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The rise of Njaf

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New Battle in Najaf Over Soul of Shiism / Debate over political roles for religious leaders





May 8, 2003



NAJAF, IRAQ -- They come from windswept villages, walking for many miles to the big city. They wait for hours outside the home of Shia Islam's most revered cleric.


Some have their questions written down on carefully folded pieces of paper. They crowd around the steel door, hoping for a glimpse inside. The men and women who flock to this narrow alleyway in Najaf are hoping to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior cleric in Iraq and the Shia world. It is like asking for an audience with the pope.


A trickle of people are allowed inside a bare waiting room, where they sit cross-legged on a carpeted floor. They will eventually be able to pose their questions to one of al-Sistani's disciples. Some want guidance about personal and religious problems. Others want the grand ayatollah to pray for the recovery of an ill child or relative.


This scene is repeated at the homes of many of Najaf's senior clerics. According to Shia doctrine, believers are bound by the edicts of the clerics they choose to follow. In Najaf, which had been the intellectual and spiritual center of Shiism for more than 1,300 years, the answers carry more weight than anywhere else in the Shia world.


During Saddam Hussein's rule, few people milled outside the homes of Shia clerics. They were too afraid of the regime's violent repression of Shia aspirations, and Najaf's standing was diminished because of Hussein's restrictions on the Shia clergy, many of whom were imprisoned or executed. Now, with the fall of the Baathist regime in Iraq, Najaf is poised to re-emerge as Shiism's most influential city.


While the clerics and scholars of Najaf grapple with everyday concerns of the faithful, they also are debating some of Shiism's central tenets. And the most divisive argument is about the legitimacy of theocratic rule - governance by mullahs - as practiced in neighboring Iran. The dominant theological school in Najaf rejects the Iranian model. The Najaf clerics, including al-Sistani, say their role is to be spiritual leaders and not to participate directly in politics.


The ruling clergy in Iran had dismissed al-Sistani's position during Hussein's rule, saying he was under Baathist pressure. But with Hussein gone, Najaf's reemergence could pose a serious threat to Iran's hard-line rulers, who have rested on the principle of rule by clergy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


"Politics involves getting ahead through tricks and deception; these are not the things that Shia clerics should be involved with," said Sayed Muhammad Sadiq al-Kharsan, 42, a leading Najaf theologian and a disciple of al-Sistani's. "Our goal is to get away from these worldly concerns and tend to the Iraqi people's spiritual welfare."


At its heart, the argument is over competing visions of Shiism's essence. Should the faith be defined by a diverse group of scholars living at seminaries and engaging in esoteric theological debates? Or should it follow the tradition of absolute political and religious leadership advocated by Iran's late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini?


The debate centers on wilayat al-faqih, a concept that has existed since Islam's early days in the seventh century but that took modern form with Khomeini's rise to power after the 1979 revolution. The concept says that a high Shia scholar, or group of scholars, should have absolute authority over all political, religious and social matters in the Muslim community. It is an idea modeled on the absolute rule exercised by the Prophet Muhammad and his successors.


The argument has raged in Najaf since the early 1930s, when the leading Shia cleric at the time reached an agreement with the secular government of a newly independent Iraq to keep the clergy out of politics. This school of thought continues to dominate in Najaf at the Shia world's most respected center of learning, the Hawza Al-Ilmiya. There are dissenters in Najaf, clerics who argue that they should take a more activist role in politics to ensure their followers' welfare. But even these scholars stop short of endorsing Khomeini's vision of absolute rule.


One of the main groups that advocates political involvement for the clergy is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose leader, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, has lived in exile in Iran since 1980. Al-Hakim argues that Shia clerics should be involved in a new government in Iraq, modeled on Islamic principles of consultative democracy.


"There has to be a role for the clergy in any new government," said Sayed Sader-Eddine Koubansi, al-Hakim's newly appointed representative in Najaf. "We cannot stand on the sidelines like we were forced to under Saddam. This does not mean that we want absolute rule by clergy; there can be an Islamic democracy in Iraq."


