شناسه مطلب صحیفه
نمایش نسخه چاپی

Speech [Warning on misconceptions on Islam]

Shaykh Ansari Mosque, Najaf, Iraq
Warning on misconceptions on Islam
Clergymen and students of Najaf theological center
جلد ۳ صحیفه امام خمینی (ره)، از صفحه ۲۱۸ تا صفحه ۲۲۹
I seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Time management, obligation on not wasting the affluence of youth

Yesterday, I discussed the issue of usurpation [ghasb]. After the discussion, one of the gentlemen pointed out that I had previously spoken on this issue and was repeating myself. This is not unusual for people such as myself, for as man ages all his faculties become weak, and just as physically, he becomes frail, so too his mental and spiritual powers, his ability to worship, become impaired. All of these are strong in youth, and that is why I have told you gentlemen many times that now that you enjoy this blessing of youth make use of it and do not waste it. I am not saying that the young people should not have any kind of recreation, or that they should study all the time, what I mean is that they should divide their time between recreation and study and that most of their time should be spent on the latter. You, gentlemen, who are devoting your life to study, now that you enjoy the blessing of youth, divide your time and spend the better part of it on debate, discussion, study, lessons and teaching. Do not suppose that you can squander your youth and put off worship and study until the end of your lives, for when one reaches that stage in one's life, one can neither worship nor study, nor is one's cogitative faculty strong or clear enough for one to be able to understand scientific matters. It is now in youth that you should strengthen your understanding of the fundamentals of science and religious jurisprudence so that when you reach old age and you have mastery over these, your knowledge will bear fruit and you will be able to utilize it. But if you squander your youth and waste this blessing, you will not be able to compensate for this later. So, you, gentlemen, should bear this point in mind that the period of old age is a period of forgetfulness, thus you see that I begin to discuss a matter which I have already discussed. This is due to the weakness that comes to man in old age.

Different dimensions of the human being

Another matter which I think is very important and which I feel should be given due attention is that man- this creature which is the essence of all creation- is himself a multi-dimensional creature possessing as he does different qualities. From one aspect, he is similar to vegetables; just as vegetables need water and the nutrients they get from the earth to grow, so too man depends on the earth and the blessings of God, the Blessed and Exalted, for his growth. In addition, he has an animalistic aspect just like other animals; he has eyes, ears and so on, and other senses which he shares with other animals. That which is more predominant in him- although it can be found to a lesser degree in animals too- is his ability to ideate «1» at which level other things are added to the animalistic qualities that he possesses. The human being is characterized by his reasoning, spirituality and the" immateriality of his rational soul" «2» which other animals do not enjoy.
The Holy Qur'an, which is supreme among all other ideologies and books, was revealed to develop man, to turn a potential human being into an actuality. This was the reason behind the revelation of the other divine books also. The missions of all the prophets, regardless of the period, were to turn the human being into a true human being. All the sciences, the acts of worship, the religious learning and the rules for worship are all a means to turn a defective human being into a perfect human being. The Qur'an is a book of human perfection which, when turned to, provides for every stage of man's development.
Islam and other divine religions do not envisage a government which is like other governments; the government of Islam is not like other governments. The materialistic governments- whatever their leanings- are only concerned about preserving order in their own countries. If the government is a true exponent of justice, it will attempt to guarantee that oppression does not exist outside its own boundaries, and if the rulers are themselves just, they will not tyrannize others. But in principle, such governments only guarantee order in their own countries and whatever happens within the home is of no concern to them so long as it poses no danger to the regime. The people can drink wine, gamble, perpetrate all kinds of scandalous deeds within their homes and the government will not interfere. However, if they come out of their homes and start to riot, then the government will clamp down on them for then they are going against the order of things. Whether the government is just or unjust, it will not interfere in that which people do in their own homes, unless an oppressive act takes place in the home and somebody complains to the authorities, in which case the government may decide to do something about it. However, such is not the case with Islam and divine governments. They have rules for everyone wherever they are. So if someone wishes to carry out a vile and unlawful act in his own home, the Islamic government will have something to say about this. Although corruption within people's homes will not be purposely sought out by the Islamic authorities, still, unlawful acts are forbidden and a ruling has been given that they should not be carried out. Those who perpetrate such acts are made punishable by the law, and if the government finds out about their actions then it has to follow its legal rulings and mete out the necessary punishment.

