Imam Khamenei

The IRIB should promote correct Farsi language and not promote language devoid of national identity

The following is the full text of a speech delivered on May 20, 2019 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with poets and literary personalities. The meeting was held on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Imam Hassan Mujtaba (a.s.).


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 Muhammad, and upon his pure household especially the one remaining with Allah on earth

I have written down certain points to discuss with the friends in the meeting if there was a chance for me to speak. However, before that, I would like to speak about certain issues which I have in mind. I will tell you that tonight’s poetry recitation was very good. The friends who read out their poems really did a good job, each better than the other. Tonight, this meeting outperformed itself which was thankfully beyond my expectations of this meeting and of the young poets who had not recited their poems on this occasion before.

I am very grateful and I thank Allah the Exalted for helping the movement of poetry in the country make progress, as manifested by a gathering like yours. Of course, there are many groups in Tehran and in other places who engage in poetry and the like. I am more or less in contact with them and I read their poems. They have not made as much progress as you have. They compose purely romantic and earthly poems which are devoid of wisdom and understanding, and which fail to touch on national and revolutionary interests – those friends are after such poems. And they might engage in ‘naked’ poetry. They have not made any progress. When I look at your poetry, I see that your themes, your lofty words and your innovation in utilizing content are really very impressive. I am very hopeful about revolutionary poetry – which is your poetry.

What I have written down to discuss is related to two issues and I will try to make it as concise as possible, God willing. One is about poetry in general and another is about the Farsi language. What I want to say about poetry is that the phenomenon of poetry is one of the miracles of creation. One of the miracles of the universe is the phenomenon of poetry, just like language itself. Language too is one of the most important miracles created by God in the universe. That you are able to convey your thoughts and your mental images to others in the form of words is a very important incident. It is a very great phenomenon.

Because we have gotten used to it, we do not pay attention to its greatness. This is much more important than the creation of the sun, the moon, stars and many other things on which Allah the Exalted swears. “[Allah] Most Gracious! It is He Who has taught the Quran. He has created man. He has taught him speech” [The Holy Quran, 55: 1-4]. The first thing that Allah the Exalted mentions after creation – the creation of man – is teaching speech. “Speech” is the miracle of the creation.

Among the different forms of speech, poetry has the characteristic of enjoying beauty. Not every speech is beautiful. Every form of speech is a miracle and it is important, but beauty exists in poetry. That you are able to convey a prominent concept to the audience in the form of the words that you put together is beautiful. It has beauty. The reason why it is categorized as art is that it has an aesthetic aspect.

Now that it is like this and that it has the privilege of beauty, it has turned into an efficient medium. Poetry is a medium, one that is very efficient. It is more efficient than other non-poetic means for conveying the concept. Most forms of art are like this. Of course, they are different from one another. Poetry for instance, has special characteristics and advantages - as is the case with other forms of art - which make it unique, but I do not want to enter into such discussions.

Well, the power of influence that exists in poetry brings about certain responsibilities. Generally speaking, all objects, all individuals and all phenomena that have a higher status, have a higher responsibility as well. If you - among other groups in society - can exert influence with your words, opinions and votes, then you have more responsibilities than those who cannot exert such influence. Therefore, poetry brings about responsibility and commitment due to this power of influence.

Poetry has a commitment. What is this commitment? It is putting oneself at the service of the divine enlightenment movement throughout the history of humanity. There have been two movements throughout history: the movement of clarity and the movement of deception or the movement of guidance, and the movement of deviation and aberration: “We sent aforetime our apostles with clear signs” [The Holy Quran, 57: 25].

This is one movement throughout history and “Then, by Your power, I will put them all in the wrong” [The Holy Quran, 38: 82]. This is what Satan has said and this is another movement. The duty of poetry is to be at the service of the first movement. And the reason is clear: this has been given by God. It belongs to God and it is a divine blessing. We are the servants of God. So, we should utilize all His blessings at the service of the orientation of nubuwwat and divine guidance. This is the commitment of poetry.

