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Sheikh Muqtada Sadr

Shia Cleric

Muqtada al-Sadr, of Lebanese ancestry, comes from a family of Shia scholars.  He is the fourth son of the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, a prominent Shia cleric in the Muslim world. Muqtada is a powerful figure who inherited the leadership of enormous social institutions that served millions of people in Baghdad’s slums.

Sadr is the son of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, a renowned religious figure in the late twentieth century in the Islamic world. Sadr was highly influenced by his conservative father and his father-in-law, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, the founder of the Islamic Da’wah Party, who was allegedly murdered in 1980 for opposing Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Sadr studied in the Shii awzah (religious seminary) in Najaf after completing middle school, but he never completed his education. Sadr’s father, as well as his two older brothers, were assassinated by government operatives in 1999. 

He has focused on aiding Iraq’s poor Shia Muslims and has had complete freedom to serve in many sections of the country, including Sadr City, a Baghdad district named after his father. He offers healthcare, food, and safe drinking water. Corruption, rising unemployment, and bad government services are among the topics he has emphasized.

After the US invasion of Iraq, he gained notoriety by founding the Mahdi Army, an armed resistance movement with its own courts and law enforcement system. Saraya Al-Salam is the name given to it presently. He has focused his efforts on fighting corruption in Iraq, openly criticizing the government in the process. He has advocated for Shia-Sunni unification, and in 2017 he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and asked for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to step down.

Al-Sadr joined with the communist party in the May 2018 elections, and their “Sairoon” (a political alliance) won the most seats, making him the kingmaker in Iraq’s new government. The campaign rhetoric centered on corruption and attempted to bridge sectarian divides. He has concentrated on bringing various Iraqi groups together, rejecting both US and Iranian influence. He has maintained his criticism of Iraqi government corruption.

Following the government’s retaliation to new protests in October, Sadr called on Sairoon to boycott parliament and demanded the government to resign and arrange early elections. However, by January 2020, he had abandoned his support for anti-government rallies. Even when a new technocratic government was formed in May with Sadr’s implicit support, he continued to advocate for reform and early elections, which were conducted in October 2021 under a new electoral method. Sadr’s movement increased its presence in parliament, despite still falling short of a majority, while its main opponents in the election, the pro-Iran Fatah alliance, got only 17 members.

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