Muqtada al-Sadr - A charismatic Iraqi cleric who comes from a powerful clerical dynasty, emerged as one of the country's most talked-about Shi'a leaders.

 

 

Muqtada al-Sadr

Moktada al-Sadr (سيد مقتدى الصدر)  is an Iraqi theologian and political leader. Along with Ali al-Sistani and Ammar al-Hakim of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Sadr is one of the most influential religious and political figures in the country not holding any official title in the Iraqi government.

According to Time Magazine, Sadr's long absence from sight means that he has been undergoing intensive religious instruction in Qom, Iran, the leading center for Shi'ite Islamic scholars. Through his studies in Qom, Sadr could rise from a cleric to the rank of ayatollah, giving him the authority to issue edicts taken as law by many Shi'ites. With that power, Sadr could eventually position himself to replace Iraq's current leading Shi'ite figure, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is thought to be in his late 70s.

In our opinion Sadr is going to be a player in the Biblical prophecies concerning the destruction of Israel. Possibly he will lead one of the ten horns (or kingdoms) during the run-up of "The Antichrist".

Hojatoleslam Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr . (born August 12, 1973) is the fourth son of the famous Iraqi Shi‘a cleric, the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr and son-in-law of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir As-Sadr. While he does not hold any official title in the Iraqi government, he is one of the most influential religious and political figures in the country.

The elder al-Sadr, a well-respected figure throughout the Shi'a Islamic World, was murdered along with two of his sons allegedly by the government of Saddam Hussein, though some believe it was an insider job carried out by the orders coming from Najaf, in February 1999 in Najaf, the power center of the al-Sadr clan. Muqtada's father-in-law was executed by the Iraqi authorities in 1980. As Muqtada al-Sadr lacks the religious education and degrees required by Shi‘a doctrines, he does not claim the title of mujtahid (the equivalent of a senior religious scholar) or the authority to issue fatwas (religious edicts); consequently he bases his religious authority on his lineage alone.

Assassinations and violence

His relationships with other Shi‘a clerics are tense and occasionally violent. Some of his followers are alleged to be responsible for the 10 April 2003 assassination of Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei. This is accounted for by the fact that the perpetrators pulled Abdul Majid al-Khoei and his aide's bodies with ropes across some alleys near the Shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf and shouted slogans claiming vengeance for the assassination of al-Sadr. The al-Khoei Family, however, do not hold Muqtada al-Sadr responsible and have blamed Ba'athists for the killing.

There was a dispute over the keys to the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf. The mosque contains the tomb of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and, according to Shi‘a belief, heir to the Prophet's legacy. It is among the most sacred Shi‘a sites, and also the source of a considerable amount of revenue. The traditional hereditary holder of the keys, Haidar Raifee fled for fear of his life after the fall of Saddam's regime. Mr. Raifee was widely believed to be an agent of Saddam's Ba'ath party who had informed on countless Shi‘a opponents of Saddam's regime. Many of these activists and their families were allegedly tortured and killed by Saddam's Mukhabarat, or secret police.

According to witnesses, at the mosque they were confronted by an angry mob, some of whom shouted "Raifee is back". They called him an "animal" and threatened to beat him with their sandals (a traditional Iraqi insult). According to reports, Al-Khoei fired his pistol in the air to get the crowd to back off. However, rather than retreating, the angry crowd surged at them. The mob killed Raifee with bayonets and knives; al-Khoei was chased down and killed in an alley near the nearby headquarters of al-Sadr.

Ethnic Cleansing of Sunni

Muqtada al-Sadr's militia have been involved in widespread ethnic cleansing of Sunni, especially those living in Shia areas. . Reports also indicate that the death squads which have been responsible for the deaths of many Sunis are not the actions of rogue elements but "a carefully orchestrated response to the attacks of Sunni extremists" by Sadr's Mahdi Army .It is however difficult to determine al-Sadr's personal involvement, but his public statements have on occasion condemned violence against Sunnis as well as terrorist attacks directed against the shia population. He has exhorted his followers not to fall into the trap of tit for tat retaliation leading to civil war. He claims that America stands to gain the most from an Iraqi Civil War which would require the continued presence of US troops and put the US in the role of political referee and powerbroker between the waring factions. He has been the most consistent advocate of Iraqi nationalism and Shia-Sunni unity.

Positions

Muqtada al-Sadr gained popularity among younger Iraqis following the toppling of the Hussein government by the 2003 invasion of Iraq, mostly owing to his status as his father's son, as he has no formal religious standing to interpret the Koran and relies for religious advice on an Iraqi cleric exiled in Iran, Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri. It is common belief that al-Sadr wishes to create an Islamic theocracy in Iraq, although al-Sadr himself has on occasion stated that he wishes to create an "Islamic democracy." In April 2004 he initiated a revolt against the coalition of forces occupying Iraq.

As of August 19, 2004, U.S. officials express puzzlement as to al-Sadr's motivations and goals. In his sermons and public interviews al-Sadr has demanded an immediate withdraw of all US led coalition forces, all foreign troops under United Nations control, and the establishment of a new central Iraqi government, not connected to the Ba'ath party or the current Allawi government. He has declared that the Allawi government is illegitimate, and he refuses to cooperate with them; however, his disapproval waxes and wanes depending on the success of negotiations with the interim government. He envisions a Shi‘a-dominated government, much like Iran's, but independent from Iran. He has met Khamenei and "told him that we share the same ideology, but that politically and militarily, I would not be an extension of Iran."

Relation with Shi‘ites and Clerics

Al-Sadr commands strong support (especially in the Sadr City ghetto in Baghdad, formerly called Saddam City but renamed after the elder al-Sadr). After the fall of the Saddam government in 2003, Muqtada al-Sadr organized thousands of his supporters into a political movement, which includes a military wing known as the Jaysh al-Mahdi or Mahdi Army). The name refers to the Mahdi, a long-since disappeared imam who is thought by Shii Muslims to be due to reappear when the end of time approaches. This group has periodically engaged in violent conflict with US and other Coalition forces, while the larger Sadrist movement has formed its own religious courts, and organized social services, law enforcement and prisons in areas under its control.

Relations with al-Sistani

Relations with the most powerful cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have also been tense. Al-Sistani's approach of non-violent confrontation and negotiation rather than guerilla resistance is often in conflict with the radical young al-Sadr. Al-Sistani is said by observers to draw support from established, property-owning Shi'ites, while Muqtada al-Sadr's support is strongest among the uneducated urban poor, many of whom see him as their champion. The murder of Abdul Majid al-Khoei, the son of al-Sistani's mentor Grand Ayatollah Abul-Qassim Khoei, believed to be by Muqtada's forces, may be an additional source of tension.

Sadr's followers attempted to seize control of the al-Sistani-controlled holy sites in Karbala in October 2003 but were repulsed, with dozens of people killed and injured. Armed clashes between al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization have broken out with significant bloodshed resulting. However, Sistani has thus far refused to publicly chastise Sadr for the spring uprising against the US led coalition, instead decreeing that both sides should avoid incitement to violence and condemning the coalition for its tactics. This led many Muqtada supporters to believe that al-Sistani's refusal to call for armed attacks on the United States or zionist and imperialist powers is un-Islamic, further polarizing the dichotomy that is the Iraqi shia population toward Muqtada al-Sadr.

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