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Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi (Arabic: محمد تقي المدرسي‎) (born 1945, in Karbala, Iraq)[1] is a Grand Iraqi jurist marja', and described as the ‘mastermind’[2] behind the strategy of the Shiraziyyin, the followers of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammad al-Husayni al-Shirazi.

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi
Muhammadtaghi modarresi.jpg
Other namesالسيد محمد تقي المدرسي

Al-Modarresi is the author of over 400 books on matters of theology, historiography, jurisprudence, philosophy, logic, and well as social science.

Early yearsEdit

Al-Modarresi was born into a distinguished Shia religious family in Karbala in Iraq. His uncle and leading influence is Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammad al-Husayni al-Shirazi, who was one of the most important political ideologues in Shia Islam in the 20th century, whose supporters became known as the "Shiraziyyin". In the 1970s Al-Modarresi along with other members of Al-Shirazi’s entourage were forced to leave Iraq to escape Baathist repression. Al-Modarresi settled first in Kuwait and then, after the Islamic Revolution, in Iran.

Islamic Action OrganizationEdit

Al-Modaressi was the leader of the Iran-based Islamist paramilitary organization, the Islamic Action Organization (also known as Islamic Amal). The Organization was conceived of as a 'secret revolutionary avant-guard'[3] to spread Khomeini-inspired revolution throughout the Arab world. Al-Modaressi was chosen to lead the Organization by Ayatollah Khomeini. It was responsible for numerous actions in Iraq in the 1980s including suicide bombings.[4] In 1980, the Islamic Action Organization sought to assassinate Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz,[5] which helped precipitate the Iran–Iraq War.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard CorpsEdit

According to Cambridge University’s Toby Matthiesen, Al-Modaressi was ‘very close’ to Iran’s leadership and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.[6] There has been much speculation as to whether Al-Modarresi was in fact the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Office of Revolutions. Al-Modarresi has publicly denied this.[7]

Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in IraqEdit

The Islamic Action Organization under Al-Modarresi's leadership was one of the founder groups of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an attempt by the Iranians to bring together Iraqi Shia Islamist factions under one leadership. Al-Modarresi was not chosen to be SCIRI's leader, instead another Iraqi cleric, Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim, became its commander. SCIRI's Badr Brigade fought for Iran in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

Iran power struggleEdit

Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Al-Shirazi was initially a leading figure in the Iranian revolution, especially as the Shiraziyyins' concept of clerical rule, Hukumat al-Fuqaha', was a key influence on Khomeini's concept of velayet-e faqih. Like Al-Shirazi, Al-Modarresi was aligned with radicals within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but their influence waned in the second half of the 1980s as more moderate clerics like Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei and 'Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani came to the fore. As Khamenei and Rafsanjani sought to develop better relations with Persian Gulf Arab states, the Shiraziyyin and Al-Modarresi were marginalised.

Al-Shirazi was in his later years a vocal critic of Khomeini's system of government and Khamenei's position as a marja and supreme leader, instead advocating Al-Shirazi's alternative theory of clerical rule. Due to his opposition, Al-Shirazi was placed under house arrest in the 1990s, and his ally, Al-Modarresi's seminary was raided and shut down by Iranian security forces.[8]

Return to IraqEdit

Arrest by Coalition forcesEdit

With the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by American-led forces in 2003, Al-Modarresi along with other Iran-based clerics returned to Iraq. On his return to Iraq on 22 April 2003, Al-Modarresi was arrested along with his entourage by US military personnel. He was released after being brought to an undisclosed location.[5]

Iraqi politicsEdit

The Islamic Action Organization became an Iraqi Shia Islamist political party with Al-Modaressi as its leader. The party contested the Iraq 2005 general election as was part of the National Iraqi Alliance of pro-Iranian Shia Islamist parties including SCIRI, the Islamic Dawa Party and the Iraqi National Congress. In 2006, the Islamic Action Organization had one minister in government, State Minister for Civil Society Affairs, Adil al-Asadi.[9]


Al-Modarresi oversees the seminary in the holy Shia city of Karbala. Ayatullah Modarresi is the founder of several dozen seminaries, institutions and centers of worship, including the Ahlul Bayt Mosque in Brooklyn, New York.

Juristically, today he opposes the Iranian system of Velayat-e faqih and has favored a democratic system of government in Iraq. In a television interview following his return to his native city in 2003, he publicly spoke of the "harassment" that his followers had faced while exiled in Iran.[10] In an interview with PBS in 2004 al-Modarresi affirmed his commitment to a democratically elected government for the new Iraq, stating that he had derived this from "the true interpretation of Islam.. which says, "Religion shall not be imposed ... Reason emerges from the unknown." He also stated that he had traveled to Europe and America, and that he believed "democracy would solve many of the problems" in the Middle East.[11]

Theologically, he is also opposed to some of Khomeini's ideas, such as Wahdat-ul-Wujood.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Almodarresi's office. "Biography". Archived from the original on 27 June 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  2. ^ Laurence Louer, Transnational Shia politics: religious and political networks in the Gulf, p. 124 (2012)
  3. ^ Louėr, Laurence.Transnational Shia politics: religious and political networks in the Gulf, p. 99 (2008)
  4. ^ Middle East Contemporary Survey, Vol. 8, 1983–84, Haim Shaked and Daniel Dishon, Eds. p171 Moshe Dayan Centre 1986
  5. ^ a b Islamic Task Organization Profile Global Security
  6. ^ Toby Matthiesen, Hizbollah Al-Hjaz: A History of the Most Radical Saudi Shia Opposition Group, Middle East Journal, Spring 2010
  7. ^ Louėr, Laurence.Transnational Shia politics: religious and political networks in the Gulf, p. 180 (2008)
  8. ^ Alshirazi and dealing with political systems - a comprehensive study
  9. ^ Iraq Report: May 26, 2006 Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, May 26, 2006
  10. ^ "نص الحلقة الثانية من المقابلة مع المرجع المدرسي على قناة الشرقية".
  11. ^ "Interviews - Mohammad Taqi Al-Modarresi | Beyond Baghdad - PBS". Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  12. ^ "Al Irfan Al Islami - By Mohammad Taqi Al Modarresi".

External linksEdit