Biography of Ayatollah Al-Khoei

yatullah Abul-Qasim al-Khoei was born on Rajab 15, 1317 A.H. (November 19, 1899) at Khoei in Iranian Azerbaijan, heartland of many great Shi’a thinkers and sufis, ascetics. Even in his early childhood, al-Khoei was versed in religious Persian and Arabic poetry and languages, and in Turkish as well. It was in 1330 A.H./1912 A.D. that al-Khoei, who was then only thirteen years old, migrated to al-Najaf al-Ashraf, Iraq, in pursuit of knowledge. Even then, he was characterized by brilliance and a readiness to absorb knowledge and scholarship. In all stages of his study and research, progress and success were his companions.

The Muslim world has lost one of its brightest stars when, at 3:13 pm on
Saturday, Safar 8, 1413 (August 8, 1992), Ayatullah al-Uzma (Grand or Supreme
Ayatullah, the highest theological degree in Shi’a Islam) Abul-Qasim al-Khoei
died at his Kufa home of heart failure. He was born on Rajab 15, 1317 A.H.
(November 19, 1899) at Khoei in Iranian Azerbaijan, heartland of many great
Shi’a thinkers and sufis, ascetics. Even in his early childhood, al-Khoei was
versed in religious Persian and Arabic poetry and languages, and in Turkish as
well.

It was in 1330 A.H./1912 A.D. that al-Khoei, who was then only thirteen years
old, migrated to al-Najaf al-Ashraf, Iraq, in pursuit of knowledge. Even then,
he was characterized by brilliance and a readiness to absorb knowledge and
scholarship. In all stages of his study and research, progress and success were
his companions.

The Hawza

Ten centuries ago, a university-type hawza was founded by the most knowledgeable
person then alive, namely shaikh Muhammad ibn al-Hassan al-Toosi, may Allah have
mercy on his soul. Al-Toosi was an intellectual giant, a genius by all
standards, and a man who was able to absorb various types of knowledge and
science. He was the undisputed authority in fiqh, the founder of the science of
hadith, an innovative mentor of the science of usool, nay, the scholar of
scholars in all branches of knowledge related to the science of biographies,
akhlaq, and ilm al kalam. Thus did al-Toosi lay the foundation for the hawza
which has been functioning since then, i.e. since 449 A.H.

Since that year, this blessed hawza has passed through three significant
periods: The first extended from its year of establishment till early tenth
century; the second period started from then and ended at the early twelfth
century; the third period started from then and continued till our present time.
During each of these periods, certain personalities rose to distinction and
contributed to the development and improvement of the functions of this great
university; here is their short list:

1) Those who were distinguished during the first period included the founder,
Shaikh al-Toosi, his son al-Hassan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hassan who is well known
as Abu Ali al-Toosi, and Abul-Nasr Muhammad ibn Abu Ali ibn Abu Ja’far Muhammad
ibn al-Hassan al-Toosi.

2) Scholars whose star shone during its second period were many; among them are:
al-Muqaddas Ahmed ibn Muhammad al-Ardabili, then the lighthouse of knowledge
Jamalud-Deen al-Hassan ibn Zaynul-Deen, the Second Martyr, then Shaikh Ahmed ibn
Isma’eel al-Jazairi, author of Ayat al Ahkam, then both famous scholars Sayyid
Muhammad Mahdi Bahr al-Uloom and Shaikh Ja’far Kashiful-Ghita.

