Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Moving aside from personal thoughts to more worldly topics, Magister has a piece today on Grand Ayatollah Sistani, the religious leader of the Shi'ites of Iraq and a man we've mentioned at this blog a few different times.

The piece mentions how because of Sistani's moderate viewpoints, he has been the target of various assassination attempts and his co-workers have been killed one by one. Magister's quote of the words of the Chaldean patriarch after meeting Sistani are instructive:

“The grand ayatollah received us with a warm ’welcome,’ he spent an hour with us, and at the end he did not disguise his satisfaction. Our common desire is that of finding a way to bring peace and tranquility to the country. We both know that Iraq is sick, but we want to find together the medicines to heal it. We talked together like two brothers who love each other.”

Magister also notes the grand ayatollah's response to the Regensburg speech which sharply contrasted with much of the Muslim world:

In September of 2006, during the days of violent anti-papal protest that exploded in the Muslim world after Benedict XVI’s lecture in Regensburg, representatives from Sistani paid two visits to the secretary of the Vatican nunciature in Baghdad, Thomas Hlim Sbib, in order to express esteem and friendship toward Benedict XVI, and the desire for a meeting with him in Rome.

Magister rightly points to the /religious/ background of Sistani's moderation which is a traditional look at Shi'ism. Shi'ism looks to the twelfth imam who has left this world and will return again someday. While Khomeini's revolution in Iran was not only a political one, but also a religious one in redefining Shi'ism, Sistani holds to the old ways:

Amir Taheri, an Iranian intellectual exiled in the West, says: “For Sistani, power belongs to the twelfth imam. But since he is gone, it passes to the people. The final decision is to be made by the individual on the basis of reason, the greatest gift from God. Sistani’s vision is Aristotelian, a society of pious citizens.”

The grand ayatollah's website may be found at www.sistani.org.

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