Muqtada al-Sadr

Muqtada al-Sadr
Hujjat al-Islam
Muqtada al-Sadr
مقتدى الصدر
Born August 12, 1973 (1973-08-12) (age 38)
Baghdad, Iraq
Residence Najaf, Iraq
Nationality Iraqi
Political movement Sadr Movement
Religion Islam

Sayyid Muqtadā al-Ṣadr (Arabic: سيد مقتدى الصدر) (born August 12, 1973)[1] is an Iraqi Islamic political leader.

Along with Ali al-Sistani and Ammar al-Hakim of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Sadr is one of the most influential religious and political figures in the country not holding any official title in the Iraqi government.[2]



He is often referred to as Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr. The title Sayyid (approx. "Mr." or "Sir") is generally used among the Shi‘a to denote persons descending directly from the Prophet Muhammad, through his daughter Fatimah's marriage with Ali. Thus a great deal of respect is paid by the Shi'as to the Sayyids throughout Shi'a society. The al-Sadr family has a clear and distinct lineage that can be traced directly to Muhammad.[3] The lineage is traced through Imam Jafar al-Sadiq and his son Imam Musa al-Kadhim, the sixth and seventh Shi‘a Imams respectively.

Muqtada al-Sadr's formal religious standing is comparatively low, at a mid-ranking Shia religious rank perhaps reflecting his young age, and he does not claim the title of mujtahid (the equivalent of a senior religious scholar) or the authority to issue fatwas (religious edicts). However, in early 2008, al-Sadr was reported to be studying to be an ayatollah, which would greatly improve his religious standing.[4]


Muqtada al-Sadr is the fourth son of a famous Iraqi Shi‘a cleric, the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr. He is also the son-in-law of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir As-Sadr.

Muqtada al-Sadr is of Iraqi and Lebanese ancestry. His great-grandfather is Ismail as-Sadr. Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr's father, was a respected figure throughout the Shi'a Islamic world. He was murdered, along with two of his sons, allegedly by the government of Saddam Hussein. Muqtada's father-in-law was executed by the Iraqi authorities in 1980. Muqtada is a cousin of the disappeared Musa al-Sadr, the Iranian-Lebanese founder of the popular Amal Movement.[5]


Muqtada al-Sadr gained popularity in Iraq following the toppling of the Saddam government by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Al-Sadr has on occasion stated that he wishes to create an "Islamic democracy."

Al-Sadr commands strong support (especially in the Sadr City district in Baghdad, formerly named Saddam City but renamed after the elder al-Sadr). After the fall of the Saddam government in 2003, Muqtada al-Sadr organized thousands of his supporters into a political movement, which includes a military wing known as the Jaysh al-Mahdi or Mahdi Army).[6] The name refers to the Mahdi, a long-since disappeared Imam who is believed by Shi'a Muslims to be due to reappear when the end of time approaches. This group has periodically engaged in violent conflict with US and other Coalition forces, while the larger Sadrist movement has formed its own religious courts, and organized social services, law enforcement and prisons in areas under its control.[citation needed]

His strongest support comes from the class of dispossessed Shi‘a, like in the Sadr City area of Baghdad. Many Iraqi supporters see in him a symbol of resistance to foreign occupation.[7] Naomi Klein, writing in the Nation, has called al-Sadr and his supporters "the single greatest threat to U.S. military and economic control of Iraq."

Occupation of Iraq


Shortly after the US-led coalition ousted Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath regime, al-Sadr voiced opposition to the Coalition Provisional Authority. He subsequently stated that he had more legitimacy than the Coalition-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.[citation needed]


In his 2004 sermons and public interviews al-Sadr repeatedly demanded an immediate withdrawal of all US led coalition forces, all foreign troops under United Nations control, and the establishment of a new central Iraqi government, not connected to the Ba'ath party or the Allawi government.

In late March 2004, Coalition authorities (759th MP Battalion) in Iraq shut down Sadr's newspaper al-Hawza on charges of inciting violence. Sadr's followers held demonstrations protesting the closure of the newspaper. On April 4, fighting broke out in Najaf, Sadr City and Basra. Sadr's Mahdi Army took over several points and attacked coalition soldiers, killing dozens of foreign soldiers, and taking many casualties of their own in the process.[citation needed] At the same time, Sunni rebels in the cities of Baghdad, Samarra, Ramadi, and, most notably, Fallujah, staged uprisings as well, causing the most serious challenge to coalition control of Iraq up to that time.

During the first siege of Fallujah in late March and April 2004, Muqtada's Sadrists sent aid convoys to the besieged Sunnis there.[8]

Paul Bremer, then the US administrator in Iraq, declared on April 5, 2004 that al-Sadr was an outlaw and that uprisings by his followers would not be tolerated.[9]


It is generally frowned upon in Iraq for clerics to actively participate in secular politics, and like the other leading religious figures Muqtada al-Sadr did not run in the 2005 Iraqi elections. It is believed he implicitly backed the National Independent Cadres and Elites party which was closely linked with the Mahdi Army. Many of his supporters, however, backed the far more popular United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) of al-Sistani.