3) Men of this period are innumerable, yet the most renown among them are:
Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi Bahr al-Uloom, Shaikh Ja’far Kashiful-Ghita, Shaikh
Muhammad Hussain al-Najafi, author of Al Jawahir, Shaikh al-Ansari, author of Al
Makasib wal Rasaail, Muhammad Kazim al-Khurasani, author of Al Kifayah, and
Sayyid Muhammad Kazim al-Yazdi, author of Al Urwah. Less renown were scholars
such as Mirza Hussain al-Naeeni, Shaikh Muhammad Hussain al-Isfahani, Shaikh
Diyaud-Deen al-Iraqi, Sayyid Abul-Hassan al-Isfahani, and Sayyid Muhsin al-Tabatabai
al-Hakim (the grand Ayatullah who preceded the late grand Ayatullah Abul-Qasim
al-Khoei). The list is concluded by men of genius such as Abul-Qasim al-Moosawi
al-Khoei, may Allah be pleased with him, during whose period the hawza became
like a bee-hive, full of energy and productivity and scholarly competition. Some
scholars have described this particular period as the period of the Renaissance
of the hawza, while others refer to it as the period of the perfection of
scholarship due to the large number of those who proved their genius and due to
the huge public demand from Arab and non-Arab seekers of knowledge to study
there.

Mentors of Al-Khoei

If we were to research the fountainheads that nurtured the intellect of the late
al-Khoei, we will come across a list of the finest among all contemporary
scholars such as Shaikh Fath-Allah who is better known as Shaikh al-Sharee’a al-Isfahani,
Shaikh Mahdi al-Mazandarani, Shaikh Diyaud-Deen al-Iraqi, Shaikh Muhammad
Hussain al-Kampani al-Isfahani, Shaikh Muhammad Hussain al-Naeeni, Shaikh
Muhammad Jawad al-Balaghi, and others. All of these men were considered as
pioneers in the fields of their specialization. The impact of these men on
shaping the mind of the late al-Khoei is best described by al-Khoei himself who
has said,

"I have learned from each one of them a complete course in the science of usool,
and digested a number of books in the science of fiqh, for many years. I used to
provide a critique of the research relevant of each one of them before a number
of scholars who specialized in that branch of knowledge, and my audience
included a good number of very highly respected scholars. Al-Naeeni, may Allah
have mercy on his soul, was the last mentor I used to accompany more frequently
than anyone else."

If you read Al Bayan fee Tafseer al Qur’an, you will most likely think it was
written by al-Balaghi, may Allah rest his soul in piece, but worded by al-Khoei!

Al-Khoei as Mentor

The above covers the stage of the life of al-Khoei when he was a student. This
chapter deals with his being a professor who taught the most significant stages
of theological studies in Islam, namely the stages of al sutooh and al kharij,
which may be compared to the M.A. and Ph.D. respectively. Al-Khoei, may Allah be
pleased with him, colored both stages with his own hue and stamped them with his
own stamp; thus, a new generation of scholars graduated from his school; nay! A
whole new generation of scholars graduated from his school as masters of the
sciences of fiqh, usool, hadith, ilm al rijal, tafseer, and ilm al kalam.
Roughly translated, these sciences may be said to be the sciences of
jurisprudence, basics of jurisprudence, traditions, biographies, exegesis,
interpretation of the Holy Qur’an, and theological philosophy, respectively.

Al-Khoei had his own style in teaching and tutoring. Those who graduated from
his courses describe his method of teaching as immaculately minute, stunningly
easy and clear, amazingly logical. They say that there is neither undue
complexity nor ambiguity in his style, and this can be said about all the
courses he taught. How was his style in discussing and debating? The answer to
this question is provided by one of his students: the struggling scientist, the
pioneer and the shining star Shaikh Muhammad Jawad Maghniyyah who has said the
following in this regard:

"He [al-Khoei] was like the sun that sends its rays everywhere, all the time. He
was my professor and the professor of all other scholars at al-Najaf al-Ashraf,
and the pivot round which the motion of scholarship revolved, and to whom the
hawza is indebted for appreciation and loyalty… His was the golden age during
which stars such as al-Shaikh al-Ansari and al-Shaikh al-Khurasani and their
disciples shone… He remained [at the hawza] for more than seventy years
learning, teaching, writing, helping scholars graduate, debating newcomers as
well as alumni… His style in discussing and debating is that of Socrates: He
deliberately feigns his lack of knowledge and pretends to accept the argument of
the other party, then he confronts him with doubts and assails him with
questions. He pretends to seek benefit and guidance from his opponent, just as a
student or an inquirer may do, so much so that when the poor debater innocently
and with naivete provides an answer, he sharply assails him, pouncing down on
him like an eagle and dragging him to show him the facts that support his own
argument and from which the opponent cannot rescue himself. He then causes his
opponent to unknowingly contradict himself, forcing him to admit his error and
ignorance."

