Freedom of women in the Islamic system
Question: You have been accused of being against civilisation and you have turned the accusation against the Shah. That is not necessarily convincing. How do you stand on specific issues like agrarian reform, industrialisation and the status of women?
Reply: . . . As for women, Islam has never been against their freedom. It is, to the contrary, opposed to the idea of woman-as-object and it gives her back her dignity. A woman is a man’s equal; she and he are both free to determine their destiny and choose their occupations.
But the Shah’s regime is trying to prevent women from becoming free by plunging them into immorality. It is to this that Islam raises objections. This regime has destroyed the freedom of women as well as men. Women as well as men swell the population of Iranian prisons, and this is where freedom is threatened. We want to free them from the corruption menacing them. (123)
6 May 1978 (16 Urdibihisht 1357 AHS)
Question: Regarding social issues, what is the view of His Holiness the Ayatullah on the presence of women in universities or the workplace? Will there be restrictions placed upon them that do not exist in society today? What is His Holiness’s opinion on birth control and coeducation in universities?
Reply: Women are free in the Islamic society and will, under no condition, be barred from universities, offices or Parliament. What will be checked equally among both men and women is moral corruption which is prohibited for both sexes. As far as birth control is concerned, that depends on what decision the government will take on the matter. (124)
7 December 1978 (16 Azar 1357 AHS)
Both women and men are free to attend university, both are free to vote and stand as parliamentary representatives, that which is objectionable is the way these people (the Shah and his regime) want women to be: a plaything in the hands of men. To quote the Shah “a woman should be beguiling.” We want to get rid of this mistaken idea. We want a woman to be a person like other people, a human being like any other human being, to be free as others are free. (125)
11 December 1978 (20 Azar 1357 AHS)
Question: In the event of your movement’s triumph and the establishment of an Islamic government, what will your approach to social development and progress be, particularly with regard to women? Will you permit polygamy?
Reply: Women are free, just as men are. We will act in accordance with Islamic law. (126)
12 December 1978 (21 Azar 1357 AHS)
These people you call lawyers have always misguided our women. Today, the Shah’s prisons are filled with our ‘free’ women, yet these lawyers have consistently endorsed the Shah’s crimes. Which of the two is free? (127)
28 December 1978 (7 Dey 1357 AHS)
Question: What changes do you feel are needed regarding the position of women in Iranian society? How, in your opinion, will an Islamic government change the status of women, for example as regards employment in the civil service and working in different professions such as medicine, engineering etc., and in other areas such as divorce, abortion, the right to travel and compulsory wearing of the chador?
Reply: The Shah’s malicious propaganda, along with that of people bought with his money, has obscured the issue of women’s freedom for the people, so that they think Islam has come just to make women stay at home. Why should we oppose women’s education? Why should we oppose them working?
Why shouldn’t women be able to work in the civil service? Why should we oppose women being able to travel? Women, like men, are free in all these things, women are in no way different from men. Yes, in Islam women must dress modestly and wear a veil (i.e. have hijab), but that does not necessarily mean she has to wear a chador. Women can choose any kind of attire they like so long as it covers them properly and they have hijab.
Islam does not want women to be an object, to be a doll in our hands. Islam wants to safeguard women’s nobility, it wishes to make her a serious and efficient human being. We shall never allow women to be merely men’s sex objects. Islam has prohibited abortion. Women can gain the right to execute a divorce if she adds this condition to her marriage contract. The respect Islam shows woman and the freedom it grants her is equalled by no other system of laws or school of thought. (128)
28 December 1978 (7 Dey 1357 AHS)
Question: A good many women who have reached a level of freedom and education in Iran are afraid that they will be forced to return to a reactionary religious regime. What have you to say to put their minds at ease?
Reply: Islam has given women freedom. It is this government and this Shah that have deprived them of freedom and have restricted them in every aspect. (129)
5 January 1979 (15 Dey 1357 AHS)
Question: Is an Islamic government a retrogressive one? The Shah wants to create a modern country, the Arab countries too seek progress, but Islam opposes reform and social change such as freedom for women. What is your view on this?
