The Making of a Marjaʿ: Sīstānī and Shiʿi Religious Authority in the Contemporary Age

In: Sociology of Islam
Sajjad Rizvi Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, Stocker Road, Exeter EX4 4ND, United Kingdom,

Search for other papers by Sajjad Rizvi in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


Anyone considering the question of religious authority among the contemporary Shiʿa not least in Iraq will recognize the paramount significance of Ayatollah Sīstānī, described as the most important marjaʿ in the world. This paper examines the phenomenon of marjaʿiyya, considers how one becomes a marjaʿ, and traces the rise of Sīstānī to the pre-eminent position that he now holds and juxtaposes his model of leadership with other modern Shiʿi models of religious authority articulated by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and Bāqir al-Ṣadr in Iraq. Marjaʿiyya is a multivocal and in many ways a quintessentially modern institution that has proved to be highly resilient and adaptable in the face of challenges coming from globalizing modernity. In Iraq and in the region, Sīstānī has proven to be the most effective non-state wielder of authority and influence not just among believers but more widely in society and constitutes the most successful example of the Shiʿi marjaʿiyya in modern times.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1998 225 28
Full Text Views 385 22 0
PDF Views & Downloads 353 51 0