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Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani Fast Facts

By CNN Library
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Wed July 17, 2013

(CNN) -- Here's a look at the life of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric.

Personal:
Birth Name: Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani

Birth Date: August 4, 1930

Birth Place: Mashhad, Iran

Father: Sayyid Mohammad Baqir, father, a religious scholar.

Mother: unknown publicly

Marriage: unknown publicly

Children: Muhammad Rida Al-Sistani - eldest son. Total number of children unknown publicly

Religion: Shiite Muslim

Other Facts:
He is a member of a well known family of religious scholars and began studying at the age of five.

Al-Sistani has written many books and treatises on Islamic law and life.

Under Saddam Hussein's regime the Ayatollah was under house arrest for many years.

Rarely does interviews and is rarely seen in public.

Timeline:
1952 - Al-Sistani moves to the holy city of Najaf, Iraq to study with Shiite clerics there.

1990 - He is chosen by other religious figures to lead an important network of schools in Najaf.

September 2002 - He issues his first political fatwa, urging Muslims to unite and defend Iraq against outside aggressors.

April 2003 - Al-Sistani's house arrest is lifted after the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. The Ayatollah issues his second political fatwa, urging the Iraqi people to remain neutral and not to interfere with the U.S. forces.

June 3, 2004 - Al-Sistani endorses the new Iraqi government. Says the new government lacks "legitimacy of elections" and does not represent "in an acceptable manner all segments of Iraqi society and political forces." ... "Nevertheless, it is hoped that this government will prove its efficiency and integrity and show resolve to carry out the enormous tasks that rest on its shoulders."

August 3-26, 2004 - Fighting engulfs the city of Najaf. Militiamen loyal to Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr battle U. S. forces for control of the area.

August 6, 2004 - Al-Sistani, who seldom leaves his home in Najaf, travels to Great Britain for treatment for heart problems.

August 25, 2004 - The Ayatollah returns to Iraq and begins negotiating a ceasefire in Najaf. Before his return he asks all Iraqis to "...march to Najaf in order to rescue the city."

August 26, 2004 - Arrives at his home in Najaf, where he and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr reach an agreement to put an end to the violence in the region.

February 13, 2005 - The results of Iraq's January 30, 2005 election are released. Al-Sistani's United Iraqi Alliance comes in first, with over four million votes

December 2008 - He endorses the Iraqi government and U.S. military troop withdrawal proposal.

January 2009 - He releases a statement urging Iraqis to vote in the upcoming provincial elections but states that he is not endorsing any candidates.

March 2011 - To express his dissatisfaction with political leaders the Ayatollah refuses to meet with them.

March 2013 - The Ayatollah issues a fatwa prohibiting shedding Iraqi blood, particularly Sunni blood.

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