Hundreds of thousands mourn Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah
(Photo: Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims carry coffin Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut, July 6, 2010/Sharif Karim)
Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was buried on Tuesday, mourned by hundreds of thousands who paid homage to an early mentor of Hezbollah who became one of Shi’ite Islam’s highest authorities.
Fadlallah, who died on Sunday aged 74, was a revered marja’a, or source of emulation, for many Shi’ites across the Middle East and Central Asia. He was seen as the spiritual leader of the militant movement Hezbollah when it was formed after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. When the group was blamed for abduction of Westerners in the 1980s and attacks on U.S. and French targets in Lebanon, Fadlallah repeatedly called for the hostages to be released, saying he opposed kidnappings, and he later distanced himself from Hezbollah’s close ties to Iran.
Fadlallah was known in Shi’ite circles for his moderate social views, especially on women. He issued several notable fatwas, or religious opinions, including banning the Shi’ite practice of shedding blood during the mourning ritual of Ashura.
A critic of the United States, which designated him a terrorist, Fadlallah used many of his Friday prayer sermons to denounce U.S. policies in the Middle East, particularly its alliance with Israel. But he was also quick to denounce the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States which killed some 3,000 people.