The tragic martyrdom of Ayatollah Al Hakim calls for a stance..*

Never Again!


Tragedy has struck once again. This time, however, it was unlike any other time. On Friday 29th of August 2003 a vicious attack ripped through the holy city of Najaf, central Iraq in the close proximity of one of Islam’s most sacrosanct shrines; the tomb of Imam Ali.


The bomb was the product of malicious, ruthless, and filthy minds that had used it in order to utilize the immense destructive power of its 500 kilos of deadly explosives with the intent of spreading fear and creating widespread havoc and tragic mayhem. The shock factor was to be instilled in the hearts of Iraqis through the massacre of as many people as possible but most specifically by the assassination of Grand Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Baqir Al Hakeem.


Ayatollah Al Hakeem was one of the highest ranking clerics known for his elevated status as a religious jurist, his closeness to other high ranking scholars such as the martyred Ayatollah M. Baqir Al Sadr, but most of all he was known for his lengthy and strenuous struggle against the oppressive tyrant Saddam Hussein. At one stage Saddam sent him an ultimatum “return to Iraq to face execution, or one member of your family will be executed for every six months you are abroad”.  Over the 23 year period he spent in exile, he faced the agony of witnessing the brutal murder of 8 brothers and 22 other immediate family members at the hands of the tyrannical Baath regime.


This incident was unlike others pertaining to Islamic clerics. It was not the first time the Muslim world received horrifying news of the death of a grand religious jurist. In fact, we have somewhat become accustomed to such tragedies to the point where some – regrettably – see them as almost mundane. In the past 25 years at least 7 such clerics have been murdered. What sets this tragedy apart form the previous ones is the fact that the former incidents were carried out by despotic regimes, notably that of Saddam. The massacre of Friday 29th of August, however, set a new precedence in the way our enemies express their hatred and malice towards our values. The time was Friday, the Islamic day of worship. The month was Rajab, a holy Muslim month in which fighting of any sort is categorically outlawed. The city was the center of our religious seminaries, rather like Oxford and Canterbury put together. The place was the burial site of Islam’s second most important figure and third holiest shrine. The atmosphere was that of worship and prayer. The target was everything that is honored by humanity at large.


By launching their evil attack, the perpetrators of this most heinous crime against humanity breached the sanctity of our religious clerics. They also violated the status of our religious educational institutes. They desecrated the holiness of one of Islam’s holiest places of worship and the tomb of our most noble leaders. They breached the sacredness of our holy month and holy day. Those behind this criminal act of terror, thus, disrespected everything that is sacred and despoiled everything that is holy.



At one stage Saddam sent him an ultimatum “return to Iraq to face execution, or one member of your family will be executed for every six months you are abroad”.  Over the 23 year period he spent in exile, he faced the agony of witnessing the brutal murder of 8 brothers and 22 other immediate family members..


There are many lessons that need to be learnt in this tragedy. The first and foremost is ensuring the prevention of any such incidents in the future. This may seem quite obvious to an outsider, but under the current situation, no guarantee exists to ensure such tragic episodes are hindered. In a modern democracy, any attack of such magnitude would inevitably result in top level investigations and perhaps even ministerial resignations if neglect was found to be part of the underlying problem. In Iraq, however, there is no such system in place. In fact, there is no system at all except one which focuses its attention at restoring the flow of oil out of the country. Iraqis have been suffering from the absence of civil services such as water, electricity and other necessities, but the biggest concern of all has been the security threats. The coalition forces have politely “handed over” the security profile to the people while no steps have been taken to equip them with the required apparatus to implement the security measures. All the resources and funds are held by the coalition forces or their imposed authorities and the people of Iraq along with their religious leadership are left crippled amid growing security concerns and several assassination attempts against key clerics.


What needs to be done is a complete – rather than partial – handover of power to the majority Shi’ites in Iraq. If, indeed, the tragic attacks of 29/08/2003 were funded and masterminded by foreign Wahhabi agents, they could not have carried out such large scale attacks without the assistance of Iraqi minority elements that had everything to lose from the fall of Saddam and the rise of the Shi’ites. Their prime interest is to disrupt the political situation by eliminating the Shi’ite leadership and assuming power by force as they have done for centuries. To this we all say “Never again”. Never again must also any of our leaders be murdered. Any occupying force is responsible for the security of the nation they occupy, and the coalition is responsible for lack thereof in Iraq.


We, therefore, as Shi’ites, as Muslims, as Iraqis, but above all as brethren in humanity condemn this vicious crime in the strongest possible terms and vow to continue the legacy of Ayatollah Al Hakeem in rebuilding Iraq. We demand that the coalition forces uphold their duty and live up to their promises by restoring peace and stability in Iraq. They came to Iraq holding the promise of liberation from oppression, they must, therefore, take all necessary measures to restore the peace and protect our citizens as well as our religious scholars at all costs. The security of such scholars as Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Grand Ayatollah Sa'eed Al Hakim, Grand Ayatollah M. Taqi Almodarresi, Ayatollah Ali Sabzewari, Ayatollah Hadi Almodarresi, Ayatollah Ishaq Fayadh, Ayatollah Bashir Al Najafi, and others must be guaranteed, or else the Coalition forces will be held fully responsible in the event of any recurrences of the events of 29/08.


If the martyrdom of Ayatollah Al Hakim along with over 120 worshippers destabilizes the relationship between Iraqis and the coalition forces, that is because, to Muslims all over the world, such incidents do not call for patience and tolerance of their opponents, but for a stance. That stance, it seems is “Never Again!”.


Sayed Mahdi Almodarresi





* This speech was delivered in the symbolic funeral procession of Ayatollah M. Baqir Al Hakim in Sydney, Australia attended by hundreds of mourners.


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