Earlier today, Tuesday April 7 (17 Jamadi al Thani), a scholar by the name of Sayid Mohammad Bahr Al Uloom passed away in Holy Najaf, Iraq. I wanted to take a moment to say a little something about this sad event.
Sayid Mohammad Bahr Al Uloom was born in 1927, in the holy city of Najaf in Iraq. He comes from a lineage of scholars who were also very present socially and politically — in addition to their religious expertise — and who have contributed to the development of modern Iraq since 1921.
He was a well known Islamic and political leader. In the midst of his social presence and political activism and responsibilities, he was also a thinker, a poet, and a religious scholar, somehow finding time to author more than 50 books on various historical, legal and political topics from an Islamic point of view. After graduating from the islamic seminary of Najaf, he received a B.A. from the University of Islamic Law in Najaf, an M.A. from the University of Theology in Tehran, and then graduated with a PhD in Islamic law in 1979 from the University of Cairo in Egypt.
He was one of the pillars of political movement and activism in Iraq from his youth. His social and political activism were known at the same time as those of Sayid Murtada al Askari, Sayid Mohammad Baqir as-Sadr, and Sayid Mahdi al Hakim (to whom he was very close), and he was an active representative of Sayid Mohsin al Hakim. As a result of his activities and positions against the regime of Saddam Hossein, he was sentenced to be executed in 1969. He was always considered independent and centric politically, and had far-reaching political relations with all political parties who, in exchange, also held him with high regard. The Sayid travelled the world incessantly for dozens of years, meeting with various political figures, and organizing and participating in conferences and meetings to expose the injustices suffered by the Iraqi people at the hands of the Ba’thi regime.
In 2003, immediately following the fall of Saddam’s regime, he was appointed in the temporary parliament of Iraq, during the transitory period. He also served as speaker (or president) of the parliament in 2003 and again in 2004. Bahr Al Uloom also founded the first college specializing in higher level learning of political science in Najaf.
His dedication and continued struggle to the betterment of the Iraqi condition, and his balanced outlook as a religious scholar and political leader are a rare mix indeed, at a time where this is exactly what is needed in Shi’ism and Iraq. In the words of his son Ibrahim
“The Holy city of Najaf has now said farewell to a heart that was beating with its love, and a mind that was protective of its historical seminaries, with the same wisdom and composure that characterized his forefathers […] Iraq has now lost one of its most sincere men, one who has spent decades of his life fighting and sacrificing in order to remove the oppressor who had imposed himself on Iraqis.”
May the Almighty have mercy on his soul.