Reply: The Shah’s government opposed our social development and gave away the freedom and independence of our country. An Islamic government is not a retrogressive one. It sanctions all the manifestations of civilisation apart from those that disrupt the nation’s peace of mind and are incompatible with the nation’s view of public decency. Islam not only sanctions freedom for women, it is actually the founder of freedom for women in all the dimensions, which exist for a woman. (130)
10 January 1979 (20 Dey 1357 AHS)
Question: What will be the policy of the government of an Islamic republic on women’s freedom, the fight against illiteracy and the cinema?
Reply: The Shah has not done anything positive in Iran, trying to mend the damage he has done will take quite a while. The Shah has given freedom neither to women nor to men, we, however, will give freedom to all. Cinemas under the Shah’s regime have been in the service of corruption, in an Islamic republic they will have to serve the good of the nation. We will fight illiteracy in the best way possible. (131)
11 January 1979 (21 Dey 1357 AHS)
Question: What will the role of women be in a future Islamic government?
Reply: Women are free to participate in many affairs, free in the true sense of the word, not in the sense that the Shah wanted. Some of our women are in prison, and of those who are not, a great number take part in the demonstrations and the struggles. An insignificant number are ‘free’, free in the sense that the Shah wants them to be free. We are most definitely opposed to that kind of freedom. (132)
15 January 1979 (25 Dey 1357 AHS)
Question: What will be the status of women in your future government?
Reply: They will have the status of a true human being and a free individual, contrary to these past periods we have lived through when neither our women were free nor our men. The nation whose men and women were not free [and] were repressed, has now thrown off the yoke and from now on men and women are free. However, if they wish to act immodestly or contrary to the interests of the country, then naturally they will be prevented from doing so. (133)
15 January 1979 (25 Dey 1357 AHS)
Question: What will be the role of women in the Islamic government? For example, will they be able to get involved in the affairs of state by becoming, say, members of parliament or ministers? That being, of course, if they demonstrate that they are suitable for and sufficiently competent to hold such a post.
Reply: The Islamic government will determine the course to be taken in such matters. Now is not the time for me to comment on such things. Women, like men, are participating in building the Islamic society of tomorrow; they can vote and be voted for in elections. Women have taken part in the recent struggles in Iran to the same degree as the men. We will give women every kind of freedom, but we will prevent corruption, and where this is concerned, there is no difference between men and women. (134)
23 January 1979 (3 Bahman 1357 AHS)
Question from one of the female reporters: The fact that I have been accepted as a woman shows that our movement is a progressive one, even though some have tried to portray it as retrograde. Do you think women must necessarily wear Islamic dress (hijab)? Must they cover their hair or not?
Reply: To say I have accepted you means nothing. I have not personally accepted you; you came here without my knowledge. This is not proof that Islam is progressive. Islam did not become progressive the minute you walked in here. Progress is not what some of our women or our men think it is.
Progress is determined in terms of human and spiritual perfections and by how useful a person is for the nation and the country, not by whether people go to the cinema or dances.
These are things they made you think were progressive so they could drive you into a backward state. Later we must remedy this. In salutary activities, you are free; you are free to go to university and to do any kind of respectable job. The whole nation is free in this respect. However, if anyone wants to do something immodest or harmful to the nation, he or she will be prevented. This is a sign of being progressive. (135)
23 January 1979 (3 Bahman 1357 AHS)
There is no suppression in Islam. In Islam there is liberty for all strata of society, for women, men, for whites and blacks, for everyone. From now on men should be afraid of themselves, not of the government, they should be afraid lest they do wrong. (136)
1 February 1980 (12 Bahman 1358 AHS)
Islam has set you free. Islam has declared men and women free; all are free. (137)
6 April 1979 (17 Farvardin 1358 AHS)
Today you are free, all the brothers and sisters are today free, free to criticise the government, free to criticise anything that goes against the path of the nation and Islam, free to make fundamental demands of the government. This movement has made you free, has liberated you from the bonds, which bound the nation.