Teachig the Al-Kharij Stage

In order to demonstrate the extent of contribution of his late holiness al-Khoei,
consider the following facts:

– Shaikh Murtada al-Ansari founded and polished the science of usool more than a
century and a half ago;

– Shaikh Murtada al-Ansari continued learning then teaching this science for
more than twenty five years;

– Al-Mirza Habib al-Rashti dedicated thirty years of his life to the study of
this science alone;

– Shaikh al-Akhoond al-Khurasani continued his studies of this science for more
or less than twenty years;

– Al-Mirza al-Naeeni continued studying this science for twenty-five years and a
few months;

– Shaikh Diyaud-Deen al-Iraqi dedicated more than thirty years of his life to
the study of this science;

– Shaikh al-Kampani Muhammad Hussain al-Isfahani was distinguished by the fact
that he spent thirty years of his life studying only this science;

– Al-Sayyid Abul-Qasim al-Khoei passed the stage of usool and continued teaching
the much more advanced stage of al kharij for more than fifty years…! The
number of his graduates is estimated at tens of thousands…

In order to form an idea about what this stage involves, let us ask its
professor himself about it, for surely his answer is more precise than that of
anyone else. He, may Allah be pleased with him, says:

"I have taught extensively, delivering numerous lectures in fiqh, usool, and
tafsir, nurturing a large number of highly respected students at the hawza of
al-Najaf al-Ashraf. I delivered my lectures in the stage of al kharij for two
complete courses utilizing the scholarly achievements of his holiness al-Shaikh
al-Ansari, the greatest mentor, may Allah be pleased with him, and I taught a
number of other books as well. Then I taught two complete courses related to the
Book of Salat (prayers). On Rabi’ al-Awwal 27, 1377 A.H. I started teaching Al
Urwah al Wuthqa by the faqih of the school of thought al-Sayyid Muhammad Kazim
al-Tabatabai al-Yazdi, starting with the Book of Tahara (cleanliness), after
having taught ijtihad and taqleed. I continued, by the Grace of Allah, doing so
for a good while till I reached the Book of Ijarah which I started teaching on
Rabi’ al-Thani 26, 1400 A.H., finishing it in the month of Safar of the year
1401 A.H. I delivered my lectures in the science of usool, in the stage of al
kharij for six complete courses, concluding them with the research on al didd.
During the past few years, I have been teaching the exegesis of the Holy Qur’an
till circumstances beyond my control forced me to terminate them…"

Books written by al-Khoei and already published have already numbered ninety,
not counting his numerous manuscripts. The topics his writings have covered
include Islamic law, religious biographies, philosophy and commentary of the
Holy Qur’an. His best known books of guidance are being used today throughout
the Shi’a world, and they have been reprinted numerous times, and every Shi’a
country in the world boasts eminent scholars who were his students. This figure
demonstrates the power of his overflowing pen despite his numerous
responsibilities as the spiritual leader of two hundred million Shi’a Muslims
worldwide and the person responsible for their guidance in matters related to
both secular and theological problems. It is truly a task that distracts one
from reading, let alone writing.

