Prophethood (nubuwwah) Prophethood (nubuwwah) Prophethood (nubuwwah) Prophethood (nubuwwah)
Prophethood is among the subjects which have been dealt with in the Nahj-ul-Balagha and a discussion about which can help us understand one of the basic principles of Islam. In fact, it is not only a subject which can be followed throughout the Nahj-ul-Balagha but one of the most important and fundamental principles of Islamic ideology. I have repeatedly mentioned in various discussions that in order to analyze and understand the numerous matters of Islamic thought and ideology, the principle of prophethood is an axis around which these matters can be discussed as well. As -to the principle of monotheism, we believe that its social and revolutionary dimensions can only be clarified when we discuss it within the vast spectrum of the matters concerning prophethood. Accordingly, our method in this chapter is to point out and analyze the different dimensions of prophethood and to support our discussion with an explanation of Ali's ibn Abi Talib's sayings wherever necessary. In this manner, two aims will be fulfilled, i.e. some important sections of the Nahj-ul-Balagha will be translated and interpreted, and an issues among the basic Islamic principles will be made apparent.
It is to be mentioned at the beginning that in the discussion about prophethood, revelation and its relevant matters will not be discussed. Rather, prophethood will be viewed as a historical reality and an unquestionable event. Undoubtedly, prophethood has existed as a phenomenon in the history of mankind. There is no difference of opinion in this regard between us and those who disbelieve in lt. However, the difference lies in the interpretation of this event and the message it conveys. In fact, no one denies such personalities as Moses, Jesus and other Prophets whether or not the history of their lives be more or less known or vague. History reports that all of them have existed.
Therefore, prophethood will be considered as a historical event in our discussion and the following questions will be answered in the analysis which follows:
1. What was the social background (social, temporal and historical situation) when this event occurred?
2. Where did this event originate? Did it appear among the kings, the oppressed, the scholars and thinkers... which class of people?
3. What position did it enjoy? Was it to the benefit of a special class of people? Was it directed towards material advantages? 'Was it directed towards mystical and spiritual aspects of life? What was its social and intellectual direction?
4. What was the pros and cons when the Prophet first offered his message? Who were those who opposed it and to which class of the society did they belong? What were their motives and means of opposition? Who were in favor of it and to which class did they belong? What were their motives and how did they assist the Prophet?
5. What was the aim behind the message of prophethood? Was prophethood aimed at material welfare? Was it aimed at class distinction? Was it aimed at enhancing the level of people's knowledge and understanding? Was it aimed at opposing or accounting for the powers of the time?
6. Did the Prophet call the people? Was it 'monotheism' with its social, political, economic and revolutionary dimensions?
Answering these questions, with regard to Islamic texts and records, will shed light on different aspects of this social reality and will acquaint us with a vast scope of Islamic thought. Of course the Nahj-ul-Balagha will be the axis of our discussion, although different verses of the Holy Qur’an as well as mental reasoning may be of great help both in answering the questions and in interpreting All's words.
The first question which is relevant is "What grounds were available for the manifestations of prophethood?» What was the social, economic and historical setting for the appearance of the Prophets? And among which class of people have they appeared? The Nahj-ul-Balagha has answered these questions on several occasions. In the first sermon, speaking about monotheism, the creation of heavens and the earth, the angels and other matters, the appearance of the Prophets and the background to prophethood in general are discussed as well.
We read the preceding sentence so that the connection to this matter is made clear.
From his progeny (Adam) God chose prophets and took their pledge for His revelation and for carrying His message as their trust. In the course of time, many people perverted God's trust with them and ignored His position and took partners along with Him. Satan turned them away from knowing Him and kept them aloof from His worship. Then sent His messengers and series of His prophets towards them to let them fulfill the pledges of His creation, to recall to them his bounties....3 The last part of this quotation reveals some peculiarities of the community in the 'Age of Ignorance', in which Prophets were sent by God to people. These peculiarities are hereunder explained.
It says that 'in course of time many people perverted God's' trust. The Holy Qur’an speaks about 'ahd on several occasions, examples of which are given below,
„Thy Lord has decreed you shall not serve any but Him ... " (17:23) „Made I not covenant with you, children of Adam, that you should not serve Satan - surely he is a manifest foe to you ... ?" (36:60) „... and God made them testify concerning themselves, 'Am I not your Lord?
'they said,' Yes, we testify ... " (7:172)
These verses imply that God's covenant ('ahd) is to abstain from servitude to Satan, that man's servitude should be exclusively for God and that human beings have primordially admitted that they are servants of God and should serve Him alone.
This is the meaning of 'ahd (trust and covenant)to which the Commander of the Faithful refers in the Nahj-ul-Balagha. In fact, he says that most of the people broke their allegiance with God and disobeyed His commands by worshipping idols, taking partners (holders of power and possessions) along with Him, imposing themselves on other people as worship-deserving idols and perverting the divine decree through ignoring or exclusive obedience to God.
It was under these conditions, the Commander of the Faithful asserts, that God brought about prophethood and appointed His Prophets. This is also emphasized in other statements of the first Sermon after describing the appearance of the Prophet of Islam and not the appearance of the prophets at large, although the social conditions and mental atmosphere in which all the Prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others, have appeared have been the same, and thus what is said about the Prophet of Islam fits other Prophets as well.
„The statements run as under the people of the earth at this time were divided in different Parties, their aims were separate and their ways were diverse. They either likened God with His creation or twisted His Names or turned to other than Him. ..,"4
It says that the Prophet was appointed to prophethood at a time when people were divided in groups with different ways of thinking, i.e.. a universal mentality did not govern the is minds of all people, which indicates the lack of an acceptable culture at that time, separation among people and, finally, ignorance. It continues with the statement that 'their aims were separate'. This has two implications. The simple one is that in different parts of the community or in different corners of the world people enjoyed desires and manners of their own. The members of each community or class of people favored something which the members of other classes and communities despised. In fact, the society at large lacked a common aim and aspiration, which shows the decline of that society.
The second implication is that there was not more than a few poles of power throughout the world at that time, and they were Sassanian Kings, Roman Emperors, Ethiopian Sultans and other despots, dictators and idols who stood at the peak of their communities, ruling over the people with tyranny and according to their own aims, desires and self-centeredness. The existence of insufficiencies and oppression in the Iranian community, the existence of impenetrable classes among the people, the boundless mastery of Brahmans, aristocrats and soldiers over the lower classes and the existence of moral, cultural, economic and class tyrannies, the pressure of which tortured the people, were all a manifestation of the sensuality and selfishness of the idols (kings) who possessed the leadership of the Iranian community. Thus, the whims and desires of a minority dominated all the affairs of a majority of mankind.
„They likened God with His creation". It implies that those people who, according to their nature and spiritual feelings, believed in the existence of a diety and a creator, found it in the form of creatures and small, imperfect beings. Some of them worshipped cows as their gods. Others worshipped stone or wooden idols. In fact, all the people were in some way or another worshippers of God as their nature demanded but they were devoid of a perfect knowledge concerning God. This was the most manifest perversion.
"They twisted His Names or turned to other than Him». This was a kind of mental deviation prevailing among the believers of God. They were actually so involved in the Name of God that they could not take step beyond it. In ancient times, for example, those who had a vague view of God in their minds, being unable to know God perfectly, turned to His Names Allah, Mannan or Ilah and worshipped them. They were ignorant of the reality of God.
Another example can be observed in the extremist ideologies of today. Advocates of these ideologies claim to believe in God but if they are asked what God is, they cannot explain the true concept and meaning of this word. Rather, they take the 'whole existence', the rules governing nature and the cause and effect, conventions current in nature and history to be a god. They lack the ability to know the real meaning of God, i.e. to know Him as an independent 'Necessary Being' who is undoubtedly the Creator of this universe rather than being Himself the universe. They cannot perceive this reasonable, philosophical concept. Thus, they are confused about the Name and the real Being of God.
Naturally, wisdom, love, knowledge, spiritual attractions and moral Attributes, all of which originate from monotheism and a knowledge of God, do not develop in them and, therefore, prayers, incantations and the wise prayers of Imam Sajjad, peace be upon him, for example, become meaningless to them. Accordingly, what such people worship is 'God' as a word without being concerned with its meaning and concept. This is a sign of the decline and deviation of religious as well as a characteristic of the people who lived at the time when Prophets appeared.
In the second Sermon, the Commander of the faithful has more detailed statements concerning the social background to the appearance of the prophets. They run as follows „At that time people had fallen in to vices whereby the rope of religion had been broken, the pillars of belief had been shaken, principles had been sacrileged, systems had become topsy turvy, openings were narrow, passages were dark, guidance was unknown and darkness prevailed. God was being disobeyed. Satan was given support and Belief had been forsaken. As a result, the pillars of religion fell down, its traces could not be discerned, its passages had been destroyed and its streets had fallen into decay. People obeyed Satan and tread his paths. They sought water from his watering places. Through them Satan's emblems and his standard was raised in vices which trampled the people under their hoofs, and treaded upon them with their feet. The vices stood on their toes (in full stature) and the people immersed in them were strayed, perplexen, ignorant and seduced as though in a good house with bad neighbors. Instead of sleep they had wakefulness and for antimony they had tears in the eyes. They were in a land where the learned were in bridles (keeping their mouths shut) while the ignorant were honored."5
This is a very beautiful and artistic picture (in the form of an ordinary lecture from the pulpit) of the social conditions in the age of ignorance, in which the Commander of the Faithful portrays the adversities, deficiencies and disorders casting shadows over the people's life- the people who were mentally bewildered and perplexen and who did not know the aim and purpose of life.
We can easily and clearly understand the meaning of these words of his, because they provide us with an exact portrait of the situation of our own time, when the Iranian nation was severely oppressed and fell victim to the tyrannies brought upon it by the Pahlavi executioners and American mercenaries. In fact, what in this Sermon and other Sermons has been expressed about the background to the appearance of the Prophets (which the writer used to interpret consciously in connection with the situations of strangulation at the Pahlavi time conforms exactly to the conditions under which we lived during the Pahlavi rule).
In those days, especially in the last three years of the Pahlavi reign, the people were so mentally deceived and misled that they got on the buses and trucks in many cities, applauded, played the flute and shouted, „Long live the Shah". Meanwhile, the awakened conscience of a group of people was severely wounded; yet, this was not the common conscience of our community, for even those who refrained from participating in such shows, whether they were government employees, clergymen of other classes of people, accepted the ways and procedures of the ruling regime by their indifferent and apathetic behavior towards the prevailing situation. The people were actually bewildered and dead. No one was aware of the aim behind his daily labor. They worked day and night but they were ignorant of the aim, aspiration and the future for the achievement of which human beings endeavor. The similitude of them was the like similitude of the 'mill donkey' who constantly moves in a circular direction and never reaches an end. They were endowed with the best dwellings and lands, having all the God-given bounties and with the territory of human conscience, faculties and beauties which have been hidden but now have bloomed in our revolutionary boys and girls, fathers and mothers. In fact, such a blessed background existed in people but the 'neighbors were bad' in the words of the Commander of the Faithful, i.e. the rulers and holders of power were incompetent and dishonest.
On the whole, under such conditions which he recounts in the above-quoted statements, and we experienced in our own time, the Prophets were appointed to prophethood. We shall, God-willing, give more details about the background to prophethood, as pointed out in the Commander of the Faithful's words, which are very important so far as the philosophy of history is concerned, and which is misunderstood by some deviated individuals who draw wrong, material conclusions on the basis of their incorrect analysis in this regard.
Questions and Answers
Q. What is the difference between prophethood (nubuwwah) and appointment to prophethood (ba'tha)?
A. Appointment to prophethood is the sudden resurrection and awakening of an individual or a community of people who have plunged into the sleep of negligence, ignorance and bewilderment. Prophethood is the principal factor of the appointment, i.e. after the necessary competence and readiness is found in someone to connect with god and the Divine revelation then he is appointed as a prophet. Thus, the appointment is the consequence of prophethood.
Q. Is Ali’s view a universal one, applicable to all communities such as the corrupt western ones? Are these communities subject to destruction without anyone saving them?
A. Yes, it is applicable to all communities at all times. But it should be added that at a time when the chain of prophethood ends in the Last Prophet and no one is appointed to prophethood any longer, it is the religious scholars as heirs of the Prophets who will lead the people and save human communities from destruction.
Q. Are, the signs which Hadrat Ali provides us for the appearance of the Prophets the same as the signs which we have received concerning the appearance of Hadrat Mahdi?
A. Concerning Hadrat Mahdi, mention should be made of the fact that before his reappearance the world will achieve a relative perfection. In fact, the universal government of Mahdi would be a perfectly just government. Half of this justice should be provided by you and the coming generations before his reappearance. Today, due to the establishment of the Islamic government of Iran, which conveys a remarkable percentage of the message of Islam in this strategic region of the world, we have approached nearer to the reappearance of Hadrat Mahdi.
Q. It is true that all these signs are existent in our Revolution and in the whole world. Is the reappearance of Hadrat Mahdi possible in this period?
A. Yes, it is possible. But another thing which is quite possible is the decline of the superpowers of the world and the appearance of new movements and resurrection which we have pointed out repeatedly. This is because the world has entered a new period with the advent of our Revolution, a period in which the deprived of the world and the weak nations will no more remain indifferent to the tyrannies of the great powers, will stand against them and will finally demolish them as a small animal can destroy a huge elephant by mounting its back and biting its ears.
1)When Damascus was conquered by ‘Umar, the second Caliph, he appointed Yazid bin Abu Sufyan the governor of that region and when Yazid died, his brother Mu'awiya took over. Thus, the people of the region came to know only Mu'awiya and his family from the very beginning when they embraced Islam.
2) This title is still found in many books of our Sunni brethren.
3) Ash-Sharif Ar-Radi, the of Ali (Tehran: World Organization for Islamic Services, 1979), part one, page 19.
4) Ibid. p. 20.
5) Ibid. p. 30.
6) Ibid. part two, page 406. parenthesis is the translator's.
7) For a better understanding of this matter, refer to Martyr Murtada Mutahhari's The End of Prophecy
8) Nahj-ul-Balagha of Ali, part two, page 410.
9) In the terminology of the Qur’an and in Islamic usage „trial" (bala) comes to mean a bitter a and severe incident. Through these incidents, the human heroes have always been tried in the course of history and one cannot claim to be a perfect human being unless one exposes.
10) Akhavan-i-Thalith, one of the forerunners of modern Persian poetry, wrote a poem entitled „Wolves and Dogs" in which he pictures the status of rebellious believers with all hardships and calamities they suffer and their battle against oppressors as well as the status of the peace-seeking disbelievers and hypocrites who compromise with tyrants and do not refuse to he subjected to rneanness. Akhvan likens the believers to wolves which keep distance with the affluent and expose themselves to great sufferings for a loaf of bread, and compares the disbelievers with dogs which always serve faithfully, collar on the neck, in order to receive what is left over the master's table.
The Leader & Youth
THE LEADER OF THE REVOLUTION’S VISIT WITH A GROUP OF YOUTH ON THE OCCASION OF YOUTH DAY
* How do you feel when you meet the youth?
* What is the first thing do you have to say to them?
When I am accompanied by youth and when I am exposed to a youth environment, I feel the like one who is breathing in the fresh morning air. I feel a freshness and vitality. The first thing that normally flashes into my mind that I have thought about a number of times, is that “do they (youth) know that a star is shining on their foreheads” I see this star, but do they see it too? The star of youth is very bright and full of good fortune. I think if the youth discover this valuable and unique asset in their lives, they will make use of it in the best way, God willing.
* How did you spend the period of your youth?
Indeed, the situation those times was different from that of today and it was very bad. The youth environment was not a desirable one, not only for me as a student of theology but for all the youth as well (I would like remark that I was student of theology simultaneous with my primary- school period). Attention was not paid to them. A lot of potential was destroyed and we witnessed this phenomenon with our own eyes. I even saw it in the of school theology as well as in the universities (because I had had contact with university students and I was very close to them for many years).
There were lots of shining potential, and there were also lots of people who probably did not possess enough ability for the courses in which they were studying but it is possible that they could have been masters in other fields but nobody were aware of them and nobody understood.
As “Mr. Mir Baqheri” pointed out, which he expressed correctly that before the revolution I had spent the entire period of my youth with them. When the revolution achieved victory I was about 39 years old, by then, I had spent most of my life from 17 or 18 to 39 with the youth, whether with students of theology and religion or with outside the field of theology. I felt that Muhammad Rida Pahlavy’s regime had done something that youths deviate toward decadence, toward moral decadence as well as decadence in their identity and in their very personality. Of course I can not claim that regime had deliberately planned to encourage our country’s youth toward lives of decadence, it may or may not be so, but what I can say with certainty is that they had planned and were running the country in such a way that it necessitated that one be totally distant from matters of politics and of life.
Would you believe me if I say that people like me, in their 20’s were not aware of who were the people in the ruling government? And nowadays, do you know anybody in this country who does not know who the education minister is? Or who is the minister of economy and finance? Or is there anybody who does not know the president (Muhammad Khatami)? Even people in the farthest reaches of the country are aware. In that era all layers of society –especially the youth were unconscious of political affairs. Youth were mostly occupied with daily affairs, and some of them had to work very hard just to get a piece of bread to eat; of course a part of their earning was not only spent on eating they were spending it on other things as well.
If you study the books at that period on Latin America and Africa- “frantz Fanon” and others who were writing books at that time which have remained in vogue up till today because of their own validity -you will find out that our situation was exactly the same. No one dared to write about Iran, but one could easily write, for instance on Africa, or Mexico or Chile. Reading these books, I found out that our situation actually is the same as those countries.
I mean, that young worker who after working very hard just to earn some pennies, would spend half of his pay on sensuality, pleasure seeking and things such as these. These were the same things that we read about in those books and we saw that in reality the same conditions prevailed in our society. It was truly very bad. Youth environment was not a good environment. Of course within their hearts it was different; because fundamentally the young is full of joy, hope, excitement and so forth.
I myself, personally had a very exciting youth, both before the outbreak of the revolution my literary and artistic activities gave some excitement in my life. And also after the outbreak of the struggle in 1341 -at that time I was 23 years old- naturally we found ourselves at heart of the basic excitement of the country, I was imprisoned twice in 1342,- detention, investigation –you know how all this can excite a person. Afterwards, being released, a person would feed even more excited on seeing huge masses of people interested in such things, and being a witness to a leader like Imam Khomeini guiding them and correcting their actions and thoughts, the excitement increased even more. This is how life was for people like me who were living and thinking in this category it was extremely exciting, but it was not so for everybody.
Of course, youth naturally gather together because it gladdens their hearts.- I mean there is a kind of happiness in their nature. They enjoy eating and speaking, looking in the mirror, and they enjoy holidays. You (youths) will not believe that, when a person had passed his youth he will not enjoy, for example, delicious food as much as you do. At that time, sometimes our elders -who were at the same age as I am now- said some things that made us astonished, we asked ourselves, why did they think like that? Now I understands that those poor people were not too wrong. Of course I have not separated myself totally from youth and even now I feel something of the youth within myself which I will not let myself lose.
But those who were subject to old age, as a matter of course did not feel the enjoyment that a youth feels in all aspects of his \ her life. It was like this at that time. I do not claim that an atmosphere of grief dominated, but there was an atmosphere of negligence and of unawareness and of a lack of identity.
That is why we, who were thinking seriously and deeply in affairs of struggle, put our efforts (extricate the) youth as far as possible out of the circle of the cultural influence of the regime. For instance, I myself used to go to the mosque to teach tafsir, preach to the people after prayers and at times I would go to other cities and give lectures. The main point of my attention was to take youths out of cultural noose of the regime. I considered it an “invisible noose”. I said “there is an invisible noose which is taking all of the people in a particular direction” and I would have to tear this lasso away and release the youth as far as possible.
Whoever got rid of that mental noose –which first of all required piety and secondly conversion toward Imam Khomeini’s thoughts- would become sort of immune. It was like this in those days. This very generation got the basic fundamentals of the revolution. Now, when I look at our society I can identify many of those individuals, whether they were related to me or not.
At any rate you are in a better period now, the atmosphere is better. Of course I do not say that our youth are provided with everything and that everything is running as it should, but in comparison to that time, today’s situation is better. In my opinion a youth can afford a good life today and find his or her human identity and personality if he or she wants.
* What is your definition of a Muslim youth and what are his or her characteristics?
* How can a youth reach his goals in the course of life?
Of course it cannot be easily traversed. The condition that you put makes it very difficult for me to answer you.
Actually nor every important and serious work could be done easily. If a man wants to realize valuable goals, he has to undergo lots of trouble and effort - this is inevitable Basically, amongst the important characteristics of youth, I consider three as the most evident, and if these are identified and directed in a right direction it will be feasible to answer yquestion. These three characteristics are as follows:
Energy, hope and innovation. These are the three most salient characteristics of the youth. If the media – be it a religious lecturer, a lecturer in cultural and intellectual affairs, T.V and Radio or schools- as cultural assistance can direct these three main characteristics, I think, it will be very easy for a young person to find the Islamic path because that which is required by Islam is for us to put our potentials into effect.
The Qur’an contains a very basic point and it is not bad that I express it for you dear youth in that it focuses upon piety. When individuals want to see themselves in terms of piety, prayer, fasting, servitude, worship, thikr and du’a come to their minds. It may be that they may all be a part of piety but none of them, themselves mean piety means being careful of oneself. Piety means that human being should know what he is actually doing, and that he chooses his every movement in accordance with his own will, thought and decision; it is like a person who is riding a tame horse, horse, holding its bridle and knowing where he will be going; this is piety. A person who does not have piety does not have control over his movements, decisions and future. According to words of the Nahjul Balagha” he is like one who is placed on a refractory horse,- without having any control over it. Having the bridle in his hands, he does not know where he will go and his no choice but to go wherever horse goes and there is no saving him.
If we take piety with this meaning in mind, in my opinion it will be easy to travel this path of course, not very easy however. It is feasible for a youth to find the Islamic way of life; if one is religious, one has to be careful about one’s deeds, about this venture, this word, this friendly relationship this lesson and work, this Action and thought, are they correct or incorrect? This very thinking about the correctness or incorrectness about one’s actions is piety.
If one is not religious, but is however in that very state he will be guided towards religiosity.
The Holy Qur’?n says: “it is a guide to those who guard (against evil)" it does not say: “A guide for those who believe: ".
The first expression means that a non- religious person could be guided by Qur’an if he has the piety, (it is possible for a non-religious person to be pious in the meaning we have outlined). But if a believer does not have piety, probably he is not firm in his faith and its existence will depend upon his situation: If he is located in a favorable environment his faith will stay with him.
Therefore if we utilize these three characteristics in the context of piety and guide them, it will be very easy for them to live in the way advised by Islam, this will be especially so in our country which is an Islamic country. It is very important point to note that the government- the national authority-is under the auspices of Islam. The people who have authority in this country, believe deeply in Islam, and faith has deep roots in the souls of the people as well. Therefore the way is paved to be a Muslim and live like a Muslim I will give a short example and conclude my answer to your question.
During the imposed war which, unfortunately, were not able to experience its upliftment -of course the fact that you had not experienced war is no cause for regret; but what someone will regret are those unique features associated with it in this regard- youth exactly like you now, eighteen and twenty years old from the point of view of spiritual purity were on the same level as agnostic who had spent forty years travelling on the path to God. We sensed this in their very being and such individuals were by no means few.
When I come face to face with such youth, I felt a real humility and it is not that I wanted to pretend to such humility. You have seen that when man is in the presence of greatness and witnesses its perfection’s he comes to understand his own weakness. I observed that same feeling in Myself when in the presence of a young Bassiji and a young combatant. Such was the atmosphere that could change a normal youth in such a manner.
You know how youth are in the world with “RAP” groups and the like and with all kinds of mental and moral calamities. Youth in the world are really suffering from a thousand misfortunes of this kind. “RAP” groups and groups similar to them existed in our time too. In our time the “Beatles” were famous, I have heard they have become old men now.
Some time ago I read about them in a foreign magazine talking about where they were and what they were doing. Those spiritual troubles and psychological complexes made them end up in these things. Now those people who imitate them in backward and remote countries do not understand what an illness had afflicted these poor unfortunates.
What they consider as progress is in fact decay and decline. But while the world was in such a state, our youth was in another situation entirely, in Iran the youth was bubbling, enriched honored, in the depths of their hearts they were happy, they had a sense of responsibility and they were clear about their objectives, what they were doing and for whom.