You have gathered here freely, and freely you are propounding political and social issues vital to the nation, you are not the ladies of a few years ago. Today you are having a say in your destiny. You are propounding political issues and are making demands of the government. This is the meaning of freedom. (138)
3 July 1979 (12 Tir 1358 AHS)
This freedom that our nation now enjoys, which the women, men, writers and so on, now enjoy, this freedom is in all affairs, which are beneficial to you. You are free to go out and say what you have to say, to criticise the government, criticise anyone who puts a foot wrong, no one is going to ask you why you are doing so.
You are free to join the Construction Crusade (Jihad-i Sazandeghi) and help your countrymen. Anything that is involved with the growth of man, the growth of the sisters, brothers and these dear children, is free for you. That which is not free, indeed which Islam prevents, is gambling which corrupts the nation, drinking which corrupts the nation, and all types of obscenities which were made available during the time of that criminal (the Shah). Islam forbids such things. (139)
30 September 1979 (8 Mehr 1358 AHS)
Question: In the future government, what will freedom for women be like? Will they have to cease attending schools and remain at home or will it be possible for them to continue with their education?
Reply: The things you have heard said about women and other issues are all simply propaganda put about by the Shah and people guided by self-interests. Women are free (in Islam), free to study, free in other areas too, just as the men are. It is at the present time that neither women are free nor men. (140)
13 November 1978 (22 Aban 1357 AHS)
Question: Your Holiness, what do you expect the American government to do in exchange for the release of the female and black hostages that you have ordered?
Reply: We released the women and the blacks because women are shown a special regard in Islam and the blacks have been subject to pressure and oppression in America. We do not consider them totally culpable, for perhaps they were pressurised into coming here.
We did this out of obedience to the command of Islam and God, we don’t expect anything from Mr. Carter and we do not want any reward for what we have done. The issue here is that Mr. Carter must hand this criminal (the Shah) back to us. A criminal who has committed crimes against a people in a country must, according to all international laws, be returned to that country. Yet he (Carter) goes against all the rules of reason. (141)
18 November 1979 (27 Aban 1358 AHS)
Question: Your Holiness, in Neauphle-le-Chateau you promised that not only would freedoms be protected but that they would reach all, whereas after the victory of the revolution we witnessed demonstrations against women, pressure being brought to bear on tribal minorities such as the Kurds and the banning of certain newspapers and political groups. Could you please explain these apparent contradictions?
Reply: The women who demonstrated are the remnants of former problems, women whom the Shah brought into the arena as “free women” and whom he led to corruption. They prefer the former situation, which that corruption had brought about, those freedoms that the former regime wanted: freedom for the youth to do anything they wanted, to embrace vice and to act indecently.
But they saw that Islam does not consent to indecency and to actions, which drag the country into corruption and drive the nation into a state of backwardness. It was these women who came out onto the streets, with faces made up as everyone observed, and demonstrated. Otherwise freedom most certainly has not been and will not be curtailed. The people are fee, but not to create corruption and drive the nation into backwardness. (142)
26 November 1979 (5 Azar 1358 AHS)
Today, women in the Islamic Republic are striving shoulder-to-shoulder with the men to rebuild their country and rebuild themselves. This is the true meaning of free men and free women, not that which was promulgated during the reign of the deposed Shah, for freedom then meant prison, repression, persecution and torture. (143)
5 May 1980 (15 Urdibihisht 1359 AHS)
I ask the youth, the girls and boys, not to sacrifice their independence, freedom and human values, regardless of the trouble and suffering this may cause them, for a life of luxury, pleasure, indulgence and frequenting the centres of corruption which the West and its agents, men without a country, open to you. (144)
5 June 1989 (3 Khurdad 1368 AHS)
Islamic dress (hijab)
Question 1: If a lady does her daily prayers (namaz) dressed in modest attire such as a baggy manteau, trousers and a large scarf or miqna’a, is this permissible or not?
