Leader's Speech to a Group of Panegyrists

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on May 1, 2013 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with a group of panegyrists on the occasion of the birthday anniversary of Fatima Zahra (s.a.).

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I congratulate all of you dear people and dear brothers and sisters, who are the nightingales of the garden of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household and who eulogize the best people in the world, on the occasion of this noble Eid, this auspicious birthday anniversary and this day of happiness and joy of the hearts of all Shia Muslims throughout history.

I hope that Allah the Exalted will thoroughly approve of the program that was presented by you dear people including vocalists, presenters and all of you dear people. I myself thank God for giving me this opportunity. Perhaps, it is around 30 years or more that we have been holding these meetings on such a day and we can, thankfully, see the flourishing, the magnificence and the spiritual growth of concepts in these meetings. This year, the program that you presented was very good both in terms of content and form. The poems were good and your performances were also very good. By Allah's favor, you will be more successful - on a daily basis - in enlightening and increasing the knowledge of the people in society.

Two issues can be discussed in this meeting. Of course, what should be discussed is more than these issues. One issue is about eulogizing the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household which is an important responsibility you have undertaken. Today the network of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) panegyrists and eulogists has, thankfully, developed in the entire country. Thankfully, a large number of panegyrists - who are comprised of our youth, our experienced panegyrists and our professors - with many capabilities and with enthusiastic hearts go among the people and help them get close to God and benefit from the blessings of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household.

This is an opportunity for our country, just like many other opportunities that we have. Our Muslim brothers in other countries do not have many of these opportunities. This is one of them. This movement and this network, through which we get close to the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household and their kindness and through which we inspire feelings, are great opportunities. For any reason, other people in other areas in the world do not benefit from this great blessing, which is for all people, in such a way. We benefit from such a blessing.

Feelings as well as thinking and reasoning are definitely among factors which preserve religion, spirituality, beliefs and morality among a group of people in any historical era. The prophets and divine messengers did not use philosophical language with the people although adopting a philosophical approach was and still is necessary for fully understanding their words. Great philosophers obtained the maximum benefit from the widely shared blessings of the divine prophets. However, these blessings are not particular to specific people. Therefore the language, through which these blessings were bestowed, was not a language of logic and arguments and counterarguments. This language was a combination of reason and feelings.

It is feelings which can clear the path of reason and the process of reasoning. We naturally benefit from such a process both in mourning ceremonies, festive occasions and in meetings in which eulogies, mouloodis and duas are performed. Such duas include Dua Kumayl, Dua Nudba, Dua Arafa - which is about Imam Hussein (a.s.) - and other duas that we have. In other countries, this large number of meaningful prayers which are beautifully worded does not exist. Thankfully, these are privileges which the followers of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household benefit from. These things have combined reason with feelings in the mind of humanity throughout history.

This is the role of a panegyrist. He inspires feelings and then he puts these feelings at the service of thinking. The role of a panegyrist and a eulogist - a profession which is thankfully popular in our country today - is that he should promote knowledge and understanding among the people through artistic methods and means of expression. This is the main factor. The poetry and tone that you choose and the way you speak with the people should be orientated towards increasing people's knowledge and deepening their understanding of religion and life.

I have said many times - and this is a fact - that when you recite a ghazal or qasida which contains important points, this sometimes has a deeper effect than when a person delivers a speech for many hours in an articulate and eloquent way. This is an opportunity. You should use this opportunity. This opportunity should not be wasted. A poem which does not have content will waste this opportunity. If it contains a point that is poor or wrong, this opportunity will be wasted. If your performance is delivered in a way that it oversteps the boundaries of sharia, then this opportunity will be wasted. If it ignores the fundamental things which the people need to know today, this opportunity will be wasted.