Leader of the Revolution Advises Youths on Pattern Selection
* As female students how can we pattern ourselves on Hazrat-e- Zahra’s life?
* Who were your own role models during the period of your youth?
That’s a good question. First of all I must say that no role model should be presented to us and then we be told that it is our role model. This type of stipulated and imposed Pattern role model is commonplace and uninteresting. We must find the role model ourselves, that is we must scan the horizon of our thoughts then we would see that among all of the figures that come to mind, that which comes to our minds more often, that is our role model. I believe that it is not difficult for a Muslim youth especially one who is acquainted with the lives of Infallible Imams, the family of the Prophet and of the early Muslims of Islam to find a role model, of which there are quite many.
You yourself fortunately mentioned Hazrate-Zahra’s name in this context. I would like to say a few words on sacred existence of Hazrat-e-Zahra. Perhaps, if seen against the background of the infallible lmams and other great personalities it will provide a lead.
You, madam living in an era of technological, industrial and scientific progress, in a big world a materialist civilization with a multitude of new phenomena in life, you settle on a role model, for example, who lived l400 years ago in what area would that role model be analogous to your present situation that could be useful for you. For instance you want to know how went to university? Or how she thought on world political affairs? These factors would not be found.
Each human being has a number of fundamental characteristics that you should clarify and search for your role model in them. How do you suppose, for instance, a human being should act when faced with events in the environment? Events in the Environment can sometimes be related to the era of the train, the subway, the jet or the computer and sometimes it is related to an era where none of these things exist. Nevertheless it is something which engulfs man.
Man can confront this matter in two different ways: one way is with a sense of responsibility and other in an apethetic manner.
Having a sense of responsibility is of various types and divisions:
With what mentality and with what kind of perception toward future should he have? Man has to search for these basic lines in a person who can be his pattern and follow them.
Once had spoken about this matter in a lecture. Sometimes in our lectures no attention is paid to noteworthy words and we miss them.
Look, Hazrat-e-zahra, for instance, was about six or seven years old that event of the Sheb-e-Abitaleb occurred.
The Shu’ab-e- Abitaleb was a very difficult period in the history of Islam The public call of the Holy Prophet had begun, he had openly proclaimed this call and little by little, the people of Mecca, especially the youth and slgradually gravitated towards the Holy Prophet. Leaders of the Tagut such as Abu-Lahab, Abu – jahl, and others had no other choice but to exile the prophet and those around him and so they did. A large number of people consisting of tens of families among whom were the Holy prophet and his family, Abi-Talib -who himself was one of the leaders of the Quraish’s heads –children and others were exiled from Mecca, but where could they go? Abi Talib had some land –some miles away from Mecca– which was located in a mountain fissure and was known as Sheb-e- Abi Talib (“sheb” means fissure of mountain or narrow valley). We from Mashad call it “Bazeh”, an original Persian word.
Abi –Talib had a “Bazeh” or “Sheb” and they were told that it was better to go there” Now think about it, in Mecca it is very hot in the day and very cold at night quite an intolerable situation, and they lived there for three years only God knows what hardships and hunger they suffered.
This was one of the most trying times for the Holy Prophet. In this period he was not only responsible for managing a society, but he had to support himself as well as the people who were suffering from severe hardship.
When a situation is pleasant, the people who have gathered around a leader are satisfied they say “God bless him that provided us with such a nice situation, but in hardship and in the face of uncertainty and they say “he guided us to this and we did not wish for such a situation” of course people with strong faith resist, but in the final analysis all the hardships are placed on the shoulders of the Prophet. In the midst of such a severe situation Abi-Talib who his supporter and hope and “Khadijah-e- Kubra” the greatest source of psychological support for the Prophet both passed away within a week, this unforseen calamity left the Holy Prophet completely alone.
I do not know if you have ever been in charge for a work collective to know what responsibility really means? A situation like this could make a man feel quite helpless. In such conditions take a look at Fatimah Zahra’s role. When man looks at history he finds such instances pushed aside to the corners and unfortunately no chapter is opened for them.
Fatemah Zahra was like a mother consultant and nurse to the Holy Prophet. That is why she is called “the mother of her father” from the time she was only six or seven years old. In Arabia and other hot environments girls grow faster physically and mentally and the equivalent of her age would be like that of a girl of twelve in our environment, accompanied by a heightened sense of responsibility.
Couldn’t this be a pattern for youth that can encourage them to quickly feel their responsibility toward matters in their environment, to quickly feel that joy? She expended that excitement, that valuable asset which permeated her existence in removing the dust of grief and displeasure from a father’s face who was now about fifty years old and was almost old man. Could she not be a pattern for youth? This is very important.
The next example is that of a married life and haring a husband when someone thinks about wife hood they think about organizing meals in the kitchen, cleaning rooms, making beds like in the old days, arranging the cushions and then waiting for the husband to come home from the office or store. Being a wife, however is not just this.
Just look at the married life of Fatimah Zahra (S.A.).
Fatimah and Imam Ali (a.) had been married for about nine of the ten years that the Holy Prophet spent in Medina. Had wars taken place almost sixty in most of which of Imam Ali had participated.
Now look here, here is a lady who stays at home while her husband is involved in fighting battles on a regular basis and without whose presence on the battlefield the struggle would be paralyzed, so much did success on the battlefield depend upon him.
At the same time they did not have an easy life, exactly as we have heard. It said: The same things that we have heard “Because of love of God they feed the poor, the slaves, the orphans, saying: truly we feed you for the sake of God alone”.
Truly they lived a life of poverty although she was the daughter of a leader, the daughter of the Holy Prophet, and with a sense of responsibility as well.
Do you know what a strong spirit a human being needs in order to equip such a husband, to free his heart from the distractions of family problems, to reassure him and to properly educate the children? You may say that Imam Hassan and Imam Husayn (a.) were both Imams and had nature of Imamate (leadership), but Zainab (a.) was not an Imam. Fatimah Zahra had trained her during these nine years. After the Holy Prophet’s demise she did not live very long. She was that kind of housewife, she was that kind of spouse in this way they managed the home and in this way this axis of family life is permanently written in history.
Can not this be a pattern for a young girl? A woman who is a housewife a lady who is honored as a housewife this is very important.
After holy prophet’s demise she (Hazrat-e-Zahra) comes to the mosque and gives that startling lecture. Those of us who vocally give extempore speeches and lectures will understand how extraordinary that lecture was. A girl of eighteen, twenty or at most twenty four years old (of course her real age is not certain because date of birth is in dispute) experiencing those hardships and calamities comes to mosque and in the presence of a huge crowd of people she gives a lecture whose every word would remain in the annals of history.
The Arabs are famous for having good memories. A man might come and compose an elegy of eighty lines, and afterwards, ten people would write it. The elegies which have survived originated in this way. Poems were read in social gatherings and were recorded. Lectures and sayings were recorded in the same way, though memorizing or writing and they have remained with us until today.
Empty talk does not remain in history neither would any kind of speech, lots of words have been expressed, lots of poems hare been composed, but none have survived and nobody pays to them any attention. That which history keeps in its heart and after 1400 years would fill anyone with humility when they consider it this demonstrates magnificence and in my opinion this can be a pattern for a young girl.
You are correct, the fault is with those of us who are in charge of these affairs. Of course by this I do not mean those in charge of governmental affairs I mean spiritual and religious affairs, that we have not offered them to the young generation as we would have liked, but you yourselves can do work in these areas. There are similar cases to be seen in the lives of our Imams, as well.
Imam Jawad’s life is also a model. Imam Jawad (a.) despite his stature and his magnificence died when he was only twenty five years old; these are not our words but the words of history, a history written by non-shiites. This magnanimous man during his infancy and his youth attained a magnificence before the eyes of “Mamoun” and all the people. This is very important and could also be seen as a model for all of us.
Of course, in our time we have a model as well. Imam Khomeini (May his spirit be sanctified) is a model, these young volunteer forces are a model both those who had been martyred and those who are still alive to- day. Of course man’s culture makes it easy to speak about people who have been martyred or have passed away. Just look and see what models we can find. We have seen people in the war who had left their towns or villages as very average people. I had noted previously that the previous regime could not elevate these potentials or even realize them. In the previous regime these people were normal human beings, but in this system they came to the battlefield which was a field of work and all of a sudden their potentials were realized, they became “major generals” and later they were martyred. Such cases are many.
Some years ago I was reading about them in a pamphlet entitled “My commander” recounting the memories of young menabout their commanders on the battlefield. I don’t know if this work was continued or not. They narrated very short stories or brief memories, memories that manifest the magnificence of such a personality to man. These could be patterns for us. And of course, in our scientific personalities, athletic personalities, literary personalities, as well as among our artistic personalities we may find patterns as well; personalities that are truly notable.
Of course man chooses his model in accordance with his own criteria. You may choose any pattern that you wish, but I ask you to consider piety as a criterion, piety is something that cannot be neglected. It is necessary for a worldly life as well as a spiritual one.
In response to your question as to what personalities had impressed me I must say that there were quite a variety.
The person who impressed me very much in my youth was the late “Navab Safavi”. I was about fifteen when he came to Mashad. I was really impressed by him. When he left Mashad he was martyred in a terrible way only after some months had passed. This deepened his impression upon us. Ladder Imam Khomeini profoundly impressed me. Before I left for Qom and before the outbreak of the struggle I had heard Imam Khomeini’s name, I had not yet seen him but I was interested in him; because all the young men in Qom’s theological school took great interest in his lectures which appealed to them. When I left for Qom I did not hesitate to go to his classes.
From the start I attended his sessions and I continued to attend his classes for as long as I stayed in Qom. He impressed me very much. My father and mother, of course, impressed me as well. My mother especially so, she impressed me deeply. She was quite an effective lady.
* Considering your interest in art and literature, who among contemporary poets have you studied most and in whom are you more interested?
I divide contemporary poets into:
Poets who composed lyric poems, poets who composed of satirical poems, and poets who composed modern verse. Each of these categories consists of some individuals in whom I was interested. Among the lyric poets there is the late “Amiry Firouzkouhy” who was a friend of mine and he took a great liking to me we were in contact with each other for many years after the Revolution. He passed away during my term as president. Besides “Amiry” there were, of course one or two other composers of lyric poems whose work attracted me; one of them is the late “Rahy Moayery” I did not hare close contact with him, the other one is the late “Shahriar” I was very interested in his poems, and I was also acquainted with him, after the Revolution but we had no relation before the Revolution. One of the best among composers of satirical poems was “Malekashoara Bahar” whose satirical poems proved very attracted to me. The late “Amiry Firouzkouhy” used to compose a sort of satirical poem in the style of “Khaghany” a famous and noted composer of satirical poems, I was very interested in him.
There were two or three people in the area of modern verse, whose work I found very interesting; one of them is “Akhavan”. We knew “Akhavan” and his poetry was very exceptional. There are two or three other people that are also notable but I do not wish to mention their names. During our youth there were individuals who were masters in the art of modern verse and I believe they composed modern verse even better than “Nima Youshij”, although he paved the way but in my opinion these people were better at composing more experienced and more noteworthy. Of course no one had the sincerity that “Nima Youshij” had neither did “Akhavan” nor the two or three people that have not mentioned. “Nima Youshij”- contrary to gossip – was a religious man. The late “Amiy” was his close friend and he told me that “Nima Youshij” was religious. He was interested in traditional poems, but he was also interested in this style modern verse as well. You know, of course that he imitated Europeans in this style.
Basically the style of our (modern verse) is not an original style in a real sense; it is a style of European poetry; with many of the characteristics that these poems possess, even patterns of English sentence structure has entered modern Persian poetry.
Among the poets we have today, we have some very good ones; we have also good lyrical poems and to be fair, among those whom we say are good poets; we have those who write modern verse as well. Among the poets of the Revolution, some are really good and gifted ones. Allow me not to get into commenting upon the contemporary poets at this time.
* Today literature is directly mixed up with political viewpoints; consequently bewildering writers of the young generation. What is your opinion in this case?
I do not understand what you are getting at when you by say that literature has become mixed with politics. Does it mean that it has political content? For instance, suppose we say that, there is a poet who is in opposition to our current reasoning from the political point of view but he is a notable poet, if his poems found its way into the universities and attract attention it may be used, therefore it should not be so employed. Of course I do not know how such poetry is encountered with in the universities. If we really had a poet who had a high position from a poetic point of view so that a student in the university could really make use of his poetry I would not criticize him. Even if that poet was going against the revolution for coming into a class and being the subject to attention; but honestly I do not know any such a poet now.
You speak of the separation of modern poem and prose from the poems of the previous era. In that time when this so called notable poet composed this poem, we probably had ten other poets who may have had the same fame or more famous. Now this particular poet’s poetry, and I wish not to mention his name and will not do so, found its way into the university but Akhavan’s poetry did not and I do not think that his poetry was the best manifestation of the poetry of that period. “Akhavan” was a friend of mine; during my presidential term we had a warm relationship with each other After my presidential term.
Subsequent to return from a one year trip to Europe, he wrote me a letter and composed a poem, and soon after he passed away. Therefore there is nothing wrong with «Akhavan». In fact why shouldn’t we not gravitate towards such a man who could be so useful to us? In other words, if we really have great poets right now I see no problem in students of universities making use of their poetry and subjecting them to scholarly research, I see no problem in this, at least it is not prohibited on my part. I am not aware about any such programs but I do not know such poets.
You should know that there are some people who have famous names, but really are not that great and their poems, too, are not that important. When exposed to criticism, and putting aside their status as poets in considering both good and bad in detail it then becomes clear that some of them are fakes. Usually I am not uninformed about these contemporary poets. Some of these so-called poets compose poems and claim that they are this and they are that, that they are the roots of poetry in this country, while we know they are nothing of the sort. At the time when it was best for their work they were second rate, some of them were third rate while there were many in the country who were much better than them.
Contemporary poems should be worked on. You will find no one in lyric poetry who is better than Rahy Moayery during his time. «Rayh» is from the same generation that is connected to this period, and it is the same with the late Amiry Firouzkouhy, and these are quite noted poets, or the late «Gholam Reza Qodsi» or Mr «Qahraman» who is now in Mashad and is a very good composer of lyric poems; or for instance Mr. Sahebkar in Mashad who is not a well-known poet but his lyric poems are excellent. Or for example in Kermanshah there is Mr. Behzad. These are the poets of note in this period. The young poet of today will really not be able to find any pobetter than these.
We have exceptional poets that unfortunately the young generation is not aware of. All of them are also good people. People who are on the line of the Revolution, the system and Islam; the very line that the people support in Iran. There is no opposition or separation. They could be quite useful for us, but our youths are somewhat lazy in the fields of research, investigation and follow up. If it is not too presumptious to the youth this must be said. If they search a little and be serious they can uncover very good sources. Right now in our own university in Tehran we have very excellent and noteworthy poets to whom people pay very little attention.
* We have observed that in social and political affairs, some people take up extremist positions and also follow up on them. What is your guidance for young people in this regard?
One should not be very afraid of variety in tastes. Variety in taste is not a bad thing. Now, for example, if there are two political orientations, and one youth believes in one of them and the other youth believes in the other it’s no problem, what is harmful is action without thinking and without study jumping to quick decisions, becoming agitated and carrying out activities without proper study. I warn dear youths to beware of this attitude. Being young does not necessarily mean having speed in making decisions. Of course, youth means intrepidity in taking action, which means that man should not let himself be rendered helpless by the complications and complexities of the work that he wants to accomplish. It does not mean becoming, agitated and acting without methodology and without deliberation. Youth can act without deliberation but they can also work with deliberation which is to work completely, thoughtfully and with reflection. These characteristics that is, the characteristics of deliberation, of thoughtfulness of study and of seeking the truth all of them can exist in the youth. If some youth, for example can be seekers after truth which is, basically, part of their attributes there will be no objection at all to them having variety in taste and it will not be the cause of any error, at least it will not create any serious damage.
As regards to the attitude of denying the other side, such as in social affairs, a person taking up a position and saying that it is one hundred percent so and so and nothing else, is not right. It is not a good attitude to have. Of course, we must be so with regard to some of the principles of our religious beliefs that is, one must follow it thoughtfully and take stand on a fixed and well established point, and decisively say this is it and there is nothing else. In this case it is not bad to say so, rather, it’s good but in social matters, in political matters and in various social encounters it is not right to say that (This is right and there is nothing else. In my opinion man should tolerate opinions contrary to his own, and concerning the effect upon his thoughts and his opinions, he must establish deliberation as the criterion and the basis of his work. In my opinion there would be no problem if such was the case.
* So far, during the course of your activities, to what extent have you given youth responsibility and what is your experience in this regard? In your opinion, what is the responsibility of youth for scientific uplifting of the country?
At the beginning of the Revolution, I gave youth responsibilities in areas of work that were in my control whether in the armed forces, working in the government or during my term as president. My experience is, that, if we put our trust in youth, that young person who has what it takes should be given that responsibility, he has the competency. This does not mean “every youth, every responsibility”. Compared to others young people were better and more responsible in performing their jobs, they also progressed more rapidly, they would be more innovative and would deliver earlier; in other words they maintained a progressive method on the job. On the other hand, it was possible for non-youth to accomplish their actual tasks quite well, but they stopped short of progressing in practice, and usually such is the case.
When we were on the Revolutionary Council, some other friends and ourselves were objected against concerning this matter, there were older individuals, mainly sixty, seventy, seventy-five years old who also sat on the council and did not have much belief in the youth. They used to say why do you turn forwards the youth and put them to perform crucial tasks without proper warrant? They didn’t like to give away too much ground to the youth. They certainly preferred that the youth obey and follow them. They used to say they are young and we are old so they should follow us. They were not quite ready to place their trust in young people, but we had been placing our trust in them. With the practical experience they were having, we were giving them the answer, work was well done and progress was being made. As to the other part of your question, referring to the scientific advancement of the country. Bear in mind that the period of youth is the period of capability. How, for what can this capability be employed? In my opinion, it should be used mainly in acquiring knowledge, in purifying the soul, in instilling piety in oneself and in strengthening the body-namely through exercise. These three areas are fundamental, such that if in one short sentence I was asked, “what do you want from youth?” I would tell that person: acquiring an education, spiritual refinement and exercise. I think that the youth should go after these three special characteristics. Acquiring an education includes research as well as intellectual work. Because this ability resides in youth, they should strive very hard in acquiring an education. Nowadays, I have heard that youth are not willing to accept this heavy scientific responsibility. This is not good at all. How could we advise a young person who is not getting an education, his high school program left in the lurch and not attending university that he should go and study but not so advise a university student who is not studying hard in university at all? Really, what did you go to university to do? You should be going to University to advance kowledye. In my opinion young people should apply their energy which is, in reality, the power of their youth, in the pursuit of acquiring knowledge.
As to your question whether the gap between the advanced countries and ourselves is coverable or not, I believe so, I think it can definitely be covered. Of course it is possible that we cannot cover it by going the same route as they have gone, however, ilâ mâsha Allah, short cuts do exist in the world. We do not know very well this natural world that God has created. There are thousands of ways. One way is the very path that contemporary industrial civilization has taken, and after every step they have mapped out the steps to come. Why should we not be hopeful of opening a new door and making a new discovery. There was a time when electricity had not been discovered, I mean, it had been in existence in the world, but people had not been aware of it, suddenly, they came to know of it and to utilize it. Yes, they had known of steam power and long before that they did not even know about fire, however, later on, they came to know about it. So why should we despair of not coming to know of something hither to unknown once again, just as every day something otherwise unknown before becomes known? We must work in this area and reach a road, our road, that will make ready the rapid advancement of science. It’s only remedy is for the youth to work hard especially those involved in science, education and research.
Once can accomplich whatever task one wants to do during our youth; especially in those three areas: knowledge, self purification and sport, which are best accomplished while one is young. Everyone certainly knows that exercise when one is older is not as effective to the some extent as compared to when one is younger. Most people, however, do not know about purifying the soul, imagine that when a human being grows old then is the time to practice worship and self. Purification exactly when self-purification is difficult, sometimes even impossible. In old age self-purification is a most difficult thing. In your time, however, the time of youth, self purification is very easy. At any rate, young people should take these three tasks very seriously.
* With respect to fashion consciousness being regarded as a special characteristic of man, who, in some manner displays himself in such ways that include make up and dress. What is your opinion as to how one should confront such a subject? What has the state machinery done until now? Have they been successful?
In answer to your question, what I can say now, is that the principle behind the inclination towards the beautiful, beautification and the love of beauty is something found in the essential nature of man (fitrah). Of course it may be a bit different from the concept of fashion consciousness. Fashion consciousness is something more general. The question of make-up, clothing and the like which you have mentioned is a particular category, that is, that man, especially the youth, like beauty and beautification and like to be beautiful themselves as well, there is no harm in this, it is something natural and normal and is not forbidden in Islam, what is forbidden is causing a disturbance (fitnah) and corruption.
Beauty and beautification should not be the cause for brining corruption and decadence into existence in society. In other words it should not introduce moral decadence into society. How does it do so? His ways are clear. If male-female relationships are to be irresponsible, unconditional and unrestrained, it causes corruption. If fashion centrism assumes an extreme form you will get corruption. If the topic of beautification, cultivating external appearances, clothing and the like become the primary occupation of life this leads to deviation and decadence. It will be like in the period of tyranny (taghut), when aristocratic women and those from among the nobility would sit behind the dressing table. And how long do you think they sat there for? Six hours! This is true, I have accurate information on the fact that they would sit there for six hours. A human being spending all this time because she wants, for example to go to a wedding and she has to do her hair or her face in some special way! If it comes to this, that is deviation and decadence. In itself, however, there is no harm in paying attention to your outward appearance and clothing, as long as it is not for showing off and for displaying one’s charms (tabarruj).
Tabarruj is forbidden in Islam. Tabarruj means women showing themselves off in front of men in order to attract and encourage disturbances (fitnah). This is a kind of fitnah that carries a whole lot of problems along with it. A young man falling into sin with a young woman is not the only problem, that is only the beginning, I would dare say it is the smallest problem, it continues right into the family. Fundamentally, this type of unrestrained, unconditional and unrestricted relationship is a deadly poison for the foundations of the family, because a family with love is alive. In principle, love is the basis of the family. If this love -the love of beauty, the love toward the opposite sex- is provided for in a hundred different places then that strong support, necessary for the stability of the family will disappear and families would become unstable. Unfortunately today, the situation has indeed come to this in western countries especially in Europe and America. America is now severely afflicted with this problem, families are disintegrating and this has become a great calamity. The negative consequences of this disaster on it’s most primary level, affects women themselves. It is, of course very hard for the men as well, but it affects women more so. Next, it affects the generation to be born. See what a criminal and delinquent generation we have in the world today and in America? All of them originate from there. It is the evil introduction and key... after which wickedness follows in succession.
Islam gives importance to the subject of beauty. We have quite often heard the saying: God is beautiful and loves beauty:
There are many narratives in our books of traditions (hadith) that treat especially of looking after our outward appearance. In the book of Marriage (Nikah) it is discussed in detail that man and woman must pay attention to their outward appearance. Some people imagine that men, for example, should shave the hair on their heads; no. In religious law it is recommended (mustahabb) that young men leave their hair, it is narrated that: “Beautiful hair is among the blessings of God, so treat it honourably or, for example, it is narrated that whenever the Honorable Prophet wanted to go among his companions he used to look into a container of water and properly fixed his appearance. In those days when mirrors as we know them today did not exist, Medina was poor too, so the Prophet had a container of water which he would use as a mirror when he wanted to go out among his friends. What is evident here is that looking after your outward appearance, putting on nice clothes and inclining towards beauty was a thing aimed at from the beginning of Islam. But that which is bad and harmful is that which become the tools for fitnah and tabarruj. As I had said before, the damage will hit their families and the generation that comes after them.
Recently I saw mentioned a subject in one of the American magazines which was also reflected in our newspapers, that two boys of ten or twelve years old had took up ambush and gunned down a group of teachers and children with a machine gun! First of all they sounded the alarm so that the children would assemble, then they gunned them down. How truly bad and painful it is for a society to be in such a state. It was a cold-blooded and unimaginable criminal act, because of bad upbringing. All of this comes after that very unrestrictedness.
* How can a youth satisfy his need for excitement and make use of it?
