Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr

Grand Ayatollah Muḥammad Bāqir al-Ṣadr
(محمد باقر الصدر)
Religion Usuli Twelver Shi`a Islam
Born (1935-03-01)March 1, 1935
al-Kazimiya, Iraq
Died April 9, 1980(1980-04-09) (aged 45)
Baghdad, Iraq
Senior posting
Based in Najaf, Iraq
Title Grand Ayatollah
Religious career
Post Grand Ayatollah

Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (آية الله العظمى السيد محمد باقر الصدر) (March 1, 1935 – April 9, 1980) was an Iraqi Shia cleric, philosopher, and ideological founder of the Islamic Dawa Party, born in al-Kazimiya, Iraq. He is the father-in-law of Muqtada al-Sadr and also a cousin of his father Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr and Imam Musa as-Sadr. His father Haydar al-Sadr was a well-respected high-ranking Shi'a cleric. His lineage goes back to Muhammad, through the seventh Shia Imam, Musa al-Kazim. (See Sadr family for more details.) Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr was executed in 1980 during the Saddam Hussein regime.


He was born in al-Kazimiya, Iraq into the prominent Sadr family which originates from Jabal Amel in Lebanon. His father died in 1937, leaving the family penniless. In 1945 the family moved to the holy city of Najaf, where al-Sadr would spend the rest of his life. He was a child prodigy who, at ten, was delivering lectures on Islamic history, and at eleven, he studied logic. At 24 he wrote a book to refute materialistic philosophy.[1] Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr completed his religious studies at religious seminaries under al-Khoei and Muhsin al-Hakim at the age of 25 and began teaching.

His first works were detailed critiques of Marxism that presented early ideas of an alternative Islamic form of government. Perhaps his most important work was Iqtisaduna on Islamic economics and "Our Philosophy". These works were critiques of both socialism and capitalism. He was subsequently commissioned by the government of Kuwait to assess how that country's oil wealth could be managed in keeping with Islamic principles. This led to a major work on Islamic banking that still forms the basis for modern Islamic banks.

This attracted the attention of the Baath Party, which resulted in numerous imprisonments for the Ayatollah. He was often subjugated to torture during his imprisonments, but continued his work after being released. One of the founders of modern Islamist thought he is credited with first developing the notion, later put in operation in Iran, of having democratic elections, but with a body of Muslim scholars to ensure all laws corresponded with Islamic teachings.

In 1977, he was arrested following the uprisings in Najaf, but was released later due to his immense popularity. Upon his release however, he was put under house arrest. In 1980, after writing in the defence of the Islamic Revolution, Sadr was once again imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the regime of Saddam Hussein. He was forced to watch his sister's, Amina Sadr bint al-Huda, torture and murder.[2] It has been alleged that Sadr was killed by having an iron nail hammered into his head[3] and then being set on fire. Baqir al-Sadr is buried in Wadi-us-Salaam, Najaf.

Using his mastery of the Quran and his innovative subject-based approach to Quranic exegesis, Al-Sadr extracted two concepts from the Holy text in relation to governance: khilafat al-insan (Man as heir or trustee of God) and shahadat al-anbiya (Prophets as witnesses). Al-Sadr explained that throughout history there have been '…two lines. Man’s line and the Prophet’s line. The former is the khalifa (trustee) who inherits the earth from God; the latter is the shahid (witness).'.[4]

Al-Sadr demonstrated that khilafa (governance) is ‘a right given to the whole of humanity’ and explained it to be an obligation given from God to the human race to ‘tend the globe and administer human affairs’. This was a major advancement of Islamic political theory.

While Al-Sadr identified khilafa as the obligation and right of the people, he used a broad-based exegesis of a Quranic verse[5] to identify who held the responsibility of shahada in an Islamic state: First, the Prophets (anbiya’); second, the Imams, who are considered a divine (rabbani) continuation of the Prophets in this line; and lastly the marja’iyya (see Marja).[6]

While the two functions of khilafa (governance) and shahada (witness; supervision) were united during the times of the Prophets, the two diverged during the occultation so that khilafa returned to the people (umma) and shahada to the scholars.[7]

Al-Sadr also presented a practical application of khilafa, in the absence of the twelfth Imam. He argued the practical application of the khilafa (governance) required the establishment of a democratic system whereby the people regularly elect their representatives in government:

'Islamic theory rejects monarchy as well as the various forms of dictatorial government; it also rejects the aristocratic regimes and proposes a form of government, which contains all the positive aspects of the democratic system.' [8]

He continued to champion this point until his final days:

'Lastly, I demand, in the name of all of you and in the name of the values you uphold, to allow the people the opportunity truly to exercise their right in running the affairs of the country by holding elections in which a council representing the ummah (people) could truly emerge.' [9]

Al-Sadr was executed by Saddam Hussein in 1980 before he was able to provide any details of the mechanism for the practical application of the shahada (witness) concept in an Islamic state. A few elaborations of shahada can be found in Al-Sadr’s works.

In his text ‘Role of the Shiah Imams in the reconstruction of Islamic society’, Al-Sadr illustrates the scope and limitations of shahada by using the example of the third Shi’i Imam, Hussein ibn Ali (the grandson of the Prophet), who stood up to Yazid, the ruler at the time. Al-Sadr explains Yazid was not simply going against Islamic teachings, as many rulers before and after him had done, but he was distorting the teachings and traditions of Islam and presenting his deviated ideas as Islam itself. This, therefore, is what led Imam Hussein to intervene to challenge Yazid in order to restore the true teachings of Islam, and as a consequence laid down his own life. In Al-Sadr’s own words, the shahid’s (witness – person performing shahada or supervision) duties are ‘to protect the correct doctrines and to see that deviations do not grow to the extent of threatening the ideology itself'.

