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 and Prophet, Ab-al-Qassem Al-Mustafa Muhammad, and upon his pure, immaculate and chosen household, especially the one remaining with Allah on earth
You are very welcome my dear ones, dear brothers and sisters. This is a very delightful and sweet meeting for me both because of being able to meet you and because of the statements that the friends in the meeting made. Many of the points that the gentlemen raised in the meeting, are points that I myself wanted to raise. I witnessed that you youth in Islamic seminaries raised those points by utilizing a good discourse and cohesion and using eloquent and deep vocabulary. We really enjoy listening to you and I thank God for that.
One of the gentlemen spoke about the time when I was young. I will tell you, the level of your statements and points is much higher than the level of the statements that we used to make at that time. This is really the case and I am not exaggerating. We used to have certain ideas which we would express, but the level of your work, your thinking and your speech is much higher than that of ours during our youth. What does this mean? This means progress and movement.
And this movement is a very auspicious phenomenon. Of course, one’s movement should originate from the inside and it should be based on one’s origins and principles. One of the gentlemen recited a very beautiful poem which I have written down: “When you are given water to drink without having asked for it, this is not always desirable as sometimes it is an excuse to poison you” [from a poem by Fazel Nazari].
This gesture of giving water to us – the things that they give us from the outside – might not be genuine because the water might be dirty and polluted. We should rise from the inside. We should bubble like a spring: we should flow to quench the thirst of the surrounding lands. Therefore, this meeting is a very good meeting for me.
I would like to point to the statements that the gentlemen in the meeting made. Mr. Arafi referred to the program that they are preparing or have already prepared and want to implement. A program with such a scope is very interesting and it will fulfil many of the demands which were put forward today. Because it is Mr. Arafi who is making these statements, I am very hopeful that it will materialize. This is because he himself is a very valuable asset. So, I am very hopeful that these tasks will be carried out, God willing.
Of course, they should take action in cooperation with others. They should show determination and try to put the program into practice. Preparing the program is only half of the work. It is an important half, but implementing the program is another important issue anyway.
A gentleman in the meeting pointed out that the ideas about Islamic seminaries should be prepared and developed by the clergy themselves, suggesting that there should be an innovation center in this regard. This is a good suggestion which I agree with. It is a good idea. Of course, it is the great personalities in Islamic seminaries who should study the possibility of doing this and the details in this regard, but we should have a center which can examine and collect young clergy’s potential to innovate. This center should have an information bank which can be benefitted from when needed. This is a very good idea if it can be implemented.
The next point is about specialization. A few individuals brought up the issue of specialization. In particular, one, two individuals spoke about it at length. Fortunately, this endeavor – specialized fiqh – has begun in Qom. Of course, there are many ideas about fiqh because it is very important. Some people think that fiqh means attending to peripheral matters because it can involve minor issues of religion. This is not the case. Fiqh is the skeleton and in fact the spine of social life. This is what fiqh is. Fiqh has such a role.
If we are not paying attention to many areas of fiqh, this is our fault because fiqh means managing life and clarifying the system that rules over our social and political life. If we specialize fiqh and divide it into as many specialized fields as we can, this is a very good thought which is being implemented, of course. However, we should not ignore the shortcomings of specialization. It is many years now that certain thinkers in the world have reached the conclusion that there are certain disadvantages to specialization as well as the advantages that it has. The existence of some interdisciplinary fields is for eliminating these shortcomings. If you are pursuing the issue of specialization, you should pay attention that it might have certain disadvantages as well as the advantages that it has. You should find those disadvantages.
It was mentioned that there should be an operations base. Well, there is no need because Islamic seminaries act like a base. The management in Islamic seminaries works like a base. Establishing many overlapping centers and organizations is not very efficient, in my experience.
Another matter which is important in my opinion is about the question posed by a female scholar in the meeting on the social position of the sisters who pursue seminarian studies. This is a legitimate question. Of course, we can answer it in brief. When woman clergy study their lessons and when we have so many female scholars, their presence in the family and in women’s gatherings is very important. One day, “Banu-ye Isfahani” who was a good mullah and who was specialized in aqli sciences – she was a respected lady – had a meeting with the late Mr. Tabatabai. Mr. Tabatabai met with her and they had a scholarly discussion. We were proud of having such a knowledgeable female scholar. We now have tens of thousands of female scholars, many of whom are outstanding scholars whether in the area of aqli sciences or in the area of fiqh and other sciences in Islamic seminaries. This is a very important issue! Therefore, this position should be clarified.