Najaf’s Hawza under his Supervision

The monumental achievement of his late holiness Abul-Qasim al-Khoei is his
development and improvement of Najaf’s theological school known as al hawza al
ilmiyya, the inclusive school of knowledge and scholarship over which he
presided in 1970 after being elected successor to the late Ayatullah al-Uzma
Sayyid Muhsin al-Tabatabai al-Hakim. He is described by his students as a
compassionate father, a man who believed in moderation and who led a most
austere life in strict adherence to the tenets of the Islamic faith. Al-Khoei
had attained the coveted title of "Ayatullah" when he was in his early thirties.
The hawza at al-Najaf al-Ashraf has been for the past ten centuries attracting
students from all over the world. The main topics taught at the hawza are:
philosophy, theology, and jurisprudence, and the number of its students and
teachers during its hay days reached 10,000. It contains several libraries where
ancient and rare manuscripts are treasured and guarded as one would guard a gold
mine. In Najaf in general and around the premises of the hawza in particular,
bookstores outnumber grocery stores. The hawza also accommodates facilities for
the use of manuscript copiers. Learning at it is a full-time career, and
students actually live and learn at the same place where they are offered very
modest accommodations. There were dark periods when this great center of
learning was fought and its teachers hunted. To be exact, that was the period
when Iraq was placed by strong foreign nations under the British mandate. The
British, who claim to be the most civilized people in the world and the
champions of learning, chased Muslim theologians because of the latter’s
opposition to their presence in Iraq. One teacher recollects how he and other
fellow teachers during that dark period of persecution by the British had
nothing to eat all day long, so, they would wait till the dark to go out to the
streets looking for the skins of watermelons whereby they could sustain
themselves.

Some of his renown Students

It is no exaggeration to indicate here that 70% of Shi’a scholars worldwide are
either graduates of al-Khoei’s hawza or students of such graduates, and each one
of them is like a bright star. Only Allah knows the exact numbers of those
taught directly by al-Khoei or by his students, but we would like here to
indicate some of the most renown scholars who were students of Imam al-Khoei and
who are very well known throughout the Islamic world: 1) the great Islamic
philosopher, theologian and economist Martyr Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr,
2) Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Beheshti, 3) the authority-referee, scholar and
philosopher Hujjatul-Islam Shaikh Muhammad Taqi al-Ja’fari, 4) the scholar
Hujjatul-Islam Shaikh Muhammad Mahdi Shamsud-Deen, 5) Ayatullah Sayyid Taqi al-Qummi,
6) Ayatullah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, 7) Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad al-Roohani, 8)
the scholar Hujjatul-Islam Shaikh Muhammad Asif al-Muhsini, 9) the scholar
Hujjatul-Islam Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, 10) Ayatullah Shaikh Hussein
al-Waheed, 11) the scholar Hujjatul-Islam Sayyid Muhyi al-Deen al-Ghuraifi, 12)
the scholar Hujjatul-Islam Shaikh Muhammad Ishaq al-Fayyad, 13) the scholar
Hujjatul-Islam Sayyid Ali Mekki, 14) the scholar, authority-referee, Martyr
Sayyid Abdel-Sahib al-Hakim, to name only a few.

A Great Administrator

Imam al-Khoei kept in touch with his followers worldwide through a very well
organized and centralized network of representatives. The latter have been
charged with duties such as: making sure that the social, educational,
theological, cultural and even financial problems of their respective
communities are properly addressed and solved. He proved his administrative
genius in handling the financial aspect of running such a huge and intricate
network of charitable trusts overseen and supervised by the Khoei Foundation
which has been building schools and religious and cultural centers wherever
there is a sizeable following community. During the Afghani struggle against the
Russians, Ayatullah al-Uzma al-Khoei organized aid for Afghani war victims. When
natural disasters hit Bangladesh, India, Kashmir (chopped off into Pakistani and
Indian slices), and Iran, al-Khoei issued orders to spend generously on the
victims of these disasters regardless of their schools of Muslim law. Moreover,
he was credited with the task of establishing projects to dig wells and
irrigation canals for the believers who live in isolated villages in East Africa
and the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent, for undertaking numerous housing projects,
schools and both mobile and permanent clinics, all funded by voluntary
contributions from the Shi’a faithful under his supervision and administrative
guidance.

