Imam Khamenei

Is it scholars' duty to elaborate on religious teachings or to realize them in society?

Islam is not only about monotheism in its scholarly sense with the same mystical and philosophical depth and the like, rather Islam is about implementing monotheism in society. It means that society should become monotheistic. This is the other part of Islam.

Don’t you say: “The ulama are the inheritors of the prophets” [quoting a famous hadith]? Religious ulama are the inheritors of the prophets. Here, ulama means religious scholars and they are the inheritors of the prophets. What did the prophets do? Did they emerge so that they could only speak about religious teachings or did they emerge to implement them in society? The latter is certainly the answer: “We sent aforetime our apostles with clear signs and sent down with them the Book and the balance (of right and wrong), that men may stand forth in justice” [The Holy Quran, 57, 25]. “That men may stand forth in justice” shows that the presence of prophets is necessary to administer justice. In other words, there is a correlation between the action of prophets and the administration of justice in society.

Whether the Arabic letter “lam” [in this hadith] signifies the cause or the result, means the same thing. It means that the prophets should administer justice in society and in order to do so, they have to fight. Otherwise, if the prophets did not want to administer justice, to realize monotheism in society, and eliminate idols worshipped in place of God, there would have been no need to do jihad. “How many of the prophets fought in Allah’s way, and with them fought large bands of Godly men? But they never lost heart if they met with hardship in Allah’s way” [The Holy Quran, 3: 146].

What does this ayah signify? Why did they fight? All the prophets fought. Some of them had the capability to fight and “And with them fought large bands of Godly men.” We do not have detailed accounts of the prophets, but there is reference to them in some narrations: “The first person who fought in God’s way was Ibrahim” [Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 12, page 10]. In Islam, we also have this concept: “Oh you who believe, fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you” [The Holy Quran, 9: 123] and “Those who believe fight in the way of Allah” [The Holy Quran, 4: 76]. What is the reason for such fighting?   

Before moving to Madinah, the Holy Prophet asked the representatives of the tribes of “Aus” and “Khazraj”, who had come from Madinah, to give their pledge of allegiance. He said to them that they should accompany him with their lives and their property and they accepted. Later on, the Holy Prophet moved to Madinah. When he entered Madinah, he did not ask if he was in charge of the government or not because it was already obvious. Everyone knew that he had come to be in charge of the government and to rule. This is the goal of religion: “We sent not an apostle, but to be obeyed, in accordance with the will of Allah” [The Holy Quran, 4: 64]. “But to be obeyed” does not mean that people should only say daily prayers if the prophet demands it, rather it means obeying the prophet in all aspects of life. This means ruling. Therefore, this is part of Islam.

So part of Islam is about Islamic teachings which include aqli and naqli lessons [lessons on wisdom and rhetoric], moral values, lifestyle and the kind of government we should have. All these things are among Islamic teachings which should be learned. This is part of Islam. And another part of Islam is implementing these ideas in the outside world. This means that monotheism should be implemented in the outside world. It means that prophethood – in the sense of being at the head of society – should materialize. Well, it is you who should realize concepts like “ulama are the inheritors of the prophets”.

I am not saying that you should definitely be the ones to be at the head of society. Well, there might be different kinds and forms of government, but as religious scholars and experts, you have a duty to implement Islam in the outside world and in the environment of life. This is our duty and this is what our magnanimous Imam did. One of the friends in the meeting correctly pointed to “The Charter of the Clergy” - that well-known and detailed letter written by Imam. You should read that letter frequently. Imam was a wise man[A Hakim] in the true sense of the word. A Hakim is not only a person who knows philosophy. Wisdom radiated in his behavior, in his speeches and in his writings.

Therefore, what Islamic seminaries did during the recent revolutionary activities – the activities leading to the formation of the Islamic Republic – with the leadership of Imam is exactly the duty that Islamic seminaries must have carried out. It is not the case that we can say that Islamic seminaries did something outside the scope of their responsibilities during the time of revolutionary activities. This is not the case. Imam was at the head of it and the clergy, scholars and many great personalities of Islamic seminaries accompanied him and stood behind Imam.

Once, I compared this movement launched by the clergy of those days throughout the country to this holy ayah: “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” [The Holy Quran, 16: 68-69]. The clergy of those days used to awaken the people and feed youth with revolutionary concepts and with the value of fighting in the way of God and in the way of Islam and they used to sting who should be stung. This is the truth of the matter.

This was the duty of seminaries and they fulfilled it. On that day, they must have carried out that task and today too – when the Islamic system has thankfully been established and when we are waiting for the true establishment of Islamic government, and then the true establishment of Islamic society and after that, the real establishment of Islamic civilization – Islamic seminaries have responsibilities in line with this great task and they should fulfill them. So, what should you do? You should sit down and think. These are among the subject matters which you are involved with. 

Imam Khamenei, May 8, 2019


  • Islam
  • Islamic government
  • Prophet Muhammad
  • Quran
  • secularism