The Islamic Revolution vested Iran with great authority in the Shia world, and sealed Najaf's marginalization. Thousands of Iraqi Shia scholars fled to the Iranian city of Qom to escape a brutal crackdown by Hussein's government. Qom eclipsed Najaf as the faith's leading center of study. Iran sought to spread its message of revolutionary Islam throughout the Shia world with the spiritual weight that Qom acquired after the 1979 revolution.


With Khomeini's vision of the faith ascendant, Shiism came to be viewed in many parts of the world as a fanatical movement with a violent reach extending from Iran to Lebanon. But Iran's spiritual influence diminished after Khomeini's death in 1989 and his succession as supreme leader by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a cleric with modest religious credentials.


"With the fall of Saddam, there's going to be a revival of the Hawza in Najaf, and the balance of power will shift back there over the next few years," said Abbas Kadhim, a Najaf native who fled the city after a failed Shia uprising in 1991. He now teaches Islamic studies at the University of California at Berkeley. "The rivalry between Najaf and Iran will resume, and it's going to make the Iranian hard-liners very nervous."


Many scholars in Qom oppose Khomeini's concept and the authoritarian state it has produced, but they have withdrawn from public life to avoid a confrontation with his successors. The religious establishment in Iran forbids open debate on the question of absolute authority for the country's supreme leader. For years, Iran has waged a war against its dissident clerics, imprisoning or placing dozens of them under house arrest.


Now, Iranian dissidents are discussing the possibility of seeking refuge in Najaf, in the same way that Khomeini fled here in 1964 to escape persecution by the Shah. Khomeini lived in Najaf until 1978, when he was forced to leave by Hussein.


"Dissident clerics who cannot debate freely in Iran might go to Najaf," said Mohsen Kadivar, a leading Iranian dissident who spent 18 months in prison for criticizing his country's system. "They might have the opportunity for free speech in Najaf, but that will depend on what kind of political system will emerge in Iraq."


As the burial place of Imam Ali, Shiism's founding figure, Najaf carries more historical and spiritual weight among the world's 170 million Shia Muslims than Qom. The Iranian city, which is 80 miles south of Tehran, is built around the tomb of the sister of Imam Reza, whom the Shia regard as the eighth successor of Muhammad.


"Najaf is spiritually superior to Qom. There is no question about that," said Sheik Adnan al-Sihtimani, 38, a popular cleric here. "Every major Shia scholar in the world has either studied in Najaf or has been taught by someone who studied in Najaf."


But under Hussein's rule, Najaf became a backwater, cut off from the outside world while Qom flourished because of its ties to the clerical establishment in Iran.


"Under Saddam, Najaf was secluded. It had no political contacts, no technology or even access to the Internet," said Ibrahim Khayat, a correspondent for the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat and an expert on the Shia. "The clergy in Najaf will need an adjustment period to get used to the American presence in Iraq...They're still in this period of hating Saddam and talking about martyrdom."


The outcome of the argument over rule by clergy may determine the political future of Iran and Iraq, both of which have Shia majorities, Islamic scholars say.


In Iran, a pluralistic interpretation of Shiism would streng- then a reform movement that seeks to transform the country from a theocracy to an Islamic democracy, scholars like Kadhim say. The Shia make up almost 90 percent of the population in Iran.


In Iraq, the Shia make up nearly two- thirds of the country's population of 24 million. But since Iraq gained independence in 1932, it has been ruled by members of the Sunni minority. The Shia have waited 70 years to gain a voice equal to their numbers.


The spiritual leadership of the Shia community has rested in southern Iraq since the seventh century, when a violent schism within Islam over succession to Muhammad gave birth to the Shia branch of the faith. Shiism emerged as a movement called Shiah Ali, or the Partisans of Ali. In the year 661, Imam Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam and Muhammad's son-in-law, was assassinated near Najaf in a struggle over who would rule the faithful. Ali was buried in Najaf, and theologians soon flocked to the city to establish seminaries.