Institutes he established

Since he took charge of Najaf’s hawza, al-Khoei became the caretaker of all
Shi’a charitable institutions, mosques and husayniyyas, theological hawzas, etc.
all over the world. Among the most significant of such institutes which he
ordered to be founded, and which he supervised through his representatives, are
the following: 1) in India, where there are an estimated forty million followers
of his (according to his representative there Sayyid Muhammad al-Moosawi), he
established the Educational Charitable Complex in Bombay which is regarded as
the largest educational and theological project in the world, and it includes
various departments each one of which specializes in a particular activity, and
it is comprised of elementary and secondary (high) schools, various accredited
colleges, a large hospital and a huge mosque, in addition to spending on
attendants of theological centers in other parts of India such as Ali Poor,
Nibras and Hyderabad; 2) Madeenat al-‘Ilm, the city of knowledge, at the holy
city of Qum, Islamic Republic of Iran, which is the largest theological
institute in Shi’a world and where more than three thousand students are
studying theology, and it includes dormitories for 500 married students, in
addition to theological centers at Mashhad and Khurasan, spending, according to
his representative in India Sayyid Muhammad al-Moosawi, more than one million
Iranian toomans a month as grants to students of theology there; 3) Al-Khoei’s
Mabarrah in Beirut, Lebanon, which provides cultural and social services for a
large number of orphan children who have lost their families during the
catastrophes to which Lebanon has been subjected, and it is a five building
complex housing an orphanage, a vocational school and an institute, and it
surely is a monument of what true charity can accomplish; 4) Ayatullah al-Khoei’s
School and Library of Mashhad, Islamic Republic of Iran, the building of which
is a masterpiece of a marriage between traditional and modern architecture; 5)
Dar al-‘Ilm School at Najaf al-Ashraf, Iraq, from which highly qualified jurists
and mujtahids have been graduating, and which has accommodated more than 200
students of the higher level of theological studies, in addition to dormitories
and a library, and it has been demolished by the filthy hands of Saddam
Hussein’s troops as part of a plan to demolish schools and mosques in Najaf, the
holiest city for the Shi’as of the world; 6) numerous other theological studies
styled after Najaf’s hawza located in Thailand, Bangladesh (in West Bengal),
India, Pakistan and other countries; 7) Imam al-Khoei’s Library at Najaf al-Ashraf,
Iraq, which contains 25,000 books and 6,000 rare hand-written manuscripts, and
it was established by his late holiness for the benefit of researchers, critics,
and scholars of theology, and it used to publish and internationally distribute
quality Islamic literature, but its press has been confiscated by the oppressive
authority of Saddam Hussein’s regime; 8) offices in Karachi and Islamabad,
Pakistan, to disseminate religious education and the translation and
distribution of quality Islamic literature; and 9) an office in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, for the publication and distribution of religious literature.

Al-Khoei FOundation

In addition to all the projects enumerated above, his late holiness had ordered
the establishment of an international charity to look after the followers of our
creed in all corners of the earth and to establish a high quality cultural and
social system; therefore, Imam al-Khoei Benevolent Foundation was founded and
first headquartered in Najaf al-Ashraf in 1988 with branches in Europe
(including one in London, U.K.) and the Middle East. The London branch office
had been established by a select committee of nine highly respected dignitaries
who formed its Central Committee. Those nine founding members were: 1) Sayyid
Muhammad Taqi al-Khoei (son of the late Imam al-Khoei), 2) Shaikh Muhsin Ali al-Najafi,
3) Shaikh Yousuf Nafsi, 4) Sayyid Muhammad al-Moosawi (of Bombay, India) 5)
Sayyid Fadil al-Meelani, 6) Sayyid Majeed al-Khoei (son of the late Imam al-Khoei),
7) Shaikh Hajj Kazim Abdel-Hussein, 8) Sayyid Muhammad Ali al-Shahristani, and
9) al-Hajj Mustafa Kawkal. After the Rajab 1412 (March 1991) Intifada (uprising)
of the people of Iraq against the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, the Najaf
headquarters were transferred to London, U.K., where the said Committee was
charged with overseeing the activities of all branch offices of al-Khoei
Foundation in India, Pakistan, U.S.A., Canada and Kuwait. Kuwaitis who suffered
untold atrocities at the bloody hands of Saddam Hussein after he had invaded
their country secretly received huge sums of money from the late ayatullah who
instructed his representatives there to help all families that suffered from the
invasion regardless of their sect. No other Muslim organization in the world
helped Kuwaitis who were trapped inside the country, or who lost their means of
income because of the execution of their bread earners, as they were helped by
al-Khoei… His benevolence also reached all families that suffered from the
Iraq-Iran war, and his assistance to them infuriated Saddam’s government and led
the latter to once confiscate his entire funds at al-Rafidain Bank in Baghdad.
The Deputy Director of the now London Headquarters is also Director of the al-Khoei
Foundation in New York which supervises cultural and theological studies of the
Medina school and the Khoei Center. He is Mawlana Hujjatul-Islam Shaikh Fadil
al-Sahlani who has been representing al-Khoei in the U.S. and Canada since 1990.
In addition to all the above, his late holiness also sponsored and funded the
activities of students of theology in Syria, Turkey, Palestine and the African
continent. In Canada, he fairly recently established an Islamic school and
center at Montreal. During the war between Afghani heroes and Communist kafir
forces, the deceased Imam provided all support he could to the Mujahidin, and he
even permitted the distribution of collected religious taxes to Afghani
Mujahidin.

