Translation: Muqtada al-Sadr, a coup, and democracy.

Muqtada al-Sadr was recently asked by one of his followers to clarify whether he would seek to topple the Iraqi government in a forceful coup and install a new government. Perhaps more interesting than the overt question about coups was how the question was framed, the underlying reference to Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr’s political vision which is often juxtaposed to Khomeini’s concept of wilayat al-faqih. As Faleh Jabar has written:

‘Khomeini’s wilayet al-faqih doctrine, for example, confined the right to legislate and rule, in theory, to the wali faqih in absolute terms. Al-Sadr, by contrast, took a different line. His theory separates the right to govern from the jurisdiction functions of the faqih, subsuming both to constitutional mechanisms. This entire conception is not only novel but also daringly innovative. It elaborates on secular views of human evolution as much as a new interpretation of the role of the Imams and their human deputies, the mujtahids, and it introduces the classical European notion of the division of powers – basing it on the traditional functioning of the Imam as ruler and lawgiver.’1.

The questioner wonders whether Muqtada al-Sadr does not seek to engage in a forceful coup because it would contravene a democratic vision of government, which the questioner ends by describing in phraseology that seems imitative of Lincoln’s defence of democracy in the Gettysburg Address.

Muqtada al-Sadr is usually portrayed as essentially superficial in terms of political ideology. He does nothing to dispel that impression here with an ambiguous response which seems to leave open the question of a coup, and avoids engaging in the more substantive subtext of political thought altogether. A missed opportunity…

Sadr Statement on Coup1

Translation:

Note: Response to legitimate questions according to the fatwa of Grand Ayatollah al-Sayed the martyr Mohammed al-Sadr [Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr].

His Excellence, hujjat al-islam wal-muslimeen, al-Sayed and leader Muqtada al-Sadr (May God preserve him).

Peace, mercy, and blessings of God.

Sir, we often hear politicians and analysts saying that al-Sayed Muqtada al-Sadr could overthrow the government and form another government via a forceful coup with his followers. Sir, why have you not sought this? Is the purpose of not seeking this outcome the same purpose of al-Sayed the martyr (honour his noble spirit) [Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr] when he said I do not want an Islamic government but an Islamic society. Meaning that you do not want a government that comes by way of a coup, but one that emerges from the people themselves, and is built and protected on the principle of government of the people, by the people, and for the people?

 

[Response]

In the name of the Almighty.

We do not bloodshed, and we do not want power. But we want the dear people to emerge victorious and unscathed, and that they enjoy all their bounty without corruption or oppression. All options remain open to the people for is all that is meant by the people deciding its fate.

References:

  1. Faleh A. Jabar, The Shi’ite Movement in Iraq, Saqi Books, 2003, p.281.

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