- Sana Khoury
- Religious Affairs Correspondent – BBC News Arabic
The latest spark of violence in Iraq was sparked after the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, announced his retirement from political work, following a statement issued by the Shiite religious authority, Kazem al-Hairi, in which he, in turn, announced his retirement. Who is Haeri? What is its relationship to the chest?
It is not uncommon for a Shiite religious authority to announce its retirement or resignation, as recent history has not witnessed a similar step, says Iraqi researcher Sajjad Jiyad, a fellow at the American Century Foundation. “There are references who have reduced their movement or suspended the issuance of Sharia rulings, but during the past fifty or sixty years we have not heard of a reference publishing a statement announcing his or her resignation.”
Al-Haeri’s statement issued on August 28, this year, carried a number of distinguishing signs, as he attributed “the failure to continue to confront the reference to disease and progress in age,” and called on his followers to “obey the Wali, Sayyid Ali Khamenei,” and criticized Muqtada al-Sadr, describing him as “losing.” Ijtihad” and is not qualified for religious leadership.
Iraqi researcher Marcin Al-Shammari, a fellow at Harvard University – Middle East Initiative, says that it is unusual for a reference to retire because of his age. The position of ijtihad that allows him to gather followers, open offices, and support students.Usually the marja’ has an entourage of his children or students who take charge of his daily office affairs, so age does not prevent him from following through on his duties, for example, the supreme reference Sistani, who reached 93 years old, and is still performing turn”.
Sajjad Jiyad Bayan describes al-Hairi’s retirement as “a blow to Muqtada al-Sadr, given the personal relationship between al-Hairi and his father, the authority, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who advised his followers that, if he was killed, they should follow Kazem al-Haeri, and described him as the most knowledgeable after him.”
Al-Sadr, the father, was assassinated in 1999 along with two of his sons, and Al-Haeri took over the religious authority of his followers after him. Muqtada Al-Sadr has not been at the fore since entering politics to play the role of the reference because it requires fulfilling a number of scientific and jurisprudential conditions.
What is the location of Al-Hairi on the map of Shiite references?
As it is known, there is no hierarchy among Shiite religious leaders, as the position of the reference is magnified or reduced according to the number of his followers, and according to his scientific achievements. And often the reference is one of the graduates of the seminary, in Najaf, Iraq or Qom, Iran, and spent many years studying there.
The religious scholar addresses the role of reference, when his progress in knowledge and his ability to derive legal rulings with the testimony of his colleagues is stable, and this is what allows the religiously observant to “imitate” him, that is, to take his advice in matters of religion and life.
“A religious authority does not need to be affiliated with a government or official institutions in order to derive its religious authority or confirm its legitimacy,” Sajjad Jiyad tells us. “During a thousand years, the Shiites had large numbers of references, and perhaps fifty or sixty references appear in one year, but most of them have a few imitators, there are local references, as they represent a reference in the town in which they live, and there are references at the level of the world such as Al-Sistani, who Most Shiites imitate him.
Marcin Al-Shammari says that “the supreme reference, such as Sistani or Khamenei, is ahead of the other references, given the number of his imitators, the number of students he teaches in the seminary, and the breadth of his network. One of the very famous references, and he does not have a large number of followers, and most of them were the followers of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who enemy of him is the intellectual heir of their leader.
Among the major Shiite authorities, al-Sistani in Najaf, Khamenei in Tehran, Wahid al-Khorasani and Sadiq al-Shirazi in Qom are still alive. Among the great contemporary references who have passed away are Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989), Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei (1899-1992), Muhammad Saeed al-Hakim (1936-2021), Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim (1939-2003), and Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah (1935). -2010), Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (1935-1980), and Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (1943-1999).
What is the status of Haeri for the Sadrists?
Kazem Al-Haeri has a historical relationship with the political activity of the Al-Sadr family, and he is one of the Shiite references who migrated from Najaf to Iran, at the end of the seventies.