Question 2: If a lady doing her prayers at home wears a thick, long chador while underneath she has on a sleeveless top or dress and wears no socks, are her prayers invalid?
Reply 1: There is no problem.
Reply 2: Her prayers are not invalid.
Istifta’at Vol. 1, p. 137.
Question: What are the rules governing the viewing of TV films which sometimes show unveiled women, and listening to a musical instrument being played?
Reply: There is no problem concerning the viewing of foreign films in which the actresses are not known and which do not have a corrupting influence. Dance music is forbidden, but there is no problem with other types of music.
Istifta’at Vol. 2, p. 17.
Question: I am a woman working as a hairdresser for Muslim women who observe the Islamic cover (hijab). I work in an environment closed off to men. Could you please state your esteemed opinion of income earned in this way?
Reply: Based on the conditions set out in the question there is no problem, and income earned in this way is religiously legal.
Istifta’at Vol. 2, p. 32.
Women are free to choose their activities, their destiny and also their manner of dress, providing it complies with the rules. Present-day experience in the action against the Shah’s regime shows that women have found more freedom than ever before in the mode of dress which Islam stipulates for them. (145)
1 November 1978 (10 Aban 1357 AHS)
Question: For a long time now Your Holiness has been criticising the Shah’s policies, to what extent will your policies, with regard to the following, differ from those of the Shah: Social issues, will Islamic laws be put into effect and what difference will they make to daily life in comparison with the present laws?
‘Beneath the banner of Islamic government’, could Your Holiness explain more precisely what this means? Will women have the right to freely choose between the veil and Western dress? Will cinemas continue to exist? If so, what kind of films will be selected for viewing? Will alcoholic beverages be banned? Finally, will Iran become another Saudi Arabia or Libya?
Reply: The implementation of penal laws in Islam depends on many conditions first being fulfilled and involves many preliminaries. Many aspects must first be justly considered and Islam must be implemented fully. If these conditions exist, it will be seen that Islamic laws are not as harsh as others. Women are free to choose their activities, their destiny and also their manner of dress, while complying with the rules.
Present-day experience in the action against the Shah’s regime shows that women have found more freedom than ever before in the mode of dress which Islam stipulates for them. We are opposed to cinemas whose programmes corrupt our youth morally and subvert Islamic culture, but we approve of programmes which educate society and which contribute to its healthy, scientific and moral development.
Alcoholic beverages, alcoholism and other narcotics, which are harmful to society, will be banned. The Islamic republic government that we have in mind will not be like any of the regimes mentioned (i.e. Saudi Arabia and Libya). (146)
1 November 1978 (10 Aban 1357 AHS)
Question: Some of the Islamic customs, such as the mandatory veil, have been abandoned. Will the veil be once again enforced in the Islamic republic?
Reply: The veil, in the form we commonly understand it to take and which goes by the name Islamic hijab, is not opposed to freedom. Islam is against indecency. We invite the women to accept the Islamic hijab. Indeed, our brave women are tired of the calamities that the West, in the name of civilisation, has brought upon them, and they have turned to Islam. (147)
28 December 1978 (7 Dey 1357 AHS)
In Islam women must dress modestly and wear a veil (i.e. have hijab), but that does not necessarily mean she has to wear a chador. Women can choose any kind of attire they like so long as it covers them properly and they have hijab. (148)
28 December 1978 (7 Dey 1357 AHS)
Women must not enter the Islamic ministries improperly dressed. They can work there, but they must have hijab and must observe shari‘a principles. (149)
6 March 1978 (15 Isfand 1357 AHS)
Question: This chador, is it right that these women hide themselves under a chador? These women took part in the revolution, they gave lives, they were imprisoned, [and] they fought. This chador is an old custom, the world has changed, is it right that they should have to hide themselves in this way?
Reply: First of all, this is something that is their choice, and they have chosen it for themselves. What right do you have to deprive them of their choice? If we tell the people to come out and demonstrate their approval for Islamic dress, whether the chador or some other form, out of our population of 35 million, 33 million would come out. What right do you have to stop them?
