IRAN: Cleric uses erotic poem to warn opposition in Friday sermon

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A racy allusion in a Friday prayer sermon by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati has become the talk of Iran.

He invoked a well-known poem about an intimate coupling between a maidservant and a donkey to issue a warning to opposition supporters.

‘The foe always try to use psychological warfare against the Islamic regime to tarnish the image of the system inside and outside the country,’ he said (Persian link). ‘Therefore, I tell them, the enemies, to go and study the story of the pumpkin.’

The ‘pumpkin’ refers to a famous story by the 13th century mystical poet Rumi, ‘The Importance of Gourdcrafting,’ in which a resourceful maidservant who sleeps with a donkey uses a pumpkin as a marital aid.


When the lady of the house catches on, she decides to follow suit. But rather than consulting the maidservant she sends her away without obtaining the secret of the pumpkin, and is killed by the donkey.

The story is intended as a parable about the dangers of immoderation. At the end of the poem, the maidservant returns and chides the dead woman for her arrogance. ‘You opened your shop before a master taught you the craft,’ the poem reads.

Jannati’s message to the opposition seems to be ‘Don’t take on more than you can handle.’

-- Los Angeles Times