Musa al-Sadr

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Musa al-Sadr
موسى الصدر
Born (1928-06-04)4 June 1928[1]
Qom, Iran
Disappeared 31 August 1979 (aged 51)[2]
Other names Imam Musa
Alma mater University of Tehran
Hawza 'Ilmiyya Qom
Known for being the co-founder of Amal Movement
Religion Islam
Denomination Twelver Shia
Parent(s) Sadr al-Din al-Sadr
Relatives Ismail as-Sadr (grandfather)
Muhammad al-Sadr (cousin)

Mūsá aṣ-Ṣadr (4 June 1928 – was detained and presumed to be killed in Libya by late Libyan dictator Mo'ammar Gaddafi on 31 August 1978) (Persian: امام موسى صدر‎, Arabic: السيد موسى الصدر‎, also Musā-ye Sader and Moussa Sadr) was an Iran-educated Lebanese philosopher and Shī‘ah religious leader who was presumed to be assassinated by Libyan dictator Mo'ammar Gaddafi in August 1978 as part of a conspiracy with PLO's Yasser Arafat (backed and financed by Gaddafi) who intended to takeover South Lebanon and was opposed by Musa Al-Sadr. Due to the lasting influence of his political and religious leadership in Lebanon, he has been referred to by Fouad Ajami as a "towering figure in modern Shi'i political thought and praxis."[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Mūsá aṣ-Ṣadr was born in Qom, Iran, on 4 June 1928. [4] He attended primary school in his hometown and then moved to the Iranian capital Tehran where he received a degree in Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) and political sciences from Tehran University.[4] Then he moved back to Qom to study Theology and Islamic philosophy under ‘Allāmah Muḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭabāṭabā'ī. He then edited a magazine called Maktab-e Eslām in Qom. In 1953 following the death of his father he left Qom for Najaf to study theology under Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim and Abul Qasim Khui.[4]

Activities and views[edit]

Mūsá aṣ-Ṣadr with Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1960s

In 1960, Mūsá aṣ-Ṣadr accepted an invitation to become the leading Shi'i figure in the city of Tyre to succeed former Shi'i leader of the city, Abdul Hussein Sharif Al Din, who died in 1957.[4] Aṣ-Ṣadr, who became known as Imām Mūsá, quickly became one of the most prominent advocates for the Shī‘ah population of Lebanon, a group that was both economically and politically disadvantaged. He is said[by whom?] to have:

worked tirelessly to improve the lot of his community - to give them a voice, to protect them from the ravages of war and intercommunal strife...[5]

Aṣ-Ṣadr was widely seen[by whom?] as a moderate, demanding that the Maronite Christians relinquish some of their power but pursuing ecumenism and peaceful relations between the groups.[citation needed]

In 1969, Imām Mūsá was appointed as the first head of the Supreme Islamic Shi'ite Council (SISC), (in Arabic المجلس الإسلامي الشيعي الأعلى) an entity meant to give the Shī‘ah more say in government. For the next four years, he engaged the leadership of the Syrian ‘Alawīs in an attempt to unify their political power with that of the Twelver Shī‘ah. Though controversial, recognition of the ‘Alawī as Shī‘ah coreligionists came in July 1973 when he and the ‘Alawī religious leadership successfully appointed an ‘Alawī as an official mufti to the Twelver community.[6][7]

In 1974 he founded the Movement of the Disinherited (in Arabic حركة المحرومين) to press for better economic and social conditions for the Shī‘ah.[citation needed] He established a number of schools and medical clinics throughout southern Lebanon, many of which are still in operation today.[citation needed] Aṣ-Ṣadr attempted to prevent the descent into violence[how?] that eventually led to the Lebanese Civil War, but was ineffective.[citation needed] In the war, he at first aligned himself with the Lebanese National Movement, and the Movement of the Disinherited developed an armed wing known as Afwāj al-Muqāwamat al-Lubnāniyyah (in Arabic أفواج المقاومة اللبنانية), better known as Amal (in Arabic أمل).[citation needed] However, in 1976 he withdrew his support after the Syrian invasion on the side of the Lebanese Front.[citation needed] He also actively cooperated with Mostafa Chamran, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh and other Iranian Islamist activists during the civil war.[8][9] In addition, Aṣ-Ṣadr was instrumental in developing ties between Hafez Assad, then Syrian president, and the opponents of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran.[10][11]

