Al-Sadr and the “owners of the cause”… a political split or an opportunity to strengthen the influence of the movement?
Which one affects more in the crisis of Muqtada al-Sadr with the Shiite religious group known as “the people of the cause”: the political or the religious dimension?
Clerics from Najaf and politicians from Baghdad differ in answering this question, and whatever the difference between them, the political repercussions are inevitable for a political current, which is still influential despite seclusion and retirement.
The “Ashab al-Qada’a” group, which is often described by traditional Iraqi Shiite jurisprudence circles as “deviant”, was formed in 2006 in conjunction with the outbreak of sectarian street war in the country. It includes elements of the “Sadr movement” and believes that al-Sadr is the “Imam Mahdi”. And they have to sell it.
Shiite clerics unanimously agree on “the danger of these religious movements, as long as they are associated with a political leader.” In similar incidents and phenomena, during the past years, the state apparatus intervened by using force to arrest its members, as happened with the “Soldiers of Heaven” in Najaf, and the “followers of Al-Sarkhi.” .
In fact, the idea of “Mahdism” is the ideological reference that unites and binds these groups, and often appears after every political or social upheaval. But what is new about “the people of the cause” is that it came after a political defeat by Muqtada al-Sadr’s fans, who decided months ago to retire from politics and leave power. to his opponents in the coordination framework.
In addition, a popular “obsession” with the religious and social aura of al-Sadr revived the ideas of “allegiance” not to the leader of a political movement, but rather to what is greater, in a deeply rooted ideological dimension.
Last week, for the second time, 3 masked “owners of the truth” appeared in a video clip, in which they called for pledging allegiance to the leader of al-Sadr as “the expected Imam Mahdi.”
One of the men said that their plan, after pledging allegiance to al-Sadr, is to go to “the capital of corruption and spoilers, Baghdad, to overthrow the state of the Abbasids, which is headed by the tyrant Muhammad Shia’a al-Sudani, the Sufyani of the era.”
In Najaf, circles of the religious seminary, which are close to the environment of the supreme authority, Ali al-Sistani, avoid commenting on al-Sadr’s crisis with the “owners of the cause.”
Journalists and activists from the city said that the general atmosphere in Najaf does not seem affected by the crisis of the “owners of the cause”, except among the Sadrists, which are dominated by anxiety and controversy about the fate of the movement and its leader.
However, a Shiite cleric residing in London spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition that his name not be disclosed, and said that the “owners of the cause” are an extension of movements with different names as long as they are branches of the Sadrist movement, or dissidents from it, and without a doubt the jurisprudential community in Najaf “He considers it a deviation,” and the state will not hesitate to deal with it quickly.
The cleric said, “Al-Sadr does not want to be the cause of an ideological crisis, because he is aware of the red lines that these groups are approaching.”
However, this cleric believes that the appearance of the crisis is religious and ideological, but its essence is political competition, and the Sadrist movement is a main party to it.
In any case, al-Sadr tried to block calls for allegiance, when he said last week that he is “not a mujtahid,” meaning that he is not a reference for Shiite Muslims to imitate. However, he declared an “ideological war against the dissidents and the corrupt supported from abroad,” a hint that was interpreted by leaders Shiites in the coordination framework.
And the preacher of Kufa, Hadi al-Dunawi, on Friday, conveyed a message about the leader of the Sadrist movement: “If you see the lions of al-Layth prominent, do not think that al-Layth is smiling (…). Beware!
To explain the repercussions of the crisis
In Baghdad, there are many interpretations of al-Sadr’s conflict with the “owners of the cause”, and 3 political hypotheses are active to explain or anticipate the repercussions of this crisis.
The first: Sadrists believe that the Coordinating Framework, al-Sadr’s arch-rival, is motivating, in various indirect ways, the movements of “the people of the cause,” with the aim of weakening the popular base of the movement, in the course of political plans to protect the government led by Muhammad Shia’ al-Sudani, regardless of the position of the framework’s leaders on it. .
A few days ago, an unknown group appeared, also wearing a veil, threatening the “owners of the cause” with liquidation, and sharply criticizing the leader of the Sadrist movement, while Sadrists from Najaf indicate that the group is affiliated with an armed Shiite faction.
Second: According to former and current Sadrist leaders, al-Sadr is not more concerned about the disintegration of his movement, the loss of a human mass coherent with the “faith” and the political project branching from it, and dissidents often emerge from the movement to turn into “fierce enemies” of al-Sadr, as happened with League of the Righteous, led by Qais Khazali.
Third: Al-Sadr will not miss the opportunity of this crisis to conduct a harsh review of the popular base, and the leadership group close to him, especially since many suspicions indicate that those very close to him believe in what the people of the cause say, but more importantly from Al-Sadr’s point of view, he is trying to exploit this conflict to increase his influence In the Shiite street, even with his retirement from political work.