September 11, 2023

What Does Grand Ayatollah Sistani Owe Iraq?

I recently delved into David Patel’s book, Order out of Chaos: Islam, Information, and the Rise and Fall of Social Orders in Iraq. The book, although published in 2022, draws on Patel’s fieldwork in southern Iraq shortly after the fall of the Ba’ath regime in 2003. In his book, Patel focuses on why Iraqis turned to the mosque in the absence of the state and while examining this, Patel naturally turns to the question of who is running the mosques in Iraq. For the Shia Muslims who constitute the majority of Iraqis, the answer is Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the head of the religious establishment, the Marjʿiyya, in Najaf.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani is a towering figure in Iraq,

Grand Ayatollah Sistani, who turned 93 in August, has been a monumental figure in Iraq for the last twenty years. All the critical moments in post-2003 Iraq have involved Sistani in one form or another, many of which Patel analyzes in his book. However, Patel is less interested in who Sistani is and more interested in the limits of the Grand Ayatollah’s power. Patel writes that “conventional wisdom—which focuses on Shiʿi doctrine and Sistani’s worldview—is not wrong, it is just incomplete”.

Read the full article from 1001 Iraqi Thoughts.

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