Shi’ite Political Revival in Iraq during the Early Twentieth Century

In the showdown of events that have transpired in Iraq since the toppling of the Ba’thi regime, the Shi’ites have risen as a force to be reckoned with. The Shi’ites who constitute the majority of the population in Iraq (around 65%) are situated mainly in the southern regions of Iraq and live in poor and unsettled environments. Historically, the Shi’ites were always sidelined and oppressed due to their ideological differences with the mainstream Sunni world. As pressures loomed upon them due to economic and social constraints, the rise of political movements within the community became apparent. This was a change that would alter the socio-political geography of the Middle East, for a new political entity was being formed out of acute circumstances.
This piece of writing outlines the start of contemporary political revival within the Shi’ite community dating back to the Jihad movements of the early twentieth century in Ottoman Iraq. During a time of global turmoil due to the First World War and as part of the Western escapade in colonizing the world, British forces were deployed to invade Iraq, which under the Ottoman regime had given allegiance to Germany. This brought about an unprecedented reaction from the Shi’ites under the leadership of their Jurists (Mujtahideen) which altered the course of politics in Iraq. A lot of emphasis has been given to the role played by one of the pioneers of the Jihad movement, Ayatollah Sayyid Mahdi Al-Haidari, however, there are many who took part in this movement, who unfortunately have not been given justice in this piece of writing.
A Brief Background and Early History of Shi’ism in Iraq
The Shi’ites are a sect of Muslims who believed that Imam Ali (p), cousin and son in law of the Prophet Muhammed (p), was the rightful successor after the demise of the Prophet (p). They believe that twelve infallible leaders, referred to as Imams succeed the Prophet in leadership and all are of his progeny. The last of whom is the Mahdi (p) who went into occultation in the year 879 and has not been seen since. According to Shi’ite belief, he will return at the end of time to bring justice and righteousness to the world at a time when it was filled with tyranny and oppression.
In a historical context, Iraq has much association with the Shi’ites as many historical events took place in this region. The first Shi’ite successor to the Prophet of Islam (p) and fourth Sunni Caliphate; Imam Ali (p) changed the capital city under his leadership from Madina in Hijaz to Kufa in Iraq. The main reason was due to the political tensions at the time and the pledge of allegiance from the people of Kufa towards Imam Ali (p). However, in 661, Imam Ali (p) was assassinated in Kufa and buried in nearby Najaf. In addition to this, Imam Hussain (p), the son of Ali (p); who stated his claim on the caliphate, was slaughtered with family and companions in deserts of Karbala in 680. In later Islamic history other Shi’ite Imams were also killed in Iraq, they were Imam Musa Al-Kadhim (p) and Imam Muhammed Al-Jawad (p) who are buried in Kadhimiyya; and also Imam Ali Al-Hadi (p) and Imam Hassan Al-Askari (p) who are buried in Sammara.
Over the years, these burial places of the Imams became sacred shrines to visit and pay homage. They would be visited by millions of Shi’ites and soon became centres of Shi’ite learning and research. These centres of religious studies, called Hawza, can be considered an equivalent to modern universities. These Hawza’s provided education in a variety of different subjects that were and still are necessary in order to reach the status of being a Mujtahid.
Shi’ite difficulties under Ottoman Iraq
Iraq was directly controlled by the Ottomans centralized in Istanbul for four centuries, beginning 1534 under the rule of Sultan Sulemain Al-Kanuni. There was corruption and mayhem in the province of Iraq due to the decentralized government and general irresponsibility and abuse from the Ottoman regime.
Sectarian divides between the Shi’ites and Sunnis began to show more clearly after the formation of the Shi’ite Safavid state in neighbouring Iran while the Ottomans belonged to the Sunni school.[1] Since this divide the Ottomans feared the Shi’ite sect and did not give them any positions of authority fearing Safavid influence in the state. The Ottomans feared the issue to the extent that they banned marriages between Ottomans and Iranians, and would punish any cleric who wedded individuals of these backgrounds.
This later become part of Ottoman constitution and read as follows:
It is completely impermissible to marry those who belong to Iranian descent with those of descent from the Great Ottoman Empire. [2]
As a result, most the Shi’ites of Iraq tried to prove their own identity and Islamic background under the Shi’ite school of thought without falling slave to sectarianism, nationalism and allegiances to foreigners. They did not operate in line with state policy and this weakened Ottoman dominance over the Shi’ites.