Personal life[edit]

Aṣ-Ṣadr was tall, flamboyant and elegant and fluent in stylish Arabic.[4] He was related to Ayatollah Khomeini by marriage.[12] Khomenei's son, Ahmad, was married to Aṣ-Ṣadr’s niece, and Aṣ-Ṣadr’s son was married to Khomeini’s granddaughter.[11]


On 25 August 1978, al-Sadr and two companions, Sheikh Muhammad Yaacoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine, departed for Libya to meet with government officials.[2][13] The visit was paid upon the invitation of then Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The three were seen lastly on 31 August.[2] They were never heard from again.[2]

It is widely believed[by whom?] that Gaddafi ordered aṣ-Ṣadr's killing, but differing motivations exist. Libya has consistently denied responsibility, claiming that aṣ-Ṣadr and his companions left Libya for Italy. Sadr's son claimed that he remains secretly in jail in Libya but did not provide proof.[14] Aṣ-Ṣadr's disappearance continues to be a major dispute between Lebanon and Libya.[15] Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri claimed that the Libyan regime, and particularly the Libyan leader, were responsible for the disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr, London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-run pan-Arab daily reported on 27 August 2006.[16][17][18]

According to Iranian General Mansour Qadar, the head of Syrian security, Rifaat al-Assad, told the Iranian ambassador to Syria that Gaddafi was planning to kill aṣ-Ṣadr.[19] On 27 August 2008, Gaddafi was indicted by the government of Lebanon for al-Sadr's disappearance.[20] Following the fall of the Gaddafi regime, Lebanon and Iran appealed to the Libyan rebels to investigate the fate of Moussa al-Sadr.[21]

In an interview political analyst Roula Talj said that the son of Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, told her that Imam Mousa Sadr and his aides, Mohammed Yaqoub and Abbas Badreddin, never left Libya.[22] According to representative of Libya’s National Transitional Council in Cairo, Gaddafi murdered Imam Mousa Sadr after discussion about Shia beliefs. Imam Mousa Sadr accused him of unawareness about Islamic teachings and about the Islamic branches of Shia and Sunni, following which Gaddafi became enraged and ordered the murder of Imam Mousa Sadr and his accompanying delegation.[23] According to other sources the murder of Moussa al-Sadr was done by Muammar Gaddafi, they claim, at request of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Shias and the Palestinians at that time were involved in armed clashes in Southern Lebanon.[24][25] According to a former member of the Libyan intelligence, Sadr was beaten to death for daring to challenge Gaddafi at his house on matters of theology.[26] In an interview with Al Aan TV Ahmed Ramadan an influential figure in the Gaddafi regime and an eye witness of the meeting between al-Sadr and Gaddafi, mentioned that the meeting lasted for two and a half hours and ended up with Gaddafi saying "take him". Ramadan also named three officials who he believes were responsible for the death of Al Sadr.[27][28][29] When Ahmed Jibril who had a strong relationship with Gaddafi asked him about these allegations, Gaddafi denied them saying he had no reason to kill Musa al-Sadr.[30]


Imam Musa aṣ-Ṣadr is still regarded as an important political and spiritual leader by the Shī‘ah Lebanese community. His status only grew after his disappearance in August 1978, and today his legacy is revered by both Amal and Hezbollah followers.[31] In the eyes of many, he became a martyr and "vanished imam."[32] A tribute to his continuing popularity is that it is popular in parts of Lebanon to mimic his Persian accent.[32] The Amal Party remains an important Shī‘ah organization in Lebanon and looks to aṣ-Ṣadr as its founder.