At the end of the speech time, another lady put forward certain suggestions which are important including recognizing the capacities that female scholars have and benefiting from them in various cultural and intellectual centers – in different commissions, committees, councils and official centers. In my opinion, this is an important task that should be fulfilled in Islamic seminaries. If they need my help with executive tasks, I have no problem with that. This is not my job, rather it is Islamic seminaries’ job to do this, but I can help in executive areas and I will help if need be.
Another point raised by the gentlemen was the difference between the level of knowledge in Islamic seminaries. This is not the case. Thankfully, you are the embodiment of seminarians’ knowledge: you and Mashhad, Isfahan and Tehran seminaries, as well as the Qom Islamic Seminary – which is the center. The level of seminarian knowledge can be witnessed by your statements. Of course, there are differences of opinion everywhere and there are differences in level as well. This is correct, but there are solutions for it. However, the level of knowledge is very good in my opinion.
In any case, the friends raised very good points. I request that the gentlemen in the meeting give us all their writings. I saw that everyone was reading from their writings, which is a good thing. They should give us the writings that they have with them today. The gentlemen in Islamic seminaries should think and work on them and they should keep us informed about the progress of these issues.
The first point that I have written down to discuss is that you dear ones should know that Islamic seminaries have a heavier responsibility today. The reason is that there are greater needs and greater recognition today. Both needs and the recognition of your work are greater in scope today. Today, great and lofty religious concepts are well-received among youth – not only our youth but also the youth of the world of Islam and also youth outside the world of Islam. I do not want to exaggerate, but there is a marvelous reception in certain parts of the world of Islam and in certain parts, the reception is not as great, but there is a good reception anyway.
This is also the case in non-Islamic countries. For example, I wrote a letter addressing youth from western countries. The letter was well-received and the feedback was good in certain cases. Of course, some people exaggerated about the feedback, saying that there was such and such reception to it. It was not like that, but it received good attention and a good response. They responded to the letter by sending messages and different writings. This shows that there is an audience for such ideas and that they have advocates. Therefore, there is a great need today for lofty concepts and teachings promoted by Islamic seminaries. There is also good recognition.
Perhaps among the people who used to live, say, a hundred years ago, there were some pious individuals who had firm faith, but there was no manifestation of that faith in practice. Notice that they hanged Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri – such a great and outstanding mullah – here in the center of Tehran. And the person who hanged him was an Armenian – an Armenian-Iranian officer who was a non-Muslim. Some people shed tears here and there, but no serious move was made in response, despite the fact that there was no Reza Khan at that time so that they could say that the dictatorial Reza Khan regime was like this and that. In other words, there was no dynamism.
Now compare this with our [recently] martyred clergy from Hamedan. A clergy from Hamedan was martyred in an unjust manner on the street and then, as you witnessed, a massive crowd attended his ceremony in Hamedan. Notice what reaction was sparked in Iran. Everyone expressed their sympathy and warm feelings. If that pure body had been buried in Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan and Tabriz, there would have been the same large crowd. Today, our people are like this. Now, some people promote the idea that the people have drifted away from religion. This is not the case in any way. We have seen those days. We were clergy in those days.
Some gentlemen promote the idea that the clergy fell and declined after the formation of the Islamic Republic. This is not the case at all. What are these ideas? At that time, they used to ridicule the clergy in the streets and alleys. Once, when I was in the Mashhad railway station, some youth walked past me. They began to insult, ridicule and poke fun at us. What could we do? I said to myself that they probably did not have proper education, yet I am a teacher in an Islamic seminary. This was the condition of the social system at that time.
Today, despite all the assaults against the clergy through propaganda apparatuses and the like, notice the reception that the people give and the large crowds that gather in mass prayers and at various minbars [religious speeches]. There never ever was the kind of gatherings that you witness today at a clergy’s speech, in any city and in any minbar! Of course, this does not mean that such minbars did not exist, rather it means that there was not even one tenth of such participation. It was not like this in Mashhad, Isfahan, Tehran and other cities. Well, we used to participate in different occasions. I myself used to take minbars and was witness to other large minbars. The large crowds that show their presence at different minbars – most of whom are young – did not exist in those days.
The same is true of mass prayers and wujuhat [religious taxes]. Money is a good criterion for judgement, right [audience laughs]. Today, the people are not necessarily in a good financial condition, but they pay wujuhat- to us, to other maraaje. This means that the people are religious and that they are present in the arena of religion.
So where do these statements come from? Seminarians are well-respected and trusted. These are the realities that exist. Well, nonsensical and false claims are sometimes made against all these realities, but they are made without any correct research, without investigation and without any scientific criterion and standard. Certain things are said which are wrong and some people buy them, but the reality is what I said. Therefore, this makes the responsibility of Islamic seminaries heavy.