Imagine that during the Sacred Defense Era when the country was in need of enthusiastic valor in jihad and in practical arenas, somebody attends a meeting and he recites a poem in a good way in the presence of youth and fathers and mothers, but if he does not mention the needs of the time, he has wasted the opportunity. In those days, panegyrists played a very good role. During the Sacred Defense Era, the things which our panegyrists did and the influence that they exerted on the hearts and souls of our soldiers were exceptional. I am aware of a number of the things which they did. In those days, Turkish-speaking and Persian-speaking panegyrists, in different ways, panegyrists from Zanjan - one of them performed in this meeting - and panegyrists from all cities in our country and also the poets who supported these panegyrists carried out their responsibilities. Everybody carried out their responsibilities.

Today when I take a look at you, I see that you paid attention to fundamental things in the poems that you recited in this meeting. An example of this is the poem that Mr. Sazegar recited. It is the same every year. He creates a truly artistic and beautiful link between worldly and otherworldly concepts through these poems and songs. He slowly and artistically begins from spiritual concepts until he reaches the needs of the time. Notice that what he does is an artistic combination. The poems that he recites are also good.

You use your throats which are a divine blessing. You use rhythm and melodies which are divine blessings. You use poetry and the capability to compose poetry is a divine blessing. These blessings are available to you. How do you use these blessings? You use them in order to increase knowledge and understanding. If these blessings are put at the service of creating discord and provoking conflicts, they have been used in the wrong way. As a result of these conflicts, biased and obstinate people in certain areas in the world behead other people in large numbers. You should be careful about this.

Considering the fact that today there is video, Internet and different other means of communication, you should take care not to recite a kind of poem which provokes some biased and dim-witted people - after they hear about your poem - into shedding the blood of a group of innocent women and children. This is the reason why I insist and stress so much that you should avoid sectarian and tribal conflicts. Nobody should imagine that this is the way to express their gratitude for the blessed love of the Holy Prophet's (s.w.a.) household which has, thankfully, filled the hearts of our people. Nobody should imagine that this is the way to engender feelings in the heart of the people. This is wrong. Creating discord or provoking conflicts which will result in discord are not to the benefit of our country. Neither today nor during the time of Imam Sadiq (a.s.) was it a proper move. Even the Imams (a.s.) prevented these moves. However, some superficial people do not pay attention to this issue.

The same is true of domestic conflicts. Today our people should have hopes. If there is hope, there will be valor. When I spoke about valor, I did not mean that it can be ordered and imposed from above. It is not the case that we should order the people to achieve valor. Is this possible? Is this reasonable? Valor originates from the heart. It is guided by reason and it is reinforced with faith. These things cannot be ordered from above. If hearts are empty of hope and if minds are empty of logic, valor will not be achieved. Will valor be achieved if we create doubts in the minds of the people and inject despair into their hearts? It is obvious that it will not be achieved in such a way. This is the way valor is achieved: we should take care not to create an environment in which there is doubt and pessimism. An environment in which there is hope, optimism and in which we can look at future prospects - these prospects are definite and real and they are not imaginary - should be created.

For example, 30 years ago in the early years of the 1360s if we had said that the future will be bright, perhaps some people would have said that we were fixing these ideas in the minds of the people. But today nobody says such things. Today we can see the widespread and ongoing movement of the Revolution and the country towards goals - including material, spiritual, political, social, domestic and international goals. These goals are being achieved in front of our eyes. Can anybody deny this? In such conditions, imagine that somebody casts doubts on and creates despair and hopelessness about the prospects that we are delineating for ourselves today and about continuous jihad which is the need of any country and any nation in any historical era.

Continuous jihad is what everybody needs. All achievements and developments in civilizations are because of continuous jihad. Continuous jihad does not mean suffering. Jihad causes excitement. Jihad engenders happiness and enthusiasm. If today that we need jihad somebody guides the people towards laziness, isolation and inaction, they have behaved in a blasphemous way towards divine blessings. "Have you not seen those who have changed Allah's favor for ungratefulness and made their people to alight into the abode of perdition" [The Holy Quran, 14: 28]. This should not happen.

Among you dear people there are, thankfully, both experienced and young panegyrists. You have good capacities. Among you I can see fresh and newly-budded flowers who have managed to successfully enter the arena. Not only have you managed to replace previous panegyrists - we have seen many of the panegyrists who were active in the past - but you have also moved forward better than they did.