His Ascetisicm

Ayatullah al-Uzma al-Khoei was the embodiment of asceticism, scholarship, and
renunciation of worldly riches. His son Sayyid Abdel-Majeed al-Khoei narrates
anecdotes about the simple life his holy father used to lead. He says that his
father never deducted his own share of the religious taxes his representatives
were collecting on his behalf; instead, he used to spend on his family,
relatives and friends from whatever gifts handed to him by some of his
followers. "My father," says Sayyid Abdel-Majeed al-Khoei, "never bought himself
a new outfit except after the one he wears is totally worn out. Some of those
who were very close to him criticized him for wearing such shabby clothes,
telling him that it did not fit his status as the supreme leader of the faithful
to dress like that. His answer to them was that as long as the outfit he was
wearing was clean, there was nothing wrong with its being old. Some even
suggested to him to give his worn-out clothes to others and replace them with
new ones." He was also passionate about seeking knowledge and sharing it with
others. When his health deteriorated prior to his demise, and he was
hospitalized, his medical team advised him to do something to entertain himself.
He told them that reading always made him relaxed while lecturing was the only
entertainment he had ever known. He used to wake up before sunrise, make
tahajjud, perform his morning prayers, then eat his breakfast with his family.
His breakfast most often was no more than a piece of bread, some domestic
cheese, and a tiny cup of tea, and he never ate by himself. Instead, he insisted
on eating with other members of his family or those who helped them at home, or
with his guests. Before midnight, he used to read a book, then listen to world
news, tuning to local, Arab or international stations. He was often seen the
next morning with blackness around his eyes. The sage could not sleep because of
hearing some disturbing news about what was happening to the Muslims in this
country or that.

The Imam at Home

His son, Sayyid Abdel-Majeed al-Khoei, says the following about his father, "My
father was always smiling when he was with us. He always arbitrated between his
sons whenever there was a dispute, and he was quite witty. If he saw one looking
forlorn or happily excited, he would ask him about the reason, and every evening
he would distribute candy for the children in addition to whatever other gifts
he had received that day from the admiring faithful." Despite his extremely
lofty status, he never hesitated to help his family in domestic chores,
including kitchen chores. He never opened the mail coming to any of his family
members. One of his sons told him once that nobody in the house had any secret
to hide from him, and that it was perfectly alright with them if he opened their
mail, but he insisted never to do so. He always instructed members of his family
to deliver funds for highly esteemed but impoverished families without doing so
publicly, telling them to help those whom the ignorant ones mistake as wealthy
because of their abstention from begging for help.