What kind of dictatorship is this you want to impose on the women? Secondly, we do not say a woman has to wear a specific type of dress, particularly in cases of women your age there are no specifications. We are concerned mainly with the younger women who when they make up and dress up draw hordes of young men after them. It is these women we are stopping. They don’t need your sympathy. (150)
12 September 1979 (21 Shahrivar 1358 AHS)
Imam Khomeini, the Leader of the Revolution and Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in reply to a question about the attacks by a number of ignorant and possibly anti-revolutionary elements on women not properly observing the Islamic dress code, issued this edict: It is possible that the attacks on women in the streets, alleys and market places are being carried out by perverse elements opposed to the revolution. No one has the right to perpetrate such an attack and this kind of behaviour is unlawful (haram) for Muslims. The police and revolutionary committees must prevent such incidents. (151)
4 July 1980 (13 Tir 1359 AHS)
Whereas under the former regime one’s consequence and standing were measured by obnoxious make-up, by what one wore and in what kind of house one lived, the values found today in Islamic countries, particularly in Iran, are human, moral values. These values have come about because of the change that has taken place in the ladies.
Those who once liked to show off amongst the female community with their costly clothes and pernicious make-up are now condemned and stand shamefaced. In those days, our Muslim ladies were embarrassed wearing Islamic dress, and the deprived classes who observed the Islamic dress code felt ashamed of the way they dressed before the affluent, but corrupt, classes. Today the opposite is true, and now one of those people who once put on such corrupt displays of make-up and dress would be ashamed in your midst. (152)
16 March 1981 (25 Isfand 1359 AHS)
You must remember that the veil, which Islam has prescribed for you is to protect your status. Whatever God has decreed for man or for woman is to keep alive the true values they possess, values that may be destroyed by the devil’s insinuations or at the corrupt hands of imperialism and its agents.
12 March 1985 (21 Isfand 1363 AHS)
Questions put to Imam about television programmes by the managing director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) organisation and member of the IRIB’s supervisory board:
1. On the airing of TV programmes in which the woman’s role requires her not to observe fully the rules of the Islamic dress code concerning the face, neck and hair.
2. On the airing of sports programmes such as wrestling and football in which some parts of the sportsmen’s bodies are uncovered.
3. On watching such programmes when broadcast on TV.
Reply: There is no problem from the point of view of the shari‘a to watching these kinds of films and plays, indeed many of them are educational and it is perfectly permissible to broadcast them. The same goes for sports programmes and music, most of them present no problem. On rare occasions transgressions do occur and greater care must be taken to avoid them.
Two points, however, must be heeded. Firstly, the person who does the actor’s make-up must be mahram for the person being made up. It is forbidden for anyone else to perform this task. Secondly, people watching the programmes mentioned above must not do so in a lustful manner. (154)
21 December 1987 (30 Azar 1366 AHS)
Most probably the struggle against the wearing of the veil by Muslim women in educational institutions is a perverse attempt to undermine this great manifestation of the Islamic world’s defence of the Most Noble Messenger, peace be upon him and his descendants. The issue is one which vexes the Islamic nations: why in the so-called free world forcing women and girls to remove their veils is considered pure democracy, yet when we simply state that anyone who insults the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him and his descendants, should be sentenced to death, and the council of Islamic jurists issues an edict to this effect, this is considered undemocratic!
