Patel On Muqtada Al Sadr David Patel

Patel on Muqtada al-Sadr

David Patel writes from Iraq concerning the allegation that Muqtada is being “run” by the Iran-based cleric Kadhim al-Haeri:

‘ I have been in Basra since Sep and know both Moqtada’s and al-Haeri’s representatives in town.

Although al-Haeri is technically Moqtada’s marja and a picture of him hangs in every al-Sadr office I have visited, I think the link is often overblown. Moqtada’s offices are technically offices for his father, Mohammad Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and they claim they are continuing the activities related to the jihaz of his marjaiyya. By the way, is this common? As I understand it, Sistani inherited al-Khoei’s apparatus. Do Ayatollah’s clerical networks and offices often continue independently years after their deaths? Strange…

al-Haeri has his own wakils throughout Iraq, often leading different Friday sermons and a separate and fairly uninfluential apparatus. Moqtada’s wakil in Basra (again, the stamped form he shows officially designates him as the dead father’s wakil, not al-Haeri’s) has never mentioned an al-Haeri opinion in one of our chats. al-Haeri has his own wakil in town, associated with a separate mosque. Even their propaganda signs are different (locally, al-Haeri seems fixated on Jews buying land up through American companies while Sadr’s office prefers signs saying that anyone who disagrees with him or allows women to show one strand of hair is a modern Yazid…). Many of al-Haeri’s wakils, I believe, were the more senior clerics once associated with Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr. Moqtada runs his father’s ‘office’ and issues vague orders to his wakils throughout the country. These wakils seem fairly independent and are often sharp, relatively young clerics from uninfluential (non-clerical) families. They were and remain influential only because Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr sent them throughout Iraq in the mid-90s as mosque preachers, permitted under Saddam’s faith campaign. Sadr offices, by the way, officially claim Moqtada is Hujjat al-Islam, but say he is a political and administrative leader, not a religious one. I hope the US media is getting this right – Moqtada is not considered a senior cleric by anyone, comparing him to Sistani is ridiculous.

The vast majority of Sadriyyun, when asked, would say that Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr is still their marja. When pressed, in-the-know followers will explain that Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr designated al-Haeri has his successor and al-Haeri later stated that people can continue (but not initiate) following al-Sadr after his death on issues he has already ruled on or an obvious comparison is available (until a more knowledgable marja arises – note: Mohammad al-Yacoubi’s followers claim that al-Sadr instructed his followers to follow al-Haeri until ones his own students becomes a marja).

In other words, I don’t think Moqtada al-Sadr is taking directions from Qom or Tehran. I think he is independent from Iran and, to complicate matters, his wakils and offices throughout the country are fairly independent from the Najaf/Kufa head office – decision-making is probably more decentralized than in most Ayatollah’s networks. This is probably a good things for the coalition and explains why Sadr’s offices have reacted differently in the past few days (kidnapping in one city, peaceful sit-ins elsewhere, convoy ambushes in some cities).

Finally, there is a strong hint of racism among Sadr clerics. Personally, I think a confrontation between Moqtada al-Sadr and the coalition (or even the GC) was inevitable. Die-hard Sadriyyun really believe that they are the only ones with a legitimate right to rule Iraq, largely because of the legacy of Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr. They constantly emphasize the distinction between the speaking Hawza line and the silent (ie – non-Iraqi) Hawza line. The first consists of Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr, Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and sometimes al-Haeri. The latter sometimes includes Mohsin al-Hakim, but always al-Khoei and Sistani. Sadr clerics conveniently ignore al-Haeri’s Iranian background but sometimes claim Mohsin al-Hakim (and his sons) are really Iranian, despite being in Iraq for generations. If the Iranian hardliners wanted to back a player in Iraq, it would be one of the large SCIRI/Badr offices (probably Najaf), not Moqtada al-Sadr. Moqtada al-Sadr has nothing invested in the current transition process and has seen his influence dwindle since Sistani woke up in mid-January. The coalition probably chose to pick a fight with him before the killings in Fallujah occured, which demanded some sort of military response. Unfortunately, they are both happening at the same time.

David Patel

Political Science, Stanford University ‘

Cole adds: The Iranian newspaper Baztab reported in summer of 2003 that Haeri had increasingly distanced himself from Muqtada, and was instead favoring Muhammad Ya`qubi, the leader of the Fudala’ (the Virtuous), a Sadrist splinter group in competition with Muqtada.

Also, it is illegitimate in mainstream Usuli Shiite jurisprudence to continue to follow the controversial rulings of a dead jurisprudent. Laypersons must adopt a new, living jurisprudent in that case. The Sadrist doctrine that one must continue to cling to the rulings of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr is a heresy (taqlid al-mayyit or following dead jurisprudents is allowed in the Akhbari school, which only survives in any numbers in Bahrain).

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