What I had in mind to discuss is that Islamic seminaries are centers for teaching Islam. After all, religion should be understood and comprehended and there should be an effort to get to the depth of it. Therefore, there is a need for a specific center. This specific center is comprised of Islamic seminaries which build religious scholars. Islamic seminaries are centers for teaching Islam.
Islam is not only about understanding. It is also about acting on Islamic rules. Sometimes, we define Islam as a combination of major and minor principles, ethics and the like. Of course, this is the case in reality because the major and minor principles of religion, moral values, lifestyle and the way to manage the government are all parts of Islam and Islamic teachings. Well, we should learn these things in Islamic seminaries. However, this interpretation is not correct because this is only one part of Islamic seminaries work. Why? Because this is only one part of Islam. The other part of Islam is about implementing these realities in society and in people’s lives. This means guidance. This is the other part of Islam. 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, 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 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.
When the gentlemen were speaking, it occurred to me that these good statements and the proper discourse and vocabulary that our young clergy thankfully utilize are very much needed today. You should show your presence throughout the country. In the present time, there is the tradition of taking minbars. You should go and discuss these good statements and excellent points – which cover different areas – with the people. You should discuss with them issues like lifestyle, Islamic government, fighting against taghut, the establishment of monotheism in society in the true sense of the word and the issue of justice, which is one of the most fundamental issues.
You should increase the awareness of people and you should generate revolutionary discourses in the people. Of course, these discourses already exist, but you should strengthen them. Islamic seminaries can fulfill many tasks. Part of these tasks falls on the organizations in charge inside and outside seminaries and part of them falls on the clergy themselves.
Notice that we are faced with an issue about the identity and epistemology of Islamic seminaries. What are Islamic seminaries? Islamic seminaries are a center that cultivates religious scholars and religious scholars are individuals who acquire religious teachings and enter the arena in order to realize those teachings. And it does not matter if such religious scholars are specialized in fiqh, in philosophy or in kalaam. Our magnanimous Imam was a great faqih. He was really an outstanding faqih but he was also a mujtahid and expert in theoretical mysticism in the true sense of the word.
The same is true of his teacher, the late Shahabadi. Once, Imam said to me that we should not think that Mr. Shahabadi was not involved in revolutionary activities. I do not remember exactly what he said. I think I have written it down somewhere. Imam said something like this, quoting the late Shahabadi, “If I had helpers, I would rise up.” So, this is the identity of the Qom and other Islamic seminaries. This is the main framework of the seminary.
All tasks in seminaries should be carried out on the basis of this outlook. When you speak about specialization, when you make certain demands and when you put suggestions identifying the capacities and the like, all these very good statements and should be made within this framework and this outlook.
As for the issues which are not directly involved with religion, for example issues like natural sciences and the like which are not directly involved with the structure of religious thinking, it is Islamic seminaries which should specify their line of movement. It is Islamic seminaries that should specify the direction of scientific movement because this is religion’s job. It is religion which channels science. Science can be at the service of humanity and it can also work against humanity. It can serve justice and it can also serve oppressors and arrogant taghuts in the world, as is the case in the present time. So, directing and channeling science is another responsibility of Islamic seminaries.
I had written down a number of ayahs to discuss for you, but it is not possible to do so because only a few minutes are left before adhan.
I wish to raise a point about studying: you should take your lessons seriously. You should take fiqh seriously. Notice that religious scholars wish to learn Islamic teachings. Where should they learn it from? They should learn it from the Book, from Sunnah and from aql. Part of these teachings is related to aql and part of it the Book, the Sunnah and naqli sciences. Well, they should know how they want to learn these – this is ijtihad.
Ijtihad means how to acquire these teachings from the sources. This is methodology – this is a western term and I have always insisted on not using these terms, but here I have to. It means dealing with the facts and the realities by using the sources. This is ijtihad. If we wish to have ijtihad, we should practice and work. And it does not matter what fiqhi lesson you study, even if it is about taharat [matters related to hygiene]. Some clergy sometimes ask, “Why do you always speak about taharat and other such issues?” It does not matter. You need what teaches you the way to derive these rules. These rules are sometimes about taharat, about daily prayers, about business transactions, about renting something and the like.
You should know how to derive them. If you learn how to derive these rules, then you will be able to derive moral values from the Book and the Sunnah in the correct way. You should not be like half-educated individuals – we want to respect them and so, we do not refer to them as uneducated, rather we describe them as half-educated – who have learned certain things in an incomplete manner and then they express their viewpoints about religious matters, sometimes citing a certain ayah. Well, that specific ayah does not have that meaning and interpretation. This is because of one’s weakness in understanding and interpreting ayahs. And that is why they do not have ijtihad.
