Leader's Speech in Meeting with People on Birthday Anniversary of Imam Ali (a.s.)

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on August 8, 2006 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with people from different social backgrounds. The meeting was held on the occasion of the birthday anniversary of Imam Ali (a.s.).

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I would like to congratulate the entire Islamic Ummah, the dear people of Iran and particularly you honorable participants, who have come from different areas to hold this sweet and glorious meeting, on the occasion of the auspicious birthday anniversary of the Commander of the Faithful, the Imam of the Pious and the bright star of justice and human values - Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).

Love of the Commander of the Faithful (peace and greetings be upon him) and showing respect to this great man in the history of humanity and Islam is neither particular to Shias nor to all other Muslims. Rather, it is something that all liberated people throughout the world share with one another. You can see that those personalities who are not Muslims show respect to this bright personality and this golden sun. They write books and compose poems about him. It is completely wrong if the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) becomes a tool for discord among Muslims. That great man was a personality whom all Muslims and all Islamic denominations love and dearly respect with all their hearts and souls. This love and zeal stems from some characteristics towards which any fair-minded individual shows humility. These are characteristics that everyone respects.

Having genuine faith, laying down one's life in jihad, immersing oneself in divine commands, obeying God's commands and worshiping Him in an absolute way, showing indifference to material pleasures, showing mercy and justice to all people, adopting an affectionate and kind outlook towards the oppressed and the weak, showing resistance and determination in the face of the enemies of religion and following one's responsibilities in all circumstances and despite all difficulties and hardships are wise words and characteristics that all human beings - whether those who lived in the past, those who live in the present time or those who will live in the future - need.

The Commander of the Faithful's (peace and greetings be upon him) Nahjul Balaghah is a lesson for all of humanity. This is only the outward aspect of the Commander of the Faithful's (peace and greetings be upon him) personality. Our short-sighted eyes can only see this aspect of his personality. His spiritual, holy and heavenly aspect is particular to saints and sidiqqin. It is they who can see this aspect of him. Our eyes do not have the ability to understand this aspect the way God's saints and close servants do. Today is the birthday anniversary of such a personality which is, of course, an Eid.

The appearance of any star in the sky of human history is an Eid. The birthday of each and every saint - from the first to the last - is an Eid for people. They were the individuals who opened the path of happiness to people and who made efforts on this path. These Eids are permanent and eternal for Muslims.

Today - after the passage of many centuries - how should we approach this Eid and this phenomenon? It is not enough to say the name of Ali. It is not enough to associate oneself with him. We do not think that great personalities in history, religious leaders, prophets and saints are merely some historical mementos. Rather, they are lessons and role models for us. They are guides for each and every step in our lives. What lesson do we learn from them? This is important. What lesson should the Islamic Ummah learn from the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.), the Holy Prophet of Islam (God's greetings be upon him and his household) and other divine personalities? What guideline should the Islamic Ummah adhere to in life? This is important. We should take this outlook towards the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.).

What is clear is that these personalities were the manifestation of making efforts in the way of God and His religion. "I testify that you fought in the way of God, that you acted according to His Book and that you followed the tradition of His Prophet (God's greetings be upon him and his household)" [quoting ziyarat]. We testify that he engaged in jihad in the way of God in a complete way. This is what we read in Amir al-Mu'minin's ziyarat and other prayers related to the Imams (a.s.). This jihad always falls on our shoulders and it includes intellectual and practical jihad, jihad during the time of war and peace, and jihad against enemies and one's selfish desires, wealth, life and tongue. These are lessons.

What you do for the sake of promoting religion and raising the position of the Islamic Ummah is a kind of jihad. The lessons that you study in order to achieve the goal of improving the Islamic Ummah is a kind of jihad. The effort that you make for creating unity and solidarity among the entire Islamic Ummah is a kind of jihad. When you fight against your satanic temptations inside yourselves, this is jihad. When you feel in your hearts and show in your words and actions that the enemies of God, religion, and the Holy Quran are your enemies, this is jihad in the way of God. These are the lessons of the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) and other religious personalities. Jihad is not confined to the arena of war. Today, the Islamic Ummah is in such a terrible situation because of forgetting about jihad in the way of God.

