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Prominent Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Saeed al-Hakeem dies at 85

Born in Najaf in 1936, al-Hakeem was considered to be among the highest Shia religious authorities in Iraq [File: Haidar Hamdani/AFP]

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24): Iraqi prominent Shia Marja Muhammad Saeed al-Hakim has passed away after a sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 87.

According to the Kurdistan 24, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Saeed al-Hakim was a contemporary Shia Marja and one of the most prominent religious figures in Najaf. His father was Ayatollah Muhammad Ali al-Hakim.

He was a student of and nephew to the late Marja Muhsin al-Hakim, the author of a famous fatwa that prohibited Shias from fighting Kurds because of shared religious values. Kurds are majority Muslim, largely Sunnis.

The Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein detained Muhammad Saeed al-Hakim in 1983 and imprisoned him until 1991. The influential Marja has dozens of fatwas and books on religious jurisprudence.

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Born in Najaf in 1936, al-Hakeem was considered to be among the highest Shia religious authorities in the country. At the time of his death, he was one of four ayatollahs of the Hawza, Najaf’s Shia seminary, along with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shia spiritual leader.

Along with the Afghan-born Mohammed Ishaq al-Fayadh, al-Hakeem was seen as the most likely contender to succeed al-Sistani. The United States expressed its condolences in a statement from its embassy in Baghdad.