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Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani (Iraqi Shia cleric)

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Al-Sistani is the most important Marja or spiritual reference for Ithna ‘Ashari’a (Twelver) Shia Muslims, He is the head sheik of the Hawzah Seminary in Najaf, Iraq, and the well-known Shia cleric. Many prominent and well-known religious professors taught him theological and rational sciences.

Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani was born in the holy city of Mashhad on the 9th of Rabi Al-Awwal 1349 A.H. After his grandfather, he was given the name Ali. He grew up in a family with a strong religious upbringing. Many prominent and well-known religious professors taught him theological and rational sciences. His grandson Sayyid Ali was the first to move to Mashhad.

Ayatollah Sayyid Ali studied in the Madrasa of late Mohammad Baqir Sabs1avari until he traveled to the holy city of Najaf for further education. His Eminence began learning the Holy Quran at the age of five. He was assisted in learning the Quran by a woman known as ‘Mother of Aqaye Mudir.’ He then was admitted to a religious facility where he learned to read, write, and do basic mathematics and geography, after learning calligraphy from Mirza Ali Aqa Zalim, he graduated from a religious institution.

Sistani’s scholarly ancestry and education have enabled him to achieve the title of Marja taqlid, the highest status in the Usuli branch of (Twelver) Shia Islam. Sistani is in a position of considerable authority over the (Twelve) Shia Muslims since Marja taqlid means “one worthy of imitation.” Sistani comes from a family of religious intellectuals and was educated in Iran’s top universities. Later, he studied under Grand Ayatollah Abu Al-Qasim Al-Khoei in Najaf, Iraq. Sistani succeeded Khoei as grand ayatollah in 1992, inheriting Khoei’s following. He quickly grew to become Iraq’s most powerful cleric.

Sistani also holds considerable financial power. His followers pay him a religious tax as a Marja (khums, Arabic for one-fifth). One of Marja’s main responsibilities is to redistribute this tax for the common welfare, much of this money goes to the Al-Khoei Foundation, the world’s largest Twelver Shia development organization, which runs a network of educational and humanitarian institutions for Shia and non-Shia Muslims.

He is well-versed in the majority of contemporary information and cultures, and his beliefs and opinions have been modernized. Ayatullah Sistani is aware of global economic and political developments. In a nutshell, Ayatullah Sistani is considered a modern faqih who adheres to genuine principles.

Significantly, Sistani opposes the concept of Velayat-e Faqih, which suggests Shia clerics should stay out of politics. Surprisingly, this strategy has given him a lot of power as a religious leader who isn’t tainted by politics. In the volatile post-invasion of Iraq, Sistani has utilized his position of quietist authority to exercise influence as a peacemaker. His political statements have been praised for bringing about stability at critical times. He has defined the primary issues of the day as removing political corruption and improving public services. Sistani also made forceful declarations against DA’ISH, urging Iraqis to band together to fight the extremists.

Sistani rarely meets officials but made an exception for Iran’s President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in March 2019. Pope Francis also visited Sistani’s home in Najaf in March 2021 during the Pope’s visit to Iraq.

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