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Muqtada al-Sadr
Arabic: muqtadā 'as-sadr

Muqtada al-Sadr

Muqtada al-Sadr.

(1974?- ) Iraqi Shi'i Islamic leader of the rebel group al-Mahdi army. He is the son of Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr, who was killed in 1999.
Although referred to as a "cleric", Muqtada has no formal religious training. It is reported that he takes his spiritual direction from Ayatullah Kazim al-Haeri, an ultra-conservative Iraqi living in exile in Iran. Kazim was in his time a student of Bakir al-Sadr, Muqtada's uncle.
Muqtada's has emerged as the most influential resistance leader against the US involvement in Iraq, and the US supported Iraqi authorities. Al-Mahdi army which has become central in his fighting has something between 2,000 and 10,000 fairly well-equipped soldiers.
Exactly what is his political platform is not yet clear, except that he wants Islam to play a central role in Iraq. He has claimed that he supports "Islamic democracy", but what this involves for Iraq's non-Muslim minorities is not clear.
His stronghold is the holy city of Najaf, but he has much support in places like Sadr City (part of Baghdad), Nasiriyah and Al Amarah.
His main challenger as the dominating leader of Shi'is in Iraq is Grand Ayatullah Ali al-Sistani. The two have been careful about clearly challenging the other, and a power struggle remains to be fought here.


1974: It is believed that this is the birth year of Muqtada al-Sadr. Other reports make it 1973.
1999 February: Muqtada's father and two brothers are killed, probably by Iraqi secret services. This leaves Muqtada as the actual leader of Shi'is of Najaf.
2003 April: The moderate Shi'i cleric Grand Ayatullah Sayed Mohammed Taqi al-Khoei is killed in Najaf. Muqtada was accused for staging the killing.
September: Muqtada declares an alternative government in opposition to the US controlled governing council. The initiative would however not last long.
2004 March 28: Muqtada's newspaper, Al Hawza, is closed down by the US appointed Iraqi authorities, saying it incited violence.
April 5: Claiming that peaceful protests are in vain, he calls upon his supporters to "terrorize" the enemy.
August: Muqtada and his al-Mahdi army takes over the control of Najaf, but faces few days later US and Iraqi forces. Heavy fighting start, and Muqtada takes refuge inside the Tomb of Caliph and Imam Ali.

By Tore Kjeilen