Of course, there are many notions in this regard. Some people have an erroneous logic on the basis of which they separate the aesthetic and artistic aspect of poetry from its didactic aspect. They divide poetry into two forms: one is poetry which has a mission, responsibility and commitment and poetry which is purely poetic. They say that the former is not poetry and they refer to it as a slogan. This is a completely false argument which originates from either ignorance or lack of knowledge.

Notice who the peaks of Persian poetry are: Sa’adi, Hafiz, Moulavi [Rumi] and Ferdowsi. They are the peaks of Persian poetry. Notice in which direction the poetry of these individuals, who are the artistic and poetic peaks of our entire history, has moved. One of the works of Sa’adi is the “Bustan” which is his best work – “Gulistan” is the best after the Bustan. If you take a look at the Bustan, you see that this extraordinarily outstanding artistic work has always been at the service of morality, instruction and commitment. The Bustan is like this from start to finish. In other words, the art of poetry is at the service of morality in that work:

“Oh Sa’adi, if you want to be in love and enjoy your youth,

 know that the love of Muhammad and his household will be sufficient” [From the qasidas of Sa’adi].


Or, “I am happy in this world because of Him who is the cause of such happiness in the whole world

I love the entire world because of Him who possesses the entire world” [from the ghazals of Sa’adi]


Or, “I will swiftly take the poison because the witness is the Saqi

I will eagerly endure the pain because the cure is with Him” [from the ghazals of Sa’adi]


The same is true of the poetry of Hafiz. Of course, I believe that there are some earthly poems in his collection, but mystic poetry is undoubtedly the prominent and outstanding aspect of his work. Great personalities like the late Allamah Tabatabai used to interpret the poetry of Hafiz for their pupils and they have written and collected them. The poetry of Hafiz enjoys such mysticism.

 “Your love will come to your aid if like Hafiz,

you read the Quran by heart in fourteen different narrations” [from the ghazals of Hafiz].


Hafiz is like this. We can hardly read the Quran from the book, but he could read it by heart in 14 different narrations. There were seven well-known qura [reciters of the Holy Quran], each of whom had two narrations. So, it makes 14 narrations. They were like this. This is the peak of poetry.

The same is true of Ferdowsi. Ferdowsi is known as “Ferdowsi the Hakim.” Notice that among our poets, there is someone known as “Ferdowsi the Hakim.” The wisdom of Ferdowsi is a divine wisdom. Wisdom has been inserted in the depth of his poems. There is wisdom in all or almost all of his stories. That is why they describe him as Ferdowsi the Hakim. We describe very few poets in history as hakim, but he is known as Ferdowsi the Hakim.

As for Moulavi, well it is clear how he is. His poetry is completely imbued with mysticism, spirituality, the truth, original Islam and purely monotheistic teachings. He is the same. They are the peaks of Farsi poetry. If we think that the artistic and aesthetic aspect of poetry is separate from its spiritual, didactic and instructive aspect, we should eliminate all these poets from the circle of poetry, saying that their works are not poetry, whereas their works are among the best Farsi poems.

The same is true of Arabic poetry, as far as I know. Sayyid Hemyari, Farazdaq, De’bel and the like - who are the outstanding personalities of Ahlul Bayt and Imami poetry - are the same. They are the best poets. I think that I have once spoken about “The Book of Aghani” which is the biography of poets. In that book, there is a section on Sayyid Hemyari. It says that Sayyid Hemyari was the outstanding poet of his time - perhaps it says that he is the best poet of his time. After that, it says that his only flaw was that he had insulted the great personalities of the early Islamic era. If it were not for that flaw, it says, we would have spoken more about him.

After that, he [the author] begins to recount his biography. I think that his biography is longer than all other poets: about 50, 50-plus pages. This is how great Sayyid Hemyari was. As for Farazdaq, it is clear how his poetry is. The same is true of the poetry of De’bel. They are the peaks of [Arabic] poetry. Their poetry was at the service of spirituality, Ahlul Bayt and the like. Therefore, we should say that those who separate original and pure poetry from its artistic aspect do not have literary and poetic knowledge. In other words, they use a fallacious argument. They understand certain things for themselves and they mention them without any reason.