Nineteen years after Ali's death, two of his sons, Hussein and Abbas, were killed in battle. They were entombed in the nearby city of Karbala, which is Shiism's second holiest site. The violent deaths of Ali and his sons gave rise to the Shia cult of martyrdom.


The distinctions between Shia and Sunni Islam are similar to those between Catholic and Protestant branches of Christianity, involving style of ritual and philosophical orientation, rather than fundamental pillars of faith.


Throughout the Muslim world, the Shia have been a perpetual opposition movement. They have rebellion in their hearts, according to Islamic scholars. In 1917, toward the end of World War I, they supported the British in their efforts to wrest control of Mesopotamia - which became modern Iraq - from the Ottomans. Three years later, when the British were viewed as an occupying power, the Shia rose up once again - against their former allies.


Today, most Iraqi Shia clerics appear to agree on one thing: They view the U.S. military presence in their country as a form of occupation and they have been agitating since the fall of Saddam last month for Washington to pull out as quickly as possible. Some clerics have warned of a popular uprising if American forces remain in Iraq for two years or more.


"The Iraqi people do not want to be occupied by a foreign power," said Sayed Hussein al-Hakim, 43, son of a leading ayatollah who helps run the Hawza and is an ally of al-Sistani. "Najaf has a long tradition of taking positions against foreign occupation."


But there is disagreement about tactics, and rivals to the more apolitical al-Sistani are emerging. In Najaf and other Shia-dominated cities in Iraq, one young cleric is developing a strong public following by arguing that al-Sistani and other Hawza leaders have been too complacent. Sayed Muqtada al-Sadr, 30, is the scion of an important Shia religious family. He is the only surviving son of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who was assassinated along with his two oldest sons by the Iraqi regime in 1999.


The younger al- Sadr has taken control of hospitals, schools, mosques and some government ministries in Najaf, Karbala, Kut and other cities. He has opened offices that are providing social services in the absence of a central government. But even he is careful to disavow any political ambition - unless, he says, his people ask him to lead.


"Political rule is not something that can be imposed on people," said Sheik Abbas Roubaili, a senior adviser to al-Sadr. "If the idea of politics is to improve the lives of our people, then we are for that."


The Najaf traditionalists view political power as fleeting. "When you're a government minister, there's a prime minister above you. Maybe you can serve for four or five years, and then you're out," al-Kharsan said. "People trust us with their lives, with their money, with their spiritual welfare. We want to win the hearts and minds of people forever. That's not something that politicians can do."

Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc.

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Guest Mustefser

Alqaeda Amir in Iraq "AlZerqawee" had a long speach today explaining to his followers that the democratic process is a non Islamic.

His main points were,

1-Democracy is to allow people to have the say in their affiars and not  what Allah is  commanding.

2-Democracy is to allow people to choose or change their religion. That should never be allowed as this is anti  Islam that instruct  killing of any one who choose to change his Islamic faith.

3-There is no sacred things under democracy as it allows people to talk about any thing they don't like including the most religous sacred topics.

4- It relies on the seperation of religoun and state. That is in our belief as the biggest blasphemy.

5-Democracy allow people to establish their parties and political group. This is not allowed in our beleif.


6- Democracy is the going with the will of majority .This is not accepted in our beliefs as it might go anti Allah's commands.

7- Shia are infidals who help Americans to set this democracy. We need to wipe any one who think, talk and show sympathy to the Iraqi democratic process

I might need to address very basic fact that Islam , the religion that Mr. Zarqawee is claiming representation, is the first religioun that have teaching saying " People have the right to manage their affairs democratically " " Amrahum Shura bainahum". The profit when died had never appointed a successer, he left it to people to decide on such very sensative issue.. Thought Islam was at the very beging stage and there were so many people who are not strong beleivers.. AlZarqawee didn't realized that Islam under the western democracy had a better chance of flourshing.. He might need to ask even his teroor followers about what chances they got to work under that democracy.