Islam's attention on all aspects of man

Islam as well as other divine governments and calls involve themselves with all aspects of man's development, from the lowest level up to the highest to which he can ascend. It is not like those governments which only concern themselves with the governing of a country, for Islam, in addition to having many rules pertaining to the politics of a country, also has spiritual laws. It deals with both the material and the spiritual. It has rules pertaining to man's spiritual education, his spiritual development, and, at a more mundane level, which concerns man's character; it has rules for his moral edification. Islam has moral teachings and it has rules which govern his social relations, his relationship with himself, his wife, his children, his neighbors, his friends, his fellow countrymen, his co-religionists, and people of a different religion. Islam has rules for man which extend from before his birth until after his death. It contains provisions relating to the preliminaries of marriage and the form in which it should be contracted, and others relating to the development of the embryo in the womb until birth. It specifies how the child should be reared, it has rules for him at puberty, in his youth, in old age, when he dies and is laid in his grave and even after that, for this is not the end; it is only the beginning. These rules pertain to all aspects of man's life here, to his intellectual and moral education, but they don't end here, they are continued even when he enters the grave, when he is separated from this world «3» and reaches the realm of perfection and incorporeality. For the world of the grave is itself the beginning of another life, it is the beginning of the spiritual life of the grave, the spiritual life in the intermediate area between Heaven and Hell [barzakh], and then the spiritual life on a level even higher still. Islam and its laws which God, the Blessed and Exalted, has sent for man are not confined merely to this world or the next.

The disaster of a one dimensional look at Islam

Throughout the ages, there have been many groups of philosophers, gnostics, Sufis, Muslim scholastics and others who looked for the spiritual aspects of life and found them, each according to his own level of perception, and who then charged the so-called ordinary people with error for looking only at exoteric meanings. They considered anybody apart from themselves as being `exoterics' and charged them with error. In their exegeses of the Qur'anic verses too they explained most, if not all, of the verses in mystical, philosophical and spiritual terms, and they ignored those aspects which referred to the worldly life and those teachings which are needed for this temporal life. Based on their own ideas, they sought meanings which were above the understanding of the so-called ordinary people, and, in addition, they saw themselves as being endowed with a special knowledge and rejected all others apart from themselves. At the same time, another group of people existed who busied themselves with matters of jurisprudence and worship; they rejected the first group and regarded their ideas as erroneous, denouncing them as heretics or unbelievers, among other things. However, both these two groups were unrealistic, one confined Islam to the branches and secondary aspects [furou`] of the laws and the other to spiritual laws. One group believed Islam to be concerned only with the supernatural and the other believed that Islam was all about the laws of nature and jurisprudence, that everything else was irrelevant.
Recently another situation has arisen whereby some good, pious people, writers who work for the people just as the religious jurisprudents [fuqaha], the scholastics and philosophers do, wish also to serve Islam. They too, based on their own individual understanding of the subject, wish to explain the laws of Islam to the people and expound on them. Now this new group of writers, who write very well, is doing the opposite to that which the philosophers and gnostics did; they are now trying to make the verses of the Qur'an conform to their own materialist notions.
The philosophers and gnostics believed that Islam had come to instruct man in monotheism and other divine and theoretical matters and that anything else was merely an introduction to these. They said that one should ignore these other matters and concentrate only on the divine aspects of Islam. «4» Because of these ideas, some of them, not all of them of course, paid no attention to religious jurisprudence or to the jurisprudents, the traditions, the literary meaning of the Qur'an and many of the Qur'anic laws. They did not reject them; they simply ignored them, which is the same as rejecting them. When one has nothing to do with these things, when one is indifferent and rejects those who believe in these matters calling them `exoterics' this means that one has not accepted these things and" we believe in some of God's prophets but reject others." «5»
Materialism has now gained predominance across the globe creating a garish, gaudy world and the proponents of this ideology have also increased greatly in number. Recently, a group of people have appeared who say that the reason for all Islamic laws is nothing more than to create a just society and do away with classes. They claim that the monotheism[ tawhid ]of which Islam speaks means that all peoples should live equally, as one, as a single unity, and that Islam's justice seeks to create a just and egalitarian society. In other words, Islam seeks to create an egalitarian but animalistic life whereby everyone eats the same grass, everyone lives together as equals and no one has anything to do with anybody else, everyone eats from the same trough. As for all the verses which have been revealed about the Day of Resurrection and about monotheism [tawhid], and all those proofs which have been given for the existence of another life, these are all ignored by those who are religious but who espouse certain principles of materialism. They close their eyes to such verses and concentrate on other verses, while those people who espouse such views and are not so religious simply explain such verses away.
During my youth, I met a few religious students who said that they had discovered something new and that was that the Day of Judgment took place here, in this life, that whatever was to happen, happened here, the punishment was meted out here and everything ended here. Of course in those days there were people who had deviated from what is right, but such ideas were not very common. They believed in an animalistic life which ended with death. They did not actually say that they did not accept the Day of Judgment or the verses in the Qur'an which pertain to it, but they believed the Day of Judgment to be a thing of this life and the verses referring to it to mean something which would happen here.