Although there was a continued conflict between the Ottomans and Iranians, the Shi’ites of Iraq felt that such a war was unrelated to religion and tried not to partake in these activities.
However, this sectarianism towards the Shi’ite community from the Ottoman Empire had different effects. Apart from the general oppression against the Shi’ites, there was also social alienation and economic tribulations. Some of these activities against the Shi’ites of Iraq included; distancing them from any high or middle class jobs in local and central government. This type of handling of the Shi’ites on behalf of the Ottomans continued without end. The Ottomans however failed to abolish the Shi’ite clerical courts, in an attempt to transfer these dealings to an official government court. They also failed to close down the Shi’ite religious schools in the holy cities such as Najaf, Karbala, and Kadhimiyya. In other developments the Ottomans were able to reject the Shi’ites from entering into military schools and were also able to reject Shi’ite students from partaking in academic scholarships abroad. [3]
Kamil Al-Chadirchi, a prominent Iraqi Sunni politician during the first half of the twentieth century; mentioned in his memoirs on the Shi’ites of Iraq:
It was of the Ottoman policy to forbid giving government posts to the Shi’ite sect, especially the contentious posts. It was also part of the policy to avoid allowing Shi’ites to reach high rankings in the military. The state also made obstacles for Shi’ite students to enter government schools. Generally, the Shi’ites were denied the opportunity to progress. [4]
The economic situation for the Shi’ites in Iraq was no different than their social problems. The Ottoman Empire distributed the lands suitable for farming and other benefits to Sunni tribes and in southern Iraq kept the lease for these properties to the government and did not allow the Shi’ite farmers to buy these lands. [5]
Safeguarding the Islamic Ummah & Identity
By 1908 the Ottoman Empire increasingly realised the threat it was under from Western invasion. It had lost several territories and neighbouring Iran also had threat of invasion from the Russians. With the ongoing problem the Ottomans emphasized the need for Muslim unity with repeated appeals to the masses on this issue.
However, in dealing with the Shi’ites, they had a somewhat complacent policy. They needed the assistance of the Mujtahideen in mobilizing the Shi’ites but at the same time feared giving them too much freedom to propagate Shi’ism to the Arab tribes. In an attempt to gain support the Ottomans started giving out literature at Shi’ite shrines regarding concessions and unity.
While the Shi’ites accepted unity, their religious propagation was scoring increased results and many were converting to Shi’ism. This led the Ottoman Empire to tackle this growing problem by introducing secular Shi’ite schools of education, while imposing restrictions on the traditional Madressa and on Iranian pilgrimages to the holy shrines.
Although the Shi’ites were treated as second class citizens and as a threat, nevertheless, the Mujtahideen emphasized the need to safeguard the Islamic nation and preached unity amongst Muslims. They engaged in dialogue with Sunni clerics and allowed for joint seminars and conferences to discuss Muslim problems in the wake of colonialism. [6]
It is necessary to note here that the majority of Shi’ite Mujtahideen believed in Muslim unity as a source of power to defend the Muslim land against aggression, and had preached this for many years before the Ottoman Empire’s intention to preach such propaganda for their interest.
British Invasion and Shi’ite Reaction
By November 1911, both Russian and British troops invaded and occupied parts of northern and southern Iran. The Mujtahideen of the Shi’ites, both in Iraq and Iran reacted to this transgression by calling for a defence of Muslim land. Of the prominent Mujtahideen was Ayatollah Kadhim Al-Yazdi from Najaf, who issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to sacrifice their lives in order to fight the Italian forces in Tripoli and, Russian and British forces in Iran.
