This article is an abridgement, by Joe Stork, of a paper prepared by Hanna Batatu in May 1981 and published in the autumn 1981 issue of Middle East Journal.

Two Shi’i parties are active in Iraq’s underground: al-Da‘wa al-Islamiyya (Islamic Call) and al-Mujahidin. The Da‘wa is the older movement. It had its beginnings in the late 1960s in the holy city of Najaf. The Mujahidin were strongly affected by Iran’s popular upheaval, and emerged in Baghdad in 1979. In terms of material resources and popular support, the Da‘wa surpasses the Mujahidin. The latter, for their part, are distinguished by their energy, zeal and bold actions, and they are free of the taint of connection with the late Shah of Iran.

Because of their recent emergence, we have little specific information about the origins of the Mujahidin. In several pertinent respects, though, we can distinguish them from the Da‘wa. Men of religion form the leading core of the Da‘wa. By contrast, the Mujahidin are religiously oriented graduates of modern schools and colleges. They are determinedly opposed to the intervention of the ‘ulama’ in the political life of the country, and blame Iran’s clerics for the confused state of Iran’s revolution. In temper they are close to Iran’s ex-president, Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr, while the Da‘wa is more akin to Iran’s Muslim Republican Party. Despite their name, the Mujahidin have no organizational links or ideological affinity with Iran’s Mojahedin-e Khalq. Like the Da‘wa, they draw inspiration from the thought of Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, the most learned of Iraq’s ayatollahs, but are attracted to his economic rather than his political ideas.

The Ranks of the Underground

The conditions that dispose Shi’is of humble background favorably toward the Da‘wa or the Mujahidin are quite different than the conditions that actuate their leaders and organizers. In greater Baghdad, the two parties draw much of their support from al-Thawra, a township which accounts for more than a quarter of the entire population of the capital and includes Baghdad’s worst slums. (Other, secondary locales of support are the districts of al-Salam and al-Quray‘at. Here live, for the most part, laborers of rural origin. Another base is the district of Karrada al-Sharqiyya, a neighborhood of teachers, tradesmen and low-level state employees.) In militant Shi‘i literature, al-Thawra is identified as “the stronghold of heroes.” [1]

The living conditions of the Shi‘is of al-Thawra have much to do with their susceptibility to the influence of the Da‘wa and the Mujahidin. True, the minimum daily wage for unskilled laborers — a class to which most of the people of al-Thawra belong — rose from 450-500 fils in 1973 to 1,100 fils in 1977, and to 1,300 fils in 1980, an increase of more than 250 percent on average. [2] (One Iraqi dinar consists of 1,000 fils. Its 1975 exchange value was $3.37. This dropped to $2.90 in 1980 before the Iraq-Iran war and $2.20 thereafter.) Furthermore, from 1973 to 1978, according to official figures, state controls and subsidies have limited price increases to only 53.4 percent for foodstuffs, 54.7 percent for housing, 55.9 percent for clothes and 108.1 percent for shoes. [3] But official figures on housing costs, at least, do not appear to reflect the actual state of affairs. There has been a sharp increase in the population of metropolitan Baghdad, from 1.5 million in 1965 to 3.2 million in 1981, and a subsequent housing shortage. The monthly rent for what Iraqi laborers disparagingly call a “garage” — a modest dwelling of one bedroom, one sitting room and the barest of necessities — is now 50 to 60 dinars, up from 10 or 15 a decade ago. Similarly, the price of a kilogram of Iraqi mutton — preferred to cheaper imported lamb — has risen from about 900 fils in 1970 to 2.5 dinars in 1981.

Furthermore, if the price of various products is relatively low by decree, their supply is erratic. Of late, imported labor has affected adversely the nominal earnings of unskilled Iraqi construction workers. ( An official of the UN Economic Commission for Western Asia said in January 1981 that no fewer than 700,000 Egyptians were working in services, construction and agriculture in and around Baghdad alone.) The Iraq-Iran war may also be having a negative effect on the daily life of the laboring people. There is at present an import boom, trade in the cities is still buoyant, and the government has gone out of its way to shield consumers from the effects of the war. But the shortage of oil and electricity has slowed down industrial activity. The costs of this protracted conflict, and the need to finance the replacement or repair of badly damaged oil and other economic installations, are bound to pinch the government’s ability to spend for social welfare. The people of al-Thawra have an additional grievance: the government has not provided their district with sewers and asphalted streets on account of the belief that the town lies over a rich oilfield.

