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The Unforgettable Friday Prayer | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I believe that the Friday prayer of July 17 in Iran was an unforgettable event. Everybody waited for the raw fruit to ripen and then they wanted to harvest the fruit. It was the most widely attended Friday prayer since the revolution. With over one million people cramming the streets, it was impossible to verify who was taking part in the protests. Cell phone coverage near the University of Tehran had apparently been disrupted.

Before Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s Friday sermon, Hojatol-Islam Taqavi, the head of the organisation that oversees Friday’s prayers, delivered a speech. He set a strategy for Friday sermons, and defined the role and the position of the Friday Imams.

In his speech Taqavi’s said:

“He (the Friday Imam) should give a speech within the regime’s political frame. The Imam of the Friday prayers should be a follower of the Supreme Leader in his speech.”

Taqavi’s unpredictable presence at the Friday prayers was a clear message from Khamenei to Hashemi Rafsanjani that Rafsanjani must be supportive of the famous speech Khamenei delivered at Friday prayer on June 19.

As a result of this very complicated situation, a crucial question arises: why was that Friday prayer so important?

Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president and the current speaker of the Assembly of Experts, frankly stated that Iran is in a crisis.

I would like to concentrate on this very important political event in present-day Iran.

Firstly: Hashemi Rafsanjani has played a significant role in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran; one could say that his role is undisputable. In the last three decades of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he was at the centre of government. He played an effective role in controlling various crises and disasters (for example the Iran-Iraq war and the American hostage crisis).

It was the first time that Iran had faced an election crisis, which is still ongoing, but Rafsanjani was absent. There was a 50-day gap between the last Friday sermon he delivered and his most recent sermon.

Secondly: Rafsanjani divided his sermon into three parts; first, he talked about people’s rights based on Islamic beliefs and ideology. He mentioned a brilliant anecdote that was narrated by Sayyed Ibn Tavous – one of the most respected and trusted Shia sources. The anecdote states: one day, the Prophet of Islam told Imam Ali: “If people will be satisfied with your governance, you can accept to be their governor, but if they denied accepting you, you must respect them and let them do as they wish.” He referred to the Prophet’s government, which was based on people’s satisfaction. He said that the legitimacy of the government comes from its people’s consent.

Thirdly: In the second part of his sermon he recalled that the Islamic Revolution of Iran had been established based on the trust and satisfaction of the people. He emphasised that the unity of the nation, and their trust in Imam Khomeini was the main reason behind the victory of the revolution. Back then, a large number of Iranians were gathering in streets and squares, shouting down with the Shah and that they did not want the Shah. As a result of the presence of the nation, the Shah’s regime collapsed.

Fourthly: “Today is a bitter day. People have lost their faith in the regime and their trust is damaged. It is necessary that we regain people’s consent and their trust in the regime,” Rafsanjani said. This was the main line in Rafsanjani’s sermon. When we read between the lines, and think about what he did not say, it is very obvious that Rafsanjani played a significant role in his political life with his latest sermon. He did not concentrate on Wilayet al Faqih. He did not mention Khamenei’s speech. On the contrary, the role of the nation was the key part of Hashemi’s speech. “We need to regain people’s trust, we need to have an open society in which people can say what they want to say, we should not imprison people, let them rejoin their families.

We need sympathy for the people who are in mourning or have been injured. Don’t let our enemies laugh at us by putting people in prison,” Rafsanjani said.

What was the government’s reaction to Rafsanjani?

We saw two strong reactions. The first one was from the editor-in-chief of Kayhan newspaper – Hossein Shariatmadari, who is Khamenei’s representative, and also one of the hardliners in Iran.

The second reaction came from the security minister, Mohsenei Ejehei. He criticised Hashemi, Khatami, Mousavi, Karrubi, and added that Ataollah Mohajerani (the person writing this article!) was Karrubi’s advisor, and that Karrubi did what Mohajerani advised him to do.

The brilliant Hafez Shirazi’s divan begins with this verse:

O beautiful wine-bearer, bring forth the cup and put it to my lips

Path of love seemed easy at first, what came was many hardships

In the second hemistich, Hafez expressed that in the beginning love seems so easy, but then many problems emerge.

The unbelieveable case of electoral fraud in Iran has divided the country into two. Hashemi Rafsanjani has made his historical decision. He stands by the nation.

Will his advice be heard? I don’t think so. When the government uses force to silence, arrest, and kill the protestors, then it surely has stuffed its ears with cotton!