When Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was a young seminary student during the country’s Baathist era, he preferred playing video games to attending theological courses. Now several years and a U.S. occupation later, that same Sadr is a major Iraqi political figure, studying to become an ayatollah at Shiite Islam’s most prominent religious center of Qom, Iran. Sadr reportedly resides in Tehran and travels weekly to the Iranian shrine-city to study major works of Shiite jurisprudence under an unknown but certainly high-ranking cleric. He will exit his studies as a mujtahid, or learned scholar, with the recognized ability to issue religious decrees.
Behind this remarkable transformation — from disinterested student to occupation-opposing cleric to serious scholar — are big ambitions. And if all goes according to plan, Sadr will have a golden opportunity to return and take Iraq’s political stage by storm. [continued…]