These calls from the Mujtahideen were received by the Shi’ite masses which quickly started to mobilize for Jihad. With word spreading that one of the esteemed clerics, Ayatollah Muhammed Kadhim Khorasani was to lead the warriors to Iran, many were recruited and tribal leaders contributed arms. All the necessary arrangements were made, however the unexpected death of Ayatollah Khorasani on the eve of departure dampened the morale and the expedition was cancelled. [7]
With the onset of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire decided it was in their best interests to side with the Germans against Britain and France. However, as the war began and the Germans were unable to contain the British and French, a large threat became apparent to the Ottomans. Indeed, on 6th November 1914, the first British units were deployed to southern Iraq and by the 23rd November the port city of Basra was occupied. [8]
When Basra was invaded, letters of plea were sent to the Mujtahideen of different regions requesting an immediate response and aid to the people of Basra who were under threat. Below is a segment of a letter sent to the holy city of Kadhimiyya on behalf of dignitaries from Basra:
Basra has fallen, and the infidels surround us, they are all armed. We fear for the remainder of the Islamic land. We request your help in mobilizing the tribes for our defense. [9]
The reality of the threat on the Muslims in Iraq became ever more apparent and this in turn prompted a strong response from the Mujtahideen from different regions beginning with the holy city of Kadhimiyya and then other major Shi’ite cities including Najaf, Karbala and Sammara.
The Calls for the Jihad Movement
When news of Basra reached the prominent Mujtahideen of Kadhimiyya, Ayatollah Sayyid Mahdi Al-Haidari and Ayatollah Sheikh Mahdi Al-Khalisi, responded to this plea with immediate effect. In a famous and unprecedented call, Ayatollah Al-Haidari stood in the courtyards of the shrine in Kadhimiyya addressing the masses, who were waiting in suspense, with his legendary words; “Al-Jihad Al-Jihad”; which was received with a surge of chants and salutations from those present. In an atmosphere filled with anticipation, the Ayatollah declared his fatwa of Jihad to the masses announcing the obligation of defending the land of Islam, and to fight the invading transgressors. [10] He gathered the masses on numerous occasions in the courtyard of the shrine in Kadhimiyya and re-emphasised his fatwa, answering questions and warning the people of the dangers that were to come. On one of the notable occasions, he announced to the masses of Kadhimiyya, that he, his sons, his family and companions were to leave the city and head towards the frontlines of battle, saying:
He who wants to join me is victorious, and he who remains here is verily at loss. [11]
He then quoted the Qur’an:
Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward; [Chapter: Al-Nisa Verse: 95]
The masses responded to his call and pledged to join his men in taking to the frontlines. The Ayatollah then sent a letter to the Mujtahideen of the holy city of Najaf, Karbala and Sammara; declaring the need for Jihad against the transgressors at all costs. [12]
The news that the Ayatollah, who was more than 80 years of age and frail; was to go to the frontline had remarkable affects on the Shi’ites, as it lifted their morale and prepared them for war.
On the eve of the expedition to the frontlines, renowned clerics from the holy city of Najaf arrived to Kadhimiyya including Hujjat Al-Islam Sheikh Al-Shari’ah Al-Esfahani, Sayyid Mustafa Al-Kashani, and Sayyid Ali Al-Damaad. The Ayatollah requested the masses to receive them warmly and behind closed doors they negotiated the current state of affairs. On this night, many other people came walking from surrounding regions to the holy city of Kadhimiyya in hope of joining the expedition. [13]
When the news of the announcement from Kadhimiyya reached one of the prominent Mujtahideen of Sammara, Ayatollah Mirza Muhammed Taqi Al-Shirazi sent his eldest son Sheikh Muhammed Redha Al-Shirazi and requested him to join under the leadership of Ayatollah Al-Haidari. Ayatollah Al-Shirazi then sent out numerous letters to different regions of Iraq announcing the obligation to join the Jihad expedition alongside the Mujtahideen and the obligation to defend Islam. He was unable to join the expeditions himself due to bad health. [14]
The expedition of Kadhimiyya, under the leadership of Ayatollah Al-Haidari and Ayatollah Al-Khalisi left Kadhimiyya on the 12th Muharram 1333 which coincides with the 30th November 1914. [15]
When the news of Basra and the reaction from Kadhimiyya reached the holy city of Najaf, Ayatollah Sayyid Kadhim Al-Yazdi, likewise announced the obligation of Jihad and sent his son Sayyid Muhammed Al-Yazdi to the frontlines. In addition, the renowned Sayyid Muhammed Saeed Al-Haboobi took a dominant role in preparing the masses of Najaf for the frontlines. Many well known clerics joined Sayyid Al-Haboobi in this campaign including Ayatollah Mohsin Al-Hakim (who was then in his youth), Sheikh Muhammed Redha Al-Shabibi, Sheikh Muhammed Baqir Al-Shabibi, and Sheikh Ali Al-Sharqi.