What I want to tell you is that eulogy increases knowledge and understanding. Eulogy sows the seeds of knowledge and understanding, acumen, hope and firm beliefs. Eulogy engenders feelings in the hearts of the people with the art of poetry and performance.

Of course, my dear ones, there is a basic principle. The people love your voices, they enjoy your poems and they are moved by your performance - whether in mourning ceremonies or in meetings in which eulogies are recited - and they shed tears. But they also look at you yourselves. If you win praise from the people by behaving in a moral, religious and modest way, all the things that I spoke about will deeply influence the people.

But if, God forbid, the opposite happens, if the people witness signs of moral instability, moral backwardness and, God forbid, immorality and other such things, then the effect of the art and the beauties which exist in your work will be minimized. You should be careful about this. All of us should be careful. We the clergy and those religious personalities who speak to the people and outstanding personalities in the arena of religion and piety should be more careful than others. Everybody, including you, should be careful. You who are involved in the arena of religion and religious understanding should be very careful. You should be careful about your morality and your purity of tongue, heart and hands. May Allah the Exalted help you. When a panegyrist of Fatima Zahra (s.a.) achieves such a position, he is an outstanding man. As we have known, understood and believed, those who tread the path of eulogizing the Imams (a.s.), expressing love for Fatima Zahra (s.a.) and attracting hearts to these great personalities are dear to Allah the Exalted.

Today, there was an outstanding point in our meeting which is praiseworthy. Over these long years, I complained many times that the brothers who sang in these occasions turned festive and joyous occasions into mourning ceremonies. They used to perform rowza and make the people shed tears. But everything should be done at the right time. They call you panegyrists. What does panegyrist mean? Your main characteristic is praising, not performing rowza. You can perform rowza. I support rowza and I myself am a rowza performer. When a mouloodi is performed for the Imams (a.s.), it should not be mixed with a rowza to make the people shed tears. This is not at all necessary. You should not do something to make outsiders promote the idea that our people's emotions towards the Imams (a.s.) are only centered around shedding tears and mourning. There is a time for mourning and a time for mouloodis, eulogies and festive occasions. They should not be mixed.

And the second point which should be discussed today is the issue of women. One of the sins that western civilization committed is the movement that they launched on the issue of women. We have many things to say in this regard. The great sin that western civilization has committed against women cannot be wiped out or made up for any time soon, nor can it be easily put into words. Like everything else, they give this movement different names. They commit crimes, but they refer to it as measures to defend human rights. They oppress the people, but they refer to it as a move to support nations. They launch attacks, but they call it defense. The characteristics of western civilization are deceitfulness, hypocrisy, dishonesty and contradiction between words and actions.

They behave towards the women exactly in the same way. Unfortunately, they have established their culture throughout the world. They have acted in a way that today one of the most important responsibilities or the most important responsibility of women is to put themselves on display and put their beauty at the service of men's pleasure. These things have become the main qualities that women should have. Unfortunately, the world has become like this. In the most formal meetings, such as political meetings and different other meetings, men should wear long pants and modest clothes, but if women appear as nude as they can, it is alright. Is this normal? Is this natural? Is this a natural process? They have done this. Women should put themselves on display and they should become objects of pleasure for men. Is there a kind of oppression which is worse than this? They call this freedom and they call the opposite behavior restriction. This is while hijab and modesty earn women respect. This gives women protection. They are taking away this protection on a daily basis. And they give different names to what they do to women. The first consequence or perhaps one of the first consequences of this behavior was that the family was destroyed and undermined. When the family is undermined and destroyed in a society, corruption will be established in that society.

The problems that exist in the west today and the dim-witted and malevolent laws that they pass on sexual issues will push them off the precipice. This fall is not preventable. They are condemned to destruction. Whether they like it or not, western civilization cannot prevent this fall. The brakes of the vehicle of western civilization have failed and the path which it is treading is slippery. They committed a sin when they caused this brake failure and when they stood at the edge of the precipice. They are condemned to failure.

