Citation for Ṣadr, Muqtadā al-

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Hamid, Shadi and Tom Isherwood. "Ṣadr, Muqtadā al-." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 18, 2022. <>.


Hamid, Shadi and Tom Isherwood. "Ṣadr, Muqtadā al-." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 18, 2022).

Ṣadr, Muqtadā al-

Muqtadā al-Ṣadr was born in 1974. One of Iraq 's most prominent political figures, he controls a large parliamentary bloc as part of the ruling United Iraqi Alliance and wields substantial influence over Sadr City, an impoverished Baghdad suburb named after his father, the Grand Ayatollah Muḥammad Ṣādiq al-Ṣadr, one of the most powerful Shīʿī clerics of the 1990s.

Ṣadr is a figure of great controversy. His supporters see him as a charismatic revolutionary fighting a U.S. imperial occupation and courageously standing up for Iraqi independence. His critics see him, at best, as little more than a demagogue who achieved his current position through the accidental fact of lineage, and at worst, as the murderous leader with the blood of young Iraq on his hands, through his militia 's acts of sectarian killing. Whatever the case, there is little doubt that Ṣadr is one of post-Saddam Iraq 's most important figures.

Ṣadr came upon this role by accident. As a young man, he was an underachiever and failed to complete his seminary education. However, the assassination of his father Ṣādiq al-Ṣadr, along with two of his brothers, in February 1999, pushed him to prominence; he essentially inherited his father 's extensive socio-religious network.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq made Ṣadr the powerful leader he is today. In the disorder following the invasion, he rose to lead an amorphous movement, giving voice to poor, marginalized Shīʿī. Ṣadr condemned the coalition forces, the new exile-dominated Iraqi government as well as the quietist clerics of Najaf. These tensions quickly escalated as Ṣadr 's militia, the Mahdī Army, clashed with its Shīʿī opponents, and then increasingly with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

Viewing Ṣadr 's movement as a growing threat, the CPA closed down a Sadrist newspaper in April 2004 and issued an arrest warrant for the young cleric himself in connection with the murder of the prominent mujtahid, ʿAbd al-M ājid al-Khoʿi, in April 2003. This set off a six-month rebellion during which the Mahdī Army took over a number of cities across Iraq. Ṣadr 's show of force during this period confirmed his new stature and set him in stark contrast to Grand Ayatollah ʿAlī al-Sīstānī, the leader of the traditional clerical establishment who eschews direct involvement in day-to-day politics.

After the 2004 rebellion, Ṣadr shifted tactics and entered the political process. His movement participated in the parliamentary elections as part of the United Iraqi Alliance, won twenty-three seats in the January 2005 elections, and added nine more in December 2005. Ṣadr used his growing political influence to affect the selection of Iraq 's prime minister; by casting the pivotal votes within the Shīʿī parliamentary alliance, he made first Ibrahim al-Jafari and then Nouri al-Maliki dependent on his support. Politically, Ṣadr has demonstrated an independent streak, often taking stances in opposition to other Shīʿī factions, most notably on the issue of federalism.

Since February 2006, when Sunnī insurgents destroyed the dome of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, the Mahdī Army has been increasingly involved in sectarian killings. At several points, Ṣadr has called for calm, but continued killings and clashes with government forces suggest that he might not be in full control of his militia. With the beginning of the U.S. troop surge in early 2007, Ṣadr disappeared from the public eye, leading American officials to claim he had fled to Iran.

The fact that Ṣadr heads one of the few real grassroots movements in Iraq will continue to distinguish him from his competitors. Moreover, his flexibility in responding to a rapidly changing environment suggests that Iraq 's future is, to a large extent, dependent on Sadr and his legion of committed supporters.

See also IRAQ; ṢADR, MUḥAMMAD ṢāDIQ AL-; and SīSTāNī, ʿALī AL-.


  • Etherington, Mark. Revolt on the Tigris: The Al-Sadr Uprising and the Governing of Iraq. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2005.
  • International Crisis Group. “Iraq 's Muqtada al-Sadr: Spoiler or Stabiliser?”Middle East ReportNo. 55, July 11, 2006.
  • Nasr, Vali. The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. New York: Norton, 2006.

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