They departed the holy city of Najaf under the leadership of Sayyid Muhammed Saeed Al-Haboobi on the 5th December 1914 for the frontlines in Basra. [16]
The Expeditions of the Shi’ites for Jihad
The expedition from Kadhimiyya took route by river towards the town of ‘Amarah in Southern Iraq. On the way, Ayatollah Al-Haidari ordered the expedition to stop at different towns and villages in order to speak to the locals regarding the need for resistance and rally support. In one of such stops, the Ayatollah’s son, Sayyid Ahmad Al-Haidari spoke on behalf of his father in parts saying:
All praise be to Allah who made Jihad one of the doors for His Paradise and of the keys for His mercy; and may the blessings be upon the Prophet (p) and his Progeny (p) who were sent to us a mercy to mankind and a punishment to the infidels. Allah has made Jihad an order upon all the believers and has allowed for it to be an intercession for the day of resurrection; for He has tested with it His servants and distinguished His enemies. Why do you not rise up in support of your religion? Do not leave the shrines of the Imams in the hands of the enemies. The enemies who seek to make you slaves and falsify your faith. Take refuge in the life of the Imams, who death to them was but a norm, and martyrdom to them was a bounty from their Lord. There is no excuse upon you, as the Mujtahideen, in their old age are heading towards Jihad. Even the animals have an instinct to defend their territories against intruders, for this is but a natural phenomenon. So at the least let us allow ourselves to be more dignified than the animals. Allah said in his Holy book: O you who believe! If you help (the cause of) Allah, He will help you and make firm your feet. [17]
As they neared the frontlines, the Ayatollah lead an army of around 20,000 Shi’ites to the strategic town of ‘Izayra; where he held a meeting with General Jaweed Pasha of the Ottoman military in which they negotiated the tactics of war to be undertaken. At this time the battle was already underway in the region of Qirna in Basra and so the Ayatollah set off to the frontline. News arrived of the falling of Qirna to the British and the retreat of the Ottoman army from that region, at which the Ayatollah was forced to direct towards the stronghold of ‘Amarah. At arrival in ‘Amarah, he was informed that the Ottoman General has ordered the retreat from ‘Amarah and the acceptance to British terms. The Ayatollah refused to retreat from ‘Amarah and declined to stand down from his stance saying that his army will stand this fort until it is defeated or becomes victorious. On hearing this news from the Ayatollah, the Ottoman General became more confident and likewise remained in ‘Amarah. [18]
From ‘Amarah, Ayatollah Al-Haidari again wrote letters to different Iraqi regions requesting their assistance on the frontline. He likewise wrote to different notable clerics requesting them to join, to which a number of them made their way to ‘Amarah including Hujjat Al-Islam Sheikh Al-Shari’ah Al-Esfahani, Sayyid Mustafa Al-Kashani, and Sayyid Ali Al-Damaad who were delayed in Baghdad due to flooding.
Within two weeks, the build up of recruits in ‘Amarah had reached around 40,000. In other developments, the Ottomans had replaced their General to ‘Amarah and installed Suleiman Askari Bek. The Shi’ite forces made their way to Qirna once again, and took military positions on the outskirts. The newly installed General visited the Ayatollah passing on a message of appreciation from the Ottoman Empire for the Shi’ite presence and also offered finances and food for the Shi’ite forces, at which the Ayatollah declined saying they are able to maintain themselves and offered his services to the other Ottoman forces as well.
In a move to encourage the Shi’ite forces to make their mark on the frontline, Ayatollah Al-Haidari decided to take to the front himself. Those clerics and aids around him told the Ayatollah that this decision was not necessary as he was the spiritual leader of the expedition and should be under protection. The Ayatollah however declined this idea stating that his presence at the front is needed to instill courage in the youth who were placing their lives for the cause. With much dispute over his presence on the frontline the Ayatollah said:
These masses have come for war and defense and will not stand on the frontline if we do not accompany them in good and bad times.