It is not just coincidental that the Iraqi Communist Party derived much of its strength in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s from this same township or its old component districts. The deep wound inflicted on the Communist cadre in 1963, its 1973-1978 course of compromise with the Baath regime, and the exile in 1979 of no fewer than three thousand of its hardened members, left the disadvantaged of the capital with no organized means of protest. This produced a void in the underground which the Da‘wa and the Mujahidin hastened to fill.

What role does the Shi’ism of the sympathizers of the Da‘wa and the Mujahidin play in their affection for these militant movements? The inhabitants of al-Thawra are all of recent rural origins. They hail from the overwhelmingly Shi‘i rural districts of the provinces of Basra, Karbala’, Diwaniyya (Qadisiyya), Hilla (Babylon), ‘Amara (Maysan), Muntafiq (Dhi Qar) and Kut (Wasit), where religion was very feebly organized. These districts accounted for more than 49 percent of the total rural population of Iraq in 1947, but had a total of only 39 religious institutions, an average of one for every 37,000 persons. In rural ‘Amara and Kut, which had upwards of 421,000 inhabitants, there was not a single religious institution. The census of 1947, from which these figures are drawn, does not define the term “religious institution.” It obviously refers to such things as mosques, religious schools and husayniyyas (places where Shi‘is normally gather to accept condolences upon the death of a relative and, more particularly, to lament the martyrdom of Husayn in the Muslim month of Muharram). It should be pointed out that religious institutions were also scarce in the Arab Sunni rural areas. The Kurdish Sunni rural belt, however, swarmed with takiyyas or khanaqas (dervish places of retreat and prayer). Part of the explanation for this paucity of religious institutions in the Shi’i countryside lies in its extreme poverty. The phenomenon is also related to the fact that, for very long and well into the first decades of this century, vast segments of the countryside were the home of semi-mobile tribal societies. In addition, about a quarter of the provinces of ‘Amara and Basra and 10 percent or so of the Muntafiq consisted of permanent or seasonal marshland. Inside the marshes no buildings could be found other than reed huts which stood above the level of the water on mounds of bulrushes.

Does the scarcity of rural religious institutions imply a lack of religious vigor on the part of rural Shi’is. At least in the past, in certain villages, resident tribal sayyids (claimants of descent from the Prophet) used their mudif (guest house) as a sort of mosque or husayniyya. Itinerant preachers — the mu’mins — from neighboring towns traveled to other villages. Some of these preachers had attended religious schools and were bonafide representatives of Shi’i religious leaders. Others specialized in superstition, even quackery, and lived off the peasant-tribesmen. Certain of the sayyids were also of this type.

Many of the rural Shi‘is were of relatively recent bedouin origin, and bedouins have not been known for the vigor of their religion. Not a few of the tribes to which the rural Shi‘is belong were relatively recently converted to Shi‘ism. For example, the important tribes of Rabi‘a, Zubayd and Bani Tamim turned to Shi‘ism only within the last 180 years or so. [4] Ibrahim Fasih al-Haydari, a Sunni man of learning who brought this fact to light in 1869, blamed their conversion on “the lack of [Sunni] ‘ulama’ among them” and the temptations of the “devils of the disavowers.” [5] But the anti-government motif of Shi’ism, its preoccupation with oppression, its grief-laden tales, and its miracle play representing Husayn’s passion, accorded with the instincts and sufferings of the tribespeople-turned-peasants and must have eased the tasks of the traveling Shi‘i mu’mins.

The agricultural, sheep-tending or marsh-dwelling tribespeople are not strict in their Shi‘ism or well versed in their faith. On the whole they conform to certain traditional rites and participate in great religious events. On the other hand, except for those who live on the Euphrates in the neighborhood of the Shi‘i holy cities, the tribespeople are by and large lax about their prayers or in keeping the fast. [6] They are also prone to perjury, having been harassed for so long by userers and tax-collectors and by the importunities of arbitrary sheikhs. [7] (At some unknown point in the past, they developed a heterodox cult around ‘Abbas, Husayn’s half-brother, who was noted for his bravery and tenacity in the historic battle of Karbala’ in AD 680. They would indeed swear falsely by God, the Prophet, his cousin ‘Ali and his grandson Husayn, who are all, in their view, compassionate and forgiving, but not by ‘Abbas, who was stern and quick to anger when roused: A violation of an oath by him, they believed, is bound to be visited by a swift and apposite punishment.) Down to the 1958 revolution and even afterward they continued, on the whole, to be governed more by their ancient tribal customs than by the shari‘a as developed and interpreted by the twelve Shi‘i imams and the great Shi‘i marja‘, or highest authoritative legist of the day.

