Ayatollah Sistani: Advice to public speakers in the month of Muharram

In the name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

توصيات عامّة من المرجعية الدينية العليا للخطباء والمبلّغين في شهر المحرّم الحرام

“And whoever reveres the symbols of Allah – this is from the piety of the hearts”

The Holy Qur’an 22: 32

As the holy month of Muharram approaches us, we remember the greatest movement ever to reform society, revive the will of nations, and set matters aright; this is none other than the blessed Hussaini movement. Commemoration of this blessed movement casts upon us, the followers of Imam Hussain (p), a great responsibility to maintain and preserve its continuation and anchor its effects in the hearts and minds. Thus, a [true] follower of Imam Hussain (p) will never be absolved of this responsibility, whether they are a religious scholar, an intellectual, or a professional in any field of the various physical and human sciences. In addition, each of us bears the responsibility of preserving this blessed Hussaini revolution by reforming him or herself and their family, and by raising social awareness about the importance of this movement and the great Hussaini mission. However, public speakers and preachers bear the greatest responsibility because they represent the public face of the Ashura movement and embody the mission of the master of martyrs, Imam Hussain (p). Therefore, we need to pause a bit to ponder and ask: is the Hussaini pulpit (i.e. its lectures and sermons) embodying and implementing this responsibility according to the requirements of time and the changes of this era so that it achieves the noble Hussaini goals in the hearts and minds of people?

In light of this, we provide some guidance and advice to all the public speakers and preachers who ascend the pulpit of the Master of Martyrs (p):

1) Speakers should address diverse topics in their speeches/lectures because society is in need of discourses that cover spirituality, education, and historical events. This will require the speaker to be acquainted with various subjects and familiar with different fields of study to meet the needs of the audience.

2) Public speakers need to be attuned to the prevalent culture of their time; this means they must not only understand the roots of current social mores but also logically dispel the misconceptions about our beliefs that are raised each year. Furthermore, speakers must address the changing customs in every society and in every period to preserve the sanctity and true ethos of the Hussaini movement. This is important because keeping up with new thoughts, trends and cultural changes draws people towards the pulpit of Imam Hussain (p) with greater impact and effectiveness.

3) Speakers should be accurate in reciting and quoting verses from the Holy Quran, and be particularly cautious to only quote narrations which are from authentic books. Furthermore, discussions of historical events must be done with the highest of scholarly standards because the lack of scrutiny and attention to the authenticity of sources of narrations and historical events eradicates trust in the Hussaini pulpit and its great status in the minds of its audience.

4) Those reciting from the pulpit should avoid the use of narratives rooted in fantasy and fictional stories that sully the reputation of the Hussaini pulpit and depict it as an inferior and insubstantial medium not fit for highly intellectual and cultured audiences.

5) The speaker should diligently prepare so that what they present is of the highest quality. They should take special care when selecting the topics, focusing on the sequence, organization, and clarity through an approach and language that are appealing to the souls of the audience. This great effort made by the speaker in preparing, arranging and presenting the topics in an appealing manner will foster the audience’s connection with the Hussaini pulpit.

6) The entire heritage of Ahl al-Bayt (p) is beautiful and great, and the speaker with skills and creativity can highlight the texts and narrations that are appealing to people of different faiths, intellects, and social backgrounds. This encompasses what Ahl al-Bayt (p) have taught their followers, as is narrated from them “if people knew the excellence of our words they would surely follow us.” Their excellent words are their heritage, which indicate the highest human values that automatically attract all people from various cultures and religions.

7) It is not advisable that speakers present examples of societal problems in their speeches without also providing a solution, whether this relates to the disintegration of the family, the gap between the younger and the older generations, or the problem of divorce. Otherwise, it creates controversy without contributing useful solutions. Therefore, it is expected that speakers consult specialists in the fields of sociology and psychology to identify effective solutions, and present them in a progressive way such that it transforms the Hussaini pulpit from stagnation to a relevant and engaging state, and into a position of leadership to reform and rehabilitate societies.

8) Speakers should not delve into intellectual or ritual matters that are a source of disagreement, argumentation, and disunity among the Shia, because in doing so it can lead the Hussaini pulpit to become biased toward a certain group over others. In addition, it can lead to social chaos and division among the believers, while the Hussaini pulpit should be a banner of unity and a symbol of the Hussaini light, which brings together the hearts of Imam Hussain’s (p) lovers towards cooperation and one path.

9) Speakers should emphasize jurisprudential matters (i.e. rulings of worships, transactions, etc.) in a clear manner and strive to make the points relevant and interesting to the listeners, such that they feel the practical role of the Hussaini pulpit in guiding every aspect of their lives.

10) Finally, speakers should stress the importance of the religious authority (Marjaeya), the Islamic Seminary (hawzah) and the essential role of scholars; this is considered the secret behind the power of the Ahl al-Bayt (p) school of thought and the symbol of its greatness and the glory of its existence and structure.

 

We ask Allah to grant us all the blessing of serving the cause of the Master of Martyrs (p) and to make us honorable people through Imam Hussain (p), in this world and in the Hereafter, and praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and peace and blessings be upon Muhammad and his purified progeny.

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