However, the matter remained contentious so the Ayatollah declared he will consult His Lord through Istikhara, to which the Qur’an stated:
And whoever strives hard, he strives only for his own soul; most surely Allah is Self-sufficient, above (need of) the worlds. [Chapter: Al-Ankatub Verse: 6]
The masses rejoiced at this revelation and strengthened in faith as they approached the frontline by river. [19]
The Battle of the Shi’ites Against the British
As it was approaching nightfall, Ayatollah Al-Haidari, ordered the forces to stop at in (one or the other) an area called Hreba which was a rocky unsettled area, there they camped out and stayed the night. At dawn they performed Fajr prayers, and planned to set out again to join the Ottoman army. However, as sunlight came, they were surprised to find themselves extremely close to the British forces that immediately noticed their presence and began raiding the Shi’ite camps. The Shi’ite forces were caught off guard and wanted to retreat but the Ayatollah declined and ordered the Shi’ites to engage in fighting. As news came that these forces were under attack, other groups scattered in the region to cross fire at the British. When matters intensified the Ayatollah took hold of his weapons and carried the Qur’an in his right and walked towards the frontline calling out to his men:
Do not fear nor become saddened for Allah is with you and will make you victorious against the infidels. Safeguard the sanctity of Islam; for I pray that these attacks of fire will not harm us.
The Shi’ites fought bravely and inflicted heavy casualties on the British that numbered around 2000, whereas amongst the warriors of the Ayatollah there were 14 killed and 50 injuries. [20]
This was regarded as a great victory due to the presence, leadership and prayers of the Ayatollah; and was attributed to the Istikhara he took prior to joining the frontlines.
One of those warriors afterwards recalled; As the battle intensified, we decided to retreat, however, every time we saw the camps of the Ayatollah standing and he was alongside us at the front, we felt shame and embarrassment that the Ayatollah himself was amongst us and so we continued in battle. [21]
In this same battle the Ottoman General Suleiman Askari Bek was alleged to have been injured and returned to a Baghdad hospital. As he resided on his hospital bed, one of the Sunni Iraqi clerics visited him to ask his well being, to which the General responded to him in disappointment:
Do you to sit here, relaxed and comfortable while receiving a heavy government salary, whereas Sayyid Al-Haidari remains on the frontlines at his old age and refuses to accept any government funds? [22]
Ottoman Downfall and Retreat
After the losses inflicted on the British army, the British reconvened their forces and launched a heavy attack on Shi’aba on the 12th April 1915; where Suleiman Askari Bek had reconvened his army alongside Sayyid Muhammed Saeed Al-Haboobi from Najaf, who had an army of 20,000-50,000 waiting on the frontlines. However, the Ottoman’s army was caught off guard and due to the heavy attacks from the British, and due to the dire communication between the Ottoman army and the Shi’ite forces, there were many Muslim casualties including an estimated 3000 Shi’ites. When the Ottoman General Suleiman Askari Bek realised had lost Shi’aba and was unable to return Basra to the Ottoman Empire, he committed suicide. [23] Unfortunately, the outcomes of this battle brought much sadness and pain to Sayyid Muhammed Saeed Al-Haboobi who by June 1915 passed away from illness. [24]
In addition, the other frontier of Hwaza also fell in the coming weeks after fierce battles in which the British had out numbered and out powered the Ottoman and Shi’ite forces under the leadership of Ayatollah Al-Khalisi. [25]
The remaining frontier that remained in Muslim control was that of Qurna, which was under the control of Ayatollah Al-Haidari. The British launched a mass assault by surprise on this region and toppled the Muslim army without putting up a strong challenge. Ayatollah Al-Haidari and other Mujtahideen reconvened and made contact with the newly appointed Ottoman General Noor Al-Din Bek requesting him to keep the forces in the region; however they learnt that the General had already called for a complete retreat of the Ottoman military. The Shi’ites were disappointed with the decision of the
General who is alleged to have made a deal with the British. [26]
In the chaos of retreating, an incident took place in which the Shi’ite boats where attacked and capsized in the waters including that of Ayatollah Al-Haidari who was close to drowning and was rescued by those around him. [27]
The Ayatollah reached the town of Kut in July 1915 and remained there for four months to reinforce and support the fighters in further battles. However, the British army managed to occupy the whole area and Ayatollah Al-Haidari returned back to Kadhimiyya in January 1916; after about one year since he departed for Jihad. [28]
Post-Jihad Iraq
In Kadhimiyya, the Ayatollah continued to refuse any involvement with the British, declining any financial support from them. He believed that the occupation of Iraq would have damaging effects on the state of Muslims in Iraq. His health soon deteriorated and by October 1917, he passed away in the holy city of his birth place. [29]
After British occupation of Iraq, the British government was planning to govern Iraq directly, but faced opposition from the Iraqi people in general and the Shi’ites in particular who refused that option and struggled to establish an Iraqi government.
