Imam Musa Al Sadr the Idol of Resistance

  July 06, 2021   Read time 2 min
Imam Musa Al Sadr the Idol of Resistance
The mystery of Musa al Sadr's disappearance, with the rumors of his turning up now and then in Iran or Damascus, of being spotted praying in the Libyan desert with his companions, was of a piece with the man's puzzle.

Mystery trailed Musa al Sadr from the time he arrived in Lebanon; the Libyan episode only served to perpetuate the aura of a man who kept his own secrets, and about whom some of his own devoted followers continued to wonder. Musa al Sadr, a man with his own style and a man who knew how to get and hold attention, made his own entry into the world of Shia Lebanon. History arranged his fitting departure—or, shall we say, his fitting absence. He disappeared, leaving people to make of him what they wanted and what they needed.

Some remember Musa al Sadr as a man of simple needs, going about the country, they are fond of saying, in a small Volkswagen. Others recall a more narcissistic figure, a man overshadowing his followers, vain about his looks, theatrical and dramatic in appearance —tousled hair showing from underneath his turban in marked contrast to the austerity and "modesty" of a clerical look—and, naturally, they recall a more elegant and larger car. He presented himself for several years as a promoter of the Palestinian cause in Lebanon, yet many of his heirs and close companions suspect that the Libyans were doing what the Palestine Liberation Organization leaders had wanted done. In the early 1960s there were Christians in Lebanon who said that Musa al Sadr had the features and the aura of Christ; a decade later many of the same Christians, concerned about the Shia militia he had armed in the mid-1970s, dubbed him the Rasputin of Lebanon.

His Pan-Arab critics had him arrive in Lebanon an agent of SAVAK, the Shah's intelligence, and had him disappear in 1978 a victim of foul play by the same dreaded SAVAK. He was both a rebel and a man who courted kings and men of wealth. An Egyptian Marxist who met him and distrusted him "right away" said of him that he was an "American pragmatist." An American diplomat in Beirut who knew him and reported on him with considerable insight said of him that he was a "crafty Persian." He was a cleric, and the son of an ayatollah at that, yet when he "thought aloud" among his more religiously skeptical followers, he was critical of the shackles and taboos of religion. For some he was a part of Shia Lebanon's drive for respectability, a man who said that Lebanon was al Wałan Nihai, the final homeland, of the Shia; for others he was an ambitious, driven mullah who found a temporary haven in Lebanon but really wanted to make his mark in Iran.