That's a good question. However it's also a difficult one, not among one of the most easy questions. See here, excitement is in a special area concerning those things in which excitement becomes evident, for example, sports, especially in some sports like soccer, which is an exciting event. Soccer is so by nature and it is different to other sports like volleyball and tennis; from the point of view of the fundamental nature of the game, it is constructed in such a way that there is a great deal of competitiveness, excitement, and the like. On the whole sports is an exciting thing, artistic works, also evoke excitement.
But excitement is not only confined to these areas alone. If a young person was able to find an area (whatever area) that is attractive to him, he could easily satisfy that excitement in himself. I felt that excitement when I was younger and donned the garb of a religious student (talabeh). The dress and also the environment were restrictive, nevertheless, I was excited and it was also satisfying. How? I liked poetry. It may be hard for you to believe. There used to be poetry sittings with four or five friends who all were aficionados of poetry, where we would sit for two or three hours, just talking about and reading poetry. This is for a person who is interested in that sort of thing. It satisfies his excitable mood to the extent that it does for a soccer player or for fans watching a soccer match. As such it is not a restricted field.
Another example is related to the very example you gave about a university engineering student. You said that he studies but is not excited about it. When the name of study is brought up, someone would think that it is not an exciting thing. It is true that a classroom may not be an exciting place, however if you assume that a workplace is set up alongside the class, whether in the university or outside as is now in vogue with young people during their engineering program are put irelationships with factories. Such a young person would feel that this workshop would contain the possibility for him to initiate and pursue the innovations he desires or the ideas that come to his mind in that environment. Do you think he would be less excited? In fact he would be even more so.
As I was saying to the brothers, do research, research must be done with love and enthusiasm. Research in which you force someone, telling him “go research” will certainly be something dry, unexciting and useless also; but in the case of a field of study for which you have a great deal of love and affection, for which you have written your university entrance examinations, which you are now studying in university, where you have a good professor, and now, you have a well-equipped workplace within your reach where you can make the results of your ideas and your innovations into a reality, that’s really great.
I would like to express it in this way, that we should not consider the matter of satisfying the sense of excitement of youth in such a way as to evoke it in the mind as something questionable or as a cause for concern, no. If the field of life is opened up in various areas, youth themselves will go into those areas where they have an interest in order to satisfy their excitement.
As the authorities as well as every person who is interested in this country- inclusive of governmental, and non governmental organizations and sections concerning youth in particular - we must open the field for healthy and proper youth activities. Now, for example, a youth may be interested in the area of literature, or economics. Normally, economics does not have laboratories, however, if all of a sudden it may be announced that such and such an economist, foreign or local, in such and such a place, is having a class or a seminar and is going to give a lecture. This is very meaningful for a young person who has such an interest. To get a ticket, to go there immediately and to put his questions to the professor, all this is excitement. With divine grace if the field of work and activity facing the youth is expanded -a trend that has progressed since the beginning of the Revolution- the youth will be able to satisfy this sense of excitement which is one of their blessings. Of course I concur that it has not gone as far forward as it should have because of the problems that have existed for nineteen years up till now.
In eight of these nineteen years there was a real war going on. In the first two or three years those in authority were lacking in experience, information and know-how, then, little by little we began to move ahead.
You are an artist, and all praises be to God, you are also well known, we have seen you on television. You artists are the ones most capable of serving the people. The people can learn from you. If the artist really possessed that piety that I was talking about, so that when you, are performing this role, when you are playing that part that you keep in mind that a number of youth, a number of children, a number of women and men will be looking at you and will be learning from you; if you plan it so that your work be well done and be of the highest excellence, I would imagine that you would be most capable of service.
Art has an expressiveness of language that no other language possesses, whether it be the language of science, that of ordinary speech, or the sermon. None of them has the expressiveness of the language of art. One of the secrets of the success of the Qur'an is it's artistry. The Qur'an is very much at the pinnacle of art, it is quite extraordinary, in fact, it enchanted the people of that time; otherwise, if the Noble Prophet had sat with the people and without an artistic language spoke with them in a matter - of - fact kind of language, maybe he might have found a small group interested in what he had to say, but that thunderbolt, that thunder and lightning, that storm would never have been. It is art that does this kind of thing. Art has that kind of effect. Even now, when someone reads Hafiz's poetry, he could see a greatness in it. It makes an impression on you. At the same time, the influence of these performing arts is much more rapidly felt compared to that of poetry and literature, however I don't know if they are more lasting or not. It is possible for someone to say that in certain areas it is or is not more lasting, but at any event its influence is quicker more decisive and more overwhelming.
You all (artists) can make an impression quite well. I want to ask those script writers, those who write screenplays, the actors, the directors, the set decorators, and the costume designers - which, by the way, is one of the most important aspects in artistic work, but is most overlooked, because the clothes you wear serve as a model for one group and is very attractive to them - I would like to ask them to be aware of what they are doing, that they should think about its end results. At any rate it is a very good field and, God willing, I hope you will be successful.
Why don't we see a strong policy in sports? And why isn't sports used as a powerful tool against the cultural invasion?
The subject you have mentioned concerning what is lacking in the affair of sports is absolutely correct. Not much has been done in sports. Turning our attention to sports we perceive two big deficiencies:
First, investment should be made in devising a massive program and in making crucial fundamental decisions as to the choice of sport. There is the demand, and the potential in Iranian society. Which sport should be placed under consideration? What should be the state of mind and how should it be followed up? In this very context, I had spoken in detail with athletes and national sports authorities one or two years ago. I believe that if we invest in this area and do some proper thinking and planning, without a doubt, the same thing would happen in the world sporting arena that had occurred in the war with our volunteer forces and military organizations who were all but cut off from the modern equipment of the world. You have seen what honour they brought. Even now, in volleyball for the handicapped and disabled war heroes, the same thing has happened; these brothers have consistently been bringing honour and glory; or, for example, in wrestling, you yourself (addressing Rasul Khadim, the Iranian wrestler) your brother and other brothers have really brought great honour to this country. We can be like this in every area of sports. There is no reason why we cannot enter the battlefield among the world’s most distinguished athletes in soccer, volleyball, equestrian events or in some of our traditional sports like polo, or in martial arts or swimming.
The reason for the situation being so disorganized at present is because there has been no programming applied to training or for advancement or utilization of relevant techniques. This is one problem. The second problem, which is very much related to the first, is the lack of a spiritual and cultural atmosphere in sports. It is not that our athletes are not good people, not at all, there are very good, believing, pious and abstemious people amongst them, however it must be more than just this. Our sports environment must be an environment of modesty. Modesty has a very intriguing and very wide meaning. It is the wholesomeness of the soul of a man where so ever he may be. The sports environment must be a modest environment; licentiousness disrepute, or any form of immodesty should not be seen in it, we must create this atmosphere in our sports environment and if this is so, it will shine in the world and our sports will become a star.
Look, right now, our films are entered into international film festivals, and the point that proves very attractive to the judges and the audience is the modesty that is now characteristic of Persian films. Some directors and filmmakers naturally go after this now, for some others, however modesty is something that is imposed, they have no choice but to portray women, men and family relations in a manner that is in conformity with the atmosphere currently accin the Islamic Republic. This is exactly what makes it stand out in the world.
Contrary to what has been imagined, the world does not like this unrestraint, and lasciviousness, it is tired of it. Islam has also recommended the very state of chastity, decency, wholesomeness and propriety which is so natural to Iranian society. We must make this dominant in the sports environment and in other areas as well, this will become the culturo-spiritual atmosphere of sports. It will be exactly as you are saying. For with regard to going into the battleground of the cultural invasion, we must hold on to our own culture, this is absolutely correct.
Therefore, if in the world of sports, the authorities pay attention to these two tasks; which are, on the one hand, getting the knowledge and drawing up a precise program in every respect, such as selection technique, work, training and exercise; and on the other hand in attaining a cultural atmosphere in sport, I believe that our sports environment will go forward which will be very good.
However, I would like to ask the youth that they should not wait for that day, and they should not say that when sports get like that then we would go and participate, no youth should exercise without exception. Now, when we say "youth" it does not mean that those who are not young should not participate in sports, they should also, however sports contain a great deal that is attainable for youth, a subject which I wouldn’t repeat since I've already spoken about it men and family relations in a manner that is in conformity with the atmosphere currently acceptable in the Islamic Republic. This is exactly what makes it stand out in the world.
Contrary to what has been imagined, the world does not like this unrestraint, and lasciviousness it is tired of it. Islam has also recommended the very state of chastity, decency, wholesomeness and propriety which is so natural to Iranian society. We must make this dominant in the sports environment and in other areas as well, this become the culturo-spiritual atmosphere of sports. It will be exactly as you are saying, for with regard to going into the battle ground of the cultural invasion, we must hold on to our own culture, this is absolutely correct.
Therefore, if in the world of sports, the authorities pay attention to these two tasks; which are on the one hand, getting the knowledge and drawing up a precise program in every respect, such as selection technique, work, training and exercise; and on the other hand in attaining a cultural atmosphere in sport, I believe like to ask the youth that they should not wait for that day, and they should not say that when sports get like that then we would go and participate, no youth should exercise without exception. Now, when we say "youth" it dose not mean that those who are not young should not participate in sports, they should also, however sports contain a great deal that is attainable for youth, a subject which I would'nt repeat since I've already spoken about it frequently. Exercise is also mandatory for old people, for those who have passed the period of their youth - for those who are forty or fifty - exercise is mandatory, they should exercise.
* Why isn't there a special policy - making center in youth affairs? Why are the different sections concerning youth affairs - for example, marriage, not coordinated with each other?
Of course, this has been accomplished to some extent, that is, with the establishment of the High Council for Youth, the first step has been taken in this direction, and I hope that this first step will also take us the rest of the way. Without a doubt some governmental organizations, for example the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education or that of Medicine are also related to youth affairs, however, with respect to the main center that can consider youth affairs in a comprehensive and exhaustive manner, is the very High Council for Youth. So far, in my opinion, the brothers have done a good job to the extent where their responsibilities apply. They should do the work of a headquarters and the task of executing the directives should be the work of the governmental organizations. The Youth Charter that some gentlemen had prepared last year and presented to me was very good, very comprehensive and useful and it could be a practical logical and excellent base for organizations to the Islamic Republic of base their work upon.
The government or even the High Council for Youth could, of course make deliberations on the subject of marriage which you had mentioned. The issue of marriage, however, is a completely individual and personal matter. Families must think about it and governmental and public organizations should give general recommendations. My own recommendation is that you should make marriage easy; do not make the mahr too high, jahiziehs (trousseaux) should not be heavy, wedding parties should not be too lavish and extravagant. These things should be put into practice. If would be very good if this was propagated through culture and art in order to get the people to adopt it. If this way is adopted, I think that marriage will be a very easy thing.
Also, the age at which individuals should marry should not be so that, on the one extreme, you have some people thinking that it must take place very early in youth. No, I disagree with this. There is no objection if someone wants to marry at a very early age there is absolutely no problem with this, but in this regard it is not necessary that we insist upon the matter.
Neither should it be the opposite extreme, like what westerners do, marrying at thirty or forty years of age. Of course, in my opinion, selfishness could be so dominating that a man or thirty, forty of fifty years would see no problem in marrying a young girl, I mean these upper years are those of grown men, but still he is after a young woman much younger than him with a great age difference between them, which is, of course, found over there (in the west), the very same place where insecure marriages take place, and so, you have a lot of single people in Western countries, people who, for their entire lives, have lived alone, something which, fortunately, is very rare in Iran and in other Islamic countries. At any rate, marriages should be made easy and should not be for chasing down prestige so that it would be easier for the youth to reach the stage of getting married. This must come into existence within families, among the youth, and within the young men and women themselves. There should be no barrier to marriage. If the government could provide the facilities that would be very good. I have always been pushing for this, always advising the authorities regarding housing, loans and other living necessities for the youth; we presume all these things, however I would like to say that the first level of responsibility in this task is family and personal responsibility.
In your opinion what ways are there to protect the values and carry over the spiritual atmosphere of the war years to the youth of today?
You are quite right in every word you said. I also believe in the same point sir. I believe, and I am proud of people like you. It's a discussion, not about individuals, it is a discussion about states of mind, it's a discussion on intentions, on the renewed life and these difficult tests which this revolution has given to our country. In the circumstances surrounding the Fath (Victory) of "Operation Bustan" the Imam gave a message in which it was changed to "Fath al Futuh" (Victory of Victories). Some people imagined that the Fath al Futuh was the Battle of Bustan itself, however, the Imam did not say that, he was saying that the Fath al Futuh - the Victory of Victories- is the victory or the fashioning of these aware and awakened souls.
Indeed the biggest victory of the Islamic Republic was that it was able to take these youth to this level of greatness and spiritual exaltation so that they could believe in themselves, to be able stand up and defend the country, defend themselves and defend Islam against the great assault of a united world, which was manifein the Imposed War, and which has continued up till now. Even now we are facing a worldwide attack.
I have noticed that some of the press, the newspapers, the man new on the scene who has no idea of what's going on are really uninformed, if not biased. These people seem to think that it is some kind of art to draw this country back to the state of banality that existed before the revolution, and they are, at present, actively trying to do this. How irresponsible. What a pity. Our young people, at the time of their youth were able to save themselves from the stupefaction that had prevailed in the country, they were able to move and deliver Iran. Iran was gone and we were lost. We were totally wrecked. The flood of western cultural sewage which marked the introduction of economic, Political and colonial domination in the real sense, of the word, really destroyed us. In the midst of all this, the powerful hand of the revolution and Islam, by means of these very youth, rescued the country. Now a group of people wants this proud period to be entrusted in the bosom of forgetfulness and the people to go back to that very state of stupefaction that existed before. Who wants that situation? The enemies of this country and this nation want it.
I think I have mentioned this in a speech before. Just recently, before Eid (Noruz) in an American magazine, a well known American writer wrote an editorial, which, in brief, said talked about the confrontation with countries like Iran, which he, by the way, referred to in a very derogatory manner, as an outlaw state - meaning that we cannot operate along economic and military lines. He said that those ways (economic and military) had been tried but had failed. He said “we must enter by cultural means", once again making it clear. You may ask, how can they enter? In the middle of that very page the picture of a totally naked woman was drawn, and he said that this was the way. He said that "we must promote this for us to be able to overcome them”. He's right that's the way.
Unfortunately there are a number of people who have no idea what they are actually doing to the country, but certainly, with Divine might and power we will not let them and they will not be able to. We will not let this treachery take place against this country and against this Revolution and bring them to an end, however, they continue to indulge themselves in these whims and want to take the people back to those unfortunate days.
In my opinion, our youth today are godly, believing and good of heart. Take a look and see the university situation, our workers’ situation, see what kind of environment prevails in our country. Look at those days when we hold demonstrations, like the 22nd of Bahman or the Day of Quds. Who are the majority of the people who flow into the streets like a flood? They are those very youth. Those very godly souls, that very zeal, that Divine thunderbolt which is still found in the country and is still quite active. This spirit once again will take this country to the shores of salvation.
Right now, there is no doubt that we have difficulties and problems in the area of economics and such, and they will come to an end one day, but that which will eliminate all these difficulties is nothing more than this spiritual attitude and holding on to Islam and the Revolution; nothing else will. Once again, it will be this young girl and this young boy that will save this country. I have said time and time again that the young generation is the one that will resolve periods of great difficulty and suffering. When they come on the scene- and all Praise be to Allah they are now on the scene- problems both intricate and difficult will be solved. Our youth are believers (mu’min), religious they are fond of their country and Islam and oppose American and foreign domination. This is exactly what will be effective. These people are in the process of also hatching plots and weaving lies. It will have no effect, God willing. God - willing, God Himself will help. Hadhrat Baqyyatullah (our souls be sacrificed for him) would also support this path, this effort and these youth.
Finally there is one point I would like to bring to mind and that is that these efforts that the youth are making are not minor. Study itself, I'm saying, the very same work in research, working in art, sports, all of these are not small efforts. I implore you, those involved in these activities, not to think that your work is insignificant, no, this very work, among the enormous aggregates of the country, changes into a determining element. Assume, say a certain artist decides, by himself to do a great work of art, he can't say “I am now doing one individual work, I, myself, am alone, and this is but an insignificant work” not at all; this well - done work you did, even if one hundred other persons thought like yourself, that tremendous upliftment that same great work would take place all the same. It is the same thing in sports, study, in research and in the special efforts of the youth. This is exactly like that on a day of a demonstration. If we all say “Right now I am one person, what effect could I have?” this great flood of millions on the 22nd of Bahman or at the Friday prayer would not take place, however everyone still feels that he is fulfilling his duty at that moment.
I would like to emphasize and repeat that the individual efforts of these youth -everywhere and in every area that they are working, in the area of the Qur'an, scholarship, in education, in the theological school, in the university or in writing - is an important effort. The very effort that, God willing will elevate the country.
The Charter Of Freedom
The Leader of the Islamic Revolution adresses Students at the Graduate Ceremony of the Tarbiat Modarres University,
Tehran, Sept 3., I998
in the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
This is, for me, a pleasant day. Of course, I had visited your university frequently during the terms of my presidency. But the present occasion has certain aspects which will turn it into a sweet, lasting memory in my mind: A few months ago, when I was informed of the holding of this student gathering, it was perhaps, expected by the honored chancellor that I would send a message about this occasion, or the students would come to have a meeting with me, but, I had made up my mind, from the very first moment, to attend this graduation ceremony to, personally, witness, the valuable output of this young university's activities for the past several years.
This university was founded on some great expectations and aspirations. Obviously our Revolution, our system, and the progress we have made, are indebted to all our universities for the services rendered to science `nd culture. Yet this university was a product of the Revolution, that was to grow and provide the academic brains and competent university teachers trained after the victory of our Islamic Revolution.
Perhaps today when, thanks to God, our universities have produced numerous faithful and revolutionary graduates, the importance of what I say, will not be fully, appreciated by many, but it was most meaningful in the first decade of the Revolution: The days when some university lecturers did not like to come `nd teach, some were not eager to cooperate with the Revolutionary movement, some had traveled abroad, and there were others who were not welcome by the students who often came to us and complained about their professor's lack of sympathy and devotion, and surely there were others who did continue their work faithfully and devotedly. All this meant that, for the improvement and expansion of our universities, we had to come up with some fundamental initiative, one such idea, was the foundation of this new university. And today, when I look around and see some several thousand students, young women and young men, graduated from this university, attending this ceremony, I am sure that this will be for me a durable and most pleasant memory.
Dear sisters and brothers! There's one thing I should emphasize to you in this regard: The university Generation today bears a special, weighty responsibility. Today, your country, your revolution and your honorable Islamic order are going through a phase which needs the cooperation of all responsible, administrative and able hands to enrich our system and our ideas; we have already left behind us some tough times, the war period, etc. Those were times of great hardships.
Today it's time to do away with every backwardness imposed on us during the long period of despotic rule in our country, through knowledge, science and scientific efforts, and to make up for those periods in our history when talents were not allowed to blossom, when the true and genuine identity of this nation could not be demonstrated, when, as a result of the importation of industrial commodities, themselves products of scientific and industrial progress in the West, we came to be dependent on the West in every field, when they also exported to us their intellectual and cultural goods. Their first and foremost attempt was to alienate our educated sections from their own selves, from their own culture, from their own customs and traditions, from their own knowledge and science, and from confidence in the abilities and talents inherent in the Iranian nation; and, of course, this lack of belief and confidence in ourselves did have its own adverse effects.
Clearly it was a long time from the moment that this hdea nf humiliating the Iranian people, dntered our country tntil ht took roots in the thoughts and minds of the elite rtrata hn this country `nd for the West to reap hts fruits, but, hn the long run, they were successful, and the final consequences of this alienation `nd humiliation are the concrete examples of backwardness that we witness today in this country despite our human resources, despite our freat material wealth, despite our singular geographical position, despite all the glittering backgrounds of scientific and cultural greatness, and our great heritage of scientific treasures! Yes, despite all those brilliant factors, our present status in the fields of science, industry and various academic achievements, is not at all what it ought to be.
Even in the areas of our history, literature and geography, much more research has been done by foreigners than by our own researchers, the genius of the Iranian people has not yet succeeded in removing the existing backwardness. Certainly since the inception of the Revolution, we have witnessed a miracle: that feeling of helplessness has been replaced by an unshakable belief in ourselves, but, we must still work on.
Well, in the early years of the revolution, and especially during the eight years of the war imposed on us, we were indeed facing numerous problems. But today, it is your undoubted duty to do your best, to struggle hard, and the aim of this struggle should be: To elevate and glorify Islam and to make your Islamic Iran really independent in every respect. Obviously by this, we do not mean that we should close our borders and block the entrance of beneficial goods, this is surely not wise, and nobody is inviting you to do that: In the course of history, every human being has benefited from the achievements of others, but there is a clear distinction, for the exchange of ideas and material things, between two equals and the humiliated begging of one from an arrogant donor; and this is how things were, more or less, before the Revolution.
You must take your country to the necessary, elevated status; this is the great mission of the enlightened, educated, young Generation of this country, and you, brothers and sisters, who have studied at this university, have, in my opinion, a heavier task to fulfill than the others, and, God willing, you shall meet with greater success.
Today I only meant to be among you, I did not intend to necessarily raise any issues for discussion; I was thinking of spending an hour or so with you, speaking with you and answering your questions, that would be most enjoyable and pleasant to me. Yet, there is an issue that is being currently debated, it is a useful discussion under the present circumstances in our country, and for this reason, I shall briefly speak about a few points I have noted down:
It's the question of freedom, which, as I said, is being enthusiastically discussed today in the press and among the thinking people in our country, this is a blessed phenomenon: for the principle and basic topics of the Revolution to be the objects of an exchange of ideas, and many people be persuaded to think about such matters, is something we, always waited for, and, of course, many other related issues are being debated too. Anyway, freedom is the point in question today, and I personally do read and study most of what is discussed or printed, and some of them I find quite useful. The ideas being expressed are various and oppositional, I mean, they are not following a certain line, they often oppose one another, and on both sides of the opposing views, you find many correct and truthful conceptions, and it is good to continue such trends, and I do hope that our scholars and specialists will be urged to engage in the provision of more instructive and thought provoking discussions for the benefit of the public. I have often encouraged you to further deepen the culture of the Revolution: attaining to those depths will require such previous debates.
There are two points, however, to which special attention should be paid. The first is this: In any discussion of the question of freedom, the concept of independence, which has been one of the three mottoes of the Revolution, must not be overlooked; not only that, but it must be seriously taken into account. This means: we must think independently, we must not follow a submissive and imitative mode of thinking. If we were to imitate others in this issue, which is a cornerstone of our progress, and if we only looked in the direction of the thoughts coming from the West, we would be making a big mistake, and bitter consequences would await us.
First of all, I should mention that the question of freedom, is one of the categories that are frequently emphasized in the Holy Qur’an and in the traditions of the Imams, Peace of God be upon them. Certainly our understanding of freedom is not that of absolute freedom, which I do not think, has any adherents in the world, I mean, I do not think there is any body in the world inviting people to absolute freedom. Neither is our understanding of freedom, a spiritual one, which does exist in Islam and throughout our sublime Islamic literature, no, that is not the question either: Spiritual freedom is something believed and approved by all the faithful, and we are not to debate it. The sort of freedom under discussion is in fact social freedom, that is, freedom as a human right, freedoms of speech, thought, choice and the like. This interpretation of freedom has been lauded in the Qur’an and in the Sunna; verse 157 of the Sura Al-A'raaf says: To those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own Scriptures, in the Taura and the Gospel, for he commands them what is just and proper and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good and pure, and prohibits them what is bad and impure; he releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them." God says this, with regard to an important characteristic of the Prophet: he releases people from their burdens, that is, he relieves people from restrictions imposed on them; this has a vast, glorious meaning. If you look back at the religious or non-religious communities of those times, you shall see that this, releasing from yokes and burdens means freeing people from innumerable obligations and covenants imposed on people, many sorts of superstitious, primitive, crooked and wrong ideas and beliefs, and unlimited social bonds and chains imposed on humanity at the hands of despotism, distortion and deceit.
