Imam Khamenei

A civilization can't be celebrated only for technological advances while its people suffer

One cannot judge a civilization on the basis of its machines, industries and wealth. One cannot praise a civilization on the basis of these things while its people suffer from numerous problems.

Comprehensive progress can be considered as efforts to build a new Islamic civilization. After all, the Islamic conception of progress has a manifestation in the outside world. Let us say that the goal of the Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolution is to build a new Islamic civilization, which is an accurate evaluation. This new civilization has two important parts. One part is the necessary instruments and the other part is the content and essence. It is necessary to pay attention to both parts.

What are the instruments? The instruments are the values that we interpret as signs of our country's progress: science, inventions, industry, politics, political and military power, international credibility, public relations and the tools that are necessary for public relations. All of these things are the instruments of civilization. Of course, we have made good progress in the country in this regard. Many good achievements have been made in the area of politics, in the area of scientific matters, in the area of social issues, in the area of inventions and in different other areas. In spite of the pressures, threats and sanctions by our enemies, we have made good progress as far as the instrumental part of civilization is concerned.

But the important part of civilization is what makes up the essence of life - namely, lifestyle. This is the important part of civilization. The issue of family, wedding customs, housing, clothing, norms of consumption, food, cuisine, hobbies, orthography, language, business, behavior in the workplace, behavior in university, behavior at school, behavior in political activities, behavior in sports, behavior in the media, behavior towards one's parents, behavior towards one's partner, behavior towards one's children, behavior towards one's boss, behavior towards one's employees, behavior towards the police, behavior towards government officials, travel, personal hygiene, behavior towards friends, behavior towards enemies, behavior towards foreigners: these things are the essential part of civilization and they make up the essence of human life.

For the most part, the new Islamic civilization - which is what we want to present to the world - is made up of these things. These things are the essence of life and what is referred to as "life wisdom" in Islam. Life wisdom is not limited to making and spending money. It is not about how to make money and how to spend it. No, all the vast areas which I mentioned earlier are part of life wisdom. Among our hadith collections, there are certain sections - called "Kitab ul-Ishrat" - which are about these things. And in the Holy Quran, there are many ayahs in this regard.

One can think of this latter part as the software of civilization and the former part can be considered the hardware of civilization. If we fail to make progress in the latter part, we cannot achieve salvation and spiritual peace and security, no matter how much progress we make in the former part. And you see that this is the case with the western world. In the west, there is depression, there is despair, there are nervous breakdowns, there is lack of security in society and in the family environment, there is nihilism. This is while they have wealth, they have atomic bombs, they have achieved different scientific advances, they have military power. What is important is that we should be able to reform the essence of life, namely the important part of civilization. Of course, we have not made great progress in this regard after the Islamic Revolution. In this regard, we have not made as much progress as we have in the instrumental part. We need to identify the problems. Why have we failed to make progress in the latter part?

After we have identified what causes the problems, we should start thinking about ways of eliminating the problems. Who is responsible for this? It is outstanding intellectuals and political personalities who are responsible for this. It is you young people who are responsible for this. If a discourse is created in our society with the purpose of eliminating the issues and problems, we can be sure that we will make good advances in this regard, considering the vibrancy that the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran enjoy, considering the capacities that exist in the country. Then it will be easier for the Iranian nation to become prominent in the world. Promoting the Islamic ideas of the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic of Iran will become easier. It is necessary to identify the underlying issues and problems and to try to find solutions for them[...]

Therefore, we need to identify the issues and problems. That is to say, we need to pay attention to the issues and problems that exist in these areas and try to identify the causes. In this meeting, I would like to pose a list of questions. Of course, this list is not definitive.

Why is the culture of teamwork not strong enough in our society? This is a problem. Westerners have claimed [the virtue of] teamwork for themselves, but a long time earlier Islam had recommended its followers to "help one another in righteousness and piety" [the Holy Quran, 5: 2] and to "hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited." [The Holy Quran, 3: 103] According to the latter ayah, even when holding fast by the covenant of Allah, Muslims should stay together and "be not disunited".

Why is the divorce rate high in certain parts of our country? Why do the youth of certain parts of our country turn to drugs more than the youth of other areas? Why do we fail to treat our neighbors the way we should? Why do we fail to visit our relatives as often as we should? Why is our driving not disciplined enough? This is a problem. The way we drive in the streets is one of our problems. And this is not a small problem: it is a major problem[...]

Some people avoid working although they are physically capable of working. What is the reason? Some people are unreasonably aggressive in social environments. Why are some of us aggressive and impatient? To what extent do we respect the rights of other people? To what extent do we observe this principle in our media? To what extent do we observe this principle in the virtual world? To what extent do we observe the law? Why do some people break the law? The tendency to break the law is a dangerous malady.

To what extent do our people have a sense of responsibility? To what extent are we committed to social discipline? To what extent do we try to produce high-quality products? How much attention do we pay to quality of production in different sectors? Why are certain good proposals and ideas never implemented? Why are effective working hours so low in our administrative organizations? Eight hours of contractual work should result in eight hours of effective work. Why is effective working hours as low as half an hour or one, two hours? What is the problem?

Why is consumerism common among many of our people? Is consumerism an honor? Consumerism means spending whatever we earn on the kind of things that are not necessary for life. What should we do to uproot usury in society? How do we respect the rights of our partners in life and our children? What should we do to prevent divorce and breakup of the family from spreading among us the way they have spread in the west?

What should we do to safeguard our women's honor in society and in the family and at the same time enable them to fulfill their social responsibilities and safeguard their rights in society and in the family? What should we do to prevent our women from being forced to choose one of these things? These things are among our essential issues.

What is the limit to the number of children that we can have? As I pointed out before, one day we adopted a temporary decision and later on we forgot that it was temporary. As an analogy, imagine that you are told to turn on a faucet and keep it running for one hour, but you turn it on and leave. We did the same thing: we forgot the nature of our decision for 10, 15 years. I have received reports that our society will suffer from ageing in the not too distant future, that the young nature of our population will disappear. What is the limit to the number of children we can have? Why are there special houses for single people in certain big cities in our country? How did this western malady find its way into our society? What is a luxury lifestyle? Is it bad? Is it good? To what extent is it bad? To what extent is it good? What should we do to keep it within reasonable limits?

These things are different issues related to lifestyle. There are tens of similar issues. Some of the issues that I mentioned are more important than others. This is a list of the things that constitute the essence of civilization. Judgments about a civilization are based on these things.

One cannot judge a civilization on the basis of its machines, industries and wealth. One cannot praise a civilization on the basis of these things while its people suffer from numerous problems. These things are just instruments to achieve the essence I discussed: to give the people a sense of peace, to help the people live with hope, to provide security for the people, to help the people move forward and improve themselves to a favorable level.

There is an issue called "culture of life". We should try to define this concept and translate into action the way Islam wants. Of course, Islam has given us the specifics of this culture. The specifics of this culture are rationality, morality and rights. Islam has specified these things. If we do not consider these issues in a serious way, we will not be able to achieve Islamic progress and establish a new Islamic civilization. No matter how much industrial progress we make, no matter how many inventions and discoveries we make, we will not be able to achieve true Islamic progress if we fail to take care of this aspect of our civilization. We need to make a lot of efforts in this regard.

Imam Khamenei, Oct 14, 2012


  • Islamic civilization
  • Islamic Life Style
  • Technology