Ali Husaini Sistani
Iraq's most powerful leader.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003, grand ayatollah Ali Sistani has gone from being a relatively unknown in Najaf's Hawza seminary, preaching that clerics must stay out of politics, to becoming a political institution.
Ayatollah Sistani's international standing came on the back of a simple demand in July 2003 that delegates for a planned constitutional convention be elected. He believes in election and democracy in Iraq. Seemingly apolitical stand has made him decidedly political, allowing him to fashion himself as the defender of Iraq's rights while exercising influence over the future shape of the country.
Ali Sistani rarely leaves his small Najaf house other than to travel down to his religious seminary. He shuns all interviews with the press and refuses to meet with Iraq's American occupiers. He believes in shaping politics from outside by preaching Islamic values to the masses.
Ali Husaini Sistani was born in Mashad, Iran, to a prominent family of Islamic scholars.
Compiled by:M. Nauman Khan