Negligence of the multidimensional view on Islam

This group which has appeared now is a group of people who are religious and who attract many followers, but they are in error. In their books and writings, in the articles that they have written in magazines and the suchlike, they say that Islam came to develop the human being, but they maintain that it aims only to create a classless human being. In other words, Islam did not come to develop man spiritually and take him from his animalistic stage to a higher one, but only to make him classless, to make all men live equally under one governing system which pays everybody equally and which in return is to be served by everyone.
It is as if they ignore all the proofs which are found in all religions, and, as far as they can, they interpret the verses of the Qur'an according to their own beliefs; those that they cannot explain in this way they just ignore completely, they simply forget about them. The other group (the philosophers and mystics) do likewise, they speak of those verses which they can relate to the spiritualism and mysticism that they understand, but they too ignore the rest. Look at how those who believe in these matters have interpreted the story of Moses and Khizr. «6» God only knows where they got their ideas from.
When man reaches this stage whereupon his whole attention is focused on the unseen and he completely ignores those teachings which are for this earthly life, when he reads into things that are not there, as in the case of the story of Khizr and Moses, when he sees only the spiritual aspects and nothing else, then his heart becomes totally engrossed in spiritual matters and he does not concern himself with the fact that worldly affairs and the teachings for this temporal life form one aspect of the religion, just as prayer and worship are another. He interprets everything to suit his own particular point of view, and those things which oppose his viewpoint he does not try to understand at all.
On the other hand, when he understands nothing other than this material world, then his ability to perceive is defective; he cannot understand how anything can exist beyond this. These people are not concerned about `proof', one cannot demonstrate something to them with proofs, they are people of `exposition' and they want to present an eloquent exposition. They can perceive nothing beyond this world and so they either explain the verses in accordance with their own beliefs in a bestial, worldly life, a classless prosperous life where, if possible, everyone lives as equals, or else they don't accept those verses which pertain to spiritual matters- of course they haven't the nerve to say they don't accept them- and if they do accept them, the degree of their acceptance is very weak. They have a strong belief in their hearts about this life but they cannot properly perceive the existence of the unseen, their hearts are defective and their belief weak in this regard. «7»

