|Biographical detail : ||Lebanon’s inspiring Grand Ayatollah.
One of the world’s main spiritual leaders and also a political influence, Lebanese cleric Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah inspired the Dawa Party of Iraq and a generation of freedom fighters, through his writings and a series of preaching.
He had a widespread reputation for piety and scholarship through his teaching and the more than 40 books and treatises he wrote. He established religious schools and foundations, clinics and libraries as part of his charitable work.
Revered as a religious moderniser, Ayatollah Fadlallah was one of the most learned and influential clerics. He was widely recognised across the Islamic world, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, as well as in Arab nations, as a marja’ al-taqlid – a source of (spiritual) authority to whom the faithful should turn for guidance.
A central figure in modern Middle Eastern history, Ayatollah Fadlallah spent his entire career arguing against foreign occupation. He encouraged Muslims to become involved in politics and organise militias. He famously justified suicide bombings and other tactics of asymmetrical warfare. He argued that if Israel and its allies used advanced weaponry, such as the F-16 aircraft, which are meant only for major wars, Islam permitted the use of any weapon in retaliation.
Ayatollah Fadlallah was also distinguished by his comparatively progressive positions on women’s rights and family law. Among his many fatwas, on family law, he argued that women had the right to defend themselves from domestic violence. He was opposed to the “honour killings” of women.
The C.I.A. is thought to have carried out an assassination attempt against the Ayatollah in 1985, in which a 440-pound car bomb was placed along the short route between his apartment and mosque. Ayatollah Fadlallah narrowly escaped the explosion, but 80 other people were killed.
In 2006, Israel bombed his house in south Beirut, but he was not there at the time. He denied any association with bombings, or with the kidnapping of foreigners between 1982 and 1985.
Until his recent illness, Ayatollah Fadlallah regularly preached to tens of thousands of followers at his Friday Prayer services in south Beirut, and published his sermons and clerical writings on the Internet, in Arabic, English and French. He was an independent Arab voice, courageous enough to stand up against Iran.
Since the early 1990s, he adopted a more pragmatic tone, preaching against the division between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. He raised money for a sprawling international network of charities and willingly met with prominent Americans, including critics of his beliefs, and considered dialogue with the enemy an Islamic imperative.
He railed against the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and against United States policy in the Middle East.
Born in Najaf, Iraq, a major centre of Shiite learning, Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah relocated to his ancestral village in southern Lebanon in the 1960s and quickly amassed thousands of followers.
Ayatollah Fadlallah suffered and died of a liver haemorrhage at Bahman Hospital, run by Al Mabarrat Charity Association, which he founded. Hezbollah called for three days of mourning, while clerics and political figures from Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf states, Lebanon and around the Middle East issued condolences.