Skip to Content

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

(CNN) — Here’s a look at the life of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric.


Birth date: August 4, 1930

Birth place: Mashhad, Iran

Birth name: Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani

Father: Sayyid Mohammad Baqir, a religious scholar

Mother: Name unavailable publicly

Marriage: Information unavailable publicly

Children: Muhammad Rida al-Sistani – eldest son. Total number of children unavailable publicly.

Religion: Shiite Muslim

Other Facts

He is a member of a well-known family of religious scholars and began studying at the age of 5.

Al-Sistani has written many books and treatises on Islamic law and life.

During Saddam Hussein’s regime, Sistani was under house arrest for many years.

Rarely does interviews or is seen in public.


1952 – Sistani moves to the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, to study with Shiite clerics there.

1990 – Is chosen by other religious figures to lead an important network of schools in Najaf.

September 2002 – Issues his first political fatwa, urging Muslims to unite and defend Iraq against outside aggressors.

April 2003 – Sistani’s house arrest is lifted after the US-led invasion of Iraq. Sistani issues his second political fatwa, urging the Iraqi people to remain neutral and not to interfere with the US forces.

June 3, 2004 – Sistani endorses the new Iraqi government. Says the new government lacks “legitimacy of elections” and does not represent “in an acceptable manner all segments of Iraqi society and political forces. … Nevertheless, it is hoped that this government will prove its efficiency and integrity and show resolve to carry out the enormous tasks that rest on its shoulders.”

August 3-26, 2004 – Fighting engulfs the city of Najaf. Militiamen loyal to Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr battle US forces for control of the area.

August 6, 2004 – Sistani, who seldom leaves his home in Najaf, travels to London for treatment for heart problems.

August 25, 2004 – Sistani returns to Iraq and begins negotiating a ceasefire in Najaf. Before his return he asks all Iraqis to “march to Najaf in order to rescue the city.”

August 26, 2004 – Arrives at his home in Najaf, where he and Sadr reach an agreement to put an end to the violence in the region.

February 13, 2005 – The results of Iraq’s January 30, 2005, election are released. Sistani’s United Iraqi Alliance comes in first, with more than four million votes.

December 2008 – Sistani endorses the Iraqi government and US military troop withdrawal proposal.

January 2009 – Releases a statement urging Iraqis to vote in the upcoming provincial elections but states that he is not endorsing any candidates.

March 2011 – To express his dissatisfaction with Iraqi political leaders, Sistani refuses to meet with them.

March 2013 – Sistani issues a fatwa prohibiting shedding Iraqi blood, particularly Sunni blood.

June 13, 2014 – Through his representative, Sistani appeals to his followers to join the security forces in fighting ISIS militants. “Citizens who are able to bear arms and fight terrorists … should volunteer and join the security forces to achieve this holy purpose.

May 11, 2018 – Ahead of the first parliamentary elections since the defeat of ISIS, Sistani urges voters to learn from the past and not reelect “corrupt” lawmakers. Unlike in past elections, he doesn’t insist everyone get out and vote to ensure a solid Shia showing at the polls.

July 13, 2018 – As protests spread across southern Iraq over a lack of jobs and government services, Sistani urges authorities to address the complaints, but also calls for peaceful protests.

January 16, 2020 – Undergoes successful surgery for a broken thigh bone.

March 6, 2021 – Meets with Pope Francis during the pontiff’s first-ever visit to Iraq.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - World

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content