Why does the world sit back and remain silent in the face of people who do not allow Muslim girls who have chosen to wear Islamic dress into universities to attend classes or teach? Is it not that the interpretation of freedom and how it is used lies in the hands of people who are opposed to the fundamentals of a freedom which is sacrosanct. Today God has made us responsible, we must not be negligent. Today, we must struggle against apathy, inaction and silence and the enthusiasm and momentum of the revolution must be maintained. (155)
22 March 1989 (2 Farvardin 1368 AHS)
Advice for safeguarding and perpetuating the Islamic movement
Today, the movement is in greater need of the nation of Iran, of ideological unity, of the honourable ladies, of Chahar Mardan than it ever was before its victory and at its climax. It is today that the hands of the criminals and traitors, those who see their interests endangered, are working to try to stop this movement from flourishing. It is today that these treacherous hands must be severed. It is today that the hands of those who spread dissension and create excuses to cause division in the ranks of the Muslims must be severed. Our honourable women must sever the hands of these traitors, our powerful men must sever the hands of these traitors, the clergymen, wherever they are, must be vigilant and must sever the hands of these traitors and frustrate their machinations. (156)
25 April 1979 (5 Urdibihisht 1358 AHS)
You ladies, you brothers and sisters alike, must be vigilant, the Iranian nation must be vigilant and not let the blood of our martyrs be in vain, not let the spilt blood of our youth be meaningless, not let it be trampled underfoot by personal interests. Rid yourselves of personal interests. Do not let treacherous hands create different groups. (157)
25 April 1979 (5 Urdibihisht 1358 AHS)
In this period of history, at this juncture we now find ourselves, where one road leads to ultimate victory and the other, God forbid, to defeat and a return to the former state of affairs, it is the duty of all of us, whether you respected ladies or the rest of the nation, all of us, the brothers and sisters alike, to safeguard that ideological unity, that unity of purpose which was Islam - everyone shouting out together for Islam - and which brought this movement to victory. Hold gatherings, fill the mosques and remember your aim, which is to put all Islamic laws into effect in Iran. (158)
2 July 1979 (11 Tir 1358 AHS)
All of these respected sisters and you brothers, all the people of Iran, all of us must now be mindful of this path that our movement is following. This movement must be kept alive so that these problems are overcome. (159)
8 July 1979 (17 Tir 1358 AHS)
Now, it is the bounden duty of us all, whether the law enforcement officers or the people, the ladies or the brothers, to protect this trust which is in our care and which is from God. This trust is Islam; it is the Qur’an. (160)
2 September 1979 (11 Shahrivar 1358 AHS)
We must all join hands together, not only the men but the women also, all segments of society are one, they must join hands together to repair this ruin they have been left with, and to get their lives back together. (161)
9 January 1980 (19 Dey 1358 AHS)
My brothers! My sisters! Be alert, for today we are faced with great responsibilities. If we lose this movement that has reached this stage, this revolution that has reached this stage and this Islamic Republic that has been made a reality in our country, we will all be responsible. (162)
19 January 1981 (29 Dey 1359 AHS)
Complete Texts of some of Imam’s Speeches Concerning the Position and Rights of Women in the Islamic System
Address to a group of women in Qum
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Incessant greetings to the women of Iran! Peace be upon you, respected ladies. May the mercy of God be upon you, lion-hearted women, whose noble efforts have delivered Islam from the fetters of enslavement to foreigners. The peace of God the Blessed and Exalted be upon the nation of Iran, upon the ladies and the men.
Courageous sisters, you fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the men and ensured the victory of Islam. I thank you, women of Iran and women of Qum. May God and the Imam of the Age be pleased with you. Carrying your infants in your arms, you came into the streets and supported Islam with your ardent demonstrations.
I have heard what happened in Qum and other cities; I have heard what happened in Chahar Mardan. I take pride in all the courageous deeds accomplished by the women of Iran, in Qum and other cities for you have been in the vanguard of our triumph and have encouraged the men. Our men are indebted to your courage, lion-hearted women; I am indebted to both the honourable men and women.
Islam has particular regard for women. Islam appeared in the Arabian Peninsula at a time when women had lost their dignity, and it raised them up and gave them back their pride. Islam made women equal with men; in fact, it shows a concern for women that it does not show for men. In our revolutionary movement, women have likewise earned more credit than men, for it was the women who not only displayed courage themselves, but also reared men of courage. Like the Noble Qur’an itself, women have the function of rearing and training true human beings. If nations were deprived of courageous women to rear true human beings, they would decline and collapse. It is the women who strengthen the nations, who make them brave.
