AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): The following is a part of the speech delivered by Imam Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with organizers of the International Congress in Honor of Allameh Sayyid Mohammad Hossein Tabatabai on November 5, 2023. The statements of Imam Khamenei were later published on November 15, 2023 at the place of this congress.
The late Allameh Tabatabai was one of the exceptional wonders of our seminaries in the last centuries. The qualities that made up this man’s character were all some of the superior virtues of a person. A combination of qualities such as knowledge, piety, morality, literary talent and artistry, and sincerity and friendship were what formed the personality of this great man. One point regarding the knowledge of this noble man, was the wide scope of his knowledge. He was an expert in the principles of jurisprudence. He was a philosopher. And he had a deep understanding of theoretical mysticism.
He was a scholar in astronomy and mathematics. He was an outstanding scholar in the interpretation of the Quran and the Quranic sciences. He was truly unparalleled in this field. He was a skilled poet. He was skilled and active in the science of genealogy. My late father was friends with Mr. Tabatabai from the time they were in Najaf. My father himself told me this.
My father wrote a letter to Mr. Tabatabai asking him to ask a certain person [a famous man in Qom for our family tree], and then he wanted it sent to him. Now I don’t remember his exact words, but in response to this letter, Mr. Tabatabai wrote, “I know [genealogy] as much as he does or more.” So he prepared our family tree and sent it. In other words, the family tree that is currently in our hands was prepared by Mr. Tabatabai.
In the field of mathematics, he drew the layout for the Hojjatiyeh Seminary (a prominent seminary in Qom). He was a magnificent, proficient architect. Mr. Tabatabai’s scientific diversity was one of the special dimensions of his scientific knowledge.
Another dimension was the depth of his scientific and intellectual knowledge. In [the science of] principles, he was a master of tenets. In philosophy, he was an innovative philosopher. He presented a philosophical system, which may be seen in his book The Principles of Philosophy and the Method of Realism as well as in two other of his books that he wrote not long ago, the books Bidaya and Nihaya. In the science of commentary on the Quran, he was an extraordinary exegete.
Another dimension of this noble man’s scientific endeavors was the area of training students. He trained philosophers such as Martyr Motahari, Martyr Beheshti, and other more recent scholars such as the late Mr. Mesbah [Yazdi], etc. These are the kinds of people that he taught. He revived philosophy and created philosophers. Now, it is also interesting to note that most of his students, or many of his students, played key roles in the Islamic Revolution.
In the Assembly of Experts, many of those who wrote the constitution were students of the late Mr. Tabatabai. A number of the well-known martyrs in the Islamic Revolution had also been the students of Mr. Tabatabai. Martyr Motahari was his student, Martyr Beheshti was his student, Martyr Qoddusi was his student, and Martyr Aghasheikh Ali Heydari Nahavandi was his student.
There are two qualities that the late Mr. Tabatabai possessed that grab my attention and draw me to him very much. One was Mr. Tabatabai's exceptional intellectual jihad. He lived at the time of the invasion of foreign, imported ideologies and doctrines such as Marxism, and also people who created and spread doubts. These people weren’t trying to present a certain school of thought. They were creating and spreading doubts.
This is the same thing that the late Mr. Motahari was working against. The books he wrote were often in response to the doubts that were being spread at that time. In the midst of these events, the late Mr. Tabatabai (ra) was able to form a strong intellectual base using an active, offensive approach, with both his book The Principles of Philosophy and also with his explanatory statements. This exegesis is filled with a sea of political and social knowledge. His book [of commentary], Al-Mizan, is [also] about political and social issues that had not even been raised at that time. Today when we look at these issues, we see that they are also related to the present day. This active and offensive intellectual base was created by the late Mr. Tabatabai. This is one point.
That is what I think we should learn from Mr. Tabatabai. We need to form intellectual bases that fill the voids and have an active, offensive nature toward the other side rather than assuming a passive, defensive position.
His second characteristic, which in my opinion is also a very prominent, important characteristic, is that in the field of monotheistic teachings and divine concepts that he had come to understand, he did not stop at intellectual growth. He grasped those concepts and truths with his noble heart and soul, and he put his knowledge into practice.
These characteristics which he is known for, such as his extraordinary humbleness and not following his desires, were all due to this fact. His patience and his humility were due to the fact that he had grasped those concepts and high levels of knowledge with his soul. When people saw him, it truly seemed to them that he was not concerned with himself. He was patient. He had a very gentle attitude toward others, and he would even treat those who argued with him or had disputes with him with patience and tolerance. He would forgive them.
One day, I was sitting in my seminary room when one of my friends who loved Mr. Tabatabai and was one of his devoted students came into the room. He said, “I was at Allameh Semnani’s house. Mr. Khomeini and Mr. Tabatabai were there too along with a few other gentlemen. Allameh Semnani turned to Mr. Khomeini and said, “I read your Tafsir Al-Mizan. It is very good. It is excellent. I truly enjoyed it.”
He continued complimenting him [Mr. Khomeini] for writing Tafsir Al-Mizan, thinking he was Mr. Tabatabai. Since Mr. Khomeini was not a person who would lose his control in such a situation, he listened without saying anything. Mr. Tabatabai who was sitting on the other side, turned to Allameh Semnani and said, “I am Mr. Tabatabi. He is Mr. Khomeini, my teacher.”
The late Mr. Tabatabai, with all his spiritual, academic, and behavioral merits and with all these things that almost everyone knows about him now, with all these qualities, in terms of personality and friendship, he was a very charming, pleasant person. His speeches were pleasant, his language was pleasant, and he was a pleasant, friendly speaker. In his more private meetings, his conduct and silence were not the same as when he was holding public meetings, discussions, lessons, etc.
He was warm, charming, pleasant, and a good conversationalist. When he would narrate something, he would describe it in detail and with color and life. That’s the kind of person he was. He had a well-rounded personality. He was talented, he was interested in poetry and literature, and he possessed a complete combination of all the qualities that an outstanding, eminent person can have. I hope, God willing, the Almighty God will exalt his rank, and make us of those who are appreciative of him. Praise God that He blessed him in this way.
Mr. Tabatabai is much better known today than he was during his lifetime. When he was alive, he was known by maybe a tenth of the number of people that now know him. Praise God, he is now well-known in the country, in academic assemblies, and throughout the world to a great extent, God willing.
May God’s greetings, mercy, and blessings be upon you.