March 3, 2008 § Leave a comment

Ahmadinejad with Iraqi President Jalal Talibani from al-Jazeera.

Ahamadinejad to visit Najaf and Karbala

Al-Hayat reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit the Shi’i holy cities of Najaf and Karbala to visit the shrines of Imams Ali and Husayn, respectively, and pay a visit to Grand Ayatullah Sistani. A representative from Sistani’s office has confirmed the visit, but did not give details on what would be discussed.

Iraqi security forces have taken increased security measures in preparation for his visit and the Electric Ministry announced that electricity will not be cut from Imam Ali’s shrine in Najaf for the next three days. Shaykh Husayn al-Safar, a top religious scholar in the Najaf hawza (or seminary), said that Ahmadinejad’s visit is confirmation that the hawza of Najaf is the principle center for Shi’i studies and that the city’s ‘ulama (or religious scholars) are recognized as spiritual leaders of the Shi’a.

Walayat al-Faqih

Another scholar said that despite Sistani’s Iranian identity, Sistani operates outside of the framework of nationalism and politics and that he has not recognized the authority of the walayat al-faqih. The three other grand ayatullahs living in Najaf — Muhammad Sa’id al-Hakim, Muhammad Ishaq al-Fiyad, and Bashir al-Najafi — also do not recognize the concept of walayat al-faqih and refuse to have it taught in the hawza.

(Photo of the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Damascus from Novine . . . who was allowed to take photos.)


In the summer of 2007, Ahmadinejad paid a visit to Shi’i shrines in Damascus, including the shrines of Sayyida Ruqayya and Sayyida Zaynab. (Ruqayya is the daughter of Imam Husayn and Zaynab his sister.) The big news at this time was that Ahmadinejad broke into tears at Zaynab’s shrine. Maybe we’ll have a repeat showing.


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