In the earliest age of Islam, the women participated in wars together with the men. The position of women is a high one. Women in Islam enjoy a high rank. We saw how in this movement the women, the honourable ladies, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the men, in front of them even, in the line of battle. They lost their infants and youth, but still they bravely resisted the enemy.
We want our women to attain the high rank of true humanity, not to be a plaything in the hands of men, in the hands of depraved men. Women must have a share in determining their destiny. Women in the Islamic Republic must vote. Just as men have the right to vote, women too have that right. In this recent period, the women were degraded. One of the great acts of treachery committed against our nation (by the former regime) was that they robbed us of our human resources, they reined in the power of our youth and that of our women, they degraded our women, betrayed our nation.
They turned our women into playthings, into something akin to dolls. Our women were warrior-like, but they wanted them to be profligate pleasure-seekers. They insulted woman’s dignity; they wanted women to become mere objects, a possession to pass from one hand to another. God, however, determined otherwise.
Islam grants woman a say in all affairs, just as it grants man a say. Just as men should avoid corruption, so too should women. Women should not allow themselves to be playthings in the hands of dissolute youths, they should not degrade themselves and, God forbid, come out into the streets dressed up and made up, placing themselves in full view of depraved men. Women must act like true human beings; they must be pious.
Women enjoy a dignified position; they have free will just as men have. God created you free beings and gave you dignity. Just as God has laid down laws for men imposing restrictions to prevent them from becoming corrupt, so too He has laid down laws for women. These are for your benefit; all Islamic laws are for the good of society. Those who want to see women as playthings in the hands of dissolute men are traitors.
Women should not be tricked, they shouldn’t imagine their station in life calls for them to come out into the streets dressed up and made up, with no veil and scantily dressed. This is not the role of women; this is the role of a doll. Women must be brave, they must involve themselves in the fundamental destiny of the country, [and] they are the makers of true human beings, the educators of mankind.
May God protect you women of Iran, you women of Qum, from the dangers presented by corrupt people, people who in reality are animals (not human beings). Just as hitherto you have always participated in our country’s movements, just as you partook in this movement and played a role in its victory, so too now you must continue to participate and rise up again whenever the need arises. The country belongs to you.
God willing, the hands of foreigners, of venal elements and plunderers have been severed, they have left and the country is yours, yours to rebuild. All the people of Iran, men and women alike, must repair the ruins that the previous regime has bequeathed to us; the hands of men alone will not suffice to accomplish the task. Men and women must collaborate in this respect.
There is one particular point concerning women to which attention should be paid. When women wish to marry, there are certain prerogatives they can stipulate for themselves that are contrary neither to the shari‘a nor to their own self-respect. For example, a woman can stipulate that if her future husband turns out to be of corrupt moral character or if he mistreats her, she would possess the right to execute a divorce.
This is a right that Islam has granted to women. If Islam has imposed certain restrictions on both women and men, it is for the benefit of both. All Islamic laws, be they those which permit or those which prohibit, are for the benefit of all. Similarly, just as Islam has granted man the right to divorce, it has also granted it to woman, on condition that the parties stipulate at the time of the marriage that if the husband behaves in a certain manner, the wife will have the right to execute a divorce.
Once the man has accepted such a stipulation, he can never repudiate it. Apart from making it possible to include such a stipulation in the marriage contract, Islam forbids the husband to mistreat his wife; if he habitually mistreats her, he is to be punished and the mujtahid will grant the wife a divorce.
May God adorn all of you with dignity, health, happiness and perfect faith and character.
Peace be upon you, beloved and respected ladies. (163)
6 March 1979 (15 Isfand 1357 AHS)
Imam’s address to a group of ladies from Qum
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
When I left Qum you ladies and gentlemen of this city were afflicted with troubles, but you had your youth at your side. When I returned, they were gone. Their loss brought grief not only to the hearts of the mothers and fathers, but to my heart also. I saw the pictures of these brave youth on the walls of the Fayziya theological school. I offer my condolences to the people of Qum, to the bereaved mothers, on their loss.