The famous scholar, George Jordaq, author of the book "The voice of justice", an investigation of Imam Ali's thoughts and manners, makes a comparison, at some place, between two statements uttered by His Imminence Omar, the second Khalif, and Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful (Peace and Salutation of God be upon him). He says that in the region of Omar, some governors of the Islamic states, against whom certain complaints and reports of bad administration had been received, were in the Khalif s presence, and the Khalif, being angry at them, addressed them and uttered a lasting, memorable statement: You have turned the people into slaves, but God created them as free men. The other statement, also quoted in Nahj-al-Balagha, by Ali is: Never be a bondsman to other men, for God has created you free. Now, Geroge Jordaq, as I said, compares the two statements and opines that Ali's statement is by far the more preferred one, and he reasons in this manner: Omar is addressing governors who presumably did not value freedom and liberty, and freedom could not at all be guaranteed by them, because they were the very persons who, as Omar reproached, had brought people into bondage; Omar is actually telling them, You have turned people into slaves, but you must give them freedom. This is, of course, one way of expression. On the other hand, Ali is addressing all the people, the masses being put in bondage, advising them that only they themselves could guarantee their human freedoms and liberties: Do not be a slave of another, because God has created you free.
Well, in both of these Islamic statements, apart from the fact that in Ali's statement, the power of people themselves guarantees freedom', there are two fundamental features, one of which, in agreement with God has created you free, says that freedom is an innate Attribute of man; I shall touch upon this point in a comparison between the Islamic and Western ways of thinking in this respect.
Of course, today, I do not intend to enter into a detailed discussion of this subject, perhaps, I shall, if God will, at some future occasion, do that; as there are a lot to be said about the matter. Today, however, I shall only focus on the two points I mentioned, one of which is to think about freedom freely and independently.
Well, as I said, social freedom as defined today in the world's political lexicon, does in fact have a Qur’anic root. There is no need for us to turn to the 18th century liberalism in Europe and follow what Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill and others have said. We ourselves have a lot to say on this subject, logical and rational. And I shall tell you why it is that what the West says may not guide us to any straight paths.
I advise you to treat the issue of freedom as an Islamic subject. There are two groups, in my opinion, who are actually in league against the Islamization or nativization of the issue of freedom.
The first group consists of those who in their lectures or writings are incurably citing examples and illustrations by the philosophers of the West of the last two or three centuries and what they wrote on the question of freedom: so and so said this, such and much said that! These, of course, are supposed to be the gentlemen among this group, because they do mention the names of the philosophers they quote from, but there are other journalistic philosophizers" who copy from, say, what Mill has said, or narrate the opinions of some French, German or American philosopher, but never mention their names, they pretend what they are saying is indeed their own opinions! They simply cheat, but certainly they do to help create the impression that all free thinking and the whole concept of social freedoms are ideas coming from the West, that they are Western gifts bestowed upon us!
The second group ignorantly helping the first group, consists of those who, as soon as freedom is mentioned, panic seizes them, and cry out in frustration: Oh, God, our religion is lost, all is lost! No, sir! Religion is the greatest harbinger of freedom; how could religion be lost? Rational and decent freedom is the greatest gift of religion to any community, to all nations, it is by the blessings of freedom that ideas grow and talents blossom, tyranny is the adversary of talent where there is tyranny, no talents bloom; Islam is for the enriching and fructifying of talents, great human resources must, like natural resources, be properly exploited, to enable mankind to make the earth prosperous. This is impossible without freedom, it is impossible by despotic ordering and regimentation. Therefore, this second group who fear freedom are also in error. These two groups, let's call them: The West-Orientated and the Conservatives are actually, without knowing, in close cooperation to drive the concept of freedom out of the domain of religion! But this is not true, the concept of freedom is an Islamic conception.
I should perhaps add a note here: Even the kind of freedom we've been discussing, that is, social freedom, is much more valued and respected than in different Western schools; of course, Western liberalism has its diverse interpretations, the Renaissance concepts, liberal ideas fostered in France and in other European countries, they all grew and led to the French Revolution, and later, in a distorted form, were exploited during the Independence movement in the United States leading to that famous American Charter. All these need a lot more time to go into, but, to put it in a nutshell, today we do have dozens of interpretations of liberalism, and there have been fresher ones in recent times, and the American ideologues or American-fostered theorists are most actively engaged in this field.
You must also know that many such thinkers are not themselves American, but they do write under the patronage of American institutions, especially on the subject of liberalism, Books may be written in Germany, France or Australia and published in New York, and in other forms and places, but they are commercial orders by Americans, and that is another story. Despite all those different interpretations, I would like to briefly explain to you that the idea of freedom in Islam is superior to them all.
The Western thinkers are always facing big problems in putting forth some philosophy for freedom. What is the philosophy of freedom? Why should man be free? You must put forward some sort of logic, reason or philosophical principle for it . To solve this problem, they resort to all sorts of things: Utility, the common good, collective joy, individual pleasure and the like, or at its best, an item of civil rights. Well, all these claims may be refuted, and they are often engaged in, in the West.
If you were to look at what has been said and printed in out own country in recent years, on the subject of freedom or liberalism, you will also come across a good deal of time-consuming useless arguments, very similar to those pronounced on the topic of freedom in the Middle Ages! One person claims something, another one refutes him, and the first defends his position, so on and so forth; it is really not a bad entertainment for the intellectuals in the Third World! One intellectual becomes the proponent of one theory, another one defends another theory, the third approves of the theory of the first, the fourth writes an explanation for the theory of the second, and the fifth publishes one of the theories in his own name.
As I was saying, the maximum in the theories of the West on the origin or the philosophy of freedom is that it is a human right. Well, what Islam has said is far superior to this; as you noticed in the tradition quoted, it is innate in the human existence, and clearly it is aright, but a sublime, superior right as the right to life, the right to live; and I may not include the right to live in the same category as the right of voting or the right of having a decent housing, therefore, freedom is superior to other rights, and that is what Islam says about freedom.
Surely there are exceptions, this right may be suspended in certain cases. An example is the people's right to be alive, if a man kills another man, then there is the law of Talion, for him, when a person spreads corruption, he must be punished, the same is true in the case of freedom, yet these are the exceptions according to the Islamic outlook. Thus it would be absolutely wrong to imagine that the idea of social freedom was something bestowed upon us by the West, so much so that whenever some people mean to speak something nice and interesting on this subject, they would at once cite the name of a book written by somebody who sat down and wrote something in the atmosphere of the West. No, no, we must be independent thinkers, we must consult our own sources and authorities, our own Islamic references; a thinking man will obviously consult other people's thoughts for the purposes of explanation and clarification and for enlightening his mind, not for a parrot-like imitation; were we to imitate, we would certainly incur a great loss.
What I notice in this conflict relating to ideas and the press - which is an auspicious phenomenon, as I said - that many do not pay attention to this principle. Here I will mention two or three main points of difference between the Islamic and Western approaches to freedom. As I said, liberalism is the main source of all the viewpoints and tendencies relating to this approach. There might be some difference between some of these viewpoints and tendencies in some regards, but together they make up liberalism.
In Western liberal thought, human freedom is a concept devoid of any such entity as religion or God. Hence they do not consider freedom to be something God-given. None of them says that freedom is something bestowed by God on man. They seek to find some other philosophical grounds and roots of freedom.
They have suggested some philosophical foundations and sources and have offered various interpretations.
In Islam freedom has a divine source and this is by itself a fundamental difference which is the source of other differences. Therefore, from the Islamic viewpoint any action injurious to freedom is one which is hostile to a divine value. That is, it gives rise to a religious obligation in the opposing party. Such is not the case with the Western notion of freedom. Some social struggles that are waged for the sake of freedom do not have any logical justification on the basis of Western liberalism. For instance, one of the justifications which is offered is 'the common good' or 'good of the majority.' This is considered the origin of social freedom. But why should I risk my life for the sake of the good of the majority? There is no logical justification for this. Of course, seasonal and short-lived passions drive many to the battlefield. But whenever any of those who have struggled under the banner of such notions - if, in fact, any struggle has ever taken place under their banner - emerge from the passing passions of the arena of struggle, they would have doubts about their avowed goal: Why should I get killed for its sake?
Such is not the case in Islamic thought. The struggle for freedom is a duty, for it is for the sake of a Divine goal. If you see someone's life being threatened, it is your duty to do and help him. It is a religious duty, something which if you fail to carry out you will be guilty of a sin. The same is true of freedom. I t is a duty to struggle for its sake.
Other differences originate from this basic difference. As truth and moral values are relative from the viewpoint of Western liberalism, freedom is unrestricted. Why? Because someone who believes in certain moral values has no right to blame anyone who violates those values because it is possible that he does not believe in those values. Accordingly, there is no limit to freedom from a moral and spiritual viewpoint. As a result freedom is unrestricted. Why? Because there are no immutable truths. Because, in their opinion, truth and ethical values are relative.
In Islam freedom is not such. In Islam there are incontrovertible and immutable values and an unchanging truth. Man's movement is towards that truth which consists of values and is value-generating and conductive to perfection. Accordingly, freedom is limited by those values. As to how these values are to be understood and attained is another matter. Some people may possibly make errors in understanding these values and some may have the right approach. That is outside the scope of our discussion. In any case, freedom is limited by values and truth.
Social freedom is a great value in Islam. But if this social freedom is used for purposes detrimental to the invaluable spiritual or material interests of a nation, it is harmful-exactly like human life. The Qur’an states: Whoever slays anyone, barring retaliation for homicide or the guilt of working corruption on earth, it is as if he had slain all mankind. In the logic of the Qur’an killing one human being unjustly is like killing all mankind. This is an amazing conception. Someone who murders a person is like someone who murders all humanity. That is, because his act is a violation of the sanctity of human life. But there are exceptions which consist of the penalty for murder or for working corruption on earth. That is, someone who has violated another person's right to life or has worked corruption forfeits his own right to life. Immutable and definite values and truths limit one's social freedom in the same way as they limit his right to life.
Another difference is that in the West the limits of freedom consist of materialistic interests. Primarily they have set certain limits on social and individual freedoms, and this is one of them. When material interests are endangered, they limit freedom - material interests like the power and prestige of these countries and their scientific hegemony. Education and dissemination of knowledge is one of the areas in which freedom is one of the most indubitable of human rights. Human beings have a right to learn, yet this freedom is limited in the major universities of the Western world. Science and high technology to certain countries is prohibited on the grounds that if this know-how is transferred it will go out of the monopoly of these powers and their material power and domination will not remain as they are. Hence frontiers are imposed on freedom. That is, the teacher has no right to communicate certain scientific secrets, for instance, to a Third-World student or research scholar from Iran or China.
The same is true of information and news. Today there is world-wide clamor for information and news, so that people become better informed. It makes one of the major points nf the agenda nf propagation of freedom in the West. However, hn the course of the U.S. attack against Iraq, during the days of the presidency of George Bush, for a period of one week or more all information was officially censored. They declared proudly that no reporter has any right to broadcast or publish any news or photographs about the U.S. offensive against Iraq. Everyone knew that the offensive had begun, and the Americans had also sent out the news. But no one knew the details, because it was claimed that this matter compromised military security. Military security limited the right to freedom. This was another material limit and restriction on freedom.
Consolidation of the foundations of the State imposes another limit. Four or five years ago a group emerged in the United States and the episodes [of the Branch Davidians] is known to all newspaper readers. I came to know about some more details at that time and the news of the episode was published by our newspaper. It was a group following a certain cult that set itself against the present U.S. government during Mr. Clinton's time. Certain security and military measures were taken against them which did not prove fruitful. At last they set fire to the building in which they were gathered. In this incident about eighty persons were burnt alive. Photographs of the event were published and the whole world has seen them. Among the eighty victims there were also women and children. Perhaps not one of them was a militia man. See to what extent the right of life, the right to belief, and the right to political struggle is curtailed. Hence freedom in the materialistic Western world has also limits, with the difference that they are of a materialistic character.
There moral values do not pose any limitation for freedom. For instance, the homosexual movement in the U.S. is one of their popular movements. They are even proud of it and hold rallies in the streets and publish their photographs in magazines. They mention with pride that such and such a businessman or statesman is a member of this group. No one is ashamed of it and no one denies it. Rather, some people who are opposed to homosexuality are severely attacked by some of these newspapers and periodicals and condemned as opponents of homosexuality.
This means that ethical values pose absolutely no barrier to freedom.
Another example pertains to the European countries. For instance, they impose restrictions on freedom of expression and press on any propaganda in favor of fascism, which is again a matter of materialistic character relating to government. However, pornography, which is also one of their movements, is not restricted. That is, in Western liberalism, on the basis of its philosophy and philosophical grounds, the limits on freedom are materialistic not moral. However, in Islam there exist moral limits on freedom. In Islam there exist moral and spiritual limits beside material limits.
If someone holds heretical beliefs it is not objectionable. When we say that it is not objectionable what is meant is that it is objectionable before God and before faithful human beings, but the government has no responsibility in regard to it. In a Muslim society there are Jews, Christians and persons belong to various religious creeds. They exist at present in or country also, as they existed during the early Islamic era. This does not pose any problem. But if someone holding corrupt beliefs should make encroachments on the minds of other individuals who do not possess the power to defend themselves and try to mislead them, such efforts are prohibited.
Here freedom is limited. Such is the case from the viewpoint of Islam. Or if anyone tries to propagate corruption in political, sexual, or intellectual matters, such as the pseudo-philosophers who write articles suggesting that higher education is not beneficial for the youth and enumerate the inadequacies of higher education-of course, most probably, it would not have any effect on ninety percent, but it may possibly affect a ten percent of lethargic youths-they cannot be permitted to discourage people from higher studies by the means of insinuations and lies.
There is no freedom to lie in Islam and no freedom to spread rumors and create alarm. I have a complaint that no reference is made to Islamic sources and fundamental in discussions relating to freedom. In the Qur’an, in the Surah Al-Ahzab, verse 60, it is stated that if the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is sickness and the alarmists do not desist, we will arouse you to take action against them. The alarmists are mentioned in this verse by the side of the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a sickness. The hypocrites are one group, those with sick hearts are a second group, and the alarmists are mentioned along with them. The alarmists are hose who continuously intimidate the people. In a newly established Islamic society with so many enemies and the general mobilization brought about by the Qur’an and the Prophet everyone should be mentally prepared for the defense of the Islamic country and its great human and popular system. But a group of rumor-mongers, like a plague, assault the people and they are the alarmists. The Qur’an says that if the alarmists, who constantly create general anxiety and stop the people from mobilization, do not desist, God will arouse the Prophet to take measures against them. Here is a limit on freedom. Hence from the Islamic viewpoint, there is another difference, which is that freedom has moral and spiritual limits.
There is yet another difference, which is that freedom in Western liberal thought is not consistent with duty and responsibility. Freedom means freedom from all duty. in Islam freedom is the counterpart of duty. Basically, human beings are free because they have responsibilities, and if they were not responsible there would have been no need for freedom. They would have been like angels, in the words of Rumi:
A Tradition says that the Glorious Creator
Made the creatures of three sorts:
A group were blessed with intellect, knowledge and generosity,
Another, of angels, knew nothing except adoration...
It is characteristic of man that he is a collection of conflicting urges and motives. His duty is to traverse the path of perfection despite these various motives. He has been granted freedom to traverse the path of perfection. This freedom with its great value is for the sake of movement towards perfection, in the same way that human life itself is meant for perfection: We did not create mankind and the Jinn except for Our service. God created mankind and the Jinn for the sake or reaching the rank of servant hood, which is an exalted station. Freedom, like the right to life, is a prerequisite for God's service.
In the West they have gone to such lengths in negating duty and responsibility that they rule out all religious and non-religious ideas and ideologies which involve do's and don'ts, duties and prohibitions. In the works of liberal American and quasi-American writers and their disciples and followers in other countries, including unfortunately our own, it is observed that they say that free Western thought is opposed to the ideas of do's and don'ts and the notion jog ideology. Islam is diametrically opposed to this position. The position of Islam is that it considers freedom to be necessary by the side of duty so that man can fulfill his responsibilities with the means of his freedom, make great achievements, and make great choices so as to attain perfection.
Accordingly my first suggestion to those who write and discuss issues is that, let us be independent in our understanding of freedom. Let us think independently, without aping others. My second suggestion is that freedom should not be misused. Nowadays some people consistently repeat the phrase 'newly acquired press freedom.' In my view it does not refer to any fact. It is something whose sources are hostile foreign radios. Of course, nowadays they write certain things in newspapers and periodicals and express hostile views. Some of these persons did not do this in the past. But some others did so in the past as well. In the past we have witnessed many instances of harsh criticism of the then president and various officials and even dissent with the principles of the Revolution itself. But nobody bothered them.
Yes, there were some persons whose background was dubious and their hands were tainted. They did not dare to express their views. Even if they had done it nobody would have bothered them. They could have said the same things that they say today. Nobody would have stopped them. But they themselves were afraid because they had bad records. Their enmity of the Revolution, of the Imam and the Imam's Islamic thought was known since long and they themselves lacked the courage to enter the field. However, after the last presidential elections they suddenly found the courage on the basis of a wrong analysis of those elections. That wrong analysis was that they thought that 30 million people had voted against the system and this made them glad, whereas those 30 million had cast their vote for the sake of the consolidation of the system. One of the things that constitutes a matter of pride for the Islamic system in that 18 years after the victory of the Revolution a 30 million out of 32 million eligible voters - that is, about 90 percent - participated in that election. However, they considered this strong point of the system as a weak point.
Of course, from the very first days of the elections, the foreign radios had raised a clamor in order to give a direction to those who were prone to this error, by insinuating that thirty million people has expressed discontent against the system. They wanted to project the system's strong point as a weak point and these poor guys believed it, worthy fooled themselves. They thought that a country where 30 million people were opposed to the system they too could also come and express their views. Now they have found courage and express their opinions whereas nothing in fact has changed. Had they committed any offense in the past and violated the logical limits they would have been prosecuted. The same is the case today and nothing has changed. Today also the same measures will be taken against those who work corruption and cause alarm. There has been no change. Accordingly, one should not say 'newly acquired press freedom.' We see that some officials repeatedly advise the press not to overuse their freedom because that would endanger freedom itself. What kind to logic is that? As much use as they make of freedom it is better. But they should not violate the limits. The more individuals make use of this God-given right, the nearer will it bring the Islamic system to its goals. Our compliant against the writers has always been as to why they did not write, investigate, and analyze as much as they should.
The correct limits must however be observed. Of course, these limits are not something which a government or system determines in its own interest
Even if there should be governments in the world - and there certainly are - which lay down such limits, the Islamic system is not such. The system of the Islamic republic is based on justice. Should the leader violate the criteria of justice he is automatically dismissed from leadership without the interference of any other agent. In such as system there is no meaning in setting limits in the interests of any group on clique or for imposing the views of a particular kind. The limits are Islamic limits, the same things which are stated in the Qur’an and hadith and recognized as such by a correct understanding of Islam. These are valid, and they should be observed. If they are not observed, it is the duty of the authorities, judicial and executive, as well as Ministry of Guidance and others to monitor their observance. Should they fail to carry out this responsibility they will have committed an offense and sin. They are responsible to see that these limits are observed. Within these limits - which of course make the exceptions - it is the luminous principle of freedom which must be made use of. I do not like these irresponsible statements to be repeated.
To sum up, that which I wish to say today is that the concept of freedom is an Islamic conception and we should think about it in Islamic terms and have faith in hts fruits as an Islamic movement and responsibility. We should consider as an opportunity that which exists today on the plane of society and make maximum use of this opportunity. Thinkers and scholars should increase their efforts. Of course, there are some topics which are of a specialized journals and forums. But there are other topics which are of a general interest and all can benefit from such discussions.
I hope that God the Exalted will provide us with the opportunity to witness the blossoming of this system and the ever greater success of this great and dear nation, and it is hoped that you, university people, especially the youth, on whom the country's hopes and future depend, will play a great role in its blossoming.
Was salamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu.
Essence Of Tawhid , Denial Of Servitude But TO God
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The Prophet of Islam announced a slogan: "There is no god but Allah" - a pedestal in his profound message towards emancipation of man. The chieftains and the nobles of the tribes were the prime figures who rose in an alarm to confront him. In the beginning only mocking and censuring served to them as a primitive tool of animosity which later turned into so-called effective weapons in line with the progress of the movement of Tawhid (Divine Unity). The others under their influence were also goaded into enmity towards the Prophet and his believers. Here, the shameful episodes of history took place stretching a span of thirteen years which preceded the migration.
This historical reality reveals a fact which deserves a cogent consideration towards a reacquaintance of Islam and specially Tawhid (an essential word of Islam, its first and its final).
One of the most pitiful events of our days is the distorted concept of Tawhid; and this should be regarded as a tragedy by all those who have a say in emancipation of man, because of the bearing of this distortation on the common and most fundamental concept of all the religions, as there cannot be found any other concept in the expanse of history that could have been so efficacious in the course of emancipation of man besides its being a harbinger of redemption for the oppressed masses.
In history, as far as we have known, the divinety prophecies were movements momentous towards the benefit of mankind, freeing the oppressed ones against atrocities, discriminations and encroachments.
The moral core of all the great religions according to Erich Fromm includes such ideals as: knowledge, brotherly love, minimizing human sufferings, independence and responsibility (Of course, comprehension of ideals still nobler, cannot be expected from a materialist observer). Indeed all these ideals are epitomized in Tawhid. Prophets while exposing their errand in the slogan, focusing at Tawhid, were translating it into reality, following the campaign issued by this slogan. It is, indeed, deplorable for those who believe in Tawhid and its outlook upon universe and those who are after the above ideals that the concept of Tawhid should remain unknown or become an enigma or else perverted or if at all conceived should not go beyond a cursory conception that too merely a mental one at a time when the said ideals are felt more and sought faster than ever.
The earlier confrontations that started with the dawn of Islam reveal an important fact with regards the concepts of Tawhid. That fact is this: the slogan, "There is no god but Allah", was in the very first place a blow fatal to those who had gritted their teeth of enmity against it and it were they the ruling class of the society with due power. The social orientation of a movement or a thought and the efficiency of such orientation can well be conceived through the adversary reactions to that movement or thought. The very faces of the enemies of a movement will well disclose, upon a study, the nature of their affiliations with social stratums and thereby the confrontation of that society as a whole in relation to that particular movement or thought. The strength of the enmity is the gage that determines the strength of the movement. Thus, the study of both the wings - one that of the supporters of the movement and the other that of its adversaries - becomes safe and sane to gain a true acquaintance with the Divine movements.
When we observe that those classes that are puissant in society have been the first to confront the call of religions and to do this they have done the best they could afford, we clearly realize that a religion or any religious movement in its nature is against these classes; it opposes to their lavishing either in power or in pelf, and basically to any classification that distinguishes them from others.
To ponder into the very concept of Tawhid from this angle, the angle of its opposition to the majesty over the society, we should necessarily know that Tawhid is not a mere theory either that of a philosophy or a noetic one, as it is a general error in common presumption; but it is the very foundation whereupon is edified man and the mammoth mansion of the universe in addition to its being a social, economical and political doctrine too.
In the terminology of religion, or among other terms, a term could hardly be found to the extent that could be so fertile as to enfold so much of the revolutionary and constructive concepts, besides covering different aspects of man's social and historical life. It could, therefore, never be just fortuitous that all the Divine solicitations and Divine movements that are so profuse in history did hint and hit at one point, in their proclamations, and that is the Oneness of God and the Divinity is only His and to Him alone.
To describe the rays that a prism of Tawhid imparts, we could only epitome:
1) From the Point of View of its General Outlook upon the Universe:
a) It translates to the effect of a united world and homely uniformity of all its elements.
Since the Creator is one, and everything is originated from one source, since there have not been different gods and creators, creating and then running the world, then all the things are elements of one set and the whole world is one unit with one pursuit. God the Almighty challenges:
"Thou seest not in the creation of the All-merciful any disorder. " (al-Mulk, 67:3)
Again says the Almighty:
"What, have they not considered within themselves? God created not the heavens and the earth, and what is between them, but on a just system, and with a stated term. " (ar- Rum., 30:8)
From this outlook, the world appears a caravan with a set-up connected to each other like a chain and heading towards one direction in unison with a common conquest so well organized that every item is carefully placed in its due position; or else it might have lost its usefulness. Thus, all are in a journey compact, consistent, constant towards consummation; each a necessity to the other while the rest rests on such a need as a whole thereby avoiding any sluggishness or deviation which, otherwise, would consequent in an upset of this whole set-up.
b) Tawhid can also be translated to the objectivity of the creation, and the planning and computed order in the world; to the existence of some sort of dynamism and purpose in all and each part of the world. Since the universe has a wise (wise in its most complete sense that could be a deserving description of the word Hakim [a name among the names of Allah]) Creator Who has brought it into existence, there is no way but being a wisdom, an ultimate purpose, and a pursuit in the very existence of the world as it is seen and sensed in most of its parts.
