Iraq’s Shiite cleric Mohammed Saeed Al Hakim buried in Najaf

He held the highest Shiite theological title of Supreme Ayatollah

Iraqis carry the coffin of Mohammed Saeed Al Hakim during his funeral in Najaf. AFP
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Thousands of mourners gathered on Sunday for the burial ceremony of Mohammed Saeed Al Hakim, one of Iraq’s most senior and influential Shiite clerics.

The crowd carried the coffin to the shrine of Imam Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Mohammed, to be buried.

Al Hakim died on Friday at 85 after a heart attack, his family said.

His office announced that he died of a sudden medical condition but did not specify what it was.

He is survived by a wife and eight children.

On Saturday, his coffin was carried to Karbala's Imam Hussein Shrine for blessings before it was taken back to the cleric's hometown of Najaf on Sunday.

Al Hakim held the highest theological title among Shiite clerics – Ayatollah Al Uzma, which means Grand or Supreme Ayatollah.

He was seen as the top contender to succeed Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, who is in his early nineties.

Iraq’s president and prime minister and other politicians issued statements eulogising Al Hakim.

The US Embassy in Baghdad tweeted its condolences, describing him as “a symbol of peace, love, and harmony across the region”.

An Iraqi mourner carries a poster of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Saeed Al Hakim during his funeral.  AFP

“He had fatwas [religious opinion] calling for the unity and coherence of the Iraqi society, emphasising the brotherhood among the people of the same country and contributing to building a new country that has something of a peaceful coexistence,” said Saeed Ali Al Haidari, a resident of Najaf.

"Mohammed Saeed Al Hakim is known for his stance that calls for harmony between all religions in great Iraq, he has a clear position on that. The proof of that is that most countries in the Islamic world mourned his death today,” said Assad Aziz Hussein, a Karbala resident.

Who is Mohammed Saeed Al Hakim?

The Najaf-born cleric is a member of the well-known and highly respected Hakim family of Shiite scholars.

His maternal grandfather is Mohsen Al Tabatabai Al Hakim, a scholar and one of the most prominent thinkers of Shiite Islam.

His father is Muhammad Ali Al Hakim, one of the most respected clerics in Najaf.

His second cousin, Sayyed Ammar Al Hakim leads the Al Hikma, or National Wisdom Movement, one of the largest Shiite political parties in Iraq.

The late cleric began studying Islamic jurisprudence and religious doctrine early in life and some of the most prominent clerics were among his teachers.

He soon turned to teaching, and became one of the leading Shiite scholars in Najaf – a Shiite holy city and centre of Islamic learning.

Al Hakim became one of four Grand Ayatollahs who teach at the Hawza, the religious seminary of Najaf.

He has written many books and publications, some of which were translated into several languages.

Like most Shiite religious leaders in the holy city, he was put under house arrest during the last days of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s rule, before the US invasion of Iraq.

He was targeted in an attempted assassination in 2003, when his house in Najaf was bombed. Three of Al Hakim’s bodyguards were killed, and members of his family were injured.

Al Hakim came away from the blast with minimal injuries. Relatives blamed terrorists for the bomb, which was hidden in a gas cylinder.

Updated: September 05, 2021, 1:29 PM