Saturday, December 15, 2007

Al Sadr's Quest for Power in Iraq

My “series” of posts on Muqtada al Sadr and the Mahdi Army continues.

Al Sadr may be trying to position himself in order to eventually declare that he is the “Mahdi” or “the guided one”. According to many fundamentalists, this individual will appear when Muslims are being oppressed throughout the world. The Mahdi will make war against those who are deemed to be oppressors. All Muslims will be joined together in peace and justice and the Mahdi will rule over all Arabs. According to believers, the Mahdi will even pray at Mecca with Jesus (“Isa” in the Quran).

Although Muqtada’s father was a high-ranking ayatollah, Muqtada has not even completed his formal religious training. This article talks about his quest for Islamic credentials:

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Iraq cleric Sadr eyes higher religious credentials

Reuters: December 14, 2007

KUFA, Iraq: Powerful Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is taking advanced Islamic studies in a bid to earn credentials that would allow him to issue religious decrees, a top aide to the young firebrand said on Friday.

Some senior figures in the Shi'ite clerical establishment view Sadr, who commands the feared Mehdi Army militia and has a bloc of legislators in parliament, as an upstart given his lack of scholarly achievement.

The anti-American cleric has a strong following among poor, urban Shi'ites across Iraq. Attaining higher religious credentials would likely enhance the influence of Sadr among majority Shi'ites, engaged in a power struggle for influence in the oil-rich south as foreign troops scale down their presence.

Senior aide Salah al-Ubaidi, speaking in the southern town of Kufa near the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, said Sadr was looking to gain the title of "Marji", a term used for a cleric who is qualified to make religious decisions for his followers.

"Sayyid Moqtada al-Sadr is studying the Hawza like any other Shi'ite student who aims to reach the level of Ijtihad," Ubaidi told Reuters, referring to a term that describes a level that allows someone to issue religious decrees or "fatwas".

He said Sadr, who is believed to be in his 30s, was studying at Najaf, adding it was unclear how long it would take the cleric the achieve the credentials, but the process normally takes years.

Sadr's followers currently have to seek guidance on religious issues from clerics who have the necessary qualifications.

If Sadr succeeds, he could earn more respect from top Shi'ite clerics who have been unsettled by his rising following, which they believe stems from his respected father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, who was killed by suspected agents of Saddam Hussein along with two of his sons in 1999.

Ubaidi denied Sadr was developing his religious stature to push for more influence in mainly Shi'ite southern Iraq, a region rich in oil reserves.

"He has no interest in public funds," Ubaidi said.

Sadr's main mass movement Shi'ite rival is the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), headed by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim.

Hakim also built his reputation partly through his father Muhsin al-Hakim, one of the most prominent Shi'ite scholars of recent times. But Abdel Aziz al-Hakim has a closer relationship to traditional clerics at the top of the hierarchy than Sadr.

Sadr, who led two uprisings against U.S. forces in 2004, froze the activities of the Mehdi Army for six months in late August after some of his followers were blamed for sparking intra-Shi'ite violence at a major religious ceremony.

The U.S. military has welcomed the ceasefire and said it has helped bring down violence in Iraq.

Sadr has vowed to reorganise his militia and root out rebellious elements who are ignoring his commands and taking the law into their own hands.

(Reporting by Khaled Farhan in Najaf; writing by Mussab Al- Khairalla in Baghdad, Editing by Dean Yates and Ibon Villelabeitia)

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We must remember that the future of Iraq will ultimately be determined by Iraqis, not America and its Coalition partners.

Since Arabs have a history of following charismatic religious leaders, we should always look at the fundamentalist Islamic leaders who may be trying to position themselves as the “voice” of Islam. There are quite a few of these potential “wannabe Mahdis” including al Sadr, Osama bin Laden and the religious leaders in Iran.

SFC Chuck Grist


  1. We should have dumped that guy years ago.

  2. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 12/17/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.