I should add that this is a mutual interaction. When we put our poetry at the service of lofty moral concepts, monotheism, the virtues of Ahlul Bayt, moral values and the constituents of national and revolutionary interests, it is not the case that we have merely rendered services to those values and those teachings. By doing so, we have also rendered services to our own poetry. Poetry is improved this way. I think that - as far as I remember - all your poems tonight were committed and dutiful poems and they were, fairly speaking, at a high and good level. To be fair, their level is different from that of poems which are purely on romantic love - purely earthly love. These poems enjoyed a special transcendence and a special level. Therefore, there is a mutual interaction.

Of course, I believe that poets can include their own personal worries, annoyances and pains in their poems and there is nothing wrong with that. I am not saying that poets do not have the right to compose a ghazal about their own feelings of sadness, their desires and their agitation. This is not what I believe at all. They can compose such poems, but they are only one chapter among the different chapters of poetry. The main chapter of poetry is the one on commitment.

Fortunately, today, we have many committed poets in the entire country. Of course, I am not saying that everyone is like this. There are some individuals who are completely out of this circle. I am not totally unware of their condition, their poetry and the value and influence of their poetry. However, the main poetic orientation of the Revolution is thankfully a committed orientation, including religious poetry, moral poetry, political and revolutionary poetry, poetry on moral and monotheistic values, and hekmi [wisdom] poetry. Of course, hekmi poetry is unfortunately rare. I have offered some words of advice in this regard before, but few of our poets enter this arena.

This group of poets have fortunately made good progress today. Those who do not consider these as poetry, who say that this is a slogan and ideology, who sound as if they were opposed to the utilization of ideology in poetry use deviant matters and deviant ideologies in their poems a lot more than you do! They are not opposed to the utilization of ideology in poetry, rather they are opposed to the ideology that you use in your poems no matter what form and what language you use! Their approach is the same if you use such ideology in the form of poetry, in the form of films and in the form of storytelling. Therefore, you should pursue this direction.

The poetic orientation and the kind of poetry that you compose has thankfully made great progress. And it does not matter which poetry you compose: be that poetry on Islamic teachings, on advocating Ahlul Bayt, on revolutionary teachings, on the current issues of the country, on the important events of the country - such as the poems that the friends recited on Yemen and various other matters of the world of Islam - or on praising the behavioral beauties of the nation.

Notice that our people have beautiful dispositions. The way our people behaved on the issue of the floods in the north and south was very beautiful. Those who are aware of the developments – including in Golestan, in Khuzestan, in Khorram Abad and in Ilam: these were the important areas which suffered from the recent floods - and those who are aware of the presence and sacrifices of the people know what a beautiful epic and glory our people created. 

Well you can include and describe this in your poetry. When you include such concepts in your poetry, it becomes in fact the flag of national identity. It becomes the flag of the identity of your nation no matter if you compose poems on Islamic, revolutionary and national teachings, on moral values or about such events. When you compose poems on these issues, your poetry turns into a flag of identity. And my dear ones, identity is very important to every nation. A nation that loses its identity is easily squeezed and crushed in the fists of foreigners. This was about poetry.

As for the language, the truth is that I am worried. I am really worried. In the area of poetry, the poems that you compose are fortunately good poems and they enjoy a solid language. However generally speaking, language is wearing down. One can witness this. Tonight, one of the brothers from the radio was present here and he spoke with me about a very good development. However, I have a complaint about the IRIB because instead of promoting proper, standard and refined and completely correct language, it is promoting a kind of language that is devoid of any identity, that is sometimes wrong, that uses wrong terminology and that worse than all, uses a language stuffed with foreign and western terminology.

When a writer and translator uses a foreign word in his writing - during translating an English or French article - and when your presenter uses the same words once, twice on TV or on the radio, this will be used by everyone. We are polluting our language with detrimental elements without any good reason and without any supervision and control.

Sometimes, a language does not have a specific term and therefore, it borrows it from another language. Of course here too, we should exercise supervision. Once, in a meeting with literary experts working on Farsi which was held many years ago, I said that when Arabs borrow a word from westerners, they make it Arabic. This is very good, but we do not do so!

