should wear these clothes, but they should also know that wearing these clothes puts heavy responsibilities on one's shoulders. The light turban that you wear on your head is in fact very heavy. When people see that you are wearing a turban, you are faced with a flood of questions, fallacies and other such things. When you are asked a question and you do not know the answer, it is good if you do research, find the answer and go to the person who asked the question. But it is not good if you give the wrong answer or become angry at the person who asks questions simply because you do not know the answer. Such a cleric will do more harm than good.

Have respect for leadership of congregational prayers in mosques. Attach importance to it. Leading congregational prayers is very important for those who are qualified. Speak to worshipers during every prayer or at least once every day. Enlighten hearts through mentioning religious truths and the virtues of the infallible Imams (a.s.). It is possible to enlighten hearts in this way.

I hope Allah the Exalted protects Mr. Mehmannavaz so that he can continue rendering services in this region. In the meetings that we had, he would always ask me to visit Bojnourd and I would say, "Definitely, but first things first." He did the right thing and stayed in Bojnourd. He is a source of blessings for this city. Also, the honorable Friday prayer leader - who is thankfully a competent speaker and intellectual and has the necessary capabilities to render services - will continue fulfilling his responsibilities as the Friday prayer leader in the best possible way.

Dear God, make our words and our intentions serve Your cause and accept them from us out of Your generosity. Dear God, make the holy heart of the Imam of the Age satisfied with us. Make us benefit from the prayers of that great Imam. Dear God, help the people who have attended this meeting and other seminarians and clerics of this region to be true soldiers of Islam and the Holy Quran. Increase the friendly feelings that exist between Shia and Sunni people of this region. Guide all of them to the path of righteousness, the path of salvation, the path of guiding the Islamic Ummah.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings