March 14, 2005

'Ali Al-Sistani - Iraqi Citizen?

Ayatollah Al-Sistani

Grand Ayatollah Al-Haj Al-Sayid 'Ali Al-Husayni Al-Sistani

A group of Iraqi Shi'a have encouraged the new Iraqi government to bestow Iraqi citizenship on Ayatollah 'Ali Al-Sistani, arguably one of the most (if not THE) most powerful men in the country. Al-Sistani is an Iranian national, although he has been resident in the holy city of An-Najaf for over five decades.

Al-Sistani Ayatollah Al-Sistani, 73 is a grand ayatollah, the highest theological degree in the Shi'a sect. He has made three pilgrimages to Mecca (hence the title "Haj"), and is a descendant of the Prophet, as indicated by the title "Al-Sayid" and the wearing of the black turban.

Ayatollah Al-Sistani is the leading cleric of the An-Najaf school ("hawza") of the late Grand Ayatollah Al-Sayid 'Abd Al-Qasim Al-Khu'i and successor to late Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq Al-Sadr, who was killed by the regime in 1999. Although born in Mashhad, Iran, he has lived, studied and taught in An-Najaf since 1952.

Educated in Qom, Iran as well as An-Najaf, Ayatollah Al-Sistani is highly regarded for his work on the role of religion in Muslim states. He does not favor the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iraq.

Aytollah Al-Sistani was key to successful Iraqi elections by exercising his moral authority over Iraq's 15 million Shi'a. Although he himself will not have an official position, his approval for the choice of interim president and prime minister is critical.

Visit the ayatollah's website at