We created not the heaven and the earth, and whatsoever is between them, as playing and with no purpose. " (al-Ambiya', 21:16)
From this outlook the world seems to be a machine manufactured for a gain and not a thing lost in a wilderness of bewilderment. The very fact as to how it is, purports a meaning and portrays a purpose which is not to be sought in the origin. It is like a verse that can only be understood by probing into its content but never can be considered its existence as a matter of chance.
c) Tawhid, moreover cognates to obedience of all the things and the elements of the world before God. Neither a thing nor a regulation in this galaxy is at its own. The rules that run the world and everything existing under their guidance are all into a constant obeisance to the divinity of God. Therefore, existence of the rules and laws in this whole world cannot be considered as a reason to deny God's presence, divinity and His constant control over the world.
In this respect the Holy Qur'an says:
"None is there in the heavens and the earth but he comes to the All-merciful as a servant. (Maryam, 19:93)
"But to Him is what in the heavens and (in) the earth - all to Him (are) obedients. " (al- Baqarah, 2:l16)
"They measured not God with His true measure. The earth altogether shall be His handful on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens shall be rolled up in His right hand. Glory be to Him! He exalted above that they associate! " (az-Zumar, 39:67)
2) From the Outlook Consequented upon Studying and Judgment on Man:
a) It is in the sense of the uniformity and equality of human beings in relation to God. He is the Master of all people. Human nature is so even that it rescinds any particularity in his relation with God. No one has any kinship with Him. Hence, all are same and at parity before God. Also God is not a particular one of a particular nation or a group or a tribe; and, therefore, the absence of superior avoids the notion of inferior in the creation while leaves open the scope for elevation of the human values which is attainable only through righteousness, a platform whereon to perform good deeds in line with Divine's desire which is the only safe route or promising method for man to ascend to heights of perfection and prosperity. To quote from the Qur'an:
"And they said, 'God has taken to Him a son'. Glory be to Him! Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth; all obey His will. (al-Baqarah, 2:117)
"And whosoever does deeds of righteousness, being a believer, no unthankfulness shall befall his endeavor; We ourselves write it down for him. " (al-Ambiya', 21:94)
"0 Mankind! We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most God-fearing of you. (al-«Hujarat, 49:13)
b) It is also in the sense that man is equal in creation and is originated from a single source, this equality also runs in the very vitality of human beings. Those who belong to the various classes in a society are not created by different gods. Humanity is a single element that has been equally given to all individuals. So there is no difference in the pulp or in the creation provided to them. As such, there is no boundary between them that cannot be crossed. In other words, the Creator of the higher classes of society is not a God superior than that of the poor ones. All are created by one God and in creation all are at the same level and equally benefited from the element of humanity. To quote from the Qur’an:
"0 mankind! Fear your Lord, Who created you of a single soul. " (an- Nisa', 4:1
c) The equality among the human beings carries the same bearing upon the possibility of elevation and perfection of individuals too. The obvious reason is that the human gist is the same in all men while taking its root from one wisdom. This being so, no one is impuissant in his nature not to be able to pace the path of perfection. Accordingly, the Divine call is common to all irrespective of nations or classes. To quote from the Qur'an:
We have sent thee not [to a special group] except to mankind, entire. " (Saba', 34:29)
"And We have sent thee for the people a messenger. (an-Nisa', 4:79)
"0 men, a clear guide has now come to you from your Lord; We have sent down to you a manifest light. As for those who believe in God, and hold fast to Him, He will surely admit them to mercy from Him, and bounty, and will guide them to Him on a straight path. " (an-Nisa', 4:174,175)
d) It can also be translated to the release of all human beings from servitude and yielding to anyone but God. This is another interpretation of the essence of complete yielding to God and worshipping Him. Some people, in some way or other, have yielded to the obscene yoke of submission to other than God', such as mental, cultural, economical, and political slavery. Considering the wide stretching sense of worship, we can well say that they are immured in service to others - like themselves - and, thus, have taken a rival or an associate to God. Here, Tawhid totally rejects such a way of life and stands firm and adamant to maintain the man a servant to God alone and emancipates him from that domination, under whatever pretext it be. Therefore, Tawhid is tantamount to denial 'of any power concealed under whatever colour or cloak, and an absolute submission to the absolute authority of God alone. To quote from the Qur'an:
"Authority belongs only to God; He has commanded that you shall not serve and worship any but Him. That is the right religion".(Yusuf, 12:40)
Thy Lord has decreed you shall not serve and worship any but Him. " (al-Isra', 17:23)
e) As such Tawhid is to dignify man, the worth of man is so lofty that to become servile and resigned to others (but to God), and get dominated is in immediate contrast. an obvious opposition and a crisp contradiction with that worth.
There is no one to countenance this worth so as to be servile to him except God. He is the only Being, the only perfect Pulchritude in absoluteness that deserves a man to sit in an enchantment of praise and prayer to Him. The kingdom of God in the vast human fife is invaded without a right and inroads are made upon the intellect of man by those idols - the living ones or the made-up ones who are, in fact, a product of evil while themselves wicked enough to throw the man from the zenith of humanity into the abyss of vileness discarding the human value and invalidating its worth. It is upon man to shun from the shame of worshipping servitude to them.
Materialistic humanism has never been able to establish the originality of man in its due excellence with a delicacy that dashes into the depth and a lofty sense splashes therefrom, such as:
"And eschew the abomination of idols, and eschew the speaking of falsehood, being men pure of faith unto God, not associating with Him anything; for whosoever associates with God anything, it is as though he has fallen from heaven and the birds snatch him away, or the wit7d sweeps him headlong into a place far away. " (al-Hajj. 22:30, 31)
"Set not up with God another god, or thou wilt sit condemned and forsaken. (al- Isra', 17:22)
"Set not up with God another god, or thou wilt sit cast into hell, reproached and rejected." (al-Isra', 17:39).
f) In this category another meaning of Tawhid is that, a human life is a compound of mind and reality, thought and action. If one of these two, or partially both, got dominated by the anti-Divine powers; in other words, if the intellect lenient to God with an undivine reality, or a Divine desired reality with an intellect ignorant of God becomes espoused, then in the kingdom of human life duality has occurred and thus an associate is created in the servitude directed to God. In this case, the example of man will be like that of a needle, being in a magnetic field, besides the earth's one, if not deviated totally from the pole direction he would be oscillating. Deviation shall dictate departure from a straight path of God and shall doom him to a destiny that is not his. To quoted from the Qur'an:
"What do you believe in part of the Book, and disbelieve in other part? What shall be the recompense of those of you who do that, but degradation in the present life, and on the Day of Resurrection to be returned unto the most terrible chastisement? " (al Baqarah, 2:85)
g) And finally, Tawhid, from this point of view translates the human coordination coherent with the universal milieu. The stintless vastness of the expanse of the universe is a ground wherein innumerous laws of creation are in action and reaction and so constant that any product of the universe, however small and little or trivial and trifle, cannot escape from the dart of the rays of this law. The law of creation is set on a keyboard of traditions and the strokes thereon is such a mercy as to bring out into audience a tune titivated with tucket in full tilt of the gamut of existence and thereby comes into being the pleasing and the portentous display of the universe that embarces the man too in its parcel so packed therein as to obey a general law while enjoying a law particular to himself; and, thus, remain congruous to the consequences as a whole. Indeed, the salient characteristic in a man (in contradiction to his other fellow creatures who pace towards their natural destiny with no choice) is his being open to option and his power to practice his choice - a criterion for his ascendancy to excellence and as well as a ground to go astray. To quote from the Qur'an:
So let whosoever will believe, and let whosoever will disbelieve. " (al-Kahf, 1 8:29)
Tawhid solicits the man to pace the way natural to him and congenial with- the universe. Man as he is the main part of this whole gets attached by his trudge in his pace and here consequents an absolute parity and a total oneness. To quote from the Qur'an:
What, do they desire another religion than God's, and to Him has surrendered whoso is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him they shall be returned. " (Ali-Imran 3:83)
"Hast thou not seen how to God bow all who are in the heavens and all who are in the earth; the sun and the moon, the stars and the mountains, the trees and the beasts, and many of mankind?" (al-Hajj, 22:18)
3) The Outlook from the Social, Economical, and Political Stands:
a) In the affairs, those of universal and those of human, the competency is to none besides God. Planning, whatsoever, and an independent direction is only to the competency of the Creator Who is All-knowing and All-aware of the needs and the possibilities. The hidden treasures of talents in a human body as well as those innumerous ones in the vast of the universe together with the relative potentialities in addition to the places of their display, and, furthermore, the conjugation in between them; all are in His sight and never apart from His wisdom. Therefore, it is He alone, the competent one, to fashion the life and plan a schedule of relations for man which is again at parity with the line of his pace in the system of the galaxy; and accordingly a system to be sketched for a society, it rests finally on His competency.
This right (as described above) is particularly His and to Him alone, because of the natural and logical consequence of His being God - the Almighty, the Creator, the Master. Therefore, any sort of interference from any in determination of a line to be practiced by a man or a destiny to be headed to, is an encroachment into the kingdom of Divinity and an inroad into the intrinsic exalted excellence of Divine. Thus, it is polytheism. To quote from the Qur’an:
"But no, by thy Lord! They will not believe till they make thee the judge regarding the disagreement between them, then they shall find in themselves no impediment touching thy verdict, but shall surrender in full submission. " (an-Nisa, 4:65)
"It is not for any believer, man or woman, when God and His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have the choice in the affair. Whosoever disobeys God and His Messenger has gone astray into manifest error. (al-Ahzab 33:36)
b) The right of guardianship and supervision of a society and the leadership of a human life is rejected but to God. Government or a guardianship of a man over a man would necessarily carry tyranny as a concomitant; If considered as an independent right bare of any responsibility unless the leadership and supervision over the social affairs should be given by a higher power to an individual or vested into a ruling committee coasted with congenial responsibilities; then alone the recalcitrations, obstructions obumbrated by intransigence could only be leveled and slaked. According to the ideology of the religion such a might is Allah, whose knowledge has no bourne. To quote from the Qur'an:
"Not so much as the weight of (even) an atom in heaven and earth escapes from Him, (Saba 34:3)
His dudgeon among His qualities (Mighty Punisher, Strong Revenger) leaves no room for any deviation for His chosen and appointed ones. To quote from the Qur’an.
"Had he invented against Us any sayings, We would have seized him by the right hand, then We would surely have cut his life-vein. (al-Haqqah, 69:44-46)
The government of God is not like one appointed by a nation nor a majority that could be fooled and run, nor a party that could be abused as a means for oppressing and pushing the people’s voice down. It is not like the one appointed by the aristocrats and wealth holders of the society that could be bribed or accepted as shareholders of their enterprises. To ponder further deep: if human life is indentured to terminate at a point alongwith all its accessary organizations and the thread of the things to be held by a most puissant hand - as it is, of course - then such a hand could never be but that of the Creator's. As such, it is a right especial to God Himself to govern the man which He does through those whom He appoints, those are best in line according to the standards established in Divine ideology. So, it is they who carry out the Divine decrees as they guard. To quote from the Qur'an:
"Say: 'Shall 1 take a guardian and a ruler other than God, the Originator of the heavens and of the earth, He who feeds and is not fed?' Say: ' I have been commanded to be the first of them that surrender to the command of God." And you should not be among those of the idolators. (al-An’am, 6:14)
Your guardian (authority) is only God, and His Messenger and those who believed, who perform the prayer and pay the alms while they bow down (in their prayer)." (al-Maidah, 5:55)
"Say: ’I take refuge with the Lord of men, the ruler of men, the God of men. ' " (an-Nas, 114:2-4)
c) Absolute possession and provenance of all the bounties and the stocks existing in the world goes to the belonging of God. Nothing is in an independent belonging of any in this world although everything in the use of man is a deposit from Divine so as to be beneficial towards the perfection and elevation of man. This is not in the sense that a man is at his own convenience to spoil - if he wished - the bounties of this world which, as a matter of fact, are the result of the toil of innumerous hands. Man is also not at liberty to enjoy the utilization of these bounties in the errands other than those of his own elevation.
Whatever is available for man, although for him, is given by God, therefore, should be utilized for what God (the Donor) has specified and willed, and in fact, should be used in its main and natural way. It should be benefited from in the same manner that it is created for. Consuming it in any other way is a deviation from its real use consequenting in evil.
The role of man in this display of different and colourful bounties of God, is to utilize them in the right way; of course with first and foremost aim at their own perfection. To quote from the Qur'an:
"Say: 'Whose is the earth, and whoso is in it; if you have knowledge?' They will say: 'God’s. ‘Say: 'Will you not then remember? (al-Mu’minun, 84, 85)
"It is He Who created for you mankind all that is in the earth. " (al-Baqarah, 2:29)
"Serve God! You have no god other than He. It is He Who produced you from the earth and has given you to live therein. " (Hud, 11:61)
"And those who break the covenant if God after His compact, and who snap what God has commanded to be joined, and who work corruption in the earth, theirs shall be the curse. . . " (ar-Ra'd, 13:25)
d) The right in relation with the bounties of the world is at parity among men. The opportunities and the possibilities are equally open to all. Every man is quite free to have his share in congruity with the endeavour that he exerts. In this stintless expanse there is no precinct prescribed particularly to a person as there are no divisions such as those of creed, geographical, historical, and even ideological. All are in an open to toil and take their share. To quoted from the Qur'an:
"It is He Who created for you all [and not for a particular section of you] in the earth, (al-Baqarah, 2:29)
"And the cattle, He created them for you; in them is warmth, and uses of various, and of them you eat. And there is beauty in them for you, when you bring them home to rest and when you drive them forth abroad to pasture. And they carry your heavy loads... (an-Nahl, 16:5-7)
"it is He Who sends down to you out of heaven water. (an-Nahl, 16:10)
"Thereby He brings forth for you crops.... (an-Nahl, 16:11)
"And what He has created in the earth.... (an-Nahl, 16:13)
"God is He Who made for you the cattle that you may ride on some of them, and of them you may eat. " (Ghafir, 40:79)
In these verses of the beginning of the chapter, an-Nahl, (The Bees), the address is to men and not to any particular group. The same can be seen in other phrase among the same verses:
"If He willed He guides you all. . . " (an-Nahl, 16:9)
" Your God is one God. . . (an-Nahl, 1 6:22)
So far our discourse covers only a little of this uberous dimensions of the rich and deep concept of Tawhid. This little yet sufficiently ratiocinates that Tawhid is not a mere philosophical or noetic impracticable theory, that in no way does it care about the man's way of life, and nor interferes in determination of man's destiny as to what and how he acts to reach it. It is not just to substitute people’s belief. But it is a way for comprehension of the universe. It gives a particular understanding of the universe and the man, of the position of man in cognition to other beings in the world, of the man's position in history, of his capabilities and needs which are always in him and with him, and finally of the direction and the high perch of his perfection.
On the other hand, it is a social doctrine. It is a design and sketch of the environment ideonous to man wherein he can easily progress towards perfection. It is a mould meant for the society, fixes a basical line and forwards a constructive principle. Whenever a society sinks into ignorance and tyranny and loses the character that is the distinction of man, the principle is there to check. It is a relief to ailing hearts, a frill to a fallen and a typhoon in a stagnant, marsh of the society so that it could rebuild itself; and it is such a change as to dislodge the foundations and wrench the stones from stones of the social and economical wrong setups, rescinds the value while reveals the true worth. In short, it is a protest in every constancy against the existing conditions contrived by tyranny. Tawhid is not a new answer nor with infinitude of practice. It is a way ever new and always green for a man. Although it leans to a theoretical and mental analysis, its main goal is to provide another method for man's active life.
Therefore, we believe that Tawhid is the radex of religion and a cornerstone whereon rests the pillars of its mansion. It holds a mammoth ideology, the backbone of Islam, as a social conduct. It is not just a delicate body to house a thesis of a moral or a judgment of a metaphysics.
There have always been those who in spite of their belief in God and Tawhid, have neglected the obvious, practical and specially social aspects of this belief, either deliberately or otherwise. These easy believers - regardless of circumstances - have always dwelt a life like that of non-believers; and their belief has ever been at failure to suscitate any feeling in them that could forbid from inhaling the putridity of the polytheism.
During the dawn of Islam in Mecca, the capital of the renown idols of Arabs, there were also the supporters of lbrahim's (Abraham's) upright religion. But Tawhid was so confined in their minds that its utmost influence was only limited to their individual conduct. Neither their presence curbed nor their absence gave reins to the conjectures of their society; such weightless was their existence and so it continued without ebb and flow. Furthermore, they, the so-called believers, let themselves adrift in the same current of life wherein the non-believers were at float and were carried away by the lashes of the waves of the prevailing nefarious traditions. As such, in social sphere their role was nothing; upon society itself their existence was of no effect; and in the circumstance their presence was of no influence at all. So, what else could mirror best' the characteristic of Tawhid, the interpretation of which does not surpass the mind.
It was in such conditions that Islam introduced Tawhid - of course, as a thought, and the thought as strong as to promise, and the promise as fertile as to produce a frame that fringes the life and, as for society, give a new vogue and combs its disturbed hairs into a curled and crisp order.
So, with such a thought and such a promise it set foot on the ground of practice. Its very first pace revealed an invitation and the invitation disclosed a revolution which so distant and common that stunned its audience alike those who entertained, those who spurned - but all concurred in one thing that it was a Message with a new social, economical, political regulation and with a strange stubbornness to agree with the existing conditions. It denies a situation and determines another one!
Believers accepted the Message because of its clarity and openness. For this very reason, its opponents attacked it wildly and anxiously adding their pressure day by day.
This fact in history is the gage to determine the veracity of those who claim Tawhid; they are no better than their peers prior to Islam - no matter in what distance of events or at what spot of the place be they, their belief is no more than a bedlam. It cannot be but a fiction or a fake of the real Tawhid focused by the apostles, if it were to see eye to eye with the rivals of God. There never existed Tawhid in such a sense.
From this vista we can see the expansion of Islam in its earlier stages and judge the reactionary backwardness in later stages. The Prophet of Islam brought Tawhid to be the way for the people. Later, it became a matter to be debated. It was a new reckoning for the world. But it was turned into a topic to beguile the time. It was the skeleton of the structure of society, and the axel in the centre of all social, economical and political affairs; but later turned into a means of justifying the existing social structure, and still remains as an axel but only in some artistic and beautiful painting of social relations, and nothing in effective existence. How can we expect an active and constructive role from a just ceremonial idea?
From the preceding discourse it comes to light that Tawhid from a practical point of view is a mould for society while a method for life, and, as a whole, an Islamic system for the human life cogent towards the progress - and this forward march is only possible in the wealth of its shade. Also from a theoretical point of view, it is an idea which is considered to be the base and philosophical foundation of that system, and a justification and reasoning for it. With this ground in the fore and in the hind, we can revert back to the starting point of the essay and analyse the subject from a particular angle, that this article is viewing at.
We said the prime adversary to the slogan of Tawhid was the wealthy and the powerful class of the society. This evinces that the first and foremost blow of Tawhid is directed against the powerful and dominating forces of society - in the Qur'anic term, the arrogant (mustakbir) class. Also we said that the Divine calls of Tawhid made clear their stand in relation to the oppressor and dominating forces as soon as they became audible in society. Therefore, the Divine calls had to face two confrontations, one opposing the other, from two antipodal wings of society: recalcitration from the oppressors (mustakbirin) and acceptance from the oppressed (mustad'afin).
At last, we said that such a two sided reaction is, in fact, the characteristic of Tawhid. It is an irrefragable fact that whenever Tawhid had been or is proclaimed in its true sense, the reaction had been or will be the same.
Now, let us see which dimension among its several ones hidden in the concept of Tawhid, is in direct contrast with the interests of the oppressors ?
In other words, the class of oppressors do see a point in Tawhid; what is that point they are so much perturbed, and therefore, fight with such a determination ?
To recognize the oppressor in the Qur’an, shall be a great help toward comprehending this subject: Mustakbir in the Qur'an.
The Qur'an describes, on more than forty occasions, particulars of an oppressor from different angles such as: psychological, social Position, indulgence in power, post, and pelf. Studying the Qur'anic view of an oppressor we find him to have such characteristics as:
a) Although he (the oppressor) accepts God as a mental or ceremonial reality, or anything with a limited province, he rejects God as is described by the concept of the slogan, "There is no god but Allah." (The concept of his absolute and exclusive authority and ownership.) To quote from the Qur'an:
"For when it was said to them, 'There is no god but Allah' they were ever waxing proud. " (as-Siffat, 37:35)
b) An oppressor considers himself above others and without having a rightful distinction. He declares such reasons as power and wealth to prove his claim:
"They waxed proud in the earth without right (to justify their position), and they said, 'Who is stronger than we in might ? " (Fussilat, 41:l5)
c) Insisting in his false claim, he rejects the God's words which declare a new order and specify true measures:
"And when Our signs are recited to such a man he turns away, waxing proud, as though he heard them not, and in his ears were heaviness, so give him good tidings of a painful chastisement. " (Luqman, 31:7)
d) He brings forward excuse that, "Had it been correct we might have conceived it earlier, or that God should have addressed us directly." This he does while believing the Call of the Prophet:
"And the non-believers say as regards to the believers, 'If it had been t7ught good, they had not outstripped us to it. " (al-Ahqaf, 46:11)
"And when a sign came to them, they said, 'We will not believe until we are given the like of what God's Messengers were given. " (al-An'dm, 6:124) e) The oppressor introduces the leader of the Call of Tawhid as one who indagates profit and a superiority and thus, leaning to old and reactionary traditions, tries to discredit him among the people:
"They said (to Moses), ‘Art thou come to us to turn us from that we found our fathers practising, and that the domination in the land might belong to you two? We do not believe you two.' " (Yunus, 10:78)
f) Using force and tricks, and different methods o imposing and fooling an oppressor, pushing people in his path, which destinates to slavery, and unconditional servitude to him. Therefore, he forces them to resist and confront to any emancipating call.
"They [their followers on the Day of Resurrection], shall say, 'Our Lord, we obeyed our chiefs and great ones, and they led us astray from the way. (al-Ahzab, 33:67)
And the weak ones argue with the oppressors[on the Day of Resurrectionl, 'Why, we were your followers; will you avail us now against any part of the Fire? (Ghafir, 40:47)
"Said the council of the aids of Pharaoh, 'Surely this man (Moses) is a cunning sorcerer who desires to expel you from your land; what do you command? (al-A'raf, 7:109,110)
g) Finally, the oppressor comes into open and confronts the Prophet and his followers, who have uprised against the dominating order and are dedicated to a change, in a deliberate atrocious animosity and thought:
"Slain were the Men of the Pit, the fire abounding in fuel, when they were seated over it, and themselves were witnesses of what (tortures) they did with the believers. ". (al-Buruj, 85:4 - 7)
"And Pharaoh said (to his advisors),- 'Let me slay Moses, and let him call to his Lord (as he can). i fear that he may change your religion [which dominates the mind of the people], or that he may cause corruption (rebellion) to appear in the land. (Ghafir, 40:26)
This was a small part of particularities and characteristics of the arrogant (oppressor) in some verses of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an goes still beyond and classifies the arrogants (oppressors) in categories symbolizing each:
"Then We sent forth, after them, Moses and Aaron (Harun) to Pharaoh and his council with Our signs, but they waxed proud. " (Yunus, 10:75)
"And Korah (Qarun), and Pharaoh, and Haman (Haman); and Moses came to them with the clear signs, but they waxed proud in the earth. " (al- Ankabut, 29:39)
Pharaoh, all know him. Haman was his special advisor and a prime personality in the politics o ' f Egypt after Pharaoh. The council of aids of Pharaoh are the chiefs in Pharaoh's regime who guide the affairs.
Korah was a rich boarder of wealth and the keys of his wealth stores were in such a bulk that it was a matter of bodily strength to hold or carry them.
In the light of these and several other such verses of the Qur'an the oppressor is he whose identity is: dominator of society, wields the political and economical power without reservation, to prolong his tyrannical power and the advantages therefrom; he even captivates the minds by imposing his ideology so as to keep riveted to the process that perishes them while provides possibility of persistence in oppression. Therefore, there is every reason for an oppressor to fight against every call that enlightens the minds of people and instigates to any revolutionary and changing call; else he has to give up what he has gained and lose what he loves.