So, it is necessary to study one’s lessons in order to become a mujtahid. Of course, I do not want to say that everyone should become a mujtahid. In fact, it is a wajib-e kefayi [an Islamic obligation which does not address a specific person. If certain individuals fulfil that obligation, others do not have to do it]. Some people may not need to become a mujtahid, but in order to acquire Islamic teachings, ijtihad is necessary. This is one point: you should study well.
Today’s intellectual clergy do not have the right to say, “Forget about these ideas. Forget about lessons.” You should study your lessons. Without the main ingredients, the food will be tasteless. During the time of revolutionary activities, we used to teach “Makasib” and “Kifayah”. There were some enthusiastic and energetic clergy around us in Mashahd who were really engaged in revolutionary activities, but we sometimes heard them say, “What are these lessons?” I would say to them that if they did not study those lessons, they would not be able to serve the Islamic government later on and that they would not be able to teach anything to the people. So, studying one’s lessons is the first issue.
Another issue is that there might be differences of opinion on various matters in Islamic seminaries. These differences of opinion already exist in scholarly areas and intellectual orientations. So, these differences of opinion might also exist in political areas. There is nothing wrong with this. Differences can be managed. You should take care not to let differences lead to confrontation and tension and to scratching each other’s faces.
In the past, we had differences of opinion in the tradition of our Islamic seminaries. To cite the most recent example, I should mention the late Hajj Sheikh Mojtaba Qazvini (may God bestow paradise on him). He was an outstanding and great mullah in Mashhad who was against philosophy and mysticism. I myself was and still am one of his admirers. He was really a great man, but this was his scholarly taste. Anyway, he was very opposed to philosophy and mysticism and he had written books in this regard. He used to teach as well and he was one of the best students of the late Amirza Mahdi Isfahani.
And our magnanimous Imam [Khomeini] was the brain of philosophy and mysticism. He was the epitome of philosophy and mysticism. Well, they were very different from one another. They were two completely different poles. However, when revolutionary activities began and Imam showed that he was the leader of those activities – he showed this from the very first days – Hajj Sheikh Mojtaba Qazvini, despite all his disagreements, went from Mashhad to Qom to see Imam accompanied by a crowd of individuals. There, he showed his support for Imam. As long as he was alive – he passed away in 1346 – he stood by the Revolution. The hopes of us young clergy of those days in Mashhad were really pinned on the late Hajj Sheikh Mojtaba, despite the fact that he had differences of opinion with Imam.
The late Amirza Jawad Aqa Tehrani was another mullah who belonged to the group which were opposed to philosophy and mysticism. We had classes with him as well. Well, he was the opposite point to Imam. However, before the Revolution, he would show his admiration for Imam. Before the victory of the Revolution, I myself heard him speak highly of Imam. After the victory of the Revolution too, he went to the war front! A seventy, eighty-year-old man put on basiji clothes, held a mortar and engaged in fighting! We had such individuals. There were differences of opinion as well unity in the true sense of the word. They worked for Allah and in the way of Allah.
We had such clergy in the distant past as well. The late Yusuf al-Bahrani – known as “Saheb al-Hadaeq” – was an akhbari [a group of Shia scholars who reject the use of reasoning in issuing verdicts and who only use the Book and the Sunnah as the main criterion] scholar. Of course, he was a really knowledgeable akhbari and he has written “al-Hadaeq”. There was also the late Aqa Baqir Behbahani, a staunch and pure usuli. Indeed, he revived the usuli school at a certain point in the history of our seminaries.
These two personalities resided both in Karbala and they had heated discussions. The late Saheb al-Hadaeq wrote in his testament that when he dies, he wishes Mr. Baqir Behbahani to say prayers for him and this was what happened. When he passed away, the late Aqa Baqir Behbahani said prayers on his body. These things used to exist in Islamic seminaries. Of course, the opposite existed as well: there were unnecessary tensions and conflicts. We have had these things as well. However, our outstanding personalities were like this.
In seminaries, on the one hand, young clergy should hold in respect the great personalities in seminaries and follow their instructions – as has been mentioned in Imam’s “Charter of the Clergy” – and on the other hand, the great personalities in Islamic seminaries should have patience and fortitude with the youth. On the one hand, there is a need for patience and fortitude and on the other hand, politeness and obedience are necessary.
Is it adhan? [audience answers yes]. I am very sorry.
Greetings be upon you and Allah’s mercy and blessings