Something people need to know; Sistani and other Ayatollahs' images of humble old men dedicated their lives to fulfill their "duty to God" and serve the Shiite community, is totally misleading. In reality they are multi-millionaires, Hawza-barons with turbans, make enormous amounts of money from [Al-Kumus and the supreme-cleric-share].
At this moment, Leaders of the Hawza are the following five senior Shiite authorities:
- Ayatollah Ali Sistani (Iranian).
- Ayatollah Mohammed Said Hakim (Arab-Iraq).
- Ayatollah Sheikh Bashir Najafi (Pakistani).
- Ayatollah Mohammad Ishaq Al Fayyadh (Afghan).
- Ayatollah Mohammad Al Yacoubi (Arab-Iraq).
The word "Al-Maraji' Al-Udhma" = The High References, refers to the five "supreme-clerics" as one entity which is the Shiites spiritual leadership. Due to the post-occupation developments in Iraq they became religious and political references.
Something you need to know, despite the family-names and nationality differences, they are all related to each other in a series of complicated structure of marriages.
Although the "Arabic - Najafi" identity of the Hawza is confirmed as an Arabic religious institution, It seems there is kind of "nationalism" among Iraqi Shiites questioning the ethnic roots and the nationality of the supreme-cleric, for example; in the period between 1914-1919 when people started to argue about the supreme-cleric Ayatollah Yazdi's [Iranian] position from the British occupation, after he refused [or less willing] to support the Iraqi national confrontation against the British.
More evidence is the competition that lasted fifteen years between Ayatollah Mohsen Al Hakim (Iraqi) in Najaf and Ayatollah Hussein Al Broogardi (Iranian) in Qom. While Iraqis chose Al Hakim as the highest authority; the Iranians responded by choosing Al Broogardi as their supreme-cleric.
This is the first known split between the two Hawzas which also started an identity crisis [Iraq offered an Iraqi nationality to Sistani but he refused]. Something we need to note here is that; while the Qom-Hawza started a movement to modernize the institution, the Najaf-Hawza kept it's radical ideology, this is a very good example:
In his "modern" ideas, Ayatollah Fadhallah discusses some religious issues with Iraqi clerics:
- I discussed the matter with Iranian clerics in Qom, and [my ideas] are well received.
- You should consult Iraqis in these matters, Iraqis know history better.
This a list of all Supreme-clerics since the last century until today, to check the Iranian domination of the Najaf-Hawza:
- Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Yazdi 1903-1919 (Iranian).
- Ayatollah Mirza Mohammed Taqi Al-Shirazi 1919-1920 (Iranian).
- Ayatollah Fathulla Isfahani Dec. 1920-Aug 1920 (Iranian).
- Ayatollah Sayed Abul-Hassan Isfahani 1920-1945 (Iranian).
- Ayatollah Mohsen Al Hakim (Iraqi) - Ayatollah Hussein Albroogardi (Iranian) [Hawza split] 1945-1960.
- Ayatollah Mohsen Al Hakim (Iraqi) 1960-1970.
- Ayatollah Al Khoei (Iranian) 1970-1992.
- Ayatollah Sayed Abdel A'ala Sabzevari (Iranian) 1992-1993.
- Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani (Iranian) 1994-until today.