When I left, the whole of our country was afflicted with such troubles; indeed the whole of our country for the past fifty odd years has been in a state of affliction, hardship, repression and dependence on foreigners. God only knows what this father and son have done to this country of ours. Throughout its history Iran has not witnessed the likes of such acts of treason.
All the monarchs throughout the 2,500 years or more of monarchical rule in Iran were traitors; even those who were reputed to be good were traitors, yet their treachery did not reach the bounds, which that of these two did. Indeed, no one really knows to what bounds Riza Shah and his son’s treachery did in fact reach, the extent of their crimes was huge, but the extent of their treachery was even greater.
What scenes we witnessed during the reign of Riza Khan, a reign that perhaps most of you cannot remember. In Qum and indeed in all the towns and cities in accordance with the wishes of those who instructed him and in the name of kashf-i hijab, he violated that which is inviolable in Islam; he violated that which is sacrosanct to the believers and to our respected women. What his agents did to our veiled ladies! How they treated them! They tore off their chadors and scarves and confiscated them. I myself witnessed these scenes, and you witnessed what this son did to this country on the plea of creating a ‘great civilisation’.
We cannot imagine the true extent of what they did to this country. We cannot know the volume of their crimes and their treachery. We don’t know where they have bank accounts or the exact amount they have in them. We don’t know for sure that the amount, which has been revealed, is the true amount. It’s not known how much they have in Swiss, American, British or other banks. It is said that recently $3 billion has been taken, but we have no idea how much was taken previously.
At the time of the father, when he entered the war and the Allies sent him into exile, he collected together the crown jewels, filled his suitcases with them and took them with him. As I was told, once out at sea a ship used for transporting livestock drew up alongside the ship on which he was travelling, and he was told (by the British) to board it. That wicked man, who himself was worse than an animal, asked what he should do with his suitcases, he was told they would be brought for him later. But the British took them and kept them for themselves.
In the reign of this son too everything we had, all our self-respect, all our resources, has been taken. Our material strength was damaged, but not to the extent that our human resources were. The people were not allowed to develop, centres of corruption were made, gambling houses and houses of ill repute built and placed at the disposal of our youth. They were made to be unmindful of their destinies. So many of our youth became addicted to drugs during his reign, they were stupefied through addiction so they wouldn’t bother about their destinies or where their true destiny lay.
However, God, the Blessed and Exalted, wanted otherwise; He helped you and during these past two years the movement - which originated in the 15th Khurdad movement - blossomed. You ladies have proved that you are in the vanguard of the movement; you have proved that you lead the men; men get their inspiration from you. The men of Iran have learnt lessons from the ladies of Iran and the men of Qum have learnt lessons from you dear ladies. You are in the vanguard of the movement.
Islam holds you in higher esteem that it does men. Islam wants to save you, it wants to save you from becoming this plaything they want to turn you into. Islam wants to train you to become an integrated and virtuous human being, so that in your care suchlike human beings may be raised.
I thank you all for participating in this movement. I thank all the mothers who took part in this movement and lost their loved ones. I am deeply sorry for their loss. May God have mercy upon the souls of their martyrs. May He grant you all mercy, happiness and help you attain perfection. All of you must cast your vote, a vote for an Islamic republic, not a word less (in this designation) nor a word more.
You too must vote, you are no different from others; indeed you lead the men. Men are raised in your care, you are the educators of men, recognise your own worth, just as Islam does. All of you take part in this upcoming referendum and vote for an Islamic republic.
I hope that an Islamic republic will be established and Islamic justice and a just government will emerge to save our country from these problems, stop the hands of foreigners from ever again having free rein in this land and ensure freedom and independence for you all. May God’s mercy be upon you all.
Peace be upon you, and also the blessings and mercy of God. (164)
8 March 1979 (17 Isfand 1357 AHS)
- Addressing the students following Imam’s line who seized the American Embassy on 3rd November 1979.