On August 26, 2005, an estimated one-hundred thousand Iraqis marched in support of al-Sadr and his ideals.[10]


On March 25, 2006 Muqtada al-Sadr was in his home and escaped a mortar attack. This attack was disputed, as the ordnance landed more than 50 meters from his home.

Sadr’s considerable leverage was apparent early in the week of 16 October 2006, when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the release of one of Sadr’s senior aides. The aide had been arrested a day earlier by American troops on suspicion of participating in kidnappings and killings.[11]


On February 13, several sources in the US government claimed that Muqtada al-Sadr had left Iraq and fled to Iran in anticipation of the coming security crackdown.[12] US military spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell reinforced this account on February 14,[13] but a member of Iraq's parliament and an aide to al-Sadr have denied the claims.[12][14]

On March 30, it was reported that Sadr, through clerics speaking on his behalf, "delivered a searing speech ... condemning the American presence in Iraq ... [and] call[ing] for an anti-occupation mass protest on April 9...."[15] This call to protest was significant in that, since the beginning of the American troop surge (which began on February 14, 2007), Sadr had ordered his "militia to lie low during the new Baghdad security plan so as not to provoke a direct confrontation with the Americans."[15]

Muqtada al-Sadr urged the Iraqi army and police to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerilla fighters to concentrate on pushing American forces out of the country, according to a statement issued Sunday, 8 April 2007

The statement, stamped with al-Sadr's official seal, was distributed in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Sunday 8 April 2007 — a day before a large demonstration there, called for by al-Sadr, to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

"You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don't walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your arch-enemy," the statement said.

On April 17, 2007, several ministers loyal to al-Sadr left the Iraqi government. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stated that the withdrawal of these ministers had not weakened his government and that he would name technocrats to replace them soon.[16]

On 25 April 2007, al-Sadr condemned the construction of Azamiyah wall around a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad, by calling for demonstrations against the plan as a sign of "the evil will" of American "occupiers"

On 25 May 2007, al-Sadr delivered a sermon to an estimated 6,000 followers in Kufa. Sadr reiterated his condemnation of the United States' occupation of Iraq and demanded the withdrawal of foreign forces, al-Sadr's speech also contained calls for unity between Sunni and Shi'a.[17] In June 2007, al-Sadr vowed to go ahead with a planned march to the devastated Askariyya shrine in central Iraq, al-Sadr said the march was aimed at bringing Shi'is and Sunnis closer together and breaking down the barriers imposed by the Americans and Sunni religious extremists.

In a statement issued August 29, 2007, Muqtada al-Sadr announced that an order to stand down for six months had been distributed to his loyalists following the deaths of more than 50 Shia Muslim pilgrims during fighting in Karbala the day before. The statement issued by Sadr's office in Najaf said: "I direct the Mahdi army to suspend all its activities for six months until it is restructured in a way that helps honour the principles for which it is formed." The intention behind the ceasefire was thought in part to be to allow al-Sadr reassert control over the movement, which is thought to have splintered. "We call on all Sadrists to observe self-restraint, to help security forces control the situation and arrest the perpetrators and sedition mongers, and urge them to end all forms of armament in the sacred city," said the statement, referring to the August 28 clashes in Karbala. Asked if the unexpected order meant no attacks on American troops, as well as a ban on Shia infighting, a senior al-Sadr aide said: "All kinds of armed actions are to be frozen, without exception." [18]


In March 2008 during the Battle of Basra, the Sadr Movement launched a nationwide civil disobedience campaign across Iraq to protest raids and detentions against the Mahdi Army.[19]

In August 2008, al-Sadr ordered most of his militiamen to disarm but said he will maintain elite fighting units to resist the Americans if a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops is not established. ... "Weapons are to be exclusively in the hands of one group, the resistance group," while another group called Momahidoun is to focus on social, religious and community work, Sadrist cleric Mudhafar al-Moussawi said.[20]


In response to Israeli attacks on Gaza, al-Sadr called for reprisals against US troops in Iraq: "I call upon the honest Iraqi resistance to carry out revenge operations against the great accomplice of the Zionist enemy."

On May 1, 2009 al-Sadr paid a surprise visit to Ankara where, in his first public appearance for two years, he met with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for talks which focused on the "political process"[21] and requested Turkey play a greater role in establishing stability in the Middle East. Spokesman Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi confirmed the nature of the talks that had been requested by al-Sadr and stated, "Turkey is a good, old friend. Trusting that, we had no hesitation in traveling here."[22] After the meeting al-Sadr visited supporters in Istanbul, where al-Obeidi says they may open a representative office.