Let us return to our original theme: How the prophets used to introduce Tawhid? Considering the method they used to bring forth this slogan, while revealing the most constitutional basics of their ideology, easily reveals what is the unbearable part in Tawhid for the oppressor. And secondly the reason of being so, and why this wing cannot bear Tawhid when it is so introduced?
We know that the slogan of Tawhid, had been the first rays of the call of all prophets.The sentence, "Say, there is no god but Allah, to prosper" is a well-known declaration of the Prophet of Islam. Also the sentence, "0 people, worship Allah, there is no god to you beside Him ", is repeated on several occasions in the Qur'an as the title of the call of the great prophets such as Nuh (Noah), Hud, Salih, Shu'ayb, etc.
And we see, these slogans are focused to "denial of servitude but to God", and have introduced Tawhid from this point of view more than any. The prophets have admonished the people who were in the slumber of ignorance and sunk in a tyrant society to not worship to any pole of power except God. The call, started, indeed as a challenge to those who used to claim being deities and masters of the people.
Who does claim as such in a society ? What does it mean to fight them ? And what scene does this suggest to be the characteristic of a society promised by the prophets?
To hold a belief of being a deity is repudiated. The tyrants who wield power, political and social, used to convey to the people that since they were deities they hold in themselves a part of the spirit of God. On the other hand, the vastness of the concepts of 'worship'. 'lordship', and 'divinity' in the Qur'an leads us to a conclusion that the claimers of being deities have even a wider scope in their pose and purpose.
The term 'worship' ('ibadah) in the Qur'an means to surrender or yield or obey to a man or any other being unconditionally. When we have resigned ourselves without any 'why' it is tantamount to say that we have worshipped him.
Accordingly, when an element of a power, whether inside us or from outside, has made us obedient and dependant and a tool to be used, we have become its 'worshippers and servants'; as it is evident from these Qur’anic verses, in the beginning of the call when Moses rebuked and censured Pharaoh:
"That is a Messing thou reproachest me with, having enslaved the Children of Israel. " (ash-Shuara', 26:22)
The conversation between Pharaoh and the chiefs of his regime:
"Should we believe two human like us while their people are worshippers to us. " (al-Mu’minun, 23:47) Prophet lbrahim (Abraham) addresses his father as:
"Father, serve not Satan; surely Satan is a rebel against the All-merciful" (Maryam,19:44)
In a general address of God directed to all human beings:
"Made / not covenant with you, children of Adam, that you should not serve Satan; surely he is a manfest foe to you. (Yasin, 36:60)
Promise of God to all human beings who have a reckoning:
"Those who eschew the serving of idols (taghut) and turn penitent to God, for them is good tidings! So give thou good tidings to My servants. (az-Zumar, 39:17)
Who criticize the faithfuls and the belief in God and in His revelations; God says to them:
Whomsoever God has cursed, and with whom is on wrath, and made some of them apes and swines, and he who worshipped 'taghut, they are worse situated, and have gone further astray from the right way." (al-Mنidah,5:60)
From these foregoing verses it comes to light that the obedience to Pharaoh and the members of his regime, and to a tyrant or to a satan is interpreted as 'worship'. As such, in the sense of the Qur'anic term it means to follow, to resign, and to obey a power (other than God) in absoluteness; whether be it on a desire or under a pressure, and be it with or without a praise and sanctity. Anyway, one side turns to a worshipper while the other the worshipped. This concludes that the term 'divinity' and 'divine' (Allah) which is another interpretation of 'being worshipped', and 'the worshipped one' correctly translates to:
In an errenously organized society wherein the people are divided into two classes, one that of oppressor and the other that of the oppressed. In other words, a dominator and a beneficiary class while the other a deprived one. This in itself is a paragon of a worshipper and the worshipped. Such an inconsistency between the two wings of a society is an indicator that points to the deities whom worship is directed to. To know the worshipped ones and divines in historical societies, one should not look for a sacred being either of a man, animal or a thing. The cardinal ones in these societies are those who with their dependence upon the oppressors have yoked the multitudes of the oppressed ones.
In such societies, polytheism is the religion. Because there are idols, worshipped ones, and divines as many as there are poles of power that rule the people, and push them in their own desired path as if they'(the people) have neither eyes nor ears and exactly know not where they stand and what they do. Polytheism means accepting the divinity of others and obeying and worshipping them instead of God or leveling them with God. It means giving the control of life to others but God. It means surrendering to every pole of power other than God, seeking needs from them, and paving the path that they define.
Tawhid is an antipode to such a polytheism. It denies all the deities and obedience to them. It calls for a campaign against their domination. It asks for discarding their help. And finally Tawhid is to be dedicated in reminding them as it hails upon hearts to pursue their provider, God. The prime slogan of all the messengers of God was that ‘no' to others, and this 'yes' to God. To quote from the Qur'an:
"Indeed, We sent forth among every nation a messenger, say' : 'Serve your God, and eschew taghuts [idols, anti-God forces].’ " (an-Nahl,16:36)
'And We sent never a messenger before thee except that We revealed to him, saying, 'There is no god but /;so serve Me. (al-Ambiya', 21 :25)
Therefore, the messengers of God, by this slogan, have denied the corrupted and perverted system of society, and invited people to get in to a vast struggle against taghuts (oppressors) namely the guardians of the system, who had rebelled against the noble human values, those who had imposed some false values upon the people in order to keep their oppressing position. Denial of polytheism, in fact is the denial of all social, economical, and political foundations whereon the construction of that society rests and wherein the polytheism is housed as a rightful tenant and wherefrom keeps vegilence on the unstable situation. When the deities as such are denied and rejected, so, also all those who are dedicated to oppress the people and keep them down by imposing and fooling them, take a full advantage of all their capabilities to saturate their unlimited desires, are denied too.
Moses, by declaring the same slogan, and in direct talk with the Lord of the worlds had openly fought Pharaoh, and denied him. It is true that the aids of Pharaoh brought up many guilts upon Moses, such as his denial of idols. But they and Pharaoh himself were aware of those lifeless idols that were just a cover and a justification for their own divinity.
"Then said the council of the regime of Pharaoh [to Pharaoh], 'Wilt thou leave Moses and his people to work corruption in the land, and leave thee and thy gods?"' (al-A'rنf,7:127)
The lifeless idols are just an excuse for imposing the divinity of live-idols. Therefore, it was quite logical that as a response to Moses' invitation towards God, the Creator of heavens and earth, the Lord of all, the Possessor of the east and the west; they treat him and his supporters to torture and death. To quote from the Qur'an:
"Said he (Pharaoh), 'if thou takest a god other than me, 1 shall surely make thee one of the imprisoned, (ash-Shu'ara', 26:29)
"Said he, 'We shall slaughter their sons and spare their women; surely we are triumphant over them. (al-A'raf, 7:1 27)
Pharaoh said to his magicians who had believed in Moses against his wishes:
I shall assuredly cut off alternately your hands and feet, then 1 shall crucify you all together. " (al-A'raf, 7:123)
Such atrocities against the name of Allah, and the Messenger of Tawhid stand only because this emancipating message, means:
Acceptance of God to dominate the life.
Denial of all others who claim such with strife.
Proud declaration of servitude to Him alone.
Dependency to be cut upon all but upon Him sown.
This is the essence of Tawhid, and its most flashing dimension.
Iqbal , The Poet-Philosopher Of Islamic Resurgence
This is a translation of President Sayyid Ali Khamene’i's speech delivered at the opening session of the First International Conference on Iqbal, held at Tehran, March 10-12, 1986, on the occasion of the 108th birth anniversary of the poet of the Subcontinent.
I should admit candidly that today when I see that our country is holding a seminar for paying tribute to our beloved Iqbal, I am obliged to feel that this day would prove to be one of the most memorable and exciting days of my life. That luminous spark that washed out from our hearts the darkness of the days of suffocation and repression (through his impressions, poetry, counsel and teachings) and projected a bright picture of the future before our eyes, is now transformed into a bright torch to have attracted the attention of our people.
Our people who were the first foreign addressees of Iqbal were unfortunately very late to recognise him. The particular conditions in our country, especially the political domination of the colonialist powers during the last years of Iqbal's life in his favourite country, Iran, never allowed Iqbal to visit this country. This great poet of Persian language, who composed most of his poetry in Persian and not in his own mother tongue, could never breathe in his dear and desired climes. Not only that Iqbal never came to Iran, but the same politics with which Iqbal was at war throughout his life did not allow his ideas, his ideology and his teachings to reach the ears of the Iranian people, who were ever eager to receive his message. I have an answer to this question as to why Iqbal did not come to Iran.
At that time, when Iqbal was at the pinnacle of his fame and glory and was known all over the Subcontinent and all the renowned universities of the World recognised him as a great thinker, philosopher, scholar, humanist and sociologist (of course none of these titles corresponded to the title by which Iqbal desired to be known), in our country the politicians who ruled the country could not tolerate Iqbal and his ideas in any way. For this very reason he was never invited to Iran and the ground for his visit to this country was not prepared. Not only were none of his books published for years in Iran, even the titles of his books remained unknown to us. During the days when the literary works and culture alien to both the Iranians and Muslims were flooding this country like a devastating deluge, not a single poem or work of Iqbal was allowed to catch the public eye. Today the Islamic Republic (i.e. the embodiment of Iqbal's dream) has been established here, Iqbal, whose heart ached to see the Muslim people having lost their human and Islamic personality, and who viewed their loss of identity and spiritual poverty as the greatest danger to their existence and tried with all the power at his disposal to uproot this vicious weed from the human soul in general and from the inner being of the people of the East in particular and especially the Muslims, had he been alive today, he could have seen a nation standing on its feet, infused with the rich Islamic spirit and drawing upon the inexhaustible reservoirs of Islamic heritage, a nation which has become self-sufficient and has discarded all the glittering Western ornaments and is marching ahead courageously, determining its own targets and moving to attain them, advancing with the frenzy of a lover, and has not imprisoned itself within the walls of nationalism and racialism. I am glad to have this opportunity (though for a brief time) to introduce to our people this great figure, a great thinker, a great reformer of our age, a revolutionary and an unrelenting warrior. I would, of course, be pleased if my presence in this function be free from all formalities, so that, firstly, I may enjoy with satisfaction this commemorative ceremony and, secondly, I may be given an opportunity to give vent to a fraction of my emotions about Iqbal before the audience. I request the brothers and sisters to allow me to speak frankly like a person who for years had been a follower of Iqbal and has lived emotionally in his company, so that to some extent I can give him what is due to him on behalf of myself. Iqbal is one of the eminent personalities in the history of Islam. His is such a profound and sublime personality that it cannot be described and measured by only one Dimension of his life. Iqbal was a scholar and a philosopher, but at the same time other dimensions of his life are also so bright that if we consider him to be just a philosopher and a scholar, we feel that we have belittled him. Undoubtedly Iqbal is a great poet and is reckoned among the greatest. Those who know Urdu very well and have written about Iqbal’s Urdu poetry maintain that Iqbal's Urdu poems are among the best in Urdu. Of course this may not be a great tribute to him as the poetic Tradition of Urdu is not so rich. But it cannot be disputed that his Urdu poetry made a great impact on large numbers of people, on Hindus and Muslims equally, living in the Subcontinent during the early decades of the twentieth century, and motivated them to participate in the struggle (for freedom) that was reaching its climax. In his mathnawi (a long poem consisting of rhymed couplets) Asrar-e khudi (The Secrets of the Self), he refers to this point:
The gardener tested the force of my speech.
He sowed a verse of mine and could reap a sword from it.
I infer from these lines that he had been composing his Urdu poetry for quite a long time and was known to all Urdu-knowing people of the Subcontinent . But in my view Iqbal's Persian poetry is to be regarded as one of the miracles of poetry. We have a large number of non-Persian-speaking poets in the history of our literature, but I cannot point out any of them whose poetry possesses the qualities of Iqbal's Persian poetry. Iqbal was not acquainted with Persian idiom, as he spoke Urdu at home and talked to his friends in Urdu or English. He did not know the rules of Persian prose writing. A specimen of Iqbal's Persian prose is available to us in his prefatory note to his mathnawi, Rumuz-e bikhudi (The Secrets of the Selflessness) and Asrar-e khudi (The Secrets of the Self). If you read them you will see that it is hard for the people whose mother tongue is Persian to understand it. Iqbal never studied Persian at any stage in a school or college during the years of his childhood or youth. In his father's house he used to speak Urdu. Iqbal chose the Persian language as his medium of literary expression only for the reason that he felt that his ideas and themes could not be effectively expressed in the Urdu language. As such he was attracted towards Persian and he studied the collections of the Persian poets like Sa'di, Hafiz and Mawlawi as well as the Persian poets who wrote in Indian style like 'Urfi, Naziri Nishaburi and others. In spite of not having tasted the Persian way of life, never living in the cradle of Persian culture, and never having any direct association with it, he cast with great mastery the most delicate, the most subtle and radically new philosophical themes into the mould of Persian poetry, some of which are unsurpassable yet. In my view this is what can be explained as his poetic genius. When you compare his poetical works with those of other non-Iranian poets who wrote poetry in Persian, you will realise the greatness of Iqbal. Some of the ideas that he has expressed with ease in one couplet, if one tries to render them into prose it will take a long time and great deal of effort to do so. It is not an easy job even for us whose mother tongue is Persian.
There can be no better introduction of Iqbal than his poetry. In no other way we can introduce Iqbal more truly. Some of the Persian poems of Iqbal are the most sublime pieces of Persian poetry. Iqbal's verses are in different styles, in Indian style, in Iraqi style, in Khurasani-style, and in various poetic forms, like mathnawi (poetry composed of distichs corresponding in measure, each consisting of a pair of rhymes), ghazal (sonnet), qat'ah, dobayti (couplets) and ruba’i (quatrains). Their themes as well as their renderings are sublime; notwithstanding, he did not know how to speak and write Persian (prose), and this needs extraordinary genius. At the same time to commend Iqbal as a poet is to belittle him, for he was a great reformer and a great freedom fighter as well. Though Iqbal's position and status as a freedom fighter and social reformer is very high, he cannot be regarded as a mere social reformer either. In the Indian subcontinent several Hindu and Muslim contemporaries of Iqbal were considered as social reformers, whose works are known and whose participation in the freedom struggle needs no introduction. Among the Muslims themselves there were great personalities like Mawlana Abu al-Kalam Azad, Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali, Mawlana Shawkat 'Ali and the late Muhammad Ali Jinah. They also belonged to the same period and to the same Generation and were great freedom fighters; but the greatness of Iqbal's work cannot be compared with any of them. It does not mean in any way to minimise the great importance and value that we attach to Mawlana Abu al-Kalam Azad, an eminent figure in his own right, or to Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali and Mawlana Shawkat 'Ali (who were untiring Muslim freedom fighters who struggled for long years to drive out the British from their country), but Iqbal's ease is different from all of them. Iqbal's problem was not the problem of India in particular, but his concern was for the whole Muslim world in general. In his mathnawi, Pas chi bayad kard ay aqwam-e Sharq, he addresses himself to the Eastern nations and it indicates that his keen eyes had an all-inclusive view of the entire Muslim world. He was not concerned with the problems of India alone. Therefore, if I describe Iqbal as a social reformer, I will fail to cover his entire personality. I cannot find a proper term that can describe him. You can see that his personality, his greatness, his mind rich with ideas and the totality of his being, elude the power of comprehension of people like us. To be true to ourselves we have to confess that we have been far away from Iqbal. As such this conference is one of the most useful things we have done so far. Even this is not enough. I would ask the honoured Minister of Higher Education and Culture and my brothers in universities to think about the possibilities of establishing foundations in Iqbal's memory, and to name , university halls and cultural centres in our country after Iqbal. Iqbal belongs to this nation and this country, and one of his famous poems is dedicated to the people of Iran which begins with the following verse:
I am burning like a tulip’s lamp on your path,
O youth of Iran, I swear by my own life and yours.
And he says:
The man is coming who shall break the chains of the slaves,
I have seen him through the cracks in the walls of your prison.
This poem also strengthens my belief as to why Iqbal could not visit Iran. He considered Iran as a prison and addressed the people living here in the way the prisoners are addressed. There are plenty of poems in Iqbal's collections which show his dissatisfaction with India at least the India of his own time. It was for this reason that he turned his attention to Iran so that the flame that was burning inside his heart could be converted into a bright blaze in Iran. He was waiting for a miracle to occur here. This is Iqbal's due that we owe to him, and we should always remember our indebtedness to him.
If we wish to understand Iqbal and the significance of his message, it is necessary for us to know the conditions of the Subcontinent during Iqbal's lifetime - an epoch that culminated in Iqbal. Without this study we cannot understand the real meaning of Iqbal's message, the melody of his tone and the inner fire that kept him restless. The Subcontinent went through the hardest phase of its history during Iqbal's lifetime. Iqbal was born in 1877, that is, twenty years after the quelling of the Muslim’s revolt against the English in 1857, when they inflicted a final blow upon the Islamic rule in the Subcontinent. A great revolutionary upsurge overtook the whole country and continued for several years, but four months (the middle of 1857) marked its culmination. The British used this opportunity for making an assault on Islam, which they were contemplating to make for the last seventy or eighty years, and they imagined to have uprooted Islam from the Indian soil.
They put an end to the Muslim rule that was breathing its last breaths. The only obstacle in their way of the total colonialisation of the Indian subcontinent was the existence of the same rule, which they had succeeded in weakening during the course of time They liquidated its chief fighters and eminent personages in order to eradicate the deep-rooted Islamic civilisation and to completely uproot this corpulent and old tree which was shorn of any power of resistance at that time, and to make India a part of the British empire. The year 1857 was the year of absolute victory for the British in India. After having officially annexed India to Britain and named their country as the Empire of Britain and India, the colonising of India did not pose any problem, for India was treated henceforward as one of the provinces of the Great Britain. After that they took all possible precautions to crush every revivalist, nationalist or religious movement in that country. Their aim was to wipe out completely the Muslim population, as they knew it well that it were the Muslims who resisted them in India. They already had tested this. The Muslims fought with the English and their mercenaries, the Sikhs, who were serving them since the early nineteenth century. This was known to the English very well and to those who were acquainted with the Indian affairs, who used to tell them. that the Muslims were their real enemies in India and that they were to be eliminated. From the year 1857, which was the year of their victory, an extremely oppressive and tyrannical plan was chalked out to suppress the Muslims. If we go into its detail it will take a long time. Many books were written on this subject. The Muslims were subjected to economic pressures as well as to cultural and social discriminations. Collectively they were subjected to the worst kind of humiliations. As regard to the conditions of employment their declared policy was to recruit non-Muslims only.
The awqaf (endowments) that ran Islamic institutions and mosques were in large number and they were taken away. The Hindu merchants were motivated to lend money to the Muslims in order to seize their property in return for their debts. It was resolved that their relationship with the land be cut off and their sense of belonging to the land be uprooted.
This process continued for a long time. The Muslims were killed without reason and arrested for no fault of theirs. All such people who were suspected of carrying on any activities against the English were suppressed and eliminated ruthlessly. These conditions prevailed for several years. After one or two decades of this repression, which has no parallel anywhere in the world - not in any of the colonised countries were the people suppressed so severely as the Indian Muslims - ultimately some people began to think about the possible remedy for this Situation but of course the angry resistance against the English was not given up. India should never be forgetful of the fact that the Indian Muslims played the most vital part in the battle against the English. In fact it will be an act of thanklessness on the part of India to forget her indebtedness to the Muslims of India. The Muslims did never sit idle during the freedom struggle as well as during the great revolution that was brought about there.
During the years after the incident of 1857, when there was peace and calm everywhere, the militant Muslim elements were active in every nook and cranny. There were two courses of action open to them, that is, either the politico-cultural movement, or a purely cultural movement to meet the challenge threatening the position of the Muslims. One of the movements was led by the 'ulama' and the other was initiated under the leadership of Sayyid Ahmad Khan. These two movements represented two cross-currents opposing each other, and this is not the occasion to go into detail concerning them.
The 'ulama' believed in waging war against the English. They resolved to boycott the English and their educational institutions and not to accept any grant from them. The course followed by Sayyid Ahmad Khan was in opposite direction. He believed in having good relations with the Englishmen, benefiting from their institutions and making a compromise with them. Unfortunately both of the two movements, though opposed to each other, ended in disastrous consequences for the Muslims. The first one that was led by the eminent Indian 'ulama', many among whom were distinguished historical figures. Their struggle was rightly guided and their ideology was also based on right thinking, but they tried to keep away the Indian Muslim community from acquiring the first and foremost thing they required and which could enable them to master modern developments in science and technology; for example, they did not include teaching of the English language in their school syllabi. Perhaps they were justified in doing so at that time, as the English language was to replace the Persian language, which had been the favourite language of the Muslims for centuries as well as the official language of the Subcontinent. They viewed English as an intruder. Anyhow, their opposition to the English language and their lack of interest in modern civilisation, which at any rate had to govern the modes of the life of the people, kept the Muslim Ummah out of modern sciences along with their benefits and advantages, which were ultimately essential for the development of asociety.
Sayyid Ahmad Khan's movement was more dangerous, and here I would like to express my considered opinion about him. (It is possible that some of the brothers may not agree with me.) Sayyid Ahmad Khan did not do anything positive for Islam and Indian Muslims. in my view, the movement initiated by Iqbal was a protest against the movement whose standard-bearer was Sayyid Ahmad Khan in India. Sayyid Ahmad Khan based his movement on friendly relations with the Englishmen under the pretext that after all the young Generation of the Muslims had to be acquainted with the modern culture and that they could not afford to keep them alienated from and ignorant of the new currents. In his view it was essential to reconcile with the Englishmen so that the Muslims might not be mistreated by them and the Muslim men, women and children might not suffer due to this antagonism. He was very naive to believe that he could win the sympathy of the English and could soften the hearts of those seasoned and villainous politicians by being friendly and humble towards them.
As a consequence, the English spared Sayyid Ahmad Khan himself, his associates and the intellectuals around him whereas the Muslims in general remained exposed to all sorts of victimisation till India won independence. Therefore, this policy of pleasing the Englishmen on the part of Sayyid Ahmad Khan proved to be harmful for the Muslims and brought disgrace and humiliation to them.
More than anything what helps us to understand the significance and worth of Iqbal is the knowledge of the general conditions of the Muslims in those days. For the Muslim masses, intellectuals, scholars and all those who entered the broader fields of social. life could acquire knowledge, master modern science and gain degrees and positions, but were completely oblivious of their Islamic identity. Gradually the future hopes were lost for the colossal Muslim society of India that had the largest Muslim population in the world. (Even today we do not have a country that has such a big population of the Muslims as was at that time in Indian subcontinent.) A bleak future stared them in the face, they did not possess any awareness of their Islamic identity, and had lost all hope. They suffered to such an extent that in the existing world and all its occurrences they saw nothing but bitterness, frustration and darkness in store for themselves.
A sense of inferiority had gripped the being of the Indian Muslims, and a deep sense of humiliation and weakness had become a part and parcel of their personality. They could not think of any way out of this predicament. At that time, when Iqbal returned from Europe, well-versed in modern Western culture, and while his contemporary intellectuals, his friends and even those who shared the same ideas with him always looked towards, the West and Western culture, they were of the view that Westernisation of their individual lives and the assimilation of Western culture and the Western value system would add to their prestige and credibility. To be in the service of the British government which ruled India with an iron hand was considered to be an honour for the Muslims. The Hindus, who were several years ahead of the' Muslims regarding the adoption of the Western culture and manners, and who were quicker than them in winning the confidence of the Englishmen had gained an advantageous position.
The Muslims must have been insulted and exploited by the Hindus also. Even the Sikhs, who were a very slim minority and had no religious or cultural traditions, considered it justified to oppress and insult the Muslims. Such was the state of the Muslim society during Iqbal’s time.
The Lahore college where Iqbal received his education and obtained his bachelor's degree was bereft of all the signs of Islamic thinking which could inspire any future hope. The most respected book on Islam in those days was Sir Thomas Arnold's work entitled in Arabic al-Da'wah ila al-Islam (An Invitation to Islam), which has been lately translated into Persian also. The book was written by Sir Thomas Arnold during his tenure at the Lahore college. It is of course a good book and I do not want to condemn it, but the thing which is remarkable about this book is that he has made every effort to lessen the importance of Islamic jihad. The main theme around which the book revolves is that Islam advanced through da'wah (invitation) and not by means of the sword. These words sound to be good, but this English thinker has gone to the extent of considering the concept of Islamic jihad as a secondary issue. Sir Thomas is the person who is regarded as a sincere pro-Islamic writer and he was Iqbal's teacher also.