Aṣ-Ṣadr is most famous for his political role, but he was also a philosopher. According to Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr,

One of his famous writings is a long introduction for the Arabic translation of Henry Corbin's History of Islamic Philosophy.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ سيرة سماحة الإمام القائد السيد موسى الصدر Arabic
  2. ^ a b c d "Lebanon FM to interview Gaddafi’s top spy about Sadr’s fate". Ya Libnan. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Nasr, Seyyed H. (1989). Expectation of the Millennium: Shiʻism in History. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, Albany. p. 425. , chapter 26
  4. ^ a b c d e Samii, Abbas William (1997). "The Shah's Lebanon policy: the role of SAVAK". Middle Eastern Studies 33 (1): 66–91. doi:10.1080/00263209708701142. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival (Norton) (2006), p. 112
  6. ^ Syria's Alawis and Shiism, Martin Kramer
  7. ^ Talhamy, Yvette (Autumn 2009). "The Syrian Muslim Brothers and the Syrian-Iranian Relationship". The Middle East Journal 63 (4): 561–580. doi:10.1353/mej.0.0088. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Ostovar, Afshon P. (2009). "Guardians of the Islamic Revolution Ideology, Politics, and the Development of Military Power in Iran (1979–2009)" (PhD Thesis). University of Michigan. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Badran, Tony (8 September 2010). "Moussa Sadr and the Islamic Revolution in Iran… and Lebanon". Now Lebanon. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  10. ^ Badran, Tony (22 June 2010). "Syriana". Tablet. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "Musa al Sadr: The Untold Story". Asharq Alawsat. 31 May 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Saud Al Zadeh; Elia Jazaeri (23 February 2011). "Mousa Al Sadr alive in Libyan prison: sources". Al Arabiya (Dubai and Beirut). Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  13. ^ Dakroub, Hussein (3 September 2012). "Mansour, Lebanese judge to question Sanousi on Sadr’s fate". The Daily Star. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  14. ^ Staff (31 August 2010) "Imam Sadr and companions still alive in captivity of Libya, son tells news agency" The Daily Star (Lebanon).
  15. ^ Court in Lebanon summons Gaddafi, 3 August 2004
  16. ^ بري يحمل النظام الليبي ورئيسه مسؤولية «الجريمة المنظمة» في اختطاف موسى الصدر ورفيقيه, أخبار
  17. ^ المجلس الشيعي في لبنان يدعو ليبيا إلى «كشف لغز» اختفاء موسى الصدر, أخبار
  18. ^ Libya is responsible for Musa Sadr’s disappearance: paper
  19. ^ Interview of General Mansour Qadar with Gholam Reza Afkhami in the Oral History of Iran Program, Foundation of Iranian Studies, Bethesda, MD, 1986, pp. 40-56. Quoted in Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival (Norton) (2006), p. 112.
  20. ^ "Gaddafi charged for cleric kidnap". BBC News, 27 August 2008.
  21. ^ Lebanon and Iran urge Libyan rebels to probe 33-year-old mystery
  22. ^ Imam Moussa al-Sadr never left Libya
  23. ^ Gaddafi has martyred Imam Mousa Sadr
  24. ^ Gadhafi and the Vanished Imam
  25. ^ As Gaddafi Teeters, Will the Mystery of Lebanon's Missing Imam Be Solved?
  26. ^ Worth, Robert F. (25 September 2011). "Qaddafi's Never-Neverland". The New York Times. p. 26. 
  27. ^ Mousa, Jenan. "احمد رمضان يكشف اسماء الاشخاص الذين قاموا بتصفية موسى الصدر". Akhbar Al Aan. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  28. ^ "Lebanon Shiite leader was 'liquidated' in Libya". Yahoo Maktoob. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  29. ^ "Lebanon Shiite leader was 'liquidated' in Libya". France24. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  30. ^ TV interview with Ahmed Jibril about Gaddafi and Moussa al-Sadr
  31. ^ "As Gaddafi Teeters, Will the Mystery of Lebanon's Missing Imam Be Solved?". TIME Online. 22 February 2011. 
  32. ^ a b Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival (Norton) (2006), p.113

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