Iraq’s most influential Shiite clerics dies at 85

Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Saeed Al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most senior and influential Muslim Shiite clerics, has died of a heart attack, members of his family said. He was 85.

Al-Hakim holds the highest theological title in Shiite Islam — Ayatollah Al-Uzma, which means Grand or Supreme Ayatollah. He was seen as the top contender to succeed Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, who is in his early nineties.

The Najaf-born cleric is a member of the well-known and highly respected Hakim family of Shiite scholars. His maternal grandfather is Mohsen Al-Tabataba’i Al-Hakim, a scholar and one of the most prominent thinkers of Shiite Islam. His father is Muhammad Ali Al-Hakim, one of the most respected clerics in Najaf.