Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani
This individual is not a direct affiliate of the Berkley Center.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani is the head of the Shi'a seminary of Najaf and Iraq's highest ranking religious scholar. He was born to a family of religious scholars in northeastern Iran in 1930 and went to Najaf in 1951 to study under Grand Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei, whose followers Sistani would inherit upon Khoei's death in 1992. Though he survived the persecution under Saddam Hussein that led to the death of many Shi'a clerics, his mosque was shut down in 1994, only reopening after the 2003 American overthrow of Hussein's regime. Highly influential in post-invasion Iraq, his fatwas on participation in parliamentary elections were significant reasons for widespread Shi'ite acceptance of the process, though he has been critical of the perceived incompetence and corruption of Iraqi elected officials. He also pushed for a quick transition to Iraqi rule after the US invasion and urged restraint on the part of the Shi'a to anti-Shi'ite violence perpetrated by Al-Qaeda.