The Origins of the Da‘wa Party

When peasant-tribespeople moved to Baghdad (and Basra) from the countryside in the 1930s and succeeding decades in great waves, sometimes emptying whole villages, and hundreds of thousands became fixed in what eventually came to be known as al-Thawra township, little concern was at first shown for their ideological development except by the Communists. Shi’i men of religion were not conspicuous in their districts until after the mid-1960s and the rise of the Da‘wa movement, when the migrants became the object of sustained attention.

It was not a reviving Islam or an ascendant Shi‘ism that prompted elements within the circle of ‘ulama’ at Najaf to organize ranks in the late 1960s and set up the Da‘wa party. On the contrary, they were moved by a growing sense that the old faith was receding, that skepticism and even disdain for traditional rites was rife among the educated Shi‘is, that the belief of even the urban Shi‘i masses was not as firm, and their conformism to ancient usages not as punctual or as reverent, as in times past. The ‘ulama’ were losing ground and declining in prestige and material influence.

The students of religion had been palpably decreasing. In 1918 no fewer than 6,000 students attended the theological madrasas (schools) of Najaf. [8] By 1957, the number of students had declined to 1,954, of whom only 326 were Iraqis. [9] This learning had no time limit: it went on for very many years and could be continued for life. The ages of the students ranged from 20 to 60. Thus, the turnover of graduates was not large. Moreover, some Iraqis enrolled in the madrasas only in name, in order to secure exemption from military service.

Up until the 1920s, the Shi‘i ‘ulama’ largely shaped the worldview of their followers without opposition. The entry of Shi‘is into modern schools and the penetration of European influences broke this monopoly. As early as 1929, they found themselves defied in their own citadel: the government decided to open a girls’ school in Najaf itself. “With the advance of education and knowledge,” observed one high government official, “the influence the ‘ulama’ at present exercise over the more ignorant people is bound to be weakened with a consequent falling-off in their income.” [10]

Indeed, the material position of the ‘ulama’ depended on the strength of the old pieties. They could expect little financial backing from the government, and did not have control over rich awqaf (properties or funds assigned to pious or charitable purposes) as did their Sunni counterparts. Formerly, the distinguished Shi‘i ‘ulama’ received large contributions from their co-religionists in the form of zakat, khums, radd madhalim and sawm wa salat. The zakat was the tithe for the poor. The khums, or fifth part of the income, formed the perquisite of the claimants of descent from the Prophet. Radd madhalim was the special forgiveness purchased from the ‘ulama’ for earning state salaries derived from taxes which, to a strict Shi‘i, were forbidden. Sawm wa salat were fees for the observing of prayers and fasting on behalf of certain persons for periods varying in accordance with the amount paid. In 1918 these contributions were so ample that the chief Shi‘i marja‘ at Najaf alone distributed upwards of one hundred thousand pounds sterling in charity. [11] But in 1953 the Najafi Ayatollah Kashif al-Ghita’ complained:

In bygone days the people and the chiefs of tribes were virtuous and open-handed. They showed deference to the ‘ulama’ and came to their aid. The religious schools lived on their gifts and charities…. But since the change in conditions, the shrinking of benevolence, and the corruption of the wealthy…the religious schools have fallen on bad days…. The Ministry of Education sends us every year only a small grant-in-aid…and the contribution of the Awqaf Department is even less substantial. [12]

A visitor to Najaf in the 1960s could not help noticing the straits to which many of the Shi‘i legists and students of religion were reduced. [13] The deep penetration of communism in the 1940s and 1950s into Najaf itself also alarmed the conservative instincts of many of the ‘ulama’. In 1953, Ayatollah Kashif al-Ghita’ noted, with a sense of peril not untinged by wonder, how “wide nests” comprising “spirited and ardent young men” thrived in its name in the holiest of Shi‘i cities, even though it was “without logic or proof and unassisted by funds or patronage or dignity of rank.” [14] Even more disconcerting must have been the conversion to communism of descendants of ‘ulama’ and provincial town sayyids. [15]