Al-Sadr has one son, Jaafar, who finished his Islamic studies in Qum but decided to serve his country Iraq as a politician. Jaafar does not believe in religious states, he believes that a "civil state" in Iraq should not contradict with religions but on the contrary "a fair and just regime should be able to earn the blessing of religions". He does not believe in taking revenge for his father's brutal assassination, stating, "Re-building a unified, democratic and stable Iraq is the only way for taking that revenge."


Muhammad Baqir Sadr has an especial attitude about the Quran and its relation to human life and reality. According to political theory of Baqir Sadr, there are foundations like oneness world view and being divinity of Existents on which the political theory established. He believed that The Quran must be relevant to present day and only in such a way that Quran could be related to reality. According to him, Tafsir begins with reality and ended with Quran. This approach has been followed by him in al-Madrasa al-Qur'aniyya, an in uncompleted text by him. His methodology, therefore, is to dialectic among reality and Quran. On the basis of the methodology, we must begin from the reality of life to the Quran and from the Quran back to the reality of life. He attempted to reach a universal Quranic theory and apply this theory in all dimensions, namely prophecy and economic, attempting to extend them in books like Iqtisadona (our economy) and al-Bank al-li Ribawi fi-Islam. He concerned himself with historical laws in Al Madrasat Al qura’anyyah, believing that the Quran as a spiritual energy could lead human beings on the basis of their talents and potentiality. The Quran was considered by him as a book of guidance, not discovery, in relation to historical laws. Also, the Quran could be considered both as guidance and change. He explains historical law on the basis of characteristics such as being scientific and consistent, and also these laws are historicized namely at the same time they are originate from God, they are historical contexts.[10]

Political Thought

He believes that there is a political theory in terms of thought of general succession if human being. According to unitary universal view, the universe is a collection of elements, forces and laws not as casual but rather as related and consistent elements which are of ultimate aims and harmonies. In that universe, there is a relation between god and universe such a way that god monitoring the whole universe. Also universe worships the god and there is a relation as worship between them.therefore human being as a particular element is dominated by the determinate and wisdom laws and human is not an existence without any aim and ultimate. Besides human being is of volition and freedom. According to Sadr, Innate characters make human beings able to determine his other word human being could choose his destiny and fate himself. Sadr called this power of choosing as the leadership and succession of human being.according to Sadr, the relation between human and god determined as succession and other words, human counted as the successor of god. therefore the relation between human and nature determined as trustee and safekeeper or Amin and Amanat[11]

Economical Thought

Sadr believes that the system of Islamic economy has a clear confliction with the system of capitalism. Progressing the technical phenomena and facilities of production, natural commenwealth is at a disposal of capitalists and determines peoples and private associations controled the system of global economy. In contrary, the economical system of Islam doesn't permit to determinate people to have disposal the facilities and natural sources.[12]

Social Philosophy

His approach to social and historical subjects was philosophically religious.[13]

List of works

He engaged western philosophical ideas to challenge when it seems fit and incorporate them into his own system when appropriate. His ultimate goal was to show that religious knowledge was not the antithesis of scientific knowledge.[14] Following is the list of his work:[15]


Fundamentals of the law



In this ground breaking work, the author proposes a new formulation of the theory of human knowledge on the basis of an alternative foundation for the induction process. He introduces a new school of thought, Autogenousism, standing in contrast to both rationalism and empiricism, in which induction delivers certainty as its outcome. The current book, translated for the first time into English in its entirety, shows Al-Sadr's impressive mastery of the philosophical traditions, both Western and Islamic. This work fills, in Sadr's own words, a 2000-year gap in logic and philosophy and promises to usher in a new era of debate over the long-standing problem of induction.



Qur'anic commentaries


Islamic Culture


Notable colleagues and students


See also


  1. Baqir Al-Sadr, Our Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, 1987, p. xiii
  2. Augustus R. Norton (19 January 2009). Hezbollah: A Short History. Princeton University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-691-14107-7. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  3. Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War, (Holt, 2005), p.164
  4. Muhammed Baqir Al-Sadr, Al-Islam yaqud al-hayat, Qum, 1979, p.132
  5. Quran 5:44
  6. Baqir Al-Sadr, Al-Islam yaqud al-hayat, Qum, 1979, p.24
  7. Faleh A Jabar, The Shi’ite Movement in Iraq, London: Saqi Books, 2003, p.286
  8. Muhammed Baqir Al-Sadr, Lamha fiqhiya, p.20
  9. Muhammed Baqir Al-Sadr, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, London: ICAS, 2003, p.15
  10. Chibli Mallat,Readings of the Qur'ān in London and Najaf: John Wansbrough and Muḥammad Bāqir al-Ṣadr, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol.57, No. 1, In Honour of J. E. Wansbrough (1994), pp. 159-173
  11. theory of genreal succession in political thought of Muhammad Baqir Sadr,Hosein Jamshidi,Islamic state magazine,spring 1387 solar,number 11
  12. Shahid Sadr as first theorician of islamic movement of Iraq,Jihad magazine,Farvardin 1361 solar,number 30
  13. inquiry on social philosophy of Shahid Sadr,Mahmoud Taghi zadeh Davari,fall 1387 solar,number 23
  14. Walbridge, Linda S. (2001). The Most Learned of the Shi`a: The Institution of the Marja Taqlid. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-19-513799-6. Retrieved Jan 7, 2012.
  15. The Super Genius Personality of Islam
  16. This has been translated into English twice: by Roy Mottahedeh as "Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence" (2005) ISBN 978-1-85168-393-2 (Part 1 only) and anonymously as "The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence according to Shi'i Law" (2003) ISBN 978-1-904063-12-4.
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