The Islamic Ummah used to take a leading role in knowledge, civilization, morality and humane values for a long time in history. Today, the Islamic Ummah suffers from discord, weakness and backwardness. Kufar and the enemies of religion interfere in its political and other affairs. They oppress it and it cannot defend itself. This weakness and destruction of the world of Islam results from forgetting jihad in the way of God. We do not say why you have not wielded your sword to fight against the enemy - war is a kind of jihad too. Rather, we say why we have failed to identify the enemy, why we have shown negligence towards his plots and deceptions and why we have been deceived by him.

Today is the 13th of Rajab and it is an Eid, but our hearts do not understand the truth of this Eid. This is because the body of the Islamic Ummah is covered with blood. Look at Lebanon and see what is happening there. Look at Palestine and see what is happening in that country. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan. The Islamic Ummah cannot be happy with these events. These are our weaknesses.

In recent days, two bitter events occurred for the Islamic Ummah each of which requires Muslims' thinking. The Islamic Ummah should blame itself and it should repent. One of these events is the crimes that were committed, one after another, in Lebanon and Palestine. It is about one month now that the wild, savage and cannibalistic wolf of Zionism has been killing the people of Lebanon. This wolf is slapped across the face by Hezbollah and mujahids in the way of God, but it drops bombs on Muslim children in Qana and other areas in Lebanon. It cannot confront soldiers and mujahids in the way of God and it is defeated by them, but it takes it out on innocent people, children, their houses and the infrastructure of the country. This is a great disaster.

The same crimes are being committed in Gaza and other Palestinian areas. This is what should awaken and touch all Muslims. Besides, not only is the world of arrogance and kufr silent, but it also behaves in an encouraging way towards transgressors and oppressors. America and evil England do this in a certain way and other powers do it in different other ways. The United Nations too is standing aside and watching these events with complete incompetence. This is while they claim to support human rights, civilization and fighting against terrorism. These two-faced and dark-hearted hypocrites are not ashamed at all. This is an instructive lesson.

The thing that they did to Lebanon and particularly to its Shia Muslims can happen to all Islamic nations, countries and denominations. We cannot rely on powers. The Islamic Ummah should be able to defend itself and it should be able to preserve itself.

It has been witnessed many times - today, it can be witnessed as well - that arrogant powers in the world close their eyes to any crime when the issue is about Muslims. This was seen in Bosnia and Kosovo. It was seen in Afghanistan and Iraq and today, it is Lebanon's turn. And it is many years now that Palestine has been in the same situation. It does not matter for them if the issue is about Shias and Sunnis or about Arabs and Ajams. They come forward wherever they can, wherever they do not see an obstacle and wherever they do not receive a blow on their mouths. The Islamic Ummah and Muslim nations should understand this and strengthen themselves. This is one of the two events which is really instructive and which Muslims cannot ignore and forget.

The second event, which is worse than the first one, is discord among Islamic governments. Notice that it is about one month now that the enemies of Islam have been attacking a group of Muslims in such a criminal way - and it is not an ordinary war, rather it is one that is full of war crimes and that is signified by the massacre of innocent people and by using forbidden and illegal weapons - but Islamic governments, particularly some Arab governments, are sitting idle and watching the spectacle. This mistake is very detrimental. These governments are showing consideration for America and arrogant powers, but they do not show any consideration for these governments when the time comes.

The enemy is, of course, active and the issue of Shia and Sunni is one of his important tools for bringing the Islamic Ummah to its knees. Both Shias and Sunnis should know this. Everyone in Iran and in the world of Islam should know that creating discord between Shia and Sunni is one of the tools and weapons of the enemy against the Islamic Ummah. They use this tool and weapon however they can. When a Palestinian Sunni is under pressure, they try to prevent a group of Shias from helping him by saying, "They are Sunnis, but you are Shias". Today that Lebanese Shias are under pressure, they say to a group of people, "You are Sunnis, but they are Shias. Therefore, you should not help them". They respect neither Shias nor Sunnis. They are opposed to the essence of Islam.