The pronounced Sunnism of the regime of ‘Abd al-Salam ‘Arif (1963-66), and the secularly oriented policies of the Baath government which came to power in 1968, were other important factors in galvanizing the Shi‘i ‘ulama’ into action. The earliest sign of restlessness was the emergence of the Fatimiyya group in 1964. This, however, never took on a regular expression. It was soon penetrated by the political police and effectively dispersed. But it aroused enough apprehension to cause the government to create a special branch within the Directorate of Public Security — the Second Branch — devoted exclusively to combating underground Shi‘i activities.

The exile in 1964 of Ruhullah al-Khumayni from Iran to Najaf marked an event in the life of the Shi’i ‘ulama’. The power he exercised, and continues to exercise, over others lay in his stern and unswerving idealism. He was one of the few of Iran’s religious dignitaries who did not kiss the hand or fawn at the feet of the Shah. But Khumayni had no hand in the rise of the Da’wa, which is known to have had links — probably indirect — with the Shah in the earliest phase of its history. At the outset, the Da’wa penetrated among the men of religion in Najaf, Karbala’ and Kadhimiyya, and tended to attract in particular elements from their lower and younger ranks.

The Shi‘i men of religion in Iraq are not as numerous per capita as they are in Iran. [16] In 1947, when the population was about 4.5 million (it is 14 million at present), the number of persons employed in the “religious services” of all denominations did not exceed 7,763, [17] and this figure included persons such as servants in mosques and churches. More than one sixth of the total were concentrated in the Shi‘i holy cities: 601 at Karbala’, 474 at Najaf and 232 at Kadhimiyya. [18] The Da‘wa began spreading its ideas in the mosques of these cities. It also gave considerable attention to the vast crowds that take part there annually on 20 Safar, in the ceremonial processions commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn, and hoped to attach their feelings to its ideological conclusions.

The Da‘wa was greatly assisted in its efforts by the drought that struck the Najaf-Karbala’ region and other Shi’i areas in the mid-1970s, in the wake of the reduction of the flow of the Euphrates River through Syria’s newly built dam at Tabqa. The drought ruined fruit orchards and the rice crop, affecting hundreds of thousands of peasants. The Da‘wa’s first test of strength with the government came in 1974, when the Husayni processions broke up into angry political protests. But this was as nothing compared to the fury that greeted the forces of the police in 1977, when they attempted to interfere with the processions halfway between Najaf and Karbala’. The outraged crowds stormed a police station at nearby al-Haydariyya, chanting rhythmically: “Saddam, shil idakl Sha‘b al-‘Iraq ma yuridak!” (Saddam, remove your hand! The people of Iraq do not want you!).

The Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 radicalized the Da‘wah and prompted the appearance of the Mujahidin. This signaled, before long, a shift in the method of struggle. The two movements now resorted to sporadic guerrilla attacks on posts of the police, the Baath Party and the People’s Army. The Iranian Revolution also turned the gaze of the Shi‘is increasingly toward Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. He had no political or organizational connection with either the Da‘wa or the Mujahidin, but he was Iraq’s most distinguished and most enlighted Shi’i legist, and inspired much devotion among the common people. Without any encouragement from him, more and more Shi’is began to look to him for political leadership, and Iran’s Arabic radio broadcasts repeatedly referred to him as “the Khumayni of Iraq.” In the eyes of the government, he loomed as a rival pole of attraction and a symbol of approaching danger.

The Regime Responds

Saddam Hussein insisted that the attitude of the Baath toward religion, and with regard to “religious sectarian fanaticism,” should be “free from ambiguity or evasiveness.” “We have no wish to win over the majority within determinate temporal limits or for transient causes or merely to get past a temporary trying situation,” he stated. “Our party is not neutral between belief and unbelief; it is on the side of belief but it is not a religious party and should not be so.” He also pointed out that “certain oppositional forces” sought, “under the cover of religious observances,” to provoke the apparatuses of the regime to interfere in matters of faith in an “undisciplined and insensitive” manner, in the hope of isolating the Baath from its masses and throwing it into “the situation of the interpenetrating trenches…where it becomes difficult to distinguish between friend and foe.” The political line of those forces was based on the supposition that “we would make a tactical mistake whose consequences they would generalize with negative effects on our strategy.”