In 1917, a political party was formed in Najaf under the name of Hizb Al-Nahtha Al-Islamiyya. This party was responsible for an uprising in Najaf in the year 1918, which inflicted casualties on the British forces and brought a state of anarchy in the area for some weeks. [30]
One can note here that during this unstable period, both the Christians and Jews of Iraq were in favour of a direct British rule and for Iraq to be part of the British Empire. However, most of the Shi’ite clerics and tribal leaders emphasized the importance of establishing a Muslim Arab government and supported the idea that one of the sons of Hussain bin Ali, the Sharif of Makkah would take position as a monarch. The Mujtahideen demanded that the authority of the monarch be restricted by a constitution and a legislative assembly. Some of the nationalist politicians preferred a republic regime
rather than a monarchy, but they were a minority at this period of time.
On 30th of June 1919, the revered Ayatollah Sayyid Kadhim Al-Yazdi died in Najaf. He was considered to be of the leading Shi’ite clerics who tended towards the peaceful settlement of the problems with the British government. After his departure, Ayatollah Mirza Muhammed Taqi Al-Shirazi, who was mentioned earlier, transferred his residency to the holy city of Karbala, and become the leading Shii’ite Mujtahid in Iraq. [31]
Also in 1919, a political party was established called Al-Jami’iyyah Al-Islamiyya under the leadership of Sheikh Muhammed Redha Al-Shirazi, son of Ayatollah Muhammed Taqi Al-Shirazi. The main objective of this party was to
end the British occupation of Iraq with complete independence and to establish a national government with an elected assembly.
Later on in that year, Ayatollah Muhammed Taqi Al-Shirazi issued a fatwa announcing that it is not permissible for the Muslims to remain under the rule of non-Muslims. [32] In addition, Sheikh Muhammed Al-Khalisi, a well known cleric and political activist, gave a speech in Karbala, during this same period, declaring to the crowds that Islam has given the Muslims rights, yet the British considered them as inferiors and slaves. He said that accepting such a status is an acceptable by God. He said to them that if they cannot overcome the British militarily, then they should at least pursue all other avenues to liberate themselves. [33]
In response to this political activity in Karbala, the British authorities decided to arrest Sheikh Muhammad Redha Al-Shirazi, head of Al-Jami’iyyah Al-Islamiyya, with some of his followers and expelled them to an island off the Indian Ocean. [34]
Due to the rising tensions that developed during the period following the occupation of Iraq, the Iraqi masses and in particular the Shi’ites revolted on the 30th June 1920, which was later called “Thawrat Al-‘Ishreen”, meaning the Revolution of 1920. This was led by the Shi’ite authority Ayatollah Mirza Muhammed Taqi Al-Shirazi in Karbala. The uprising resulted in heavy numbers of casualties from both sides. Politically, it succeeded in changing the policy of the British government, who later accepted terms for an independent Iraqi government. [35]
While reviewing the turn of events at the beginning of the twentieth century many different thoughts come to mind. The most striking of which is the way in which the Mujtahideen were able to mobilize the Shi’ite masses in such difficult periods. It demonstrates the respect and obedience the people had to their religious clerics in those times. Another point that stands out is that the Jihad movement of 1914 is possibly the first real incident of Shi’ite political involvement in contemporary history. Prior to these events, the Shi’ites were very much pacifists in regards to politics due to the oppression they had suffered over the years. After the Jihad movement, there was a revival in the involvement in politics which led to different uprisings, the formation of many organisations with political ambitions, and consequently the formation of an independent Iraqi government albeit Sunni governed. After the extradition of Shi’ite clerics from Iraq, the Shi’ites lessened their participation in politics and the newly founded government was Sunni dominated.