Here I would like to praise Iqbal's judiciousness in this regard. Despite his intimate relations with Sir Arnold, he was not unmindful of the political motives of his academic work. This point has been also emphasised by Mr. Jawid Iqbal in his biography of his father (one volume of which has been translated into Persian). He writes that Iqbal challenged his friend Sayyid Nadhir Niyazi, who believed Sir Thomas Arnold to be an Islamist. Questioning Arnold's credentials, he asked, 'Do you judge him by al-Da'wah ila al-Islam?', and answered himself, 'He works for the British government.'
Iqbal further told the same friend that when he was in England Arnold asked him to translate Edward Browne's 'Literary of History of Persia', but he declined to do it as he realised that it was written with political motives. Now you can see yourself how Iqbal evaluated Browne's book and compare it with the attitude of our writers who were Browne's friends and were proud of their relations with him. You can see how simple, naive and ignorant these people were, having no inkling of their political objectives, whereas Iqbal was perceptive and intelligent enough to understand the hidden implications of the colonialist politics in the works of Thomas Arnold and Edward Browne. This is an indication of Iqbal’s greatness.
At that time the Muslims were in a very precarious Condition. The British administration and its main institutions were under the direct control of the British, and the secondary and less important positions were held by the Hindus. The freedom movement that was first launched by the Muslims was grabbed by the Congress party, and that too a prejudiced Congress party. Later on the Indian National Congress rendered great service to the freedom struggle, but during those days it was dominated by communal prejudices. It was predominantly an anti-Islamic, pro-Hindu and anti-Muslim communalist organisation. There were Westernised Muslim intellectuals who were infatuated with the Western values on the one hand, and on the other there were the poor Muslim masses, crushed under the burden of extreme poverty and drudgery.
The Muslim 'ulama' and religious leaders were isolated from the freedom movement (after their initial defeat) and were alienated from it (except those who were in the vanguard of the movement, leaders like Mawlana Muhammad 'Ali). Political isolation and economic deprivation ruled supreme. The Muslims were reduced to the state of being a superfluous part of the Indian society, without any guiding star on the horizon. In such crucial moments Iqbal kindled the torch of egohood. Of course, India was no exception; the above-mentioned conditions prevailed throughout the Muslim world. It was for the very same reason that Iqbal speaks about the whole Islamic world. Iqbal's day-to-day life in the city of Lahore in the colonised subcontinent of India led him to directly experience the pains and hardships of life. It was at this juncture that Iqbal raised the banner of his revolt. His was a cultural, political and revolutionary movement. The first thing that was necessary for Iqbal to do was to make the Indian society aware of its Islamic identity, Islamic ego and the Islamic personality, or rather the human dimension of its personality. He asks the people as to why they were complacent, why they were forgetful and why they had abandoned their real selves. He asks them to regain their Islamic and human identity. This was the first message delivered by Iqbal. But, could he succeed in awakening the nation of several hundreds of millions that had been subjected to severe exploitation and humiliation for a long time. A nation that was divested of the capacity to understand, to know and to hope against hope was now asked to assert existence and recover its identity as soon as possible. It was almost an impossible task, very difficult to be realised. In my humble opinion no one could convey this message in a better way than Iqbal did. With a view to attain this end Iqbal evolved his philosophy of the self (khudi). The philosophy of egohood in the sense of subjective philosophical views is not the subject of our discussion. The conception of ego which has human and social implications, was presented philosophically so that it could fit in a philosophical Tradition. As Iqbal wished to make it the central theme of his poems, ghazals, and mathnawis, this notion required to be based on a sound philosophical outlook. Iqbal conceived ego as the source of feeling and knowing one's individuality through contemplation, introspection, self-cognition and self-realisation. He explained this conception in philosophical terms.
In my view, in the beginning the idea of ego might have occurred to Iqbal as a revolutionary idea, and afterwards he made an attempt to philosophise it. It may be argued that ego is the same thing that was the most needed in the Indian society, and in general was missing in the entire Muslim world as well. In spite of having an Islamic value-system the Muslim peoples had become unmindful of it, and eagerly surrendered themselves to an alien system with full faith. It was, therefore, necessary for them to return to their own selves, that is, to the Islamic value-system. In this very sense Iqbal was trying to pursuit as a goal. Such a sociological concept could not be impressed on the minds of people without being expressed in a philosophical manner. Iqbal had to present it philosophically.
As said above, the idea of selfhood or ego at first was conceived by Iqbal as a sociological and revolutionary notion. In due course, after having witnessed the signs of degeneration and loss of self-identity of the Eastern nations, especially the Muslims, and after examining its causes, this idea became permanent and deeply rooted in his being. Afterwards he sought to provide a philosophical and subjective ground to it, and based this notion on a general conception of the self, something similar to the conception of existence as evolved by our philosophers - an essence which is shared by all beings but needs to be interpreted philosophically. Of course, wujud (existence) is something different from khudi (ego), and to interpret it as existence, as is done by some of the persons who have written commentaries on Iqbal's poems, is a great blunder in my view. The notion of unity in plurality and plurality in unity, which has been recurrently used in his Asrar-e khudi (The Secrets of the Self), is different from the metaphysical conception of unity in plurality and plurality in unity as interpreted by Mulla Sadra and others. It is altogether a different category. What Iqbal meant to refer to by this notion had cent per cent human and social connotation. When I say it is social, I do not mean that it is not applicable to individual. Why not? Ego needs to be strengthened in an individual. But this very egohood of the ego of an individual and the strengthening of the personality of the ego have social implications in Islamic framework. Unless the personality of the (individual) ego is strengthened, a strong and stable society in its real sense cannot come into existence. The meaning of the ego is different from that of the existence. At the first instance he speaks in the manner of mystics about the generality and the extent of the concept of self. The world of being is actualised through the manifestations of the ego. Each one of the phenomena of the universe is a manifestation of a particular aspect of the self. Of course, some of the themes that I have described in my own words have been differently presented by Iqbal in the headings of his poems. There are some other themes that are expressed far more beautifully in his poetry than their paraphrasing by Iqbal himself in the headings of certain poems.
The ideas, themselves produced by the self-consciousness, are the manifestations of the ego in every being. The Affirmation of one's ego is also an Affirmation of others. When the presence of the ego in a human being is posited, it automatically posits the presence of egos other than one's own. Therefore there is self as well as the non-self, that is, the existence of other is also posited. Hence it may be inferred that the whole universe is contained as a possibility in the self. The ego is the source of hostility also. There are various selves that are at war with one another. This struggle, this perpetual conflict brings the world into existence. It is the ego which is responsible for the selection of the fittest and its survival as well. So often thousands of selves are sacrificed for the sake of one higher self. The concept of ego is a graded one and its grades vary in intensity and weakness. The degree of intensity and weakness of the ego in each one of the beings is the factor which determines their strength and firmness. In this context he cites the examples of various entities such as the drop, the wine, the goblet, the cup-bearer, the mountain, the desert, the wave, the sea, the light, the eye, the verdure, the candle, the silence, the candle-bearer, the gem, the earth, the moon, the star, the sun, the tree, etc. Each one of them is measured by the intensity of its ego; for instance, a drop has a particular strength of ego, while a stream has a different strength of ego. Similarly a gem on which an image can be engraved possesses an ego-strength different from that of a stone on which no image can be engraved. Finite ego is never absolute. It always refers to a graded essence, which is present in things and human individuals, as well as in cosmic elements in diverse measures. He concludes this theme with the following verse:
When ego embraces Elan Vital,
The stream of life is transformed into an ocean.
Afterwards he expounds his views about the pursuit of ideals and aspirations, something which was most wanting in the Islamic world in those days. It means that the Muslims did not have any purpose in life. They did not have any high aspirations either. Their ambitions were confined to day-to-day life. He holds the view that the human life is nothing without purpose and aim. The ego attains selfhood through moving towards the desired ideals: 'Verily the life is faith and jihad' (striving). He has expressed the same idea in a very comprehensive, profound, subtle and elegant way in his poetry. To desire for something and to strive unceasingly for attaining it is called purposiveness, without which life becomes synonymous with death.
It is desire that makes the universe throb with life. Nature is the shell and desire is the pearl. The heart which is incapable of cherishing desires is a bird with broken wings, unable to fly. It is aspiration which strengthens the life of the self, and transforms it into a restless sea eversurging. It is the joy of viewing that gives vision to the viewing eye. It is the fun of walking that gives feet to the pheasant. It is the effort to sing that is instrumental in endowing the nightingale's beak with melody. It is the piper's hands and the lips that breathe musical notes into reed, which was nothing but a mere straw in the reed-bed.
Science, culture, poetry, literature, law, everything is the product of human aspirations actualised through continuous struggle. Hence he says:
Our lives are sustained by the ideals we create for ourselves,
Our being is illuminated by the rays of our aspirations.
He reiterates the same theme in another verse:
Man is hot-blooded due to his burning passions,
This clay glows with the light of aspirations.
He considers love and passion essential for human society, and individual man, for it strengthens the individual as well as the social ego. He holds that the ego of an individual and the society cannot be strengthened without love. It is essential that the Islamic millah and all other human beings who desire to strengthen their selves should kindle the fire of love in their breasts. It is remarkable that he himself determines an object of love, a point around which the Muslim Ummah has to rally. It is at this juncture that one feels how intelligently this man of awareness and insight comprehended the necessity of the unity of the Muslim world. His quest for the rallying point led him to believe that the love of the Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa (S) was the only passion that could motivate and rally the Muslim Ummah around a new consciousness:
The luminous point that is called the ego,
Keeps glowing the spark of life in our corporeal body.
Through love it becomes more lasting,
More alive, more fervent, and more luminous.
Through love its essence is blazed up,
And its, hidden treasures are evolved.
The ego acquires lire from love,
And learns how to illuminate the universe with this lire.
It is love that brings peace as well as conflict to the world.
Love is the Water of life as well as the well-tempered sword.
Learn the art of being a lover and aspire for loveliness,
Strive to attain the eyes of Noah and aspire for Job's heart.
Discover alchemy in a handful of mud.
And kiss the threshold of sublimity.
Subsequently he tells us as to who that beloved whom the Muslims should love devotedly is:
The beloved is hidden in Thy heart.
If thou art gifted with eyes, come, I will show thee his face.,
His lovers are lovelier than all the beloved of the world,
More beautiful, more elegant and more loveable.
Through his love the heart gains strength,
And the earth attains the exalted status of the Pleiades.
The land of N«id was made vigilant ingenious through his grace,
In a state of ecstasy it flew higher than the heavens.
The heart of the Muslim in the seat of al-Mustafa.
Whatever respect we command is due to his name.
Mount Sinai is nothing but dust that arose from his House,
His parlour is sacred even for the Ka'bah.
The mat is grateful to him that he prefers to sleep on it,
The Taq-e Kisra is trampled under the feet of his Ummah.
He retired to the privacy of the Cave of Hira',
And brought forth a nation, a constitution and a government,
Night after nigh t passed by his bedside finding him awake,
So that his people could rest on the throne of Khusrow.
He gives an account of the Prophet (S) and his high qualities. Not only here alone, but throughout his poetical works we can see an unceasing stream of his love for the Prophet (S) gushing out wave after wave.
A contemporary Pakistani scholar has written a book about Iqbal entitled Iqbal dar rah-e Mawlawi ( Iqbal on the Path of Mawlawi), in which he states that whenever a poem that contained the Prophet's sacred name was recited in Iqbal’s presence spontaneously tears flowed from his eyes. Indeed he passionately loved the Prophet (S). Iqbal has made out a very important point. Where can the world of Islam find a personage more popular and dearer than the Prophet of Islam (S)? His personality is the focal point of the unity of the Islamic world. Iqbal, while narrating the story of the daughter of Hatim al-Ta’i, says that in one of the battles the daughter of Hatim al-Tai was taken captive and brought in the presence of the Prophet (S). Her feet were chained and her head and body were bare. The disrespect showed to the daughter of a great and generous person like Hatim was so shocking that the Prophet (S) took out his cloak and flung it towards her so that she might cover herself. Iqbal concludes this story with the following verses:
We are more naked than the Lady of al-Ta’i.
We are stripped of our robe of honour before the nations.
He is the source of our credibility on the Day of Judgement,
In this world, too, it is he whose love covers our faults.
We, who do not recognize any boundaries and nationalities,
Like vision from the two eyes, are one in reality.
We may belong to Hijaz, Egypt or Iran,
But we are the dew-drops of the same laughing dawn.
The eyes of the keeper of the tavern of Batha' have intoxicated us,
We are like, the goblet full to the brim with this wine,
Like a hundred-leaf flower we smell alike,
For it is he who breathes life into this bouquet, and he is one.
On so many occasions Iqbal has composed verses expressing his deep love for the Prophet (S) that it is not possible to quote all of them here.
In Asrar-e khudi (The Secrets of the Self) he tries to awaken the sense of selfhood, that is, the sense of human identity in the individual as well as the society. A separate section in 'The Secrets of the Self' deals with the idea that the selfhood is weakened by entreating. When an individual or a nation stretches its hands in need before others, this act weakens the individuality of a person or the nation and consequently the process of deterioration sets in.
As a sequel to the problem of ego Iqbal elucidates the problem of selflessness. While discussing the problem of the self, the notion of the strengthening an individual's identity should not be interpreted in the sense of imprisoning one's being within the walls constructed around the self and living in isolation, cut off from other human beings as independent egos. Neither it means that one should lose his identity among other selves in the society. Rather an individual should live in close relationship with the society. This is the real meaning of the selflessness. The book Rumuz-e bikhudi (The Secrets of the Selflessness) is the second book of Iqbal that was composed and printed after Asrar-e khudi and is illustrative of Iqbal's ideas about the Islamic System. Iqbal's ideas about establishing an Islamic order are more elaborate and clearer in Rumuz-e bikhudi than any other of his works. On the whole, the problems elucidated in Rumuz-e bikhudi are among the issues relevant to the establishment of an Islamic society and ought to be taken into consideration.
While going through the themes of the secrets of the selflessness, we notice that Iqbal paid attention exactly to the same questions that are predominant in our Islamic society today. The foremost among the most exciting ideas of Iqbal is his emphasis on the mission of the followers of tawhid. He believed that the Muslims and the Islamic Ummah are bound to spread the message of Islam and they should not rest unless they perform this duty.
It would be interesting, at this juncture, to quote a few selected verses of Iqbal in this regard. In these verses he says that the formation of an Islamic society and the emergence of an Islamic Ummah in this world have not been a simple matter. The world had to wait for ages and history had to undergo countless experiments in order to reach the conception of tawhid and to arrive at a stage where an Ummah inspired with the ideal of tawhid and a people faithfully following Islamic thought could have evolved:
This ancient body called the world
Is constituted by the intermixing of the mother elements.
A hundred reed-beds were cultivated to produce a single melody;
A hundred gardens bled for ages to make a tulip bloom;
Thousand and thousand images were conceived, carved, and erased
So that thine image could be engraved on the tablet of being.
Countless whimpers and tears were sown and nurtured in the soul
To let a prayer-call blossom out.
Since ages the world was at war with the noble souls,
And it favoured the worshippers of false gods.
At last the seed of faith was implanted in the earth,
And the word of tawhid found expression through thy lips.
The centre of the cycles of the universe is la ilah;
The ultimate end of alt action in the world is la ilah.
It is the force that keeps the heavens rotating,
It is what gives the sun its light and life,
It is the force that gives birth to pearls in the ocean's womb,
And keeps the waves surging and moving all the time.
Its morning breeze transforms the soil into flower,
Its fire breathes a nightingale's song into a handful of feathers;
Its flame runs through the veins of the vinegrape;
Its heat makes the goblet-clay to glow as a spark;
Its tunes are asleep within the strings of being
Waiting for thy plectrum to fill the air with music.
Thine existence shalt vibrate with a hundred songs -
Arise and strike thy plectrum at its strings.
As takbir is the secret of thine existence,
The purpose of thy creation is to preserve and spread the message of la ilah.
Unless the world echoes with the vibrations of the call of Truth,
If really a Muslim, thou shalt not rest.
Hast thou not read the verse in the Mother of books
That bestowed upon thee the title of the Just Ummah?
Thou art the lustre of the visage of time,
Thou art made witness to the deeds of all the nations;
Extend thine invitation to all who are punctilious.
Thou hast to disseminate the treasures of the knowledge of the Ummi (S),
Whose words were not polluted with lust of any kind,
Whose words interpreted the meaning of the verse:
"Whose comrade erreth not, nor is deceived".
He washed the tunics of his garden’s tulips clean
And purified them from all impurities.
After elucidating the all-embracing nature of Islamic teachings (which has been done a hundred times in his work), Iqbal addresses the Ummah of tawhid declaring that they are the standard-bearers of Islam, and appeals to them to march forward with the purpose of delivering the message of Islam to the world. Subsequently he asks them to break into pieces the new idol carved by the swindlers of the West. What is this new idol?
Thou who hast the Book under thine arms
Should step forward in the arena of action.
The human mind is always after carving a new idol;
Man's quest for a new image has not ceased in any age,
Again he has rebuilt the temple of Adhar (the idol-maker),
And has moulded a god, newer than others,
Whose joy lies in shedding the blood of his worshippers.
His are numerous names: colour, country and race.
It is implied in these verses that nationalism, racialism and narrow patriotism draw boundaries to isolate peoples and countries. These imprisoned loyalties cause wars between one nation and another in the name of nationality, community, race and colour:
Humanity is being sacrificed like a sheep
At the foot of the unholy idol.
Thou, who hast drunk from the goblet of Khalil (the idol-breaker),
Thy veins are throbbing with the wine of the passion of Khalil.
Thou hast to strike the sword of "nothing exists except Him
Into false-hood disguised as truth.
Let thy face shine on the dark horizons of time,
And spread the perfect message that has been revealed to thee.
Iqbal's idea of propagating the message of Islam and breaking all the artificial boundaries drawn to divide nations leads him to expound certain other notions that are predominant in his philosophy of bikhudi (selflessness), that is, the unification of the individual with the society and his absorption therein. According to him nubuwwah (prophethood) is the principal source of the organisation of the Ummah. It does not mean that a millah is formed by the merely gathering together of many individuals. A particular mode of thinking and an ideology is essential in order to weave different threads together to form the fabric of a nation. For this purpose the most fundamental and the best of all the ideologies is the one that was propounded through nubuwwah, the prophetic mission, and it was propounded by the messengers of God. This is the best of all the foundation-stones upon which a nation is built. This mode of thinking imparts reasoning, faith, discipline and perfection to a nation.
Another concept upon which Iqbal's system of thought rests is the negation of servitude - servitude to the demigods sitting on the throne and standing at the altar.
Man worshipped man in the world.
He lived as a non-entity, as a non-being and as a subordinate
Under the heavy yoke of the Khusrows and the Qaysars.
And his neck, his hands and his feet were chained;
The Popes and the priests and the kings and the lords -
A hundred hunters after a single prey!
Both the king and the priest
levied taxes on his devastated harvest.
Whatever was left after paying taxes to the King's officials was grabbed by the tax-collectors of the Pope. This had been a customary practice all over the world, as Iqbal says:
Bishop, in the name of allotting apartments in the Paradise,
Set a trap in the church to catch him;
The Brahmin plucked the best roses of his garden;
The Magi’s children made up their fire by adding his harvest to it
His human qualities were debased by slavery.
At last came the trustworthy, who restored the lost rights,
And entrusted the throne of the Khans to the slaves.
Iqbal's poetry and philosophy - aimed at humanising the world - are very rich in the themes of human and social significance, such as the Divine mission of the Prophet (S) of Islam, the equality of man, the Qur’anic doctrine of judging a person according to his taqwa (piety): ... „The noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the best in taqwa", and many other similar issues that are indicative of his concern for higher values and the service of mankind. We cannot propagate these ideas in our country without making popular and public the works of Iqbal. This is a task to be carried out in Iran and Pakistan as well as in the countries where people understand Persian and where people are prepared to learn the language.
The poetry of Iqbal, the major part of which is in Persian, needs wider circulation. Out of the fifteen thousand couplets. composed by him nine thousand are in the Persian language. This shows that his works in Urdu are fewer than those in Persian. Rather it can be said that the best and the finest part of his poetry is in our language, and, therefore, we are obliged to devote best of our energies to understand it. For the first time when I read Iqbal's poetry I felt that many of his verses could be understood only with the help of detailed explanatory notes and comments, and regretfully I could find such commentaries nowhere. It is essential to compile such annotated editions. Even the Persian spelling people are in need of such commentaries in order to fully grasp the ideas and themes dealt with by Iqbal. Today the major part of Iqbal's teaching directly concerns us, and some part of it is also relevant to the world that has not gone our way so far and has to understand it in the same manner as we did.
Our people have translated into action his doctrine of the selfhood. They have invigorated it and have brought it into action in the world of actuality. Now our people do not have to be asked to recover their selfhood. Today we are perfectly aware of being on our feet. We are proud of our culture and our cultural heritage, and are confident that we can develop it further on the basis of our ideology and thought. Of course for a long time we were made to depend upon others regarding the material aspect of our life, but we are trying to get rid of these foreign fetters gradually and this process is going on. The Muslim peoples are anyhow in need of comprehending the meaning of selfhood; especially the eminent Muslims, whether they are politically active or culturally creative, need to embrace Iqbal's message. They have to realise that Islam in itself, in its essence and in its nature, possesses the richest potentialities of conducting the affairs of the individual lives and human societies, and does not need to look towards others. We do not advocate for summarily dismissing other cultures and close our doors to them. We should assimilate them, but in the manner as a living body absorbs the elements that are essential for its life, and not like a dead and unconscious body which is injected by others whatever they desire to inject into it. We have the capacity of assimilating from other cultures whatever is relevant to us. As Iqbal has said repeatedly, we can learn the modern science and philosophy from the West, but the ardour and zest for life can never be borrowed from others:
Wisdom we have learnt from the teachings of the Western thinkers.
Ardour for life we have acquired in the company of men of insight.
It means that the Western society and culture is wanting in ardour and fervour, and Iqbal was quicker than any other person in perceiving this phenomenon. He could anticipate the dangers inherent in the Western civilisation and its materialistic culture, and warned the people in advance that it was devoid of the spiritual elements essential for human welfare. Fortunately, today the consciousness of selfhood and Islamic identity is abounding in our country among the people. Our policy based on the principle of "Neither the East nor the West" is in conformity with what Iqbal advised and wished to be pursued. Our policy of self-reliance is identical with Iqbal's views. We, in our love for the Prophet (S), in our commitment to the Qur’an, in our emphasis on learning the Qur’an, and in our conviction that the Qur’an and Islam are to be made the basis of all the revolutions and movements, are exactly following the path that was shown to us by Iqbal. At that time, nobody was attentive enough to pay heed to Iqbal's counsel. In those days there were not many people who could understand Iqbal’s message and his language. Iqbal's books are replete with complaints and remonstrances - remonstrances as to why people do not understand his message and look towards the West for guidance. In his introduction to Rumuz-e bikhudi also he remonstrates with the Islamic Ummah.
Thou wert appointed to be, the seal of all nations,
Thou wert destined to be the end of all the beginnings;
Thine 'ulama' were made equal to prophets;
Thy martyred comrades could breathe life into the hearts.
Why art thine eyes enchanted by the beauty of the church?
Why hast thou fallen away from the path of the Holy Ka'bah?
Believe me. The dust of thy street rises to form heavenly spheres;
O thy visage attracts the eyes of the entire world.
Why art thou rising and falling restlessly like a wave?
What is that spectacle thou art going to behold?
Learn the secret of living passionately on your own from the moth;
Build thy nest amidst the tongues of flames.
Kindle the tire of love from within thy soul;
Restore thy bond with the spirit of al-Mustafa.
I have left the company of the church-goers,
To see to it that the veil is raised from thy face.
O my comrade, thou art bewitched by the charm of others
And singing odes to praise golden locks and rosy cheeks.
Here, by the epithet hamnawa (comrade) Iqbal means to refer to his contemporaries and those who were of late introduced to the Western culture and were intoxicated with the Western value-system. He compares their attitude with that of his own:
He rubs his forehead at the foot of the Saqi,
He is lost in the story of the Magi’s children,
While I bleed, struck by the crescent of thine eyebrows,
Happy that my blood is soaked in the dust of thy street.
