Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi's comments follow a warning by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit the capital Tehran and that many residents should relocate. In a prayer sermon, the cleric said:
"Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes. What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes. A divine authority told me to tell the people to make a general repentance. Why? Because calamities threaten us."
Iran is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, and seismologists have warned for 20 years that one is likely to hit Tehran, which straddles scores of fault lines, in the near future. Some 12million people live in the city, which was last struck in 1830.
Two weeks ago President Ahmadinejad said "at least 5 million" should leave Tehran because of the earthquake threat.