Islam contains all the material and spiritual aspects

It must be stated that Islam was unknown at the beginning and even now it is unknown. «8» Throughout Islamic history, Islam has remained unknown among men. The mystic recognizes Islam to be concerned only with mysticism and the unseen, whereas that group of people who are found today who write in newspapers and magazines, they understand Islam in terms of what its form of government is, what its teachings, manifestations and justice comprise of. They understand it only in terms of this material, natural world, and they believe it to go no further than this. Islam then for them does not go beyond the bounds of creating a prosperous, animalistic life whereby man lives like other animals which graze on the mountainside eating grass equally and having nothing to do with one another, a life like that at the time of primeval man when, according to them, the fish of the seas, the deer and other animals hunted in the wilderness were equally at the disposal of everyone. They claim that this was the best period of man's history and Islam seeks to re-create this period. In their view, Islam and the other divine religions came to return the people to that time when life was a prosperous, animalistic life. At that time they lived off the fish from the sea, and now they live off chicken and fish! All that matters is that man has a prosperous life, that he eats the right food and wears the right clothes. These people have nothing other than knowledge of God; they cannot understand anything apart from this world, this natural realm. They cannot perceive anything beyond this. The existence of another world and what kind of a world it is lie beyond the scope of their perception. So what are they to do when they don't have this perception?
Consequently, such groups do not have the right to tell you gentlemen who are busy with your studies here, who really understand Islam and know what Islam is, nor do they have the right to say that the bearded and turbaned men are good for nothing and these lessons are of no use anymore. Such things are said by those who do not understand Islam properly. Likewise, you too do not have the right to impose your ideas of the divine sciences on them, and if you do you will be no different from them. Neither group has the right to do anything like this. You cannot condemn them for saying that there should be no oppression and that justice should prevail, for this is true, Islam calls for this too, but it is not confined to this. Islam aims to develop a human being who is a seeker and protector of justice, who has high morals and divine knowledge so that when he leaves this world he will enter the next as a true human being.
The understanding of those who see only one side of the coin and are blind to the other is incomplete:" Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath and who go not astray." «9» There is a tradition, I'm not sure whether it is correct or not, but they say that according to the exegetes of the Qur'an, those who have brought about the wrath of God consist of the Jews, and those who go astray consist of the Christians. In another tradition it is said- and again I cannot say whether this is truly a saying of the Prophet or not, I am simply repeating what I have heard- that the Prophet said:" My brother Moses was blind in his right eye and my brother Jesus was blind in his left, but I have sight in both my eyes." «10» Those who wish to expound on this say that Moses was blind in his right eye because his teachings as laid out in the Torah concentrate mainly on the material world and political and worldly affairs- and as you see the Jews have grasped the world with both hands and are devouring it with an insatiable appetite, they are devouring America and have now turned their attention to Iran and still they are not satisfied- and Jesus (`a) was blind in his left eye, which represents the realm of nature, because his book (the Bible) pays more attention to spiritual matters." But I have sight in both my eyes." The Prophet of Islam, however, paid attention to both aspects, both the material and the spiritual. The rules of Islam testify to this as do its policies.

Separation of religion from politics

Of course, in the opinion of many of the educated class, and especially many of the religious scholars, Islam has nothing to do with politics. They believe Islam and politics to be issues separate from one another. This is what the governments would like us to think; this is the idea that the foreigners have instilled in us from the beginning. Many promote the notion that the akhounds should have nothing to do with political matters. When they want to defame an akhound they say:" This is a political akhound!" They say that Islam is separate from politics; that religion is separate from politics, but these people haven't understood Islam. The government of Islam was formed at the time of the Prophet and was continued after him, whether in a just or unjust manner. At the time of Imam `Ali (`a), however, the government was a just, Islamic one. It had policies for everything. Just what is politics? Politics is the formation of policies dealing with the relationship between a ruler or government and the people or other governments, and with the prevention of corruption in society. In Islam, all these policies exist. In fact, Islam has more rules pertaining to politics than it does to worship. The books relating to the political aspects of Islam by far outnumber those concerned with worship. This mistaken notion has been put into our minds so that now some of the gentlemen (the clergymen) believe that Islam has nothing to do with politics, that it consists of a few ordinances concerning worship which is itself a personal matter between God and man. You can go to your mosques and pray as much as you like, read the Qur'an to your hearts content and the governments will leave you alone. But this is not Islam. Islam stands up to the oppressor, it orders the people to do battle with the taghout [oppressor], with the unbelievers who reject divine guidance, and with those who rebel against God. So with all these rules for battle, for jihad and so on, is Islam so far removed from politics?! Does Islam mean nothing other than going to the mosques, praying and reading the Qur'an?! Islam is not only this. Islam has political laws which must be implemented.

The necessity of giving attention to spirituality

At this stage then one may ask that if this is the case and Islam is concerned with political affairs, then what is the point in going to the mosque? What's the use of performing the ritual prayer [namaz]? This view is a mistaken one also. Islam is concerned with prayer; Islam is based on prayer. «11» Islam is not concerned only with this worldly life, with an animalistic life whereby one questions the need for prayer once one's life is put right. If one denies the existence of anything other than this worldly life, then he is right to question the reason behind prayer, for it no longer matters. If one is only aware to this extent, then everything ends once social justice has been created among men and the world has been set right. But when there is another world, when proof exists, when all religions assert the existence of a world beyond this corporeal one, then just as this material world should be reformed with its own tools and social justice should be spread among the people by a just government, so too the tools which exist for the other world should be put to use. For according to the proof and according to all religions, there is another world apart from this one, there is eternal life after death, and the tools for that life have been brought by the prophets. Supplicatory prayer, invocation of God [dhikr], the Qur'an and the ritual prayer [namaz] are all tools for the other life. The rules for worship are tools for the afterlife, the divine sciences likewise. These are to help man in his life in the next world, to illuminate his life there.
So those whose predilections tend toward the material aspects of this natural realm should not charge those who incline toward mysticism with error. To find fault with them is a mistake and is adopting a narrow-minded attitude. Likewise, the mystics and philosophers also do not have the right to charge with error those who say that we should struggle against tyranny and oppression and establish social justice. Do not say that your only duty is to sit down and study. No, it is the duty of all Muslims to both implement and study Islam, to study it and fight against oppression with all their might. If everyone were to observe this duty, then no government could tyrannize its people or another government. Tyranny occurs when the people do not support their government, when they follow one path and the government another. This happens when the government has not treated the people in a way so as to secure their support, when those in authority have done things that turned the people against them.

The gulf between the government and the nation of Iran

Just look at the situation in our own country. The regime there has created such a gulf between it and the people that if, God willing, it is brought down, the people will light up the streets in celebration. Why should this be so? If someone such as Imam `Ali were overthrown, would the people act the same way? No, but the regime in Iran is now greatly out of touch with the people, it is not concerned about the people, it has nothing to do with the people apart from oppressing, tyrannizing and spreading corruption among them.

Obscenities at the Shiraz arts festival

You do not know what kind of obscenities have been started in Iran recently. You have not been informed about it, and it is difficult to speak of. Indecent acts have taken place in Shiraz «12» and it is said that such acts will soon be shown in Tehran too, and nobody says a word. The gentlemen (clerics) in Iran don't say anything. I cannot understand why they don't speak out! All this corruption is taking place and I don't know if it will end with this or not. They put on a show which included the sex act itself, the actual act itself was shown in front of a live audience and nobody breathed a word. What are they waiting for? When and where are they going to speak out, to object?
Interestingly enough, all the organizations which arrange such events, including the government itself, do everything with his (the Shah's) permission. Nothing can be done without his approval; such lewd acts cannot be shown without his permission. He arranges for such things to be shown and then orders the newspapers to condemn them as shameless acts so that the people themselves will not take any action, so that if passions are inflamed they will be tempered by this press criticism. God forbid, in the not too distant future such shows will take place in Tehran too. Yet nobody objects, no akhound, no politician, no doctor, no engineer. They should voice their opposition, if all the people objected together, if they all stood up for the Islamic laws and spoke out then such events would never occur. They take place now because of our indolence and our weakness which are played upon by others. They call you (the clergy) a group of weak and hopeless people, whereas in fact you are powerful, you command the support of the nation. The nation is Muslim and the Muslim nation is devoted to Islam and to the clergymen of Islam. The clerics must in turn serve the nation, and if they do not then the people will no longer give them their support.
Be that as it may, Islam is concerned with all of these matters; it comprises of both material and spiritual aspects, and deals with both the unseen and the manifest. For man is a multi-dimensional being and the Qur'an is a book designed to produce true human beings, the book of God was revealed to bring the true human nature of man forth from a potentiality into an actuality, and as it corrects society, so too it takes man to a higher stage of human perfection. So these groups should not oppose one another. The spiritual and material are both separate matters. If you are unable to comprehend what fiqh is then why do you belittle it so, when in reality you simply do not understand it. Likewise philosophy, if you do not understand philosophy and transcendental philosophy then why do you belittle the philosophers so when you simply don't understand what they are saying? Simply because one does not understand what a certain group is saying and what it is aiming at does not give one the right to oppose it. Maybe this shows narrow-mindedness.
All groups should join hands and unite. Islam's jurisprudents [fuqaha] with its engineers, its doctors, its university and school students, should all join hands together so that they can achieve something, so they can escape from these pressures which are being exerted upon them more and more with each passing day. But they do not unite, and I can't understand why!
They have begun to a certain extent in Iran now. An opportunity has presented itself and the people have taken it and we hope, God willing, that more opportunities present themselves in the future.
May God, the Blessed and Exalted, grant you all success. May He assist Islam, the `ulama' of Islam, the students and all Muslims.
«۱»- This is the `mithali' stage which is between nature [tabi`at] and reasoning [`aql]. At this stage, physical images and perfect forms exist but there is no matter which force or effect has. This world, which is the stage between reason and matter, exists for some animals too, for example some animals have the intelligence of knowing their master, but this stage is stronger in human beings. «۲»- In the explanation for the `mithali' stage of the human being, it was said that some intelligent animals also experience a weak form of this stage, but the stage of reason [`aql] and that of immateriality of the rational soul which perceives the `whole' belongs only to human beings and the animals do not possess it. The highest stage of an animal's existence is the `mithali' stage and the ideational stage. «۳»- When the soul leaves its material shell. «۴»- "Pay attention to the objectives and ignore the principles" is one of the generally known proverbs and is cited when one wants to emphasize the importance of outcome. «۵»- Sourah an-Nisa' ۴:۱۵۰. «۶»- According to the traditions, Khizr was a prophet who had the power to perform miracles. His name derives from an Arabic root meaning `green' and it is said he was called this because wherever he went became green. His real name was Tali ibn Malikan ibn Afkhashad ibn Sam ibn Nouh. According to the traditions, Khizr had eternal life due to drinking the water of life. Refer to the translation of Tafsir al-Mizan, vol.۲۶, pp. ۲۴۳-۲۴۵. «۷»- Refer to the Qur'an, Sourah al-Kahf ۱۸:۶۰-۸۲. «۸»- Referring to a Prophetic tradition which says:" Islam was a stranger at the beginning and will return to that state again. Blessed are the strangers." Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal. «۹»- Sourah al-Fatihah ۱:۶-۷. «۱۰»- This is said to be a saying of the Prophet. Imam Khomeini refers to it in the book Sirr as-Salat (p.۹۲) and interprets it thus:" Moses' multiplicity dominated his unity, and Jesus' unity dominated his multiplicity; the Prophet of Islam was the great isthmus (between the two) which is the middle road and the right path." «۱۱»- "Islam is based on five things: prayer, alms-giving [zakat], hajj and governance [wilayah] and nobody is invited to anything more than governance." A tradition from Imam al-Baqir, the fifth Imam from the Prophet's Progeny. Usoul al-Kafi, vol.۳, p.۲۹. «۱۲»- In the art festival of Shiraz, two artists, a man and a woman, performed sexual intercourse in front of a live audience. The act was so obscene and shameful that Anthony Parsons, the British ambassador to Iran at the time, in his memoirs writes:" The effect of this bizarre and disgusting extravaganza on the good citizens of Shiraz, going about their evening shopping, can hardly be imagined. This grotesquerie aroused a storm of protest which reached the press and television. I remember mentioning it to the Shah, adding that, if the same play had been put on, say, in the main street of Winchester, the actors and sponsors would have found themselves in trouble. The Shah laughed indulgently." For more on Anthony Parsons' comments on this incident refer to pages ۵۴-۵۵ of his book The Pride and Fall.


امام خمینی (ره)؛ 06 مهر 1356

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