Musa Sayyid Al-Sadr

(b. 1928)

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(b. Qom, 1928; d. Libya, 31 Aug. 1978)

Lebanese; Imam (Guide) 1959–78 Al-Sadr was born in Iran's holy city, Qom, the son and grandson of Ayatollahs and a sayyed (descendant of the Prophet through the seventh Imam).

In 1959, he was appointed judge at Tyre for members of Lebanon's largest, though oppressed, confessional community, the Shia. During Shihab's presidency (1958–64), he campaigned in support of presidential attempts to redistribute national resources to the neglected Shi'i south, and emerged on the national scene as a reformer and dazzling speaker, with aspirations to organize and lead the Lebanese Shia. Al-Sadr's election as first president of the official Higher Shia Council in 1969 made him effective head of this Lebanese community. Simultaneously, his followers and fellow mullahs began to recognize his religio-political charisma by calling him Imam, a title imbued with messianic expectations. Throughout the 1970s, Al-Sadr achieved the revolutionary political mobilization of the hitherto quiescent Shia through his Movement of the Disinherited. When civil war broke out in 1975, he formed the Shi'i militia, Amal (Hope), with Libyan finance, to protect the Shia community against other confessional militias. After Syrian intervention in the civil war in 1976, Al-Sadr secured Assad's patronage by declaring his Alawi sect to be Muslims. Amal became Syria's proxy in Lebanon thereafter. In August 1978, Al-Sadr vanished in mysterious circumstances while on a visit to Libya, allegedly killed on Qadhafi's orders. He left a twofold legacy: the belief of many followers that he would ‘return’, and a factional split in Amal, with one faction, Islamic Amal, seceding to become the joint founder of Lebanon's Hezbollah in 1982.

Subjects: Politics.

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