Grand Ayatollah Al Sistani’s role in Iraq after 2003: a critical analysis of historical texts and the perceptions of Iraqi diaspora

PhD Thesis


Kadom, Atef Jabar. 2018. Grand Ayatollah Al Sistani’s role in Iraq after 2003: a critical analysis of historical texts and the perceptions of Iraqi diaspora. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/5c0ddfe1f69df
Title

Grand Ayatollah Al Sistani’s role in Iraq after 2003: a critical analysis of historical texts and the perceptions of Iraqi diaspora

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorKadom, Atef Jabar
SupervisorCleaver, David
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages2015
Year2018
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/5c0ddfe1f69df
Abstract

This thesis examines the role of the Iranian cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Hussaini Al Sistani in politics in Iraq, from the time of the invasion/occupation of Iraq by the United States in 2003 until the present day. The purpose of this study is to investigate the complex issues surrounding the political interventions of Al Sistani and to explore a range of perspectives held by Iraqi people about his role as a cleric with political influence. The study contributes significantly to the shedding of new light on the impact of clerics on Iraqi society and an initial hypothesis for the study was to discover whether Al Sistani might be the first of a new mould of Islamic clerics who believe in pursuing peaceful and democratic solutions to political problems.

An interpretivist, epistemological approach has been adopted as the theoretical basis for achievement of the qualitative aims of the study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with volunteer Iraqi diaspora participants in order to discover their views regarding Al Sistani’s interventions. It was initially considered that interviewing Al Sistani himself would provide the most direct qualitative data. However, as access to Al Sistani proved logistically impossible, it was decided that textual analysis of authentic documents representing him would be fruitful.

Thematic analysis of interview and textual data was used in the development of new understanding and meanings. The analysis involved immersion in the data - a process undertaken by reading and re-reading transcripts and texts in order to become more and more familiar with them.

The findings of the study reveal detail about three significant political interventions that Al Sistani had taken. The first is in countering the plan by the United States to choose a US controlled committee to write a new constitution. Al Sistani intervened by insisting that the US organise the election and the Iraqis then elected to office would be responsible for the constitution. Respecting Al Sistani’s influence, the US complied. Secondly, detail is explored in Al Sistani’s part in forming the Iraqi government in 2014. His contribution was in breaking an eight-month deadlock where politicians could not agree on the formation of the government. The third intervention occurred just a month later when Al Sistani issued a Fatwa to encourage Iraqis to take up arms against Islamic State (ISIS) in both Iraq and Syria.

Significantly, the study also illuminates detail about essential differences between the views of Shia and Sunni Iraqis. However, while differences occur the results indicate a general respect and approval of Al Sistani’s political interventions, influence and decisions. There is a broad, positive sentiment that Al Sistani’s promotion of democracy holds special hope for the nation’s problems and to how Iraq is viewed by the rest of the world.

KeywordsSistani, Fatwa; election; Iraq; Democracy; war
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020440808. International relations
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Linguistics, Adult and Specialist Education
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