My art has been over and above eulogising worldly lords,
My head never bowed before imperial courts.
He reminds the Muslim Ummah that it has never been his custom to sing praises, but he eulogised her so passionately because of his deep love for Islam:
Poetry bestowed upon me ability to make a mirror out of words,
And it has freed me from asking Alexander's favour.
I hate to be burdened by the favours of others.
My lips are purses and hands shut like a bud in the garden.
After giving free vent to his feeling of disdain and indifference to the worldly attainments, Iqbal, who never humbled himself by prostrating before anybody, kneels down on his knees in front of the Muslim Ummah, and begs them to realise their own worth and pay heed to the words of the Qur’an:
At thy door my soul is bleeding to beg a small favour of thee,
In return it offers thee all her ardour and pathos.
A river comes down trickling from the blue sky,
Its water is distilled through my burning heart,
And I direct its course through channels thinner than rivulets,
To make it steadily flow and water thine orchard.
This was just a brief account and a short glimpse of our dear Iqbal's personality, who was undoubtedly a bright star on the horizon of the East. We hope that we shall acknowledge our indebtedness to him and would be able to recompense for the delay made by our people in recognising Iqbal's worth during the span of last forty, fifty years. I request the researchers, poets, orators, writers, publishers, the government organisations, the Ministry of Culture and Advanced Learning, the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, each of them, to do their best to reintroduce and revive the spirit of Iqbal in the manner befitting his memory. I propose that his poetry and his writings be reproduced and compiled in the form of books, and his poetical works like Asrar-e khudi (The Secrets of the. Self), Rumuz-e bikhudi (The Mysteries of Selflessness), Gulshan-e raz (Garden of Mystery), Jawid nameh (Pilgrimage to Eternity), etc. be reprinted and each of them published separately. This work has been done in Pakistan to some extent, but the people of Pakistan cannot be fully benefited from those ideas as today the Persian language is not in currency there as in the past. I wish this gap also to be filled. It is further hoped that our Pakistani brothers present in this meeting as well as the writers of the Indian subcontinent realise their responsibility and rise to the occasion to resist the vicious policies of the past governments regarding the Persian language, which possesses great treasures of Islamic culture and in which the major part of Islamic culture is preserved. They should give currency to this language in the Subcontinent where there are great numbers of Muslims; especially in Pakistan this work needs to be done with a sense of urgency.
In our own country also the publication of Iqbal's books should be carried out on a large scale and the artists should illustrate Iqbal's works with suitable paintings, the musicians should sing his poems set in popular tunes in order to render them effectively and bring to the tongues of the young and the old. I hope that God Almighty will enable us to repay the debt that the Muslim Ummah owes to him.
Wa as-salam 'alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
Human Rights In Islam
Delivered on the occasion of the 5th Islamic Thought Conference 29-31st January, 1997
Published in the book "Human Rights in Islam", edited by: Sayid Khadim Husayn Naqavi, Tehran 1410 a.h. / 1989
The issue of human rights is one of the most fundamental human issues and also one of the most sensitive and controversial. During the recent decades, this problem was more political than either ethical or legal. Although the influence of political motives, rivalries, and considerations have made difficult the correct formulation of this problem , but this should not prevent thinkers and genuine humanists from probing into this problem and ultimately obtaining a solution.
In the West, though the issue of human rights was raised by the thinkers of the post-Renaissance period, it is only since the last two hundred years or so that it became an issue of prominence among the political and social issues of the Western society and an issue of fundamental significance. Perhaps, when we examine the causes of many social changes and political upheavals, we will find the marks of its presence and its principal ideals. During the last decades this emphasis reached its climax in the West. With the formation of the UNO after the Second World War and the subsequent drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a concrete model came into existence as a result of this emphasis that can serve as a criterion and basis of our judgement and analysis of the ideals voiced in this regard during the last two hundred years and especially in the last few decades.
We Muslims, of course, know it very well that if the Western world and the Western civilization have paid attention to this matter in the recent centuries, Islam has dealt with it from all the various aspects many centuries back. The idea of human rights as a fundamental principle can be seen to underlie throughout Islamic teachings. And this does not need any elaboration for a Muslim audience. That the verses of the Quran and the traditions handed down from the Prophet (SA) and the Imams of his Household (AS) , each one of them emphasizes the fundamental rights of man something which has caught the attention of men in recent years- is known to Muslims, and there is no need for the scholars to be reminded about this fact. However, I would say , that today it is big responsibility on the shoulders of the Islamic society to make this reality known to the world , and not to allow those essential teachings of Islam to be lost in the storm of political clamor and ballyhoo.
There were some questions which can be raised in this regard, and to answer them is my principal aim today. Of course, in the course of the conference you scholars would carry on useful and profound discussions on various aspects of human rights, which will itself serve as a source of information for the Muslim world and enlighten them about the viewpoints of Islam in this regard.
The first question is Whether the efforts made during the decades since the Second World War, in the name of human rights have been successful in their purpose or not. The addresses, the assemblies and the sessions held in the United Nations, and the claims made regarding human rights have they succeeded in bringing men closer to their genuine rights, or to at least the major section of the deprived humanity? The answer to this question is not so difficult; for an observation of the present world conditions is enough to prove that these attempts have not been successful till now. A glance at the conditions of the underdeveloped societies of the world, who form the major part of the human population, is sufficient to reveal the fact that not only the major part of humanity could not achieve their true rights during the last fifty years, but the methods of encroaching upon the rights of the deprived nations have become more sophisticated and complex and more difficult of remedy. We cannot accept the claims made by those who claim to be champions of human rights, while the bitter realities of the African and Asian nations and the hungry millions of the human race are before our eyes, and watch the constant spectacle of violation of the rights of several nations. Those who have been outspoken in advocating human rights during these last forty years, have themselves grabbed the most fundamental of human rights from the people of the Third-World countries. It is with their connivance that certain governments and regimes that deny men their most primary rights have managed to survive. The dictators of today's world and also the despots of the last fifty years in Asia, Africa and Latin America- none of them could have established and preserved their dictatorships on their own without reliance upon the big powers. These big powers are exactly those who have coined most of the slogans concerning human rights; it is they who have brought into being the UNO, and even today the UN is at their service.
The economic poverty, hunger and loss of life in several countries of the world are of course the result of intervention, repression, usurpation on the part of the big powers. Who has caused Africa, the land of plenteous resources to see this day? Who has kept the people of Bangladesh and India for years and years under exploitation, and, despite their natural resources and great potentialities, has brought them to the point that today we hear people die of hunger in those countries? Who has plundered the wealth and resources of the Third-World countries, and has brought about hunger, poverty and misfortune for these nations, procuring sophisticated technologies and immense wealth for themselves? We see that the organizers of the United Nations Organization and the principal drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and those who even today shamelessly claim to be the supporters of this declaration are the real authors of those misfortunes. Otherwise there is no reason as to why Africa, the land of exuberance and bounties, Latin America with its natural wealth, and the great India, and many other Third- world countries should have lagged behind and remained backward in spite of sufficient man-power and natural resources. Today, the system of political domination of capital and power prevails in the world, and there is no doubt in it that this system of dominance of capital and power is controlled and steered by the same people who the fathers of the Declaration of Human Rights. Under their wheel of capital, power and machine we see the nations of the world being crushed and struggling helplessly. The UN is the most outstanding product of the efforts made for human rights, yet what has it done in the past for the nations of the world, and what is it doing today? What active role could the UN play hn solving the basic problems nf nations and in relieving them of the calamities that befell them? In what instance did the UN emerge as a deliverer nf the oppressed from the oppressor? At what point could the UN persuade the big tyrannical powers to refrain from making unjust demands? The UN has even lagged behind most of the nations in this regard. Today, despite all those claims, we are witnesses to the Apartheid regime in South Africa and to many instances of racism and racial discrimination in the advanced countries themselves. Therefore, it is clear that the TN despite its being the most outstanding example of the endeavor for human rights, has not done anything in this regard. It has intervened in international problems in the role of a preacher or priest. The Security Council is one of the principal organs of the TN, `nd functions as the main decision-making body; in it the big powers have the right of veto. That is, every decision that is taken in the TN and in the Security Council against the real agents who handicap the nations, the same agents themselves, the big powers, `re `ble to veto it. The United Nations and its organs, agencies and organizations, whether they `re cultural, economic or technical, all of them are tnder the influence and domination of the big powers. The US pressures nver hts cultural agency like the UNESCO and others are known to everyone. Since a Muslim was the chief of the UNESCO who desired to maintain his own independence as well as that of the agency, you witnessed how the US subjected the UNESCO to pressures during these last two years. Consequently, we feel that the TN as the most significant outcome of the endeavor for human rights has proved to be an ineffectual and impotent element, which has been created as ` consolation for nation that has no practical benefit. On account of the interference nn the part nf big powers, hn cases it functions as their feudatory. We do not of course reject the UN; we believe that this organization ought to exist, and it must be reformed. We ourselves are its member. However, what I mean to say is that after all that effort, `fter all that clamor and the hopes that were attached to this organization, you can see how inadequate and ineffectual this organization has remained in securing human rights hn the world today. Hence, the answer to the first question has become clear. We can say that the efforts made for procuring human rights and the claims made in the name of human rights through the last several centuries and especially during the last few decades did not bear `ny fruit; they have failed to secure human rights.
The second question is whether, basically, these efforts had any sincerity? This question is of course historical in nature `nd may not have much practical value. Hence, I do not hntend to discuss it at length. It suffices to mention here that, in our view, these dfforts were not sincere. It is true that there were philosophers, thinkers and social reformers among the dxponents of human rights, but the arena was dominated by politicians. Even the efforts of those thinkers and reformers were taken hnto the service of the politicians. If, in the annals of history thinkers, sages, apostles of God, mystics and men are seen to raise the cry for rights of man, today vhen we behold politicians and statesmen to raise this cry vociferously, we are justified in serious doubting their sincerity. Look around and see as to who are those who plead the case nf human rights . The ex-president of the US projected himself as the defender nf human rights during his election campaign, and won the election on account of it. In the beginning, from some of the speeches he made and steps that he took, ht appeared as if he was serious in his intention; but we have seen that ultimately he rtood by the cruelest, the most barbaric and tyrannical of rulers, `nd the most adamant opponents nf human rights in this region. He supported the Shah and the tyrants of occupied Palestine and other infamous dictatorships of our days. Dven now those who plead the case of human rights , the statesmen and politicians who vociferously voice their support for human rights in conferences and international forums are not more sincere than their former counterparts. We do not find `ny signs of sincerity in their efforts. Those who drafted the Declaration of Human Rights, and at their fore the USA, their aim was to extend their domination and hegemony over the world of that time. Their problem was not to safeguard the rights of men, the kind of rights that they had violated during the war, They are the same people who have wiped out tens of thousands of human beings by an atom bomb. They were the same persons who in order to fight a war which had nothing to do with the Asian and African nations had recruited the majority of soldiers from India, Algeria and other African and non-European countries. We do not believe that Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin and their like had the smallest consideration for human rights in the true sense of the word and were sincere in forming the United Nations and drafting the Universal Declaration of human Rights. Accordingly, the answer to the second question is also clear: No! We do not believe that the efforts made by the politicians and the most vocal advocates of human rights were sincere at all.
The third question, which is the most basic of them all, is, what was the reason for the failure of these attempts? This is the point to which more attention should be paid, and I shall discuss it briefly here. I believe it is the most basic point, because whatever has presented in the name of human rights is done within the framework of a defective and crooked system, a system of dominance which is repressive and tyrannical.
Those who have created the UN and have drafted the Universal Declaration of human rights, and those who most vehemently and vociferously plead for it today, regrettably the majority of them are statesmen and politicians who believe in the system of dominance and have accepted it. The system of dominance means that a group of men dominates and should dominate another group of men . The system of dominance is backed by the culture of dominance. Today the world is divided into two groups: one is the group of those who dominate and the other is the group of the dominated. Both the groups have accepted the system of dominance, and the big powers believe that this system should be maintained. Even those who are dominated have accepted the system of dominance and have consented to its continuity. This is the biggest flaw in the existing world situation. Those who do not accept the system of dominance are those individuals or groups who are not satisfied with the social order in their countries or with the social and political state of world affairs, and rise in revolt against this system. The revolutionary groups who revolt against the global status quo or revolutionary governments are very few in number and are constantly subjected to pressures and victimized. The most illustrative example of it is the Islamic Republic of Iran , which has rejected domination in all its forms, and has not accepted anybody's domination. The East as well as the West are the same for it in this respect. It does not give any priority to the powerful of the world or to its rich, while making decisions. The whole world is witness to the kind of pressures it had to face during the period of the last eight years since the Islamic Republic of Iran was established. It was subjected to political as well as military and economic pressures, and the pressures of world-wide propaganda launched against it . The cause of such pressures is clear. It was all done for the reason that the Islamic Republic has taken a clear and independent stand against the system of dominance. If some progressive governments have resisted Western and US domination, in majority of cases, there were observable signs of acceptance of and surrender to Eastern domination. Of course, all of them are not the same in this regard. Some of them have completely surrendered themselves to the Eastern bloc and the USSR while some others show signs of independence in some cases. But if there is a government and a society that has never yielded to any pressures, it is the Islamic Republic, which has totally rejected the system of dominance.
Wherever in the world there is any pressure, high-handedness and unjust demands made upon a certain nation by a big power in the world, we have made clear our stand and have openly and bluntly expressed our definite views without any reservations. But the majority of the world's nations have accepted this system. You can see that unfortunately the governments of the same countries which are subject to domination do not have the moral courage and guts to resist and oppose the domination of the big powers and fight them, while in our view it is quite possible. We believe that if the poor countries, the countries that have been under domination and in spite of their resources have been forced to fulfil the unjust demands made by the big powers- had they wished to stand against them, they could do so. No miracle is needed; it is sufficient that the governments should rely upon their own people.
Unfortunately, the weakness of will to resist, and more than weakness the treachery on the part of heads of some states in some cases, did not allow them to rise against the system of dominance. This system of dominance prevails over the world economy , culture, international relations and international rights. Naturally the issue of human rights has been posed within the framework of this system of dominance and developed in the background of this system and its outlook. As a result the very persons who strive to secure freedoms, opportunities and means of welfare for their citizens in European countries in the name of human rights, they bomb and kill human beings in other countries by thousands. What does it mean? Does it mean anything other than this that in the view of the culture of domination which prevails over the world, human beings are divided into two categories: the human beings whose rights are to be defended, and the human beings who have to rights whatsoever and it is permissible to kill, destroy, enslave and subjugate them and to seize their belongings. This system is prevalent all over the world and the conception of human rights is also the product of such a culture.
This is the framework of the system of rights in the world of today. Within this cultural and legal framework the superpowers constantly widen the gap between the weaker nations and themselves, and exert more and more pressure on them. The greater the rate of advancement in technology and its speed accelerates, the more are the weaker countries and nations threatened and subjected to mounting pressures. No one asks the big powers today as to what right they have to put greater pressure on other countries and nations than ever before with their greater advancement in technology and industrialization. Today the satellites launched into the space by the big powers are moving in their orbits around the globe, and gathering minutest details and probing into the secrets of other countries. Why? What gives them right to do that?
Today, most of the communications between people on the global level, especially those between statesmen and heads of states, and political and scientific communications are accessible to those who possess sophisticated technology. Why? Does anyone ask them? Does anyone raise any objection? Since the US has launched those satellite and possesses the means of gathering and benefiting from intelligence, it is given the right by all to obtain that information. Doesn't the eavesdropping on the communications between the world's people amount to a violation of their rights? Does anyone put this question to the US, USSR, UK, France and Germany? When this question is raised, will anyone affirm that such a question should be raised? No, everyone says to himself: they are strong so they can do it ; they are capable of doing it, so they must use the opportunity. Today, the problem of atom bomb and the use of nuclear weapons is an issue all over the world.
The superpowers themselves raise it because they are afraid of each other. They wrangle over it and each tries to dupe the other by limiting the nuclear arsenals of its rival while equipping itself with more and more. But, have the smaller countries ever thought of opposing the makers of nuclear bombs, by declaring that unless these bombs are destroyed and defused and unless peace of mind is restored to humanity, which is exposed to the nuclear danger every moment, they shall not have any relations with them, nor any trade nor any cooperation in any matter? Have the Third-World countries, the non-aligned nations and other countries of the world- have they ever thought of making use of some kind of leverage against the race for nuclear arms? No. If you suggest this idea to them, they will say that it is an advanced technology, they possess it; they can , and so must produce such weapons.
It means that they have accepted the logic of dominance. The absence of balance in the present world conditions has equally been accepted by the oppressor as well as the oppressed nations. The culture of dominance has been imposed on the minds. When we denounce the East and the West in international fora on account of their acts, we clearly perceive the astonishment of heads of the states and representatives of countries. They consider it something odd and rash, whereas it is a natural stand by an independent nation. All the nations and states should behave in a like manner, but they don't. The conclusion that we draw is that today the prevalence of the culture of dominance has become the biggest evil. It is something which has been greatly detrimental for the weaker nations, and encouraged the big powers to violate human rights.
Whether it is the US's aggression against Grenada, or the massacre of defenseless Lebanese civilians by the US supported Israel, or the ruthless suppression of the black population- who are the real masters of the land- by the government of South Africa, which is backed by the US and some European governments- all these violations of human rights are easily tolerated. But when a frustrated individual infuriated by this state of affairs in some corner of the world does something, if an explosion takes place or something happens, it is deplored as an act of terrorism. But the US's aggression against Libya, the bombardment of the residence of the president of a country and the violation upon its territory, is not condemned by the world. Whenever there is a mention of terrorism, mostly that which comes to the minds of people is some desperate act of a youth, a victim of oppression fed up with life, from Palestine, or Lebanon, or some African or Latin American country, rather than the acts of such big powers as the US, the UK, and others. This is nothing but the result of the culture of dominance, the culture that unfortunately dominates human mentality all over the world.
I n the culture of dominance, words also acquire peculiar connotations that suit the suit the system of dominance. For instance, 'terrorism' is defined in a way so that the US's aggression against Libya, or its intimidation of Nicaragua or the invasion of Grenada, etc. does not come under the definition of 'terrorism'. This is a big flaw in the present state of affairs. Therefore, the failure of the attempts made in the name of human right- even on behalf of those who are sincere and earnest- is on account of the nature of the framework within which they want to lay down and declare the rights of the human beings- something which is not possible. This framework is to be broken and the system of dominance to be condemned. States, nations and countries should resolutely reject the unfair and unjust domination of the big powers so that human rights may be understood, pursued and restored.
Lastly, the fourth question: what is the remedy? In our view, the answer is return to Islam, and recourse to Divine revelation. This is a prescription equally valid for Muslims as well as for non-Muslims. For this, the Islamic societies do not have to wait for anything. Return to Islam, revival of the Quran and of Islamic mode of thinking in society, recourse to Islamic sources (the Quran and the Sunnah) in legal matters -these are the things and that will enable us to understand the meaning of human rights and help us to identify the those rights and guide us in our struggle to secure them. For the purpose of securing human rights, it is necessary once and for all to give up giving advice and lecturing, since they are of no use. The Quran says: "Take by force that which we have given you." (2:63). God Almighty has granted these rights to mankind, and they should secure these rights by force. The Islamic nations should resist the unjust demands and dominance of the big powers by relying upon the Islamic ideology. These are not the words of an idealist who speaks about Islamic issues and Islamic ideals from the corner of a theological seminary. These are the utterances of a revolution which has gone through experiences and has felt the actualities.
Our revolution is an experience that is available for study to all the nations. I do not say that we have solved all our problems. We haven't. There is no doubt that a great many problems have been created for us on account of the Revolution and on account of its Islamic character. But we have solved the problem of dominance. Today the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic can claim that they have rid themselves of all domination and powers and that they can decide for themselves. Of course, when a nation tries to do away with all the forms of dependence, it has a long path to tread. And relations if not accompanied with domination, pushing around, and unjust demands are something natural and tolerable. It is quite obvious that our revolution and the Islamic Republic inherited the legacy of a decadent society, a shattered economy, and a degenerate culture. What was handed down to the Revolution by the rulers of the past centuries, especially of the last fifty or sixty years, was an Iran beleaguered from all sides. It is not to be expected that the Revolution will be able to lead this dissipated heritage in a short time to the heights of cultural, ethical and economic achievement and scientific and industrial advancement. We do not make such claims, but, of course, we do anticipate a good future. We believe that it is possible for a nation to reach a high level of material advancement only through independence, self-reliance and by using its manpower and material resources. But what we positively claim today is that the Islamic Republic is not under any political pressure or domination of any power whatsoever. Political pressures do not influence it to change its course or alter its decisions; it does not change its path or its momentum on account of any consideration for some superpower. It means that we have freed ourselves and our people from the domination of the big powers.
This is an experience, which, we believe, underlines the significance of the most basic and precious of human rights in Islam: the right to live, the right to be free, the right to benefit from justice, the right to welfare, and so on. These and other such fundamental rights can be secured in an Islamic society. They can be derived from the Islamic sources and Islam has incorporated them in its commands to Muslims and drawn man's attention towards them, much before Western thinkers gave thought to these rights and values. It is essential to return to Islam.
Muslim thinkers are charged with the responsibility of thoroughly examining and studying the subject of human rights or rather the general structure of the Islamic legal system. This is also the mission of the present conference, which, I hope, will be a new step taken in this direction, and , God willing , this work would continue. The nations of the world can benefit from the sublime outlook of Islam in this regard in coming closer to securing these rights. The Islamic governments may of course help their peoples in securing their rights, but on condition that they should have no reservations in regard to the big powers. Unfortunately, today we do not see such a state of affairs. Most of the regimes governing Islamic countries are under the influence of the big powers. The majority of them are dominated by the West and under US influence. Therefore, their actions and decisions comply neither with the Islamic principles, nor with the needs of Muslim nations.
A ready example in this regard is the conference held recently in Kuwait. You have seen that in this conference, instead of considering the basic problems of Muslims, what kinds of problems were discussed and what kind of resolution was passed. It was by no means compatible with an Islamic approach to the problem. Instead of rejecting over Iraq's aggression against a Muslim country and its waging of a war against an Islamic revolution, they should have denounced it and expelled it from the Conference. Instead of revealing the part played by the imperialist powers in igniting the flames of this imposed war, they came out with a hollow and insipid demand for peace, and even expressed their satisfaction for Iraq's positive response to the call for peace. They did it without going into the core of the problem, without appreciating the fact that a nation's resolve to defend its own rights is something commendable, and without recognizing that the willingness of a government and a regime to be influenced by the pressure of imperialist powers in creating obstacles in the path of a revolution is something condemnable.
Of course, these resolutions, decisions and opinions are much invalid and weightless as they are remote from Islamic principles and values. Accordingly, there is no nation or country in the world which looks forward to knowing what step the Islamic Conference takes in Kuwait so as to welcome it or be disappointed with it. It means that these decisions and resolution are so much so removed from reality, alien to the basic Islamic criteria, and the aspirations of nations that they remain completely indifferent to these. You will not find a single country in the world whose people should be waiting eagerly to know as to what the Islamic Conference has to say, so that its resolution promises a sense of obligation or the pleasure of receiving some good news. What is the reason? Why should a gathering of forty-six Islamic states organized on the highest level of heads of states and leaders be so ineffectual and so much devoid of consequence and content? It is on account of the unfortunate fact that most of these regimes are under the influence of the big powers. As long as this domination of the big powers and their awe and fear remain in their hearts, the affairs of the Muslim nations will be in disarray. If we wish to deliver the Muslim word form its present-day disarray and confusion, the first thing that is to be done is to drive this fear and awe from the hears, as God Almighty has said: "...So fear not mankind, but fear Me..." They should not be afraid of anyone except God. If this happens, the condition of the Islamic nations will move towards betterment.
I conclude my speech with the hope that, God willing, this Islamic Thought Conference, during the few days that it will hold its sessions, will be able to make a significant contribution towards the understanding of the Islamic verities regarding human rights. Besides, the exchange of opinions between the Iranian and non-Iranian brothers will help the communication of the experience of the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic and their better understanding by the non-Iranian brothers. It will provide them the opportunity to study that experience, so that other nations may view the revolution brought about by their brethren in Iran as a model and as a new path that can be possibly trodden.
Wassalam 'alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.