It was necessary, therefore, for the government to avoid at all costs “the politicizing of religion,” and to permit every sect to observe its rites. At the same time, Saddam Hussein left the Shi‘i movements under no misapprehension that “the use of religion as a cover for politics,” or the veering of religious observances towards a course of “incompatibility or collision” with Baathist policies, would incur “stern punishment” and bring the perpetrators under “the iron fist of the revolution.” [19]

In practice, Saddam Hussein pursued two tactics: tarhib and targhib, as Iraqis would say. He terrorized with one hand and offered rewards with the other. In 1974 he executed five members of the Da’wa Party; in 1977 he sent eight other Shi‘is to their death; in June of 1979 he ordered the arrest of the popular and widely respected Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, and when the people of al-Thawra took to the streets in protest he suppressed them violently. His crackdown on the Shi‘i opposition precipitated a split in the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, which led the following August to the physical elimination of 22 of his Baathist critics or rivals. [20] In the first quarter of 1980, in the wake of stepped-up grenade attacks in and around Baghdad, he expelled 15,368 Iranian nationals who are descended from families living in Iraq for many generations. [21] After the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran war, in the fall of that year, which was intimately related to Shi‘i unrest, he pressed harder on the Da‘wa party. According to the party’s own, perhaps exaggerated, account, from 1974 to the end of 1980 “no fewer than 500 of the best men of Iraq” were put to death, including Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, eight other ‘ulama’ and ‘Ala’ al-Shahristani, former director of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Authority. [22]

At the same time, Saddam Hussein showed greater deference to the Shi‘i ‘ulama’, and went out of his way to win them over to his regime. In 1979 alone, he spent as much as 24.4 million dinars on shrines, mosques, husayniyyas, pilgrims and other affairs of religion, dispensing funds impartially to both Shi‘i and Sunni establishments. [23] He also declared the birthday of ‘Ali b. Abi Talib a national holiday. He paid frequent visits to the holy places and toured the Shi‘i countryside, promising new services and further reforms. In a speech to crowds gathered near the ‘Alid sanctuary at Najaf, he undertook “to fight injustice with the swords of the imams” and called for “a revival of heavenly values.” [24] In another speech, he reasserted his family’s claim of descent from the Prophet: “We have the right to say today — and we will not be fabricating history — that we are the grandsons of Imam Husayn.” [25] Nevertheless, he could not get into the good graces of the chief marja‘, Grand Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khu’i, who remained wrapped up in religion, unshaken in his determination not to sanction or oppose the government. Nor was he able to conciliate the only other Shi‘i marja‘ in Iraq: until his execution, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr is said to have adhered firmly to the view that relationships with the regime were haram — religiously forbidden — on account of its palpably “un-Islamic” character.

Saddam Husayn did win over a number of Shi‘i religious dignitaries, such as Imam Shaykh ‘Ali Kashif al-Ghita’ and Shaykh ‘Ali al-Saghir, both of Najaf. [26] But from the standpoint of militant Shi‘is, these dignitaries belong to the category of al-‘ulama’ al-hafiz. Hafiz is a distortion of the English word “office,” and is a term of opprobrium attached originally to ‘ulama’ who collaborated with the British. It is now pinned to ‘ulama’ who place their learning at the disposal of regimes unsanctioned by Islam.

Saddam Hussein does not discriminate against Shi‘is. He thinks in Arab rather than in sectarian terms. This is not without appeal to many in Baghdad or the southern part of the country who are Arabs first and Shi‘is after. Few Shi‘is hold crucial threads in his regime, but this is not attributable to sectarian influences. Rather, the relative thinness of his domestic base and the repressive character of his government have driven him to lean more and more heavily on his kinsmen or members of his own clan or old companions from his underground days. Over the last five years or so, he has spared no effort to recruit Shi‘is into the Baath Party or to associate them with his regime. But many of the Shi‘is he attracts appear to be impelled more by material interest than conviction. They are careerists rather than devotees. By contrast, faith and the spirit of sacrifice weigh more in the ranks of the Da’wah or the Mujahidin and, in the larger scale, of political struggle.