It is becomming to be very clear that the war in iraq is showing it's real idiological side.. The war against darkness.. As Alzeraqawee is calling his followers to mobalize , All the freedom lovers in the world need to mobalize too.

Please don't abandon the great Iraqi people facing the Army of terror alone as you did in 1991.. It is our fight as it is yours.. The forces of darkness have no geographical limit and if terrorists , God forbid, win this war, there will be nothing to block them from destroying the whole world. Just remember What Hollako had committed..




ي ما يلي ابرز المقاطع من رسالة ابو مصعب الزرقاوي زعيم تنظيم القاعدة في العراق.



"لقد ظهرت فضائحهم (الامريكيون) واكاذيبهم للعالم اجمع وتداعت حججهم ومزاعمهم في تحقيق الامن للحكومة العراقية المرتدة وشغلهم الشاغل الان في انجاح الكذبة الامريكية الكبري التي تسمي الديمقراطية فقد لعب الامريكان بعقول الكثير من الشعوب باكذوبة الديمقراطية المتحضرة واوهموها ان سعادتها ورفاهيتها مرهونة بهذا المنهج البشري القاصر وبعدها بررت حكومة الكفر الامريكية حربها علي العراق وافغانستان بانها حامية الديمقراطية في العالم وراعيتها الاولي".


"وعلي ارض العراق انشئت الحكومة العلاوية لهذا الغرض اي لغرض التلبيس والتدجيل علي عقول العراقيين والعالم وللايهام بان الولايات المتحدة جادة في اقامة وطن عراقي مستقل ديمقراطي فتستر بذلك اهدافها ومراميها الصليبية في المنطقة في التمكين لدولة اسرائيل الكبري وتخفي اطماعها ونواياها تجاه ثروات العراق وخيراته".




"جاءت الديمقراطية لتقول لنا ان الشعب في النظام الديمقراطي هو الحكم والمرجع وله كلمة الفصل والبت في كل القضايا(..) فما احله الشعب هو الحلال وما حرمه هو الحرام وما رضيه قانونا ونظاما وشريعة فهو المعتبر وما عداه فلا حرمة له ولا قيمة ولا وزن وان كان دينا قويما وشرعا حكيما من عند رب العالمين".


"تقوم الديمقراطية علي مبدا ان الشعب هو مصدر السلطات (..) ويتم ذلك عن طريق اختيار ممثلين عن الشعب ينوبون عنه في مهمة التشريع وسن القوانين وبعبارة اخري فان المشرع المطاع في الديمقراطية هو الانسان وليس الله وهذا يعني ان المالوه المعبود المطاع من جهة التشريع والتحليل والتحريم هو الشعب وهو الانسان والمخلوق وليس الله تعالي وهذا عين الكفر والشرك والضلال".


"تقوم الديمقراطية علي مبدا حرية التدين والاعتقاد فللمرء في ظل الانظمة الديمقراطية ان يعتقد ما يشاء ويتدين بالدين الذي يشاء ويرتد الي اي دين وقت ما يشاء وان كان هذا الارتداد مؤداه الخروج عن دين الله تعالي الي الالحاد وعبادة غير الله عز وجل وهذا امر لا شك في بطلانه وفساده ومغايرته لكثير من النصوص الشرعية اذ ان المسلم لو ارتد عن دينه الي الكفر فحكمه في الاسلام القتل. المرتد لا يصح ان يعقد له عهد ولا امان ولا جوار وليس له في دين الله الا الاستتابة او السيف".


"تقوم الديمقراطية علي مبدا حرية التعبير والافصاح ايا كان هذا التعبير ولو كان مفاده طعنا وسبا للذات الالاهية وشعائر الدين اذ لايوجد في الديمقراطية شيء مقدس يحرم الخوض فيه او التطاول عليه بقبيح القول".