We are even committed to pronouncing them with their foreign accent! In the beginning of the Revolution, when we had meetings with revolutionary and other officials, they sometimes used the word “commission” and “committee”. There were some individuals who had graduated from France who would pronounce them with a French accent like “commité”, and they were not satisfied, they wanted the exact French pronunciation [audience laughs]! What is the necessity of doing this?

I said in those meetings that we could have used the word “televisan” – which sounds like Farsi - instead of “television”. The Arabs too use the word “telefaz” - which is a combination of Arabic words, like “merhaz” - when television was first introduced. In Farsi, we do not have any word similar to “radio.” Very rarely can we find words like “radio.” Would it have been problematic if we had referred to “radio” as “radian” so that it would have sounded like Farsi? There would be nothing wrong with that, but we did not do so.

Intrusive words keep entering into the Farsi language and they are being used repeatedly. They use them in the press, they repeat them on the radio and on television and they use them in books as well. Nowadays, there is cyberspace too. They use them in cyberspace as well. I am worried. One of the tasks that should really be carried out is this.

The organizations in charge of artistic affairs can work on this area. Those officials who can be addressed in our meeting are Mr. Salehi - the honorable Minister of Islamic Guidance - and Mr. Mo’meni, the head of the Art Division. You should really think on this matter. You should not let the Farsi language become subject to erosion and destruction. We should preserve it as much as we can.

When I sometimes look at the taghuti regime, which was dependent on foreigners and westerners in all affairs, I see that there was some tinge of zeal regarding language. They had some principles in this regard. In the beginning of the Revolution too, we were very good in this respect. Later on, we gradually became self-indulgent.

In the world of poetry too, this state of self-indulgence and decadence has appeared, but in the area of composing songs. Some of the songs that are composed are really at a very low level. In terms of the content, they are obviously flawed, but even in the area of linguistic structure, some of these songs have very bad forms. That is while these songs with the same poor structure are performed on television and on radio – let alone through underground outlets and the like. They are repeated in the opening sequence of films and thus they are promoted in society.

In my opinion, you should think about these matters. Songs composed during the early revolutionary era, such as the one recited by the gentleman in the meeting: “This cry of freedom, rising from the east”- very beautiful! May God have mercy on [the late] Hamid Sabzevari. He composed many such poems. Therefore, we should preserve the value of the language.

My dear ones, notice that this language has been continuously preserved by poets - and partly by writers, but mainly by poets - for many centuries. An example is the language that Sa’adi has used. If you want to use the same concepts in the poem that I just recited - “I am happy in this world because of Him who is the cause of such happiness in the whole world” - can you find words better and more eloquent than this? Another example is this:

 “Where are you, Oh Godly martyrs?

You adventurers of the plain of Karbala” [from a poem by Moulavi]


Would you have guessed that this is a poem by Moulavi? This is a poem by Moulavi composed 800 years ago, but it looks as it were composed for the present time. Its language has been transferred to us in such a healthy way. It has travelled many centuries until it has reached us. Despite the fact that the Indian style of poetry is complex and abstruse, its language is a refined and strong one. In particular, the outstanding poets composing in the Indian style - poets such as Saeb, Kalim, Hazin and Bidel – have used language which is really perfect.

 “There isn’t anywhere Your song isn’t

The world is full of Your presence, while Your place is empty”


 “Although all creatures come begging at Your door

No creature knows where You reside” [from a poem by Saeb Tabrizi].


If you were supposed to use the same concept, today after the passage of 400 years from the life of Saeb, can you find words clearer and more eloquent than his? They have preserved the language like this and they have passed it to us. Now, should we give it to such and such untalented - really untalented - song composers so that they would ruin and spoil the words? And after that, should we publish their work with the [public] funds of bayt-ul mal, broadcast it in the IRIB and promote it in other governmental and non-governmental organizations?

I hope that Allah the Exalted will give us the blessing to carry out these tasks correctly, God willing. I am very happy to have met the friends tonight. I hope that God will bestow success on all of you, God willing.

Greetings be upon you and Allah’ mercy and blessings



  • Farsi Language
  • Poem
  • Poetry
  • Poets