This is a partial translation of a speech delivered by Sayyid Khamenei to the youth in Northern Khorasan province on September 14th, 2012. The Farsi for the full speech can be accessed here. I have translated this part as I have used it in a presentation on the topic of what constitutes religiosity.
One of the dimensions of progress within Islam is lifestyle, social behavior, the way of living – these are synonymous with each other – this is an important dimension; we want to discuss this issue a bit today. If we look from a spiritual perspective – where the goal of a human is salvation, prosperity, and success – we must give importance to lifestyle; even if we don’t believe in spirituality and spiritual salvation, for a comfortable life, a life endowed with psychological and moral security, paying attention to lifestyle is important. Therefore, the issue is a fundamental and important one. Let’s discuss what should be said, what can be said about lifestyle. We have mentioned; this is the beginning and the title of a discussion.
If we consider comprehensive progress as the formation of a new Islamic civilization – after all, there is a tangible and external example for progress with an Islamic concept; let’s say that the goal of the Iranian nation and the goal of the Islamic Revolution is to create a new Islamic civilization; this is a correct calculation – this new civilization has two parts: one part is instrumental; the other part is foundational and fundamental. Both parts must be achieved.
What is the instrumental part? The instrumental part consists of the values that we today consider as the progress of the country: science, invention, industry, politics, economics, political and military power, international credibility, advertising, and advertising tools; these are all instrumental parts of civilization; they are tools. Of course, we have made good progress in this part in the country. Many good things have been done; both in politics, in scientific matters, in social matters, in inventions – which you have now observed here and these young people have explained to us – and so on, have been carried out throughout the country, God willing. In the instrumental part, despite pressures, threats, sanctions, and such things, the country’s progress has been good.
But the real part consists of the things that make up the essence of our lives; which is the same lifestyle we mentioned. This is the real and main part of civilization; like the issue of family, marriage style, type of housing, type of clothing, consumption pattern, type of food, type of cooking, recreation, the issue of writing, the issue of language, the issue of occupation, our behavior at work, our behavior at university, our behavior at school, our behavior in political activity, our behavior in sports, our behavior in the media that is available to us, our behavior with parents, our behavior with a spouse, our behavior with children, our behavior with the boss, our behavior with subordinates, our behavior with the police, our behavior with government officials, our travels, our cleanliness and purity, our behavior with friends, our behavior with enemies, our behavior with strangers; these are the main parts of civilization, which are the text of human life.
The new Islamic civilization – what we want to present – is made up of these things in the main part; these are the main components of life; this is what is called ‘practical intellect’ in Islamic terms. Practical intellect is not just about making and spending money, how to bring in money, how to spend money; no, all this vast area that was mentioned is part of practical intellect. In our authentic and important Hadith books, there are chapters called ‘Book of Companionship’; that Book of Companionship is about these things. In the Holy Quran itself, there are many verses related to these things.
Well, we can consider this part as the software aspect of civilization, and the first part as the hardware aspect. If we do not progress in this part, which constitutes the substance of life, all the advancements we have made in the first part cannot redeem us; they cannot grant us psychological security and peace, as you see, it hasn’t in the Western world. There, depression, despair, internal collapse, lack of security in society and family, aimlessness, and emptiness exist; despite the wealth, nuclear bombs, various scientific advancements, and military power. The main issue is that we should be able to reform the substance of life, this main part of civilization. Although, in the revolution, our progress in this part is not significant; we have not moved like the first part, we have not progressed. Well, we need to diagnose the problems; why haven’t we progressed in this part?
After finding the reasons, then we should address how we can remedy them. Who is responsible for this? It is the responsibility of the elites – intellectual elites, political elites – it is your responsibility, the responsibility of the youth. If a discourse emerges in our society that aims to address the damages in this area, we can be sure that with the vitality that the Islamic Republic system and the Iranian nation have, with the existing talents, we will make good progress in this part; then the brilliance of the Iranian nation in the world and the spread of the Islamic thought of the Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolution of Iran in the world will become easier. You need to diagnose the damages and then remedy them.
