Born In: Najaf, Iraq
Muqtada al-Sadr is an Iraqi politician, cleric, and militia leader, best known as the leader of the Sadrist Movement, an Iraqi Islamist nationalist movement. Born and raised in Najaf, Iraq, he is the son of Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, an important Islamic Shiite figure in Iraq. Following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Muqtada tried to inherit his father’s legacy but initially, he failed. Over time he appealed to the young and impoverished Shiite Iraqis and formed Mahdi Army, an armed force. However, over time, Muqtala’s intentions became more political as he became more moderate in his views. His party, the Sadrist Movement, played a big role in the 2005 general elections when he became the ‘kingmaker’ and lent his support to the party of Nouri al-Maliki, who became the Prime Minister of Iraq. Eventually, Muqtada turned his Mahdi militant army to the Peace Companies and in the early 2010s, he upheld his image as a nationalist rather than a religious leader. In the 2018 elections, he formed the SairoonAlliance with the Communist Party of Iraq and other political organizations and performed well in the elections.
father: Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr
siblings: Moaml al-Sadr, Mortada al-Sadr, Mustafa al-Sadr
Born Country: Iraq
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Muqtada al-Sadr was born on August 4, 1974, in Najaf, Iraq, as the fourth child of Sadeq al-Sadr, an important religious figure in Iraq. The highly prestigious Sadr family hailed from Lebanon’s Jabal Amel before they settled in Najaf, Iraq. Owing to their devotion to the Islamic thoughts, the Sadr family quickly acquired prominence in the area. Ever since he was a child, Muqtada was hugely inspired by his family’s deeply conservative thoughts.
His father had raised his voice against the tyranny of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. And many members of Muqtada’s family had huge respect in the Islamic world to work towards the betterment of poor Muslims. His father was murdered by the Saddam Hussein government.
Following his middle school education, Muqtada al-Sadr enrolled into a religious seminary for further studies. However, he did not finish his course there. In 1999, following the death of his father and his two elder brothers, Muqtada did not inherit his father’s seminary as he was not considered the possessor of right skills.
Sadeq had gathered Shia Muslims around Baghdad and had worked against their repression, thus gaining a steady following. Before his death, he passed on the seminary to one of his fellow Islamic cleric, who eventually handed over the reins of Muqtada’s father’s seminary to him.
However, despite leading many disciples and charities his father had gathered in his life with support from Shia Muslims, everyone knew Muqtada al-Sadr was not his father’s preferred heir. And him being too young to lead also did not help. In addition, he was also known for an unstable demeanour, which further had him working hard to gain the trust of his followers.
However, after the demise of his father, and later Saddam Hussein, Muqtada al-Sadr knew that there was a power vacuum that needed to be filled. He gathered an army of young imams and many armed volunteers. This happened after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which ended with Dictator Saddam Hussein’s death. It had become necessary to make the full out of the dwindling political situation of Iraq.
In order to further expand his power, Muqtada al-Sadr made it his aim to become a political power and filled the poor Shias of Iraq with nationalist sentiments. He further appealed to the youth of Iraq by offering help in health and education and building an anti-U.S. militia called the Mahdi Army.
Muqtada’s armed followers began engaging in bloody battles with the American Army. They also considered the government of Iraq as a puppet government for the United States and declared war against them as well. The third enemy was the rival Shiite forces, and starting from 2003, several battles were fought between the four factions.
In April and August of 2004, two battles with the Americans were fought in Najaf which led to dozens of people dead from both sides. However, Muqtada al-Sadr was smart enough to know that the bloodshed was not going to get him the necessary public support he needed to make the government.
In 2004, he became more political in his approach and instructed his Mahdi Army to engage in more social work. He wanted himself to become visible as a man wanting the betterment of war-torn Iraq. As a result of his social welfare works, he won 32 seats in the 2005 general elections.
Sadrist Movement joined hands with other Shiite parties and formed a coalition called the United Iraqi Alliance. Muqtada also played the kingmaker as his Sadrist’s support played the decisive role in Nouri al-Maliki becoming the Prime Minister of Iraq.
In a 2006 interview, Muqtada al-Sadr stated that his party first resorted to a peaceful movement, then an armed movement and then finally a political movement, for the betterment of the country. Many Sadrist ministers sat in important ministries to keep a hold over the government.
In 2007, six Sadrist ministers left the cabinet due to the Prime Minister Maliki’s inability to withdraw foreign forces from the country. In 2007, Muqtada al-Sadr moved to Iran and controlled his militia and political activities from there. A few months later, he ordered his followers to halt all militia activities for a few months, which he did to rethink some strategies and reorganize his moves.
Iraqi government took advantage of that and ordered an attack on Sadrist militants in Basra, in March 2008. The attack was so sudden and vicious that Muqtada had to enter into a negotiation with the Iraqi troops and order a ceasefire.
In August 2008, Muqtada launched Al-Mumahhidun, an unarmed organization which only worked towards public welfare programmes. The Mahdi Army was also disarmed to a great extent and only a few men from the army remained armed.
In 2010, the Iraqi general elections took place after a long time of political upheaval. The election result was inconclusive as the main parties of Iraq failed to attain majority. Muqtada once again supported Maliki’s party after taking his word to get many important positions in the cabinet for the Sadrist party. Maliki agreed and in 2010, Muqtada moved back to Najaf after many years of self-imposed exile.
In the same year, Muqtada took a u-turn on his stand on Iran, the country he supported earlier, due to Iran’s ‘interest’ in the Iraqi politics. Muqtada was also changing his political ideology, from extremist sectarianism to the nationalism approach. He saw sectarianism as an outdated way of operating and also the cause of rampant corruption in the Iraqi society.
His views about America, communists and liberals also saw a gradual shift as he became moderate in his views. This became furthermore evident in 2014 when he rejuvenated his Mahdi Army against ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Islamic extremist organization. In the war against ISIL, he joined forces with the U.S. and Iraqi government.
Before the 2018 elections, Muqtada formed a new alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party and smaller parties and formed the SairoonAlliance. The new party was a mix of Shias, Sunnis, liberals and communists. The party talked of eradication of poverty, education and other public welfare issues, which led them to perform exceedingly well in the elections. However, the party fell a little short of the majority mark required to form the government and the party had to form an alliance.
After months of upheaval, Muqtada backed Haider al-Abadi to be the Prime Minister, in June 2018. However, in a few months, violent protests broke out around the country where the general population demanded jobs and other basic needs. Muqtada quickly pulled back his support for Abadi and joined in the demands for his resignation
In early 2020, he condemned the United States asked for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. As the Iranian and American conflict increased, he warned both the countries to not to involve Iraq in their conflict. Muqtada remains as an important Iraqi religious and political figure.
Muqtada al-Sadr married one of the daughters of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, an Islamic leader, in 1994. They have no children.
Muqtada is an extremely conservative Muslim and strongly anti-LGBT. He was ridiculed over a statement where he said that gays were responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
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