"تقوم الديمقراطية علي مبدا فصل الدين عن الدولة وعن السياسة والحياة (..) وهذا القول معلوم في ديننا فساده وبطلانه وكفر القائل به (..) فهو جحود صريح لبعض الدين الذي نص علي ان الاسلام دين دولة وسياسة وحكم وتشريع وانه اوسع بكثير من ان يحصر في المناسك او بين جدران المعابد وهذا مما لا شك فيه انه كفر بواح بدين الله".


"تقوم الديمقراطية علي مبدا حرية تشكيل التجمعات والاحزاب السياسية ايا كانت عقيدتها وافكارها واخلاقيات هذه الاحزاب وهذا مبدا باطل شرعا (..) والاعتراف الطوعي بشرعية الاحزاب الكافرة يتضمن الرضا بالكفر (..) والرضا بالكفر كفر".


"تقوم الديمقراطية علي مبدا اعتبار موقف الاكثرية ولو اجمعت علي الباطل والضلال والكفر البواح (..) وهذا مبدا باطل لا يصح علي اطلاقه حيث ان الحق في نظر الاسلام هو ما يوافق الكتاب والسنة قل انصاره او كثروا".




"ينبغي لكم (العراقيون السنة) ان تتنبهوا لخطة العدو من تطبيق الديمقراطية المزعومة في بلادكم (..) فاحكموها علي هيئة المصيدة الخبيثة التي ترمي لسيطرة الرافضة (الشيعة) علي مقاليد الحكم في العراق فقد ادخل اربعة ملايين رافضي (شيعي) من ايران من اجل المشاركة في الانتخابات ليتحقق لهم ما يصبون اليه من السيطرة علي غالبية الكراسي في المجلس الوثني وبذلك يستطيعون ان يشكلوا حكومة اغلبية تسيطر علي مفاصل الدولة الرئيسية الاستراتيجية والاقتصادية والامنية".


"وتحت لافتة الحفاظ علي الوطن والتقدم نحو المشروع الديمقراطي (..) يبدا الرافضة (الشيعة) بتصفية حساباتهم العقائدية بالقضاء علي رموز وكوادر اهل السنة من علماء ودعاة واصحاب خبرة (..) ويستفيدون من سيطرتهم علي مصادر نفط المسلمين.


فان نجحوا في مشروعهم هذا فما هي الا بضع سنوات وتكون بغداد ومناطق اهل السنة قد تشيع اغلبها".


"فلهذه الدواعي وغيرها اعلنا الحرب اللدود علي هذا المنهج الخبيث وبينا حكم اصحاب هذه العقيدة الباطلة والطريقة الخاسرة فكل من يسعي في قيام هذا المنهج بالموعضة والمساعدة فهو متول له ولاهله وحكمه حكم الداعين اليه والمظاهرين له والمرشحون للانتخاب هم ادعياء للربوبية والالوهية والمنتخبون لهم قد اتخذوهم ارباب وشركاء من دون الله وحكمهم في دين الله الكفر والخروج عن الاسلام".[/QUOTE]

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Democracy at work.. Have a look to the new natural born Iraq!





Shiites in Iraq Say Government Will Be Secular



Published: January 24, 2005



AGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 21 - With the Shiites on the brink of capturing power here for the first time, their political leaders say they have decided to put a secular face on the new Iraqi government they plan to form, relegating Islam to a supporting role.


The senior leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of mostly Shiite groups that is poised to capture the most votes in the election next Sunday, have agreed that the Iraqi whom they nominate to be the country's next prime minister would be a lay person, not an Islamic cleric.





The Shiite leaders say there is a similar but less formal agreement that clerics will also be excluded from running the government ministries.


"There will be no turbans in the government," said Adnan Ali, a senior leader of the Dawa Party, one of the largest Shiite parties. "Everyone agrees on that."


The decision appears to formalize the growing dominance of secular leaders among the Shiite political leadership, and it also reflects an inclination by the country's powerful religious hierarchy to stay out of the day-to-day governing of the country. Among the Shiite coalition's 228 candidates for the national assembly, fewer than a half dozen are clerics, according to the group's leaders.


The decision to exclude clerics from the government appears to mean that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a cleric who is the chief of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the scion of a prominent religious family and an oft-mentioned candidate for prime minister, would be relegated to the background. The five Shiites most likely to be picked as prime minister are well-known secular figures.


Shiite leaders say their decision to move away from an Islamist government was largely shaped by the presumption that the Iraqi people would reject such a model. But they concede that it also reflects certain political realities - American officials, who wield vast influence here, would be troubled by an overtly Islamist government. So would the Kurds, who Iraqi and American officials worry might be tempted to break with the Iraqi state.


The emerging policies appear to be a rejection of an Iranian-style theocracy. Iran has given both moral and material support to the country's two largest Shiite parties, Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.


The conviction that the Iranian model should be avoided in Iraq is apparently shared by the Iranians themselves. One Iraqi Shiite leader, who recently traveled to Tehran, the Iranian capital, said he was warned by the Iranians themselves against putting clerics in the government.


"They said it caused too many problems," the Iraqi said.


The secular tilt comes as Shiite leaders prepare for what they regard as a historic moment: after decades of official repression, the country's largest group now seems likely to take the helm of the Iraqi state. Mindful of that opportunity, and of previous opportunities missed, the Shiite leaders running for office say they are determined to exercise power in a moderate way, which would include bringing Sunnis into the government and ignoring some powerful voices in their own ranks that advocate a stronger role for Islam in the new constitution.


Still, for all the expressions of unity, just how much consensus exists within the coalition is unclear, as is the coalition's very survival beyond the elections. The Shiite leaders, and the rank and file in the Iraqi electorate, represent a wide array of political visions, and those blocs could rise or fall in influence over time.


Important Shiite clerics like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani already exert considerable influence in the background, although his brand of Islam is thought to be relatively moderate. Shiite leaders like Mr. Hakim will probably continue to use their power behind the scenes; his views are thought to be more conservative.


During the drafting of the country's interim constitution last year, Mr. Hakim and others pushed for an expansive role for Islam in the new state, as well as restrictions on the rights of women.


Some Iraqis expressed concern that the more radical Shiites, notably the followers of Moktada al-Sadr, would be difficult to control once the election is over.





Mr. Sadr, a young firebrand who led a series of revolts against American forces in the spring and summer, has been silenced for now, and 14 of his followers are candidates in the Shiite coalition. But in mosques and in more private communications, Mr. Sadr and his supporters continue to express support for armed rebellion and for a boycott of the election.





The challenge, the Shiite leaders say, will be holding their coalition together after Jan. 30, when the jockeying for power, in what is likely to be a coalition government, begins.


"It was very difficult to bring the coalition together," said Ali Faisal, a leader of Iraqi Hezbollah, a Shiite party that is part of the group. "There is a good chance that it will fall apart."


If the Shiite coalition were to crumble, Shiite leaders fear, they could lose ground to the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, a secular-minded Shiite, or to the Kurdish parties, which are unified on a single slate and which will probably benefit from a large turnout.


Kurdish leaders have already begun to talk up the prospect of Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union for Kurdistan, getting the post of president, which would give him enormous power in shaping the composition of the new government.


The Shiite coalition, known as the United Iraqi Alliance, was pulled together under the leadership of Ayatollah Sistani, the country's most powerful Shiite cleric and a native of Iran. Ayatollah Sistani, without formally endorsing any political party, has issued an Islamic edict calling on all eligible Iraqi Shiites to vote.


The Shiite coalition is widely expected to pull in the largest number of votes on election day. Shiites make up about 60 percent of the electorate here, and if, as expected, large numbers of Iraqi Sunnis boycott the election, then Shiites could capture an even larger percentage of the national assembly seats.


The decision to exclude clerics from the senior positions in the Iraqi government has set off a scramble for the post of prime minister. Under the election rules, the prime minister is to be chosen by the party or group that forms a government, presumably by the group that wins the largest number of seats in the 275-member national assembly.


Among the Shiites, the leading candidates for prime minister are thought to be Adil Abdul Mahdi, the Iraqi finance minister and a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq; Ibrhaim Jofferey, the head of the Dawa Party; Hussein Shahristani, a nuclear scientist; and Ahmad Chalabi, who marshaled support for the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government in the Bush administration and has since become a pariah. All are candidates for the United Iraqi Alliance.


All four candidates are secular-minded leaders who spent much of their lives in exile. They maintain that they will borrow from Islam's tenets in writing the country's constitution, the main task for the new government, but will ensure that the Iraqi state does not have a religious cast.


Mr. Mahdi, for instance, flirted with communism in his youth, has two master's degrees from French universities and maintains a home in France. Mr. Shahristani was educated in Canada and is married to a Canadian. Mr. Chalabi, the most overtly secular of the group, has a doctorate in mathematics and spent much of the past 30 years in Britain and the United States. Dr. Jofferey is a medical doctor who lived in London.


Also a contender for the prime minister's job is Dr. Allawi, the current head of the Iraqi government, who was chosen last June by the United Nations envoy, Lakdhar Brahimi, and the American leadership. Dr. Allawi is running for the national assembly as the leader of his own slate of candidates, called the Iraqi List.


Dr. Allawi's chances to remain as prime minister are thought to depend not just on how well his group does at the polls, but on how well the United Iraqi Alliance fares. If Dr. Allawi's group performs well, and the Shiite coalition less well, then Dr. Allawi, Shiite leaders say, could become a leading candidate for prime minister. It was a deadlock between Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq last June that allowed Dr. Allawi to become minister.



That principal trend in Iraqi Shiism, known as quietism, rejects the kind of political role for the clergy that it has in Iran. Indeed, some prominent Iraqi Shiite religious leaders note that the Iranian government, after taking power in 1979, marginalized and persecuted Iranian followers of the quietist school in that country.


"It's a completely different concept of government," Mr. Shahristani said, referring to the Iraqi government. "The Iraqi government and the constitution will seek neither an Islamic government nor the participation of Islamic clerics in the government."





The ayatollahs will not be part of the government in any way or express views on day-to-day governance."


Ayatollah Sistani, though an adherent of the quietest school, has involved himself in every step of the political process here. Though he has stopped short of endorsing political candidates, he has come close to backing the Shiite slate. Earlier this month, some candidates in Dr. Allawi's slate protested that the use of Ayatollah Sistani's picture on the United Iraqi Alliance's election posters violated the ban on the use of religious symbols.


Indeed, some Iraqi Shiite leaders say it will probably fall to Ayatollah Sistani to hold the coalition together once the election is over.


Shiite leaders agree that the biggest task facing the next Iraqi government will be mollifying the Sunni Arabs, who they have displaced as Iraq's dominant group. The Sunnis are a minority in Iraq but a majority in the rest of the Arab world, and some of their leaders have had a difficult time reconciling themselves to a subordinate role.


While Shiite leaders say they intend to reach out to the Sunnis, they will have to overcome no small amount of suspicion. Publicly, that suspicion is usually expressed by making reference to Iran, the powerful Shiite-majority neighbor to the east.


"We're not afraid of the Shia or the Kurds governing Iraq," said Sheik Moayad Brahim al-Adhami, leader of the Abu Hanifa mosque, a Sunni bastion in Baghdad. "But what we're afraid of is a fundamentalist representing a foreign country's interests."



Edward Wong contributed reporting from Baghdad

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