Discord is the deadly poison of the world of Islam. It separates nations from one another. It separates hearts from one another. In the present time, the enemy and the intelligence services of Israel and America are provoking a group of people in Iraq to confront and fight against Shias who form the majority of the people in Iraq. Today, the majority of the government is formed by Shias. They try to create insecurity in Iraq and they use this insecurity as a tool to enter Iraq and strengthen their position in Baghdad. America needs an excuse to stay in Iraq and this excuse is insecurity. They create insecurity in the country so that the government of Iraq cannot render the necessary services and so that they find the excuse to stay.

It is they who create discord. They make Sunnis and Shias bear such a grudge against one another that they cannot join hands despite all their common values. This is being done by the enemy. Why do we not understand this truth? It is many years now - since the time of the late Ayatollah Boroujerdi (may God bestow paradise on him) and a number of great Sunni personalities in Egypt - that the idea to put aside differences has been developing. These personalities have been saying, "Sunnis should remain Sunnis and Shias should remain Shias. Everyone should adhere to their beliefs, but they should join hands with other Muslims". The Holy Quran quotes the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) saying to the Christians of his time, "Come to common terms as between us and you that we worship none but Allah and that we associate no partners with him" [The Holy Quran, 3: 64].

This is while Muslim denominations use many differences of opinion to show enmity to one another despite the fact that they have the same God, the same Prophet, the same Quran, the same qiblah and the same acts of worship and despite the fact that they have common points. Is this not treachery? Is this not an ulterior motive and negligence? Anyone who makes a mistake in this regard should answer to Allah the Exalted whether they are Shia or Sunni.

Today, defending Hezbollah of Lebanon is wajib [compulsory] for the Islamic community. We look at the issue with insight and it is clear to us what arrogance is doing. We have stood firm on the issue of Palestine in the same way that we have on the issue of Lebanon, Iraq or Afghanistan. We can see that American arrogance decides to uproot Islam in this region with the cooperation of some evil European governments - such as England which is one of the most infamous governments in the world and the most notorious one in the region - and with the cooperation of oppressive and savage Zionists. This is because they see that Islam has stood up against their greed.

With the formation of the Islamic Republic and the raising of Islam's flag in the region, they understood that Islam is alive. Today, Islamic feelings and the willingness to engage in jihad in the way of Islam is alive in all Islamic countries and in the whole of this large, vast and sensitive region extending from the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean. The people of North Africa, the people of the Middle East region, the people of Asia - including East Asia - and the people in any Islamic region are willing to revive Islamic identity and dignity. They cannot destroy this, but they are doing their best. We should be awake and vigilant.

Today, you can witness one instance of Islamic resistance and jihad in Lebanon. This is the same merciless and large Zionist army that used to be known one day as an invincible army which defeated the armies of three Islamic countries in the course of six days. It is one month now that it has been facing defeat despite all its power and despite using American weapons and military assistance. It is one month now that it has been receiving a slap across the face by a religious and mujahid group: "Certainly, I belong to the group of people who care not for the reproach of anybody in matters concerning Allah" [Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 192]. This shows that if the Islamic Ummah entrusts its heart to God, it can stop the enemies of Islam.

Dear God, help the Islamic Ummah to get rid of the malevolence of the enemies of Islam. Dear God, familiarize us with our responsibilities towards confronting the enemies of Islam. Bestow on all of us the blessing to engage in jihad - the way we deserve - in Your way. Dear God, help Muslim's hearts to get close to one another. Help them join hands. Dear God, save the innocent people of Lebanon from the malevolence of the enemy's dark-hearted, merciless and cruel army. Dear God, keep the mujahid soldiers of Hezbollah under your guardianship. Help them to succeed. Dear God, increase the dignity of the world of Islam on a daily basis. Make us benefit from the pure prayers of the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) and hasten his re-appearance.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings