When faced with important issues, there are some people whose first reaction is always denial and despair: “It is not possible, there’s no point.” I do not agree with this. I say it is possible, unity and harmony between Islamic nations is possible, but work needs to be done, actions must be taken,said Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei.
The following is the full text of the speech delivered by Imam Khamenei during a meeting with guests participating in the 36th Islamic Unity Conference and government official on the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet and Imam Sadiq (pbut) on October 14, 2022.
In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds, and peace and blessings be upon our Master, Prophet Muhammad, and upon his Pure Progeny, and those who follow them in goodness until the Day of Judgment.
I would like to welcome all those present here today, the respected officials, and the dear guests attending Islamic Unity Week. I would also like to congratulate all of you and the entire Iranian nation and all the Islamic nation in the east and the west on the auspicious occasion of the birth anniversaries of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Imam Sadiq (pbuh). I hope that God willing, the guidance of the Prophet and the Lord’s guidance will lead the great Islamic nation toward progress.
Of course, there is a culmination point in the unique personality of the Holy Prophet and the Great Messenger, and that is the Bi’tha, the point of Bi’tha. The personality of the Holy Prophet is second to none in the entire universe. The peak of his personality is the point where his pure heart connects with the vast greatness, honor, and wisdom of God, the point of Bi’tha.
This is true and all aspects of the Prophet’s life, even after the Bi’tha, are affected and in accordance to the issue of the Bi’tha so as not to assume that the Holy Prophet of Islam had an ordinary life before the Bi’tha. No, his actions, the blessings that God bestowed upon him, the events that have taken place in the natural world due to his existence, are all exceptional. All of them are proportional to the culmination point of this great man, which is the issue of the Bi’tha.
The majestic signs of Almighty God can be seen in all periods of the Prophet’s life, even during the time of his birth. We are celebrating the Prophet’s birth today. The signs and effects of these divine blessings, which culminate in the Bi’tha, can be observed by humanity even on the day of the Holy Prophet’s birth.
One can also witness practical signs of tawhid on his birthday, events such as the idols inside the Kaaba collapsing, the confrontation with the taghuti [arrogant] idols and the great taghuts of that time, the drying up of that holy lake, the extinguishing of the so-called holy fire in the fire temple and the collapse of Taq-e Kasra [The Arch of Ctesiphon]. Therefore, this birthday is no ordinary day. It is a very important day. It is a very big day. We celebrate this day because of this occasion.
An important point to note is that celebrating this day as a day of Eid, is not just about celebrations and commemorations and things like that. We celebrate it in order to learn something. We celebrate it to establish the Holy Prophet as a role model. That’s what we need, that’s what humanity needs today. We need to learn.
Therefore, the reason why we keep the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) memory alive is so we can act on the content of this holy verse [of the Quran] which states: “There is certainly a good exemplar for you in the Messenger of Allah – for those who look forward to Allah and the Last Day, and remember Allah much” (Quran 33:21). The Holy Prophet is a good exemplar, the Quran is clearly stating this. What does exemplar mean? It means a role model which we must follow. He is located on a peak and we need to move from this base towards that peak. Man must move towards that peak to the best of his ability. That’s what exemplar means.
Now, if we decide to follow that role model, that exemplar, there are not just one or two lessons which need to be learned, there are hundreds of lessons. There are hundreds of fundamental and important lessons that exist in the personal life of the Prophet, in his family life, in his government, in the social interaction of the Prophet with his friends, with his enemies, with the believers, and with the disbelievers.
I want to talk about one of these lessons today, and that is the content of this holy verse: “There has certainly come to you a messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is your distress, he has deep concern for you, and is most kind and merciful to the faithful” (Quran 9:128). I want to focus on the part “Grievous to him is your distress.”
Your sufferings are painful and difficult for him to bear. When you suffer, the Prophet (pbuh) also suffers from your distress. Of course, this is not only limited to the Muslims that lived during the time of the Prophet (pbuh), it is addressed to all the believers throughout history. So, when there are Muslims in Palestine, Myanmar, other places, who are suffering, they should know that their suffering makes the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) soul grievous as well. That is very important.
That’s our Prophet’s nature. This state of the Holy Prophet, which was specified in the aforementioned verse, is the exact opposite of the state of the enemies, which has been described in the following verse: “O you who have faith! Do not take your confidants from others than yourselves, they will spare nothing to ruin you. They are eager to see you in distress” (Quran 3:118). There it is “grievous to him is your distress” [for] the Prophet and here it is “they are eager to see you in distress”, they are happy about your suffering. This is our state now, pay attention to knowing our current situation in today’s world. On one hand, there is the holy existence [of the Prophet] that is “grievous about your distress”. On the other hand, the enemies are “eager to see you in distress”. They are happy about your suffering, your misery makes them feel happy. Obviously, when that is the situation, they try to push you towards distress and misery. We need to understand, realize, and pay attention to this situation.
Now where does the distress of the Islamic nation at the present time come from? Why are Muslim nations suffering so much in terms of economics, in terms of political pressures, in terms of wars and civil wars, domination, usurpation, colonialism, neo-colonialism and the like? What is the reason behind this suffering? Why have Muslims been placed in a position where they have to suffer?
There are many reasons for this, there are multiple reasons. Scientific backwardness is one reason. Surrendering to colonial dominance is another reason. There are many reasons for this. Those who are into politics, political and social analysts and the like have worked in these fields. Thousands of articles have been written in this regard. But one of the factors – which is perhaps the most important or one of the most important factors – is the division of Muslims. We do not appreciate ourselves. We do not appreciate each other. That is where our problem lies. We are separated, we are divided.
When there is disunity between us, when we are not compassionate towards one another, when sometimes there is even hostility between us, this is the result. The Quran is very clear about this as well. On the issues that humans have in life, there really is not an important point in which the Quran does not openly speak about. In this case, the Quran states: “And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute, or you will lose heart and your power will be gone” (Quran 8:46).
When there is conflict between you, it causes frailty and weakness. “And your power will be gone” is the same as saying “your dignity” will be gone. Whenever there is a dispute between you, you will definitely become miserable and wretched, and you will certainly allow others to dominate you. That is the result of division.
The Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (pbuh) has talked about this issue in his al-Qasi’a sermon, which is one of the most important sermons in Nahj al-Balagha [The Peak of Eloquence]. Imam Ali asks his listeners to refer to history and he asks them to look at the state that people were in the past. Whenever they were together, whenever they agreed on things, they had dignity. However, once they lost their unity, “also see what happened to them towards the end when division overtook them and unity became fractured” (Sermon 192).
There are a few sentences after that about the same subject. He then states that, when this happens, when division, separation and enmity prevail, “then Allah took away from them the apparel of His honor and deprived them of the prosperity produced by His favors (Sermon 192). Almighty God removed the clothing of honor from them. The honor that they had, the dignity that they had, the blessing that God had given them, was taken away from them because of their differences and divisions.
Well, we need to really think about this, we need to think about the issue of unity among Muslims. Today, the enemy wants the exact opposite of this. They planted the rotten seed, this cancerous cell in this region called the Zionist regime, to serve as a base for Western enmity against Islam.
Because they destroyed and divided the vast Ottoman Empire into many countries that day, they needed to establish a base here so they could continue occupying places. They did not want to allow great achievements to take place in the region. The oppressed country of Palestine was chosen as this base in which the evil, corrupt, murderous, and merciless Zionists were transferred and settled into.
They established a fake government. They created a fake people and nation for this purpose. Well, the Muslims were aware of this. The enemies are trying to do something so that the Zionist regime, this enlarged cancerous cell, won’t be called “the enemy” anymore and [they] use it to create discord between the countries in the region. They are trying to occupy everywhere.
These normalizations are one of the biggest acts of treason against Islam and Muslims. The creation of divisions, the creation of discord, that is what the enemy does. The enemy is always working on this.
This is how we should make use of [the Prophet’s] birthday: “There is certainly a good exemplar for you in the Messenger of Allah.” And we already talked about what the Messenger of Allah is like. And that is why we, in the Islamic Republic, have assigned this day as the day of Eid, the day of unity. So, from the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal [the third month of the Islamic calendar], which is the Sunni narration for the Prophet’s birth, to the 17th of Rabi’ al-Awwal, which is the Shia narration, we have celebrations during this week, which has been named as “Unity Week”.
Well, that is a good thing, but it needs to be realized. We need to move towards implementing it. You might say, we are not the leaders of these countries! Yes, the leaders have other motives, they have political motives and other goals. However, intellectuals, the scholars, writers, poets, the wise and elites of a country can create a different environment than the one which the enemy is after. Once the environment changes, achieving unity will become more feasible.
Now what is meant by unity? What we mean by unity is certainly not denominational unity, that one should accept someone else’s denomination. No, that’s definitely not what is implied here. It is also not geographical unity, like what happened in the 1960s and 1970s when some Arab countries united and declared they were one which did not happen, it will not happen and it is not possible, that is not what is meant either.
Unity means being united in protecting the interests of the Islamic nation. We must first identify what the interests of the Islamic nation are and where they are located. The nations then need to reach an agreement in this regard. If the governments are guided towards this path by the will of God – may God guide their hearts in this direction – they can reach an agreement that serves the interests of the Islamic nation.
After that, the nations have to figure out what the Islamic nation currently needs, with whom they should be enemies and how they should engage in that emnity, with whom they should be friends, and how they should engage in these friendships. They should reach an understanding on these approaches in the course of talks and negotiations and move in this direction. What is meant by unity, is implementing joint actions against the plots of the Arrogant Powers.
Of course, Global Arrogance has clear plans for our region and our countries. There are great opportunities in this Islamic region. Our region is one of the most sensitive regions in the world, if not the most sensitive. It is one of the richest regions in the world, if not the richest. The region which encompasses Central Asia, West Asia and North Africa, which is the Islamic region, is a very important area.
Arrogance and the powers behind the scenes of the Global Arrogance’s policies, the companies, cartels, and international trusts, have plans for this region. Let’s cooperate in order to confront their plans. This is the meaning of unity. We offered this suggestion to the Islamic world, and we also wanted this from it.
There is an important point that we should not be neglectful about and that is that today, it is becoming clearer every day that the global political map is changing. Today it is evident that the political map of the world is changing on a daily basis.
The issue of unipolarity and having one or two powers bully other countries and nations has lost its legitimacy, nations have woken up. The unipolar system has been discarded and it will gradually become obsolete. It is often heard these days that top ranking politicians say they do not agree with a unipolar system.
What is the definition of a unipolar system? It means that, for example, the US devises some schemes for Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, or some other country where they say: “You need to do this. This needs to happen. This shouldn’t happen.” They might say it sometimes, they might not say it, but action is taken. That is how it is today. They devise schemes for countries and gather their forces.
They have plans, Global Arrogance has plans, [but] this is changing. This state where Global Arrogance dominates other countries and nations and areas is gradually changing, similar to the change of the anti-colonial movements in the mid-20th century, when countries, one after another, stood up against direct colonization, in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America. The world’s political map experienced major changes then, and major changes are taking place today as well.
The understated and quiet dominance of Global Arrogance is clearly and gradually losing its legitimacy amongst nations. It wasn’t legitimate to begin with, but nations are gradually understanding this matter. This will lead to a new situation, it will create a new world. We might not be able to guess very accurately what this new world will be like, but we are certain that a new world is gradually forming over these years.
So where does the Islamic nation stand in this new world? This is an important question.
The Islamic nation consists of one-and-half billion people with such a rich and radiant history in science. Yes, we have fallen behind in the past few centuries in the field of science, but before that the peak of science and knowledge belonged to Muslims. This is our heritage, it is at our disposal. Possessing natural resources, human resources, and new motivations for change – where does this Islamic world and Islamic nation stand with these features?
In this new world that is forming, where will we stand? Where do we stop and where will we be present? This is very important. This is a matter which the Islamic nation should think about. These events that are taking place in the west, in Europe, these are not normal events, they indicate major changes.
Well, we can play an important role. The Islamic nation, we Islamic countries and nations can have a sublime position in the new world that is gradually forming. We can serve as a role model, we can be regarded as pioneers, on one condition. What is that condition? Unity! Overcoming divisions and the temptations of the enemy, the temptations of the US, the temptations of the Zionists, the temptations of large companies, overcoming these temptations that are sometimes heard from those within our own circles.
We can see that in the world of Islam, some people repeat their words [of the enemy], they say what those people say. We need to get rid of this evil by being united, by preventing division, by showing solidarity, this is the condition. If we can implement this condition, we will undoubtedly be able to place the Islamic nation in a sublime position in the future and in the future of the world’s political geography.
Is this possible? When faced with important issues, there are some people whose first reaction is always denial and despair: “It is not possible, there’s no point.” I do not agree with this. I say it is possible, unity and harmony between Islamic nations is possible, but work needs to be done, actions must be taken.
As I said, we have not lost hope in the rulers and leaders of Islamic countries, but our main hope is in the important figures of the Islamic world, religious scholars, intellectuals, university professors, the insightful youth, the wise thinkers, writers, poets, and media operators. These are the people we have hope in. They [need to] feel independent. They need to have a sense of responsibility. They need to feel as though they have a duty.
When certain figures move in a certain direction, they move public opinion in that direction as well. When the public opinion of a country is formed, the policies of the administration of that country consequently move in the same direction. They have to. Therefore, it is possible. It is possible but not without work. Without work, nothing in the world, no worldly or spiritual achievements are possible. “Nothing belongs to man except what he strives for” (Quran 53:39). We should strive, we should work. If we strive, it will become possible.
Now I’ll mention a small example. The Islamic Republic is a small example of this. We have stood against major powers. The world used to be in the hands of two major powers: the United States and the Soviet Union. Both powers disputed about tens of matters, but they agreed on one issue, and that was standing against the Islamic Republic. The United States and the former Soviet Union, despite all their conflicts, were united in standing against the Islamic Republic. Imam Khomeini (ra) stood against them, he didn’t surrender. He clearly stated, “Neither eastern, nor western”. [We are] not with these, nor with those. They didn’t think it was possible. They thought they could uproot this young sapling. That young sapling is today a mighty, strong tree. They dare not think about uprooting it! We stood firm and made progress.
Of course, there are challenges. Everything has its challenges. It is not possible without struggling. Those who surrender have their own difficulties as well. Difficulties aren’t only for those who resist. Surrendering is also difficult, but the difference is this: when someone resists, their struggle leads them towards making progress. We struggle, but we move forward. Those who surrender also struggle, but move backwards, they don’t move forward. Therefore, I believe it is possible. It is possible to strive, to work hard, to move towards that unity that Islam and the Quran want the Islamic nation to achieve, despite all the differences that exist.
Some differences have to do with ethnicity, some are racial, and some are related to language, these don’t matter. What we should focus on the most today, is the issue of denominations, Shia and Sunni. We should not let a difference in beliefs and denominations lead us to conflict. There are things that cause conflict that we should strictly prevent. American and British politicians have started discussing Shia and Sunni in their circles, and this is very dangerous.
These people are against Islam, they are not good with Shias nor Sunnis. They have started discussing this. I once referred to the British Shia and American Sunni. Some falsely claimed that when we say British Shia, we mean Shias who live in Britain. No, a British Shia could be living in an Islamic country.
It means those who take their lead from the British, conflict-inciting Shias, conflict-inciting Sunnis. Like DAESH, the Wahhabis, the takfiris who say this and that is disbelief [kufr]! They are Muslim in name, and they might even be practicing Muslims in their personal affairs, but they work for the enemy.
The person who sows discord is serving the enemy, and it makes no difference what position or country they are in. I believe this, I strongly believe this. We have responded seriously to those who have upset our Sunni brothers by doing things in the name of defending Shiism. This should take place everywhere. There needs to be a state of harmony.
Of course, there are extremists on both sides, there are people among the Shias who are extremists because of their beliefs or whatever other reason, and there are also Sunni extremists as well. Extremism exists. We should not allow the extremism of these extremists to become an excuse to accuse the believers of the denomination as a whole. That is how we have been responding.
We have seen how the Wahhabis destroyed the graves of the Imams 200 years ago. They destroyed the holy grave of Imam Hussain (pbuh) in Karbala, there was a wooden shrine, they set it on fire inside the sanctuary, made coffee on it and drank it. This really happened. They went to Najaf, but they couldn’t get inside [the city] because of the late Sheikh Ja’far Kashif ul-Ghita, who had soldiers, seminary students and others surrounding Najaf. There was an enclosure around Najaf and they could not get in, so they went to Kufa and the mosque in Kufa and massacred many Shias who were there.
This did not cause the Shia scholars, the important Shia personalities, the Shia Maraaje, to accuse the Sunni people. No, the people who did those things were extremists.
In our age now, we can see how merciless DAESH has been in Iraq, in Syria, and recently in schools in Afghanistan where they showed no mercy. They bombed and exploded girls schools, boys schools, they made their families grieve the loss of their children. They do these things, but we never accuse the Sunnis.
Those people are extremists. It should be the same the other way as well. Some people might have extremist beliefs, but that does not mean that the entire Shia community should be accused of extremist acts. This is a field that needs to be worked on, Islamic scholars must work on this.
This division amongst us is causing us to get beaten, we are getting beaten in Palestine and in other countries. They are killing people in Palestine on a daily basis. They are killing children, teenagers, young and old people. They take them to prison and torture thousands of people there. This is happening right before our eyes. It’s happening in its own way in Myanmar and some other ways in other places.
This is hard, it is hard for the Islamic nation. “Grievous to him is your distress” (Quran 9:128). These things make the Prophet (pbuh) grieve. This should be thought about, it must be worked on. The Quran says to the Prophet, “Say, ‘O People of the Book! Come to a common word between us and you” (Quran 3:64). The people of the book are not even Muslims, but we have one common facet and that is tawhid [monotheism], because tawhid is the same in all religions, it’s the basis of all the religions [of the book]. “…that we will worship no one but Allah…” (Quran 3:64).
The Prophet used this common feature between Islam and other religions. That is, the Quran orders him to say, “Come to a common word between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah, that we will not ascribe any partner to Him, and that some of us will not take some others as lords besides Allah.’” (Quran 3:64). [This is said] to non-Muslims! Now we Muslims have so many common features: we have the same Kaaba, the same Qibla, the same prayers, the same Hajj, the same kind of worship, the same Prophet, the same love for the Ahlul-Bayt in the world of Islam. These are our common features. We shouldn’t neglect the common features.
Well, we have put in the effort. Until now, the Islamic Republic of Iran has used everything in its power to achieve Islamic unity in practical terms. A clear example of this is the comprehensive support it has given to its Sunni brothers in Palestine and this support will continue in the same way as before from this point on. It makes no difference to us.
What matters here is the Islamic movement and Islamic system. The resistance front that has thankfully been established in the world of Islam today, is something that we support. We will support it as much as possible, we will do everything in our power to support it. We have done it in the past and we shall continue to do it from here on.
I hope that God will guide all of us, so that by the will of God we can continue this path and fulfil this great wish which was the wish of the elites of the world of Islam, and certainly is the wish of the soul of the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh), by the will of God we can realize this – this Islamic unity.