Imam’s Demise

After the failure of the Intifada of March 1991, the Grand Ayatullah was briefly
imprisoned then forced to appear on television with the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein who always kept pressuring him to issue fatawa, religious
verdicts, supportive of Saddam and his government, something which he never did
despite all the persecution to which he, his representatives and family members
were subjected. Because of refusing to cooperate with the dictatorial government
of Saddam Hussein, he was put under house arrest till his death. Saddam also
exiled, jailed, or assassinated many of the gifted students, representatives and
distinguished followers of al-Khoei and ordered the destruction of their mosques
and libraries particularly those in Najaf and Kerbala. As if the Iraqi
government predicted the death of al-Khoei, it cut off all telephone connections
with his Kufa residence in the morning of Saturday, August 8, 1992 and with the
houses of those who were close to him. Having performed the afternoon prayers
that day, the health of his late holiness suddenly deteriorated and a severe
chest swelling was visible. Doctors in the medical team charged with supervising
his health conditions was called in, but they could not tend to him early
enough. He informed his family and those in his presence that last night he felt
that it was the last night he was spending with his family. He asked for water
to perform his ablution, and as soon as he finished his ablution his soul passed
away to its Maker exactly at 3:13 pm. Throngs of the believers started pouring
into Kufa, surrounding his residence, and it was not long before the whole
country came to know about the sad news. Military units of Saddam’s "Special
Forces" moved quickly to close all highways leading to both Najaf and Kufa as
well as other cities in Iraq’s central regions, then they moved to disperse the
thronging crowds in the pretext of making preparations for the Grand Ayatullah’s
funeral the next morning. Curfew was enforced in the cities of Najaf, Kufa and
other central cities, and heavily armed police and military units started
patrolling the streets. Armed forces stationed at Baghdad and in central and
southern Iraqi cities were all placed under maximum alert in anticipation of a
popular reaction to the sad news and to the ambiguous way it happened and was
handled by the Iraqi government. Patrol vehicles were visible throughout the
streets of al-Thawarah, al-Shu’lah and al-Kazimiyyah, all of which are major
Shi’a towns in metropolitan Baghdad. Iraq’s radio and television stations
suspended their usual programs to announce the sad news of the demise of the
great leader, informing the public that his funeral services were scheduled for
Sunday morning. At midnight on Saturday, however, the family of the deceased was
ordered to bury the Imam before sunrise. Local government authorities prohibited
the public in Najaf and Kufa from taking part in his funeral services, angering
the faithful in Iraq and the world. His body was washed Saturday evening at his
Kufa house in the presence of a handful of his family members, and the funeral
prayers were conducted by his eminence Ayatullah Ali al-Sistani, one of his
closest aides and a member of his four-member juristic Shura (Consultative)
Committee. (The other three members have been: Ayatullah Shaikh Murtada al-Burujardi,
Ayatullah Shaikh Ali Azghar al-Ahmadi, and, of course, Ayatullah al-Uzma al-Khoei
himself.) A three-day mourning period was announced by the government which
prohibited the family of the deceased dignitary from holding the traditional
Fatiha majlis, while the Ministry of Awqaf (Islamic Trusts) declared that it
would conduct such majalis for his soul. Telephone connections between the
cities of Kufa and Najaf and the rest of the world were by now cut off, too,
till Sunday evening. The hypocritical news media of the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein was busy circulating lies about the demise of Imam al-Khoei,
claiming that he had received a great funeral service wherein the people and
representatives of the Iraqi government participated, that his corpse was
carried around all religious sites in the area, and even calling him "the martyr
of the nation and the country." Baghdad’s official newspaper Al-Jumhuriyyah
called him "the martyr of Islam and the nation," publishing his photograph on
its front page. International news agencies, on the other hand, published
photographs of his coffin escorted by no more than six persons. Shortly before
his death, the greatest scholar and leader al-Khoei expressed no concern about
anything in this vanishing life more than the possibility of the loss of his
precious manuscripts the writing of which had exhausted so many years of his
life… Surely the Islamic world will find it very hard to compensate for the
loss of such a man, nay, a legendary institute and a lighthouse of knowledge and
scholarship… Inna Lillah wa Inna Ilyahi Raji’oon.

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