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

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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