In a press conference on 6 March 2010 ahead of the Iraqi parliamentary election, 2010, Muqtada al-Sadr called on all Iraqis to participate in the election and support those who seek to expel US troops out of the country. Al-Sadr warned that any interference by the United States will be unacceptable. Al-Sadr, who has thousands of staunch followers across Iraq has consistently opposed the presence of foreign forces and repeatedly called for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq.[23][24]


On January 5, 2011, Muqtada al-Sadr returned to the Iraqi city of Najaf, in order to take a more proactive and visible role in the new Iraqi government.[25] Three days later, thousands of Iraqis turned out in Najaf to hear his first speech since his return, in which he called the US, Israel, and the UK "common enemies" against Iraq. His speech was greeted by the crowd chanting "Yes, yes for Muqtada! Yes, yes for the leader!", whilst waving Iraqi flags and al-Sadr's pictures. Subsequently, he returned to Iran to continue his studies.[26]

By late 2011, it appeared that the US would largely withdraw from Iraq, a demand that helped make Sadr a popular leader almost immediately following the invasion. Sadr also controlled the largest bloc of parliament, and had reached a sort of detente with prime minister Nouri al Maliki, who needed Sadrist support to retain his post.[27]

Many of Sadr's followers that had been arrested by the US military and the Iraqi government were also released in 2010, as the US relinquished all its prisoners to the Iraqi government. As the US withdraws, Sadr's movement has fully moved from opposition to mainstream. Perhaps now their greatest challenge, as with similar resistance movements in the region, is whether they will be able to govern.


  1. ^ Moubayed, Sami (2007-12-18). "Iraq's Muqtada not quite Hezbollah mold". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  2. ^ Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, (Norton, 2006), p.192
  3. ^ Moqtada Al-Sadr: Leader of orphans, Al-Ahram, 2004-06-02, accessed on 2007-01-21
  4. ^ Babak Dehghanpisheh (2008-01-19). "The Great Moqtada Makeover". Newsweek. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  5. ^ Samer Bazzi - The Lebanese Armageddon in the New Iraq
  6. ^ Adams, Henry (2005-01-12). "'The U.S. is not preventing chaos in Iraq, it is creating it'". United for Peace of Pierce County, WA. Archived from the original on May 11, 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-03. 
  7. ^ "Who's who in Iraq: Moqtada Sadr". BBC News. 2004-08-27. Retrieved 2006-08-03. 
  8. ^ Muqtada al-Sadr and the Sunnis
  9. ^ "Bremer brands Moqtada Sadr an outlaw". 2004-04-05. Retrieved 2006-08-02. 
  10. ^ "Iraqi factions firm against constitution". Al Jazeera. 2005-08-26. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  11. ^ Semple, Kirk (2006-10-20). "Attack on Iraqi City Shows Militia’s Power". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-10-22. 
  12. ^ a b Karadsheh, Jomana; Mohammed Tawfeeq and Barbara Starr (2007-02-13). "U.S.: Radical cleric al-Sadr in Iran". CNN. Archived from the original on February 14, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-14. 
  13. ^ Londoño, Ernesto; Joshua Partlow (2007-02-14). "Iraqi Militia Leader Sadr in Iran, Say U.S. Officials". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-02-14. 
  14. ^ Karadsheh, Jomana; Mohammed Tawfeeq and Barbara Starr (2007-02-14). "U.S. insists radical cleric in Iran despite denials". CNN. Retrieved 2007-02-14. 
  15. ^ a b, 2007-03-30
  16. ^ Abdul-Ameer, Kawther; Mussab Al-Khairalla (2007-04-17). "'Government not weakened by Sadr pullout'". Independent Online (South Africa). Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  17. ^ NESSMAN, RAVI (2007-05-26). "'Al-Sadr calls for U.S. pullout from Iraq'". Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  18. ^ McElroy, Damien (2007-08-30). "Moqtada al-Sadr announces ceasefire in Iraq". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  19. ^ Iraqi raids anger Shiite militia, CNN, 25 March 2008
  20. ^ Al-Sadr Orders Militia To Disarm
  21. ^ Yanatma, Servet and Süleyman Kurt (2009-05-02). "Iraq’s Sadr meets Erdoğan". Today's Zaman. 
  22. ^ Çobanoğlu, Çağri (2009-05-04). "Iraq’s Sadr meets Erdoğan". Today's Zaman. 
  23. ^ Iraqi Shia Leader Calls for US Withdrawal From Iraq
  24. ^ Sadr urges Iraqi voters to pave way for US pull-out
  25. ^ Al-Sadr back in Iraq stronghold
  26. ^ Al-Sadr calls on Iraqis 'to resist'
  27. ^

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