Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — considering a rare attribute in two religious leaders ]


Christopher Anzalone tells a story about the Grand Ayatollah Sadiq al-Sadr (above, left), Moqtada‘s father, in his highly recommended podcast on Jihad & Martyrdom in Contemporary Muslim Militants with Karl Morand.

I’m very slow at transcription, but this story hit me with its insight into an aspect of religion that — as the story itself illustrates — is not always recognized, and i was able to find the same story told elsewhere, though not with the flair Chris brings to the telling. Here it is, as recounted by Patrick Cockburn in his book, Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq:

One former disciple of Mohammed Sadiq tells an anecdote illustrating his master’s pragmatism. “One day, I was sitting with Mohammed Sadiq in his office, when a man came in to ask the price of tomatoes,” he says. “The question infuriated me: I thought he had come to mock us. But al-Sadr, wiser and smarter than I am, gave him a detailed answer, giving him the price of different kinds of tomatoes. He had understood what the question was about. I caught up with the man as he left the office and asked him why he had asked the question. He replied: ‘In selecting a marji’ [a religious figure to emulate and whose rulings he would accept], I choose the one who knows my suffering, who is close to the poor and the disinherited.’”


Pope Francis has a similar direct and simple approach, and from the very start of his pontificate it has been winning him admirers, both religious and secular. He refuses the limo, preferring to take the bus. He pays his own bill as he checks out at the hotel front desk (above, right). He telephones the guy in Buenos Aires whose newsstand supplied his daily newspaper, to thank him and cancel his subscription…

Person to person.