Ayatollah al-uzma Seyyed Ali Sistani is not only a central character in political and religious affairs but also an expert with a wide range of studies on cultural issues; therefore, he is a multi-dimensional figure. This became clear to me during my recent trip to Iraq (in February 2022).
The description of the trip to Iraq and the meeting with Ayatollah al-uzma Sistani / Kazem Musavi Bojnurdi
Though, this trip had a prelude: My father, Ayatollah Seyyed Hassan Musavi Bojnurdi, who lived in Najaf, was a great scholar in the Najaf Seminary (Hawza). I was born in Najaf and lived there until I was 17. In 1960 I came to Iran and two years later founded the Islamic Nations Party under the influence of the revolutionary ideas of the time, which I do not now endorse. In 1964 I went to Iraq again to purchase armament from a familiar gun shop in Najaf. I met my father as well and he warned me not to engage in political affairs; yet I was a passionate youngster in the atmosphere of armed struggle that prevailed in those years; therefore, I turned a deaf ear to his advice. He was an admirer of Dr. Mosaddegh and the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry and raised us with anti-authoritarian ideas; so, I owe this spirit to him.
That was the last time I was honored to visit my father since, a year later, I was arrested and sentenced to death. But a movement started, and the Shiʻa scholars of Najaf, some of the Iranian scholars, Confederation of Iranian Students, and even the French thinker, Jean-Paul Sartre attempted to prevent the execution of the sentence. At my father’s request, Ayatollah al-uzma Seyyed Mohsen Hakim, the Shiʻa authority (Marjaʻ) after Ayatollah al-uzma Boroujerdi, asked Ahmad Kafaei, Akhund Khorasani’s son, to talk to the Shah, which resulted in the reduction of my execution sentence to life imprisonment.
In the past, when someone was sentenced to death in military courts he could appeal in ten days before the execution of the sentence. In the tenth night, when I was waiting for the execution of the sentence, two colonels came in and told me that I was pardoned. But unfortunately, on the 1st of July 1975, my father passed away, when I was in prison. The father’s death, who is the support of man, is harsh, but if it happens in prison, its agony is more rigid, and it is a gloomy unforgettable memory for me.
Finally, I was released after thirteen years, when Imam Khomeini had not come to Iran yet and Shapour Bakhtiar released the political prisoners. After the Islamic revolution, I firstly was appointed as the Governor of Isfahan, and afterward became the Representative of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, but finally I realized that I should leave politics and follow the scientific path that I was thinking about in prison. I considered that the most necessary act for society was to raise public wisdom. Hence, I thought that compiling encyclopaedias was the best solution to improve social and cultural circumstances.
Since 57 years ago, I have not had the opportunity to travel to Iraq, although it might have been for my negligence. Since 1983 I have been engaged with the current scientific and administrative work of the Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia, extensive work with empty hands. Some years later, when I met the Supreme Leader, told him that I wished to make Tehran the cultural centre of the Islamic world instead of Cairo. He said: “It is a fundamental goal, but you have an extensive way ahead.”
Anyway, I met Mr. Sistani on the trip to Iraq. During the half-hour meeting, he graciously talked about the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia in detail, the significance of the work and its influence on the Islamic society. Obviously he had read the entries of the encyclopaedia. He prayed for the development of the work and encouraged me pleasantly. I knew that he had read the encyclopaedia already because in a meeting with the deputy of the centre, Ahmad Masjed-jameie nine years ago, he had commented on the entries of “Ibn Sina”, “Ibn Taymiyyah”, and “Iʻtibāriyyāt” accurately. I am pleased that he approved this research work. He also mentioned my father favorably; since no one knew Mr. Sistani when he came from Mashhad to Najaf, and it was my father who introduced him to the seminary.
During this trip I visited the shrine of Imam Ali (a.s) and also the tombs of my maternal grandfather, Ayatollah al-uzma Seyyed Abu al-Hassan Esfahani, my father, grandmothers, and uncle, who was martyred and buried near the tomb of Akhund Khorasani, in a beautiful pavilion facing the golden porch.
This trip was full of strange feelings of nostalgia for me. When I was alone with my father, I told him: “It is a great pleasure to keep the heritage of the Ahl al-Bayt alive. This excellent group work has progressed so that the Iranian, Islamic, and Shiʻite heritage is translated in English and published by the Europeans themselves.” I told my father I was ashamed of being late, but I'm sure the work would make him happy.
I owe my father an outstanding debt of gratitude. He was a prominent jurist whose seven-volume book, “Al-Qawāʻid al-Fiqhiyyah”, was a significant reference for the seminarians for many years. Since it had become scarce, an appropriate edition was offered abruptly many years ago. The Supreme Leader had praised the book during his visit to the International Book Fair; afterward, Mr. Masjed-jameie provided the conditions for its reprint and it became one of the textbooks at Al-Azhar University in Egypt.
Moreover, my father’s philosophical knowledge was so much so that even Fadhil al-Jamali, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of King Faisal II, the King of Iraq, was asking him his philosophical questions. From my childhood and later, as a teenager, he introduced me to progressive freedom-loving ideas, and I consider my present-day religious intellectual ideas to be a continuation of my father’s path.
May his soul rest in peace and be united with Imam Ali (a.s)
Source: Ettelaʻat newspaper
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