Prospects for the Shi‘i Underground

One negative factor in the prospects for the Shi’i underground is its state of fragmentation. The Da‘wa Party not only has the Mujahidin as Shi‘i rivals. It also has to contend with Munazzamat al-‘Amal al-Islami (Organization tor islamic Action, which split off from its ranks in 1980. This group, shocked by the execution of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister, Bint al-Huda, has set itself against a policy of adventurism. From its standpoint, the only sensible course under existing circumstances is to concentrate on training cadres and building the capabilities of the movement. Its concerns are also more pan-Islamic than strictly Iraqi. The Da‘wa itself embraces at least two conflicting trends: one radical, identifying with Ruhullah al-Khumayni, the other more conservative and identified with Kadhim Shariatmadari.

The Shi‘i underground currently lacks effective overall guidance and a unifying symbol. Until 1980, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr filled this role, at least ideologically. This is why his violent removal from the scene represented such a heavy blow to the whole movement, even though it surrounded it with an aura of martyrdom. Lately, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim has been trying to close Shi’i ranks under an umbrella organization, Jama’at al-‘Ulama’ (The Community of ‘Ulama’), with the blessings of Iran. But the close embrace of the movement by Iran poses a problem of no little import. “In their heart of hearts,” as one dedicated Shi‘i put it to this writer recently, “Iraq’s Shi‘is like things to grow from their own soil.” This is why they took so much pride in Baqir Muhammad al-Sadr who, they felt, was one of theirs, and the only Arab among the eight who claimed the title of marja‘ in the day. [27] In the past, at least, it was possible to sense in Najaf itself an undercurrent of tension between Iranian and Arab ‘ulama’. One of the side effects of the Iraq-Iran war has been a sharpening of the feeling of distinction between Arab and Iranian among at least a part of Iraq’s Shi‘is, particularly those who have all along held that their Arab or Iraqi identity is more important than their Shi‘i or Islamic affiliation. Others could not help noticing that the status of the Arab Shi‘i minority in Iran has not improved under the new religious dispensation. There is also a strong opinion that Shi’i causes in Iraq should not be identified with Iran’s military effort. Another weakness of the Shi‘i movements has been their inability to span a bridge, even for temporary purposes, with the other elements of the Iraqi opposition, except for the Kurdish Democratic Party led by sons of the late Mulla Mustafa al-Barzani. The chasm between their worldview and that of such secular opposition forces as the Communists and Jalal Talabani’s Kurdish National Union is too wide to permit authentic or enduring cooperation.

Given the relentlessness of the state’s repressive machinery, the Shi’i underground seems at present only capable of mounting disruptive acts, suicidal in character and of limited effect. But the continued power of Shi‘i themes and symbols, the foothold reportedly possessed by the Da‘wa among Iraq’s rank-and-file soldiery, and the diligent training going on not far from the Iraq-Iran border and elsewhere of Shi’i militants (particularly the Revolutionary Army for the Liberation of Iraq, the Da’wa’s military arm) leaves the Shi‘i opposition poised to benefit greatly if Saddam Husayn should fail to extricate himself from the morass of the Iraq-Iran war, or is forced to withdraw troops under humiliating terms. In this and other ways, the fortunes of the Shi‘i opposition are obviously dependent, to a considerable degree, on the fortunes of Iran’s theocracy.