Elites are obligated, seminaries are obligated, universities are obligated, media are obligated, those who have platforms are obligated; many administrators, especially those dealing with culture, education, and training, are obligated; those who plan educational programs for universities or schools are obligated; those who determine the curriculum for textbooks are obligated. All of these are a duty on everyone’s shoulders. We all need to admonish ourselves. We need to work and move in this area.
Therefore, we need to diagnose the damages; that is, pay attention to the damages that exist in this area and search for the reasons for these damages. Of course, we do not want to consider the issue as resolved here; we are presenting a list:
Why is the culture of teamwork weak in our society? This is a damage. Although Westerners have registered teamwork in their name, Islam has said much earlier: “Cooperate in righteousness and piety,” or “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided.” Even holding firmly to the rope of Allah must be collective; “and do not become divided.”
Why is divorce high in some parts of our country? Why is the inclination of youth towards drugs high in some parts of our country? Why don’t we observe the necessary considerations in our neighbourly relations? Why is kinship weak among us? Why are we not fully disciplined in driving culture on the streets? This is damage. Commuting on the street is one of our issues; it is not a small issue, it is a fundamental issue. How necessary is apartment life for us? How correct is it? What requirements does it have that need to be observed? How much do we observe those requirements? What is the model of healthy recreation? What is the architecture in our society like?
See how diverse these issues are, covering all aspects of life, within this concept of lifestyle; in this main, real, and actual part of civilization, which are our behaviors. How much is our current architecture in line with our needs? How rational and logical is it? How is our clothing design? How is the issue of makeup among men and women? How correct is it? How beneficial is it? Do we completely tell the truth to each other in the market, in offices, and in daily interactions? How prevalent is lying among us? Why do we talk behind each other’s backs? Some, despite having the ability to work, avoid work; what is the reason for work avoidance? In the social environment, some make unnecessary aggressions; what is the reason for aggression, impatience, and intolerance among some of us? How much do we observe people’s rights? How much is it observed in the media? How much is it observed on the internet? How much do we respect the law? What is the reason for law evasion – which is a dangerous disease – among some people? How much work ethic exists in society? How much social discipline exists in society? How much diligence exists in production? How much is quality production in different sectors a matter of attention and concern? Why do some good professions, good opinions, good ideas, remain at the level of dreams and words? As you saw, they were mentioned.
Why are we told that the productive hours of work in our administrative devices are low? Eight hours of work should have eight hours of benefit; why is it equivalent to one hour, half an hour, or two hours? Where is the problem? Why is consumerism prevalent among many of our people? Is consumerism a virtue? Consumerism means that whatever we get, we spend on things that are not part of the necessities of our life. What should we do to eradicate the root of usury in society? What should we do to observe the rights of spouses – the rights of women, the rights of husbands – the rights of children? What should we do to prevent divorce and family breakdown, as prevalent in the West, from becoming prevalent among us? What should we do to ensure that women in our society maintain their dignity and family honour, can perform their social duties, and their social and family rights are preserved? What should we do to ensure that women are not forced to choose between these? These are among our fundamental issues. What is the limit of birth and childbearing in our society? I mentioned; we made a timely decision, we took it, and then we forgot the time! Suppose they tell you, sir, open this water valve for an hour. Then you open the valve and leave! We left, we forgot; ten years, fifteen years. Now they are reporting to us that, sir, our society will be an old society in the not-too-distant future; this young face that Iranian society has today will be taken away from it. What is the limit of birth and childbearing? Why are there single houses in some big cities?
How has this Western disease infiltrated our society? What is ostentation? Is it bad? Is it good? How much of it is bad? How much of it is good? What should we do to ensure that it doesn’t exceed the good limit and doesn’t reach the bad limit? These are various aspects of lifestyle issues, and there are dozens of such issues; some of which I mentioned are more important. This is a list of things that constitute the essence of civilization. Judging a civilization is based on these.
Sayyid Ali studied in the seminary of Qom from 2012 to 2021, while also concurrently obtaining a M.A in Islamic Studies from the Islamic College of London in 2018. In the seminary he engaged in the study of legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophy, eventually attending the advanced kharij of Usul and Fiqh in 2018. He is currently completing his Masters of Education at the University of Toronto and is the head of a private faith-based school in Toronto, as well as an instructor at the Mizan Institute and Mufid Seminary.