Muqtada al-Sadr Ignores Fatwa Against Secularist Candidates

An ayatollah based out of Qom in Iran has issued a fatwa that forbids voting for secular candidates and forbids withdrawing support for Iraq's Maliki government. But in a provocative move, writes Oudai Hatem, Muqtada al-Sadr rejected the fatwa, saying that it is impossible to distinguish between secularists and Islamists. 

al-monitor Iraqi Muslim worshippers, reflected on a portrait of the Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.  Photo by REUTERS/Ali Jasim.

Topics covered

kazem al-husseini al-haeiri, secularists, nouri al-maliki, muqtada al-sadr, islamists, fatwa

Jun 4, 2012

Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Husseini al-Haeri has issued a fatwa which forbids voting for secular candidates. Sadrist movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr, a young Shi’ite cleric who follows Haeri, rejected the fatwa because "it is impossible to separate between secularists and Islamists." [the two are often part of the same political parties]

Haeri, who is based in the Iranian city of Qom, issued an all-binding fatwa on June 3 that "forbids voting for secularists," particularly “in any of the Iraqi government institutions."

Observers believe that the fatwa targets Sadrist Movement supporters because it is customary for the Sadrists to follow Haeri, according to the the will of late Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr.

Haeri issued a loyalist fatwa in 2010 which forced Muqtada al-Sadr to support Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, thus contributing to the renewal of his mandate.

Sources in Hawzat al Najaf (160 km south of Baghdad), as well as sheikhs from the Sadrist Movement interviewed by Al-Hayat affirmed that "Muqtada al-Sadr will not adhere to any fatwa issued by Haeri, and he will not back down from his decision to withdraw confidence from Maliki unless Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani or Sheikh Ishaq Al-Fayad issued a fatwa," saying that "Sadr believes that these two authorities issue fatwas for the benefit of Iraq, not other countries."

Regarding his father Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, sources said that "the will of Mr. Sadr also referred to al-Fayad, stating that a fatwa should not be related to worldly matters or issued to place political pressure or favor one political party over another. In these cases, the fatwa loses its legitimacy."

In turn, Sadrist Movement leader Amir al-Kanani rejected commitment to this fatwa "despite our great respect for it and its source." He told Al-Hayat that "it is difficult, and even impossible, to separate between Islamists and secularists because each bloc includes members of both."

He added that “the State of Law Coalition (led by Maliki) is composed of secularists, Islamists, and even Sunnis. The National Alliance is also made up of secularists, liberals and Islamists." Al-Kanani wondered, "How can we separate between the two? Is it even possible?"

He added, "we are waiting for other authoritative opinion to know how to deal with the matter because it is causing confusion within the National Alliance and complicating our relations with other blocs. The Kurds, for example, are mostly secular, and it is our custom to treat them and everyone else as Muslims."

He added, "If this Fatwa is implemented, then more than half of the National Alliance will be excluded. This is impossible."

As for whether the fatwa prevents the Sadrist Movement from withdrawing confidence from Maliki, al-Kanani said, "The fatwa did not mention such a thing, and Maliki’s substitute will be chosen by the National Alliance, not any other party."

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