Al-Sistani and the Marja‘iyya faced challenges on several fronts, from the young activist Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, the youngest son of Sadiq al-Sadr, Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim (1939-2003) and his party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and smaller Iraqi Shi‘i socio-political movements like the Fadila Party and the millenarian movement of Sayyid Mahmoud Sarkhi al-Hassani. Muqtada’s followers reportedly attempted to forcibly eject al-Sistani and other non-Arab members of the Marja‘iyya in 2003 but were forced to desist their siege of the grand ayatollahs’ houses in Najaf when thousands of Shi‘i Arab tribesmen loyal to the Marja‘iyya entered the city to defend them. In August 2004, al-Sistani played a prominent role in ending an ongoing insurgency by Muqtada’s Mahdi Army paramilitary, returning to Najaf after having undergone medical treatment in Great Britain just weeks before in order to meet personally with Muqtada and Iraqi officials.
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