Al-Haeri was born in Karbala in 1938. He has five brothers, two of whom were killed in the prisons of the Baathist regime, according to his official website.
He moved with his father to Najaf when he was still a baby, and at the age of twenty-two he married his cousin, with whom he had four children. His eldest son accompanied him on his emigration to Iran, and he was killed during the Iran-Iraq war.
According to his official website, he began learning to read, write, and the Qur’an at the hands of his mother, then his father, and he showed brilliance. At the age of seventeen, he began attending seminary lessons at the Shahroudi Marja’.
Al-Haeri kept Al-Shahroudi for many years, then met with Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr, and he became a student under him, which constituted “a shift in his scientific life, and he was helping Al-Sadr in writing the book ‘The Logical Foundations of Induction’, which represents the top in the hierarchical construction of his teacher’s thought,” according to his website.
He immigrated from Najaf to Qom in the mid-seventies, and played a prominent role in teaching in its possession, and founded a scientific school specialized in teaching Iraqi youth and named it after his teacher, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr.
Al-Haeri accompanied Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr’s founding of the “Dawa Party” and his influential political activity on the Iraqi scene in the sixties and seventies. During his exile, he was a jurist for the “Dawa Party” supporters in Syria and Iran, but “he left political work and went to teach,” according to Sajjad Jiyad.
Al-Haeri was a study colleague of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, the father of Muqtada al-Sadr, who nominated him to take over the jurisprudential authority after him, as we mentioned.
Al-Sadr, the father, said in a recorded interview: “I think that I am the most knowledgeable of all, after my departure from the square, in the presence of the Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Kazem Al-Hairi.”
Al-Haeri was known for his opposition to Saddam Hussein’s regime, and according to his official website, he “made his effort to support the movement of the Iraqi people and their righteous mujahideen, with his guidance and wise fatwas, through his book The Mujahid Guide.”
Among his controversial stances after the invasion of Iraq, he issued a statement calling for “wasting the blood of Ba’athist symbols in Iraq.”
The relationship between Al-Hairi and Muqtada Al-Sadr went through a number of twists and turns, before it reached the stage of Al-Haeri’s retirement in his last statement, which observers interpreted as lifting the reference cover from Al-Sadr.
Marcin Al-Shammari says that “the relationship between Al-Hairi and Al-Sadr was very good at first, as Al-Sadr studied under him for a short period in Qom, but it worsened after the American occupation of Iraq, as Al-Haeri rejected Al-Sadr’s activity within the Mahdi Army, and his strong entry into politics.”
The relationship between the two deteriorated after 2008, and reached the point of estrangement, according to Sajjad Jiyad, “when Al-Haeri criticized Al-Sadr’s clash with the state and the Maliki government.”
How will Haeri’s retirement affect Sadr’s followers?
It is true that the relationship between Al-Sadr and Al-Hairi has been cut off for years, but he must have been influenced by Al-Haeri’s recent statement, which included an attack on his legal acquaintances, although Al-Sadr never addressed the role of the reference.
Marcin al-Shammari and Sajjad Jiyad agree that most of those who imitate al-Hairi among al-Sadr’s supporters are currently from the old generation who lived with al-Sadr the father.
Jiyad says: “Most of the Sadrist movement is young people who do not know Sayyid al-Hairi, and they do not imitate any authority, neither al-Sistani nor anyone else, and they follow Muqtada al-Sadr in all their affairs.”
Al-Shammari believes that Al-Haeri’s call for his followers to imitate Khamenei will “affect only a small group of those who adhere to the legal rules, who will take his words seriously, from the generation of followers of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. As for the majority of young Sadrists, they adopt an anti-Iranian approach, and it is difficult for them to imitate a reference that is also Iranian politician.
In her opinion, Al-Haeri’s retirement may leave a reference void in the ranks of the Sadrist movement, but it is “expected, because the Sadrists’ attachment to any reference is weak, and their attachment to Muqtada al-Sadr is stronger.”