Sunday, December 27, 2009

Maqtal Imam Husayn, an 'Ashura Majlis by the late Iraqi Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim

Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim in a traditional mourning ritual of rhythmically beating the chest while looking over the body of the fallen Husayn bin 'Ali.

*Post in the 'Ashura 1431 Occasional Series of posts about the annual Shi'i Muslim (all branches) commemoration of the martyrdom in 680 C.E. of Husayn bin 'Ali, the third Imam of the Shi'is.*

Featured in today's closing post for the 'Ashura 1431 Occasional Series is the late Iraqi Arab Ayatullah al-Sayyid al-Shahid (the Martyr) Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, who was assassinated on August 23, 2003 by a massive vehicle bomb, believed to have been set by the then-fledgling organization of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi (then called Tawhid wa'l Jihad, or "[Absolute] Monotheism and Struggle," and later renamed al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers. Baqir al-Hakim was leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), then named the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an anti-Saddam Husayn and Iraqi Ba'th party composed primarily of Iraqi Shi'i exiles living in Iran.

In the video below, Ayatullah al-Hakim delivers a traditional Shi'i lamentation, in front of a large crowd while he was living in exile in Iran, for Husayn bin 'Ali, the third Shi'i Imam, who was martyred in 680 C.E. on the barren plain of Karbala in southern Iraq. For historical background on the 'Ashura events, see this previous POST. A short biographical sketch of al-Hakim follows the embedded video; it's based on an encyclopedia article I wrote.

"Maqtal Imam Husayn," Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim

FIRST 'Ashura 1431 post

SECOND 'Ashura 1431 post

THIRD 'Ashura 1431 post

FOURTH 'Ashura 1431 post

FIFTH 'Ashura 1431 post

SIXTH 'Ashura 1431 post

Baqir al-Hakim was an Iraqi Arab ayatullah (1944-2003; some sources say he was born in 1939) and founding leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, (since renamed and hereafter referred to as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, SIIC), one of the two largest Iraqi Shi‘i political parties. His father was Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim (1889-1970), the preeminent Shi‘i religious scholar and authority in Iraq from 1955 until his death in 1970.

The al-Sadr family is one of Iraq’s preeminent Shi‘i scholarly families with roots in southern Iraqi shrine city of al-Najaf, where the first Shi‘i Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib, is buried. The family originally came from the Jabal ‘Amil region of historical Syria, in present day southern Lebanon. Muhammad Baqir was one of three sons, the others being his younger brother 'Abd al-'Aziz (1950-), the previous SIIC leader, and Muhammad Mahdi (1940?-1988), commonly known just as “Mahdi,” who was assassinated in Khartoum, Sudan, probably at the behest of the then ruling Iraqi Ba‘th Party under President Saddam Husayn.

From top left, clockwise: Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid 'Ali Husayni Sistani, Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, al-Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim, and al-Sayyid 'Ammar al-Hakim. Leadership of the SIIC has passed from Baqir al-Hakim through 'Abd al-'Aziz, who died of cancer in August, to the latter's son, 'Ammar, who is the current leader of the SIIC.

All three of the al-Hakim brothers were born in al-Najaf and studied under both their father and Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (1935-1980), one of their father’s premier students and an activist scholar who was one of the intellectual founders of the Islamic Da‘wa Party (Hizb al-Da‘wa al-Islamiyya), Iraq’s other large Shi‘i political party. Both Muhammad Baqir and his brother Mahdi were both involved in the formation of the Da‘wa Party and the latter was also active in the Jama‘at al-‘Ulama, a clerical association formed in Najaf during the 1950s to combat the rising popularity of communism among Iraqi Shi‘i youth.

Muhammad Baqir was a well-known Shi‘i activist throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and was arrested, tortured, and imprisoned in 1972 and again from February 1977 to July 1979. He left Iraq for Iran with his brother 'Abd al-'Aziz and thousands of other Iraqi Shi‘is, mainly political activists, in 1980 following the execution of Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister, Amina bint Haydar al-Sadr (also known as Bint al-Huda), in April and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) in September. In November 1982, he announced the formation of the SIIC, which initially was envisioned as an umbrella organization which brought together the various Iraqi exiled opposition movements. The SIIC eventually was transformed into its own political party, as other parties broke away over policy and ideological disputes. Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s revolutionary leader, was actively supportive of the new group, seeing it as a tool to harass Saddam Hussein. In 1982-83, the Badr Corps was founded under the leadership of 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim, forming the paramilitary wing of the SIIC. Officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps provided military training and equipment for the several thousand Iraqi Arab exiles and prisoners of war who filled Badr’s ranks.

Baqir al-Hakim delivers a speech in Iran at a podium lined with photographs of his family, including his father (large painting), the preeminent Arab Shi'i religious scholar in the 1960s and 1970s, Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim.

During his 23 years in exile, Muhammad Baqir built up the SIIC’s networks among the tens of thousands of Iraqi exiles living in Iran. On the eve of the U.S. and British-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent toppling of the Iraqi Ba‘th government in April-May 2003, SIIC officials claimed to have 10,000 armed fighters in the Badr Corps. The organization’s networks inside Iraq were not as developed as SIIC propaganda claimed, since Ba‘th security forces were largely successful in limiting its growth inside the country. Badr agents carried out attacks on Iraqi government targets both inside and outside of Iraq, and Badr fighters were active participants in northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan) during the Iran-Iraq War. Muhammad Baqir and the SIIC were criticized by segments of the Iraqi Shi‘i community for siding with Iran against Iraq during the war, and many Iraqi Sunnis have alleged, inaccurately, that the organization is controlled by the Iranians.

Muhammad Baqir and 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim, together with other SIIC leaders and members returned to southern Iraq on May 12, 2003. He delivered a rousing speech in front of an estimated 100,000 Iraqis in the main soccer stadium in the southern Iraqi port city of al-Basra, publicly thanking Iran for its longtime support in resisting Saddam Hussein and rejecting U.S. postwar domination of the country. The al-Hakims were soon joined by thousands of SIIC members and Badr fighters who flooded into southern Iraq’s cities, towns, and villages.

An Iraqi Shi'i woman holds a poster of the then-SIIC leader 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim during 'Ashura.

In his public pronouncements and interviews, Muhammad Baqir was supportive of the role of the Marja‘iyya, the informal council of Iraq’s five senior grand ayatollahs based in al-Najaf. He also did not call for his followers to fight the U.S. and British forces in the country, though he remained opposed to their long-term presence in the country. He called for the establishment of an Islamic state in Iraq, but did not seek to implement the Iranian model in Iraq, instead envisioning believing that the Marja‘iyya should occupy a major advisory role. Muhammad Baqir was assassinated by a massive car comb on August 29, 2003 following Friday prayers, before which he delivered the requisite sermon, at the Imam Ali Shrine in al-Najaf. Between 84 and 125 other people were also killed and scores more were wounded in the bombing. This attack is believed to have been carried out by the Tawhid wa’l Jihad organization, later renamed al-Qa‘ida in the Land of the Two Rivers, led by the Jordanian Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi.

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