[1] Bayan al-Tafahum al-Sadir min Hizb al-Da‘wa al-Islamiyya ila al-Umma fi al-‘Iraq (The Manifesto for Mutual Understanding Issued by the Party of al-Da‘wa al-Islamiyya to the Nation in Iraq) (unplaced, 1980), p. 8.
[2] For the 1980 figures I am indebted to Fakhri Karim and ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Safi, members of the politburo of the Iraqi Communist Party. Conversation, January 10, 1981. For the 1973 and 1977 figures, see Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978), pp. 1095-1096.
[3] Iraq, Ministry of Planning, Annual Abstract of Statistics, 1978, p. 158.
[4] Ibrahim Fasih b. Sibghatallah al-Haydari, ‘Unwan al-Majd fi Bayan Ahwal Baghdad, Basra wa al-Najd (The Sign of Glory or the Elucidation of the Conditions of Baghdad, Basra and Najd) (Baghdad, 1962), pp. 110-112; and ‘Ali al-Wardi, Dirasa fi Tabi‘at al-Mujtama‘ al-‘Iraqi (A Study on the Nature of Iraqi Society) (Baghdad, 1965), p. 225.
[5] Al-Haydari, ‘Unwan al-Majd, pp. 111-112.
[6] This is particularly true of the people of the marshes. Consult Wilfred Thesiger, The Marsh Arabs (Middlesex, 1967), p. 105, and “The Ma’dan or Marsh Dwellers of Southern Iraq,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 41 (January 1954), p. 20.
[7] ‘Ali al-Wardi, Dirasa, p. 240.
[8] Great Britain, “Annual Administration Report, Shamiyya Division, 1918,” Reports of Administration for 1918 of Divisions and Districts of the Occupied Territories in Mesopotamia, vol. I (Baghdad, 1919), p. 87.
[9] Of the other students, 896 were from Iran, 665 from the Indian subcontinent, 47 from Syria and Lebanon, and 20 from Bahrain, Hasa and Qatif. Fadil Jamali, “The Theological Colleges of Najaf,” The Muslim World 1/1 (January 1960), p. 15.
[10] Iraqi Public Security File 2198, entitled “Girls’ School in Najaf.”
[11] Great Britain, Reports of Administration for 1918, p. 106.
[12] Muhawarat al-Imam al-Muslih Kashif al-Ghita’ al-Shaykh Muhammad al-Husayn ma‘a al-Safirayn al-Baritani wal al-Amiriki fi Baghdad (The Conversation of the Reforming Imam Kashif al-Ghita’ with the British and American Ambassadors to Baghdad) (Najaf, 1954), pp. 150-16.
[13] ‘Ali al-Wardi, Dirasa, p. 231.
[14] Muhawarat al-Imam al-Muslih Kashif al-Ghita’, p. 5.
[15] See Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes, pp. 752 and 1000.
[16] Paul Balta and Claudine Rulleau claim that there were 180,000 mullahs in Iran in 1979. An informed Shi‘i source gave a more conservative estimate of 120,000. This, if true, would mean that there was in that year one mullah for every 308 Iranians. There are no up-to-date statistics on the size of the religious class in Iraq. L’Iran insurge (Paris, 1979), p. 152.
[17] Government of Iraq, Ministry of Social Affairs, Directorate General of Census, Census of Iraq, 1947, Baghdad, 1954. The figure was computed from all the tables numbered 7 relating to the various districts of Iraq in vols. 1, 2 and 3.
[18] Ibid., pp. 48, 195 and 205.
[19] “Nazara fi al-Din wa al-Turath” (“A Glance at Religion and the Historical Heritage”), a talk given on August 11, 1977, and printed in Saddam Hussein, al-Turath al-‘Arabi wa al-Hayat al-Mu‘asira (The Arab Heritage and Contemporary Life) (Baghdad, 1978), pp. 5-17.
[20] Party of al-Da‘wa al-Islamiyya, Bayan al-Tafahum, pp. 7-9; International Herald Tribune, February 25, 1977; al-Hawadith (Beirut), April 1, 1977; and New York Times, August 8, 1979.
[21] Al-Safir (Beirut) April 15, 1980.
[22] Party of al-Da‘wa al-Islamiyya, Bayan al-Tafahum, pp. 7-8.
[23] Al-Jumhuriyya (Baghdad), January 10, 1980.
[24] Al-Hawadith (Beirut), January 4, 1980.
[25] Baghdad Radio, August 8, 1979. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, August 9, 1979.
[26] For the support to the regime expressed by the imam ‘Ali Kashif al-Ghita’ and others, see Baghdad Observer, October 7, 1980 and al-Jumhuriyya (Baghdad), October 10, 1980.
[27] The other seven with the title of marja‘ in 1980 were Abu al-Qasim al-Khu’i of Najaf, Ruhullah al-Khumayni, Kadhim Shariatmadari and Gulbaykani of Qom, and ‘Abdallah al-Shirazi, al-Najafi al-Mar‘ashi, and Hasan al-Qommi of Mashad who were all Iranians except for Shariatmadari, a Turkmen.

How to cite this article:

Hanna Batatu "Iraq’s Underground Shi’i Movements," Middle East Report 102 (January/February 1982).

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