The fall of civilizations as well as their rise happens gradually. It does not happen at once. And this gradual fall of western civilization is taking place. I do not think that this generation or the next generation will miss witnessing this. They will see what will happen.

In the Holy Quran, Allah the Exalted has mentioned how much women should be respected. To Allah the Exalted, women are like men. There is no difference between men and women in terms of spiritual and divine position. This path has been created for human beings, not only for men or for women. Allah the Exalted has created a woman like Fatima Zahra (s.a.) about whom Imam Askari (a.s.) or Imam Hadi (a.s.) say, "We are the representatives of Allah among the people and Fatima is representative of Allah among us." [Atayeb al-Bayan, volume 13, page 236]. This is based on a hadith which has been narrated by these Imams (a.s.). Fatima Zahra (s.a.) is the representative of other divine representatives. She is the Imam of Imams (a.s.).

Is there a greater personality? She was infallible. And such a person was a woman. Great women such as Mary, Sara, Asiya and many other great women are the outstanding personalities of the world. In the path of perfection and transcendence, it is human beings which move forward. There is no difference between men and women in terms of social rights. There is no difference between men and women in terms of individual rights. Of course, in specific cases, women have been given certain privileges and in a number of other cases, men have been given certain privileges. This is based on the nature of men and women. This is Islam. It has the most reasonable, the most dignified and the most practical laws that one can ever imagine regarding the issue of gender. We should follow this path. One of the major ways to do this is to raise a family, safeguard the family environment and preserve love in the family. And this is the responsibility of the lady of the house.

The mother can raise children in the best way possible. The way mothers raise and teach children is not like the way children are taught at schools. She raises and teaches them with her behavior, with her words and with her feelings. She teaches them by stroking, by singing lullabies and by living with them. Mothers teach children by living with them. The more righteous, the more intelligent and the wiser women are, the better children will be raised and taught. Therefore, there should be careful planning in our country to improve women's level of faith, literacy and intelligence.

One of the most important responsibilities of women is being a homemaker. As everybody knows, I do not believe that women should not have social and political roles. There is nothing wrong with this. But if this means that we should look down on homemaker, then we have committed a sin. Homemaking is a job. It is a great, important and sensitive job which builds the future. Giving birth to children is a great effort. This issue was, unfortunately, neglected in a period of time in our country because of our lack of care and because of the mistakes that we made. Today, we can see the dangerous consequences of this. I have said to our people many times that the consequences of aging and a reduction in the number of young people in our country will show themselves later on. When the consequences of this mistake show themselves, then there will be no cure for this problem. But today, it can be cured.

Giving birth is one of the feminine efforts and responsibilities. Giving birth to children is, in fact, the art of women. It is they who take the trouble. It is they who endure the sufferings. It is they whom Allah the Exalted has offered the means for raising children. Allah the Exalted has not provided men with the means for raising children. He has provided women with the means. He has given them the patience, the feelings, the emotions and the body which are necessary to raise children. This is, in fact, the art of women. If we do not let these things pass into oblivion, then we will make progress.

One issue is that we should respect women and this issue should receive careful attention. The behavior of women in the family environment, in the workplace and in political and social environments is also an important issue. The way we should behave towards women is another issue. It is men who are addressed by this statement, whether men in the family - including fathers, brothers and husbands - or men in work environments. It is necessary to behave towards women in a respectful, loving, noble and moral way. Therefore, respect for women, the responsibility of women and our responsibility towards women are issues which should be considered separately and we should develop separate plans for them.

Mother's Day and Women's Day - which have, fortunately, coincided with the birthday anniversary of Fatima Zahra (s.a.), the chosen woman in the entire creation - should draw everybody's attention to these points. If we manage to think , decide and act in the right way on the issue of family and women - as mothers and wives - then you should know that the future of the country will be guaranteed.

I hope that God will bestow His grace and His blessings on all of you and on your vocal chords and your lungs.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings