Sadr, Musa Al-
SADR, MUSA AL-
Lebanese Shiʿite leader, born in March 1928 in Qom, Iran. Musa al-Sadr belonged to a family divided among three countries: Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. After having followed religious studies in Iraq, then legal studies in Iran, Sadr returned to Qom, where he became an ulema. In this capacity, he gave conferences in theology and edited the review Maktabi Islam. In 1960 he was sent to Lebanon to replace Shaykh Abdul Hussein Sharafeddin, head of the Shiʿite community of Tyre. He soon became involved in social and political work aimed at reducing the social inequities that put the largely poor and disenfranchised Lebanese Shiʿite community at a considerable disadvantage. After participating in an Islamic-Christian dialogue in 1962, he made efforts to form a permanent committee of Muslim and Christian religious leaders of South Lebanon. After becoming a Lebanese citizen, he formed and headed the Supreme Islamic Shiʿa Council (or Communal Council) in 1968–1969.
Having launched an appeal for a general strike on 26 May 1970, he was successful in establishing, at least temporarily, a dialogue with the Lebanese government over economic development of South Lebanon and the Baqaa Valley. Frustrated by a lack of results, however, Sadr in 1973 founded the Movement of the Disinherited, a branch of the Foundation of the Disinherited (Mustadafin), created in Iran in 1971. On 18 March 1974, he assembled at Baalbek some 100,000 people, ready to support him in his fight against poverty. In July 1975, confronted by the continued unresponsiveness of the government, the outbreak of communal fighting in the spring—the beginning of the civil war of 1975–1990—and the degradation of the situation in South Lebanon, Sadr and his fellow leaders decided to create an armed branch of the Movement, calling it AMAL ("Hope"), an acronym for Lebanese Resistance Brigade. Inspired by the al-Daʿwa movement, Sadr advocated jihad to establish an independent democratic republic in Lebanon that would protect the interests of the Shiʿites and support the struggle against Zionism. Despite this, he made efforts to maintain a moderate stance. AMAL did not engage in fighting in the early period of the civil war, and as a result lost considerable support to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and groups associated with the Lebanese National Movement (LNM). AMAL also endorsed Syrian intervention in 1976, which cost it more support. However, the mysterious disappearance of Sadr, along with two companions while on an official visit to Libya on 31 August 1978, transformed him into a popular hero and Shiʿa symbol (on the analogy of the Hidden Imam). It has always been assumed that Sadr was assassinated by the regime of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, but Libyan authorities have denied any responsibility in his disappearance, which prompted a period of tension between Libya and Iran.