When analysing the role of the Mujtahideen in the Jihad movement, although their significance is clear in rallying support, one finds difficulty in understanding the position of the Mujtahideen in regards to forming an Islamic
government. There were no definitions set for an Islamic state by Ayatollah Al-Haidari or any other Mujtahid during the Jihad movement. After the battles ended and the political process began for forming a government, demands from the Shi’ites were simply for an independent Iraq, with the establishment of a national government that respects the rights of all religions, races and sects. Theories that existed in Shi’ite doctrine regarding Wilayat Al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist), that resurfaced in the Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini later in the twentieth century; did not seem to play any dominant role in these Jihad movements. In addition, although the Mujtahideen placed great emphasis on defending the Muslim lands, they did not seek any positions of authority in the run up to establishing an independent government.
In terms of the success of the Jihad movement, there are varying angles one can approach the issue. From  a military point of view the British far superceded the Muslim forces in Iraq, and the invasion from that perspective, was only a matter of a time. However, the highlighting point when reviewing these Jihad movements is that it was precisely time that became the apparent problem for the British. The Shi’ite and Ottoman forces were able to keep the British engaged in battle for a period of four years until the Capital Baghdad fell. This brought heavy casualties to the British and in comparison to other regions that were colonized, such as Jordan and Palestine under the British, or Syria and Lebanon under the French; Iraq proved to be a difficult fortress to break.
Ultimately, in turn, these Jihad movements and the uprisings that took place afterwards played a significant role in forcing the British to hand over power to an Iraqi government rather than to make Iraq part of the British Empire.
The monarchy that the British installed still paid homage to the British, but it was the better option for the Iraqis compared to official occupation.
If anything is for certain as a result of the events that transpired in the early twentieth century, it is that the Shi’ites had made their political debut in Iraq which would make them important players in any future political process.
1. Y. Nakash (2003), The Shi’is of Iraq, Princeton University Press, 2nd Edition, p.55
2. A. Al-Bozurgan (1945), Al-Waqa’I Al-Haqiqiyya lil Thawra Al-Iraqiyya, Baghdad Edition (Arabic), p.47-50
3. A. Alayan (2005), Al-Shi’a Wal Dawla Al-Iraqiyya Al-Hadeetha, Beirut Edition (Arabic), p.251-252
4. K. Al-Chadirchi (1971), Min Awraq Kamil Al-Chadirchi, First Edition Beirut (Arabic), p.63
5. H. Alawi (1992), Al-Ta’theerat Al-Turkiyya Fi Al-Mashru’ Al-Qawmi Al-Arabi Fi Al-Iraq, Qum Edition (Arabic), p.42
6. Y. Nakash, p.59
7. Ibid, p.60
8. A. Alayan, p.270
9. A. Al-Hussaini (1966), Al-Imam Al-Thaer, First Edition Baghdad (Arabic), p.44
10. M. H. Aal-Yassin (1964), Majalat Al-‘Aqleem, Vol. 1 Issue 3, Baghdad (Arabic).
11. Ibid, Vol. 1 Issue 3
12. A. Al-Hussaini, p.45
13. Ibid, p.45
14. Ibid, p.46
15. M. H. Aal-Yassin (1964), Majalat Al-‘Aqleem, Vol. 1 Issue 3.
16. A. Alayan, p. 273
17. A. Al-Hussaini, p.166-172
18. Ibid, p.48
19. Ibid, p.53
20. A. Fayyadh (1974), Thawrat Al-Iraq Al-Kubra, Baghdad Edition (Arabic), p.112
21. A. Al-Hussaini, p.57
22. Ibid, p.59
23. Ibid, p.59
24. A. Alayan, p. 274; also S. M. Nadeem, Harb Al-Iraq, Eightieth Edition, Baghdad (Arabic), p.33
25. A. Al-Hussaini, p.59
26. Ibid, p.60
27. Ibid, p.62
28. Ibid, p.69-71
29. Ibid, p.83
30. A. R. Hassani (1935), Al-Iraq Fi Dawray Al-Ihtilal wal Intedab, Lebanon edition (Arabic), p.36
31. A. Alayan, p. 293
32. Majalat Al-Sharq (1953), Karbala, dated 15th Shaban 1373.
33. A. Al-Wardi (1991), Lem’at Ijtima’iyah min Al-Tareekh Al-Iraq Al-Hadeeth, 2nd Edition London (Arabic), Vol. 5 Part 1 p.205
34. A. Alayan, p.297
35. Ibid, p.305

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