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Grand Ayatollah Hakim, top Shia cleric in Iraq, dies of heart attack aged 85

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammad Saeed al-Hakim

Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammad Saeed al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most prominent and influential Shia clerics, has passed away in the southern holy city of Najaf after a sudden cardiac arrest aged 85.

Ayatollah al-Hakim “underwent surgery three days ago in a hospital in Najaf and succumbed today to a heart attack”, AFP quoted a source within his office as saying on Friday.

He passed away at the al-Hayat hospital in Najaf, where he was taken after suffering a sudden heart attack.

Al-Hakim was born to a family of clerics in Najaf in 1936 and was a grandson to late Grand Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim. His father was Mohammad Ali al-Hakim, one of the most respected clerics in Najaf.

He was considered as the top candidate to succeed the Arab country’s most prominent Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is in his early nineties.

The source added that a funeral ceremony was arranged to be held on Saturday in Najaf, home to the shrine of Imam Ali, the first Imam in Shia Islam, where he will be buried. A similar ceremony will also be held in the holy city of Karbala.

Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hossein detained al-Hakim in 1983 and kept him behind bars until 1991. The influential cleric authored dozens of books and monographs, mostly on Shia jurisprudence.

In a statement, Iraqi President Barham Salih paid homage to the “prominent figure” in Shia Islam.

Secretary-General of the Iraqi Parliament Sirwan Abdulla, Iraq's National Security Adviser Qasim al-Araji, and a number of other top Iraqi officials expressed their condolences to al-Hakim’s family, the Iraqi nation, and all Shia Muslims across the world.

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